Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow Day

I realized several days ago that I had not seen the sun nearly this entire month. A combination of going to work when it's dark, getting home when it's dark, and long stretches of gloomy, cloudy days have made my exposure to sunlight next to nil. My vitamin D stores have definitely been depleted.

That is why, driving home Sunday morning, even though I was post-call from a strenous night on Trauma, when I saw blue skies, I was determined to make it outside.

Ignore the fact that it was 15 degrees. Ignore the fact that it was rather windy. Ignore that fact that it was 4 degrees with the windchill. We did.

We focused on the fact that the sky was blue, the ground was covered in new snow that glistened and sparkled, and that the entire world looked magical.

We bundled the boys in snow pants, parkas, scarves, hats, gloves, snow boots (after all, it did feel like 4 degrees.)

We then trucked through the glistening snow to the hill at school for some sunshine and snow.

Inner tubing...

Snow angels...

Blaise insisted that he wanted to swing. When I said the swings were covered with snow, he calmly, in his three year old list, reassured me that he could just wipe the snow off.

The afternoon was good for the cabin fever I'm sure was starting to descend on the boys. There was plenty of laughing, screaming, and completely darling children.

After everyone was sufficiently chilled, we trekked back home through the blue shadows for hot cocoa and dry socks.

It is truly amazing that a few hours with a inner tube, a snowy hill, and a blue sky can be thoroughly therapeutic.

This is truly what memories are made of.

Scenes from Christmas

Christmas is hard to write about. It's hard to capture the magic, happiness, and closeness. And there are never enough pictures to portray it either. But this is a start.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


What do you do when you want a Christmas picture of the entire family, but there is no one around to take it? Well, you put the camera on the tripod, set it for timed photos, and wish for the best.

Wait, Mom's not in that one... Maybe the next one...

Nope, Mom's not in that one either...

Okay, finally, all four of us. Roman, keep your hands down.

Almost. Look at the camera, Blaise.

Ahh, there we go.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Popcorn, a la Christmas

It feels that at this time of year, everyone is sharing snacks and recipes. There are blogs with recipes swaps. Even the female anesthesia residents had a cookie-recipe sharing party.

And I really want to participate. I do. But I don't really like to cook (I hope this blog hasn't given you any delusions otherwise.)

And I don't feel that sharing recipes I either make up (with varying success) and can never replicate, or those that come on the side of a Campbell's soup can or the back of a bag of chocolate chips just don't really work (or count).

But to get in the spirit of sharing, and cooking, I will share the recipe to a snack that I make every Christmas.

This recipe actually isn't mine. My very good friend in medical school, who is now doing her residency in California, shared it with me. But I don't always share that detail when people are telling me how much they like this.

Caramel Popcorn:
8 cups popped popcorn (salted)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (dark corn syrup gives a richer flavor, but it tastes just as nice with light corn syrup.)

You can also add 1/2 cup peanuts, but we never do.

Heat oven to 350.
Melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to boil while stirring nearly constantly. You seriously do not want this to boil over. It is very hard to clean up off the top of the stove. Boil until the mixture starts to thicken. I'm sure there is some temperature that this mixture should reach, but I wouldn't even know where to begin. I just boil it until it gets just a little bit thicker and turns from clear to caramelly color.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn (in a very large bowl) and stir to coat evenly. If you want peanuts, be my guest and add them now. Spread on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Check halfway through and stir ensure even cooking. Don't let it burn. This will result in frustration on your part and disappointment on your childrens' part.

Remove from over, place in large (heat proof) bowl and let cool.

We always double or triple this recipe. Because it is that good.

If you want to make caramel popcorn balls, let the caramel mixture cook longer. This will make it thicker. Pour over popcorn and let cool just a little. Coat your hands with just a little bit of Pam (or other baking spray. Although I'm sure butter or oil would work fine too.) Shape into balls. Let cool completely. Do not put the popcorn balls in the oven. The result is not good. Just let them cool on the counter.

There will be caramel popcorn in our house to munch on while watching Mickey's Christmas Carol and another bag in the boy's stocking, to enjoy Christmas morning and to buy us a little more sleep.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Baking

Why is it that every holiday seems to revolve around food? All the holiday treats weaken my will power and tempt my sweet tooth.

Not that I'm really complaining. I do love treats.

Despite the fact that I tend to avoid the kitchen, there is something about holiday baking that draws me in.

I love having Roman and Blaise standing on chairs on either side of me, taking turns dumping in ingredients (occasionally missing the bowl.) I love the floury hands, the attempts to be subtle while picking at the dough, the delight on their faces at placing the cookies in the oven, and their excitement when taking them out.

It also doesn't hurt that there are now cookies in our house.

In the past, we've done sprinkles. Which are not the most child friendly way to go cookies. As it usually involves incredibly vigorous sprinkling and then several weeks on clean up.

This year, we "painted" cookies.

I can't take any credit for this darling idea, as I found it here.

The boys created their masterpieces without needing my oversight. The mess was minimal.

The delight was endless.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

I love Christmas trees. I could capitalize, bold, and underline the word love, then add two dozen or so exclamation points, and it still wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Putting up the Christmas tree, more than putting up the lights, baking cookies, or completing laps around overflowing store parking lots, marks the official start of the holiday season.

The tree gets put up (with only a little disagreement about what "straight" actually is). I wrap branch after branch with white Christmas lights. At that point, I think I like it best like that, and maybe this year we will only have lights on our tree.

But then I open the boxes filled with ornaments (all non-breakable, of course.) And then I let the boys decorate to their hearts delight.

Giant silver balls, small shiny gold ones, sparkly pears, glittery pine cones, copper wire stars, red and white (non-peppermint) candy canes.

Pipe cleaner wreaths, construction paper frames with smiling school pictures, a zoo of animals made from clay, puzzle pieces, paper, and Popsicle sticks.

Now, it is complete.

Well, almost.

All the ornaments are hung as waist height or lower. After Roman and Blaise are tucked in bed and sleeping, smears of Advent calender chocolate still on their faces, I rearrange and spread out the ornaments.

Our glittery, gold and silver tree is beautiful.

But then again, that's what I thought about our tree last year too. Poor little thing.

The glow of the lights fills the living room and twinkles through the window at me when I come home from work. The fresh smell of pine is subtle, but refreshing and homey at the same time.

And every 30 minutes or so, a Tonka truck, sword fight, or football reminds me of why I'm grateful for shatterproof ornaments.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Post-Thankgiving Reflections

Roman brought home his November journal on Friday. As I was reading through it, it was hard not to laugh right out loud. Sometimes you forget how observant children are.

For your holiday pleasure, I would like to share with you Roman's view of our house at Thanksgiving (trying to preserve the original spelling as much as possible.)

November 20, 09
For Thanksgiving my mom is going to bake a turkey. And is going to make a apple pie. Thoe they never have baked them. My mom made my dad make the pie becaues she was terufide (terrified) to bake one. They want to feel ecwle (equal).

November 30, 09
My mom didn't have to bake a turkey because we went to a friends hous and They baked a turkey. I saw teh drum stiks. We had a grate time. We had to eat a bite of everything we had on our plate.

I think that is probably the most insightful look that you may ever get into the workings of our family.

By the way, the bold, capitalized They above. His idea. Not mine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Over and Gone

It's official.

My vacation is over.

I'm pretty sure those were the fastest 10 days of my entire life. I think they passed even faster because I was so worried about wasting one second of those 10 precious days.

Nothing makes a vacation feel more over than a 13 hours trauma surgery shift. That starts at 5:30 am.

The Thanksgiving leftovers are gone.

The Halloween candy is (finally) gone.

And it's supposed to start snowing any day, so I guess autumn in gone now too.

But it was not without wonderful moments.

Sleeping in until the sun poured through my bedroom window.

Having the time to cook breakfast for my family.

Finishing the Christmas shopping.

Discovering a new park.

Working on our next home project (here's a clue...)

Final project will be revealed, well, when it's done.

I love being home so much it makes me wonder how I can ever go back to work. The very idea of being away from my boys nearly makes me sick. But I wake up, at 4:40 am, and go to work. For them.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


This was our first holiday away from family.

I had been approaching it with a mixture of homesickness, apprehension, and dread. The dread mostly came from the thought of having to cook a turkey. By myself. For the first time.

But I was rescued from this when some friends from medical school that also live in Iowa invited us to have Thanksgiving dinner with them. (Seriously, it is shocking how many people in Iowa are from Utah. Shocking.)

Having our little family of four expanded to a crowd of eight was wonderful. Dinner was delicious, company was wonderful, being rescued from facing an uncooked turkey on my own was heaven-sent.

Even so, I missed the loudness of Thanksgiving at home. Too many people in the kitchen at the same time. Turning around and finding new finger-shaped divets in the top of all the pies. Too crowded tables. Chasing children (and the occasional adult) away from the marshmallows on the top of the yams. The constant rumble of conversation.

Obviously, there is nothing like home.

But spending Thanksgiving with friends put the homesickness, apprehension, and dread at bay for some amazingly pleasant hours.

Not to mention, we have been enjoying what may truly be the best part of Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 23, 2009

White Water

I was told that I absolutely had to take the boys to the tailwater at the reservoir. I was told this by two people.

They tried to explain just why. It was noisy. There was a lot of water. The water moved fast.

I hope that you're just a little confused about why I absolutely had to take the boys there. Because after hearing this, I certainly was.

But we decided to go. In part, because, like I've said many times before, we just can't stay cooped up at home.

The reservoir is very high this time of year and at the tailwater is where the water comes out of the reservoir and joins the river. When the water is high, like now, it is quite impressive.

The water comes barreling out from under the dam at impressive speeds and when this fast moving water reaches the wide, slow, calm river, it collides with a roar. The crashing of the water creates spurts and waves and noise.

And all this delighted the boys.

So, yes, I guess I did absolutely have to take them.

I'm pretty sure I've done a terrible job explaining. I was sure that I would. So here is a little video that does better explaining. (with atrocious sound...I'm not sure how to fix it that doesn't involve a completely new camera.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Free Time

Today marks the first day of my first vacation of residency!

Well, vacation actually started last night, after a much needed girls night out to see New Moon. It was great. No work, no kids. I haven't had that in a long time.

I go back to work on December 1st, at which time I start Trauma Service. This excites me about as much as being told I have a cavity at an annual dental exam. Or Blaise falling asleep on my bed without a Pull-Up on.

So my goal is to make the most of the next 10, now 9, days. They are going to be the fastest days of my year so far, that much I am certain. Already, I can see the end of vacation and feel myself whirling through time towards it.

We thought a lot about going back to Utah for Thanksgiving. This is the longest I've gone in my entire life without seeing my family. I last saw them in June, 5 months ago. I'm not "homesick" in the slightest, since I don't miss Utah or our tiny, dingy apartment for a moment. But I am completely "family-sick." I do miss my family a lot. Since I managed to get vacation over Thanksgiving, we initially thought it would be perfect to go back home. But the 1200 miles were just an obstacle we couldn't overcome, at least this year.

We thought about flying. We could drive to Chicago and fly non-stop from there. But there are four of us, and financially that put that option out of reach. We thought about driving. But that would mean driving I-80 across Wyoming in November. First of all, the trip itself would take at least 1 1/2 days, one way. Which would mean 3-4 days out of 10 on the road. Yuck. Second of all, have you ever driven on I-80 across Wyoming in November? A storm would probably come up and then we would get stuck in Rawlins, Laramie, or Rock Springs for 3 days. Seriously. This happened to someone I know.

So we've made the decision to stay put here in Iowa for Thanksgiving. Although some good friends from medical school have invited us to spend Thanksgiving dinner with them, so we won't be spending it alone.

Keith and I also decided this "vacation" would be a great time to get some more work on the house done. We're already halfway through a project. Which I will post. Later.

We are going to finish Christmas shopping, put up Christmas decorations, sleep in, read books, and watch movies.

But most importantly, I'm going to use these days to spend as much time with my family as possible. Games, stories, outings, arts and crafts, blanket houses.

And in between and during all that, just being together.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Game Night

It now gets dark long before I leave work. The weather has been cold and wet (but fortunately no snow yet.) Between these, our ability to get outside and explore, or even take a walk around the neighborhood has been almost non-existent.

Many of our evenings have been filled with races, stories, or movies. But sometime, nothing beats a good game night.

While Roman and Dad fought it out over a very competitive game of BattleShip, I played Candyland with Blaise.

I can't believe that my "baby" is old enough to actually play a board game with me. Well, kind of.

Roman is able to set up his BattleShip board by himself, think out his coordinate calling strategy, and win a good portion of the time.

Blaise, on the other hand, is learning the ropes. After drawing a purple card, he kept insisting he be allowed to move to the purple near the end of the course. At least he knew you need to get there to win. He did tip over his piece so it was laying face down. "He doesn't want to play anymore," he said after I got the gumdrop card he had wanted. In the end, he did end up winning (completely fairly.) After a high five for winning, realization crossed over his face and he pointed at me.

"That means you lose, Mom!" He giggled loudly.

Yes, this is only the beginning. The competitive streak is alive and well.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Most of the time, I feel like our house is filled with stacks of unwashed dishes, piles of half-finished laundry, sand-filled shoes, books on the floor, paper airplanes stuck behind the couch, bouncy balls stuck behind the bookshelf, half eaten apples, untouched tuna sandwiches, too many text books, piles of junk mail, half-finished home improvement projects, unbalanced check books, missing coats, and "hurry, hurry, hurry."

But sometimes, I have a chance to clear my head, take a deep breath, and actually look.

And then I realize that our house is actually a home.

And it is filled with bedtime stories, extra marshmallows for hot cocoa, doors that open as soon as I get home, laughter, slobbery kisses, hugs around the knees, Candyland, bright shiny blue eyes, high fives for everything, jumping as high as you can, socks that slide perfectly, the chance to be a hero, stuffed animals that are real, memories, noses pressed against windows, stacks of artwork, snuggles, and love.

Oh, and a whole bunch of silliness!