7QT: Why you shouldn’t have parents as doctors if you can help it

One: So the winter crud has made it to our house at last. Four out of six of us are coughing and blowing our noses. Aside from buying softer Kleenex for them, I’m not much help.  Nobody around here gets grape-flavored cough syrup. Or even tincture-of-apple-cider-vinegar.  The only cough medicines I prescribe are water and honey.  Good thing I have a gallon of honey from the farm sitting on my counter.

Two: Any time someone coughs, Moriah yells, “Cough in your elbow!”  When we ask her to use a kind voice, she screams a sixth-grade-reading-level explanation of droplet precautions at us.

Three: Last night she (Moriah) had her choir concert, and Phoebe was hacking and coughing in the back row.  I like to think that- at least during the very cool, very loud drumming portion of the show- she wasn’t disturbing anyone too much.  The real bonus was that for that hour and a half, Moriah wasn’t screaming at her to cough in her elbow.

Four: I spent most of yesterday with a migraine.  I’m sure it was from the stress of having to put one of my very dear patients on a 72-hour psych hold. Ugh.  I will never get used to that.

Five: A very cool, very loud drum concert is not very good for a migraine.

Six: The children were even too sick to be fake Ebola patients for the hospital’s Ebola drill on Monday.  I was supposed to be the fake mother of the fake children sick with fake Ebola. Cough in your elbow!

Seven: Phoebe did get one benefit out of my surgical skills: her favorite mismatched pair of gloves had a hole in the index finger. Because she doesn’t have a smartphone, she didn’t need the hold in the finger and asked if I could fix it. Voila: finger transplant.

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Cough in your elbow! and visit This Ain’t the Lyceum for more 7QT.

phfr: Advent 3

Pretty: Almost anything can be pretty by candlelight, no?

This is our four-course meal, inspired by What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner? by Lisa Caponigri.  I think I took this photo just after I’d explained the concept and that I wanted us to linger, talking, and Owen asked, “So… what do you want to talk about?”
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Happy: I keep this little homemade flannelgram set rolled up with our Christmas books, and Phoebe was so excited to open it. She likes to tell the story over and over and over…
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Funny: Again, this cake was from our Sunday dinner.  It is a fantastic recipe which uses yogurt to make it moist.  So delicious.
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It will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from now on.  It calls for a 10-inch pan, which I used to have but was nowhere to be found.  I wonder if I gave it away when we were moving.  Anyway, I did my usual calculations… (“the area of a 10-in round pan is pi- times 25, or 78 in sq. My 8-in square pan is 64 in sq. The 9-in round pan is 63 in sq…”) and then realized that my large skillet has a diameter of 10 inches.  Perfect!

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I wish I had chosen a different plate on which to serve it, because the well in the plate made a little well in the cake that filled with a pool of ganache.  Though if you’re going to have a pool of anything in the middle of your cake, let it be a pool of  ganache.

Real: I’ve had to move the laundry line close to the house to keep it from tipping over in the wind.  My concrete bucket just isn’t quite heavy enough to anchor it, and it’s really gross when the laundry tips over into the grass where the chickens have been pecking and pooping.  But I can’t really complain about sunshine and warmth in December.
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The Weekend’s Jingle Bell Run

We had a blast on Sunday at Denver’s Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis research.  Last time we ran it, Sam was working, the temps were near zero, and I threw my back out trying to carry Phoebe inside my coat to keep her from getting frostbite.  Given that, it could have been pretty bad and still been better that 2012.

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Saturday night, we prepared costumes.  We went back and forth: Jonah wanted us all to go as characters from A Christmas Carol, but the execution on that was going to be tricky.  In the end, Sam & the girls went as Christmas gifts; the girls, Owen & I wrote letters to Santa asking for a cure for RA and pinned them on our backs, and Jonah was Jacob Marley.  I’m not sure anyone knew who he was, but he had a good time rattling his chains.

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Our friend Britta had us over for breakfast, and then we made our way to the race.  It was snowing big, fat, wet flakes which made the road slippery. Phoebe immediately fell in a big puddle.  I thought that was going to be it for her, but she pulled it together and walked the whole 5K.  Owen, Britta and I ran, though Owen sent us on ahead.

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Our kids commented on how the posters at the side of the course inspired them.  Walking for those who can’t.  Amen.  Let’s keep walking.

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Quick Lit: December

What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner?: A Year of Italian Menus with 250 Recipes that Celebrate Family (Lisa Camponigri): Part cookbook, part manifesto, this book really inspired me.  Camponigri’s goal is to help you craft a meal that will cause your family to linger. To talk. The food photos are gorgeous. Even the frontispieces, which are photos of her grandmother’s recipe cards, are beautiful.  We had a four-course dinner after I read this one.  Even if you’re not ready for that, give the book a read. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The Wanderer (Sharon Creech): This YA story is another one of Creech’s masterpiece’s, in which you’re not entirely sure what’s going on with the narrators.  Sophie, her two cousins and her three uncles sail across the Atlantic. That part you’re sure of, and each voice is distinctive.  Loved it.

Darker than Amber (John D. MacDonald): This Travis McGee mystery wasn’t my favorite, though it won’t keep me from continuing my jagged march through them.

Nightmare in Pink (John D. MacDonald): Travis McGee’s adventure this time was disturbing and kept me awake.  Oy. Don’t start this one late at night!

A Christmas Carol (Dickens): The kids begged for it this year. I don’t know what was different than previous reads, but we were all really into it.  We read the version with illustrations by Roberto Innocenti.

Cinnamon Skin (John D. MacDonald): This Travis McGee book comes on the heels of Freefall in Crimson. I don’t want to spoil either of them for you, but once I read Freefall, I really had to read this one.  Aside from the page turning story, I enjoyed MacDonald’s commentary on how computers were going to change the world.  He was dead on.

Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death: Lessons on Living from People Preparing to Die (John Fanestil): I picked this book up for a class I was preparing to teach at church. The class never happened, but the book is a worthwhile read. It’s less sensational than Peace, Love & Healing (Bernie Segal). Fanestil isn’t making promises to help you fight off the Grim Reaper. He’s describing what he’s seen and looking at the bigger picture.  I liked and still think it would make for a good read with a group.

For more Quick Lit, be sure to read Anne’s recommendations.

Phfr: while Daddy’s away

You know how it is. While Sam was gone, I was two hands short for every task. Now he’s home (hooray!!) and I’m catching up on my sleep. Everyone is happier.

Pretty: we had amazing weather. I dragged the children on a walk on Saturday. “But I don’t want to take a walk!” they said.
“Do you want to eat?” I asked.

We walked to a local Thai restaurant and took some games to stretch out our lunch. We saw this petty nest on the way.

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Yes, it really was that sunny. I came home with a raccoon-like sunburn, which made everyone at church think I’d been skiing. I wish.

Happy: So we got to the restaurant and played Bananagrams, Timeline and Mancala while we waited for our awesome Thai food to come. They seated us in the back of the restaurant, away from the other patrons. It put us rather near the store room and the stacks of beer boxes, but at least we had a nice, big table.

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Funny: Saturday night, the children begged to watch something on TV. We get two channels on a good day, and I don’t actually have any idea what’s on TV lately, except for the shows they advertise during Bronco games, which are certainly not appropriate for my children. The shows, I mean. Their friends at church and school love Dr. Who, but I haven’t watched Dr. Who since the fourth doctor (Tom Baker, with the long scarf), so I couldn’t judge whether that would be appropriate either. All my children know about Dr. Who are the Daleks (scariest alien ever!) from Mr. Bean’s Nativity sketch, and I don’t think they’re ready for Daleks.

So I loaded up an episode of the fourth doctor with robots gone wrong, and we watched it. The children were fascinated by the terrible special effects, and I reminded them that this was 1977 and they should have a little mercy.

The next day, Owen and I made these pizza rolls for dinner, and I include them here because the two on this side look like Daleks.  Exterminate!

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Real: While Sam was gone, the girls asked me for a few wall hooks for their secret hideout. I said No. They have a fun cupboard under the stairs that even has its own light; they don’t need to be affixing blankets to my walls as well. They they had another great idea, which was to push the couch out from the wall and drape the curtains over the back of the couch. Which was all fine until their brother came and sat on the couch- and the curtains, thus ripping the hardware off the wall.

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What was that I was saying about being short two hands?

For more everyday contentment, go check out Like Mother, Like Daughter!

St Nicholas Eve Daybook

Out my window: I got up early to take someone to the airport, so it’s already late as I write this.  Late, and light.  This weekend is supposed to be beautiful, and I’m wondering if it’s worth trying to drag the children into the mountains for some snow fun. Or maybe we should take a hike on the plains.  Or, more likely, we’ll just sit around in the house with the children playing video games and me wishing I were outside.

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What I’m hearing: Spanish from the study, where one of the boys is doing their Rosetta Stone. From outside, chickens clucking and squawking to announce they’ve laid eggs. Or that they want more popcorn. Or that they’re on the wrong side of the fence and can’t remember how to get back.  Also, Phoebe is wearing a velvet opera coat and dragging my commemorative umbrella from the royal wedding in 1981 around the house, thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka as it hits the joints in the floor.

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In the kitchen: not much.  We had some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast that were a little too full of chocolate chips, and then we had to find out of chickens can eat chocolate. [No.]  I would love to make peppermint bark today, but I don’t have any parchment.  Would love to make Pho, but I don’t have oxtails for the broth.  Who was the mother in the nursery rhyme whose cupboard was bare?

Tomorrow is St Nicholas Day, and normally I made a fancy breakfast. I’d better get off my duff and make a plan.

In the schoolroom: “It’s too much math!”  Two children have shouted this at me today.  By “too much,” they mean “any.”  We do math every day, and they don’t actually have any more than usual, but when they are feeling tired of work in general, it’s always math that takes the bullet. Why is that?

I’m trying to figure out how to talk to the children about the tragedy of racism in our country and our culture of police brutality. I heard a great interview on NPR today with Constance Rice, the civil rights attorney who worked to change the culture of policing in LA after the tragedies there in the 80’s and 90’s.  She had some great things to say about fear and how our fear changes us.  The antidote to fear is trust.  Good stuff, but still hard to know how to talk to my kids about it.

On my mind: obviously, race in America is on my mind.  Sean M. Watkins’s blog always helps me get outside of my little white-world-brain, but I have so far to go, and I confess that it’s much easier to retreat than press forward for change.  And because I am white and privileged, I can hide my head in the sand until I have the energy to think about it. I don’t want to be complicit in an injustice that affects my friends and neighbors on a daily basis. I don’t like that about myself.

[And the fact that I only read one blog reflective of black experience in this country is a sign of my insulated life.]

On my reading table: I just read three John A. MacDonald mysteries, all good.  And I’m starting Seabiscuit.  We are reading A Christmas Carol by Dickens (the first time the children have gotten into it as a book), which  made me pull out Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis.  The short story Adaptation alone is worth the price of the book.  In fact, I gave it to Jonah to read Adaptation, and he liked it so much he asked if he could read the rest of the book, too.

Grateful: that Eponine is a hen!! For the slow pace we’ve been taking this Advent (though I can’t make promises for next week!)  That my friends’ shipping container finally made it to them in Fiji (after  3 1/2 months).  For a great short run with my friend who is heading to Africa to serve in an Ebola treatment center.

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Praying for: Heather, Judy, Mandy, Jen, Clare, Sonia, Lisa, our missionary friends, the Philippines, margin.

{p,h,f,r}: Thanksgiving Weekend

Pretty: Here is the table set before Thanksgiving dinner.
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Here’s the other table, which we squeezed next to the couch. Sam had the brilliant idea to cover the couch with a sheet so that nobody accidentally wiped mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce on it. Hooray.

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Happy: This is the first Thanksgiving we’ve hosted in… well, maybe 18 years? It was so much fun! I pulled out a turkey recipe I made with my roommates during medical school.
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That’s a cheesecloth soaked in wine and butter (my recipe had no quantities, so I used a stick of butter and a cup or so of wine) on top of the turkey in a 450 degree oven to brown it. Then reduce the heat and cook until the red timer pops up. It was good.
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Of course I only have photos of dessert. The girls made these Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bites, Sam made “Grandma Judy’s Jello” and my friend Pam brought an awesome pumpkin pie.

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Funny: My kids’ favorite Thanksgiving tradition, apart from the aforementioned jello and seeing their cousins (which I couldn’t recreate this year), is playing “The Character Game.” We played it Thursday with all our guests, Saturday morning with friends we hosted for brunch, and Saturday night at the party we hosted for our children’s church volunteers. So I hope they got enough of it for a bit. Here’s how you play:

Each player chooses character (you can say “any animal” or “a historical figure” if you want to narrow things down, but “any character, real or imagined” works just as well) and tells the name in secret to the Writer. The Writer compiles a list of all the characters and reads it back to the players twice. For example, “Vladimir Putin, Minnie Mouse, Elmo, Joshua, Sully, Luke Skywalker, Janice Joplin.” Nobody asks “Who is Janice Joplin?” or that name will stick in everyone’s head.

Once the Writer reads out the names twice, the guessing begins. No one acts our their character; instead, they want to give nothing away. I might say, “Jonah, are you Luke Skywalker?” If he is, he joins my team. Then our team becomes my character [still secret] and can put our heads together to use psychology and our awesome memories to figure out who everyone else is. The winner is the last person whose name is guessed correctly. The trick is 1) to remember all the names, and 2) to pick a name for yourself that is just ordinary enough that it doesn’t stick in anyone’s mind.  This is a great game for a group of people of varying ages, because everyone can play. Only the Writer (who doesn’t pick a name for herself but observes the play) has to be able to read/write. Of course I don’t have a photo- I was too busy trying to remember all the names!

After everyone left that night and I was putting the leftovers away, I realized I had never put out the cranberry sauce.  No wonder there wasn’t any wiped on the couch.

Real: The one thing I’m still looking for to finish the house are pendant lights for the kitchen over the island. My mom and I went looking at a lighting store on Sunday. Sam’s only advice was “Don’t buy anything without me.”

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I saw the perfect thing hanging over a bar in Glenwood Springs during the summer. Thinking there might be a local glass blower or shop we could patronize, I went into the restaurant to ask where they got them. The hostess found the bartender who knew. “Venice,” he said. “They were hand-blown in Italy, and the owner brought them back in his luggage.” So much for that.

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Obviously I’m looking for blue.

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Lots to chose from, but nothing quite right.

For more everyday contentment, check out Like Mother, Like Daughter!