Sunday, January 30, 2005

a minor holiday

What a refreshing weekend: I didn't do a lick of work, but I didn't need to -- the house was all in order, and all the shopping had been done, too.

I didn't sleep in (I don't seem capable of doing that anymore), but that's OK. Breakfasts were decadent and I enjoyed them greatly! DS1's birthday party, dinner out, coffee with the girls this morning, take-out for dinner tonight: no wonder I feel as if I've been on vacation! I haven't had to prepare a real meal in days -- and Friday's dinner was a pip since I planned it out in advance (sesame steak) and put the meat to marinate on Thursday night... it has been 3 whole days since I had to do anything of substance in the kitchen.

So, here's what I look like after such a weekend. I'm feeling relaxed, un-wound. It's nice. About the only complaint I have at the time of this photo is that my eyes are dry and I need to go find my eyedrops! I only got about 6 hours of sleep last night but it hasn't seemed to make a difference to my energy level today. My scar (now at just over 3 months) is hardly noticeable now. You can see it if you look at it, but it doesn't call attention to itself. At least I don't think so, but maybe that's just my delusion.

carb loading

I don't know what happened but my diet has been atrocious lately:

breakfast: coffee, 2 sausages, lemon bread pudding (sugar free, but not lc)
lunch: 2 slices of salami, brownie with mint chocolate chip ice cream
snack: another brownie
dinner: 3 slices of outrageously good fresh Italian bread with olive oil; glass of red wine; appetizer of roasted peppers and mozzarella; veal saltimbocca; tiramisu (just a few bites) and cappucino

breakfast: cappucino and the rest of the tiramisu
lunch: brownie
snack: Tazo wild sweet orange tea
dinner: (Chinese takeout) one crab puff, one vegetarian spring roll with spicy mustard, small servings of sesame chicken (breaded, with a sweet sauce) and jumbo shrimp with broccoli

I've probably eaten more carbs this past weekend than I have in the previous month.

Right now I don't feel hungry but I do feel slightly hungover. I know eating this many junky carbs will do that to me. I'll be drinking lots of water over the next few days as I try to recover from this extended exercise in stupidity.

The only thing I can say in my own defense is the stuff I ate all tasted really good. I did not eat this stuff because I was craving sweets, I ate it because I knew it would taste good and it did. If I ate this way all the time, I'd be even more sick than I already am, and I'd weigh 200 pounds. Monday morning, it's back to reality.

8 years old!

DS1 had a splendid day.

On Friday, I brought a balloon bouquet along with 2 dozen Krispy Kremes into his classroom to celebrate his over-the-weekend bday.

His teacher appreciated the snack but was somewhat horrified by the balloons -- DS1's class tends to be rowdy even under the best of circumstances. Seeing her expression (and how the kids immediately swarmed around the balloons, all wanting to play with them) I asked her, "Would you like me to take these home?" It's hard to imagine the mixture of gratitude and relief she managed to put into her expression as she said, "Yes!"

While he was in school on Friday, Mom and I took the two little ones went to Circuit City to get "the big present": a Kodak EasyShare digital camera. Then we went over to Target to let them pick out presents for him. DS2 picked out Spy Gear night vision goggles, and DD picked out Operation Shrek. Honestly, it wasn't that easy a task, the kid already has everything.

We got home and I just had time to wrap up everything before it was time to pick him up from school.

DS1 was pretty psyched to see the pile of swag, and we all did our best to distract DS2 who kept on asking, "Can I open the presents now?" He did very well, considering (only minor pouting, no crying or screaming), and never gave away any of the secrets!

We had the actual "birthday party" after lunch. Since DS1 had been kicking around all morning doing nothing besides anticipating opening presents, DH and I cruelly forced him to do his reading before having cake and ice cream, and opening presents. While DS1 was doing his reading, DS2 and DD worked very hard on the special birthday crowns:

Everyone knows that silly hats are obligatory for birthday parties. DS2 brought the "treasures" home from school specifically to make a crown for his brother's birthday! DS1 has the honor of sharing his birthday with DS2's preschool anniversary celebration every year. It's was extra nice when DS1 was attending there, as the entire school gets a birthday vibe.

Silly hats firmly in place, we then serenaded our boy around the candle-lit cake:

This was no ordinary cake, however. This was an especially delicious brownie cake made and decorated by Gramma. We all enjoyed it very much.

Then it was time to open presents. Auntie J (the elder) sent an awesome teepee:

DS2 and DD really enjoyed the night vision goggles, too:

The two most successful presents, though, were ones that DH and I had bought earlier and put away, and so I forgot to wrap them! The one enjoyed most by all the kids was the incessantly-flogged-on-tv hover copter, which I have to admit is pretty cool. A few things: it goes up, it comes down. You can't steer it at all. Once you understand that and get the hang of the up/down thing, it's cool. It only takes 11 minutes to charge it, and a charge lasts a pretty reasonable time. It's very light, being mostly made of molded high-density foam, and so if it whacks into the ceiling or a piece of furniture, it's not going to break anything. Which is not to say it couldn't do damage, but it's pretty unlikely. Last, the thing is much noisier than I expected -- on the commercials you never get to hear it at all. The "whir" noise of the plastic propellor is surprising.

Within 10 seconds of taking over the control, DS2 crashed it onto the roof of the patio. Many times it lands like a turtle on its back, and that's what it did on the patio roof -- fortunately I was still able to use the radio control to get it down just by getting it spinning. After a few practice rounds, though, even DS2 has become a master of the thing.

The other very popular present? DH had picked up a couple more PC games, including Frogger. DS1 was instantly a pro at it, and probably spent 2 hours playing yesterday.

Nana and Papa sent the Roald Dahl classics Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, plus a cool Superman watch and some always-appreciated cash. DS1 had read some excerpts of the first in school, and read more willingly today. He told us about it at dinner, how Willie Wonka had built a chocolate palace for an Indian prince, but warned him to eat it quickly. Alas, the prince did not listen to this advice, and was left with a puddle of chocolate! The level of detail DS1 used in telling the story was charming.

Today he has had a blast with his camera, the hover copter, the video games, buzzing Shrek... he's definitely a happy eight-year-old.

Two down, one to go... DS2's bday is just 14 days away!

democracy in Iraq!

I had coffee with my girlfriends this morning. The UberMom dropped by for just a few minutes, she's getting over a stomach virus and couldn't stay, but wanted to say hi... so there were just the three of us, and we yapped from about 10 until nearly 2! Yikes.

It was awesome. We talked about everything... except politics.

When we were finally getting ready to leave, my conservative friend said to me, "Hey -- democracy in Iraq!"

I've known this woman for nine years, and never have I seen her do what she did then: she put up her hand for a high-five. We smacked palms with glee, and both of us walked away with huge, silly grins on our faces.

old wounds

That "baby with the bathwater" line I used below got me thinking... I know some people,online and in real life, whom I've managed to completely alienate.

It doesn't matter what I say, or what the topic is -- I am no longer a legitimate voice to them.

Why is it that some people can't accept that people are going to disagree, sometimes vehemently, on important topics? Why do these people immediately and irrevocably then brand the people who disagree with them as evil and/or worthless?

It hasn't happened frequently, but the few times it has happened still rankle from time to time. I still read/listen to these people when the opportunity presents itself. I think they occasionally have interesting things to say. I even agree with them sometimes.

I wonder if they would be surprised to know that? I don't count myself as that important; I'm sure they do not care a bit about me, and I'm wondering why I care so much about ancient rejections that I'm writing about them now.

It's just not right, I think. No one is perfect, and if we all agreed about everything, what a boring world this would be. It's a shame that a lot of people can't or won't make the effort to sustain a civil relationship with someone whose opinions conflict with their own. (psssst, Democrats! are you listening?)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

off his rocker

I read around, a lot. Some of my favorite reads are from people with wildly different religious beliefs and political affiliations.

For example, I always wonder how Walter can be so astute in his movie reviews, so penetrating in his analysis, and yet be so obtuse regarding Christianity, politics, and history. He consistently blows me away with his ability to see what so many others ignore, and his ability to describe why what he has seen is important -- or not. He has an entirely different yardstick for measuring the worth of films, and for the most part, it's the one I trust more than any other.

Except for movies about religious or conservative political themes. Walter pretty much declared himself as useless for such things by referring to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as
a snuff film about a zombie hippie [that has] renew[ed] some people's faith in a religion that has been perverted in the popular conversation into an instrument of hate, exclusion, and justification for war[.]

Even after having read that quote several times, I'm still wondering, What the heck is he talking about? (Note: I really do know what he's talking about, it just seems borderline nuts to me.) Still, it's a good thing that he constantly reminds his readers of his feelings and intellectual capacity about these things, since it allows us to put all of his other work in context -- or to give up on his reviews altogether.

Seriously, does he have any idea of the potential audience he's alienating? Does he even want to be successful? You can argue that the nasty little quote up there was justified, coming as it did in a discussion of the movies of the year for 2004. But I've run across similar in-line screeds and tossed-off remarks, and they always stop me dead in my tracks (much the same way M. Giant's casual putdowns of conservatives in his TWoP recaps of "24" do.)

I'm fairly tolerant of this kind of thing -- don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and all that. But I'm guessing that many people won't be as willing to be belittled for their faith or their politics when they're just looking for a movie review. Walter's writing himself out of an audience.

puddle of mud

It rained again today. Probably not coincidentally, I have the Ralph's World song Puddle of Mud stuck in my head.

I believe this is very close to being a perfect pop song. It reminds me of the Beatles at the height of their story song-writing abilities. Like "Penny Lane", "Puddle of Mud" draws simple but powerful images with the lyrics. Musically there's a lot more happening than the typical pop 1-4-5 stuff. The snippet linked above is from the beginning of the song, but it's the ending that really rocks.

Is it pathetic that I like this "children's" music so much? I don't know. Ralph is pretty sophisticated, musically, even if his lyrics are targeted to the elementary school set, or younger. We listen to his CDs over and over in the car, not just because the kids like them (and they do), but because I don't get tired of them easily.

I'll listen to just about anything once, but to listen to it over and over again, there has to be, well, something to listen to. A lot of music is just so much filler, so much pretty noise with nothing thoughtful or thought-provoking (or feeling-provoking) behind it. I'd just as soon have silence than music like that.

If ever a movie were made of my life, "Puddle of Mud" would definitely be on the soundtrack.

Saturday fly-by

It was a very pleasant, very busy day.

We got off to an early start when DS1 wandered into our room at 5:50AM, asking if it was too early to get up. Yes, we told him. Go back to bed until 7! It's his birthday, you see. He was much too excited to sleep. DS2 and DD were also up mega-early.

It's a good thing I had cooked the bacon last night and had it ready for a speedy breakfast... Gramma fed them all so that when DH and I finally got downstairs just after 8, they were all finishing up.

DH and all the kids are coming down with colds. Poor dears. I love them, but want to avoid their germs: impossible with such adorable children.

I'll post at length about the birthday business separately, but suffice it to say the kids were all very happy.

DD decided to come to Mass with us this afternoon, and afterwards we went over to Domino's to pick up pizza for the kids' supper. It was DS1's choice! DH and I took the opportunity to leave the kids with my mom and go out to dinner at the newish Italian restaurant just downtown, La Stalla Cucina Rustica. Everything was fantastic. I still have about three-quarters of my tiramisu in the fridge, I just couldn't eat it all there.

Came home, got the kids ready for bed, shot some hoops with DD while the two boys prowled around the playroom occupying themselves... tucked everyone in after prayers, and started surfing.

This is the kind of thing I find myself writing over on the thyroid cancer support forum. It's a very odd thing, getting used to the idea of having cancer. But I suppose it's a good thing.

Friday, January 28, 2005

thanks, Nina

After reading Nina's description over at Ocean, I bought Peter Cincotti's On the Moon today at Border's, and we listened to it on the way home.

Outstanding, if you like this sort of thing -- jazz piano and solo male vocals -- and I do, very much. Yes, he reminds me of Harry Connick, jr, but Cincotti's arrangements are a lot more interesting than Connick's. I also like that his voice isn't perfect, there are some thin spots, but what he does with it -- oh!

I agree with Nina, "Some Kind of Wonderful" is amazing.

persona non grata

Oh, she's grumpy!

As I reported last week, she has been spending her nights in the laundry room. She spends a lot of time meowing her head off, and alternates that with scratching at the door. Occasionally, it sounds as if she is lunging at the door as well, at least that's how I interrupt the louder indistinct "thump" sounds.

It's all rather distressing, but it's better than having to clean up the carpets every day.

Yesterday I got up early and brought her to the vet at 7:30 to check her in for her teeth cleaning. While she was under, the trimmed her claws and did a blood test for her thyroid levels.

She did very well at the vet, and was even friendly with the techs there(!!!). The doctor was able to save all her teeth even though she had a lot of tartar built up. I'm sure her gums will be sore for a few days, and I have some antibiotic drops to give her to make sure she doesn't get any infections. Since they are liquid, it's really a pip to give it to her, and it's only twice a day. No big deal.

Last night and this morning, every time she saw me she literally ran and hid. She spent most of the day upstairs and didn't venture down to be social until the late afternoon... and I have no idea when she did it, but she pooped on DD's Hello Kitty bath mat.

I know she's not supposed to go out of the box, but I have to agree with the cat's assessment.

The vet called back this morning with the news that her thyroid's fine, so we're going on the working diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease. Once she's recovered from this procedure, we'll start her on steroids and see how things go.

The question, of course, is "Does IBD cause psychotic behavior?" Because even if the IBD helps her digestion, it's not going to be much of a help if she keeps going in places other than her box. Which, btw, is in the same place it has been for 6+ years, and which gets cleaned usually twice a day... the issue is not with the box, the issue is in her very small brain.

Yesterday was very strange because she was gone all day. I kept forgetting that and looking around for her. Was she in her chair? On her favorite perch in the closet? Every time I noticed her abscence I had to remind myself she was at the vet. There was a "hole" in the house vibe yesterday. I didn't like it at all.

So, another few weeks before we try the next thing, and hope that it helps. At this point, what else can we do?

what guilt?

In a comment to the post below about DS1's first confession, TeaFran commented:
His joy about doing something fun, but not knowing what it is, relates to relief that it's over with. He's a boy after all.
Years of experience have taught me the futility of arguing with T, but here I'm compelled to reply and expand on my original comments.

I described what I saw in my son as happiness and delight. It wasn't until I read T's comment that I thought, I know the difference between joy and relief.

I can understand that some kids would feel relief when it was over, but that didn't apply here. Beforehand, there was excited anticipation, not dread. He was looking forward to it.

As part of his preparation for receiving the sacrament, DS1 learned that when we sin, we hurt ourselves by creating a distance between us and God. The sacrament heals us, and brings us closer to God. When we sin, we also make it hard to feel good about ourselves, and penance helps with this, too. DS1 had a very bad day just recently, and so his first penance came with good timing. He had a serious issue that he really needed help with, and the confessional was a good place to look for it.

T also commented:
Sin is an adult concept - we shouldn't be placing this kind of guilt on kids of 7 or 8.
To which I have to say: "Catholic guilt" ain't what it used to be, and that's a good thing. DS1 has a healthy perspective: we are none of us perfect, we all make mistakes. We should always do our best to do the right thing, but sometimes, we fail. That doesn't make us evil or irredeemable. He knows he can always ask for forgiveness and help from God -- and from his parents. He is loved, and always will be.

When he came out from confession, he was radiant in a way I have seldom seen him. His actions were far and away removed from just "relief." He was joyous in the way we all are, when we hear someone we love and trust say to us, "Here, let me help you with that," as we struggle with a burden that has become unbearable.

Part of his glee, too, was the feeling of "being in on the secret." Not everyone gets it, you know -- not even all the confirmed Catholics out there, even though it's one of the simplest things in the world. But for now, at least, he does.

That's one of the coolest things, ever.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

taking stock

I sent off another column to LCL on Tuesday and realized that when it's published, it will be my one-year anniversary with the magazine, doing monthly columns. I missed August since I was on vacation all of July, and I missed November because of the thyroid surgery/cancer thing. I think if it had just been the surgery, and not cancer, I could've probably managed a column, but I was too freaked out by the cancer situation to do a column.

The cancer situation totally bores me, now... I knew it would happen. I'm tired of it, could I please just not have to deal with it anymore? HA! This is just the beginning, and I know it.

The headache was back today, along with joint aches, etc -- but it was another wet day, with rain off & on, and humidity much higher than usual. Just like yesterday. My shoulders are not as bad as they have been (lowering the monitor did help), and I didn't have a headache yesterday... why today? grrrr!

I finally downloaded HTML-kit and need to get off my butt and do some WORK but I allow myself to become distracted so easily, and so thoroughly, it's pathetic.

I'll get to it someday.


DS1 made his first confession last night, one of about 100 kids in the Monday night RE classes -- there's another whole set that goes on Tuesdays.

We had to be at the church at 7:15. After dinner, we reviewed his examination of conscience and some recent events. At seven years old, there really isn't much occasion for serious sin, and his RE teacher had done a really terrific job in putting together an examination of conscience that's appropriate for second graders. I liked that he didn't try to weasel out of any of the things he really does do, like not listen to us, or tease his sister mercilessly sometimes, or completely lose his temper. He has a justified confidence in himself: he is a good boy.

So, knowing he isn't perfect and he does have sins (however minor they are in the grand scheme of things), and keeping in mind the specifics he needed to remember, off we went. He wasn't at all nervous, just a little excited and goofy.

Everyone congregated in the church yard, each class gathering around their teacher. Then all the classes went into the church, and the parents followed behind. Our pastor spoke and told a charming story about how, when he was a kid, he and his brother had broken one of their mom's favorite vases. ("Did you get in trouble?" -- You bet we did!) But his mom got some crazy glue and put the pieces back together, and the vase held water as good as ever. He told this story not just to put the kids at ease, but also to explain the origins of the word "reconciliation," to put back together. He told the kids that when we sin, we break ourselves, and God puts us back together through the sacrament of penance.

One by one the kids went off to a priest (there were seven priests hearing confessions altogether), and DS1 was fifth or sixth in his class. I did not have to wait too long at all. When he was finished, I met him in the aisle and we found a pew where he could say his penance, and then we left.

He was just bouncing off the walls, he was so happy. I don't even know if "happy" covers it... he was delighted. I had told him it would feel very good (because it always does), and he said, I know what you mean, now.

I think I will always remember this:

I feel like I just did something really, really fun, but I really didn't do anything at all!

That's the grace of God.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

found it?

I think I've discovered the cause for more sore neck/shoulders these past few days: I just noticed that the monitor was 2 inches higher than it normally is.

Happened while I was dusting out the snake pit of wires behind it, a few days ago. The screen slides up and down at the slightest touch. It is really well-designed and very cool, but it didn't occur to me that I'd be screwing myself up so badly just by bumping the monitor.

Still, it does makes perfect sense to me, that holding my head at a different (and bad) angle for hours on end would cause muscles to spaz out. I'm such a moron sometimes.

Hope that's it.

in the balance

In the mail today, two big fat letters from the IRS, on to DH, one to me; we're being audited for tax year 2002 for the same tax credit we're being audited for tax year 2001. The issue is in tax court via a class-action type thing, as there are many people being dinged for taking this same perfectly legal (or so we thought) tax credit which was recommended to us by our CPAs. If we lose, it will be close to $10K we'll owe the IRS. Ouch. All we can do is wait and see how it goes.

This evening, one of my best friends back in the Boston area called to say she'd been laid off that morning -- via overnight express mail. "Tacky" does not even begin to describe it. It actually got worse, when she told me about some of the stuff that was going on in her department prior to the lay-offs.

My neck and shoulders are killing me again today. I've spent a good part of the day with the heat pack wrapped around my neck, and it has helped a lot. This is getting ridiculous. The lumpiness in the throat is not improving, either. I am probably using my voice too much (that is to say: shut up, Joan!) It doesn't seem like I am being all that chatty -- there haven't been any major gab-fests or extended phone calls recently, but still, the throat feels horrible. And my eyelids feel like they are made of sandpaper, scraping across my eyes. Did I mention the joint aches and stiffness? I think I stopped mentioning how bad my hip/piriformis is because I just assume it's bad all the time now. But for the record, it's bad, holding steady at about a 5 all the time now.

Over on the low carb forum I visit, there's a thread titled, "What do you like best about your body?" There has been a lot of discussion there about positive body image lately. I wrote: What I like best about my body is that in the past it made three beautiful children, and it hasn't killed me yet. Not exactly what they were looking for. My point was to give healthy if overweight people another reason to appreciate what they've got. And also to wallow, if only for a moment, in a bit of self-pity.

The minor pity-party actually started a bit earlier when I discovered that we are completely out of coffee! I had to have tea. It's just not the same.

On the flip side:
I wrote a great column today in next to no time and sent it off. I realized I have written quite a few columns and should really start doing something with them that will enable me to get paid! I felt the faint stirring of hope somewhere when I thought about it.

The kids had early release today so we went out to lunch at Flancer's and had a great time. DS2 was initially disappointed that we didn't get to eat outside, but he snuggled on my lap and I rubbed his back until he calmed down. Then he was fine, and lunch was terrific. They have the best french fries there, ever, and the bread is just outstanding. Not very low carb, I'm afraid, but I balanced it out with dinner and a complete lack of snacks today.

The kids were just great today. DS1 did his homework without a fuss, and they played outside for quite a while. DD is doing so well with her reading, a little slow but noticeably improving every day. I think she is excited about how many words she recognizes but is too cool to admit it to me. Hee! I even had a chance to read to DS2, a little before my friend called.

This morning started out very sweet with the little guy sleeping late, finally coming down well after his brother and sister had gone to school. He looked like he was still half-asleep and I said, "Come here and give me a hug," but he climbed up into my lap and even though he just barely fits there anymore, he fell into an almost-sleep for a good 20 minutes or so. (Maybe that's why my shoulders are killing me? Hmmm.)

I don't think I lost my temper once today. Any time there was a situation brewing, I was able to diffuse it using humor or distraction or simply by removing one of the perpetrators from the scene. There are many days when that's not possible.

Dinner tonight was "clean out the fridge"; I had the shrimp cocktail.

The alstromeria that DH bought for me over the weekend -- one of my favorite flowers, for my favorite reason (no reason at all, just because) are so beautiful:

Having listed all that out, I feel as if I am leaving an exercise incomplete if I don't tote it all up and pronounce "it was a good day", or (sadly) "even all this good could not dispel the gloom." But how can I compare all these apples and oranges? There's no point. Other than concern for my friend and her employment status, none of the negatives carries much weight. Tomorrow I'll feel better (or I won't, but there's no point in fretting about it); tomorrow I'll buy some coffee. I'll go back to forgetting about the IRS auditing us until I actually need to do something else about it. That stuff just has no resonance with me, whereas 16 hours later, I'm still enchanted by the cuddle time I had with DS2 this morning.

Vidi diem. Seems to be working so far.

Monday, January 24, 2005


Today was a physically painful day. I'm still trying to figure out why the muscles in my right shoulder have seized up the way they have. It feels exactly the way it would if I had spent too long on the phone, using my shoulder to hold the receiver. Or if I had done some other repetitive activity with it. It's hard as a rock, and there's the constant threat of a headache, creeping up the back of my head to stab me right behind the eye.

Ibuprofen, massage, and heat have all been applied with some efficacy, but I'm still wondering what's making this happen. I'm trying to pay attention to posture and unconscious muscle tightening as much as I can, and I'm doing my PT stretches when I think of it. So far there hasn't been a cure but I have seen improvement.

Everything else hurts today, too. I know I was on my feet and very active over the weekend, but I didn't do anything all the strenuous. Trust me, organizing a heap of stuffed animals is not muscle-torturing work. Except I guess it is, for me.

My throat was very lumpy today. At one point I had the feeling that something was just stuck in there (when I wasn't eating or drinking) and I just had to wait for the knot to go away. I have no idea what the heck that was, but it was unpleasant. At this moment, there are more compressive feelings in my throat than I had before my surgery. It feels like a lump convention in there.

The paranoid part of me thinks that maybe some cancerous lump has grown in a place where it's interfering with the nerves going to the shoulder and neck muscles so that's why they're so screwed up.

Of course it could just be that I'm tensing my shoulders because everything else hurts so much, but I'm just not noticing it.

Funny thing is, it was a nice day today. A little cloudy but no major humidity or rain...

Digestion is screwed up, too, and I'm wondering: am I going hyper on this new dosage? Being hyper does this to me -- headaches, bodyaches, whacked digestion -- the final straw will be insomnia, which I did have a few nights ago.

This is a delicate thing. I have to keep the TSH suppressed to keep the cancer suppressed, but with the TSH so low, I could be miserable. I have to try and keep a positive outlook that it will be possible to find a dosage to keep me suppressed and functioning.

I remember the summer with such fondness now. I remember that I felt good. I wonder if I will ever feel that way again. Right now I just feel determined to get through this, not knowing what I will find on the other side.

I only inadvertently tried to scratch the stitches on my leg twice yesterday, not at all today -- I do forget those biopsies are there. Isn't that weird? I could have melanoma but I'm 99.99% sure I don't, just the same way I was sure I had cancer before my surgery in October.

Of course I could be wrong, because I was also sure there would be distant metastases on my whole body scan, and there weren't. Heh. This time I'd like to be right.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

smart boy

Friday we went to Border's for a snack to celebrate the kids' good report cards, and we used their computer system to look for books for DS1's school report on gila monsters. I type the following keywords into the search box: desert animals children, looking for a children's reference on desert animals. A half-dozen books come up, and we find some on the shelves, but they only make passing reference to gila monsters. DS1 says, "Mom, I want to try something," and goes over to the computer and types gila monster in the search box.

Sometimes I am too "smart" to see that the direct route is best!

One title pops up to the top, but it is not in stock. (Gila Monster Facts and Folklore of America's Aztec Lizard by Davide E. Brown and Neil B. Carmony) It's OK, we'll look it up at Amazon and see how good a book it is. I love Amazon's reviews, even though I know they are far from objective, you can still get a good feeling for a book, usually. The book seems like it will be a great reference, but it's more than $10, and I think, we don't really need to own this book, do we?

It will have to be the library, then! I haven't been there since 1998. (whoa) Now, of course, it has a coffee bar; back then, it didn't. Hmmm.

In an excellent use of technology, the library's entire catalog may be searched online. Huzzah! They have four copies of the book available.

So, Saturday afternoon, DS1 and I went and got new library cards (mine had died from neglect), and got the catalog number of the book, found it in the stacks, and checked it out using the automated system.

Way cool!

The book is not a children's reference book, but is a lively read and I've enjoyed leafing through it. I think it would be a tough slog for DS1 to sit and read it, cover to cover, but he doesn't need to do that. This is for research, he just needs to find the facts he needs for his report, and this book will be terrific for that. If you want to know anything about gila monsters, this is a great resouce.


There went the weekend.

DH invited a friend for dinner on Sunday, so the weekend was consumed by my unnecessarily obsessive preparations. Well, the dusting and bathrooms definitely needed to be done, anyways, but as for the major over-haul clean-up of the boys room and the playroom, that could've waited.

I made lasagna (with from-scratch sauce) last night, letting it simmer while I finally watched Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban without interruption, except for the intermission I took to assemble the lasagna.

The rest of dinner was simple, consisting of DS1's favorite home-made herb bread and salad. I made lemon squares for dessert but screwed up something somewhere and they came out soooo dry: they're my project for tomorrow, I'll have to rescue them into something edible.

I did also process all the lemons from the tree: peeled and juiced, and so they should not go to waste, as did the ones we saved out from the last harvest. After that I was very irritated with myself every time I needed to buy lemons. I had 2 dozen or so that I just failed to put up in the freezer! Of course those 2 dozen were free, having come from our tree -- and we had given away bags and bags of ones that we didn't need, so as far as waste goes it could've been worse.

Looking over the past few days, I definitely have more energy since my meds were increased. I do feel a bit more achey than I have, but that could be because I've been doing more, too.

Friday was report card day. DD's could not be better, and DS1's was quite good except for some lack of effort in reading(!), he still got an A, and in language arts, because he has not been completing his work in class. (sigh) He also got written up for his murderous threats of earlier in the week, and we both had to sign this paper and make sure he understands the seriousness of the situation. That was a bit rough.

Dinner was really lovely, even with the dry lemon squares. We were all too stuffed for dessert anyway. The kids had sherbert and loved it.

I love having friends over. It's nice to feel as if we are finally starting to have a "greater" life here, not just our own little family.

Friday, January 21, 2005

use only as directed

Lately, DS2 has been short on patience: I want it now!

Which means, of course, that I reply, "Settle down, Veruca," or some variant thereof.

"I'm NOT Veruca!" he screams at me.

"Of course not, but you're acting just like her," I say, quite calmly.

You know it's what Roald Dahl was thinking when he wrote the book, don't you? I'm sure of it.

However, I do wonder if J.K. Rowling realizes how handy it is for me to be able to squelch my kids' know-it-all tendencies by tossing off "Anything you say, Hermione."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

is God really green?

DS2 had Atrium today. He likes it alot, and so do I. It's an awesome program, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

When I pick him up, I ask him very specific questions to get an idea of what he did. You can't just ask a 3- or 4-year-old, "How was Atrium?" They have no idea how to answer such a general question. So, it goes like this:

Did you have fun today?
Did you sing any songs?
Well, what song did you sing?
Do you know the name of the song?
(Shakes head, no)
What was it about?
How great God is...
Oh, that's a nice song.

You get the idea. Here's another sample:

Did you hear any stories today?
What was the story about?
The tiny seed.
Oh! What happened to the tiny seed?
(very animated) It growed!

Much later, at home, during lunch:

Mom, is God really green?
I don't think that God is any one particular color, sweetie.
Oh. (pause) Where is God?
God is everywhere, He is in everything.
But I want to see Him!
Well, everywhere we look we can see His works, but while we're on Earth here in these bodies, we don't see God that way. When we die, when we're through with our bodies, then our souls go to be with God again, and then you'll see Him. OK?
Oh. OK. (goes back to eating lunch)

when everything seems too hard

Today was not really a bad day. Just a hard day.

DS1 had two major meltdowns in school, the second just at pick-up time. I was able to talk to him alone in the car before we went home. There was a trigger, but it wasn't anything important, he just felt wronged, and he wigged out. He used to do this a lot more, but generally he has better self-control. Not today.

Of course, being older, he has a lot more to say when he wigs out, but it is totally unacceptable for him to be telling the people that irritated him that he's going to kill them.

Sigh does not even begin to cover it.

Like many people when they're upset, DS1 tends towards the hysterical: everyone hates me, I hate everyone, they're always mean to me, blah blah blah, I have no friends.

There, in the midst of a sea of hyperbole, was one true statement. DS1's best friends are his little brother and sister. He doesn't spend time with any other children on a regular basis. Why not? Me.

First, there's school, and homework, and when that's all done, it's right about 4PM, not exactly conducive to after-school meet-ups, especially when the kids he actually likes from school live several miles away. There are kids in the neighborhood his age, though, but they're generally not out playing on school days, either.

Second, there's the issue of supervision. DS1 is now just approaching the age at which I would be only mildly uncomfortable letting him play in the cul-de-sac without supervision. He's a big kid, and I doubt he'd be abducted. The worst that would happen to him is he would crash his bike or his skateboard, but those are childhood hazards every parent has to negotiate.

So I would, theoretically, be cool with DS1 going out to play with other kids on his own. However, DD and DS2 are still too young and small to go out on their own, and if DS1 goes out, so do they, unless there is another adult around to supervise them inside... you see where this is going? We're either all in the house together, or we're all outside together, unless I'm in, and they're in the backyard. On a school day, we're in, because by the time homework and snack time are over, I'm either exhausted or starting to cook dinner or both.

Weekends, now, they are a different story, and there is no reason why my kids can't do more peer socializing on the weekends... no reason, except, again, for me. By the end of the week, I am about dead, and the last thing I'm up for is driving around, picking up, dropping off, socializing, myself. Until very recently, the idea of having anyone else's kids over here was even more horrifying; most of the upstairs looks like the aftermath of a terrorist attack on Toys 'R' Us. If we got the place cleaned up I can handle the company... it's the cleaning beforehand that's the stumbling block.

So, I cried. I cried because I'm sorry my kids don't have any friends. I'm sorry that I've been so sick that I can't do the things that healthy moms do, like spend time in the classrooms and volunteer and throw big birthday parties and have friends over all the time. If I had known I was going to have so many health problems, I don't think I would've had kids. It's not fair to them.

This is the only way in which my kids could be considered underprivileged. They have board games, card games, learning toys and imaginative toys, blocks, lincoln logs, legos, every craft supply known to man, a jillion stuffed animals, countless books and dvds and computers games. They use them, too -- not all, of course, and some things go through cycles of use and disuse. The LeapPad comes in and out of favor, for example, but the Explorer Globe that tells you what you're looking at gets used quite a bit.

They have a good balance of outdoor active play stuff and indoor active and less active play stuff, and they have each other. All three are good at keeping themselves entertained, individually or in pairs or all together. They have boundless curiosity and imaginations, and minds like the proverbial steel traps: tell them something once and it's locked into permanent storage. All of their teachers love them.

I know they're OK -- better than OK, they're all phenomenal. I'm so glad they have each other. DS1 is just at that age where he should be making outside-the-house friends, and I'm being dragged across a threshold into a new era of relationships. I confess, I like keeping them at home, with me. I know that they're not around any bad influences (hee!) and not being exposed to anything dangerous or morally questionable. But I also know I'm going to have to start to let go a little.

For DS1's sake, I have to let him know that I can do things -- like drive him to a friend's house, or have a friend over here -- that will help him make real friends. And I will be able to do those things, too. I will.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

good coffee & vidi diem

Likely millions of people know more about coffee than I do, but there are a few things I know.

I like 100% Columbian, brewed medium-strong, with half-n-half or light cream, no sugar. I like the taste of coffee, but not the taste of bitter dregs that some people profess to adore. A good coffee can be brewed quite strong and still be delicious. A bad coffee brewed strong just tastes nasty.

Coffee away from home is a tricky thing. I've given up on supermarket coffees at home but will drink them when I'm visiting. I just pretend it's not coffee, rather, a "coffee-like beverage." Starbucks coffee -- all of it -- tastes burnt. It's over-roasted and over-rated, but I'll get a mocha there if I've stopped in with the kids for a snack. Border's Cafe Espresso makes a decent cup of coffee, and this is one of the primary reasons I favor Border's over Barnes & Noble. B&N cafes use Starbucks.

At restaurants, I've pretty much given up on ordering an after-dinner coffee in a place without an espresso machine. If I want straight-up coffee, I'll make it myself at home. It always tastes better.

It's obvious I'm a coffee snob. There is a scale of coffee-snobbery, though, and I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm not as much of a coffee-snob as one of my sisters-in-law, who has been known to drive 75 miles just to get her favorite blend. She travels with her own stovetop espresso maker. Compared to her, I'm a duffer, a complete hack in the coffee world. Alas, I have absolutely no "street cred" among the true coffee-snobs, because I only drink decaf. You don't want to even imagine what I'm like on caffeine (manic, much?). I can honestly say I drink decaf for medical reasons. I thank God for the existence of decaf.

Coffee has mysterious medicinal qualities, too. My two-day headache finally abated today, and I'm giving coffee some of the credit. It's one of the most pleasant ways to stay hydrated that I know. Yet another reason for me to drink up.

I have a (perhaps shocking) coffee routine. I brew two cups at night after putting the kids to bed. I drink one, then put the other one in the fridge to have in the morning. I know, I know, the horror! reheated coffee! Heh. The morning coffee tastes all the better for simply being there. Or maybe it tastes better because it's not competing with the bittersweet chocolate I'm usually eating with my evening coffee? I have no idea. But as good as this coffee is now -- and it's very good -- this morning's coffee, which I drank in the car on the way to the dermatologist's office, was even better.

Why that should be, I have a few guesses, but it doesn't really matter. I was very happy to have it then, and I'm happy to have it, now.


If you know you're going to die soon, the big thing is supposed to be carpe diem. When you're diagnosed with cancer, you more or less have to go through the lowered-life-expectancy experience, even if it's only from a "what if?" perspective. It gets you thinking along these lines: you don't want to die with regrets, do you?

For me, though, it's not about "seizing the day", but appreciating the things that make my days what they are. Right now the only thing I would change about my life is my health. Since I already "have it all" (including a normal life expectancy!), the only way I'll have regrets is if I allow something to slip by, unnoticed. So I'm trying to pay attention to these things that contribute so much to my existence: Vidi diem. See the day.(My Latin is nonexistant; I checked this out here.) There are a lot of different ways of seeing. What "vidi" connotes is not just seeing what's visible but also understanding what it is you see.

In my life there are hugely important things like my husband and my kids, and then there are small things, like good coffee. And there are a million other things in between.

I can't always be aware, truly present, to everything going on around me. But I try to remember to see, especially on days like today that started out under the knife and could easily have dumped me into depression. Seeing is always its own reward.

An example? This path I've just walked, thinking about my good coffee.


This morning started bright and cheery with two more biopsies, one in a very painful place, and one in a rather inconvenient place. I confess I whined to the PA about having to have so many done, and she leafed briskly through my file and pointed out that of the many I have done, I've had that came back uncertain for melanoma, one with worrisome characteristics, and two that were dysplastic. IOW, I'm not exactly working from a clean slate here.

She sympathized, but said with my history, anything suspicious really does have to go. That means up I'm for four or possibly six more... I've lost count.

It doesn't seem like getting two 3-mm discs of flesh cut out should be able to drain you completely, but it does. Nevertheless I spent the rest of the day being a good mother and working with DD on her reading and with DS1 on his homework (particularly a new math skill he just was not getting), and then going out in the yard and playing catch (football) with DS1 so he would stop annoying DS2 while he was driving the Silverado around.

I'm exhausted. Have done a lot of good reading but am too tired to link... check out the new Victor David Hanson piece linked today by Dr. Sanity. Also excellent discussions on the dhimmi-tization of Europe on VodkaPundit.

I'm done, now.

the cat situation

Every day, she manages to escape into the backyard as the kids are traipsing in and out, and I let her stay out for a while. Eventually she comes to the door and we let her back in.

At about 11PM, we put her to bed in the laundry room, where her food, water, and litter box are, and we let her out again in the morning. This she intensely despises, although tonight she only scratched at the door for a little while before she gave up.

Since we started this routine a couple of days ago, she has consistently used the litter box.

24 & TWoP

I don't understand it at all, but the programming whizzes at Fox have given us the first 5 episodes of 24 in just over a week. This is the only major network prime time show I watch, and I didn't even see Season One until it was out on DVD. Both DH and I got hooked.

The first season had its excesses, which were multiplied several times over in seasons 2 and 3 (the silliest by far). Season 3 ended rather badly and heart-wrenchingly, and it was clear that a lot of the recurring characters were not going to return. So that opened up a lot of possibilities for Season 4, and honestly, it wasn't clear whether that was a good thing or not.

Season 4, however, has been outstanding, and looks promising for the rest of the "day" as well. There's a minimum of really stupid tangential subplots (so far, anyway), and -- writers be praised! -- there is the sense that they actually mapped out the entire "day" before they started filming, so there won't be any awkward and lame lapses in the middle of the season as they mark time working up to the big finale.

Jack's back to be his old awesome maverick self, and the supporting cast is terrific as well. But one of the best things about 24 is M. Giant's recaps over at Television Without Pity.

TWoP is great. With TWoP recaps, you never have to watch a show! Seriously, I quit watching ER about a million years ago, but I still read the recaps. The recaps are entertaining, but the show is so deathly stupid, I can't imagine watching it. The recaps are great because you get commentary right along with the narrative, just the same way you'd get it if you were watching the ep sitting around with your highly critical friends. It's great fun if you're in the right mood -- and with TWoP, you get to snark on your own schedule. Cool.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

two day headache

Trying to pinpoint when this thing started, and it was either Sunday night (dinner at Abuelo's, dessert at CPK), or Monday morning at the dentist.

I'm pretty sure it was the teeth-cleaning that triggered it; lying for nearly an hour, braced for various types of discomfort and outright pain will do that to me. My neck and shoulder muscles feel like rocks. Ibuprofen has helped but as soon as it wears off, the headache is back. I'm working with a heatpack now, and it does feel good. Stretching is probably useful but doesn't feel like it -- I do it anyway.

Tomorrow morning, under the knife again, 2 more biopsies at the dermatologist. I'm thinking I will try and convince him that the others can wait indefinitely, under close observation. Seriously, I cannot imagine a worse place for a biopsy than the arch of the foot, and I have one pending on each. Ick.

I'm hoping tonight's sleep will knock this headache/muscle tension out for good, because I don't like to take NSAIDS when I'm being cut. Tylenol is useless to me. Pain sucks.

I'm also hoping that this isn't related to my increase in thyroid meds. I am feeling generally much better (excepting of course for the headache). The 2x/day minocycline so far hasn't helped my hands much in the morning, but I'll give it a few more days until I drop back down to 1x/day.

shutting up

I read around a lot of different sites. It's my main source of entertainment these days. Some days I comment all over the place, some days I just read.

In one particular forum, lately, I find myself writing up something, and then, quite consciously, navigating away from the page without ever hitting the "submit" button. Ever had the feeling of beating your head against a brick wall? Remember how good it felt to stop?

It has come to the point over there that whatever I say, one of a small crowd will post immediately after me with the specific intent of rebutting my points. It has become tedious beyond belief.

An issue came up today, a married woman posted about being attracted to another man and how she was struggling with the situation. The man has professed to being attracted to her, as well, so there is the sense that this "situation" has been simmering for at least a little while. I have no idea of the circumstances of these two people's lives, and I don't really care, but what was interesting to me was the reaction of everyone else in the forum.

They were all sympathetic to her "plight," and encouraged her, saying that they were all there to support her. Several advised her to be "true to herself" and to "follow her heart."

Me, I'm completely lacking in sympathy. In a previous life, I was in exactly the same situation, but even then I realized why: I was in that "predicament" because I wanted to be.

I reject the idea that things like this "just happen." A physical attraction doesn't deepen to the point where it's threatening a marriage unless the participants push it to that point. There are a million different ways to advance a flirtation, to explore mutual interests, to deepen a relationship. There are appropriate ways to conduct platonic friendships, and these methods are well known to every socially capable adult.

Every exchange will signal "yes" or "no," and it's up to you to make sure your signals are not being misinterpreted.

"Follow your heart" usually means do what feels good to you, and is generally lousy advice. It ignores the longer term consequences for you and everyone else in your life who will be affected by your actions. Being "true to yourself" is all well and good if the "self" in question is an honorable person. All too often these days, though, "self" is just the first syllable of "selfish." It all seems to come down to short-term gratification.

It's true that we can't control our feelings. Surely nearly every moderately social adult has had that electrified feeling of being attractive, and being attracted to, a new person. It's wonderful to feel newly alive, being seen by new eyes, exploring a new person's mind. It feels so good that it's only natural that we would want to perpetuate it.

But there are times in our lives when it's appropriate to seek to deepen these exciting new relationships, and times in our lives when it's not. If you're single, go for it. If you're married, think again. Sparks flying during a cocktail party are one thing, meeting again alone to see if the sparks were real is quite another.

I have no idea what's going on with the woman and her husband, or between her and the object of her current affection. I do know that a line has been crossed that should not have been, because the mutual attraction has been declared. What are these people thinking?

My advice to the woman would be (what I wish I had done sooner in my own past, and what I eventually came to): Take responsibility for what you're doing, what you've done already. Admit that something's wrong with your marriage somewhere, why else would you be in this situation? Do you want to fix your marriage, do you think you can? If so, you need to walk away from the new guy, cut off contact completely, and get to work on your problems at home. If your marriage is dead already, why are you hanging around in it? Get out, get settled on your own, and then go looking for the next Mr. Right.

The woman wasn't seeking advice, though, just explaining her sudden reticence; offering advice would be really rude. So I won't. I just hope she doesn't feel so "supported" by her online friends' advice to "follow her heart" that she doesn't get into an even bigger mess. Feelings are one thing, actions quite another.

Actions have consequences.

one thing I don't know

I have fielded the "So, do you still have cancer?" question at least six times in the past five days.

Most of the time it's phrased more delicately: Are you finished with your treatments?

The ambiguity of that version is outstanding, but I'm pretty sure I understand what it is that these people -- friends, family, medical care providers -- really want to know.

They want to know, Is this going to kill you?

I try to be both factual and kind. All of the doctors treating my cancer have assured me that my life expectancy has not changed, I tell them.

If they really want to know if I still have cancer, though, that I don't know. I won't know until more follow-up bloodwork is done, and my first follow-up body scan is done in the spring. So, I have to wait to find out the answer to that question.

Most people seem to think that's OK. Like, you can't know the answer so there's no point in stressing out over it. As if I could forget about it for huge swathes of time and be carefree and well, normal. As if.

I do manage to forget about it for short periods of time. That's nice. I keep getting stuck on my staging, though. If I were four years older, I would be at stage 4; the 5 year survival rate is only 45%. On the other hand, since I'm younger than 45, the cancer is classified as stage 2 (or possibly even stage 1!, it's not clear) and the 5 year survival rate is 100%.

While it's extremely comforting to be in the 100% survival rate group, I have a really hard time accepting that the probable outcomes of this disease can be graphed by a step function. In fact I'm rather sure that they cannot be, and the staging rules are written up this way just to keep things manageable.

I'm not trying to be pessimistic here, but it just seems... unlikely. I have too many questions and no way to get answers, but then I realize it doesn't matter anyway. Having the answers wouldn't change my actual condition, although I might feel better, knowing more. But that would be an illusion, I think.

Better to not to stir up mud in the emotional waters at all, these days. So this thing I do not know will have to go back on the shelf a while longer.

in other news

I put up the dartboard today. (DS1: "Were you using the drill?" Hee!)

Just recently, I got the piano tuned.

There's something going on here.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Yes, this is an extremely boring entry because there is nothing happening. Just life, for once without upheaval or struggle. It's nice to have a day (two actually, as yesterday was the same way) where you don't have to struggle just to get through it.

Kids had off school today so they stayed pajama'd all day. They had fun with their Spider-Man Triple Action Web-blasters, and it took me an hour to pick up the contents of the three cans of web-fluid (think silly string), but it was a gorgeous day so it was good to be outside. Then I (literally) dusted off their Silverado Power Wheels and brought it out back for them to tool around in, and they had a blast.

DD led the boys in harvesting the lemon tree. It was hysterical because she'd put the lemons in the back of the truck and then the boys would drive it over to the other side of the lawn (all of 12 feet, maybe), so they could unload it and bring the lemons in the house. It was a small crop but enough so we can do fun (delicious) things with it.

See? That was today. Just a good day with the kids. I've had the chance over the past few days to talk to a few friends and one thing that leaps out at me is how much complaining they do about their kids. These women obviously love their kids very much and it's not like the kids are spawn of Satan or anything, they just give their moms lots of things to complain about. Mine don't.

Today it was easy to make them happy (and give them something to do outside), and I baked up the last of the gingerbread cookie dough and fed them fresh cookies outside for their snack. Effortless.

It was a good day.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

critical thinking

Ann Althouse commented this morning on a new book, Blink, quoting at some length a counter-administration rant enumerating all the "snap judgments" that are (supposedly) sending us to Hell in a handbasket:

Apparently, the key to success in these pre–deluge years is going to be the ability to make ever–snappier snap judgments. Go to war or not? No problem, the fix was in before any of the evidence was gathered. Undo seventy years of lawmaking that makes most Americans’ lives less of a desperate struggle? We’re getting right to it! Destroy vast tracts of irreplaceable wilderness in order to feed our money addiction? Sure, who needs them, they’re not worth anything!

(Althouse cops out and doesn't comment one way or the other regarding the rant, since it was written by her ex-husband. This leaves me free to believe that such rants are the reason that RLC and Althouse are no longer married, whatever the case may be.)

Serendipitously, I came across Thomas Sowell's column, I beg to differ, over at As usual, Sowell is a font of common sense and clear-headedness; this column describes the importance of being able to debate an issue on its merits, and the dangers of being swayed by rhetoric:
Dictators often gained total power over a whole nation by their ability to arouse emotions and evade thought.

Watch old newsreels of Hitler and watch the adoring and enraptured look on the faces in his audience. Then read what he said and see if it makes any sense whatever. Yet he convinced others -- and himself -- that he had a great message and a great mission.

In real world conversations, of course, you can't bring up Hitler without everyone recoiling in horror, thereby shutting down any kind of discussion of the point you were trying to make. But Sowell's point is not to say that people who engage in this emotionalism are ruthless fascist murderous psychopaths like Hitler, just that they're using one of his best techniques to manipulate the situation.

The worst thing is, these people get away with it all the time, or worse, they're lionized for "standing up to authority," or some other such nonsense. One good thing is there are still a lot of people out there who can, and do, think critically, on both sides of the political aisle. The best thing is now the blogosphere gives them a platform.


Collateral... sucked. And I actually like Tom Cruise, he's an actor I always think I should despise but then I end up enjoying his performances. I think Vincent was a gutsy choice for him, he could just as easily played Max. I loved Jamie Foxx as Max, though: Max for whom the Perfect was the eternal enemy of the Good. But the movie itself was so full of holes as to earn the overall "sucked" assessment.

Elf... cute but, Meh. My shoulders go up, they come down. Who was this movie written for? Kids? Kids of what age? I have three, and this movie would go right over their heads, although they would be amused at the idea of putting maple syrup on everything. This is one of those movies where you're asked to suspend your disbelief -- OK. But having done that, I expect there to be at least a modicum of internal logical consistency. That means the film is allowed to have its own logic, but it must remain consistent to it. Which Elf completely failed to do, and even Will Ferrell, whom I admire for his continued willingness to make a complete fool of himself, and his ability to do so while remaining free of any self-awareness of same, could not make up for the serious lapses. James Caan was realistically mean to the extent that his redemption was unconvincing. Mary Steenburgen's off-key singing was delightful, as was the singing voice of the female lead, some actress who remains unknown to me as I am too lazy to look it up.

Compare and contrast those two films with the two I watched parts of, again, tonight: Office Space, and X-Men 2. Obviously these are all very different movies. Office Space is one of those things that you either get or you don't, but since I was a cubicle dweller myself for many years, it "speaks to me." The X-Men thing should need no explanation. The whole good-evil thing is awesome, as is the fight choreography. (hee) I love it that the writers let Jean Gray die, and they let her death affect the people she left behind. Oh, the epilogue was otherwise dippy, but Jean's moment of sacrifice/transformation was glorious.

The best movies let us take something away with us. From Office Space, I was reminded in a droll way to carpe diem. X-Men inspires us to think twice about prejudicial thinking in a more or less non-PC way, but it also gives a clear example of noble sacrifice. Collateral could be said to have the same carpe diem message, and there was the whole existential meaninglessness of life conversation that I'm sure was intended to provoke some deep thinking. But that was all garbage -- Max saw through Vincent's facade nearly immediately. And the movie did nothing with that nice little philosopher's rant, either, choosing instead to wrap up with your standard suspenseful shoot-out. Elf? There's not a thing to take away, not even a renewed commitment to hang onto "the Christmas spirit," whatever this very confused movie thinks that is. It was kinda cute and didn't leave me disgusted that I'd lost 90 minutes of my life, but when that's the best thing you can say about a movie, that's pretty pathetic.

Best movie I've seen recently is without doubt The Incredibles. The Lemony Snickett movie met my low expectations; I thought, going in, that the "look and feel" of the thing would overwhelm the actors, and the story, pretty much completely, and I found that to be the case. That the look & feel is extraordinary can't be denied, but it's not enough to hang a movie on, alas. When neither we nor the main characters know why something has happened, some part of the movie should be devoted to revealing that vital information, or to the main characters' search for it. That's where the Unfortunate Events falls short, alas.

So I'm back to The Incredibles. It's a comfort to me that there's at least one studio out there that still knows how to tell a story.

on notice

The cat has failed to use the litter box 4 times in the past 2 days, altogether 5 times in the past 3 days. She has also yakked spectacularly twice over that time span.

The yakking is one thing -- she's shedding furiously and creating hairballs by the minute, and she doesn't yak all over the carpet on purpose. At least I don't think so.

The any-corner-is-now-my-litter-box behavior is definitely intentional, though. We've been doing things around the house -- de-cluttering the closet, cleaning the carpet in the family room, getting the piano tuned -- and she doesn't like it, not one bit. She doesn't like it that we won't let her out whenever she wants, either. And so, she doesn't use the box.

The vet's pretty sure she has either hyperthyroidism or inflammatory bowel disease. One is treated with an anti-thyroid agent (or RAI, for a longterm fix), the other with steroids. She's scheduled for a teeth cleaning in a week or so, and they'll do a blood draw then and test her thyroid. If it turns out her thyroid is OK, we'll try the steroids...

At this point, the cat is definitely living on borrowed time. We can't have her doing this all the time, every day. It's exhausting and quite frankly, nasty and disgusting. We can get the carpet looking clean but how clean is it really? It skeeves me every time I think about how much ewww-provoking stuff has been left on it lately. And of course the kids live on the floor.

I don't want to think about what will have to happen if we can't get this situation under control. It feels wrong to think about putting her down just because she doesn't use the box. But it's not "just because she doesn't use the box," it's all the stuff that comes along with her not using the box.

I think about her quality of life. She is affectionate and attentive to us. She seems happy, except when thwarted or freaked out by something, she'll go off and hide for hours, and she's really good at holding grudges. Still, she is not a dangerous psycho cat. If that were the case, it would be easy to let her go. But she is as sweet as she ever has been, and it feels wrong to put her down just because she is being naughty.

But when I think about our quality of life, I think of what a relief it would be to wake up in the morning not having to check each room, sniffing, to see if she has left anything anywhere. Not to mention not having to clean up disgusting messes two or three times a day. It seems impossible to put these things -- her messes, my cleaning efforts, the residual "ewwww" in the carpet -- on some sort of scale. There's no level of effort I can put into this that can really make it better, unless we can get her to use the box properly all the time. It doesn't matter how willing I am to clean up after her, we really can't continue to live like this.

Hopefully she'll settle down until her teeth cleaning, and we'll get a diagnosis and then get her on some treatment. It would seem entirely too petty to give her up because of this problem, and I'm so hoping we won't have to.

nearly normal

Today was completely unremarkable. It was busy with typical Saturday-type stuff, some running around, some at home. The weather was clear and warm, the first lovely day we've had in a while.

There was something remarkable about today, though. All the stuff that got done? Took Mom out to find shoes (success!), a quick shop at Trader Joe's, made lunch, ate lunch, put away laundry, blah blah blah: at no point did I feel like I was exhausted. I just did whatever it was, and then: OK, what's next? Do I have time to surf, or am I needed elsewhere?

Effortless... normal. I didn't need to "work up to" anything. It's nice when life feels easy like this. You have no idea, what a relief it is not to be stressed by every little thing. Example: I ended up hauling all three kids to Mass this afternoon because they all wanted to come (for DS1, it's mandatory, but the other two usually stay home with their Dad.) Normally this would put me into a right state of AAAUUUGGGHHHH! but not today. They were all great. DS2 stretched out in the pew and fell asleep about 2 minutes into the homily, to the general amusement of everyone around us. He generated so many good feelings in the congregation just by being a sleepy little cherub. At the end of Mass I carried him out to the car, and he slowly came out of his daze. Then we all went out to dinner, and once again... everything was fine. Nobody freaked out, all the kids ate well. No reason to stress, therefore, no stress.

Of course this makes me wonder if I've just been unnecessarily manufacturing stress for myself over these past however many months. Probably, sometimes, but some other times, the kids really are imps and they do get on my last nerve. I think maybe we've passed successfully through the transition phase and everyone is more relaxed now. I know I'm certainly more relaxed, and that helps tremendously.

I don't know whether I've turned some corner or finally reached a good meds level or what. This could be a fluke but I'm hoping it's the start of a trend.

Inventory: my hands were killing me this morning so I broke down and took a 2nd minocycline this evening, we'll see if it helps. If I can remember to take it regularly, I will, if I have some evidence that it will actually work. I'm cold again this evening and I have this bizarre cold "spot" at the base of my spine that is really, really annoying. Plus my feet are freezing as usual. But, I talked to my bro in PA today briefly, and he asked me, "How are you feeling?" and I answered, honestly and without thinking, "Good." Usually I waffle and say "I'm hanging in there," which means I'm feeling pretty crappy but I'm not about to dump that on someone who is just making social conversation. PA bro asks because he wants to know, not just to make noise, so if I'm feeling crummy I'll tell him, but today's assessment was "good". That's major progress!

Now if my throat would lose the lumpy-hurting, I'd feel completely normal. For me, anyway.

Friday, January 14, 2005

advantages of advanced planning

Sometimes, I do think ahead. It really pays off with menu planning; you'd think I'd do it more often... this week I had my act at least somewhat together, food-wise, and planned on beef stew for tonight. It cooks in the crockpot:

Beef Stew

2lbs, more or less, cubed beef stew meat
1 bottle of Guinness
2 tsp beef bouillion (or 2 bouillion cubes)
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
several grindings of black pepper

Our preferred vegetables: baby carrots and green beans.

Plug in your crockpot and turn it onto low.

Brown the beef well in hot skillet lightly coated with oil or a non-stick spray -- don't crowd the pan or the meat won't brown, it will steam, and it won't be as yummy.

While the meat is browning, pour the Guinness into your crockpot, then add the bouillion, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and pepper. Peel the garlic cloves and put them through a garlic press, or mince if you prefer, and toss in the garlic as well. Give all that a stir.

When the meat is browned, tip it into the crockpot, and continue with the remaining pieces. When all the meat is browned and in the crockpot, put the skillet back on the heat and pour about a cup of water into it. Stir and scrape vigorously to deglaze the pan, which is just a fancy way of saying getting all the tasty stuff off the bottom that is now stuck there. Add this deglazing water to the crockpot as well.

Cover the crockpot and let it cook until 3 or so hours before you want to eat it, and then add your vegetables. Baby carrots get a quick rinse. Green beans are snipped and cut to bite size, and a potato gets a good scrub and then is cut into good size cubes. We don't normally do potatoes, but Mom's here and she likes them. I have to admit that they are very tasty in this recipe. You throw the veggies in and let them cook for a few hours. Then it's done -- as simple as that. I suppose you could put the veggies in at the beginning if you absolutely had to, but then they'd likely be mush. You'd want to keep them in bigger pieces if they had to be in the crockpot the whole time.

This is not a fancy recipe, but it wins for two reasons: 1) it is deeply flavorful without being weird, and 2) the kids will eat it. I would never have thought to use Guinness as a base until I read the stew-blogging posts over at Instapundit a little while ago, but it is awesome.


Mom and I hit the mall after dropping DS2 off at school -- she's looking for new walking shoes. No luck with that, but I scored 2 new pairs of shoes myself, plus some new tops, and a sweet, sweet find for DS1's upcoming birthday. We were out the entire time and got back to pick up DS2 just as his class was ending... exhausting but I was glad to get the stuff as I needed it and the stores, as usual, are giving everything away after Christmas.

Went with the little ones to Border's after picking up DS1, and it was nice to just hang out and read silly books to them for a couple of hours.

On the way home, DS2 declared Eric Clapton Unplugged "pretty boring music, Mom." Then he piped up with, "Mom, do you remember the Beatles?" I didn't laugh, but it took some effort not to. As there was no objection, I switched the music to "One", and enjoyed listening to DS2's version of "With Love from Me to You," "She Loves You, Yeah Yeah Yeah," etc.

And when we got home, dinner was all but ready. Yay!

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Today, like most everyday, I made the rounds of the journal/blogs I read regularly. These are your typical day-to-day blogs: nothing obscene, usually not even anything slightly racy. Today was different, because I ran across my own personal "ick" factor more than once.

It weirds me out when people declare "I had sex last night," sometimes in those exact words. There are other techniques for communicating the same information, from the slightly more oblique "Got some," to a wink-smiley at an appropriate place: ... ;)

It's just not something I do, and I really don't understand other people who do. I'm not all repressed or a prude, either. I'm married, I've got three kids who sleep very soundly through the night, and there's zip chance of me having more pregnancies. Under these stress-free conditions, sex is optimal. It's the blogging about the dates and times that mystifies me.

Please, people. Are we in high school, that we need to be bragging about it? Does it happen so infrequently that you need to make note of it so you can refer back to your blog when you're preparing to hurl accusations during your next argument? Do we really need to know? If you're feeling particularly good about your relationship, could there be a better way to express it?

I don't get it. I can see blogging about sex (or problems with sex) generally, as I have done a few times. My string of health crises hasn't been kind to my sex life, and I know I've whined generically about it from time to time. But talking about it like that is useful. Like every other significant part of your life, it sometimes benefits from some contemplation.

But "I got some last night"? Unless the event was the trigger for something else, I don't want to hear about it. Once I get past thinking, Ick!, I'm left thinking, Why did you tell me that?

Sex is way too important to be reduced to a wink-smiley. Our culture has devalued our sexuality to such an extent that people feel comfortable talking about it much the same way they'd discuss getting their hair done or taking out the trash.

I know I'm old fashioned but some of the old ways are best, and this one custom I will not budge on: intimate moments should remain private. Once they're made public, they lose their intimacy, and their value. When the characters on Seinfeld ("The Contest") were "masters of their domains" years ago, they were hip and funny mostly because they were violating a long-standing taboo in a clever way. But that was TV, and this is real life, and people in real life are rarely clever enough to get away with casually exposing what should be private events. When we discuss our sexual activities in public, we're just cheap.

a two day

Every day, I try and do at least one concretely productive thing, in addition to the usual feed kids/transport kids/clean kitchen every day type drudgery: grocery shop, do laundry, bake something, clean something.

It's pretty pathetic, but when you throw in all the other stuff, doing one other thing often nearly wipes me out.

But I get frustrated with my limitations and from time to time I will try and develop some stamina. So today, even though we went shopping at Sam's Club after lunch, and I spent at least 30 minutes, probably closer to 40, pushing around both DD and DS2 in the cart with all the groceries, I made banana bread before dinner.

After dinner, I washed my hair. By 9:30, I was falling asleep on the couch.


Somewhat propped up by my cat-naps, I'm now wondering if I am totally screwed now for getting a good night's sleep. It's like I get one good shot at it, and I've blown it: I should've just brushed my teeth and fallen into bed directly out of the shower. Too late.

stealth fish

My favorite online curmudgeon has his own blog now. Cool.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

one possible explanation

For my kids' freaking out, that is, beyond the simple fact that my Mom is here now, and things are just different when Gramma's here:

The last three times my mother has visited, I've had surgery.

It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the kids subconsciously associate my Mom being here with me needing to go into the hospital again.

I'm hoping I won't have to, of course, and I don't have anything scheduled right now. Here's hoping nothing comes up to change that.

what's going on here?

Another odd-ish day.

Yesterday DD punted her dance class. At the moment when it was time to get changed into her dance outfit, she burst into tears and declared she wasn't "feeling very well right now!" I strongly suspected malingering, but when things like this happen, you have to weigh everything together and keep things in perspective. I accused her of faking to get out of class and she denied it. But after lying down for 5 minutes, she was up and about and as chipper as she'd ever been, and that's exactly the kind of thing to make a parent suspicious.

Today at dinner, a virtual repeat of yesterday afternoon's performance, except when she came back down to dinner, the waterworks started up again. So she went up to bed, and eventually fell asleep, without eating anything at all.

No fever, no other tummy troubles, either. Great appetite lately, too. Earlier today she declared, "Today is the most fun day ever," because I relented and let her bounce around the house on my huge exercise ball, and also because I took out an old sheet and let them drape it over the climber to turn it into a tent. Sometimes the smallest things will float them -- it cracks me up. So, the girl played hard today but showed not a sign of anything wrong until I suggested she eat her salad.

DH and I speculate that she's over-tired, maybe slightly dehydrated, too, and maybe (this from me) this is her way of coping with the changes to the household "vibe" now that my Mom is here. Kids are a lot more perceptive than people give them credit for; even babies can detect tension, especially in their moms.

Both times I was firm without being harsh with her: don't give me this whiny "I don't feel very well right now," mantra, I want specifics. Headache? No. Tummy hurt? No -- or yes, depending. Feel like you're going to throw up? No. Plus no fevers or any other indication of anything wrong. I spoke to the on-call nurse and she basically ran through the same list with me, and said the obvious: keep an eye on her, if she develops worse/serious systems, bring her in.

So what is really going on with her? I'm not saying she didn't feel bad. I am saying it's completely unclear whether there is a physical reason for her to feel so bad she can crumple up into tears the way she did. If it happens again, though, I'm afraid it will be doctor time. She may have a UTI or something that is only bothering her periodically. I wish there was some way I could get her WBC to see if she's got some infection going, but that magic medicine hasn't been invented yet. Hate that.

It was funny how DS1, and to a certain extent DS2, assumed she was faking, because after dinner they went right up to see if she would play hide-and-go-seek with them. I had to chase them back down. And if you want to imagine something incredibly cute and hysterical, imagine a nearly-8-year-old playing that game with his nearly-4-year-old brother, who still doesn't get that when you're hiding, you're supposed stay hidden until the other guy finds you!

The boys, thankfully, seem to be over the hump -- let's hope this extra sleep is what DD needs to put her to rights again, too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

terminal envy

This is why I want to be Lileks when I grow up.

Heh. When I grow up.

I have no excuse; I'm about as grown up as I'm going to get, seeing as I expect my children to surpass me in maturity any day now, and their cumulative ages are still not half of mine. They're reaping the benefits of advantages I didn't have, namely, they are all adorable, articulate, and healthy. I will leave it to you to figure out which of one of those described me as a kid.

Come to think of it, I'm long past being a kid and I'm still only one of those three, and that one comes up for discussion from time to time: What did you say???

I remain hopeful that recovery is still possible. Perhaps recovery isn't what I should be aiming for, though -- maybe it's redemption. I have to be able to make something of all this, I think.

I just don't know what, yet.

tues m/i

(maintenance & inventory)

Took the cat to the vet for her vaccinations today, and had a lengthy discussion with the vet about how to handle her ongoing digestive troubles. She's getting her teeth cleaned in a couple of weeks, and at that appointment they will draw blood and retest her thyroid. Depending on the thyroid results, we'll proceed based on a tentative IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) diagnosis, treating her with steroids -- either a liquid or a long-acting injection.

The vet was very understanding of how my recent cancer adventure has affected our ability to deal with the cat. I really like the vet -- he recognizes that I have no fear of medical terms and dives right in, explains everything, and never pressures us to make the high-dollar decisions. He spoke wistfully of getting more definitive IBD dxs, but since that requires biopsies costing anywhere from $400-$800, you can see why he doesn't often get the chance.


The endo's office finally called back re the rx that was screwed up, and they are re-writing it and sending off a new one. Better get here soon...


The piano tuner came this evening and worked on the machine for an hour-and-a-half, and it sounds worlds better. There's a disconcerting twang on the D an octave above middle C, though -- I wonder if he's in the area if he will come back and take a listen? It's not an all-the-time thing, it's only sometimes...

I am completely, totally incompetent at the keyboard. I murdered my 2 favorite Bach Two Part Inventions (13 14) and crashed my way through a C-major scale with complete disgust. Makes me want to take lessons again...


I feel like I didn't do a lick of work today. It was a visiting sort of day.

I talked at some length to one of DD's classmate's moms, S; she also has hypothyroidism and just isn't feeling that great and we talked about the dozen or so things that could be going on. She just had labs done and of course they came back "perfect." Ack! I gave her a care package of two books and a few printouts, plus an unopened bottle of Selenium, which I gave up on after my thyroidectomy.

My friend M and her mom came by for an hour or so this afternoon, and we had a nice visit. She wants to go to Europe so we had a lot of fun talking about all the different places to go and things to see. She loved her birthday present, too -- but I forgot to give her the dvd I had burned for her, from videos she gave me -- like us, she doesn't have a VCR connected to a tv at her house anymore. Oh well, another excuse to get together?

What was I supposed to do today, anyway? I actually feel pretty good, physically, especially since I was up late watching ROTK in glorious Dolby surround sound. (DH fixed some setting somewhere, and now the sound really is awesome.) I have to stop doing that.

I ate an entire Cadbury chocolate bar. I blame the carbonara I had for dinner. I used Dreamfield's pasta (tastes very, very good), which is not supposed to cause cravings, but seriously: it does. At least, this time it did. I think it's a portion-control thing. If I have a small serving with dinner, I think I'd be OK. But to have it, basically, as dinner? Didn't work so well. Of course I ended up skipping breakfast and having a light-ish lunch (with bread), so I can see that I set myself up for that breakdown. *sigh*

transition time

All three of the kids have been having dust-ups lately, being over-sensitive, over-reacting, generally freaking out. Nothing major, just odd little blips of out-of-control behavior. I started to think they're all coming down with something, which is still entirely possible -- they've been back at school long enough to have caught and incubated something nasty, so if they wake up sick, no one will be surprised.

But I don't think that's it. I was talking to DS1's teacher today -- he got very upset with her, and she was disturbed that he couldn't articulate what she had done to make him upset -- and it finally dawned on me: Gramma's here.

Mom comes every year, and we all love her very much. But when she's here, the dynamic of the family changes in subtle, and some not-so-subtle, ways. It will take a few more days before we settle into a routine and feel comfy at home again. It's just the way it is.

I talked a little with DS1 about this on the way home. We are just out of sorts, and we don't really know what to do to get back into them. Over time we will settle again, but until then, we're all a little more prickly. How hard it is for them to feel that "home" is not quite as "homey" as it ought to be. I know things will be fine in relatively short order. It won't be the same as when Mom is not here, of course, but it will stop being "home - weird" and become "home - normal, for now."

Grand Rounds

The latest Grand Rounds is up, and my the Gawande kerfuffle piece is included, along with one of Jim Hu's responses.

I find it interesting (dismaying?) that so many folks read the article with such an uncritical eye. I had no idea that Gawande was "a hero" to many. I can see that he would be viewed as a radical reformer in a profession somewhat desperately in need of reform... but there are ways to go about it, and ways not to. There's a difference between working towards change and being a spoiler.