Brain and body boot camp

So much to say, so little time!  I just completed my first week of dietetics classes.  My career exploration over the past 6 months (and really over the past year, if you count the PA school detour) led to this point.  I’m about as sure as I can be that this is a good decision, maybe 98% certain (and yes, that 2% unsure is really scary for me!).

Anyhow, I am enrolled part-time at Fontbonne University.  Over the next three years, I will be completing the junior- and senior-level dietetics coursework (9-11 hours/semester), followed by a year-long internship (unpaid and you pay for the privilege) before I can sit for the R.D. exam.

I plan to continue working part-time, so classes plus paid work will be a full-time job.  My current coursework is pretty basic, which is okay, because getting back into the swing of being a student, and balancing work, school, and home, will be enough of a mental challenge for now.

On the physical side of things, I am on campus three days a week, and I plan to bike for as many of those trips as possible.  The 15-mile round-trip bike ride is much more than I’ve been doing recently, since most of my weekly “errand” rides are within a two- to three-mile radius of our home.  Fortunately, the weather gods have been smiling on St. Louis, which has made the bike commuting quite pleasant, if not entirely easy (so far, the trip home always seems easier than the trip there).

In case the additional 45 miles of biking a week weren’t enough, Matthew and I just started another aerial silks class.  It took us awhile to find something that worked with our schedules, but after a 5+ month hiatus following the Intro Silks class, we began Silks 1 last week.  I was pretty nervous going into it, but Intro Silks, plus some open gym sessions, evidently drilled things into our brains and muscles fairly well.

Our first Silks 1 class also marked the first time we traveled to Bumbershoot by bike.  Despite being a perfectly bikeable [just a hair over] four miles away, the timing and weather conditions during the winter session consigned us to car trips (or walking plus bus for me, a couple of times).  So in addition to the extra biking to school, I’ll be getting an additional 8.5 miles on the bike with this.

This sudden increase in activities will leave me less time for writing, but I am using Twitter and Instagram more (yes, I may be a bit addicted to my four-month-old smart phone), so follow me there if you haven’t already!

 

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Broken leg aftermath

It’s been a heck of a two weeks, friends.  In many ways, having a young child with a serious injury is a flashback to those [seemingly] endless days of early infancy as a new parent.  The first night in the E.R./hospital gave us a head start on the exhaustion, which just builds with each middle-of-the-night pain med wake up.  There was inconsolable crying, the feeling of not knowing what the heck we were doing (as I mentioned the discharge instructions could have been clearer), general lack of predictability, and little-to-no time for self-care.  I spent the entire first week in a deep mental fog.

Thankfully, except for a few blips (when we tried to ditch the oxycodone too soon), G hasn’t been waking at night except when we wake him for the scheduled pain meds (and most of the time he barely wakes then).  The alarm on my phone goes off at 3a.m. every morning, and I drag myself out of bed and into the kitchen to get the drugs.  For the first week, I was tired enough that I got back to sleep pretty quickly.  This week, that ability seems to have disappeared, and I often spend those remaining hours tossing and turning.  (In another flashback to G’s infancy, I decided that if I’m getting up, I need a middle of the night snack, even though this time around, it isn’t fueling breastfeeding.)

Last Saturday, one week after the surgery, G finally saw the light of day when we took a stroll to our neighborhood’s new Little Free Library.  Getting out was good for him, and we followed up on Sunday with the first car outing.  Holding 40-pounds of anxious child in just the right position to avoid pain while wrangling him into the middle-positioned car seat in a small car is quite the feat.  Still, we not only made it work, we repeated it again on Monday (when Matthew took off work to help care for G at his mom’s house, giving me a MUCH-needed break) and then again on Tuesday for G’s first post-op doctor appointment.

Other than the tech positioning G’s leg for the x-ray, which was quite painful, based on his screams, the visit went smoothly.  We got our first peek at the new hardware (it was also the first time I saw the break).

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Hip joint visible at the top, knee bone at the bottom, and some big ol’ titanium nails.  Matthew and I were both surprised to see how off-set the bone is still.  The doc said that was completely normal (and that it would have been more off-set if we’d done casting instead of the nails).  The surgical incisions also looked good (a relief, given my surgical site infection fears!), and with that, we were told to come back in three weeks.

This week, we managed to get him off the couch, and by Wednesday, he was spending most of the time sitting on the floor (or in his booster seat on the floor) playing.  He has not attempted to crawl yet (despite a bit of gentle prodding), but he his bearing some weight on the leg, scooting around on the floor from the sitting position — as he’s gotten more comfortable with it, it kind-of looks like a crab-walk.

We started to cut back the oxycodone for the second time (after our first, too-soon attempt).  It seems that ibuprofen or acetaminophen are sufficient for pain control now, but he did have what we suspect were some opioid withdrawal symptoms (agitation and inconsolable crying for no reason), so we’re trying to dial it back slowly.

My mental fog seems to have lifted this week, though in the logistics of getting G loaded into the car on Thursday afternoon, I left our front door wide open while we were gone for almost three hours.  Thankfully, we do at least have a storm door that was closed.  Also, this was another flashback to G’s infancy — one morning in those early months, I went down our front stairs, only to discover that we’d left our front door open all night long.  Oops!

Yesterday marked our first post-break bike ride.  Big Blue has been a bit neglected since we got the tag-a-long in May, but she’s just what we need now.  I removed one side of the Hooptie to make it easier to get G into his seat, which he said felt just fine.  Getting him onto the bike is much easier than getting him into the car (though the logistics of getting me, our stuff, and then him, in my arms, out of our second-floor apartment are tricky with any mode of transportation — walking is the easiest).

20150814_101424[1]The trickiest part here was strapping the stroller (necessary once we reached our destination) onto the bike.  A couple of bungees worked well enough for our short trip to the library and Target.

If all goes well (knock on wood), Matthew and I will be getting a much-needed break this week when G goes to Tennessee with my MIL.  For the past two weeks, we’ve been back-and-forth on whether or not that trip (which has been planned since June) would happen or not, but as of now they’re a “go” to leave on Monday.  I need to reconnect to my mindfulness practice, and a few nights without that darned 3a.m. alarm will be most welcome!

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Friday night E.R. lights

Friday started innocently enough.  The newly be-Hooptied Big Blue was finally ready to ride (after a bit of a debacle involving the internal hub and a missing o-ring), and we towed Lightning to the park for a morning ride.

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The previous week, we’d made some progress in riding Lightning after I added some homemade streamers to the ends of the handlebars and made a game out of riding the circle path around the playground.  His interest was strong the first two days but already starting to fade.

Later in the day, after not napping, we hooked Green Bike to Midnight (finally picked a name for my 3-month-old bike) and headed out for a multi-modal trip to meet up with my family, who were visiting from Iowa for the weekend.

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Two mile bike ride and 10 minutes on the MetroLink later (I rotated the Burley Piccolo almost 180 degrees to fit on the train), we were at the hotel where my family was staying.  Easy peasy!

An outdoor pool is a nice amenity for summer StL visits, and we changed into our suits and headed to the pool (I was wishing I’d worn mine under my clothes so I could just jump in after the hot bike ride!).

Things went south from there.  I was just about ready to join G and my mom in the pool (after getting all sun-screened and letting it have some time to sink in), when G came out for a little break.  I don’t remember what he was heading for, but he was running on the pool deck.  I was a few steps behind and literally starting to say, “Don’t run next to the pool,” when we experienced the consequence of said action.

He slipped and landed really awkwardly, kind of a side split, but with knees bent instead of straight.  Given the position, I was assuming he’d pulled or strained something in the groin.  He was in quite a bit of pain, and ice and time didn’t seem to alleviate it.  We got him back to the hotel room, and he held his leg very awkwardly.  There was some swelling, but no bruising, and after consulting with a nurse on the after-hours exchange line, we headed to the E.R. at Children’s Hospital.  By that point, I was pretty convinced that something was wrong — I’ve never seen him that upset/inconsolable.

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They started pain meds, and took him for some x-rays.  Soon enough, we heard the news: spiral fracture to his right femur (the long bone in the upper leg).  Our treatment options were either spica casting (basically a huge cast, from his waist down past his knee on the right leg, and possibly including some of the upper left leg) or titanium elastic nailing (TEN) of the femur, a surgical procedure which would involve no cast and allow him to start bearing weight as soon as he was ready.  Either way, it would be done under full anesthesia, and we would be waiting until morning.

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They put his leg in a very temporary cast for the night.  The manipulation this required was pretty tortuous, even with morphine in his system, as he was crying and screaming, “No, please no, please don’t do that!”  — agonizing for him and for me and my mom.

Matthew stayed with him at the hospital overnight, and I headed home to do a bit more research on our treatment options before attempting to get a bit of sleep.  The TEN procedure seemed like a no-brainer in most ways, both for G and his caregivers, and it was what the pediatric orthopedic surgeon recommended (“What I would do for my kid”).  There wasn’t a ton of information either way.  We were concerned about the risk of surgical site infection with the TEN procedure (not an issue with the spica casting, since it doesn’t involve surgery), but in the end, we went with that option.

Saturday morning a bit before nine, he was wheeled into surgery.  Sometime after ten, the surgeon found us in the waiting room and said we would be able to see him in a bit, and the procedure had gone as planned.

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The green is not a cast, just a stretchy bandage covering the incisions from the surgery.  After some time monitoring him, a visit from a physical therapist, a trip to the pharmacy for oxycodone, and much crying about the transfer, we headed home on Saturday night, a little over twenty four hours after arriving at the E.R.

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We had great care overall, and were fortunate to be at a state-of-the-art children’s hospital.  I do feel the hospital staff could have done a bit better job preparing us for what to expect once we got home, i.e., how much pain he would be in, wound/dressing care, etc.  I also wonder if some kind of splint or brace would have been useful, but that was never mentioned or offered.

The past few days have been challenging for all of us — a temporary return to the days of having a needy young infant: lots of inconsolable crying, sleep-deprived parents, multiple night-time wakings (even if he’s sleeping, we need to make up to give him more pain meds).  Those were not my best days, and I’m trying to stay positive this time around.

Despite the fact that, bone structure-wise, he theoretically could be bearing weight on the leg now, he is clearly far, far from being ready for that.  I think the way they presented the procedure was a bit misleading in that aspect.

He is clearly still in a lot of pain, compounded by his anxiety about the pain.  I almost think he has some kind of PTSD from all of the pain of the initial trauma, plus the limb being manipulated in the E.R., and then just being in so much pain for so long (he was on pain meds all night on Friday night, but nothing but the morphine seemed to help much, and they were hesitant to give that).  Now, anytime we go to move him, he freaks out, crying and screaming before we even touch him.  Afterward, he often admits that it didn’t actually hurt (although sometimes, despite our best efforts, it does).  I’m not sure how to help him past the psychological issues.

We’re not pushing movement right now, other than wiggling toes and flexing the ankle, but we do have to move him sometimes (e.g., to sit on the toilet — we have a thing for him to pee in; we could use a diaper for bowel movements, but we would likely have to move him just as much, if not more, to clean him afterward, so potty it is!), at which point he usually screams bloody murder and tries to push us away.

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We confirmed that the seemingly odd/awkward position he favors, with the leg angled outward, is not a problem, and they gave us another script for more oxycodone (they were really stingy the first time around); as much as we would like to wean him from the hard stuff, acetaminophen and ibuprofen just don’t seem to be cutting it yet.

After consulting with the hospital staff, we decided that the coordination required for a walker, much less crutches, was probably too complicated at this age.  The expectation is that he’ll start bearing weight on the leg as he’s ready, first crawling, then pulling himself up and walking with assistance, and finally walking unaided, so, basically learning to walk all over again, but a faster progression (theoretically — we’ll see with this naturally cautious, and now anxiety-ridden, child — he may just decide it’s safer to crawl everywhere for the rest of his life).

 

 

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The couch conundrum

That title sounds like the name of a Big Bang Theory episode, but unlike Sheldon in the t.v. show, neither Matthew nor I have a favorite spot on our couch, because it has become decidedly uncomfortable.

To review, this is the estate sale couch that we bought in late 2010 and had re-stuffed in the fall of 2011.  What seemed like a good purchase now seems much more questionable — we have gotten five years of use our of it, but I’m afraid it’s time has come.

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The Issues

  • Too narrow: While we loved the length of the couch from the beginning, it quickly became clear that this couch was not the best for lounging around or cuddling.
  • Not ergonomic: For over a year now, we’ve noticed that we get head, neck, and/or backaches when sitting on it for any extended period of time (by which I mean more than five minutes).  It used to be comfortable for sleeping, but I’ve noticed that that is no longer the case.
  • The upholstery: The light color, while great for brightening a room, is quite the dirt magnet. It looks pretty grungy in general. We now keep a sheet over the cushions to hide the oily stains from the hydrocortisone ointment we put on the back of G’s knees for eczema.  If not for the other issues, I would consider having it cleaned and/or getting a slipcover, but at this point, it’s not worth it.

All-in-all, it’s time for this couch to go.  The question is, what next???

The problem with couches

  • Used couches: In the end, this couch was a bit of a lemon.  I’m not sure how we’d avoid that again if buying used.  Plus, a couch feels more personal than, say, a chest of drawers — I’d be pretty particular in the used realm.  Our current couch came from the formal sitting room of the previous owner and was all but wrapped in plastic — “like new” despite being 40+ years old — not sure what the odds are of finding something similar again.  Also, bed bugs.
  • New couches: Our standards would be pretty high, at least for our ideal — ergonomically sound (which may be an oxymoron for a couch), and built to last, with sustainability in mind.  At this point, we’re talking a LOT of money.
  • Moving: Then, there’s the fact that at some point, we’ll be moving. Hopefully only one more time, but maybe more. Couches are a beast to move, and you risk damage with every move. Not a huge deal for a <$200 Craigslist couch, but a big problem for more of an investment. And that’s if the couch even fits in the new space.

With all of that in mind, we’ve been considering some other options.

Couch alternatives

  • Japanese inspired: Tatami mat plus pillows
  • Yoga/meditation inspired: yoga mat base with jumbo zabutons plus bolsters and pillows
  • Twin-sized wooden platform bed frame (i.e., doesn’t require a box spring or foundation) plus mattress (or plus tatami mat)
  • Daybed
  • Recliners

Any of these set-ups, done nicely, would be a noticeable investment, but much, much more affordable than the fabled ergo-eco-couch.

The first two options are floor-based, which would be a little tricky due to the large baseboard air-return along the wall where we currently have our couch.  We’re also not certain we’d like the floor-based option for sitting.  We would ideally try out a tatami mat before going this route, and I’m not sure that’s possible, locally.

The bed or daybed options would be plenty comfortable for prone positions, but again, maybe not so much for sitting.  The recliner is probably the best sitting option, but not so great for cuddling.

Is there something that is decent for reading and watching t.v. in both sitting and prone positions?  Maybe combining two or more of the above ideas?  Whatever we get, I want both a color that hides dirt and has some kind of removable cover for easy, regular cleaning.

Have any of you experimented with couch alternatives?  What is/was the set-up, and how did it work for you?

 

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All the biking

I just returned from my first (of many?) bicycle trips to Fontbonne University.  I am in the process of enrolling in their dietetics program, though it’s not yet a done deal.

Anyhow, it would have been 15 miles round-trip, but on my way home I went an extra mile out of my way to bypass a stopped-on-the-tracks train (see reality of delay).  Definitely farther than I’m used to riding these days, especially in warmer temps, and very full sun on the way home!

The past week has been all about the biking (78 miles total, which is a lot for me these days).  Last Thursday, I biked to the store to get some supplies for Saturday.

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On Friday, G and I biked to his school for some end of summer school festivities.  After seeing him take to this [much too small] bike on the school playground, I joked that maybe we just needed to get him a pink bike.

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It was pretty hot when we biked home (he was on the tag-along), but he was a trooper.  He took a great nap that afternoon!

Saturday was a scorcher, which made it perfect for the World Naked Bike Ride.  I decided that after two years of the blue tutu, I needed to change things up a bit.

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“Lady of the Lane” refers to lane control, as I explained to a few inquiring minds throughout the course of the evening.

‘Twas another great WNBR in StL — always sad to see the ride come to an end!  We did continue the festivities at a lovely after-party hosted by some friends, where we were joined by additional bikey friends, some who rode, and some who didn’t participate in the ride.

We probably covered 25 miles in the course of getting to the ride, the ride itself, and then back home, and on Sunday, I was okay with having a little bike break.

It wasn’t a complete break, though.  On Saturday afternoon, I assembled the Hooptie for Big Blue, and we installed it on Sunday morning (the installation was MUCH easier than the assembly).

Unfortunately, we discovered a big oil stain under the rear wheel — for whatever reason, the internal hub was leaking.  I decided riding the bike in that condition might damage the hub (maybe equivalent to driving a car around without any transmission fluid?), so other than a tiny Hooptie test ride, Big Blue is out of commission.

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We removed the rear wheel (thank goodness for YouTube tutorial videos!), and I dropped it off at The Hub yesterday.  I’m hoping we have it back in time for my family’s upcoming visit — I have big plans for all of us to go on a bike ride, but Big Blue is an important part of being able to accommodate the whole group (five adults and two kids).

On Tuesday, G and I covered a good bit of ground, including a lab visit for routine blood lead testing.  He did great and was all smiles afterward.

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That afternoon marked G’s first trip to Tower Grove Park (~3.5 miles away) on “Green Bike” (i.e., the tag-along).  He was very excited because it also marked his first time riding Green Bike on Kingshighway — we just used it for a short stretch, during which he pedaled along singing, “We’re flying; we’re flying!”

Last night, Matthew and I biked to the second-to-last Whitaker music fest at MoBot.  (Next week, we are hosting a Cycling Social ride for the final concert of the season.)

And that brings us up to my morning adventures.  I was a might disappointed to arrive on the Fontbonne campus and, after a bit of searching, find this less-than-inspiring bike rack:

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You have to weave through parked cars and then traverse the rocky surface to access it.

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The longtail might have been in danger of getting hit by car doors.  After my appointment, I did stumble across some nicer racks . . .

20150723_094747. . . though clearly they are not expecting too many bicycle commuters.  There is a covered walkway to the left in the above pic, and I would love to see the bicycle parking covered as well.  Secure, convenient, and well-designed bike parking is an important piece of encouraging bicycling as a mode of transportation.

On my return trip, I was plenty ready to be back home and out of the sun.  All was well until I encountered this:

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Not only did the train come to a stop, it actually started rolling backwards for a bit (we were also delayed here on the way to G’s school last week).  After walking up to the tracks and confirming that the end was NOT in sight, I resigned myself to lengthening my trip a bit.  Fortunately, as a savvy cyclist, I had the skills I needed to easily navigate the reroute (east on Manchester to south on Kingshighway to west on Shaw), which included construction-related lane closures and the oh-so-special gutter bike lane on Manchester (I chose the travel lane and motorists were able to easily pass me using the center turn lane).

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Wonderful whole-grain waffles (without the sticking)

Along with pancakes, whole-grain waffles are part of our normal breakfast rotation around here. Our waffle iron was one of the few items on our very small wedding registry (this makes it easy to remember its origin) and is a gift from my parents.

From the beginning, getting the waffles to release nicely was a tricky proposition.  I don’t know if the issue is our waffle iron, our recipe, or some of both, but until we discovered our secret weapon, the first waffle of the batch always stuck.  I don’t mean it was a little tricky to remove; I mean we were scraping chunks of what should have been a beautiful waffle out of a hot waffle iron, cursing the thing while trying not to burn our fingers and swearing that we’d never make waffles again.

This happened with the first waffle (and sometimes the second and third, to a lesser degree) regardless of how much oil we used.  In addition to the environmental issues with disposable aerosol bottles, commercial non-stick spray is not recommended for waffle irons (or anything with a nonstick coating, really), because the propellant gunks up the surface, so we used a pastry brush to apply either canola oil or melted coconut oil in between every waffle.

Subsequent waffles usually released better (except for this one time when I swear every. single. waffle. in the batch was a hot mess, as was I by the end of it), and by the end of the waffle making session, our frustration would have faded a bit, eased by the fact that we were eating delicious waffles.  But the effort required made me eschew waffles in favor of pancakes on more than one occasion.

Enter the secret weapon.

On the way back from a camping trip two years ago, we stopped to do a little shopping.  I believe we were at T.J. Maxx, and, not unusually, I was much more interested in looking at their kitchen wares than at clothing.  They had a Misto oil sprayer, which I’d contemplated before, but never purchased due to concerns about how well it would actually work.  Matthew was interested in having something like that for applying oil to the top of rising bread dough, and we decided that for ten dollars, it was worth a try.

Back home, it sat in the box for a couple of months before I actually cleaned it (to remove any residual chemicals from manufacturing) and filled it with oil.  It then took another few months for us to think to use it to apply oil to the waffle iron, but once we did, holy moly, what a difference!  Consistently beautiful, easy-release waffles were ours!

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There have been a few hiccups along the way.  Every so often, the Misto clogs and needs to be cleaned (if you have one and it is refusing to spray anything but a sad stream of oil, this is likely your problem).  You need to wait for it to air-dry before refilling and using again, so if it just happens to clog in the middle of a batch of waffles, you’re s.o.l. (yes, I learned this the hard way).  I have not done so, but I’m somewhat tempted to buy a back-up so I have a clean, dry Misto waiting in the wings for just such occasions.

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WHOLE GRAIN WAFFLES
Recipe adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles

Quantities here are for a double recipe — enough to feed a crowd or freeze a bunch. Cut in half if you want less.

Ingredients
3 c. whole wheat pastry flour*
1 c. other flours (I use a mix of almond and/or cashew meal, coconut flour, and corn meal)
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. baking powder
2 2/3 c. milk
2/3 c. oil
4 eggs, separated
2 t. vanilla
1/3 c. rolled (NOT quick) oats, optional

Directions
In a large mixing bowl (big enough to hold wet and dry ingredients), sift together flours, sugar, and baking powder.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (do this first while the beaters are still clean).  Then, use the mixer to combine the milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Stir gently until just combined, folding in the egg whites toward the end.

Apply oil to the hot waffle iron, ideally with a Misto.  I spray the bottom first, add the batter (I use about 1 cup of batter per waffle; this doesn’t totally fill our waffle iron, but that’s my preference) and then spray the top just before closing.  In our waffle maker, on a “medium” setting, these cook in about 3 minutes.  If you still see steam coming out of the waffle iron, it is probably too soon!

If it does stick a bit, use something wooden to help it release (metal will scratch the iron’s cooking surface).  Place on cooling rack.

*You can play with the ratios of different types of flour a bit, but I would not go much below 2.5 cups of whole wheat pastry flour.

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We make big batches and freeze them to enjoy over a few weeks.  To freeze, place thoroughly cooled waffles in freezer bags.

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In the morning (or at snack time), let thaw at room temperature for a bit and reheat in the toaster for an almost-as-good as fresh waffle!

These waffles are fairly sweet on their own.  I usually top with butter and just the tiniest bit of real maple syrup or homemade fruit sauce; chocolate chips and cherry sauce are the topping of choice when I’m feeling decadent (and nostalgic, as that was my go-to combo when using the Belgian waffle maker in the Notre Dame dining hall).

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The best birthday in the whole world

We spent a good chunk of the weekend celebrating Gabriel’s fourth birthday with family and friends.  Four is indeed a fun age, as evidenced by his excitement and enthusiasm for [almost] everything.

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The first present he opened was a pirate ship.  This was an unplanned gift — less than two weeks before his birthday, I was searching Craigslist for a pirate costume (he specifically wants a Captain Hook costume).  I didn’t find any costumes (not really the right time of year), but I did find someone selling this fabulous wooden pirate ship.

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It’s in really good condition, and it was quite a steal.  G is a big fan!

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But he was equally elated about the little things, proclaiming, “I LOVE banana chips” as he opened this [bandana-wrapped] present.

After gifts and breakfast, Matthew and Gabriel headed out to the garden for the day, leaving me time to prepare for Sunday’s party.  (I was pleasantly surprised at how easily G separated from his new gifts.)

We met up that night for dinner at Papa and Nana’s house.

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We enjoyed a delicious birthday meal of spanikopita, Caprese salad, and fruit salad.  Then is was time for the main event . . .

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Seeing the birthday cake for the first time

. . . a homemade (by my FIL) black forest cake!

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The above picture was a little fuzzy, but I loved his pose.

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Spontaneous joy at turning four!  After eating his piece of cake, G declared it, “the best birthday cake I have ever had in the whole world!”

After dinner, we headed over to the fireworks show at Sublette Park.  The display is usually closer to the 4th of July, but they also always choose a Saturday night, and I’m guessing they didn’t want to compete with the fireworks on the actual 4th.  It worked out well for us though — fireworks on your birthday, what could be better?

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Well, a lot of things, as it turned out.  The above photo was taken at the very beginning.  A few moments later, I looked down to see G with his hands over his eyes.  He was wearing earplugs, but it was still quite loud, and we had front row seats, and I think it was just too much sensory input.  (This was also WAY past his bedtime — the first time we’ve ever kept him up for something.)

I tried to help by covering his ears, but he just didn’t look like he was having a good time.  I finally asked him if he wanted to stay or leave, and he said leave.  We were parked a couple of blocks away (parking was a mess, and we regretted not biking, but we didn’t have time to go home for the bikes after dinner), and as I carried him to the car, he was able to look back and see some of the show.  He seemed much happier in that position.

Once we were a block-and-a-half away, I paused to look back with him, and a woman sitting out on her front steps invited us to sit with her.  My arms needed a break, and Gabriel was game, so we sat.  She then offered Gabriel a popsicle.  I temporarily shushed the “corn syrup and food dye” monologue in my head, and said yes.  It was his birthday after all, and I wanted to end the note on a good night.  (When people asked him on Sunday what he thought about the fireworks, he simply responded, “Good.”  I think we’ll skip a few years before trying that again.)

Sunday was “friend party” day.  We rented a pavilion at a local park.  Gabriel and I made a piñata, and I brought musical instruments so the kids could have a parade.  Otherwise, we kept things fairly simple (though I wouldn’t mind simplifying further for future years!).

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My MIL made angel food cake (“the best angel food cake in the world”), which was G’s special request.  After cake, came the piñata.

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He did have a breakdown when it came time to let his friends have a swing at the piñata, proving that turning four is not a magic pill for such issues, but he recovered fairly quickly.

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As the party ended, he declared it “the best birthday party in the whole world!”

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