Wednesday, May 27, 2009

here's something

I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to look like that.

After searching the web for images of cervical spine MRIs, I played radiologist by holding the films up to the sliding glass door, which gives the images a somewhat distracting background, but enables me to see them nonetheless. What is supposed to be a smooth line is disrupted by a sharp point where two of the vertebrae meet.

Upon reflection, this condition may be what causes the crunching sounds I hear when I move my head from side to side.

mri experience, v 2.0

It was a lot better than last time. Maybe it was a newer machine.

This time, the focus was my neck, aka "cervical spine." I have weird neurological symptoms -- numbness and tingling in my neck, a dull ache along my right arm, sometimes my entire right side, and these have been going on for some time now. Dr. O, my ENT, recommended a rehab doctor look at this months ago. What finally got me to go was Dr. C, my TMD doctor, saying the same thing. I confessed to Dr. C that I didn't want to go for an MRI because the last one freaked me out. He told me that was OK, they could give me a prescription for something that would help me relax, and I would get through it fine. The main thing is to get it looked at now while the symptoms are mild, before they get worse and/or become permanent.

My tendency is to do just the opposite -- wait until it gets bad enough to have someone look at it. I feel at least half the time that I'm a hypochondriac, always running to the doctor with mild, slightly annoying problems. It gets expensive, and since I'm pretty much OK, what's the point? What are the odds that this problem is going to get worse? What are the odds that it's going to go away on its own? I wish I could assess those two questions more accurately. Anyway, the neck thing does seem to be getting worse and so I finally made the doctor's appointment, and of course he did send me for the MRI. Given my impending departure for the summer, we're moving quickly on this.

So: the cervical spine MRI. There's no question of going in feet-first, they're looking at the neck. My head was in a little U-shaped form, and then soft foam wedges were put in place by my ears. It was very comfortable, actually, and the wedges by my ears really helped keep the noise down. (Or perhaps it was a newer, quieter machine than last time.) I closed my eyes even before the tech slid me into the tube, so I didn't see a thing. I felt like I was being tucked in for a nap. I had a cushion under my knees and smaller ones for arm rests, and a nice blanket. It would have been restful if not for the noise.

There were 5 or 6 passes, each one longer than the next. The first few were very short, the last 3 were 3.5, 4, and 6 minutes long. During the passes, the noise wasn't loud enough to make me jump but I was surprised by the vibrations of the table. I didn't remember that from last time.

Before the 6-minute pass, the tech asked me if I wanted her to pause in the middle, and I told her no, let's just get it over with -- that was a mistake. Six minutes without swallowing is basically impossible. I had a brief moment of panic near the end of the pass, but I mustn't have moved the parts that counted -- I definitely fluttered my hands a bit, and took several deep breaths. My mouth felt very dry throughout this process, but I still felt like I needed to swallow, which I didn't want to do because I was afraid it would move my jaw.

I had a prescription for Ativan but I didn't fill it -- I need to be awake and alert today, no time to sleep it off. I guess I managed OK but I won't really know until the report comes back. I looked at the films and other than identifying a few basic structures (it's kind of cool, you can see a little of my brain in some of them), I can't see anything. In some of the cross-sections you can see marked differences between the right side of my neck and the left side, due to all my surgeries. The side views are pretty cool, you can see all the vertebrae and everything. I hope that the scan shows nothing wrong with the spine itself -- muscle problems are so much easier to deal with.

Monday, May 25, 2009

refill reminder

It takes more than a week for Domperidone to get here from the Canadian pharmacy I use. I need to remember this and re-order before I start my last box of 100 pills, which lasts me about 12 days.

Even a few days of skipped doses -- and no days of missing altogether -- leave me feeling quite sick.

I hope someday I won't need this medicine any more, but at this point that doesn't seem likely. But at least I can do a better job with ordering my refills so I don't screw it up again.

at loose ends

I finished my class on Friday morning, typing away furiously for 110 minutes, finishing with just 10 minutes to spare. That's about 11 minutes per "short answer", which isn't too bad. With open book tests, I tend to second-guess myself and want to throw in at least one or two detailed examples, and I can easily find myself going down rabbit-holes. The time constraint was daunting. With closed-book tests, I don't feel compelled to include every last detail.

Since then, I took the kids to see Night at the Musuem: Battle of the Smithsonian, which was amiably stupid but a good way to spend a rainy Friday afternoon (the kids had a half-day).

Friday evening we went up to Squaw Peak for our usual Memorial Day get-away. The kids enjoyed the pizza and wings that DH brought up when he finally got out of work, and they enjoyed the "dive-in movie" (Kung Fu Panda), although they all got cold in the pool and had to hang out in the hot tub for a while to warm up again.

Saturday we were out to enjoy the sunshine early -- too early, actually. We re-applied sunscreen at lunch-time but they all ended up with varying degrees of sunburn. DS1's as usual is the worst, I think because he spends the most time in the water. We're shopping for those UV-protectant t-shirts for both boys. DD never burns as badly as they do. You can tell those boys have some Scandinavian genes just by how white they are. We left in the mid-afternoon, exhausted, although the kids were not too tired to watch The Prisoner of Azkaban on dvd; DD is finally, finally reading the HP saga and enjoying it, and she just finished HP3, so it was a perfect movie choice for once. I love it, but even so I fell asleep for the last 40 minutes or so.

Today was an at-home day, after church. Both boys worked on school projects and got much done -- somehow they are always more productive if I am in the room with them, even if I'm not directly supervising. There was some cooking and really not much else. DH and I watched The Wrestler, and Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei were awesome, but I was a bit disappointed in how predictable it was. It certainly wasn't a waste of time, but after the buzz it got, I expected more. I should know better.

Just as I should know better about staying up so late. As the title says, I'm at loose ends now. I feel as if I should be doing something, but my class is over, and the state test isn't for another couple of weeks. So many tensions are pulling at me: kids, money, cancer, fat. There's nothing wrong, no reason to think anything will go wrong, just this vague sense of uneasiness and uncertainty that always accompanies lack of control, for me. We're coming up on the end of the school year and such transitions are always hard for me. I'll manage.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

final stretch

I have just turned in my last essay assignment for my U.S. Constitution survey course. The material is fascinating but it reminds me of raking leaves -- a task that could be pleasant on a crisp fall afternoon when the leaves were dry and there were no other pressing tasks, but that rapidly became a chore when I had to do it every single weekend and most of the time the leaves were wet because it had just rained and Good Lord were those things heavy!

Anyway. I had to get it done today, so I did, and now all that remains is one lesson's readings and then the final. I really appreciate that there is no assignment for the last lesson, just the final -- my last few courses squeezed in an assignment due on the same day as the final! It doesn't leave a student much leeway.

In other news, I was accepted into the program with unexpected alacrity: I dropped off the application on Tuesday and received my acceptance letter on Saturday. That was nice.

The kids have three weeks of school left -- less, really, because of the long Memorial Day weekend. We're having an overnight at one of the local resorts as usual. By then, my class will be finished, but I'll still have my state test hanging over my head, which I take the day after the kids' last day of school.

When that's over, we'll really be able to celebrate.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

straight As on the parental report card

The kids' school uses the Six Pillars of Character curriculum, and at the end of the year, they have a special Outstanding Character assembly, wherein one student is nominated from each class, and then one student is selected as the most outstanding for the elementary school, and one for the middle school.

DS1 was nominated as the student with the most outstanding character in his class. I was quite overcome when I found out (yesterday), and the kids were wondering what was wrong with me, that I would cry about something like this.

I explained to DD, this is a very big deal for an Asperger's kid to get. DS1 spent quite a lot of time sitting in the principal's office earlier in his school career, and he has come a long, long way since those days.

DS1 doesn't understand all the fuss. He read the recommendation his teacher had written for him and said, "I don't remember doing any of that stuff." That's just the reason he was nominated, though: he doesn't have to make a special effort to be kind, or respectful, that's just the way he is. (Of course he's also sometimes clueless or just in his own world, but that's to be expected, and apparently he doesn't do that very often at school.)

DH and I both attended the assembly, and it was great for him to meet some of the teachers and see DS1's moment in the spotlight, even if it made the poor boy a little uncomfortable. He endured it for our sakes.

Friday, May 08, 2009


I've been taking Domperidone for my gastroparesis for about 6 months now, with good results, and one major side effect.

I had to buy new bras.

I'm blaming the drug because I weigh within a pound or two of what I weighed when I started taking it -- if anything, I may be a few pounds lighter, and I haven't changed my workout routine, either. Yes, I do upper-body strength training but it's the same routine I've had for almost 2 years, why would that suddenly kick in over the last few months?

Normally this is not the sort of thing that American women would complain about, but it's just weird. The last time I had a shelf like this, I was nursing an infant.

This is requiring some adjustment of my self-perception. I'm not used to having cleavage.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I managed to snag passes for the whole family to see an advance screening of the new Star Trek movie this evening.

It was awesome.

The new cast is spot on perfect, with Urban's Bones edging out the others ever-so-slightly. The story is tremendous, one of those butterfly-effect type things where one event sets another whole series of events in motion; it works. Best of all, I think, is the attitude: it doesn't take itself too seriously, but at the same time, it has heart.

We all enjoyed it, even Trek-detesting DD, who insisted she was just there for the popcorn. Can't wait to see it again.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

progress, cont.

I filed my application for formal admission to the teaching certification program today.

In other news: I passed my biology AEPA, as hoped. "If I failed," I joked to more than one person, "I'd have to commit suicide, or at least rethink my entire career path." Not much of a joke, but it gets the point across. I'm good at tests, and I love this subject, and if I couldn't pass that test, something must be really wrong.

The US Constitution class continues apace. This is a fortuitous time for me to be studying this material, given what's going on with the Obama administration and Souter's recent retirement announcement. It's very interesting.

Today was my last RE class of the year, and predictably, I choked up at the end. Oh, how I love those little guys, and I can't believe they're all getting/have already received their First Communion and Confirmation. I gave them each a copy of Devon Publishing's The Good Shepherd Prayer Book which they really seemed to like; it is a beautiful, complete, and lovely book. Although I think they may have liked the pizza and juice pouches more!

DH & I bought a new bed, it will be delivered tomorrow -- OK, later today. How odd, and wonderful, will it be to sleep on a bed that's not concave? It's surprising how we'll put up with things that are genuinely bad for so long until finally we notice and do something about it!

Desert Outdoor Center, Lake Pleasant

As Nina said, in a completely different context, "It’s beautiful here. It is possible to understand that life can be at once simple and very magnificent."

Honeymoon Cove, the view from the path to the Girl's Cabin

We arrived Thursday morning and settled in. In truth, we had very little time for leisure, since we were busy with hikes and classes and eating (the children) or food preparation and clean-up (the adults). Our first mini-hike was down to the lake shore.

Colorful, and poisonous, beetles crawl about on a desert flower near the lake

Children can amuse themselves throwing objects into large bodies of water for as long as you'll let them. (Since I have no photo release paperwork on any children other than my own, I can't post any pictures of them...)

In the evening, we went on a "night hike", which theoretically would have been a good time to see wildlife. Reality: we were so noisy that any sane wildlife, hearing our approach, stayed well out of site. That's not to say it wasn't gorgeous anyway.

These teddy bear chollas seemed to glow in the late evening light

An exceptional saguaro cluster

Upon our return, we toasted marshmallows and made s'mores. There was some non-culinary excitement, too:

No one knows why, but all scorpions glow green under a black light.

In between, the kids had classes, taught by the park rangers, on setting and using a compass, cold-blooded animals, the difference between venomous and poisonous animals, archeology, and desert survival. They had hands-on classes in archeology and survival, too, as well as marine biology, trying to identify some of the organisms living in the muck at the bottom of the lake. Thursday ended with a team-building exercise they called "The Amazing Race," seven different stations requiring communication and negotiation among the team members to accomplish different tasks. They had a blast.

No one got much sleep -- the adults were kept busy keeping everyone fed and/or on-task, and the time passed very quickly. It was an exceptional experience -- the only negative I came away with was the sense that the children did not fully appreciate how extraordinary it really was. They're fourth-graders, after all; why should I expect different? I just know it was amazing, and I hope they realize it eventually, too.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Returned this afternoon from an overnight field trip with DD to the Desert Outdoor Center at Lake Pleasant, where we took all kinds of classes, both day and evening.

I took a billion pictures and hope to post more later, but I have to clear the decks of my pending schoolwork, and get the housework javascript:void(0)under control as well.