Saturday, March 29, 2008

Have You Ever...

... had to look for something in someones poo by stirring it with a large Popsicle stick?


You're lucky.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Here's a Question

For all the Riversidians:

What happened to Los Amigos on Main Street. Tabitha and I drove past there on Monday and Los Amigos, our favorite hole-in-the-wall taco stand, was gone.

There was an empty lot where the home of our favorite crispy shredded beef tacos used to reside. A smooth dirt lot. Not one sign of the covered dining patio, the parking lot, the panhandling homeless dude, or the little screens covering the ordering window.

I shed a tear.

So There I Was...

... eating lunch at my desk. I love Panda Express's Kung Pao Chicken. I had picked out all the bell peppers but I was happily munching on the red chiles. Those things are hot but they sure are tasty.

As I was chewing up a mouthful of chicken, chile and rice, disaster struck.

I sneezed.

Little bits of chile pepper invaded my nasal cavity. My nose started burning from the inside and my eyes started watering. I was coughing and laughing at the same time. My coworker was laughing at me.

My tender nasal membranes were burning.

It felt so good. It's still burning a little.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let Me Tell You About Something that Changed My Life

About three years ago, Tabitha and I decided that something was missing in our lives. Oh sure, things were going just fine. We were happy and healthy. We had a beautiful daughter and a lovely home. We just wanted more. We wanted to get the most out of... our carpet.

We put the old Hoover out to pasture and dropped five medium on a Dyson Animal. It was amazing. It was quiet. It was bagless. It was purple. It sucked more dirt out of the carpet than I thought possible. And all the suckings spin around in the chamber when you're vacuuming. It's like a psychedelic dirt show.

I know that some say there are better vacuums out there. I don't care. When you buy a Dyson, you're not just getting a super-sweet vacuum, you're joining a community. A community of cool, hip vacuumers. Most of the people we know have Dysons now. It just kind of happened. Electrolux owners don't seem as interesting now.

The accessories can be a little fiddly and difficult. There are a couple of attachments that I have no idea how to use. Aidan pretends they are space-ships. This doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for the Dyson one bit. I love this vacuum.

I saw the Dyson Root handheld vacuum at Target the other day. Someday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Okay, When Your Wife Notices...

... you're officially old.

Tabitha and I were working in the yard yesterday when she looked at me and said, "What is that?" She touched my hair. Did I have a bug in my hair? Was I bleeding?

"You have a lot of gray hairs. Wow."

Hiking Mount Rubidoux

Abigail and I hiked to the top of Mount Rubidoux this morning. She has been very excited about the hike since I told her about it last week. Last night she packed her backpack with things she would need. Stuff like "Lamby" - her stuffed sheep, her coloring book, a bottle of water and some strawberries and apples.

Looking at Downtown Riverside.

We hiked up the Mount Rubidoux Trail.

Abigail striking a pose in front of the tower.

Enjoying a break on top of Mount Rubidoux.

Abigail takes pretty good photos. Too bad her dad is such a geek.

Taco Station, home of some of the best food in Riverside. Lamby is stealing some of Abigail's rice.

Monday, March 24, 2008

So You Have Some Leftover Easter Ham

I love Split Pea Soup. I remember my Grandpa making it back when I was a little whipper-snapper. Here is my recipe for Split Pea Soup:


8 cups water
1 lb rinsed split peas
2-3 cups diced ham
1/2-1 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup diced onion
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp sage
salt and pepper to taste


Place the ingredients in a pot. Cover and simmer over low/medium heat until the peas are tender and the soup has thickened. Stir occasionally. Enjoy.

It doesn't look very tasty yet. Give it time.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Empty Tomb Day

While I'm not at the point of going to church only twice a year, I am still a relatively infrequent attender (Work. What can you do?). However, I did go today. I even wore long pants.

It was a good service. A-Dub did a fine job leading worship and even threw in a hymn for the traditionalists like me.

We had dinner at our house with Grandpa Andy and Grandma Terry. This afternoon I hid eggs in the backyard for the kids to find.

Aidan was more interested in eating his Cadbury Caramel Egg than looking for Easter Eggs. Chocolate is way better than a hard boiled egg.

Abigail was up for the hunt.

There's one.

She's a cutie.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The End of Diapers?

Aidan has gone poo-poo in the potty. Twice.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Light at the End of the Tunnel, Maybe

Tabitha has been seeing a nephrologist for a few years now. The doctor monitors her blood for certain proteins that indicate the health of her kidneys. She has to limit her intake of calcium and potassium to reduce the strain on her kidneys. She lives a normal, if somewhat tired, life.

The good news is that Tabitha does not currently need dialysis. But it looms in her future. The other good news(?) is that her kidneys are damaged enough that they can do a transplant.

Last fall her nephrologist started screening her for a kidney/pancreas transplant. For the past several months Tabitha has undergone a battery of tests to determine her overall health. It turns out that she is pretty healthy in spite of having diabetes for 25 years.

Yesterday we met with the transplant team for the first time. They explained what is involved in an organ transplant. Once Tabitha is placed on the transplant list we will likely have to wait 2-3 years for her transplant, but an organ could become available any time. We have to be ready to go.

One person's loss of life becomes our gain.

When the transplant is complete, Tabitha will have to take several anti-rejection medications that will suppress her immune system. These medications have side effects. What she won't have to take is insulin. Her donor pancreas will produce the insulin her body requires. She won't have diabetes after her transplant.

So now we wait.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad...

In 2001, after three years of trying, we found out Tabitha was pregnant. Because of Tabitha's diabetes, she had a high risk of developing complications. Tabitha and our baby might not survive the pregnancy.

After months of check-ups, badgering from the diabetes nurse, and many missed days of work, Tabitha woke up early one morning with severe back pain. We gathered up her things and drove to the hospital. When she arrived, they took her vitals and hustled her up to the delivery room. It was a month before the due date, but Tabitha's blood pressure was reaching dangerous levels.

The OB decided to induce labor.

Six hours later our little miracle entered the world. They immediately took Abigail to the NICU to stabilize her blood sugar levels. Tabitha was moved to recovery before she had a chance to see Abigail. It was two days before Tabitha's blood pressure dropped enough where she could hold Abigail.

Abigail was healthy but the pregnancy had damaged Tabitha's already weakened kidneys.

Our First Open House

Tonight was Open House at Abigail's school. We wandered the classroom looking at her art and admiring how far she has come since the first day of school.
Abigail and Tabitha peruse some schoolwork.

Aidan wants to know if plastic corn is edible.

I Knew It Was a Conspiracy

Tree Hugger Freaks!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Explanation Of Sorts

Tabitha was diagnosed with Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes when she was 11 years old. Her mother noticed that she was constantly thirsty, had to go to the bathroom all of the time, and was losing weight. After about two weeks in the hospital, Tabitha was stable enough to go home.

But life had changed.

An intelligent, active, out-going girl who believed she could do anything suddenly had to deal with a chronic disease. People acted differently around her. Some of her friends stopped hanging around with her. Tabitha's teachers and parents started treating her with kid gloves.

Every diabetic eventually suffers from the same complications. Diabetics are prone to heart disease, blindness, amputations due to neuropathy, and kidney failure. By keeping tight control on their blood sugar, they can delay the onset of the complications as long as possible.

Insulin is a hormone that allows our bodies to metabolize carbohydrates. In Tabitha's case, her pancreas stopped producing insulin. If she doesn't take insulin, her blood sugar will rise out of control. This high blood sugar is what eventually causes the complications.

Another problem is hypoglycemia, low blood sugar. If she takes too much insulin, doesn't eat enough, or exercises too much her blood sugar can drop to dangerous levels. If she drops low enough she could go into a coma.

When Tabitha was first diagnosed with diabetes, insulin was like carpet bombing. It wasn't very precise. She had to balance two types of insulin that had different durations of effectiveness. She had to eat the right amounts of food at the right time. A sugary dessert could throw her levels completely out of whack. Insulin is now like a precision guided bomb - just the right amount, at just the right time. But it's still not as good as your healthy body producing its own insulin.

When she was pregnant with Abigail, Tabitha's doctor changed the insulin to a type that allowed her to tailor her insulin levels more closely to what she actually ate. It was closer to how a healthy body delivers insulin. This was much more effective but she was still very "brittle."

"Brittle" describes a diabetic who is very sensitive to insulin. If she exerts herself just a little more than normal or doesn't eat enough, her blood sugars drop. Several times, Tabitha's students have had to run to the office because she was acting "funny." Finally, last year she got an insulin pump.

The insulin pump is a small electronic device that delivers a programmed dose of insulin sub-cutaneously every hour - this is the "basal" rate. At meal times, Tabitha enters her blood sugar level and the anticipated number of carbohydrates she is going to eat. The pump then recommends an amount of insulin to cover the meal - this is the "bolus." The pump has allowed Tabitha to have much more control over her blood sugar levels.

But there's still a problem.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fun With Paint

Tabitha let Abigail and Aidan do some painting this weekend. They really enjoyed it.

Time for Flowers

It is a beautiful day today. I mowed the lawns and then planted some flowers in front of the house. The colors are popping in the clear spring-like air.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Great Indoors

I am a die-hard indoorsman.

I don't like to sleep outside. I don't like it when little mice run across my sleeping bag. I don't like having to check my sleeping bag for rattlesnakes (I hate rattlesnakes). I don't like sleeping when there are mosquitoes buzzing around my head. I don't like sleeping on top of a small rock. I don't like sleeping on an air mattress that deflates in the middle of the night leaving me on top of a small rock.

I don't like being dirty. I don't like having greasy hair. I don't like having a choice between dirty underwear and no underwear. I don't like having to bathe in an icy cold mountain stream when the sun has dipped below the horizon.

I don't like going to the bathroom behind a tree. I don't like going to the bathroom in a pit toilet that was vandalized by a previous occupant. I don't like using leaves as toilet paper.

I don't like eating freeze dried food. It never looks as good as it does on the label. I don't like fiddling with a cranky stove to use half of my fuel supply to make a pot of bad coffee. I don't like having to run my water through a filter to keep me from spending the next few months fighting off a wicked case of diarrhea.

I do however, like to hike. There is nothing better than walking up a mountain trail while breathing in clean air. I have dreams of walking all over this great country of ours. I just don't dream of having to sleep outside.

I have seen walking tours of Great Britain and Ireland. You walk along trails through the countryside, stopping in pubs for lunch and dinner, and spending the night in B&B's.

That is my kind of backpacking trip. Good food, good beer, a warm shower, and a comfortable bed. That would be awesome.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Running Girl

Abigail just told me she was going to exercise. I went downstairs and saw her running laps in the backyard.

Maybe she will be a world class runner like her Grandpa Andy.

BMW Drivers

We all know what BMW drivers are like. They are so smug behind the wheel of their precision engineered German automobiles. They drive too fast, cut you off, and won't yield at a stop sign. BMW drivers are jerks.

Today I am a BMW driver. Tabitha's Mini is in the shop so I am driving a 328 Coupe loaner car.

Ahem...can I tell you something. I love driving BMW's. This is the third 3 series service loaner I've driven and I have loved them all. They are smooth, fast, stylish, comfortable, and have just the right amount of luxury. If I could afford one, I would buy one. Maybe a 328 wagon with all-wheel drive for those trips to Montana.

Sorry for being a jerk.

Man of the Soil

We have clay soil where we live. Clay soil is good for making adobe and pots. I don't want to make adobe or pots so our soil is kind of useless. It is hard as a rock when dry and super sticky when wet. In its natural state it is not very good for growing a garden.

So I have been creating an unnatural soil. I'm shovelling in compost and gypsum to break up the clay and provide nutrients for our garden. It's a slow task but I figure within the next five years we will have nice rich loamy soil for our garden.

The earthworms are helping too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

I'm so hip I hear about new music on NPR.


My wife, Tabitha, is an artist and collector. She collects items for use in future art projects. Unfortunately I keep her so busy with her job and the children that she has little time to actually work on her projects so the clutter builds up.

For years she collected her old beauty products. She had dozens of bottles of lotion, cleanser, and make-up. And then one day she did this:

She emptied all of the bottles into this jar. It is called "Beauty." I was concerned that we would start a chemical reaction but our house hasn't burned down yet. It was originally a congealed mess with the fat more evenly distributed. As time has passed the layers have become more defined.

Her latest collection is milk cartons. She is actually using them for a ceramics project with her students. In the meantime, we have been tripping over milk cartons. They are going to school tomorrow. And yes, Aidan is lactose intolerant.

For a while now I have been saving bottle caps. I'm not sure what she is going to do with them. I'm just saving them. This one is tough for me - open a Guinness, drink it, don't throw away the cap. I am a regular patron of the arts.

We have stacks of magazines around the house. She saves those to use in projects at school. In the garage, there are two plastic bins filled with old insulin syringes and empty bottles of insulin. That is going to be a really cool piece.

I can't blame her for all the clutter around the house. I'm pretty lax when it comes to putting clean laundry away. The kids are no help either. As soon as we put their toys away, they pull them back out. As I sit at the computer writing this, I see stacks of paper shoved into little nooks. This is my filing system. It's no wonder I have trouble finding things.

In spite of the clutter, I wouldn't trade my artist for anyone in the world.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tropic Of Cancer

I remember looking at a world map when I was a kid and seeing the "Tropic of Cancer" stretching across Latin America.

I was concerned because I had also seen a map showing the advance of "killer bees."

Was cancer, like the killer bees, coming to America?

Ruh Roh Shaggy

I don't care for Scooby Doo. I'm not going to go on a rant or anything. I'm just going to say I don't like Scooby Doo.

Maybe I'm biased against Hanna Barbera.

How many times could they use the same background in one short?

Our Weekend in Santa Maria

My Dad flew down from Montana for Uncle Ramon's funeral in Santa Maria. We had a burial service on Friday and a memorial at First Baptist on Saturday. I took the kids with us to give Tabitha a break.

Uncle Mark and Aunt Toni were kind enough to give us a place to stay for the night. The kids and I stayed in their master bedroom while Grandpa slept in the den. Uncle Bob and Aunt Elaine stayed in the guest bedroom. Toni made sure the kids had toys to play with and full bellies.

My Grandpa had this merry-go-round built in 1950. Abigail is the third generation to enjoy it.

The merry-go-round moved from Long Beach to my Grandparent's house in Santa Maria. When my Grandma moved out of the house, Uncle Mark installed it at his house.

The kids didn't last very long in the memorial service so we went out to the playground. I don't think Aidan is afraid of heights.

It was a beautiful day.

They enjoyed spending time with Grandpa. Too bad he had to go back to Montana.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Call and Response

Heard in the car on the way home from Uncle Ramon's memorial service:


And so on. It's nice when Grandpa comes to visit.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Sara

My little sister is getting older.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cast Iron Skillet Cooking

It's kind of funny to read the Google searches that lead to my blog. Apparently a lot of people are interested in cast iron skillets. They want to know what to cook in one, how to clean one, how to remove rust, etc. I feel like I have let those people down. I don't want anybody to be disappointed when they come across my blog. So here is a recipe using the cast iron skillet.

6 frozen boneless chicken tenderloins
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves chopped garlic
dried basil
1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 box rotini pasta

1. Heat skillet over a medium flame.
2. Pour the olive oil in the cast iron skillet.
3. Run the frozen chicken tenderloins in cold water to remove the ice crystals. Dry with a paper towel.
4. When the oil is hot, put the garlic in the skillet.
5. When the garlic starts to brown, put the chicken in the skillet.
6. Fill a pot with approximately 6 quarts of water. Add approximately 1/4 cup of salt to the water.
7. Place water pot on stove on high heat.
8. As the chicken starts to defrost, use your spatula to cut it into small cubes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Add basil and oregano to taste.
11. Brown the chicken.
12. When the water boils dump in the box of pasta. Stir.
13. Don't let the chicken burn. Reduce heat if you have to.
14. Stir the pasta.
15. When the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and drain the pasta.
16. Open and drain the can of tomatoes. Put in the skillet with the chicken. Stir.
17. Dump the pasta into the skillet (your skillet is big enough isn't it?)
18. Stir.
19. Enjoy.

Abigail and Aidan really like this except for the chicken and tomatoes.

Not Again

This has been a tough flu season. It seems like the kids have been constantly sick since before Christmas. One cold clears up and then the next one pops up a couple of days later.

Abigail had a fever on Tuesday so I kept her home from school. Grandma Terry was kind enough to stay home with her today and take her to the doctor. Abigail has her second ear infection in two months. Time for another round of antibiotics.

I can count on one hand the number of days that Aidan has not had a runny nose. I didn't know such a small boy could produce so much mucus.

Spring is coming.

Yay for Spring.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Another Tale of Navy Woe

The first cruise I went on when I was in the Navy was a two month trip to Korea. We were at sea for 30 days participating in a multi-national exercise before putting into Pusan, Korea for 4 short days of liberty.

When we left Korea, a typhoon was ravaging the western Pacific. Navy ships don't willingly sail through typhoons. Why deal with 50 to 100 foot seas when you can avoid it. Even though we didn't sail through the storm, we certainly felt its effects.

For a week we had 25 foot seas. The USS Missouri was a "wet" ship. The bow plunged deep into the oncoming waves as water rushed down the deck. It was unsafe to go outside so the weather decks were closed. Finally after a week of rough riding, the seas subsided to the point where we could go outside and clean up.

The decks looked like... well... like a hurricane had passed through. There were fire hoses strewn across the deck, fire extinguishers hanging loose, and everything that wasn't welded or bolted on to the ship was loose. Navy ships are known for being ship-shape. Somebody had to clean up the mess. That was us - the Deck Department.

I was on the main deck on the port side cleaning up. Every now and then a wave rolled down the length of the deck, forcing us to pick up our swabs and buckets to keep them from floating away. I was rehanging a fire hose when I turned just in time to see a massive wall of water coming over the side.

The ship could be steered from two places - the bridge and aft steering. Aft steering, buried deep in the bowels of the ship, was used in emergencies. Several times a day, the bridge conducted aft steering drills to practice shifting control of the ship. This time they made a mistake.

Instead of hitting the waves head on, they turned the ship so the wave hit from the side. The side of the ship went down and the water came up. As this wall of water closed in I had only a millisecond to decide what to do. I chose wrong.

I tried to climb up to the next level. The wall of water hit like a runaway train. I was slammed into the bulkhead and washed back toward the side. I could feel the fire hose in my hands. I knew it was attached on one end. There was no way I was going to let go of that hose if I were swept over the side.

I wasn't. I was laying on the deck in the fetal position with the fire hose in a death grip. A foot of seawater sloshed around the deck. My head hurt like crazy and I couldn't see because the wave had knocked off my glasses. I jumped up.

My shipmates were running around trying to figure out if anyone was hurt. I yelled, "Is my head bleeding?" One of my friends said, "No, look at your leg." I turned and saw that my pants had ripped from the belt down to the knee. I was bleeding from a puncture wound just below my right butt cheek.

I found my glasses on the deck. They were undamaged. I put them on and then made my way, soaked to the skin, down to Medical. They stitched up my puncture wound, gave me a tetanus shot, antibiotics and Motrin, and put me on light duty. I cleaned the head for the remainder of the trip home to Long Beach.

I still have the scar but I won't show it to you. The torn pants are in a box in the garage.

Did You Ever Get the Feeling...

... that your spouse is embarrassed to be with you in public?

No, me neither.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Isn't Technology Great?

When I was a youngster I was visiting my cousins Christy, Jeff and Darryl. They had one of the first Sony Walkman cassette players. If I remember correctly it had an accessory battery pack. They had a tape of Foreigner "4".

The first song I ever heard on a Walkman was "Urgent." It was awesome. It was like I was standing right in the middle of the band as they played. Up until that time I had only heard music played on scratchy LPs or from a transistor radio.

A cassette player that fit in the palm of your hand!?! With stereo!??!! That was the coolest thing ever.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

No Love From the Bosun

Many years ago I was a young seaman recently assigned to the Deck Department of the USS Missouri (BB 63). One of our many tasks was keeping the rust at bay. Salt water loves to eat steel.

We were chronically short of supplies for our constant painting. We didn't have enough paintbrushes, rollers, or paint thinner. We did have plenty of red lead primer and paint in various shades of gray.

One day we were painting the bulkheads on the main deck. I went to the paint locker to find a brush. The only one I could find had been used for the red primer. I searched in vain for a jar of thinner to clean the brush.

There I was with a dirty brush, a bucket of gray paint, and a bulkhead to be painted. I figured if I were very careful I could apply the gray paint without getting any of the primer mixed in. So I started painting.

I was doing a good job too. I checked my work and I couldn't see any primer spoiling my new coat of gray paint. And then the ship's Bosun walked by.

The Bosun, Chief Warrant Officer McTiernan, was covered in tattoos. He patrolled his domain with a chaw in his mouth, a cigarette in his lips, a cup of coffee in one hand and his spit cup in the other. He had been in the Navy since Moby Dick was a guppy. I was, quite frankly, terrified of the Bosun.

The Bosun walked past me and did a double take. He yelled, "What the f--- are you doing?" as he snatched the paintbrush from my hand and tossed it over the side. "Get another f---in' brush," he growled as he stormed off.

I found another brush.