Sunday, October 30, 2011

Good Grief! A Peanuts Halloween

Cute, cackling witches and white whimsical ghosts.  Black cats and black bats.  Bright orange pumpkins and glowing jack-o-lanterns.  The boys are enchanted with Halloween and the fun of earning a bagful of candy by simply negotiating with the famous opener, "Trick-or-treat!"  I am sure my love for Halloween has rubbed off on them.

And there is a whole lot of love for Charlie Brown in our home.  The boys are ecstatic when they can start watching "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown."  We would probably watch it a total of over 30 times before Halloween actually arrives.  Last year we decided to immortalize our favorite holiday icons into our jack-o-lanterns.

Not surprisingly, these are on the docket for this year's costumes.  I can't wait to see my two boys as the adorable classic duo of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.  A long search for a white sweatsuit for Dylan's Snoopy costume turns up nothing and I have to special order one.  The days of my childhood where you could find Hanes sweats in every color at superstores have certainly passed.

I was a lucky kid whose mom each year brought us to the fabric shop and chose a pattern to craft custom Halloween costumes.  I remember the boredom as she flipped through the McCall's pattern books and would lob ideas at me with each page as she licked her finger and delicately flipped to the next page.  I can still smell the stale air of the fabric shop and clearly remember the vibrant colors of the bolts of fabrics lining the shelves.  A rainbow of cotton, wool, and satin staring at me.  Although I was bored, I would be elated when she found the right costume pattern and chose the best fabric and we would head home.  Childhood boredom was minor in the quest to have a completely amazing costume.

As if there is a correlation between the "better" the costume, the more candy you would get.  My mom would spend a couple weeks intermittently working on my costume.  One year a dead-ringer for Dorothy from the wizard of Oz with the powder blue gingham and sparkly red ruby slippers.  Another year a little witch, coyly looking from under the brim of her hat.  And another year the Pink Panther with super cool homemade mask.

My mother inspired me.  I want my kids to reflect on Halloween and remember the thrill of thinking up a the costume idea and then using creativity and imagination to create it.  Although I am not skilled behind a sewing machine like my mother, I still decide that Charlie and Snoopy are doable.

I carefully plan and begin sculpting the possibilities in my head.  In early September I start searching for components like a yellow polo which I add my own painted bold black zig-zag.  I buy a play WWII aviator hat and some goggles.  I make Dylan a little red fleece scarf for Snoopy, the Red Baron.  I convert an old pair of Mikey's Crocs into white Snoopy paws.  Finally, the one specialty I will add will be homemade masks.

I carefully draw Charlie Brown's face and Snoopy's face on foam board.  I cut each out precisely and add layers of paint.  Bright fleshy peach for Charlie and stark white for his beagle.  Then bold, uneven black lines completes the legendary cartoon characters' mugs on my kitchen table.  I feel like I am staring these Blockheads right in the face.  The kids will surely love them.

I was wrong.

As I would spend the following weeks leading up to Halloween trying to convince Dylan to wear his costume and he would consistently run the other way screaming every time I would show him the white fleece sweatpants with a white tail sewn in.  And continually negotiating with Michael that, no, he would not be a punching, fighting, laser-shooting Optimus Prime for Halloween.  He had already agreed to Charlie...  and his costume was now finished.  Sigh.

I love Halloween.  I love the decorations.  I love making the kids' costumes.  I love that the boys love watching the "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".  I love the amber colors of the season.  I love pumpkin patches.  I love it all.  However, I have learned to HATE one aspect of this time of year...  even all the way through Christmas time.  Two words.

Peanut.  Allergy.

And in our case, treenut allergy too.

In a house where the kids need as many calorie-dense options as possible, I continually struggle with the fact that we can't have peanut butter in the house.  That the boys can't even eat a simple peanut butter sandwich.  When Dylan was a baby and before we knew he had an allergy to peanuts and nuts, I used to feed Michael bowls of peanut butter with a spoon.  He would finish and ask for more.  I felt so happy that this was an easy way to "pack it in."  And happy that it was a better fat than some junk he could eat.

I have a very clear image of Dylan rolling a peanut butter jar around the floor of our apartment when we lived in Bethesda, Maryland.  It was his favorite "toy".  Oh, the irony.

Dylan broke out in hives as a baby from 4 months on.  We couldn't explain it, nor could the doctors, and chalked it up exposing him to new pureed baby foods.  By the time he was 12 months, his pediatrician suggested I try peanut butter with him.  After all, we didn't have a family history of food allergies and those hives were on all accounts, flukes.   The pediatrician told me that they were starting to recommend trying peanut butter sooner than doctors had previously suggested and that Dylan (having Cystic Fibrosis) was a perfect candidate to try peanut butter early...every little option counts in a high-calorie diet.

The day after the visit with the doctor, I had finished feeding Dylan his lunch and decided it was worth a try.  I put a dab on Dylan's lips and he sat smacking the peanut butter.  Then I handed him a half a Nutter Butter cookie and he LOVED IT.  As he began eating it, all smiles, I noticed his chin and neck began to look red...  Then rashy...  Then full-blown break out in hives from his little mouth all the way down his neck and back to his ears.  A red itchy rash covered his baby skin.  I was so startled and rushed to get Benadryl and call the pediatrician's office.  So much for things being easy...

It all made sense why Dylan had broken out in hives as a baby.  I was still breastfeeding him and I was eating peanuts in my diet.  He was probably reacting to the peanuts after my body metabolized it and passed it on through the milk.  We were now part of the estimated 0.5% of the population with a peanut allergy in our home.

My brain is a mental contortionist trying to decide if a product is safe to bring home because of Dylan's peanut allergy. Is it worth enough to bring home by ticking through the list of will the boys like it?  Will they eat it?  Is it nutritious?  Does it have a lot of fat?  Protein?  Fiber?  Will they need to take enzymes with this product and if so, what I can give them with this product that does offer high calories?  It's always a 20 question process.

I miss peanut butter.  I miss Reese's peanut butter cups and Almond Joys.  I miss Snickers bars and Peanut M&M's.  I miss sneaking a few mini candy bars this time of year with no remorse.

Now, it's not even an option.

Michael and Dylan need a truckload of calories.  EVERY DAY.  Their little bodies can't fully absorb fat, protein and all the vitamins and minerals they need.  They are also burning calories at a warp speed rate due to inflammation in their bodies because of Cystic Fibrosis.  I have heard that they need an estimated 50% more calories than the average kid.

Halloween should be the PERFECT time to load calories in.  I know, I know.  Not just sugar calories, but we also do our fair share of healthy veggies and lean protein.  But we never skimp on sauces, dips, oils, butter, etc.  Clearly, Daddy and I need to consider moderation and hit the gym, but the boys can indulge.

Okay, now here's the screaming rant...  all moms have 'em and here's mine this week.  And here it goes, look the other way, there is no self-pride left...


A simple peanut butter sandwich.  Peanut butter in chocolate.  Peanut donuts!!!!  Honey roasted nuts.  Beer nuts.  Spicy peanut dressing on salads.  I could go on like the guy in Forrest Gump with shrimp.  I'll spare you.

And I feel on overload when the kids come home with bags of candy and I have to sift through them and eliminate half of the candy and say, "Sorry, it's not safe."  What the hell.  In a parallel universe, if we didn't have a nut allergy in our house, I would totally be stealing some of this candy when the kids were sleeping.  I just want to be a selfish glutton for once.

So, as I end my rant, I ask each of you reading to please eat a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for me on Halloween.  I will probably be eating Smarties or Candy Corn.  Groan.

But one thing is for sure, I'll bet Charles Schultz didn't intend on Snoopy needing an Epi-Pen when he created the Peanuts gang.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Salty and Sweet.

Autumn air and sunshine fill my afternoons driving Michael and Dylan to Michael's preschool most days of the week.  We talk about the pretty landscape and play games calling out "Leaf!" when we see a leaf drifting to the ground.  I just love hearing Dylan say to me, "Wook, the weaves are dancing, Mommy.  Dey are dancing," pointing to the leaves blowing along the street from a breeze and passing cars.

We have more nature in two weeks than one can really take in.  A flock of wild turkeys crosses a busy road near our neighborhood.  I literally have to slow the car because two of them are starting to cross but decide to draw back and continue to reside on someone's front yard.  We would see the same flock a week or so later.  A massive, neon green grasshopper greets me on the windshield of my car.  We spot an inching gray and black caterpillar trying to find a home near our patio.  The boys play caterpillars for days after this sighting.

And deer.  Oh the deer.  They are in our front yard, our neighbor's yard, they are crossing the busy street to Michael's school.  They are eating.  They are staring.  They are everywhere.  I am still stunned when I drive down our neighborhood street and see six of them hanging out.  Ahh, nature all around us.  Funny how nature is at the very root of everything.

Even more routine than our wild life sightings around suburban New Jersey are the busy morning Cystic Fibrosis treatments that jump start our days. Around 7 am, I rev the boys' machines up and the unmistakable thrum of the orchestra begins.   The decibel level has skyrocketed since the arrival of Michael's new nebulizer compressor.  It is hospital grade and it is a bad-ass machine.  His other compressors just couldn't survive with the demands of daily treatments.  The increased volume in our home has become typical and the boys have learned to accept watching TV on volume 100, no joke.  I, too, have had to accept it.

I fumble around awkwardly brewing a cup of Keurig coffee in the kitchen while the ear-deafening sounds of Nick Jr. throttle the family room .  Now, this machine was made for me, I am certain.  My Keurig is simple, it is brainless, it makes a great cup of coffee.  And it is QUIET.

I say a morning prayer for my gratitude for my boys' health, the machines and the meds that keep them that way.  As I sip my steaming hot cup of coffee, I peer into the family room where the boys are shaking from their vest airway clearance treatments and their nebulizers are steaming away.  This morning's prayer is for the medicine misting through Dylan's mask and Michael's mouthpiece at this moment.  And it is not what you might expect.  It is simply salt water.

Something so basic.  So earthly, it's ridiculous.  No super crazy science (well, I am sure there was some that went into it), but no chemical compounds or medicinal discovery...  salt water.

Isak Dinesen, a literary legend, once wrote,

"The cure for everything is salt water -- sweat, tears, or the sea."

In the case of Cystic Fibrosis, I am convinced this quote couldn't be more true.

The sterile salt water is the hydration that their little lungs so need.  Because Cystic Fibrosis interferes with the fine balance of salt and water in the body, the boys' lungs, intestines, pancreas, and sinuses, and other "tubes" of the body become dry.  Fluids that normally flow through these areas of the body are replaced with dryness and a sludge that clogs the organs and passageways in the body.

So I have heard, this special salt water called "Hypertonic Saline" was discovered by a pulmonologist in Australia.  Whether it is truth or myth, the story goes that he began to notice that a subset of his patients were markedly healthier than his others.  And when he began to do some digging on the underlying reason why he realized that that those patients that were surfers tended to have better lung health.  The theory was that the natural conditions of the salt water from the ocean in combination with the cardio activity helped those patients with better lung hydration and better clearance in their airways of those sluggish secretions that form.  Supposedly, he began to wonder since there was noticeably better lung health for his surfing patients going into the ocean, was there a way to bring the benefits of the ocean to patients?

I set my coffee mug down and continue to watch the steam swirling out of the holes in Dylan's mask and Michael's mouthpiece valve.  Salt water.

I believe that this drug, Hypertonic Saline, which the boys breathe in twice a day for about 20 minutes is incredible.  I really am banking on this drug in the worst of the cold season this year.  I feel good knowing that both boys are treated with it every day.

Imagine needing to clean your kitchen and having a damp sponge...  the cleaning possibilities are endless!  There is so much a wet sponge can tackle.  But take a dry sponge, hard and almost rigid.  It is scratchy and menacing, certainly not pleasant and in no way up for the cleaning task.

Now imagine the value of adding just a little water to one side of the sponge... what happens?  The sponge will continue to soak the water up drawing it further and further in, practically seeking more water.  Saturate the entire sponge and what next?  You can wring out the water after cleaning with the sponge easily and disposing of the yuk water you no longer need.  This is basically how I envision Hypertonic Saline to work and I believe there is immense value in it's daily treatment for the boys.

Their lungs soak up the salt water up because they need it.  And once their are hydrated that can more easily "wring" out their lungs and dispose of the sludge and yuk stuff that is hanging out in their airways.

I am startled out of my daze while picturing just how this medicine is getting down into their lungs.  Dylan is yelling over the machines, over the TV and through his mask that his mask is "Swippin".  Translation his mask is falling off, it is slipping.  I dart into the other room to help him.  And so our day begins.

By bedtime, everyone is exhausted after our post-school treatments, dinner, bath, books and bed.  There are so many parents who feel my exhaustion right along with me.  By 6 pm you are just ready to pass out.  On this night both boys are in their beds by 7:30 and the house is silent for some time.  They are tucked in and I believe have fallen to sleep.  My husband is still at work, so I decide to take a minute on the couch to catch the days headlines on the news.

I jump when I hear Dylan begin whining loudly and I head up to his room.  I can't get up to his room fast enough.  He says loudly in his deep toddler voice, "Mommy, you didn't come, I called you and you didn't come.  I scared somebody take me."  He is anxious and unsettled.  I help him back into his wee toddler bed, and he scrunches down under his covers.

He is so tired as he is blinking his eyes close.  I think for a moment he is playing a joke since his blinking is so exaggerated.  I gently stroke his hand and he quietly smacks his mouth and opens his eyes wearily at me.  He pats my hand closes his eyes.  He whispers something inaudible and pushes my hand.  "What, Dylan?" I gently ask.  He is almost an actor out of a Hollywood drama.  My little boy whispers, with his eyes still closed, "Go, Mom."  He is nearly asleep and restful.  I am in awe.  He needed one last comfort from me and was ready to drift off in slumber.  The drama of his performance is almost Oscar worthy. 

I exit the brief scene, which I plan to submit to the Academy first thing in the morning and I head downstairs to brew another cup of coffee.  Exhausted and pondering what next as I wait for the speedy brew to finish.  Easy answer.  I pop a sea salt caramel in my mouth.  I chew it slowly enjoying the salty bite and the contrasting sugary sweetness.  The punch of the salty crunch curbs the gooey chocolate caramel.  I love these.  These are a bite of therapy.

I feel the corners of my mouth curl up and I fight the grin that emerges.


Guess that vast ocean really can be the cure for everything.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Forces of Nature.

I have had many nicknames in my time.  Most I won't bore you with, many take too much explaining, and some are embarassing like when my boss began calling me "princess".  It caught on and was a friendly joke at my high-maintanence, girlie ways.  I admit that it was actually pretty funny when another senior executive brought in a name tag that said, "Hello, My Name is Princess," and gave it to me.  She told me it reminded her of me.  She would later become a good friend.

Not quite what I was going for in my life or my career, but, hey, I worked at a great place, with amazing people, world-class brands and savvy business strategies.   So, I took the laughs along the way and uncovered the self-deprecating humor that gets me through every single day.

It is however another nickname that has become the embodiment of, well, me.  Years ago, someone nicknamed me "Whirlwind" for my natural ability to juggle a million things at no less than 100 miles per hour.  But really it's because I am manic, always have to be doing something.  It's almost a sickness and my husband gives me that hardest time.  He tells that I just have trouble sitting down or not making a to-do list for something else coming up.  Somehow the name stuck, frankly I have no idea how (sarcasm here, people).  I am not sure if it is life imitating art or what, but life for me has never really slowed down.

I talk fast.  I walk fast.  I type fast.  I snatch the phone of the cradle on the first ring...  usually it's a half ring.  I honk the horn when the light has been green a millisecond too long.  I am that PERSONALITY TYPE A that you probably hate.  I am meticulous and always have a way of seeing the one thing that is wrong.  I am not a pessimist, don't get me wrong.  I am a perfectionist.  And I work fast.

It wasn't until I had to two very busy little boys that this Whirlwind met her match.

These days, the "Whirlwind" is no longer just me, it contagious.  My entire family is now wrapped up in the whirlwind.  We are always running here, there, and everywhere.  We eat on the run, hurry to school, race to the gym, fly to the store, and cram it all in. 

And as a result, I am more slovenly and disheveled.  I believe a good yoga pant can be dressed up and clearly for comfort, dressed down.  I know that a cute ponytail, some eyeliner and mascara, and a punk hat will still get me smiles even if my boys are whining at the check out for some candy (who in their right brain would torture parents in such a way?!)

Once we settle into our place in New Jersey, we welcome our first out of town visitors - Papa and Nonna (my husband's parents).  It is exciting to have them visit and to see familiar faces with nothing but warmth and love.  They would be able to see us in our new reality and spend time with their precious grand kids.  It is lovely, well, accept for the behavior of the beloved grandsons.

These little boys put a whole new meaning to "whirlwind" during their visit in the Garden State.

My husband is able to spend two days with his parents until he has to leave out of town for a work commitment.  At least this time, he leaves me behind with extra help and company.

On a bright sunny day during their visit, we decide to "brave it" and take the boys for an outing to a mall.  I am standing in the quiet kitchen shuffling through my wallet and doing the mental checklist that all moms do, except mine is a tad longer.  Water in sippy cups, Enzyme pills for the boys in case we eat out, Epi-Pen for Dylan for his food allergies, wallet, sunglasses, coupons, pretzels...  I feel my feet slightly tread as though I am on a boat.  My legs subtly sway.

I mildly feel like I am an on an elliptical exercise machine.  Weird.   I look down.  Yep, as I thought.  I am STANDING still.  Brain confirms.  "You are not on an elliptical."

I glance up at Papa who is standing at the sink across the kitchen from me.  It is eerily quiet in our house since the dog is out to go potty and the boys have already walked outside with Nonna to get in the car.

"Do you feel that?"  I ask him.  Before he can respond I say, "I think we are having an earthquake."

He looks around and notices the swaying of the rod for the blinds.  It is rocking through the air almost like a pendulum.  We hear the clanking and clattering of the dining room and foyer chandeliers and watch the water in the water cooler sloshing around like a mini-storm inside the bottle.

The uneasiness strikes me as I see Nonna holding each little boys' hand and walking down the many cement steps to our back patio.  I am fearful they will lose their balance and stumble down.  I lean out at yell to Nonna to be careful...  that we are having an earthquake.  They hadn't even noticed.

A historic earthquake on the east coast.  Of course, I am not shocked that we arrived in New Jersey just in time to experience this.

We safely strap into the car and head out to a mall about 30 minutes away.  Nonna is fidgeting with her new cellphone and muttering comments under her breath trying to figure the damn thing out.  She is simply trying to send a note to family that we felt the quake, but are okay.  We are hearing reports that the earthquake was centered in Virginia and was a 5.8 on the Richter Scale.  Since I am a girl from the Midwest I don't know the difference between 1 point up or down on the Richter Scale, I just know that I felt it - no question.

After the excitement of the earthquake some shopping should do me some good.  Of course, the boys are difficult not wanting to do things cooperatively or quietly.  Afterall, they are this Whirlwind's sons.  Then I remember that this mall has a LEGO store.  I promise the kids if they are good for a little while then I will let them visit the LEGO store.  Heads nod and we are all in agreement.

After stopping through some of the typical kids apparel stores and home decor chains, Nonna heads to a shop while Papa and I head to the LEGO store.  It is brightly lit and radiates energy.  The kids are swirling with excitement to explore.  Every other word out of Michael's mouth is "Whoa!," or "Wook, Mommy, wook.  Cool!"  Dylan is impossible to get to sit in the stroller, which I have decided to give up and park just outside the store's massive window.  At one point Dylan makes a mad dash out of the store.  I leave MIchael with Papa and see Dylan starting to climb, yes CLIMB, up onto the barriers that overlook the mall down to the first floor.  We are on the second floor of the mall.  I sprint and barely grab this child's arm before he gets his footing to really climb up onto the railing.  My heart is in my throat.  My nerves are shattered.  I scold him and he laughs at me.

I walk back into the store to find Michael starting to melt down.  He is demanding a big LEGO set.  I had encouraged him to get a cup of LEGOS and practice so he can work his way up to the "big boy" sets.  Papa sits with Dylan trying to get him to focus on designing a little LEGO person while I deal with Michael.  I explain to Michael that I am willing to buy him a cup of LEGOs that he can choose himself, but I am not spending a ton of money on a set.  He stands in the middle of the yellow and red store, looks up and starts wailing.  I snatch him up and march him out to the stroller to give him a moment to calm down.  I discreetly point out all the other little kids around him who are not going home is LEGOs.  He is lucky...  if he can find his manners and be polite, I will still let him have the LEGOs.  But this is his last chance.

After looking around he says loudly, "But why don't those other kids get LEGOs?"  Great.  We are beyond a spectacle.  We are going to be hated by the other parents around us.  He collects himself and holds my hand.  "Why do I get LEGOs?...  because I am a very lucky boy."  He keeps repeating this as I tell him to pipe down and just start choosing.  I shove the cup in front of him and help him begin piling in red, green, white and black bricks.

After he has filled a cup, we begin choosing a few LEGO people at the station.  Dylan has joined us again.  He plunges his hand into each of the varying compartments.  The rushing and crunching sounds of the tiny plastic parts rumble around as he moves his fingers about in the bins.  He pulls his hand out and pushes it into another LEGO bin loudly.

One bin has countless tiny yellow heads with ridiculous different expressions... a skeleton, an angry lady, a bearded man with sunglasses.  Another bin has LEGO people torsos and arms that are all insane...  a prisoner, a police officer, a cowboy, even a torso with a busting bosom complete with lederhosen.  I am utterly speechless.  Who thinks this stuff up?  All these tiny parts and I just know that my kids are going to co-mingle the legs with the heads or the accessories with the torsos.  I am certain the LEGO employees just hate visitors like my kiddos.

Just as I am coaching Dylan to delicately look at each one and return it to the correct bin, he grabs a fistful of yellow LEGO heads and bolts for the door.  Great.  My kid is noot only a menace, but a shoplifter too.  He peels out of the store at such a fast speed, I can barely keep up.  Even though I had placed the LEGOs down before chasing him, I am lugging a massive purse and trying to sprint.  He cuts around a corner and I am praying that he doesn't try the "climbing over the railing" stunt again.  50 strides into our dash, I reach out my hand and snag his forearm.  I pull him toward me and he yanks back against his momentum.  He is laughing and thinks this is great fun.

I am livid and muttering under my breath at him.  I swiftly head back to the store.  As I begin to pry the yellow LEGO heads out of Dylan's little hand, he shoves a few of the miniature heads into his mouth.  I, PLUNK!, plop my purse onto the obnoxiously yellow floor and begin surgery to extract the yellow heads that are now missing in action.  I collect three heads in my conquest and fish my finger around his mouth for any remaining ones.  All clear.

I return all the yellow heads to the yellow head bin except for the ones that Dylan had put in his mouth.  I politely hand those over to the LEGO staff, and I apologize profusely.  I am so embarrassed at this point I just want to pay for our items instead of igniting another scene by refusing to purchase the LEGOs for my two little tyrants.  While I am paying, Dylan tries to make a break for it again.  I start to bolt for him and my reflexes are faster.  An overzealous LEGO employee is happy to dive into the drama and tries to grab him.  I secure him and then flash daggers from my eyes at the employee who I can tell is thrilled about these types of situations.

Okay, lady.  I realize you are trying to help, but get your hands off my kid!

She snickers at the scene obviously uncomfortable with my response.  She mumbles a joke about they have plenty of experience with kids like this.  I roll my eyes, finish paying, and we all leave.

I am so frustrated and exhausted.  As we pack up the car and are strapping the boys into their carseats, Dylan frees himself of my grip getting into the car.  He lowers himself to the ground and takes off running.  IN THE PARKING LOT.  I leave Michael in the car with Nonna and Papa and chase after Dylan.  I can't believe the nerve of this little boy.  And clearly he is fearless.  No filter.  No sense of danger.  Well, maybe that's just it.  He loves the thrill and the danger.  He is just trouble.

Or maybe is just like me.  Always moving at 100 mph.  A force of nature.  A whirlwind.

I literally have to tackle this child, who is only two years old, in the parking lot so he doesn't get hit by a car.  Thankfully, we are parked at a location where the empty spots outnumber the spots with cars.

Some trip.  We are all tired and concoct a plan for an easy dinner and some relaxation.  The news is abuzz with details from the earthquake from earlier in the day.  By night and with the boys safely in their beds, the news begins to shift to the looming Hurricane Irene.

In the following days of Papa and Nonna's visit, we do more activities at home.  Golf in the yard and low-key things like a few rounds of Candyland.  But one thing is for sure...  there are no more malls for us!  Papa and Nonna prepare to fly back to sweet home Chicago and leave just as the rain is starting.  My husband arrives safely back to New Jersey later that night.

Two days later, with one force of nature behind us, it seems there is another imminent one in the coming hours.  The headlines are now forecasting the impending hurricane to track right over the East Coast with a direct hit for New Jersey.

The words, Category 2 and Storm of the Century, reverberate in my head.  Irene begins to descend on land from it's rendezvous in the Atlantic Ocean and crawls up the Eastern seaboard toward us.  The real question now...  is Hurricane Irene any match for Whirlwind Dylan?