Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grandma's Decline

Judging from both sides of my family gene pool, I will likely live to be older than dirt. My Grandma Christenson lived to be 97. My Grandma McEuen is nigh unto 88.

But sadly, these look like Grandma McEuen's waning months. I'm not sure she has a whole year left in her. She may surprise us, though.

The Johnson women, Johnson being my grandma's maiden name, are sturdier than an amish barn. Living with Grandma in my late teens, Grandma and I would travel around the state of Utah visiting each of her sickly sisters. I watched her sisters peel off one by one. Aunt Effie and then Aunt Alice. Aunt Hazel held on like her life depended on it. All in their 90s before leaving this life for the next.

Grandma McEuen, in her not-so-delicate way, would say to me after we'd visit Aunt Hazel in the care center, "Why doesn't she just push off?" Sweetness doesn't exactly roll off the tongue of Grandma.

And now it's Grandma's turn. Grandma's been inflicted with Alzheimer's for the last six or seven years. The first thing to go was Grandma's ability to drive. It was very hard on Grandma, and especially hard on her children as Grandma made it known in a not-so-quiet way how upset it made her that they would take away her car.

Then Grandma had a bad fall that broke her arm and hip and bruised her face. After that, she needed better care and she sold her house and now lives in an assisted-living apartment.

And up until recently, it's been a great place for her. Her Alzheimer's actually made her rather nice. She didn't have any worries. Her apartment is very pleasant. Her needs are met.

But she's lonely. Yesterday while Kulani took the girls out for their weekly culinary appreciation dinner, I visited Grandma.

No less than 13 times did Grandma ask me who I was, who I was married to, and how many kids I had. That was the okay part. I don't mind answering her questions again and again. Thankfully, Kulani took a continuing education class on Alzheimer's and gave me some tips on how to interact with people suffering from it.

Firstly, you don't say, "Do you remember me?" You just tell them who you are, again and again.

Grandma has a super sweet care lady who checks in on her in the morning and at night. I'm not kidding you when I say this woman is getting a free pass to the heaven of her choosing. She is so sweet to Grandma, and before she leaves each time, she says, "Goodbye, Helen. I love you." And I definitely feel like she really does mean it.

Grandma's helper lady said that Grandma hadn't been out of bed for two days, and she gave me a run down on everything Grandma had eaten. After the care lady left (shame on me for not remembering her name!), Grandma started asking me if she could come home with me.

"Sure," I said. And then she'd call my bluff.

"Let's go," she'd say, and make a gesture as if she was getting out of bed.

I stopped saying "sure" when she'd ask, and instead said, "I'll talk to your kids about it in the morning." And then Grandma would get upset with me and give me the gesture that says, "Forget you!" Well, not that gesture. It was more of a wave-of-the-hand gesture, but I got her meaning.

Another lady came in and administered her some medicine. I asked her if it would help Grandma sleep. She said that was one of the side effects, but that it was for anxiety.

Grandma asked if I'd like to stay the night. I told her I'd stay with her until she fell asleep. (Mind you, you don't talk normally with Grandma. You have to yell so she can hear you.) That didn't make her very happy either.

We watched some basketball, Grandma's favorite sport to watch. And then we watched part of the Olympics. I think I was keeping Grandma awake, as I would catch her nodding off.

She asked me if I had someplace to be. I told her no. Then she asked where my husband was. I told her for the dozenth time that he was on a daddy-daughters date. She told me they would be waiting for me.

I got the hint. She was ready for me to leave. I kissed her goodbye and told her I loved her, and I left.

I'm not sure my visit did any good. It seemed to bring her more disappointment than anything.

Next time I visit, I'll bring my kids. Seeing the little girls always cheers Grandma up. And she likely won't ask to come home with me, because although she loves seeing kids, she doesn't like living with kids.

And when looking into my future, it's nice to be surrounded by those I cherish most.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Compliments and Complaints

Kulani bought me a new pan. It's the Turbo X3000 Calphalon Super G 12-inch non-stick pan, melded from hot coles burnt from rocks brought back by the astronauts who landed on the moon.

Check out the side-by-side comparison between the new and the old pan (which we bought at Shopko for what we thought was really expensive ($20) when we were still students):

See how the egg in the old pan on the left is sliding and not staying uniform? When I flip that baby over, half of the egg stays stuck to the pan. On the right is the super deluxe new model. No egg slipping. It all stays nice and uniform. The new pan also has no Crisco or buttery coating to aid in unsticking, and when you flip the egg over, no sticky-sticky. I'm no scientist, but I think it has to do with moon-rock vaporage condensation and the planetary pull of waves that gives the pan it's awesomeness.

I'm Not 80 Yet, But I'm Doing My Darndest To Complain Like It

My bellah is getting huge. I'm not kidding. It's like Sputnik; a virtual planetoid. It's got it's own weather system. I'd cry myself to sleep every night on my huge pillah...except...

Every pregnant woman knows you want to get the best sleep you can get before the baby comes, because once it gets here, your sleeping nights are over. The only problem is, sleeping with a huge belly isn't all that easy. You shift in the middle of the night and you roll around and your hips hurt and you have to use the potty every two hours. And then you have the following crowding you out of the bed:

More Misadventures of Nono

When it's only me and Nohea at home, she likes to play house while I work on the computer. I'm always the dad at work and she's the mom, but she brings me the baby to show and hug. She's started to entertain herself better, too, which doesn't always have the best results. I won't hear her for a half hour, so I'll go looking for her to make sure she is okay. I found an exploded pen on my comforter once, and her body was covered with ink.

And why do I even bother putting pillows back on the couch? She's just going to take them off again and build herself a house.

Lost Teeth and The Toad

Lilia lost another tooth. That makes two teeth in the last few weeks. This last tooth was pulled out by a girl at school. This girl is known for her teeth-pulling abilities, and she had Lilia hold two other girls' hands while the Tooth-Puller yanked out her tooth. Lilia then lost the tooth later while at school.

Being the tooth fairy is more difficult than I thought. I kept forgetting to write her note and stick it under her pillow with some money. So one morning while she was getting ready for school, I snuck the note into her room with the money. I put it behind her bed, as if it had slipped between the cracks.

I asked Lilia if the tooth fairy brought anything. We went to her room to look under her pillow. I told her to look all around her bed, because sometimes those things slip off the bed. Then she found the jackpot. Tooth-fairy gold.

And here's a picture of my Toad in all her rainbow-drawing glory:

Fishers out.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For the Po' Folks

"Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you’re going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything, but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it." -- Herman Blume from Rushmore.

I'm coming clean with a terrible habit I have of disliking and distrusting wealthy people. If you've never been the po' kid, I'm not sure you'd understand. Just as I probably don't understand how hard it would be to be the rich kid (poor little rich kids!).

In all honesty, where I grew up, most kids were the poor kids. We probably only had a handful of rich kids, and even they weren't really all that rich. Remember Napolean Dynamite and that "popular" girl's house? That's about as rich as they got in my town--maybe a touch richer.

Growing up in rural Idaho, we didn't have the disparity of classes as viewed in popular 80s brack-pack movies like Pretty in Pink, or the differences seen in an uber-wealthy private school setting like in Rushmore. But even still, in high school I found myself limiting some of my friendships because they would go out to fast food for lunch, and all I could afford was the 90 cent school lunch.

Nor was I able to afford to go snow skiing more than once or twice a year, and when I did go skiing, I brought my D.I.-discount boots and skis that didn't really fit me all that well. And I wasn't as poor as others, who I'm sure probably do view a bigger dividing class in south-central Idaho. And they never EVER got to go snow skiing, not even with used skis that cut off the circulation to the toes.

And while watching the Winter Olympics last night, Kulani summarized why it is I don't really care a whole bunch about the Winter Olympics.

"It's like watching all the rich kids compete."

He got an "amen" and a head nod from me with that comment.

When I'm watching the downhill skiiers, I think, "Dang! How much money did their parents spend to get them to this level?"

Still, I watch the Winter Olympics, but I don't have a love for them. These are people I just don't relate to. I'm glad for their accomplishments, really. Like I'm glad when I see someone winning an Oscar, or when someone tells me about a new boat they bought. It's nice for them.

And if they're happy, I'm happy.

Like Max Fischer said, I guess the secret is, you've gotta find something you love to do, and then do it for the rest of your life. For some, that's snow skiing. For others, it's a stable job that pays the mortgage and puts food on the table.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday Nights

This is Kulani posting.
This year one of my Christmas presents to Cindy was Thursday nights off. She can do what she wants with it. So far that has included some time working out, shopping, going out to dinner with friends, stuff like that. On previous nights, I would have done my best to buckle down and endure it. A few weeks ago I decided to take a different approach. Now, Thursday nights are Culinary Nights at the Fisher household.
We're now on the third week. The first week I taught the girls about how to read a recipe, measuring, and mise-en-place. We started off nice and easy with the girls giving me a hand while I steamed some shrimp and cooked rice. The following week we went to Rooster. On the way, we talked about the five flavors and various textures. As we ate, I talked with them about which flavors and textures they noticed and what they liked about it.
This week, we moved on to cooking methods and a brief discussion of temperature/time. Then, we got to cooking. The result was this:
They were both pretty excited about cooking their first meal from start to finish. So was I. Culinary Thursdays are here to stay.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Our real-life brush with Goodfellas

There was a time in my life when I loved American gangster movies. Couldn't get enough of them. Once I started having children, the appeal of the American mafioso no longer gripped my heart. Though the movies were stylistically wonderful, the lack of morality of the characters started to grind on my mommy-sensitive nerves.

But I didn't leave the genre without finding out something I already knew: the Providence, Rhode Island division of the mafia are some of the scariest, meanest Goodfellas you'd never hope to meet. Without a baby in my arms when we visited the Federal Hill district in Providence, there's a good chance Kulani and I would now have cement on our feet as we sit waiting to be discovered along the bottom of the Pawcatuck River.

It was 2003, and post-911 America was experiencing an economic recession. Nothing like what is going on today, but it was still a tough job market. Kulani would be graduating from law school in April, and by February, he still hadn't found a job.

So being Kulani, he decided to increase his schooling in a much-wanted field in order to secure a job. His undergrad background was in mechanical engineering, but where the patent jobs were especially plentiful was for people with a background in electrical engineering. He decided that if he couldn't find a job, he would pursure a master's degree in electrical engineering.

When Kulani was in high school, his dream was to go to Brown University. Though he was accepted, his parents didn't feel they wanted to spend the money to send him there. After time and having kids, Kulani does not begrudge his parents that decision. However, now that it was him calling the shots for himself, he decided to give it another try.

Excitedly, Brown accepted him for his master's degree in electrical engineering. However, we knew that we had other, cheaper options if we stayed in Utah and he attended UofU. We decided to fly out to Providence and meet with the professors to see if he could get a scholarship and stipend.

Brown University, and Providence at large, has a very old-world feel. It had the feeling of an Edgar Allen Poe poem. It was cloudy and overcast when we visited, so maybe that had some bearing on my impressions. Nevertheless, it was an amazing place that I would definitely like to visit again.

While on our trip, we knew we had to experience some local cuisine. We hit up a nice restaurant and had Rhode Island clam chowder. Kulani also tried the Rhode Island-type of oysters. I had the lobster bisque.

We'd read in a brochure about Providence's "little Italy" called the Federal Hill district. We looked on the map to see where it was in the city and drove there. We didn't research exactly where to go, but we figured we'd find a good dive easy enough.

We found a little dive of a place that looked like it would have some good food, and we parked the car. When we got out of the car, I turned to Kulani and said, "This feels like a Scorcese movie." Though there was no one on the street, and the town almost felt empty, Kulani shooshed me. He could feel the change in this place as well.

Lilia was only six months old at the time, so she hung out of my front Baby Bjorn as we walked around Federal Hill. While walking to the restaurant we wanted to try, we passed a store that looked like either a butcher shop or an old grocery store. The walls were all bordered up, but I looked inside the front door to see two old men sitting on chairs. We made eye contact with each other for a brief second before Kulani snapped, "Don't look in there." I quickly looked away as if I hadn't seen them.

I'm pretty sure they were "made" men waiting for inconspicuous packages or something. They did not smile. Had I not had Lilia hanging off my personage, I would not be writing this post right now. (Maybe an exaggeration, but for a few moments there, trust me--it was real and it was scary.)

Note: If you ever find yourself traveling on the East Coast with a baby, you'll find you get treated very well. It's like people don't see enough babies there. Not like here in Utah, obviously.

We went into the restaurant and tried to enjoy our meal and calm our nerves. The restaurant was more of a pub. The food was pretty good, but the people inside the pub were even better. They had the thickest Rhode Island accents we'd heard on the trip. And they were so friendly. It was like eating lunch at "Cheers," where everybody knows your name.

The waiter was fascinated by our baby, and calls out to a guy at the end of the bar, "Hey, Paulie! How old is your baby? He sleep through the night yet?"

To which Paulie says, "No, he's keepin' us up every night. It's drivin' me crazy."

Just delightful. Except for the whole almost-getting-killed part.

Post Script: Kulani did get a scholarship to Brown, but in April he also got a job offer. He took the latter. Maybe one of these years he'll make it to Brown.