Monday, September 23, 2013

Tubby Tuesday: ESTE Pizzeria

I told you I love pizza.  On last week's Tubby Tuesday I told you about Nicolitalias Pizzeria down in Provo.  Today we head back up north to one of my 3 favorite Utah pizza places.  For the next three Tubby Tuesdays I will be sharing my top 3 Utah pizza places.  It is difficult to choose which is the best simply because it depends on the style of pizza.  This week we visit ESTE pizzeria, which fits the bill as the "Best New York Style Pizza in Utah."

This is not a title that I give out lightly, nor without many visits to this wonderful pizza joint.  I have to thank my friend Garrett (who is a bit of a pizza savant) for turning me on to ESTE.  Located at 156 E and 200 South in Salt Lake City, the restaurant is underwhelming from the curb.  On my first visit I drove past it twice before I saw it:
Like Many Great Food Places Este Doesn't Appear Too Exciting From Outside
When we walked inside it had a great vibe.  The walls are tastefully decorated with pop-art concert posters and materials like corrugated steel.  The menu is simple, yet caters to many different tastes.  ESTE is a Coke establishment which always matters to me for some reason.  For starters we'll usually get the breaded cheese ravioli (third time in Tubby Tuesday that I have mentioned some type fried/baked ravioli as an appetizer) which is the best I have tried.  When it comes piping hot to the table filled with molten-cheese goodness it is hard to resist eating the entire portion by oneself.  The mozzarella sticks are also fantastic here, if I've had better ones I can't remember.  We keep making the mistake of ordering the garlic knots, which sound much better than they actually are.  They are just small lumps of cooked dough with an abundance of fresh garlic on top of them.  Every time I have ordered them there was FAR TOO MUCH garlic on them.  If you find you must order them, I would recommend removing about half of the garlic, adding an abundance of parmesan cheese, and then add the green tabasco sauce to them.  This is the best way I have found to cope with the only sub-par item I have discovered on their menu.
One Of the Wonderful Pizzas of ESTE Pizzeria (photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

Now for the pizza!  The pizza at ESTE does not disappoint.   Large slices that are thin and perfect for folding come out on huge pizza pans that sit on top of stands in the center of the tables.  My favorite pizzas are The Clay which is their version of a meat lovers pizza, and The Pink with pepperoni added.  The Clay comes with pepperoni, ham, sausage and thin sliced meatball.  The meatball really sends The Clay to the tip-top of the list.  It is the best meatball I have ever had on a pizza!  It is unbeatable.  The Pink is ricotta cheese mixed with marinara sauce topped in mozzarella cheese.  I have had it on its own and it is good, if pepperoni is added the pie sings.  I'm getting terribly hungry just writing about it!

While the temptation may be too great to resist, try not too eat too much pizza too quickly.  On my third or fourth visit I realized that if allowed to cool for ten or fifteen minutes, ESTE pizzas actually have more flavor.  This is probably a result from being able to taste the oils from the meat and cheese, but I recommend you try to have a room temperature slice.  You will probably never eat pizza the same way again.

ESTE pizza is also thin enough that it is easy to eat more than you were intending.  A large or extra large pizza can be downed with little challenge.  Of course, leftover pizza is fantastic as well.  I urge you to visit ESTE--you will be glad you did!

Do you have a pizza place that rivals ESTE? Leave a comment below and I'll check it out!
Este Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How I Became A BYU Fan

I am a BYU fan.  That is one of the easiest confessions I've ever made.  I love BYU football.  Three or four months a year I revel in the victories, cringe at the losses and sweat all the week to week drama that each football season brings.  The rest of the year I spend looking forward to the new players who will join the team, analyze the lay of future schedules and generally wish football season was on us again.  

It's certainly amazing that I ever became a BYU fan in the first place.  I was born to parents who both received degrees from the University of Utah.  All four of my grandparents were also Utah graduates.  My maternal grandfather was even the student body president at the U back in 1933. (Luckily, I was raised by parents who weren't huge sports fans or I might have been sitting writing in red today).  (In the interest of full disclosure: my paternal grandmother was born to a huge BYU fan, but she rebelled and rooted for Utah).
One of these things is not like the other...

Academically the closest I got to attending BYU was attending the version that is on tropical islands (and whose school colors actually are red and white)  Luckily I married a BYU girl with a father and grandfather with BYU degrees so my children could have some balance in their family tree.  
I'm not sure where my fandom really began, but there are certainly milestones along the way.  When I was 7 or 8 and living with my family in Cottonwood Heights (a haven for Ute fans it turns out) my friend and I painted a white Y on the frame of the door of our treehouse.  A short time later the neighborhood kids found out that Ty Detmer was at a baseball game in our local park and he was nice enough to sign my baseball glove (what was I thinking--a baseball glove?).  Later, after we had moved to Orem, my dad would take us to BYU games that he had been given tickets for.  We didn't go to many, but I remember thinking they were the best games ever.  

In high school, I casually observed and cheered for BYU, but didn't go too far out of my way to watch many games.  As a missionary, my mission president (a former Cougar tackle) let us watch the BYU Utah game (last miracle for LaVell game) that his children had recorded and sent to him one Christmas.  It wasn't until I returned home from my mission that I began to take my fanhood more seriously.  

BYU had a losing season in 2002, their first since 1973 and I began to really follow week to week.  Nellie and I had one of our first fights as a married couple as we watched Colorado State drub BYU in the rain and snow in 2003--the Y would go on to a second losing season in a row and I started to follow recruiting.  The next year I got season tickets with some friends and we had some ups, but mostly downs as the Cougars suffered another humiliating season--and I was hooked.  

I'm not sure how, but rooting for BYU to be good when they were just horrific somehow steeled my determination to support the team through thick and thin.  When BYU hired Bronco Mendenhall and they began to turn it around, I talked my dad and brothers into buying season tickets with me.  For seven years now we have been going to games together and have seen some amazing plays.  In that time we also added Scott to the mix.  Since he was four he's been to more BYU games than not.  







We've been in the stadium together in snow up to our calves and rain that filled our shoes.  We've been sunburnt together and have cheered as one in crisp fall weather.  Together we watched Austin Collie catch a ball on 4th and 18, Andrew George catch a touchdown pass in OT, and we've seen BYU scores of 59-0 and 44-0 in consecutive weeks. We've watched in awe as BYU has competed against amazing athletes that sometimes got the better of us.  Through it all, we've built some amazing memories.

I have loved spending time with my son, my dad, and my brothers and even my sister-in-law (we added her along the way).  It has been a great excuse to hang out and spend time together.  Most importantly it has been a great way to spend time with Scott.  He and I have not only watched many games together at LaVell Edwards Stadium, but have seen some great games on the road, including a couple of bowl games.  

We look forward to many more years of BYU games ahead.  Although winning is much more fun than losing, it doesn't really matter as long as we're spending time together and building memories.  Go Cougars!

Tubby Tuesday: Nicolitalia Pizzeria

Who doesn't love a great slice of pizza?  Seriously.  My daughter Birdie, I suppose, but other than that.... Michael Scott once taught me that pizza is the great equalizer.  Just about everyone likes it.

I'm not like most people.  I LOVE pizza.  I crave pizza often.  Even when I don't crave pizza I'm still willing to eat it.  My friend and I once tried to eat a pizza THIS BIG:
Big Pizza (not from Nicolitalia's)

I didn't want to eat pizza again for about 17 hours or so.  As a pizza lover, I have some places that are very special to me which I plan on featuring on Tubby Tuesday in the future.  Today, I wanted to feature Nicolitalia Pizzeria--mainly because I have heard so much about it and finally got to try it.

Nicolitalia Pizzeria is authentic Boston pizza (sorry Boston, but I didn't know you had your own pizza style...is that just because NY and Chicago had theirs so you had to have your own?) and they make of point of highlighting anything on their menu they can add an "ah" to  ie: appetizahs, gahden salad etc.  I guess that's to help those of us who can't speak with a Boston accent (which of course we all can because we saw Goodwill Hunting on tv at least once and....I digress).  It is located at 2295 N University Parkway in Provo, which is in the shopping center south of Movies 8.  When we pulled up I knew their food had to be decent at least to still be in business because most of my life it's seemed that this is a location that restaurants go to die.

Nellie and I walked in and immediately felt like this was a hole in the wall feel.  That was the first thing I liked about it.  We decided to order the baked ravioli and the Nicolitalia's Special pizza, deep dish style because one of us doesn't like thin crust pizza (and it's not me).  The pizza came with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and peppahs (incredibly kind of Nellie because she isn't a fan of mushrooms and I love them--isn't she great?).

The eating area has a slight cafeteria feel to it, almost as though the ambience doesn't matter much at all--you're there for great pizza.  There were some fun hand drawn signs on the wall that made me smile.  My favorite is the one on the bottom right of this photo that says "Sure, you can find a cheaper pizza. But then you have to eat it."

Since Nicolitalia's is a Pepsi place, I may or may-not have traipsed across University Parkway to the Jimmy John's and purchased a Diet Coke.  Our food was ready pretty quickly.  First the ravioli came out.
Nicolitalia Pizzeria Baked Ravioli
They looked a little well done, but they tasted just fine.  They weren't my favorite of all time, but they were pretty delicious still.  Not long after our pizza was ready.  

The pizza was a thing of beauty.  The first thing I noticed was they used authentic, fresh mozzarella cheese, so there were globs in some areas and less or none in other areas.  I love fresh mozzarella because it adds so much extra flavor and dimension to the pizza.  The toppings were plentiful and fresh.  My first bite was perfect!  The crust was bready, but had a nice crunch to it that is rare in pizza.   Each subsequent bite was delicious.  
Fresh Mozzarella in all its glory
Part way through our meal the couple at the table next to us had their pizza slide off the table and end up on the floor.  We thought about offering them half of our pizza, but before we could the owners of the restaurant came out, cleaned it up, and offered to make them a new one!  I was impressed by the quick attention and their desire to make it a good dining experience for this couple.  I already enjoyed their pizza, but watching that made me want to support their restaurant even more.  

Overall, I really enjoyed Nicolitalia Pizzeria, and would give it solid endorsement.  It's certainly my favorite pizza place in Utah county that I have tried.  There are some pizza places that I will review in future Tubby Tuesday's that I like better, but they are all further north.  We will definitely be back and will be anxious to try more pizza, because I like pizza, and I love a good pizza.  
Nicolitalia Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 15, 2013

They're Gonna Hate You!

The other day I loaded up a bike I had borrowed more than a year ago to return it to a friend who had loaned it to me.  I had borrowed it to ride Slickrock with some Boy Scouts last summer.  I'm not the most on-the-ball borrower there ever was and long-story short--I didn't return it.  Day after day it sat there and every time I saw it I knew I should return it.  

After long enough, I was embarrassed about returning it, it had been so unreasonably long to have a bike that I wasn't even riding the prospect became even more silly and being ridiculous it sat there longer.  Finally enough was enough and the bike was loaded up.  I took Birdie along for the ride.  

As we drove toward my friend's home Birdie started to ask questions.  Whose bike was this?  How long had I had it?  When I told her she replied "Oh--they're gonna hate you." Very matter-of-factly, she continued "they're never going to let you borrow anything ever again."  It made me laugh.  She didn't try to make me feel better about dropping the ball and kicking it down the street far too long, she just said what I'd feared inside all along.  

They didn't hate me.  I'm sure they would think twice about loaning something to me.  That's okay, they probably should be careful about loaning me things given my recent track record.  I hope I've learned a lesson.  Kids are wonderful.  They don't know how to guard what they say because they haven't learned what not to say.  I can always count on my kids telling me what they really think.  I hope I don't train that completely out of them.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Great Escape!


Who doesn't love sharing a room with their sibling?  Birdie and Lulu sure seem to get along fairly well.  Now that the girls have bunk beds they don't see as much of each other and fall asleep much faster.  That wasn't always the case.

We used to have a very difficult time trying to get the girls to sleep at the same time.  Often we would put one to sleep on our bed and the other in their room, and would move them once they were asleep.  On occasion we would let them "have one more chance" to sleep in the same room.

Lulu slept in a crib still and Birdie had her "big girl bed" so we were confused when Lulu came toddling down the stairs one evening.  "How did you get out of bed?" We asked. She told us that Birdie had helped her out.  Curious we ventured upstairs for an explanation.  Realizing they were not in trouble, Birdie and Lulu were happy to demonstrate.  Tada!



We couldn't help but laugh.  How cute that our little girls are willing to work together.  I am happy that they get along relatively well for little girls.  I am sure the future will bring challenges with it, they may not speak for a year when they are teens, but for now they help each other out.  Even if it's a little naughty.

If the video doesn't load, check it out at YouTube

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tubby Tuesday: Rocky Mountain Wingshak

After last weeks visit up north to Moochies, we're staying home in Happy Valley for this weeks installment of Tubby Tuesday.  Today I plan on letting you in on one of my little secrets.  When the calendar turns to fall, men think about football.  Here in Utah we love our college football.  What goes better with football than wings?  Nothing.  Unfortunately many people are misguided in what they should look for in wings.  There are people who get so desperate that they visit Buffalo Wild Wings and lose their hearing while eating sub-par wings.  Don't do this!  BWW is terrible compared to Rocky Mountain Wingshak!  

Rocky Mountain Wingshak (hereafter RMWS) was first introduced to me about five or six years ago.  A buddy visited my house for the BYU game and brought about 30 wings with him.  I can't remember the outcome of the game, but I do remember how great those wings were.  Located on 5th East and State Street in American Fork it isn't much to look at from the outside.  Flanked in a strip mall by Coldstone/RockyMtnChocolateFactory (it just dawned on me as I was writing this how odd it is there are two Rocky Mountain named places side by side--why can't Rocky Mountain Power open up an office on the other side? A Rocky Mountain trifecta!) and 7-11 it would be easy to miss if you didn't know it was there.

I'm a lunch regular and will warn that it's typically packed at lunch.  I have actually never been there outside of normal lunch hours, so I can't tell you what it's like at dinner, sorry (this isn't really a food blog after all).  The best value on the menu is the lunch special.  It's 8 wings (half stick, half flats), tater tots or fries, with either blue cheese or ranch, and they also have a great fry sauce.  All this food is just over $10 after tax.  

They have a great variety of wing flavors, but I prefer the traditional hot buffalo (available in hot, medium, or mild) wings with the tots and fry sauce.  They also have great garlic parmesan, pineapple barbecue and lemon pepper. RMWS is also a Pepsi outlet, good news for those who love Mtn Dew, bad news if you love Diet Coke.  

According to their menu they also offer things like salads, wraps, and sandwiches, though I've never seen one ordered.  I don't have any desire to deviate from the 

The walls on both sides are filled with pictures of people who were demented enough to do the RMWS challenge: eat 12 wings with their XXX hot sauce on it in 30 minutes or less with no sauce or water.  I've never attempted, nor will I ever attempt this challenge, but it's a great look.  There are many people  pictured who seem to have realized they made a huge mistake but carried on, probably because they had brought others to witness the debacle.  

What makes RMWS great?  The wings!  They are the most consistently meaty wings I have found.  The sauces are excellent and consistent, and the tater tots and fries are spot-on.  The restaurant itself lacks some charm, but you can have a good conversation and leave with the hearing in both of your ears.  I'm hesitant to write about RMWS because it's fairly small, and I don't want to create extra lines to deal with.  If you like wings, I highly recommend RMWS.  Try it, you'll thank me later!
Rocky Mountain Wingshak on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 9, 2013

Miracles Still Happen

by Nell: September 5th, 2013

            Eva and I had an appointment at the hospital to ultrasound her liver and determine if the antibiotics that had been killing her infection had also been shrinking the mass on her liver, which had been approximately 2.5 inches in diameter.  They were hoping that at very least the mass was the same size, and optimistically thinking that perhaps it had shrunk some.  Her blood tests were coming back each week with good numbers in reference to the infection, but because of the peculiarity of her situation, they had no way of knowing how the mass would react.

           Trev gave Birdie a blessing Wednesday night and in it told her that she would be completely healed, and that this situation would serve to give her experience and empathy for others going through difficult trials.  When I heard those words my heart leapt, daring to hope the end was in sight.  But because our Father’s timeline and my own rarely coincide, I tried to secure my emotions and not expect too much the following day, knowing that yes she would get better, but it still may be a long road of recovery. 

           Driving to Provo that next morning took years.  I felt like I was moving in slow motion.  My heart thudded harder and harder as we drew nearer.  I thought of Elder Holland’s talk from last General Conference, and the words, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” became my silent mantra as I considered the many instances in other peoples’ lives where miraculous events had happened.  I know and believe that the hand of God was guiding and protecting them.  I just wasn’t sure if it was His will for the same to happen today, for Eva.  For one reason or another, trials and hardships have different durations, and perhaps we had more to learn.  Then I’d scold myself for my wavering faith, and would dare to hope that we would find our end today, throwing me back into the cycle that would start over again- doubting and hoping. 

            The radiology techs came and took us back to the exam room.  Eva clutched my arm tightly, holding fast with both hands, and walked slowly and deliberately.  It was only then that it occurred to me that perhaps her anxiety level not only matched, but also most likely exceeded my own. 

            They went about their work, clicking and measuring.  Everything looked like a black blob to me, so I had no way of knowing what they saw, or whether it was good or bad news.  Techs are not allowed to comment on what they see, and as I’ve recently learned, have very good poker faces.  After several minutes, one looked at the other and he said, “Well, I’ll go pull up the original scans, so we can compare.”  He left the room and came back with his supervisor.  The supervisor took over the clicking for the next several minutes, scrutinizing each image, twisting the wand in each of her ribs to get the best views possible.  By now we were up to about the 40-minute mark, much longer than I had anticipated.  When the supervisor got on the phone with the “expert”, who pulled up the ultrasound images on his end and two began to confer, my anxiety rose exponentially.  What on earth was taking so long?  You could tell the supervisor was trying to remain passive, but that it was becoming difficult.  Finally, he blurted out, “I can’t measure anything, because there’s nothing here to measure!”

           Like the release of a pressure valve, my shoulders slumped and my eyes filled with tears.  I blinked fast, trying to keep it together.  “It’s just like Daddy said,” I whispered to Eva.  The tech smiled at us and said, “Heavenly Father must be watching out for you, Eva.”

           We walked out into the sunshine, and I felt light as a feather.  Dr. Osguthorpe rejoiced with us at the news saying that he couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.  He took out her picc line and although we love and appreciate all that the doctors have done for us, said the 6 most magical words, “You are all done with doctors.”   
Before

Bye Bye picc line!

            There is much that we have learned throughout this ordeal.  One lesson in particular was taught to me by the Child Life Specialist at Primary Children’s.  When people would ask how I was doing, I had gotten into the habit of saying I was fine because, “It could be much worse.”  It doesn’t take long being at the hospital to realize there are many who are in deeper trouble than you are, and it’s humbling.  When I answered her in this same way, the Child Life Specialist cut me off and said, “You can’t say that.  You can’t think that.  Minimizing your experiences because others are having different ones just makes it so that you don’t deal with your situation.”  I thought a lot about that.  I wasn’t fine, and haven’t been fine for a long time, but didn’t feel like I was allowed to say that because Eva’s life wasn’t currently hanging by a thread.  It’s okay to tell people you’re not okay.

           We received an enormous outpouring of love and support from our friends and family.  Some messages of hope and courage came from friends we haven’t talked to in years.  There were meals brought in, groceries bought, cards were decorated and delivered.  People came and visited, brought us non-cafeteria food, took beautiful keepsake pictures, and offered their kind words and prayers.  I didn’t worry once about my kids at home because care was being taken on that end too.  Through it all, the service that touched us the most was done without asking first—people just saw a need and filled it.  So much emotional energy is wrapped up in having a sick kid that I couldn’t even think of what to ask help for.  How deeply we appreciate those who found a way to help, if only by a sweet message on Facebook or by text. 

           Another powerful lesson we had reaffirmed is that even more than before, I know, and Eva knows, that our Heavenly Father is aware of and loves her.  We had so many tender mercies and moments where we knew that heaven was close, and that we were being watched over.  Eva’s faith grew throughout this event.  She would ask for blessings, and always thanked her Father in prayer when she was able to be brave, especially during the skin-ripping dressing changes that made her cry every week, and countless “big pokes” over which she had no control. 

          Paramount was the lesson that miracles still happen.  Sometimes when everything works out, we dismiss it away as coincidence or good fortune.  But without hesitating, I know Eva was healed, and I know it was a miracle.  How grateful I am for that knowledge.  
Stylin' Zombie Girl

Another stellar styled outfit


             

Friday, September 6, 2013

Breaking Radio Silence--Part 2

By Nell.

I wanted to include a few experiences from our hospital stay that meant a lot to us, and that we want Eva to remember when time dims her own memories of the situation.

Looking back on our week at Primary Children's, with a few nights of sleep under my belt, has given me the benefit of seeing many tender mercies I hadn't previously acknowledged as such.  I wanted to share a few of those here.  And although I still think I could sleep for 3 days straight if given the opportunity, I feel a bit more clear-headed about the situation as more time passes.

On Sunday morning (August 11th 2013) a kid who looked 10 years younger than me knocked on our door and invited us to church.  It was only a short 30 min. service, geared toward children.  Eva still felt pretty crappy and knowing that even in the best of circumstances church is a challenge for us, I was reluctant.  I didn't want the fight, didn't want the hassle, and I felt like I totally deserved a "pass" in this particular situation.  But as the minutes ticked on, my conscience was pricked enough that it nudged me to make the necessary arrangements with her med schedule to go.  Again the oddity of my current situation struck heavy as I found myself in the same room we had done volunteer training in, 10 years ago.  Bright-eyed and naive, I had no idea how precious this hospital would become to me as it would one day care for my sweet little Birdie.  Now I sat here in stinky 2-day-old clothes, next to my 6 year old in a wheelchair, waiting for the service, and tried not to feel too self conscious of my smell.

We watched many similar pairings enter the room after us.  It was humbling to see.  My heart ached
 to look around at the now-full room that was filled with ailing children, and their stale-clothed parents who were trying to keep it together just like me.  One boy was wheeled in with an incision from ear to ear, the gnarly gaps stapled together across his scalp.  Eva drew in a deep breath and whispered, "Oh Mommy!" and shook her head in sympathy.  I think she felt humbled too.

We sang, "How Firm a Foundation" as the opening song, and I lost my ability to speak when came the words,
  1. 2. In ev'ry condition--in sickness, in health,
    In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
    At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--
    As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
    As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.
  2. 3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
    For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
    I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
    Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
    Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
  3. 4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
    The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
    For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
    And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
    And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. 

They had a beautiful musical number by perhaps the best solo violinist I have ever heard.  Then a brief spiritual thought.  Eva was wincing half-way through, and I urged her to hold on for just a few more minutes.  I'm so glad we got to go.  It was a blessing to be able to feel a renewed affirmation that Heavenly Father knows each of these sick children and loves them, and above all, has a plan for them, whether it be here on earth or back in heaven with Him.  Not only that, but to be reminded that Heavenly Father knows me, and each of those heart-broken parents, and to remember that we are not alone in our suffering.

Mid-Monday morning, Eva was "just hungry and tragic" in her own words.  She was without food or drink in anticipation of an ultrasound.  Thankfully, the playroom, which would become our saving grace for our weeks stay, announced that they were having an art show on t.v.  Not wanting to miss out on a potential 15 minutes of fame, Eva asked to go down to the playroom for the show, so she could be on hospital t.v.  She was hilarious to watch.  They made fish tanks, and Eva quipped about how puffer fish "freak her out" at a table full of adults.  The family of rats nesting in the back of her hair were quite pronounced as she turned her head in profile.  It was a lovely diversion, and she charmed everyone there.



Images courtesy of Christopher Krause
Tuesday morning I was jolted from sleep by a frantic Eva.  It was 4 in the morning and two lab techs were trying to take blood for some labs.  Cotton-headed from being awakened so early, Eva heard the words "little poke," which by now had become her "trigger words" for terror.  She freaked out yelling and flailing, hitting and smacking anything near her.  I ran to the bed and tried to calm her thrashing arms and legs.  In the midst of the chaos, Eva yelled in desperation, "WAIT! Can we pray?!"  "Of course we can pray," I answered quickly, a bit ashamed I hadn't thought of it myself.  I said a quick prayer for bravery and strength for Eva, and she instantly calmed down.  The lab tech approached slowly, with much caution (for which I couldn't blame him).  Before proceeding, his demeanor changed momentarily, as though he was hanging up the "lab tech" hat and putting on another.  He leaned over, got nose to nose with Eva, and looking her straight in the eyes whispered, "Eva?  I know Heavenly Father is watching over you."  He smiled warmly and she nodded her consent for him to proceed.  Then just as quickly, he turned back into a lab tech and did what he needed to do.  Eva quickly eased back into sleep after the ordeal, and I collapsed back in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, thankful for the testimony of my daughter in knowing Who to ask for help, and for the testimony of the lab tech, who stepped outside his profession long enough to reassure a scared little girl.

Tuesday was also the day of the liver biopsy and installation of the picc line.  Eva's anxiety level was through the roof, and the very mention of "going downstairs" sent her into a full-blown panic attack.  We made a plan with the child life specialist, Holly, wherein we would use distraction as much as possible to diffuse her.
Holly showed Eva that syringes make great squirters.  It was good to see her giggle and laugh again. 
Holly met us in our room with a giant armful of toys, books, and games when it was time to go for the procedure.  It was her idea for me to ride in the bed with Birdie which turned out to be inspired as Eva leapt out of bed and into my arms as soon as she figured out what time it was.  I carried her back to bed and held her tight as we began our journey downstairs.  Peppered with a million frantic questions, we stuck with our distraction game plan, because the more we told her, the more she panicked.  We decided that since she would be sedated, there was no point worrying her about something she wouldn't remember.  I busied her worried mind with trying to hit Daddy with the bed we were riding in.  Always a champion at slap-stick, Trev expertly fell over again and again as we rammed into him, allowing Bird to forget momentarily where we were heading.  As soon as she saw the anesthesiologist walk toward her panic set in again, even though the medicine was given through her IV.  She feared that she wasn't going to fall asleep the whole way, and that she would feel the "giant poke" which is how she referred to the liver biopsy.  After trying every toy and book to distract her, she was still freaking out, so I did the last thing I could think of.  I put my mouth close to her ear and started singing "Summertime," the lullaby that I used to sing to her when she was a baby.  She still occasionally asks for it when she's sick or has a hard time falling asleep.  I sang to my 6 year old the same way I sang to her when she was 6 months old, and ironically she looked just as frail and helpless today as she did back then.  By now the medicine was doing its job, and Eva began to relax.  They told us it was time to leave, but Eva still begged in slurred speech for me to stay and hold her.  Even though they told me she wouldn't remember any of this part, it tugged on my mother heart to walk away from her request.  It took so much energy to stay upbeat and happy and pulled together that now when faced with the first moments away from her since arriving at the hospital, I felt like curling up into a ball and having my own temper tantrum.

Back in her room, as she came out of sedation, Eva moaned and winced in pain.  Cuddling her in bed I told her I wished it could have been me going through all of this, rather than her.  Without a hint of malice she sighed and said, "Mama? I kind of wish it had been you too."  Made me smile.  "That's my girl," I thought to myself.

Post-op Eva feels pretty crappy
We didn't find out until late Wednesday that the preliminary pathology report said that the mass on her liver was an abscess, not a tumor.  This was the best possible news we were told, particularly in this situation.  Dr. Doby, who had quickly become Eva's favorite, looked relieved and said she was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.  This meant that we could go home the next day with IV antibiotics, probably for 6 weeks we were told, because they were unable to drain the abscess.

Walking out of the hospital and breathing what felt like free air for the first time in a week rejuvenated my spirit. I sat down in the car and melted into the seat as the tension slowly left, leaving in its wake a deflated me.  Tired and wilted, but with a smile.  I felt exhausted by the "emotional labor" of the experience, and as we drove away, the ripped down scaffolding that had been keeping me together left me a muddled mess of weepy jello.

Trev commented on the drive home that he was happy to finally stop feeling guilty.  No matter where he was, he felt like he was in the wrong place.  When he was at the hospital he felt like he should be at work, trying to make a paycheck for what was sure to be a mountain of hospital bills coming our way.  When he was at work, he felt like he should be home with the kids who perhaps needed at least one parent around.  Being at home, he worried about not being with us at the hospital.

As I considered this, I felt bad for poor Trev and how torn he felt all week.  I realized then that from the moment I climbed into bed with Eva, I felt like I was where I should be.  I never felt torn or guilty, which anyone who knows me well knows that I am very talented at hauling around excess guilt.  That in and of itself was a tender mercy for me.  Through it all we have felt buoyed up and supported by the many friends and family members who have expressed love and concern.  Hopefully it's all downhill from here.        







     

       

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday: House For Sale

A few years ago we woke up on an April morning to a "For Sale" sign in our front yard.  The listed price of the house was clearly displayed: $100, sold by esteemed real estate agent Dwight Schrute.  The best part of the sign was where the "by owner" was replaced by "by neighbors."  Of course it was April fools day and some of our funny friends played this clever prank on us.  Funny right?  
Birdie and I and the "For Sale" Sign

The funniest part of the prank came throughout the day.  If you would have asked me if anyone would take the sign seriously, I would have guessed not.  We left it up all day because it was awesome.  It attracted a few unexpected visitors.  The best was the twenty-something-year-old who knocked on my door with his wallet in hand.  He seemed disappointed when I told him it was merely an April fools day prank.  Here he was thinking he'd landed his first real estate deal and I had to dispatch him to that sad reality that although our house is not the most valuable home ever, it was worth at least $200 or more.  Nellie had several great encounters due to our sign also.  Guess it goes to show you it wasn't a very good joke after all.  A good joke never needs to be explained.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tubby Tuesday: Moochies

Welcome to Tubby Tuesdays!  One thing I really like is food.  I mean, I really really like food.  When I work out, it's because I want to be able to eat more food.  When I don't work out, I still eat a lot of food.  There are a lot of great places that I have eaten at and wish I would have known about them sooner.  Think of Tubby Tuesdays not as a review, but as an unpaid whole-hearted endorsement of places that could change your food life FOR-E-VER!  With installment number one I give you Moochies.


Moochies: It's not much to look at...but boy oh boy!
Moochies is like a secret restaurant that isn't really a secret at all, thanks to Diners, Drive-inns, and Dives.  Still, there are an alarming number of people who have never had the privilege of having a Moochies steak sandwich, dripping with Jumpin' Jalapeño Sauce charging through their lips!
I was introduced to Moochies a couple of years ago.  It had already been featured on DDD, so we were far from the first to discover this mecca of meatball.  Some buddies from work told me I had to try it, so we were off to Salt Lake.  Moochies original location is on 800 South and around 200 East.  It was originally a pottery studio, but the owners wife decided she was going to sell some great sandwiches and Moochies was born.  When I first walked in I figured the food must be great, because the place was as hole in the wall as I had ever seen.  Exposed brick in places on the wall, eclectic decor that wasn't even kitschy, and not enough seating for half the people in line (I soon learned that Moochies has a house next door that provides extra seating so--no worries.  Also: their bathroom has a bathtub that is filled with dirt and has plants growing in it--when's the last time your favorite restaurant did that?)
Picture of Moochies Food (Courtesy of UrbanSpoon)

We placed our order, I ordered a 12" steak sandwich with peppers and mushrooms added, one of my buddies ordered the 12" meatball and we split it so we both got half of one.  The steak sandwich was great.  Pretty much what I'd expected, good meat, good peppers and onions on pretty good bread.  What I didn't expect was Moochie's Jumpin' Jalapeño Sauce that changed the way I eat.  It is a creamy sauce that seems to be mayo based with diced jalapeños in it (very hard to properly duplicate by the way).  I'm not sure if that sounds good to you or not, but you owe it to yourself and your posterity to try it at least once!  It's wonderful and flavorful and makes EVERYTHING I've tried it on taste better.  Really.  I bought a bottle and have tried to always keep a full one in the fridge at home.  This is difficult because it is so good that I will eat when I'm not really hungry anymore just to have more sauce.  (The best foods that I have had Moochies sauce on are: pizza, cold pizza, grilled cheese, and quesadillas--I tried it on a donut once as a dare from Birdie (who was delighted and grossed out at the same time) and it was even good there!)
Two week supply of Moochie Sauce

The meatball sandwich was a masterpiece as well.  The meatballs are HUGE and messy and amazing.  It goes without saying that it also goes wonderful with Moochies sauce.  A few visits down the road we discovered fried ravioli (good discovery Nellie!) and it's only enhanced the Moochies experience.

A couple of months ago they opened a second restaurant in Midvale (about 7700 South State), I visited and was just as pleased with this location!  I had a chance to talk with the owner for the briefest of moments and was able to beg him to open a location in Happy Valley.  He also told me they had toyed with the idea of selling Moochie sauce in one gallon jugs--here's hoping.

Overall, Moochies is high on my list of places to recommend.  I'm not sure I've enjoyed a sandwich more consistently over many, many visits, but as Lavar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow: don't just take my word for it!

Post Script:  I recently hit a high-water mark in my parenting life.  I was making quesadillas for lunch with the kids.  When it came time to eat I couldn't find my Moochies sauce.  Scott ran down to his room to grab the bottle out of his locker.  I was confused about why it was down there and inquired if I had somehow left it in the basement.  Turns out, Scott had thought it would be funny to hide it until I wanted it-- he felt terrible when I told him that it was now unsafe to consume because it hadn't been refrigerated.  I was proud because I was able to laugh and didn't get mad at a mistake my awesome son had made.  (You would think it was awesome if you'd had the sauce--promise).

Acknowledgement: Jake Kuresa is the man responsible for my Moochie's introduction--for that I thank you.  Oh, and thanks for stopping that guy that would have tackled John Beck before he could complete the now famous Beck-to-Harline pass to win the 2006 BYU Utah game.
Moochie's Meatballs & More on Urbanspoon
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