Vacation, part 2

When we last left our intrepid vacationers, it was Thursday, December 29, and order was gradually being restored to the House of Horne, though I was once again laid up on Flexeril. Let’s roll tape, a bit later in the day…

Thursday, Dec 29: The phone rang, breaking the (drug-induced… at least in Jay’s case) peaceful calm. My parents delivered the news: Nicolas had started throwing up. After cleaning him up, they brought him by our house. We strove to help a very sick little boy make it through the night, as he vomited a bit more and then spiked a fever, developed a cough, and was generally restless until the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, Dec 30: Nicolas seemed to bounce right back come morning, leaving two exhausted parents in his wake. Now comes the really odd part of the story. In the years that Tricia and I have had children, I have proven impervious to pink eye. The whole family has caught it numerous times, but I have remained untouched. Lo and behold, by Friday afternoon it had become clear that I had a bad case of pink eye which I caught… while bedridden???

Saturday, Dec 31: I woke up to find my right eye glued shut and in pain. Off to CareNow, where I got a prescription for some drops. On a high note, my back was feeling a bit better, and no one was showing signs of a relapse. However, Tricia and the baby continue to suffer from thrush.

Addendums and Corrections: In the previous entry I gave the wrong impression regarding Christmas dinner. It was in fact Aunt Sandra who largely took over the kitchen and brought us in for a smooth landing around the dinner table.

Beyond that one incident, my minor mentions of help we’ve received along the way do not do justice to the love that others have shown us over the past week and a half. I feel a stand-alone entry is in order for such thanks, however, so I’ll merely leave our faithful readers with this teaser of an entry to come.

Vacation at the House of Horne

A brief time-line of events that transpired at the House of Horne this Christmas season.

Monday, Dec 19: I worked until 8:30 p.m. to clear the deck at work and free myself up to enjoy some time off with my family.

Tuesday, Dec 20: Rather than finalizing all the Christmas shopping (though we did work on it), Tricia and I went and looked at a house for sale. Not that we had been planning to move this soon (eventually, yes, to be closer to the school we are using).

Wednesday, Dec 21: Had our home assessed for sale and put an offer on the other house. Oh yeah, still need to finalize some Christmas preparations. We decided we would hit it hard on Thursday.

Thursday, Dec 22: In the morning, I casually reached for something on the kitchen counter and had something go terribly wrong in my mid-back. Seconds later, I was on the floor in the fetal position. Countless Advil later, I decided to tough it out and run the errands I had planned to accomplish that day. The pain was severe but I felt it was probably manageable. Tricia headed out with a couple of the boys, Nicolas went to spend time with his Aunt Jamison, and Abigail and I set out to do some shopping.

Halfway through our errands Abigail began complaining that her stomach was upset, so we sat around at a Sam’s Club for awhile to let it settle. It didn’t, so we finally made a break for home. About a mile away from our destination, Abigail began throwing up into a plastic bag we had from one of the stores we had visited. She continued throwing up until midnight.

Friday, Dec 23: My back had deteriorated, so I headed to the doctor. I was prescribed Flexeril and an anti-inflammatory and told to more or less stay in bed. So I did. That left Tricia to care for the family and get ready for a Christmas gathering at our house by herself. Not good.

Saturday, Dec 24: Massive preparations proceeded for a Christmas feast, while I remained doped up in the bedroom. Tricia’s sister came over to help with the preparations and spend the night, which probably helped Tricia keep her sanity. In the afternoon, I spiked a fever that continued to climb with no regard for the Tylenol I took. In consultation with my doctor (by phone), we became worried that perhaps the problem wasn’t my back but actually was my kidneys (the pain was in the right spot).

So, on Christmas Eve, rather than attending the Christmas Eve service at church, Tricia took me to the emergency room, where we stayed until the first few minutes of Christmas. It turned out the fever was due to a completely unrelated viral infection and that yes, the pain was in fact due to my back, not my kidneys.

Sunday, Dec 25: I remained in bed rest as Sandra and Tricia took the children to church. After the service, we had numerous family members join us for a feast of sorts. Tricia continued her remarkable balancing act of taking care of me and the children while helping facilitate the food preparation. Doped up on a muscle-relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and pain killer, I joined everyone at the table for dinner.

That was when Jonathan began vomiting. That continued until around 1 a.m., at which point the diarrhea started, which lasted through most of the night, which brings us to Monday…

Monday, Dec 26: After almost no sleep, Tricia took care of Jonathan and I as we both lay in bed all day. My back was still doing very poorly.

Tuesday, Dec 27: Jonathan began the day by throwing up again, but then began to improve quickly. Likewise, my back started showing real progress. That evening, I actually got up and spent some time out and about.

On Tuesday, Tricia also took Josiah to the doctor, as he had been suffering from cold-like symptoms for the better part of two weeks. Josiah was diagnosed with another case of thrush. Perfect.

Wednesday, Dec 28: In the wee hours of the morning, Tricia began throwing up, and continued in that vein through the night. By dawn, she was more or less done but utterly wiped out from the suffering and lack of sleep. Right about then I began having severe diarrhea, and began throwing up around 8:30 a.m. We received tremendous help in our time of need. Nicolas was whisked off to spend the day with his Aunt Jamison and Uncle Andrew.

I continued vomiting until noon, but never really felt recovered and continued to have severe diarrhea. During the afternoon, Stephanie Clemmons came by and helped keep the house together and the children occupied while Tricia and I both napped. Around 9 p.m. I finally gave up and went back into the bathroom and forced myself to vomit to try to get some closure. That lead to a couple more sessions, but by 10:30 p.m. I was actually feeling better. The only downside was that my back got out of sorts again.

Nicolas ended up spending the night with his aunt and uncle, and Tricia and I managed to get some decent sleep that night.

Thursday, Dec 29: Here we are, writing this summary, and rather hoping there will be no need for further entries… I’m back on Flexeril, but hopefully my back will recover quickly.

…And Hear the Angels Sing

One of my favorite songs to sing this time of year is “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”(full text in link). Though I didn’t particularly enjoy this hymn as a child, over the years I have come to appreciate it more than any Christmas song I know, and I love the lyrics for they are rich with meaning, and spin a beautiful picture of what Christmas and really all of life is about. While I am not gifted with the art of painting pictures with my words, the gentleman who wrote this hymn certainly was. What incredible poetry is contained in this song. My favorite verse is the 3rd, I think traditionally. Here are the words:

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!”

These are words that all creation can relate to. And they often bring tears to my eyes when I hear them sung. I love the reality of the sense of toil and burden that we often feel in this life and the reminder of God’s love song above our “babel”. And then the hope that is sung in the later part of the verse about “glad and golden hours”. The admonition to rest and remember the angels’ words is a great reminder to us all this Christmas Season. As they sang,

“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”

Whatever your toil this season (and we all have our own!), may the truth of these words ring anew in your hearts and among your family and loved ones. May we all recall the message of Christmas that was sung in Bethlehem so long ago. Merry Christmas to you all.

Time For Some Reader Participation

Someone recently tried to convince me that washing an orange or clementine before peeling it to eat was akin to washing a banana peel before eating the banana. I personally do not wash my banana peel. But everyone is different.

So I ask you:

1. How many of you readers (and Lurkers, I mean you too!!) wash the orange or clementine or grapefruit (or whatever your choice citrus fruit happens to be) prior to eating that fruit, and how many of you do not?

2. And, are there any banana peel-washers out there?

What’s playing in Jay’s iPod?

In an effort to fend off Google, I’ll not quote any of the lyrics this time around, but rather provide a few elusive clues. Here we go.

1) the album is named after a piece of music originally written for a play in the 1800’s

2) the band does a guitar-centric rendition of the the aforementioned piece of music as an introduction to a song the is loosely based on the play

3) On subsequent albums, the band added a lot of piano to their metal sound creating this bizarre, but strangely interesting, rock opera sound

4) Oddly enough, most people are familiar with the band, but don’t know it

Okay, any guesses?

Updated 12/4/2005
Better add some more clues.

5) The bands 10th album (which also happens to be in my iPod) is a story set during the Balkan wars of the early 1990’s

6) The band’s name appears to be an early 80’s attempt to mash together two “dangerous” sounding words

7) Okay, let’s expand Clue #4. The band has an alter-ego, another band that focuses on Christmas music.

Quality MP3s

Several years ago I ripped every CD I owned and converted them all to MP3. At the time I was dealing with, oh, about 300 CDs, so the process took some time. Then I trashed all those MP3s and started over.

Why would I do such a thing? My goal was to acquire very high quality MP3s. I wanted quality over size, MP3s that could be converted back to WAVs with more or less no audible degredation (okay, if you did this over and over, no MP3 would provide good quality… I was looking for a one pass WAV -> MP3 -> WAV type quality). An easy test of the MP3 quality is to pick some music that has nature sounds of some sort in it and listen to it on quality equipment (headphones, speakers, whatever). As the codecs that create MP3s are generally optimized for speech and music, cricket sounds, water, or whatever are an easy way to find their limits. That or a quality jazz recording with lots of airy cymbals.

In my first attempt, I bought a package (I think it was MusicMatch) that ripped the CDs and created the MP3s and added the tags, all in one package. The MP3s were fine, but they were not what I would call high quality. After a bit of research, I redid the whole thing addressing quality at each step. Here’s a summary of what I learned (and subsequently did).

1) Ensure an accurate rip. If the CD player reads a grease smudge off your disc, that noise will be encoded right into the MP3. If there is a scratch, you’ll probably hear that scratch in the MP3. The solution? Use Exact Audio Copy (EAC). It reads the CD tracks over and over, comparing them until it gets an exact match, thus enabling it to rip a perfectly accurate WAV file (unless, of course, the disc is unreadable). EAC is free, so go get it.

2) Use the LAME encoder to convert from WAV to MP3. There are numerous download sites like this one. It has a “lame” interface, but once configured, EAC can drive it for you.

3) Make sure your ID3 tags are done well. ID3 tags are the extra bits of data stored with the MP3 file such as Title, Artist, Genre, etc. EAC will usually be able to look up the tags for you when you load a CD using, but always make sure the tags are accurate and complete.

If you Google “eac lame tutorial”, you can find a bunch of great step-by-step info on setting up the whole shootin’ match. I use the “insane” setting for the LAME codec, which is basically a VBR encoding scheme meant to match the quality of a 320 kbs CBR MP3, but the files average around 230 kbs. I use a much lower setting (around 64 kbs VBR) for audio books that I rip.

Once you get your collection set up, it’s easy to keep it up to date by converting CDs as you acquire them. Then the fun begins. I’ve got MP3s driving my music in my living room stereo and my car, and will post the details another time.

Just Part of Life

There are certain folk who are very close to me and whom I love very much, who tell me my blog is boring lately. Yeah, Andrew, I mean you!! Evidently recipes, accounts of shopping trips, and toddler anecdotes are not exciting enough. May I ask, what it is you were expecting from a SAHM of 4, one of whom is a newborn?? Because recipes and shopping trips are the stuff of life around here.

Oh yes, and dog barf. Indeed, folks. This evening while my husband dined on delectable choice beef at Ruth’s Chris Steak House (the French were in town, he had to entertain them) I walked into our bedroom to discover a very nasty pile of regurgitated dog food. On the rug. Just as I was about to enjoy my homemade pizza (which, incidently, I WON’T post the recipe for!). Ugh. Anyone want a free dog??

Manly Nicolas

We started putting up the Christmas tree tonight. The kids were very excited… and very underfoot. As Tricia felt little hands pushing and prodding on her back yet once again, the following ultra-brief conversation took place.

Tricia: Alright! If anyone hits me or bumps into me again I am going to scream!

Nicolas: Like a little girl?


I had myself a fun little outing to Old Navy today. Not exactly all by myself, ie, without children, but at least without the two middle ones, which feels pretty free these days!! ANYWAY, while shopping, I learned something new that Old Navy is doing with their shirt sizing which might come in handy to other readers of this blog who are say, Moms over 30-ish, perhaps recovering from having a baby, sporting a few extra pounds, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

Much of my impression of Old Navy in recent years has been lots of teeny tiny short shirts that are NOT AT ALL appropriate on a person of my age and stature. But today I saw shirts in three different categories:

TINY fit
EASY fit.

Tiny fit is well, tiny. Perfect fit is a bit longer in the waist and while still fitted, not so tight. Easy fit was made for postpartum moms. Well, not really, but they were a wonderful fit for me and my little tummy. They are just a bit roomier all around, and even longer than the Perfect fit, which makes them long enough to wear with maternity jeans/pants. Because even though I am smaller than I was 8 weeks ago, I am a LONG (read 30 pounds) way from pre-baby size. This affects my ability to get into all my old clothes, even the “big” shirts!! And while I can obviously fit into my maternity tops, they are starting to look silly on me. Besides, I am getting a lot of those “When is your baby due?” questions, even when I have the baby right there next to me!! That is getting a little old.

So today I got three new long-sleeved shirts in very fun colors for $24 total. Not bad. And, because I was feeling extremely self-indulgent, I bought MATCHING SOCKS!! So folks, I may still be sporting my maternity jeans and pants for some time to come, but I feel pretty stylin’ in my new tees and socks!!