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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back to Reality

We got home from a week in Ireland late last night.  It was a fun trip with no travel problems.  It was not, however, a relaxing trip.

We did a lot of walking and I did little sleeping.  In fact, I only slept two full nights.  The other nights I suffered jet-lag induced insomnia.  I have no idea how I was able to function during the day.  But last night I finally slept a solid seven hours, waking around 6:00 A.M. That's a normal night for me, so maybe I won't suffer any jet-lag problems on this end.

Today we caught up with family, visiting mom at the home, carving jack-o-lanterns with Elliott, and playing with Jonah after his nap.  Mom looked pale and thin, couldn't speak clearly or make any sense, and mostly slept in her wheelchair.  The boys look taller and seem smarter.  Jonah's vocabulary has quadrupled and, thanks to daycare, he is now also using sign language.  Elliott's teacher confirmed, at last week's parent-teacher conference, that Elliott is indeed above average.  She feels certain he will be in the gifted program within a year.

Now it's back to reality.  I'm spending the rest of the day bookkeeping and doing laundry while Jim's at the Cardinal Celebration downtown with Elliott.  It was too bad Jim missed all the World Series games while we were away but, thanks to iTunes, he can still watch them and probably will.  Isn't technology grand!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Picky Eaters

I can't say I suffered any amount of "empty nest syndrome."  By the time the "chicks had flown the roost," I was ready for a quieter, cleaner, less hectic and crowded home environment.  The best part, however, was no longer having to deal with picky eaters everyday.

Jim always says he'll eat anything, which isn't true.  For example, he hates eggplant and mint.  However, in general, Jim will eat whatever I serve with no complaints and a lot of appreciation.  That wasn't the case with my two children.  One didn't like spicy foods and always wanted their food segregated, no casseroles.  The other favored more adventurous meals, the hotter the better.  It drove me crazy!  The last thing a mom wants to hear after making a meal after working 8-10 hours is "yuck" or "I don't like this."  And never hearing "thanks mom."

And now I have two picky-eater grandsons.  To avoid getting majorly frustrated, I've learned to put little effort into their snacks and meals.  And, yet, I still get complaints. Jonah cried during most of this morning's 30-minute walk because he didn't like the snack being served. What kid doesn't like butter or graham crackers?

There's just no winning with picky eaters.  So, after working hard to get toddler and preschool Elliott to eat healthier with little success, I told Emily I'm not doing that with Jonah.  For the most part, at grandma's, the boys only get what they've been known to eat. Yet, like this morning, even that doesn't always work out.  At least I didn't make the butter and graham crackers from scratch!

I hear there are people with children who will eat, or at least try, anything.  I would love to meet them.  For me, it looks like I'll be dealing with picky eaters, again, for another 17 years.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What To Do With Nearly Eight Hours

The flight from Chicago to Ireland takes just under eight hours.  Our time, we'll arrive at 2:25 AM.  But with the six hour time difference, it will be 8:25 A.M. in Dublin.  Therefore, the best course of action is to sleep 5-7 hours on the plane.  In the past, I've found that impossible.  This trip, however, I have Ambian to help me out.

So now I need to decide if I want to sleep or read and watch movies completely uninterrupted.  As much as I'm anxious about being stuck in a small space for hours, I'm also excited about so much time away from phones and the internet.  Lately I feel as if I'm being pulled in at least six different directions every hour of the day.  I can't remember the last time I did anything without interruption.

In all honesty, I'm exhausted.  Chances are, therefore, Ambian or not, my body will decide the long flight is a good time to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fighting Rising Prices

Mid-day today, our electric was off for three hours because Ameren Missouri was upgrading to accommodate the new homes being built next door.  So, after the hospice team meeting, I headed to the mall for lunch and to get my glasses adjusted.

Afterward, I was lured into Christopher and Banks by their 50% Off Everything In The Store signs.  I don't shop at CB as often as I used to because, a few years ago, I began finding their clothes dowdy.  Their prices were cheap, but who wants to look 10-20 years older? But in I went, today, anyway.

It was immediately obvious to me that CB has a new buyer.  Their current line is right on trend with a nice variety.  Unfortunately, however, their prices have nearly doubled.  They used to be comparable to Target.  Now their prices are more like Macy's.  I did end up buying a sweater and two blouses, but I wouldn't have if they hadn't been 50% off.  For me, the best way to fight rising prices is to take advantage of really good sales.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Welcome to America, Kate!

At 8:00 P.M. CST today, my son and his wife will leave Soeul, South Korea for a new life and adventure in Huntington, New York.  It's been over five years since Daniel's lived in the United States.  Kate, a Korean, has never lived in America and visited only once three years ago.

Bored with life in general, Daniel moved to Daejeon, South Korea in 2006 to teach English as a second language.  Within six months of arriving, he met Kate and they married in 2009.  I hated that Daniel moved so far from home, but now believe it was necessary so he could meet his soul mate.

Daniel was lucky to have Kate's help in acclimating to a different culture.  Now it's his turn, although I don't believe Kate will need as much help.  She's already been instrumental in setting up their new business as guardians and tutors for Koreans enrolled in a Huntington, NY high school.

Daniel and Kate's new business venture would seem to be the perfect opportunity for an American-Korean couple.  Time will tell, but I'm extremely hopeful.  I'm also thrilled to have my son and his wife living so much closer to home.

Welcome home, Daniel, and welcome to America, Kate!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hospice Care

This Wednesday at 9:00 A.M., dad and I will meet mom's hospice team.  The team consists of four people, a social worker, nurse, chaplain, and assistant.  I've only heard good things about hospice teams, but I'm still confused as to why the doctor thinks mom needs one now.  I've seen mom in much worse shape than she's been the last few weeks. She's not nearly as sleepy or lethargic as she was a month ago.  Plus she's talking clearly, again, and more social.

I had a lengthy conversation with the head nurse on mom's wing.  She understands my confusion, but agrees with the doctor that mom is nearing the end.  Although the end is probably six to eight months away.  It's primarily based on mom's pattern of weight loss. They believe some of the reason mom's not eating much is because she's getting weaker. All of her muscles are fading, including those in her throat.  However, the head nurse and hospice consultant warned me that some patients improve under hospice care.  In fact, they've known patients who went in and out of hospice several times before passing.

That's what I fully expect mom to do.  I've lost count of how often we've thought she was on her way out one week just to miraculously improve the next.  Why should this time be any different.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Have iPad Will Travel

I've never traveled with my laptop outside the United States.  My old laptops were too heavy and the power cords too big.  It made more sense to just use the hotel's business office or an Internet Cafe to check email every few days.  For entertainment in airports, on planes, and during evenings in the hotel, I always brought a portable DVD player, a number of DVDs, and magazines that I could trash after reading.  And, this year, I began bringing my Kindle, also.

iPad Jacket CA120
Magellan's iPad Jacket
Now that I have a light-weight MacBook Air, however, for the first time I considered bringing a laptop on our next overseas trip.  But then I thought about how bulky it would be to carry while touring.  If I left it in the hotel room, I would worry about it being stolen.  (That's never a concern with a portable DVD player, which is much cheaper to replace and doesn't hold all of my documents and photos.)  So I decided to take a close look at my iPad instead.

The lighter-weight smaller iPad is much more portable than a laptop.  And its charger is a third the size and weight of the MacBook Air's.  Plus, we can watch movies downloaded before we leave, and receive and send emails on the iPad.  And, with the Kindle app and iBooks, I can read books on the iPad.

Before making a firm decision, however, I did some research.  The first thing I found was a travel case at Magellans.com that will make the iPad easy to carry while touring.  I got it in black so Jim won't mind carrying it too.  Now we'll be able to use the Internet anywhere there's free WiFi, such as a coffee shop or restaurant, to get more details about our next stop.

Next I found several movies on iTunes for just $4.99.  Downloaded, we now can watch movies on the iPad even without WiFi.  No more hauling a portable DVD player, bulky charger, and case of DVDs.

I then purchased the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit.  I'll now be able to transfer pictures from my camera to my iPad, freeing up space on my memory cards and maybe even emailing a few to family and friends while we're away.

Finally, I thought about leaving my Kindle at home.  If I was traveling alone, I probably would.  But, for this trip, I think there will be times when I'm reading with the Kindle while Jim's surfing the web or watching a movie with the iPad.  No problem.  Deciding to travel with the iPad has freed up more than enough space in my carryon for a Kindle in a small 5"x7" case.

Hopefully, all will work out as planned.  If it does, I'll be extremely proud of my high-tech self.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jewelry Clean Out

I spent most of last night and this morning beginning to clean out my stash of jewelry. Probably two-thirds of my collection is fashion jewelry.  The other third is mostly sterling silver with some 14k gold.  I have one 18k piece, my wedding ring, which was upgraded as a 25 wedding anniversary gift.

I've been frustrated with my jewelry for years.  The big problem is it's not in one place.  It's stuffed in two areas of my clothes closet, a dresser, and a jewelry cabinet.  As a result, I can never easily see or remember all the pieces I have and just end up rotating a small percentage.  My current goal is to get down to just two storage locations.  I'm unable to consolidate into one due to space restraints.

The first step is to get rid of pieces I no longer like or will never wear again.  This is easiest to do with fashion jewelry, which has no real monetary value.  And since the fashion jewelry takes up the most room, it's the best place to start anyway.

So far, I have one large Ziploc bag full of jewelry for the next charity that calls.  It's a small dent, but at least it's a start.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Repurposing

When the cascade sweater came in fashion three years ago, I embraced it.  I have at least ten of them.  Some have stripes, but most of them are a solid color.  The black one has gone with me on several trips.  It doesn't wrinkle, looks great with almost everything, and takes up little room in a suitcase.

But this year the cardigan is back in style and I'm finding it more flattering because it's fitted.  Now when I put on a cascade sweater, I often think all the flow adds weight.  I still wear them, but find myself more and more grabbing a cardigan instead.

Fortunately, however, I've found another use for many of my cascade sweaters.  They make great lounge wear.  I love pulling one over my PJs, wrapping the excess material around me, and snuggling into the couch for a night in front of the television.  It's great when repurposing works out so well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cheering for the Home Team

Jim is the only one in our immediate family who likes sports.  Fortunately, he's not obsessed.  But he does like to watch the local baseball or football team if we're home.

As you might have heard, our home team, the St. Louis Cardinals, are in some sort of race. And I think they're currently in the lead.  Jim attempts to get me interested, but it never works.  I simple couldn't care less about sports.

I will not be surprised, however, if someday Jonah shares papa's interest in sports.  I hope he does, because it would be so much fun for Jim.  In fact, I can easily see Jonah playing baseball, soccer, or basketball.  (I'm already telling him, "no football!")  And, when that happens, Jim will no longer be the only one in the family cheering for the home team.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No More Piles!

Before I converted our sitting room into a home office, there were always piles of receipts, bills, coupons, magazines, and flyers on the kitchen counter.  Sometimes they overflowed to the kitchen table.  For a person who hates clutter, it drove me nuts.

I had high hopes for finally managing all the piles when I set up the home office.  Besides the desk with two file drawers, the room includes a four-drawer file cabinet and two eight-foot cabinets with shelves on top and two large file drawers on the bottom.  There is plenty of file storage for all my needs.

Nevertheless, there are still piles.  The good news is they're no longer in the kitchen.  The bad news is my desk is usually a mess.  I work around, on top of, and through the piles until I can't take it any longer, which happens every 2-3 months.

Today was a piles clean-up day.  After four hours, I once again have a neat desk top and feel super organized.  And, as always happens at this point, I'm determined to never let a pile form again.  Please wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fighting Panic Attacks

I've been claustrophobic for as long as I can remember.  It's never been a problem, however, until recent years.  I still go into elevators even though I don't like them.  But I will no longer tour caves, go on theme park rides with no natural light, or go up the St. Louis Arch or Empire State Building.

In the last two years, I've had two panic attacks in closed-in spaces.  The first one took place in a tunnel in Soeul.  At the time, I don't think it helped that I was sleep-deprived and anxious about being so far from home.  The second one happened while being held in a tunnel between an airport terminal and our airplane.  Again, my adrenaline was high before I even got to the holding space due to several security annoyances.

I now try to control my stress level before entering a tight space with deep breathing and stretches.  But, in all honesty, I know I won't always be successful.  So, after years of worrying that my claustrophobia would eventually keep me from flying, I've decided to take action.  I am now armed with Xanax to fight future panic attacks.  And I already feel better just knowing I have a defense.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Time for Hospice?

For the last 2-3 weeks, mom's been more vocal and social, so it was a bit of a shock to get a call today about hospice care.  Apparently, a measure of decline in a patient with Alzheimer's disease is weight loss.

Mom's been losing weight for months and recently dropped another 11 pounds in two months.  Last month, speech therapy stepped in, trying to learn what foods mom likes after determining there was no physical problem.  Mom favors fruit, but still eats very little.  I guess she no longer feels hungry, which is a sure sign the disease is progressing.

I always thought hospice was for people who were extremely weak and on their death beds. Mom is still spending her days in a wheelchair, and continues to have bouts of aggression. Nevertheless, hospice will be called this week to conduct an evaluation.  If it's determined mom is ready for their help, she'll be put under hospice care and the family will enter a new phase of this horrible disease.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Too Hot!

Another day in the 80s; another day of A/C.  It's October 9 and I'm ready for weather in the 60s and 70s.  If I wanted to wear shorts and sleeveless tops in the fall, I'd move south.

I only put out half of my Halloween decorations this year.  Up until now, I just haven't had the time.  And now, any "free" time is spent preparing for our upcoming trip.  But I've noticed there aren't nearly as many houses or businesses in the neighborhood decorated as usual either.  I honestly think it's because it still feels like summer.

At this rate, I'm just hoping it cools before the holidays.  It sure would be weird to wear short-sleeves and sandals to Christmas mass!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Packing

This morning I worked on deciding what clothes to pack for Ireland.  I hate this part of any trip.

My usual problem is too many options.  Apparently a lot of travelers have the same problem and choose to pack everything.  Every time I fly, I'm amazed at the amount of luggage most people haul.  Not only do I not want to lug a lot of suitcases, I also don't want to keep track of more than two, including my carryon.  But I also don't want to do laundry when I'm on vacation.  So I need just enough clothes to get me through a week even if I end up spilling coffee on myself.  And, yes, that has happened.

Today I got an excellent start.  In fact, I'm nearly finished.  I just need to edit out one cardigan and purchase one more essential short-sleeve black t-shirt.  My packing skills just may be improving.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Never Say Never

I am not a Jennifer Lopez fan.  I came to the conclusion she's a prima donna when she was engaged to Ben Affleck.  During a televised in-depth interview with the couple, Lopez made several statements that led me to believe she feels entitled.  When Affleck broke off the engagement, I imagined his mother jumped for joy.

When I heard Lopez was launching a line of clothes and accessories at Kohl's, I just knew I would never buy anything from her line.  But during recent shopping trips, I've been drawn to her tops, sweaters, and handbags. So far I've been strong, but I'm weakening.

The handbags will probably be my downfall.  I have always loved handbags and Lopez's have just the right amount of style and fun.  Plus, with coupons and Kohl's Cash, I could probably buy all three of the bags on the right for less than $100.

Darn the prima donna's good style sense and Kohl's great prices!  I should have known better.  Never say never.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank You, Steve Jobs

For the past couple of weeks, I've been ending the day watching Mad Men on my iPad.  I'm a Netflix subscriber and Mad Men is currently available through their Instant Watch.  With lights out, I settle into bed and watch until I can't keep my eyes open any longer.  I'm losing sleep as a result, but it'll all be over soon because there are only a few more episodes.

I suppose I have Steve Jobs to thank (or blame) for my latest addiction.  What gifts he gave the world!  I'm not yet to the point of wondering how I ever survived without my iPhone or iPad, but I'm sure that day will come.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for all you gave us.  And thank you, God, for sharing Jobs with us even if it was for too short a time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Holiday Shopping

In the last ten years, QVC and Amazon have taken a lot of the stress out of holiday shopping for me.  Every year, during November and December, QVC offers special pricing on multiples of items, such as small flashlights and ornaments.  It makes it simple to find unique favors for the holiday staff lunch and family Christmas Eve dinner.  They also have good holiday pricing on jewelry, making it easy to find gifts for the two women in our office.

Amazon is my go-to online store.  Once I get a gift idea, I go straight to Amazon for a competitive price, free shipping, no tax, and delivery within two days.  And that's what I did earlier this week.

Because my grand-niece, Anna, will have a new cousin next year named Abigail, I got the idea to give her an Abby Cadabby doll.  Abby Cadabby is a Sesame Street character.  I did an Amazon search and found the perfect Abby doll and DVD.  Anna's mom is an Alice in Wonderland fan, so the Abby in Wonderland DVD was a nice find.

Because I like to have all of my holiday gift shopping finished by Thanksgiving, I'm happy to already be checking one person off my list.  Thank you Amazon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cooking fun

Yesterday I made two different pestos and a large batch of chicken stock.  For dinner last night, I tossed noodles, roasted chicken breast, and fresh broccoli and tomatoes, with the almond pesto.  Today I used some of the chicken stock to make a creamy soup.  It was another yummy dinner, spicy pumpkin soup with bavarian pretzels from the bakery.

For awhile, dinners around here had been a bit redundant.  But the power tools (food processor and submersion blender) are back in action and I'm, once again, having fun cooking.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Re-Thinking My Garden

Yesterday I harvested 75 percent of my basil.  So, this morning, I made two different pestos.  First I made almond pesto because I had a surplus of blanched almonds.  I then made traditional pesto, using pine nuts.  Turns out, I prefer the almond recipe.  That's a nice discovery since pine nuts are so expensive.

This morning's production confirmed my decision to grow more herbs next year.  As far as anything else, I'll just do two fruits, tomatoes and pumpkins.  This year, most of the vegetables and fruits were not worth the effort.  The few herbs I planted, however, yielded nice crops, producing more than I could use immediately.  But I recently learned how to freeze herbs, so now I'll have "fresh" basil and thyme all year for soups and sauces.

So, next year, it's herbs over fruits and vegetables.  I love having a plan.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Truth About Missouri Weather

Today was supposed to be our annual visit to the local pumpkin patch until both grandsons were diagnosed with strep throat yesterday.  I always hate when they're sick, but it was especially too bad this time because today was beautiful. The sun was shining and temperatures never got above 70 degrees.

Now we're facing another week of temperatures in the low 80s.  That's just too hot for this time of year.  I'm ready to wear long sleeves, pants, sweaters, or jackets everyday.  It was so much fun over the weekend.  I wore jeans with a cardigan or jacket everyday.  And I wore my new faux leather jacket with ponte knit slacks to the Repertory Theatre last night.

It's just too bad we can't count on the return of many sunny days in the 60s in the near future.  But, unfortunately, odds are better we'll quickly pass the 60s and plummet into the 50s and 40s, barely getting a taste of true fall weather.

And that's the truth about Missouri weather.  We have four seasons, but spring and fall are way too short.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Welcome October!

Jonah harvesting pumpkins
from grandma's patch.
He's a serious gardener.
We had a lot of warm days in September, so I'm especially happy to welcome October today.  Even though it's predicted to be in the low 80s several days next week, we now have to be nearing the end of much more Indian summer.

Fall in Missouri is such a beautiful season.  Yesterday I noticed the leaves are changing colors.  And, since we've had some rain, lawns are going from brown to green, again.

With the start of October, I'm also getting more excited about our upcoming trip to Ireland.  This week I got out the luggage and picked up our Euros pack from AAA.  I'll now be mentally rehearsing my packing strategy until the night before we leave.  I sometimes wish I could travel like Jim, leaving all the details to someone else.  But, unfortunately, I know I would never be comfortable not doing it myself.

So today I welcome October and look forward to all the fun it brings.