Saturday, February 24, 2007

Moose is 5

My baby turned 5 yesterday. We had a low-key elebration with some friends at the local zoo. He saw lots of his favorite animals, had lunch at the zoo, got to play on the playground, and heard the lion roar "Happy Birthday" to him. A few friends joined us for our day at the zoo, so Moose had a buddy and Wild Thing had 2 friends there. BTW, one of the zookeepers at the morning's show was a woman who appeared on "Survivor – Guatemala." She did a great job handling the ocelots. We spent half the day at the zoo and then went over to WT's friend's house for a short playdate. Since that family lives on the opposite side of town from us, Wizard, Moose and I just hung out there while the other boys played. Then we went over to WineGuy's office and out for Italian food. I picked up an ice cream cake from Coldstone Creamery, and we had cake and presents at home. We're planning Moose's official birthday party – you know, the one with twenty shrieking children – in a couple of weeks.

Moose now stands about 54" tall and easily weighs 55 lbs. He is a solid, muscular kid. He is naturally athletic and coordinated, much like Wizard. Moose has dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and long, black eyelashes. He has the cutest smile still full of baby teeth and a belly laugh to beat the band. Moose reads and is learning how to write letters and numbers. He speaks very intelligibly and intelligently for a 5 year-old. It's alternately annoying and amusing when you tell him something, and he says [with a big snap] "I don't think so."

He is a great companion to Wild Thing, and they can play for hours together. The boys like playing airport, army or Rescue Heroes, using all their little vehicles and men. The Moose loves his momma. We were at the park this afternoon, and he came over a few times to give me a hug or kiss. He often climbs into my lap to snuggle. He adores his older brothers and follows them like a puppy. It's now quite dark out, and Moose and WT are outside playing happily in the inky night. They would stay out there till all hours with no regard for time. I love seeing brothers like that. Moose's devotion to WT is a great boon to WT's ego.

Our next milestone is to teach Moose how to tie his shoes. He claims he knows how, but "they get knots." Uh huh.

Moose's Birth Story
We moved back to Florida in early 2001. I was in my late 30's and still getting over the trauma and fall-out of Wild Thing's birth (another long story that I'll post around his bday) and subsequent care. I had lost a bunch of weight before we moved and was slowly adjusting to life in suburbia after living in the country for 8 years. In the summer of 2001, I got pregnant with Moose. I was a little surprised. WineGuy and I were both gun-shy, so he agreed to do some advanced medical research to see if there were any new and promising treatments for the diseases that plagued my prior 2 pregnancies, pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. (Without going into more detail now, Wizard's pregnancy was bad, but WT's pregnancy was extremely bad.) WineGuy found new therapies were available to control these diseases, so we decided to proceed.

For the most part, and because I was on serious meds – Lovenox®, a low molecular-weight heparin – for several months, the pregnancy was uneventful. Other than a little spotting when we were on vacation that fall, I felt pretty good. I had an OB here in town, and I saw the local perinatologists regularly. Moose's original due date was April 1, 2002. Since the older boys were born prematurely, I knew I would never make it to my due date with Moose. Because of my obstetric history, I was going to have a scheduled C-section birth; so things were pretty routine.

Even when things started going downhill for me, it was much like it had been in the past. Somewhere around the 24th-26th week of pregnancy, complications arose:
  • the pressures and flow in my uterine arteries began to worsen;
  • my kidney function tests were fair but not great;
  • my blood pressure was slightly elevated;
  • but I was not showing signs of advanced HELLP syndrome like I had with WT's and Wizard's pregnancies.
The perinatologist gave me an ultimatum: curtail my activities and movements immediately or he was going to put me in the hospital. What did I do? Bargained with him! I quit the chorale and rested as much as possible, but I still had to be a mother to my older children.

My condition stabilized over the next few weeks, and my friends asked to throw me a baby shower. They are not traditional for Jewish women, and I was very ambivalent, but WineGuy said to let the women do something nice for me. OK, party on! The girls scheduled the shower for Wednesday, February 20, 2002. (You might think me anal-retentive for remembering the precise date, but it turned out to be my last hurrah.) There was a lunchtime bash at an Italian restaurant with lots of cute presents. I piled the booty into my car and headed to another OB appointment.

The world turned on a dime. My blood pressure was elevated, and my kidney function was deteriorating: all hallmarks of prior disease. I had 2 ultrasounds in 2 days so they could determine how big the baby was. [Although I had an amnio, we did not know the sex of the baby; the u/s tech kept marveling at how long the baby's hair was. I kept thinking, "girl!"] The perinatologist wanted to hospitalize me indefinitely, but my OB decided to deliver me that week as long as the baby was a decent size. It certainly was: at 34 weeks' gestation, they determined the baby was about 5 lbs., 12 oz . . . waaaaay bigger than Wizard's or WT's birthweights, 4 lbs and 2.4 lbs respectively. The docs switched out my medication so they could operate later in the week, and we started the phone tree. First, we called my in-laws to come stay with Wizard and WT, while I went in for surgery. Then, we called my parents to let them know (so they could freak out). We called all our siblings and learned that Doc Bro would fly down to be with us. The shower was on a Wednesday. Saturday morning I went to the hospital to deliver that baby.

Saturday, February 23, 2002 dawned grey and overcast. Doc Bro flew in the night before, so he came to stay with the boys until my in-laws arrived. WineGuy and I drove down the street to the hospital. I hung out in L&D while they processed my paperwork. They wheeled me down to the operating room around noon, right on time. WineGuy asked the head of the anesthesia group came in to do my case that day. The OR was freezing cold, and I couldn't stop shivering while they placed the epidural. They finally got the line in, and I was numb. The nurse-anesthetist took of my glasses, so I couldn't see a thing. I listened to the surgery; WineGuy was right by my head. Some 30 minutes later I heard lots of laughter and joy, and the lusty cry of a baby boy. I was kind of foggy from the anesthesia, so I asked WineGuy to repeat once or twice what we'd had. It finally sunk in: another boy! I was so happy. I always wanted a house full of boys. G-d granted me my wish. The surgery went on for another 40 minutes or so, while the OB yanked my guts and performed a tubal ligation.

I got back to my room and felt good. I got up after a while and sat in a chair. I used the breast pump and nursed the baby. I was feeling no pain because of long-acting narcotics they pumped into me. I had a few visitors, and it was all good. When I woke up the next day, Sunday, I felt every twinge as the pain meds wore off. The pediatrician examined the baby, who weighed a whopping 6 lbs, 4 oz. and measured 19" at birth. He was my longest gestation (34 weeks), my biggest and healthiest baby of all, and the first one I ever brought home from the hospital right after birth. He was a moose! He will always be my Moose.

As with all our children, we had a long list of potential names, but it took us until the end of my hospital stay to finalize his English and Hebrew names. The OB nurses would bother me several times a day asking for the child's name. "When I know what it is, I'll tell you." The Nurse Nazis weren't going to let me out of the hospital until the child had a name. I should mention that it took us at least a week to name both Wizard and Wild Thing after they were born. They both required extended stays in the neonatal intensive care unit, so we knew we had time. We held Moose's bris here at home on the eighth day after his birth. An Orthodox Jewish mohel came over from Fort Lauderdale to perform the ceremony. Life slowly returned to normal, despite the ugly wound that took 6 months to heal.

My pregnancies were high-drama, and I'm glad they're over. I never wanted to "go for the girl" ever. I love my boys, and they love me fiercely. I am happy to be Queen of My Domain, and the mother of The Testosterone Zone.

Happy 5th Birthday, Moose! I love you.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Speak Up!

You may have noticed that I have a sitemeter and a cluster map posted way down the sidebar on this blog. I find it fascinating to look at who's been reading my blog, how they found me, and how much time they spend looking at the pages.
Whether you're a frequent visitor or a newcomer, please do leave me a comment. I'd like to know how you found my blog and whether you'll be back to read another day. I keep seeing visitors from far-flung places, and my insatiable curiosity wants to know more about those folks and the rest of you.

I am feeling marginally better, although the steroids are interfering with sleep. Either they give me insomnia – like tonight – or they make my heart pound inside my chest. In either case, they are helping. The rattling in my chest is largely gone. My coughing is greatly reduced. I still get hoarse and short-of-breath in the late afternoon or in the early evening, even though I have taken my medications. The bronchitis is slowly abating, but my chest still feels tight. In all, I'm better than I was a week ago but still not 100%.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I went to chorale rehearsal last night, intending to only listen again this week. My section, the second altos, was down to 7 people. The strongest member was absent; the other strong voices, me and Miss P, were having voice trouble, but the section needed us.

Our next concerts offer pretty complicated music. The first will be an MGM Pops concert with lots of complex harmonies from the famous movie musicals. Can you imagine "Over The Rainbow" and "Steppin' Out With My Baby" in eight-part harmony? Tough stuff, but rewarding to sting when they're right. The more important piece, to me, is Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," which we'll perform in April. This piece is in three movements and is sung entirely in Hebrew. Yahoo and mazal tov! I've been the chorale's language consultant for this piece, and I like the role. I even had WineGuy pull out The Book of Psalms in original text, so I could give accurate pronunciations. In nearly 30 years of choral singing, this is the first time I have ever performed a major work in Hebrew. I am really looking forward to it: not only do I understand the original text, it has meaning for me, unlike all those Latin masses and requiems I've sung over the years. It's "roots" music for me and very inspiring.

I'm feeling a bit better today, although I'm still not sleeping well. I've been waking up around 3:00 a.m. and having to go sleep in the recliner because of the coughing. The meds are working pretty well, although I felt short of breath this afternoon at the park with the boys. This is going to be a long process, I'm afraid. No more 7-10 day colds and done. Blah.

Thanks for all the good wishes!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wheeze, Cough

After 44 years on this planet, I have been diagnosed with reactive airway disease and/or asthma. As I look back on my history of labored breathing episodes, I am not surprised. This past weekend really sealed it. Although I slept well Friday night, I slept poorly last night and the night before. I woke up in the middle of the night coughing so violently, I could hardly breathe. WineGuy saved me last night and sent me back into a hot, steamy shower at 3:00 a.m. so I could get some more sleep. (It was my third steam-shower of the day.)

This morning I called the pulmonologist as soon as his office opened. He fit me right into his morning schedule, so I ran down to his office with the three boys in tow. Dr. Lung took one look at me and said, "You look awful." Gee thanks, I know. He listened to my breathing and said we were done with conservative case management. He wrote me prescriptions for prednisone and a chest x-ray. He also gave me a starter dose of Advair®, which is a powdered combination of Serevent and Flovent (inhaled corticosteroids). I'm on so much cortisone, I'll probably grow testicles!

Dr. Lung gave me the results of last week's CT, too. I do not have sinusitis, but I do have a left maxillary retention cyst. It's basically a benign collection of fluid that resides in the sinus behind my left cheek. Oh, goody, more crap in my head thankyouverymuch.

We had an hour to kill before Moose's podiatry appointment, so I ran and had the chest x-ray done. I inhaled my first dose of Advair while waiting and started to feel better. We ran back over to the podiatrist to pick up Moose's new orthotics: he has flat feet and pronates slightly. Wild Thing also wears orthotics because he pronates badly. Then it was off to the shoe store, during the lunch-hour rush at the height of tourist season. Moose ended up with the same shoes WT has, so we marked Moose's. Lunch out at Tropical Smoothie Café, which wasn't bad. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home to pick up my prednisone and then came home and collapsed. I was grateful the boys played outside all afternoon so I could nap and rest a little.

Tonight, I felt well enough to make two new recipes for dinner: Tortellini Bolognese with an Endive and Gorgonzola Salad. Check them out; they were quick and delicious.

I'm hoping for a more restful night tonight. The kids are on winter vacation from school this week [read "it's ski week"]. I'd like to do some fun things with them if I feel better.

Friday, February 16, 2007


BOGO = "Buy one, get one." [swiped from a Payless commercial]

Yesterday, I went to the pulmonologist to get a diagnosis, and hopefully some relief, from this nagging wheezing and cough. He examined me thoroughly and said I don't have pneumonia, but I might have bronchitis, or asthma, or reactive airway disease. It probably was triggered by a recent cold. Dr. Lung suspects that I might have persistent sinusitis or other sinus problems so he sent me for a limited CT scan of my sinuses that afternoon.

After stopping briefly at WineGuy's office around the corner, I headed over to my favorite radiology office. I like it so much because it's new, clean and never busy. Their other offices in town are hyena cages. I arrive a little early, so the technician takes me in a little early. For those who have never had a CT, it wasn't at all scary. I laid down, prone, on the scanning table, with my chin propped on a little shelf. I stuffed my hands under my thighs so I wouldn't move and closed my eyes. The tech adjusted the table electronically and slid me forward so my head was inside a huge doughnut-shaped machine. It was completely open and not noisy, unlike an MRI. The scan lasted about 5 minutes, and the whole thing was over.

As I was walking past the check-out desk, I mentioned to the receptionist that the radiology center just notified me to have my annual mammogram. She said, "Want to do it now?" "Sure!" To get this thing done, without a scheduled appointment, in the middle of tourist season? You bet! I waited just a few minutes more for the mammo tech. She did my scan last year and was very professional. Off I went to change my shirt and straight into the mammography room. This radiology center now uses digital mammography, and the scans are unbelivably clear. One breast, the other breast, both breasts together for a midline view and done. There is one clear advantage to having large, floppy breasts: they are easily manipulated and smooshed onto the glass plates for a mammography. I got dressed again and was out of that office 45 minutes after I walked in.

Now, I just wait for the results. I'm very curious to know what Dr. Lung will find in the sinuses. I would not be surprised at all to learn I have sinus problems because I am forever congested or having sinus headaches.

And in other medical news, when Dr. Lung's nurse took my blood pressure, it was high. That's why I went over to WineGuy's office: for his nurse to take it again. It came down somewhat, but it was still high. I'll have to take it again here at home with WineGuy's automatic BP machine. Looks like it's time for me to go in and have a physical.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What I Love About You

It seems like many of my friends and blogmates are having rough times right now. I want to pull myself out of the pity-party and spread a little love around this Valentine's Day 2007.

WineGuy: I love you because you're brilliant and funny and worldly and wise. I love you because you are patient and kind, even when I am a stark, raving succubus on a broom. I love you for watching my stupid TV shows with me. I love you for your fierce loyalty and dedication to your family and craft.

Wizard: I love you because you are the most amazingly bright boy I have ever met. I love you because you are an old soul in a new body. I love you for sharing my passion in reading, especially Harry Potter, and for burying yourself in a book and shutting out the world, just like me. I love you because you're helpful when I ask, and even when I don't sometimes. I love you for being a wonderful big brother to Wild Thing and Moose.

Wild Thing: I love you for your indomitable spirit. You give meaning and life to the word "fighter". I love your dimpled smile and luscious lashes. I love you your silly sense of humor and your enthusiasm for life. I love your perseverance and courage to tackle things that don't come easily to you. I love you for your ability and willingness to play for hours with Moose, even though it means the upstairs will be trashed beyond recognition. I love your musical ability and for sharing my love of music and singing.

Moose: I love you because you're my baby boy, even though you'll be as big as me in no time. I love you because you learn things so fast: reading, writing, riding a bike. I love you for your musicality at such a young age. I love your tenderness and gentle streak, despite your "tough guy" image. I love your baby-toothed smile and your rosy, chubby cheeks. I love you for your willingness to learn; your mind is like a sponge.

August Moms: I love you all for your collected wisdom. I love you all for your humor and for keeping me grounded through these child-rearing years. I love you for running my life and for allowing me to run yours. I love you for the tremendous support system you have been to me in my life and to all the rest who have needed you and still do. I love you for your diverse opinions; even though we may disagree, I still listen to you. If I listed you individually, I would certainly overlook someone and offend them, which I dare not do.

BFF: I love you more than a sister because we chose each other as friends. I love you for being smarter than me and always knowing the right thing to say. I love you for standing by me in the darkest hours of my life. I love you for making time for me despite your busy life. I love you for your friendship that carries me through my life.

Calvin: I love you, too, for your wisdom and candor. I love you for all the free legal advice and for allowing me to give you some, too, even though it's probably malpractice! I love you for your spontaneity and willingness to run out for a bagel or off to the movies at a moment's notice. I love you for raising such wonderful boys who are friends to my boys.

The California Girls/Twins: I love you for being and remaining my friends for forty – 40! – years. I love you for staying in touch and still caring about me and my family.

Spy: I love you for your steadfast friendship for thirty years. I love your stability and your candor and your dry, wry wit. I love you for your love and understanding of the wide world. I love you for keeping me tethered to the insider's DC, the one only we natives understand.

My Blog Readers: I love you for showing up regularly to read the trivial nonsense in my life. I can't believe you find this blather interesting, but Christina reminds me that my quotidian drama may be fascinating to someone else.

Happy Valentine's Day 2007 to you all!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blue Monday

It's grey and rainy here in SW Florida today. "Ain't no sunshine" as Bill Withers sang, and it's kind of depressing. At least I don't live in Oswego, New York.

In health news, I seem to have developed pneumonia. I had it a year ago, and the same symptoms are back. It's a mild case, but I'm still coughing a lot; my voice is hoarse; my head is splitting -- maybe sinuses. I've got black (Coach®) bags under my eyes from sleeping poorly. Oh, and my period came back after being on hiatus for 2 months. Crap! I sincerely hoped I was done with all that mess. I would have a hysterectomy tomorrow if DH would agree: I am so sick of the monthly mood swings, weight gains, and gastric distress. OTOH, he warns me I could feel depressed for many months afterwards. Well, hell, isn't that what Zoloft is for???

In family news, my father had surgery last week to reverse his colostomy. He did well enough in the hospital to go home three days later. Unfortunately, he gained 16 pounds while in the hospital. He thought it was from not moving his bowels, but it is more likely congestive heart failure. When I last heard from him, he was deciding between calling his cardiologist and going to the emergency room. What fun.

In other family news, my in-laws were here for the weekend. We had a good time with them. They didn't once ask about my dad, although I volunteered information a couple of times. They lauded the praises of their children and how close WineGuy used to be with his siblings, who apparently call each other all the time. I grew tired of hearing how great WineGuy used to be (implying that his losing contact was b/c of me) and finally said "I guess it's my fault." I left it at that. I should mention that my in-laws and my parents absolutely, positively hate each other. There was little fondness when they first met; the relationship went up in flames over our wedding and shower planning. It used to be a tremendous source of stress for us; now we endeavor to keep them apart. It means that I end up spending every holiday with WineGuy's family. We haven't shared a holiday with my family in years, and it depresses me. Especially at Passover, when we sing lots of songs: my family and I used to sing and harmonize and enjoy the traditional melodies. Now, I have to listen to a bunch of tone-deaf people drone on in the "key of me". It is positively painful. [end whining]

Wild Thing caught a cold and is home from school today. We used our time to prepare the boys' Valentines' treats. I dare say that our Valentines will once again blow everyone else's away. For Wizard and Wild Thing, I ordered small batches of custom-printed M&Ms in Valentine colors. Then we bought many bags of Valentines M&Ms at Target. We found miniature Chinese take-out boxes at the craft store – red for Wizard's class and purples for WT's class. WT and I filled 3/4 of each box with the Valentines M&Ms and topped each box with the custom-printed M&Ms. We sealed each box with a sticker I made that said "Valentine's Day 2006, From [Wizard or Wild Thing]" and had the Chinese character for friend. That's right, I wrote 2006 and missed it. WT noticed the error immediately! When I went to re-print the stickers, my printer ran out of ink; we're off to Sam's Club in a minute to buy more.

For Moose, I custom-designed his own wrappers for Hershey® bars. I used a template I found last year in Family Fun magazine and customized it for Moose. He's so excited to share them with his friends.

My Valentines are better than yours ... neener, neener, neener. [smirk]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Off Kilter

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you're slightly off-kilter? I am having one of those.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was putting something away in the refrigerator, while yelling at Wild Thing – a bad combination, I know. I stood up and turned around and the refrigerator door smacked me right in the face. I have a lovely purple bruise on that cheek and just the slightest shiner under that eye.

Yesterday, after I dropped the boys at school, I stopped at Starbucks for a latte before a 9:30 appointment. There were no comfy chairs in the shop, so I went and sat in my car. And promptly fell asleep. Until 9:25. Fortunately, I was just a few minutes away from my destination, but I was still late. I stopped at a furniture store on the way home from my meeting. I got out of the car and closed the door and went to step on the sidewalk. I thought the slab was even with the pavement, but it wasn't. I caught my toe on the step, tripped forward and caught myself but my momentum was too strong and I fell flat on my face. Time moved in slow motion as I went down: I let go of my keys and threw my hands out. I lifted my chin up so I wouldn't smash my teeth. I knocked myself silly. I stood up and made sure I wasn't bleeding. Then I looked around to see if anyone witnessed my fall, but thankfully there wasn't a soul around. I put myself back together and took a deep breath, grateful that my ribs weren't broken. I'm lucky I didn't break my wrist(s) either. I looked around the furniture store quickly and raced home. I was so exhausted I crawled under the covers until I came back to myself.

What's more, I blew my voice out and have developed a chest cold. My chest is tight, and I'm coughing like dog in a kennel. What on earth has happened to me?

In other news, it is Grandparents' Day at the kids' school tomorrow. We told my parents and my in-laws about it months ago. My in-laws are arriving this afternoon. We're looking forward to seeing them, but I hope I feel better. My parents, on the other hand, will not be here. Why? Because my father scheduled elective surgery for himself this week; he absolutely insisted he had to have it done now and could not wait another week. Grrr. He had his colostomy reversed. The surgery went well, but he was in a lot of pain yesterday afternoon. Fortunately My Brother, The Doctor came down to be with my mom. Thank you, DocBro, because I can't take time off during WineGuy's busy season.

I need chicken soup.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Money Coup

Like everyone else in Florida, we found ourselves much poorer for doubled insurance costs and increased taxes this year. Our mortgagee required us to pay insurance and taxes through them in order to get the loan initially. We were never thrilled with this system, but it enabled us to get an amazingly low rate (5%) on a 15-year fixed, non-conforming, jumbo loan when we refinanced four years ago. The current mortgage statement came in with astronomical numbers. The monthly payment increased almost 24%, and the lender wanted a lump-sum payment of several thousand dollars to bring the escrow account current for the lender's projected needs. WineGuy asked me to call the lender for them to stop paying our taxes and insurance.

Shortly after lunch, I called Countrywide's toll-free number. After navigating the automated system, I got through to a Customer No-Service Representative who kindly transferred me to someone in the Escrow Department. I enjoyed a Muzak® serenade and then spoke with Escrow Lady. I explained the situation to her: I want to bring my escrow balance to zero and then delete it. I spent 15 minutes on the phone with this astrophysicist reiterating my every request but not understanding them. When I finally impressed upon her my willingness to settle the account immediately so as not to incur any more charges, she then said it might be possible to delete the escrow account. She could not divulge to me any of the super-duper, secret criteria the lender uses for escrow-deletion. She had to consult her manager for that, so I asked to speak directly with that person.

After another short Muzak serenade (and two cell phone calls), Escrow Manager picked up the phone. She finally understood my request and took charge. She agreed to zero the escrow account today, instead of on March 1st; that saved us $4,000.00. She took my payment information over the phone and charged me a small fee of $20.00 for that privilege. She canceled the escrow account as of today and was writing me a confirmation letter as we spoke. As of March 1st, our mortgage payment will be about 35% lower than projected. Escrow Manager will notify the local taxing authority to send the tax bill directly to us; I'll call the insurance company and let them know we'll pay our own bill henceforth. Woohoo!

I called WineGuy right away and asked him what he would say if our mortgage payment was 35% lower than expected. He replied, "Who did you kill?" I told him the proper response was "You're fabulous! I love you!" (complete with exclamation points) He followed instructions. He was thrilled with the result and much happier.

In other financial news, we signed the contracts to send Wizard and his brothers back to the private school, and I turned them in this morning. WineGuy and I discussed it last night and agreed that the boys should stay at this school. To ease the financial burden, we are going to pay in monthly installments instead of our usual lump-sum payment. It will cost us slightly more that way, but we'll be able to manage our cash-flow better. I told this to the school's director of admissions and financial aid this morning. She mentioned that we could switch from installments to lump-sum at any time. That is very fair.

With money matters under control for the day, I can now go back to my least favorite chore, laundry. I do love my big Whirlpool washer and dryer. I just wish my children would bring their baskets regularly and not make mountains of wash.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

The family watched the Super Bowl last night. We had a good time cheering for the teams. Wizard cheered loudly for the Colts, but I did not. Truthfully, the Colts played a superior game in clearly inferior weather conditions. Both head coaches were impressive for their gentlemanly leadership of their teams.

I, however, would not, could not root for the Colts. Why? Because they were the Baltimore Colts until their owner swept them out of the city in the dark of night. Robert Irsay, a Hungarian Jew who denied his roots – don't get me started – originally owned the Los Angeles Rams football franchise. In 1972, he traded franchises with Carroll Rosenbloom, who then owned the Colts. Irsay's Colts played in old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore for many years. The Colts negotiated for months with the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland for improvements to Memorial Stadium. They could not reach an agreement, but the city and state were willing to seize the franchise and its assets by eminent domain in order to keep it in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Irsay had secretly been speaking with the City of Indianapolis to move the team there. When negotiations finally broke down and Irsay feared the seizure of his precious team assets, he finalized a deal with Indianapolis. Irsay called his crony at Mayflower Transit and had Mayflower pack and move the entire Colts operation in the middle of a cold March night in 1984. Baltimoreans watched in horror as the stream of red taillights fled Charm City for good. No good Marylander, as I was bred, would ever root for the traitors.

I should add here that my extended family and I were never really Baltimore Colts fans, but with good reason. We were/are dedicated Washington Redskins' fans. My family had season tickets back in the early 1970s, in the Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer years. We knew the conductor of the Redskins band. But most of all, my mother's brother was the in-stadium announcer for the Washington Redskins for nearly 40 years. Uncle P never missed a home game, although he cut many family functions short to be at the stadium on time. When Dan Snyder bought the Redskins and moved them from RFK (in DC) to FedEx Field (in Landover, Maryland of all places), he forced my uncle into retirement, but not before the Redskins inducted Uncle P into its Hall of Fame. He is the first the first non-player/coach/owner to be honored by the team in its Hall of Fame. We will always root for the Redskins, although not so much for Dan Snyder.

A clarification: while I called myself a Marylander here, I identify myself as a native Washingtonian (DC). I was actually born in the District of Columbia and grew up in the nearby suburbs. My mother grew up in Upper Northwest and lived in the DC area for 67 years, until she and my dad retired to Florida. My mother's parents had a store in downtown Washington from the 1930s to the 1950s, when they moved out to Chevy Chase, Maryland. We lived right outside the District and never really identified with Baltimore, except for when it came to baseball, and much later on, to football. Oh, and of course, to Ledo's Pizza, but that's a post for another day.

So, congratulations to the Colts on their Super Bowl victory. I don't like your owner, but I applaud the team and its coaching staff.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Exploring the Exurbs

The other day I drove down to a local orange grove to purchase another bushel of Honeybell tangelos. Going to this grove is an adventure: a few miles down the interstate, a few miles down a major county road, down a paved local road for a mile, and then another half-mile down an unpaved secondary road to the grove. I made my purchases and loaded bags of wonderful fruit and fresh juice into my car.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, the unknown road beckoned me east. Even though I've been to this grove many times, I was curious where the road led east of the grove. I am always curious to find out where roads lead -- I learn so much of an area that way. I drove 0.5 mile east and came upon a sign for a state forest, which I knew was around here but not quite sure where. I found the western entrance to the forest and proceeded to drive in along that unpaved road. In my minivan . . . some urban warrior I am, I don't even have an SUV!

The day was overcast, breezy and warmer than usual. For the first few hundred yards I had the air conditioning on, trying to avoid the dust in the road. After a while I rolled down my window to listen to the birdsong. I don't know whose call it was, but a few lovely avian friends flew by: a little blue heron, a great blue heron, and others whose names I don't know. The birdsong faded away, and all that was left was the sounds of the wind in the trees. I reveled in the wind's dialogue with the forest and the sheer stillness of the afternoon. It was tranquil and quiet, things I have lacked in my life for some time.

I finally came to a crossing in the road, beyond which the eastbound road was nearly impassable. I had been driving in my solitude for a long time and was not brave enough to venture north or south at the crossroads. So, I turned the car around and headed back westward. A great white heron flew over my head and landed in a bush a few yards from my car. As I drove closer, he got a little spooked and flew into a nearby tree. I stopped. We stared at each other for a long time, until he flew off deeper into the forest. I felt a little more peaceful. With the car pointed ever westward, I headed back towards paved roads, civilization, and home.