Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Very Lego Christmas

Liam got a lot of Legos for Christmas this year.  Not only did he get his beloved Ninjago Fire Temple from Santa but he also received a Star Wars Venator Class Star Destroyer (pay no attention to the price; we didn't pay that) and a Star Wars ARC-170 Starfighter. 

While the starfighter was a reasonable number of pieces and something he was able to build with only a small bit of help from us, the Fire Temple and the star destoryer were 1174 pieces and 1170 pieces, respectively.

That's a lot of Legos.

He decided to tackle the starfighter first and after that was done, he dug into the star destroyer.  You guys.  HOLY. CRAP.

Many larger Lego sets come with the pieces apportioned into bags and each of those bags is numbered so that you can open the first bag, use those pieces to build as you follow the directions, then open the second bag when instructed and so on and so forth.  Not so with the star destroyer.

Oh no.  It had at least 10 bags and no numbers so guess what we had to do? Open every single bag and sort all 1170 pieces before building could even begin.

It takes up fully half of the table.

Ignore the disgusting chandelier. If you look to the left, that's the starfighter he built first.

Liam started building the star destroyer on his own but it was a complicated item to build.  It folds open so that you can play inside the ship with the included mini figures.  It has a shuttle that is removable.  It has a bomb bay that drops little Lego bombs when you turn a mechanism.

So, Liam needed some help.

Building with Dad

When Dad needed to take a break, Liam worked on his own.  When he needed some more help, I pitched in and helped build. In the end, we finished the piece a couple of hours before more company was due to arrive - which was good because I needed my table back!

The finished ship

The next day he wanted to tackle the Ninjago Fire Temple.  This time when we opened the box there were numbered bags.  Huzzah!!  So, Liam sat down with the directions and a pair of scissors to open bags with and started building.

Two to three hours and 1174 pieces later (and with no help from anyone) he had a completed Fire Temple.

Now I just have to convince him to clean up his damn room so that the Legos can go THERE.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Joy

Christmas was magical this year.

This year, Jamie was old enough to really get the whole concept of Santa and opening presents - he could get into the wonder of it all.  Also, he was not sick for Christmas this year - which is an immediate improvement over last year.

Liam, of course, loves Christmas and was practically vibrating through the walls on Christmas Eve.  That was Scot's birthday and we had to keep reminding him that while the next day was Christmas, right then it was DADDY'S BIRTHDAY.

Leaving cookies for Santa

I don't have a picture of the stockings or the tree or all the presents because I was having too much fun with the kids.  We came downstairs Christmas morning and they were so excited.  Santa brought stuffed Totoros (thanks to his sneaky elf helpers, Trista and Dan) and they both loved them.  It's been Jamie's favorite pillow ever since.

For the first time ever, Liam told Santa what he wanted for Christmas.  He asked Santa for the Lego Ninjago Fire Temple.  After shunting one of his larger gifts over to his birthday pile (in February), Santa was able to bring the Fire Temple.  The pictures say it all.

One happy Spud

Jamie enjoyed stocking gifts as well - his favorites being Totoro and the chocolate candy.  

After stockings it was time to make breakfast.  After discovering them last year, I again made individual Monkey Breads for breakfast.  OM NOM NOM.

Seriously, folks, these are heaven in a ramekin.

After breakfast we got down the big gifting.  The kids were spoiled by one and all.  Scot spoiled me rotten and bought me a Kindle Fire as well as a new lens for my camera.  It was also a very kitchen-y Christmas as I received (from various generous family members) some new fun baking accoutrements, a panini press, and spices.

More Legos for Liam - clearly he doesn't mind.

One of Jamie's favorite presents - no more high chair!

It was also a very book-y Christmas.  Books, books, and more books! For everyone!

Scot's parents joined us in the afternoon for round two of gifting.  Jamie was napping when they got here so we let Liam open his presents first so he wouldn't die from antici. . . pation.

Grandma and Granddad were very generous.

The contents of the large red bag.

After Liam was done the adults exchanged gifts and when Jamie got up he got to open his stack.  And then, finally, we were done with presents and could move on to playing with our toys and eating dinner.

We had NY strips for Christmas dinner.  As well as risotto, fresh steamed broccoli, salad, rolls, and cranberry orange tart for dessert.  We were tired of the same old roasts so we did something different this year. It was delicious.

I ended the day content, happy, and NOT completely exhausted.  The boys had a blast, we enjoyed all of their excitement and joy and Christmas felt like a holiday instead of a chore this year.  

I hope your holiday was merry and bright!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a joyous and merry Christmas and love and happiness in the New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ten Percent

For all intents and purposes, I have lost 10% of my body weight.  When I say "for all intents and purposes" it's because the scale is being bitchy.  I weighed myself before I left for my meeting and I was at my 10% goal weight exactly.  I got to meeting and I weighed in just 0.1 pounds over.  So, technically, according to Weight Watchers, I'm not quite there yet.

But then I came home and weighed myself again on my (weight watchers) scale and it said I was 0.3 pounds below my 10% goal weight.

So, yeah.  Given the vagaries of scales, I think I can say that I did it.

That means I've lost a total of 18 lbs since I started in March.  Frankly, I'm a little ashamed it's taken me so long to get this far and the last couple of months have been a bitch where weight loss is concerned.  But I finally got here and that's nothing to sneeze at.

I fit into smaller clothes now.  Clothes that were but a pipe dream hanging in my closet - the reminder of how much smaller I used to be before Jamie came along - are now beginning to fit again.  Not everything but some of them.  Some things are too big for me to wear now.  I shop for new clothes in my closet instead of at Target.

And then there's the photographic proof, which really shows me how far I've come.

Here I am the day I signed up for Weight Watchers:

And here is a picture I took of myself this morning when I put on clothes that didn't fit a month ago:

I'm not done yet.  I still have 15 lbs to go to get to my goal weight and if the last several months are any indication, it's not going to be especially easy to get there. But I made it this far, I'm over halfway to my goal weight, and I'm not giving up now.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Word Search

Liam has a new business venture.

I came upon him the other day with a notebook and pencil and I asked what he was working on.

"I'm doing a word search, Mom."

I peeked over his shoulder to discover that he was creating his own word search.  The notebook was one that had graph paper in it and he had set aside a block of squares in which to make his word search.  Then, down the margin of one side, he wrote the words to look for in the box.

He worked on this slowly over a number of days and in that time developed his business plan.  He would print up more of them and sell them at school.  So far, this has not materialized but hey, he's got a plan.  Hopefully this will help finance his move when he turns 10.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Decorating The Tree

More News On The Celiac Front

On Monday we took Liam to see the gastroenterologist regarding his test results and symptoms.  I didn't expect for there to be much forward progress at this appointment but I was looking forward to talking things over with someone more versed in these issues.

I love the doctor we saw.  She was really, really wonderful and saw Liam as a whole person and not just a cluster of symptoms.

The upshot is that we're still on the fence about Celiac.

It comes down to this: Celiac is a microscopic diagnosis and the blood tests can be decent predictors but they're not definitive.  The only way to be definitive is to do an upper endoscopy and take some biopsy samples.  This is what the doctor recommended and what I expected to hear from her.

What I didn't expect was that she has her doubts about the blood work.  While his symptoms do fit a Celiac profile, there are some things that don't quite fit.  His abdominal pain, for one thing, is quite high - just under the sternum - and not lower down at all - especially now that we've increased the fiber in his diet and alleviated much of his issues with constipation.  For another, I think she was a little surprised that he's not having diarrhea problems.

Third, the blood panel they did on him tested for three values.  One was positive, two were negative.  According to the doctor, one of the ones that was negative is a better Celiac predictor than the one that was positive.  There's wiggle room here.

So, while she wants to do the scope to find out exactly what's happening and get the definitive yes/no on Celiac, she also prescribed Prilosec for him.  Given his history of infant reflux and the nature of his pain, she thought it was worth a try.  If it worked and gave him some relief that was a good thing.  If not - well, at least we tried.

We came home Monday night and gave him his first dose and he did fine with it.  Last night he had pasta for dinner.  He quickly ate the fairly generous portion I served him and then asked for more.  He hasn't asked for second helpings of anything in months.  So, I gave him the rest of what I had - which was about equivalent to his first helping.  He finished that, too.  He also ate all of his applesauce.  Then, he went to Tae Kwon-do and immediately upon arriving home said, "I'm hungry!"  Before bed he got his second dose of Prilosec.

This morning he ate breakfast with no problems, no dwaddling, no begging from me for him to finish.  As he was eating I said, "It seems like you've been hungrier since you started your new medicine.  Is it helping you feel better?"  He said, "Yeah, and my hunger is going up and up."

Could his weight loss have been due to not eating because of acid reflux?

Frankly, I feel really dumb not figuring this out for myself.  I have lost count of the number of times my kids have seen doctors because of some weird symptoms that turned out to be reflux and DUH! I know how to deal with that.  It's just that if one of my kids was going to have long term issues with this, I fully expected it to be Jamie because he was so much worse as an infant than Liam was.

This is not to say that we are out of the woods on Celiac yet, though.  It's still possible that he has it and it's possible that he has both the reflux AND the Celiac pulling a double whammy on him.  We won't know for sure until the endoscopy results come back.  His procedure has been scheduled for the week between Christmas and New Year's when he's off school.  I suspect we won't have the results back until after the first of the year.

Until then, if the kid wants to eat me out of house and home, I'll gladly allow it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Red Stripe!

No, not the beer.

Liam tested yesterday for his red stripe on his blue belt.  It was sort of a formality given that he took a bronze in tournament with this same pattern a month ago.  Needless to say, he passed with flying colors.  BUT! I got lucky this time out.  There were only three kids testing for red stripe and Liam was the closest to me so I got great video of his pattern.  So, here it is!

He did a great job.  Now, it's on to his red belt and the last new pattern he will learn for a long time.  Once he earns his red belt he must earn three black stripes before he can test for black belt and for each of those stripes he must perform three of the 9 previous patterns he's learned.  Come February (when he tests for red) he's going to be doing a lot of review of patterns.

Keep it up the great work, kiddo!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


  • It took me a little over a week but I'm finally at a place where I feel like I can deal with Liam having Celiac.  I know we have some rough waters to navigate but I'm feeling like we can handle them.  Most importantly, I feel like I can be there for Liam as he begins to process what all of this will mean (we have not yet told him - see the next bullet point) and that I can be honest with him with whatever questions he asks.  I'm not going to cry at the drop of a hat anymore, I'm going to be strong and confident - which I hope will instill in him a confidence in our ability to deal with this as a family.
  • We have not yet told Liam that we suspect he has Celiac or what that means.  We've told him that he has to go see another doctor so we can get more information but we haven't said anything beyond that.  We want to see what we can find out from the doctor before we have that difficult discussion with him.  Once we know enough to answer all his questions, we will make full disclosure to him about what's happening.  We see the specialist on the 12th and I'm hoping to know more about our next steps after that appointment.  Liam is a worrier and there's no point in leaving him worried and anxious when we can't calm those anxieties.
  • Christmas is under way! We've completed the shopping but I still have all the wrapping and sending to do.  I also need to decorate the house but I have plans to get that started on Thursday.  I've designed, had printed, then addressed and mailed all our Christmas cards - earliest I've managed to do it yet.  Jamie has learned to say Santa and points him out with glee every time he sees him.  I'm hoping Christmas will be full of magic this year.
  • I'm a big old failure at the diet lately.  When the call came about Liam I basically spent about a week eating my feelings (some more cheez-its? Don't mind if I do...) and between that and Thanksgiving, I put on three pounds.  This is especially annoying because I'd plateaued and was just beginning to break through the wall when I got derailed.  So, I gained 3 pounds that were pretty damn hard to lose in the first place.  The climb back onto the wagon was akin to scaling Everest but I think I've managed to do it.  Now all I have to do is stay here.  Weigh-in tomorrow should be so much fun.  Except not.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Outtakes 2: Electric Boogaloo

I got to playing around with one of the pictures last night and this is what resulted.  These kids have to learn not to give me this kind of fodder.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Outtakes

It's that time again - time to hustle the children into their Christmas finery, schlep them down to Phipps, and try to get some passable shots of them for use on the Christmas cards.  It was an especially futile attempt this year.  Out of over 100 shots, I got about 5 usable ones.  Four, if you ask Scot because he didn't want to be on the card.

The outtakes, on the other hand, are glorious.

We begin with Liam.  I love the kid but he's in that stage where he simply CANNOT smile naturally unless you make him laugh.  Making him laugh was simply not on the agenda today so I have a lot of pictures like this:

With that lack of upper lip, I should rename him Frank Burns.

If you didn't get that joke, get off my lawn.

I actually don't have many outtakes of Jamie by himself because they're all blurry.  He would run away from the camera.  I did get a couple of decent close ups of him (though mostly profile) that are being used on the Christmas card, however.

Moving on to the group shots...

This was the best I got all day.  Clearly, they're thrilled.  It was all downhill after this.


"Again? We have to do this again?"

Liam is looking at the ceiling and Jamie smells something bad.

Passable one of Spud.  Jamie disapproves.  Of everything.

Jamie seems to have misplaced his neck.

I have no idea what's going on with Liam here.

I can't imagine what these two are going to come up with next year.

UPDATE: I forgot to leave you with this sign from Phipps.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Worried and Scared

I'm not sure I'm going to click "publish" on this post but I can't keep myself from feeling the need to write it out so write it out I will.  If I do hit publish and you feel the need to comment that I'm just a whiny whinerton who needs to shut up unless she has real problems, you can just skip right over to some other place on the internet.  I don't need that today.

Today may go down as the day that changed our family.  I know that sounds melodramatic and ridiculous but it's how I feel right now.  I'll admit up front that I'm upset and a scared and feeling a large dose of panic about this so that undoubtedly makes this all seem worse.

To explain, let me go back a bit.  Liam has been having some troubles off and on for a few months that finally led us to take him to the doctor.  They were mostly gastro-intestinal issues so I'm not going to get graphic about it.  When Scot took him to the doc, they weighed him and he'd lost two pounds.

That's a big deal for Liam - a very, very big deal.  Liam is almost 7 years old and he now weighs 44 pounds.  He's very skinny and also a bit short for his age.  Much of this is due to his genetics but the fact remains that he gains weight excruciatingly slowly and cannot afford to lose any of it, much less two pounds.  It is not unusual for Liam to spend an entire year gaining that much weight.

When Scot discussed all of the seemingly disparate symptoms with our pediatrician they decided to run some blood tests on Liam and get an abdominal x-ray.  I wasn't able to be at the appointment so when Scot called to tell me what was going on, I got upset.  I thought it was a simple matter to deal with (hey! my kid's butt won't stop itching!) and instead they walked out needing diagnostic tests.

One of the blood panels they ran was to rule out Celiac Disease.  Our pediatrician basically said that he didn't think this was really Liam's problem but better to run everything at once rather than have to take him back for a second stick later.  We figured that if anything came back wonky, it would be his iron level.

His abdominal x-ray was normal.  We found that out the same day they did it.  Today I got the call about the blood work and one of his numbers on the Celiac panel was elevated.  To give you an idea, the number should be below 20 for a negative result for Celiac.  20-30 is a weak positive.  Above 30 is a stronger positive.  Liam's number was 31.  The other measurement on the Celiac panel was normal.

What does this mean?  It means more tests.  It means a specialist.  It means more investigation.  It's possible, given his fence-sitting results, that he does NOT have Celiac.  It's also very possible that he does.

Now, Celiac has been getting a lot of attention recently as diagnoses are on the rise - not because incidence is increasing but because doctors are getting better at recognizing the symptoms.  So, it's possible you've heard that the 'cure' (not really, it doesn't go away) for the disease is a gluten-free diet.

Great, you say.  What's your beef?  Why are you freaking? Feed him different food and he'll be fine.  If you have to deal with an auto-immune disorder, it's best if it's Celiac since it's treated by dietary changes.  You're golden!

Except we're talking about a 6 year old kid with food issues.  He is a supremely picky eater whose favorite food is PASTA of all things.  We've had dozens of conversations with Liam about the state of his eating habits and he always says "OK, Mommy" and promises to try new things.  Then, when push comes to shove, he can't do it and he's puking up corn (or whatever else we've asked him to try).  Part of my panic is about the very real possibility that World War III is about to erupt in my household over dietary changes.

Celiac is still an auto-immune disorder, 'good' one or not.  And that means he'll have increased risk for a lot of other potentially awful things.  Doing some basic reading up on it today left me breathless and in tears.  I'm scared for my kid.

People with celiac disease are more likely to have:

Gluten-free means huge added expenses to our grocery bills.  It means absolute vigilance about everything he puts in his mouth.  It means he'll never be able to eat the sweet treats his classmates bring in for birthdays or that are a part of class parties.  It means the family recipes that I've long treasured and enjoyed baking with him will no longer be safe for him to eat.  I'm sad about the loss of those things.

I'm scared and worried about navigating the enormous amount of upheaval this will cause in our lives.  Of couse I believe that we can get through it and figure it out.  Of course I know that we have doctors and professionals and the internet to help us through.  But, for now - just for today, I feel overwhelmed.

One Small Gesture

It's been one hell of a week in this house.  Three of the four of us were sick with a nasty cold and Scot was diagnosed with a cracked rib.  Of course, they only discovered that after 2 ER visits, 2 doctor visits, multiple chest x-rays, blood tests, and a CT scan.  But I digress.

So, yeah, it's been a long rotten week (hence the lack of blogging - when I blog and I'm cranky I get comments about how if that's all I have to bitch about I should shut up.  So I don't blog when I'm cranky).  We've been muddling through as best we can but Scot was having a really hard time - mostly because he felt like he couldn't breathe - and wasn't really able to do much more than lay in bed and try to catch his breath.

Liam, sensitive kid that he is, picked up on all this and presented Scot with this note two nights ago:

" Dad I will love you forever.
I really {love} Dad.
You are the best Dad ever.
You are great.
I love you lots and lots.
You are the best Dad ever."

One little note and life doesn't seem so tough anymore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wherein I Discuss That Thing

That Thing that happened at Penn State.

So, you know, I would completely understand if you skipped it.

I've wondered whether I should even write about it but I have so much rage about this.  So much.  No, I didn't go to Penn State.  No, I didn't grow up in Pennsylvania.  No, I don't understand the worship of Joe Paterno.  I acknowledge that I will see this situation somewhat differently than those who have but I did graduate from a Big Ten university with a large football program - a university that gave out far more athletic scholarships than it ever dreamed of giving to the smarty pants academics.

So I do kind of get it.

And then I consider all the things that had to happen, all the people who turned away and shut their eyes and mouths, and I stop being able to understand at all.

That's when the rage hits.

I don't care how many games of whatever sport you've won.  I don't care what good you've done through charities.  I don't care if the man you see doing terrible things to children is someone you respect or even love.  I don't care if you think you have a university's reputation to protect.

The very last thing any adult should be thinking about in this situation is any of those things.  The second that they do, the victim and what happened to them gets lost and they learn a terrible lesson.  They learn that adults can't be trusted, adults won't help them, and, even worse, that they are somehow not WORTH anyone's help.

THAT is the tragedy in this situation.  Not job loss, not reputations ruined.  It's children forever damaged while people sat back and pretended it wasn't happening.  How would any of the people involved in perpetrating this horror feel if it was their child so horribly damaged?  I do not understand how any of these people can look themselves in the face and justify their actions or inactions.  How does the one eyewitness in the case look at his 2 year old daughter and find a way to live with what he didn't do?  It is simply incomprehensible to me and then I just want to see all of them get everything the law says they deserve.

But more than anything else I think about the victims and I hope and pray that they have found some kind of healing and peace.  I hope that they know that they are, and were, worth someone's help and worth far more than any sports program or reputation.  I hope they know that it was never their fault.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Liam has been a student of Tae Kwon-Do for a year and a half now.  In that time he has gone from a clumsy, awkward white belt to a blue belt with control, balance, and a certain grace.  I am immensely proud of all he has accomplished through his hard work.

Today he participated in his very first tournament and he did so very well.  This was an inter-school tournament that included all 9 of Grandmaster Kong's dojangs.  So, there were a lot of kids there that Liam has never met, never sparred against, never seen their skills.

This was only half of the gym full of kids

Liam competed in patterns and sparring.  They also had categories for breaking but as he hasn't done that yet, we didn't sign him up for that.

First, he did his pattern.  This is the same pattern he will do next month when he tests for his red stripe. I apologize for the camera work - we were in the bleachers with lots of other people.

When all of the kids in his group had demonstrated their pattern and been scored, they awarded medals and certificates.  They gave a gold, silver, and bronze medal to the top three kids and certificates to the others.

Liam won a bronze!

Look!  I got a medal!

These aren't chintzy participation medals either.  They're heavy and large with emblems on both sides.

After the patterns were finished, they moved onto sparring.  Liam sparred twice, losing the first bout but winning the second.  The bout he won was against a red belt.  

Liam is on the right.

Liam on the left, facing the camera.

And he medaled again!  He won another bronze for his sparring.

Getting his medal (Liam second from left)

Grinning from ear to ear

He's worked very hard over the last year and a half and this is such a marvelous validation of all that hard work.  He earned those medals.  We couldn't be more proud of him.  More importantly, he couldn't be more proud of himself.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


My kids are four years apart.  We planned it that way and for the most part it has worked out.  But the age difference has made the sibling relationship a bit fraught from time to time.  Liam gets bossy, Jamie gets grabby, there are unkind words.

They're brothers, I expect this.

But every now and then I see sweet gestures between the two.  Liam will play games with Jamie and I'll hear gales of laughter, usually while wrestling with each other.

This morning, Jamie melted my heart.

Liam was having a rough morning.  Time change is kicking his butt.  He woke up cranky and difficult, telling me he wouldn't go to school and with raging attitude.  I was working through all of this with him, trying to coax him through morning routine without it becoming a battle, when he complained that his back hurt.

Given that he was sitting on the hard kitchen floor scrunched up against the island this was hardly surprising.

Jamie was hanging around while all of this was going on and he ran off at this point; I assumed he was going to go poke around in the freezer and then shove some breakfast item in my face to fix for him.

Instead, while I was continuing to talk to Liam, he came back with one of our kiddie ice packs from the freezer.  We call it "cold Nemo" because it looks like a clownfish and has gel inside so you can freeze the whole thing but have a flexible cold pack.  Anyway, he came running back with cold Nemo and put it on his brother's back.

My tank of a two year old, who is made of all ego and rarely thinks beyond himself (he's two!) heard Liam say his back hurt and ran off to get something to help.

Melted puddle on the floor.

I hope, as they get older, they find more and more common ground.