Monday, September 9, 2013

The Goofball Girls Go to the Doctor

After some rather extensive preparations we load our girls up into our Red Big Truck, as Berzo has dubbed it. As I’m buckling Berzo in her seat I remind her that we are headed to the doctor’s office for a check-up.

"I DON'T WANT TO GET MY SHOTS!" she yells at me.

I tickle her and tell her that it's just a quick pinch, and pinch her arms. “It’s that fast," I say. Then I tell her to shout, "Give me my shots—I'm not scared!" She shouts it out. I say, "Right here!" patting my arm. She shouts it out and pats her arm. Then I say, "All right! That's my girl!" and we bump knuckles.

We park and unload the girls. Berzo springs out of my arms saying, "I want to see the fishies!"

We head inside and Boots and Berzo make for the fish tank while we get the girls checked in. The receptionist asks us for their insurance cards, which I already have out, and passes us back a clipboard of paperwork. 

We sit down and set to work on Berzo's developmental checklist, "Does your child run?" Check. "Does your child use two word sentences?" Check. "Does your child run around naked around your backyard peeing in the grass?" Double check.

Boots and Berzo?

It's our turn. We gather up our stuff and our monkeys and head back. I smell something funny emanating from Berzo's diaper. Berzo is suddenly fearful and buries her head in my shoulder. We go into our exam room, drop our things, then pop back out to be weighed and measured. Berzo clings to me while she watches Boots, then she hops down and does it too. Having an older sibling is so awesome sometimes. Then we go back into our room. The smell is powerful and I ask the nurse if I can change Berzo in here. She says sure, but wrinkles her nose and reminds me that I can't dispose of the diaper in the room. I ask for a plastic bag. “No problem," the nurse says.

The nurse takes their remaining vitals and the girls are up on the table crinkling the protective paper on the examining table, laughing and squealing. Berzo randomly shouts, "Don't doctor me! Don't doctor me!"

The nurse and I try to talk over them, "What was that? Oh yeah, she still uses her inhaler as needed. Um yes, I wanted to ask the doctor about anxiety. Yes, an-xiety..."

She asks, "Do they seem active?" Before I can respond, she looks at them and says, "I'm going to mark that one 'yes'."

Then Boots spies her Nook, and as usual, Berzo follows her lead. The room is cavern quiet. We discuss the remainder of the concerns and she notes them in her laptop for the doctor. She tries to ask Boots some questions and Boots ignores her. I tell her to respond to the nurse and put her Nook to sleep. She responds with the least amount of words possible and turns her Nook back on.

She gives the girls gowns and tells us the doctor will be here soon. Boots gets her gown on, but Berzo wants nothing to do with getting undressed. Boots dances around a bit with her My Little Pony underpants peeking out, and suddenly it's OK. So we pull off Berzo's shirt and pants. Berzo is into it now, she’s running in circles shouting, "Naked baby on the loo-oose!" Then rips off her diaper.

Charley is trying his best, but the noise, doctor office cooties and girls in constant motion is getting to him. Sensing his distress, I ask him if he would rather go to in the waiting room. He takes a breath, declines, and rallies himself. Berzo is climbing up on the bench near the counter and jumping off. Boots sets her Nook aside and jumps down from the table. Then they start dancing around in a circle holding hands.

The Doctor Is In

Berzo is scared at first but warms up as she notices that Boots is not scared. I ask him if I could talk to him a moment after the exam. He says he can't today and that he'd call instead. He says that most check-ups today have asked the same and he's short on time. He is friendly as always, but seemed a bit harried. I say that'd be fine and gave a very short version of her issues with anxiety. He dashes out to get a handout and says he'll call in a referral to have her anxiety evaluated. He said that anxiety is common, and detecting and treating so young can almost ensure it's all but gone by adulthood.

The doctor starts the exam. Boots ramps up her fidgeting on the exam table, relishing in the noise made by the protective paper. He listens to her heart and lungs. Berzo puffs out her chest for her turn. He hands both girls a tongue depressor to play with while he checks out their ears.  Then he asks Boots a question. She has the tongue depressor in her mouth and is talking around it.

“Wha? Ub, flub, glub, flub.”

I signal to Boots to pull it out of her mouth to answer; she gives me a smirk and continues talking around it. He moves on to Berzo and makes a Donald Duck noise as he looks in her ears. She laughs. He does it again and she cracks up.

"I love that laugh," he says.

After he examines both girls, he asks Boots to hop down from the table. She does. He asks her if she's excited for first grade. She rounds on him, gets very close, and says, "I DO NOT LIKE SCHOOL!"

He looks around her at me with raised eyebrows and laughs. He asks her to turn around and touch her toes to check for scoliosis. She turns around, squats down and grabs her feet. He laughs again. He says, "Um OK, can you straighten your legs?" She straightens her legs in a splits maneuver. It looks like a goofy version of downward facing dog. He laughs again and puts his hands in the air.

I hop up and demonstrate bending and touching toes. She gives me an embarrassed smile and does it. He checks her hips and tells her to stand up.

He moves on to Berzo now and I'm showing him her molluscums and we're discussing treatment. Meanwhile Boots is spinning around in circles, then—CLUNK! She's down. "Are you OK sweetie?” says the doctor.

"I meant to do that! I meant to!" Boots says.

I sigh. I hug her and then sit back down and the doctor looks at us and asks, "Do you two take your vitamins?" I look at Charley and he looks at me. I say I do. Charley says he doesn't. Then the doctor says with a smile, "You need to take care of yourselves. These are some active girls."

Our time is nearing an end and I eek in that we're concerned about Berzo's pica.

"Oh? What does she eat?"

"Sand, chalk, dirt, crayons, Play-Doh, salt... If she gets a hold of any of these things, she runs and hides to eat them," I say. "She seems to have a compulsion for it." I told him I was asked my brother-in-law, who's a veterinarian, if we could install a mineral lick in the back yard. She'd be there all the time.

The doctor felt that it was classic low iron and in lieu of another attempt at a blood draw, he'd put her on extra iron and wait and see if it abates.

The doctor announces that neither girl is due for any vaccinations today, so that's it for today.

He tells us good-bye and we thank him.

Charley looks at me and says, "I think we made his day."

I thought about it and he did seem much more lighthearted when he left. Well that's something. Relieved that our trial was at an end, we gave our girls a big hug and headed home.


Doctor Visit Tips for Toddlers and Big Kids

Having a six year old and two year old means I've been to at least nineteen different check-ups and countless sick visits. During that time I've amassed a list of a few tips that have served me well during these trips. Please feel free to add more tips in the comments section.

What to Bring:
  • Bring a written list of questions. 
  • A folder for each kid to hold their developmental information sheets and treatment plans. My girls also love putting their doctor visit stickers on the folder.
  • Bring any vitamins or medicines they might be taking. If the doctor has any questions about them you can hand over the bottle.
  • Getting shots? Bring a small juice box and a Boo Boo Buddy.

  • Raise their blood sugar.  A small juice box, banana or treat about ten minutes beforehand can raise their pain threshold. Let your kid know what you are doing, the power of suggestion is potent stuff.
  • Flinching. If you have a kid who flinches during vaccinations, ask the nurse to use her left hand to grip your kid under the arm while she does the shot with her right hand. (Or just let her know, she might have another preferred method.) Boots was a big flincher and would ask me or the nurse to hold her arm so she couldn't hurt herself. She'd calm down when one of us had a firm hold of her underarm.
  • Let your kid hold the Boo Boo Buddy  in their free hand during the shot. The cold, squishy-ness is distracting and they get to pop it right on afterward.

For Doctor Shy Kids:

Both of my girls became scared of going to the doctor around the nine month mark. Around their first birthday I started doing these things which worked wonders.
  • Toy doctor kit. Going through the routine again and again at home on their dolls and stuffed animals makes it feel much more routine and much less scary. It’s also a really cool toy.
  • The Berenstain Bears Go To The Doctor. My girls liked this book so well, I have the entire thing memorized. It takes kids through the check-up process and also deals with the vaccination jitters. 
    • Dr. Grizzly explains why we need shots, “‘...some medicine you take after you get sick, but a shot is a special type of medicine that keeps you from getting sick.’”  
    • Dr. Grizzly also quantifies the pain. Instead of scary ambiguities such as, “It only hurts a little.” Or lies, “It won’t hurt at all.” Dr. Grizzly tells Brother and Sister that it does hurt, “‘...but not nearly as much as biting your tongue or bumping your shins.’” Something all kids have done and survived many times over.
  • Prepare them beforehand. A couple days before let them know that they have a check-up coming, on what day, and what to expect. If they’re anxious, you have a couple days to play, read books listen to them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Note To Publishers -- Phase out the Paperback, Embrace the E-book

My coffee is pleasantly warm in my hand as I run my finger down the bindings of hardbound books in the Science and Nature section. I sigh contently as coffee aroma and wood pulp intertwine. I pull out a book by Carl Sagan and his tinny voice grates as he whines about the uneducated youth of today and I re-shelve his book muffling his voice. I finger a Richard Dawkins book, curious about his genius, but put off by his everybody-but-me-is-stupid tone, and I re-shelve him too. Richard Feynman, the physics genius slash ladies man, yep, you’re coming home with me. I briefly browse the sale books and head to the front to pay for my date—I mean book. The cashier rings me up then asks if I would like a free e-book version with this purchase. Why yes, I would thanks. I present my email address and it is automatically added to my account library.

When will the above fantasy become reality? Whenever a new medium arrives it is greeted with enthusiasm by consumers and fear by publishing houses. Why not embrace it and leverage the opportunity to adapt a tired system? For years, downloading music was something a person did in fear of having their kneecaps crushed by RIAA thugs. It took Apple to make it mainstream, and it is currently the way music is distributed. When was the last time you bought a CD?

Likewise, it is time to phase out the paperback, bequeathing the e-book its affordable price. Paperbacks are a disposable medium, whose binding is good for one or two readings before pages start falling out and it loses it’s shape. They are an environmental disaster: the wood pulp needed, chemicals used during production, trucks blowing smoke to deliver them to the stores and warehouses, all so they can be read a few times and tossed. The e-reader is a much better solution. (Or would be if their production was greener and they lasted longer than a couple years. Perhaps I should say they will be a better solution, someday...) For now tiny e-ink Kobo & Nook readers are available for about $80 with their prices falling. If you are thrift minded, use the Library2Go system until the cost is recouped.  Also there are many 99¢ classics to be read.

However, hardbound books still have a place in today’s world. When I really like a book, I want something more than just 1s and 0s. I want a backup—something I can read without charging it first. I want it in the library of my life’s composition. However, I’m not willing to buy a hardbound and pay another $10 for an e-book. When novels are new, like Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, the e-books run $20 or more; if you want to see what people think of that pricing strategy read the customer reviews.  Publishers are never going to undercut the hardbound book prices and lose out on those rabid new-release sales. However, if the e-book were free with the purchase of a hardbound, the perceived value to the consumer would be restored and perhaps enhanced. Easy. Then after the initial sales die down, then offer a stand alone e-book for the paperback price. (Although, it would be nice if they passed some of the cost savings on us.)

Even independent booksellers are on their way to figuring out how to work with the e-book revolution. Used books stores also prefer hardbound books; bring a pile of genre based paperbacks to Powell's book buyer and watch his face.


When my mother-in-law was gifted her Kindle, my curiosity ignited. Like a monkey investigating a plastic banana, I took it warily, turned it, gave it a sniff, then set it aside, certain I would always prefer real bananas and their familiar textures and smell. A year or two later the Nook Color launched. From this nifty little banana, I could read in a dark room, check my email, sling cartoon birds, as well as tuck a thousand page GRRM tome in my purse. Now, I have my own plastic banana. I still love books—real ones, and believe they have a place in the world, but paperbacks have overstayed their welcome. Publishers need to accept that people, (I loathe the word consumer) attach value to something physical, and since they can’t touch and feel intellectual property delivered in 1s and 0s they’re not going to pay a bloated price for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Charley Brewer - Shoalwater Brewing is Born

The equipment is washed and ready. The ingredients, laid out. The recipe, displayed prominently. Kids, out from underfoot. Let's brew!

Charley pulled out and washed his new cookware, while talking me through the process using words like wort, fermentor, Fuggle and Goldings, as though he'd been born to them. Tenderly he packed the grains into gauzy bags and placed them in the cold water bringing them to 180 degrees. At the appointed time and temperature he removed the grains brought it to a rolling boil and added the malt extract. He watched, monitored the temperature, timed, and stirred. He added hops once, twice, five times before the final buzzer rang, signaling the completion of his first cook.

Fermenting & Fretting
He then poured the mixture into the fermentor and waited for the thermometer, that was taped to the side of the bucket, to indicate when the wort was to cool enough to add the brewer's yeast. Like an expectant father, he paced, shifted foot to foot, randomly feeling the sides to see if it felt cooler to the touch. Yet the thermometer remained black. An hour or so passed in this way before he began to fret that the thermometer was defective. He took our forehead thermometer, set it to object, and gave it a go.  It read 95 degrees. Too anxious to wait, he filled up our bath tub with cold water and gently, tenderly, set his sealed fermentor in it, the water level just below the thermometer. In about an hour it was cool.  Triumphant, Charley then added the brewer's yeast and plugged in the airlock.

For a week, the airlock bubbled away, as the yeast metabolized the sugar leaving alcohol and CO2 behind. Then the bubbling action in the airlock slowed sufficiently to indicate that the yeast was done performing its magic.

The towel protects the beer from sunlight,
that would give the beer a "skunky" flavor.
This step involved siphoning the beer-to-be from the fermentor to the carboy, then sealing it off with another airlock. Another week.

To create carbonation, the remaining yeast microbes are fed corn sugar. Once blended, the beer is siphoned off into freshly sanitized bottles and capped.  It would be one week more before the first bottle would be ready for sampling.

Broken Boom Bitter of Shoalwater Brewing is a fine name that is worthy of a fine label. Charley found a photo from last year's regatta that has many of his favorite people, complete with sailboats being rigged on the bay. As an added bonus, Lina's dog Buck, who recently passed away, is supervising the work curled up in a sunny spot in the grass.

Charley played with the picture in Photoshop and settled on a colored pencil filter. He left it up on the computer for me to look at, as he left to put Danielle to bed. From there, I added a circle frame and three borders, a banner graphic and text for Shoalwater Brewing and the text for the Broken Boom Bitter name at the bottom. Then again from Main Brew he acquired some label paper.  I headed off to Kinko's to have it laser printed, lest our inkjet leave his drinkers with colored hands and a smeared label. After carefully placing the paper in the tray, such that it would print on the paper side instead of the glue, I went ahead and printed on the glue side. Luckily, I had only used half the paper.  I flipped the next batch and managed to get it on the correct side.  Charley seized his first free moment to apply them to the bottles.

This Monday was officially one week and one day since adding the corn sugar. It was time. We were having dinner with our good friends, Mike and Stephanie.  He pulled the bottle out with a shy smile and set it on the table. A few moments later, he popped the top and it gave the slightest hiss, much to Charley's relief. He poured it into equal thirds in Dixie cups, careful to leave the last inch or so in the bottle. (Sediment.) We clinked our cups—cheers! each taking a tentative sip then a hearty draught. It was pleasantly carbonated, full of flavor, not the least bit bitter—it was lovely. Even the non-beer drinker, Stephanie, requested a taste. She affirmed that it indeed tasted like beer. Then placed a request for a bottle for her brother.

Everybody needs a thing. Something that stretches us, excites us, and interests us. Something that we are good at, simply because it feels like play. For some it's music, or sketching, sailing, or collecting pinball machines, for me it's writing. I'm glad that Charley has found a thing too.