Friday, June 30, 2006


It's Friday, so it was pizza day.

It's always an adventure cooking anything in someone else's kitchen; I've been mainly confining myself to simple things like French toast and roast chicken. Pizza is something of a production, as my Mom would say. Early in the week I made my mental list of ingredients and went around the kitchen ticking off what was there and what was missing, so I'd have everything to hand come today.

Well. At dough-making time I discovered that the (unopened) flour had expired in December 2002. That threw me for a bit of a loop, but I trundled the kids out to the car for a quick trip to the local market where they even had my favorite brand, King Arthur. Then it was home to make the dough by hand for the first time in forever, which worked out much better than I expected it to.

I wasn't sure how the kids would respond to this same-but-different pizza: different oil, different pepperoni, different tomatoes in the sauce... I needn't have worried. They each ate two pieces more than usual and declared it "the best pizza ever."

My brother and his wife arrived just past dinner time, and they enjoyed the grown-up pizza (pepperoni, sure, but also fresh mushrooms, roasted peppers, and calamata olives) just as much as I did.

Best part: leftovers to eat on the beach tomorrow. Weather's supposed to be perfect, and I feel I've really earned a beach day.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

under the Big Top

I took the kids to the afternoon performance of the Cole Bros Circus today. The neighbors take their kids every year, and so I thought, why not? My kids had never been to a circus -- I can't remember the last time I went, but I'm betting it's something on the order of 30 years ago. I remember being annoyed because there was always so much going, you could never watch everything. What was the point of all that activity if I was always missing two-thirds of it?

But this was a one-ring circus, and the kids tickets were free, so we went. It was not exactly a cheap outing, since I spent $5 for DD to have her face painted, and then another $35 for 3 cotton candies, 3 movie-theater-size-small boxes of popcorn, and 2 small bottles of water. DS2 was hectoring me to buy him a light up toy sword but I refused; he has at least two at home and does not need another one... especially not at those prices.

The circus itself: pretty much OK. The kids did love it. There were frisbee-catching dogs and poodles who could dance the Can-Can and ride scooters; there was some nice acrobatic work; there was one good clown routine, I thought the rest were lame. There two Spider-Man acts that were quite good, one where he battled Green Goblin, and another where he drove a motorbike across a highwire. Yikes.

The first act was about an hour long, and at intermission we went out and bought a funnel cake (another $5). DS2 was grumpy and didn't want to go back in for the second act, which we knew would be short because they had a second show in just an hour and a half. He sat on my lap and complained until the elephants came out. Those elephants were completely charming, seriously. They marched around in time to the music and did a few simple balancing tricks, nothing dangerous or outrageous -- they just seemed like huge friendly puppies. I realize they're not, and would never treat an elephant as anything other than extremely dangerous, but it was very cool to see the people who work with them so closely doing their routines.

Then, after the elephants, the Grand Finale: they shot Spider Girl (I suppose Spider-Man wasn't up to it?) out of "The World's Biggest Cannon." I've never seen that act before (that I remember), and it really was very cool.

DS2 was glad he stayed, after all. I didn't bring my camera but it's just as well, you can see pretty much everything over at the website linked above.

Probably the worst aspect of the evening was trying to get out of the parking lot. It was a free-for-all, and it took us a half-hour or longer to get to the road. If I had thought a moment, I would've hustled the kids to the car a little more quickly, but it has been probably 10 years since I've had to deal with post-performance parking mayhem like that. I'll remember it for next time.

On the way out of the parking lot, we saw about a half-dozen of these guys. I acknowledge that some animal cruelty may be present at times in the circus environment, but I didn't see any evidence of it today, although I suppose it would have to be quite blatant for me to notice it. But honestly, having read through that list, I get the impression that those folks don't think animals should ever be manipulated in any way. Personally, I don't have a problem with animals used for labor or entertainment as long as they are well-cared for. Certainly the atmosphere today around the animals was relaxed and confident, and that was what made it so much fun to see.

I asked the kids what they liked, and surprisingly DS1 actually named some specific things, once I backed off the "what did you like best" question. He never likes to choose, and is often lazy about providing details, preferring to go with, "I liked everything." But we were able to have a good conversation about it this evening. We were all somewhat inspired by the strength and agility of the acrobats and trapeze artists, but I'm not sure we know exactly how to channel that inspiration.

I did specifically advise DD not to run away and join the circus. ""Why not?" she asked me. I told her that she wouldn't be able to bring all her stuffed animals with her, and she would never be home, and I would miss her terribly. She didn't seem to think any of those were compelling arguments, but when I pointed out that she's still working on her handstand, she conceded that maybe she wasn't cut out for circus life. *whew*

July's column

It feels like I just did one of these posts for June, and here I am doing one for July. I'd rather be busy than bored, so I'm not complaining.

This month's column was something of a cheat, but not really. It's the Seven Jewel Turkey Salad, but with a few substitutions that make it a tiny bit lower carb.

This is hands down the best salad of this type that I have ever had, and I've eaten a lot of salad since the days I worked in Kendall Square in Cambridge. As always, I hope someone is inspired to try it and likes it as much as I do.

minor panic

Did you know that iPods have a diagnostic mode? I didn't, either, until I inadvertently put mine into it this afternoon. I was sweeping the front drive and thought it would be nice to have some music to sweep by.

Instead of turning the thing on, I inadvertently pushed the magic key-combination to put it into diagnostic mode.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to get it out. The idea that there may be something wrong with this expensive little gadget gave me that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach -- it was so expensive, and it's broken already! How could that have happened? I felt like a bad little girl.

Fortunately, through the Great Resources of the Internet, I found this site, with these helpful hints:

Diagnostic mode. For the iPod Video: toggle the Hold switch on then off, then press and hold the Back and Select buttons. I can't believe I actually did that -- why would I hold down two buttons simultaneously? I don't think I did. But it's massively humid here, so maybe that's making the controls a little sticky...

Restarting a Frozen iPod. For the iPod Video, the magic key combination is: slide Hold button on then off, then press the Menu and Select (not Play) buttons at the same time. Earlier versions used the Menu/Play combination, but that does nothing on the video iPod.

For the record, the Apple iPod Help page gives the same information, but either I spazzed out and did it incorrectly (likely), or I followed the instructions for the wrong iPod version. I'd be embarrassed by being such an idiot but suppressed panic does impair my competence somewhat, and right now I'm just relieved that the thing is working. (The Concert in Central Park, Simon & Garfunkel)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

out of the picture and wimping out

It was a rainy day today, so no beach. Ideally, I would've bundled the kids up to Boston to museum hop a little, but none of us really felt like doing that, least of all me. So we kicked around in the morning, and then after lunch went to see the latest Pixar flick, Cars.

It was OK, draggy in some places, and DS2 had trouble following the story as it meandered all over the place. He enjoyed the racing scenes, though, as did I. The scenery, with which I am very familiar here in the real world, was beautifully rendered. The short ("One Man Band") and the credits bits were hysterical. But this one won't be one for the DVD library unless someone else buys it.

Here's my problem, and it's the same problem I had with Robots: the conceit of an entire world "populated" by machines is just not workable, IMO. Sentient animal pictures have the same problem, but it's not as bad -- why is it that some animals, like fish, are almost always OK to eat (except of course in Finding Nemo), but others aren't? Why can some animals talk and act human, but other's can't or don't? I don't get it. I'm not looking for perfect internal consistency here, just something that makes sense within the framework of the film.

So, in Cars, we've got, well, cars... acting human. Let's just ignore the issue of reproduction, as the movie did, too. But let's just take a look at what is there. I can buy racing being the "national pastime", but I can't buy there being a United States. What, did the colonizing wagons revolt against the Loyalists? It just doesn't make sense. At least in Robots, they had the sense to put them on a completely different planet with Earth-like qualities. The decision to tie Cars to Route 66 hamstrung them tremendously.

I know, it's just a kid movie, but when I'm sitting there bored in movie theater as my kids snarf down the popcorn, this is the kind of thing I think about. There's a scene where the Porsche explains how the road used to follow the land, and then they built the interstate so everyone could get where they are going, faster. Honestly, that made sense to me: if I were a car, I'd want to go fast! I can imagine it feeling great to go full throttle and just eat up the miles. But no, we have to have anthropomorphized the cars so thoroughly that we can't have any understanding of them as essentially alien creatures.

But they are! They're cars! If a car really could think, do you really think it would think human thoughts?

I've experienced waaaayyy too much science fiction, obviously. But the movie was boring and the milieu had huge gaping inexplicable inconsistencies, which constantly pulled me out of the picture. For instance: the bit with the tractor-cows and harvester-bull was cute and funny, but why would cars farm anything? They need fossil fuels, not lettuce or cabbage or corn -- although a biofuel explanation could be made for the corn, I suppose. But I distinctly saw something lettuce-y or cabbage-y among the crops, too. Why? How could there possibly be a Hendrix recording of the "Star-Spangled Banner" if there are no humans anywhere? Are you telling me that cars play electric guitar?

Yeah, it was funny that the old Jeep had a drill sargeant personality and the VW bus was a hippie, and it was beyond funny that the insect population is made up entirely of tiny, be-winged VW Beetles. Obviously they put a lot of thought into this film, but unfortunately most of the thoughts were of the "this will be so cool," and "it would be cute to do this," variety.

If the writers had treated the cars as the truly alien species they should be, maybe I wouldn't have been so annoyed.

Better, but we'll see how long it lasts: Spike TV's new "Blade:The Series." I watched the 2-hour premiere tonight and found it a better than usual setup for a tertiary-tier cable channel series. What can I say, I like vampire stories. This one follows the new-familiar pattern of setting up the vampires as "families" similar to the Mafia. It makes a lot of sense. Interestingly, Blade got his butt kicked, which surprised me. There was some cool tech but there was also tech that screwed up. There was an appropriate amount of grit and thankfully only one blood-spurting-gratuitously-everywhere scene. Obviously it could suck in the long run, but I'm willing to give it a chance... especially since it's summer and there's nothing else on.

My only "huh?" moment was when Blade told the lead chick that holy water and crosses don't do jack against vampires. I'm pretty sure that's a contradiction from the movie trilogy. I'm also pretty sure it was a cop out on the part of the writers and producers, who want to do the whole action/sex/violence thing without having to mix any religion in whatsoever. But they must have some balls among them because we saw in flashback/vision that the lead vampire guy was an Englishman who was captured by Native American vampires I'd say about 400 years ago. And there was a Native American tough guy acting as the "pure bloods" doorman. Maybe vampire chic is OK with Native Americans, but they figured the Catholic Church is too tainted to deal with now? I have no idea.

I also have no idea why writers can present a world with so much evil in it, but then completely deny that there is any countering force from/of Good, except for humanity itself. And we all know how weak and venal humans are. Why is it they're afraid to show us using the powers over evil we already have?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

at last, the beach

(I've left the cable that my camera needs to connect to the computer at home. I'll have to see about that.)

It was a long day, again, but good for the kids if somewhat nerve-wracking for me. Breakfast, school work, errands. After errands, the plan was: lunch, then beach.

But, as we drove down the street, we saw that all the neighborhood kids were out with a sprinkler, and the kids wanted to stay home so they could play.

It's so ordinary, playing with the kids next door (or, in this case, across the street)... yet it's something they rarely get to do at home. We're so scheduled: school, homework, swimming/dance/soccer, RE classes. By the time it's all done, it's time for dinner, bath, and bed. But here, in the infinitely long, empty days of summer, sure! Go play, we'll go to the beach later.

The kids bounced back and forth between the houses a little bit but once again gravitated over here (as they had done yesterday); I fed them all microwave s'mores for a snack. Their mom came and picked them up around 4-ish, but by the time we got to the beach it was after 5... and glorious.

Last year at this time we were dealing with weeds and jellies. Today, the beach was pristine, and not nearly as rocky as last year. We'll see how long that lasts. We stayed till 7-ish. The kids bathed while I made dinner, then there was just enough time for me to cleanup (there is no dishwasher here) before sending them off to bed.

Pictures coming when I can upload them...

Monday, June 26, 2006

too late

It's only 7 hours after the phone call that I realize what I should have said.

At 6:45AM, the phone rang. It was Mom, calling from Italy. She wanted to make sure we got in all right, and then proceeded to go over the very same list that she had detailed for me -- twice -- before she left for Europe. In fact, it's the very same list that she wrote down for me to find when I arrived.

None of that stopped her from going over it all, once more, with me, at 6:45AM, which to my Phoenix-zoned body was really 3:45AM.

By the time I was off the phone with Mom -- many assurances like "Yes, I know where it is," and "OK, I'll put the answering machine back on for you," -- everyone else was awake, too. I tried to persuade them to get a little more sleep, but it was no good. Instead of the cloudy day we had been expecting, we awoke to bright sunlight and blue skies.

Much later, Mom called again, just as I was starting to pull things together for dinner (chicken, corn on the cob, sliced cucumbers). She just wanted to check in briefly to make sure that all was going well. Once again I assured her that we are all fine. I lived in this house for many years, and have had extensive stays here nearly every year since. Nothing much changes, and if my first instinct for locating something fails, I usually have two or three alternates, and I've yet to come up stymied for anything. I reminded Mom of these facts but they didn't satisfy her much, I could tell.

Just now I made myself a cup of tea in the microwave. The first cup I nuked for 2.5 minutes, and the teabag exploded, making a huge mess. I laughed that I had forgotten that Mom's microwave is so much more powerful than mine, which needs 2.5 minutes to make the water hot enough for tea. I cleaned up the mess and tried again with just the water, which I put in for 2 minutes. About a third of it boiled out, and when I put the teabag in, it did that super-heated boiling thing which is both fascinating and scary: it looked just like plain hot water until the teabag broke the surface, and then it sprang to furious life, roiling like any witch's cauldron should.

I have to laugh about this, because Mom has told me how to make tea at least 50 times, and often I'll reply something like, Mom, I used to make tea for you when I still lived here! I've been making tea for more than 30 years now! And she'll say something like, I know, I know, but I didn't want you to forget... whatever quirk it was I was supposed to remember... which clearly, today, I forgot.

And in that very minor kitchen disaster, the thought came into my head, what I should have said to Mom: We're OK Mom, we're somehow managing without you, and we'll be able to hold down the fort till you get home. And most important: I miss you.

Because of course, it's true.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

here, finally

It was a long day... left home at 8AM MST, finally arrived at my mom's at 10PM EDT. The flight was delayed taking off because of bad weather elsewhere, and once we were in the air, we were re-routed to avoid that same bad weather, so the flight was an hour longer than usual.

It was the typical travel day of bad food (ameliorated slightly by the presence of very good chocolate, which I brought with me) and waiting and waiting and waiting, but the kids were wonderful. DS1 had probably his best flight ever, thanks to Dramamine and a decent lunch.

Here at the old homestead, I feel very square-peg-in-round-hole-ish: I don't fit here. It is always this way at the beginning, I have to find my way here again every year. I forget the physical realities of this place over the long winter, so they always come as a shock to me again when we arrive. The house is fine, but it's full... and it is simply not possible to put all of the clothes for four people into two dresser drawers, even if they are nice and deep; they are not that wide. Still, I managed to put all of our things "away" neatly, and hopefully the system will hold up. We'll see.

The forecast is full of rain as far as the eye can see, so we will have to busy ourselves with other than beach activities. It's OK, the boys aren't supposed to swim for another week yet anyway. I have a sense of weightlessness now, all of the scheduled responsibilities are finished until August! And I've even submitted columns through September, so I don't even have that hanging over me. Ah, freedom...if only the weather would cooperate.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

black op failure, jr edition

Each kid has a small carry-on suitcase, the kind on wheels. Whenever we go on vacation, they pack their suitcases with their own toys. Each has his own toybox, so to speak. DD has been packing and re-packing her suitcase all week. This morning, I got the boys' suitcases down from their closet shelf, and they quickly packed theirs up. The three packed little suitcases sat on the upstairs landing all day.

We went to our usual Mass this evening, and then out for dinner at Chili's. Once home, we got them all bathed and into pj's, and then they played while I finished puttering around and packing, including bringing those little suitcases downstairs. We put them to bed a little past 8:30PM; it's going to be a bit of an early start tomorrow, and it will be a long day.

8:55PM, I hear giggling upstairs. I was straightening out the game shelves in the kitchen when DD pops downstairs with this: Mom, can you tighten the cap on my water bottle? It's leaking! I took a drink and it leaked on my toes! (We keep their water bottles out in the hallway, part of a routine that will make them think about whether or not they need to use the bathroom -- and also minimizes the amount of water spilled into their beds.)

So I tighten the cap off the water bottle, and dried it off for good measure, when I hear DS1 giggling, and I know something's up.

OK, you guys, what's going on?

DD caves immediately: (DS1) is bringing the suitcases upstairs so we can put more toys in them... I look in the living room and see that, indeed, DS1's suitcase is no longer downstairs with the others.

Well, there was no point in getting angry about it. They're too excited to sleep, so: OK, you've got five minutes, get down here and do what you need to do...

The two boys come running downstairs with various "animal friends", which get stuffed into the nearly-full suitcases, and then I chase them back upstairs to bed.

DH and I both admired the slickness of the operation, with DD providing the cover with the water bottle story. They probably would've pulled it off if DS1 hadn't been so giggly. As Kim Possible said, Being quiet is an important part of being sneaky.


Pretty much everything that can be packed now has been packed.

I've done all the housecleaning and straightening up that I intend to do, although of course there's always more.

We're heading out in the morning, and I am struggling because I don't want to go. That's not exactly right: I don't want to leave DH. I wish he could come with us, now, and not weeks from now. We'll be fine, he'll be fine, I just don't want to go away from him.

I know this is sounding like some stupid high school crush thing, but it's more that I've been struggling, with physical and mental stresses and he has been completely super through everything. I've finally figured out how to communicate to him, Hey, I need you for a minute, and just that minute or two will be enough to smooth out the bumps in my day. It's beyond nice, it's good, good for me, good for him, a good thing for all of us.

I don't know how well it works over the phone, but we'll give it a shot.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


We're still in the weird limbo of recovery. The boys are feeling much better, but don't feel like actually doing much, so we're not.

Yesterday we ventured out twice: in the morning, DS1 had an appointment with the orthodontist. When we get back from vacation, he'll be fitted for an occlusal retainer with expander. (It doesn't look nearly as bad as it sounds.) He'll wear it overnight for the next three years, with the hope that he will then be spared the necessity of actual braces. As much as I know he will dislike it, I will do my best to convince him that three years of wearing a retainer at night is far better than two years of actual braces, 24-7.

In the evening, we all went for ice cream. It's most likely the last family outing (except for Mass this weekend) we'll make until DH joins us on the East Coast in July.

I haven't started packing, but I'm slowly going through the long list of everything-that-must-be-brought, and making sure we have enough. The plan is laundry on Friday, pack on Saturday... leave on Sunday.

Doesn't seem real.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


So, I've been having numbness and tingling in my fingers and toes, and aches and pains in my hands and feet, and the bones in my arms are hurting and I'm generally not functioning as usual. Since these are classic symptoms of hypoparathyroidism, and since I have had extensive surgery in my neck where the parathyroid glands reside, I sent off an email to my doctor at MDA. He emailed back and had me go for a blood test; I went on Tuesday morning and saw the PA at my GP's office, and she ordered the bloodwork for me.

Thursday morning at an ungodly hour (DH was up, I wasn't), the PA called to tell me all the calcium and parthyroid hormone levels were fine, but my white blood count (WBC) was pretty low, 3.2. When I had my last bloodwork done in May, it was 3.9. The PA wasn't happy about the WBC, but was really calling to get the fax number for my doctor at MDA.

The nurse from MDA called me today to tell me that all my bloodwork is "normal", not indicative of hypoparathyroidism. Yeah, I knew that. I asked her about the WBC; the doctor didn't mention it -- just that my bloodwork is "normal."

If this is how "normal" feels, I want no part of it.

I called up my friend M today to come and stay with the boys so DD and I could go and do some errands this afternoon; one of my stops was Hi-Health where I stocked up on all the stuff I quit taking: probiotic, digestive enzymes, and iron. The first two I hope will help slow down my digestion and increase my absorption of calcium; the last I hope will help with everything else. I quit taking the stuff because Trader Joe's discontinued them, and I was too lazy to find a new supply. I thought, Well, let's see what happens if I quit taking it for a while. It has been a while, and I feel horrid, so let's see what happens if I get back on, hmmmm?

I quit taking the new RA med (generic Arava, aka leflunomide) that I had such an initial positive reaction to; it seems to me that the parasthesia coincided with my increase in dosage, and it is listed as a side effect. The patient information warns that blood counts may lower, so I suspect it is the leflunomid that's responsible for my low WBC. It's going to take a while to flush it from my system, though.

I wonder when I'll start to feel human again. (Doesn't matter, really -- we're off to MA a week from Sunday! I don't have time to feel sub-par.)

Friday, June 16, 2006


That's me, making my boys drink and eat and take their medicine, too. In the case of DS1, add in the extra torture of making him blow his nose, instead of continuously wiping it with the back of his hand.

Both boys just cried through their last meds of the day. It sucks because we have to wake them up to give them the meds -- we can't let them go all night or they will wake up in pain. It's already bad enough in the mornings, with their meds running out between 4 and 5AM. So we literally have to make them take the meds around midnight, even if they are crying and just wanting to go back to sleep.

It hurts something fierce, being harsh with a kid who is both exhausted and in pain. But you can't just be all "There, there, dear, go back to sleep, I won't bother you," because that is positively harmful to them in the not-so-long run. Yes, they'd sleep now, but they'd wake up screaming in just a few hours, and getting the medicine into them at that point would be impossible.

On the upside, DS1's crying washed a lot of gunk out of his sinuses, so hopefully he'll be able to breathe better now. He denied it at the time, but that's because he was too annoyed with me to be anything other than contrary.

I'm terrible at this bullying business, but we manage somehow -- if the kids believed my threats more readily, they would be more quick to obey. Not-so-secretly, I'm glad they don't believe me, but then when I finally do give them a whap, they snap-to. Then know I don't want to do it anymore than they want me to, but sometimes... there is no other way. DS1 is too big for me to wrestle down to the floor so I can pour meds down his throat -- that tactic was required in years past a few times. He has to take it himself, and if I have to tell him to suck it up and stop being a baby, well, I will.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

gathering blue roses

My two patients are resting not very comfortably. There's a miasma of barely suppressed agony suffusing the house.

My throat is killing me, and my sinuses aren't much better.

I am Esther (1), wishing I were Gem (2).

1. Originally published in 1972 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I read this Pamela Sargent short-short story most likely in an anthology more than twenty years ago, and I've never forgotten it. If you've never read it, you should.

2. This episode of TOS is rarely seen in syndication. During the webcrawl I did for this post, I came across a lot of dumping on the ep for its low budget, but I did occasionally see a positive review. I think the reason a lot of Trek fans don't like it is it is atypical for the series. Much like "City on the Edge of Forever," there's nothing of the Federation, there's barely any Entrerprise scenes, and the character's behaviors aren't pegged to the specific Kirk/Spock/McCoy quirks that the fans love. In these eps, they are stand-ins for the Everyman hero and his sidekicks. When I was little, "The Empath" freaked me out. When I saw it again many years later, I loved it, and I still do.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Field of Darkness

I passed through most of today's surreal waiting time reading my writer's-group aquaintance Cornelia Read's debut novel, A Field of Darkness. I don't read mysteries, and I'm a terrible reader, too -- whipping through books by skipping every third word, or more. But with this one, I couldn't do that -- I wanted to read every word, partly because Cornelia wrote it, but also because of her vivid imagery and fully realized characters. So many tiny, telling details were packed into this book, and I didn't want to miss any of them. It was splendid.

If I had to complain about something, it would be the profanity, simply because I'm not used to reading any at all. As these things go, it's mild; it doesn't nearly approach the lofty heights (so to speak) of the obscenity-laden dialog of, say, The Sopranos or Deadwood, for which I am very grateful. It was I think an appropriate level of profanity, given the ages, backgrounds, and professions of the characters, but it still tripped me up from time to time because I live with three children and do my very best never to swear myself. Then I remember, hazily, my own days pre-offspring, and the fact that I worked with all guys in software development, and the fact that if anyone transcribed some of our design meetings, the word used with the most frequency would probably be one that starts with "f." In other words: it should be impossible to offend my ears, but apparently, it's not. How odd.

At any rate, A Field of Darkness was the perfect life preserver for a day like today. I could cast myself into the pages and not fret about my two boys, or just pretend that nothing significant had happened today -- certainly nothing as significant as all the stuff that was raining down on Maddie Dare. It helped me enormously to have a book that was so engrossing, so tightly plotted and paced exactly right. And I love that Cornelia didn't pull any mystery-writer crap and withold clues from the reader: if you pay close attention, you'll figure out what's going on before Maddie does -- but given Maddie's propensity for panic, vomiting, and stupidly walking into rooms containing recently murdered people, I suppose that's not saying much. But it is! Because you can't help liking Maddie, even while you want to shake her, but maybe just a little, because she's just as conflicted as you are. Well, as I am, anyway. Maddie's a familiar, jangly knot of resentment and appreciation and confusion, and What am I doing with my life, anyway?

But the observation that hit me the hardest was Maddie's admission, during what is supposed to be a solemn moment:
I have no talent for quiet meditation, have never gained an insight on the nature of the universe while having to duck my head in silence for anything. My mind just wanders and jumps.
I know that Maddie's a fictional character and all, but the connection I felt there was intense: I thought it was just me! I despise my lack of mental discipline and my inability to focus. I keep hoping if I practice I can get better at it, but I don't even have the discipline to practice.

And then I realize, I've survived nearly 43 years without this ability, how crucial can it be? Maybe I'll figure it out in my remaining time, however long that is, but if I don't I'm going to try not to sweat it.

See, that's what a really great book can do: help you to know yourself a little better. Maybe I should read more mysteries.

Monday, June 12, 2006

tonsillectomy day

It was a very odd, long-ish day. We all schlepped up to the surgical center shortly after 8AM this morning; DS2 was finally taken back for his surgery close to 11, and DS1 around noon, I think. By the time all was said and done, we got home around 3PM.

We were greatly appreciative of all the high-tech portable entertainment devices we had brought, including Leapsters (ditched in favor of the facility's GameBoys), the portable DVD, and the iPod. DD watched High School Musical with DS1 before his surgery, and then watched Corpse Bride with DS2 after his.

The boys are at opposite ends of the recovery spectrum. DS2 is, quite literally, fine, although I expect there will be some backsliding tomorrow. He was hopping around and contemplating practicing his handsprings on the futon until we told him not to. He ate a half of a peanut butter sandwich, an otter pop, a firecracker popsicle, and a bowl of shells and cheese. He also drank at least a cup of milk, a cup of apple juice, and about three-quarters of a strawberry smoothie.

AND the Tooth Fairy is coming tonight for him, since the doctor removed his wiggler before actually getting to the tonsils and adenoids.

DS1, on the other hand, is suffering. His surgery was three times longer than his brother's, and he is feeling the effects of the anaesthesia. The kid is a puker, and always has been. I called the doctor's on-call service this evening and they phoned in a prescription for anti-nausea medication. It worked but it's method of delivery (suppository) made the boy even more miserable. But it did work, and then he could keep down his pain meds, and have more to drink, and even have a popsicle himself. Poor kid is also dealing with intermittent bloody drainage from his nose, especially when he cries.

There's not much we can do for him. I have to bully him to take the pain meds, because he can't drink if he's in pain, and if he gets dehydrated, the pain will only be worse. Once the pain meds kick in, he does much better.

DD was more or less angelic all day. She enjoyed her lunch of mini chocolate donuts and humongous rice krispy treat from the machine in the lobby; we weren't expecting such limited options, and had been asked not to leave the building. If she had been cranky, one of us would've ventured out for something more substantial, but we all survived. (DH & I had potato chip-like things. They were... edible.)

In other news, I'm thinking that all my weird tingly feelings could be a side effect of my RA meds, and I was very tired of how screwed up my digestion was, so I quit taking it. My hands actually feel better, but we'll see how long that lasts. I think I'll go back on the Minocycline; it really worked wonders while it was working. Maybe I just needed a break. For now, the weird tinglies are persisting, and I'm going for a blood draw in the morning. We'll see what's what, eh?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

une petite crise

"A little crisis," but not exactly -- the sense of it in French is different from the impression you get from the English phrase. It's not a crisis at all, just a period of mild angst.

A few days ago, I received my Social Security statement in the mail. It contained such charming information as how much I can collect if I retire at such-and-such an age, and all that other stuff. Of particular interest to me: first, I'm no longer eligible for SS disability because I haven't worked enough (any) qualifying quarters in the last 5 years. Not that I'm thinking I'll need the disability payouts, because I'm not thinking that. It's the lack of qualifying quarters that bothered me. You don't have to earn very much at all to qualify, you know.

Second, the last year before I left the workforce, I earned more than $75,000.

Crikey, that's a lot of money. It was a lot more than in the previous few years, too, because I worked full time for several months, trying to convince Oracle that they didn't have to lay me off. They laid me off anyway.

Having let these two data items sink in, I find myself more and more annoyed at my lack of productivity and pathetic earnings. Let me state unequivocally that this is all coming from me, DH has nothing to do with my own feelings of profound inadequacy.

We had a conversation, it went something like this:
Me: I feel stupid.
Him: (cautiously) Why?
Me: I'm doing these silly jobs (writing the column, and now doing storytime) that are paying practically nothing, and they take up a lot of time. Do you think it's a waste of my time?
Him: I always thought you are doing those things because you want to do them.
Me: I do, but I sometimes think I'm selling myself short, or I'm letting people take advantage of me.
Him: It doesn't have to be that complicated. If you like what you're doing, then you are doing it because you want to, not because someone manipulated you into it.

We kind of left it at that, because there's really nothing more to say. I want to say, shouldn't I be charging more for my columns, or for doing the storytime gigs? Maybe I could, but these things are not about the money. They are about the experience, and the money is more or less a token to show that yes, this is real work being done here.

Every so often I get weird about money. I've been weird about spending since the arrival of the iPod, unnecesarily so. That unfortunate weirdness was extended by the arrival of the SSI statement: See, you're not earning!

You'd think that after being out of the workforce for seven years, I'd be over this by now, but I'm not. I was an earner, and a very good one, for 15 years before I quit, and I don't know what it's going to take for me to finally put to rest the idea that there is something wrong with me because I'm not earning right now.

Well! There's nothing to be done right now, anyway. One last storytime on Friday, and then vacation starts in earnest, and we'll be off to Massachusetts in just a few weeks. Then in August, the kids will start school and I'll head back to Houston, and we'll see what's what. With any luck at all, I'll be done with the cancer thing, and then maybe I can look into doing something that pays a little better.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

unintentional absence

The server hosting all my sites crashed one day last week. My ISP quickly brought the sites back online for viewing, but until today, I couldn't access my site to change content (in more technical terms: FTP was broken).

In the interim, I've been loading my music library into iTunes, and I'm up just over 10GB now -- as I type this, 768 new songs are being added to my iPod.

Tomorrow is DS1's and DD's last day of school, huzzah! And DS2 has his last swimming lesson. We won't really be off the hook until after storytime on Friday, though. I'm looking forward to the freedom of having literally nothing scheduled.

Except we do have one thing scheduled: the boys are having their tonsils and adenoids removed Monday, and DS1 will have his turbinades reduced as well. So far neither one of them seems unduly stressed by the pending surgeries, but that could change as Monday approaches.

DH and I have a date on Friday, figuring it's good to get away before the boys' surgery. Three weeks from now, I'll be in Massachusetts. My usual excitment is tempered with dread on the boys' behalf -- I'm hoping they have easy recoveries. I'm hoping we all don't go crazy with two cranky boys in the house, post-op.

This afternoon, the kids for once got along famously, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The older kids are now free from the tyranny of homework, at least for a while, and were magnanimous in their treatment of their little brother. It's a lot easier to be nice when you're not feeling stressed, hmmm? I'm adding this to my list of hopes: that we can preserve that peaceful, pleasant atmosphere through at least part of the summer.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

(micro) yay!

Nothing major, just a couple of good things.

First, my biopsy results from the dermatologist came back "fine." I haven't read the report but I'll take their word for it that I'm OK. *whew*

Second, my new dosing of the RA meds is apparently working. (Knock me over with a feather.) I can do things like open jars without much effort, and I worked on Teddy for hours last night and did not wake up feeling like a cripple today. I knew it would take a while to kick in if it was going to work, but I wasn't, actually, you know, expecting that it would work, ever. So it's really very nice that it appears to be working, and I hope it keeps up.

Blips: I had a brief dizzy spell a few days ago. I almost fell off the chair in front of the screen here -- how odd. I can't recall that ever happening before, even when I was pregnant (I may not be remembering accurately, though.) Also, weird numbness/tingling/crawlie sensations in my feet are happening almost every day, and I'm trying to figure out if it's a calcium thing or a neurological thing, since it doesn't seem related to position or activity or anything like that. I'm just keeping an eye on it for now. Last: very lumpy feeling in the throat, which would freak me out if Dr. O, the amazing ENT, hadn't just looked at it quite thoroughly and declared that he couldn't feel anything. Whatever that is, it will keep until August.