Thursday, June 30, 2011


I am experiencing waves of anxiety, the kind that make me dither over every decision, however small. Everything seems to take such monumental effort, and my will is weak and whiney. I can't even stand to hear myself think.

I want to sink my claws into everyone I love and make sure we all stay safe. There’s too much illness and uncertainty. Someone very dear at my workplace has advanced cancer. Dear Husband has some mysterious digestive ailment and the testing for that is before us. Blood work apparently revealed significant inflammation, and startling words such as “Crohn’s Disease” have been mentioned. More blood work and an endoscopy next week. Meanwhile everything he eats seems to hurt him. And what can I do about it? Damn all.

I myself wish I could just give up eating altogether. I’m taking acid blockers, but I still often feel queasy. And for some reason, despite the fact that I’ve found gluten free bread that pretty much tastes like bread, it disturbs me. I can never finish it. It makes me think of trying to eat mushrooms. I can, sort of, if they are in a stew or over steak, but I can’t shake the knowledge that they are fungus. That’s so gross. Why would I want to eat fungus? And somehow this gluten free bread evokes the same hesitation. It’s ersatz bread. I KNOW what it truly is. I feel like I took the red pill and I can never unknow its true properties.

Firecracker is, well, Firecracker. Everything goes well and then something strange comes out of left field, like her extreme reaction to ant and mosquito bites. I feel like I need to wrap her up just to get to the car. And by extreme, well you should have seen the enormous blisters the ants created. She looked like she had bubonic plague. Tomorrow it’s a trip to the orthodontist. That’s sounds so minor, just the usual stuff kids go through. Except everything the orthodontist says makes my stomach knot. Her palate is too small, so she will have to have an expander, which basically forces the soft bone apart (ye gads, it sounds so awful), but it needs to be done quite soon to avoid an overbite. Her teeth are all over the place. She almost looks like she has two rows, that's how crowded they are. She also has gum hyperplasia (too much gum tissue), probably from years of seizure meds, so the orthodontist tells us she will need periodontal surgery to remove some of the excess tissue. Yep, there's that knot tightening. Firecracker does not deal well with pain and discomfort. She used to, but I think she depleted all her reserves. Now needles provoke temper tantrums and crying jags, and she focuses on every scrape and cut, examining it every few minutes, asking the same questions over and over about why and when and how it will get better.

DramaQueen is, as always, healthy, thank you God, but she has my eyes, poor girl. She has to have a physical soon and the thought of having blood drawn panics her. Seems when I was a kid I was getting shots all the time, and I don't even remember the first time I had blood drawn. It just was what it was, a moment of ouch and over. Somehow DramaQueen is all, well, dramatic about it. 

I have more doctor appointments I need to schedule, the endless rounds of keeping on top of my health issues. I feel like a ticking time bomb. Somewhere a rogue cell is waiting. I feel old. I don’t get enough sleep. I don’t get enough any exercise. Mortality is giving me the beady eye. And all I want to do is lie down.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Monday Report - Angels and Insects Edition

If I don't come up with some sort of weekly feature, I'll never write on this blog with any regularity. I'm all over the place in my subject matter. I'm all over the place generally. So I've decided to bounce in on Monday with a report of all the interesting and important stuff I do over the weekend.

Here's the weekend recap.
  • Buckets of rain with lots of thunder and lightening - very thrilling. I am always slightly uneasy that a gigantic ball of hail will crash through our bathroom skylight and our house will be invaded by wasps before we get it fixed.
  • I thought about calling some people I should call, and then I didn't. I plan to do the same thing next weekend.
  • Finished reading the awesome A Madness of Angels, which I plan to write about at some point. I'm in love with the protagonist, who is resurrected two years after his death to find that he is sharing his brain with blue electric angels.
  • Had to take Firecracker to the doctor on Saturday for some nasty-looking mosquito bites. Abby is very sensitive to mosquito bites, which usually swell up to the size of her fist and turn red.
  • No sooner did we step out of the car with a bottle of antibiotic than a bunch of ants swarmed over Firecracker's foot, inflicting multiple bites. Abby is even more sensitive to ant bites, so we had to go to the doctor again on Sunday, this time for steroids to bring down the swelling. She now looks like a medieval plague victim.
  • Firecracker is not very happy.
  • When Firecracker is injured or sick, we are all treated to a minute-by-minute account of every ache and pain. And I do mean minute by minute.
  • Why do insects target Abby? DramaQueen can go an entire summer without any sort of bite.
  • I hate summer in Georgia.
  • Sunday night was the True Blood season premier, hurrah. This season I'm rooting for vampire Eric, who gave the best ever public service announcement (wish I could post the whole thing, but there's a bit of it at the beginning).

  • I'm doing fine going gluten free, except that bread is very expensive, with a loaf having maybe 10 slices at about $5 a loaf, making it more expensive oz by oz than some illicit drugs. I'm not sure that's entirely true, but I'm not going to research it.
  • There are parts of our backyard I know nothing about. We spend absolutely no time there. See comment above about summer and ants. I would be perfectly happy with no yard at all. If I want grass I can go to the park.
  • We are in the process of killing two plants. I had the genius idea of the girls going on a field trip to a nursery and getting plants. One is impatiens - Abby remembers the name because, as she says, "I'm impatient." Liz got something she said is called a "David something". I imagine they're annuals and slated to die anyway. 
  • Dear Husband is, I hope, bringing home a treat.
  • Oh, and here's another treat.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Game On, Swords Out, Heads Off

Beautiful sets are part of the appeal of the series.
Every summer we get HBO so we can watch True Blood. This year we happened to get it a bit early, so I thought I would check out Game of Thrones. I'd never heard of the books, since fantasy epics have not generally been part of my literary diet. I am not apt to pick up a book set in another world where the characters have weird names like Cl'ad or M'rn. But there was so much buzz about this show that I had to check it out.

Tyrion should have his own series.
Daenerys deserves a dragon.
First I will say that HBO has created a remarkable series. Even the opening credits are gorgeous. The set design and costuming work well in creating mood and place. The cast is good to excellent. At first I found the story intriguing, but after a while I'm like, meh. I've read reviews praising the moral complexity of the characters. Um, yeah, right. Oh, she is fiercely loyal to her family; too bad she kills people. That's what is meant by "complex" I guess. The bad 'uns are pretty much bad to the bone and the good 'uns are, from what I can tell, en route to being corrupted or killed. I like Eddard's feisty daughter Arya and Tyrian, the dwarf, who has been given the best lines (and Richard Dinklage, a marvelous actor, obviously relishes his role). I'm also fascinated by the character Daenerys, daughter of the assassinated former king, now in exile, who starts out as a fragile, ethereal victim but becomes increasingly kick-ass. But most of the characters are annoying, willfully blind or downright vicious. The only really stand-up guy, Eddard Stark, screws everything up because he can't outmaneuver all the other power players. Here's a piece of advice, you shouldn't tell the queen that you know her deep, dark secret after the king, your only ally in the court, is dead, particularly not after your wife has kidnapped her brother. Also, when your crazy-ass wife kidnaps a member of the queen's family based on questionable evidence from a third-party and puts him on trial at the crazy-ass family headquarters, you should not be supportive. This is a good time to play the "I'm so sorry but my wife is unhinged with grief" card. Just sayin'.

Working girls in training.
Since HBO can, they dump as much blood and brutality as possible into every episode. Within the first few minutes of episode 1 I was treated to a scene of hacked up corpses arranged is some sort of mysterious symbol (at this point I don't really care what it means or who did it) and in every episode since I've had to close my eyes at various points to avoid having some new horror seared into my psyche. Most recently a scene took place while an animal is being butchered and skinned, which I'm sure conveyed the utter coldness of the Lannister patriarch, but I could have got that with less squishiness, thank you very much. And it being HBO there's lots of gratuitous sex. Seriously, is there ever a really sound narrative reason for an explicit sex scene? Oh, puhlease. No, there isn't. I don't get, for instance, why a scene of two women practicing "the business" is dramatically necessary. While the whore training was in session, the brothel owner was busy telling his life story to one of the "trainees," who turned out to be very good at multi-tasking. I suspect he may have alluded to something important in that little talk. Or not. In any case, I gather the character of the prostitute Ros was written specifically for the TV show, because, you know, an epic without whores is kind of like popcorn without butter and salt.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
You must have to find Machiavellian politics and strategy much more interesting than I do to really enjoy this series. Or you have to really enjoy stories in which family loyalty trumps morality and humanity nine-tenths of the time. Not filial affection, mind you, just cold-hearted, unthinking, brutal loyalty.

So, next season, I might give Game of Thrones a miss. Except now they have dragons.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The new gluten-free me

I guess it’s time for me to finally post about this monumental change in my life. It started a month or so ago when my doctor discovered that I was anemic. He sent me to a gastroenterologist to make sure I didn’t have Something Nasty. The Gastro Doc, with the rather charming but disorienting name Dimple, ordered a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. She looked at my iron levels and said, “You must feel like you want to hit someone.” I’m telling you that so you can give me credit for not, in fact, hitting anyone.

I’ll spare the details of these procedures, except to say that magnesium citrate is a baffling concoction that is fizzy, salty and sour all at the same time. I felt like I was drinking a weird Asian beverage. I also never want to see Gatorade or Jell-o again. On the positive side, I love the little cocktail they gave me to put me under. It has the beauty of a narcotic without the hurling afterwards.

My colonoscopy was fine, but the endoscopy revealed some things I wasn’t aware of. Like having acute gastritis, for one. I hadn’t really noticed until they told me. I also had blunted villi, and since Dear Husband has had his own problems, I knew what that likely meant, and indeed the blood tests confirmed that I do in fact have celiac.

I’ll break here for a public service announcement: Celiac is an autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. It is estimated that 1 out of 133 people have it, and less than 3% of those are actually diagnosed. If you have any digestive issues that have been written off as IBS (like Dear Husband’s were), or if you have any autoimmune disease (my GI said she automatically tests anyone with a thyroid condition), I encourage you to beat some sense into your doctor and get the Celiac Blood Panel.

Strangely, I didn’t have any serious digestive complaints. At least nothing I didn’t brush off as simple indigestion, or a bug, or my period. Dear Husband says that I was always having problems, but they were not the bent-over-in-misery-never-leaving-the-house-again variety. I feel supremely lucky, because I’ve read stories of people who were miserable for 10 even 20 years before they were diagnosed. On the other hand, having no powerful symptoms imbues the experience with a haze of unreality.

The treatment is simple - never eat wheat, rye or barley again, or any product derived from them (such as malt). I’m used to looking for this stuff because of Dear Husband. And I’m lucky that I don’t have multiple food allergies. There are people who can’t eat corn, or milk, or potatoes on top of having to avoid gluten.

But, you know what, most gluten free baked goods totally blow, and they are very, very expensive. I’m going to have to figure out baking my own stuff (which involves strange flour mixes and something called xanthum gum that costs $11 for a bag the size of an oatmeal packet). In practice I approach all gluten free goodies with distrust and suspicion. For God’s sake, people are baking with bean flour! Bean flour! In cookies! In bread! That’s just what a I want, a lovely garbanzo bean cookie. Make that a vegan, nut free, rice free, corn free, soy free, agave syrup sweetened garbanzo bean cookie. And then there’s the gritty, mouthful of beach sand experience of eating anything baked with rice flour. I just tried using the new gluten free Bisquick to make biscuits, which I’ve actually heard some poor demented folk praise, and I wondered if this was, in truth, food or Evil masquerading as a comestible.

At the moment I’m tired of thinking about food, what to stock, what’s safe, whether I should risk purchasing this $7 loaf of gluten free bread, what the hell I’m going to pack in my lunch, and I’m wondering if I could just live off Corn Chex for a while. Thankfully, ice cream (many kinds, anyway) and jellybeans are gluten free.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Random Facts about Firecracker

Now Firecracker gets her turn. Here are random facts about the cutest little 9 year old evah.

1. Is very affectionate and cuddly.
2. Loves our cats, Cheeto and Dorito, thoroughly and vigorously.
3. If she ever accidentally hurts them, she writes them notes of apology. She also draws pictures for them.
4. She never cared for baby dolls or Barbie dolls, but she's very attached to her huge family of stuffed animals.
5. Has a sweet-tooth. Heck, she has a mouth full of  'em.
6. Likes playing with toy cars and plans to buy a toy car wash.
7. Has beautiful caramel-colored hair with natural highlights. In the summer it looks as if she's been to the salon.
8. Has an incredible belly laugh. She sounds like she's vibrating.
9. For some reason really, really likes The Mentalist better than all other shows.
10. Likes to draw.
11. Does math for fun. You should have seen how excited she was that her teacher gave her a workbook for the summer.
12. Has problems with language processing and reading comprehension, but she likes going to the library and checking out lots of books. She particularly likes books about animals and encyclopedias. When she was little she use to make me check out all the Bing Bunny books at one time. Bing Bunny is awesome, by the way.
13. Once she starts playing, she becomes obsessed with the Wii, particularly the Sword Play game in Wii Resort.
14. Has a volatile temper, hence her nickname.
15. Calls meringues "merangutangs" and J.C. Penny "jennypenny."

16. Hates ants and bees. She was once stung by dozens of fire-ants, which resulted in an infection. Now she is highly suspicious of the lawn.
17. Has a hard time giving things up, even stuff she no longer plays with or uses. She therefore has a lot of Pokemon cards and Sillybandz.
18. Unlike DramaQueen, she prefers to spend her money rather than save it.
19. Has been bugging me for weeks to open this bloody Soda Pop making kit that Dear Husband got the kids for the summer.
20. Likes rocks. I used to come home and find all the rocks from the yard, and the neighbors' yards, in our living room or drying on the floor in the kitchen. I still find rocks in the washing machine from when she squirrels them away in her pockets.
21. Has Tuberous Sclerosis, which means she has benign growths in her brain that affect her memory and cognition and cause seizures (well controlled, happily).
22. She used to be so used to medical procedures that she barely flinched getting her blood drawn. Last time we all got flu shots, two of us had to hold her down. She ran out the building into the parking lot screaming and we had to keep our distance while her fury abated.
23. Still mourns the loss of Wormy, a worm some idiot at a summer camp put in a cup of dirt for her to take home. What were they thinking? After we convinced her to let Wormy go so he could get on with his wormy life, she cried for weeks. Sometimes she still randomly moans, "I miss Wormy!"
24.  Is terrified of thunderstorms.
25. Says she talks to God when she's angry, and he tells her when she needs to apologize.
26. We told her she was a chatterbox. She later asked what made her a "cheesebox."
27. Loves the songs Rolling in the Deep by Adele and Defying Gravity sung by the cast of Glee.
28. Thinks Goldilocks was extremely rude and can barely contain her outrage when she reads the story. She feels very sorry for the poor baby bear.
29. Does not like any fruits or vegetables. Now and then we can persuade her to gnaw on a baby carrot.
30. Prefers playing with boys.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Some Facts about DramaQueen

Since I did a blog post about Dear Husband, I thought I would get a kick out of doing them for the girls as well. So here are some random facts about my 11 yr old daughter DramaQueen.

1. When she got to the part in The Deathly Hallows where Harry Potter is walking to his death, she lay prostrate in the hallway weeping and made me tell her if it was going to turn out okay.

DramaQueen as the Queen of Hearts, with her BFF
2. Enjoys acting, obviously.

3. Is a serious bookworm.

4. Has a dry sense of humor.

5. Still thinks boys are beneath notice when they aren't outright annoying.

6. Loves Glee.

Nikola Tesla, sans fangs.
7. Also loves the TV Series Sanctuary. Her favorite character is the vampire Nikola Tesla. Boys are beneath notice but the fully grown specimen displays wit, charm and sound personal hygiene. Thus it begins.

8. Thinks my favorite musician (Owen Pallett) sounds like "a cat strumming on a banjo."

9. Does not like math or science.

10. Is a saver. She pays for all her own presents for friends and family. She also hoards her Halloween candy, which usually lasts until Christmas, at least, if she can keep it hidden from me.

11. Is okay with peanut butter sandwiches but hates jelly.

12. Wishes nature was indoors and not so dirty.

13. Likes roller skating.

14. Favorite outfit is skinny jeans (they must be skinny and they cannot have any fussy embroidery or such)  and a cami with a t-shirt over it (the cami must have lacy trim that peeks out from under the hem of the t-shirt), and black converse (colorful ones are just a bit too much for her).

15. Received a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence this year (She pointed out immediately that there was no way Obama could have actually signed all those certificates). She did not get the award in PE. Shocker.

16. Loves Los Angeles, and visiting her grandparents there is one of the highlights of the year for her.

17. Thinks of herself as "the healthy one in the family."

18. Likes the websites Wonderopolis and Cute Overload, but can't figure out what I find to do on a computer for hours on end.

19. At her birthday party, she and her friends sat in a circle playing a game -- and texting each other. Yes, they texted each other while they were in the same room.

20. Prefers the cake to the frosting.

21. Likes rainy days because they make her feel cozy.

22. Was so horrified when she saw Dear Husband smoking a cigar (which he does maybe maybe once every 5 years) that he promised to never do it again.

23. Has a pretty messy room. Clean clothes tend to sit in a pile on her desk chair until she needs them, and she usually has a collection of water glasses near her bed. Dirty clothes pile up beside the hamper in the bathroom. She isn't quite able to commit to putting them in the dirty clothes or to wearing them again.

24. Has to sleep with the fan on, even in the winter, with just a sheet over her, which she pulls up over her head with a small opening for breathing. There must be two pillow stacked on her left side and a two or three stuffed animals on her right side.

25. Is not a morning person. Duh. Genes on both sides are against that.

26. Her favorite character in Little Women is Beth, which surprised me. I always thought Beth was a bit too good to be true and preferred Jo, but DramaQueen likes Beth's selfless nature.

27. Just "graduated" from elementary school and is *gulp* going to middle school in the fall.

28. Is very protective of Firecracker. Most of the time. When Firecracker hasn't gotten on her last nerve

29. Is easily frustrated, at which point she throws herself on the floor and proclaims the destruction of all her hope and happiness by a firestorm of failure.

30. Won't go to sleep unless her closet door is closed.