Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A pair of jeans and a hoodie

Part of the appeal of moving to Colorado is that there are four full fledged seasons here. Being from California and having lived there most of my life, I can tell you it is something I was a little unfamiliar with at first. California has essentially one season. A entire year's wardrobe consists mostly of warm weather clothes, plus a pair of jeans and a hoodie. Not so here.

When we first moved here, we knew for sure that we would be needing winter clothes for everyone. We had a few pairs of pants and sweatshirts for the kids, maybe a decent midweight jacket, and that was it. That first year involved a tremendous amount of shopping as a result, and I tried my best to economize. I shopped at resale and consignment stores, and bought what I could on ebay for less.

I've learned over the years we have been here that the clothing sections are extremely seasonal. If you want shorts or capris especially, you have to snatch them up while they are out, or they'll be gone for 6 months at least. Same goes for flip flops. I can't understand why....I seem to be able to wear capris and flip flops all year, even in Colorado.

Colorado does have four seasons, but what I didn't realize is that sometimes all four seasons can show up within a 24 hour period. The weather here can be very unpredictable. It's especially hard to predict in the Spring and Fall. For that reason, Spring and Fall are the hardest seasons of the year for me in terms of clothing for the kids.

This time of year, it can go from 80 degrees to snowing in a matter of hours, and you essentially have to be prepared for everything in between. Put away the winter clothes too early, and there will be a storm for sure. Drag out the summer stuff at the first hint of a heat wave, and you guarantee yourself 4 more weeks of freezing weather. The only feasible option is to have a little of both out for months at a time. Which wouldn't be such a bad thing, but I have four kids. And four wardrobes to contend with every time the seasons change.

Phasing stuff in and out of Aidan's closet has gotten easier as he has aged a bit. Plus, he's a boy. They need jeans, short sleeved shirts and hoodies year-round. Add in some long sleeved shirts and boots, and you're good for the Winter. Add in shorts and swim trunks, a pair of flip flops, and you're good for the Summer. Boys are easy that way.

The girls are an entirely different story. Since they have been sharing a room, they have also had to deal with sharing a closet. No small task, I guarantee. It was hard enough to transition their clothes when they had their own rooms. You see, girls just have more options, more stuff. For instance, girls have dresses. Short sleeved, sleeveless, long sleeved and jumpers. To go with the dresses, they might need leggings, tights, knit tights or just bike shorts. That's 8 categories of clothing right there. And don't even get me started on the outfits. Boys have clothes. Girls have outfits. Big difference.

Changing out the girl's clothes is a huge undertaking, but one that I seem to have mastered. I have to get out the clothes from the departing season first, then sort the new season's clothes before they see the inside of their bedroom. This Summer, I decided that rather than try and keep the girl's clothes separate, I am just combining them. They wear each other's stuff anyway, and it's really not worth the effort to try and keep it separate. So, instead of having Ally's shorts and Ashley's shorts, this year we will just have shorts. We'll see how it works. Sure made putting the clothes away faster though.

I haven't gone through AJ's stuff yet, mostly because I can't decide what to do with most of it. He is growing so slowly that I am afraid to get rid of anything - most of it might still fit next Fall at this rate!

And there's always the issue of the snow stuff. The boots and gloves and caps and coats and scarves. Coats and jackets are their own subject here too. You need a heavy winter coat, but you also need lightweight coats, windbreakers, raincoats and a decent number of hoodies. I'll get to sorting through all that eventually. It's only the end of April, might be too early to put the heavy winter stuff away. I wouldn't want to jinx it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You is Mommy

There is a cliche saying that having kids changes everything. And it does. In many ways that you can anticipate, but in some that you don't. I can't even tell you how many of my friends, preparing for their first child, I've warned. And they don't really believe me. On some level they do, certainly. But not entirely. I'm sure that I didn't believe it either. Every single aspect of life changes forever the moment that little person is placed in your arms for the first time.

Motherhood brings with it many challenges, and one of the hardest to confront is the complete transformation of your identity. Before having kids, you are a woman with her own friends, with a social life, with career ambitions, with a name. After kids, you are a mom. First and foremost, and above all other titles, interests, hobbies or ambitions, you are a mom.

When I first had Aidan, and even Ashley, I didn't really realize how much my identity had changed. I was still Kelly, I just had a couple kids. They called me mom, but everyone else still addressed me by my own name. Until Aidan started in his preschool program. It was only then that I realized that my first name would forever be secondary to "Aidan's mom". That teachers, other kids and the vast majority of the other moms I would come in contact with for the rest of my mothering life would refer to me first as so-and-so's mom. That my identity, my personality, my interests and ambitions were not the first thing that people learned about me anymore. They got to know me through my kids.

It's something that takes a bit of time to get used to. Especially, if like me, you always pictured yourself somehow simultaneously having kids and a fabulous career. Balancing everything. I know that I never imagined myself as a stay at home mom. I always thought I'd be that working woman, with a life completely separate from home. With friends that I could still talk about grown-up things with. With important work-related decisions and deadlines. I thought wrong. Life didn't end up that way for us, but being home is a good place to be. I can't lie and say that losing my identity didn't take some getting used to.

Moving to Colorado only enhanced the issue. Not knowing anyone here for any length of time, and coming with three kids, I was never just Kelly to anyone here. I was never that girl who went to USC and law school. I was never that crazed ambitious women who dreamt of working in Bioethics. I was just a mom. And it was hard for me.

These days, after being a constant presence at school for a few years, most of the teachers know me now. Most of them know my real name and everything. I have a decent group of friends and acquaintances that know me, beyond just being someone's mom. I share similar paths with some of them. Once career driven, now relegated to making lunches and driving carpools. They understand. To all the kids at school, I am Aidan's mom, or Ashley's mom or Ally's mom. Soon I will be known as AJ's mom too.

Maybe someday I will get back into the rat race. Go for those goals I once had. When the kids are older, perhaps. My priorities are different now though. I don't mind being just a mom anymore. Because being a mom is the most important job I could ever have.

In the car yesterday, Ally was asking me what people's names are. What are the real names of her friend's moms and what are the real names of her teachers? I told her, then I asked her what my name is. Without a moment's hesitation, she answered, "You is Mommy". And she was right. I am Mommy. And it's the best name I've ever had.

Silly Dinner

Tom is almost always home for dinner, almost. There are times he doesn't make it, usually during tax season or if he has to go out of town for work. The kids like to take full advantage of those nights. Because there is one kind of dinner that can only happen when Daddy isn't home. Silly dinner.

The foods eaten for silly dinner show up far more frequently in the form of silly lunch. During the summer and the other breaks from school, we will have silly lunch once a week or so. The kids request it.

What are silly lunch and dinner? Breakfast. Plain and simple, it's breakfast. It's just eaten at the wrong time of day. The kids collectively love most breakfast foods, no matter what the time of day. The first time I made silly lunch, the kids looked at me like I was losing my mind. Aidan is the one that named it that summer day.

The truth is that I love bacon and eggs (when I'm not pregnant and forced to eat them on a daily basis, that is). Tom isn't a big fan of bacon and eggs, he is much more inclined to want pancakes or waffles for breakfast. He's known for weekend donut runs as well. He just loves to carb load in the morning, I guess. As a result, I don't make eggs and bacon for breakfast very often. There isn't usually an abundance of time on school days for such activities. As for weekends, Tom would rather eat a bowl of cereal than have me make breakfast. So we just moved that meal to another time.

Yesterday, Tom was gone for the night, away for work. As soon as the kids realized he wouldn't be home for dinner, they asked if I could make silly dinner. I don't know what it is about having breakfast at the wrong time, but the kids love it. And we are pretty silly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Negotiator

Since we have been married, we have purchased 4 vehicles. Only one was used. It was a pick-up truck that I negotiated a return policy on, just in case it didn't check out with my mechanic. I took it to him, he didn't like what he saw and back it went. I think the salesman was in shock when I actually brought it back. But I did. The other three cars we have purchased were all new.

Tom can't negotiate. It's just not in him. He can't handle the back and forth, the bantering. He can't stand the give and take. He wants to know what they want, and what we can pay. Bottom line. I like to haggle. There is a reason I went to law school and he didn't.

When we bought the first of the three cars, a Daewoo of all things, I negotiated a really good deal on it. It had been sold to another person that the financing fell through on - after they had driven it off the lot. The car was returned the next morning, then put back on the sales floor. I checked the mileage on it, and it was higher than it should have been for a *new* car. They told me what had happened, and I told them that the car was no longer *new* and couldn't be sold as such. They knew I was right and fudged the price quite a bit. Plus we got the alarm for free since it was already installed.

The second car was the Ford Escape. Tom, for whatever reason, had already decided that he really, really wanted one. We had gone to the Auto Show earlier in the year and had looked at every small SUV on the market - this was the only one that he liked. Walking into a dealership being set on a car isn't a good thing. There was a commercial out at the time that was just like him. Guy walks in and says, "I want this car, I will take this car". That's Tom. No negotiating abilities at all. He wasn't allowed to talk that day. I took care of it. Got a free alarm and a great interest rate, plus more for our trade-in than they wanted to give us.

The van was the last car we bought, a reluctant necessity when I was pregnant with Ally. We just needed something bigger. This time it was me that decided. I wanted the Honda, since it had the best safety rating. We should have bought something cheaper, for sure. The day we bought the Honda, we had already looked at other vans. We lucked out and went on a very slow night, towards the end of their sales period. Got a free alarm this time too, and an insanely low interest rate. But there was only so much I could negotiate. It still cost a fortune.

Tom hates to buy cars. He likes to test drive them, but he hates the rest of it. He hates feeling pressured. He can't stand haggling. He doesn't like signing papers for major purchases, and has never once driven a new car off the lot. Hopefully for him it will be a while before we need to do it again. We plan to drive these cars until they die.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Taste the Rainbow

Alright, so I totally stole the tagline from Skittles. A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for a rainbow cake and I was intrigued. I had to find a reason to make it. After checking out the recipe, I realized that it was going to be a fair amount of work, especially considering the icing was homemade. But it looked like it might be worth it. Or at least it would look cool.

Since Ally's birthday party is actually on the day of her birthday this year, I initially wanted to make it for that. The problem is that there are more kids coming than the cake would feed, so I opted out of that. I'm making her a Hello Kitty cake tomorrow.

Grandma Kathi's birthday is the 15th, and we had them over for dinner and cake last night. I made one of my favorite dinners, Italian Herb Chicken with pasta. Yum. It's a crockpot recipe, which makes it even better. I'm all about putting the least amount of effort into dinner as humanly possible. Especially on a day like yesterday. A day where I was attempting something new.

I got all the ingredients, or so I thought, the day before. Ended up needing to send Tom to the store to get a few last essentials that I had forgotten. (Really, what is the point of taking a list to the store if you can't even manage to get the items ON the list???) I started working on the batter since I knew it was going to take a while.

Each layer of the cake is a different flavor. The pink is raspberry, orange is orange, yellow is lemon, green is lime, blue is blueberry and purple is blackberry. You add some pureed fruit or zest and juice for each layer, plus a little food coloring. There you have it, rainbow cake. The icing didn't quite come out the way I would have liked, but it was yummy. White chocolate buttercream. Can't go wrong there, really. The bottom layers did get a little compacted, but it was still good. Next time I make it, I'll do a better job. I made some notes on the recipe. :)

It tasted a bit strange, like a bowl of Fruit Loops in cake form. Each layer really did have a distinct flavor, all from the real fruit used in the recipe. The kids thought it was pretty cool. Most of all, the birthday girl was amused.

Here is the recipe, stolen from another website. If you've got a few hours to spare and are curious, it's worth the effort. And if people don't know what is under the white frosting, it's a pretty cool surprise.

Rainbow Cake
2 boxes white cake mix
6 eggs
1 c. water
2/3 c. oil
1/2 c. raspberries (pureed)
Zest of 1 orange + 2 T. juice
Zest of 1 lemon + 2 T. juice
Zest of 1 lime + 2 T. juice
1/2 c. blueberries (pureed)
1/2 c. blackberries (pureed)
Wilton Icing colors in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple
***I used regular food coloring***

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, water, and oil together. Scoop 1 cup of batter into six small bowls. In the first bowl, mix raspberries and 1/4 tsp. red coloring. In the second bowl, mix orange zest and juice, and 1/2 tsp. orange coloring. In the third bowl, mix lemon zest and juice and 1/4 tsp. yellow coloring. In the fourth bowl, mix lime zest and juice and 1/4 tsp. green coloring. In the fifth bowl, mix blueberries and 1/4 tsp. blue coloring. In the sixth bowl, mix blackberries and 1/4 tsp. purple coloring.

*** The next time I make it, I will probably strain the raspberry, blueberry and blackberry puree before I add it to get the seeds out. ***

Prepare six 8 inch cake pans by greasing and flouring each generously. Using a spatula, spoon and spread each color of batter into its own cake pan. Bake in an oven, preheated to 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched lightly.

***The next time I make it, I will bake 3 layers at a time, since the ones on the bottom rack didn't rise enough (why they were a little squished)***

Allow to cool completely. Frost with White Chocolate Frosting.

Billowed White Chocolate Frosting
1 c. butter, softened
1 bag white chocolate chips
3 lbs. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. milk (room temperature)

In a large bowl, microwave white chips until melted. Immediately beat in butter until smooth. Add half the sugar, then the milk. Beat. Add remaining sugar and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Makes enough frosting to ice between each layer of cake, and around the outside of the cake.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pancakes

There is a very short list of things that I don't do around the house. I do pretty much everything it seems, and there are times that I wonder, sometimes aloud, if anyone else does anything.

Tom has known certain things about me since well before we were married. I don't iron. Anything. Don't do it. I break out the iron roughly once a year. In college, Tom had to wear a dress shirt and tie for work, and he ironed all his own clothes. I figure he knows how to do it, so why should I? I am not terribly good, especially at ironing dress shirts. So I don't. When it's time for him to get new work clothes, I will only buy him the wrinkle-free stuff. If I get it out of the dryer in a reasonable amount of time and hang it up, there is no need to iron. It's fantastic.

I don't pick up dog poop. Not willingly anyway. I have done it, but always with great reluctance. When Tom broke his foot after Ashley was born, I had no choice. Thinking he was funny, he took a picture of me. As if to capture some elusive endangered species outside it's native habitat. I've done it a few times since we moved here, but it's not high on my list of things to do. I figure the yard is his department. I don't cut the grass or fertilize the lawn either for that reason.

There is one thing that I am forbidden from doing. Something that I am so bad at that I am not even allowed to attempt it. Something that Tom always, 100% of the time, is responsible for doing on his own. Something that the kids know that I can't do, and don't even bother asking about. I can't make pancakes.

There is just something about the process that escapes me. I don't know if it's the batter that I can't master, or if my cooking technique is bad. We have one pancake mix we use. We have one griddle to make them on. He uses all the same stuff I try to use, and it's no comparison. I don't know how I always manage to screw them up, but my pancakes are pathetic. He can make blueberry pancakes, banana pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes and even homemade waffles like a professional. Mine are horrible. I don't even try anymore.

So if you're ever in the neighborhood on a weekend morning, and you smell something amazing coming from our house, know that it's not me. The man of the house is in the kitchen. You'll find me relaxing on the couch, coffee cup in hand. It's nice to not be in charge sometimes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Random Bits of Information

I am a treasure trove of knowledge. Random bits and pieces of information, hardly ever pertinent to daily life. I shudder at the thought of how many song lyrics are crammed into my head. I can repeat phone numbers from elementary school friends. I remember things, and over the years I have remembered a lot of things. Random things. Things that make people like me want to audition for Jeopardy.

I know strange details about weird subjects. Yesterday, we were at a field trip to the aquarium and I found myself pointing out all kinds of trivial things about the animals to the kids. Even their teacher was a little intrigued by my tidbits. I worked in the science museum in junior high, and our focus that year was on the ocean. I learned more about it than *normal*. Plus, I wanted to be a marine biologist for a while.

I am a great resource for odd subjects. When I was in school, I always tried to pick research topics that I was interested in, and that were a bit out of the ordinary. Like the overfishing of sharks in international waters. The detrimental effects of the overuse of antibiotics. Herd Immunity. Exploring the reasons that baby boys are born with a higher chance of health problems than girls are. The San Diego Chicken, and his role in case law on intellectual property rights. I like the weird. It's more interesting.

Through the insane amount of education and broad life experiences I have been lucky enough to have, I know at least a little bit about a lot of things. I don't claim to be an expert in many of them, or any of them really. But I can answer most of the basic questions. Legal issues? How do you make a twirl skirt? What does this mean in Spanish? Am I in labor? What does this rash mean? How long are eggs safe to eat? Will this stain come out? How can you take a picture of a fish in a fish tank? What will make roses grow faster and fuller? You'd be amazed at the things people will call me for.

Aidan is shocked sometimes if I don't know the answer to a question he asks. He asks a lot of questions, and I usually have an answer. He's come to expect that I am just supposed to always know, and is taken a bit by surprise if I don't.

There are certain subjects that I know nothing about. The subjects that keep me from ever auditioning for Jeopardy, because they will be the ones I get questions on. Electricity is a big one. I can explain it, but I totally don't understand it. Most things related to computer programming are foreign to me. I know virtually nothing about world history. I love ancient history and US history, but don't ask me about much else. I'm in the dark about opera. My knowledge about literature and ballet - superficial at best.

Newborn babies can instinctively crawl up and latch on by themselves. There is your random bit of information for the day, courtesy of Kelly.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fast, Fast, Fast

I have a lead foot. I like to drive fast. I always have, and I probably always will. I really wanted to race cars when I was a teenager, but I never managed to talk my parents into it. I have gotten a lot better about it since I've had the kids, and I really try not to do it when they are in the car with me. But every once in a while, that foot just gets too heavy.

When I was a teenager, I didn't have my own car. I had to borrow Mom or Dad's car, and I always preferred to borrow Dad's. Mom drove the minivan, but Dad drove the T-bird. Champagne colored, V-8 under the hood, and it could fly. I think the fastest I ever went in it was about 145mph. When you got over about 100 in that car, it was almost like it would shift into another gear. Like there was a secret gear only used for racing. Don't tell my Dad. :) I worked down the main street from my parent's house a few miles. Early enough in the morning, and there was no one on that street. And the lights were all programmed to stay green. You get where I am going with this, right? I once raced a cop, in a marked car no less, down Los Angeles Avenue. It was a sweet car.

In college, my parents traded in my land yacht (a story for another day) for a Ford Escort. Smaller, more gas efficient, and only a 4 cylinder. Not that it mattered much. I could make it from my apartment to Tom's in San Diego in an hour and 30 minutes. It was 120 miles. You do the math. I wasn't driving the speed limit. I did get pulled into the secondary inspection station at the border check once, but that was just to get hit on by the CHP officer, not to get a ticket.

I didn't need a radar detector back then. I could read the cars on the freeway perfectly. I could spot a cop from over a mile away, and I never once got pulled over. Not once. I played with a few CHP officers in my day. There was one once that kept trying to get me. He'd chase me down, only to find me driving the speed limit, go around me, hit the other side of the freeway, catch me again. Of course, by then I was going the speed limit. I had it down to a science. My only traffic ticket ever was for rolling through a stop sign. But, I did a California stop, that is supposed to be good enough, right???

Once I had kids, I had to slow down. It's fun to drive fast, but not terribly safe. I was never a crazy fast driver, never weaved in and out of traffic. But once I had kids, I slowed down. And over time I lost my abilities to track the cops. Too distracted by the little people I suppose.

I've been pulled over twice here in Colorado, both times for speeding, and both times with a car full of kids. I'm not going ridiculously fast, but I'm going fast enough to get their attention. Part of it is that the speed limits here are higher than in California. Here I'm only going 13 miles over the speed limit if I'm doing 88, it would be a lot worse in California.

I got to meet my second State Trooper last weekend, on the way to the airport. I was running late, and driving faster than I was supposed to. My years of experience kicked in with spotting the cop, but too late. As soon as I saw him about a mile and a half behind me, I moved over to the right lane and slowed down to the speed limit. But he had me flagged on radar already, and it was no use. Red and blue lights.

"Mommy, why are we stopping?" I hear from the backseat. Well, because I was going too fast and the police don't like that. "Why were you going too fast, Mommy?" Well....that one is harder to explain. I told the kids to sit still and be quiet. They were all a little taken back by the fact that I was in trouble and got caught doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing.

I did manage to talk myself out of getting a ticket. It's the second time I've managed to do that. I still have a clean record when it comes to speeding tickets. Maybe it's the car full of kids. Maybe it's my charm and sincere apologies. I don't know why, but it works. I should learn. You'd think I would know better by now.

But sometimes it's just too hard to resist. That wide open road. It calls my name. Doesn't help that I've created a kid just like me. Ally is a speed demon too, and I succumb too easily to her pleas. She'll sit in the back of the car and beg me to go fast, fast, fast.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Done

Three days left...tax season is almost over. For people outside the profession, they think that this is the home stretch, that since there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that this is the easy part. It's not. The last week is the worst.

I think we figured out that this is our tenth tax season. 10 years of the madness. Of the exhaustion. Of the life put on hold for a few months. It doesn't get any easier, no matter how many years you have been through it. It still sucks.

Tom is done. He's given all he can give, and didn't even get up early this morning. There's just no motivation left this year. He's worked harder this year than any other before, and he's not even done on the 15th. As an auditor, he is busier during tax season, but he's also not limited to just this time of the year. He's hardly done any tax work this year at all. He's already scheduled clear through June with jobs. The end isn't the end this year.

He's exhausted. I'm exhausted. The kids want their Daddy back. He is supposed to get two days off after the 15th this week. I hope he takes them. He needs a break. We all do.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

One of the cool things about having kids is that you get to play with toys. And it's perfectly acceptable to do so, in fact it is expected. If a single guy routinely plays with action figures, you shake your head. If a dad plays action figures with his little boy, it's endearing. The reality is though that there is little difference between the two men. Just one of them has a good excuse. In fact, I truly believe that it is one of the reasons men want to have children. And the reason that baby boys always get toys that are so far from being age appropriate that it's obvious who they are really for - the grown ups. Aidan got a huge remote control Jeep for his first Christmas. He was 7 months old. It wasn't for him, now was it?

There are few toys that endure generations without ever being pushed aside for something newer and cooler. Things like Legos and Barbies, the toys that every kid in the last 50 years or so has had. Everything else it seems is subject to trendiness and phases. The must have toy one year at Christmas, turns a few years later into the toy that no one remembers.

My generation was the first that was really subjected to direct marketing on a large scale. Saturday morning cartoons gradually turned into weekday afternoon cartoons, and along with them came a constant barrage of commercials. They enticed us, convincing us that we needed sugary cereals and every toy ever created. And we were hooked.

I had to have a Strawberry Shortcake bed to go with all my toys. Gary was obsessed with Transformers. Tom, so I've been told, was a huge fan of He-Man. By the power of Grayskull....

Probably because our generation was so infatuated with the toys, many of the brands burned hot, but fizzled out quickly. Replaced with something new. The monchichis. My Little Pony. The Smurfs. And away they slipped. The shows canceled. The toys eventually discontinued. Until something happened. We started having kids. And we wanted to play with our toys again. The power of our generation, and the easy sell that we clearly are when it comes to marketing, revived these toys. The Smurfs are back on tv again. My Little Pony is probably bigger now than it was when we were kids. And clearly the Autobots are kicking some Decepticon butt.

Of course the kids have new toys too, new fads to follow. New commercials that convince them that they *need* some toy. The marketing to kids starts younger and younger today. There are 24 hour cartoon channels now, and studies have shown brand loyalty in kids as young as two years old. But there is just something about the old toys that came back. We, as parents are more likely to buy them. They are like old friends, bringing us back to our own childhoods. And they are way more fun to play with.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The End of an Era

ER aired the final show in the series last night. The finale of it all. The end. As silly as it may sound, it is a bit like saying goodbye to a familiar friend. It's strange that I feel sad about it, especially considering the fact that I stopped watching the show last season. But I do.

The show began in December,1994. I had just started college. It became part of our Thursday night ritual in the dorms, then later in the apartments. I know that show influenced a few friends in their quest to become doctors one day. It was a fairly realistic depiction of life in a major metropolitan hospital, I learned how accurate it was when I worked in a few myself.

The pain the doctors and nurses felt when they lost a patient was real. The constant stream of patients, the perpetually full waiting room, was real. The ever present danger in who might walk through those doors and what they may bring into the hospital was real. Working at LAC-USC, I saw patients with mystery diseases. I saw the despair on the faces of patients trapped in reverse ventilation rooms, isolated from the rest of the world. I know that the metal detectors are there for a reason. I watched distraught parents struggle to accept that the birth defect their baby had, not obvious from the outside, was indeed terminal. I talked to a 14 year old boy in the burn unit, very much wanting to die, after he had set himself on fire. I held newborn babies, some born addicts, who were left stranded at the hospital, their mothers already hauled off to jail. Working at UCSD, I helped physicians wrestle with the ethics and emotions of disconnecting a baby girl from life support when she had been put there by the very person who is supposed to protect her - her mother. I listened in on a call to UNOS, overheard which order people would be saved in today. To a large degree, at least from what I saw, ER was *real*.

As I said before, I stopped watching the show out of protest at the beginning of the season last year. Rather than just having Ray get fired, move away or even killed, the writers decided to cut his legs off in a horrific accident. I suppose it was a way to keep him alive enough to possibly bring him back, well to bring back most of him, at some point in the future. But it was the point where the writing betrayed me. As a loyal fan since the beginning of the show, they lost me. The show had become too doom and gloom, too negative. Too much pain for the characters. Too little about the medicine, and too much about ruining the lives of the people on the show. Some of the episodes were way over the top. I mean, really, who gets their arm cut off by a helicopter one year, then comes back to be crushed to death by one a year later? At some point, ratings stunts are just that.

It was the best when it was about raw emotions. The show had pretty accurate depictions of the struggles of addiction, loss, betrayal and love. When Carter and his wife lost their baby, I cried for days. It was real for me. And they tugged on my heartstrings well. When Mark died of cancer, I wept for his children and wife. I connected with the fear and unknowing nature of cancer. When Doug and Carol finally left together, love won. Though they both left the show, they left together - and the show was better for it. Sometimes there are happy endings. And as a fan, I rooted for them to make it.

It was a good show, one that I grew into an adult watching. I laughed, I questioned, I thought, I cried, and I related. I can't help but feeling that I shouldn't have stopped watching. That somehow, because of my stubborn nature and my disappointment, I missed a seeing a good friend's proper goodbye.

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