Thursday, April 29, 2010

Haikus by the big girls

The other night had the potential to be a bad one. I was worn out, and B had to go meet some clients. Instead, we had a great evening. Elizabeth went to bed without a problem, and the big girls kept Campbell entertained in the back for an hour while I folded laundry and pulled myself together.

Once Campbell went to bed, the girls continued to play quietly in my bedroom, making words out of Bananagram tiles and writing haikus. When it was time for them to go to bed, they brought out their work, complete with illustrations.

Lily only wrote one, but I can tell from her rough draft that it was quite an effort. She's still new to the whole concept of syllables.

I live in a rock
I sleep in a quite large sock
Please bring me some food

Ella's were more elaborate, and each had a title.

Rolling on the beach
Green as grass, blue as the sky
As calm waves go by

Hide and Seek
I constantly hide
You have to come and find me
This is hide and seek

I illustrated
a picture of a butterfly
He wrote the story

Bicycle pump with blue wheels
Big, loud cannon ball

I love that the girls are content to work together and write little books and that Ella did such a good job of helping Lily with her haiku.

*blogger spellcheck is insisting that the plural of haiku is haiku's. I don't think so.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Within days of our cleaning out the swamp, the frogs arrived for their annual mating spree. It happens every spring - we spend three sleepless nights listening to the frogs partying down outside our bedroom window.

B has been known to go out and break up the party by rounding up all the frogs he can find, putting them in a paper sack and releasing them into the wet-weather creek that runs through the center of our neighborhood. I refer to it as the Amphibian Liberation Organization and joke that the next morning there's always a line of frogs hopping up the street back to our pond.

I went out earlier this week, after a particularly raucous night, and found strings of frog spawn draped all over the pond plants. Those things in the water that look like ropes with white dots (click to embiggen) - those are hundreds and hundreds of frog eggs. Soon, we'll have tadpoles, and I hope this year's groups survives better than last year's. They didn't do so well.

I really don't want to have our little pond overrun with frogs, but given that amphibians in general are having a rough time of it, I'm glad we can provide a suitable habitat for them.

As long as they don't throw any more loud parties.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This is what happens

This is what happens when I leave Ella alone in the kitchen. She decides to see what happens when you add blue food coloring to salt.

I didn't even know we owned any food coloring.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Score one for the Squeaky Wheel and other odds and ends

Last Friday I walked out of a doctor's appointment after disagreeing with how much I was being charged to have b*tox injections for my migraines. By 5:00 Friday evening, the doctor had called four times and left two messages. Each time she called, I was still too worked up and upset to answer the phone or listen to her messages. But when I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised.

She apologized for the confusion and said that from now on she'd code my injections as an office visit, not a procedure, so I'd only be charged the co-pay and the cost of the medication. Instead of paying $600 for four shots, I'll only have to cough up $250, which, from my research, is pretty standard.

This is proof that being the Squeaky Wheel and standing up for yourself with doctors and health insurance companies can work. I'll be calling the doctor back today to thank her for changing her billing procedure and to make an appointment.

Now on to other bits and pieces.

My cell phone has been missing for more than a week now. I'm pretty sure it's in the house somewhere. I remember getting in the car last Sunday and realizing I didn't have it with me, but I decided not to go back in for it given that Elizabeth and Campbell were standing with their noses pressed against the front window crying because I was leaving them behind.

I have searched the house and have offered a reward to the big girls if they find it. I've looked under beds and in toy boxes and in closets, but no luck.

Much to B's frustration, I almost never carry the thing and rarely use it. But now that I don't have it, I really miss it. Now I'm trying to convince B that I need an iPhone as a replacement, but he's not going for it - yet.

Finally, I had a post picked up by the nice folks over at Deep South Moms blog. It's about trying to find a balance between being a mom and not a coach. Please go take a look, and maybe leave a comment.

I didn't get up to run at 5:30 this morning because I'd been up three times with Elizabeth, who still isn't feeling well. But now I think I'm going to pop her in the jogger and see if I can squeeze in a few miles. It's too nice a morning to miss out on running.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

NYC Training Week 3

If there was ever a week for me to skip running, this was it. The two little kids have been trading the croup back and forth, and I haven't gotten a lot of sleep or time without a child in my lap. But I managed to get out and run. It wasn't pretty, but I ran.

Monday 5 - at the Trail with the running group
Wednesday 2 + circuits*
Friday 3.5 - in the neighborhood (miserably humid)
Saturday 4 - at the Trail during Lily's ballet class

Total - 14.5

I managed to run four times and my mileage is creeping up. My goal is to get to 20 per week and then hold there for a while. I'll do that by running longer on Saturdays when I have more time.

I'm still looking forward to the day when my body says, "Running! I remember this,"and it becomes easy again. Someday, going out for a four or five mile run will be "easy," and I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

*Circuits - I do a lap around the block and then do lunges, squats, step-ups, and crunches in my driveway. This week I did four laps and 3 sets of circuits. My goal is to get to 5 sets.

Friday, April 23, 2010

And then I walked out

As I've written, I had b*tox injections in my forehead back in February in the hopes of getting my migraines under control. The results have been mixed. There have definitely been days where I could tell I was having a migraine, but I just couldn't feel the pain. And then there have been days where I was flat in bed with an ice pack on my head.

The doctor told me that she had given me a fairly low dose of b*tox as a baseline and that the effects might wear off before the predicted three months, and that's exactly what happened. So two weeks ago, I called the doctor's office to make an appointment for another round. Amazingly, the doctor herself called me back to talk about my options. I was stunned at the personal response.

In the meantime, I'd received a bill for $160 from the doctor's office. The original amount of the bill had been $350 but they had reduced it by $140 for the Humana "discount," whatever that was. I called the billing office and asked what was going on. I explained that I had already paid the $50 co-pay and the $200 for the b*t0x itself and asked what this new charge was for. The billing office lady told me it was the cost for the "procedure" of actually doing the injections.

I was stunned - $350 plus $50 for four shots.

When I told the business office lady that no one had told me about the procedure fee and that it pushed this treatment out of the realm of affordability for me, she told me that she'd talk to the doctor and give me an answer at my next appointment.

The appointment was this morning, and before I even paid my co-pay, I asked to talk to the business office lady to see if was going to be dinged the procedure fee again. When she came out and I re-explained my concerns, she said, "There's always a procedure fee."

I turned to the appointment lady and told her to cancel my appointment, and then I walked out and cried in the car for a few minutes out of sheer frustration.

I completely understand that doctors need to make money and cover their overhead. I'm not arguing with that. It's just that I don't think that four shots into my forehead should cost me $600.

So now I'm looking at other options, including calling my primary doctor to see if he has any suggestions. I may even go to one of those shopping mall med-spa places that host b*tox parties. At least there, I can get cocktails along with my b*tox.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sitting with my kids

We have had a string of illnesses here at Chez HOK that has left me reeling. Ella was sick last Thursday and Friday - I sent her to school on Friday only to have her teacher call me, sigh. Campbell woke up at 3:00am on Sunday with croup, which is always fun. I particularly enjoy sitting in front of an open freezer in the middle of the night with a sobbing preschooler. Then, to add insult to injury, Elizabeth spiked a fever Tuesday night and started coughing.

As a result, I've spent much of the past 7 days with a child in my lap. Even though Ella is approaching the age where she won't want to admit she knows me in public, she does still love to be mother-henned when she's sick. And Campbell and Elizabeth both turn into Velcro babies when they don't feel well.

Instead of letting myself get upset at the amount of work that needs to be done around the house and the amount of paying work I've fallen behind on, I've decided to enjoy these quiet days of snuggling and loving.

My babies are growing up so fast, as is evidenced by the fact that Ella doesn't even fit on my lap, and I need to treasure the quiet moments. Plus, being a mom is my primary job - ahead of vacuuming and doing laundry and writing continuing education modules for doctors. Nothing in my life right now is more important than taking care of my sick kids.

That having been said, if one more child gets sick, I may just lose my mind.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Better in theory

My good friend over at Peace, Love & Guacamole recently wrote a post with her list of things that she likes better in theory than in reality and asked for readers' lists.

Here are my few items:

1. Converse All-Stars - I would dearly love to wear a pair of Chuck T's, and there's a pair of apple green ones at Nordstrom that I covet, but they make my already long feet look even longer. I'll have to be content with buying them for my kids (if they let me).

2. Margaritas - I know this heresy to say, especially here in Texas, but margaritas never taste as good as I think they will. The first three sips are ok, but then the drink goes downhill from there.

3. Gardening with my kids - I know, I know, all the parenting "experts" say we're supposed to involve our kids in gardening to teach them about plants and bugs and worms and nature. But really, it never works that way. I had a good reminder of it when we cleaned out the swamp two weeks ago. The big girls were very interested for the first 30 minutes or so, but they quickly lost interest and ran off to play with friends, leaving me to do all the work.

Last week, I let Campbell "help" me with turning two garden beds in the front of the house and with putting in the new plants. Instead of a nice bonding time in the beautiful outdoors, it turned into an exercise in patience on my part.

This is how our morning went.

C: Mommom, what you doing?
Me: I'm turning over the dirt so that I can put new plants in.
C: Why?
M: Because turning the dirt over brings up the nice rich dirt underneath that's good for plants.
C: Mommom, why did you take that plant out?
M: Because it's dead. It's not going to grow any more so I'm making room for new plants.
C: Why did it die?
M: Because all plants die eventually. It's just the way the world works.
C: Oh.

C: Mommom, can I help you dig holes?
M: Yes, here's the shovel. You can dig the next hole right here.
C: But I want to dig it over here.
M: No, that won't work because there's already a plant right there, and they can't be too close to each other.
C: Why?
M: Because they need room to grow and be healthy. Can you please dig the hole right here?
C: No. I want to dig it over there next to that plant.
M: I've already told you, you can't dig there.
(repeat for each plant)

C: Can I pull this plant out? I think it's dead.
M: No, don't pull it out. It's one of the new plants.
C: But I already pulleded it out. I want to plant it over here.
M: Campbell, it's not good to pull the plants back out again. It hurts their roots.
C: It's OK. I putted it back.
(Plant is found stuck in the dirt upside-down)

M: Campbell! Come see the worm I found.
C: It's dirty.
M: Yes. Worms live in the dirt. They even eat dirt. Worms are good for gardens becase they eat dirt.
C: Next time I want a clean one.

C: Look mommom! I filled my shoes with dirt.
M: Campbell, please don't do that. Empty your sneakers out right now.
C: Why?
M: Because I said so.
C: Why?

By the end of the hour outside, I had managed to get most of my plants in, but my nerves were frazzled by my son's zillion questions and "help." I decided to save the rest of the project for the next day when he was at school.

And if I ever get ambitious enough to actually put in a vegetable garden, I'll make sure to do it when the big three are spending the night at their grandmother's house.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The pattern revealed

Honest to dog, these socks are going to be the death of me.

I'm working on another pair from the Knitpicks kit that I've already had so much trouble with. This time, the pattern calls for reading a chart. This is the first time I've knit from such a complicated one, and it's tough going.

My first attempt did not go well. You can't really tell from the picture, but my sock doesn't have any discernible pattern to it at all. I came out with a different number of stitches each time I knit the rows with yarn overs and k2togs.

Row 2 (click to embiggen) is the one that gave me fits. I knit it four times and got a different number of stitches every time. So I e-mailed Knitpicks to see if there was an error in the pattern. A very nice person e-mailed me back and gave me row 2 written out to see if it worked. It didn't. The way I knit it, I needed 40 stitches, not 30. So I sent the written out row to my mother, who was at knit knight, and asked her and the other members of her coven to take a look.

Turns out I was doing it wrong. When the pattern called for two yarn overs in a row (the open circles on the chart), I was doing a yarn over, knitting a stitch, doing a yarn over, knitting a stitch. I didn't know that doing two yarn overs was as simple as just wrapping the yarn around the needle twice. D'oh.

My great idea was to rip the sock back to end of the toe section and pick up 60 very teeny stitches. I ended up having to rip back almost to the beginning before I could get the correct number back on the needle. Sonofabitch.

But I'm glad I started over. Now that I'm doing the yarn overs correctly, I can see the pattern. And even better - I can read my knitting as I go so that I don't have to study the chart every other stitch to make sure I'm on track.

Of course, it couldn't be completely smooth sailing. I came around the corner and found Elizabeth holding two of the needles in her hand, about to pull out the third. I'm ashamed to admit that I let out a very undignified shriek before snatching everything away from her. I managed to pick up the 30 stitches, but now I'm a stitch short on the patterned needle.

This sock just doesn't want to be knitted.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NYC Training Week 2

Last week, I said my goal for this week was to run four times. I failed at that because of Ella's climbing comp and sick kids.


I did manage to get down to the Trail to run with the 5:30am group twice this week, which is a huge step. First, it's so early; I have to get up at 5:00 to do it. Second, those chicks are fast, and I've been worried about being able to keep up with them. I do end up falling off the back of the pack, but I'm not as far behind as I feared I would be. Plus, I end up running faster than I would on my own, which is a good thing.

Here's my week.

Monday - 4 miles (at the Trail)
Wednesday - 3 miles (laps in the hood, cut short by a crying baby)
Friday - 5 miles (Windsor loop)

A note about the Windsor loop - it's absolutely my favorite running loop in Austin. It contains a challenging number of hills, and I always feel like I've really accomplished something when I run it. Friday's run was ugly - I had to walk twice - but I did it. My fear of getting back out on Windsor for the first time in two years is gone, and I know the next time I run it will be better.

Even though my mileage is still low, I'm feeling better about running and about life in general. It's amazing how much my mental well being is affected by something so simple as regular exercise.

This week's goal - run four times.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Threats, Bribes and Bluebonnets

It's a rite of spring in Central Texas to plop your kids in one of the many fields of wildflowers that line the sides of the roads and take their pictures. Of course, most families do their photo shoots Easter weekend and dress their kids in beautiful, matching spring outfits.

I haven't managed to get bluebonnet pictures of the kids since we added Campbell and Elizabeth to the family, so I was bound and determined to get photos this year. Of course, I didn't manage to do it Easter weekend, so yesterday I decided it was time to get it over with. I promised the big girls dinner from P. Terry's if they cooperated, and it turns out, the girls will do just about anything for P. Terry's.
I didn't even try to get the kids into matching outfits and instead opted for whatever I could convince them to put on. Campbell and Elizabeth were easy, since they didn't much care. But it took some convincing to get Ella to put on a dress. We ended up working out a compromise that involved a dress AND shorts. And when Lily pulled out her winter boots to wear with her spring dress, I decided not to argue. I didn't want her eyes all puffy and red from the sobbing that would surely ensue if I made her change shoes.
And off we went.

I took a few of all four kids but gave up on my goal of getting one good picture of all of them. Campbell wouldn't take his hands away from his eyes, and I couldn't get Lily to keep looking at the camera.

Campbell took off to run up and down the hill almost immediately, so I took some of the girls together. It didn't last long, though. Elizabeth didn't like being in the flowers and grass, and Lily started sobbing that a thorn was poking her bottom. So I set them all loose to just run around, and I took pictures while they did it.
Campbell had the best time running up and down the hill. He only fell a few times and popped up laughing every time he did. He liked exploring the paths that other people had already trampled in the field.

Ella mostly just wandered around looking at the flowers. The shorts with the dress are just so lovely. Sigh.

Lily, of course, twirled and twirled in the flowers are she ran around. The girl was just meant to pose for pictures in fields of flowers.

Maybe next year I'll get one good photo of all four. But I doubt it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No pictures

We had an explosion of cuteness in the kitchen the other night. The big girls, instead of cleaning up the kitchen, were playing Ring Around the Rosy with Campbell. Elizabeth heard the commotion and went zipping into the kitchen. She stood on the side for a moment, watching the big kids, and then started twirling in circles and falling down.

The big girls grabbed Elizabeth's hands and included her in the fun. And that's when things got really, squee-ably cute. Elizabeth loved shouting "Down" even if it wasn't the right time. And every time she did, the big three would fall down with her, all of them giggling their heads off.

My immediate impulse was to run and grab my camera. But then I stopped myself. No picture would be able to accurately portray the fun and laughter. So I decided to just sit and watch the show. The memories will last longer than any picture ever could.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Swamp

We have a small pond in our backyard, installed by the people who owned the house before us. I love having it; it sits right outside our bedroom window, and when the windows are open, the sound of the trickling water is very calming.

We take care of the pond the same way we do most of our yard - benign neglect. It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've cleaned it out. So Saturday afternoon, while hanging out in the back yard with the kids, I decided to clean out the pond's filter. If I had known then what I was getting myself into, I would never have started.

It turns out that the filter was completely overgrown and connected to all the other plants by a thick matting of roots. In fact, the whole bottom of the pond was one 6-inch-thick mat of roots and gack and slime.

After 30 minutes of fruitlessly trying to pull everything out, I came to the conclusion that it was time to put on my rain boots and wade on in. I ended up having to hack the mass into pieces with a spade and then wrestle it all out.

This about half of what I pulled out of the pond. It stank of rotting material and will probably be a good addition to our compost heap. Except I didn't realize until I had loaded all of this in the wheelbarrow that the front tire was flat. Fixing it would have meant pulling everything back out again, so it's still sitting on the walk in the back yard.

All of the kids were fascinated with this project. The took great interest in the bugs and slime that I pulled out. But they were terribly upset every time they thought I might have skimmed a minnow out along with the slime. So I gave the girls the job of skimming and saving the fish.

When B got home from work, he joined in the fun and climbing on in the pond, too. He's wearing my big plaid boots, but I think he'd kill me if I posted a picture of him modelling them. He took apart the pump, cleaned it, and installed new filtering material. Ella supervised his work to make sure he didn't accidentally scoop out any fish or slimy critters.

Of course, we had to go to a pond and garden store to buy new filtering material, and that turned into an expensive trip when you add up the plants and mulch we bought, too.

A mere 7 hours after I started, the pond was finally re-filled with a clean bottom, a functioning pump, and re-potted water plants - and lots of very happy minnows.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NYC Training Week 1

To keep myself honest about my training for the New York City Marathon, I'm going to post my training log each Sunday. Right now, my distances may not seem like a lot, but I'm finally managing to run consistently every week, which has been a struggle in and of itself. My running also feels a lot better, yesterday's run notwithstanding. I feel like I'm actually running, not staggering along, gasping for air.

Tuesday - 4 miles, laps in the neighborhood
Thursday - 3.75 miles, 45th Street loop (I like this basic loop, but I have to make it longer)
Saturday - 4 miles, at the Trail (planned to go 5, but I started wheezing)

The best part about running consistently is that I'm feeling more like myself. Being able to get out in the morning and do something just for myself makes the chaos of the rest of the day easier to handle.

My goal for Week 2 is to squeeze in 4 runs, which will be tough since I'll be out of town Saturday for another one of Ella's climbing competitions.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

How to drive your big sister insane

By Campbell, age 3 1/2

When you get a new coloring book from Gran,


every single


the same

Her head will explode, seriously.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

And now the hard work begins

Two years ago, I put my name in for the New York City Marathon lottery. And then two weeks later I found out I was pregnant with Elizabeth. Fortunately, I didn't get a number, so I only lost the $11 it cost to register for the lottery.

So this year I put my name in again. The lottery drawing was this morning. I just logged on and found out that I'm in! Woo.

I've wanted to run the New York City Marathon since before I ever even dreamed of running a marathon. There's just something about this race that seems magical to me. Maybe it's because I love being in New York City so much.

I'm simultaneously thrilled and terrified. Thrilled because my dream of running this race is going to come true. Terrified because I know from experience just how hard training for a marathon is, especially given that I'll be doing the bulk of my long runs in the summer heat.

New York City, here I come.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The day started out so well

Warning, blatant mommyblogger post ahead. And gross stuff.

My day really did start out very well. I got out the door before dawn for a four-mile run and finished before any of the kids woke up. I got Lily up and moving for breakfast without her waking up Campbell in the process. And I even managed to get her out the door without her crying a single time.

After that, I checked my e-mail and found out that one of my posts had been picked up by Deep South Moms Blog.

Next up, I broke the news to Ella that I had let her sleep in because she had a doctor's appointment for her severe allergies. Ella views going to the doctor as punishment, so she gave me the silent treatment all through breakfast.

And that's when things started going wrong.

Ella was in a bedroom playing with Campbell, when she yelled that there was a problem. Turns out he had pooped in his pants, and it had fallen out on the floor. Once I got Campbell and the floor cleaned up, I had yet another talk with him about how we don't poop in our pants.

A few minutes later, Elizabeth fell over and started screaming. I picked her up and sat on the sofa to comfort her, and she promptly threw up all over the two of us and my hand-knit blanket. At first, I thought maybe she had thrown up because she was crying so hard. But after she'd quieted down, she threw up again. Le sigh.

I got us both cleaned up and sat Elizabeth on the sofa in a nest of towels, only to discover that Campbell had pooped in his pants AGAIN.

That's when I started cursing.

So I cleaned him up AGAIN and tossed all the vomit- and poop-covered clothing and towels in the wash.

And that's when Elizabeth threw up all over the place again.


I escaped the mess to take Ella to her doctor's appointment. He loaded her up with some new allergy medicines, including a nasal spray that I just know we're going to have to pin her down to use. My plan was to drop her off at school on the way home, but in the car she started complaining that her head hurt. So I let her come home with me. Of course, she's been pinging around the house like nothing's wrong. The plus side is that she's been keeping Campbell very entertained.

It's 1:30 and Elizabeth is asleep with a fever. She hasn't thrown up in hours, but I'm not letting my guard down yet. The day is still young.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Houston Report

Last Friday, Ella and I headed off to Houston for our first road trip together. It was a nice little trip and some good bonding time with Ella. I loved being able to sleep in a hotel and not have a small person wake me up three times in the night. I also liked being able to sit and watch TV without worrying about doing laundry or cleaning the kitchen or changing any diapers. It's funny how our definitions of luxury change through the years.

Reason #3492 I love Ella. As soon as we got to our room, she set Lyle the Crocodile up in bed with her blanket. When it was bedtime, she moved him to the arm chair to sleep but then dragged him back into her bed because she was lonely. It's nice to see that even though she's 9 and approaching tweendom, she still loves her stuffed critters.

Ella climbed really well, and it was fun for me to get to be at the competition with her. I learned a lot about how the comps work. I was able to help her strategize about which routes to attempt and cheer her on. Here she's climbing her hardest route. The grey area under her is actually an overhang; she had just climbed around the corner and back up on to the vertical wall. Unfortunately, she fell right after I took the picture. We watched a lot of climbers from her division, and none of them were able to complete the route.
To my amazement, Ella won her division! I knew she had climbed well, but I thought she'd been out climbed by at least three other girls. Ella was happy to have won, but she was happier that she'd gotten a ribbon.

It was a great trip, and we get to go on another one in two weeks - this time to Dallas.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Two years ago

Two years ago today, I wrote this non-April Fool's Day post about my surprise fourth baby, eliciting shocked and funny responses from friends. The best reaction was from my dear friend O'Pine, who read my post with me sitting in his living room. He spent several minutes saying, "Really? This isn't a joke? Seriously?" before he believed me. Perhaps it was my bursting into tears that convinced him.

Even though I had grave concerns about how I was going to handle a fourth child and even though I spent a lot of time crying being pregnant again, I wouldn't trade Elizabeth for the world. She is absolutely a wonderful addition to our family. She rules our house with a tiny iron fist and is in serious danger of being completely spoiled by everyone in the family. Her big sisters fight over who gets to play with her, and Campbell still calls her "my beebee." Even B is completely wrapped around her little finger, promising her ponies on a regular basis.

When Elizabeth was just a few hours old, the NICU nurse told me that she could already tell Elizabeth was going to be feisty. At the time, I didn't really believe the nurse. I was sure it was what they told all mothers of preemies in NICU. Turns out, the nurse knew what she was talking about. Elizabeth is going to be my biggest challenge, without a doubt.

She has Ella's stubbornness, Lily's dramatic tendencies, Campbell's constant motion, and her own temper all mixed together. She can already throw tantrums that rival anything her siblings ever did. Mostly I laugh when she pitches a fit, because she is so tiny that it's funny to see someone so small getting so mad.

Plus she's so dang cute that I can't really take her seriously.
So two years after my bombshell, I'm immensely grateful to have this wonderful little nut in our family.