Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hawaii or Bust

Hey, remember when it was Christmastime and everything was all caroly and gingerbready?

Seriously, it's amazing how quickly I got over Christmas this year. No mourning, just a sincere "Thanks for coming!" and a slamming of the proverbial door. (Or maybe a gentle shutting...there was no anger involved.)

I hope your Christmas (or non-Christmas) was lovely. Ours was lovely. Short, sweet and just the right balance of family time, gifts and merriment...all topped off with a showing of "Sherlock Holmes" on Christmas Day (sans children). All I can say is, I ♥ Robert Downey, Jr. Most importantly, the boys enjoyed lots of love and laughter and the excitement of getting what they wished for.

And now that we've got that pesky annual tradition business out of the way, I can give my full attention to what I've been wishing for: Hawaii.

Oh, Hawaii, in 48 hours I will be in your tan, tropical arms...lay me down in a bed of sand and hook me up to a pina colada I.V. I am ready.

Some of you may recall that we've been planning Hawaii since last year. It was somewhere I'd always wanted to visit, but had never actually put on the travel docket because of all the other places I wanted to go (oh, and because it's very far away and expensive). Then the kids expressed excitement too and the plan was hatched.

Now, when it comes to travel, I tend to take the attitude that you can't put a price on experiences. This often allows me to justify planning trips regardless of my current financial status. It runs counter to my otherwise common sense-driven, responsible approach to life and maybe that's one of the things I love about it.

With kids, I've had to be more realistic about not only what we can afford, but where we can go with the boys or how long we can be gone without them. This has resulted in slightly less actual travel, but more obsessive travel planning (I have a loose outline of trips I am planning through 2015.)

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that before this trip, I don't think I've ever spent a full year planning anything other than my wedding. And maybe my kids.

When we started talking about it at the end of last year, we really couldn't afford it. My freelance business had just fallen off a cliff and I wasn't sure what 2009 would hold. But I knew I wanted it and I knew we'd get it, eventually. So I went back to work and I was able to tell myself and the boys that it was worth it because, in addition to being able to pay our bills, it would eventually allow us to take this trip. And it did. And that gives me a sense of accomplishment and sets a good example for the boys. It even suggests that, perhaps, where travel is concerned, I could learn to delay gratification a bit...maybe...on big trips.

So you see, even though planning dream vacations might not be the most fiscally responsible thing to do given the current state of things, it can teach us valuable life lessons, such as: Don't live to work. Work to travel.

And if all else fails, well, you can't really put a price on experiences, right?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Comfort and Joy

The halls are decked, the shining star has been hung upon the highest bow...it's Christmas Eve!

Most of our Christmas festivities happen on Christmas Eve, which leaves us free on the actual holiday to stay in our pajamas and eat only cinnamon rolls and leftover pie.

Here in the Twin Cities we're having a good ol' fashioned snowstorm. It started last night and is predicted to last through Saturday. So far it's just enough to make driving a pain in the ass, but not yet worthy of all the hoopla our local meteorologists seem to be making of it. It's not as if we've never seen snow.

I feel for the people who are trying to travel great distances - especially those who are facing Christmas Eve camped out in an airport terminal (I am so grateful that my husband has had nearly three weeks off from travel!) - but as for the rest of us, well, it's not going to kill us all to slow down just a bit and enjoy the people in our immediate vicinity.

Sure, I would like to be able to stick with our three-stop Christmas Eve itinerary because it's tradition and it's nice to see nearly every member of the family within an 8-hour window (maybe "convenient" is a more appropriate description), but if we end up snowed in and have to spend the entire day or even the next three days as a just us, here, together...well, I can't think of anything terrible about that situation at all. Maybe it helps that I've got an entire candy cane pie in the refrigerator.

So wherever you are and however you end up celebrating, I hope you all have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas. Peace, love, coffee and pie.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Always Know Where You Are Going

With only 11 days until my family and I will be ankle-deep in white sand on Waikiki Beach, Aidan put together the following document this morning:

Do you think he's been pitching Travel & Leisure after we go to bed at night? Maybe they'll give him a column called "This Kid is Going Places."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baking Christmas

A week from now, Christmas will be over. Even though I've been watching Christmas movies and listening to carols and shopping and wrapping and baking, I still don't know if I've been holly jolly enough.

There's a feeling stored in my mind that I think I'm always trying to recapture, although I'm not entirely sure it was ever captured in the first place. Maybe it's just an amalgamation of all of the things I've ever loved at Christmastime that, when combined, cast a glow over my memories of the season.

In my mind, there's an anonymous snowy windowsill, the only light coming from the colorful, twinkling bulbs strung along the the window frame, and I am sipping hot chocolate while Christmas songs fill the air. And the scene is pink and sweet, like a candy cane. And that's what I think of when I think of Christmas.

But if you want to be more tangible about it, here are a few holly jolly recipes I've compliled for the occasion, which I think you might want to try:

Yes, Land O'Lakes is trying to sell you butter with this recipe, but you need butter when baking these delicious bits of Christmas, so it's all good.

I'm thinking about giving these as gifts. Even the most cynical teenager would welcome the gift of bacon cookies, right?

Only Paula Deen would suggest that you use cake mix for the crust. I made these recently for our office potluck and I am now very popular at work.

This isn't just a great recipe for caramel corn, it's from my favorite momoir author-turned-recipe queen, Catherine Newman.

Truthfully, I've only used the mint buttercream part of this recipe so far (it's great with brownies), but perhaps you are feeling ambitious? There's just no way these cupcakes could be anything less than awesome.

So Merry Christmas Week. Stay sane, bake lots and remember that gifts are not actually the point of all this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Fluffy Stuff

Wow, turn around for a second and it's been 11 days since you last blogged.

I never told you this, blogosphere, but I had been toying with the idea of writing a 25 days of Christmas blog...or rather blogs, since there would have to be 25 of them. But then I couldn't narrow down the theme enough to make it feel manageable...and then, well, it turns out that I had almost nothing to blog about for nearly half of the month, so I guess it's good that I didn't take on that particular challenge. Whew.

Not to say that the contents of my last blog were nothing, mind you. In fact, I thought I might have to make a very special appointment with my therapist in order to process that bit of information (therapy has been put on hiatus), but as with most things, it fades with each morning that I wake up. Now I'd say it's been moved from my mental "examples of failure to protect unborn children" file and put in the "possible explanations for Owen's autism" folder...which is to say that it's soaking into the fabric of my daily existence...which is okay.

Man, I hate it when serious stuff creeps into what I think are going to be light and fluffy blogs. Well, in an effort to balance out the heft of the beginning of this entry, let's talk about reality television, shall we?

Danny won Biggest Loser by losing more than half of his original body weight in, what, less than 6 months? There's no way that can be healthy, but it sure does make for good TV. Plus, Shay gets to come back and get paid $1000 for every additional POUND she loses! Forget health, Subway knows how to motivate.

Top Chef Las Vegas is also over and the egomaniac won. This displeases me. I feel like they were all fairly equal in terms of culinary talent and therefore one of the two nice guys should have taken the grand prize. But did you see this interview with the winning Voltaggio? Did he say he has children or is he speaking in the future tense? Because I don't remember ever hearing about any children and it makes me a little sad to think he might have some, but never mentioned them. Oh, and on one other Top Chef-related note, did you hear about this? It's like my dreams became television producers.

The Amazing Race also came to an exciting close. Perhaps to make up for Top Chef's change of locales for the finale (or not), it ended in Las Vegas! I have to say it was one of my favorite Amazing Race finales even though it didn't have all the suspense of making them fly from, say, Alaska to Hawaii mid-leg. It was no surprise who won, but it was still fun. My Sunday nights now feel empty.

Somehow it's already time for the finale of So You Think You Can Dance. I feel like the auditions took longer than the competition. My favorite part of this season was the guest appearance of The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Not that some of the contestants aren't great dancers, but those guys seem to defy gravity. As for picking a winner, I like Legacy and Russell, but I don't really care that much.

And over in the category of happy returns, both Intervention and Hoarders are back! Hooray for dysfunction and mental illness! I know, I know, but how can you possibly look away? Plus, sometimes they get better, which makes it all okay, right? Right?

There's more, I'm sure, but my Tivo is calling me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Knowing (and Not)

The boys finally got their H1N1 vaccines today. I didn't want to deal with crazy lines, so we went through their pediatrician's office. Unfortunately, their pediatrician's office didn't get any of the mist, so I was forced to inform the boys that there would be needles involved.

I think we all still have traumatic memories of their five-year check-ups, at which they both received several immunizations and I discovered (too late) that when I had warned them there would be "shots," they had no idea what that meant.

But this time I figured we'd be prepared, so I gave them a heads up last weekend and have since been met with daily complaints, whines, and questions about why they have to do this. I informed them that sometimes you have to do things that you don't like to stay healthy. I went so far as to explain that while I was in the hospital pregnant with them, I had to get two shots every single day and that I didn't like it, but (and I swear this wasn't intended to be a guilt trip) "I did it because it helped keep you safe in my tummy." Seriously, I spoke those very words maybe two days ago.

So imagine how I felt today when I learned of this research, which says that beta 2 adrenergic agonist drugs might cause autism. More precisely: "Prenatal exposure to continuous high doses of beta 2 adrenergic agonists can permanently dysregulate signaling from the beta 2 adrenergic receptor."

Terbutaline, the drug that was injected into my body twice a day, every day, for 3 and a half weeks while I was pregnant, is one such beta 2 adrenergic agonist drug. Now, I don't usually jump at every article claiming such-and-such may cause autism, but it's not that often that the circumstances being described so closely match ours.

I'd say shock is the most appropriate way to describe how I felt when I read this. Then anger, then sadness. I've said over and over that I want to know why, but I guess I wasn't prepared for the possibility that something so avoidable could be the reason my little boy may face lifelong challenges.

And no, it's not concrete. I can't say with any certainty that this is what it was...that had I not been given those injections I would have two neurotypical children. If anything, I probably lean more in the direction that had I not had those injections, I might not have either of my kids today.

Terbutaline slows contractions almost instantly. Even combined with my IV of magnesium sulfate, it was never able to stop my contractions completely, but it definitely slowed them down and I do believe that slowing down my contractions allowed me to make it as far as I did with them. Had they been born when I was admitted to the hospital at 23 weeks, I don't think they would be alive. And if they were, we would likely be dealing with challenges far greater than high-functioning autism.

But...it's not as if I made an informed choice. I didn't know. Logically, I can't feel guilty about that, but there's something so sad about the idea that there was actually a moment when things could have been different.

Still, if we're talking risk versus reward, I wouldn't risk what I have. If I ever get my time machine, I won't go back to find out whether that drug made the difference between my babies living or dying on the off chance that had they survived, then maybe Owen wouldn't have autism. That's something I can live without knowing.