Thursday, May 28, 2009


When I was in college, many, many years ago, I created a procrastination behavior scale and administered it to psychology freshmen.  The resulting paper was accepted to a national conference for undergraduate research and in addition to presenting it in Salt Lake City, I learned to ski for the first time.  I was fascinated with this behavior, as we are usually fascinated with behaviors in which we engage frequently, ourselves.  I often put off starting a paper until the wee hours of the morning, entering the computer lab when everyone else was leaving for the night.  Somehow the thrill of pushing the limits made the completion of the assignment much more rewarding.

So it is no surprise that I am up late working on John's birthday CD - his fourth b-day party is this weekend.  I started googling around his theme "Snakes" today and put together a playlist tonight, which I have memorized, since I wrote it 23 times on the back of jeweled CD cases.

I was wondering why John was so fascinated with snakes, and has been requesting a snake-themed party for months, until Ike and Sicily left for a ski trip in March.  I took over reading time for John and he repeatedly pulled a snake encyclopedia off of the shelf that Ike had bought and been reading to him since Christmas.  It was interesting - full of valuable snake facts, but each species was accompanied by a cartoon of that snake violently attacking a human or an animal.  Hence, the obsession, which I am happy to indulge, even if John has a skewed image of the reptile kingdom.

I wasn't going to do a CD this time, but the kids expect it now, and John has been asking about it for weeks.  It is difficult to come up with appropriate snake-themed songs for his age group, I discovered, so I had to loosen the motif a little.

Gitarzan - Ray Stevens
Sweet Singin' Birds - The Peekers*
Crocodile Rock - Elton John
Bein' Green - Frank Sinatra
Trashin' the Camp - Phil Collins and Rosie O' Donnell - Tarzan Soundtrack
Sneaky Snake - Tom T. Hall
Lorau - Igbal Jobi and Party - original snake charmer music
Talking to the Animals - Sammy Davis Jr.
Mah Na, Mah Na - The Re-Bops
Wild Thing - The Troggs
George of the Jungle - The TV Players Theme Group
Snake Lake Blues - Derek and the Dominos

I am proud of the result, if somewhat last minute.  I was really sad I couldn't find Count Dracula's version of "How Many Snakes are in My Pants?" on youtube or itunes.

Random Snake Thoughts:

I dated a guy named Snake in college.  I was Lizzard.  We were the reptile couple.  He looked like Kid Rock.  We dated 2.5 years.  I recently befriended his wife on facebook - he has returned to his given name Paul and has two beautiful girls.

After I extricated myself from that relationship, I bought two pet snakes.  Daisy was a Florida kingsnake and Jupiter was an albino cornsnake.  I fed them live mice weekly for a year, until I finally gave into multiple requests from a group of guys in Martin Hall and let them go to new owners.  I learned they died of vodka poisoning - someone put it in their water bowl.  I wonder if it was an accident.  I still feel guilty about it.

*I am in love with The Peekers.  It has been a musical week - I got 50 new albums in my itunes and loaded as many as would fit into my nano.  It makes for hazardous treadmill running, since I will hear a random song and wonder what it is, trying to read the small print on my nano armband while running rapidly.  Wolf what?  Wolfmother?  Dr. Who?  Oh, Dr. Dog!  Thanks, much - Matt.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happiness is . . .

A full drawer of food, in my office.  I didn't take a fridge shot, but all you're missing is apocalyptic quantities MorningStar spicy black bean burgers, jalapenos, sweet and spicy mustard and Vitamin Water.  

By the way, this is a really deep filing cabinet, so you are only seeing the 2-D tip of the iceberg.  

I don't think this is weird - having a well-stocked supply of food is beneficial to overall mental health.  And I had no control, during my fellowship and some of residency, over when I would get to eat (sometimes having to abandon my lunch in the cafeteria without paying), so maybe I'm overcompensating.  Anyway, all of my co-workers know where to go if there is a natural disaster.  I could probably keep the entire lab fed for a month or so.

Last Friday, for the first time in two years, I ran out of my supply of almonds.  I must have almonds at 10:30 and 2:30 every day, sometimes with Craisins.  My physiologic response to this blunder was so intense I had to run out immediately and buy some in order to alleviate anxiety.  So I stocked up, and my food drawer makes me so happy when it is full, that I had to take a picture.

Gotta go.  My stomach just growled, right on time.  10:26.  Who needs a clock?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dirty Dozen

It's Ike's and my 12 year anniversary today - not the one where we spoke our vows in front of friends and family in my parent's backyard, that's on the 24th, but the one where we drove to the bail bondsman in Geyer Springs in Ike's non-air-conditioned white toyota pick-up.  We both wore cutoffs and t-shirts, satisfied the government with a brief ceremony in a trailer with scantily clad women posters on the wall, and honeymooned at Denny's.

Tuesday morning, when we were getting ready for work, I wished Ike a happy anniversary.  He said, "This isn't our anniversary."  I said, "I know, not the real one, it's the one where we went to Southwest Little Rock."  

"No, it isn't.  That was on the 22nd."

"I am sure it was on the 20th.  I never forget things like that."  I was staunchly resolute, as I often am in my fallacies.

"No, I am 100% sure that it was on the 22nd.  I just had to order a marriage certificate for the refinancing."

Oh.  Hard to contest that one.  I'll bet I would have been able to convince him otherwise if he hadn't just laid eyes on the date.  In retrospect, I love that I was wrong - such a male thing to do.

Anyway, we are celebrating our 12 years over the next few days.  Lucky us - we get more than one date.  Ike doesn't read this blog, he doesn't even know the address (although I have given it to him multiple times), and requested, in the beginning, that I don't write about him.  Hard to exclude the person you have lived with for 13 years, but I try to honor it.  Also hard to blame him for not reading the blog, after all, he has to live with my neuroses - why should he read about them as well?  That would be sure overkill.

One of my favorite compliments Ike has ever given me came on the couch, sitting down after the kids were tucked in, about 8 months ago.  He said genuinely, "You know what I really like about our marriage?"

I answered curiously, "What?"

"That you are not a nag."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I watch a lot of other couples, and a lot of women nag their husbands.  You don't do that.  I am really grateful for that."

I'll have to hold that over his head someday when he accuses me of nagging him.

Happy anniversary to a great partner-in-life and father.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reverse Psychology

The other evening John, Sicily and I were headed home after their dance recital.  They had balloons in tow - Sicily had tied hers to a pink carnation on the way home and John had managed to detach his from his string so it was floating dangerously around the car.  As I pulled up the the front of the house and opened the door, I gave them the same warning I had given earlier on the way to the car from the school.

"Make sure you hang onto your balloons until you get in the house.  If you let go, I can't save them."

Sicily replied confidently, "I'm not worried mom - it's not going anywhere tied to my flower."

John retrieved his green balloon from my hand and climbed out of the car, carrying it in a choke hold.  I laughed looking at him - his black pants, shoes, and black vest with sequins, along with his mischievous smile, reminded me of a mini version of a circus sideshow flim-flam man.  Sicily looked much more prim and proper in her royal blue leotard and lace tutu.  They walked carefully with their balloons to the front porch and I hurried to gather school clothes, shoes, dance bags so I could get the key in the door as quickly as possible.  As I was turning the lock, I heard a sharp intake of breath and I whirled around quickly to see John's head between his hands, crouched down on the front porch.  The balloon was no longer with him.

It only took a few seconds for his low moan of loss to reach ear pitch and change to loud, reeling sobs.  I looked up; the balloon was sailing into the tree.  I cursed silently as I ran in the house to drop my armful, quickly returning to the porch to gather John in my arms and comfort him.  Anyone with a three year old knows that this kind of loss can ruin the rest of the evening.  I carried John into the kitchen and looked him in the eye.  

"John, do you hear that?"

He answered quietly, sniffling.  "What?"

"Do you hear the birds?  They are so happy!  They are singing about how wonderful you are to have given them your balloon.  They've never seen a balloon before."

He stopped crying.  I was encouraged, and continued.

"And the squirrels!  They are very excited.  They are all jumping to your balloon to check it out.  And the ants are wondering, what in the world is this?  Is this from John?  He is our favorite boy in the whole neighborhood!"

John was smiling now, proud of his donation to the tree kingdom, and I was equally proud of my quick thinking.  I did not anticipate Sicily's response.
"I want the squirrels and the birds to like me, too!" she wailed, and quickly ran over to the scissors drawer to free her lavender balloon from its carnation anchor.  We all headed out to the front porch to watch as Sicily proudly released her dance recital favor.

We walked to the end of the sidewalk as it kept floating farther up in the sky.  It quickly became apparent that no tree would stop her balloon, and she wailed again, "Mommy, the birds and the squirrels are going to like John better than me!"

I squinted at the lavender orb floating toward the sun.  I replied, "Maybe, but the space aliens are going to be very happy with you tonight."

Sicily danced toward the house happily, placated.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Michael is home.

They told us a week, and we laughed nervously.  And rolled our eyes.  They always say a week, and the post-op course usually lasts four to six - long and complicated.

But you can't lose them all.

He's not out of the woods, but at least he's home.

And his sartorius muscle is in one of the most creative situations imaginable.

Thanks for all the well wishes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I close my eyes
and hold my breath 
but nothing can coat
the taste of death

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The other day I took Sicily and John to a pizza place for the end of the year soccer celebration.  It was a place I had never been to before, and we were crammed into a small, rectangular room; two long, skinny tables set for 40 each.  Two soccer parties were crammed in one room.  It was very crowded, and Ike was on call so I was in my "slightly stressed out keeping up with two small children in a crowded restaurant" mode.  They both kept disappearing to the game room, and were frustrated that I didn't have any quarters.  I tried to relax and converse with the other parents, whose names still failed me after three seasons together, but it was forced.  I was glad when they finally started handing out trophies, and worried when I saw John standing expectantly with the team members encircling the coach, waiting patiently for his name to be called.  Sicily got her trophy toward the end, and I quickly grabbed John and handed him my camera in order to distract him from disappointment.

When I was sitting down Sunday night to finally get some wedding pictures off of my camera to share with the family on picasa, I saw that John had taken this picture that night.  I was glad to see that I had actually smiled at that event.  And I was delighted to find that he had hijacked the camera a few days before and snapped about forty pictures in our house.  It was like receiving a present - flipping through familiar ordinary household objects in the front room, entryway, and study, all from a three year old perspective.

It reminded me of how different everything looks when you are a child.  How much our houses are designed for us as adults, and not for our kids.  Montessori has tried to educate us about this, and we have adapted somewhat, but our house is not a classroom.

I performed a procedure today, on a 95 year old man.   I think that is the oldest person I have ever performed a procedure on.  The tech warned me that he couldn't hear very well, but he was extremely high functioning and walked in and out without assistance.  As I tried to communicate with him, as loud as I could, about the procedure and its risks, I couldn't really tell how much he understood.  Most of the time he just stared at me blankly, but he occasionally verbally assented or gave me a small indication with a tilt of his head that he was paying attention.  I wondered what he was thinking of this young doctor yelling and enunciating every word in his face, with his age and wisdom.  I felt a little foolish.  I hurt him, which surprised me - usually the older patients aren't so jumpy.  It also encouraged me - cancer is painless.

As I steadied my needle for the third and final time, I stared at the thickened skin on his face, the scars on his cheek, and the wisps on his full head of white hair.  His skin was mottled with brown leathery seborrheic keratoses and spider angiomas dotted his nose and cheeks.  His mouth hung slightly open and his teeth were caked with plaque.  I wondered, then quickly doubted, if I would ever experience the world from his perspective.  At 95.

Breaking News - Celebrity Swine Flu Fatality

This would be an easy autopsy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brain Frozens

I powered through my morning work in order to blog, as promised, this afternoon - but I got bogged down in brain frozens.  My pager went off at around 2:30 p.m. (911 - main OR) and it wasn't over until almost 4:00.  Then I had to get finished with my work, get gas (the light had been orange for two days), and get home to a mini-Schneider family dinner in honor of a one-night visit by Ike's little brother Jake, who is flying to New York at the end of the week to train for his summer job in Hong Kong.  I asked him what he was getting trained to do.  "Lawyer etiquette."  He is a pretty smart guy who has lived in China and can both speak and write the language fluently.  In this tight economy, he is one of the only ones in his law class at Washington University who was snatched up by one of the "Magic Circle" law firms - I think that is a title reserved for the top six or ten firms in the world.  Sounds kind of hokey, but very prestigious, I am assured.

Anyway, I headed to the OR with a mild adrenaline rush, despite having skipped my afternoon coffee.  Brain frozens are not easy for even the most experienced pathologist.  My neurosurgeon neighbor met me at the door of the gross room.  He is tall and distinguished - I usually see him walking his golden retriever Max, and he sometimes stops to chat in front of the house.  Once I came home from work and Max was walking around our house, owner-less, with a pair of Sicily's panties in his mouth.  My nanny was cowering in the backyard with our kids - she doesn't much like dogs.  I laughed and shooed Max out - never mind about the panties.

My neighbor's rugby and khaki's were traded in for full OR gear - sterile gloves, surgical mask, and OR hat.  The only part of his face I could see were his eyes, behind his loupes, which replaced his glasses.  We greeted each other, and he began to tell me the history and anatomy of the tumor, which I had already read on the computer chart.  I knew his impression, the radiologist's impression (both different), and the patient's presenting symptoms before my pager went off.  

The gross room tech was having trouble freezing the specimen, so I chipped in with the touch and squash preparations.  The neurosurgeon needs a diagnosis, and they are some of the most chintzy surgeons when doling out tissue.  Hard to blame them - they are in the brain, after all.  We usually get a 1 mm piece of brown-grey gelatinous tissue.  I touched the tissue with one slide, and handed it to a tech to stain.  Then I used a fresh surgical blade to separate a tiny fraction of the tissue and put it on second slide.  A third glass slide is used as a vehicle to "squash" the tissue and smear it down the slide - another preparation for cytologic evaluation.  We don't do touches and squashes on every tissue, but it helps, in the brain.  The remainder of the tissue is placed in a small square metal chuck, embedded in gooey clear liquid, and then placed in a cooler and sprayed with a gaseous freezing agent for quick freezing.  Now the tissue is buried in an opaque white frozen square that fits in the cooler microtome, ready for cutting with a fresh blade in 3 um slices. When it looks like we have a good slice, we use a paintbrush to catch it with a final slide, and we get a nice two dimensional image of the tissue.  It's quite an art.  If you are slow and clumsy, your fingers get so cold it feels like they are going to fall off.  All slides are stained in hematoxylin and eosin, and we take them to the microscope in the gross room for diagnosis. 

As I said, the freezing tech was having trouble with the tissue - it was jumping out of the chuck, and she called a senior gross tech for help.  In the meantime, the neurosurgeon and I had exhausted the topic of the patient and started talking about canoeing, the weather, and how lucky we were to live on a hill.  He followed me into the scope room while I was looking, and started asking me questions.

"What if I were to want to freeze some tissue?  Could I take pictures, and send them somewhere for a diagnosis?  What would I need?"

As I stared at the tissue, moving the slide up and down the stage with my left hand, I answered, "Well, you would need a cryostat.  And a microscope.  A camera, for the scope.  And a computer, to e-mail the pictures.  You would need a stain line, too.  And an experienced technologist to prepare the frozen."

"How do you embed it in paraffin?  For the final diagnosis?"

"You need a lot more equipment.  A closed machine that passes the tissue, in plastic blocks, through various chemicals on a timer overnight, before they are embedded in paraffin for permanent sectioning.  Our techs come in at 3a.m. to start cutting, so that we have slides ready when we walk in the door."

I was wondering why he was asking all these questions, and I was wondering what in the heck I was looking at at the same time.  I figured the tumor was primary to the brain, not metastatic, because there were slightly pleomorphic neurons in a glial matrix, but there wasn't enough there for a diagnosis.  I had all of the differential diagnoses whirring around in my head, but couldn't narrow them down into specifics.  

"We need more tissue.  I can't be certain."

"Do you mean I need to get more tissue for permanents, or do we freeze it again?  I need to be sure I've got a diagnosis."

"Then we'd better freeze it again."

I walked back to my office, after getting a quick QA consult from a senior partner.  I showed him the frozen to see what he said - make sure I was on the right track.  He agreed.

I looked at two breast slides and was paged back to the gross room again.

We repeated the process, and I looked at the touch and squash.  The cells were obscured by blood.  "Your patient is bleeding."

He answered gruffly, "I was afraid of that."

As we waited for the frozen, he started in with the questions again.  "Is there a smaller cryostat?  One that would fit on a desktop?"  Our cryostats are huge, about the size of a waist-high filing cabinet.

"I don't know.  I've only seen the big ones.  But I couldn't be sure - I've never looked.  I guess you could try to google it."

"That's a good idea."

I decided to ask him.  "What do you need this information for?  Are you operating in one of those surgical centers across town?"

"No, I only operate in this hospital.  In the United States.  I go to Kenya, and operate.  We don't have pathology there.  We do the operation, but we rarely know the diagnosis.  The treatment is a guessing game."

I turned around to look at him.  "That's really incredible."

The frozen came, and I was frustrated.  More of the same.  I cringed internally as I told him we needed more.  Most of the tissue was dead.  We need viable tissue for a diagnosis.

"I guess I will convert to open biopsy and call you again."  I could feel his frustration, as he was sitting behind me, and even though he was calm, I was mildly flustered.  Sometimes the surgeon takes it out on the pathologist, when they are not getting a diagnosis, and even though that wasn't his style, my past experiences were projecting onto the current situation.  

Like the time when I was brand new to the hospital and the radiologist was angry that I told him we didn't have enough tissue for a diagnosis, and he got hostile and defensive.  "Well, that's all there is.  If we don't have enough, I don't see how I can get any more information."  I turned around and looked him square in the eye.  "Look, I am happy to be descriptive.  If that is all you think you can get, I'll just tell them what is there and they can follow it radiologically and clinically."  He looked surprised and immediately loosened up and smiled.  "All right, all right.  I'll get a couple more passes with the needle."

The neurosurgeon converted to open biopsy and we finally got diagnostic material.  He had stayed in the OR this time and I called to tell him over speakerphone.  "We've got enough."  I told him the diagnosis, and he sounded happy, if somewhat muffled.  They all sound muffled over the speakerphone, and my bad ears necessitate embarrassingly frequent repetition, at times.  But I could hear him plainly.  "I knew if I converted to open we would get it."  

I can't believe people are being treated in Kenya without a diagnosis.  I want to go there and help.

Monday, May 11, 2009


That's the sound of the beginning of a million telepathic messages being sent to my brother - join in if you want.  Make it louder - supersonic.  Good luck ones.  He is having surgery tomorrow.

Last time he had a big surgery was B.C. (before Cecelia/Sicily - you know who I am talking about) and I got to fly up to Cleveland for a week.  This time I can't be there.

But luckily the hospital in Rochester is equipped with WiFi, so he will be plugged in.  Hopefully that will make for a better hospital experience than back in '02.  It sucks being a patient.  No control.  I was a patient when I went into early labor for about three days back in '05, and I almost went insane.  Michael's visits can push a month.

And since he is one of my few faithful reader/frequent commenters, I am going to try to keep him entertained.  He might get bored without the business of settling into a new marriage and pursuing his Ph.D.  Fair warning - you may want to ignore me for the next couple of weeks if you aren't family - I might become frequent, silly, and annoying.  Remember?  Annoying my little brother?  Nothing better for getting well.
This is one of my favorite pics of him.  It was taken a while ago, but I swear he looks exactly the same.  Good genes.  He got them, at least.

I'll be thinking about you in the morning, Mike!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

This rose didn't last too long without water, but the play-doh vase was wonderful.

My favorite card was one Sicily made of a pink construction paper shoe with rainbow yarn laces and glitter heart decorations.  It is the most fabulous shoe I have ever seen.  I can't wait to hang it up on my bulletin board at my office, which is already peppered with my favorite kid art, in between the flow cytometry schedules and my numerous normal value cheat sheets.

The strangest card I got from Sicily (yes, we did art all day long - well she did anyway) came with a doll made out of popsicle sticks, napkins, bird feathers, and leaf-wings - her theme this weekend.  She delivered it to me this morning.  

"Here's your card, mom."

It was a playing card, a deuce of spades.  

"Oh, it's really a card!"

She had folded it over and when I opened it, I noticed that there was writing on the inside, in green glitter glue.  I struggled for a second and she rolled her eyes and said,

"Lemme just read it to ya, mom."

"Are you a trick?  Or are you not a trick?  Silly, you are not a trick."

Sometimes I think my children must be tiny aliens delivering cryptic messages that I am too obtuse to decipher. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

When the Clock Strikes Four, Don't Block the Door

That's the saying, in pathology.  It works out better for some of us than others (Dr. Bell is always waiting impatiently) but today, I am heading out on time according to path legend.  On a Friday!  Book club night!  I think I even have time to squeeze in pedicure/novel reading - a Mother's Day treat for myself.  Hopefully it doesn't rain again all weekend.  I'm ready for some Vitamin D.

The Sphincter of Oddi

The other day I was reading a report on an ERCP.  An ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, is a procedure where they stick a flexible endoscope in your mouth, advance it down into the duodenum, and look for the ampulla of Vater.  Then dye is squirted into the ampulla, and imaging aids visualization of the pancreatic duct and common bile duct in order to look for a number of abnormalities (stones, cancer, inflammation, strictures, etc.) which could be causing another large number of patient symptoms (jaundice, elevated liver/pancreas enzymes, abdominal pain, etc.).  The pathologist comes in because the gastroenterologist, who performs this procedure, will often take a tiny brush and get some cells to submit for us to look at.  

The ampulla of Vater, while it looks tough to miss on this large picture, is actually rough to find - at least at autopsy.  I have made many false probe-holes in the duodenum in my past, frustratedly searching for the common bile duct and pancreatic duct in order to attempt to please the GI princess Dr. Styles.  I imagine that there is a trick for finding it easily in a live individual, or there would be a lot of bowel perforations, which are much more detrimental to a live human being than a cadaver.  But I wouldn't know -- I'm just the pathologist.

Anyway, while I was reading the ERCP, I read it's purpose, which sent me all over the internet searching for explanation.  "Intervention or manipulation of the sphincter of Oddi for pneumobilia."  I of course remembered the sphincter of Oddi, who could forget a sphincter with a name like that?  Despite my uncertainty of its pronunciation (ode-eye?  odd-ee? or another variation), I still like the name better than the more common sphincter located caudally. 

Pneumobilia is gas filling the biliary tree, leading to abdominal pain, which can be caused by dysfunction of the sphincter of Oddi.  A real problem for a select few (around 4% etiology of abdominal pain, I read somewhere).  It is called sphincter of Oddi dysfunction, or SOD for short.  Who knew the sphincter of Oddi could be dysfunctional?  Not me, until this week.  I guess I shouldn't be so surprised - after all, in existing on this planet, whether animate or inanimate, everyone or thing has the potential for dysfunction.  Dysfunctional is not just an adjective reserved for "families" or "uterine bleeding," although it is used most commonly in these arenas.  Even the sphincter of Oddi can become dysfunctional. 

And it made me laugh out loud, because I automatically thought of Ignatius J. Reilly in Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, which I read last winter.  He was forever manipulating his pyloric valve, a valve that plagued him by snapping shut "indiscriminately," filling his stomach with "trapped gas, gas which had character and being and resented its confinement.  He wondered whether his pyloric valve might be trying, Cassandralike, to tell him something . . ."

I remember thinking if his gas was Cassandralike, wouldn't the warnings be falling on deaf ears?  And Ignatius' ears appeared hyper-acute to me, especially when it came to the issue of his pyloric valve.  I was both amused and filled with admiration by his ability to be so in tune with his inner workings.  I never even knew I was in labor.  And I think I shocked the pediatrician, who tried to hand me pieces of paper with narcotic prescriptions before I left the hospital, by tearing them up in front of him and throwing them in the trash.  I was a nursing mother, for goodness sake!  And who needs narcotics (someday I will, and I will retract these words, I am sure, but I've yet to need them).

So what do you do if your sphincter of Oddi is dysfunctional?  Call a gastroenterologist.  There are medical therapies.  If your sphincter is so tight that it causes a certain high level of measurable pressure (by manometry), the definitive cure for the blockage of the normal happy flow of bile and pancreatic juices is sphincterotomy, where it is surgically cut to release the pressure.  Or you can lie upstairs in the bedroom of your mother's house and perform your own manipulations.  Call Ignatius for help.  You'll probably find him somewhere with that Minkoff chick.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lime Popsicles

Last night, Sicily convinced John to go out with Ike to look for earthworms and grasshoppers after dinner.  This is no easy feat - John is still only three and is reluctant to leave me.  As they walked out the door, Sicily couldn't contain her Chesire cat grin.  It's not often she gets one-on-one time with me in the evening, before our reading.

"What are we gonna do, mom?  How about a project?"

I had hunkered down on the couch while Ike was cleaning up dinner - I had cooked sauteed spinach, mushroom, onion and garlic quesadillas in olive oil and balsalmic vinaigrette, covered in smoked mozzarella.  I was reluctant to relinquish my corner on the couch to start a project.

"What kind of a project?"

"Um, well, you know that paper?  That goes with coffee?  The round kind?  I know something fun we can do with that."

I was a little confused.  "Do you mean coffee filters?"

We have built in coffee filters for our coffee maker, so we don't buy them.  I explained this to Sicily, and she was momentarily at a loss.

"Well, I know!  You can cut circles out of computer paper and then we can do the project.  We can fold them up into triangles and make snowflakes."  She went off in search of the scissors, but couldn't find them in the drawer.

I should've gotten up to help her, but instead tried to think of something to do that did not require me moving.  "Why don't we eat Popsicles?"

Sicily looked at me warily.  "You really want to eat Popsicles?  What kind of Popsicles do we have?"

I don't indulge in sweets often, especially in the evening.  I would rather use the caloric intake on a chunk of blue cheese, or any kind of cheese, before dinner.

"Fruit juice ones.  Look in the freezer.  I'll have strawberry, you can have grape."

She was a little surprised since she and John had already had pound cake smothered in orange juice for dessert.  She doesn't eat fruit, so I try to get creative with fruit juice at every opportunity.  John is different - like a garbage truck.  He was stealing the roe off of Ike's sushi tonight and guzzling it down after an entire helping of gyoza - "Yum.  Salty, mom."

Sicily opened the freezer and looked at the cover on the box.  She proclaimed disappointingly, "Where are the orange kind?  That is my favorite.  Why didn't you get the box with the orange kind?"

"Sorry.  I'll get those next time."

She brought over grape for her and strawberry for me.  She said, "I don't like strawberry.  The seeds.  They bother me."  I told her I understood.  I was pickier than her, even, as a child.  I didn't try pizza until I was twelve.  I remember trying Chinese food for the first time right before I headed off to college.

I opened up the strawberry and told her, "my favorite is the lime, but I ate the last one."

"Mom!  There is a lime left!  Put the wrapper back on the strawberry and I'll put it away.  John can eat it.  I'll get you the lime one."  She headed back to the freezer, carefully replacing the strawberry Popsicle back in the box.  Sure enough, she came up with a lime one.  She watched me open it, full of curious anticipation.

"Mom, can I try the lime?"

"Of course.  Here."

She took a hesitant lick, then proclaimed, "Oh my gosh I love it!  Can I please have the lime?"

I traded her my lime for her grape, and she snuggled next to me on the too small couch space.  We shared the grape and lime Popsicles.  She assumed control - passing them back and forth with one caveat.  "No biting allowed."  I laughed, imagining what precluded that rule - her dad taking a giant bite of some previous Popsicle, much to her mortification.

"Mom, when did you eat all the other lime ones?"

"Last week, after you all went to bed."

We savored the Popsicles slowly in a way that Ike and John would have found excruciating.  We talked about her day - her lessons, who she ate lunch with, who she played with, what boys were chasing her on the playground.  Talk that was usually reserved for after I sang to her at the end of the night.  It carried a different flavor out of the covers in the daylight; less hurried and hushed.  More like a conversation among friends, instead of a mother/daughter question-and-answer session.  It was fun.

John ran in the front door carrying a grasshopper and the spell was broken.  Sicily quickly took over the housing and the naming of the new pet, gathering leaves and sticks near the front porch.  "Mom, write Jamacia.  On this piece of paper, so I can tape it to his house."  John wanted to name him Seegaro.  Sicily won, as usual.

I need to go buy some more lime Popsicles.  I wonder why spell check makes me capitalize the word Popsicle.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's Shocking, But You Eat It

My little brothers are both awesome.

You can listen to Michael talking about high food science applied to fancy foods and drinks here:

How do you hide that and make it pretty? I have no idea, but at least I figured out how to make it a link.  

I spent the afternoon listening to Matt's music collection on his ipod and have a gazillion new bands to investigate.  I am so excited - I've been getting bored of my music.  And we are all happy he and his dog Jeffrey are alive and well after an elephantine creature hydroplaned across three lanes of traffic to hit him head-on and total his car yesterday.

Michael, can you send me some Szechuan buttons please?  Considering they are all the rave in NY, they should make their way down here in, oh, ten years or so.  I am dying to try one!

Ok - somehow, I cannot get to the link from my blog.  Hopefully readers can.  If not, just look for the title of this post and npr - you should find it.  I am too tired to figure out what I did wrong.  The NPR interview is worth it, I promise!  

Any technical tips would be appreciated, Michael, when you read this.