Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Day In Pictures

Breakfast of Champions
(PB & Banana & Honey on Tortilla, Blueberries & Yogurt, and Coffee...served in a sheep mug...all I can imagine is that these mugs were free with the purchase of several skeins of yarn because who would BUY these for their boat...I would have thrown them away with the stunt kite, but my replacement mugs are at home)

Morning Traffic

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Beethoven, the Beluga Whale


ET, the Walrus (3300 lbs - the size of a small submarine!)

Basilla, ET's girlfriend

It sucks to be a Muskox in the summer
Drive Through Point Defiance Park

Pullout Along 5-Mile Drive (Point Defiance Park)

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sunburned in Seattle

I could get used to this lifestyle very easily. The weather has been most un-Seattlesque...sunny and dry all week! That is because I bought an umbrella on Day 1, I'm sure ("just in case"). Sadly, I know this is setting me up for false expectations when we do move to the area. Not that I really mind the rain. I don't. I like a good rainy day if I don't have to work outdoors. But I love a bit of sunshine also. Today, I lathered up in spf 50 sunscreen for babies and worked on the deck all day while a parade of weekend boat traffic cruised up and down the Thea Foss Waterway where we are docked. And I still got sunburned. Who gets sunburned in Seattle? Two long days of sanding and chiseling and back ache and here is all I have to show for it. You'd think, for all the time I've spent, that I was sanding an entire deck or something. And I'm not finished yet. There is still more sanding to do and then my husband can put new varnish or teak oil on what little wood is on the deck.

BTW, the free ATT-WiFi thing in Starbucks is working great! I've been to several stores in the area and all have worked beautifully. Go get your free Starbucks card soon and take advantage if you're so inclined. You'll also get lots of freebies like drinks and syrups if you're into that sort of thing.


Panda Kindergarten

My step mother sent me this today...too cute!

SICHUAN , China -- One zoo in southwest China has its hands full with 16 baby pandas. The Sichuan Wolong Panda Protection and Breed Center is dealing with the results of a breeding boom where 16 pandas have been born. The brood includes five sets of twins. The cubs are weighed and measured every five days (see pics). The heaviest tips the scale at just over 24 pounds, while the lightest weighs about 11 pounds. The pandas are due to stop suckling soon - just about the time they'll start learning to walk. Once weaned, the panda cubs will attend panda kindergarten. In the m ea ntime, more little ones are expected at the centre since 38 giant pandas were artificially impregnated.

Click to enlarge the photos.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Days 5 and 6

The view, from where I sat eating my salami and cheese on crackers dinner last night, with a glass of red wine...

The slumped metal cone is the Tacoma Museum of Glass

Wednesday, Day 5 - From sun up (actually, at sun-up I was still sleeping and dreaming...when the dreams turned to nightmares featuring attacking rattlesnakes, I jumped straight out of bed and got to work...well, first, I sucked down a few cups of coffee and got dressed), until sun down (which is very late in these northern was almost 10pm when I finally broke for dinner), I worked on the deck of the boat. First scrubbing the deck with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, then hosing it all down, then sanding and scraping old varnish off of the handrails that run the length of the boat. I didn't leave the boat all day. I only talked to 2 people all day, one was my "neighbor" and the other works in the yacht brokerage office in the marina. It was bright and sunny all day and I thoroughly enjoyed being outside. So Day 5, I worked. All day!

Thursday, Day 6 - I woke up with some very sore hands and an aching back. But it felt good. After getting another good report on Julian, I turned on the water heater and took a long hot shower (without sinking the boat...I always fear that opening a drain to the sea will inadvertently admit sea water into the boat instead), dressed and headed up to Seattle for another day of shopping (back to Bed Bath and Beyond for my new list of provisions...this time, kitchen supplies) and relaxing. And now? I'm sitting in Starbucks, at the corner of 4th and Pine, in the heart of Seattle, watching people, clearing out my email at work and checking your blogs. Day 6, I shopped. And watched. And ate good food at the Pike Market.

Life is good.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trying To Be Still

So yes, I decided to go ahead with my plans to take a solo trip to the Pacific Northwest. Time will tell if that was a good decision or not. There have been a few rough moments, but I keep reminding myself that I can go back early if needed. For now, all is well on the homefront. Julian is stable but the doctors still don't know what kind of blood infection he is suffering. He is doing a little bit better today and they plan to resume feeding tomorrow if his condition is improved. I just talked to the doctor and while they can't rule it out yet, they don't think it is NEC, but if it is, he's on the correct antibiotic for that as well. Mama and DiDa (grandpa) were in good spirits after their visit with him this afternoon. Scary stuff, this preemie business. The nurses in the NICU really amaze me. And I think my job is stressful!

While it has been more difficult to relax and have a good time knowing that times are not so relaxing and fun back home, I am trying to set a daily goal of doing something productive each day while trying not to push myself so hard that it becomes work. The weather has been wonderfully cooperative...bright blue skies with a few large puffy white clouds and 70 degrees. So far, my itinerary has been as follows:

Saturday: Arrived at 10:00 am, drove up to the Pike Market to buy a flower bokay for the boat. As luck would have it, there was a Bed, Bath and Beyond right next to the Market. So I decided to take care of buying all the new linens/blankets/pillows/towels while I was there. After loading up the trunk of my economy rental car with much goose down, I headed over to the market where I bought a BIG gorgeous bokay of two-toned peach and yellow peonies, calla lilies and some sort of white bonnet shaped flower for only $15. I hauled all of this back to Tacoma where the boat rests and made several trips to unload it all. Every time I lifted a bag up to put it on the boat, I feared I might drop something in the water. So Day 1, I made the beds.

Sunday: I spent most of the morning on the phone with my family and on the internet researching preemie medical conditions. Then I made a thorough search of the internets for real estate in the area. We've started to think that we need a place on dry land to store all of our crap, and we might as well invest in the market while it's down instead of paying rent on a storage unit. But mostly, this was an exercise in futility given that we don't have enough money to buy a piece of property and quit my job without first selling our existing home and we're not ready to do that yet. But it was also good to scout out the various neighborhoods in the region so that when we're in Kansas City, we'll know how to narrow our searches. In the process, I did a lot of driving, and crossed a lot of the houses/neighborhoods off the list as undesirable (what we can afford tends to be in the seediest parts of town and/or in the most remote rural areas). I did find three properties of interest, all very different, which I'll stick in a file for future reference: one 1910 Craftsman bungalow in Old Town Tacoma, a lovely neighborhood of similar bungalow style homes (if there is a single style that I absolutely love, it is the American Bungalow); one Lincoln Log cabin in the woods on 1.5 acres; and 1 small house and 1 acre on an island . Day 2-I drove around.

Monday: After a wonderful breakfast at the Renaissance Cafe (a wonderfully non-franchise sort of place that whips their perfectly scrambled eggs with an espresso machine steamer), I set out to clean the boat's interior. It amazes me that boat brokers, if not the owners who wish to sell their boats, don't do a better job of cleaning them up before putting them on the market. In our 2 year search, we looked at a lot of boats and nearly every one of them was dirty and messy with personal items that could easily have been thrown in the garbage to improve the "curb appeal" dramatically. But they don't, so I did. I went through with reckless abandon and if it was old and grungy (who wants to sleep under some stranger's filthy old blanket?) or if I didn't know what it was, or if I didn't want it (who wants an old stunt kite with broken parts or a 7th ratty life vest when 6 brand new ones will do?), it went in the garbage. I also scrubbed every bathroom and kitchen surface and swiffered to my heart's content. When all was done, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I celebrated by going to the laundry mat, to wash the new towels and a couple of the old blankets worth salvaging. I also stopped in at the Big Lots store, not sure what I might find there. I ended up stocking up the medicine cabinet and the snack cupboard (with mixed nuts and other snack foods). One never knows what one may find at Big Lots! Day 3, I cleaned.

Tuesday (so far): Day 4-While I waited anxiously for the phone call re: Julian, I sat in the cockpit of the boat, listening to Croatian music on the stereo, reading an Anne Perry novel, enjoying the pleasant breeze and a parade of Canadian geese while drinking an entire pot of coffee all myself (well, 6 cups was all I made). Later, after finally getting the call and learning that Julian was at least no worse and my family was in good spirits, I drove down to the waterfront for a long walk, ordered fish and chips on the pier and drove again through a beautiful park that I "discovered" on Sunday. I may still do some exterior clean-up on the boat...the next project involves scrubbing/washing the exterior of the boat and then sanding down the woodwork for revarnishing. Real work. But it's 5:30 pm already and I haven't started that yet. :-) Day 4, I rested.

I feel like it's been a productive and mostly relaxing trip so far, at least as productive and relaxing as it is meant to be. I'm spending a lot more of it just trying to be still...and quiet, listening and praying.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


Julian was one week old yesterday. And it was a good week. Both mom and baby were doing very good, better than anyone expected. So good that I decided to go ahead with my trip to Seattle/Tacoma, where I now sit typing this. He was breathing on his own (and had been since day 1), eating breast milk (albeit through a small tube in his nose so as not to overfeed him), putting on weight (almost back to his birth weight), and his coloring was good (he's been put under a special light for jaundice a couple times, but they say this is normal for preemies). But as Murphy would dictate, almost as soon as I arrived here (one day later), I got word that things might not be going so well for poor Julian.

Yesterday (Sunday), after 4 days of successful feedings and bowel movements(!), the nurse noticed a little blood in his stool. They immediately pulled him off of real food (replacing it with a fluid IV) and started running tests to rule out NEC, an intestinal disease that affects preemies with alarming frequency. If it is NEC, this could be very serious. Many babies do not survive (although, if I am to be an optimist, I should say that many DO! I don't know what the odds are, but according to one non-medical website I visited, 50% survive). So far, all of the tests and doctor reports are good , but they did detect an infection in his blood this morning and put him on antibiotics immediately. The x-rays didn't reveal any tissue damage, but we won't know until tomorrow what kind of infection this is. Until then, we are praying it is not NEC and that Julian is able to fight the infection as stoically as he has fought everything else thus far. We would really appreciate your prayers also.

My husband has nicknamed him Spartacus, "because Spartacus always wins." :-)

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Julian Anthony

Baby has a name, finally. Consideration was given to nearly every name in the Book of Baby Names ("over 20,000 names to choose from!") and the New Testament, as well as a few others of Croatian origin. Consensus was reached on the first name fairly quickly (if you call an all-nighter in the hospital "quick"), but the middle name proved to be a prolonged struggle. I preferred Julian Andrew myself, until I realized this sounds an awful lot like Julie Andrews. Plus, it wasn't my decision to make. So Julian Anthony it is.

Mom didn't get to hold Julian for a whole 24 hours after he was born, mostly because she was still hooked up to IVs and catheters, but also because he couldn't be moved out of the NICU where he still resides in an incubator. Both are doing very well and Mom comes home today. She'll likely spend a lot of time at the hospital over the next few weeks though. Julian is still strong and antsy to get out of the box. He is very alert and recognized his mommy right away...the pictures below were taken the first time she held him. After squealing a bit as they pulled him out to put him in her arms, he immediately settled down, opened his eyes to check her out (suspiciously at first, then a few more times), then he snuggled right in. It's still hard to tell just how tiny he is in the photographs, but his fingers are the diameter of BBQ skewers and now he only weighs 2 lbs 15 oz (they tell us this is fine...they haven't introduced breast milk yet so he's only receiving fluids).

Are You My Mother?


Regarding the meaning of names, I think it's funny how much people get caught up in them when a child is born, but how little it matters later in life. It's just a name! But we laughed over this one...our daughter's first choice/suggestion (realize this is in the recovery room, upon just learning that she has given birth to a boy instead of a girl) was Fabian. We all laughed and said, "NO!" (thinking of the 1950's pop star by this name). It got even better though, when we opened the baby book and discovered that it meant, "one who picks beans." Being that the father is Mexican, this seemed like a politically incorrect choice, but we all got a good laugh out of it. It turns out that there is also a Saint (Pope) Fabian who died in 250 AD to whom a chapel on the Island of Brac, Dalmatia (Croatia) is dedicated, so maybe we shouldn't have been so quick to judgement on that one. Anyway, so began the long search for a name. When our daughter suggested Angel (and all I could envision was a tattoo on some gangter girl's arm of her incarcerated boyfriend's name, Angel), we countered with Gabriel. She tried on Gabriel for size, but it just didn't fit (so we all agreed that maybe the angel of death was not our best choice...but hey, it also means "Man of God" which would be nice). Then we tried on Michael, another angel, but that is my nephew's name so it was nixed as a first name. We later tried this as a middle name and came close to Julian Michael.

Aside from being a variation of Julias (meaning Jove's child, from Roman mythology) the name, Julian, has very little meaning (unless "youthful" is meaningful to you). We simply liked the name and it fits him.

* Updated, to add that Anthony, another strong Roman name meaning "priceless," was suggested by my husband who is of the Roman Catholic persuasion. Ultimately, our daughter was convinced. :-)

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Monday, June 16, 2008


Wow, what a Father's Day! Our first grandchild was born yesterday at 6:15 pm (10 weeks early, at 30 weeks...our daughter's water broke at 5:00 am, we took her to the hospital where they tried to stall the contractions and put her on bed rest, trying to get at least another day and another dose of steroids into her, but possibly as much as two weeks if they could. After several unsuccessful attempts and much screaming, the baby, who was not stressed at all but in the breach position, was delivered by emergency c-section). By some miracle, both mom and the baby are doing fine, much better than we could have hoped for and frankly much better than we prayed for...there was a time during the day when I was praying for the strength to cope with what we knew could be a very dire situation. So, thank God she was with us and not in jail when her water broke and thank you, God, for protecting our "baby" and delivering to her a healthy baby boy!

Yes, a boy! An earlier sonogram indicated it was a girl, so we were all much surprised and as of this moment, he still doesn't have a name...suggestions are welcome.

Being premature, we were amazed that he was only on the ventilator and a pumping machine for a few hours and by the time we saw him this morning, he was breathing on his own. He was sucking on a teensy pacifier and acting like he is ready to try eating, which is also a good surprise at this stage. He's still in an incubator, but the doctors and nurses all say he is doing very well, much better than expected, and not acting at all like the typical "wimpy white boy" in the neonatal intensive care unit where he will likely spend the next few weeks of his life. Mom gets released on Wednesday. Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and special dances. ;-)

Born 6:15 pm on 6-15-08 (3.5 pounds, 16.5 inches, 2 hours old)

(Approx. 14 hours old)

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Random Saturday

Here comes the flood (sung to the tune of Here Comes the Sun, by the Beatles).

While the waters are rising, I don't think we are in its path. Surprising, I know. I do feel badly though, for those who are. My dad was a victim of the 1993 flood that swept through his office, destroying many architectural drawings, renderings, books and office equipment. This flood promises to rise even higher. I sure hope measures have been taken since that time to mitigate the ravaging effects of rising water along the banks of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers this time around.

I picked up the 19-year-old daughter Thursday night. She was released from captivity earlier than expected. I think it was a combination of overcrowding, good behavior and fear of the liability associated with holding a pregant woman (given that it's a private facility, I'm sure liability is a bigger concern than at the government run institutions). She says she experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions while she was there. That episode probably helped get an early release. She has another court date on June 20th, for another ticket in another jurisdiction (supposedly this is her last...we should hope!). Now, she claims to know the importance of showing up and paying the fines, so at least she seems a little wiser for the experience. Now if she can just avoid getting in trouble in the first place. Motherhood has definitely mellowed her out (maybe even matured her a bit). There is hope.

I've made reservations for a solo-vacation* next week. I'll be going to Seattle to stay on our boat, making provisions and probably tending to some follow up mechanical work that still needs doing. I may also do a little job searching while out there, depending on how strong is my motivation to do so. Right now, that motivation is very low. I have an opportunity to outsource tax returns for an old partner of mine, the one who originally hired me here in Kansas City back in the early 90's. He knows of our plan to live on our boat and is very flexible. He's busy now with more entrepreneurial endeavors and needs help with the compliance aspects (i.e. preparing tax returns). It would be like outsourcing to India, only I'd be in Seattle. He's in Colorado, but everything can be done electronically. This seems like a good fit and I'd be on my own schedule, working from the boat, with essentially just one client that doesn't require any face time and already has a working knowledge of tax law. This sounds very appealing to me right now. The pay would be better than Starbucks, and the schedule more flexible, but I'd have to pay for my own health insurance. Right now, this is Plan A.

Plan B is getting a no-brain job at a coffee shop or a grocery store and making just enough money to pay for the boat slip and a few groceries while helping my husband with his painting business. Or maybe just helping him with his business if that saves or makes more money than I could make by working at Starbucks.

Plan C is taking a year sabbatical and shoving off from the dock, living on rice and beans for a year at sea. This would be Plan A if not for the fact that we still have teenagers (and now a grandchild) and dogs to care for.

Meanwhile, I've still not given a firm date of departure from my existing job. While I have put my bosses on alert and told them that I should not be given any new assignments, existing client demands and fear of leaving in a time of economic recession hold me back. Not to mention, the personal uncertainties involving our teenagers. It just doesn't seem like a good time to add more uncertainty to the mix. So far, I've blown through 2 "last days" (April 15th and June 15th). Now, I've told them August 15th. Maybe.

As I type this, I am watching the shuttle Discovery touch town after a 5.7 million mile journey into space, on the NASA channel. Wow! That was impressive.

On the list of things to do today:

Review a tax return that was promised by June 15th
Go to the grocery store, for Father's Day brunch
Go shopping for Father's Day gift
Spend time with the older daughter
Run on the treadmill

Happy Father's Day!

* My husband cannot go with me because of his work and fear of leaving our house and dogs in the care of our daughter, my daughter cannot go because she doesn't feel like flying (not to mention her upcoming court appearance), my mom cannot join me (she lives in CA) because of her volunteer commitments, my dad cannot go because he has a woodturning symposium to attend, my friend cannot join me because I decided I'd rather travel alone than be accompanied by someone whose first questions were:

"what are you packing?" (I don't know...I'll let you know when we get there)
"do you mind if I have to check my bags(S!)?" (after telling her that I travel light and carry on my bag, singular, to save time and headaches...yes, I do)
"are you taking any nice outfits?" (no...I plan to live in my sweat pants, shorts and flip flops for a week...I guess this answers the first question, doesn't it)
"what about a blow dryer?" (what about it?)

I know that if she comes with, I will not do anything productive the entire time. She is what you would call very high maintenance and I am just the opposite. While she's owned a sailboat before, she is not exactly handy. I'm afraid that she might not be happy living on a boat for a weak, especially if we can't figure out how to use the showers and toilets. We might even sink the boat. So, I think I really just need to get away by myself for some quiet time, and maybe a little bit of productivity if I'm so inclined.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Check, Please!

Okay, so here's the latest:

The oldest daughter, almost 7 months pregnant, is in jail, and the youngest daughter, almost an "adult," is in California. You do the math. My head hurts!

So why is the 19-year old in "prison?" Because she chose the path of least resistance in dealing with (or not dealing with) fines imposed on her for speeding and other infractions. And she knew better than to ask us to bail her out. We did not even have to say "I told you so." Do the crime, do the time. It's a well known line in our house. She's scheduled to be there for 16 days, working off fines at $50/day. I know this seems harsh, especially since she is pregnant and all, but seriously, isnt' that why we have a legal system? What I fail to understand is why people who are convicted of much worse crimes manage to get off without doing any time?

And somewhere, I must have missed the part in the parenting manual about how to instill the fear of being incarcerated. It seems like this should be intuitive (I did offer up reminders..."you know, if you don't pay those tickets, you'll be arrested and thrown in jail"), but apparently, this fear is not innate. It must be taught. To me, being incarcerated is something to be avoided at all costs. The humility of it all is enough for me, but throw in the loss of freedom, rights and privileges, and negative impact on my future prospects for a job, and I never, ever want to go to jail. The closest I've ever come is taking a tour of the prison where my step-father worked (home to the late Ike Turner and Tex Watson). Count me out!

Today, we went to visit her, on the one day that inmates are allowed to have visitors. We were only allowed a half hour on the telephone separated by glass (but because we were the only visitors, we got to stay as long as we wanted). The whole scene was very surreal. I've never visited a prisoner before, so any visitation was bound to feel surreal, but because she is not a serious threat, she's been shipped off to a private facility that outsources minimum security inmates for the overflowing county jails. This facility is about an hour from our home, in a very small farm town, at the end of a run-down residential street (the kind of street populated with trailers and dogs and small kids in diapers and scattered toys). The building was one of those aluminum sided agriculture barn-type buildings. You would never guess it is a jail, except for the constant unloading of new prisoners through the roll-up garage doors. We walked around to the entrance and entered a very quiet visiting check-in area (it reminded me of a grade school office). We never went through any metal detectors and we weren't strip searched or anything. The sad part was that we couldn't give her a hug. We also couldn't see the inside of where she is living for 16 days, but as she described it, it is a very dismal, animalistic place to be, not unlike being held inside a chicken coop (only chickens would make better cell mates, I imagine). We are anxious to have her back home and hope she learns from this experience. Please pray for her.

And the other one too!

After the emotional roller coaster ride this past week or so, the younger one decided that it was imperative to her mental health that she go back to California. She does not understand how it is that anyone can stand to live in Misery (Missouri, for the undereducated). And even though the odds are stacked against her, she was determined enough to work out a more thoughtful exit strategy than the last failed attempt. So, this time, we worked with her. She bought her own plane ticket, packed her own bags, listened to our pleas to reconsider her decision, enjoyed two parties with her parents (my friend's birthday party Friday night and my husband's friend's wedding Saturday night...we even danced together as a family at the wedding...this NEVER happens!), and then we drove her to the airport Sunday morning. We said a very tearful goodbye. She is going back to a lot of unknowns...where to live, where to work, where to go to college. She has friends who are helping her, but she is truly on her own to make this work. She's a very determined young girl with a lot of potential who feels it is absolutely necessary that she live in California to be happy. We are praying hard for her as well.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Dreaming of Circus Elephants... the basement...with the dogs.

Last night's tornado threats were very real, but only in Kansas would you expect to find Circus Elephants traipsing through the backyard. When this happens, we all take note, pack up the valuables in a laundry basket and carry them down to the basement, to wait out the storm.

We also carry the elderly dog down since he cannot walk down the stairs on his own (note to time, do not lift the heavy dog under its windpipe when doing causes much unnecessary hacking/gagging/spitting up and concern for the rest of the family members who think you've just killed the family's favorite pet). Cocoa, the worrier, runs up and down the stairs while we do this which sometimes results in spilling of the valuables and/or elderly dog down the stairs. So we exercised an excessive amount of expletives in getting people, animals and things to the basement. Then we hunkered down in front of the teevee, to watch the radar and weatherpeople tell us what to expect, when and where. Then, almost as soon as we sit down, the satellite signal went out (thank you, DISH) and so we were left in the basement with only ourselves, and a weather radio, listening to the rain and hail and howling wind outside.

When the weather calmed down a bit, but the threat of tornadoes still present, the others decided to head back upstairs to the comfort of their real beds while I decided to sleep downstairs on the couch...with the dogs (since, to take the elderly one back upstairs would require carrying him, or walking him around the house outside in the rain)...where I dreamt of circus elephants in our house.

Related, I stayed home from work yesterday, to tend to the younger daughter who was experiencing a lot of emotional rollercoaster (yes, I've made an appointment with a psychiatrist). One of the funnier moments of the day (maybe the only funny moment) was when she told me that she thought her "real purpose in life was to be a circus speaker." I laughed and said, "do you mean a circus performer?" I agreed that maybe she'd make a great circus act, but she corrected me, "NO! I said CIRCUIT speaker, you know, one of those people who goes around speaking about how they screwed up their life and now they're making a living by talking about it?" Oh, okay. I preferred "circus act" myself. ;-\

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