Sunday, August 18, 2013

the next best thing

A few months ago, we took the children to a Japanese steakhouse and while the chef was putting forth this amazing show for the guests at his table, with onions stacked in the shape of a volcano that spewed steam ... and flash fires that would reach six feet in the air ... and chopping various items, like shrimp tails that he'd flip with his knife to the top of his chef hat; I was distracted with a young boy that was sitting at our table and missed the entire culinary performance because his eyes were glued to a portable electronic gaming device.  I whispered to our kids, "When you ask me why you can't have a Game Boy or DSI ... THAT'S WHY. They are addictive and make you miss out on the wonderful things happening in real life."

I'm not a stick in the mud about everything (i.e., we saw Iron Man 3 opening weekend), but I will not buy handheld games for our kids, and have passed on to others, those that we've received as hand me downs.  Of course our children have indicated that they'd still like one (especially William) because all the other boys on the bus have them (or so he says).  But my theory (that our children will repeat verbatim), is that instead of zone out on a handheld video game, they can read a book. Or do a crossword. Or color a picture. Or solve a Rubik's Cube. Or talk with someone. And if they're home - the reason we bought THIS house, is because of THIS yard, so they can get outside and PLAY.

Not to mention, they've all been blessed with amazing imaginations - it is their job to put those imaginations to work. With that in mind, this is what I found tonight, while cleaning up their rooms:


I didn't know what exactly they were, until I flipped them over.  Using leftover wood from the treehouse that Charlie constructed last month, it looks they've made wooden Nintendo DSIs. I've got to say, I'm impressed....


That's what I call putting an imagination to work!

(And best of all, they don't require any batteries!)

Friday, August 16, 2013

let the games begin!

Several months ago, I wrote that one of our children was struggling with bedwetting and I asked for recommendations on how we might curb this issue.  People came forth with all kinds of wonderful advice including the suggestion that we purchase a bedwetting alarm.

(Unfortunately, when I was trying to troubleshoot issues with my blog earlier this year, I deleted all of the comments so none of those excellent suggestions are visible anymore.)  

Since then, I've had several people ask me how things have been going.  And I haven't provided an update because the problem hasn't really been cured, despite our best efforts. 

The bedwetting alarm really seemed to work at first.  We bought a Rodger Clippo and it woke our sleeping child up with its vibrations and loud beeping noises.  So we followed the instructions as they were written and once our child was waking up before the alarm went off, we assumed we were done. 

But just about the time I was going to post an update, the bedwetting started again and we had to repeat the process from the beginning.  Over the past year, it has come to the point that our child is so desensitized to the alarm that whenever it goes off, they either sleep through it, or rip it off - throw it on the floor - and keep on sleeping. Or, they'll only partially wake up.  I've lost track of how many times I would hear stirring in the middle of the night, only to find my child peeing in a corner, closet, or on the side of their dresser.  

Charlie is a much more patient person than I am, and since he is the one that is home during the day, he is the one that carries the burden of doing laundry.  But last week, when Charlie was out of town in California for a week, that burden fell to me. And after the fourth straight day of changing sheets, I called the pediatrician and said, "I think we have a problem here. You need to either give them medication to make it stop, or you need to give me medication so I don't care anymore."

We set up an appointment and as luck would have it, our doctor is chief of staff for pediatric gastrointestinal disorders - something or other - for the northern hemisphere. 

Last week, when we first met, the doctor theorized that our child was constipated and the impaction in their bowels was putting pressure on their bladder, hence the reason they'd be springing leaks both day and night.  "This is a very common problem for children," the doctor assured us.  So she sent us in for an x-ray and the results indicated that our child wasn't just constipated, they were severely constipated. On the x-ray, it looked as though they've got poop coming up to their esophagus. 

This really surprised me because our children eat so much fiber in the form of fruit and bran, that I can't imagine how anything stays in?  When I asked our child if they go poop every day, they sheepishly shook their head and said no.  "So, when's the last time you went poop?" I asked.  My child tilted their head to the side and had to think for a few seconds before responding, "I can't really remember. Last weekend sometime?" 

Wh... WHAT?  


But that's when our doctor told us that a lot of children in this age range, withhold their poop because either they don't want to go in a public place (i.e., school or camp) or they are too busy doing other things they don't want to take a REST in a ROOM that is specifically designed for such activities as voiding your body's waste byproducts. And then - because children fight the temptation so much, the rectum can become so dilated and swollen that nerve damage occurs and a child doesn't even sense that they have to go anymore.   

Today, we had a follow up appointment with the doctor and were started on a 3-day regiment that is effectively intended to pressure wash our child's colon.  There will be Fleet enemas, magnesium citrate, mineral oil and Miralax. Our child totally understands what is going on and is fully on board. And because Charlie is a great Dad, he's told our child that he, too, will be undergoing this colon blow exercise so our child isn't pooping up a storm - all alone.  Of course I'd like to join in too, but seeing as there are only three bathrooms in the house - I don't think it's a wise idea if all of them are occupied for the next three days. Which is highly likely, since according to the doctor, most people carry between 8-12 pounds of fecal matter.  

Tonight, when we poured out the first doses of medication, our child and my husband clutched their little cups of mineral oil and tapped the tops together to say, "Cheers!" Then my child yelled, "Fire in the anchor!" before they both downed their first cup with big smiles. 

(I think what they meant to say was either, "Fire in the hole!" or "Anchors aweigh!" but I got the gist.) 

The smiles didn't last long on either face. Something tells me they both thought the mineral oil would taste like peppermint candy or something delicious as opposed to something vile like ... mineral oil.  

So now ... we wait. 

Perhaps I should use this time to run out to the store and pick up some potpourri. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

remember, the teenage years are for learning

This is a story about someone that I know.

Someone who has a 13-year-old son and is married to a man who enjoys Do-It Yourself projects around the home.  So much in fact, that he demolished his master bathroom and decided to renovate it, himself.  Eighteen months ago. The renovations aren't complete yet, but from what I understand, they're very close.

So my friend bought her son a new laptop for Christmas.  For the past few months, he's been playing with his computer and learning more about the ins and outs of technology and how e-mail works and the vast wealth of information there is to learn in this digital age.  And one day, he decided to make a movie on his computer. Just a simple movie that any 13-year-old boy might make ... one in which he makes silly faces and goofy noises and things of that nature. However, during the course of this movie making, he gets a case of the munchies and decides that he's going to get up, walk away from his computer, and go in to the kitchen and have himself an afternoon snack.

While he is in the kitchen making a snack, his father - who has been required to use a bathroom in a different part of the house whilst his renovations continue - took a shower in the room immediately adjacent to the room where his son was making his very first movie. The father, as it happens, is a very proud and confident man that shuns the use of a towel and instead, prefers to "air dry."

Especially on hot summer days after he's been working in the yard.   

Now, just imagine that this freshly showered and air-drying father, departs from the bathroom and walks through the room where his son was, moments earlier, making his very first movie.  And let's assume that he walks directly towards the computer but doesn't notice it. And as he exits the room, his 13-year-old son is re-entering the room with a snack in hand and says something funny like, "Uh, Dad, I think you lost your pants..." The son resumes his moviemaking and once finished, decides to upload it to YouTube.  And then, he links it to his newly created Facebook account.

A day or two later, when my friend is at work, she is approached by a co-worker who has a son in the same grade as her son.  And that co-worker says to my friend, "I think you need to see something on the internet...." And then she proceeds to show my friend a video that her 13-year-old son had made.  At first, my friend is very concerned that her son uploaded a video of himself to YouTube and created a Facebook page without her knowledge.

When she starts to tell her co-worker how she's going to set firmer boundaries about computer usage, her co-worker says, "Oh, just wait. You might want to sit down for this next part.... " And as my friend settles in to a chair, she watches her son get up and walk away from the computer moments before her air-drying husband .... sans any clothing ... walks directly in to the frame.


(I'm very impressed that my friend remained cognizant enough to safely leave the office - drive home - delete the video off YouTube and Facebook and disable her son's accounts - without disabling his fingers.)

You see, it would appear that her 13-year-old son forgot to pause or stop the movie before he went to go get his afternoon snack. And then, he didn't exactly review it before he uploaded it to YouTube. I think it's safe to say, this boy who is extremely bright and will likely reach Eagle Scout within the next two years, never watched his very first movie the whole way through.   I'm just hopeful that he'll have his computer back by the time he goes to goes to college. Until then, I'd say this is a good lesson learned.

Quality Assurance / Quality Control. QA/QC, it's for you -  it's for me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

the quartet

A few weeks ago, we went to a carnival in town.  The tickets to get in, which were normally $18.00 / person were free because I won them in a raffle at work.  And because it cost a hefty penny to get in, I mistakenly thought that all of the amusements would be free.  Turns out, that wasn't the case. 

After spending $20.00 for lemonades, and $70.00 for various rides, and $16.00 for games that consisted of throwing darts at balloons and trying to toss rings on ducks moving along a conveyor belt, and $12.00 to walk through a butterfly house ... I was ecstatic to see that there was actually one FREE event for the children to enjoy.


A free event which probably will wind up costing me a fortune in the long run, because now ALL of the children want for me to buy them instruments and sign them up for music lessons.

There were flutes.


And banjos.





And tambourines.


There were trumpets...





Cellos ...








Saxophones ...


And trombones ...



... on the march.





It's always been a dream of mine to raise children who were musically inclined and foster a love of music in their hearts. Years ago, when we still lived in San Diego, I looked in to signing the children up for Suzuki.  But because I appreciate my hearing and sanity so much, I held off on committing to such a program until the children were a little older.


After visiting this recent event and watching the way that they excitedly experimented with all the various instruments - and then, turned down a funnel cake to stay and continue playing ... I'm beginning to think that they might be ready.


Or more importantly, I might be ready. 

Carolyn has told me she wants to play the flute, Elizabeth the violin, William the saxophone, and Henry the trumpet.


Now, I just need to remember where I put those noise canceling headphones.

Monday, August 12, 2013

in the land where a watermelon costs $60

I never quite got around to finishing my story about my trip to the Northwest Territories which I should probably post in a "series" format to avoid the MEGA-post. But I'd rather keep my thoughts all in one place with this one, so with my apologies in advance ... MEGA-post it is.

Let's see, where was I?

Oh yes. I flew from Washington DC to Chicago ... and from Chicago to Calgary, Canada. This was the view from my hotel room when I arrived in downtown Calgary ...


And this is the view again a few hours later.


A few hours beyond that, I was on another (much smaller) plane bound for Edmonton.  The sunrise through the little props was absolutely spectacular and bordered on a religious experience for me.  


Once in Edmonton, we had to wait while our plane that would take us even further north was filled with cargo and supplies.  What I learned on this trip is that there are only two ways to get supplies "in" to the arctic in the summer months: by air or by water.  Because virtually everything has to be transported in, the cost of goods and services are extremely expensive, which we realized when we discovered that a single watermelon cost $60.00 in the one and only village market.

If I'd known that watermelons were so valuable, I would have brought some with me!


In the winter months, ice roads are constructed - typically beginning in November / December, and supplies are transported by truck from around January through March. (I've since learned there's a whole television series about the truckers that drive these roads.) By April, things have begun to thaw and in May the melts occur, which can flood some of the rivers in the region by more than 50 feet above their banks within less than 24 hours.

Once we boarded the plane and took off, I was extremely impressed that this friendly airline still serves food to its travelers. I don't think I've had a real meal on a plane since 1984, so flying with Canadian North was "seriously" my all-time favorite flying experience in recent years past.  Which isn't saying much, given my disdain of flying - but this omelet?



This was the view out of my window.  What most surprised me is that as we flew, there was absolutely NO indication that humans had ever been there. There were no roads, no buildings, no towers, no agricultural marks.


Just land for as far as the eye could see ... and then, water.


Here we are flying over the Great Slave Lake, which happens to be the deepest lake in North America, on approach to Yellowknife.  This was really awesome for me to experience, considering my Master's Thesis explored the source of terrigenous detritus in the Sierra Nevadas of California.

It's true!!

After mixing felsites from the Yellowknife Supergroup reported by a geologist in 1981, and miogeoclinal sediment collected by yours truly from the Sierra Nevadas in 1995, I concluded that the geochemical and detrital zircon data from the Sierras included Archean and post-Archean components derived from the Great Slave Lake region of Canada. Can you believe I actually flew over this region?!

I know, I know. Me neither!


We landed in Yellowknife...


Exited the plane to stretch our legs and all the people who were flying north for the first time, paused to take photos of the polar bear going after the seal through the ice figure on top of the luggage carousel ...


And then we re-boarded the same plane for our flight even further north. Along the way, they handed out hot maple scones (which were almost as good as my friend, Holly's) and that's when I began to compose a love sonnet for Canadian North airlines, which I'll share once I complete.


The view out my window consisted of more beautiful untouched landscapes ...


And meandering rivers ...


And then there were clouds and I fell asleep and woke up several hours later at our final destination. I think what stirred me from my slumber was the sound of someone saying, "Ho, Ho, Ho!" while reindeer bells were jingling.  Or maybe that was just a dream?


This was the license plate on our truck and because I was functioning off eight cumulative hours of sleep over two days, it took me a few minutes to recognize the polar bear.


My team met to discuss our project, and we were handed cans of bear spray.


I thought it was unlikely we'd actually see a bear ... but then we did. Several in fact. Huge black bears at the village dump. It was upsetting for me to see these beautiful creatures foraging through garbage, but the bears seemed downright thrilled.


It was equally disturbing to see fliers like this one posted about the village, but I suppose I can see how alcoholism is such a prevalent problem in an area where at least four months of the year, there is no more than four hours of sunlight each day (and two of those months have less than two hours).


There were also fliers such as this that cracked me up, because you'd certainly never see something like this in my neck of the woods. Also, what size Ziploc bag is the most appropriate, I wonder?

Snack size or gallon?


Caribous and Moose are HUGE!


As are the mosquitoes ...


Like the one that took a bite out of my head and left me with a welt the size of an egg.


Mostly, I was struck by the ability of people to survive in such an environment.  They will use whatever materials they have available - such as trees that have washed down the rivers, from faraway places because they don't look like ANY of the trees in this region - to construct things such as picnic tables...


And bridges.




They will build their homes and structures on top of steel pylons that are driven more than 30 feet below ground surface to protect from the permafrost which can heave in the winter, and sink if it thaws in the summer.  Every single structure that I saw was constructed off the ground.


None had foundations (except this little outhouse in the woods).


All the while, I was remembering that with the exception of lumber that is washed down river, everything - everything to build these structures - is shipped in from afar and yes, now it makes sense why a little four bedroom house rents out for $30K a month.


There were really only three types of people that I saw on this trip. There were those who worked in the oil industry - there were those who were there to hunt - and there were the aboriginals.  Every one was so kind and gracious. And trusting. As evidenced by a canoe that was left alongside a lake bank for others to enjoy.  One of my co-workers told me that he so wanted to explore this beautiful lake, but he didn't have a paddle in his possession.  So he drove back to his workshop and grabbed a shovel - and spent an entire Saturday afternoon, shoveling his way around the perimeter.


My co-worker is apparently one of the more clever engineers ... unlike the ones that installed the HVAC unit in our sleeping rooms.


Speaking of temperatures... the temperature was around 75 degrees (F) for the first two days, and then dropped in to the 40's.  Up until that point, I'd been telling everyone how I could see moving our family north. They'd LOVE it!  And once I heard that it would cost $100K to simply mobilize a drill rig to this area where there are NO coffee shops for hundreds (more like thousands of miles), I thought how brilliant it would be if Charlie and I sold off everything and moved north and opened a place called, "Charlie's Cuttings & Coffee."  We'd drill wells and sell coffee and our adventurous spirits would be at one with the natural world.  But then, I remembered this is what happens to me when the temperature drops to 40 degrees.  It's called Raynaud's.  Or, as I refer to it, "Corpse Hands." My host told me that 40 degrees is still considered balmy since it drops to a blustery MINUS 70 degrees (F) in the winter.

I couldn't even comprehend that kind of cold.


Just like I couldn't comprehend that the sun never really sets in the summer.  This is a photo taken at midnight. The second night I was there, I was up until 3AM sending pictures to Charlie every 30 minutes with the caption, "It's still bright outside!!"


"Still bright!"

"Oh my goodness, still bright!!"

Until he finally wrote back, "I GET IT. NOW GO TO SLEEP, WOMAN." 


People that live in this region recognize that they only have a short span of time to get outside and enjoy their summer and from what I could tell, they take full advantage of it.



All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to go. Now, I'm very much looking forward to my next trip where from the town of Inuvik, I'll need to take a helicopter an additional two hours north.


As always, the absolute best part of my trip was returning home.  If I could keep these ones in my pocket, my heart would be so warm I think I could actually handle the minus 70 degree temperatures. Especially if I was also sipping a cup of arctic-famous java from "Charlie's Cuttings & Coffee."