May 03, 2008
Kentucky Derby, May 3rd, 2008.
NBC is covering the Run for the Roses. This is not the first year they've covered the event; they should know what they are doing, right?
So far, after fifty minutes, they have yet to talk about any of the $#&! horses. They have yet to talk to any trainers. They've spent about thirty seconds on a fluff piece about jockeys.
They've interviewed Hugh Hefner and asked about his hotel accommodations. They've talked to Terrell Owens about how things are going with the Dallas Cowboys, and right now they're talking to some guy from the New York Giants. NBC has spent more time talking about football than about the Kentucky Derby.
What the intercourse is up with that?
Wait... wait... Bob Costas will be on in ten minutes. Maybe they'll talk about the freakin' horses before the race actually starts. One can only hope.
Taking a page from ABC News' playbook on how to cover the issues, I guess.
May 04, 2008
I don't drink. There's no particular reason; I simply never got into it. The taste of most alcohols simply doesn't appeal to me, although I will cop to occasionally enjoying a milkshake made with Irish Cream and coffee flavored Haagen-Dasz. Several of my favorite recipes call for cooking with alcohol (take a look at the recipes I've posted, like Jambalaya, for a tasty example). But that said, drinking isn't my thing.
The fact that I don't drink is somewhat unexpected, given my Irish heritage. Here's how Irish my heritage is: my grandparent whose surname at birth was McMahon died of liver failure, resulting partly from her penchant for beer. No kidding.
When my cousins and sister and I were kids, the biggest honor we could imagine during those summer weekends at our grandparents' cottage was to be allowed to carry the beer pitcher from the tap to where the adults were sitting in the yard.
[For long-time readers of my blog, I'll point out that these grandparents are not the ones who were Methodist ministers. Here's how NOT-Irish my other grandparents were: when administering communion, they used grape juice instead of wine. No kidding. ]
This is what it means to grow up as part of an Irish family: the tap I mentioned above jutted out from the side of a refrigerator that resided on the front porch of the cottage, with a keg inside. The fridge contained nothing else. I'm not making this up. The aforementioned cottage was in Canada, where the national bird is the Molson Golden. Okay, I made up the bit about the national bird, but really, what else has Canada contributed to American culture but hockey, beer, William Shatner, and beer?
The extended family that populated my summer visits to Canada were consummate story-tellers and avid card players, and beer was ever present in the background, no doubt helping to facilitate both. Given that I soaked up all the story telling and card playing, I find it an interesting quirk that I never had any interest whatsoever in appreciating so-called adult beverages.
[I will also acknowledge that another aspect of my Irish heritage involved being exposed to Irish cuisine, which consists of boiling "food" until it has no flavor and no nutritional value. Salt to taste. "Food" consists of some combination of potatoes, cabbage, and meat. I have also sidestepped that aspect of my Irish heritage.]
Later, in my grad school days, I made it a point to learn what wines go best with the meals I would prepare for my paramour at the time. She came from a family that had some means, and I occasionally felt like my blue-collar background colored (unfavorably) their opinion of me. On occasions when I was not feeling particularly charitable about an upcoming visit with her family, I'd contemplate asking them what meal they would be preparing so that I would know what kind of beer to bring.
But for all that I was steeped in the couture of wine and the culture of beer -- ha! "Steeped!" There's another drink I don't drink: tea -- I've simply never acquired the taste.
A few years ago, I tried explaining to someone that I never could get into the taste, and she pointed out, "Allan, people don't start drinking for the taste." [This someone has, in the ensuing years, become quite the wine snob, so she might or might not give the same response in her older, wiser frame of mind.] While I know that this is not necessarily true, it does bring up the valid point that some people don't drink for the flavor, but for the effects.
I have long suspected that my lack of interest in drinking might be related to my innate desire to maintain self-control. But I have added a few data points in recent years that make me wonder about another possibility.
As I mentioned a few years ago when it happened, I required oral surgery that involved reconstructing my gum line -- a gingiva graft. During one of the procedures, I was offered nitrous oxide to augment the anesthetic, and I decided to try it. As soon as they started, I had to wave them off to tell them to stop.
"This feels terrible. I'm all light-headed, and I feel like I might throw up."
"We told you it would make you feel a little like you've been drinking." For a second, I was afraid they wouldn't turn it off; the person controlling the gas seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would not want to feel that way. This was a truly frightening moment for me. Then she eased up on the gas, and the terrible feeling evaporated with it.
As I may or may not have mentioned in my posts about my oral surgeries, I was prescribed a small amount of Vicodin/hydrocodone to use as a pain killer. This drug did absolutely nothing for me. Nothing. I have long wondered why something so useless could be such a hot commodity. My painkiller of choice remained Advil, even though it presumably has more serious side-effects (stomach bleeding, anyone?).
Which brings us to a few days ago. I've been recovering from an ear infection these past few days, and saw my doctor on Wednesday to have him check on my progress and to discuss pain management. My approach as been: when it hurts, take lots and lots of Advil. Alternate with Tylenol. Repeat as necessary.
Talking to your doctor can sometimes be a good thing. He pointed out that I was taking a toxic amount of Tylenol (notorious for potential liver damage), and a prescription-level's worth of Advil. He recommended a short course of Vicodin to help manage the pain, "Which should go away in a few days anyway," and would do less damage to my body in the meantime.
So I filled the prescription. I noticed immediately something different: unlike the other times I'd been given hydrocodone (the generic equivalent), these pills were large enough for a horse. Insofar as this medicine had never had an effect on me before, I took one right away (this was during a break at work) with lunch, unconcerned that I'd be driving a few hours later.
An hour or three later, I noticed that I was sleeeepy. Then I made the connection: bigger pill might mean an actual effect. Then I noticed: my ear still hurt! When I'd had my oral surgery, the doctor who prescribed the Vicodin said that I'd probably still feel pain, but I just wouldn't care. I thought about that. Did I care that I was still in pain?
$%*!, yes, I cared! Ouch!
So, there I was, sleepy but still in pain. *And* I had some driving to do. And, come to think of it... I was just as uncomfortable as I'd been when I'd briefly tried that nitrous oxide.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up caffeine.
Twenty ounces of Dr Pepper (have you ever noticed that there's no period in the "Dr" part of Dr Pepper?) and four Advil later, and the effects of the hydrocodone were again rendered moot. I had been worried it would take longer for the hydrocodone to wear off (unlike the nitrous oxide, where the effects disappeared immediately), but I guess my body just didn't have much use for it.
So, what have I learned from all this? Well, for starters, I won't be taking Vicodin / hydrocodone ever again. It just plain doesn't work for me, and makes me feel anxious and sleepy, to boot.
I've learned (or, perhaps, reaffirmed) that it's very, very difficult to give up Dr Pepper.
...and I'm wondering if maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons I've never developed any interest in alcohol has something to do with my body already sensing that it simply has no use for depressants. I realize that narcotics and alcohol are chemically different, so it's possible that I'm over-generalizing with this guess. Then again, nitrous oxide is a depressant, and it is neither an opiate nor an alcohol.
Whether my aversion to alcohol and other depressants is psychological, physical, or both, I do know this: it has nothing to do with virtue, and it has nothing to do with fear. The concept of temptation holds no meaning when one is not even interested.
True to my Irish roots, I may die of liver failure. However, it would be the results of my accidental overdose of Tylenol, and not because of beer.
May 06, 2008
Around this time last year, Paulette came up with the idea of taking the kids down to Mt St Helens as a kind of family field trip. Alex's school has the kids do show-and-tell, and encourages them to talk about things that start with the "sound of the week" -- that would be the letter of the week, but that's not how they teach reading at his school, they teach sounds -- and the letter V (or, rather, the sound V) was a few weeks away. Paulette's idea was that we could see the volcano one day, and then spend the rest of the weekend visiting friends in Portland, OR and hitting the Saturday Market.
A side note about the Portland Saturday Market: ten summers ago, some friends from my Cornell days and I converged on Portland for a mini-reunion that we have every year (each year in a different city), and we went to the Saturday Market as part of our weekend. While there, I saw a photographer's exhibit that was simply breathtaking, and I very much wanted to buy one of his custom-framed prints. It was amazing. But, I was also only two months away from getting married, and I wanted to make sure that Paulette wouldn't mind me blowing a big wad of cash on a piece of art just before we dropped an even bigger wad of cash on our wedding.
As it turned out, she and I have very similar tastes in art, but since we'd never really acquired any art up to that point, I wanted to clear it with her. The photographer didn't believe in having business cards -- he said he never sold any of his work by using them -- so I figured I'd just run back down to Portland to pick up his stuff on some future weekend.
I've never seen him at the Portland Saturday Market since then, but whenever I'm down there, I always look. I don't know his name. But I know I'd recognize his work if I ever saw it again. It was that amazing.
Anyway, circumstances interfered with the Mt St Helens trip last year, but this year, we made it happen... and, just in time for hitting the letter 'V' again this year. Or the sound, 'V'. Whatever. Paulette and I bundled up the kids in the minivan for what is expected to be our last family adventure together before the anticipated arrival of Baby 3.0.
We left after work on Friday, April 18th. Let me make a comment about April in the Seattle area: it never snows. At least, there's no record of snow accumulating in Seattle after April 1st. In late April, the tulips are already in bloom, and most of the trees have already flowered if not grown their leaves. As we were getting ready to leave, I had to snap a photo of the blanket of snow threatening our tulips. Crazy, crazy.
We drove down to a town near Mt St Helens; the plan was to make a hotel there our base of operations and we went back and forth between points Washington and Oregon. The hotel was ready and waiting for us, we all got a good night's sleep, and had a pleasant breakfast before heading off to the visitor center at Mt St Helens.
The lava caves we had hoped to visit were closed due to snow. In fact, so were just about all of the vantage points except for the main visitor center, which was far enough away from the mountain that the snowfall (it was still snowing) made it impossible to see. There was a little movie about the big eruption in 1980, and a scale model of the volcano and surrounding area that you can walk through. Nolan loved that part, while Alex preferred the movie.
We had a good visit at the center, but I was nonetheless a little disappointed that we didn't get the see the volcano.
After a refreshing dip in the pool and hot tub at our hotel (Nolan and Alex both absolutely love swimming. However, Nolan is still learning, so the hot tub was more agreeable to him because he could stand on the bench seats and didn't have to worry about actually swimming swimming), we headed down to Portland to visit with our friends Bjorn and Kirsten.
We had a fantastic evening. Excellent conversation, excellent food at a local Italian restaurant that was kid friendly, more excellent conversation, and just an all-around agreeably relaxing time was had by all. I've been a little out of sorts lately, and there's nothing like a pleasant evening with old friends to put one's mind at ease.
I must mention (if you haven't visited the link already to Bjorn's site) that Bjorn has an airplane named Superboy. In fact, if I recall correctly, Alexander's first plane ride was in Superboy. Bjorn loves to fly, and he told us he'd be happy to take us for a look at Mt St Helens if the weather for the next day turned out to be as good as the forecast claimed.
Although we have a lot of friends in Portland and surrounding areas, we ended up not making any other plans for the weekend, since we weren't sure how the kids would do on the trip. Sunday morning, we went to Saturday Market (I love saying that -- "Sunday, at the Saturday Market..."), and Alex was pretty obviously not happy to be dragged around while his parents wanted to look at the artsy-fartsy stuff on display. I did not find the photographer I'd been looking for these past ten years, nor did I expect to, but I can still hope that someday I'll bump into him again.
We had an appropriate lunch (Mmmm... outdoor market food) and then phoned Bjorn to see if he was still up for a plane ride. Silly me. The boys love airplanes, and Bjorn loves to fly. The weather was cooperating, so *of course* everyone was up for a ride.
Bjorn was so gracious with the kids. He had Alex help out by checking the fuel and plugging in the rear headsets. The plane may not look big, but it was able to hold me (and I'm pretty big) and Paulette (who is flying for two) and Nolan in the back seat, while Alex flew shotgun in the co-pilot's chair.
As it so happened, we flew up into a big bevy of clouds, but we found a hole that enabled us to get up above the cloud cover. ("Why not just fly through the clouds?" "Because the temperature up here is below freezing, and the plane would ice up very quickly if we tried.") At this point, it became obvious that we might see nothing but overcast skies (well... undercast, I guess, since we were above the clouds) blanketing the mountain, but what the heck, we were already in the air. So, we headed to Mt St Helens to see what we could see.
Keep in mind, just getting the boys up for a flight made for a wonderful time, and Paulette and I enjoyed sitting next to each other in the cozy back seats. But if we could actually get some snapshots of the mountain while we were there, well... so much the better. In fact, I should make this point if it hasn't become obvious already: Mt. St. Helens was the McGuffin for our trip. It was the excuse; it was not the reason. The reason was to get us out as a family, enjoying some different scenery and different settings. The goal was to leave work and the daily chores behind for a little while. That said....
Miles and miles of big, white, fluffy clouds rolled by beneath us while Alex enjoyed being the co-pilot and Nolan played with his trains. Then we saw a break in the clouds, near where the volcano should be, and lo and behold... Wow, what a view. We were so close to the crater, we could see the plumes of steam roiling up into the air. (For those who don't know, the volcano is still active... it's just not erupting at present.)
We snapped our photos. Alex would have some neat print-outs for his show-and-tell that week. All-in-all, though, it was just cool the way the weekend all came together. We had some pleasant quiet time as a family, enjoyed a soothing, low-key visit with gracious friends, and then had a private tour of a snow-capped volcano. A magically delicious weekend.
If a picture's worth a thousand words, let me leave you with this:
May 13, 2008
Paulette and Allan Rousselle (and their sons, Alexander and Nolan) are proud to announce the birth of their son (and Alexander's and Nolan's brother):
Born May 13th, 2008 at 8:48 am (Pacific Time)
8 lbs., 13.5 oz.
Mother and child are doing well and will be coming home from the hospital in a few days.
Pictures will be posted here in a day or two. Or three. Definitely by Friday.
Thank you all for your support, kindness, and well wishes.
May 14, 2008
The first I knew of Andrew being born was the sound of his voice; a brief cry that said, "What's going on?"
With that one sound, everything changed. The bond I felt was instantaneous. As had happened before with Alexander and with Nolan, that very first sound put all kinds of puzzle pieces into place: the fact of his being alive; the fact of his being mine; the fact of his being a part of me and my life; the fact of my love for him. I know it all can sound so mushy, but it wasn't, entirely. On the one hand, it was simply "these are the facts": Andrew was here. But, yes, on the other hand, the emotions were here, too.
One of the medical staff asked, "Does he look like your other boys?" I wasn't sure how to answer. The best I could come up with at the time was, "He looks like... him. He looks like Andrew."
But after a little while -- after my brain could process what was going on -- I realized that, in fact, he bears an uncanny resemblance to the way his brothers looked on they day they were born. I mean, besides being all purple and squishy. Their body types are similar, and their faces are *remarkably* similar.
Take a scroll through the pictures of Alex when he was three and younger, and then scroll through the photos of Nolan, and you'll notice how remarkably similar they look(ed). Look at the baby photos and compare them to Andrew's. Yeah, I guess they do look alike. [Note: Alexander and Nolan used to have separate pages; I have since combined them, for various reasons, into one page for all three of the boys. --AGR 2/18/2009]
There are some notable differences: Andrew was born with a lot more hair on his head than Nolan (and, perhaps a wee bit more than Alex, as well), and his feet are not as big as Alex's. Andrew's birth weight is almost exactly halfway between Alex's and Nolan's, but there's also a sense that this guy is likely to give Nolan a run for his money in the size department when all is said and done.
He's a big kid, but not tubby. He's well proportioned, and his apgars were excellent. This kid is as healthy as newborns come.
So, while phoning everyone to tell them the news, everything could be pretty much summed up by the lines, "He's healthy, and Paulette's doing well, and the event was as about as by-the-numbers as they come." But I wanted to say so much more than that. It seems like the fact that Andrew was as healthy as he was and that Paulette came through as well as she did demands more, and says more. It certainly fills up my heart more than that sentiment implies. But, alas, it only takes up one sentence when converted into words.
Speaking of words... let's talk about names.
"Andrew" was the leading contender to be Baby 2.0's name until near the very end, when we switched to "Nolan" for various reasons. This time around, we kinda threw out the rule book. The only two rules that really stayed with us were: 1) the name be relatively easy to spell, and 2) the name not be particularly career limiting. While I must admit that Barak Obama is proving that names may not be as career limiting as I'd once suspected, I still think it unlikely that we will ever elect a President "Moon-Unit" or "Lemonjello".
That said, "Andrew" instantly became our de facto choice for first name, but the middle name remained something of a challenge. With Alex and Nolan, we chose middle names that commemorated Americans we particularly admire. Several others we admire (such as Abraham Lincoln) have names that don't quite scan well between "Andrew" and "Rousselle", or sound a bit more pretentious than we would prefer. The trick is to pick a name that evokes someone admirable and thereby augments Andrew's name, but without hijacking his name.
In the end, we selected "James" because we like the name, it scans well as part of Andrew's full name, and it serves as a tip of the hat to James Madison, principal author of the Constitution of the United States -- one of the most amazing documents ever written -- and the Bill of Rights, which is far too overlooked by today's political parties. He was a champion of checks and balances in our government, which may well be the saving grace of our nation.
But, enough about James Madison. Here's to Andrew James Rousselle... an American original!
(Incidentally, this picture shows Andrew in the arms of his grandmother, while being surrounded by his older brothers.)
May 22, 2008
As I've mentioned from time to time on these pages, I am prone to insomnia. This has been true for me since high school, when I was more tightly wound than that character "Cameron" from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
I'm not the perfectionist that I used to be (man, life is so much easier when you lower your standards), but I still have plenty racing around in the ol' noggin to sometimes thwart my efforts at sleep. Constant interruptions from the kids (two out of three children in this household currently like to break up the monotony of cutting zzzs during the late night/early morning hours) fuel my body's occasional aversion to surrendering to sleep.
I found an interesting approach to insomnia in a book called And Never Stop Dancing by Dr. Gordon Livingston (I presume). No, despite the title, this isn't some New Agey feel-good picker-upper. It's a collection of observations by a psychiatrist who also happens to be an eloquent story teller.
In a chapter entitled "No one ever died of insomnia," Dr. Livingston (notice that there *is* a period after the Dr. in this case, as opposed to the missing period from a case of Dr Pepper) gives a neat formula for handling sleeplessness. If, after a half hour of trying, you still can't fall asleep, get up and do something for at least forty-five minutes before trying to sleep again. Repeat as necessary.
This isn't a cure by any stretch, but it's a fantastic way of *dealing with it*.
Oddly enough, I've been intuitively pursuing this kind of approach for a while now (as noted in this entry from last year), but I like the idea of having a formula to use as a guideline, rather than resorting to temporarily-giving-up-on-sleep out of exasperation.
You may wonder why it occurs to me to mention this little formula to you on this particular occasion. Then again, you may have already seen the time stamp on this entry.
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