If I Were All Powerful

There are lots of things I would do, just in my own tiny spec of a corner of the universe:

-- My nanny is illegal, which makes me a felon, I think, for hiring her. She is fabulous and there could be no better caretaker out there for my son, legal or not. She was brought here by her abusive husband (who was subsequently deported for said assaults) and her kids are US citizens and she is not. Not only is she a single mom with three boys under 10, but she is legally prohibited from working to support her family. What kind of BULLSHIT is that? So, if I were omnipotent, I would start by making it possible for her to get a Real job, with insurance and paid vacation (althought I do what I can) and sick days and shit, like she dreams about.

--There's a woman who panhandles at the Mopac intersection near my house every weekday morning and into the afternoon. She's been there, reliably, for months now. I noticed today that she seems skinnier, not that she was particularly heavy to start with - she looked fit. Now, she's starting to look almost gaunt. If she can make it to the intersection every day, surely she could make it just as reliably to one of the nearby offices. If I were omnipotent (and a business owner), I would ask her to show up just as she is and find an entry level position for her and train her if necessary. If she can be that reliable and endure the hours on her feet in the sun, surely she could handle an air-conditioned office and a regular paycheck.

--I have a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago (her link is to the right - Shauna Wears Pink). She's made it through the chemotherapy and is going to go ahead and have a bilateral mastectomy, to help her chances of surviving to see her son grow up (and old). The cancer's behind her now - nothing I can do about that - but if I were omnipotent, I'd make it so she could keep her breasts. She nursed her son for 8 months, pumping up to 6 times a day to make sure that he had sufficient breastmilk because she went back to work full-time when he was 8 weeks old, and it meant so much to her, and to him, and I'm just very, very sad to have to say goodbye to her breasts, strange as that sounds.

--If I were omnipotent, karma would work a hell of a lot faster.

I love love love Thursdays

Because nice women come and clean my house while I'm gone and then I come home and it smells nice and I can walk barefoot and not feel little gritty things sticking to my feet and when I get into bed (which I am blessedly about to do), the sheets are soft and fresh and don't smell at all like sweat or cats (not that I particularly mind those smells, but fresh once in a while is good, too). I must give a shout out to my mom, who can craze me to no end and who can also be an angel from heaven, for funding the house cleaners. Thanks, Mom!


A Sudden and Lengthy Digression for Trees

The cub has walked. All by himself. Thank. God.

Also, it turns out he is speaking, just not in English. Today when I was home for lunch with him and our nanny, I realized he was saying "ah-wa" for water ("aqua") and "ma" for more ("mas"). Not only does my child speak, he's bilingual.

If you're interested in what's going on with the trees in Austin, here's a link to the Task Force's recent report. Like an idiot, I have volunteered to serve on the board of directors of my neighborhood association. The association's great - what makes me an idiot is thinking that I would have time to accomplish everything I'd like to. But, I figure, being over-educated and a total busy-body should be put to good use somewhere.

It's ridiculous how hard it is to find a copy of this report online. You may not realize it, but Austin Energy very recently has begun aggressively removing and severely cutting back trees to reduce power outages after storms. While tree-trimming to reduce electrical outages sounds logical, and it is, there was no evidence or study supporting the very aggressive removal and clearance standards that Austin Energy has recently instituted. Meanwhile, our neighborhoods, particularly central neighborhoods, are losing precious shade and beauty.

One morning in December some central Austinites woke up to find ribbons tied around their trees, indicating which ones were to be removed entirely and which were to be "trimmed" - i.e., severely cut back. They promptly went before the City Council and the City Council appointed a task force to study and report back on the laws, policies and procedures governing tree-trimming and removal by Austin Energy.

What they basically found is that there is really no oversight on the authority of Austin Energy to cut down trees on private property, there is no coordinated city policy or plan describing goals and objectives for urban forestry, and there is no procedure for coordinating tree-trimming plans with neighborhood councils or other existing community organizations. The task force made several reasonable, workable suggestions for remedying the current situation and better integrating Austin Energy's tree trimming practices with city and community organizations and long-term goals. They also suggested that Austin Energy reassess their new clearance standards and trimming cylces based on (duh) a study of species-specific growth rates and other relevant criteria.

Now it's up to City Manager Toby Futrell to review the task force findings and report back to City Council with recommendations. During City Council meetings last spring Ms. Futrell was reportedly dismissive towards some of the private citizens whose houses are now exposed to the glaring heat and whose backyard view has been altered from leafy and green to empty and industrial.

So why the sudden and lengthy digression? Well, (a) I care enough about the topic to not mind boring you with my rant; (b) "tree" was one of the cub's first words, which he then used for everything that he could point to; and (c) I romantically hope that the more people who are aware of the issues and what's at stake can only help things come to a sane, reasonable, and shady resolution.



Today I went for my first appointment with my acupuncture doctor since we tried to induce labor with the cub (it didn't work). I had gone to him before I got pregnant with the cub, having had two miscarriages, so that the third time I would definitely stay pregnant (it worked). Now that I'm having regular cycles again, and they're quite short again, and DH and I aren't specifically trying NOT to get pregnant (but not trying to either), I thought it would be good to get my qi back in line or whatever it is he does - just in case.

When we first started trying to get pregnant, we succeeded the very first time. We felt like pro's. Two months later I miscarried. There was no explanation or discernable reason; I just started spotting, which carried on for ten days, and then it was gone. Five months later I was pregnant again, and six weeks later that one also was gone. I was starting to feel hopeless.

When I had the second miscarriage, I had an image in my mind of my womb, and it was like a slippery, muddy slope. The baby (who I saw as an adult person) was trying to hang on, but they just couldn't. The shortness of my cycle wasn't enough to be out of the "normal" range by the standards of western medicine. My OB ran a few tests after the second miscarriage just to rule out a few things, and everything came back normal. I decided to try Traditional Chinese Medicine. I knew there was something about me that wasn't giving the embryo the chance that it needed to take root.

After a few months, my cycle was back to way it had been when I was 16 - twenty years ago. When I mentally imagined my womb, I saw a lush, green meadow. The next time I got pregnant, I stayed pregnant, and a little more than 9 months later we had the cub - all 9 lbs., 4 oz. of him. I really, REALLY hate acupuncture. I'm a total wuss around needles. But it's worth it.

Tonight we went over to a friend's house for a gathering to celebrate his 40-something-th birthday. There were lots of babies there. They were all walking except for the cub. Even the 10-month old girl. One well-meaning friend who has a habit of speaking whatever he's thinking without any internal editor asked me whether the cub, who at 14 months is neither walking nor talking, was developmentally challenged. If it had come from anyone else I would have been hurt and offended, but this friend is one of those rare people who is truly without guile. I laughed it off and explained to him that some kids don't walk until they're 15 months, and that the addition of a spanish-speaking nanny to his life would probably slow down his language development, and anyway boys are slower, yada yada yada. But the question stuck, and I told DH about it, and now we're both a little worried. Which I guess makes us normal, first-time parents. Of all the needles I've had to deal with today, the unintentional one stung the most.


Dinnertime at the Type A Household

I think I've mentioned that we now eat dinner together every night as a family. Although DH and I ate dinner together before the arrival of the cub, it was on the sofa in front of the TV. Now, we sit down at the table with plates and placemats and everything. And we talk. We tell each other about our day, babble with the cub, talk about weekend plans - when did we have these conversations before? We also eat quite early to accommodate the cub's schedule, which is way healthier for us, too. In fact, I may get nutty and start trying to exercise a little in the evening.

Dinnertime has become an especially Important Part of the Day for the dog. He knows all of the cub's meal and snack times, and whines and cries under the cub's high chair when we're running late. The cub is generous with his meals. The toddler books tell us that when the child starts to throw their food on the floor, they're done. Not so for the cub. After a few minutes of scarfing down his favorite foods for himself, as he approaches the more leisurely portion of the meal, he looks to either side of the chair to see where the dog is patiently waiting, carefully selects a morsel for him, and Bomb's Away! He's so delighted with this interaction with the dog that he sometimes gets carried away and throws his milk on the dog, too. Perhaps the dog would like some "drink" to wash down the salmon with homemade cilantro-walnut pesto and mashed potatoes with truffle oil? Very thoughtful of him, don't you think?

We've tried to tell the cub "No" and "Food stays on the tray" and such, which the cub finds hysterical. He shakes his head back and forth back at us with a big grin, mocking us: "Oh no, of course we don't throw our food to the dog, I wouldn't ever dream of doing that."

Tonight, DH went for a post-prandial walk-about and got the dog's leash. We were wondering whether he would abandon his post under the high chair for the rare treat of a walk (yes, we should walk him more often, but wait until you find out where his priorities lie). Nope, not a chance. The dog walked over to DH, sniffed the leash, confirmed there were no scraps around, and returned to his post under the chair.


Brentwood Tavern RULZ

The information-about-Austin-for-families-with-toddlers posts are admittedly a tad bor-ing, but I don't have anything else to write about tonight except to relate how fussy the cub is becoming. So, here's the latest in my attempts to be informative.

Brentwood Tavern is located on North Burnet, North of Koenig, adjacent to the Farmer's Market. There's an indoor seating area, but skip this unless you just really can't stand any more of Austin's heat, because the patio is remarkably pleasant.

There's shade, wrought iron and wooden chairs (no plastic loungers here), seriously yummy food, beer, live music, a kid's menu, and a PLAYSCAPE. Right next to the tables. If you're trying to eat more healthfully, well, frankly the choices are slim. The place is for omnivores, and I'm not sure that they even have any vegan options. When we're there, we skip the fried foods/quesadilla choices on the kids' menu and order the cub a plain chicken breast on a whole wheat bun, slices of avocado, and the bean casserole. The bun is sweet, which isn't a good sign for healthfulness, and the bean casserole is probably chock full of things I refuse to even have in my pantry, but once a month can't hurt, and the cub has so much fun in the middle of all the chaos and kids. And I get to sit down and drink a cold beer that someone else poured for me. The adult menu choices are sufficient, and I haven't had anything there yet that wasn't so yummy it was just wrong. One more thing - the staff there are accustomed to serving families with young kids, and I have never picked up a give-me-a-break vibe when I asked our waitperson to please bring us one more ... cup of milk, straw, fork, beer for mommy. They know their core clientele.


Outing to the Trails at The Arboretum

According to the temp gauge on the Subaru, it was a scorching 97 degrees this afternoon at 3:00. The cub had been inside all day because we had visitors from out of town and thus hosted a brunch so other friends would have a chance to relax and visit and we all had a nice mini-reunion around quiche, home-made biscuits-n-sausage gravy, fruit, way potent coffee, and mimosas. Mmmmmmmm. But the cub was non-plussed, and he wanted out.

Lord knows how many times I've driven past the pond at the back of the Arboretum shops, and yet I've never walked down the trail or explored the areas back there. Because of the shade, chance of seeing geese and ducks, and ability to duck into an air conditioned store if conditions became unbearable, we decided to set out for the unknown.

What a fabulous afternoon. We packed the cub's snack and water, took our "indoor" stroller in case we ended up in Barnes & Noble (of course we did, but we still should have taken the BOB instead) and headed out. Finding parking was a bit tricky, but then we set out to the courtyard adjacent to Amy's ice cream and basically kept heading to the back of the property. There were lots of water fountains, some very large, and everything near the shops was very stroller-accessible. Behind the shops there's a wonderful grassy slope shaded by clumps of live oaks, and there are 5 life-size stone-conglomerate cows in the shade that the children were climbing over and playing on. We set the cub up on one and he was delighted and even protested when we finally moved on.

The path to the pond is very uneven paved stone and has quite a few steps. This is when having the BOB would have been handy. We ended up letting the cub ride on DH's shoulders while I rattled behind with the stroller, which was probably the best option anyway. Unfortunately the pond is not well kept at all. The little shelter in the middle to protect the ducks and geese from the weather is rotting and falling apart and provides zero comfort for the birds. The water was quite low and in some places the pond-bottom was exposed and mucky. The pond is also nearly choked with green algae and trash, and at the picnic table where we stopped, there was broken glass, a beer cap, and lots of Amy's trash, despite the fact that there was a trash bin conveniently placed just a few feet away (what is WRONG with people???). Given all of this, it's not surprising that only a few geese and even fewer ducks have decided to make their home there. What a shame.

Nevertheless, the experience was still worthwhile. The shady areas immediately behind the shops were beautiful and pleasant, and I know the cub will have a great time romping around there once he's finally vertical. Down by the pond, there were picnic tables and lots of shade, so that we were perfectly comfortable. The geese came over to demand food, and were typically a tad agressive for my preference, but that's geese for you. It was the closest the cub had been to another animal that was not a pet, and he seemed to enjoy the experience.

So overall, if you're looking for a cheap (free) family outing, even in scorching weather, I give the Arboretum a thumb's mostly up, with the only negative point being the shabby, neglected condition of the pond and surroundings. Otherwise, it's very convenient, a good leg-stretcher if you have older children that need to work off some energy, and there's ice cream and books nearby. And it's FREE.


Like Giving a Cat a Pill

The cub had a nosebleed on Thursday, once getting up from his afternoon nap, and again that evening. Since then, the nostril has remained slightly crusted in black, as apparently whatever the source of the nosebleed is continues to seep lightly.

Of course, with the first nosebleed, I consulted all of my child health references. They unanimously directed that I should "gently grasp the soft portion of the child's nose (the part at the bottom) with your thumb and forefinger, applying pressure, for ten minutes." If the nosebleed had not stopped by then, I was to repeat the procedure. If it still hadn't stopped, I was to call my pediatrician.


All of these references are written for the care of children from newborn to five years old. The cub is thirteen months old. I can barely get a tissue near enough his nose to wipe it, much less hold onto it for ten minutes. The books show the perfect example of good information that is completely useless. Maybe they could also include a section describing the manner in which to accomplish the ten-minute nose hold:

1) Gently grasp child's body entirely with left hand and arm, clutching child close to your chest.

2) Retrieve child from under dining room table and repeat step 1).

3) Spray blood stains in blouse with stain remover and change into black pants and black t-shirt.

4) Sit in comfortable chair and hold child between knees, cupping back of head with left hand, while gently grasping bottom of nose with right hand.

5) Wash bite wound well with warm soapy water, and dress wound with topical antibiotic ointment and bandage. Make note to self to call doctor if fever or feelings of light-headedness develop.

6) Pull child down from bookcases that child scaled while you were tending bite wound.

7) Review contents of refrigerator and pantry for items to use as bribe to persuade child to let you hold onto nose for ten minutes; realize that child is thirteen months old and doesn't understand bribes yet.

8) Attempt to distract child with favorite DVD recording while you slowly reach for nose from behind.

9) Apply ice pack to your nose where the back of your child's head smacked it when he jerked away from your grip on his nose. Insert wads of gauze to stem bleeding.

10) Notice that child's nosebleed has stopped, apparently after getting down from the bookcase (make note to self to clean blood off bookcase); call partner to come look after child while you drive to emergency clinic for your broken nose.