Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boiled Frog

I said two posts ago that I'd elaborate on the concept of how it's been a challenge to jump back in to life at home, after last weekend's delightful getaway.

There's a widely-repeated anecdote out there that goes something like this:

Did you know that if you toss a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately? But the frog starts out in cool water and you heat the water gradually, it won't notice the temperature change and will eventually boil to death.


So perhaps life at home, where more and more spinning plates have gradually been added to the Amazing JoyParents Show, is rather like heating the water slowly.

Us boiled frogs, we got to experience life in the cooler water for a while, at my college reunion, away from our usual state of high-alert and high-responsibilities.

Then we had to jump back into the boiling water.

Dang, but that's some hot/intense stuff we live in around here.

I don't know what, if anything, we can really change. And it wouldn't take much to turn the heat up even further (seizures would do it. Or someone else needing surgery. Or another sudden regression/slamming of a bunch of switches.)


Boiled frog-legs, anyone?


P.S. According to, the frog boil anecdote is false. Heh. Too bad, it was such a slick analogy!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Food Network

I've mentioned before that there's a lot of Food Network at our home. Wholesome stuff, unobjectionable commercials, we often learn useful tips. However, we've been less than impressed lately with the proliferation of contests and reality shows, when we'd rather actually learn something!

So last night JoyDad flipped on the TV as we often do after Joy's last therapy session of the day, only to find that a funny and educational show was replaced by a contest. His disgusted comment: "Well, that stinks! Instead of Good Eats, we get Chopped!

Two beats later, we hear an explosive echo from Joy: "Chah!"

Coincidence? Or something else? Only Elvis knows for sure...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Of Yawns and Smiles

I did a lot of yawning over our getaway weekend.

Lots of smiling, too!

Goodness knows, there was nothing boring about my first weekend getaway with JoyDad since the kids were born. (Yes, that would be seven years, for those keeping score.)

Even the drive to my college reunion was lovely, with a big long chunk of roadway between wooded bluffs on one side and the Mississippi River on the other. And time alone to talk with my sweetie! Luxury! And then a whirlwind of activity, catching up with friends and roommates of 20 years gone by, attending lectures and receptions, dining, running...

Not boring. And not over-doing it -- we had to take things a little bit easy, since there was only so much that JoyDad's rapidly-healing foot could take. So no late-night dancing or bonfire or concerts. But lots of yawning.

I think it may have been an accumulation of tired, catching up with me just a little bit. Though nobody seems to have the full answer to the functionality of a yawn, one theory is that it's an attempt to acquire an extra burst of oxygen. I needed to breathe deeply!

And then there was the smiling. How I could I help that, with as much time as I got to spend with JoyDad, and with my roommates (one in particular)? Lots of smiles passed around at the reception at the library too, where I worked as a student and where I now have colleagues with whom I occasionally cross paths at conferences.

I was surely breathing deeply and I think I was smiling as I crossed the finish line of the 5K that was an early Saturday morning feature of the reunion. I came in dead last of the 27 runners who started at the whistle together. Apparently only the hard-core runners come out to run in the bright sunlight at 7:30 on a warm reunion morning! I ran within seconds of my top pace, though, quite a triumph since I haven't been training specifically too well lately. And the rest of the pack hung around to cheer for the stragglers, so as I crossed the finish line alone, I had a whole cheering section to myself! Thoroughly smile-worthy!

And then there was the PowerPoint presentation by an alum from the class of '84, a fellow who'd been something of a wild-child during his years on campus but eventually gave up his drum set and took off for Thailand to become a Buddhist monk. He now leads a monastery in New Zealand. He simply radiated peace, groundedness, and gentle good humor. With an incredibly high-wattage smile.

So many reasons for good cheer this weekend, uninterrupted by the need for child-centered vigilance!

Then after we got home on Sunday I dragged the family off to church in the evening because the guest pastor was someone that I knew from way back when. May as well keep the reunioning going on, right?

One of the points he shared during the sermon was a recommendation, something that his wife taught him and practices faithfully herself.

When you get up and get yourself ready for the day, smile at yourself in the mirror. You are part of the work God is doing in the world. Smile at yourself. Acknowledge it.

I'm going to try to remember. The regular ruteen is back at full-blast, after the capable and much-appreciated interlude of the grandparental help last weekend. It's not easy to jump back in... more about that in the next post...

Meanwhile, the yawns are still pretty frequent, though the context is different. Will work on the smiling, too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rose Knows How It Goes

OK, I think I've got things in good shape. Packed for reunion, guest-room set up for grandparents, laundry done, house reasonably clean...

One other thing I had to do was write out a schedule for how much of which medicine Joy needs to take when, and which therapists are coming at what time for how long. I also had to write feeding instructions for our bunnies.

There's very little on the instruction sheet about Rose, though. And that's because she has already got this little instruction list that she's been following for a while, written in her own hand, attached to the fridge door.

Morning ruteen

Wake Up
make breakfast
Make bed
get dresed
put P.J.s away
play piano
pack bag
put on shoes
turn out Light
Shut door


Nigt ruteen

eat dinner
Weed garden
Jamies on
go to bed

So self-sufficient. She'll have those grandparents whipped into shape in no time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twenty Years

In just a couple of days, JoyDad and I are off on what I think will be our first kid-free weekend getaway since Joy's birth.

We're going to my twenty-year college reunion! After JoyDad's surgery follow-up appointment yesterday, he was cleared to lose the crutches and the wrap and dressing. So he is once again free to shower (whew!) and to wear street shoes and to walk around as much as is comfortable.

GrandpaJ and GrandmaJoy, courageous souls that they are, will be staying for a long weekend, hanging out with Rose and Joy and supervising the various Joy-therapies that will happen during that time.

While it can be fun to occasionally revisit old stomping-grounds and old memories, the big draw of a reunion is the people. I'm looking forward to catching up with two of my former roommates!

So I got a pre-reunion e-mail a couple of days ago, a light-hearted survey of reunion attendees. The last question was the most interesting one, and went something like this:

How different is your life than you'd have imagined it when you were at [college-name]? (Give your answer in degrees; zero is just as you'd expected, 180 might be "planned to be a high-powered investment banker, ended up a rural pastor")

I'm quoting it badly, but that was the sense of it.

Now, one of my least-favorite interview questions is the one that asks you to talk about where you'd like your career to be in five years or ten or whatever. I've never really liked to think or even dream that far ahead.

However, I think that if you'd pressured me to talk about 20-years-down-the-line back in 1989, a lot of what I might have said... has come to pass.

The librarian thing wasn't hard to predict. I was working in the library on campus, and the one career-matching test thing I did at the campus career center had librarianship pop right to the top. Though I might have envisioned a more ambitious career than what I've had so far.

Settling in the Midwest? Uh-huh. Right where I feel at home!

I kind of figured on meeting an awesome guy and getting married someday, though answering a singles ad and winding up with a guitar-slinging tax economist from the big city wasn't exactly how I'd have pictured it...

Centrality of Christian faith in my life, being actively involved with church... check.

Two kids? Yep. I was one of two, and it seemed like a good number.

But the biggest surprise, the most startling unexpected life-changing challenge and blessing? My delightful daughter Joy. Someone I never could have predicted. It's hard to put a number on the degree-of-difference she has brought to our lives. In some ways, it's just another flavor of parenting. In another way, it changes so very much.

One very specific thing that it's changed for this weekend is that we're not really able to bring the girls along to reunion. I'm sure Rose would love the kids-camp daycare setup, but it's simply not set up to work for someone like Joy. On the other hand, if we took the kids along, it wouldn't be a getaway! And I expect that both they and the grandparents will enjoy the weekend immensely.

I don't think I'll attend the session at reunion that involves discussing the next twenty years. That's too far ahead to think right now. Besides, I never did like that interview question.


P.S. If you'd told me in 1989 that I'd be running a 5K race at my 20th reunion, I might have laughed at you!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Too Much Food-Network TV

So Rose comes in from playing in the sprinkler on the lawn.

"Mom, could you make me some lemonade?"

OK, I suppose I could do that. Nice day for it.

"And could I have it in a wine-glass?"

Wine-glass?! We negotiate down to a glass mug instead.

Then she hands me a fresh-picked berry from our strawberry patch.

"Garnish. Just stick it on the edge."

I'm not sure whether to blame the Barefoot Contessa or Giada de Laurentis. But it's all about the Food Network, I just know it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Product Hits & Misses: Bouncy Edition

Here's a product that's got both the miss and the hit thing going on! Last year, it was a miss. This year, it's a hit. I present to you:

The Bouncy Castle.

Bouncy Castle

We were very excited to find this thing last year. It was Joy's big 4th-birthday present from us and the grandparents, plus party entertainment all rolled up into one. Joy is a natural jumper, loving trampolines and carnival bouncy houses and all such. Even better, it only cost $200 shipped! (Prices have gone up. I can't find ours online anymore, but here's a link to a very similar one.)

The castle is pretty easy to set up and take down. It stakes into the yard with 4 tent-pegs, and the tube in the back attaches to a fan (not pictured) that stakes down with two smaller pegs. Run an extension cord to an outdoor outlet, turn on the fan, and the thing inflates before your eyes. You can put in up to three kids, total 180 lbs. Totally awesome.

Except... Joy didn't want to go in. All the other kids at her party last year were clamoring for their turn, but she was unimpressed. Not with friends, not alone, she just did not approve. If we actually lifted her in, she'd lie down. Or scramble out.

Fortunately Rose and her friends got some good use out of it before the snow flew, although we found that the afternoon sun limited the play time -- in direct sun, it got very hot very fast.

Jump forward to this spring, and I decided to pull the castle out again for another round at one of Joy's therapy play dates.

This time? She hopped right in and started bouncing.

Woo hoo!

We had a wonderful fun playdate with the bouncy castle this Tuesday. Not only was her usual buddy there, and his mom, but we had a double dose of therapists, and then another friend and HER mom came by to drop off a belated birthday present. And stayed to bounce. Rose, meanwhile, was holding court indoors with three friends there. I love it when a playdate snowballs!

Neat happening as the playdate was winding down. The one girl and her mom were leaving, and the mom told Joy goodbye with a big wave. And Joy grinned at her and WAVED BACK! She barely even knows this mom, but gave her a lovely farewell. The therapists and the other mom erupted in a chorus of "OH my gosh -- she WAVED -- JoyMama, did you SEE that -- she actually WAVED!" The recipient of the wave was a little bit stunned at what she'd taken for granted!

The next day Joy waved again, this time at Lynda's, to someone else she didn't know all that well. Fascinating.

I'm getting rather far afield from the product review, but that's how things have been going lately. Sorry to be a little scarce around here. Since the schedule kerfluffle around JoyDad's surgery, I've been strung pretty tight, with more plate spinning than usual combined with a lower tolerance for any of the plates getting wobbly. Feeling overly anxious over things that ordinarily wouldn't throw me. Bleah. Hoping that things will settle down as JoyDad continues to recover and we get the summer underway.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Birthday Blessings

Celebrating Joy's birthday is always a bit of a scheduling juggle. Often her birthday falls during our annual Memorial Day trip to the lake. This year, the following weekend already had a bar mitzvah celebration in it. So we ended up having her party yesterday.

Yes, even with JoyDad on crutches.

The past two years, we've been blessed with glorious weather for our Joy-birthday parties. One year we had the guests help pick our strawberry patch. Last year we spent almost the whole party playing in the yard, with Uncle Schnirelmann and Auntie K helping out with Joy. This year, we were going to have a backyard barbecue. Including the four of us, we were planning on about 20 people.

We got the people, a lovely turnout! Only, we didn't exactly get the weather. It spattered rain on and off all day, and the temperature never even hit sixty. So we went with a sandwich platter setup instead, and planned to shoe-horn everybody into our modest little house. Which meant I kinda had to clean. And call ALL our chairs into service, and figure out how to get the food served and everyone seated, etc. etc.

JoyDad did quite a bit of food preparation, for having to stay off his feet. I had to shuttle ingredients and supplies around, but he produced an excellent macaroni salad and put together the sandwich and veggie trays.

I know I've said this before, but we have such wonderful community going on here. We invited families, and it was a delight to have both moms and dads show up with their kids. Rose picked off the older kids and led them away to play independently, while the parents helped the younger kids play with Joy in the basement. We did several turn-taking games, where we had every child tap the push-button communication device, which was programmed to speak the words "my turn!" before taking their turn with the crash pillow or the ball or whatever. Joy had been playing crash-pillow with her therapy-barista just before the party, where she would crash and then lead him by the hand and "make" him crash too. So she was "making" me take my turn crashing at the party as well!

Then we went upstairs for presents. Joy was definitely more engaged with present-unwrapping than she was at last year's party. With some support, she was able to pull paper and presents out of gift bags, and enjoy textures of presents and ribbons. Some of the presents will figure into their own post later. But here's the ribbon...

Then dinner, with lots of scrambling by parents around the "buffet table" (actually laid out across our countertop & range!) to feed the children who were already seated around the dining table. Joy ate a good meal without much assistance. Then we brought out the Jello cake and vanilla ice cream. I decided not to do the candle-blowing-ceremony, just in case Joy should take it into her head to grab big handfuls out of the middle of the cake. We just sang while presenting Joy with the first serving from the cake. But then I looked at her face at the end of the song, and was surprised to find her with pursed lips. As if to blow out a candle... We seriously do not give her enough credit sometimes.

After the meal the party continued on our deck, which was just dry enough for bubble-blowing and hula hooping. Joy navigated the chaos remarkably well:

What a delight to see her enjoying the toys, among her peers. She even submitted to birthday hugs from her friends at the end of the evening.

And while I was out on the deck, and JoyDad was holding court in the living room with his foot propped up, our friends put all the food away and did all the dishes.

Many, many birthday blessings!

Our beautiful 5-year-old

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


So anyone who follows my blog knows that scheduling is a big part of my plate-spinning. Joy's got 24 hours of House Blend intensive autism therapy a week, plus three therapists from the school district who each see her twice a week; I've got work, bells, church, volunteer; Rose has school, piano, etc.

Usually it all clicks together somehow.

And then we schedule a JoyDad foot surgery into the mix.

The originally-scheduled surgery time was for noon yesterday (Tuesday), and we were to get out at 3pm if all went well. Tuesday's not a paid-work day for me, so we had to find Joy-care. Fortunately Lynda stepped up to the plate, offered to take Joy for an extra day. Whew, problem solved -- so all I had to do was figure out which therapists to cancel (because the House Blend therapists can't go to Lynda's anymore).

Then on Monday JoyDad got a call from the scheduler. "Sir, your surgery has been re-scheduled to 3pm on Tuesday. We'd now like you to arrive at 1:30 instead of 10am. No, you still can't eat anything after midnight, sorry sir."

Total fruit-basket upset.

First off, Joy couldn't stay with Lynda anymore, because things were likely to go past the end of the workday and we couldn't impose that on Lynda. Even if she'd've been willing to be imposed on, she had Tuesday evening commitments anyway. So now we had to find childcare willing to come to our home, and stay open-ended into the evening. Oh, and we'd likely miss Rose's piano class party & recital at 6:30.

This sent me into a pretty wild emotional tail-spin, I'm afraid. While it was only a couple of hours in between the time I blasted an e-mail to the church listserv and the time I got an affirmative answer, I spent that time mentally running around in a little hamster wheel, not having a very soothing prayer experience either.

I should have trusted, though. That first blessed "yes, I can take at least the first part of the afternoon" was enough to set the rest in motion. When I got home from work (where I'd had no phone numbers to be in touch with the people I needed), I was able to call all the therapists I'd cancelled, and all three of them were still able to make their sessions. Plus call the friend who was to bring Rose home from school, who then proved willing to be the sitter for the second shift. Plus figure out who was going to help pick up Joy from daycare while JoyDad was on crutches...

On Tuesday everyone showed up as planned. Joy was having a really good day, despite waking up at 3am. JoyDad, alas, also woke at 3am and had lots of time to overthink things plus get a mighty hunger on by the time he'd missed breakfast and lunch both. The sitter had arrived just before 1pm and we were getting set to go out the door when the phone rang.

"Can you come in for the surgery RIGHT NOW? We're running ahead of schedule and are ready for you as soon as you can possibly make it."

Zoom, out the door we went. The surgery-clinic experience was an efficient whirlwind. JoyDad was under sedation and a knee-down nerve-block (NOT general anesthesia, so better than we'd hoped) and under the knife within an hour after we'd left the house! The surgery went smoothly, so did recovery from the sedation. Another thing that went better than we'd been told -- originally they said no weight-bearing till the follow-up appointment. But instead, they put a velcro-ed foot-boot over his dressing and ankle-wrap, and told him he could use the foot for balance with his crutches as long as there's not too much pain.

We were home by 4:30.

The sitter said that Joy had done well, but napped hard and woke cranky, looking for "ma-ma-ma." (Yes, in those very words she was looking for me. Whoa. Now we just need her to say it TO me again!)

I got to take Rose to her party & recital after all. She did great.

JoyDad's still learning to use the crutches, and what it means to have both hands full of crutches to move around. (Can't carry an open cup of coffee, for example.) He'll be home today, on pain meds. I've got to run now and make my own lunch, plus a sandwich for him, usually a part of the routine that he does. I'll have a lot of extra responsibilities here, which will remind me how much we share the housework load!

But it does seem as if things went well. We'll know more about how successful the surgery was as time goes on.

Schedule. Augggh, look at the time!!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Numbers, Race for the Cure Edition

Much mum-mum-numbering to report from this past weekend, and yet to come...

  • 11,500 - approximate number of runners, walkers, volunteers at our local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on Saturday

  • 878 - number of runners whose times were recorded via "chip timing"

  • 113 - number of chip-timed women runners in the 41-50 age group

  • 63 - my place in the standings among those 113

  • 30:44 - my official time

  • 1 - how many seconds slower that is than my unofficial 5K training record

  • 9:54 - what 30:44 works out to in minutes per mile

  • 10:00 - what 9:54 is under. Woohoo!!!

  • 670 - how many dollars my friends and family chipped in for the cause! AWESOME! Thank you all so much!

  • 2 3/4 - how many hours after arriving home from the race we were back on the road, on the way to cousin KJ's bar mitzvah celebration.

  • 39.1 - mpg our new Honda Fit got on the highway on the way to the temple

  • 90 - about how many minutes long the ceremony was (our new bar mitzvah had to share the proceedings with a bat mitzvah as well, which made many parts of the service twice as long)

  • 75 - how many of those minutes Joy managed to witness (we'd have made it through the whole thing if it hadn't been for a certain matter of a stinky diaper)

  • 100 - about how many pretzel sticks Joy consumed over the course of those minutes

  • 3 - number of other kids who shared with Rose the honor of pushing the challah bread cart in the ceremony

  • 1 - morsels of challah that Rose saved for her sister, who missed that part of the proceedings

  • 2 or 3 at least - how many weeks of vacation AuntieS deserves after all that bar mitzvah planning! Wonderful job - so sorry we had to skip out of the party early, but meltdowns will be meltdowns!

  • 2 - number of years, on and off, that JoyDad has been struggling on and off with pain at the back of his left foot

  • 2 - number of weeks he'll be on crutches, if all goes well, after an outpatient surgery tomorrow. Think good thoughts for him, and all of us! Maybe next year we can take the whole family to the Race for the Cure!