Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stick a Needle In My Eye

My sister-in-law told me a couple of years ago that 42 is when it happens.  Either you start falling apart, or you have a mid-life crisis.  I wasn't close to 42 at the time.  And I'm still not close to 42.  But I'm getting closer.  I thought I had a few more good years left in me.  Until recently.

Tomorrow is the last day of February.  That means that one of my most favorite months begins on Saturday.  And my birthday is now three weeks away.  I'm a birthday snob, but I can't help it.  It's my favorite day of the year!  But this year I'll be 30-something-and-officially-over-the-hump-to-40.  I am not looking forward to 40.  At all.  I mean, it's still a few years away.  I'm sure they'll be short years though.  So, anyway, as I began pondering being over the hump to 40, I experienced a midlife crisis of sorts.  Really.  I think that's what it is.

I decided two things.

1.  I need to do a better job of taking care of myself.
2.  I need to re-evaluate my skincare, makeup, hair and nail polish regimen.

So let's talk about skincare, makeup, hair and nail polish.  I am a girlie girl.  But I'm not a fussy girl.  When I realized that I still have the same skincare routine and use the same makeup that I started with 20 years ago, I thought perhaps I needed a little update.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to invest a little more time into daily skincare since this is the only skin and face I'm going to get.  And I absolutely do not like the fine lines and little crow's feet that are staring me down lately.  And my makeup?  Well, about as adventurous as I get with that would be the four tubes of lipstick I have - two spring/summer colors and 2 fall/winter colors.  Which have been my go-to colors for at least five years, probably more.  Everything else, except the two eyeshadows I have to coordinate with the aforementioned seasons, stays the same and has always been the same.  Besides, I hardly fool with makeup anymore except on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  I don't even wear makeup to the grocery store anymore.  But, now, one thing I DON'T do.  I don't allow pictures of myself to be taken if I'm not wearing makeup! Not ever.

And my hair?  Well, it's been with me for 30-something years.  And I finally decided to embrace the hair I have and stop trying to make it do something it was not made to do.  I mean, it's been with me nearly my whole life.  I say nearly because I was bald until I was two.  It is thick and wavy, and there is a lot of it.  It is never going to be straight and smooth no matter how much time I spend with a straight iron.  And then I spend all that time with a straight iron, and you can't even tell, and it surely doesn't look like I spent any time at all with it, much less the 45 minutes it took me to straighten it, which didn't really straighten it.  I've been in limbo with my shampoo and conditioner for the past few years, too.  After extensive and rather scientific research (meaning I basically picked my new hair care products based on the recommendations of several mommy bloggers that I follow), I am loving my new shampoo and conditioner and that fancy morocconoil stuff that adds a little shine to it.  And it smells so yummy.  In a good way.  And I'm currently in the awkward phase of growing it out so I can wear it wavy again.  Because I think it looks stupid short and wavy.  So that means I wear it in a ponytail pretty much all the time these days.  

I used the exact same data and scientific research to map out a more effective skincare routine for someone approaching 40 in a few years, and I made some changes to my makeup.  Don't worry.  You'll never notice.  Even though I just told you, you won't notice.  But I will.  So it makes me happy.

When Abbie was over here a few weeks ago, she and Hannah Kate opened a spa.  She came to me with two bottles of nail polish in her hand, one a pink color and the other a red color, and asked me where the rest of the nail polish was.  The rest?  That's it.  She couldn't believe it.  I don't paint my fingernails because it doesn't last.  One sitting at the piano has the polish all chipped no matter what I do.  So I've never painted my fingernails.  Besides, I prefer to watch nude nails play the piano!  And I don't paint my toes during the winter months because I don't wear open toed shoes.  What's the point?  Nobody sees them.  I try to keep them painted during the summer, but that's been questionable the past couple of years.  Hence only two bottles of nail polish. Inspired again by one of my mommy blogger friends, I decided I'm going to always keep my toes painted no matter what time of year it is.  I'm also going to change my color at least once a week, and I am going to branch out a bit.  So today I came home with some new polish.  I showed it to Hannah Kate, and she was so excited.  So we have a little home spa date tomorrow night.

I guess if my midlife crisis only involves cleanser, makeup, morocconoil and a new shade of polish, I'm doing pretty good.  Crisis averted.

So let's talk about taking care of myself.  I don't really take care of myself like I should.  And I always use the same three excuses.  Mason.  Hannah Kate.  And Ellie.  I don't keep up with doctor's appointments and things for myself.  At all.  I guess it's no big deal really.  I mean, I'm never sick.  And I mean, never.  I really can't remember the last time I was sick.  I don't even have a general doctor person.  I don't even know what they're called.  But lately I've been thinking that if I want to be the best mommy I can be, I need to also take the time to take care of myself.

After a little incident last summer, my mother insisted I go to the dermatologist to have a mole checked.  And she was right.  When I was in high school, I had three moles removed as a precaution.  I also have a history of little skin cancer issues in my family.  I did not immediately make the appointment with a dermatologist.  Because that meant I had to first of all find one.  I mean, I'm sure there are plenty out there.  And then I actually had to make an appointment and GO.  That's easier said than done these days.  So Mama waited a couple of months before she brought it up again.  And then it came up again at Thanksgiving.  At least by that time I had the name of a dermatologist and had an appointment scheduled at the beginning of December.  I felt good about that.  I felt real good about that.  It was almost empowering!

So I got crazy.  I made an appointment to see the dentist, too!  Mama was so faithful to take me to the dentist twice a year every year from the time I was a little tot until the day I moved to Louisiana.  And I have no idea how much my parents spent on all that metal in my mouth (I'm sure it was A LOT), but my teeth are still straight to this day.  So you'd think I'd stay on top of that.  I used to.  I'll not tell you the last time I went to the dentist.  And I used to LOVE going to the dentist.  Oh, and I also take my own children to the dentist every six months.  But not myself.  I hadn't been since we moved back here.  That was 2009.  So I finally saw the dentist in December, and she told me I had the best set of teeth she'd ever seen on a 30-something year old.  No cavities.  She also told me there really wasn't anything she'd be able to do for me except just basic hygiene every six months.  So, rest assured, Mama, my teeth are doing really good!

But that dermatologist appointment?  Well, it went from, "Hey, can you please check this one spot out?" to "Ummm, you have FOUR moles that need to be removed.  Right now."  So that happened at the beginning of December.  They were biopsied, and my dermatologist called with the news that she needed me to come back because ALL FOUR of them were not necessarily melanoma, but they were abnormal, and she needed to remove more until she got to clear borders.  So I went the day after Christmas and got sliced and diced and came home with 15 stitches.  The second round of biopsies was clear.  So now I will go once a year for a "mole check."  And, yes, I'll be keeping those appointments.  Promise.  Cross my heart and hope to die and stick a needle in my eye!

And that stick a needle in my eye?  Well, that happened, too!  Okay, so it wasn't exactly in my eye.

Since I was on a roll and had such stellar results with the dentist and dermatologist (and my girlie doctor appointment is scheduled on March 28 and has been since last fall so you really should be proud of me), I decided it was time to go to the eye doctor.  Mainly because I was out of contact lenses and couldn't get anymore without an eye exam.  It's been two years since that.  But don't worry, Mama.  Dr. L makes me come only every two years now, and the last time I saw her was May 2012.  So I'm ahead of the game on this one!  The contact lens situation wasn't the only reason though.

Last May my left eye started watering.  I thought it was allergies and figured it would go away in a week or so.  But it didn't.  So around the beginning of July, I thought it was my makeup.  Hello?  Did you not just read what I wrote above?  I haven't changed makeup in 20 years.  So why would I now, all of a sudden, have a reaction to my makeup?  By this point, I was getting aggravated with it.  I mentioned it to Mama when we were there last July.  We both decided that, just to be on the safe side, I should change my mascara.  It was the only Walmart cosmetic I used.  So I paid $15 for a new "name brand" mascara.  That didn't work either.  But I did like my new mascara.

By September, my nurse friend diagnosed me with dry eye.  That would be nice.  IF ONLY MY EYE WAS DRY!  But it was not!  I then learned a thing or two.  "Dry eye" is deceptive.  It actually causes excessive watering.  I definitely think we need to rename that.  She suggested I use an over-the-counter eye drop.  So in November I finally did.  And guess what?  That didn't work either.  At that point, I realized I would need to go to my eye doctor to figure out what was really going on.  But I decided to wait until after Christmas.  And then "after Christmas" came.  I still didn't make the appointment.

And then one day I was just over it.  My eye wasn't hurting or anything.  It wasn't affecting my vision.  It was just ANNOYING.  I mean, I was the 30-something with a kleenex in my hand at the grocery store and at church and at Bible study because my eye won't stop watering!  My mother-in-law mentioned Mrs. N at church who also has watery eyes.  Well, that's fine and all, but Mrs. N just celebrated her 80th birthday!  So I'd expect her to walk around with a hankie all the time.  But not me!  And not to mention the fact that my face needs all the help it can get, and I really need my makeup to stay put.  But my mascara would be smudged all over the place, and I hadn't even walked out the door yet.  I was over it!  OVER.  IT.

And then about three weeks ago I put my glasses on one night, and they didn't fit right.  I thought something was wrong with them, but it wasn't my glasses.  It was the side of my nose by my eye.  I felt what can only be described as some sort of bubble in the corner of my eye where my tear duct is.  I knew then that something was wrong and that it was probably most definitely related to the whole watery eye thing.  So the next day I called the eye doctor.  My doctor is very hard to get an appointment with so I requested the next available doctor as soon as possible on a Thursday (because Thursday is the only day I can go to the doctor without having to upset our whole weekly schedule).  That appointment was last Thursday.

I'd never met this particular doctor before.  I was sitting in the exam room reading my book when the door flung open, and he bounded up in there with a "Hey Jules!  Been crying lately?!"  Y'all.  I couldn't help myself.  I'm pretty sure the look on my face was, "Are you kidding me?!?"  First of all, I've never met this man before in my life.  That's fine if he wants to be on a first name basis, but I am NOT Jules to him.  And second of all, "crying lately?"  I wanted to smack him.  No.  I think I wanted to knock him out.  But I gave him a second chance.  I mean, this new makeup I bought is going to be in vain if not!

So he proceeds to tell me that it sounds like my tear duct is blocked.  I asked why and how.  I got the typical, "Well, I can't really answer that right now."  And then he makes me feel so much better when he explains that watery eyes are quite common.  Just not in people my age.  So I'm like an 80-year-old in a 30-something-year-old body.

He explains that he just needs to flush my tear duct out, push whatever it is that's causing the blockage through to the wherever, and then I'll be good to go.  I knew this was probably going to be done.  But I made the choice not to google it before I went.  And thank goodness for that!  He numbed my eye and then he used what looked like a syringe with a really long needle on the end of it (although he assures me, "Now don't be scared.  I know this looks like a really long needle.  But it's really not!"  Yeah, I'm feeling MUCH better now, thank you very much.) to open up my tear duct a little bit and then shoot some saline solution through it.  Yes, my eyes are open.  Yes, I am watching every second of this.  Yes, I am about to come up out of that chair and had to hang onto the armrests for dear life.  I mean, it didn't hurt.  But he was sticking this thing down my eye.  Okay.  Not my eye.  My tear duct.  Same thing.  And then the saline solution shot out all right.  But it wasn't going through my tear duct.  It ran all down my face, all over my shirt and even squirted doc in the face.  By that time, I thought he deserved it!

So that's when he tells me that "we have a problem," and that I'm going to have to have surgery because the tear duct is completely blocked.  As in the I'm-going-to-put-you-to-sleep surgery.  Oh, and one more thing.  This little surgery will require myself and also an ENT who will go up your nose while I go through your tear duct.  And then he walked out of the room.  I am not even kidding.

So his nurse gave me instructions for scheduling an appointment with the ENT and gave me preliminary information about the surgery center.  And, of course, as soon as I got home, I googled.  Unfortunately.  So I'm going to skip all that.  Because that's NEVER a good idea.  But no matter how bad it was, I'd decided it wasn't as bad as walking around with a hankie in my hand and half of my makeup at my chin.

I spent the last week thinking about this.  I'm going to be "asleep."  But my eye will be open for surgery.  So will I SEE what's going on?!  I mean, my eye is going to be OPEN.  How can I not help but SEE when my EYE IS OPEN?  I decided not to google this.

This morning I went back to the eye doctor.  A different one this time.  My eyes themselves are perfectly healthy, and my contact lens prescription hasn't changed since the last time I was there.  After that I went to the ENT.  Two doctor's appointments in the same day!  That should tell you right there how desperate this situation is.  Have I mentioned I NEVER go to the doctor?!

So.  Very long story short.  Oh.  But first.  Y'all.  I've never been to an ENT before.  And I've never been in an ENT's office before.

But WAIT.  I just have to tell y'all this.  At first I didn't understand what my tear duct has to do with an ENT.  That's when I learned that the tear duct drains into your nose, and your nose absorbs the tears or whatever.  So last weekend I was talking about all of this with Seth.  He says, "Well, duh, Julie."  I give him my what-in-the-world-are-you-talking-about? look.  Then he says (and I promise I'm not making this up.  I couldn't even on my best day.), "That's why it's called ENT.  EYE, nose and throat."  Oh, no, he didn't.  I waited maybe a second to see if he was kidding.  I would like to think he was.  But I don't think so.  ENT.  EAR, nose and throat.  I'll bet he googled that later.

So now back to the ENT's office.  Oh, it was so disgusting!  Don't get me wrong.  It was clean.  And organized.  But the honking and snorting going on in there nearly made me want to hurl!  I do not do bodily functions.  At all.  No burps.  No toots.  No NOTHING.  That is just a very private thing that's not meant to be shared with anyone.  Married or not!  I mean, I know noses can be stopped up or runny or whatever.  And I'm sure that's why those poor people were there.  One lady sounded like a cat trying to hack up a fur ball!  I nearly died every time!  I'm so glad I had my book with me.  I just kept my head buried and didn't look at anybody!  I decided today that I could not ever even think about or want to be an ENT!  I'd have to wear a surgical mask.  All. the. time.  And ear plugs, too.  Eeeewwwwww.  Even thinking about it makes me nauseous.

Now back to the very long story short.  Gosh, how long is this post anyway?!

I absolutely loved the ENT.  He was very thorough and explained everything in a way that made sense and in a way I could understand.  He also took the time to answer all of my questions.

My first and foremost concern was the what.  What is blocking my tear duct?  There's only one answer I found.  Although he can't tell me for sure until after the surgery, he reassured me that he thinks this has something to do with a small birth defect in the structure of my nasolacrimal duct and not necessarily a tumor.  The nasolacrimal duct is just the long, skinny tube in your nose that the tear duct or sac drains into.  He says the narrowing of the nasolacrimal duct is very common in elderly women, and although he has no scientific research to back it up, he believes that it just has something to do with the way a woman's nose is structured because it's always a problem with women and not men.  He did admit that it's very rare to see this in someone my age, but he said mine is just probably a whole lot narrower than it should be (birth defect?) and has likely fused completely shut.  So the "bubble" I feel in my tear duct is probably the sac that is swollen and maybe full of gunk that has nowhere to go after years of washing mascara off my lashes.  Again, this is his best educated "guess," if you will.  He won't know for sure until the surgery.

My second concern was the recovery.  This is so not my nature to put everything on hold during the middle of the school year so I can have someone stick something down my tear duct and someone else stick something up my nose.  I even thought about putting it off until the summer time, but I decided I really don't want to do that.  He said I should take it easy and get a babysitter for the first two days, and then I should be back to my "normal self" (whatever that is) by the fifth day.  That means that Seth has to take two days off of work!  And he's nervous!  He's scared he's going to have to do carpool and dance and therapy and homework (which, when I got home this evening, he exclaimed that he didn't know how in the world Mason was supposed to do his math homework when he (Seth) couldn't even figure it out)!  That might be good for him!

And my third concern?  You guessed it.  Dr. B assured me that, even though my eye will be open, I would be so out of it that I won't see a thing and won't have a clue what's going on!

So.  My endoscopic dacryocystorhinostomy (Say that three times fast.  Or just say it once. Because I can't.  It's DCR for short.) is scheduled for March 12.  It's really a whole lot of adieu about nothing.  The actual surgery lasts about fifteen minutes.  And then I just have to wake up.  And hopefully I won't be crying anymore!

Before I left the ENT's office today, his nurse told me that I'll need to go to my doctor for a physical a couple of days before the surgery.  Can you imagine her shock and horror when I told her I don't have a doctor?!  The conversation went like this:

Nurse: What do you mean you don't have a doctor?  Who do you see when you're sick?
Me: I'm never sick.
Nurse: Never?
Me: Never.
Nurse: Who did you see the last time you were sick?
Me: Well, let's see, we moved back here in 2009.  I haven't seen anyone since then.  We lived in Mississippi for two years, and I didn't see anyone there either.  
Nurse: So what was the last doctor you saw?
Me: The eye doctor this morning
Nurse: Okay, besides your eye doctor?
Me: The dermatologist and the dentist.  Oh, and I see my girlie doctor on March 28.
Nurse: Okay.  Well.  See what you can do.  And if you have trouble finding someone, call me, and I'll try to help you.

So it looks like I'm about to get a general doctor person.  Whatever that is!  But don't worry.  I've already called my nurse friend, and she's on top of it.  Cross my heart and hope to die and stick a needle in my eye! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How is Mason?

This is the question I get asked most often.  And lately it seems like someone is asking me everyday.  Today was no exception.  Some folks preface their question with, "It's been a long time since I asked . . ."  What that really means is, "The last time I asked you about Mason, you told me you couldn't talk about it and then you did the ugly cry."  That also tells me that other people want to ask the same question but are hesitant to do so.  Today after my Bible study leader asked me about him, I told her how much I appreciated her asking.  The reason for that is because I love to brag on my boy!

The answer to the question is GREAT!  Mason is doing great!  Not too long ago, I began to question whether or not all of this therapy and extra stuff and time and energy and money is "working."  I like to see immediate results.  Sometimes I'm patient but more times I am not.  I knew from the beginning that this was going to take time and lots of it.  It seemed like for the longest while we weren't really seeing any improvement.  But that all changed a couple of months ago.

Mason won 1st place in his category at school for his science fair project.  He then won 3rd place in his category in the district science fair.  This is a big deal for Mason because a big part of the project was his presentation to the judges.  Verbal expression - coherently verbalizing ideas in the appropriate order with supporting details - is a big challenge for Mason (this just goes back to the way the characteristics of dyslexia have manifested themselves).  We did not practice a speech for his project.  We did not even write a speech.  I just sent him to school with his board and his report, and he was on his own.  Obviously he handled his own just fine!

Mason continues to maintain As and Bs on his report card!  He still has a B in reading!  This is the first time ever he's made a B in reading on his report card, much less maintained a B through the duration of the school year.  This is the last week of February.  Every school year until now, January and February have been the worst.  Mason's grades plummeted.  But not this year!  He started 3rd grade on academic probation (Yes.  I know.  Let's not go there.  Somehow "3rd grade" and "academic probation" should not even be used in the same sentence!).  He is no longer on academic probation!  Besides the fact that he never should've been anyway, but that's a whole 'nother story.

For the first time ever since kindergarten, Mason benchmarked on DIBELS last month.  DIBELS is an acronym for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Learning Skills.  It's basically an assessment of literacy skills and is used to measure the development (or lack thereof) of early reading skills.  You start out in kindergarten naming letters and letter sounds.  You have one minute to name as many as you can.  By 1st grade, you read a paragraph or short story for one minute to see how many words per minute you can read.  And, of course, you are expected to read a certain number of this or retell a certain number of that.  You are tested at the beginning of the school year, the middle of the school year and the end of the school year.  The number of whatever you are expected to read goes up every time.  If you benchmark, that means you read the "right number" of words, blah blah blah.  That means you are well on your way to reading success, and you are where you need to be.  Supposedly.  Anything below that, and they mark your paper with yellow and red and use words like "strategic" and "intensive."  Mason receives no accommodations on this assessment.  He is expected to perform on this assessment just like his peers who do not have a learning disability.  He is held to the same standard.  To be totally honest with you, I hate DIBELS, and I could care less whether or not he benchmarks!  I don't expect him to benchmark!  BUT HE DID!  I know it seems so small.  Stupid, even.  But this was a huge accomplishment for him.

A few weeks ago, I overheard Mason and Hannah Kate talking about school.  Mason asked Hannah Kate if she liked school.  And, of course, her answer was an emphatic YES.  Then he said, "I do, too.  But this is the first year I ever liked school.  I didn't like it until 3rd grade."  There has never been a truer statement.  I've watched his self confidence soar this year.  I can't even begin to say enough about his therapists and his teacher.  The Lord blessed us with an incredible team to pick us up and help us through this year.  I knew from the beginning that it would be long and hard.  And I was not looking forward to it.  But here we are at the beginning of March (almost), and the end is drawing near.  It really is.  I can even see it now.

Exactly a year ago I sat in the psychologist's office as he told me that Mason was, in fact, dyslexic and explained the findings and results of the evaluation Mason had been given.  He told me to get ready for a long, hard fight.  He said it would not be easy.  And he was right.  The next eight months after that were a nightmare.

Exactly a year ago Mason's 2nd grade teacher told me she really didn't think he'd promote to 3rd grade.

Exactly a year ago I felt completely helpless to help my son.  I didn't even know where to start.  It seemed like everywhere I turned and everyone I called resulted in a dead end.

Exactly a year ago I never imagined that Mason would EVER win a science fair or make a B in reading or benchmark in DIBELS, much less do so just a year later.  What a difference a year (and lots of therapy and prayer and hard work!) makes!

Often times people are quick to tell me what a wonderful job I'm doing or how lucky Mason is to have me for a mom.  Well, let me tell you something.  This has NOTHING to do with me.  Sure, I take him to therapy two days a week and sit with him at the homework table every night and make sure he is receiving the accommodations at school that he's entitled to.  But I did not present his science fair project.  I did not take all of his reading tests and maintain a B on his report card.  I did not take his DIBELS test for him.  Mason has done all of this!  He is smart and intelligent and full of energy and fun and a dynamic BIG personality.  Mason has done this, and I'm doggone proud of him!  So you can ask me about Mason anytime because I love to brag on my boy!

The Lord has continued to be so good and so tender to me throughout this journey.  Even today, one year later, He continues to encourage me and place people in my path who bless my socks off.

Our CPA relocated to North Carolina.  So I contacted my good friend Dave (Ramsey) to find a new CPA.  I wasn't necessarily excited about this because I really loved our CPA.  She did exactly what I wanted her to do, and I knew exactly what she wanted each year.  So I met with our new CPA last Thursday morning.  I'd even told his office manager on the phone that I "didn't have a whole lot of time" to meet with him and that I basically just wanted to "come drop my stuff off" and besides there wasn't really a need for him to meet with me anyway because I had everything super organized, dated, in order and with spreadsheets to match, and I was lacking nothing.  Okay, so I didn't say that last part, but it's true.  Anyway.  I took my expandable folder of documents with me and laid it on his desk.  I told him I had only one question.  I whipped out the spreadsheet and receipts and reports documenting all of our therapy expenses last year.  I explained that Mason had been "formally" diagnosed with dyslexia and that we'd spent a small fortune on therapy.  I knew where some of the expenses would go, but I wasn't sure about one portion in particular that was the most significant of the expenses.  But I wanted it to COUNT.

That's when he told me that he had four children, three of which are dyslexic.  And then he asked if I had a few minutes because he wanted to introduce me to his wife so she could talk to me about their experience.  Well, absolutely!  I listened while she documented their very painful journey through multiple schools and doctor's offices and even medications.  Their children are now ages 23 to 29.  All four of their children, including the three who are dyslexic, are college graduates!  One in particular was told when he was in 7th grade that he was stupid and that he would never graduate high school so he didn't even need to think about going to college.  Yes.  That happened (and, at that point, I am MAMA and hear me ROAR).  That was also his last year at that particular school.  And now he is not only a high school graduate but a college graduate as well!

I'll be honest.  There are still many days where I can not envision a time that I do not have to sit with Mason and help him with his homework.  And this is only 3rd grade.  This is not middle school.  Or high school.  I have no idea how we're going to do high school!  And college?!  I guess I'll have to enroll in dental school with him!  I don't know at what point, or if ever, Mason will be "independent" and able to manage this on his own.  His therapists tell me it will happen.  One day.  But I don't see that day.  

This was the very first time that I've been able to talk to a mom who saw that day.  She saw that day not only once but three times!  This was the first time I got to talk to a mom who saw her child(ren) overcome the challenges of living with a learning disability and truly soar!  I just can not even begin to tell you how encouraging that conversation was to me!  I guess I didn't think it was possible.  But now I know it is.  It is!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Favorite: My Hearts

Just keeping it real.  Today is not my favorite holiday.  But it's become a lot more fun with these little loves.  It was difficult getting pictures today.  You'll see what I mean at the end of this post.  I have no idea what Seth was doing behind me, and I probably don't want to know.  But it worked!
We made these cute little Valentines for Mason and Hannah Kate to take to their class parties at school.  Nothing here is original.  It's all Pinterest.  Of course, Hannah Kate was very quick to remind me that, "But we aren't allowed to have gum at school, Mama."  She is such a rule follower.  But so am I.  For teacher gifts, we put "mini smores" (teddy grahams, mini marshmallows and Valentine M&Ms) in a Mason jar and stuck the tags on the front.
Ellie loved the mini smores.  Somehow she managed to get this perfect pink M&M dot on her little nose.
And speaking of parties, this is what Seth found in the bottom of Mason's backpack today after school.  I thought he was going to stroke out!  I'm not sure where he's been the last few years.  This is nothing compared to the number of empty candy wrappers I usually find after a class party!  It must've been a slow party!
And, of course, we celebrated with our annual Valentine's Day tradition of eating supper from our wedding china in the formal dining room.  I picked these pretty flowers up yesterday.  Not bad for $9.95 at the grocery store! 
I had a hard time deciding what to cook this year for our meal.  I always try to do something new, something we haven't had before and something a little fancy.  I really wanted pasta.  Because nothing says love like pasta!  But Seth isn't a huge fan.  I decided I'd do tuna steaks.  But then I changed my mind at the last minute (yesterday) to salmon.

I started with this Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque.  After 13 1/2 years, I realized today that I do not have soup bowls in my wedding china pattern!  I'm not sure how that happened.  And I'm not sure why it took me 13 1/2 years to figure it out!  (Mama, I'll be updating my gift list now!)  So I had to improvise.  We ate our soup from the coffee cups!  It really was good.
Our main course was salmon with a cucumber dill salad and steamed asparagus.  This was the first time I'd ever cooked salmon.  My husband has never really liked salmon.  He says it's too fishy.  Yeah, I don't get it either.  I mean, he has a point.  But then again he doesn't.  It doesn't get any fishier than crawfish.  Anyway, he had salmon a few weeks ago, and he said he liked it.  It was okay.  I don't think he liked it very much.  It was cooked perfectly, and it had a great flavor.  But most times after I cook, I'm really not interested in eating what I cooked!  I want something different!  And that's what happened tonight.  Of course, it didn't help that just a few days ago we enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by a professional chef!  Next year we will definitely be having pasta.  Or pizza!
My most favorite thing of the night was dessert!  I love to eat dessert.  But I don't much care to fix dessert, mainly because it never turns out right.  I prefer to buy dessert.  This year I had a little help from Whole Foods.  I picked up these delicious mini cheesecakes (plain, chocolate and raspberry) and cupcakes for Mason and Hannah Kate.  And they did not disappoint!  Even Seth ate one!  And he never eats dessert.  He originally told me he was only going to eat half of one.  That was fine with me because I was going to eat mine and then finish the half he didn't eat.  But there was nothing left on his plate!
Yes, it was difficult getting pictures today.  Ellie wasn't exactly feeling it.  But this is us! These are my hearts, and I love them to pieces!
This man right here is my favorite heart!  We are a little (or a lot) tired these days.  I'm so thankful for him, and there's no one else I'd rather do life with!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crawfish, Oysters AND Steak . . . oh my!

On Tuesday evening, Seth and I went to Ruffino's for our cooking class with Chef Peter Sclafani.  I have to admit . . . as much as I was looking forward to it, I was also a bit anxious.  Tuesdays are long days for me.  I was tired.  I didn't want to be tired.  The children were all ending up at the same place, but they were each getting there three different ways so that made me nervous.  I don't know why.  I wanted to enjoy our evening without thinking about all of the other busy-ness and stuff that fills my days.

It was a very cold day.  And it was raining.  I dressed in comfy layers for Bible study but then came home and changed clothes before going to school to get Hannah Kate.  Traffic was horrible due to an accident that blocked all of our lanes.  We sat in the same spot for over twenty minutes.  I was trying to get to Abbie's school to pick her up like we do every Tuesday for dance.  I was finally able to pick her up and then take the girls to dance, but they were a few minutes late for their classes.  Usually we are 30 minutes early.  I had only an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Ruffino's.  On a good day, it would take thirty minutes to get there.  On a bad day, it could take an hour or more.  But this was a really bad day!  I sent a text to Seth and told him I really didn't think I would be able to make it on time because traffic was so awful.  It was definitely NOT the way I wanted to begin the evening.

He called me and stayed on the phone with me while looking at the online traffic maps and reports in an effort to get me across the river and through town and to Ruffino's.  At one point, we nearly called and cancelled our reservation because it just didn't seem like I was going to make it.  But I did.  I was a few minutes late, but I was not the only one, and they were kind enough to wait on us.  And once I did sit down, I forgot about all the crazy, tiring events of the day and just enjoyed the experience.

This is what I sat down to.  This picture makes me happy!  (My husband, on the other hand, had to ask me which fork to use when the first course came out!  Outside.  Always start from the outside.)   
If you don't already know this about me, there are several foods that I really do not like. At all.  First of all, I do not like crawfish.  I have tried.  But I cannot do it.  They are too "fishy," and they stink.  I also do not like oysters.  I don't know what's worse.  Oysters or crawfish?  They say you eat with your eyes first.  Well, oysters have to be one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen!  They don't even LOOK good.  Much less taste good. And the texture?  Oh gross!  I also don't eat steak.  I don't know why.  I just don't care for it.  At all.  Never have.  I eat an occasional burger, but other than that, I do not eat red meat.  So, yes.  I live in Louisiana.  And I do not eat crawfish.  Or oysters.  Seth, on the other hand, loves them!  And steak, too.

We did not know what the menu was going to be, but we knew the theme was "Date Night."  So we had talked about all the "what if's."  What if he serves crawfish?  What if there are oysters?  What about steak?  I really thought the main course would be a steak.  So I was prepared for that.  And I was expecting either crawfish or oysters in one of the other courses but not both.  Certainly not both!  But no matter what, I told myself I was going to at least try everything.  Even an oyster.


They gave us a little mini cookbook of each entree that Chef Peter was going to prepare for us.  When I finally got there and sat down, Seth had already been there for a bit and had looked through the cookbook.  He said something to the effect of, "It's your lucky night.  We're having steak AND crawfish AND oysters."  I thought he was kidding.  I hoped he was kidding.  But he was not.  And then he asked me what I was going to.  I told him I was going to enjoy myself and have a nice time and try everything no matter what.

The evening lasted about 2 1/2 hours, but it didn't seem that long at all!  And I think I would describe it as more of a cooking demonstration or culinary experience than a cooking class.  I was excited to see Chef Peter cut his onion like I cut mine.  People who have seen me cut onions have actually told me they've never seen anyone cut an onion like that before.  Well, obviously I must be doing something right!  I also cut my bell pepper and celery like he does.  I learned several things though.  And there are several gadgets I want to add to my kitchen drawers.  But anyway.  On to the good stuff.  I had only my cell phone with me so all of these pictures were taken with it and not my good camera.  I didn't want to be the nerd with the camera.  So I was the nerd with the phone.

Our first course was Seared Scallops with Meyer Lemon Sauce served over a bed of Artichoke Bottom Couscous.  It was garnished with micro-cilantro.  This dish looks fancy, but it really is super simple to prepare.  It was really good!
Our second course was Crawfish and Asparagus Soup.  I love asparagus!  And we all know how I feel about crawfish.  I knew I could easily eat around the crawfish.  But I was at first concerned that the stock would be too crawfishy for me to eat.  I was very pleasantly surprised . . . it was not!  It really was delicious!  He used a combination of crawfish stock and asparagus stock.  The asparagus really balanced it out.  He also added some whipping cream, and we all know that everything is better with cream!  I did eat one of the crawfish.  And then I scooped the rest of them out of my bowl and into Seth's bowl.  After that, I really wanted to lick my bowl!  I'm definitely going to make this at home.  I'm just not sure yet if I want to use shrimp or crab instead of the crawfish.  I'm not sure which would go better with the asparagus.  I guess I'll just have to make both!
Our third course was Open Faced Oyster Ravioli with Bacon Vongoli Cream.  I was nervous about this one.  I really was.  

Pasta is my weakness.  We eat only whole wheat pasta though.  We don't eat a lot of pasta because it isn't Seth's favorite.  I like the whole wheat pasta just fine, but I really miss the "regular" pasta.  I've also never made my own pasta.  That's something I've always wanted to do, but it's really intimidating.  The making-your-own-dough part of it is just too much like making a cake or something, and I never can get a cake to come out right. But as I watched Chef Peter make his own pasta for this dish, I thought to myself, "I can do that!"  So I just might.  One day.  He cut the pasta out in round disks.  He then topped each disk with what can best be described as oyster dressing.  I was expecting the oyster dressing to pretty much ruin the pasta!

So let's just clear this up.  Until I came to Louisiana, I had no idea that there was such a thing as oyster dressing.  Or rice dressing.  Or crawfish dressing.  Or meat or protein of any kind in your cornbread dressing!  No, no, NO MA'AM!  I mean, growing up, we had dressing every Thanksgiving.  Dressing.  Not cornbread dressing.  Dressing.  I never knew until I came here that dressing is not dressing at all.  I have to specifically say CORNBREAD dressing.  As if there is any other kind!

Back to the oyster dressing.  It took several minutes for me to get up enough nerve to taste it.  But when I did, I was pleasantly surprised.  I liked it!  He let the oysters drain their yucky liquor for nearly an hour before he actually used them.  And then he put them in the food processor and chopped them up pretty good.  He added the seasonings, breadcrumbs and sausage.  He then put it in the oven to bake for awhile.  The sausage added a really great smoky flavor to the dressing, and that was really enhanced by the smokiness in the bacon cream sauce.  I honestly would not have realized that oysters were in the dressing had I not known from the beginning.  I ate all of it!
The fourth course was Hangar Steak with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Balsamic Roasted Cipolline Onions.  Hangar steak comes from the diaphragm of the cow.  So there is only one per cow.  Seth had never had hangar steak before.  And, of course, neither had I.  It was cooked medium rare, I think.  The most important thing is that it wasn't still bleeding!  Or mooing, as my daddy would say.  The texture surprised me.  It was almost like butter.  It was sliced into three medallions.  I immediately gave one to Seth.  And then I ate one and half of the other one.  Seth finished the last half.  The mushroom sauce was delish!  And the onion was so yummy!  I LOVE roasted onions!  There's nothing better than a vidalia cored, filled with butter, wrapped in foil and thrown on the grill!  I can eat raw onions, too!  Anyway, I enjoyed this dish also.  I forgot to take my picture before I cut into it so the plate is a little messy looking here.  It was a lot prettier when it first came out.
And, for dessert, our last course was this cute individual King Cake.  There's really nothing more I can say about this.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening!  I ate mine, and since Seth ate only one bite of his (because he just doesn't like sweet things), I ate his, too!
What a truly delightful evening!  I enjoyed such a sweet time with my husband.  The food was phenomenal.  And I'm ready to go back!  My birthday is coming up . . .