You may have noticed I’ve stopped making excuses for long silences. Something will, and must, fall between the cracks when one juggles home, work and blogging. But I’m sorry to have kept the three of you hanging all these weeks 😉

On Monday, my younger boy woke up in tears because he couldn’t walk. Bewildered, I urged him to stay in bed while I got my older son ready and out the door to catch his school bus. Eventually, he got out of bed, and, I gave him an umbrella to use as a walking stick while I set up an appointment with his doctor. He couldn’t climb stairs, he could barely hoist himself onto a chair, and I later had to lift him into the car. In between banging out seven stories, I took him to four different medical establishments – his pediatrician, a lab for bloodwork, radiology, and finally, a pediatric orthopedist (or is it orthopedic pediatrician?) way out in Cedar Knolls, Morris County.

Let me tell you about that journey.

It took us, by us I include the GPS, an hour to find this precious pediatric orthopedist in Cedar Knolls near Morristown. Why? Because, while his practice has a sensible name with the word ‘Orthopedic’ in it, it’s secretly housed within another building with a German name that has no relation to pediatrics or orthopedics, or indeed, anything I would have a use for. Something like ‘Celeste Muehler.’

So, of course, as the GPS blurts robotically and nasally, “Ew have arrived,” I look around, see nothing except Celeste Muehler, and keep on driving. After 15 minutes of U-turns and backtracks, I call the practice in desperation to say I was early – half an hour ago – but have been going in circles due to the invisible nature of the orthopedist’s office. Where, the flippin’ heck, was it?

The receptionist is blind to my pleas and the fact that I didn’t want to use my cellphone while driving (at a time when we were still early for the appointment). “You’re too late, don’t come in. Just go home!” I get agitated. “My son is in agony and can barely walk, I have my other son in the car, too and we have been driving an hour! We came from Montclair.”

“Just go home,” she says. I ignore her and drive into Celeste Muehler’s parking lot. I call again and ask her if the practice is in a building with another name. “We’re right opposite Sears,” she says.

As it turns out, so is Celeste Muehler.

I rush the kids into the clinic and sign my son in. We’re not the only ones signing in at this time – three other parents do the same. My son is called up, after 10 minutes, to the doctor’s waiting room. We wait, for 1.5 hours.

[Some details: After a few minutes in this second waiting room, the nurse asks for xray films, which I explain were done just that morning and that I don’t have them because I presumed they were being sent to the pediatrician. She says my son needs a second set done. As he had 6 xrays done that morning, I hesitate and consult with my husband, who agrees we don’t want to put our son through another set of xrays. This is just 10 minutes into waiting here, with my son having changed out of his own clothes and into the clinic’s robe; I tell the nurse we’ve decided against the xrays and, since the doctor can’t see my son without them, we’re going home and will come back in the morning with the xray films – after making another appointment. I specifically say, “It’s no point wasting the doctor’s time, or ours, if he really needs those xray films.” She says, wait, I’ll check with the doctor, maybe he’ll see your son anyway. We waited for more than an hour before seeing her again, and she didn’t have good news.]

At the end of that time, the nurse, who 1.5 hours earlier already knew I had no xray films on me, says “The doctor won’t see you without your xray films.” Two minutes later, the precious doctor walks past the door of the room we’re waiting in. He neither glances at us, nor pops his head in to say hi, nor apologizes for not seeing my son, nor chastises me for being late. He just buggers off. It’s 7.35pm and getting dark.

We head back to Montclair.

After the humiliating experience at the Celeste Muehler orthopedist, whose office has the front pages of “NJ’s Top Doctors” plastered all over it, I wasn’t going back. You can take my money (some of the time) but not my dignity. And you don’t keep my tired and hungry kids waiting for 90 minutes without saying something.

My son was finally diagnosed on Wednesday by a lovely orthopedist in Millburn, NJ. He has a transient sinovitis of the hip – a secondary inflammation that can occur with 2 to 9 year olds following a viral infection. He is hobbling less and is going to school today, and more resembling the cheerful and lively son I know. He also has doctors’ chits permitting him to skip gym and to use the teachers’ elevators until further notice.

The panic I’d had for three days, which had kept me on the brink of tears, imagination gone wild, stomach tied in knots, slowly loosened its grip.  My baby will be okay!

Which brings me to the jam jars.

When the boys were younger, I regularly made jam for them so I could be certain what was going into it, and add more fruit vs sugar. (Pfah! To think I once worried about silly things like sugar!) Homemade jams are just lovely, and one of the things I used them in was a cream cheese, sliced avocado and homemade jam sandwich, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed.

Now, I buy jam. Especially the ones that come in these attractive, wide-neck jars! Why? Well, they’re tasty, the jars wash easily in the dishwasher, the label will come off and wait for you without disintegrating and clogging up the dishwasher, and I can use them for all manner of things. More homemade jam, for example, or charoset, or leftover coconut milk, or homemade pickles, or leftover baked beans, to name a few possibilities.

The most frequent thing we use the jam jars for, however, is salad dressings. I call out the ingredients and amounts to either one of the kids, they get the relevant mustard, garlic, oils, lemon juice, and so on, measure each out and pour them into the jar, screw on the top, give it a good shake, and we’re good to go! They get to help me in the kitchen, I get to multitask, and food is on the table quicker.

Here’s one of my favorite salad dressings, a lemon-maple vinaigrette.

Into a clean and dry jam jar, measure out the following: 1 1/2 tsp mustard of any kind you like, put 2-3 cloves garlic through a garlic press and add that, add zest of 1 lemon and juice, too, drizzle with lots of mild olive oil, add 1-2 tbsp maple syrup, season with salt and pepper and give it all a good shake! Add a handful of chopped mint if you like.

Enjoy! To the health and happiness of our kids!