Ready for another round of birthday questions? I hope so, because I’ve got a newly minted four-year-old with some answers and nothing else to blog about.

Hit it, Sam. Tell us what life is like at four. [And I'll tell you the truth in snide italics.]

What is your favorite color?

Blue [True.]

What is your favorite food?

Macaroni and cheese [True. Any pasta, really. Sam is not a likely candidate for a gluten-free diet.]

What’s your favorite thing about school?

Playing. [Like, duh, lady.]

What makes you happiest?

When I play. [I said, duh, lady.]

What makes you sad?

When someone pushes. [Funny. His sister could say the same thing. Ahem.]

What is your favorite thing to do with Dad?

Playing games when Mom and Annabel aren’t here. [I tried to get him to explain what kind of games, but apparent the father-son bonding code prevented him from telling me. Or else he was getting bored with this activity.]

What is your favorite thing to do with Mom?

Making cake. [I do things with these children other than bake. I swear.]

What is your favorite thing to do with Annabel? [This question added by a certain, possibly jealous six-year-old. But it's a good idea.]

Playing trucks. [True. And also a little game they like to call "Play With All Our Animals  Until a MONSTER COMING. THERE'S A MONSTER COMING. HIDE ALL THE ANIMALS. HIDE! HIDE! HIIIIIIIIDDDDDEEEE!" But I'm not 100% on the name.]

What is one new thing you’d like to try this year?

I don’t know.

I can’t think of anything.

Nothing.

When can we go to Florida? That is the question I would like to answer. [I did not make any of that up.]

What would you like to be when you grow up?

Firefighter. [Same as last year.]

What’s that going to be like?

Fight fires in buildings. [Good call, buddy.]

sam 4

You’ll be great at it.

Last year’s answers can be found here.

And, just because it’s funny, here’s the next picture on the camera.

sibling love
Yup.

It started with a guest.

When your house is small, like ours, you learn to be flexible with your space. The playroom is an alcove in the living room. The laundry room is our linen closet. Our office is wherever we sit down with a laptop. Our guest room is…Sam’s room.  If you come to stay with us, we’ll put you up in a tiny room covered with dinosaurs and a twin bed.  Sam, meanwhile, goes to have a sleepover in Annabel’s floor on the old crib mattress.

So that’s what we did when my mother came to stay for a few days a bit before Christmas.  She stayed in Sam’s room and Sam and Annabel had a giggly sleepover. But after she left, he didn’t want to go back to his room. And Annabel didn’t care, so he stayed there, on her floor, for days.  Every night it was the same thing, “Annabel? Want to have a sleepover again?” “Yeah!”

Travel at Christmas broke up the routine and things went back to normal. Then, after a few nights: “Annabel, want to have a sleepover?” There we were again, two kids, one room, one in a bed, one on the floor. Again and again and again. After a few weeks of this, there was really only one solution.

Image

It’s cozy, sure, but at least we have a playroom now.

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Okay, that part’s still a slightly messy work-in-progress.  But that giant box of Legos is no longer in my living room alcove and we’ve now got a full-size futon for guests. So we’re going to call this a win.

Remember when I decided to interview my children on their birthdays?  It was a lot of fun and I planned to keep it up. I managed to get Sam’s in only five days after his birthday and here I am, back at Annabel again, only six days late! Not even a full week! This probably marks my best internet effort since I started this blog.

Anyway, when we last met Annabel, at age five, she was a girly girl with a compulsive lying problem. How has she changed? Is she still crazy over purple? Has she found truthiness over the last year? Let’s find out.  My comments in [brackets and italics].

What is your favorite color?

Blue [Less girly already. True.]

What is your favorite food?

Watermelon [Probably true. She does like it a lot.]

What’s your favorite thing about school?

Reading [Again, probably true, but really she could have said anything here. She really likes kindergarten a lot.]

What makes you happiest?

Happiest where? Anywhere? [She is a kid who likes precision and clarity.] When I go to Florida. [So true]

What makes you sad?

When I get hurt. [Same as last year. Still true.]

What is your favorite thing to do with Dad?

Wrestle [True.]

What is your favorite thing to do with Mom?

Make little dollies [What? We did that once. Yesterday. She probably means crafting or doing any kind of project with me so...true.]

What is one new thing you’d like to try this year?

Uh. I don’t know. What do you mean? I’m confused. Can we skip this one? I’ll think about it.

[Five minutes later] Go to Disney. [Probably true although this is the first I've heard about it. And not this year, kid.]

What would you like to be when you grow up?

A waiter [True. She is fascinated by waitstaff, especially when they carry the trays on one hand.]

What’s that going to be like?

I’ll get food. [Again: clarity and precision.]

I’m going to give her a 10/10 on telling the truth this year. Okay, that dolly thing was a little iffy, but I knew what she meant. 

I don’t know what I expect from these things. Moments of genius? Moments of insight? Moments of Annabelness? Well, it’s hard not to get that last one. She’s becoming more and more Annabel every day.

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I like this kid in all her precision and Annabelness. I like her a lot.

Oh, hi, internet. I’ve had a very busy summer. I have a lot to tell you. But not today. Today I had a request for my apple cake recipe and while I would like to tell you about hiking, gardening, housebuilding, and kindergarten, first I need to do this.

I discovered this recipe a few years ago and it exists on a very strange, very small website that I don’t even understand. I don’t know how I found it; I don’t know who these people are; I don’t know if this website has been updated since 1996. What I know is this is a great apple cake. Full credit, however, goes to them.

But, of course, I am incapable of making any recipe without changing it to within an inch of its life–usually by healthifying it. So first is the regular recipe. Then is the version I usually make and which I feel is healthy enough to give a kid for a snack.

Apple Cake (unhealthy version)

4 cups peeled and diced apples
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix apples and sugar thoroughly. Add oil, nuts, eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and add to apple mixture. Bake in a greased 13×9 inch pan for 45 minutes to 1 hour (check after 45).

Serve frosted or unfrosted. This cake is one of those that you can pretty much finish and serve however you like. If you want to frost it, a sour cream frosting is very nice. Whipping cream or ice cream go very well with it, too. My favorite way to eat it, though, is with no frosting at all.

Got that? That’s a lot of sugar, right? I don’t think I have ever made this recipe with TWO CUPS of sugar. I can’t even imagine it.  It is plenty sweet with half that. Wait, am I scooping myself? Whatever, here’s what I do:

Apple Cake (Cherie’s healthified version)

5 cups peeled and diced apples
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Follow directions as above.  The whole wheat flour that I use is very dry, so I add a little water to the batter to offset it.  You may need to adjust accordingly. If you bake a lot, you will notice that this batter…looks weird. It’s very thick and full of apples and kind of hard to spread in the pan. Don’t worry. It will be okay.

My family is anti-nuts in baked goods, so we don’t do that. But that would make this an even healthier kid snack so if that’s your gig, try it.

And she’s totally right. You absolutely do not need to frost this thing. At all.

Annabel launched into a impromptu soliloquy about bees during the morning drive, so I made it into a poem for you.

I like bees.
I like the music they make when they hum.
I like that they land on flowers and make more flowers.
They don’t sting if you don’t bother them, Sam.
Yep.
I like bees.
But not wasps.

About a month ago we made our annual pilgrimage to Florida. This post isn’t about that trip, which was fine, but not our best vacation ever.  We did our usual eating of fried foods, drinking of Cuban coffee, and letting our children play with alligators.

5 859936_4982036784500_814867514_o
See? Not Maine.

This trip was not the best for a few reasons, not least because Michael developed an odd rash the day before we left. We pondered it for a bit, but as he didn’t seem in immanent danger of dying and we had packing to do, we ignored it and went on our merry way.

And merry it was, until the next day when we realized the rash was spreading and that it was becoming increasingly painful. All the image searching of rashes that we could do (and, please, don’t search rash images unless you really, really have to) seemed to suggest that it was shingles.  But it couldn’t be shingles because Michael’s never had chicken pox. So we searched and searched and finally he showed the rash to his mother.

“Oh, sure,” she said. “That’s shingles.”

“But I’ve never had chicken pox,” he said.

“Sure you did,” she answered. “You had it the same time everyone else did but you only got two or three spots.”

And just like that, we learned that not only had Michael had the chicken pox after all, rendering moot years of discussions about how we’d handle chicken pox in our kids, but he also had shingles, a disease generally limited to the elderly and the infirm.

Now, shingles, for those who have not had a reason to extensively research it, are caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox.  After you have the pox, the virus stays in your body, hanging out in the nervous system until a weakened immune system allows the virus to gain a foothold.  At that point, the virus travels along your nerves until it reaches the skin, where it causes a rash.  This sounds creepy and painful, and it is, and it pretty much ruined Michael’s vacation. It didn’t do a whole lot for the rest of us, either, as we tried to accommodate a downed member of the family.

Everything we read suggested that it was possible to catch the chicken pox from someone with shingles, but it was pretty rare.  For transmission to take place, a non-immune person essentially has to come in direct contact with the rash.

“So just don’t rub the children’s faces on your oozing sores and it should be fine,” I said, looking up from my father-in-law’s computer.

“Got it,” Michael said.  And he kept his shirt on and washed his clothes separately and that was that . Or so we assumed.

Because we are dumb.

**************************

About a week after we returned home from Florida, I found myself in the bathroom getting the kids ready for bath. I pulled Annabel’s dress off and immediately noticed three small, red dots on her stomach.

“Huh,” I said.

“What’s that?” she asked, curious but not scared.

“I don’t know, but it looks like it may be the chicken pox.”

“COOL!” she yelled. “I have the chicken pox!”

I was less enthused.

The next day I took her increasingly spotty self to see the doctor, which I had to do in order to make sure that her immunization records showed that she’d had the disease.

“Yup,” he said out in the parking lot where he came to look at her, so we didn’t infect everyone else. “That sure is chicken pox. Do you know where she contracted it from?”

“Well,” I said. “Her dad had shingles.”

“Really?” he said. “When did he have them?”

“He still does, a bit.”

“And you don’t know anyone else who had chicken pox?”

“Nope.”

“Really?”

“No.”

“Wow,” he said. “That’s a pretty compelling case. But, honestly, the chance of getting chicken pox from shingles is so rare it is practically theoretical. This is amazing!”

I, again, was less enthused.

Because I believe in giving full credit where credit is due, I need to tell you that Annabel really was a superb chicken pox patient.  She rarely complained, she tolerated quarantine even when it required her to sit endlessly in the car while I ran errands, and she was generally excellent company. But by the of the mandated six-day sequester, she was healed up and quite ready to go back to preschool.

I packed her up, sent her on her way, and assumed it was over.

Because I am dumb.

**********************************

You may wonder why I was so casual about the whole thing considering that I have another child in the house.  The reason is this: Sam had received the chicken pox vaccine.  We had intended for neither kid to get it until they started school, believing that natural immunity had a slight edge over vaccine immunity during the course of a lifetime (though we went back and forth on this a lot especially considering–remember?–we thought Michael had never had the chicken pox).  But we learned when reviewing Sam’s vaccination records at his three-year check-up that somewhere along the way he’d gotten the shot.

We didn’t really mind either way, and, frankly, by the end of Annabel’s bout with the pox I was tired of calamine lotion, hideously behind at work, and pretty much done with the varicella zoster virus altogether.  Plus, I was feeling pretty lucky that Annabel’s case was as moderate as it was and I wasn’t really looking to roll the dice a second time.

But, hey! Guess what! A week after Annabel went back to preschool I was pulling Sam’s shirt off for bath (seeing a pattern?) when I noticed tell-tale red spots all over his stomach and back.

“Look!” Annabel yelled gleefully, “You have chicken pox, too!”

So I hauled him to the doctor the next day, which happened to be yesterday.

“Sure does look like the chicken pox,” the Friday doctor said. “I don’t see this much anymore, honestly, what with the vaccine.”

“But he got the vaccine.”

“Right. We tend to see that cases with the vaccine are much milder. Is his milder than his sister’s was?”

“No, it’s worse.”

“Really? But he has fewer spots?”

“No, he has more.”

“Interesting. It looks like the vaccine didn’t help much here.”

“You think?”

“This really is unusual. Believe me.” And I believe her.

Because I am dumb.

********************

To recap:

My 37-year-old, generally healthy husband developed a illness usually limited to the elderly and the infirm from a childhood disease he never knew he had.

He then gave this disease to our daughter in a manner of transmission considered so unusual that it is “practically theoretical.”

Our daughter then gave the disease to our son, despite his being vaccinated against it with a vaccine considered around 90% effective.

When I was at the doctor with Annabel, he seemed oddly pleased with her contraction of the pox. “The thing is,” he said, “she will now have a 99% chance of being immune from this for life. That’s actually really good.”

I had the chicken pox when I was a kid. I don’t remember having it, but I definitely did.  I’ve never in my life worried about getting it a second time. But right now? I’m looking at how percentages are running for us and I’m thinking, boy, I am basically guaranteed to end up in that 1%, aren’t I?

A few friends who have followed this saga have mentioned that I should buy a lottery ticket. It seems to me that the luck we’re running is actually the exact opposite of what is needed to win the lottery. What would happen if I went to buy a lottery ticket is that I would somehow bump into the person behind me, causing them to slip and fall and sustain tremendous injury. They would then sue me for everything I have, including my family, who I would be forced to sell for cash, and I would end up destitute, penniless, alone, and covered in the first-ever-known simultaneous case of chicken pox and shingles.

So buying a lottery ticket doesn’t seem like the right move.

But I might do it anyway.

Because I really am that dumb.

Remember when I interviewed Annabel on her birthday? Well, Sam turned three this past Sunday and, as he is a second child, it took me a few days to get around to the interview.  More truthfully, it took me three days to get around to it because 90% of my time with Sam is spent chasing him around at full-speed, trying to get him, and everyone around him, through his early childhood intact.  Interviewing falls a bit by the wayside.

But no matter. We finally got to it and, as he is less of a lying liar who lies than his sister is, this requires significantly less editing time.

Without further ado, Sam at three.

What is your favorite color?
Pink

What is your favorite food?
Lollipops

What’s your favorite thing about school?
Telling my teacher about it. [No idea, folks. No idea.]

What makes you happiest?
Making bread.

What makes you sad?
When someone knocks over my tower.

What is your favorite thing to do with Dad?
Play with him.

What is your favorite thing to do with Mom?
Clean up the kitchen and do puzzles.

What is one new thing you’d like to try this year?
Play with a triceratops. [!!]

What would you like to be when you grow up?
A firefighter.

What’s that going to be like?
I’ll put out the fires.

sam skating

Photo ruthlessly stolen from Dory, because she takes far better pictures of my children. And just about everything else.

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