Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Archive for December, 2011

The Busiest Week in the World.

This is the busiest week in the world. It is! I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy. After all, loads of people have it off of school and work. It can’t be busy- they couldn’t possibly be wanting to do whatever it is you want to do!

But they do. This is the one week you couldn’t pay me to go to Disneyland. It’s so crowded that all but their most expensive annual passes have them blacked out. They actually sell out of tickets. They actually close the front gates. If you thought other times were crowded, you don’t want to experience that level of crowded.

Malls are crowded with people spending their Christmas loot.

Yesterday we went to the LA Zoo, and even the animals seemed uncomfortable with the number of people there. Yes, we went to the Zoo last week with my parents, but TheBoy was busy sleeping. And since he has this week off of work, we decided to go again.

The Oldest Kidlet was especially excited to see the Siberian Tigers again- they have some cubs that have been on display since the beginning of the month, and we had fun watching them play. I warned him that they might not be out (they’ve been alternating between the mother and cubs and the male tiger), but as we turned the corner towards the enclosure, you could hear the crowd.

It was hard to find a place, everyone was clamoring to see the young cubs play. There were lots of photographers with telephoto lenses (The LA Zoo has recommendations about getting good photos on their website). And the mother tiger seemed to be upset by all of the noise. She paced back and forth along the front of the enclosure, vocalizing angrily. Yes, I’ve been to lots of zoos in my life. I’ve seen big cats that were happy, and big cats that were moments away from spraying someone (thankfully, never me). She was PO’d.

We made sure we saw the orangutans, as my parents had the boys adopt the baby orangutan through the zoo (well, they’re two of the many people who adopted her). When we were there with my parents, they weren’t out. But there was a big crowd, and there she was with her mother. My boys squealed, “Abie Baby!” and smooshed against the glass to watch them for awhile. Only when it was clear that they were going to be getting treats, and no longer relaxing, they decided it was time to go.

We trekked to the entrance for lunch (after attempting to wait in a ridiculously long line at another eatery) and it was clear that both boys were exhausted.

So future self, if you look back on this post, wondering if you should go to the zoo during the week after Christmas… no. Don’t do it. Not unless only want to see a few animals and wait for 20 minutes to get lunch.

As far as doing anything else… just do it without kids.

Now, for anyone else reading this, I’ve bought a slew of appetizers to bake tomorrow for New Year’s Eve, and will be staying in with TheBoy- an excellent tradition!

Happy Holidays!

Here’s a picture taken at Disneyland this year (by my mom) just outside Big Thunder Ranch!

We’ll be spending the holidays here in California with my in-laws (we alternate holidays between families just to keep things simple), and while it’s a lot of driving around- there’s a formalish dinner and gifts tonight at one house, and a less formal dinner tomorrow. It should be fun!

May you and yours have a wonderful end of the year!

Quiet.

Well, at least on the blog.

Things have been hectic at home. We’re in week #1 of Winter Break- the Oldest Kidlet gets three weeks off of school. Add in the fact that Christmas is Sunday, and… well, things are crazy.

Last Sunday, I had horrible stomach cramps and had to lie down. So TheBoy made Turtle Bread (bread that is shaped like a turtle, not made with) with the Oldest Kidlet. Monday, we ran errands, saw Santa, and broke out watercolors for the boys to paint with. Tuesday we… oh, I can’t remember what made Tuesday special. You see, the Oldest Kidlet wants to get the most out of his vacation, so he’s been looking for exciting things to do. Tuesday we hung out in pajamas, painted, and the boys ran around in the backyard.

Today they slept in. Until 7:20 am. Yes, that’s sleeping in around here- usually I’m lucky if it’s 6 am when they get up. I got up, went to the bathroom and when I peeked in, they were still sleeping. So I climbed back in bed and played on my phone. When I heard them awake, I opened the door. “Mommy, I’m awake!” said the Little Kidlet, excited and perky in the way that he gets when he’s had enough time to wake up on his own. “Mommy, can we go to the zoo today,” the Oldest Kidlet whined.

I did a double take. You see, we’re going to the zoo tomorrow with my parents. I hadn’t mentioned it to the kids, because I didn’t want to hear about it all week long- but it’s like he knew. Almost. After arranging the time with my parents, I told him. He squealed and sat down to play. “Well, we don’t have to do anything exciting today, Mommy. Pajamas and painting is fine for today.” Good.

I was good and got a head start with Christmas shopping. I had all but 4 gifts picked out. I needed to buy gifts for my parents, and well, the boys wouldn’t tell us what they were going to ask Santa for. So we had to wait for that. One blurted out his list to Santa, and I had to translate. The other whispered it so quietly that it took 5 times for me to figure out what he was trying to say. The good news is that I’m officially finished with gifts as of today. I just have to wrap them all. (I still have to buy the food for the holiday meal for Little Kidlet. While I’ve been cleared to eat normal food, this kid is still going to have meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas. That I’m going to make sure of.)

I’ve also been writing, which might be why I haven’t blogged much. Most of my brain is wrapped up in this plot and trying to get it finished by my birthday so that I can get back to my novel. Out out random bit of fiction.

Here’s to hoping that this holiday filled week finds everyone well!

Do you believe?

Tonight as I was scrolling through Google+, I saw a person comment that if they had money they’d start a company to make sure that if a kid were to Google “Is Santa Real?” that they’d get back a site that said yes.

There were a lot of +1′s, but a few people tried to shame parents for lying to their children or for promoting a religion those, and some assumed that if your kids believe in Santa that you’re bribing them to behave.

And it made me sad.

I was probably about 8 when I found out Santa wasn’t real. I don’t remember how I found out (some childhood memories of mine are hazy), but it was probably from my friends- I was the youngest in my grade. My sister was younger than I was when she found out, and broke my mom’s heart when she said “Santa’s really more of a spirit in all of us.”

This didn’t stop us from enjoying Santa. We still left out cookies, and we still got gifts from Santa. I think that largely had to do with us spending Christmas with our younger cousins… but Santa was fun. As we got older, we didn’t get big gifts from Santa, but the stockings were filled with small items that my Mom knew would make us smile. We were all excited to have a plate for Santa when my kids were born. It didn’t matter than my one year old was too young to care why we were putting cookies on a plate.

One year my sister (who was going back to Japan) got a stocking filled with tampons. I’ve gotten sewing kits, Jelly Bellys, and Indiana Jones playing cards. I’ve hidden ornaments, candy I’ve bought, bookmarks…

My little sister was right. Santa is a spirit in us- I see it each year. There’s something magical in being able to give someone a small gift that didn’t cost much, but means a lot.

So yes, my kids believe in Santa. They believe in the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny (though admittedly, I didn’t encourage those. They heard about the Tooth Fairy from Super Why and the Easter Bunny popped up in the Santa Clause sequels). You might think it’s damaging to let my kids believe in something that isn’t real- but Santa isn’t just about getting gifts. It’s about a spirit of giving. It’s about love. It’s about embracing the wonder that comes with being a child. Honestly, I’m trying to avoid the bribing my kids to be good. My parents didn’t really hold that over our heads- in fact we sort of make fun of that mentality. While at Disneyland some time ago, we saw a mother point out a visible ride monitor and tell her child that Mickey was watching. The child was terrified.

As a kid, I believed in a lot of things that I knew weren’t real, if that makes sense. I knew that fairies weren’t really here or there, cajoling flowers to open- but I still clapped every time a productions of Peter Pan asked the audience to clap if we believe in fairies.

A lot of people believe it’s wrong to lie to kids. But I’d say that the ability to believe in magic outweighs it. Oddly, it was my belief in things like a man being able to fly around the world in one night that led me to science. I learned about how fast people can actually travel, and found that fascinating. In reading about the Nativity Story, it led me to learn about planetary alignments that seem to form a giant star in the sky (that being what scientists think was the explanation for the star the Magi saw)- and that’s fascinating too. And in my search for fairies, I learned so much about nature that when I accepted that they weren’t really real… I didn’t mind. Believing in the extraordinary taught me about embracing wonder and joy. Two things that have kept my mind curious to this day.

The world is an ugly place. Why not let kids be kids and have imaginary friends, believe in Santa, and enjoy hunting for mythical creatures that don’t exist? It’s that curious nature that makes inventors, artists, and other dreamers of the world. We should embrace it.

Lazy Writing, H5O.

I watch Hawaii Five-O. It’s by no means a realistic show. But I sort of love that I can turn off my brain and watch some crazy TV show once a week. Let’s admit it- with the way the show was in the first season, there was no way that any case could have ever gone to trial.

The second season started on a tense note. Steve was accused of murder, the team broken up. Kono lost her badge just as Steve was cleared and Hawaii Five-O was back in action.

So while Kono brooded and was obviously doing undercover work to get her badge back (why yes, I guessed that right away, since she wasn’t acting like herself at all)… they introduced Lori. I think that’s how you spell it- I usually call her Miss Homeland Security. Why learn her name? The Lt Governor added her to the team to help keep Hawaii Five-O in check, and she’s helpful- Lori has a vague set of skills that relate to kidnappings and hostages. But she was clearly added not to put some tension in the team (she hasn’t done much of anything but agree with them), but to be a future love interest for Steve. Which is silly. He had a sexy naval officer, and that was an intriguing relationship. This just feels forced.

I don’t mind the presence of someone else on the team. I don’t even mind Steve getting a new love interest. But Lori adds nothing other than some blond hair and the tendency to do Blue Steel in any action scene. Oh, there was the scene where she talked car to the car thieves. (Can I also make a comment about her clothes? She either dresses like a skank or a grandma. And I’m really not sure what they were thinking in having her cosplay as Sandy from Grease. It just didn’t work.)

See? Nearly Blue Steel. She makes this face through 90% of the show.

There’ve been a few other bizarre things from this season. I don’t believe for an instant that Kono couldn’t have figured out a way to tell Chin Ho that she was working for IA, especially since she’d stood by him when he’d lost his badge. In the episode where they went to Korea, Danny was on board for what might be a suicide mission without even a call to his daughter? Neither of these would have taken much screen time. But they’re the little touches that keep people enjoying the show without wondering if it’s gone too far.

I don’t ask for a lot. You can continue to come up with crazy plots where they violate just about every law set in place for due process. Heck, the Korea thing was just plain nuts, but it was interesting. You can throw in just about any opportunity for Steve to go shirtless (you managed to show off his abs while he was being tortured in Korea. See pic at left). You could also make an entire episode out of the team punching Tom Sizemore’s character. Just make the characters consistent… and don’t add a love interest for Steve unless you can actually create some sort of tension. Anything that was promising about Lori vanished in her second episode- which is when she stopped questioning Steve’s methods.

Progress of sorts.

Non-parents, I apologize. Nobody really wants to read about potty training. So feel free to skip this post.

In the past I’ve talked about the Little Kidlet, and his stubbornness when it came to potty training. Yes, he’s four and still wears pull ups*. While he went through the motions in his class, he made it clear (with tantrums) that he wanted nothing to do with the bathroom here. And his teacher advised us to try, but not to force him. Because it’s not that he doesn’t understand, or is afraid… he just doesn’t want to do it. Since it’s a control issue, it had to be his idea.

My mom told me to keep doing that, but to keep finding new things to bribe him with. She said that every kid had their price. I was just lucky that the Oldest Kidlet’s price was cheap (yay Hot Wheels!).

I’d tried everything. Hot Wheels. Didn’t work. I withheld a birthday present that he’d been especially excited to play with. Didn’t work either. I actually gave him that when we weren’t sure if he’d actually peed in the toilet or not, and from then on, he just wanted cars for it (it was a Color Change carwash). That’s what finally worked.

Last night thought, I was running low on cars. I asked if he wanted a Skittle. “No, Skittle.” I asked if he’d want a toy from the treasure box. “No treasure.” I asked if he’d use the potty for a cookie. “A cookie? YES!” Then he jumped off the couch and ran into the bathroom. And he went! As excited as he was about that, he was way more excited about the cookie.

I know that we still have a long road ahead of us. But at least we’re moving.

*For those new to this blog, we held off potty training the Little Kidlet when he was 1 1/2-2 because he didn’t talk much. He just didn’t want to talk, so there was no real way to get him to acknowledge that he had to go. Then, once he did talk… he went from mild mannered to a Hulkling at the mere mention of the bathroom.

Might as well jump!

My sister, who is in Japan, asked me for help in getting copies of two albums. One is David Foster’s “The Christmas Album” (which I have) and Kenny and Dolly’s “Once Upon a Christmas” – which I can’t find my copy of, and apparently you can’t download anywhere. You can buy people’s used CDs… but it seems odd that it isn’t still being distributed. Still working on that one, Weird.

Over the weekend, we went to a friend’s daughter’s birthday party. She’s turning seven and had a Tangled themed party. I’d share pictures, but I really only got pics of one thing. The jumper. They had a bounce house with a slide off it, and the second the Little Kidlet saw it, he was taking off his shoes because he just HAD to get inside.

After a couple moments, he appeared at the bottom of the slide with a giant smile on his face and ran back to the inflatable step into the bounce house.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t climb up the giant step, and had to be helped up each and every time he went in… which was often.

Now, the Oldest Kidlet is quite shy at birthday parties. He took a few minutes to get the lay of the land, and sat next to me on the steps to the house. “Do you want to go inside?”

He watched the kids as I took off his shoes. “I think I’ll sit here for a little bit.”

Just then his brother stood in the net window of the bounce house. “Come in! It’s so much fun!” And just like that, the Oldest Kidlet’s shyness was replaced by the stronger need to have fun with his brother.

Watching them, they simply lit up as they played in that bounce house. When the opportunity arose, I snuck in and bounced for awhile- I even went down the slide! Then the Little Kidlet grabbed TheBoy and said, “Daddy, shoes off. Let’s go!”

So I watched my boys bounce with their father, and in that instant, everyone’s troubles melted away and there was nothing but happiness there.

The next time we’re all blue, I think we might just rent a bounce house and jump our cares away. And if I come into enough money, I’m just going to buy one. Seriously.

(Sorry, no pictures of them bouncing. I kept forgetting I had a camera in my phone for some reason, and didn’t take many pictures.)

The Tale of a Lost Jacket

My children are creatures of habit. Every morning, we come downstairs, and they have breakfast while I make OK’s lunch and LK’s snack. They get start getting dressed 15 minutes before we leave the house, and jackets are the last thing we tackle before heading out the door.

It’s been cold enough in the mornings that I’ve needed gloves and hats for the boys in addition to their jackets. I finally broke out the long sleeved shirts that I’d set aside for cold weather (dresser drawers are only so big), too.

LK picked out a bright red long sleeved shirt, not much of a different color from the red hoodie that he loves with all his heart. Seriously. Most little kids don’t like jackets, but it has to be at least 80 degrees for him to consider taking the jacket off. Half the time he doesn’t even want to take it off when we’re at home.

We dropped off his brother at school and drove to his preschool where I gave him an unfortunate case of hat hair (if anyone can offer tips for avoiding static hair, I’d appreciate it) and put away his hat and gloves in his backpack. I went off on my merry way, and came back just before noon.

There was my son, sitting at a table with his backpack and hat… but no jacket. Everyone swore he’d worn it, so I went outside to the yard where the little kids play. We looked under the boxes he was playing with.

I should explain the boxes. He goes to a great preschool with three separate play yards so that all the age groups can play appropriately. His yard is right by the kitchen, so if they get a delivery of plates or napkins in a big box, they’ll fold it flat and let the little kids turn it into houses. In my son’s case, I was told that he slid down the steps of the jungle gym (all three) on the box, and they hadn’t an idea where he might have learned this. His teacher asked if his uncles (she knows we all live in one house) showed him that. I said no, that it was probably from Home Alone. He really loves that movie and has it memorized. The teacher’s assistant said “I knew it!” loudly enough that she startled the two year olds having lunch next to her.

At any rate, the jacket wasn’t out there. We looked under a tarp that was out there, behind the little playhouse in the yard… and it was clear. It just wasn’t there. We searched all through the classroom, in every single cubby, and even in the bathroom.

By now, the Little Kidlet was in tears. He didn’t want to leave without his hoodie. But he did, and I thought things were fine.

But this morning, he didn’t want to go to school. He didn’t want to wear the other jacket we have in his size. He sobbed.

We dropped off his brother, and walked into the preschool classroom. Since he leaves in the middle of the day, often there’s artwork in his cubby that they put in at the end of the day. I checked, and there was his jacket! He dropped all his things, pulled off the blue jacket and begged to have his hoodie on.

All it took was his favorite jacket and the funk that had been following him everywhere this morning was gone. Being a little kid has perks like that.

A year ago.

A year ago, the world fell out from underneath me. You see, a year ago I found out that my best friend died (on the day before).

It’s been a strange year. One filled with sadness and a lot of anger. A lot. I’m not an angry person, but this had me shouting to the skies because I was so mad. I’m still angry, but I suppose a part of me always will be.

There is no making sense of it, that much I know. Jerad was a very private person, and while I was one of the closest people to him, there are so many things that I found out after his passing that it made me doubt whether I really knew him at all.

I know that in my long post about the hospital stay I urged anyone who reads this that’s been putting off going to the doctor, or who’s been unsure about whether or not they should mention past health issues- do it. All it took for me to get on the path to answers was mentioning the right symptom, which led to the right test. It pains me every time I think about the fact that if he’d just mentioned his pancreatitis in the past, it probably would have been caught in time. (And honestly, if money is keeping you from running tests- find something to sell, find someone to borrow money from, work out a payment plan. It might be embarrassing, but it also might save your life)

I’ve grown closer to my little sister- my first best friend, and still one of the few people who gets me on every level. I wish it hadn’t taken his death for us to be friends again, but I’m thankful that I have her in my life again- even if she’s half a world away. Bawk bawk, seester.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year, about myself. I realized that I am a loner, but not by choice. I had to confront a lot of anxiety attacks in the days following Jerad’s death because I’m completely freaked out by unfamiliar situations. I was fine after my grandfather’s funeral… I had two little kids, so I got to focus on them. This was the first time I couldn’t hide behind them.

I outed myself as a procrastinator and I’ve been trying to do all I can to be a writer working on a regular schedule. It also seems like what he would have been pushing me to do anyways. (Seriously people, if I was sitting online all day surfing the net, I’d get chat messages telling me that I was wasting my gift. He tried- just like I tried to push him, too. Turns out he was just more stubborn than me.)

It seems like no time has passed at all, but it feels like it was another lifetime ago- if that makes any sense.

My oldest remembers him, and I’m doing all I can to ensure that never changes. Of course, there are little things here and there that make it possible. Books that my boys discover that he’d bought them. Puzzles. Toys. Pictures of him stacking a bunch of Lightning McQueen’s for no other reason than he wanted to see if they would stack. In fact, I asked OK what he remembered about Uncle Jerad not that long ago (while I usually hate making people “aunt” or “uncle” who aren’t relations, my parents adopted him during the wedding, so he’s family. At least that was the logic I thrust upon him, telling Jerad that my boys understand what an uncle is, and know that it’s someone who is there and loves them… and they’d never be able to spell Rejershnivit.) he said that he reminded him of Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

I asked him if it was because of the hair (Jerad’s did have a tendency to stick out when it got long enough). He said it was that, and because Doc Brown was funny and smart. And he remembered how much Jerad knew about science. Which made me thoroughly happy because aside from being an amazingly talented actor, he was brilliant and always learning about science. So I think he’d be happy being remembered for that.

Yesterday was my first full day with the kids after the whole hospital thing, and I was so focused on that it didn’t hit me until I saw a headshot pop up in my Facebook stream that I remembered it was the 6th and not the 7th. (The 7th sticks in my head since that’s when I found out)

Funny how that works out. Though it’s pretty much how the last year has been. I’d function well with the kids and through my regular routine, and then in the quiet moments, it would seep in and hit me.

Crossroads and artichoke sauce.

One week ago exactly, I was talking to the triage nurse and being admitted to the ER. I have no idea what my hemoglobin level is at today, but I feel comfortable saying it must be pretty good.

I have no idea what the future brings, except that it looks unlikely like I’ll have to stay on a gluten-free diet. But since I had a lot of really satisfying meals on my gluten-free diet (which was mostly an unprocessed diet, and I think that had a bigger effect on my health than removing gluten), I think I’m going to keep with the spirit.

I also liked being able to eat the same thing as the Little Kidlet- so I’m going to keep throwing myself into allergen-free baking and make delicious tasty things so that he can enjoy the same foods as me. While he doesn’t “know what he’s missing” (as a lot of people worry he does), he’s eager to try new things, and I want to keep him curious about food- while keeping him safe.

Thursday I meet with my GI doctor again and we’ll set up my next batch of testing. Until then, I just have to stick with my pill regimen (so. much. iron.) and eat as healthy as possible.

Which reminds me, while I was scrounging in the fridge I managed to come up with a great recipe- that’s extremely versatile.

Artichoke sauce over polenta cakes, for one
gluten-free, dairy-free

Ingredients
Some sort of “protein” (I’ve used: 1/4 lb ground turkey, 1 sweet italian precooked sausage removed from the casing and diced, 1/4 container sliced mushrooms)
Jarred artichoke spread
Chicken/vegetable stock (so long as the vegetable stock isn’t tomato based)
Tube of prepared polenta

In a skillet, cook your protein. Saute mushrooms in a little olive oil, brown ground turkey or diced cooked sausage.

Heat a non-stick pan/cast iron pan on medium.

In the skillet with the mushrooms/turkey/whatever… drain off any excess oil/fat. You only don’t need more than a 1/2 Tbsp.

Add in about 3 Tbsp of the artichoke spread and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup stock to the hot pan and let it simmer until it reduces (it won’t take long). Season with salt & pepper at this point.

In the hot pan, add about 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Cut off two 1″ slices from the polenta round and add it to the pan, and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

Plate the polenta rounds and top with the sauce. Enjoy!

Note: Prepared polenta is one of my favorite cooking shortcuts. It’s cheap and FAST to prepare. The leftovers can go back in the fridge in a plastic bag and last about 5 days.

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