Levi Turned Five

Today, Levi had his fifth birthday party. Yesterday, it was really his birthday. Although, all day yesterday, Levi declared that he would not turn five until his party. And, today was his party.

I planned, since last year, to have a place-based party. That is, a place that isn’t our home. I looked at the community center, indoor castles, art clubs, jumping houses … and I settled on the bowling alley. It offered the least expensive option and is closest to our home. What was included? Pizza, soda, bumper lanes, table cloths, paper plates, napkins, and cups. The best part was it was set for an hour and not at our house.

The kids (and parents!) had a blast. About 11 kids showed up. What a change from my fifth birthday where I could only think of two friends from my new school to attend. We tried to go sledding, but as mine is also a February birthday (late), snow in Michigan is hit or miss, and there was only mud. Here, the kids were set for success. We put some names up, but it served to semi organize chaos. Occasionally, the kids paid attention to the names, but they were free to run, play, eat, drink. And they did all things.

As adults, we visited with each other in rotation – what would be expected of such a party. It was amazing to me how full the small space were allotted looked. We even have plans to do this again next year. Same place, but just get an extra lane.

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Commuting in 2012

English: Bus 2909 of TriMet, the public transi...
Image via Wikipedia

You may recall I’ve had a varied commute in all the years I’ve lived here, in Portland. 2012 marks the start of the 9th year I’ve lived here. Nine years. It’s a little surprising that I am working towards being here for an entire decade. While I was still living in Michigan, I was able to finally figure out my purpose, if you will. I wanted to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. Once I got, here, to Portland, I began studying Sustainable Urban Development and living out my green dreams to the best of my ability.

I partook in regular bus commutes. I refused to own a car. I toyed with riding my bicycle. I bought organic foods and preached to others the importance of doing so. I bought recycled toilet paper. I ate more beans than meat. When I moved closer to work, I walked to work forgoing all fossil fuel options and using my own two feet instead.

Then, life changed. I got a curve ball. I got pregnant and married while still in school. What a humbling experience this has been! I used to eat arugula salads all the time, but then I found myself married to someone who’s taste buds hadn’t been acclimated to the slightly bitter green. Then, we found ourselves with a huge budget crunch: no income while taking care of a baby! Organic dreams went by the wayside. Always lurking in the background, but not something we could act on when we had $300 to spend, per month, on our total grocery bill (including the WIC and SNAP benefits allotted).

At the same time, I got the best bus pass – ever. It was good for five years and was an all-zone pass. That’s right, I got the benefit of being the partner of a TriMet employee. While I got the best bus pass, ever, I stopped commuting! My husband drove me to and from school on the days I went. Then, I finished school and I stopped needing to go places save once a week or so. Then, instead of taking the bus, driving, or walking – I found myself driving an SUV!

Next, life changed again, and I got employed. The only problem was that I didn’t look close enough at the job description and the job was twenty miles away. I was looking at a 45 minute commute by car or a 90 minute commute by bus. I had to factor in day care, so commuting by car became my new norm.

Well, the beginning of this year has proven another change. The office moved downtown. Downtown! My commute decreased by 15 miles! Challenges remain, especially in regards to picking up Levi. However, I took the one bus to work. I walked. Walked! I listened to NPR, sent emails, checked my schedule — all while on the bus.

The ride home was a little more stressful as the bus was running late. I might benefit from changing my schedule a half hour on the start and end time to allow more flexibility with picking up Levi. We made it home though, not without complaint. And, my feet just aren’t used to walking fast anymore, so they need to be retrained. Tomorrow, I will try a park and ride option. This means, I will bus to work then home, and then pick up the truck and get Levi.

Commuting in 2012 will mean a driver’s license renewal. It will mean an all-zone, five-year bus pass renewal. It might mean Levi gets his own bus pass. (I can’t remember the age kids are supposed to have their own tickets.) Yes, 2012 will have changes in commuting. Here’s to less driving and more bus riding.

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Nickle & Dimed

Getting drawn on.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I read it shortly after it came out, on recommendation from my lifelong teacher friend. Personal experience confirmed and has confirmed Barbara Ehrenreich‘s reporting in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. When I participated in Project Closeup in 1995, our week long steward confirmed another bit I already knew to be true: most women get out of welfare by getting married. Although our prospects weren’t much better even after that event. If a strong middle class is part and parcel to what makes this country, this world, great – what sort of disservice to we provide when we strengthen the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom of the economic ladder?

I was born on a peninsula whose industry was dominated by mining and logging. Driving through, you see the contrast of depression and boom by the dilapidated farm houses and new McMansion log cabins. The shoreline resorts that are in disrepair now, decorate US2, whereas when I was young they always seemed to be a in state with a fresh coat of paint. Roads were worse off than I ever remember, with potholes and jagged pave jobs traveling with you as you drive. That’s Michigan now. A state dominated by industry, and when the resources are used up and the jobs go overseas — what’s left?

Cover of
Cover via Amazon

When my father left, my mother, a then stay at home mom, remained to support her three children. She got retail jobs where she could, but with a high school education and one who was never on a white collar career path, the only real support option we had was welfare. We were on foodstamps and public housing until my mother remarried. Even then, our prospects weren’t much better given the large family we had. Now we had free or reduced lunches to compliment our daily schooling. My own, more recent experience, also confirms the more humiliating aspect of asking for help.

Nationally, according to Kaaryn Gustafson of the University of Connecticut Law School, “applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police.” There may be a mug shot, fingerprinting, and lengthy interrogations as to one’s children’s true paternity. The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime.

I’ve confessed to some people I work with that asking for help is one thing I have a hard time with. Is it any wonder, when thinking back to these other experiences — especially when one is at their most needy. When you’re a kid on food stamps or free/reduced lunch, you know the social stigma that goes with it. Other children talk, tease, about the lessor parents who basically can’t support their children and have to be on welfare. A term said with such derision that only the dullest person could miss it. Now, add the process onto it, and you have more humiliation than some people can handle.

We handled it because we had to. My mother had three children, then 4/5 to support after remarrying. We have our one son and ourselves, and with some chronic health problems to boot. Thankfully my husband was able to find a union job so we could get out of that economic depression. But, sometimes, I feel like we’re still on the brink, like when my husband back went out just three weeks ago. His job is manual labor. What happens should his body fail him, permanently?

Poverty shouldn’t be viewed as a crime. We all have a right to be here. And, we all have a responsibility to one another. These problems we face weren’t created in a day, and they won’t be solved in a day. But, we have to collectively take part in their change. We owe it to ourselves, our fellow neighbors, and our children.

Source

How America turned poverty into a crime Barbara Ehrenreich on Salon

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Potty Training at 35,000 Feet

Levi's 4th Birthday
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

We went on vacation in March, you may recall. (Michigan Vacation 2011) Our son, Levi, is four years old. He started potty training at 2 years old with his first day care experience. Now, at nearly 4 and a half years, I feel confident that we can celebrate Levi being potty trained.

More or less.

Potty training, as you may recall I preach, is a spectrum. We start out in diapers, learn the mechanics, figure out how to listen to our body when we have to go until we can no longer hear our body, and we end up back in diapers — again.

But, there is immense pressure on the child and parent to have a potty trained child. I want a career. I like to work. It is an important way in which I keep my mind active, moving, thinking, evolving. IN order for me to work Levi must be in some sort of daily care. Our choices are home care, day care, or preschool (in varying forms). I prefer center-type institutions, as it appeals to structure that I crave. When we were deciding before I started this job (my goodness nearing on 10 months ago!), the qualifications were:

  1. Will you work with a (then) three year old who isn’t potty trained?
  2. Various motherly and fatherly intuitions to factor in judgments.

Home care is often thrown out, as I am not usually satisfied with the level of attention I see given. However, I know of one mom who has a daycare in her home, and she is absolutely fabulously. Ironically, the choice came down to a home care near our home or a center near my work.

The center, the Goddard School, won out. (With these hive issues, I’m glad, triply, that we chose “close to work” for ease of visits.) The owner, the teachers, and the rest of the staff, are diligent, persistent, consistent, and patient in their training of Levi. During the Fall parent-teacher conferences, they even identified working out his frustrations and potty training as the two top things they wanted to work on throughout the  year. (We have our spring conferences in two weeks where we shall see how he’s done!)

So, the school has been working with him consistently, and mom and dad (my husband and I) have been working with Levi less consistently. We encourage, we prod, we remind, but we are less likely to go into the potty with him since we know that he knows we know he knows the mechanics. Got that?

Enter Michigan Vacation 2011. We buy these pull-ups. We don’t put them on him. Levi has been pooping in his underwear. Frustrations abound. Suddenly, we are on an airplane and going potty is cool! Twice, on the airplane, Levi asked to go potty.

Can you believe it? The desire! The want! It appeared, as if out of the blue!

Levi potty trained himself, up in the air, at around 35,000 ft! As an adult, I don’t find airplane potties cool or comfortable, but I suppose that’s the difference between me and a four year old.

Levi’s teachers also noticed he was holding it until the break rather than stating he had to go. That means the connections he was missing at home he was also missing at daycare. In the last two months, post airplane training, he has finally made the connection that he misses out on more if he has an accident.

The other major change we instituted was one of those potty-seat inserts with handles. I’m not even sure what they are called. Ours is decorated with Lightening McQueen and was purchased at Target for $18.

This was the best $18 we’ve spent as parents. It’s paid for itself in this first month, the first month where we haven’t bought pull-ups or diapers since our child was born.

Listen when they say when the kiddo is ready, he’ll be ready. Patience, reminding, and constantly working at what the real issue is are about the only things you can do.

I guess what I’m really thankful for is that the first daycare taught him how to aim.

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The Simple Life

Hiding with rabbit.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I should probably say the simple-ish life. My husband commented tonight how much he appreciates our modest lifestyle. I absolutely agree.

Where we are not modest: we own three cars, we have two computers, we own a digital camera, we eat out monthly, we like to buy things like tools and books. I’m sure a simpler person could comment on all our lavish luxuries, but I’ll focus on those.

The cars, first, are all paid off. Two are identical in color, year, make, model. One was purchased as a parts car a few years after we purchased the first as wedding gift to ourselves. The third was a vehicle my husband needed at the time, so he splurged on something he wanted. He made the last payment on the modest loan a year before we got married.

We live in a 966 sq ft house on a 50’x 100′ lot. It is more cluttered inside than I like, and it’s not as cluttered as what my husband is used to. The funny thing is, we both have places of employment where our work spaces are nearly pristine and free of clutter. I feel a splurge on shelving/organizing tools could be beneficial for the home life. But, regardless, it is modest. I am using the $10 desk purchased before I met my husband, which is on a computer that I bought myself before I met my husband that has been swapped with parts from my father in law and redone with Ubuntu. Read: re-purposed computer with open source software. The digital camera was a gift. Our cell phones are hand-me-downs. Our table, that we love, was a Goodwill special that came with six chairs.

It would be a lie to say we don’t aspire to nicer things. But, we’re trying to keep our priorities in check by making sure my husband has the tools he wants/needs for work before his student discount goes away. We’re trying to keep those priorities in check by paying off my school loans a little bit at a time.

Much of the clothing for us or our son is gifted, from volunteer events, or second hand stores. (Save things like the Drunken Prayer t-shirt my husband must have.)

Lately, my husband has been riding his bicycle to work, which means Levi and I have been taking the car instead of the SUV. We’ve been taking the non-freeway route as it offers fewer encounters with other cars. These steps lessen daily stress. These steps encourage not wanting more. (Although, I do crave a VOLT if GM would get them out to the mass market.)

Levi got birthday/Christmas money. We haven’t let him spend it all in one spot. First, how many toys does a kid really need? Second, I received different budgeting lessons as a kid, but I want to make sure Levi’s are more obvious. So, we’ll stagger the spending.

Our neighbors use small space much more efficiently than we do. But, we certainly don’t really crave or seek the new tv, tivo, dvd, extra special system. I think in part it’s due to our location where thrift in many ways is more celebrated. This is one of my fears when we go back to Michigan (read: five year plan) – that the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality will seep into our subconscious and consume. Instead of getting tvs for free, as I have historically done, will we find ourselves wanting to purchase one?

I sure hope not. I hope we can remember the stress-less-ness of this supposed simple life.

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Michigan Vacation 2011

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18 months from our 2009 adventure, we were able to travel back to Michigan. Experience has shown us 10 days is not enough, so this time we booked two weeks. It really looks like 12 full days when you consider one day you fly in and one day you fly out. This time, we traveled in March!

March! I’ve been living in Portland since October 2003. I think the last time I was in Michigan in March it must have been 2003. I didn’t realize how much I missed that crisp air, the chilly nights, the brown grass, patches of snow, and twiggy deciduous trees.

I do miss my home.

I am still glad I am here, in Portland. A point which my husband and I diverge. But, this post is about the vacation, not the time-line for moving back home.

This year, I did a survey of kitchens, bathrooms, and beds. My husband and I are always thinking about our dream house and if we were to purchase a house here in Portland, what would it look like. So, we are house hunters, no matter how cold of a prospect our Realtor should consider us. I am even more interested in how people organize their lives and what guests are given for their stays. Our house, currently, can only offer a lumpy couch.

I was amazed at the little things. The kitchens I most appreciated were open. No walls restricting vision to cooking surfaces, people in the kitchen, kids playing. My mother-in-law, cousin, and sister-in-law had the best laid out kitchens.

It was interesting to note who had the most intuitive organization and who did not. My grandmother’s kitchen was the most intuitive, but I could be biased there because that is my second home so I already knew where everything was. Next up was my cousin and mother-in-law.

My sister had the best guest bedroom. She even equipped the guest bathroom with amenities! Like we were at a hotel! Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste! Extra pillows, pillow cases, and blankets were stocked in the drawers and closets! And, my sister boasted the best guest bed. Although we only stayed one night in her house, it was the most comfortable sleep, for me.

My brother and sister-in-law had the best kid toys – likely because of the two kids residing there. So, the most fun was had at my brothers, for Levi, because he got to play with cousins! It’s really amazing to see the connection these kids have, when they’ve visited no more than 4 occasions in their young lives.

We did better planning this one, I think. I wanted to make a conscious effort to try to visit with people, but I wasn’t going to press any visits given how tired and moody we can get traveling. We had adequate naps and play times, so it felt balanced overall. The last visit we had was such a whirlwind, we all ended up grouchy by the end!

To capstone our trip, we were even able to move our late arriving flight to an earlier arrival. Although, Levi and I still took the next day off to transition from cousins to normal. Thanks to all the family for such lovely visit. Hopefully we can get back before 18 months this next time.

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Parental Gray Areas

Levi's 4th Birthday

There is so much in parenting, for me, that is a gray area. Even when it comes to time outs. I live on the fence in many other areas of life, so why not in parenting too? Yes, we have our rules. Yes, we implement boundaries. We are known as the stricter parents in our small circle of friends. Regardless, I find this constant balancing of when to say yes, no, and tomorrow, very interesting and especially challenging.

We just got back from vacation (more to follow on that front). We visited family, friends, and especially cousins. Levi has three. A new baby girl, an almost three year old girl, and a four going on five year old boy. Reyna, Owen and Levi spent at least 6 days interacting, 3 of which were full days. Levi loves his cousins. He got on especially well with Reyna.

Levi got to know his grandparents even more. His Grandma Lasley was like a permanent playmate. She played trains, legos, and toured her yard with him. How much fun is that? Your own personal playmate, dedicated to you, giving you undivided attention? All these people fawning, gushing, hugging, loving you – and then you come home.

We flew in last night. We were more or less settled at home by 9pm. Levi fell into a deep sleep in the 20 minute ride from the airport to home. He was so dead to the world, when Peter got him out of the car – he didn’t move or fuss or cry – or anything. This is an unusual feat. When I went to wake him up this morning, he sternly spoke, “Close the door!” Close the door? What? Usually this bug wants the door open. It was then I made my decision. We are staying home.

I did not tell him of my decision for a little bit. First, I consulted with the husband. Second, I continued to ready myself. I approached the small fry again, only to find similar disdain.

He’s four. He’s not thirteen. “Buck up and go on with life” is a lesson we will layer on. Now, is not the time. He’s been with his cousins twice in his entire life. I can still count on one hand the number of set visits he’s had with each grandparent. He’s four. When I was four, my grandparents were a staple in my life. We spent so much time with my cousins they were like extended siblings who simply lived in another house.

Yes, it was our choice to live across the country. But, my dear four year old doesn’t have to completely pay for our choices. So, enter Parental Gray Area. I chose to play in the gray line. I forgot to tell one person I wasn’t coming into work today, too, while in this gray area wondering if I was making the right choice. Family comes first, though. No matter what.

I find this gray area ironic since in many ways I like to or wish I could see things more black and white. So many things are clear. You cannot hit another person to express your frustration. That will get you a time out. There are ways we behave in the store and there are ways we do not. You will be removed from the store (when parental choice, that is the both of us are in the store) if you do not behave correctly. There is a way to behave at the dinner table, with friends, at school. If Levi chooses to deter from this path we’ve laid out, there will be consequences.

I do not believe this is corporal punishment. I believe this is an education into how the world works and a protection of my sanity. I cannot be the parent who coddles and manages and is gentle all the time. I try. I do. My husband asks me often if I am okay likely because I have the same guarded game face on all day long. Keeping opinions in check. Keeping thoughts in check. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Putting myself in the others shoes.

But so many things are not clear. Life is a negotiation. He needs to learn not to hit, to use his words, to be polite, etc – but all in one sitting? Learning is like peeling the layers of an onion or studying art history. You see the big picture first, then you spiral down until the details blur and clear up before your eyes. Putting myself in another’s shoes. Putting myself in my son’s shoes. Four. Missing all the glory of the last two weeks. Not understanding vacation times, job obligations for his parents, and why his visits were so short.

In these shoes, it was not fair for Levi to go to school today. Shocked, sad, frustrated that he could not visit longer with his cousins for circumstances beyond his control and perhaps his understanding. The gray area won out.

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Potty Training

Little Levi Sunshine
Peter reading a "Little Miss" book to Levi. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I blamed the frequent night-time urination for the reason we stopped using cloth diapers. But, in retrospect, I think it might have been the poop.

I hate poop.

Let me repeat myself.

I H.A.T.E POOP!

Hate it. Really really hate it.

If it’s dried out in a bag labeled “steer manure”, I can dig it. A bag of bull shit is good for the tomatoes.

But poop, that you have to clean off with your hands, or a brush which in turn you need to clean off the brush with your hands. And, where do you put it all? It all doesn’t float all nicely in the toilet. Oh no. You have to scrub it. A lot. You have to treat it. You have to soak it.

Yes, in retrospect, I think it’s the poop. The poop is why I changed to disposable. I wanted the sanitized throw aways where my hands didn’t need to get near the poop. Sure, I soaked the cloth diapers – but after we were in Michigan for 4 weeks, something changed. My patience lessened, and I just couldn’t deal with it. Either way, we were looking at a cost for a bigger investment in cloth or a more expensive, easier to budget cost of disposables. We chose disposables, and this retrospect thinking encourages I pushed it for avoiding poop.

Now, enter potty training. Today, Levi is four years and six weeks old. He began potty training in 2009. He was 26 months old when he started. Right away, he picked up on the mechanics. Unfortunately, the daily ritual daycare provided only lasted two months. Exponentially, from when he left daycare, his interest in going potty declined. Peter and I, perhaps, expect too much of our young person, and we wanted him to feel the urges to go and go, right away. He knew the mechanics, so what’s the big deal? Oh, how short our memories are.

Confession. I still wet the bed until I was in 4th grade. I am not sure of my husband’s potty practices, except that I do know we both go when we have to go as adults. The whole definition of being “potty trained” I find interesting. Especially wrapped in with when I stopped wetting the bed. What does fully potty trained mean? Going to the bathroom on your own 90% of the time, even if 80% of the whole is under the guise of peer pressure and constant reminders to go? Does “fully” mean when we’re in adulthood and 99% of the time we are without accident? What does it mean when we age and we’re back in diapers? Does “potty train” simply mean an adult isn’t burdened with wiping our butts? How far does this spectrum go – because it is a spectrum!

Well, Levi would fall into the he knows the mechanics, but needs to be reminded constantly to listen to his body. We’ve been reassured countless times by peers and his pediatrician that he will go when he is ready. After year 3, bribes (stickers, candy, chocolates, other rewards) are moot. We are heeding part of this advice. After one of these poopy-in-the-underwear incidents, I asked Levi why he won’t go in the toilet. I had to reword this query three times. He answered my suspicions: he likes being changed. I don’t know what about it he likes. If the poop is on his bum longer than a minute, he breaks out in these awful hivy, localized bumps. The only cure is diaper cream and a baking soda bath. So, I proposed a bribe. If it’s quality time he wants, there are a million ways in which we can have better, more interesting, more fun, and less gross quality times. The standard should be one book a night before bed. So, every time he goes potty at home (at school he’s dry all day and often comes home in underwear), he will get an additional book added to the nighttime ritual. If he poops in the potty: two. So, if he pooped once and peed three times in the potty, he’d get an additional 5 books for six books total.

It’s been working. Now, mommy and daddy need to be consistent in the enforcing of this bribe. Right away, the reasons bribes don’t work was showcased as he tried to exploit the rule. He peed in his potty and turned around barely having his pants pulled up to pee again, AND, then said, okay that’s two books! No… one full incident. What a concept to explain!

We are still with accidents, but again, this whole thing is a spectrum. If we can just help encourage the listening to your body so he can poop in the toilet instead of his underwear…. well, that’d make my day.

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Allergic Reactions

Naptime
Levi napping with Grandpa Chris from our last Michigan vacation, where, thankfully, we avoided the ER/urgent care. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr.

It started with a phone call. My husband calling down stairs as he noticed the hives all over Levi’s body. It ended with a trip to the  ER in Lansing. Levi had another allergic reaction. This time it was to strawberries, whereas last week was simply doctor visits due to hives reacting to pineapple.

The hives were so bad, it looked like one giant hive. His neck was swollen to the point I was worried about breathing. When I asked him if he could breathe, he said no. So, not knowing where we are or what to look for, I called his Oregon pediatrician after I shoved a Claritin in his mouth. He said his head hurt. He so was swollen. His eyes were shutting they were so swollen. His lips looked a little blue.

Probably one of those trickiest parts in parenting is acting calm when you are really panicked. I was freaking out. I shoved the Claritin in Levi’s mouth because I was freaking out. His head hurt. He was scared. And he wouldn’t take the only pill I had available to help the swelling go down.

He’s okay. We’re now back at Grandma & Grandpa’s.

In the moment, I call Levi’s Oregon pediatrician, the land of where Urgent Care does not work. They tell me that since he’s having an allergic reaction, we should bypass urgent care and go straight to the ER. The problem is, we’re in the sticks. Urgent Care 1) in the sticks and 2) in Michigan is a much wiser choice. Why? Because it actually acts as triage. You know, the whole point of urgent care. Figure out the problem, do some basic diagnosis and/or treatment, and then send the patient to ER for further treatment, if needed.

We were sent to the ER because we got to urgent care 90 minutes before they closed. Their protocol says allergies must be monitored for 6 hours. That’d put us out of the ER at 3am. Not exactly an exciting evening.

They poked and prodded Levi. They stuck oxygen sensors on his finger, they had him laid out on the bed. The hardest part was inserting the IV. Last week, when we were in the pediatricians office, she just handed him the tiny Zyrtec, and he ate it, like candy. When I gave him the Claritin, he could tell I was panicked even if I was trying to act not, so he refused. When getting the IV inserted, the head nurse prepared for the worst so she instructed the tech and me to hold Levi down. Of course, his heart rate spiked (it got up to 175 bpm), he cried, and he was very, very scared. We needed, though, to insert the IV. As they told me when I was pregnant, it’s better to have the bit inserted in case so they don’t have to constantly repoke. I tried to remind him of watching mommy get poked, but I think he was too scared.

I was able to ask him what was going on, and he confirmed he was scared. Right now, he’s playing with the wooden train set Grandma has procurred from various places (namely Ikea). He has also told me that he wants to go home. I don’t blame the kiddo for wanting the familiar after such a traumatic experience. I’m glad it’s over. I hope we don’t have to do this again. I used to think the ER trips were a one-off thing when visiting. But, now, since we’ve done this so often, I think we need to plan on it. We’ve got the vacation check list moving along, after day one. Visit with Peter’s parents: check. Work on a car: check. Meet the new sister-in-law: check. Visit urgent/care-ER & test Michigan’s emergency response: check. Visit Meijer at midnight: check. An amazing checklist to accomplish after just day one. Maybe this means we can relax the rest of the time.

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For the Love of Food

Water
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Some people are irate with foodies. They find their expensive taste trite with adjectives and insulting to the common man. They are fed up hearing from Alice Waters and Michael Pollan with their organic, free-range fare.

I am tired of having to scour over ingredient lists ensuring that there is at least one thing I can pronounce. I am tired of having to wonder about food security as more and more things come from overseas when there are places in my state (Oregon and Michigan) that can prepare the same things. I am tired of buying local when the product is from a CAFO and when I open it up, it’s rank with age.

I am tired of learning about all the foods that cause cancer in their production and consumption. I am even more tired when a friend loses another loved one to breast cancer because they live in an area where “conventional” agriculture is the norm.

We need food to nourish us. We use food as a way to stay connected with those we care about in the form of shared meals. Why shouldn’t we enjoy it?

Sure, it’s an irony when we describe a meal to a fellow foodie, and we find ourselves apologizing for the “conventional” items on our selves or in the dish – holding ourselves to a higher standard but neglecting to forgive ourselves because of budget realities.

I would rather enjoy the food I eat. I would rather explore and enjoy combinations like fresh spinach, goat cheese, and eggs, scrambled or made into an omelet. I would rather experiment with spicy rice, onions, and tomatoes, after having fabulous combinations at the local Mexican restaurant. I would rather make my own, hearty, whole wheat bread than eat the fluffy, rubbery cardboard you can buy in the store (yea, even the good stuff).

There is something magical knowing I created the yummy scents that are emitted from my kitchen. There is something empowering about turning a fresh mushroom into a delicacy. There is something magical about adhering rice and veggies with an egg when I make my own fried rice. There is something magical about realizing that, yes, I can cook and yes, I do care about the ingredients. Be it because of politics or the joy of cooking. Think me trite, if you must, but I will gladly serve you a slice of my bread and make you a homemade meal, nearly anytime.

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