Friday, January 31, 2014

You're A Vegan, What Do You Eat: (Orange Goddess Juice Edition)

I have been feeling very run-down lately.  Actually, “run-down” is kind of a euphemism. “Non-functional” might be a better term.  Life has changed a lot in the past couple of months, and it has all been very exhausting.

While Will is happy enough to watch PBS Kids during my frequent (and often extended) non-functional bouts, I really do not want to spend my days passed out in bed, on the couch, or sometimes even the floor.  I just would like my energy back.  There is so much yet to be done.

Although I am hungry all the time and eating a lot, I feel depleted and am craving nutrients.  One day when I had already eaten lunch but was still hungry and literally too tired to chew, I decided to throw together some fruits and vegetables and make a juice that was sure to help me feel better.  The good news: this juice turned out *amazing*.  The bad news: I am still tired.

Even so, I keep making this juice (almost every day) because it is so good.  I call it “Orange Goddess Juice,” and here are the ingredients:

  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 apples (there’s only 1 in the picture below—2 work out much better)
  • 3 baby sweet peppers

IMG 2774

IMG 2775

I run all this through my juicer, which itself is an exhausting process.  The carrots and peppers are easy—I just cut off the tops.  But the oranges need peeled and the apples need cored.  Sometimes when I cannot stand up that long, I try to get Rob to do this for me.

When all is said and done, this quantity of fruit/veg makes about 2 to 2.5 glasses of juice.  I could chug the entire thing in about 15 seconds flat, but Rob and I usually share it.  On occasion, I can get Will to take one tiny sip, but he maintains (erroneously) that the juice is “yucky” and continues to exasperate me with his general refusal to consume anything healthy. 

The clean-up processes is an intense, hugely daunting task that I usually try to get Rob to do for me; otherwise, I have to wait for a tiny spark of energy that will give me the wherewithal to scoop out the pulp from the juicer, then put the remaining parts in the dishwasher and press “start."

I’m sure that one of these days, I’ll get my energy back and remember what it was like to be the kind of person who once contemplated which hundred miler would be her first (implying, of course, that there would be many). Until then, the only way out is through.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The things you don't regret

A week ago, my dad was heading home from the hospital after having brain surgery.  He had been diagnosed with a meningioma—a brain tumor— in early December.  For a long time, as much as several years, he had been having blurry, fading vision in one eye.  Optic neuropathy, the doctors called it, but they didn’t know why it was happening.  Finally, my dad had an MRI and they found the tumor.  Right on the optic nerve.  Leaving it alone would likely mean total blindness in a matter of time.  But taking it out would mean… brain surgery.

This diagnosis came at a moment when I was poised on the edge.  My job had basically imploded, and I was trying to decide whether I would stick it out for the remainder of the academic year, or whether I would give my two weeks notice and not return for spring semester.

The meningioma did it.  I sent my letter of resignation the morning after I found out.  We didn’t know what would happen next with the brain tumor.  Surgery was risky and terrifying.  I didn’t want my parents to be alone through this.  I didn’t want to have to parse out vacation days from a dead-end job I was planning on quitting anyway if I could instead just be there for them, indefinitely, if that was what they needed.

When news of my imminent departure got around the department, one of my coworkers told me, “You won’t regret this.  Time with family is so important.  You have to do whatever it takes.”  It was unspoken between us, but I knew she said this because she had lost her father a few years ago, and my situation rang familiar.  I wish I had been able to tell her how sorry I was for her own loss, but at the time I couldn’t.  It was all I could do to maintain a modicum of composure, and I didn’t want either of us to have a break down in the hallway, in front of people, on a workday.  I think I managed to thank her for her for her words of support, but what she said has stayed with me. I am grateful for that.

My dad's surgery went well.  Amazingly well.  As well as you could possibly hope for brain surgery to go.  And I was there for it, only by the grace of Rob’s bravery and driving prowess:  we were hit with over a foot of snow and ice and wind chills of negative 33 just days before the surgery was to take place.  Roads were still nearly impassible when it was time to leave.  The interstate was like driving on a sheet of ice for 4 hours, but Rob got us to my parents’ house safely.  Because he did that, I was able to be in the pre-op room before they took my dad away, and I was able to sit in the waiting room with my mom while we managed to pass the time until the neurosurgeon came to tell us that everything had gone well.  They had gotten the whole tumor, and my dad was in recovery.  We would be able to see him soon.

When my mom and I finally went back to the house that evening, I took it upon myself to get out pots and pans, make dinner, make everybody sit down and eat a solid meal for the first time all day.  Grandma Florence would have been so proud of me.  We washed up the dishes, and then I crashed.  I fell asleep out of pure relief and exhaustion.  This was behind us now.  Everything was going to be okay.  My dad was unlikely to get his lost vision back, but at least he would not lose any more, and my parents could pretty much resume their lives as normal.  

I held Will in my arms, and I slept for twelve hours straight. 

The relief and gratitude I feel now that this is over is immense, but it also gives me time to reflect on the drastic changes I have made to my life and the uncertainty of what will come next.  Will is no longer in daycare or pre-school since I quit my job (he is not eligible for his former pre-school, as it was offered through my employer), and I am at home with him full time.  In the past few weeks, we have definitely had our ups and downs, but the good news is that the ups are on the rise.  Before, everything was a rush.  Quickly, quickly, get up in the morning and brush teeth and get dressed and eat breakfast and go to school so that I can go to work all day; then in the evenings, it was always quickly, quickly make dinner and eat dinner and take a bath and read a story and get some sleep so we can do this all over again in the morning.  It was a never-ending cycle of emptiness and frustration.  Now, things are more laid back.  There is no rush.  We have all the time in the world.  You can brush your teeth now or 10 minutes from now.  You can play with this toy until you are done with it and then move on to the next one.  We take things as slowly as we want.

The support and encouragement that people have given me throughout this process have been tremendously helpful.  On my last day of work, one of the graduate students, who was a stay-at-home dad for the first 5 years of his son’s life, shared a key insight that he learned through his own experience.  “No matter what happens next,” he told me, “You won’t regret the time you spend with your son."

This is so true.  I think of these words everyday.  I don’t know if we will ever really make it to Colorado, and if we do, I don’t know that we will be happy there.  I don’t know that I will ever be able to find another job, much less another career, again.  But at least I know that I am claiming these moments I otherwise would have missed.  Like when the cold front finally passed earlier this week and the snow began to melt— Will and I went outside to play.  He got tired so we sat on the front porch, and he laid down with his head in my lap.  We both looked up at the blue sky and soaked in the sun.

These are the things you don’t regret.

Thanks to everybody who helped out my parents during this process; thanks to my aunt for texting, thanks to the friends, family, and neighbors who made sure that all needs were met. And thanks for your continued support of my giant leap into the unknown. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dear William (53 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 53 months old!

We started the month out with a trip to the City Museum.

There were a lot of slides for you to slide down and tubes for you to crawl through.

City Museum


Your dad went around in a big wheel:

City museum1City museum2


Just before Christmas, we made a big announcement to everybody:


(It will be a while before we leave though).

You had to drop out of pre-school, because now that I am no longer an employee of Wash U, you can’t go there.  They had a pajama party for you on your last day.

Last day

You said you were very excited about not going to school anymore and instead having time at home to play with mama.  But I think really, you were excited about Christmas.

You'll shoot your eye out kid


We had a lot of Christmas celebrations this year.  Our first Christmas took place when Grandma Barb and Grandpa Bruce came to visit.

Playing with Grandpa


You opened all your presents in the time it took me to go to the kitchen and make a pot of coffee.  I was kind of sad about missing that, but Daddy got a few pictures. 






Some of your favorite gifts included a Spiderman hat and super-hero toys from Mama and Daddy.

Does whatever a spider can


You also really enjoy playing with a super-hero lego set that Daddy got for you:

Super heroes


After our first Christmas celebration was over, we took a family trip to the Magic House.


Chalk board

Driving Mommy

At the pump

Then we left to go to Grama Nan and Paw Paw’s.  Your cousins Logan and Mackenna were there.  On Christmas Eve, you helped Uncle Mark track Santa on the iPad.

Tracking Santa

On Christmas morning, you had fun opening presents and playing with your cousins.

Little ones




All smiles


After Christmas was over, we had to say a sad goodbye to Aunt Michelle, Uncle Mark, and cousins Logan and Mackenna.  They are moving to Ireland, and it will be a while before we see them again.


When we got back to St. Louis, we went on a few hikes.

Snack break


Sometimes you weren’t so happy about hiking.

Unhappy hiker

“I don’t like hiking.” — William


We spent New Year’s Eve with Cara and John and some other friends.  You got to hang out with a bunch of kids, including your BFF Ashlynn.

Ta da!

New Year juice

Just after New Year’s, we had a Polar Vortex come through.  A polar vortex is pretty much as awful as it sounds.  On January 5th and 6th, we got around a foot of snow and the windchill dropped to -33.  It stayed bitterly cold for many days afterwards.  It was too cold for us even to go outside and sled.  The roads were impassible.  Everybody was snowed in for as long as it lasted. I was very glad that I'd had the wherewithal to buy groceries on the Friday before this happened.

Here is a video your dad took of the snow as it began in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday and continued for the rest of the day.

We are just now melting out of the polar vortex and trying to create a new normal in our lives. At first you were thrilled to stay at home and play with mommy all day, but now you are starting to miss the Apollo room at school and all your friends.  I feel so sad about that, William.  I am trying my best to come up with fun things for us to do.

Today, we built a snowman out of the last of the snow.  He didn’t last long; it got up to 57 degrees:

Snow people


Then we made a dinosaur habitat out of some things around the house and some twigs and leaves we found outside.

Dinosaur habitat

Dino habitat

You put a pteranodon in the “tree.”  I love it.


Dino volcano

Our dino habitat had a volcano and lake, too.

I wonder what we will do tomorrow?  I guess I’d better get to working on that.