Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When Spousal Indiscretion Serves the Greater Good

There have been many casualties in this brutal war against my unfinished house, but the one I mourned most was the loss of my daughter's baby pictures.

I hate printing.  It kills trees.  And it yields papers, which must be filed.  I hate filing.  So the first year of my daughter's life was recorded only in pixels.  And we talked about backing up those electronic pictures onto a CD or something, but we didn't.

And then our computer, along with a guitar and a video camera, were gone.  This happened before we ran out of money for contractors and we believe one of two things happened:
1.  The construction workers left the door unlocked and a lucky thief happened to notice.
2.  One of the construction workers was a lucky thief.

I cried.  Several times.  Have you seen those commercials where the woman who failed to back up her photos dresses her 9 year-old in his baby clothes in a mad attempt to recreate his baby pictures?  On some desperate occasions, I considered dressing my son (who happens to be a clone of his big sister, if it weren't for his gender) in my daughter's baby dresses to fake some nice mementos.

Fast forward three years.  A couple of weeks ago, my mother-in-law calls with news.  She spent Thanksgiving at her daughter's house and guess what she found there?

Apparently, back when my daughter was a baby, she requested photos of her granddaughter from my husband.  That blessedly lazy man, instead of choosing some nice ones to send her, simply copied off our whole photo album onto a CD and sent it off.  She soon lost the CD, but not until after she had copied it and sent CDs to all of my in-laws.  And one of those in-laws still had it!  A few days later, I got my very own copy of my own photos in the mail!

I was thrilled!  Until I noticed how thorough that album was, and then I was quite embarrassed to realize that all of my in-laws had been privy to these photos.  My sweet hubby had not taken any time to censor the album before copying it.  There were several pictures of myself in a bikini showing off my expanding pregnant belly.  Worse, there were pictures of my daughter (and a not-so-flattering part of myself)  as she entered the world during her vaginal delivery.

Oh well. The humiliation is worth having that lost year of photos back.  Here are some recently recovered highlights from my daughter's first year of life:

Our First Family Photo (my daughter is the one in the ultrasound, 6 weeks gestation)

Within Minutes of Her Birth

My First Mother's Day

Meeting Great Grandma

With Daddy and Grandma

At Her First Parade

No First's Here, but isn't she cute?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birthday Pics

The angelic face captured through skill and trickery...

His actual expression through most of the session...

On his birthday, Grandma and Grandpa took him and some cousins on a train ride and to a children's museum exhibit. He grinned the whole way. The train was certainly a hit.

His aunt and uncle gave him this cool ride for his birthday. Within about an hour or two of ownership, he was performing daring stunts like this...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Colors and Commitment

I have been painting my basement rec room lately. White. This is a very unusual color choice for me. I like colorful colors. However, the room in question has purple carpet installed by the previous owners and a green sofa inherited from my husband's grandparents that is much nicer than anything we could afford, so we had to go neutral on the walls.

My husband and I put considerable effort into choosing the perfect shade of white. My parents gifted us the services of a professional faux painter to texture and top coat the walls. (She traded them this service for the privilege of using their ideal home for her daughter's wedding.) We consulted with her about color choices that would not clash with the purple and green and would combat the dark, dungeon-like feeling of the basement room and she recommended "ivory," which she described as off-white with a yellowish hue.

We looked at lots of paint samples that were the same color as all the dingy, cinder block, quite dungeon-like student apartments and dorms of my past. We carefully avoided that exact shade, and the result was, well, white. I saw a finished white room on the painter's website, and with her finishing touches, that white room was quite lovely, so I am hoping for a beautiful and not-as-dull final product.

As I painted the white room, I was reminded of a scene from a movie I watched recently, The Accidental Husband. The heroine's boring fiance attempts to engage her in a discussion about paint samples and she tells him they all look the same. "In what sense?" He asks. "In the sense that they are all white," she responds.

Now I am about to give away the end of the movie, but it wasn't a great movie so if you haven't seen it, don't bother. The heroine leaves her fiance at the alter.

As I mused on this topic, I soon thought of several films featuring characters whose apathy toward their romantic partners is manifest as apathy toward paint samples:

(Warning: I liked these flicks, so if you haven't ever seen them, avert your eyes. Although, when you see a character shunning paint samples, you'll know what's up.)

IQ: Because she doesn't care, the heroine randomly points to the color, algea, when her fiance asks her to choose a color for their new home. She dumps him before long.

Juneau: Husband doesn't care what color they paint the nursery. By movie end, he is divorcing his wife and dabbling in pedophilia.

He's just not that into you: Husband barely humors his wife as she muses about paint colors for a new addition at their home. He is in bed with another woman a few scenes later.

Are so many screenwriters telling this story because they can't think of another metaphor for commitment problems? Or have they independantly stumbled on a universal truth?

Just in case, I am relieved that my husband actively participated in finding the perfect shade of white for the rec room.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

He's a Big Boy Now

My son turned two recently, so I thought I would take a moment to highlight him.

Signs of Bigness
While his birthday was just recently, he declared his "big boy"-ness a few months back, when, almost within the same week, he refused to sit in a high chair any more, moved out of his crib into a toddler bed, and asked for a turn on the toilet for the first time where he actually succeeded at going peepee!  Shortly thereafter, we put out the toddler potty, and now he occasionally announces, "Pee-pee!  Potty!" and goes into the bathroom to sit on his potty.  On about a fourth of these occasions, he actually goes.  Usually he just hangs out naked and pretends.

Current Interests
Letters:  He has a Leapfrog toy that announces the names of letters and he studies it faithfully.  Now he remembers the names of several letters and can correctly identify his favorite:  the letter 'O'.  He pretends to read, pointing at signs and randomly calling out the names of letters.  He wows strangers by pointing at the letter 'O' and naming it.  "He can read!  How old is he?"  they exclaim.  I agree that he can read--one letter: 'O'.  My mom has a giant "NOEL" in her entryway in honor of Christmas and my letter-loving son likes to steal that big, 3D 'O', leaving only a "NEL".   Lately, he has also taken up writing.  He scribbles something, and then announces which letter he has just written. "O! B! N!" he reports.  It is a good thing he reports his writing out loud, because it is written in a scribble code only he can understand.

Speaking of Scribbling:  This is another favorite activity.  It is very endearing on paper and the chalkboard, and less so on the walls.

His Woobie:  He has a favorite blanket, given to him by my parents when he was a baby.  He must sleep with it, takes it out of bed with him in the morning and walks around with it, and protests when I wash it. 

Dancing:  He is a dancing fool.  I keep trying to catch him on film, but whenever he sees a camera he stops dancing and tries to steal it.  Maybe someday I will get a video posted here if I am sneaky enough.  He has a hot pink Barbie alarm clock passed down from his cousin that plays Barbie dance music.  He carries it around the house and asks me to plug "Bobby" in.  (No, I am not going to take away his love of dance just because gender stereotypes say he shouldn't like Barbie stuff.)  He also likes to sing and dance to Blues Clues Big Music Show, which he calls, "Beep Bop Bay" after the sophisticated lyrics to one of its main songs.

Balls:  He loves balls and anything related to them, like rackets, basketball hoops, clubs and bats. See, that Barbie alarm clock isn't hurting his masculinity.

Helping:  He loves to be a helper.  He is so proud of himself when he cleans up toys and lately, he has actually developed a knack for finding things for me.  Recently, Jared and I were discussing artichokes.  I had three, but Jared thought there had been four.  It's not like we eat a lot of artichokes around here, so I don't know how he knew what we were talking about, but he came running into the room and gave us the missing vegetable.  (Yes, it was missing because he had stolen it, but it was still impressive.)

Hugging and Kissing:  He was always such an affectionate baby and he still the same as a toddler.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


My daughter had planned to dress as her hero, Curious George, for Halloween, but changed plans when Daddy got the flu and could not accompany her as the man in the yellow hat.  She was a dinosaur instead.  My son was a dog, and went around saying, "Woof."  However, he refused to wear his dog hat on his head even for photos.

As expected, trick-or-treating was a big hit. I was surprised to see the large cache even in my son's bucket, who appeared to eat every candy as he received it.

The only shaky moment was when we visited a very well-decorated house complete with animated decor like a coffin that opened up and steamed when you passed it.  My boy literally jumped up into my arms.  My daughter forged on, with my continuous assurance that it was all pretend, but she cried for a few minutes after we had left the yard. 

After that, I wanted her to be prepared for the annual Halloween visit to Grandpa, so I warned her that Grandpa would be dressed scary, but he would still be nice Grandpa.  When we arrived, I had trouble convincing her to enter, because she did not want to see Grandpa looking scary.  She finally came, but she scolded Grandpa regularly throughout the evening for being too scary.  In consideration of anyone else who might be scared, she followed him to the door whenever he answered to trick-or-treaters to inform them all that he was actually just her Grandpa in a costume.  At one point, she even came back to me with her hat off.  She explained that someone had thought she was a real dinosaur, so she had taken off her "mask" so that they would know it was just pretend and she was actually a very un-scary girl.

Grandpa's house was hoppin' with trick-or-treaters.  As he does every year, my dad kept fretting that he needed to go to the store for more candy.  Since my mom is out of town on her annual trip with her sisters, I took on her role of reminding him that it was perfectly acceptable to turn off the porch light when you run out of candy, especially if it is after nine pm and the only trick-or-treaters left are old enough to hold jobs and buy their own candy.

Meanwhile, at our house, I left a bucket of candy at the front gate with a quarantine sign so no one would catch my husband's plague.  It was an unnecessary precaution, since the neighbors all informed me that my kids and the next-door-neighbors' kids were the only ones who trick-or-treated our street all evening.  We live on a very unhospitable road without sidewalks and with very little lighting, the brightest of which lights our backyard, instead of any public area.  (It is actually very convenient for us to have the free backyard lighting, but I have no idea what the city was thinking when they put a street light there instead of at the street.)

Another big Halloween event for us is my daughter's annual Halloween preschool program, in which they sing songs and recite poems.  Last year, I was surprised at how serious and nervous my usually confident child appeared as she prepared for her first formal performance (especially in comparison to her beaming older cousin, who was in the same class).  This year, she seemed excited.  After the program, the kids trick-or-treat to the parents.  My son joined in on the action, first grabbing treats from my bucket and passing them out himself, and then jumping into the end of the line to see if anyone would give him some treats like the big kids.

My husband was devastated to miss the program because of his quarantined status, but my parents and brother came.  My mom tried to record the program for him to watch at home, but a technical problem meant that only the first song recorded.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Battling the Flu

If anyone could get vaccinated for H1N1 (swine) flu, you would think it would be my family. I work at the Health Department, for crying out loud. My husband works at the hospital. I'm pregnant. He's got heart disease. We have a preschooler and a one-year-old at home. (That puts us into several of the "priority" groups who are supposed to get first dibs on the vaccine, by the way, for those of you who don't work at the Health Department or the hospital and haven't been exposed to such a barrage of info about this vaccine as we have.)

But most of us still haven't pulled it off. It is not for lack of trying. As soon as I heard vaccine was available, I took my family to the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. When we arrived, I was told that they were only immunizing babies, ages 6 months to 3 years-old. So my son was the lucky winner of one H1N1 flu shot. (And he did great with it, by the way. He didn't even cry! Tough kid.) Children under 10 need to get the shot twice, one month apart, so he is still not fully immunized but he is on his way.

I was extremely disappointed that I could not also protect my daughter, but she was not. She was quite relieved to spend the time playing with toys in the lobby rather than being pricked.

For those of you wondering why I didn't call the Health Department first to see if we were all eligible for vaccine, I did. Several times. When I showed up in person, I learned that you cannot call the Health Department anymore. Their phone lines are completely ill-equipped for the barrage of phone calls they have been receiving lately and you can't even get through to their voice mail.

They told me that the best way to find out if they happen to have any vaccine on a given day, and whether they will give it to you, is to check their website: http://www.slvhealth.org/h1n1/vaccine.html. I have bookmarked it and have been checking it regularly.

However, it wasn't through their website that I learned about my next opportunity to try to win some vaccine. That was at work, when I was contacted and asked to inform my constituents that a mass vaccination clinic was taking place last Saturday, from 7 am until 1 pm or until flu vaccine was depleted.

I knew that there was no way such a clinic would stay open until 1 and we would need to get there early. Unfortunately, we also had another unchangeable appointment that same Saturday at 8. We were doomed. We arrived at two different clinics between 8 and 9 and witnessed thousands of people lined up for blocks at both locations. I later learned that they had enough people in line at every location to use up all the vaccine by 7:30 am.

My husband mildly chided me for so enthusiastically sharing this news as requested of me and contributing to the likelihood that too many people would line up in front of us and we wouldn't get the vaccine. I just can't help it! I am so devoted to public health! But then he looked on the bright side and said we must be closer to establishing herd immunity with so many new folks immunized, even if we weren't among the lucky ones. It is so sexy when he speaks to me in public health jargon. I feel so understood.

In spite of our disappointment at the Saturday clinic, on Monday my husband came home with good news. Finally, the hospital would be getting vaccines for its employees. My hubby could get the vaccine on Wednesday and we would all be spared the risk of him sharing what increasing numbers of people were exposing him to at the hospital.

However, Tuesday evening, he started to feel aches and pains and exhaustion. With his myriad of health problems, this isn't totally unusual, but when it got worse through the night, and these symptoms were compounded with a fever, chills and soar throat by morning, he got an appointment with his doctor.

Sure enough, turns out that my husband is getting immunized the hard way. We are following most of the guidelines to avoid him spreading the flu to everyone else, with one important exception. According to guidelines, a pregnant woman should not be the primary caregiver of a person sick with H1N1. Okay, who should I delegate that to, the preschooler or the toddler?

But otherwise, we are being very good. He is currently quarantined to our house. Because he is a health care worker, he will not return to work for at least seven days (and he is a "contract" employee who does not receive sick leave). I do get sick leave, and I am using it to stay at home so I can keep track of the kids and be available should he take a turn for the worse. When he needs to leave the bedroom, he wears a mask and I wear one if I have to enter it. We are consuming lots of Lysol spray, wipes and hand sanitizer. I am sleeping in the guest room. Just in time, a family friend (God bless him) helped us figure out how to fix that broken bathroom that had been giving us grief for so long, just a couple weeks ago. So we now have two bathrooms again and we have assigned one to my husband and the other to the rest of us.

Because of his "high-risk" status as a heart disease patient, my husband has been put on Tamiflu, which lessens the severity of the flu and shortens its duration (not that it has been a picnic for him anyway). Tamiflu can also be used to prevent flu symptoms in a person who has been exposed but not fallen ill, and since I am pregnant, I have been placed on it, too. You have to take just as much for prevention as for treatment, but you take half as much daily so I will be taking it for twice as many days as my husband takes it.

Now that I have everyone up-to-date on the status of my household, it's time for

My Public Health Geek Notes on H1N1 Flu Season:

  • They are making lots of vaccine. Theoretically, there is going to be more than enough by the time all of it is done for everyone to get the darn stuff, regardless of "priority." The problem is that it is just not all "done" yet. It takes six months to make (like Hermione's transformation potion in Harry Potter). Keep looking out for your opportunity to win some. It gets finished in spurts.
  • I don't believe the people who are calling this vaccine too new, untested or risky. The vaccine is made the same way as seasonal flu vaccine and has the same risks and benefits. It is only "new" in the sense that it targets a different strain of flu virus than previous seasonal flu vaccines. However, the seasonal flu vaccine targets different strains every year as well and in future years H1N1 may be rolled into one seasonal flu shot. Last year, H1N1 flu began after the usual seasonal flu shot was already in preparation stages and so officials decided to make a separate, additional vaccine. If you have a bad reaction to seasonal flu vaccine, you should not get the H1N1 vaccine either. If you have had no problem with seasonal flu shots in the past, you should not have a problem with H1N1 vaccine.
  • Getting the vaccine is not just for your own benefit. For most people, the flu manifests itself as an inconvenient and uncomfortable illness that goes away on its own. Many people are willing to take the risk of getting sick since it is unlikely to be serious for them. However, even before you know you are sick, you can pass the virus to someone else for whom the flu is deadly.
  • If you want Tamiflu, you need to contact your doctor and get a prescription within the first 48 hours of your flu. The same is true if you are using it for prevention: it only works if you start taking it within 48 hours of your exposure.
  • That being said, not everyone should get Tamiflu. If you do not have any specific risk factors, such as a chronic disease, pregnancy, or youth, and your case of the flu is mild, you do not need Tamiflu. In this case, it is better to care for yourself at home and avoid spreading the flu to poor health care workers like my husband who have been unable to get the vaccine. This also saves yourself from having to buy a very pricey medication.
  • If you can't get the vaccine, and you do get the flu, don't panic. In spite of what it may seem, because deaths from H1N1 flu get so much press, most people can get through it without danger. The biggest difference between this version of the flu and other versions is that more people are susceptible to catching it because it is new and we do not have any immunity.

I remember well my experience with the flu as a junior in college: it struck the day of my biology final. I found myself re-reading the questions 2 or 3 times because I couldn't think straight. My grade suffered accordingly. That night was the last performance of a musical I was in, "The Forgotten Carols." I was devastated not to be able to sing and my director was furious. Then I went home for Christmas vacation and spent the first week of it suffering in bed instead of celebrating. It is a bad memory and I really and truly hope that I don't go through that again, but I never even remotely felt that my life was in danger. I was miserable, but I knew that in the end I would be fine. And I was.

My son got the flu when he was two months old. Newborns cannot be immunized, but I did my part to boost his immunity by immunizing myself while I was pregnant with him and breastfeeding him after he was born. The flu manifested itself as a fever. And nothing else. He was a happy, healthy baby who happened to have a high temperature. I wouldn't have even known it was the flu if I hadn't gone to the doctor and had him tested.

So for all of you unlucky people out there who do get the flu, I wish you a case that mild. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Office Upgrade

I would like to take a moment to memorialize the itsy bitsy cubicles that have housed me for most of my career.

I recently moved to a new office with real walls, a door, visitor seating and a separate storage room.
For a health department employee, this is pretty cool. Until recently, I worked with most of my colleagues at a building subdivided into dark gray, smaller-than-fire-code-permits cubes.  Really, as if cubicles weren't depressing enough, who chose that color?  There was no storage space there, so co-workers would sneak storage into the crevices of your cube when you weren't looking.  If you were foolish enough to go on maternity leave—I did it twice—you would have to dig to get back to your desk when you returned.

Prior to my health department gig, I worked as a research assistant. As you can probably guess by the lofty title "assistant," I was pretty low on the totem pole there. Every time they would get a new PhD to work on some new grant, he/she would envy my space and I would get booted to some less desirable space. Finally, the other assistants and I were sharing a hot, dark, tiny room so awful I was confident no one smart enough to get a PhD would want it. Imagine my shock when I was kicked out of that pitiful excuse for a room as well! No, no one wanted that room, but the newest PhD did envy the server room and I was booted so the server could live in my place.

I did not earn my new office with a promotion. The Health Department recently "reorganized" and for undisclosed reasons, moved my team to a different bureau located at this new building. (I think the reasons are undisclosed because the decision involved drawing straws, or perhaps rock-paper-scissors.)

The government has guidelines for how big your office should be, based on your title. (No, need is not considered.) My new office exceeds my official worthiness in size. I get it because the building was purchased with rooms already built in it and it would have been too expensive to remodel.

There have been some downsides to the move. As I had expected, I have missed lunches with my friends at the old building or my mom, who volunteered down the street from it.  Of course, meetings are infinitely less convenient now that most of my co-workers are across town. Less expected, for my first couple weeks at the new locale, I was unable to print, fax, copy, update my website or do a myriad of other typical office errands. I feel that I have really bonded with tech support during this transition, as we have spent so much time together.  I can now do more of these things than before, but tech support and I are not through hanging out yet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend with Mom and Sisters

Hooray for my sis-in-law (and recently retired amazing health intern/slave) whose camera (unlike mine) is not broken and who took the initiative to blog about our recent trip.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Welcome, Hey You: It's Boys 2-Girls 1

The poor kid! We'll have to name him "Hey You" because we don't have a boy name in mind. When the tech turned the camera on, it looked as if baby Hey You was sitting in it and his gender was obvious. She hadn't asked us if we wanted to know and quickly redirected the camera, but both Mommy and Daddy saw it.

Sister's reaction: "But I wanted a girl baby! I will still like him, though."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Haircut

Before The Cut

He's almost two, but our little boy just received his first haircut. For most of his life, we didn't cut his hair because he grew it so slowly. More recently, we were afraid to cut his beautiful curls off for fear we'd never see them again. Happily, the cut is completed and we found that the shorter hair is still curly!

We took him to the most adorable salon called Cookie Cutters, where he sat inside a toy car during  his cut, watching a cartoon.  His sister had great fun playing on the slide and with the games in the waiting area.
Later that day, we went shopping.  My daughter kept calling out to other kids in carts about the experience and encouraging all to go to Cookie Cutters.  A few days later, she informed me that her brother's hair was getting long again and we should go back.

After The Cut

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ultrasound Scheduled: Will we name the baby Hey-You?

In only two and a half more weeks, we will be able to get our first glimpse of our newest family member and, as long as he/she is not too modest, determine whether he/she is a he or a she.

If she is a she, she will be named on the spot. This was the case with both of my other kids. Before I even met and married my husband, I had a favorite girl's name in mind. Luckily, he liked it too. Early in the pregnancy, we also determined a favorite boy name so we were well prepared to announce her name with her gender. Since our first was a girl, we saved that favorite boy name for our next pregnancy. Early on in that pregnancy, we also chose a new favorite girl name. Since our second was a boy, that girl name has been saved for this child, if she is a girl.

The girl name we have chosen does have some strikes against it. It is kind of a long name, which I think precludes weighing it down with a middle name, but my husband fervently disagrees and so she would have a middle name anyway. Also, and even worse, it is on the top ten most popular names list. I dislike trendiness in child-naming. However, these disadvantages are worth putting up with because, when combined with our last name, this would give the child the exact same full name as my favorite character from my favorite book. How cool is that?

On the other hand, there is a fifty-fifty chance this child is a boy. We have looked into boy names. My husband likes some of them, but I don't. In fact, I am concerned that I may have already named my second child with the only boy name I like. There simply aren't enough boy names to choose from out there. The few that exist are over-used. And while I don't like trendiness, I also wish to avoid outright weirdness and unpronounceability.

So if he is a boy, he will be called, "Hey-You," at least for now. I hope we come up with something better than that before we have to fill out the birth certificate.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Furnishing Grandma and Grandpa

A good portion of my home furnishings came from my parents. Various items have been gifts over the years and others have been hand-me-downs. Recently, my parents sold their house and all of their furniture with it. They are excited to use the return to get all new furniture for their next residence, but my four year-old daughter has been concerned.

"Mommy," she told me. "We should give Grandma and Grandpa back the furniture they gave us, because now they don't have any furniture at all."

I told her that was a very nice idea, but that I thought Grandma and Grandpa would want us to keep the furniture.

"Mommy," she responded. "We should give them back the furniture because that would be the nice thing to do."

I promised her I would talk to Grandma and Grandpa and see if they wanted the furniture back, and if they did, we would return it. (They didn't want it, but appreciated the thoughtfulness of their granddaughter.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Health Reform on My Island

I live in a little island of reformers surrounded by the much more conservative sea of Utah. I work in public health and my husband works in health care. For myself, most of my colleagues, and my spouse, the need for health care reform is quite obvious. Right-wing terms like "socialized medicine" are always spoken very sarcastically, with the quotation marks audible. To me, there are quite a few very obvious symptoms of the need for reform in the American health care system:
  • If you become too sick or injured to work, you lose your health insurance coverage and can't get health care, so you become even sicker or die.
  • If you are born with a genetic illness and therefore depend on health care to help you lead a healthy, normal life, you are uninsurable and can't get health care.
  • If you can't afford preventive health care to keep you well, you get really sick and go to the emergency room, where you get much more expensive care that is passed on to everyone else in the form of skyrocketing health care costs.
Most of the people I work with also see these things as bad and would like reform. But, living in Utah, every now and then I am still exposed to the more mainstream local views.

For example, a loud guy on a cell phone was expressing his fears about health reform on the bus the other day. He can't afford health insurance. I would say that is evidence of the need for reform, but he saw that as no big deal because he just pays cash for his care. Lucky for him, his whole family is healthy and has not yet been run over by an SUV, so paying cash has not been a big deal. But he is scared to death that this health care reform thing will go through and something will change his blissful status quo. Even with all his noisy whining, I couldn't figure out what that dreaded something could be. I think he should be more worried about that SUV and hope that reform goes through before he actually needs to try to use the broken health care system.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Letter to My Rep

My representative is holding a town meeting tomorrow. I can't go, so I wrote him a letter instead. I highly doubt he'll read it, so I am posting it here as well for the reading pleasure of anyone who might be more interested in health reform than Rep. Chaffetz is.

Dear Rep. Chaffetz,

I am sorry I will not be able to attend your town meeting in South Jordan tomorrow, so I wanted to voice my opinions to you via email instead. I am hoping you will reconsider and support health care reform.

My husband has two genetically derived chronic illnesses. In spite of his diseases, he stays healthy because of the excellent disease management he receives through PEHP and our own hefty contributions of co-payments and co-insurance. My husband works but does not receive health insurance from his employers. I work for the state of Utah and I do not have the option of becoming a stay-at-home mom, working for a smaller organization or becoming self-employed because we would lose PEHP. Private insurers will not insure my husband at any price. I do not believe that the American dream is that people with sickly family members should be barred from pursuing the range of employment opportunities available to people with healthier families!

I also feel for the many other families whose situation is similar to ours, except that they don't happen to hold government jobs and have no way of paying for health care.

Of course, many of their bills are transferred to the rest of us through higher insurance premiums and co-pays, and will continue to be until we reform our system.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

House Wins a Battle

I have to admit defeat in the latest battle in the war against the house. I think House's surveillance team somehow found out about my mother-in-law's anticipated visit even before I did and launched a preemptive attack.

There was little House could do to make the situation any worse in the guest room. That room is part of the 1940's section of the house. We replaced the leaky window there but we still needed a window frame. Without the window frame, we could not hang curtains or blinds, so privacy was a problem. The door that wouldn't close was a privacy issue as well. The ceiling paint was peeling in places and patched in others. During the remodel, one of the walls was replaced; the new wall was primed but unpainted and had a visible scar at the top, where the new drywall met the old plaster and chicken wire. Baseboards were missing.
Getting this room guest-ready would be a challenge, but we could have pulled it off, if House hadn't launched an attack from the direction of the main bathroom.

The main bathroom is also from the 40's and the previous residents of the house had textured the walls with pimples that attract mold. They had also punched several large holes into the difficult-to-repair plaster/chicken wire walls. And of course, we only have ourselves to blame for the nice new window lacking a window frame and covered with a classy Star Wars pillow case.

In spite of these issues, remodeling the bath was a low priority to me. Sure, it was ugly, but it was roomy and functional.

That changed when House broke the toilet and a large pipe in the bathroom wall.

My oh-so-handy husband removed the offending toilet and replaced the pipe, but he had to sacrifice most of the bathroom wall in the process.

We were left with one teeny tiny inconvenient bath, hardly ideal for entertaining houseguests.

We fought back hard. We found a very cool wainscot that looks like clean, shiny tile to cover the damaged walls in the bathroom and my husband sanded and plastered over any pimples that were still visible. He framed the bathroom window and part of the guest room window and repaired the guest room door. I painted the guest room, primed the bath and hung curtains. My family helped us out with painting, wallpapering, baseboards, and some creative woodwork to cover remodeling scars.

In spite of this heroic effort, we didn't manage to get the new toilet installed before my husband's mom arrived. Lack of a toilet is an unforgivable flaw for a bathroom. Apparently, we didn't test the door repair enough either, because it locked our guest in her room the first time she closed it. There were enough other details left undone that I have to admit we just didn't pull it off.

I hope House doesn't hear about my pregnancy; the nursery is one of the few rooms we've finished and I really want it to stay intact.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ode to Speech-Writing

My office is sponsoring a conference tomorrow. The powers that be usually make me speak at this conference, but this time I thought I got out of it. About a month ago, one of the people they did ask to speak, a fellow state employee, called me and asked if I would like to co-present with her, since I really am the expert on this topic. I sweetly declined, for two reasons:

1. This audience needs to hear other voices; they hear from me too often.
2. I didn't want to.

Of course, that person happened to be a mere mortal like myself and I could get away with saying no.

I like public speaking, and I do a lot of it at work, but I just finished presenting at quite a few events, I have a lot on my plate, my office is being audited (more on that another time) and I was happy to avoid this assignment this year around.

About a week ago, a co-worker informed me that I was on the agenda for the conference. This confused me, since the conference committee did not ask me to speak. "It's just a panel. You only talk for a few minutes about the reports you've done lately and answer questions," She explained. The committee knew I wouldn't say no to such a simple request, so they hadn't actually bothered to make it.

Fast forward to yesterday, my last day in the office before the conference. I found an email in my box. One of the deputy directors (translation: a person who is much, much more important than I am and usually wouldn't condescend to speak to me) had emailed me with a request...well, actually, it was an order, but very politely written. She is speaking at the conference tomorrow and had located a powerpoint presentation I had made about a year ago, and was wondering if I could update all the data in it (about twenty graph slides) and send it to her by 4:00 yesterday afternoon. Then I got an email from another deputy director (that makes two out of three). He will also be speaking tomorrow, and needed, essentially, a speech, with a much more liberal deadline of 6 pm yesterday.

It occurs to me that it would have been easier to have presented myself...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Tie-Breaker

Our family currently consists of a mom (me), a dad, a daughter and a son. The child of unknown gender in utero will break the tie.

Here's how the bidding stands:

She originally stood firmly in favor of a girl. In fact, she explained to the nurse, "We already have a baby [her toddler brother] but we want another one, a girl one." She has pointed out on several occasions that she already has a baby brother and needs a baby sister. Once, my husband tried to reason with her by asking her to consider the needs of her younger brother. "He doesn't have a baby sister, either!" she replied. More recently, however, her heart has been softened by a religious awakening. I do not know where she got this from, but she has announced that a boy would be okay if that is what Jesus wants us to have.

He is only one year-old and I don't think he understands about the baby.

I'm mostly neutral and happy that already having one of each allows me to avoid the stress of other families who seem to make all of the same gender. However, my competitive nature slightly leans me toward female. If the tie must be broken, I would prefer to be on the winning team.

Instead of casting a traditional ballot, my husband is crossing his fingers for a set of twins. My enormous belly is contributing to his hopes. Mommy's fingers are much looser on this point; twins are cute, but the car only seats five.

Career Ambitions Evolving

My 4 year-old has expanded her career options. While princess is still a top choice, she is also considering doctor and dish washer.

Cool Commuter

I am on the train riding home from work, and I just saw a guy holding a briefcase, wearing a tie and riding a unicycle. What a unique commuting option.  And so healthy and environmentally friendly.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Too late for a "Before" picture

My huge pregnant belly at 7 weeks

Spoke Too Soon

After his first day at the church nursery, I raved about how my toddler happily adjusted to his new environment. The next Sunday, he was good at nursery but pouted the whole time. The next week, his daddy had to come in for a while to help him recover from his separation anxiety. (Mommy is busy during church meetings. I am the primary chorister, which means I teach songs to 3-11 year-olds.) The next week, Daddy had to remove him from the nursery altogether because he would not tolerate it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I'm not fat, I'm...

PREGNANT. I am still only six weeks along and ordinarily I would wait until after I had seen the doctor to make an announcement like this, but a couple of forces are encouraging me to go public:

1. My Husband.
He is a proud daddy and he can't seem to resist working, "We're expecting," into all sorts of conversations. He started doing this even before I'd taken a pee test. "Honey, don't you think we should wait to tell people until after I've taken a pregnancy test?" I asked him. "I know you're pregnant," he responded. "Because you're getting so moody."

2. My Belly.
As previously mentioned, I am only six weeks along. According to all the literature I have read on the topic, pregnant women do not "show" at this stage. My belly, which does not read, has already expanded so that my pants won't close.

Those of you who do not live locally enough to see my amazing growing belly may be thinking, "Surely, so early, any body changes could only be noticeable to yourself. I'll bet no one else has noticed." I was hoping this could be the case until I visited Home Depot last night. Every time I reached for a moderately heavy object, a kind sales rep or fellow customer stopped me and fetched it for me. Bless them; this kind of courtesy is one of the things I like about being pregnant, but I just hadn't planned on being so obviously pregnant so soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Cute Sermon

Here is my 4 year-old's first talk at church. I didn't whisper prompts to her; she did it on her own.

Weekend in Manti

We took the kids camping last week. This was a first for my one year-old. He was thrilled that we were sleeping in a big bouncy toy. Each bedtime, he would run around in circles diving onto air mattresses and family members.

The first night, he woke up in the middle of the night screaming. The next two nights, he slept well when he finally finished playing bouncy toy, but his sister woke up screaming.

The one year-old occasionally wakes up screaming even at home, so this was no surprise. But the 4 year-old? Where did that come from? I thought she would love sleeping in the tent. She helped me test it in our yard before the trip and she was so cute. She stocked the tent with a game, a story book and two apples (I thanked her for the apple, but had to let her know that we don't keep food in tents for safety reasons) and was so excited for our mother-daughter sleep-over.

On Thursday, we attended the Mormon Miracle Pageant. I have attended it once before, 12 years ago. At the time, I liked it but thought the style seemed a bit dated. I think they are still using the same script and soundtrack now and it seems 12 years more dated than before, but I still liked it for the most part.

We arrived late but got great seats near the front. The actors exaggerated all of their motions, for the benefit of people sitting at the back of the vast audience, I am sure, but from where we were the exaggeration was kind of funny. The special effects, however, were very cool from our seats--the fires felt hot!

It rained on us while we watched. The rain was warm and light, so it wasn't too bad, but it did prevent my one year-old from sleeping through the show as I had hoped. I ran laps with the impatient child through the whole thing. Not many people get that of exercise while watching a play.
We spent Friday morning at our campsite playing croquet and swimming. In the afternoon, we visited Manti Heritage Days. Oops. Based on the Internet description, I thought this would be similar to Riverton Days, Draper Days, South Jordan Days and other town celebrations complete with musical entertainment and carnival games. Nope. It involved nice, elderly people giving speeches about growing up in Manti. Hardly fare to entertain a four-year-old. Or me. Luckily, the one-year-old napped in his stroller until we left.

Saturday, we moved over to Palisade State Park, where we participated in another Rockin' Utah activity. What a great way to camp! The Park personel provided a yummy dinner and breakfast, campsite, a golf lesson, a fish-cooking lesson, rental golf clubs, and a couple hours on the golf course with a cart for the crazy cheap price of $10 a family. Plus, they sent us home with some new canteens, fishing gear, and a ladderball game. The kids liked playing with golf clubs and loved riding the cart.

Mormon Temple Open House

My kids and I toured the Oquirrh (challenging spelling) Mountain Temple yesterday. This is a new temple located in South Jordan, Utah. In general, only adult members of the LDS church are permitted to enter Mormon temples, except during the open house held for a brief period after a new one is built or an older one is remodeled. So this open house is a great opportunity for people who are not of the LDS faith and for Mormon children to see the inside of a temple. It is open until August. You can get free tour tickets at the LDS church website.

Mommy's triumphant homecoming

My kids, ages 4 and 1 1/2, are at an adorable stage where they come running out of the house, often somewhat naked, yelling, "Mommy!" whenever they see me arriving from work. Actually, the one-year-old says, "Bobby." He pronounces it like he has a cold. Today I made a brief stop at my house in the middle of my workday and had to devastate my baby by immediately leaving again. I felt bad, but it reminded me to be grateful for this stage; my kids are so overjoyed to see me. While my kids are so small, it's hard in some ways (like when I want to go to a public place without dealing with a run-away, a temper tantrum, or general disturbance of the peace) but so rewarding in others. I love my greeting party after work.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blogging about Facebook

The whole world was peer-pressuring me to join Facebook. Over the course of a few short weeks, several in-person friends pestered me about my failure to emerge as a Facebook Friend. At the same time, I was subjected to multiple seminars about how I should be using Facebook as a tool for health promotion (the kind of work I do).

When I finally registered for Facebook, I was shocked and delighted to see that I had Friends waiting for me. If you joined Facebook years ago like everyone else, you probably don't know that Facebook retains a list of people who tried to beFriend you before you joined the site. When you finally do join, Facebook recognizes your email address and greets you with a list of people willing to be your Friend, if you agree.

My delight at my unexpected popularity dampened a bit when I wrote my first post and realized what a teeny little text box I had to write in.

I can be succinct. Really. Brevity is one of the defining virtues of the field of health promotion. But darn it, in my personal life I reserve the right to be as long-winded as I please.

Joining Facebook led to happy reunions with many long-lost friends. My Friends were asking me, with questions short enough to fit into the little Facebook textbox, to update them on my life. I wanted to, but I couldn' t figure out how to summarize a full and rewarding life with a family, career, hobbies, and even Friends in such a miniature space.

So now I blog. So long, tiny textbox!

By the way, I still haven't managed to use Facebook for health promotion. Eat your veggies, Friends.

Rockin' Utah

The Utah state parks administration has a grant this summer to fight the obesity epidemic by teaching families with kids to recreate outdoors.
We gave it a try. The first event we signed up for was called, "Fish and Fly".

What a deal! The event cost $10 per family, including admission to the park. Since admission to Yuba Lake is usually $7 per car anyhow, we essentially invested $3 for the program. At the lake, the whole family received new fishing poles. Even my toddler became the proud owner of a colorful, miniature pole with a toy fish attached to the line. We were also given bait and a tackle box. During the "flying" portion, my kids each received a nice, large, colorful nylon kite. My husband and I received a stunt kite to share. We came home with quite a cache of merchandise for three bucks!

Not only was this a great deal, but it was a lot of fun. A ranger was taught us how to fish. My four-year-old actually sat with my husband and fished and she was thrilled to catch a couple (although they were not the kind you would eat so we threw them back). My toddler ran up and down the dock, spouting off two new words he learned at the activity: dock and boat. Every now and then, he would seat himself in the row with the fishermen and stick his toy pole over the water, grin, and immediately jump up and take off running again. I got great exercise following him.

A rep of Cloud 9 in Draper (where you see all of the paragliders jumping off the cliff as you go past on the freeway) taught us how to manage the stunt kite. We are still not very good at this, but that makes it fun. I get bored with traditional kites a few minutes after getting them up into the air, when there is no challenge left. The kids loved seeing so many kites in the air at once, like Mary Poppins.

The downside: The website has NO information, other than the dates and places of the activities. So you are pretty clueless about what you are signing up for. After signing up, we got a couple emails that said "More information to come," but never any actual information, so the day of we were still wondering if we needed to bring anything with us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Family versus house

About two years ago, my husband and I acquired a stucturally sound but dated 1940's home. We had a swell plan to live in one part while remodeling the other. Assuming it was an inanimate object, we did not take the house's opinons into consideration. The house did not want us to live there.

Before our first move-in attempt, I peeled away some wallpaper and found that the wall underneath it was missing. Termites.

During another attempt, the furnace died. In January. Being ecologically minded, we had intended to replace that ancient, energy-consuming monster anyway. But our plan had been to undergo the project in the summer, when we would not need heat. House said, "Hah!"

Since those early attempts, we have managed to take up residence at the House. However, our budget for contractors has been depleted and we are continuing the remodeling effort ourselves. My husband is the master carpenter, plumber and electrician and I am the dim-witted assistant. My wonderful family has taken pity on us and devotes one evening per month to helping us, too. My kids serve mainly as the testing crew, experimenting with things until they break them or injure themselves. They are also good at redecorating freshly painted walls with markers. House continues to reject us as residents, breaking something in protest on a regular basis.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Religious freedom

My son recently reached 18 months of age. This qualifies him to enter the church nursery instead of accompanying me, where he would loudly express how boring Sunday School was and create diversions to liven things up. We are both happier now.

He was a success his first day at nursery. He joined the other kids playing without much concern for the status of his parents. He particularly enjoyed singing time; he plopped himself into the teacher's lap for the whole session.

Talking about talking

My one year-old's vocabulary is growing by a word or two daily now. For quite some time, I irrationally fretted about his lack of speaking skills, in spite of the reassurances of my husband, who is a speech therapist. My older daughter was always so ahead for her age that right-on-track seems slow. At his last well-child, I was quite surprised to learn that his current vocabulary of about 30 words was about triple the average 10 words for his age. Even Daddy Speech Therapist hadn't noticed the transition from right-on-track to brilliant orator.

Some Things My Toddler Says...
I love you (This was one of his first elocutions! Isn't he sweet?)
mama (This was not one of his first...sigh.)
papa (grandma or grandpa)
happy (He learned this one at big sister's birthday party.)
boat (He learned this one at his first fishing trip.)
oh oh
big (always referring to himself)
helper (also about himself. He says this when he passes me something useful. Or not useful. Or when he helps me do chores, such as pulling flowers while I pull weeds or unfolding laundry as I fold it.)
clean up
please (as a sign)
NOTE: So far, he does NOT say, "No" or "Mine." Keep your fingers crossed for me that we can keep this up...

Raising royalty

My daughter is 4 years old. She has the brains and social networking skills necessary to be president someday. Although, she has informed me that she doesn't want to be president; she wants to be princess. If anyone has the potential to grow up to stage a coup and instill herself as monarch, it is my girl. So let's hope she doesn't choose the dark side.

The scar-face villain

My daughter's personal energy level usually rivals the aggregate energy levels of an entire athletic team. Sometimes this energy compels her to do irrational things, like last week when she spun into the kitchen countertop and split her chin open.

Fortunately, her annual well-child exam happened to be one hour later. She got stitches (again).

Later that evening, my husband looked at her and yelled, "Where are her stitches?" The question confused me, since he was present at the doctor's office and should have known where the stitches were.

The stitches were gone. We rushed her back to the doctor, who informed us that apparently, my child had removed her own stitches on the sly. No, my 4 year-old does not have the appropriate medical training for such a procedure. We anticipate scarring.