Jan 19, 2014: We Did It!

We did it! We managed our overnight getaway! Not without a bit of drama, but we did it! What drama, you ask? More illness, of course. That’s a common thread around here these days.

Chris was sick in the early part of the week, but he was better by Wednesday/Thursday. Theo recovered nicely from his ear infection. Sam’s recovery has been more slow and plodding…as is common for Sam. His fever lingered until about Wednesday, and he’s still coughing a somewhat icky cough. But we’re getting there. My version of the Plague was the one that caused the issues. I’ve had a cold since around my birthday, and my ears have been full of fluid for the better part of a week. So I kept taking Sudafed to try to drain the fluid out of my ears, but it wasn’t helping. (As an aside, they really make you jump through hoops to buy Sudafed these days! I feel like a meth manufacturer every time I try to buy it….) Still, I didn’t have a fever, and I wasn’t uncomfortable other than having ears full of fluid. Until Friday…

On Friday morning, I took Sam to a Mommy and Me class (more on that later), and when I got home, I used our little ear-infection-checker gadget to see whether I had an ear infection, as one ear had started to hurt as the morning progressed. Um…yeah. I maxed out the little reader on the device—it shot up into the top of the “red zone” with an admonishment to “contact your doctor.” Only thing is, Chris’s parents were scheduled to arrive to babysit in twenty minutes! Not only did I not want to turn them away, given that they had already driven all the way up here, but I also really wanted to go on our long-awaited getaway! So, I decided to ignore my ear and just go anyway. Thankfully, I was smart enough to throw a heating pad in my bag before we left. It was my saving grace later that night, when my ear felt like someone was sticking a knife in it every time I coughed or hiccupped. I also couldn’t hear out of that side hardly at all, so it’s a good thing Chris sat on my left side at dinner. 🙂

Anyway, we went and had a lovely time, despite my lousy ear. We had originally planned to do things in San Francisco that we don’t do with the kids, but I decided I was just in the mood for a very mellow, relaxing 24 hours, so we ended up doing stuff we can do with the kids. (That is, instead of the museum trip we thought of, we just ended up wandering around the city.) We wandered around Union Square Friday afternoon after checking into our hotel, and we did a little window shopping. I was looking for a particular pair of shoes that I’ve been hunting for for three years now. You see, I am the queen of blisters and foot issues. I have spent probably well over $1,000 in the last ten years, trying to find shoes that don’t give me blisters, and I have failed miserably in almost all cases. I do, however, have a black pair of Merrell clogs that fit perfectly—I also happen to have very flat feet, and the arch fits me perfectly, plus because they have no back, they don’t give me blisters. And the toe end is wide enough that they don’t crush my pinkie toe under my fourth toe, which is another problem I have with most shoes. (Yes, I have weird feet. I know. It runs in the family. You should’ve seen my grandmother’s!)

So anyway, ever since I bought these clogs three years ago and discovered that they were made for my feet, I’ve been on the hunt for a second pair. But I hadn’t been able to find them anywhere, because I picked them up on clearance at Marshall’s, so it wasn’t like the Merrell store carried them anymore. But Union Square has a Merrell store, so I decided to stop in—and the minute I walked in the door, the salesman looked at my feet and said, “Wow, those are old Merrells!” Indeed. And as it turns out, they have changed the way they make their new clogs, and they aren’t anywhere near as comfortable. And given that they’re more than $100 a pair, I wasn’t willing to buy a pair and try them, as I had a sneaking suspicion they were going to cut into the top of my foot (yet another bizarre foot problem I have with many shoes). So I left. But then later, after dinner, I spotted a DSW Shoe Warehouse and asked Chris if he’d mind stopping. And what do you think was there?! My clogs!! My beautiful clogs!!!! And they even had my size! Plus, they were 30% off. It was clearly meant to be! I snatched them up, and now my three-year shoe quest has come to an end. And you’ll see me wearing my sturdy black clogs for yet another three years. But I’ll be smiling, because my feet will be happy! 🙂

Here are my shoes! Just kidding–these are some hooker shoes I tried on as a joke. Okay, not really hooker shoes, but *I* wouldn’t wear them. My trusty black clogs, however, are sitting on the floor next to me.

But anyway, back to the trip. Chris spoiled me big time by booking a room at the St. Francis hotel, which overlooks Union Square. If you received our Christmas letter, you may recognize that name as the site of Theo’s “save Christmas” plan. They have a glass elevator that goes up 32 floors and gives you an amazing view of the city. But that’s not why Chris booked it—the location is great, and it’s a historic old hotel that he thought I’d love. And wow—I loved it! If you know me, you know that I’m a very easygoing person about many, many things…but the one thing I’m super picky about is hotels. They have to be immaculate, or my germaphobe side comes out. I don’t like mildew-y showers or random people’s hairs left in the bathroom. I don’t like random hairs left in the bed, either. Tubs that don’t drain well gross me out. Mysterious stains on the bedspread make me want to gag. In short, I’m very picky about hotels. But the St. Francis exceeded all my expectations. It was immaculate, but it was also incredibly charming. Our room had soaring ceilings with amazingly detailed crown molding and a chandelier. The shower had a “rain” head and another fancy head that could be a handheld, so you got quite a shower experience. There was plenty of hot water, and not a speck of dirt in the marble bathroom. The beds were like sinking into huge pillows, and the white sheets and duvets were spotless. Plus, the view of Union Square was fantastic. It was just lovely, lovely, lovely. Plus, the people working there were super nice—thumbs up to Starwood/Westin for their excellent customer service!

By the way, a bit of history for you: The St. Francis has two parts: The newer tower (with the glass elevator) was built in 1972. But the older tower (where we stayed) was built in 1904 and 1913. The hotel withstood the 1906 earthquake with no structural damage (and the 1989 quake, too). Famous guests of the hotel have included Helen Keller, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Nelson Rockefeller, Douglas MacArthur, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, and Emperor Hirohito. The hotel has had a part in a fair number of scandals, too: It’s where Fatty Arbuckle allegedly killed Virginia Rappe in 1921. Al Jolson died in his suite at the St. Francis in 1950. And President Gerald Ford was almost shot by Sara Jane Moore while leaving the hotel in 1975. The lobby has all sorts of interesting pictures of the hotel’s famous guests. It was really neat to wander around and look at the memorabilia. In short, staying at the hotel was a real treat—even for this usually critical hotel guest!

And our dinner! Our dinner was amazing! We went back to Fleur de Lys, which is where I took Chris on his 35th birthday. I’m a big fan of Chef Hubert Keller. If you watch cooking shows, you’ll undoubtedly recognize him from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, though he has appeared on other shows as well. Chris and I love cooking-competition shows, but usually the chefs seem to have enormous egos. Hubert Keller always seems to be the exception—he seems sweet and humble, and he has an endearing twinkle in his eye. Plus, his food always looks incredible. And, when I took Chris there on his birthday three years ago, we were not disappointed. So I was delighted to go back! For my foodie readers, I’m going to take you step by step through our meal. If you couldn’t care less about French food, you may want to skip ahead a few paragraphs. 😉

Drinks! We each had a cocktail: Chris went with a standard vodka and tonic, and I had some sort of fancy pink guava and tequila concoction. Usually one drink leaves me quite tipsy, but I drank it slowly and held my liquor well. 😉 By the way, we had walked from the hotel, so no worries about who was the designated driver!

We started off with appetizers. Mine was local petrale sole with Dungeness crab, sea urchin, and caviar over olive-oil potato puree and served with toasted bacon brioche. Chris chose a “symphony” with a toasted duck ham and mozzarella “slider,” French potato salad with white anchovy (one of our favorite parts of the entire meal!), “Faux gras” mousse, and piquillo gazpacho.

We moved on to the fish course. I had bacon-crusted sea scallop with black beluga lentils, pork belly, pickled shallots, and harissa. Pork belly = heaven!! Chris had Alaskan halibut with black pepper butter, pea greens, carrot emulsion, pea soup with ham bits, roasted baby carrot, and parmesan cream (that last part is a sauce that was phenomenal—sort of a combo of parmesan, pea, and carrot that resulted in creamy goodness!).

Then the meat course! I had Kobe beef cheeks topped with mustard and cornichons, served over smoked veal jus and with a side of sweetbread fricassee with truffle and spinach. The beef cheeks were without a doubt the most tender, flavorful beef I’ve ever tried! And I swore I’d never eat sweetbreads, but I pride myself on trying anything at least once, so I decided to give them a shot. They weren’t my favorite part of the meal, but they weren’t bad. Once is enough for those, but the beef cheeks—give me more of those!! Chris had a trio of lamb loin, shank, and Merguez “meat ball.” It was served with toasted hazelnuts, a salsify puree (no idea what that is, but it was delicious!), and a hazelnut red-wine sauce. The shank was our favorite part of the trio, but it was all delicious. (We shared bites off of each other’s plates for everything.)

And finally, dessert! We both chose the same dessert: a freshly baked dark chocolate tartlet with marshmallow and coconut, baconed chocolate ice cream, and pink grapefruit terrine. The tart was a hot, gooey little circle of amazingness, and the bacon chocolate ice cream was to die for! However, that wasn’t our only dessert. Because it was my birthday, they brought me a little raspberry mousse with almond cookie shaped into a candle holder that kind of glowed with the candle inside. So pretty! It was garnished with two macarons—the French cookies, not the coconut ones. And then finally, after our dessert, they brought us a plate of tiny handmade cookies and candies—madeleines, which I love, almond cookies, a white-chocolate-dipped hazelnut, and a truffle.

As you can imagine, we pretty much rolled out of the place after all that food! The portions were tiny, but the food was so rich and delicious that we were stuffed by the end. And we had a fabulous time—the service was friendly and impeccable, and it was so nice to eat a real, grown-up meal without having to throw goldfish crackers at anyone or tell anyone else to please stay in his seat. 😉

We thought about renting a movie in our hotel room when we got back, but nothing looked terribly appealing, so we just watched some TV—which is a good thing, because I fell asleep by 10. Thank heavens for the heating pad, which really helped my ear. I slept pretty lousy (probably a combination of alcohol, the fact that I had taken non-drowsy Sudafed at 5 p.m., and the fact that I never sleep well in hotels, no matter how nice they are), but when I woke up the next morning, the pressure had lessened in my ear and moved into my forehead, cheeks, and teeth (which felt like they were going to explode, but at least the dagger was gone from my ear).

By the way, the irony…oh, the irony! Part of the purpose of this getaway was for me to get a good night of sleep, since Sam has thrown a wrench into my sleep for 17 long months. But no—I slept pretty rotten. I tossed and turned a lot, and I woke up for the day at 5 a.m. But guess who slept like a rock?? That’s right—Sam! Evidently he slept straight through the night, from 8 p.m. to almost 7 a.m., without waking. Really, Sam?! Really?! Not cool, man…not cool at all. (Although at least the good sleep means Grandma Kathy and Papa might be willing to watch the boys overnight again sometime, so there’s that! But still, why don’t I get that kind of sleep out of him?! Oh, that’s right—I smell like milk…)

We didn’t need to be home until early afternoon on Saturday, so we walked the mile down to the Ferry Building, meandered around the farmer’s market, ate oysters (okay, I did), split a veggie wrap for lunch, and had some delicious gelato. And here’s something cool: I had no problems with gluten on Friday night, despite eating four pieces of bread with my various courses. I did take a GlutenEase, but that only works sometimes. For example, I can take GlutenEase and eat pizza from Round Table, but if we order pizza from a cheaper place and I take a GlutenEase, I get sick anyway. (The last time we tried it, I was sick to my stomach for almost two weeks. NOT fun!) So I’ve had this theory that perhaps my gluten intolerance is affected by the quality of the wheat/gluten I ingest. I’ve read studies that say the rise in gluten intolerance is due to the heavily processed forms of wheat that are now on the market, and I’ve wondered for a while whether the more expensive food places use higher-quality (less-processed???) wheat, which is perhaps easier for me to digest. It’s my only explanation for why GlutenEase helps me successfully eat certain things but not others. Round Table is just a pizza chain, but they’ve always prided themselves on using higher-quality ingredients than many of the other chains, and maybe they actually do—I’m not sure. What I do know is despite the fact that Round Table is expensive, it’s where we get our pizza from because I really don’t like getting sick!

Anyway, I’ve been talking to Chris about this theory of mine, and he decided to try it with the gelato. As many of you know, he has a mild dairy allergy. It’s a weird allergy—he can eat pizza and hard cheeses with no problem, but if he eats ice cream, milk, or a soft cheese like gorgonzola, his throat immediately starts to tighten up after two bites, and he itches terribly. But the problem is, he loves ice cream. And he misses it. So he decided he’d try this handmade, artisan gelato at the farmer’s market and see whether the “quality ingredients” theory applied to his own food issues. What do you know? He ate two small scoops of gelato without a single problem! He was so happy! (And yes, gelato is made with dairy, just like ice cream. We looked it up because we were curious. The difference lies in the fat content (ice cream has a slightly higher fat content than gelato) and the amount of air whipped into it (ice cream has more air in it than gelato does).)

So really, it was quite a successful food weekend for us! We came back fat and happy. 🙂

I ended up calling Kaiser on the way home to whine about my ear/sinuses, and they had a doctor call me back. She said that based on my symptoms (by this point I had started running a low fever, too), I have a sinus infection and possibly an ear infection, so she called in a prescription for amoxicillin, which should take care of either/both infections. Evidently I’ll feel much better by tomorrow. I feel considerably better even today, so I think I’m on the mend. And enough with the illnesses. I’ve had four already this season, with one of them being the flu. I think that’s enough for the year. I’m done.

Anyway! Other fun things from this week: Theo started his piano lessons! And I’ll start mine next week. So excited! We are loving our piano. Even though Theo and I haven’t formally learned how to play yet, I can play simple songs out of the song book, and Theo likes plunking on the keys. And Chris, when he has time, can sit down and pick out songs by ear. So we’re all enjoying our new-to-us instrument!

I also got some good news this week: UC Berkeley Extension hired me to teach an in-person copyediting class for them, starting in March. I have to give up my Sunday mornings, but that’s okay. The only day I’m a bit sad about is Easter—I hate to miss out on egg-hunting with the boys. But we’ll figure something out. The teaching gig is great experience (it’s a different class than I have been teaching), and I know I’ll enjoy finally getting in front of a live class, as I do enjoy talking to students face to face.

As I mentioned earlier, Sam and I tried a Mommy-and-Me class this week, though we ended up fleeing halfway through. It was Friday morning, and Sam was just tired and not interested. And the class wasn’t what I expected at all. It’s for 18-months to two-year-olds, and I thought it was going to be kind of a circle-time thing, where we sang songs and played instruments and stuff. Instead, it’s basically a pre-preschool. It’s rather structured, in that the kids have art time, circle time, snack time, recess time, etc. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, the other kids in the class are light-years ahead of Sam developmentally (despite him being the oldest kid in the class), and I just don’t see him understanding how to sit at a table and do the kinds of art projects they appear to do, etc. Plus, the snack time just depressed me: We were supposed to sign up to bring snacks, and I kept thinking, “My kid doesn’t even eat—how weird am I going to feel bringing carrot sticks and dip that will make my kid scream and throw them on the floor?” I don’t know if I can explain it, but it was just depressing. The other parents were nice, the teacher was nice, the other kids were nice—but they were just a world away from Sam developmentally, and it was sad. I had to hold back tears a bit. Sigh…

Anyway, Sam is actually going to be starting “school” soon, and it’ll be the same sort of idea—getting used to circle time, sitting at a table for snack time, etc. But the difference is, he’ll be at a developmental center for kids with developmental delays. So everything will be altered to work with each specific child’s needs and abilities. Really, my heart is kind of breaking about him starting “school”—I am just going to miss my little boy like crazy while he’s gone. But I know he will do well, and I think it will be good for him. One of the biggest things in feeding: They work with a lot of kids with feeding issues, and I’m hoping that they’ll have better luck with Sam and food than I do. And he’ll love being around the other kids, I know. But oh, how I am going to miss that little boy while he’s gone! He really is just a little ray of sunshine in my mornings.

The truth is, I fully support inclusion, and this Mommy-and-Me program would’ve been a form of inclusion—every other kid in the class was “typical.” But I think I’ll support inclusion more when Sam has more abilities than he currently does. It’s hard to see him not be able to do anything the other kids are doing. I think when he starts walking and talking a bit more and actually eating, I’ll feel better about having him in something like that. But right now, when he’s still very much a baby and the other kids are very much kids…well, it’s just disheartening. I can’t do it. And I don’t think it matters one way or the other to Sam, so I won’t put myself through it. We’ll start at the developmental center and see how things look when it comes time for preschool in a year.

But Sam’s no dummy, by the way. He is a smart little cookie! This week, he pulled this package out from under my bathroom sink and immediately said, “Milk! Milk, mama!” Now, I haven’t used these since he was maybe six months old, so there’s no way he should know what they’re for. But somehow, he did! Go figure. Smarty pants!

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Also, he has a little toy that plays a song he particularly likes. It plays many songs and sounds, but there’s one in particular he likes. Only thing is, he isn’t strong enough to push the buttons on his own, so he’s devised a clever way to get around it: He grabs my finger and uses it to push the button. Watch as he pushes the correct button (out of four) and knows to push it three times in a row to get the song he wants. And then taps his food adorably to the beat. 🙂 Please ignore my stringy hair—I had just gotten out of the bathtub. Also ignore the whooping five-year-old in the background—verbal “stimming” going on there. It’s a frequent occurrence in our house and at school. Work in progress. 🙂

That boy of mine is smart! Delayed developmentally, yes…but no dummy. And he’s determined, which will get him far!

Anyway, I promised you more pictures this week, but I lied. Not intentionally, though. I meant to bring my camera to the park on Sunday, which was a lovely day, but I forgot it. So we have no park pictures. I blame it on the medicines I’m on for the stupid sinus infection—I have no brain power left. Sorry. More pictures next week, I promise!

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