10 November 2012

Stinkily Evil Mother?

I let my kid eat something that was pretty much the most horrifying thing I'd ever eaten. Does that make me a bad mother?

I have a friend, John the Scientist, who is (perhaps pathologically) interested in (and/or entertained by) exposing his friends to "food" that is just barely on the correct side of edible. Seriously. You can't imagine some of the stuff he's sent to mutual friends, at least one of which required a hazmat suit. I tried stinky tofu with him and survived, as did our friend Nathan. Barely.

So what does it say about me, that I went back to the same restaurant with JTS, but this time I brought along TheHusband and ThePinkThing? Specifically so that TPT could try stinky tofu. Please note that there was no coercion on either my part or JTS's. He is willing to offer the opportunity, but he doesn't push. TPT wanted to try stinky tofu. I'm not sure why. When I asked I got a garbled answer that boiled down to "I want to taste how bad it is." I'm not one to prevent the kid from trying new foods. She's got a reasonably wide palate for a 9 year-old, especially since TheHusband is a "meat and potatoes, hold the potatoes" kinda guy. The other food I had had at Bob's Noodle 66 was reasonably good (though the jellyfish had an odd consistency). So we went last night. Even though he couldn't smell it, TheHusband said "NO WAY", although he did try everything else we ordered. I also bailed on the stinky tofu. Oncewasfinethankyouverymuch.

TPT tried it. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Next time JTS is in town, we will go to a regular old Mexican restaurant. :-)

02 November 2012

Childhood memories swept away

I totally realize that I look back at summer family vacations in Atlantic City and Margate, NJ through the rose-colored glasses of fond memories. When I think of the beach, I don't think about the more beautiful beaches I've been to as an adult, I think of the Jersey shore with all of its problems.

My father grew up in Philadelphia. Atlantic City was the summer play place for Philly residents when he was a kid (and the nearby towns remain so even now). He spent the majority of his summers in Atlantic City with his older brother and mother. They would rent rooms in a boarding house or a small apartment and spend the entire summer there. My grandfather, who worked 6 days each week selling and delivering furniture, would take the train down on Saturday after work, then back on Sunday night or Monday morning.My dad has a boatload of stories about his summers in "AC", including seeing parts of the boardwalk float down New Hampshire Avenue during the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944.

My mom, on the other hand, is from northern NJ. She didn't go to the shore each summer like my dad, and she certainly didn't have the vivid stories that my dad did. North Jerseyans didn't go all the way down to AC for summer vacations; they tend to go to Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, and other slightly more norther NJ shore towns. That was true when I was a kid -- we were the only family from my town that would regularly go down the shore (never "to the beach") to AC instead of the closer shore towns. But Atlantic City had lures for my brother and me that no other Jersey shore town had -- our grandparents and our cousins. My cousins are close in age to me. Laura is 11 months older, Rob 4 months younger, and Rich 3 years younger. My brother was in the middle there (2 years younger than me). Five kids within 4 years of each other, a mix of boys and girls, a mix of squabbling, teasing, playing and love.

Until they became sick in the late 1990's, my father's parents summered in Atlantic City or Margate, NJ. Initially, they rented a small apartment at the "Biarritz", which sounds much, much more posh in name than it was in reality. It was an old building on Iowa Ave, on the second block from the beach, right near where the Tropicana is now. The elevator was ancient, and endlessly fascinating to two kids from the suburbs -- it had a gate that swung across, and a door that opened out. Not the sliding solid metal doors on every other elevator we'd been on. The place was very small, too small for my parents, brother, and me to stay. So, every summer until 1979, we'd spend 5-7 days at the Ascot motel. Even in the early 70's it was a bit of a fleabag, but it had some great points: it was less than a block from my grandparents' place, it was on the beach block, and it had a pool. A pool! I learned to dive at the Ascot (there are some old home movies somewhere to support this). I learned to play "Marco Polo" in the pool at the Ascot. I'm sure that I ran around the pool (NO RUNNING!!) and pushed my brother in, too.

The beach in Atlantic City was fabulous for kids back then: wide, sandy (duh), with crashing waves that weren't too big. We spent hours there with our cousins -- making sand castles and drip castles, playing in the shallows, "jumping the waves" with our fathers, having sand fights. I remember (vividly) being pinched by a crab on my foot (and crying) and another year seeing my cousin Rob get pinched on his butt by a crab.

Then there are my memories of the food on and off the beach. I remember waiting desperately for the ice cream man to come and getting to pick something out. My favorites were Italian ice (lemon) or frozen chocolate covered bananas. We had plenty of snack food (courtesy of my Jewish grandmother), most of which was unhealthy. The first time I ate Pringles was on the beach in AC (potato chips in a can -- I'd never seen such a thing!). I swear that Pringles were invented just for kids at the beach. My mother fought the losing battle to make us eat something good for us on the beach. I don't ever remember packing lunch to eat on the beach, though. At some point it would become obvious that we (my three cousins, brother and I) were hungry. So we would schlep up to the boardwalk and eat hot dogs or hamburgers and fries or other equally nutritious fare from a shop or stand. Then it was back to the beach for more play. At some point we'd trek back to the Ascot for pool time.

We ate at certain restaurants that each summer. Abe's Oyster House comes immediately to mind. It closed years ago, but I distinctly remember all of us standing and waiting for a table, watching the lobsters in the tank. The White House Sub Shop was a perennial favorite. If there is any food for which I'd go off the gluten free diet, it is a cheesesteak hoagie from The White House.

And then there was the boardwalk of old. Not the boardwalk of now or of last week. The boardwalk of the 1970s and 80s. Shops that sold t-shirts, frozen custard, and knick-knacks. James Salt Water Taffy, where we would always pick up a few boxes to take home (peanut and molasses were my favorite flavors; the licorice ones were avoided at all cost). Steel's Fudge, where simply entering and smelling was glorious. And then there were the arcades. Specifically FunSpot and Playcade, where we played skee-ball mostly, trying to rack up enough tickets to get a good prize, not a crappy one. We'd usually schlep to Ocean City (NJ, never MD) to go to one (or both) of the amusement parks one evening. Then we'd fall into bed completely worn out, only to wake the next morning for more of the same.

Eventually my uncle bought a little house in Margate, on the second beach block, and my grandparents summered there for a bunch of years. It was a house. A house a little over a block from the beach down the shore! We continued the tradition of a week or so prior to school starting with the family at the shore. Amazing how many people you can fit into a house at the shore -- my grandparents had their own room on the first floor. Upstairs were a full bathroom and two bedrooms, one big and one small. Laura and I shared the little bedroom. There was room for a double bed and a little dresser and that's about it. The other bedroom was much bigger and housed my uncle, cousins and brother. My parents got stuck with the couch in the living room. 10 people, 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths -- heaven in many ways, for the kids, at least. We found new restaurants in Margate but still went to the arcades and the White House. And Lucy lived in Margate. We would walk down the beach each summer and say hi. Eventually we grew up and stopped having family vacations down the shore.

TheHusband is from Ohio. He doesn't like the beach. He doesn't have memories of this kind of vacation to lure him to the Jersey Shore. His mental image of Atlantic City focuses on the casinos and the gambling. We've gone down the shore as a family once, when ThePinkThing was 18 months old. She had no cousins to play with. I had no cousins there to hang with. It rained 5 of the 7 days we were there. TheHusband has expressed no interest in going back again.

Now I'm not sure we can.

09 July 2012

Reading vs. listening

I'm partway through the audiobook version of A Civil Campaign -- listening on my way to/from work for the past week or so. This book was amazingly fun on many levels. It was released in 1999, somewhat early times in the world of the internet. Ebooks didn't exist. The sale of ARCs on eBay wasn't quite so pervasive yet.

Baen Books did the unthinkable -- it released the first few (5?, 10?) chapters online for free in the months preceding the official release. The slavering fans waited eagerly for each snippet during that period, eagerly checking Baen's site. (Okay, fine, I'm projecting, because that's what I did...) At that point in my life, I belonged to the Bujold ListServ, back when I had no kid and more free time. The local DC area listees would occasionally get together to discuss LMB books, other SFF books, and any other topic under the sun. We even dragged pseudo-locals to our get-togethers, like Doug Muir, who lived on the island of Saipan at that time, but happened to be visiting family in the DC area. It happened that the local listees met at a restaurant in Northern VA on the after a new bit of the book was released. It was the scene where Miles is discussing Count VorMuir's shenanigans with uterine replicators and little girls (not really as bad as what you might be thinking...). Count VorMuir is a venal, sneaky, self-serving character, and though only a bit player in the book, is quite memorable. Lois "tuckerized" Doug into Count VorMuir, which was especially amusing becuase Doug is none of those things. Regardless of the appropriateness of the characterization, we took great pleasure in making Doug read that scene aloud to the group (10 or 15 of us) in the restaurant. We definitely caused a ruckus by laughing and carrying on.


I loved reading the book and have reread most of it over the years (except for that incredibly painful dinner party scene...). As a book, it is funny, painful, introspective, and filled with subtle (and not so sublte) action. In the book, Lois uses 5 characters as viewpoint characters, with notably different "voices" for each one. I liked Miles and Ekaterin best on the initial read and the rereads, with Ivan third, then Mark, and last Kareen. What has struck me during this audiobook experience, is that I like Miles's voice the least and Ivan's the most. Perhaps because his comments are just so damn funny, or because I just finished Ivan's book.

Have any of you out ther in blog-land listended to a book with multiple viewpoints like this and came away liking one of the other characters better in the audio version vs. the print version? Or even in books with single character viewpoint?

Regardless, I'm very much enjoying getting to and from work right now and am ever hoping for some traffic to make my ride longer...

07 July 2012

Letters from camp

ThePinkThing is finishing up two weeks at sleep away camp -- her first time at overnight camp. She is coming home tomorrow. We got a total of 2 letters and 1 postcard up until today, when we found 3 letters and 1 post card in the mail. Apparently the stationery she picked out needed more than a single stamp and they were rejected (and eventually made it back to her for resending). There were some really funny ones in the bunch today. I've even reproduced the spelling errors, which I find sort of charming. I will say that I'm offended that TheHusband's letters had stickers all over them, and mine had nary a one. Humph!


Dear Mommy,

I miss you allready. it is really fun. The first day was grate, wish you were hear.



Dear Mom,

today I'm going to wher my whit dress for shabot. I cant belive my first week is allready coming to a end.

P.S. The lunch ladys are nice


Dear dad, today we saw a bear in the forest. We allsow saw a rainbow. I hope a bear is not at the bottom of the rainbow.

Dear mom,

I'm writing this pstcard because they have letter writing time. It doesnt count as a letter

Dear Dad,

Yesterday I got to feed gouats and pet a rabit! He was so soft. I only have a week left. and I'm about half way throw Hary Potter.

Love you,


I can't wait until tomorrow, then I'll get the full scoop!

24 May 2012

No room for the kid!

Here is what ThePinkThing's bed looks like when it is neatly made and all of her stuffed animals are on it. Most of the time, though, they live in "The Pit" (the floor between the bed and wall). I like how there are giant germs and a few neurons in the mix.

18 May 2012

I am the best mom because...

I was invited to the Special Person's Tea at TPT's class this afternoon. All of the kids wrote a letter to their special person, and they were encouraged to read it to everyone. TPT was one of the first (she gleefully volunteered). Here is TPT's letter to me:

Dear Mom,

I think you are the best mom in the whole world because you help me with my problems so I won’t worry. You are the best mom in the whole world because you play with me and make me laugh. When I’m sad you cheer me up. You are the best mom because you help me with things that I need help with. I know you are the best Mom because you make me excited.

I remember when we were out shoe shopping and I really wanted a pair of shoes. You said I could buy them myself. This is important to me because it taught me responsibility. I finally was able to buy the shoes after lots and lots of chores.

A lesson you taught me is look both ways before you cross the street. This is important because I cross streets almost every day. It is also important to me because I don’t want to get flattened by a car. That is why I think looking both ways before you cross the street is important.

Thanks for being the best mom ever!


(Funny, I remember that a bit differently, kid. The deal was that we'd each pay half. When we got home from the shoe store, you went up to your piggy bank and came right down with the money. A little creative license?)

It is definitely disconcerting to have my remarks come back to haunt me in a public forum. It certainly amused the other adults there. And yes, I did tell her that she could be flattened if she was run over by a car.

16 May 2012

Planned kitchen obsolescence?

Our house was built in 1962. It is a "split-Colonial", whatever the heck that is. The house was built during the heyday of teeny galley kitchens in nicely-sized houses (and let's not even mention the size of our master bath...). It isn't a generous space, isn't a "cook's kitchen", and is NOT set up for more than one cook at a time. Not a social kinda kitchen.

We renovated the kitchen in spring 2003, because we had to. Some of the drawers in the cabinets would literally fall out if they were pulled out too far. Note that "too far" was a little more than halfway. I nearly lost a foot to the silverware drawer one night. When the contractor pulled off the countertop, the entire lower cabinet section fell in pieces to the floor. He had no idea how it had been held together. I will admit that the appliances were new -- purchased by the son of the owner in order to make the house sellable. The whole family was a bunch of cheapskates based on the quality of the work that had been done to the house over the years (they owned it from ~1965-2000, when we bought it). The dishwasher was the cheapest model that Sears sold at the time. The fridge was pretty close to the bottom. There was a teeny little wall oven. The only nice thing was the cooktop -- a flat radiant heat cooktop that worked well.

So we decided on a budget for the renovation and made some cuts to keep the costs under control. I think we went about $50 over budget, which was great. What was not great were some of the decisions that I (fine, *we*) made to control the costs. We kept the white linoleum floor, which was a reasonable, but not pretty, choice. However, it's still in decent condition, even 9 years later. We went with white cabinets instead of wood, which I regret. We didn't get the cabinets with those fancy no-slam drawers. I regretted that decision too, because I did slam a drawer once, and the face fell off (not my face, you silly readers, the drawer's face). TheHusband was highly displeased. Instead of solid granite countertops, we used granite floor tiles and have a tiled look for the countertop, as well as the backsplash. (It cost ~$400 instead of $3000). I hate the way it came out. The contractor did a good job on it, and it looks just as he said it would. But I had buyer's remorse within the first week. TheHusband said that I had to live with it, but that we could replace it after 10 years. I agreed (crabbily) and am looking forward to getting new countertops next year.

We chose well-rated appliances that were middle-of-the-pack appliances based on cost. The only item that was more expensive than should have been was the fridge. I really, really wanted the upside down refrigerator (freezer on bottom). The drawer-type freezer has turned out to be highly annoying, as I can never find anything in it. But that's a different issue.

A bit over a month ago, the diswasher died. So we bought a new one. I don't like some aspects of the new one, but, boy, is it quiet. Two days ago the microwave died. Why it couldn't be the fridge that died, I don't know. Is there some sort of planned obsolescence about kitchen appliances for the 9-10 year mark, nowadays? Mind you, my grandparents are using a 30-something year old dishwasher. Things were made better in the good old days (said in crotchety-old-lady voice).

I wonder if I can convince TheHusband to get a new fridge this weekend, too. Nah, didn't think so. But it doesn't hurt to ask.

09 May 2012

Migraines and medications and analgesic rebound

I've been taking narcotics chronically since October 2010, because of the residual back pain. I had taken them from Nov 2009 to May 2010, while I was on warfarin for the post-op DVT/PE. Because you are my adoring audience, you are well aware that I had a 2nd DVT (not yay) in Oct 2010, which required me to take rat poison forever (also not yay, but at least I didn't have another PE). NSAIDs (those lovely anti-inflammatory meds) also thin the blood and make bleeding ulcers and bleeding in worse places (like the brain. I'm fond of my brain as it is...) more likely when combined with warfarin. For this reason, my hematologist limited me to a total of 8 naproxen 220 mg tablets (Aleve) per month. I can't tolerate the majority of neuropathic pain meds (my brain is messed up enough and those meds make it even worse!), so they are out. Thus, I went back on narcotics to keep the chronic back pain under control.

I hate the idea of taking hydrocodone daily, so I keep it to the utter minimum -- one half of a 7.5 mg hydrocodone tablet daily, with some days requiring a whole one. It's a very small dose, and I haven't had to escalate the dose in the year and a half I've been taking it. Recently I've wondered if I could actually come off the daily hydrocodone. The back pain is tolerable though still present. I have no other ailments right now that require pain meds (hello, comminuted fracture of left wrist).

So I stopped taking the hydrocodone on Sunday. And I've had a migraine now for the past 2 days. The back pain has been manageable (!) but this headache is really annoying. I suspect that there is a component of analgesic rebound to this migraine, which is especially irritating.

Analgesic rebound headaches (ARH) are chronic headaches caused by overuse of short-acting pain meds (analgesics). They are notoriously tough to get through. They can take up to 2 weeks to resolve, and one has to be careful not to substitute another short acting analgesic medication for the offending one. I've supported many a patient through this process. I just would prefer not to have to go through it myself, to be honest. This morning, I was forced to use up one of my precious Aleves, as I woke with the same migraine I went to bed with (no, I'm not talking about TheHusband, you silly people). Aleve usually works for me to abort a migraine. Not today. I hate when I experience first-hand what I've treated patients for.

I will stop complaining and look on the bright side, now. Thanks for listening.

Update 5/11:

Migraine pretty much gone. The back pain is definitely worse, especially in the morning. I was hunched over quite a bit this morning, but moving better by the afternoon.