Thursday, December 30, 2010

12 Days of Prudhomme Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, blog reader(s)! Jeff and I just got home from a 12-day vacation to Florida to visit his parents. They have a 43-ft power catamaran that they use to cruise all around the east coast, so we joined them for a little Christmas cruising. Almost nothing went according to plan...naturally...but we managed to have some fun times anyway. Here are the 12 Days of Prudhomme Christmas:

1. On the first day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a nose-picking neighbor on the flight to Florida. Seriously...two fingers, both nostrils...and he wasn't even a child. He was an old guy, who at one point asked me some odd questions in heavily accented English. Pretty sure he said "Do you work on the airplane?" and then "Are you in the United States Air Force?" Well, this creeped me the heck out, because I immediately started thinking...why is he asking me these things? Is he about to hijack this plane or stab me in the neck with a drinking straw?! Flying can be just miserable.

2. On the second day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: FOOD POISONING.

My hospital bracelet.

Seriously, Santa, what the hell?! If I've been bad, would a lump of coal not have been sufficient? On our first night in Florida, we went out to eat with Jeff's folks at a nice Spanish restaurant in St. Petersburg. We all ordered a big plate of paella to share. I suppose I got the lucky bite from our shared meal, because the next morning I found myself deathly ill. I have never felt this horrid in my entire life. After a few hours of being incredibly sick on the boat, we decided that the ER was the best place for me. So I spent the remainder of my day in the hospital, replenishing my fluids with an IV and getting doped up on anti-nausea meds. Merry Christmas to me!

3. On the third day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: the worst heartburn EVER, as a result of all the acidity in my stomach from the previous day. Lovely. On the bright side, we finally got to get out on the water in the boat, and we saw a ton of dolphins. One playfully swam up to the boat and got in between the catamaran's pontoons, then proceeded to swim there for a while and let us watch him playing in front of the boat. That was really cool...I could watch dolphins all day long!

4. On the fourth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a safety drill because the boat was taking on water from a leaky seal! Oh if the food poisoning didn't kill me, going down with the ship off the Florida coast might finish me off! No, actually, it wasn't a close call or anything, but Jeff's dad did get out the life jackets and gave us instructions on what to do in case of emergency. As it turns out, the boat never took on enough water to do anything more than thoroughly annoy Jeff's dad, since they'd never had problems with any leaks prior to this trip. Jeff and I are such good luck charms!

5. On the fifth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a long drive across some of the Florida Keys on our way to Key West. Although long car rides are never the most fun things, at least we did have good scenery. The bridges connecting the Keys provide some great views - clear blue ocean on either side of the road, punctuated by small mangrove-lined islands, many with extravagant vacation homes we liked to drool over.

6. On the sixth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a Christmas Eve spa day at Prana Spa in Key West!

After feeling like crud for the past few days, a nice spa treatment was just what I needed. Jeff and my MIL, Nicole, got deep tissue massages while I got the Raj treatment - an exfoliating facial scrub, body scrub, full body massage, then a nourishing oil treatment for the hair and scalp along with a scalp/head massage. It was blissful.

7. On the seventh day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a Christmas night drag show with my mother-in-law. After hanging out by the pool for a couple hours on a very sunny Christmas, we decided to have a very non-traditional Christmas night and go to a drag show at the 801 Club on Duval in Key West. My MIL really wanted to do this since she'd never seen one before. We decided to un-invite the men because we were afraid they would not exactly love it. So Jeff and his dad went out for drinks while we attended the show. While it was funny, it was possibly one of the most awkward hours I've ever spent in my entire life. The main host(ess) was extremely vulgar, and the performers loved to torment the straight men in the audience by going over to them and gyrating madly or shoving their crotch into someone's face. Luckily we were never on the receiving end of any of that, and we were both SO GLAD that Jeff & Les didn't come. In all, it was fun, just a bit uncomfortable!

8. On the eighth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a bunch of alligators! On our drive back to Naples from Key West, we got to drive through a strip of highway known as Alligator Alley. It cuts through the Everglades, and along the banks off the roadside (separated from the traffic by a tall chain-link fence) are the alligators of the Everglades. We counted at least 40 on this particular trip - they are such interesting creatures! Not really a place I'd like my car to break down at night...yikes!

9. On the ninth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a trip to a real-deal Skyline Chili parlor.

Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati thing and also Jeff's favorite childhood meal. He has told me countless times about how much he loved going to the Skyline restaurants and loading up on the strangely thin, beanless, cinnamon-y chili. He hasn't eaten Skyline in a restaurant since he was a kid in Ohio. So he was pumped, to say the least, when we randomly drove by a Skyline parlor in Naples, Florida. After spending an afternoon exploring a cold and windy state park beach, we went to Skyline for lunch, and Jeff was in heaven. I think it was his favorite part of our entire trip! At first I didn't know what to think about the chili, which can also be purchased at Kroger in cans, but now I really enjoy it. It's traditionally served over spaghetti with finely shredded cheddar on top. Yum!

10. On the tenth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a sightseeing trip through the canals of Tween Waters in a tiny dingy.

Oh captain, my dingy captain!

We were trying to salvage any hope we'd had of doing outdoorsy stuff on this trip...between my food poisoning and the cold weather, we hadn't done much at all outside. So we pulled into a marina in a place called Tween Waters, where Jeff's parents often stop. (For the record, I hate the name Tween Waters...I know it's supposed to be an abbreviation of BEtween, since it's a strip of water between parts of the island...but it just sounds wrong)! It's off of Captiva Island, and the beaches there would have been beautiful had it not been so cold! Rather than walk along another chilly beach, we dropped the dingy off the back of Jeff's dad's boat and took it out on an exploration of the little waterways and canals through the mangrove islands. Even though the wind was chilling and we couldn't ever find a good place to take the boat ashore to explore the little islands, we still had fun on our little mini-adventure. We saw lots of beautiful birds, and I wished my expert bird-watcher Aunt Carol had been there to identify them all for me! Apparently the tiny wake from the dingy was stirring up fish, because some seagulls decided it would be fun to follow us around.

It was a little cold on the dingy!

A few of the seagulls that were stalking us!

11. On the eleventh day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a visit to some of Jeff's family I've never met before. Jeff and his cousin, Brent, were always really close when they were kids, kind of like my cousin, Ashley, and I. Now that Brent and his wife, Denise, live in Florida, Jeff rarely ever sees him anymore. So after getting back to the marina in St. Petersburg on our last night in Florida, we drove out to their house to visit them and see their adorable baby girl, Riley Kate, who is 2 months old. It was great to finally meet them. I really wish we lived closer together, because I could really see us doing lots of things together.

12. On the twelfth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: home sweet home. Our flight back to Dallas was uneventful - no nose-picking neighbor, and the kids sitting directly behind us were actually quiet and calm. We popped a Harry Potter movie in the portable DVD player and were home in no time. It's always a mix of feelings getting home after a long vacation like this one: I was glad to be back on my own turf, sleeping in my own bed, at my own house where I have my car and my freedom to do my own thing. But I was also dismayed at the incredible mess we'd left our house in and all the unpacking, laundry, and cleaning that needed (still needs) to get done. Ugh.

In all, we had a very fun, very non-traditional Christmas. We wish it would have been a bit warmer so we could have enjoyed a typical Florida winter, but oh well. Jeff's parents really did make everything so nice for us, and it was great to just get away and not have to worry about all the trivial little things that consume our daily lives back home. It was great!

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas, too, with just as many fun and interesting tales as we had (but, hopefully, featuring less vomiting and hospital visits)!

Here are some other random pics from our vacay:

Here we are getting a Cheeseburger in Paradise on Cabbage Key. I was still feeling quite under the weather at this point, and I think this was my first real meal since the "shellfish incident."

On Cabbage Key outside the restaurant that inspired the Buffett song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

Our "Christmas Tree" in the condo on Key about a Charlie Brown tree!

Our Christmas Eve dinner at Louie's Backyard - absolutely delicious food!

Jeff's Christmas drink.

My very merry Christmas pina colada - on the warmest day of our trip. At least we got to spend Christmas day by the water!

Hemingway's favorite bar in Key West. More on that later.

I forced everyone to take the tour of the Hemingway House.

A pretty banana plant at Hemingway's house.

Hemingway's writing study.

The house from the outside.

Many of the Hemingway cats are polydactyls - having extra toes on their feet!

Jeff trying to befriend one of the Hemingway cats.

Close-up on a polydactyl's foot.

The Hemingway cat drinking fountain. The bottom part is actually a piece of a urinal from Hemingway's favorite Key West bar...when the bar closed down for a while, Hemingway took this urinal to proudly display in his yard (nobody said he was normal)!

Jeff and I on the Southernmost Point marker - touted as the southernmost point in the U.S.; but supposedly there is a point on a nearby military air station that is further south. Oh well...good enough!

A beautiful sunset at Mallory Square in Key West.

Another beautiful sunset, this time in Naples, FL.

I was a fan of this boat, docked at the marina we stayed at in Naples. (It says Mischief Managed). Nice Harry Potter reference!

Monday, September 27, 2010

#1 Bites the Dust?

Over the weekend, my mom brought me a bike my dad no longer wanted. It's a men's mountain bike, but it's the right size for me, and they figured I might get more use out of it than my dad did. The plan was for me to ride this bike to get used to riding again and then buy a road bike so I could do some "real riding," thereby accomplishing #1 on my 30 before 30 list as well as discovering a great source of low-impact cardio.

Well...I rode the bike. was scary. Yes, I am a total loser. Toddlers ride bikes. I realize this. However, Saturday was my first time since 6th grade to be on a bike, and I would like to meet the person who came up with the saying "it's just like riding a bike." It didn't seem like second nature at all. Rather, I was quite certain that if I had been on a busy street, I would have been smashed flat and become roadkill. I was wobbly, riding the brakes, and afraid of falling over and scraping all the skin off my limbs. And this was on a mountain bike with thick tread and sturdy tires...imagine how disastrous I will be on a road bike - the thin tires, the clip-in's a recipe for disaster!

So, this leaves me with the question of what to do. Do I forget cycling altogether as a hobby and just stick to spinning, running, swimming, etc? Or do I forge ahead, purchase a road bike, and hope for the best? I am just not sure. I realize that I've only ridden the bike once, and if I go out a few more times, I will most likely begin to feel more comfortable. So I do plan to do that and see what happens. But, will I ever be comfortable enough for a road bike? Jeff will support me in whatever I decide to do, but I REALLY want this to work. I want to be able to take part in one of his hobbies so we can have something fun to do together on the weekends. I could always go fishing, but I don't have the passion for it that he does, and I get bored being in the boat all day. With cycling, I hoped that I could find something that we both liked doing, with the added bonus of calorie burning. But Jeff makes the valid point that if I am afraid of it, I am more likely to hurt myself. As he explained, the sport is not for timid people who are overly cautious, because if you are overly cautious, you will fall the first time you're called to make a quick decision on the bike. I am not much of a physical risk-taker. I an annoyed with that quality in myself, but that's that. I really don't like going fast, and I don't get a thrill from adrenaline-pumping situations.

But I am not ready to give up on the idea quite yet. I feel like telling myself "oh well, suck it you fall, you won't get over it." Saying that and getting my brain to believe it are two different things. What to do?! Maybe I just need to get this lovely bike with adult training wheels! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

My 30 Before 30 List

Inspired by my good friend Rachel and all of the fabulous ideas on her list, I've decided to make my very own 30 before 30 list. I turn 30 in exactly 20 months, though I really still feel like I am 20 (except when I have a few drinks...then my age catches up to me oh so quickly)! Where is the time going? Isn't there any way to slow it down?!

My 30s are coming, like it or not. So here, in no particular order, are 30 things I would like to accomplish before my 30th birthday. I'll update the blog with my successes (and, potentially, failures) with the items on this list. Some are big-picture lifestyle changes, others are tiny goals.

1. Learn to ride a road bike without injuring myself, possibly train for/ride in some sort of race/rally. Hopefully this will not be what it looks like when I take to the roads:

2. Buy and install a new chandelier for dining room - hopefully from somewhere thrifty like the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store or a garage sale.

3. Establish a weekly house chores schedule and stick to it.

4. Learn to cook more vegetarian dishes. Not because I want to BECOME a vegetarian, mind you. But just to have healthy, fresh meal alternatives that don't always include meat.

5. Take time at least twice a week for stretching. Though I love working out, I HATE stretching and never do it. Consequently, I am one of the least flexible people EVER, and I have problems with tightness in my muscles all the time. I'm not getting any I guess it's time to do something about it!

6. Learn to use a sewing machine and also do simple hand-stitching. And maybe loom knitting...I really like this loom, and it looks easy enough even for me.

7. Run a 10k - I've done the half marathon, and after losing a toenail and acquiring persisting hip and foot aches/pains, I think I'll stick to shorter races...but it's still fun to have a goal. Maybe I'll also do a 5k with my mom.

8. Find a brand/style of jeans that REALLY fits my body.

9. Implement bi-monthly date night with Jeff.

10. Learn to cook more things from scratch - jam, pizza sauce, breads, sauces, etc.

11. Grow something in a planter or backyard garden - just one or two vegetables, to see how it goes.

12. Organize our office in a way that allows it to STAY organized...not just stuffing things in drawers/on shelves until crap overflows onto every available surface.

13. Visit a new city (or a city Jeff and I have never been to together). Maybe here:

14. Finish the book I started writing about my grandparents' lives (this needs to be done by Christmas 2010, so really I only have a couple months)!

15. Finish (ok, ok...start and finish) my wedding scrapbook.

16. Brush up on my Spanish through self-study books or a continuing education class.

17. Learn to love the body that I have, not the one I think I SHOULD have, and be thankful for each day of health I'm given. I don't think this is something that can ever really be "checked off" my list. It's more of an overall attitude adjustment I know I need to make in order to be a good role model for my children someday (especially daughters). Trying to improve my physical appearance (to an unattainable level) through diet and exercise is something I struggled with heavily in high school and college, to the point of being unhealthy at times. I want to cleanse myself of that mentality. That's not to say I can't work hard to gain greater physical fitness for health and overall well-being...that will always be important to me, and I think valuing fitness is a good thing. But as for the other the fact that I am holding onto a few more pounds than I was 10, or even 5, years ago...and that my skin is more pale and must stay that way (thanks, melanoma)...and that it's harder to tone those problem areas to look good in a swimsuit...SO WHAT? I want to truthfully be able to say "SO WHAT??" and be happy with what my mirror reflects. It may not happen by the time I'm 30, but hopefully I can make small advances toward this eventual goal.

18. Organize the zillions of pictures on my computer; copy them to CDs.

19. Create a gallery wall somewhere in the house. I love gallery walls; they bring such interest to a space in a different way than pictures alone. I like this one with family photos, but I also like mixed walls with photos, paintings, clocks, and other wall art.

20. Get CPR certified.

21. Get re-certified to teach spinning. I used to love teaching my bi-weekly spin class in college. I think picking up a spin class or two would be a great post-baby "job" for me. Not only would it help me stay fit after having kids, but it would give me a sense of accomplishment in a task I could do outside the home.

22. Landscape the yard with pretty flowers/bushes and actually remember to water them so they don't die.

23. Get a professional bikini wax. Wow, dream big, right? But I've never gotten one before, and I feel like it's something I should do once in my, surely the short-lived pain is worth it?!

24. Host a grown-up dinner party at my house where I serve a multi-course meal with wine on a nice table setting.

25. Learn something about photography.

26. Go to a driving range and learn how to hit golf balls (may need assistance of super-golfer dad for this).

27. Go on a cold-weather vacation. Maybe learn to cross-country ski or snowshoe since Jeff can't downhill ski due to bad knees. Here's my dad and I, circa 1997 (or thereabouts)...did not realize until now that we were matching ski-dorks!

28. Start (and stick to) a daily skin moisturizing regimen (face, body, hands, & feet) and nail care regimen.

29. Go fishing with Jeff more often (even if it means getting up BEFORE the crack of dawn). But only if he can teach me to catch whoppers like this:

30. Make the effort to visit my out-of-town friends and family more often. I have such great people in my life, and they are spread out across Texas - from my parents in Tyler to my two best friends, Amanda and Alli, in Spring (still jealous you ladies live so close to each other!) to my grandma in Fort Worth and my cousin/college roomie and his family in West Columbia. These people mean the world to me, and nothing would make me happier than to see them more often. I plan to make an extra diligent effort to spend more time with them in the coming years.

Making this list was lots of fun...I didn't even realize I had certain goals until I sat down and thought about things I want to accomplish. I LOVE lists and feel more accomplished already just by making one! Do you keep a list of goals for yourself? What things do you want to accomplish within the next few years?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 Years.

It's hard to believe 9 years have passed since September 11, 2001. I was a 19-year old sophomore in college on that morning. I remember my phone ringing pretty early, and my dad's voice came over the phone: "Something bad is happening. Stay inside today and be careful." I don't remember what else he said, but I do remember the stress in his voice. I turned on the TV in my dorm room and tried to understand what was going on. The news channels were filled with chaotic reporting, the confused newscasters doing their best to relay what had happened. I think my roommate, Alli, and I sat there for hours, watching as the towers fell and reports came in of more hijacked planes. Strangely, I don't remember if I was scared or not. I think shocked is a more accurate description. I think our classes were all cancelled...I don't really remember much about that either. Later that afternoon, my (then ex) high school boyfriend called me. We talked about how horrible it was, and I think I cried as he told me that if the military needed volunteers, he would find a way to go fight. I don't remember when life on our campus went back to normal. I remember prayer vigils for the people who had lost their lives, and the amazing show of support for our country at the next Aggie home game, dubbed the "Red, White, and Blue Out" (rather than our usual Maroon Out). Here's a picture of our stands during that game:

So many selfless people risked (and also lost) their lives trying to save others and find survivors at Ground Zero. As others fled, they walked into the blinding dust, burning debris, and falling metal. We can never repay them for their bravery.

A great number of people were trapped in areas that were inaccessible by human rescuers. Something we rarely hear about are the 300 search and rescue dogs that helped locate the survivors and also the remains of those who perished. Here's a very touching video about these brave dogs:

We have a book in our house called One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001. The images in it are horrific, haunting, and heroic. It tells a minute-by-minute account of what happened that morning and also delves more deeply into the stories of some of the fallen, and still living, heros. I highly recommend this book. We all need something like this in our homes to ensure that we, and our future generations, never forget.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Special Old Friend

As everyone probably knows, I have been doing some volunteer work with Paws in the City, an animal rescue organization here in Dallas. This week, one of the co-founders of the organization lost her companion, Max. I learned this through Facebook, and it brought back memories of my childhood buddy, Ben. Here we are - just a kid and her giant puppy!!

I got Ben when I was in 2nd grade, and he was a wonderful, slobbery, goofy companion to my family until I was a sophomore in college. Losing him was so hard since we had practically grown up together - in fact, since I had no human siblings, I often thought of my pets as my brothers and sisters! When we got Ben, we were told that he was most likely a Beagle/Basset Hound mix and would be a medium sized dog when full grown. My parents noted his large paws and were a bit skeptical of this estimate, but nobody cared because 1. we are a family who loves LARGE dogs and 2. he was so darn adorable that we couldn't NOT take him home. I named him Benji, after the scruffy mutt in the movies, which were favorites of mine as an animal-obsessed kid!

As he grew, we could see that Ben was most certainly NOT a Beagle/Basset. He was more likely a German Shepherd/American Foxhound - with the deep chest (and later hip problems) of the shepherd with the coloration of a black, tan, and white foxhound. He had the best personality traits from both breeds, too. Quick to learn his tricks, protective yet gentle, and loyal to his short, absolutely the sweetest, smartest dog ever!

My parents and I always say, if only we could have cloned Ben and been guaranteed to get his loveable personality, we could have had a lifetime of wonderful dogs! It's too bad our pet companions have so few years with us, but the important thing is to show them all the love we have while they're around. I need to scan some old pics of two other wonderful childhood pets - Garfield the cat, who I adopted from a neighbor's litter of kittens when I was 5 years old (he lived until I was a junior in college) and Chief the horse (he was a gentle old man of 18 when my parents bought him for me at age 9, and he lived to the ripe old age of 26)!

Here's the ONLY pic I have scanned of Garfield - unfortunately you have to bear witness to me at a very awkward stage (brace-face) with a very ticked-off cat in a hat!

Who were your favorite animal friends when you were young?

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Miss the Sun

On beautiful summer days like the ones we've been having lately, I get kinda depressed. That seems odd, right? Well, it's just because I miss the sun. I live a mostly indoor life now, and I don't always love it. It's been one year and 4 months since I had a mole that turned out to be melanoma excised from my right side, and since then, I've had to be very careful about sun exposure. And I know that EVERYONE should be very careful about sun exposure no matter what, but for people with previous melanomas, this is particularly important. Now if I go out, I have to make sure I can find a shady spot to hide under every half-hour or so. I have to spend a long time before going outside covering every inch of my body with SPF 50 sunscreen, and even then I notice my skin getting red more quickly than usual. My poor skin is just not used to seeing any rays, so it turns red in an instant. In reality, these are small sacrifices...and I know I am complaining when I shouldn't be. I am SO incredibly grateful that my melanoma was discovered and removed before it became a life-threatening cancer. But still, I just get jealous of all those people who can just slap on a bit of sunscreen and head to the pool or the lake at a moment's notice. Also, I hate the way I look in a bikini these days...but more on that particular complaint in a later post!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review - House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I have a good book for you! House Rules, by Jodi Picoult.

I have read almost all of Jodi Picoult’s novels. I like the multiple-narrator approach she uses, and the detail with which she writes. It’s obvious in her novels that she thoroughly researches her subject matter, so even though it is fiction, it doesn’t come off as mindless.

One caveat – once you’ve read a couple of her books, you will be able to predict the endings of most of her others. She likes to throw in a twist towards the end that makes you rethink your impressions about the rest of the book. But once you’re used to her formula, you will guess the twist pretty easily. For some people, that might ruin the entire book. For me it doesn’t. I still like seeing following the characters and seeing how the story plays out, and every once in a while, she still surprises me.

There were no surprises in House Rules – I knew what the “mystery twist” would be after reading the first couple of chapters. One thing did disappoint me, but I can’t say what it is without ruining the book for anyone who might read it. But I loved the subject matter of this book: Asperger’s Syndrome. I don’t know why, but autism and autism-spectrum disorders have always fascinated me. I don’t really know where it started…maybe with the movie Rain Man, which I love! All I know is that in high school, I wrote a research paper titled “The Unsolved Mystery of Autism.” It explored the potential causes of autism and explained some of the typical behaviors exhibited by autistic kids. That was in 1998, when even less was known about the autism spectrum disorders than is known at present. Asperger’s wasn’t even standardized as an autism-spectrum disorder until six years prior to my high school paper. If I see a book with an autistic character, I will buy it. If there’s a movie or TV show about kids with these disorders, I will watch it. I have no idea why it interests me so much, but it does.

If I had been smart, I would have gone to school to be a behavioral therapist or something similar so I could work with these kinds of kids. I have no doubt that it would be an incredibly frustrating, fascinating job. But that’s another story.

So, finally, a bit about the book. It’s about an 18-year old boy, Jacob, with high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. His fixation is crime scene forensic science, so you can probably see where this is going. He is accused of a murder when his social skills tutor is found dead. He knows far too much about the crime scene to be innocent, apparently. The book follows his arrest, imprisonment, subsequent house arrest, and trial, narrated by Jacob himself, his brother Theo, the police detective, Jacob’s mother, and Jacob’s attorney. This book will make you laugh and will make you mad. You see how the quirks of autism disorders can lead to a person with a wonderfully dry and witty sense of humor. You also see the incredible struggle of a family whose life must revolve around one person’s needs, to the detriment of all others. There’s a neglected brother who is torn between loving and hating his autistic sibling. There’s a single mother who was abandoned by her husband when their son was diagnosed and who suffers every day when she sees her son trying, and failing, to become a part of the world of neurotypical people. Also, you see how the legal system could be incredibly flawed and unforgiving to a defendant with an autism disorder. All in all, a very interesting, fast-paced read – I plowed through it in a couple of days!

One thing I found questionable in this book was Jacob’s insightfulness. At times, he seemed more like the traditional Asperger’s kid – lacking empathy, extremely literal, obsessive about his fixation topic – but at other times, the chapters from his point of view seemed to show too much self-awareness and emotion. But what do I know, maybe people with high-functioning Asperger’s really do walk that fine of a line between what is considered normal and what is considered “different.”

I went to the author’s website after finishing the book, as I usually do. She always posts more information about her topics and discusses the inspiration behind her books. In her discussion of House Rules, she addresses the debate about the cause of autism disorders, which is still unknown. Many people believe that vaccinations are the cause, and for good reason, in my opinion. In researching her book, Jodi Picoult came across mothers who showed her videos of their normal babies, making eye contact with the camera, playing with other children. Later home videos of these same children, taken days after an extensive round of shots, show them rocking or flapping their hands, avoiding eye contact, and withdrawing into their own world. If that is not scary stuff, I don’t know what is. On the other hand, most kids get their vaccinations and never show any symptoms. No conclusive scientific test has ever proven a link between vaccines and autism, according to Picoult’s research. Either way, autism-spectrum disorders are on the rise – the author cites this statistic: 1 in 100 children are now diagnosed somewhere on the spectrum. While these kids are no less treasured or loved, their lives are inarguably more difficult. Their peers will inevitably make fun of their repetitive tics, obsessive tendencies, tantrums, and inability to carry on normal conversations. Mainstream society is full of things that are hard to handle for them – bright lights, loud noises, confusing social cues, and disrupted routines. And I can only imagine how their parents’ hearts must break as they try to forge a loving connection to children who cannot understand that kind of emotion. I won’t begin to speculate about the causes of autism because I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to do so. But I do know that when I get pregnant, I am going to find a pediatrician who will talk to me about these concerns. Jodi Picoult lists several tips about vaccinations on her website that I found very interesting. She obviously makes no claim that by following these tips, you can prevent your child from having autism, but they are definitely things for parents to think about. I know I will.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

2nd Anniversary

Yesterday Jeff and I celebrated our 2nd Anniversary! I can't believe it's already been two years since our awesomely fun wedding. I wish we could keep re-living our wedding reception over and over again - it was so much fun to party and celebrate with our friends and family!

Our first anniversary was on a Sunday, and we spent the day at the spa getting couple's massages. This year, since our anniversary fell on a Monday, we had to do something in the evening after work. When Jeff got home from work, we exchanged gifts. We don't really "go big" on anniversary gifts, so we each just got each other something small. Plus, the theme for 2nd year anniversary gifts is apparently "cotton." Not sure who came up with this random correlation of gifts and years, but hey, we went with it!

I got him this silly t-shirt that I made on Some of the things on there are little jokes between the two of us - he is so goofy that we always have something to laugh about!

I wanted it to be an apron because he has said he needs one, but with the font size restrictions, it wouldn't fit on the front of the apron. So I just got a comfy t-shirt that he can wear around the house.

His gift was WAY sweeter than mine! I can never think of anything to get him because 1) whatever he needs, he goes out and gets himself, and 2) the only stuff he ever wants is fishing gear! Anyway, here is what he got me:

Yep, that is exactly what it looks like: a crib sheet!! This may seem odd, since we don't have a baby, nor am I pregnant. But,'s perfect! He got this for me to symbolize that he is excited to take that next step with me and become parents together. He said he realizes that he rarely ever talks about having a baby in a positive light, so he wanted me to know that as we enter our third year of marriage, we can begin to plan our family! Jeff has often said that he is scared to have a child because he knows it means that we will have to do a lot of growing up, and our lives will have to change significantly. Right now, when we want to go out of town, we just pack up and go. We have our own schedule that we are very comfortable with, and obviously a baby will change that. Our lives will revolve more around our children than ourselves, and they will take top priority in our considerations. That doesn't mean we won't still be able to have fun, though! We are so lucky to live in a great family-raising neighborhood near many of our closest friends. We all love to get together for game nights, back yard BBQs, and game-watching parties. We stopped going out to the bar for a "fun activitiy" a LONG time ago! When we have kids, we can still do these same things that we enjoy doing now. It just may be more of a 3-ring circus with all our kiddos running around the house and yard!

This is by far the sweetest gift ever! Out of the blue, he can be so thoughtful. The best thing is, the sheet is not just any old crib sheet! It's made from super soft organic cotton, good for babies who just MIGHT inherit their mother's incredibly allergy-prone skin! And it's GREEN, my favorite color...and good for either a girl or boy's crib.

So, stay tuned this year for the Prudhomme's baby plans! We aren't going to rush into it right this minute, but we are going to start planning.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Weekend

My parents came in to visit us for Easter weekend, and we got some quality family time. They are definitely not ones to sit idly around, so we got a TON of work done to the yard. Jeff and I have been wanting to do a long day of yard work for months, but we lacked the motivation to get it started by ourselves. So my parents came to the rescue, and all four of us worked hard for at least 7 hours yesterday. We cleaned out all the dead leaves from the flowerbeds, trimmed bushes, planted a few flowers, raked the dead thatched layer of grass from the yard, and filled in low spots with topsoil. It looks amazingly better - I'll post some pics soon when I finish planting the rest of the flowers.

Today we cooked a big Easter lunch before they headed home. I was able to log at least 4 new recipes that I'll add to my Six Degrees blog posts. We had ham, 3-cheese mac & cheese, fruit salad, homemade yeast rolls, asparagus, and a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for dessert.

YUM! But now I am too full and can't manage to get off the couch. But when and if I do get off the couch, I should go work out because I probably gained 5 lbs this weekend!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I HATE Thieves

So, something horrible happened this week. Someone broke into my locker at the gym and stole my wedding rings, credit cards, and driver's license. I go to the gym to lift weights for 30 minutes every day at lunch. As usual, I changed into my workout clothes, stowed my rings in the inside zipper pocket of my purse, locked my locker, and went about my workout. When I got back upstairs to change back into my work clothes, I noticed first that my rings were missing. I thought maybe they had fallen into the bottom of my purse, so I searched there...nothing. My heart was starting to beat a little quickly at this point.

For some reason the next thing I did, without even thinking, was to open my wallet. It was becoming clear to me at that point what had happened. All the slots where I keep my credit cards and driver's license were empty. I just kind of stood there for a minute, not understanding what was going on. I mean, my locker was freaking LOCKED this entire time. I even had to unlock it when I came back to get dressed, so they locked it back when they were done. They didn't cut the lock or break it in any way, which means they either must have picked it or watched me for days and memorized my combination. But I think I would have noticed someone hovering behind me staring at my hand as I put in the combination! Apparently combination locks are easy to pick, though, so that's probably what happened. But I definitely think I was targeted. I mean, a ton of women do not put locks on their lockers at ALL. They just close the doors to the locker...I often open 3 or more lockers each day before finding an empty one I can use. Yet nobody else was robbed that day...only me. Also, since they didn't take my entire purse, but only the things they wanted out of it (they ignored my camera and iPod), I think they have had their eye on me for a while.

I have tried to look on the bright side of this situation, because things could have been a lot worse. The thief who has been watching me could have ambushed me in the parking garage and shot me to get what they wanted. (Maybe a bit dramatic, but this kind of thing does happen every day in Dallas). So now, with my second anniversary a few weeks away, Jeff and I have to design my rings all over again and wait for them to be made. Luckily the insurance company is not dragging its feet and is already in the process of completing our claim, so it shouldn't take too long.

What really pisses me off about this situation is the complete disregard for people's belongings. How does a person come to the conclusion that it is OK to take something that does not belong to them?! I can cancel credit cards and replace my driver's license, but my rings were one of a kind. Jeff picked out the stones and designed my ring himself, and it was on my hand the day we got married. That can't be replaced. I typically have a lot of patience with and faith in people, but this is something I just can't understand or tolerate. It makes me SO angry to think about it. I don't hold out much hope that the police will find whoever did this, but it sure would be nice if they did. The detective is going to check the videos from the gym entrance and the gas station where they used my credit card 10 minutes before I discovered the theft. He is also going to check pawn shops for my rings...but again, it's a needle in a haystack! has been a crappy week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Year, Neglected Blog

Well, if one of my New Year's Resolutions was to post more regular blog updates, I am failing miserably! Actually, I didn't make any resoutions, but I do intend to be a better blogger. Starting now.

The year 2010 has actually been pretty eventful so far. Dallas got record snow fall during Valentine's weekend, and OF COURSE, we missed it. We were on a cruise to Cozumel with our friends Alli and John. Granted it would have sucked to endure the 2-day power outage, but I would have loved to play in the snow like a little kid! But the cruise wasn't too shabby either. We ate like absolute PIGS, enjoyed many relaxing hours reading on the ship's deck, and found a deserted beach in Cozumel where we racked up such a large bar tab that we almost got thrown in Mexican jail for inability to pay (not really, but the bar dude wouldn't take our credit card until he realized we truly did not have the cash to cover the bill)!

Work has absolutely SUCKED lately. Not that it was ever incredibly exciting, but now we are being micromanaged to the point of near insanity. We moved into a new office, which should have been a big positive since our last building was literally falling apart at the seams. I am still surprised that I never plummeted to my death in the faulty elevator shafts. Our new place is much nicer, but unfortunately there's a severe space issue. I am not sure what happened, but I suspect it has something to do with being too cheap to rent enough space for the number of employees. The result: two people at a 1-person desk. Sit me 4 inches (literally) from another person for 9 hours a day, and I tend to become a real bitch! I'm sorry, but I don't like ANYONE enough to sit on top of them all day long. Add that to being completely disrespected by most of the management and it makes for one heck of a work environment! But oh well, this job allows me some flexibility with my work hours (I can come in at 7:00 and leave by 3:00 or 4:00 if I want to have my afternoons free). Not to mention I make pretty decent money for doing an incredibly simple job where I can listen to audio books all day. I have become very well-read over the past 11 months!

This is what I feel like at work most days: "that's the last straw."

In other news, I have started volunteering with an animal rescue organization called Paws in the City. I work at adoptions on weekends, helping to find new homes for these poor abandoned dogs. It's pretty fun; I love meeting all the different dogs and seeing their personalities. Of course it breaks my heart to know that many of them may not find homes. Jeff and I have been throwing around the idea of finding a doggie companion to join our family. I grew up with dogs my ENTIRE life and really love the happiness they bring to a home. Jeff has never had a dog, so he is more skeptical. They ARE a lot of responsibility, but I figure if we are going to be having kids in the near future, we might as well get used to that! We just have to find a dog that works well with Bella. She is our first baby, so she calls the shots. We won't bring home a dog that will terrorize her! So, we have to be incredibly picky, which is something that everyone should do when adopting a pet in the first place! We actually brought home a temporary "foster dog" for a couple days a few weeks ago. It was kind of a test run to see how things would go. Plus, Paws in the City wanted to see how this dog behaved in a home since she had been picked up as a stray and little was known about her. We called her Kira, and she was a sweetie. However, her severe separation anxiety was a problem - it was clear to us that she needed a home where there was one stay-at-home person and/or other dogs to keep her company. Also, she was a little too curious about Bella for our liking! We couldn't feel comfortable leaving them alone together in the house.

Here's Kira, our temporary foster dog, checking out the kitchen.

I guess that's about it from the Prudhommes at the moment. Be watching (all 3 of you readers) for a new blog project coming soon. It's called Six Degrees of Supperation, and it is a cooking blog that I will be contributing to with a group of my girl friends. We all love cooking blogs, trying new recipes, and sharing them and our success (or failure) stories with each other. So very soon we will have an online forum to do that, and other people can read it too!