Thursday, June 30, 2005

wet wet wet

Today is our third damp day in a row. Everything hurts.

The thing is, it usually only outright rains in the morning, which means we're not necessarily stuck indoors all day. Yesterday morning I moved out of "my" room in with the kids in preparation for my brother's arrival with his kids, then did more laundry (milk spilled all over the tablecloth at breakfast), then vaccuumed everything and straightened out the bathroom. By the time that was all done, it was time for lunch.

We went out to BK since we also needed groceries -- that was the plan, grab lunch, get food for dinner, and then go to the beach in the afternoon if the weather cooperated. Since the weather didn't cooperate, we ended up going to the Zooquarium in S. Yarmouth where we had a blast. A most excellent sea lion show. It's great that finally the kids are old enough so that we can actually read the information they put up at each tank about the fish and animals inside. The traffic down Cape wasn't too bad, although it was worse than I was hoping considering it's still technically pre-season.

We got back at 4:30 to find my bro already here -- I wasn't expecting him until 5 the earliest! So I was kicking myself, but they didn't care. The kids have been entertaining each other non-stop since then. I have to keep an ear out for DS2, the littlest of them, but so far he's only accidentally bumped his nose once. We even got them to bed at a decent hour last night and it seems everyone slept well, so hopefully today will go well.

Driving back from the Zooquarium yesterday afternoon I could feel how low my blood sugar was... I wasn't feeling sleepy, but it was hard for me to concentrate on the driving. Driving my mom's car weirds me out -- we have to keep the windows open, and I have always hated the noise and wind that results, but since the A/C doesn't work, keeping the windows closed isn't an option. It's OK for short trips to the beach, but there's no way I'm taking it up to Boston.

Decision day: drive to CT tonight, or tomorrow morning? I didn't sleep well last night but maybe I can grab a nap later. Now I'm wishing I had brought my Ambien, between the damp here and my already-flaring RA, sleep is just impossible. We'll have to see.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

being the only grown-up gets tiring

Lest you think that today was a bad day, given the whiny title I've given this post, let me start off by saying that's not the case at all. It just really does get tiring being the only go-to person for three children, who are for the most part a self-sustaining unit of their own. They're great, but from time to time they still need things only an adult can provide like nourishment, or seatbelt-buckling.

We awoke this morning to torrential rains which soon subsided into a general misty foggy sort of thing. The morning was spent doing inconsequential things at home, and then we went to the Cape Cod Children's Museum, which is geared mostly towards 3- and 4-year olds, but the older two kids enjoyed themselves, too. We bought ice cream sandwiches from a type of automated ice cream vending machine I hadn't seen before (not that I am any kind of expert on vending machines). It used a vaccuum hose to pick up your selection and move it over to the bin where you could get it out of the machine. It was pretty cool.

It was only 3:30 at that point and I was casting around for things to do, since I knew if we came home the kids would just sit in front of the TV all afternoon and get on each other's nerves (and mine, too.) DD asked if we could go to the movies if it rains again tomorrow, and I thought, Why not now? We were only about 5 minutes away from a theatre, so we drove over and found a parking space.

The next showing of "Herbie: Fully Loaded" was only a half-hour away, so we bought our tickets and were just going to head to the little toy shop nearby when DS1 grumped out, "Why do we have to go to the movie now?" I told him it was because I'd already bought the tickets -- if he really didn't want to go, he should've spoken up sooner. Turns out he was hungry and wanted to go home and have dinner (our appetite clocks are totally screwed up, by then his stomach was asking for lunch, and wondering why it was so late!) So when I explained that it was way too early for dinner and besides we'd get popcorn, he realized he didn't have any choice... so then we went in and bought the popcorn and got seats in the tiny, tiny theater (maybe 250 seats, tops).

The movie was cute and it didn't bother me at all that it was so predictable. The kids all really enjoyed it, and it was a great way to kill a couple of hours on a day that was threatening to become very tedious. Dinner, laundry, hanging out, and catch-up phone calls completed a long successful day... but now I'm just beat. Time to call DH and then fall into bed. Except I'm not sleeping in a bed, I'm sleeping on a couch. It's more comfortable in couch-mode than it is as a sofabed, and since it's just me, I don't bother unfolding it. That's just one more weird thing about being the only grown-up around.

Monday, June 27, 2005


I saw these rocks when I was silently tailing the kids down the beach. I was struck by how vibrant their colors were, and their placement, which seemed purposeful...

They are each about the size of a quarter, tossed up together like a matched set. A few moments later they'd be dry and dull, or washed back into the ocean.

weeds and jellies

Another beach day, another beach.

Today's beach is the one in my profile photo, only today it was covered in seaweed and there were great quantities of jellyfish everywhere.

I let the kids wander off, all together, down the beach, exploring. They were always in my sight, they just didn't know it. They loved being independent.

One minor downer: DS1 got a mild jelly sting, much to our surprise. These jellies really seemed like the harmless type. It was just bad luck. My afterbite stick was used up and I hadn't realized it, so I went to the lifeguards to see if they had anything, or any suggestions. They said it would only hurt for about 15 minutes or so, and packing wet sand on it to cool it off was our best bet. So we sat DS1 down at the water line and buried the affected limbs (one leg, one hand), and kept him cool, and he did just fine.

Tomorrow, we're going to the fresh water pond if we go swimming. I think DS1 needs to know the water will be weed- and jelly-free before he'll be willing to go back in. It's not that it was so bad, it's just not something he ever wants to happen again, and I understand that. Fortunately both the weeds and the jellies should be gone pretty soon.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


All the relatives have cleared out, the kids are asleep, and I'm listening to the once-familiar nighttime noises of my mother's house as I websurf.

I'm still in shock, really. I can't believe we're actually here. For so many weeks I was in "hope for the best, expect the worst" mode that I had nearly convinced myself that we wouldn't be coming. And yet, here we are.

The kids are already acclimated to most things, falling easily into last summer's patterns. Why did we move here? DS2 asked this evening as we drove to the supermarket. The other two deftly handled that question, explaining we're not living here forever, just for the summer. But DS2 definitely has the sense that this is "home," now, which is, in essence, true.

Between cell phones and emails, DH is able to keep up with all our adventures. I am missing him dreadfully, but I won't wish away these next few weeks until he gets here -- the days will fly by even without me wishing for it. We're off to a good start today.

first beach day of the season

... for us, anyway.

welcome to Mac world

Yesterday's flight was uneventful and thus, stellar. Best flight with kids, ever. My brother and his family located us without difficulty in the terminal, all the luggage came down within minutes, and we didn't hit any traffic on the way to Mom's house. Amazing.

I'm on Mom's computer now. She has an iMac. It's weird, but I suppose I'll get used to it. If I can get the machine to recognize my camera, I'll be able to post photos, which would be very cool. I think this will require at least one call to my Mac-literate brother (the one who got this computer for Mom) for tech support. If this were a PC I'd know what to do -- alas, my experience on Microsoft OSs is useless in this situation.

Friday, June 24, 2005

and we're off

I didn't spend all day running around the house accumulating stuff to be packed and then packing it. No, we took off for 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon to go swim at a friend's house. The kids exhausted themselves.

Even better, the swim date was incentive for me to get as much as possible done this morning, and it really worked! Amazing.

I'm exhausted but satisfied. After laundry, cleaning, folding, packing, hefting, etc etc, I'm pretty much done. Just have to stow away the toothbrushes, and that's it. Yikes!

Flying all day tomorrow. Don't know when I'll post again, but it will be from New England when I do.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


A number of weeks ago, I spent $30 for a flat iron.

It really works, although it takes me at least 30 minutes to do a decent job, and really 45 minutes is better. I have a lot of hair, even though my hairdressers always thin it out as much as possible. So I have to do something with it, or I'll end up with hair like Mia's before her makeover in Princess Diaries.

Now, I am not accustomed to spending 30+ minutes on something as idiotic as straightening out my hair. I'm insufficiently 'girlie' to arrange my schedule so that I can spend such an inordinate amount of time without inconveniencing everyone else (like children who want breakfast, or lunch.) I mean, really. More than a half-hour just to have straight hair? Not something I'm going to do on a regular basis, but it's nice to have the option handy.

In the meantime, I'll just tie it back in a ponytail while it's wet, and let it dry that way. The results are indistinguishable, and it's a heckuva lot quicker.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

bohemian rhapsody

I won!

This is one of the seller's photographs. I hope I like it as much in person.

I'll fit right in when we go wandering around Woods Hole and Cambridge this summer...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

till we drop

I have been shopping non-stop for the past week. At least that's what it feels like. There are things that would be hard for me to find on the East Coast (like all my supplements), and there are things that I must get here (like mine and the kids' prescriptions.) Then there are things I want to have to bring with us, like chewing gum and DS1's dramamine.

There's been recreational shopping, like yesterday at Borders: decadent snack, followed by music (another Ralph's World album, plus Abbey Road, it's ridiculous that I didn't own it on CD!), plus "congratulations on another good school year finished" presents for the kids -- a tradition my mother started and I've continued, just a small thing that they'll enjoy, in this case, a new Beanie Baby each.

Then there's replacement shopping. After purging my closet, I've decided I'm entitled to at least one or two new skirts and a few new t-shirts. The skirt shopping is not going well; I've resorted to making a bid on eBay. I'm trying to decide if I'm being ridiculous or just going with the trend. I've always loved bohemian (that's a hint). If I win the auction, I'll post a link.

There is required shopping, too. Today was like a training day for vacation: a lot of walking around. All three kids had outgrown all their footware, so we went to the mall, land of shoe shopping opportunities. First we had lunch at CPK, their tortilla spring rolls were sufficient enticement to get me to go to the mall as opposed to somewhere else. Since the new section of Loop 202 is now open, it didn't even take us 15 minutes to get to the mall, so that was cool. Of course, parking was an issue, it always is. Someday I'm going to use the valet service just to save myself the aggravation, but I don't feel like that's a great example for the kids. (Now I'm thinking about it, why? Is our collective time and aggravation worth $5? probably.)

We spent a seeming eternity in Payless and the kids were angelic. We found sandals and sneakers for all 3, plus a pair of dressier shoes for DD. Yay! Then I dragged them into Eddie Bauer (no skirts) where I picked up two new t-shirts. Then we went... where? I can't remember the order of things now -- we stopped into New York & Co (no skirts), but actually shopped in Build-a-Bear Workshop (DD: pajamas for her bears) and Kay-Bee Toys (the two boys: cool little Lego creature kits). DS2 played in the play area for a bit, while the rest of us cooled our heels -- both DD and DS1 are far too big to jump around with the babies anymore, and DS2 is nearly there, himself. On the way out we breezed through The Gap, kids & womens, but they had neither a sweatshirt for DD nor skirts for me!

Somewhere along the line we got DQ for a snack, and I drank a probably zillion-carb blueberry smoothie with an orange juice base that was, frankly, fantastic. (I looked it up: 20 oz, 350 calories, 89 grams carbohydrate. Ooooh-kay...) By the time we got home it was close to 5PM, and everyone managed to keep their crankiness down; nobody wigged out. A minor miracle.

After dinner: Kohl's (again with the skirts -- no dice, but I did find a beach cover-up for DD, who still needs a sweatshirt) and then Trader Joe's, for the last of my supplements and some snacks for the trip, plus the usual milk-bread-butter-eggs staples. And bacon, they have this fabulous uncured apple-wood-smoked bacon.

So, what's left, I'm thinking? DD's sweatshirt, for one thing. A new set of nonstick frying pans, because the current ones are no longer non-stick no matter how much you grease them, and I don't want to leave that until I get back in August. I want nice new pans to look forward to, already here waiting for me. New markers and a drawing pad for DD (probably for the boys, too, though they won't use theirs, but that's OK.) Now I just have to figure out when and where to get these things, and we'll be all set to go.

Panic is starting to set in, but I'm pretty sure we'll manage.

Monday, June 20, 2005

wish, fulfilled

My children are, like a lot of kids, finicky eaters.

You can imagine that this could be a source of near-constant frustration to someone like me, who loves to cook and bake and do all sorts of food preparation. I really enjoy putting a nice meal on the table.

I just wish that someday, everyone in the family would eat it, without complaints or questions or anything other than cheerful acceptance.

Yesterday, at our Father's Day dinner, that wish was, for once, granted.

Shrimp? Yum! The boys dug right in (!), and even DD finally relented to try one late in the meal, and then she had another, right away! Astonishing.

Spinach salad? DS1's absolute favorite. I did give the 2 peewees romaine salad, since they detest spinach, but they both ate their salads right up! For DH and me, I made my trademark salad of baby spinach with blue cheese crumbles, diced avocado, and crumbled pecans. Luscious.

Broiled steak? No doubt about that being popular -- as picky as they are, my kids are all carnivores.

Finally, we came to the cheesecake. You could've just knocked me over with a feather when all three kids declared they wanted some, and then they actually ate it! Astonishing.

I'm recording this event because only the Lord knows when, or if, it will ever happen again. I'm grateful that it happened this once, and on the occasion of Father's Day, too. It was really a lovely meal.

the cheesecake story

It was a purposely quiet weekend. Saturday I shopped for DH's Father's Day stuff (Don Julio anejo tequila, a couple of nice Padron Anniversary cigars) and prodded the kids to make cards for him, while he did some work in the yard repairing the nth leak in our sprinkler/drip system in the past 3 months.

Our plan for Father's Day itself was very simple: a very nice dinner at home. Steak and shrimp, a special salad, and cheesecake. Not too much fuss or bother. After supper Saturday, I put the cheesecake together (crustless, at DH's request), and stuck it in the oven. It cooks for an hour at 300 degrees, so I set the timer, and turned down the oven to 200 for another hour. That was at about 7:30pm, so I thought, I don't need to set the timer, I'll just shut off the oven when I come down after putting the kids in bed. A few minutes more or less isn't going to make much difference.

8:30 rolls around, we get the kids in bed, and I come downstairs. I remember to take my anti-biotic (that's a minor miracle, these days.) And then I shut off the vent fan, which I always run in the summer to keep the heat from the oven from venting into the house -- but I forgot to turn off the oven!

I didn't take the cheesecake out, either, because it's good to let it cool off gradually as the oven cools. This gentle technique works wonders in preventing cracking.

Then I watched Galaxy Quest, which is a very sweet movie I really like. Then I puttered around a bit, and at 11:30pm I finally decided I should get the cheesecake out of the oven so it could cool to room temp (or closer to it, anyway), before I stuck it in the fridge before I went to bed.

That's when I saw the oven was still on.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! I thought. And worse, of course. The big question, was it totally wrecked? Would it be dry and sticky, inedible? I hoped not. It was in a water bath, after all. The top did look a little dry, but it was impossible to tell about the rest of it. I stuck it in the fridge and hoped for the best.

Sunday evening, dinner was great, and it's time for dessert, and I was laughing off the possibility of having to trash the entire cheesecake, We'll go out for ice cream if it's horrible.

But... it wasn't horrible. It had the creamiest, most unbelievably light texture. It was even better than my previous attempts, which have all been truly remarkable. The differences? Well, for one thing, the cream cheese was very soft when I whipped up the batter, and I'm sure that helped. For another, I used erythritol instead of granular Splenda. Third, I cooked it for 4 hours at 200 degrees, instead of one.

DH says I should make it this way all the time, now.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

treading water

It's a lot harder than it looks.

DS1 has mastered it, DD's almost there, but DS2 won't even attempt it.

We spent the afternoon at a friend's house, with all the kids playing in the pool. I was astonished that DS2 actually wanted to swim, for the first time ever. From the steps to me, from me back to the steps, with a pretty decent freestyle. But he needs to learn how to come up for air! He'll get it, eventually.

We made cookies this morning and brought some with us, and they were all devoured. Fortunately we left some home, for us, for the weekend.

It was a good day. My taste buds seem to be reviving, and my stomach wasn't nearly as messed up as it has been, so that made the day a lot easier for me. RA still flaring away, but being in the pool helped that, too. I feel like I'm finally on an upward trajectory, health-wise. I hope it lasts!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

good day

More or less.

I think my taste buds are coming back. The roast chicken at dinner tonight tasted like chicken. I noticed that my sense of smell is working fine, and it is just totally weird when I taste something and the taste doesn't match the smell at all! Mostly, I'm getting just... nothing. Not an altered taste, but no sense of certain tastes at all.

I seriously hope this is temporary, because I am going to have a hell of a time being any kind of a food writer if my sense of taste is gone. If this is permanent, I will cry.

We shopped today, and I finally did get some laundry going, nothing much else. But I came home and prepped the chicken and put on the stock to simmer, and dinner was recognizable to anyone as just that, dinner. Usually I do rather unusual (that is, lame) things around the vegetable department, for dinner -- sliced apples make a frequent appearance as a "vegetable." Hey, they're good for you! The kids eat them, too. Sometimes it's hard coming up with a protein and two side dishes every single day. Last night we had quesadillas. Our "vegetables": salsa and chopped avocado. Works for me. (heh)

I feel the time running through my fingers but can't get twisted about it. Stuff will get done, or it won't. There's nothing really pressing pending, besides packing, and that's for next week.


I'm up late again tonight, although I slept for probably an hour earlier, lying on the couch not-watching Hitchcock's Rope. I have been TiVOing a lot of old movies lately, and that was one that showed up, but I realized I have seen it before so I just drifted right off to sleep.

This is one of those times when there's just too much happening, and I don't know when I'll be able to just release everything... I have the kids all day, which is really fine, but it's better when I get more sleep. Then there's the Rosie situation, which is not fine even though it was a good decision and the right decision, but it's just there, hanging in the background, waiting for me to deal with it.

Then there are people around me who are dealing with various stresses of their own, and I am of no help whatsoever, which sucks.

Last, I'm still feeling punked from the radiation etc. My salivaries do weird things from time to time, not as bad as they were in February, just not normal. Taste and digestion are still shot, and my diet has been terrible. Nothing really tastes good and eating just makes me feel (and be) sick, so -- ick. But I do eat, and I'm trying to be good about taking my supplements as well as my meds. Drinking is really a problem, since water tastes particularly horrible these days. Ice-cold Propel is about the only thing that tastes decent; my sense of sweet taste is working the best. Great! Just what I need -- only my sweet tastebuds are working! My teeth have become really sensitive but I have been too lazy to do flouride treatments. And my hands are killing me.

It's a vicious cycle, this is. The radiation causes physical side effects which produce stress, and the stress feeds into its own physical manifestations, which of course creates more stress...

Tomorrow: shopping, and probably making cookies. We need to shop for DH for Father's Day, we'll see how that goes. I should make a list of the things I want to get done before I leave, but that will probably send me right over the edge. I'm going to take it day by day and try to manage better that way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Shark Boy & Lava Girl

We went today, and I was expecting it to be entirely without redeeming qualities, but it wasn't as wretched as I expected. That was a pleasant surprise.

I'm not saying it was great, or even good, but it moved at a pretty brisk pace, which was merciful, considering. The real downfall of the movie is the blasted 3-D, which renders everything black-and-white, mostly. What is the point of going to a dream planet, and limiting your color palette to black-and-white? Stupid. I'll never understand Rodriguez.

That said, there was some stuff that was surprising, like Lava Girl's troubled self-examination. She couldn't reconcile her destructive nature (being made of lava, she destroys everything she touches) with her innate desire to be good, and her belief in her own goodness. She couldn't figure out how she fit into the world. I'm not going to give up the answer -- for one reason, it didn't make all that much sense -- but I enjoyed the fact that this kind of question was even posed.

I did feel as if I was being clonked on the head by dropping anvils, nearly throughout the picture. The moralizing wasn't just obvious, it was exceedingly clumsy. There was no lyricism at all in this picture, but there was a considerable amount of homage, if not downright plagiarism. The kids' acting was better than the adults'. Pretty much all of the secondary characters (everyone except Max, LG, and SB) had dual roles, and while George Lopez was OK in the dream world, he was completely abysmal in the real world. I don't know whether to blame the script, the directing, or the actor, but that particular character was terrible. It's really too bad, too, because it is a rather pivotal role, and if it had been handled well, it could've made a huge difference in the movie. Lopez just never put out a "teacher" vibe. He was much better as the villain!

I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone over the age of 10, say, but my 3 kiddoes did enjoy it, and it didn't make me want to rip my eyes out. Considering how poorly this movie has been reviewed, I think that's pretty high praise.

postscript: I realized this much later this evening -- tucked among all the previews for upcoming kids' movies was a trailer for the new Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. Yep, they threw all of us long-suffering moms a bone there: "Hey, look, a chick flick!" Since I had no idea they were doing a new version, I was very psyched by the preview. I love Keira (Pirates of the Caribbean is on as I type this, probably one of my favorite non-sci-fi action movies, ever), and she looked and sounded great in the preview.


Busy as all get out.

Having purged my bookcases and closet and the kids' playroom, I'm now in the process of getting all the purged stuff out of the house. With the exception of a few books we traded in at Bookman's, everything is getting donated, but it needs to be tallied first, and it's being donated to 3 different places, which necessitates a bit of running around.

I promised the kids I'd take them to see the no doubt insufferable Shark Boy and Lava Girl movie, which I fervently wish was not 3-D, but I don't have that kind of control over the universe, unfortunately.

Still in flare, which hasn't made all this work any easier. Of course, typing that, I realize that all this work is probably what's keeping me in the flare. That sucks. I've done so well for months now without needing any pain meds on a regular basis, I really don't want to cave and start taking them again, but if this keeps up, I'm going to need something. My hands were killing me all day, especially. Of course carrying bags and boxes of books around isn't exactly easy on the hands.

DH took Rosie over to the vet this morning. I thought I should do it but he told me no, even though I feel guilty. I feel less guilty than I did yesterday morning, though, since yesterday afternoon the laundry room was half-covered by a puddle of cat piss. Nothing like mopping up for the n-teenth time to steel your resolve. I cleaned out everything today, and scrubbed the floor in there (again). I must stress that scrubbing tile on hands and knees is very tough on the knees and no picnic for the hands, either.

It's so odd that Rosie is not here anymore.

In the evenings, I close all the blinds except the one on the sliding door to the patio, because Rosie would always come in and out at least 3 or 4 times before we went to bed. Tonight I followed that old pattern for no reason except I wasn't thinking. It only took me a few minutes to realize there was no reason to leave that last blind open anymore. I'm sure there will be many little moments like that over the coming days and weeks.

I haven't let myself get too upset today. I have this feeling of having too much to do, I don't have time for it. Also if I start crying I don't know when I'll stop, and that's no good. I feel sad she's gone and guilty because I sent her away, but also relieved, and I feel guilty for that, too. I choke up from time to time, I tear up, too. I know I'll cry eventually. Just not today.

I'm in Dory mode: Just keep swimming... just keep swimming...


First Day Home

Drying off after her flea bath. (That's me.)

Meeting (some of) the family...
I still can't believe she was ever that tiny.

Uncle P

Aunt L

Attack! Attack!

Kitten action shots are the best... I have no idea what she was attempting with this move, other than a basic "Get it!" but it still looks hysterical to me.

Rosie was adopted from the Boston Humane Society's shelter. We love lobster and were lucky that in Boston it's fairly easy to come by. With a kitten, live lobster means not just a great dinner, but the evening's entertainment as well.

What is this thing?

Am I supposed to eat this or play with it? It's rather cold and icky, if you ask me!

Now that you mention it, this stuff smells pretty good. Can I have some?

Get it off! This is so undignified!

Mom, how many times are you going to wave that same stupid claw in front of me? Give me that thing!
(Until I found this photo, I had completely forgotten that I had ever had (ick) bangs.)

The Lookout

When are you coming home? I'm waiting for you!


I know you're packing... where are you going? Do you think I don't know overnight bags when I see them? When are you coming back? Can I go with you? Please?


Her favorite sport: chase the tape measure. She was bored by laser pointers, but a tape measure? Oh, yeah. Them's good huntin'.

Rest in peace, little love.

July ?, 1993 - June 14, 2005

Monday, June 13, 2005

follow up (the whole body scan experience)

I had my follow up whole body scan this morning.

It really isn't so bad, dragging my butt out of bed at 6:30, cleaning my teeth and face, getting dressed, and hopping in the car to get to the hospital in the heart of downtown Phoenix by 7:45 so I could check in. Obviously there are better ways to spend a morning, but it really isn't that bad. If, on the other hand, that trip represented my daily commute, I would probably be suicidal after a month.

At the registration desk, whoever entered my appointment had omitted my middle name, and so the computer didn't recognize me. I told the woman who was registering me that I was just there on June 3, and I have been a patient there since November. It took a fair amount of I-don't-know-what to consolidate the two records, and then to figure out how much I owed them for my procedures. I spent over a half-hour on registration!

Then, on to the scan. My wait in the imaging department was mercifully brief, and then I spent another hour+ in the scanner. Being in the scanner is not difficult, but it's not relaxing, either. You really can't fall asleep because you have to hold yourself together, more or less. I don't know how bigger people manage on those narrow beds! I'm basically a twig (scant 130 pounds stretched out over 5 feet, 7+ inches) and I didn't feel very secure. The velcro straps they put over you don't really help all that much, but they do help.

Today my hands got a little numb; on the 3rd, my arms felt dead for their entire lengths. So today was better, although I have no idea why.

I wrote on the 3rd that I was thinking of that classic Gloria Swanson line, All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up. A nuclear scan is about the closest close-up you can imagine. The scan plate starts out over your head and neck, and it is literally only an inch or so from your nose. I have said to more than one technician that I'm always worried that I'll sneeze and give myself a concussion. It's a funny comment, but it's also a serious consideration. The scanner plates are large -- probably at least 2 feet, square -- and fixed in place by their robotic arms that move them around. It's not like you could just tap the thing and have it swing out of the way.

My other thought on being in the scanner is that it is not so much like the traditional coffin as it is like a sarcophagus, the Egyption fitted coffins that all those mummified pharoahs were placed in. Even with the sarcophagus feeling, I prefer the nuclear scan to an MRI, say, because it's very quiet. Every time the MRI noise went off I felt as if I would jump out of my skin, no matter how hard I tried to brace myself for the next round. It's just so loud!

On the 3rd, I lay on the scanner thinking, I bet I'm going to light up like a Christmas tree, but the scan image itself is a negative, so the more uptake there is a given area, the darker that area appears. On the 3rd, my scan was clean, except for the expected areas of uptake, like the salivary glands, nasal mucusa, a bit in the liver and stomach, a little in the bladder. The preliminary scan they did on the 2nd showed a faint shadow in my neck, but in the final scan on the 3rd, that area was clear. The doctor told me they sometimes see some faint uptake in the carotid arteries like that, and since it was definitely gone on the 3rd, I didn't worry about it.

In sharp contrast to my scans on the 2nd and 3rd, which I fervently hoped would be clean, today, I was hoping that something would show up. We knew from my elevated Thyroglobulin that there was still some cancer somewhere in my body. If today's scan was negative, that would've been very unusual, and very bad. A negative scan today would mean that my cancer had somehow become undifferentiated, and was no longer taking up radioactive iodine. Since we use RAI to both monitor and treat thyroid cancer, that would've been dire news.

So I was quite relieved to see the three little dark spots along the cervical chain of lymph nodes in the right side of my neck, and not all that surprised, either. The doctor was pleased with the amount of uptake -- he was surprised that there was so much. Why didn't they show up on the first scans?, I wondered, but I'm not going to be torturing myself with that. If they had, I might have had to go for surgery... but they didn't (I saw the scans, I know!), and so we went with the RAI... and here's hoping it will do the trick.

I still think there is a very good chance that this last round of RAI will be the last treatment I'll ever need for my thyroid cancer, as long as I keep my TSH suppressed. I'm willing to do that. I go back for another scan in 6 months, and then we'll see.


I first learned about Alicia's Story over on the Yahoo Thyca support group, when the first installment of the serial was published. I waited to post the link until the whole series had run, because I wanted to see it through before sending anyone over there myself.

Alicia's cancer situation could not be more different from my own, but even so, I felt that she really nailed many of the feelings I have experienced. I can't read a single "chapter" of her story without tearing up at least twice, but this isn't a saccharine story by any means. Like most cancer patients, Alicia pretty soon adopts a "do what you gotta do" mentality. It's what gets us through.

I highly recommend Alicia's Story to anyone who wonders what it must be like to have cancer, or to anyone struggling to come to grips with a part of his life he's not happy with. Alicia is working with the benefits of both space constraints and an editor, so you're not forced to wade through pages and pages of dreck to get to the heart of the story. Her style is direct and clear, and heart-breaking, and hopeful. Go. Read.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Sometimes I have this problem where I know someone is joking, or being sarcastic, or is just plain not serious, but I can't help myself from taking him seriously. I have this strange compulsion to respond to something that wasn't said to make a point, it was said to get a laugh, or maybe even to get a dig in.

I feel so stupid when I realize I've done that.

So I'm thinking about it and I realize that maybe I shouldn't feel stupid. I think those laughs or digs should be earned, and if the point as presented makes no sense or is just plain wrong, well then -- sorry, but I'm often disinclined to let anyone get away with that sort of thing.

I do make myself hush most of the time, though, because I don't want to come off as a prig. If I'm annoyed enough, I'll speak up, and that has its own set of repercussions.

The other times I decide it's better to just keep my mouth shut are when it seems to me that someone has misunderstood something. Then I think, Wait! Maybe she does get it, but she's just being snarky about it and I can't tell.

It could be that I'm dense, it could be there's too much wiggle room in the language. At least I'm smart enough to realize the possibility that I'm dense, and also that it's best not to say anything that moves that possibility into the realm of the actual.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

feels familiar

I'm generally OK these days, post-RAI, except when I'm not. Let's see:

- crushing fatigue that strikes at random, no matter how much sleep I'm getting? Check.

- fuzzy tongue, diminished salivary production, altered sense of taste? Check.

- complete aversion to coffee and other previous favorite foods as a result? Check.

- green-about-the-gills much of the time? Check.

- Other nasty digestive symptoms? Check.

Seems that being dosed with 100 mCi of radioactive iodine induces symptoms which perfectly mimic the early days of pregnancy. It was a lot easier to take when I was pregnant.

BTW, I am NOT pregnant. Just thought I would make that clear.

probably not the last word on RotS

Lileks is rocking this week. First, he launches Screedblog. And today, he gives us the definitive run-down on Revenge of the Sith.

This guy consistently pulls responses out of me that I didn't know I had. It is unexpected and lovely to recognize such unarticulated feelings. It happens so often to me while reading Lileks that I'm coming to expect it.

My only point of disagreement -- I didn't have any trouble buying Anakin's turn to the Dark Side, but that's because I had been steeping myself in Vader's memoirs for weeks before I actually saw the movie. The Clone Wars shorts helped, too. But I know that's cheating, and Lucas could've done a much, much better job. I think Hayden Christiansen did the best he could with the material he had to work with, so I'm not blaming him. But there was such a wealth of character development that was sacrificed for all that jaw-dropping CGI.

Maybe someone, somewhere down the line will do these stories properly (y'know, with more Wookies, and stuff.) I'd watch.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Recently Barbara Walters created a stir by complaining on "The View" about a mom nursing her infant in-flight. I didn't see the footage, and I don't care to, but I've really been enjoying the discussions that her off-the-cuff comment have sparked.

I ran into this topic first over at Althouse, and I've shamelessly cribbed Ann's title for this post -- but it fits! I got in about mid-stream in the comments there, but over at Open Book, I was way late to the party, so I didn't bother to comment myself -- even though the comment thread is a hoot. (sorry about the almost-pun)

There's just something about a discussion of breasts, no matter the context, that brings out the jokers, and, since I often have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old, I think that stuff is funny. (Well, sometimes I do, anyways.) There's a quite serious side to the discussion, too, as we're debating the right of women to nurse their infants in public places. The general consensus is, as long as you're not being an exhibitionist about it, nursing should be OK. But some people are still bothered by the idea of nursing infants anywhere they might happen to be.

What strikes me as funny is that I can remember when I was uncomfortable around nursing moms. Then when I became one, I had so many problems for the first few weeks with DS1 that nursing in public was frankly impossible. When my in-laws, or anyone, came to visit, or when we visited them, I'd hie myself off to the bedroom to nurse in private. It was not an effortless process, and struggling like that in front of anyone would be embarrassing all around.

After a few months, though, DS1 and I were like a well-oiled machine, and it was a simple process. Nursing moms don't wear button-down shirts, we wear big pullovers or t-shirts that we can lift up for easier access, and there's plenty of fabric to drape down and cover what we want to cover. Even if I did wear a button-down shirt, I'd still lift it up to nurse. If you unbutton, you're exposed to the world! That gets chilly unless you're using a blanket, and not one of my babies would ever stand for a blanket.

So once I became accustomed to the process, I nursed in front of everyone. It may have discomfited my father-in-law at first but he got used to it, too. I think he understood that it really wasn't so great for me to have to go hide every 2 or 3 hours just because a baby was hungry. Plus, it's not like I was flaunting anything. I remember once nursing in a Chinese restaurant, tucked away at our table, and being surprised when a complete stranger, a woman, came over to tell me that she thought it was wonderful that I was nursing my baby. How odd, I thought -- she must have really been watching me to tell that was what was going on, because if you just glanced over casually, you never would have known.

I've nursed on planes, but never in a moving car. I've nursed in malls and restaurants and at parks. My friends and I know all the nicest lounges around town, or at least we did when our babies were tiny. We've all nursed in department store dressing rooms, too -- sometimes, those are the most convenient places to sit, especially if you have a toddler in a stroller, too. They find the mirrors very entertaining.

[nursing-related TMI warning]
I nursed my kids for many reasons. First, because I could, although with DD it was a monumental struggle. Second, because I knew it was the best source of nutrition for them. Third, for economic reasons. Nursing saves both time and money, at least when you're a stay-at-home mom as I was.

Reading the comment thread over at Althouse, I was struck by the difficulties some women had -- I had forgotten all about them, even though I had experienced many of them myself! I remember now, in particular, leaking if we went past a usual feeding time, and the feeling that my breasts were just too full. There are times when the milk "comes down", and there's not much you can do about it. You can apply pressure to your nipple and wait for it to subside, but let me tell you -- for many, many months, with each child, I went through a lot of nursing pads. And since nursing makes your breasts bigger anyway, it's very weird adding a pad, but if you don't, you get soaked.

The one upside of that is that mother's milk doesn't stain. Same with the baby's spitup -- it just washed right out of everything. I remember some friends' bottle babies and how they struggled with the spitup stains on everything... because many babies do urp all the time.

Sometimes, when I hear a new baby cry in that particular hungry way, I still get the feeling of phantom milk coming down. It's strange, but it evokes good memories. All of this discussion has me thinking about things I haven't thought about in years. Mother's amnesia has kicked in: I can't believe I went through all that! Three times, no less. It really was awesome, in the original sense of the word.

that's it, then

Rosie's first day home, September 1993

I have been avoiding thinking about the cat situation while my scan and treatment were pending. After all, I told myself, if I needed surgery and was going to be home all summer, then I wouldn't have to do anything about the cat.

Now I've had my scan, and I had my radiation treatment, and we're only going to be home for 18 more days. DH will be a sorta-bachelor until late July, when he comes out for the last 2 weeks of our vacation. That means almost 4 entire weeks of empty house, all day long, with no one to let Rosie in and out. Nobody to keep her company.

No one to keep her from becoming completely psychotic.

Why are you looking at me like that?

She already spends every night in the laundry room, and every night fails to use the box. I mean, the laundry room is not big by anyone's standards, and she could easily use the box if she wanted to. You'd think she would rather use the box than sleep next to her... deposits. Any sane cat would use the box. But she's not sane.

So. I called the vet and asked about euthanizing her. (It took me some time to screw up the courage to type that sentence. It took me even longer to screw up the courage to make the call.) I explained the situation to the receptionist, and she said the vet would call me back to discuss the situation.

The vet called just after 7PM, which was very nice of her. I went over the entire 2-year history of treatments and medications and tests, but the bottom line is, no matter what we try, and whether or not it ameliorates her diarrhea, Rosie still does her business wherever she pleases, and if she is annoyed about something, she lets us know it in most unpleasant ways.

Last year we kenneled her for the last 2 weeks of our vacation when DH joined us. By the time we went to pick her up, she was ferocious, lunging and growling low in her throat at everyone who approached. But last year she was at least using the box reliably. I can't imagine kenneling her this year, they'd have to hose out the kennel every morning. And I can't imagine leaving her home all day by herself while DH is at work, either. We'd have to rip up every carpet in the house. (We probably should rip up every carpet in the house, anyway.)

The vet was very kind and listened to all this history (of course she had the chart there to verify what I was describing). She said, "I can see you've thought a lot about this. Under the circumstances, this is the most humane decision you could make."

Then we talked about the options: to be there or not (yes), to get her ashes back or not(no). All I need to do now is schedule the appointment.

I'm bathing, leave me alone.

I know, in my head, this is the right thing to do. She isn't well, she hasn't been well for a long time now, and nothing we've tried has helped. She's had a good life and I don't need to be sad about that. But I am, anyway. She is my first pet, and my only pet except for the kitten Sparky who contracted a fatal case of FIP when he was only about 9 months old. This would be easier if her suffering were more visible, or if she had suddenly become unsociable. But she looks fine, except she doesn't get around as well as she used to. She is arguably more sociable now than ever, as the kids have made an effort to get to know her so they could play with her. But she is not her old self. Some changes are so subtle I don't notice them, but my Mom did -- when she arrived after New Year's, she said immediately, "Rosie's so gray, now." Funny how I hadn't noticed before.

Old, but still flexible.

We have talked to the kids about this decision. DD is very sad, she is perhaps Rosie's dearest friend at the moment. DS2 is very fond of her, but DS1 has never recovered from the terror she instilled in him when he was a toddler. DH has been ready for this decision for many months now, but since she's technically my cat, I had to be the one to decide. I know he will miss her, too. I fell in love with him watching him play with Rosie-kitten, after all, and I've always maintained that while Rosie is my cat, DH is her human. I know that's what she thinks in her little cat-brain: You married him to amuse me; after all, I deserve it.

Of course she did.

Here's the story of her adoption. Here's a piece on taking care of kittens, all of which I learned from her.

It is impossible to quantify everything I learned from her, the joys, comforts, and frustrations she gave me. She was a gift, for a time... there's no stopping time.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

ahh, freedom

I have substantive stuff churning around in my brain, but neither the time nor energy to organize into something coherent and put it out here, so it will have to wait.

Got out of isolation this afternoon, and was promptly hugged by all 3 kids at the same time. That was nice. Last time they looked up from whatever it was they were doing (I believe it was some particularly fascinating computer game), said "Hi, Mom," and then turned right back to whatever screen was eating their attention. Nothing like being ignored after having been forcibly separated for 72 hours.

So this time was nice, it seemed they really were happy to have me back... except that within 15 minutes they were regretting it because I was making them clean up their toys and their language. Not that they swear (although DS1 has, once or twice), but they have this fixation with bodily functions that got old about 3 years ago. I figure when DS2 hits 6 we may actually leave the phase forever, but we're still stuck in it for now.

DH headed in to the office to make up some hours, and I took the kids to Elephant Bar for dinner. I had all sorts of things that were not allowed on low-iodine, like calamari, and I polished of DS2's little sundae for dessert. I wish my tongue felt less fuzzy, I probably would've enjoyed it more.

Less than three weeks now until we leave. It's going to be interesting, trying to keep the kids busy with so much unstructured time! I'm a little tired but otherwise OK, and I'm hoping that I don't suddenly crash, post-RAI. There's no reason I should, so I just won't. (heh)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

brief notes on the RAI experience

100 mCi is easier to deal with than 200 mCi.

I am climbing the walls. There is a huge difference between being post-op and hypo, on meds withdrawal for weeks, and being on Thyrogen.

Thyrogen is mondo expensive, but worth. every. cent.

Dr. S recommended 600 mg ibuprofen every 8 hours for RAI mumps; it works. Mostly.

My taste buds are shot. I'm not sure if it's from eating Altoids sours all day as directed, or from the RAI. Could be some of both. I feel like it was burned last week and is just now healing. There's no pain but my sense of taste seems to have evaporated. Here's hoping it comes back.

Heat packs are great on the swollen salivaries. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, but I took my bed buddy, a tube filled with rice with handles sewn onto each end, and nuked it for 2 minutes. Then I twisted the middle so that the two ends became heating pads joined by the twisted part. The twist goes under the chin, and the two heat packs lie right along all the salivaries in the neck and face -- lovely. You do have to hold the handles up, and I'm sure it looks ridiculous, but it really worked. I suppose you could tie them, but I don't like to leave it on for that long, and holding the two handles together wasn't that difficult.

Can't wait to get out tomorrow afternoon!

Saturday, June 04, 2005


One of the things about isolation is that you have time to do things that you normally wouldn't, like watch the entire Pride & Prejudice mini-series made by the BBC.

One of my favorite scenes is when Elizabeth is convincing her father that she really does love D'Arcy. She says something like, "Truly, he is the best man I know."

Now, best is one of those words that has a lot of interpretations, but you know that Elizabeth is thinking of "best" as in, "most good." D'Arcy has shown himself to be kind, loving, and generous. He really is a good man.

The reason I love that scene is because that is exactly how I feel about my husband: he is the best man I know.

And I just realized that this will be excellent advice to give my daughter some day, in the far, far distant future, when she herself is considering marriage some day. I hope she finds a man that she can honestly say that about. If she does, her marriage will be a good one.

written off

One of the things I explored in my notebook today was the situation on the forum, site of recent troubles. I went through quite a few interations of what I should say over there. There was a lot of crossing out. No swearing, but some name-calling. I think it was cathartic just to get them out there, even if I am the only person who will ever see them, and even if I crossed them all out immediately! (Scene: Furious scribbling -- followed immediately by furious scratching out! Horrified expression" Oh, no, I'd never actually say that!") Fortunately, none of it will ever see the light of day.

When I got home, I decided to go with making one last journal entry:
the thing about journals...
Nobody makes you read them.

It speaks volumes when a person intentionally goes out of her way to be unpleasant to someone else.
Within 20 minutes there was a comment on that entry decrying me for "sh!tting all over the forum for the past 3 days." Or something charming like that.

I was in a mood, I couldn't resist -- I posted a comment myself: "This is too easy."

But then I regretted it. I know it's really annoying to be preached at. I also know it's wrong to hand someone a gun, knowing that she will shoot herself in the foot with it. And I know it's wrong to mock someone who doesn't get it. So today I knew I was pushing things, and expected to catch some flak. But I am still surprised by the vitriol that got poured out in my journal the past few days, when I posted very brief entries with links to howdy and creds. (Apparently, making two entries in my journal is abusive to the forum in some way. I still haven't figured that one out yet.)

I can't control what other people choose to read, and I can't make them behave like adults and just ignore something they don't like, instead of having fits about it. But since it was my journal, I could control how long this ruckus persisted. As a member of the community, I should be able to put whatever I want in my own journal, but if it's going to attract an unsavory crowd I'd rather not spoil the neighborhood, so to speak. So I deleted my entire journal, including the links to the recent posts here, and added one final entry:
deleted entries
I removed my recent journal entries which some members found inflammatory.

You can reach my blog by searching for "Oasis of Sanity."
Anyone who cares to, knows where to find me.

Friday, June 03, 2005

pen to paper

For a good part of the 10 hours I spent at the hospital today, I was waiting. Waiting for test results to come in, waiting for the doctors to consult, waiting for my dose to be prepared.

I was ready today, though. I brought my notebook. It has all sorts of stuff in it: recipes copied out of magazines, the first draft of my thryoid cancer book, to-do lists, web site redesign plans -- and today, pages and pages of journaling.

At one point I was detailing the play-by-play as the receptionist in the NucMed department tried to track down my endocrinologist. She (the receptionist) rocks. My endo, not so much, today.

At first I was only jotting down notes for topics to be blogged later, like details I didn't want to forget about what it felt like and what I thought during my excruciatingly long scans. But then I just started writing... and writing... and writing...

Now I've got plenty of work to do during my 3 days in isolation. I've got a good half-dozen pages of ink-on-paper to move into this "new medium," somehow or other.

Drafting by hand makes my hand ache, and my handwriting quickly approaches illegibility. The one advantage it offers is spontaneous doodling, but I think I can forego that to avoid writer's cramp. My typing pretty much keeps pace with my thinking -- my writing gets left in the dust. Keyboards rule.

radiation vacation, round 2

The scan was negative.



14 hours later, and I still can not believe it. That was so cool.

So, the scan stuff was done at like 9:45AM, but we needed my bloodwork from yesterday to figure out if there was anything at all to be done, and that was supposed to come over at 10:30, 11 -- but didn't come over until 12:30 or so.

Damn... Tg, which had been dropping steadily when my TSH was suppressed, and had last been measured at 1.9 or something like that, quadrupled under the Thyrogen stimulation to 8.8.


The NucMed doctor, Dr. S, conferred with Dr. R at my endo's office, finally getting someone to speak with him at 2:30 after putting in for a treatment consultation call before 1. It was imperative the decision to treat be made asap, as the clock was ticking on my Thyrogen's viability. Dr. M never did call us, so Dr. R covered for her. (I'm thinking Dr. M better call me on Monday to check in with me or I will be a bit ticked.)

Dr. S's treatment plan: 100 mCi RAI, immediately.

So find myself being hit with the RAI hammer after all... it figures. But I am more than OK with it. I saw the scans and saw that there was NO uptake anywhere there had been uptake before. It was amazing. It was the best news: RAI works on my cancer. I am thrilled.

However, that Tg number means that there are clusters of cells around still producing Tg, even though they were too small to show up on the scan. We need to clean them out. This dosage of RAI should do that. There is a very good chance that I won't ever need treatment for this disease again.

Summer's official start is Monday, June 6, at 4:15PM, and three weeks from tomorrow, we're heading East!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

creds [yewgo, maybe]

(Intro) [yewgo = Your Eyes Will Glaze Over. Or maybe not.]

Today I was out of the house from 10AM to 6PM. I spent some time in traffic, some time at my endo's office (2 sticks, one in each hand, to get one tube of blood), and a whole heckuva lot of time at Good Samaritan Hospital. I got my tracer dose of radioactive iodine, and after intensive discussion, the doctors asked if I could have a scan at 4:30PM. So I hung around for a while, then went out and did some errands (and bought a great magazine, Cooks Illustrated, working for them is my dream job.) Then I went back to the hospital to wait for my scan, then I had my scan, then I spent more time in traffic on the way home.

They wouldn't say anything about the scan. I have to go back tomorrow morning at 8AM for another one, and then we'll talk. I may get a PET/CT scan tomorrow if the results from the RAI scan warrants it. I may get nuked with another ablative dose of RAI. I might need a little surgery. I might need the most horrific surgery I can imagine.

I have no idea how bad the news is going to be.

(The Question...)
So, in an effort to distract myself from this very troublesome situation (Summer plans? What summer plans? Surgery? Radiation? Both? When? and what about the kids? Aaaaaauuuuggghhhh!), I was thinking about something someone said about me the other day, in the context of that whole Invulnerable Parent thread ruckus:

Here is a person who has never claimed to be trained in child psychology, mental health, behavioral psychology--psychology of any kind.

It's true, I have never claimed to be trained in psychology of any kind. I haven't discussed my education in that forum at all. It didn't, and still doesn't, seem relevant over there.

The unspoken question behind that statement called out to me, today: Who does she think she is, to be dispensing all this advice, and handing out opinions left and right? Well, I used to think I was member of the forum with the same rights as anyone else, to participate or not as I chose, but let's leave that aside for now. Who do I think I am? Where did I get all these opinions, anyway? I certainly do have a lot of them, and it's not like I made them up out of whole cloth.

The fact is, my degree is in Behaviorial Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1984, the year I graduated after attending for only 6 terms (3 calendar years), that was the closest you could get to an undergraduate psych degree at MIT. I don't know if the Cognitive and Brain Sciences Dept. offers one now, but they didn't then. As part of my course requirements, I did take psych courses as an undergrad, and I loved them. So I do have some, albeit very little and very old, formal education in psychology.

Now, child development is whole different story. I have no formal education in child development, but what I do have is 9 years of independent research and experience in the field.

When I first found out I was pregnant in 1996, I did what I always do whenever I was facing a new situation: I got a pile of books (this time, on being pregnant and having babies and raising kids), and I read them all. Repeatedly. My favorite by far was Your Baby and Child From Birth to Age 5 by Penelope Leach. Leach's philosophy of respect totally resonated with me, and I relied on her book throughout my kids' infancies. I didn't just read Leach, though -- I read a lot, the "What to Expect" books among them. Both the "expecting" and "first year" versions were full of terrific advice. Then there were countless magazines as well as Internet sites I came to rely on. I was just a sponge and soaked it all up, hoping I'd be able to remember it all when I needed it.

My firstborn, DS1, was an education unto himself. Besides having to learn all the things every first-time mom has to learn, I had to learn how to deal with a spirited, sometimes called difficult child. Stanley Turecki's The Difficult Child literally saved my sanity, I think; reading it finally gave me a clue to understanding my son.

Even before my son was born, I was a member of a vibrant online community, MomsOnline. That was the very beginning of my experience with internet support groups, and it was wonderful. At the start I participated in the "expecting" threads, but later I became very involved in the Child Development threads, and had many long and fruitful exchanges with the MomsOnline "Parenting Pros", particularly Ben McCourt. MomsOnline was a place to learn from everyone else's experiences and share triumphs, laughs, and all the rest. It morphed a few times and was eventually bought out by Oprah's media company, and then it kind of just melted away. I was really sorry to see it go, because it had been a tremendous resource. But the Internet business model was changing, and MomsOnline had to change, too. I think that iVillage still contains remnants of MomsOnline, but by the time it came around, I had moved on.

In late 1998, my daughter was born. She was healthy at birth and the delivery was unremarkable, and unmedicated, as my first delivery had been. But she had a non-nutritive suck; she wasn't strong enough to nurse and by the end of her first week she was down to only 5 pounds, 9 ounces. She was barely strong enough to take a bottle; for the next 6 weeks of her life I pumped breast milk and bottle-fed it to her, and she would take 45 minutes to drink an ounce-and-a-half. Once she decided she'd rather live than starve herself to death, things became markedly easier, and she quickly became my son's best friend.

When DS1 turned 3, I enrolled him at Desert Sun Child Development Center, and for the past five years, I have had at least one child in attendance there. Desert Sun has been my child psychology and development workshop, in several ways.

First, it is a parent participation school, which means that parents are actively encouraged to participate in classroom activity and extras. All of the teachers at Desert Sun are well-educated in child development, and the philosophy of the school is apparent in every class. The core, once again, is respecting the child as an individual. The children are allowed to explore in a safe, encouraging environment, and they learn to expand their capabilities through practice.

One of the resources that Desert Sun offers is parent enrichment seminars on various child development topics, and I have attended many of these over the years. I have also had the occasion to do additional research and write up seminar topics for the school's newsletter. Through Desert Sun I learned about Becky Bailey and her "Conscious Discipline" technique, which is simply spectacular. I can't recommend this course highly enough.

Through the years, I've added to my parenting library. Two other favorites are by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Siblings Without Rivalry (I wrote up a seminar on this topic), and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. The teachers at Desert Sun have encouraged me to keep writing on these topics, too, and I explored several parenting issues over at Epinions. In the Epinions community, I received uniformly encouraging feedback on my parenting articles.

But I quit writing for Epinions just a few months after my third child, DS2, was born, because that's when my health issues started to spiral out of control. It has been a bit of a bumpy ride for me since then, but I'm confident that I've managed to not screw up my kids yet. Over the years we have worked with our older son to help him become less reactive, and we've taught him techniques he can use to calm himself down and retain his self-control. These are not things that I could've learned from my mother, and they're not things my girlfriends have needed with their kids, either. I learned some of these techniques at Desert Sun, and some through my own research. We've seen tremendous improvement in his self-control and self-esteem.

As for DD and DS2, they are both delightful, and both maddening at times. DS2 is very much a "baby" these days, both in the crybaby sense of bursting into tears over trivialities, and also in wanting to be snuggled a lot. I suspect that both the clinginess and the sensitivity are related to his uncertainty about me; for all of his life (that he can remember), I've been traipsing around doctors and hospitals and going into isolation. That's really, really hard on a little kid, so I give him loveys whenever he needs them.

DD's problem is both the same and the opposite. She craves my attention (and so we hug and smooch and cuddle often), but she also wants complete control over every aspect of her life (and mine), and there's no way she's going to get that, so we butt heads.

After all this unnecessarily long exposition, I can honestly say that my best child psychology/child development credential is the psychological state of my household. There is no tension in our house, no underlying sense of dread or unease. We have a calm, pleasant home, often messy, but generally happily inhabited. It wasn't always so, either. From before DS2's birth, and until my diagnosis with and treatment for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, I was depressed and at times unhinged. "Better living through medication" is not just a flip saying around here. But it's not just the meds that have made things as good as they are. It's building a family around the central, entwined ideas of love and respect, and over the last 4 years we've done a tremendous job.

Having a parent with cancer is a difficult thing for any child to deal with, and it is particularly hard for younger children. Yet all 3 of my children are thriving. They are kind and loving. They are naughty sometimes, but they have good hearts. They understand respect even if they don't always remember to show it. So even if I were to die under the knife next week, my children have already built for themselves solid foundations to grow up on.

So that's how all of those opinions and ideas of mine have been developed. Who do I think I am? I'm an experienced, well-educated, mouthy mom, that's who. That's probably not good enough for some people, but we're all entitled to our own opinions, after all.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

every little soul's got to shine

Today was another hectic day (not as bad as yesterday), with another trip up to Phoenix in the morning, school pickups, and swimming lessons -- followed immediately by DD's kindergarden graduation.

click to view full size

After the brief ceremony, which was a charming blend of chaos and enthusiasm, we went up to Flancer's for dinner -- one restaurant where I know I can stay on the LID if I choose wisely.

On the way home, we had Ralph Covert's The Amazing Adventures of Kid Astro in the CD player, and "Mr. Rabbit" came on -- the perfect soundtrack to end the day.(click to hear it):

Every little soul's got to shine, shine --
Every little soul's got to shine along.


I have the most gorgeous family in the entire world...

and I let DS2 take a picture of me, too.

I wish I could figure out how to make the small versions of the photos look better. The full-size photos look great (click to see them in separate windows.) If you have any suggestions, please let me know... I am so ignorant about photography stuff.


On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.*

But some people are still willing to make all sorts of assumptions.

Here's what someone wrote about me recently (emphasis added):
she has thyroid cancer (which you can't not know about her; she wears it like a badge and often uses it as the conversation stopper when she, as she put it once, has finished using the forum as a diversion from her important issues)
This was surrounded by other invective, but this was the charge that stung the most. Ouch.

But then I started thinking, do I really wear my cancer like a badge? Because that's just wrong on so many levels. It's not something I would do. But maybe I'm coming across that way even though I don't mean to. How often do I bring it up in that forum, anyway?

Through the power of the internet, that is one question I can answer. I used the forum's search tool, and searched for my id ("quieti"), and the word "cancer", over the last year -- 8 hits.

In 2 political discussion threads that were raging just before my surgery, I did use my upcoming operation/diagnosis as my excuse for bowing out; I blogged about that difficult decision at the time. It was not an easy decision for me to make. I did not glibly throw out "Hey, I've got cancer!" just to weasle out of an argument, in fact I debated with myself whether or not anyone would perceive my "resignation" from those particular threads that way. This comment answers that question: even though my bowing out wasn't perceived as slimey and self-serving at the time, it is now.

OK -- I freely admit I used my cancer as a "conversation stopper" at one point in time, in two threads that were then active -- so what? My surgery was imminent. It was a real event in my life, and I continue to feel the repercussions to this day.

But what about everything else? In all of the other 6 threads, one is me saying I'll be gone for a few days during my post-RAI isolation. One is the thread that caused all the ruckus this week which inspired the quote above. In the others, my cancer is mentioned in passing in discussions of health-related topics, and was certainly not a conversation stopper. Oh, and in how many threads have I posted over that time, total? 150.

All in all, I'd say that the accusations that "[I] wear [my cancer] like a badge" and "you can't not know she has cancer" don't reflect the reality of my posting history in that forum.

Here in this blog, though -- the topic is inescapable at the moment. But this is my private space, and if I need to pin on that badge and become Sheriff of Cancer Land for a while, I don't see why I shouldn't.

Here's the thing:
I have cancer, and there is no way for me to ignore it right now, when I'm actively preparing for a scan. The LID is incredibly restrictive; I literally have to stop and think about every single thing I put in my mouth to make sure it's OK. Luckily it's only for a couple of weeks, but during that time there is no way not to think about it.

This week, I've got a 60-mile round-trip up to Phoenix for four days in a row. Yesterday and today I got injections, and my left arm is still aching from yesterday's. I'm sure my right arm will soon feel just as bad. This ache is about a 4 on the pain scale, meaning it takes some effort to ignore it -- but I try. There's no point in complaining about it to anyone else because it will go away eventually. It's just something I have to endure.

Having cancer doesn't make me better than anyone else -- it's obvious to me that, at least physically speaking, I'm worse. Having cancer hasn't bestowed any great wisdom or compassion on me. (At least I'm not alone, Louise feels the same way.) On the contrary, it makes me grumpy, and we all know that pissed off people rarely give good advice. One mitigating factor I'll offer up in the plus column is that I know I'm likely to be a bitch, so I try to stop and take a breath and make sure that I don't bite off anyone's head. Often those attempts are dismal failures, but at least I know the problem exists and I'm working on it.

I wish I didn't have cancer. I wish nobody ever had cancer. It's divine when I can forget that I do have it. There was a while there when entire days would go by when I didn't have to think about it, and I gave a passable impersonation of a healthy woman. With luck, I'll be back in a cycle like that very soon. There are many people in my life who know about my cancer, but there are quite a few who don't. If it doesn't affect the way we interact, there's no reason for them to know.

I treat my online interactions the same way. If it's appropriate, I'll mention it. I'm not going to pretend it doesn't exist, that would be stupid. I don't view everything that happens through the prism of my disease, but if something does come up (like feeling vulnerable as a parent), I don't see why I shouldn't mention it. If some people interpret my attitude as grandstanding, then they just don't have a clue.

I'm sorry if my mentioning I have cancer makes others feel uncomfortable, but I don't really see what their discomfort has to do with me. It's their problem.

Now you'll excuse me while I go polish my badge. You never know when I'll need it.

(*) Peter Steiner cartoon, The New Yorker, July 5, 1993.