Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Let's Do This Thing"

Sofia woke up this morning and, still wild-haired and groggy, she hooked her finger in the side of her mouth and pulled her cheek over to show me an angry, swollen lump on her upper gum.  It was a little oozy and I was a little repulsed but said, "That looks like it probably hurts, Peanut.  Chew your breakfast on the right side of your mouth and I'll call the dentist today."  We went about our usual morning and I took all three kids to school.  Later, when the dentist's office opened, I called and described what I had found in Sofia's mouth that morning.  They said that it sounded like an abscess and asked to see her right away.

Wha?  Right away?  Fine.  I cancelled a conference call and went to get Sofia from school.  I packed Snowy (the stuffed dog she received for bravery after an oral surgery last year) and Hydrangea (her favorite baby doll) for security just in case she needed a procedure.  I did this while clinging to the hope that just some antibiotics would do the trick.

No such luck.   The dentist told us that the tooth was infected and needed to come out.  With Sofia listening he told us that he could pull it today or load her up with antibiotics and get her back in, with her usual dentist, in a week.  I looked at Sofia and before I could suggest that getting it over with might be the best option, she took Snowy in her arms and walked slowly, hesitantly, but bravely from the chair next to me to the dentist's exam chair.  We (me, the dentist, and the hygienist) were all impressed.   I was filled with pride and awe at her bravery.  

The procedure began.  She took in some laughing gas, and relaxed.  She opened her mouth obediently, and the Novocaine went in.  70% of the way through the painful needle, she started to get agitated and began to struggle.   It clearly hurt and she'd had enough. With the needle in the roof of her mouth she asked, "Is it out?"  "Not yet" was the answer. She grew more agitated and impatient and then she said these exact words, with venom in her voice, "Let's do this thing!"  

And if only he could have, but the Novocaine (finally in) needed time to take affect.  When the dentist let Sofia sit up to wait five minutes for her mouth to numb up, she realized that he hadn't pulled the tooth yet.  She went ballistic. And then nuclear.  She lept off the dentist's chair and stood in the corner of the exam room, growling like a lion and shrieking in the shrill pitch of a traffic whistle.  And at the same time, she was literally foaming at the mouth, so numb that she couldn't feel her drool and bubbly spittle.  Her head may have spun around once or twice.  There was no reasoning with her.  There was no way to convince her that the hard part was over.  She couldn't hear a word that anyone was saying.  She was too busy raging.  Everyone in the office could surely hear her because after the five minutes finally elapsed, three more nurses entered the exam room with the dentist.

We had come too far to abort the mission.  She was pinned by the caring arms of five nurses and a sobbing mother.  The tooth was pulled.

By the time it was over, we had both cried buckets of tears.  The dentist proclaimed that he needed a shower and a beer and then he promptly left.  (Who can blame him.)  Two receptionists even teared up at the sight of us on our way out.  Sofia was still shaking with bloody gauze in her mouth.  I was choking back full blown sobs as I paid our bill.

She's sleeping now, my brave, angry fighter.  And just so that I don't forget them, here are few addtional gems - things Sofia (forever talking) said during the intense extraction with 6 people holding her and the dentist trying not to lose a finger:

Imagine all of these things said maniacally, fast, and from deep in her throat:
"You're hurting me, you know."
"Wait, wait, everybody stop touching me.  My finger hurts."
"I'm sweating and no one is listening to me."
"You don't listen so good."
"Something doesn't taste good. Can I have a drink."
"I want to go home.  RIGHT NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW."

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Hubby's out of town (golfing with his besty) and I'm in our bed with Sofia breathing softly next to me, looking younger in her sleep than when she is animated with her too-big-girl sass.  And I'm writing for a change.  I've been out of the habit for a while and also a little out of touch with what compels me to write - those ordinary moments in our family life.  I've let them feel too ordinary.  Time together isn't as scarce as it was a year and a half ago so I suppose it is natural to take something abundant for granted.  And we did just move into a new house, which was a lot of work.  But the disconnect leaving me uninspired to write may also be because I'm not writing. Recording our family's stories here helps me bring them into focus and treasure them.  So being away from the storytelling I do on this blog hasn't helped me find the Mommy spark that usually sends me racing for a pencil to jot down a child's quip or a quotable cuteness.

Tonight I feel the tug of emotion that makes my fingers wiggle for the keyboard.   It's only 8:30.  This is when adult time usually begins - a glass of wine, a book, the crossword, a little email or a project.  Tonight there's a pile of dishes and an even bigger pile of laundry waiting for me with a not small glass of wine already poured.  But here I am in bed with my girl, and here I will stay. 

Sofia had been looking forward to sleeping in my bed since her Dad left for the airport and the snuggling felt so good and sweet.  She fell asleep and I was about to crawl out of the warm bed to claim the wine and start the chores, but I stopped myself.  I am just here and still for a change, listening to my sweet girl breathe and feeling that pull to write it down, treasure it, and never forget it. 

Don't grow up, daughter, and don't let me miss another moment like this.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picky Boy Wins

The six months that I decided to devote to "Operation Picky Pants" (also known as "20 for 6") have elapsed.  It is time for a debrief.

If you don't know what I'm referring to, read the March 29th Mission Impossible post for a refresher on my 6 month scheme to coax the picky eater out of my eldest son.  We have more or less been sticking to a plan of eating the same 20 things for dinner for six months, with one night a week available for new recipes.  Full disclosure: There have been numerous exceptionw to the program that could not be avoided by anyone who values their sanity.  We still ate out, dined with friends and family, and took trips this summer.  But caveats aside, we hung in there and the results are in.

Early Wins
You may remember that in April I reported in the post "Shrimply Triumphant" that there were some exciting achievements early in the program.  I was laser-focused, the program was well-hyped at home, and by miracle GJ tasted his first meatball of his life (turns out it was also his last) and ate a plate full of lemony shrimp over pasta - both no-nos before the program.

The Duldrums
Then came the middle months.  I lost all my cooking mojo.  Making and planning dinner turned into drudgery.  I abandoned the system because setting the menu was a matter of pulling out the list of 20 things and deciding which I could bear making and eating again.  Sitting down with wine and cookbooks wasn't necessary and the grocery list wrote itself.  You may be thinking that sounds great, but the planning is my favorite part of The System.  GJ persisted in his resistance and I thought the battle was lost.

End Runs
Then over the last two weeks, as if by magic, GJ's mind opened (just a crack) to new things.  We went out to dinner with Grandma and Grandpa and GJ ordered and ate a rack of messy ribs.  After polishing them off, he eyed Sofia's unfinished salmon and asked to try it.  I went into "don't scare the small mammal" mode where I move slowly and make no eye contact.  If he felt like he was making a concession to his lame and clapping mom, he may not have followed through.  But he did and he loved Sofia's salmon.  Since then I have been re-engergized about this project, and GJ has asked to try several other things, including fresh mozzarella and tomato salad,  teriyaki salmon, frozen chicken meatballs (billed as round sausage, yes he fell for that) and black bean burritos.

Lessons Learned
  • GJ eats a decent number of things for a kid.  Looking over the list (included below for those with interest), even just at the things he entered the program liking, I think I have been too hard on him. He deserves more credit.
  • Even though the program didn't perform miracles, it did make a difference.  All I can do is cook and expose these kids to good foods and teach them how we feel about trying new things and giving them more than one chance.  The rest is up to them, isn't it? 
  • My biggest wins came after the duldrum phase when I was quieter and more relaxed about my campaign against pickiness.  That probably gave GJ a chance to feel more in control, like he'd come to his decisions on his own because he wanted to. Chill out, Mom.
Final Takeaway for me
Keep cooking and offering new foods mixed with favorite foods and to let the rest unfold as it may.  

Post Script on the Results for the Detail-oriented

Here is what made the final list of 20, roughly how many times we ate each meal, and which dishes won him over:
1.  Spaghetti and meatballs
My biggest disappointment – He tried a morsel once and gagged, still does not like it
2.   Chicken Milanese with  orzo and broccoli

Family favorite
3.  Fettucine alfredo with ham and peas
Family favorite
4.  Spaghetti puttanesca
He ate a few strands, still does not like it
5.  Chicken stir fry, rice and edamame

Family favorite
5.  Beef bulgoki-style stir fry
Family favorite
6.  Fajitas

He still eats his with guacamole and cheese only
7.  Teriyaki salmon
A major success – He hated it the first two times and loved it in the end
8.  Grilled swordfish
He already liked this
9.  Black bean burritos

Another success – He actually put a skinny line of beans down on top of his guacamole and cheese and he tolerated it.
10.  Sesame noodles with edamame and assorted veggies
This was a reverse failure.  He started off liking this but ended the project turned off.  He says it makes him too thirsty now.  Good grief.
11. Grilled Italian sausage with peppers and onions
Family favorite
12. Spaghetti al'amatriciana

Ate a few strands and would tolerate it again.
13. Seared ham steak with sweet potato puree
Family favorite.  The second time he tried the sweet potato and like them with syrup on top.
14. Thai chicken on rice stick noodles
Family favorite
15. Lemony shrimp over linguini

Wrote about this.  Another major success
16. Pizzas
Family favorite
17. Grilled steak, baked potato and asparagus

Family favorite
18. Keilbasa, steamed potatoes, and green beans

Family favorite
19. steamed shrimp

GJ already liked this
20.  seared “white” fish

Tolerated this

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brave girl - memory box #6

You may already know about my little memory box, previously discussed and pictured on this blog.  I have it because sometimes the kids say or do things that make me rush for a pen.  In those moments, I find my self scribbling frantically to catch their exact words, to remember everything about a moment.  Those scribbles end up dated and tossed into the memory box and now the box has become something I would rush into a house on fire to retrieve.

Sometimes I dig into the memory box and post a good anecdote. Today I have to share a new one because it impressed and touched me so much.

On Monday, the kids had their first day of summer camp.  Sofia was uncharacteristically nervous, but chattering away as usual.  She was asking about who she would know and what she would do if no one wanted to be her friend.  She asked me if I was ever afraid at school when I was a little girl.  She barely touched her breakfast saying, "Sometimes if I am too, too, shy, I get filled up too quick."

My poor baby.  I hugged her and told her that new things feel scary but they can turn out to be wonderful.  I was waiting for her to resist going to camp or to have a melt down but she didn't.  She marched upstairs to get dressed then she came down and packed up.

I checked on her again when she was buckling her sandals.  She was exhaling from her mouth in a slow and exaggerated way, with her lips puckered out like a fish.  I sat on the floor next to her asked her what she was doing.  She put her hands together to make a circle shape and she said,
"I have this much fear out of me.  I'm blowin' it out.  [I must have looked surprised.]  Mommy, you can contwole your fears because they're on the inside of you.  If they were on the outside you couldn't  contwole 'em, but they're not, they're on the inside, so you can."

I was totally speechless.  How could she be so brave and knowing?  I gave her a big hug and tried not to cry.  Then I rushed for a pen and scribbled.

Monday, June 20, 2011

To Their Dad

The kids celebrated Father's Day yesterday, but without their Father.  He was having a rare guy's weekend with an old friend.  So the kids and I spent some time talking about their Dad and I decided to interview them on the subject of their Dad, hoping to make this post a Father's Day gift of sorts. 

Below is the transcript of my interviews with the children.  They were interviewed alone and did not hear or discuss each other's answers before giving their own responses.  All similarities between responses are coincidence.

What three describing words would you use in a sentence about Daddy?
Sofia:  When I see him …when he comes home from work and I see him, I want to give him a hug and a kiss.

Johnny: Nice.  Lovey.  ….and funny.

GJ: How do you use a describing word for grilling?  Good at grilling?  I love his pancakes.  Sometimes he is very nice.  Not all the time?  Nah.

What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Sofia: That he likes to play puzzles with me.

Johnny: Weeelll….he does funny jokes.  What’s the funniest?  I don’t really know that but he just does... um, like if we do something he just makes up random ones and I don’t have a favorite.  I like all of um. 

GJ: It’s when he lets me play on his ipod.’s actually when he makes pancakes.

Is your Dad serious or silly?
Sofia: Serious and silly.  When is he serious?  Well….um….when we’re not doing what you axed.  When is he silly?  When, when, when, when, when me and Dadday and the brudhas [brothers] are just goofin’ off.  Then things start to get silly.  [Begins giggling] It just makes me whaff when I say it. She says

Johnny: Serious AND silly.  Well….sometimes if we do something bad he yells at us and sometimes he is funny.

GJ: Serious....and silly.

What is the funniest thing about Daddy?
Sofia: That he tickles me a lot. 

Johnny: That he says that his feet look beautiful.  What is so funny about that?  It reminds me about that poem.  Do you think his feet are beautiful?  NO.  Of course not.

GJ: I have no clue....I don’t know.  What would Daddy say is funniest?  The feet part.  When he says, “look at my beautiful feet.”  Do you think his feet are beautiful?  Not really.

What does Daddy do all day while you’re in school or camp?
Sofia: Work.  He works.  What kind of work?  Nurse’s work…wait!  A brain surgeon’s work.  What do brain surgeons do?  They fix people’s brains and spines and their other body parts.  But mostly they fix your brain.  What could be wrong with a brain that Daddy would fix?  Like if it couldn’t …if it didn’t work.  Dada would have to break open the head and take it out.  Take out whatever isn’t making the brain not work.

Johnny: He works.  He works a lot.  He works on people’s brain and spine.  Does he work on the spine?  .....Yeah.  I think he works on the spine too.

GJ:  He goes to work.  He works.  That’s pretty much what he does all day.  

Why did he decide to do what he does?
Sofia: Because he thought it was a good and important job for him.  Wait.  I don’t know that question, but you can still write down what I said about him.

Johnny: Probably because he thought it was a good job.

GJ: I have no clue.

Why did Daddy decide to have children and become a father?
Sofia: Because he wanted to marry you and he wanted to have beautiful children like you.  Do you think he likes to be a dad?  YES I DO!

Johnny: Because, I think you told him.  Did you tell him?  ....I’m just guessin’.  I was in your tummy.  I wasn’t even existin'.  GJ was in your tummy but not me.  Not me.

GJ: Cuz he wanted to be a parent.  Do you think he like to be a dad? Yes.

Is there anything about Daddy that you would change if you could?
Sofia: I will change him being mad.  When ever he was mad I would change him being mad.  But I can’t. 

Johnny: That he wouldn’t be that strict.  What does he do that’s the most strict?  Yell at us.  Anything else?  No, because he’s a nice dad.

GJ: I wanna make him not say the feet are beautiful.  Daddy’s perfect?  Pretty much.

Why do you think he married Mommy?
Sofia: Because he thought you looked beautiful.  And cuz you thought he was handsome.  And…..then you fell in love so much you wanted to marry.

Johnny: Because he thought you were beautiful.  Anything else?  Um…

GJ: So he could have kids.  Any other reasons?  Cuz he loved you.

How did Daddy ask me to marry him?
Sofia: He saw you and then he came up to you and asked if you can marry me and you said yes. 

Johnny: I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

GJ: "Will you please marry me?"

Why do mom’s and dad’s get married? 
Johnny: Because if you didn’t get married, you’d live alone and be sad.

GJ: I don’t know that one.

Any else you would like to say about your Dad on Father’s Day?
Johnny: no.

GJ: I love you daddy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Schools Out

Today ends our first week of summer vacation and I have one thing to say:   It's going to be a long summer.

The kids have had activities lined up all week.  They've had camps and time with friends and trips to the pool.  Today has been their first afternoon at home and they are climbing the walls.  So am I.

I hate to hear, "I'm bored."  I find myself responding with the same retorts that I remember my mother saying to me when I would complain of boredom.  "Read a book."  "You can fold laundry."  "I need help with the dishes."  Not surprisingly, my little darlings react just as poorly as I did to what I now consider very helpful suggestions.  

Today's whining about boredom is especially ironic because last night at bedtime we read the poem, "Today is Very Boring" by Jack Prelutsky and we talked about how spoiled the poem's narrator sounded and how silly it is to be bored with so much around to engage you. 

Maybe the poem will work better at your house.  Good luck beating back the summertime blues.

Today is Very Boring
by Jack Prelutsky

Today is very boring,
it's a very boring day,
there is nothing much to say,
there's a peacock on my sneakers,
there's a penguin on my head,
there's a dormouse on my doorstep,
I am going back to bed.

Today is very boring,
it is boring through and through,
there is absolutely nothing
that I think I want to do,
I see giants riding rhinos,
and an ogre with a sword,
there's a dragon blowing smoke rings,
I am positively bored.

Today is very boring,
I can hardly help buy yawn,
there's a flying saucer landing
in the middle of my lawn,
a volcano just erupted
less than half a mile away,
and I think I felt and earthquake,
it's a very boring day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Loving quiche

I think that quiche is underrated.  Why don’t men like it?  It can’t be the taste.  Quiche is so delicious, even if hard on the arteries.  And it’s easy too. 

We have a big family and whenever there’s an event calling for brunch, out comes the quiche.  Bridal or baby showers?  Serve quiche.  It’s more elegant than alternative egg dishes like stratas and frittatas that feed a crowd, and you can make quiche in advance.   You can serve it with breakfast meat, fruit, and muffins or scones.  It goes equally well with green salad and roasted potatoes or soup. 

GJ’s first communion was a few weeks ago and the family came together to celebrate.  It wasn’t a full house but we were still 18 strong.  I made a new quiche recipe with bacon, arugula, and Gruyere. I love arugula in a salad but I’d never had it sautéed and cooked into anything before.  It added a nutty taste and more flavor than spinach.  

I cheated and used one of those refrigerated Pillsbury pre-made pie dough circles.  Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe which you can find here on the website. 

My quiche wasn't his pretty, nor was it garnished with a bacon rose!
I found this random picture under Google images, unattributed.  I think it's hilarious.  How could someone hate quiche enough to march about it?