Too Much Noise

I’ve heard from a few people lately, curious why I haven’t been posting. On here, on Facebook, on the family photo stream.

I don’t have an answer, except to say that I recognize that I’m withdrawing. Almost like I’m protecting myself. From what, I can’t quite articulate, except to say that there is too much input for my head right now. More incoming information than I can fully process.

  • Family vacations
  • New babies
  • Celebrity news
  • International terrors

And there are so, so, so many opinions on everything: victories/defeats of social movements, how we should be parenting our kids – or not, decluttering, redecorating, saving, spending, the good old days.

If that’s not enough, everyone – including myself – has apps on their phones and devices that allow them to not only weigh in on today’s happenings but also experience the nostalgia of what transpired on this particular day 1, 2, 3 or even 5 years ago.

I have so much noise going on in my life right now without ever opening an app, turning on the TV or flipping on the radio, that I’ve found myself almost repelled by the thought of introducing more.

Michael Ginsberg, Mad Men. His nipples are unforgettable.

Headphones

*~*~*~

This merger that closed with my company a few weeks ago? It’s huge. Like… we all said it would mean big things, and I think we all underestimated what that really meant. I’m preparing myself for the possibility that I may not have a job here in a few weeks. Or… I might. I might still be reporting in through R&D… or I could be a part of the marketing function. My job could still be in Madison… or I might report in through a central office in the Chicago area. These are all very real possibilities that swirl in the air.

What work looks like post-merger is like a huge puzzle, and they’re laying down one piece at a time through a series of emails. A lot of times, just like a puzzle, the announcements are filling in details for big pieces we already knew existed. But every so often, new pieces are laid down that reveal a new element that you had no idea was going to be a part of the picture.

That’s all I really feel comfortable saying.

*~*~*~

Meanwhile, in light of all of this, I’ve been quieting my head by focusing on family and enjoying our perfect Wisconsin summer.

Sunset

Butterfly

Flowers

Graham picked me some flowers at school.

Papercrafting

I’ve been having so much fun with my new hobby. Paper had better run and hide, because nothing is safe!!

Popsicles

Our evenings are often spent playing out back. The kids have been having a blast with the neighbor kids. We and the two houses next to us all have kids around the same age. The kids have been spending a lot of time running around in a giant pack between the three backyards. Lesson learned, if I want to offer the kids a popsicle, I’d better have at least six to hand out.

Veggies

We joined a CSA this summer. You may have never heard of one, but they are a part of mainstream vocabulary around here. What it means for us is that we bring home a big box of fresh vegetables every week and have to figure out how to cook, eat or preserve them before we pick up next week’s box. It’s a lot of veggies, and we have learned how to cook with bok choy, turnips, kohlrabi, fennel, and many other new things. I have had so much fun (and have eaten so much salad) with this challenge. And the kids have cemented their love and hate for many new things. :)

Spelunking

Trains

Rainbow

Sunflowers

If you don’t hear from me right now, don’t worry. It probably just means I’m playing trains in the basement or pulling weeds in the garden… watching kids play or sitting with Andy in the cool breeze watching the sun set over the fields.

And my phone’s back in the house somewhere. If you call it to catch up, I promise I’ll answer.

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

I have to write this down, so that I can remember this allergy journey we’ve been on with Reid. Last year about this time, Reid – at 1.5 years old – was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. First with a food reaction, then with a positive skin scratch test.

The Year Follow-Up

This May, we had our year follow-up with the allergist. We got to tell him about the time Reid bit through a Snickers wrapper and sunk his teeth into peanutty-nuggety goodness at Halloween. We chatted about Reid’s wheezes when he runs after his big brother down the sidewalk.

At that appointment, Reid had a blood draw. They submitted it for allergy testing of all tree nuts (which we were explicitly told to avoid last year) and environmental allergens. I’d been giving Reid Zyrtec for what I thought were seasonal allergies (turned out to just be a cold), and dingbat me gave him Zyrtec the night before our appointment, which pre-empted our being able to administer a skin scratch test for all these things.

That whole blood test/skin scratch test nuance becomes important later. Stay with me.

We left the appointment with a new asthma maintenance regimen to follow and made an appointment to follow-up with the allergist in a month to check on his breathing.

The Results are In

A week later, we got the blood test results back: negative for all allergies except for cats. The nurse relayed the message that we could now try tree nuts “safely at home” and that our allergist recommended we stick to individual tree nuts before moving on to mixes. Done and done.

It’s funny the mindset you get into when you’ve been avoiding something for a year as if it were basically poison. It seems almost unbelievable that tree nuts wouldn’t cause some sort of harm.

I know, I’m living the irony – the TORTURE that Facebook is to read sometimes because some folks are so fearstruck by absolutely nothing consequential when there is hard data available that reinforces that whatever it is is completely harmless. I’m now doing that very thing.

In fact, Andy and I did our little happy dance and immediately started to list all the breakfast cereals available to us given these test results. And yet weeks passed while I consciously opted out of opportunities to let Reid try nuts. We’re about to go on a long car ride… Camping really isn’t the time for this… yadda yadda.

Trial and Error

Honey Nut Cheerios was the first thing we tried. Success! He LOVED it. Devoured an entire bowl, in fact. And he didn’t explode! I mentally high-fived his immune system that day and crossed that off my long list of anxieties.

Last Monday, Andy came up to the bathroom where I was getting ready. He held Reid, facing out, in his arms and said, “Mommy… look at this,” then proceeded to lift his shirt which revealed a red rash covering his entire trunk. I blinked a couple of times, but my mind didn’t connect the dots until Andy said, “He just had a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.”

The hives came shortly after. We gave Reid the Benadryl, per his allergy action plan, then watched him for signs of any sort of distress. None came, so we called the allergist’s office when it opened and followed their instructions.  Reid now fully medicated, he watched Despicable Me, and I googled error rates of food allergy blood tests (15-20% chance you’ll react to the actual food when you get a blood test negative, by the way).

We already had a follow-up with the allergist for Reid’s asthma regimen, so we tacked on “tree nut re-testing” onto the agenda for that visit. Good times.

Back to the Allergist

Reid had his allergist’s appointment today, and I’m more confused than ever. Reid doesn’t have an almond allergy. 

We tested him six ways from Sunday:

  • Skin scratch test for all tree nut allergens: negative
  • Crushed up almond, scratched on the skin: negative
  • Gave him an almond to eat: negative
  • Gave him five almonds to eat: managed to choke one down before refusing to eat any more because almonds are gross and ENOUGH WITH THE ALMONDS ALREADY YOU CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!
  • Crushed up remaining uneaten almonds into vanilla ice cream: negative (and DELICIOUS)

A half hour after the contaminated ice cream treat, Reid’s doctor told me with certainty that Reid isn’t allergic to almonds – or other tree nuts for that matter. We scoured the cereal’s ingredient panel for other possible reactive items, but cinnamon was all we could come up with. Reid eats cinnamon toast and other cinnamon-y things, so… nope.

My prevailing guess is that peanut in some form or another was accidentally introduced to the cereal. It can happen. I’ve seen how it can happen. We in the food industry try so SO very hard to make absolutely no mistakes where food safety is concerned , but it takes one guy not reading a label. Or a label not being where it should. R&D running a test for a new peanut cereal on that line and it not getting sanitized properly. I thank God that Reid’s allergy isn’t life-threatening. I can’t imagine what life would be like for us if it was.

4K Graduation

Oh my big boy. Graham had his 4K (school district preschool) and Preschool (daycare class) graduations this week. It’s a little  cliché to say it, but I really can’t believe how time has flown.

The picture below shows Graham on his first (L) and last (R) days of 4K. I see these pics on Facebook, and I’m always amazed at how the kids have grown. I almost didn’t snap a ‘last day’ shot because I didn’t think Graham had grown that much.

First Last Day 4K

Oh, you know, only like 6 INCHES.

IMG_3603

First up was Preschool graduation. These are the kids who go to daycare together. (Their futures are so bright, they have to wear shades!) At this ceremony we got to see them participate in their circle time routine. What day is it, what will tomorrow be and what was yesterday. How to spell their names in English and Spanish. Those sorts of things. They told a collaborative story about the three little pigs. Totally awesome.

IMG_3928

Next up was 4K graduation at a local park pavilion. The 4K program took place in the same daycare building that he’s normally in, but in a different classroom. Additional kids are bussed in from the district, and the teacher is employed through the district as well.

Our teacher was Mr. Joel.

FullSizeRender

God bless, Mr. Joel. It was so awesome to have a male influence for Graham. He’s had 100% female teachers thus far, and I think it was so cool to have the male approach to corralling a room full of preschoolers. Graham would come home with baseball analogies (Mr. Joel is a coach) and told us one time that the reason we wear gloves in winter is because our fingers will get frostbite and fall off. So great.

IMG_3947

These are Graham’s buddies. He really has made great friends in the time that we’ve been in Wisconsin. One of these kids will be at the same school as Graham, and two of them will be joining him in the same after-school care program, so they won’t be saying goodbye just yet. :)

IMG_3933
School has been a journey for Graham – and will continue to be – but he deserves to wear that smile. This child has been in school since he was 12 weeks old, and since his first day he’s had to shift between a mom-and-dad-run house and a teacher-run classroom. There’s a lot of learning and acclimating to be done, and he has totally rocked it. Way to go, buddy. We are so proud of you!

Treading Water

We have been in this almost-surreal state lately. Awful things have been happening, great things have been happening, and big things loom that have us stuck in a weird holding pattern.

Remember how we lost my Great Uncle Mark in February? Well, we lost not only Andy’s grandpa to a stroke in March but then in a staggering turn of events lost Andy’s aunt to cancer last week. Not even a week ago now. We’d seen her at the funeral seemingly her normal, albeit grieving, self and a few weeks later she was gone. It’s the sort of thing that makes all your edges raw. We are left almost fizzing with residual anxiety in an anything-could-happen sort of way.

Meanwhile, life in the North is simply beautiful. The weather is warming, trees are greening, things are blooming. We exhaust ourselves on the weekend making our landscaping home-y and beautiful while the boys run around finding sticks and digging holes in our yard to try and outdo each other finding the biggest, fattest earthworms.

Graham planted peas in the back garden this year. There are lots of things sprouting where we planted them, but we’re not sure which are peas and which are weeds, so it’s a garden free-for-all back there until the plants are big enough to determine which to keep and which to pull.

I’ve been on the road the past two weeks doing some intensive research with consumer focus groups. Andy’s been holding down the fort with the boys. I think it’s safe to say: we’re all glad that I’m going to be home for awhile.

Lastly, we are in a holding pattern on everything else until we figure out what’s going on with my job. My company is merging with another in a big deal that is sure to mean changes and soon. The deal doesn’t go through until the end of the year, but everyone at work is on edge about it.

In fact, we have our current CEO and COO visiting our little headquarters site next Monday morning for a 30-minute town hall meeting. The CEO has never been here, so everyone is left wondering why visit? Why now? It has the hallmarks of “big announcement” but it also could just be… “The CEO’s never been here and wanted to see the place” kinda stuff. Who knows.

That’s just sort of the mantra at work right now: “It could be huge, but it could be nothing.” Go about your lives. We’ll let you know if something changes.

So we are. Going about our lives, pretending nothing is over our shoulders. Planning camping trips and chasing each other around with big fat earthworms. Because what else are you going to do?

Friend Lion (and YES, the Armadillo!)

This story has two parts.

Part 1: The Acquisition of Friend Lion

We had a family errand run yesterday. First stop – get Graham’s hair cut. Reid and I stopped in Anthropologie to pass the time. Anthropologie is also known as the place where Reid calls all the clothes “jammies”. Hilarious if you’re familiar with the store.

There, we happened on a stuffed lion. I held it out to Reid and said, “Look Reid, a friend!” Reid took this about as literally as anyone could. He hugged it tight around the neck and didn’t let go. He carried it around the store, introducing “Friend” to every shopper he saw – complete with a huge double-dimpled smile.

Ultimately, it was time to put Friend away and leave the store, but we all know where this is going. Reid dutifully  put Friend back where we’d found him, patted him on the head, said, “Bye, Friend,” and walked away – shoulders slumped. I checked Friend’s price tag, and found that he was 50% off. Thus, our latest acquisition.

lion

I’ve never seen Reid buddy up with any stuffed animal like this. Friend is real, you guys. He takes naps, needs to be buckled in shopping carts, gets hungry for breakfast – you name it.

Part 2: Guilt

Last night, after a happy homecoming with Friend lion, I read Reid a favorite book, But Not the Hippopotamus.

If you’re familiar with this one – it’s about a bunch of animal friends doing fun stuff with each other around town… but this poor hippopotamus is left out of everything. Spoiler alert: the animal friends come around and ask the hippopotamus to join them.

5185CoIlFhL

It kinda takes this dark turn at the end though, because after the Hippopotamus joins his new friends, we find out that they all left out the Armadillo.

armadillo2

And yes, that is how sad and pitiful the poor armadillo looks at the end of the book.

After I closed the book, Reid immediately hopped off the chair ran over to his cache of stuffed animals and plucked out this stuffed armadillo that I’d bought him just before we moved out of Texas. Reid has never paid any attention to the thing before, but now that he is aware the emotional turmoil of being left out, I think he doesn’t want the armadillo to be sad anymore.

armadillo

This was Reid, after breakfast. Armadillo and Friend lion slept in bed with him last night, ate breakfast with him, and subsequently rode to school in his lap.

Because no book is going to tell Reid who to be friends with!