Friday, August 31, 2012

Right Now


Happy Birthday, Pop!

We're glad we get to spend it with you!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Fun: Bonuses

Summer ends this Labor Day weekend, I suppose, even with two days of school this week.  We plowed through our "Phineas and Ferb"-inspired list, doing more than I expected (but not the ones I thought we'd do):

  1. Fly a kite.
  2. Campout overnight downstairs.
  3. Have a pj read-a-thon.
  4. Draw and play hopscotch in the driveway.
  5. Long midday bubble bath.
  6. Make ice cream in a roly ball.
  7. Draw with chalk inside and/or outside.
  8. Paint.
  9. Fondue party.
  10. Learn a new song on the keyboard.
  11. Build Legos--Friends or Ninjago world.
  12. A night 'round the firepit singing and making s'mores.
  13. Play with one of our science kits.
  14. Make friendship bracelets.
  15. Work on woven placemats on loom.
  16. Make paper beads.
  17. Make paper airplanes.
  18. Game-playing marathon.
  19. Play putt-putt golf.
  20. Go to a zoo.
  21. Sleepover with Ma and Gong, and Gommie and Pop.
  22. Go to the arcade.
  23. Go horseback riding.
  24. Go to an art museum.
  25. Go to a science or natural history museum.
  26. Try a new ice cream parlor.
  27. Go strawberry picking.
  28. Go blueberry picking.
  29. Make jam.
  30. Go to the beach.
  31. Build sandcastles.
  32. Go swimming.
  33. Make our own bubble solution.
  34. Make a bundt cake.
  35. Write to a pen pal.
  36. Playdates with friends.
  37. Tie dye.
  38. Have a movie marathon (Star Wars?  Miyazaki? Harry Potter?  Disney?)
  39. Go to local festivals.
  40. Go see a movie in a theater.
  41. Make popsicles.
  42. Have an astronomy night.
  43. Go birdwatching.
  44. Have a lemonade stand.
  45. Sort through books to give some away.
  46. Do community service projects.
  47. Go letterboxing.
  48. Go to the library.
  49. Build fairy houses.
  50. Scrapbook.  
  51. Go on a sketching outing.
  52. Do a Star Wars craft.
  53. Make something with Sculpey.
  54. Celebrate July 4th.
  55. Celebrate Solstice.
  56. Celebrate Mama's birthday.
  57. Make our own crayons.
  58. Make ice cube candles.
  59. Watch the Olympics
  60. Host a culture night for England, Japan, India, Egypt, Thailand, Navajo, Ethiopia, Carpatho-Russians.
  61. Make fudge.
  62. Make sun prints.
  63. Go to concert in the park.
  64. Have a picnic at a new park.
  65. Visit an historic house or living history museum.
  66. Make a dance CD for a family dance party!
  67. Try new grilling recipe.
  68. Practice meditation together.
  69. Watch a new musical.
  70. Hang pictures.

But we also did several that weren't even on our list:

71.  Chew gum for the first time.
72.  Play in sprinkler.
73.  Build a pillow fort.
74.  Make bead bracelets.
75.  Wash the car.
76.  Played Olympic gymnastics.
77.  Scooter races.
78.  Home hair and nail salon.
79.  Looking for rainbows and butterflies.
80.  Fingerweaving.
81.  Playing in the kiddie pool.
82.  Canoeing.
83.  Fishing.




First Day of Second Grade!

The kiddos are off to second grade . . . all by themselves!  They got on the bus this morning (with Sis's very good bunny-loving friend S), not wanting me to drive them or meet them.  So grown up--in their Perry the Platypus backpacks with Pokemon zipper pulls!  :)

They have the same wonderful teacher and same classmates (plus a few additions) because they are looping, which means summer has been more of a break from a routine that starts all over again today.  So, they're neither anxious about a new teacher and routine nor overly excited about starting.  It's like spring break was 70 days long.

Wishing you all a good beginning of the school year, whether it started today on Monday or next Tuesday (or weeks earlier in Texas), or starts at home, whether you are a teacher, reading consultant, or substitute!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

SHE'S HOME!!!!!

Mama Hungry is home from the hospital!!!!!

After 8 days of fever and infection following surgery, Mama just came home.  Thanks to the doctors, nurses, and staff of the hospital!! We're so glad she's home.

Thank you for all of your support these last two weeks.

A New Day

Yesterday, well, frankly sucked.  Bureaucratic delays, miscommunication between departments, action the speed of molasses, unresponsiveness to requests by helpless patients and their nurses--you know, all the inefficient, incompetent, frustrating things that lead to high medical costs and, in awful cases, I'm sure, injury and death.  In our case, it just caused a 24-hour delay in Mama  getting her painful port out, which should be happening now first thing this morning.  Knock on wood.

When there is something to know--and I'm hoping there is but don't want to jinx it after yesterday--I'll post.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Right Now

Mama had a good night:  no fever and no drainage.  She even ate real food for breakfast.   She might come home Tuesday, but we're trying not to get attached. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Morning

Today I am truly a stay-at-home mom.  Mama's parents are coming up from the city for a visit, my folks are taking most of the day "off," and I'm hanging with my kids, who went straight down to play, letting me sleep in a bit!  We're going to play games, watch movies, eat lunch, whatever they want.  And then around 4, I'll head to the hospital for the evening.  After almost two weeks of medical-stuff and the kids being mainly cared for by my parents, it'll be a great change.  I won't call it R&R--when is parenting ever that?--but it'll be restorative.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Type A Personality

So, they told Mama her fever needed to go down.

After a whole day of being afebrile, tonight her temperature was down to 97.6.

I think she's an overachiever!

Today, So Far

Mama was fever free overnight.  I know I've told you before, but it really bears repeating.

One of her doctors came in for a long visit this morning, talking to us about bacteria and drains, CT Scans and antibiotics.  I think they feel more confident that they've really narrowed down the sensitivities and have the right meds.  We really like this doc, and not just because we found out yesterday she was "family" and today that she was from TX!  I even offered to make her a Tex-Mex chocolate sheet cake.  For tomorrow.  I think Gommie wishes I hadn't, but I'm looking forward to doing something normal like baking a cake so I'm excited.

The radiologist says they'll do another CT scan, probably on Monday, because the abscess is not gone and until they think they're closer to being done draining it, there's no sense checking.  Which of course puts her departure into the middle of next week.  She also has to be fever-free for 36 hours (it's usually 24, but she had a rough time of it--the bacteria even infected her blood, we learned today!).  She also needs to be off IV antibiotics and have it under control with orals.  Plus just feel better, which means, in this case, actually eating.

So, sure, she'd love to come home sooner, but she feels so much better with no fever--and no roommate and the hairwashing I gave her today and some of a baked potato for lunch--that she's doing ok.


Overnight

No fever in 12 hours!!!!!

I'm headed to the hospital for the day now.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Solemnly Swear That I am Up to No Good

I promised all my loved ones that I would go to bed and get some sleep.

Well, in just a minute, because I wanted to tell you that Mama was fever-free tonight for the first real chunk of time since last weekend!!!!  Yay!  You can imagine that she was over the moon.

Add to that, her roommate was released this afternoon and so Mama has privacy, peace, and quiet, if only for the few hours before someone else comes in.  But at least Mama has the window side.

We still think there will be more tests and probably a few more days, but we're in no real rush (in fact, to be totally honest, I'm actually a bit scared to think of bringing her home, especially after last week!).  Just really savoring this major moment, which we especially needed today.

Happy anniversary, hon!

Hospital Fatigue

Mama and I are exhausted and today has been a down day, starting with an early-morning and then late-morning visit with two different doctors who aren't so pleased that her fever is not totally gone.  So they've added more antibiotics and are considering more diagnostics in case there is something (i.e. another abscess) they missed or that has developed since the last CT scan.  They are also consulting with other doctors about more complex/powerful antibiotic cocktails.

We're just tired and tired of her being in the hospital.  While recognizing our good fortune on many fronts, we are ready for things to be better.  So, I've come home for a midday nap and a school function while Mama gets an extra nap this afternoon.  I'll return this evening.  And tomorrow  . . . . and . . . . for the foreseeable future.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Mama Hungry and I celebrate 15 years together today, after a three-year courtship.  A hospital is a helluva place to celebrate, but the love, honor, cherish stuff for better or for worse feels more alive this year than ever before.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Good News

I tried to write this post 5 times from the hospital, but Blogger kept crashing and taking my draft.  I finally gave up.

GOOD NEWS!  The blood culture came back today indicating that the abscess WAS the source of the bacterial infection!  I've never been so happy about bacteria.  So now we wait to see if the antibiotic cocktail is enough to clear the infection and reduce the fever.  Mama was feeling somewhat better midday but had fever by evening and also still relies on morphine because of the pain of the deeply-embedded port, which is still draining.  She also had an abdominal x-ray to rule out any other complications, just in case (and it wore her out . . . )

All in all, though, a very positive day.

Good Night

I slept and the kids slept, except for when the house alarm sensors lost battery, again, and I had to fiddle with that; luckily (?) the kids never notice the alarm.  Even Mama apparently slept, according to her nurse, except for all the times the IV pump went off.  Don't know how her fever was and do know she needed morphine at 9 pm, but otherwise . . . will head over in about 2 1/2 hours.

Nights are lonely and, unwittingly, thoughts get dark . . .looking forward to the brightness of sunrise.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Afternoon

Warning:  TMI medical stuff below.

Mama's procedure went well.  They drained more than a cup of fluid from abdomen and she felt relief right away.

But.  But the fluid was not infected and probably not the source of the fever.  And her fever is still rising.  The doctors are perplexed but not so much worried.

She's here for awhile....keep sending comments and emails please.  They cheer her up and help us feel connected to thw world outside.

Update

After Mama Hungry spent the whole night in the ER (no available beds upstairs!) because of fever, the news is good:  the cat scan shows that she had developed an abscess which the doctors will hopefully be able to take care of today without full surgery.  She is on numerous medications and will probably be in the hospital for a few more days at least.  The doctors are optimistic for a full recovery.  Thank you for all of your support and well-wishes.

Right Now

In hospital where Mama has been admitted after coming to ER with fever.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday Smiles

Gommie and Pop are enjoying the beauties of the Hudson Valley today while Ma and Gong came up for a visit.  The kids enjoyed playing computer games with them (Blink?  Diamond?  Who knows!) while I ran some errands and Mama rested.  She'd had a fever for about 17 hours and was tired from a restless night.  But the fever is gone today (the doctor said it was probably something to do with her lungs contracting after surgery??  She is now definitely remembering to do her breath exercises!  But I wouldn't be surprised if it came back at night) and she seems happier and more at ease.  So right now, we're all upstairs, very still, watching Pokemon: The Movie, which couldn't make the kids and Mama happier!

A completely unexpected bonus:  it was so cool outside today--high around 78F--that we didn't even turn on the AC but enjoyed the nice breeze.  And it's supposed to be 59F tonight!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pintathletes

My last few weeks on Pinterest have been an eye-opening experience for me.  For those of you who don't know, Pinterest is an extremely popular website that functions as the virtual corkboard of ideas and inspirations found around the web by internet users, a very specific, highly-desirable subset of internet users--those who control the American family's pursestrings.  Pinterest users, if I may hazard a (completely stereotyped) guess all in good fun, are generally white, middle-class, 30s-ish, Christian American women with children, many of whom teach school or stay at home, and who:

  • love tattoos--especially tattoos that say "love" in cursivey-hearts
  • express creativity through elaborate fingernail polish designs (I've seen Santas, tie dye, sneaker laces, and hundreds of others)
  • have long hair and love braids but don't really know how to braid and so need many tutorials
  • want to know how to make the most out of limited wardrobes, like the basic shirt
  •  . . . .which can also be made into a reusable grocery bag, a necklace, or a headband!
  • feel fat--and want either products like this plastic warp treatment or exercise regimes like this countdown jumping jacks one or make-your-own skinny desserts and 100 calorie snack packs to become thinner
  • crave, make, and eat food that might contribute to a weight problem--if you only ate dishes published on Pinterest, you would eat an amazing amount of 1). crockpot meals with cream of fat soup and packages of ranch dressing 2). chicken bakes with 1/2 stick of butter and more packages of ranch dressing or onion soup 3). quick pastas combining jars of both spaghetti sauce and alfredo sauce 4). desserts with Oreos baked inside, covered in white chocolate, or inspiring desserts that look like Oreos or anything Red Velvet---oh, Red Velvet Oreos!!!???
  • only want their kids to eat healthy snacks from long lists of pre-approved ideas and lunches made of the same
  • express their frugality by DIY home decor projects, home sewn clothes, homemade Christmas presents, and recreated versions of store-bought mixes
  • love crafts, especially those with paint swatches, crochet, owls, stenciling, and fun things to do with kids
  • but want to make their own bubbles, finger paint, chalk, crayons (hey, that's my pin!), etc.
  • really prefer programmed time with their kids--101 activities to cheer up, calm down, explore nature, play with science, learn about artists--often inspired by Montessori
  • while I don't see it too often, I figure there are a lot of homeschoolers or homeschooler-wannabes
  • . . . . and Mormons
  • really love compendiums, lists, sets, collections, bullet-points, and itemization
  • obsess about clean houses and how to achieve them with shortcuts using baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and such and projects on de-cluttering their houses in 30 days
  • actually, 30-day challenges are big--to draw, journal, be a better parent, romance their husbands
  • "Have a sweet, gentle sense of humor," said nobody ever (and love to see such quotes on snarky, sarcastic or ironic postcards with Victorian line drawings and stylish colors or cross-stitched with pretty little flowers)
  • but avoid irony and sarcasm in their embrace of inspirational quotes, preferably hand-lettered on chalkboards or canvas, and guides to the Bible and scripture (which is not granola, by the way, so don't just choose the parts you like!)
  • worry about how to record for posterity their weddings, pregnancies, and children's childhoods (and school experiences in a Oh The Places You'll Go secretly autographed by teachers for a dozen years!) and so detail memory crafts, photography poses, birth announcements etc.
  • prepare for holidays approximately two holidays in advance (and want to put Jesus back in Easter and Christmas, and that ELF)
  • don't like Twilight much at all, at least in public, and will poke fun at it (Hermione fought a dark lord, Princess Leia fought an empire, Katniss started a rebellion, and Bella got married.)
  • really like 50 Shades of Grey but don't mention it in public often
  • also love Disney princesses, without the irony
  • not only read and share but create the content shared on Pinterest by writing blogs with interesting ideas and often amazing artistic photography
  • know their way around Photoshop, Instagram, Adobe, and other programs/apps
  • even enjoy poking fun at Pinterest projects and ideas on Pinstrosity
And in truth, though I type in the third person on the list (and am somewhat snarky about it), most of those apply to me, of which my pins are veritable proof (I mean, how else would I know exactly what pinners prefer??).  I'm not at all embarrassed and am quite enjoying it . . . Besides, I'm sure there's a pin of "Judge not lest ye be judged!"

Summer Fun: Camping Supplies

Sunscreen.
Bugspray.
Bug bite gel.
Hats.
Water.
Money for ice cream.
Directions to a new fishing hole.
Camera.
Binoculars.
Fishing poles.
Worms.

Another day at Gommie and Pop camp.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Devotion of Cats

Our cats have been beside themselves this week.

And beside Mama.

They were locked in "their room" (our catch-all, not-really-for-guests extra room) for the day of surgery and the day after so that they didn't get past Ma and Gong and get out of the house.  When I let them out Tuesday night and they realized Mama was gone, as were the kids who spent the night with Gommie and Pop, they paced all night and managed not one but two hairballs! Now that Mama is home, they are usually sleeping at her feet or circling her head.

Which is why she sits and even sleeps under a plastic tray table across her middle--so they can't walk across her "swelly belly."    They don't like that one bit, of course, but still aren't leaving.  And glare at anyone who enters, purring for her almost the whole time.

Even when I'm the one opening the cans of kibble!

Updates

Just a quick update for those of you keeping tabs on Mama here.  She's been home less than a day and is doing much better.  Yesterday was rough--not enough pain medication so she had trouble moving, a direct result of too much the day before which caused nausea so she had trouble moving!  We think we finally found the right combination with her morning dose today.  Her folks are taking wonderful care of her and my folks are taking wonderful care of the kids.  And I'm balancing it all.

In the foreseeable future:  she won't be able to drive for three weeks, at least, so she's home and resting.  My folks are here another 10 days, almost up to the first day of school.  Her parents will be going back and forth as needed.  The kids are having Gommie and Pop camp this week--fishing, swimming, kite-flying, bird-watching, and more--and then kung fu camp next week until around 3 pm, leaving time for Gommie and Pop fun.  Then it'll be the sprint to school.

They are ready for school but neither anxious nor especially excited because they are looping and will therefore have the same teacher and classmates.  Which is fine--we don't need anxiety or uncontrolled excitement right now!

As for me, I'm hanging in.  Actually, I haven't had much to do with all the grandparents in full swing, but that's okay.  I greatly appreciate their help.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Her Way

The lab results from Mama's surgery yesterday were negative!!!!  We are so glad about that.

She had a fitful night, apparently, but is awake and sounding stronger this morning (which means she can talk and open her eyes, unlike most of yesterday).  If she can eat--knock on wood--she can try to get up.   I'll be heading over in an hour or so, once I spend some time with the kiddos, who have been having Gommie and Pop camp.  They've fished (caught 8, many unidentifiable Yankee fish that Pop didn't know!), been kite flying, done lots of swimming, eaten steak dinner and Chinese buffet and special pancakes, and played games, among other things.  Plus a sleepover at the hotel last night!  Mama's parents are heading over to the hospital about now to help her start her day.  If all things improve, she should be coming home later today.

Which makes it a good day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Long Day

We had a long day.  All's well that ends well, but it took awhile.  Mama reacted poorly to the various medications and was sick tonight.  But by 10 p.m. this evening, they had a cocktail to make her feel a little better and we were able to come home.  She might be able to sleep now. . . and then tomorrow is a brand new day.

Thanks for all your love and comments.

Out of Surgery

Mama is out of surgery and I am with her.  Her parents are here, too.  I hope all went well during surgery, but we haven't seen a doctor.   She is mostly asleep but feels....like she just had major surgery.  Thanks for your thoughts and prayers....please keep them up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You Gotta . . .



I made the one above (with Keep Calm and Carry On) and the one below (with The Keep-Calm-O-Matic).




24 Hours

Gommie and Pop have been here only about 24 hours and have already taken the kids swimming twice, bike riding, out for ice cream, to the beach to fly kites, to the store for fishing poles and worms, and now to a steak dinner (yep, Texan grandparents take the kids for BEEF, which they never get at home!).  Wears me out just thinking about it, but I'm so glad that the cavalry arrived with energy, fresh perspective, and fun.

Meanwhile, we're at home with Mama fasting and packing her hospital bag.  I'm keeping her company while she plays video games and I pin recipes on Pinterest, both of us watching Brokaw's "The Finest Hour" about the Blitz since we've watched all the Olympics.

I'm fielding kind emails from surprised but supportive friends, encouraging me to, borrowing from England c. 1940, "keep calm and carry on."  And we're doing pretty well, despite or even because of my public panicked post.

Except Mama is ready to eat the remote control!

I fully expect to post, in about 24 more hours, that all is well and Mama is in her room, hopefully sleeping it all off.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Goodnight, London

We're watching the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics--it's like a big British pop concert, starting with what looked like Jubilee street parties.

  • I loved the "Imagine" with the John Lennon sculpture.  
  • Oh, the "Our House (in the middle of our street!)" song and the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls."  Just makes me want to sing.
  • And seeing George Michael takes me back 25 years!  I saw him in concert twice, one in Wham! and once on the Faith tour.  
  • And Mama Teacher, now I know who One Direction is!  
  • I couldn't have cared much less about those models, though.  
  • Oh, Annie Lennox meets Zombie-Interview With a Vampire is fabulous, but what is that song?? 
  • Hmmmm, losing me on the Russell Brand and octopus-eats-the-bus part.  I'm always a bit behind hip British culture/humor.
  • Seems apropos---"we're trying to make the world dance/forget about the pricetag/ka-ching!"  Is that a Rolls Royce??
  • Oooh, the octopus is dancing!
  • Yeah, Dynamite!  Mama knows a song!
  • Here come the Spice Girls!!!!
  • OMG, Eric Idol and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!!!!"  HRH Prince Harry was even singing!
  • Bollywood dancers and Holi colors!
  • Freddie Mercury . . . but the Queen part with the woman in the bodystocking left me lukewarm.
I think that's the end of the concert (mercy it ended suddenly on NBC, with that Welsh men's chorus.)  Now for the official goodbyes.  I'm going to miss you, London and the Olympics, you did a bang-up job . . . see you in Rio!

Thank You

To everyone who has checked in since yesterday's post, thank you.  I'm glad I got that all off my mind.  We're going to be fine.  But I'm glad I filled you in, even if it was a little intense for all of us.

Gommie and Pop arrived this late afternoon and hit the ground running, even more than usual.  Within an hour of arriving, they'd played a game of Scrabble and then headed out for ice cream and a long swim!  Mama and I finished  up several projects--get this, hanging curtains and a mirror--and made ham, greens, black eyed-peas, and cornbread (thanks, Goo, for the special cornmeal!).

We're taking each day as it comes . . . but we're ready.

A Prayer for Mama

May she be safe.
May she be happy.
May she be healthy.
May she live with ease.

As I stitched with the maroon yarn she'd chose for her prayer-shawl-inspired blanket, I said metta for Mama.  And now it's all ready for her recovery, a bit warm for late summer, but hopefully comforting nonetheless.

Just plain double crochet in Lion Brand Wool-Ease until it was the right size, then edged in same stitch of differently-colored yarn.

Things that Make Me Go "HaHaha"

Mama presented me with a little bag of goodies yesterday--a selection of books from the humor section of the bookstore.  There's LOLcats, FAILNation, Stuff White People Like, and P.S. I Hate It Here!  Letters from Camp.  With some selective reading for child-friendly content, these had us all in stitches yesterday.  The kids especially liked LOLcats and started making up captions for our own cats as they wandered around or slept!

Of course, many of the books come from popular blogs and you can check them out yourselves for a laugh, plus a few others that bring a smile to my face.

LOLCats
FAILNation
Stuff White People Like
Cake Wrecks
Awkward Family Photos

One of my favorites from LOLCats
(See also Jabba the Cat and Pizza Hostage)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

All the Truth that's Fit to Print

A good friend was surprised to learn that the last few days have been rough around here, noting that my blog stays relatively upbeat.  It seems to be deceptively so, fooling friends and family alike.

Which is not to say that this whole blog is one big perfect lie, only that it is definitely selective.  It has all happened and is all relatively true, acknowledging my inborn-Texas tendency to exaggerate by at least 25%. But it is not everything.  Not by a long shot.

I don't talk about my sex life here.  Yes, I'm a lesbian and I'll discuss gender issues and feminist politics but nothing akin to the Fifty Shades of Gay.  This is a family-friendly family website.  I don't often talk about Mama Hungry, as I've explained in the past (though I can't for the life of me find it--it basically said that, while she is at the core of my life and our family, I'm not here to tell her story or even our story--that's private--except when it feels relevant or meaningful, as it has recently), except to note her recent health trials and tribulations that will, hopefully, climax with surgery on Tuesday.  (Wait, if this is a family blog, can I even say "climax?")  I don't tattle on Sis and Bud.  I've never noted, at least as far as I can recall, when they've physically or emotionally hurt each other (it happens), when they've made mistakes or had embarrassing accidents (that happens, too), etc.  I'll record our fun activities, their bon mots, their "things that make me go hmmm," essentially the kinds of things you'd put in a really long baby book.  This is not the complete record of their childhoods, it's a recording of the highlights and my reflections on the effects on my life and myself--my story, what I have learned and what I want to remember most and what I want to share.  And while I definitely learn from the negative, and sometimes reference it here, I like to remember the positive.  And share the stuff I don't think will embarrass any of us, especially the kids, later.  I also protect their identities and never post photos.  Lastly, I don't record all of our family ups and downs (when Mama and I fight--it happens--or when I want to throttle the kids or they me), or even all of my personal ones--though sometimes I do overshare (my back issues, for instance) more than others.  I can't say how I decide. It's just how ever I am feeling when I'm typing.  One big clue--if I'm not posting everyday, even more than once, something is usually wrong unless I've told you in advance that we're heading out of town or into radio silence.

All of which is to say that I haven't been dwelling here on how crappy things have been recently, because I don't want to think about it.  But here goes . . . I've finally popped.  Maybe this will help.

Since Mama's initial medical concerns in April, we've been jumping through one medical and emotional hoop after another.  Is it as bad as it could be?  No, but it's no picnic either.  Yes, we're glad she doesn't have cancer.  Yes, we're thrilled they caught it early.  But surgery and recovery are still a big deal and scary for us., especially because we're worriers and fixers (and I'm emotional and reactive).  She has long been the strong one in our family, the caretaker, especially while I recovered from my own back injury odyssey which began two years ago today, and now we are completely switching places.

And I worry.

I worry that something awful will happen during surgery--one of those 200,000 annual deadly hospital mistakes.  I can't even begin to illuminate those fears.  We've grown up together--she was 19 when we met and I was 22.  I want to grow old together while we watch our children grow up.

I worry that they'll find cancer, which is possible though not entirely probable--but they still keep her comatose on the operating table while they send her tissues to pathology to check and have the oncologist right there in case there are any cancer cells.  Certainly, cancer is not the end of the world and we have many  strong and brave friends who have come through it.

I worry that I am not up to the physical challenge, even with the help of 4 grandparents, friends, neighbors, and church friends, of taking care of her, the kids, and the household.  This is especially worrying because my back is at a real low right now and I'm resting most of the day, unable to do many of the things I've regained in the last several months.  I feel it is temporary--caused by stress and lack of care for myself--but it is still an obstacle.  And I feel guilty and ashamed that it has happened when Mama needs me the most.  Because I worry that I am not the caretaker than she is.  I'm even worried that I won't make it through surgery day physically.  And am ashamed that I might have to come home to rest while she is in the OR.  And I fear that something more dire will happen to my back again, leaving us both in recovery.

I am sorry she will feel pain and be nauseous and feel helpless and scared.  I'm sorry she has felt many of those already during the diagnosis process.

And I'm angry.  Angry that the first OB dragged her feet for months and months, which could have been literally deadly if Mama hadn't switched.   And I worry we waited because we were focused on my back. I'm angry that we had to wait 4 weeks for an appointment with the oncologist and then 4+ more weeks for the surgery, even if I'm sure that's fast and I realize how lucky we are to have wonderful insurance.  And I'm angry that I'm not living up to who I thought I would be in a crisis.  And I'm angry that I can't do the things that I want to do, that Mama can do--I'm so angry that my back hurts more now than in months and that I haven't had the power to fix it somehow.  I've even been angry that it's so damned hot, made hotter by the compression hose I have to wear because of varicose veins that developed probably due to my hyperflexible stretchiness.  You've heard the joke about the cranky spinster in the ill-fitting stockings?  It's not funny.

I am sorry that Mama and I, even in these times of tight togetherness, have moments of lonely isolation with our own fears as we cope in our own ways that can't be helped by another person, even our best friend.

I am sorry the kids have been on the receiving end of lots of stress and yelling these last few weeks and that more tension is to come.  I wish they knew it wasn't about them.

I worry that they don't understand or understand too well, as we try to balance what they know while helping them work through it.

I worry about having all the grandparents swirling around, as they have rarely spent time together, and worry how I will balance them all so that their needs and ours are met.  I worry that I will be short and snappy or worse to any or all of them while they're here and hope they know it's not about them.

I am sorry that I'm so self-absorbed right now, that I've been late mailing packages and thank-you notes and returning calls and checking up on friends whose lives have been up-ended by moves, cancer, illness, and death.  I have made meals and sent cards but have otherwise been relatively anti-social.  I worry that my friends and family are getting tired of my drama.  And I worry that I can't begin to express my deepest gratitude to the ones who have stuck by us so closely these last difficult two years.

I'm sorry that we can't be as mindful and present as we would like to be, that I haven't lived with right speech and right action, that I haven't lived the Four Noble Truths and really recognized that we create our own suffering.  I have posted about all of that but am finding it especially hard to live.  I can't even remember to meditate (or exercise or make beans, the things I know keep me going).  And I'm self-medicating with lots of Facebook and Pinterest, both of which I've joined recently to distract myself.

Yes, I'm in my head too much, I worry too much, I have unrealistic expectations, I overreact, I'm hard on myself and then on others.  And now I've posted it here.

Add in household preparations so that I can do what Mama usually does (this means things like rearranging all the household supplies that I can't reach, also the drawers so I can get out her clothes which had been in drawers too low for me, moving bags of litter to strategic places because I can't carry them), as well as preps so we can coast more smoothly the first few weeks--which includes the first day of school!--plus the kids are annoying each other after weeks together and with me, and Mama and I are trying to still make the summer and the days leading up to surgery fun and relaxing together-time!

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

So, that's the truth behind the blog, which has focused more on those fun family times than the worries behind them.  Because that's what I want us to remember when this is all over.

(Please note:  I am in therapy, so I can take care of my family and myself, and addressing all these concerns, which seem overwhelming listed altogether here but never hit me all at once.  And without my wonderful therapist, actually recommended by the good friend in the first sentence, I wouldn't be handling this as well as I am!  :) )

Friday, August 10, 2012

Something Old, Something Blue

No, not for a wedding . . . the Tooth Fairy boxes I made a few weeks ago during our Sculpey days!  Just in time, too.  Sis needed it less than 24 hours later for her sixth lost tooth.  Hers is the pink, of course, with a happy tooth and her name in ink on the side; his is blue with a light blue nameplate on the side for his name.  I found the idea in one of their polymer clay books, which was perfect because I never made those felted Tooth Fairy pillows I'd planned!


Anniversaries

Lots of big dates this month:  second anniversary of my first back injury (which is celebrating today with a stiff and painful SI joint; it'll be okay but does have me resting a lot); fifth anniversary of this blog (I promise to get to that anniversary cookbook pdf soon)!; and fifteenth anniversary of Mama and I getting together after an almost-three year courtship.   And all three changed my life for the better.

Summer Fun: Ice-Cream Mom

While we haven't made a lot of ice cream this summer--one batch of delicious Strawberry Soda Ice Cream and one ball of regular L.L. Bean vanilla.  But here are some of our other favorite ice creams:


For the Ice Cream Maker:

Chocolate Sorbet

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

            Combine 2 ½ cups water, the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cocoa in a saucepan.  To make Mexican chocolate sorbet, add 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low; boil gently for 3 minutes.
            Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside.  Remove the syrup from the heat and add the chocolate, vanilla, and espresso powder; whisk until chocolate is melted and well incorporated.  Pour the mixture into a bowl set over the ice-water bath and stir occasionally until well chilled.  Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s insturctions.  Store in a plastic container in the freezer for up to 1 week.

The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

Chocolate Sorbet

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened (or Dutch process) cocoa powder

            Combine the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Whisk in the cocoa and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
            Remove from the heat and pour through a fine strainer into a bowl.  Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.  Stir the cool mixture, then freeze in your ice cream maker.  When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

Earl Grey Ice Cream

This one is my favorite so far—the color of coffee with a more complicated flavor.  Mmmmm, very good.

1 cup milk
3 heaping tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea or 5-6 Earl Grey tea bags
¾ cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream

            Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the tea leaves or bags, cover, and set aside to steep for 15 minutes.
            Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Set aside.
            Strain the milk to remove the tea leaves, or simply remove the tea bags.  Add the half-and-half and return to a simmer over low heat.  Slowly beat the hot milk and half-and-half into the egg yolks and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot tea custard through a strainer into a larger, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight. 
Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours (it’s better the next day, when frozen solid).

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book
           

Pineapple-Coconut Ice Cream

1-16 oz can unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup toasted coconut

            Preheat oven to 400°F degrees.  Spread the coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet or aluminum foil.  Bake 5-10 minutes, then remove from the oven when light golden brown.  Allow them to cool before using.
Place the pineapple chunks and salt in a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute.  Set aside.
            Combine the sugar and coconut milk in a heavy medium saucepan.  Place over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the milk comes to a boil.  Beat the hot coconut milk into the egg yolks in a bowl.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard though a strainer in to a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the pineapple puree, cream, and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
            Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  When partially frozen, add ½ cup toasted, sweetened coconut.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

Joan’s Port Alto Ice Cream

4 eggs, well beaten
2 ½ cups sugar
6 cup milk
4 cup heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

            Add sugar to eggs, beating well.  When very stiff, add remaining ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour into gallon ice cream freezer.

Gommie Hungry


Strawberry Sorbet 
2 cups water
1 cup sugar (could probably use only 3/4 cup)
1 quart strawberries, hulled
1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice

            In heavy saucepan boil water and sugar for 5 minutes; do not stir.  Add strawberries; cook 5 minutes more.  Stir in lemon juice.  Cool.  Puree.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Pour into ice cream maker and freeze for approximately 25 minutes.

internet recipe

 Honey Lemon Yogurt Ice Cream

1-32 oz. container plain yogurt

¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup fresh lemon juice from 5-6 large lemons
¼ cup candied lemon zest (recipe follows)
1 cup light cream

            Soak a large cheesecloth or plain white paper towel in cold water.  Squeeze out the water and line a colander or sieve with the wet cloth.  Spoon the yogurt into the colander and set it into a large bowl to catch the liquid that drains from the yogurt.  Place in the refrigerator and let drain for 2-3 hours.  Approximately 1 ½ cups liquid will drain out.
            Spoon the thickened yogurt into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the sugar, honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Stir in the cream.  Freeze in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Candied Lemon Zest

1 large lemon
½ cup sugar

            Use a sharp paring knife to cut the zest off the lemon.  Cut only the yellow part, leaving the bitter white pith behind.  Slice the zest into very thin strips, then place in a small saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.  Drain and repeat the boiling process 3 times.  This will help soften the zest and remove any bitterness.
            Return the zest to the pan with ½ cup water and the sugar.  Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the zest is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove the zest with a slotted spoon and use immediately or allow to cool in the syrup, then refrigerate until ready to use.  Candied lemon zest can be stored in its syrup in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book


Fresh Ice Cream
1 bag frozen fruit
1/2 C yogurt (plain)or vanilla
1/4 C sugar
3 TBsp water

Blend all ingredients in mixer until smooth and enjoy.

(Note: Rees and James love it! We've had strawberry, mango, pineapple and blueberry. Can't wait to try more. Trying to find coconut. If you see it, let me know!

D.S.



Brown Sugar Ice Cream

2 cups cream (we used heavy whipping)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar




Combine and put in ice cream ball. Follow directions. Yum! Though it didn't harden much (we were impatient), it tasted a lot like my favorite flavor, sweet cream

Mommy Hungry


Vanilla Ice Cream #1 (Pure and Simple)
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.  Slowly beat the hot milk into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight (my note:  don't forget to put the core of your ice cream maker in a plastic bag in the freezer, if that's the kind you have).

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1-2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions (ours takes about 20-30 minutes).  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe contanier and freeze at least 2 hours.

(Final note:  I think my Penzey's vanilla extract overpowered this recipe, which was probably designed with your average vanilla in mind.  I almost think this would be good as a sweet cream recipe, no vanilla, since the book must have come out before that was a trendy flavor, and one of my favorites).

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book (one of our favorites!)


Maple-Apple Cider Sorbet
3 cups fresh apple cider (or apple juice)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
juice of 1 lemon


Bring cider to a simmer.  Add sugar and syrup and dissolve.  Refrigerate overnight.

Add lemon juice and freeze in ice cream machine according to directions.  It will be soft but ready to eat or it can be frozen for 2 hours for a firmer treat.

(Option:  Instead of maple syrup, use 1 1/2 cups sugar and add 1 teaspoon orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the sugar for Spiced Cider Sorbet.)

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book




Camp Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
6 cups half and half
2 cups whipping cream

Mix in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Girl Scout Camp


Strawberry Soda Ice Cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup red cream soda (Big Red!) or regular cream soda
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and mashed


Whisk the condensed milk, half-and-half, cream soda, cream and strawberries in a medium bowl.  Churn in ice cream maker.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.


Laura Duckworth, Food Network Magazine



For the Roly Ball

From L.L. Bean:

Note: Most of these recipes call for half-and-half. You can substitute cream for a richer, creamier dessert. Using whole or lowfat milk (or part milk and part half-and-half) produces a lighter, lower-fat ice cream, but takes longer to freeze.

Vanilla
1 quart half-and-half
1 T vanilla
3/4 c plus 2 T sugar


Campsite Cocoa 
1 quart half-and-half
3-5 packets instant cocoa mix

Mix ingredients thoroughly in a separate container before adding to the Ice Cream Ball.


S'mores
1 quart half-and-half
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c chopped marshmallows (or mini marshmallows)
1/2 c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars

Serve with graham crackers for dipping.


Wild Maine Blueberry 
3 c cream*
2 c wild blueberries
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 c sugar

* Because of the high liquid content in the berries, we recommend using cream instead of half-and-half.


L.L. Bear's Frozen Yogurt
4 c plain yogurt
2/3 c honey
2/3 c trail mix


Maine Needham
1 quart half-and-half
1/2 tsp almond extract
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c sweetened coconut
1/2 c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars
New England Maple Syrup
1 quart cream*
2/3 c maple syrup

* Because of the added liquid in this recipe, we recommend using cream instead of half-and-half.


Chocolate Chip
1 quart half-and-half
1 T vanilla
3/4 c sugar
2/3 c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars


Gingerbread
1 quart half-and-half
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c plus 2 T sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves


Coffee
1 quart half-and-half
2 tsp vanilla
1 c sugar
3 T instant coffee, dissolved in a small amount of hot water


Coconut
1 pint half-and-half
2 c coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c sugar


Cookies & Cream
1 quart half-and-half
1 T vanilla
3/4 c sugar
1 c crushed chocolate sandwich cookies


Fruit Sorbet
3 c fruit juice
1 c crushed berries
sugar to taste


Peach
1 quart half-and-half
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c sugar
1 large ripe peach, sliced and pared

Add peaches after 15 minutes of mixing.

Summer Fun: Camporee!

23.  Go horseback riding.

We went to the Girl Scout International Camporee at the camp east of Hartford in beautiful hilly, wooden terrain. From the moment we got on the bus and sang songs all the way into camp (the Shark song and Herman the Worm song), it was quite the GS experience.  There were girls from all of the state, the region, and several countries, including Canada, Australia, England, Japan, Nigeria, and Ghana.  But before visiting the countries' tents, we hauled all the way up to the corrals so the kiddos--yes, brother tagalongs, too!--could ride ponies (that seemed pretty tall to me).  We had to wait a bit but soon they were in their helmets and in the saddles, being led around the ring, smiling the whole way.  Afterwards, they had a better appreciation for Olympic equestrian events!  Then we headed back down (past archery, which you have to be 10 to do) the hill towards the lake.  And we went canoeing!  Yep, the two moms with back trouble gamely paddled the kids around the lake.  I thought we did pretty well, considering I hadn't been in a canoe since counselling at Girl Scout camps in the 1980s and Mama had never been in one!  But we didn't hit anyone and managed to maneuver where we wanted to go, getting up enough speed to be interesting.  Funny how the strokes came back to me.  I think I was having more fun that the kids!

Afterwards, we ate lunch from various trucks from local restaurants--a grilled cheese truck and a taco truck with portobello fajitas--we wandered the international displays, talking to Girl Guides from York and Cleveland in England and to the huge Canadian contingent from all over (including the Northwest Terriotories) and the friendly Australians who had so many swaps to share.  I liked their badge blankets (England and Australia mainly), where they place their fun patches and badges from previous levels.  And there was food!  Scones, cucumber sandwiches, iced brown rice tea, and a comparison between US and Canadian Oreos (yes, they're different.  Our fillings are sweeter and grainier.)

Sis did the ribbon and the face, we did the glue-gunned eyes and tail.
But Sis's main focus was SWAPS, aka the little crafty doodads with pins and name labels that girls exchange by the dozens if not hundreds at these events.  In addition to some "I Love S'mores" she had leftover, Sis had a new bunny clothespin SWAP which we adapted from an existing pattern I found online--instead of using the pompom for a cartoonish nose, we put it on the side for a tail.  "Some bunny loves Girl Scouts!"  (She gave them all away before I got a picture but Mama says she saved one back somewhere).  Sis was so determined that she'd wander up to a pack of girls and proffer her bag, "Do you want to swap?"  I think she came away with 75 new SWAPS, including shirnky dinks, perler beads, cricut paper, felt bed rolls, all manner of beads and friendship bracelets, and, her favorite, a little box containing a bear!  Bud even got a few from (usually adult) SWAPpers who saw that he was left out.  It made me want my own SWAPS.

By then, the heat was getting to us and we'd done everything we really wanted to do, so we hopped back on the shuttle, which was pretty much empty.  "I wish there were singing on the way back, too," Bud declared.  And so I sang "Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe" . . . and we headed home, with a stop at Chowder Pot for lobster, clam chowder, and fish and chips.  And chicken fingers.

It was quite a trip down memory lane for me.  I always loved camp and this one looked like my beloved Camp Agnes Arnold, with all its trees, lakes, platform tents, central dining hall, gravely roads, and shortcuts through the woods between activity sites.  As we left, a group of singalongers sang my favorite GS tune, "Barges."  A wonderful day!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Babysitter vs.Yard Boy

My teenage yard guy from up the street gets paid a reasonable $22 each time he mows my lawn, which inevitably includes moving toys and branches from the tree.  It usually takes him about an hour.

His little sister comes sometimes and plays with/watches the kids, often while I'm still at home.  She makes about one-third of what he does an hour.  In fact, my most prized Babysitter, of seven years now, makes a little less an hour than yard guy.  And I think I pay within the average (well, more for Babysitter!).

Do I love my lawn more than my kids?  Do I think mowing requires more skill than childcare?  Is it because I pay him by the job and her by the hour?  Is it because he's male?  Or is it because, following the professional rate, yard care people just command more in the market?  My professional lawn service previously was $25 a week, my professional nanny-service nanny was $19 an hour (plus fees for the agency).  

I'm not sure I like it, whatever it is, but I'm glad I don't have to pay my babysitter $22 an hour!

Olympic Fatigue

More than a week in, we are starting to feel some Olympic fatigue over here.  We're taping hours and hours everyday but end up erasing most of it (because we're out of space and/or uninterested)--the titling isn't reliable in the DVR and we just don't want to see that much water polo, beach volleyball, or boxing!  We have, however, enjoyed watching sports we almost never get to see during non-Olympic years, like archery, fencing, handball, badminton, table tennis, synchronized anything (diving, swimming), trampoline, skeet, trap, rowing, kayaking, whitewater, weightlifting, judo, cycling time trials, discus, shot, pole vaulting . . . and we still have a week to go!  We save the best tidbits for the kids, who are sometimes amazed (at synchronized swimming and diving, also fencing), and sometimes singularly unimpressed.  On dressage, Bud asked, "Is that a real sport?"  Yes, and the only one where men and women compete against each other.  Via horse.

There hasn't been too many little English culture vignettes of the type they did in Nagano, as I recall.  Just lots of lovely unidentified images of England (okay, Lambeth, what is the round, Norman-like castle, with round towers like Chepstow but with a less open keep and more symmetry?  ARGH!) and one piece on pubs (two of which I'd actually been to!).  Otherwise, the coverage is frustrating--all-American, unless someone else wins and then only that one athlete's performance, or unless someone is injured or fails, then we see that repeatedly (like the German gymnast Phillipp Boy).  And way too many moms and dads, in the stands or in the commercials.  But at least there aren't all those bios anymore.  We tried watching it streaming but only got tidbits not whole competitions, not sure why.

Still, it's been a real summer highlight for us and led to many interesting discussions, beyond geography and flag identification (which tests us every night.  Montenegro, anyone?).  "Mom," Sis asked, "why do the girl gymnasts have to do all that dancing [on the floor, vs. the male gymnasts]?"  Which led to a discussion of gender expectations--pretty and graceful vs. strong and powerful--and recognition that these "girls" were women and still very strong and powerful even with all the make up, frou frou outfits, and frilly moves.  We've also discussed that even though the commentators pick performances apart move by move that these are still some of the best athletes in the world and the critiques are more to clue us in to what the judges are thinking.  I didn't like that the kids mimicked the ubiquitous analyses with "Oh, he didn't do that well because his hand slipped." We also had to remind them of all of the years of practice that are behind the seemingly effortless performances.  And it doesn't always go as expected. When McKayla Maroney fell or Jordan Wieber didn't go to All-Around, we said that even the best in the world make mistakes and have bad days.  And of course, in the end, the majority of people there are just proud and happy to be there, with no expectations of winning.

So we keep recording and watching and enjoying their skill, our own education, and, frankly, distraction, and will be sad when the closing comes . . . .