Saturday, August 30, 2008

...In the unlikeliest of places

This post can go under the heading of stories which prove that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. I returned to work last night for the first time since before Sofia was born (boo hoo). That was upsetting and new for us both but it is not, alas, the subject of this posting.

I was scrolling through my work emails furiously trying to whittle down 400 plus messages that had accumulated during the time I was basking in the glory if a 16 week maternity leave (by the way, thanks Mom for the flowers. They softened the blow a little tiny bit). I found reference to a strange story within the hords of mundane postings and notifications and decided to delve a little deeper by asking my coworkers about it. Luckily for me, the girl who had originally posted the tale was working in my area with me and she was most happy to fill me in, to my initial horror and eventual hilarity.

Apparently, there was a patient admitted to the ER with crushing chest pain or some such malady. She was bundled off to radiology for a CT scan and then sent to the cath lab for a cardiac catheterization. She eventually ended up, after taking a tour through these several areas of the hospital, in the ICU and the very capable hands of Teresa the ICU nurse. Teresa decided, being the excellent nurse that she is, that the patient would enjoy a linen change after her adventures of the day. She therefore turned the patient over in bed only to find a dead cat beneath the patient. Yes, dear reader, I did not mistype. She found a dead cat. Underneath the patient. After the patient had been through the ER, moved to the CT table in radiology (love to see that film someday) and to the cath lab where they insert large-bore sheaths (they are so friggin large that they aren't even considered needles at that point) into her groin area and finally ended up in the ICU before anyone noticed that there was a deceased domestic animal beneath her. I swear that I do not make this up.

Apparently, an incident report was filled out, the house supervisor was notified, and the animal was disposed of after a quick and appropriately somber moment of silence. And this, I realized, was a clear and obvious message from the cosmos. "Welcome back, Lauren" the cosmos said. "We could tell you were gonna need something like this to get you back into the nursing spirit." And, suprisingly, it did. You won't blame me if I feel the need to check beneath my patients for dead animals from now on though.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beware the nose sucker

I have a confession to make. As a new parent, I know we all face certain tasks that we dread doing. One that I have heard a lot of moms complain about is the clipping of the fingernails. I don't particularly mind that one. Its not my favorite thing to do, but believe me, she holds still a heck of a lot better than the dogs do. And she doesn't do that nasty thing where she runs all over the house with blood dribbling from the middle of her toenail like the dogs do. I hate that.
For me, one of my guilty pleasures is...get ready...the nose sucker. While Sofia will most certainly require eventual therapy to recover from the emotional scarring that my nasal suctioning has resulted in, I find it to be one of the most fulfilling tasks of parenting (so far). It started before she was even born. I had to make sure that I had one ready by the time I got into my 3rd trimester, because I was obsessed with the idea of going into precipitous labor and having her on the living room floor with Hugo as my only birthing attendant and I wanted to make sure that he would have something to suck the secretions out of her nose if that happened. Get that? I was worried about sucking the secretions out of her nose if I should have an emergency unplanned home birth. That's the one thing I was concerned about. I went through several scenarios with Hugo where I described in great detail what it would be like and the imperative nostril and mouth clearing efforts that he would have to effect in order to allow the baby to breathe. I demonstrated how to use the bulb syringe. I told him to know where the bulb syringe was at all times. If Hugo ever happens upon a poor unsuspecting woman in precipitous labor, he will most certainly be seen shouting for a bulb syringe while the laboring woman tries to kill him. I can just see him, "Does anyone have a bulb syringe? This woman is about to have a baby! We must have a bulb syringe!"

So it should come as no surprise that I have taken my own bulb syringe duties very seriously since the birth of the child. I waited to pull the thing out until Sofia had her first legitimate episode of the sniffles. She woke up kind of cranky while we were on our family vacation with signs and symptoms that she had caught the common cold that all the kids were chummily passing around (while their parents desperately tried to get them to share their toys, which they were not nearly so accomodating with). I told Hugo, "This is a job for the nose sucker. Get it out of the diaper bag," (where I had fortuitously stashed it at the beginning of the vacation). I confidently squeezed the thing and stuck it into her tiny little nostril. I released it. Suckkkkkk! I felt a little thrill. I did it again in the other nostril. Sofia gave me a funny look, but didn't object too vociferously. I think I'm kind of a natural at it. I peered deep into the recesses of the bulb syringe and saw it. The first legitimate booger to be aspirated from my poor unsuspecting child's nose. I felt another thrill. I looked deeper into her nostrils and was certain that I saw another booger, this one was really far back. I had to have it. Five minutes later, when Sofia had become thoroughly exasperated and was fussing and getting ready to really start objecting, Hugo removed the device from my hand and put it back into the diaper bag. "That's enough," was his only comment.
But it was too late. I was hooked. I began going on a daily booger hunt every morning right after her first feeding. I think it must be because of my background as a nurse and the fact that I have been well indoctrinated with the importance of suctioning my vented patients. Most nurses are revolted by the suctioning process and vociferously object to doing it. "Why do we have to do it?" they ask. "That's what we have respiratory therapists for. They like secretions." I, on the other hand, have always found it extremely satisfying to apply the suctioning wand to the mouth, or the trach site, or the nares. Even more satsifying is when some huge goober comes up accompanied by a lovely noise, the likes of which cannot be imitated through this medium. I know most people who are reading this are probably dry heaving at this point. That's the wonderful thing about me though. I love it. I find it deeply satisfying to know that someone's lungs were contaminated and obstructed with that big hunk of nastiness and now, because 0f my intervention, they no longer are. Go Girl!
It is along the same vein (as misguided as it may be) that my obsession with the nose sucker comes from. I have actually offered to nose suck some of the babies in the postpartum group that I attend. I was chatting with the mom of Syndney, an adorable little blond chunkaroo when I noted that she had a very tempting little crust just inside her nose. "You want me to get that for you?" I asked. She smiled and then backed away, holding her infant just slightly to the side as though to use her body as a shield if I should happen to make a dive for her.
I'm not sure what it is that is so exciting about the daily booger hunt. Maybe it is the fact that Sofia's tiny little nostrils are too small to insert a finger into (I've tried) to retrieve an annoying piece of snot. She isn't capable of blowing on command when a tissue is held up to her nose yet. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I am the only person in the world who will remove that snot from her nose. Just me and nobody else. So therefore, it is a task I treasure and enjoy. Someday, when she realizes that she had the cleanest nasal passageways as a baby, maybe Sofia will thank me for my efforts. But for now, that noise is the only reward I require. Succkckckckck!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A tale of 3 pasta fagioli's

I'm not going to even go into the pronounciation of the recipe. You're all on your own for that one. "fazool" "Fagool" "fag-ee-oh-lee" you can pronounce it any way you want to. I'm also not going to take a hard-line approach on the recipe itself, as there is considerable discord in my own family about how to properly execute the dish. My mom used to make it a lot when we were kids because its cheap and it makes a huge pot and we were poor and there was, like, a bunch of us. She always made it with dittalini pasta and cannelini beans (hence the pasta and the fagioli in the recipe's title). Basically, other than an onion and some tomato paste diluted in a couple cans of water, that was pretty much it. Then we would throw on a bunch of grated parmesan cheese (the cheap kind that comes in the green can) and call it a meal. Along with some crusty Italian bread of course. Well, my mom ended up classing up the recipe later on by switching to shell pasta and real parmesan cheese and maybe adding a little fresh garlic to the mix. As kids started moving out, she started to have money for more than just cans of tomato paste and water.
Anyway, my sister Val disagreed with this "cutting and running" policy of changing much beloved childhood recipes, so she sticks by the tried and true method of preparing the dish. She also omits the fagioli portion of the meal by not adding the cannelini beans, since we never liked those anyway and would often leave them in the bottom of the bowl, uneaten. As a side note, I will state that my sister Val takes this extremely conservative approach to all her executions of oldy but goody recipes, and consequently, I always go to her when I want to taste macaroni and cheese exactly like my grandmother used to make it, down to the elbow pasta, butter soaked breadcrumbs on top and even as far as the Wishbone Italian salad dressing that accompanies the salad of iceburg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and canned black olives. I'm not kidding man. Not even my grandmother makes it as good as she used to the way my sister does. Everyone else in the family seems to be afflicted with this need to modify and enhance. I have to admit, its nice to have a taste of the old days once in a while.
However, my sister Rene' takes a completely different philosophical approach to constructing her pasta fagioli. My sister Rene' is unhappy with any recipe that does not call for meat and alcohol, so this staid vegetarian classic is an assault on all her senses. She adds chicken to the pot, making it something that would more accurately be named pasta y fagioli y pollo. She then spices up the broth by using chicken stock instead of plain water and spiking it liberally with wine. Red wine. And then drinking a liberally portioned glass along with...
Finally, I in all my middle child glory must take this mess of a family recipe and attempt to make sense out of it all (or at least a fairly edible pot of soup). I must conserve the flavor of the old without ignoring several extremely sensible modifications that have been very succesfully implemented over the years. So here goes. Here is my middle child attempt to share a family recipe that satisfies the sentimental taste for childhood while taking something from each individual version of the dish. Most likely, as per the fate of every middle child "peacemaker," my final result will satisfy nobody and at least one (if not all) of the the family members who have been humbly biographied will be offended by my attempts at amalgomation. Oh well, here goes anyway...

Ingredients: One onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 can of cannelini beans, 1 little can of tomato paste, 1 box of dittalini or other preferred pasta (something fairly small with holes is best I believe), 32 ounce container of chicken or vegetable stock, 1 cup red wine, 2.5 cups of water, salt and pepper (to taste), assorted italian spices to taste (basil, parsley, oregano), garlic powder, onion powder, 1/4 cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Sweat the onion in a liberal coating of olive oil (Sweating is a fine culinary skill that falls just short of sauteeing. You don't want to hear the onion singing in the pan, you just want to barely hear it humming). Add the garlic cloves when the onions are just starting to turn clear. Add a pinch of salt. A few rounds of the fresh ground pepper mill. Pour in the wine and let the sweaty onion and garlic get drunk for a minute. Add the can of tomato paste. Add the stock and the water and pump up the heat. Let the whole thing come to a boil and then reduce the heat so it just simmers for awhile. Meanwhile, boil some water and cook the pasta to al dente perfection. If you don't know how to do that then lord help you, because I surely can't. Drain the pasta and set it to the side. When the soup seems to be pretty well simmered (in other words, I don't know how long to cook it at this stage, but hey, there's no meat in this one so we don't have to worry about salmonella), add in a good pinch of all the italian seasonings as well as the onion and garlic powders. Taste it. It should hopefully taste good at this point (please don't tell Mrs. Harris my freshman English prof that I just used the word hopefully in the entirely un-grammatically correct manner that most people generally use the word hopefully in). Add in the beans (they don't need to cook, just heat through so that's why you don't add them until the end). Add in the parmesan cheese. And if you grated the cheese yourself, hopefully (there we go again) you grated plenty of extra to serve at the table since almost everyone enjoys a liberal sprinkling of fresh parmesan added tableside. Stir it up. And here is where my mom definitely got with the program after many years of doing it wrong. Put the pasta in individual serving bowls, and ladle the soup over top of it. She used to add in the pasta to the soup and it was fine for the initial serving but by the time we got around to seconds (and leftovers, God help us) the pasta had become most un-al dente by virtue of the fact that it continued cooking in the broth and frequently soaked up the soupiness to the point where the leftovers took on a gouloshy characteristic. You must definitely keep the pasta and the soup seperate until they are on the very brink of consumption. And this is my humble attempt at merging three distinct versions of the same dish into one delicious entree soup that is appropriate for budgets large and small, and will almost surely satisfy the hunger of any self-respecting Italian or wannabe Italian. And when it comes to eating, are we not all wannabe Italians? If I was my sister Val (or the Pioneer Woman, who I'm pretty sure she stole this from) I would now complete this blog by making the soup, preparing a delicious-looking portion in a rustic pottery bowl, garnishing with fresh herbs, and taking a picture of it with a very pricy camera. I would then upload that picture to my computer, do unspeakable things to it in Photoshop, and tack it on to the bottom of this post. That's what I would do if I was Val. If I was Rene', I would serve up a portion of this soup to a large group of friends, pour myself a liberal glass of red wine, and consume both (though it must be admitted, I would probably consume more of one than the other, I will leave it to you to decide which). If I were my mother, I would make this soup, leave it on the stove for my dad and go out for a walk with Violet, after she helped me organize my shoe closet and paint my ballerina room. Since I am me and none of these people, what I will most likely do is nothing. Having gotten this out of my middle child afflicted system, I will most likely go to bed, sleep like a baby and never think about or make pasta fagioli again in my life. For me, writing about it was the cathartic thing to do after watching Bill Clinton rally the Democrats to a unanimous backing of Obama at the Democratic National Convention. So that's exactly what I did.

Sofia's Personality

OK, so I went to this postpartum group luncheon yesterday and we heard a speaker who is an ARNP and BCLC (Board Certified Lactation Consultant) who said that a baby's temperment (AKA personality) is evident right from birth and will affect the way the child makes his or her way through life. So I thought I would examine Sofia from a temperment point of view and see if I could pinpoint some personality traits that I see in her at this early stage (3 and a half months). Then, someday when she's a big girl, I can compare my predictions with how she really is. It seems fairly harmless, so why not?
First of all, it must be said that Sofia may not be the most ambitious of girls when she grows up. She values the enjoyment of life far too much. Not that she won't achieve great things, but just that she will wait for fate to point out her direction in life rather than pursuing some gain for the sake of glory and fame.
Liked by all, she will value the importance of a few best friends over popularity.
She will always enjoy a nice afternoon nap.
She will be a lover of food, particularly dessert.
She will enjoy activities over competitive sports.
Her sense of humor will see her through many a difficult situation.
Her quiet determination will see her through many a challenge.
She will always wake up in a good mood (unlike her mother).
She will find extreme joy in sensory experiences like massage, pedicures and getting her hair done (unlike her mother).
She will be very, ahem, regular, (again, unlike her mother).
She will love to play by herself, and her imagination will be her favorite toy.
Her smile will be easily obtained; her respect much more difficult to come by.
She will prefer a nice relaxing nighttime bath over a quick morning shower.
She will be intensely aware of the world around her, sometimes preferring quiet observation over quick participation.
Her quiet intensity may often be falsely perceived as aloofness.
OK, so now if my baby grows up to be an extroverted soccer playing sorority sister, we will know I was really barking up the wrong tree. And if anyone thinks that I'm just going to bring her up in such a way as to train her to agree with my predictions, I'd like to know how they think I'm going to train her not to ever get constipated. I'd like to try that move on myself.

Sofia Sweetness

Oh, Sofia, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...
I love it when you grin. It is so friggin cute I just can't describe it without profanity.
I love when your hair sticks up straight, especially when you just finished nursing and one side of your hair is all wet and sweaty and stuck to your head and the top is all sticking up.
I love how when you were born everyone said your blue eyes would turn brown (since you have a Colombian daddy and all) and instead they just got bluer and bluer. You're a nonconformist like that.
I love how you are starting to talk and clearly understand every word I say to you even though you're only 13 weeks old.
I love your fat little chunky thighs. Pure breastfed indulgences those thighs are...
I love your smell. Even when its been about 4 days since your last tubbies and you have a funny sour milk smell coming from the rolls in your neck. Even then.
I love, love, love the little noises you make when you are nursing. So appreciative.Keep making those noises and I will continue to nurse you until you're 18.
I love how soft and smushy your cheeks are. I love to kiss them and keep kissing them until I start to feel like a child molester. Then I stop.
I love how you get just a tiny bit fussy whenever anyone else holds you but me (daddy and Aunty Val don't count).
I love when I'm not paying any attention to you and suddenly I realize you're staring at me and have the cutest little grin on your face, as though watching your poor uncollected mommy is somehow infinitely amusing to you already.
I love how you seem to understand that I'm new at this so you're going easy on me (there's just no other explanation for how good you are, except that you're obviously an angel).
I love how you start licking your lips whenever you look at me, as though I resemble nothing so much as a giant Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream cone to your gorgeous little milk drunk eyes. I'm only kidding when I make the Jaws theme music sound. I don't really see you as a predator of any sort.
I love how you get exponentially cuter every single day.
I love how I simultaneously want 6 more babies just like you while at the same time I don't ever want to have another one because I can't possibly love it as much as you...
I love how people look enviously at me in the grocery store while staring at their own 2 and 3 year old brats while I sanguinely push you around in all your adorable three month old glory.
Last but not least, I love you because, as the pioneer woman says so profoundly, I grew you in my womb.