Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls

X-man and I read a bunch of books about death last night.

For those of you who are interested here are the titles:

"When Someone Dies" by Sharon Greenlee
"The Empty Place" by Roberta Temes
"The Fall of Freddie the Leaf" by Leo Buscaglia

He sat through all of them very patiently. He asked questions. We talked about death. We talked about sadness. He hypothesized about who the people in some of the pictures might have lost. He actually understood the metaphor about Freddie the Leaf symbolizing people.

Then I pulled out the "What is God?" book by Etan Boritzer that I got at the library. It works at the question about what god is when god means very different things to very different people. It talks about the various religions. As soon as I started to read the title X-man stopped me.

"You don't believe in god."

"No, I don't."

"Daddy doesn't believe in god."

"No, he doesn't."

"Then I don't want to believe in god."

Oooh, hyper-liberal parent backfire.

"But I want you to learn about the different kinds of choices you have so you can make them and learn about them as you grow up."

"Well, I don't want to learn about god. Read me the story about vacation instead."

"Okay, then."

And back to the library the book on god goes. We'll try again when he has less of a parent "god" complex. Maybe when he thinks we suck a bit more, he'll be more open to it. Which is good, because it wasn't exactly the book I wanted, because in the end, it assumes there is a god. Which means it represents all the basic religions except my lack of religion. But I figure I have that one covered in spades... What I need is something that deals with spirituality. Because it's entirely possible to be spiritual and not believe in god.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Frustrated Beyond the Norm

So, I was scheduled to get an IUD on Wednesday. But Carle called to cancel my appointment yesterday due to my ob/gyn having an emergency surgery. What surgery is emergent if there's a 48-hour advance notice?

Normally, I'm a pretty calm and patient human being. But when I was pregnant with X, I only saw the ob/gyn twice. I saw her at the 9-week appointment to hear the heart beat and to actually officially meet her, and then I saw her at week 15 to go over the genetic testing that we decided to decline. After that, she was always in some kind of surgery and never made it to my appointments. Instead, her nurse practitioner always stepped in. That's 25 weeks of care where I don't remember seeing her at all. Since I got diagnosed with the fibroid last January, and it took 60 days for someone in gyn to see me to confirm the diagnosis and go over my options and then another 30 days to get an appointment to get the IUD in the first place, waiting another month seemed -- obnoxious. And I had no faith or guarantee that the next appointment wouldn't shove me to the side, too. But I guess a doctor makes a lot more money doing surgery than she does inserting an IUD.

So, I told the woman who called to cancel my appointment that it wasn't going to fly. That I'd be happy to see anyone else at that time period that had an opening and could do the IUD. She said she'd have to leave a message for the doctor's nurse. As soon as I hung up with her I called Planned Parenthood. You know, the fetus killers? The ones that the Republican House Members cut funding for because they provide abortion services, never mind the thousands of other non-abortion services they provide at low cost every day. Yeah, them. If you didn't know, becoming a parent made me fly my pro-choice flag bigger, brighter and higher than I flew it before. I love Planned Parenthood. I love them because I know that they are a million things more than just an abortion provider.

They'll talk to you about your options and the risks of your choices, but they never, ever give you the runaround about anything, and they certainly never push you off of getting care for a four-month period. This is why we need more open minded family planning services and not less! So, I made an appointment with them for next week. That's right, a one-week waiting period rather than another 30 days, on top of the 90 days I already had to wait just to get an IUD to help control my internal bleeding so that I can store iron again and stop sapping my bone marrow of things like platelets. My care doesn't even have anything to do with family planning -- and I go to Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, a Carle nurse called back this morning while I was at work. I called her when I got home, but she was at lunch. I have yet to hear from her again.

I get such excellent patient care from my GP, from my son's pediatrician and from Weight Management. Why has my experience at Ob/Gyn always been so -- negligent? I mean, I like everyone I've met there on a personal level. They're just -- way, way, way too busy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Grass is Greener Across the Street -- Literally!

Today, SuperShanna and SuperShawn put their lovely four-bedroom house up for sale directly across from us. You might have heard my sobbing at 4:30 p.m. as I pulled in the driveway to find that their realtor Stephanie Pratt had put the For Sale sign up in the front yard of their generous-sized corner lot.

The Supers are headed back to the South, where the world is much warmer and all the men address women, no matter their age, with ma'am.

X-man and I are trying to not break down over the change. We're trying to look forward to a nice, new family coming in.

But we've been through so much with our neighbors... We've watched SuperShawn build his own fence. We've admired each other's tulips. We've negotiated sharing of cars and bikes between X-man and Ms. C. We welcomed Baby Bear. We take care of each other's four-legged kids. Seriously, this is a prime example of awesome good neighbors. And we're going to miss them.

That said, if you're out and about looking for a new house in the Savoy area. I can't say enough about the one across the street from us. I promise I won't try to hold you up to the obscene awesome standards that are the Supers. But I promise we're the friendly sort around here. We wave to everyone when we're outside and look out for one another, and, uh, if you purchase the house with the firepit with the awesome sitting wall in the backyard, you totally have to have the neighborhood down for s'mores and to play on the swing set at least twice in the summer.

It'll be worth it. We'll watch your dog for you while you're on vacation or babysit your children. We'll even bring you some beer and a fruit salad to reciprocate. Plus, there's a carnival in the park behind our subdivision every year... which the kids go gaga over. Imagine, a carnival in your freaking backyard! Oh, and you'll notice the apartments next door. Never mind them. We don't ever hear them except on Fourth of July and the last day of Finals. Seriously. It's like they're not there, except they occasionally walk their dogs over here. Very low drama over there that we notice.

Just don't buy it too soon. My son has to figure out who he's going to marry now that Ms. C is flying the coop. I'm guessing Princess K on Banbury best be ready to be the next in line... But he did make me promise that we'd go and visit Ms. C after she was settled in her new abode.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Relax, Don't Do it!

It's been a big blog week this week.

I got less than stellar good feelings at a weigh in. We had a death in the family. I had surgery. The taxes are done. So, in honor of all the big life stuff, I'm going to hang out today, which is good, because I have a headache right now. I'm thinking it's nothing a good nap and a shower won't get rid of.

This week is busy, but I'm hoping not as challenging.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

If There are Taxes There Must be Death

On Tuesday, my great Uncle Bud passed away. He was 85 years old and his health had been declining steadily. When my favorite aunt called to tell me her father-in-law passed away, I eyed my calendar. X-man had a birthday party on the schedule at 3 p.m. I was going in for eye surgery on Thursday and didn't know if I'd be okay to drive. So MacTroll was going to have to go with me if I couldn't drive. I knew one of my friends would be fabulous and offer to take X-man. But on the other hand, X-man had been asking a LOT about death over the last year.

So, I took a chance and asked him that night if he'd want to go to the funeral. I explained to him who Uncle Bud was, how he died and that a funeral was a chance to say goodbye to the people that you love and get together to remember the person who died with family.

"Do I get to go by the stones?" X-man asked.


"The ones with the names on them?"

"Oh, the grave stones!"

"I want to play hide and seek in the graveyard like on Scooby Doo."

"Mmmmmmmm. Let me explain further."

As it turned out, he really wanted to go. He was even willing to wear his "fancy clothes" without complaint. So, we left our house at 7 a.m. this morning. We drove up to Western Springs and made it to the 9:30 a.m. visitation. X-man saw Uncle Bud's remains in the casket at the end of the aisle. He asked questions about his skin color, about how the casket worked, about why everyone was going up to see a dead body, if he wasn't going to talk or move or answer back. These were all good questions. It helped that the church was very kid friendly. They even had activity bags in the back of the church for kids to use that were labeled with age appropriateness. There were also booster seats in case the kids wanted to see more of the service.

We'd done a fair job of covering the technical parts. Things like explaining that the choir and piano were upstairs in the balcony. That the candle that was lit was really a light bulb that looked like fire, but wasn't so the church wouldn't catch fire. We could explain who each of my relatives were and why they were so sad that Bud had passed away. That, yes, just like there was an Anthony in his school, he had a baby cousin named Anthony. The part we hadn't figured he'd have the most questions about was the frequent use of "Our Father" and "Jesus." And little informational sentences whispered into a five year old's ear at the back of the church service only leads to more and more questions about some giant topics.

I thought I was doing fairly well regarding God and Mary and Joseph and Jesus. But he couldn't quite figure out the whole aspect of spirit impregnating a virgin (who was married to someone else) and her giving birth when he knew only people could reproduce with people. Just like before the service started when he asked me about the toy ark and why it had two animals. I told the story, and his reply was, "Mommy, that's made up. That can't be real."


"Because there's not enough room for EVERY animal. There are a lot of birds. And how would one guy feed them all?"

I thought this was a fairly logical question.

But in the sanctuary, he asked a big question. "Is God Dead?"

I took a breath and looked at MacTroll. He nodded his head at me indicating that it was time we started talking about world religions with X-man. We'd been wondering when this was going to happen, because we've been on the whirlwind of what is real and what isn't. Most of the time it's really easy to explain that so far aliens, werewolves, vampires, Handy Manny and The Joker, aren't real.

But with religion, there are so many parts that many, many, many, many people do believe are real. So many variances of how literally they take the Bible or don't, whether or not Heaven takes everyone... or not. Reincarnation. Confession. Vegetarianism. All kinds of different aspects. MacTroll and I always thought we'd share what he and I believe but explain that X-man can believe whatever he wants to believe. That when it comes to spirituality, there's not really a wrong answer. Be an Atheist. Be Jewish. Be Buddhist. It's all fine to us. Just be peaceful and kind and treat everyone like your equal.

I whispered in his ear that some people think he is just a story, but some people do believe he is alive and looking over everyone.

In the end, we were able to grab a quick lunch at McDonald's and hustle back to Champaign for a 3 p.m. birthday party. It was definitely the first birthday party that all three of us had attended in fancy clothes. MacTroll in his suit, me in pantyhose and a skirt and X-man in a collared/button-down shirt. We looked totally out of place, but X-man had a totally good time, and was sad when it was over.

Friday, March 25, 2011

They Unblinded Me With Science

I remember sitting in a Saturday morning editing and proofreading class at George Washington University in D.C. in 1998 the first time someone told me that they had surgery to fix their nearsightedness. I'd been wearing classes since I was 16. I didn't mind them so much. So I only nodded as I heard the story. That, and the idea of willingly going under the knife for something contacts and glasses could fix seemed totally out of my reach.

Fast Forward 10 years when my two year old is repeatedly ripping glasses off my head (and my husband's) and smashing them into oblivion. Hmmm. I thought. It would be nice if these suckers weren't on my head. Before I got pregnant, I'd switched to wearing my contacts most of the time. Then, afterwards, there didn't seem to be enough minutes in the morning for that step. Over the years, more and more of my friends have had the procedure done. All of them were quite happy with the results. The only person I'd met that was unhappy was on a flight. And, from what I could garner, he was quite an unhappy person all around. Let alone the fact that he was mad that he didn't achieve 20/20 eyesight.

So, this year, before open enrollment ended at Apple, I investigated getting Lasik surgery through Eye Surgical Associates. They have an office in Champaign, but the surgeries are done in Bloomington.

As it turns out, my nearsighted prescription, the shape of my eye and my pupil size (which was borderline large) made me an excellent candidate. Then I got to watch a video that was kind of an introduction to corrective eye surgery over the last 30 years. It went over real expectations about the results, and some of the side effects of the procedure. It kept reiterating the fact that this surgery will not prevent you from needing reading glasses as you age, because reading glasses is the deterioration of another part of the eye entirely... (I guess people don't quite get this.) Then I got a price quote good for 30 days, but explained that I had been saving, but wouldn't be able to do the surgery until the last part of March.

I made a pre-surgical appointment for March 16th, and they gave me the lesser price when it came time to pay. There was a large discount for paying the entire amount up front, so I was happy that I'd been keeping the surgery as a financial goal in the back of my mind. Again on the 16th, the nurse measured my eyes and ran a bunch more tests. I watched a second movie. This one was longer and had a quiz about the dangers and side effects of surgery. I call it the "Scary Movie."

Quigs was uber nice and drove me to my pre-surgical appointment that day, so the nurse could dilate my eyes (which meant I couldn't drive for 24 hours). Special K's husband was also very generous and picked up X-man from school that day.

Then on Thursday, March 24th, MacTroll drove me to Bloomington, where I spent about 30 minutes in a chair getting remeasured again and then 12 minutes in a surgical chair while a machine and a surgeon spent 39 seconds on each eye cutting a flap into my lenses and reshaping my corneas with computerized lasers. And now, one day later, my eyes are 20/15. Crazy, isn't it? Science that's not science fiction.

After the surgery, I felt like I was in a dream sequence for a while. The vision was a little blurry and cloudy. They gave me these cool safety goggles to wear until my first follow up appointment this a.m. Aren't they sexy?

I had to sleep in them. They said I'd need to shower in them, too. But, um, since my appointment was at 10:10 a.m. today, I just ponytailed it and put on some deodorant and showered later in the day after I got cleared to drive and work out. (Although it's another two weeks before I can get in a pool or wear eye make up and another month before I can try out for the U of I hockey team, i.e. contact sports).

I felt no real discomfort after surgery past some mild scratchiness. I'm keeping up with my eyedrops, as indicated by the surgeon and am really enjoying the fact that I can just slide on normal sunglasses. I am experiencing a bit of the starburst around lightbulbs and headlights at night, but that should go away with time, and doesn't bother me too much as it is.

That said, if anyone wants to go visit Dr. Brownstone in Champaign (or Bloomington for that matter), I've got a referral card for a free examination to determine if you're a candidate that I can give you. The nurses are WONDERFUL, by the way. The going price is $2,300 per eye, if you get it financed. There's around a $700 discount if you pay it all at once, and yes, they take VSP, if your company has it.

I'd never had elective surgery before. And it's very different from getting your gall bladder out. 1) I had virtually no pain or discomfort during the whole thing. 2) They tell you congratulations when you're done. 3) They don't starve you and ignore you in a hospital bed for 58 hours. 4) They give you a free travel mug with a gift card for coffee in it when you're done, in hopes that you'll do what I did above (which is refer people to them for doing an awesome job).  But it did make me wonder, if you get a boob job, do they give you a coffee cup with a Victoria's Secret gift card inside?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tax Time

I like when our accountant says, "You're getting money back!"

And then he follows it with, "But if I were you, I'd put the amount you're expected to get back in an IRA before April 15, so it counts as a 2010 investment, just to get the most bang for you buck."

Yeah, that means, we get nothing and have to pony up cash now and wait for the Feds to refill our coffers in a few weeks. Boo!

I better live long enough to get to retirement and enjoy all the responsible financial decisions that MacTroll and I have made together since we were 22, or I'm going to come back and haunt every financial planner's and accountant's family that we've ever had.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Beautiful -- Go outside

If you're reading this, you better be outside sitting on your patio absorbing some vitamin D right now. It's lovely outside. I did an 8-mile run this morning (Well, okay, there was a lot of walking involved due to that lovely spring breeze, which feels way more like wind when you're out in it) and couldn't believe how gorgeous it was.

And I also know it's not gonna last.

Spring starts on May 1 in Illinois, regardless of what it says on the calendar. You can expect some kind of weird snow or sleet any time between March 20 and April 30. (And mother nature, if it snows on the morning of my half marathon,  you will see grumpy, like you've never seen grumpy before.)

On the other hand, there will also be days like today thrown in among the rain and storms and weird sleet or snow. Last year, I got my garden in before May 1. It was bizarre. A few nights I covered my tomato plants cursing myself for getting into the groove too soon.

But today, today is a lovely day to watch your kids play at the park. Have a picnic outside for dinner. Ride some bikes. Because tomorrow -- you'll be wearing a coat and sleeves again.

Excuse me, while I take my foam roller outside on my patio and work on my sore glutes in the glory of the sun. (Won't the neighbors who end up building behind us sometime in the next year or two be oh so glad for the benefit of that sight!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slow yo cause I like fro yo?

When you accomplish something great, people notice. They commend you. They tell other people about your success. They write editorials about how you've changed their lives. They use you as motivation to try and further their own successes. Strangers come up to you and want to know your secrets. You get invited to talk at weight management meetings. That "motivator" role is one that I have never been comfortable with in my life.

I won a young author award in the sixth grade. I was a decent volleyball and soccer player in high school. I was a very good student in college. I was an extraordinary student newspaper editor. I was a wonderful assistant after college and a kick ass media relations person. I turned out to be a well-connected college-professor to my students at Millikin. I won a Women to Know Award after being nominated by my friends in 2009, and most recently, I turned my life around in regard to my mental and physical health regarding my self-esteem and body size.

Somewhere a long time ago, I learned that I'm supposed to be humble. I'm supposed to blush away compliments about anything and everything. Doing something well, should be expected. Excellence is merely satisfactory. Not doing something well means that somehow you are broken or dysfunctional. And that which you're not stellar at -- and don't give a damn about -- you just ignore. For me, I could give a crap if I ever get back up on skis again. I'm okay with not hitting the slopes. Books by the fireplace in a cozy sweater are an acceptable winter vacation. But, if it's something I think I should be good at, and I'm not. That's a bit more difficult.

As I get older, there are less and less times where I beat myself up over failure. In fact, I know that every day I'm going to louse up something. It's just the way the world works. I won't always say my words right when I'm speaking or typing. It doesn't mean I have PPA or that I'm stupid. It just means that my head is moving faster than my mouth is. I might forget the physical sheet for kindergarten at home and have to rush back to get it before the doctor's appointment, but the world doesn't end if I'm 5 minutes late.

Worse than not being good at something though, is trying to do something you used to be good at, but suck at now. When I was in Maine, I played volleyball for 2 hours just about every morning we were there. The first day was terrible. By the last day, I was sore and bruised, but I had my rhythm down. I remembered how to overhand serve (even though it's not as consistent as it was when I was 16). I kicked ass on the passing. I had fun doing it. I could match up with a 21-year-old guy and take on 2 20-somethings, and 2 40-somethings and win 2 on 4.

But picking up something you were never good at, finding yourself randomly successful at it, finding joy in it and then watching your performance decrease, is painful. I had it when I got diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease last summer and had to stop running for 3 months. I'm much slower now than I was then, but I find a strange joy in running that I never imagined.

I wonder if artists have the same feeling when their interests shift. "I was so successful painting XYZ. But now that time is over and I want to try ABC, which no one likes or buys, but it comes from somewhere inside..."

At that moment you stand alone. No one notices your struggle. If they do, they don't say anything. Or if they do say things, it's interestingly exactly the wrong thing. Things like: No one wants to only hear about that. It's all you talk about. People don't want to be around that all the time.

Or maybe someone does want to hear about it, I'm so glad to see that it's not easy for you, because if it was, I'd feel so stupid that it is so hard for me. Unfortunately, when you're in a dark and twisty place, these people's humanizing comments are often over shadowed by comments like the former.

Or they'll wonder, why I can't seem to get myself under control. I just want you to be able to figure it out and be done with it and be happy.

Done with it = shut up about it. Done with it = there's an end to the struggle. In response, I suppress and suppress for months, until I'm driving from Tolono to Savoy today to go to my first Yo-lates class since 2003, and I hear this lyric from Ani DeFranco, "As bad as I am, I'm proud of the fact that I'm worse than I seem."

Lately, I've been afraid to admit that I'm having a lot of trouble with maintenance. My pants have slid back up a size, so I've been wearing a lot of stretch jeans or workout pants. Or brands that I know fit larger than most. Where I used to look lean and tone in my workout clothes, I now notice bulges spilling over at the hips and in the upper back. In November, I was at 160. Yesterday, I weighed in at 172. And yes, the anemia has a big part of it.

But another part of it is sadness. I'm sad that I don't have any energy. I've been lazy about preparing meals because convenience plays out easier for dinner time than cooking, so eating out got reintroduced this winter. I lost the energy to work out 60-90 minutes five days a week at a moderate to high range, not because I was bored or just didn't want to, but because I'm generally a bodily waste from noon on.

You might think that this is no big deal an that no logical person exercises that much. If you're naturally thin, it's really not a big deal. But if you've had massive weight loss, it's a giant deal, because my body -- doesn't mind getting bigger. It creates hormones that create urges to binge in celebration, in an effort to fulfill an emotional void or just in terms of wanting to feel normal.

It's abnormal not to eat out in America. It's abnormal to not eat processed foods. It's abnormal to have enough time to workout 60-90 minutes a day. It's abnormal not to have your kids meet up at a fast food joint.

When I reached goal post gall bladder surgery in February 2010, the goal was to stay 160 and below. By April, I'd moved back to where I was before surgery which was 160-165. In both ranges, I fit into large size 4 jeans a small size 6. I was a size 2-4 dress. I was there until fall.

When I became borderline anemic in September, and I decided 165-170 was fine. "I'll take care of it when they stop the bleeding issue..." Well, I thought they'd figure it out by January. And now we're a week away from April, when I should get my IUD... and that in itself will take 2-4 months to work, if it works. So, I need to stop thinking of my body's inability to store iron and make proteins and platelets as a short-term thing to put up with. Because I'm watching it destroy my hard work as I weighed in yesterday, for the first time since September 2009 at 172 lbs. That's not funny. The number can't just keep creeping up. 170 was my stake in the ground.

When I was obese, I used to snort and scoff over people who would complain about losing any amount of weight under 20 lbs. This was because before my period, I'd go up 5-10 lbs in a week. This number is often still true. But because I lost so much weight, I understand that the last 10 takes 10-12 weeks to get rid of, but can be put on over the course of a nice, weekend holiday trip with the family. That's three days of food fun with a 3-month payback.

Who wants to work that hard and why? I do. Because I think it's important -- for me, mostly for my back, particularly. It's not the clothing size that matters, but how I feel in my skin is vitally important. Right now, I feel bloated and disappointed in myself. There's so much information on people who gain back their weight and more after dropping tons of pounds. And I want to be one of the 3 percent that is the exception to that rule, but I am afraid, I'm not.

I get the sense that some of the people in my life would very much like that to happen to me though. Mostly, so they can a) stop hearing me talk about my weight issues and b) give themselves reasons why they shouldn't fret about their own situations.

And then there are the many relationships I have with other "biggest losers." I worry that they'll look at photos of me and notice the roundness and compare themselves to me with tisk tisk thoughts on their head (or worse, feelings of relief that the 10 lbs yo yo doesn't happen to them). I'm afraid, I'll become the one of the four that fails, that someone will see me as lazy and undedicated, even though I am putting in the effort.

I know, mentally, that maintaining weight loss is a giant lifelong journey. Lifestyle issue, etc. But I remember being pregnant after losing 50 lbs and saying to myself, "At least you're gaining weight eating healthy food rather than crap." I remember making the comparison between my pregnancy and others, "Well, at least I never made my husband go through a fast food drive through for me." Like somehow that makes me the better person as I went from 207 lbs to 275 lbs.

Rationalization is strong with this one.

A diabetic might realize she has diabetes and monitor her sugars every day, but if she doesn't change her diet or take her insulin correctly, all she's doing is watching her body fall apart. Similarly, with my anemia, I watch my blood counts come back ugly. I have to have a rest time in the afternoon to recuperate from nothing more than running errands, 15 minutes of weight training and a 45-minute Yo-lates class. Running any amount of distances, puts me on a couch or in bed at 7:30 p.m. I continue, because overall, it's better for me. If I stop, or if I go back to walking, I'd have to walk 90-120 minutes a day to match my 45-60 minutes of running or aerobics or biking. If I skip it, my body will revolt and I won't fit into my pants. And I'm not buying bigger pants.

In the last 4 weeks, I've avoided food journaling, because I didn't want to know what I was eating. I just knew I felt better when I ate. But, that's another bad habit, I know I have.

Last week, I started recording again. This week, I started planning and cooking again. I had to put an end to the anemic pity party and start managing my illness, as if it's not going to go away (even though I really hope it does).

I had to realize that all I have is myself. I stand alone, and it needs to be enough. Because this is my body. I was born with it. I'm going to die with it. But I've also got to take care of it, and I can't just eat the anemia away (if changing diet and adding supplements would have worked, we would have been out of the woods months ago).

But this is a constant battle. It's like going to work, as one maintaining blogger put it. I was relieved to find her blog, because so much that she writes about, the struggles she goes through, I go through. Yet, she gets up every morning and does her "job," and I do, too.

Because although I might be overly humble, I am also overly ambitious, crazy organized and wonderfully responsible. But that doesn't mean knowing I can do better isn't killing me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

World's Best -- I'm dubious, but I'll try

For those of you who don't know, my spouse is allergic to cats -- and to dogs -- and to dust, mold, beef, milk, various pollens... He's pretty much a walking histamine.

Now, sleeping with a cat on his face doesn't usually set him off. Sleeping with a cat on his face while spooning a dog is also often fine. But sleeping with a cat on his face, while spooning a dog with the windows open in early spring = sneezy, asthma mess that requires Advair (which he takes all the time), a separate inhaler, antihistamines and a couple boxes of Kleenex, just to get through one night.

The other thing that sets off these attacks? 1) Any mention of cleaning the house that he might have to partake in (so yes, they might be occasionally psychosomatic) and 2) scooping the litter boxes.

For years, we've used Scoop Away litter. My friend CB in D.C. used it with her multiple cats. It was cheap and easy to find around town. Plus, it did a great job of clumping and dealing with smells. It tracked all over the floor. But I scoop pretty regularly, so I just sweep as much as possible.

Then we moved to Illinois and a couple years ago, Meijer stopped selling Scoop Away in order to put out its own Meijer brand litter. Well, hell. I kind of got angry at Meijer, but I didn't want to start having to go to a different store to get my litter. So for the last two years, I've been trying various litters. I tried Arm and Hammer, Tidy Cat, Yesterday's News and Swheatscoop (which I found when you have a mouse problem is a POOR decision because the mice like to eat it and are attracted to it) and finally settled on, no surprise, the Meijer generic. It did the best at clumping to make scooping easy, but it does less well on the smell issue than Scoop Away.

Suddenly, a few months ago, all the Meijer cat litter disappeared from the shelves. Apparently there was a "quality control" issue. And while I still find it every once in a while in the Urbana store, it's not stocked as readily as it was before. So, after I picked up the last plastic container (and can I say how much I hate plastic containers, why can't you just use cardboard, Meijer?) I saw a brand that I had only seen at Prairieland Feeds in Savoy -- for mega bucks. "World's Best Cat Litter". I'm kind of dubious about anything marked "world's best." Maybe I'd get some sort of sad pleasure from proving them wrong? Or maybe they'd make my world a better place?

Mmmm. It's made from corn. So, if we still had our mice issue (thank you again Mousehunter Jim for rectifying that for us), I'd totally pass. But we seem rodent free, so I thought I'd get it and try it in a box. Supposedly, like the other "more eco-friendly" litters it's flushable, but the State of California would rather you just threw it away... so I'm guessing flushing really isn't all that great on plumbing somewhere in our water cycle.

Anyway, I'm trying it out this week. I put it in the cats' favorite litter box (a small blue one from Tidy Cat), even though the directions said I should slowly blend it with their current litter to get it used to it. (Please note that I did do this for other trial litters.)

The bag I purchased was 8 lbs. It was not the multiple cat bag, but if it works, I'll have to try the more appropriate kind for a house with 4 cats. My first observation is that it's a thicker grain than a fine clay litter. The claim on the bag is that because of its texture and absorption rate, you're supposed to scoop less of it out, meaning the litter lasts longer. On first scoop, this is true. It clumps like magic. But I think Nyssa's the only one peeing on it so far. It tracks as much as the clay litter, but is easier to find and sweep up on my gray tile floor.

It is more expensive, but if it lasts the 30 days it boasts than the price will be a few dollars less in cat litter each month. And its made from corn so it biodegrades more easily (per the web site) than the clay. But the smell is weird. I don't smell the ammonia from the urine at all. Instead, I smell a weird wet corn (like rain after harvest in the fields behind my house) kind of situation. It's not terrible, it's just different. It smells less how you would assume poop and pee would smell, even if covered in clay and baking soda.

And yet, you're sitting there wondering, "Why in the hell is Looseyfur reviewing cat litters today?"

Well, it's Monday. And I have a lot on my mind, and cat litter is a terribly safe subject, don't you think? And everyone else has pretty much already covered how much they like the weather or how cute their kids are. So, this is what I've got left today. And it's only 11:05 a.m.

Plus, if it makes my husband sneeze less and help scoop more, it's a win/win, right?

By the way, the best way I've found to not deal with tracking litter is to get a Clever Cat box with an entrance on top. My cats, for some reason, loved to pee in the boxes with the front open door and poop in the Clevercat box. But it really doesn't have any litter on the floor around it. Only on the top lid, which is oh so easy to just dump back into the big bin. I think if we didn't have a picky cat in our group, we'd replace all our boxes with the Clevercat, but my arthritic kitty wouldn't be happy with that choice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful, Free Weekends

There aren't too many weekends where we aren't jammed packed with things to do at our house. There have been a lot of birthday parties in 2011, which are a lot of fun. There are also special events around town, visitors, etc. And let's not forget the errands...

This weekend, I only had two things on the calendar. I had to do a 7-mile run, and I had to take X-man to Rec Center on Saturday for two programs, the Mad Scientists and the Lego Challenge.

The Rec Center called to tell me the Mad Scientist program was canceled from 1-1:45 p.m. I inquired about the Lego program, but it was still a go. Great, perfect. No worries.

On Saturday morning, I got up and met Special K at her house for a 7-mile run. It was only the second long run I'd done outside this spring. I was pokey. I made her walk three times. And I'm not really fast at all, but when we were done, nothing hurt, and we both seemed happy to have it done and out of the way. I consider those training runs successful.

Afterwards, I went home and played with my family. There were Lego games and movies to watch. X-man was in full Lego mode with MacTroll. So I did some dishes and picked up around the house. Nothing strenuous, just trying to get all the toys back to the floors they belong to. After lunch, we went to the Tolono Library and got X-man his very first library card. He filled up a bag of books and one DVD and checked out himself. He was very proud. But he refused to write his name on his card because he didn't think he could fit it all on the "very small line."

After that, the boys dropped me off at home and I napped from about 2:30-5, while they went to Lego Challenge (and MacTroll did his first brick workout for the triathlon in June). Turns out -- I didn't register him for the Lego program online when I did the Scientists. Instead, I registered him for the Saturday Morning Cartoon program next weekend. Oops!

But, the Rec Center, being as awesome as it is, let X-man come in and play with the three bigger boys, no problem. He didn't get a Lego kit, so MacTroll took him to Wal-mart and got him a helicopter for $10.

Then last night we messed around at home and I decided to take a Mom's night to Target to finally pick up items for a care package for a friend's sister who got deployed last fall. I've been meaning to do this since Christmas. Buying snacks and fun stuff for other people is so much more fun than buying shampoo and conditioner for your own home. It's funny how I'll compare which snack packs of raisins are cheaper to the dime for my family, but when it comes to buying gifts for others, I don't even look. I just toss it in the cart in the name of love and support.

When I got home, I packed up the care package to take to the post office on Monday along with a birthday present for my sister.

This morning I woke up to X-man gently singing, "Twinkle, Twinkle" in my ear. He saw me open my eyes, smiled and crawled into bed giving me hugs and kisses. It was 8:40 a.m. That's pretty late for my little guy. But it was nice. I like when he lays still long enough to really cuddle. We snuggled until he wanted to go play on the computer -- but, of course, I had to go with. So he played on (he has an obsession with looking at the various minifigures).

Then I introduced him to watercolors. Yes, that's right. It occurred to me the other day that my child had only painted with washable tempera at home. So I picked up some watercolors. And I was shocked that he claims he's never painted with them at school. This claim was backed up with the fact that he was frustrated when he forgot to wash his brush and got black in the yellow. I smiled, dabbed them clean and then put fresh water at the tops for him. Two pictures later, his experiment with water colors was done.

Then I went to do some laundry and clean up around the house again, before I sat down and rebooked lodging for our summer trip to Lake Lanier. The house we rented fell through, so we're staying at the resort for 2 nights in a basic hotel room with two queens for our triathlon.

Now I'm lying in bed, seriously thinking of taking another nap. There's a large laundry basket full of clean towels to put away staring at me from the end of my bed. But I'm thinking I could just ignore it and roll over.

I love these kinds of weekends. I couldn't have them every weekend or I'd never really get anything done. But it's almost noon and I'm not out of my pjs. If KTDID calls back about walking the dog, I'll totally get up because I'm excited to see her. If not, I think I may just lie about all day...

You can tell "quiet time" is about to approach because suddenly there are frantic and frustrated shouts from X-man that the Lego planes keep falling apart (because he plays with them pretty hard and the more tired he gets, the more awkward his movements are.)

"You don't understand!" he shouts at MacTroll while MacTroll makes his lunch.

A nap is looking better and better. MacTroll is threatening going to the Bob the Builder store to pick up some items to fix a drawer pull in the kitchen, some eco-friendly light bulbs and some brushed metal tie backs for the curtains in the guest room after lunch. Maybe he'll take the kid with him. Of course, right now X-man's running around in a long-sleeve shirt and socks (that's it). Every time he hurts himself (which has been 3 times already today) MacTroll reminds X-man that if he put on underwear and pants his more sensitive bits wouldn't get in the way as often. Alas, the child is still naked...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Running, Running, Running

All winter long, I've been running on tracks. The longest run I did indoors was in early February and was 12 miles. I averaged just under 12-minute miles using my own offshoot of the Jeff Galloway program. Since my low-end Nike system and my low-end heart rate monitor don't do splits and have timers, instead of running 10 minutes and walking for a minute, I run a mile and then walk 200 meters (or longer depending on how far into a long run I am.) I've also been setting up training regimens for when I use GU and when I drink my low-calorie sports drink. I've learned that my body likes Gatorade G2 just fine (grape) but hates the Crystal Light version. (The taste is fine, but it doesn't seem to avoid bonking as well.)

When it started getting warmer, I realized I needed to get outside and start pounding the pavement. So I have been, but not as much as I'd like because of my respiratory infection and ear infection. It makes it kind of hard to breathe. And the anemia, oh, holy heck, it's showing me exactly how much harder my heart has to work to get enough oxygen to my muscles, particularly when I'm having to contend with 35 mph Savoy gusts. On my one 14-mile run, which declaratively told me I was a contender to participate in the half, not the full marathon in April, I broke down crying at Mile 11. My body hurt. I hit an emotional wall, and suddenly in one turn I had wind in my face, which, admittedly forced more air into my lungs, but made me adjust my running stance and then my calves started to cramp, so I walked the last 3 miles home. Angry, frustrated, but finishing.

I didn't want to have to make time to do that every weekend. And further more, if my calves were breaking down, I needed to give them a break and stretch.

I've been reading a lot of books about fitness lately. Chi Running, Run for LifeSpark, Racing Weight, Thrive, Born to Run, Cutting-Edge Runner, The Athlete's Palate Cookbook, Performance Nutrition, etc. I'm fascinated by the different running theories and concepts. I'm now getting through a number of Triathlon-related books, as well. But the ones that hit home the most, are the ones meant for people who want to be active, and enjoy it, rather than ones who want to run marathons under 4 hours.

I'm beginning to perceive my limitations and like them, which is a good thing. I'm also learning that a crazy amount of women who are runners have iron issues, which I find very interesting. Because if the IUD situation doesn't help me, I'm going to get referred to Hematology, which doesn't sound any fun at all. I mean, adult medicine and gynecology have been such a blast so far, why not go for a third department? I'm tired of doctors. I'm tired of being tired.

The last three weeks, I've been on a break from high intensity exercise. I've walked, stretched and just tried to give my body some relief. It's worked, particularly in relation to the crazy chest congestion. But I miss my fitness classes. So, I'm looking forward to returning to them next week, finally. It's the social part of exercise for me. Even if most of my classmates are my parents' age, I do like seeing them every week.

And now that kindergarten selection, illness and travel are out of the way (hopefully for a while). I can start feeling more in the groove again. Of course, now I need to do some work on the garden and get some new mulch in by the end of April. I love working outside in the summer. I like getting my hands dirty. I like eating tomatoes off the vine and picking spinach from the garden for dinner. Part of me totally can't wait for May, and part of me really likes that outside of running a half-marathon on April 30th, I'm not overbooked like I have been since January.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life at a Normal BMI -- not about me

Today, I took X-man in for his five-year appointment.  And I wanted to show you a progression.

At birth, X-man was 10.2 lbs and 22 inches. He was off the weight chart on the heavy end and in the 95th percentile for height.

At 12 months, he was 31" and 26.2 lbs. in the 84th and 89th percentiles.

At age 2, he was 35 and 5/8" and 32.8 lbs (82nd and 92nd percentiles).

At age 3, he was 39.5" and 39.4 lbs (90th and 97th percentiles).

At age 4, he was 42 1/8" and 42.8 lbs (82nd and 89th percentiles). 

At age 5, X-man is finally in the middle portion of the curve. He's 44 inches and 45 lbs (67th and 77th percentile). So, it turns out my gentle giant of a baby, has grown slightly above average in the long category, and a little leaner in the lean category. But what's awesome, is that he falls into the normal weight/height perimeter on the pediatrician's scale. On the odd end, the weird blister-like spots he has on his belly (there are about 12 of them), turned out to have nothing to do with his dry skin, and in in fact, related to the wart family. And apparently, doing nothing, is just as effective as trying to use some kind of topical over the counter drug to get rid of them. Sooo, I guess it's good he's not a teenager, and really doesn't care. And he's waiting to see when his white blood cells attack the warts.

Tomorrow, I register him for kindergarten. He's excited. I'm excited. It's all good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I've spend a stupid amount of time noticing women's bodies. Mostly because I think my perception of my own is completely distorted. And, most likely, if you're a girl, your perception of your own body is probably all messed up, too.

I'm overweight when I think I'm thin. I'm thin when I think I'm fat. My skin is never good. My hair always seems too dry or too thin. It's weird. I don't ever apply "good/bad" to other people's bodies. Mostly, I wonder what parts of theirs that they have that I'd like to borrow or model myself after.

I used to take a class at the Fitness Center that I loved. Then the teacher moved to another gym. Every week, I'd jump and bounce and think, "If I do this enough, maybe I'll look a fraction like her." I say a fraction not because I think I'm so far under, but because I know that her genes, as we're not related, are completely different from mine.

Then I get magazines to fitness clothing companies like Title 9 and Athleta. And I look at the women and I think, um, no. I have no interest in looking like them. Too little body fat. Yes, definitely fit. But I like some curve with my tone, if that makes any sense?

Then I look at People or Victoria's Secret and I see skin on bone. No, that's obviously not my ideal either. So, I kept searching.

I found this web site called The Body Gallery the other day, where you can put in your height and weight (and clothing sizes if you wish) and find photos of women who claim to share these characteristics with you. I put in my numbers and clothing sizes and there were no samples. Then I started playing with heights and weights, just to see what it was like.

It works out a lot better to see real people rather than try to obtain the same information about celebrities of some sort. Because let's face it. In my age/body area, I have a crazy body crush on Kate Winslet. She's done some wonderful work with hers. She's long and lean and strong and not a hint of manly Hans and Franz. Plus, she's age appropriate for me.

But maybe it's just me who has this fascination with women's forms. It's not that I'm judging. I'm just looking. Because mine is, whatever it is, and genetic code and eating right and exercise dictates how it will look. I just wish, I saw it the way everyone else does sometimes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that I am currently walking without a limp! So excited. I spoiled my feet today with a pedicure. The Hilton Spa was $70! That was insane, so I found a little place in the office building next store that charged $27. Since I'm in a major metropolitan area, I decided that was quite acceptable.

My feet are now soft as all get out (she did an awesome job on my heels and the callouses on my toes from running) and the massage was lovely.

The bad news is that I forgot the cord to my camera, so I can't upload photos and give you the review of the Ontario Science Center. It'll have to wait until we get home. But I can also give you a review of the Maple Syrup Festival that X-man and I are going to today.

And bad news for me, my kid would rather go to BK for lunch to play in their giant play place than paint with me at the paint lounge tomorrow. I guess that make getting artwork home not an issue (I was going to mail it.)

He's never been to a BK. But I don't think he'll care as long as he can climb.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

It'll Do

We landed in Toronto at 2 p.m. today. X-man was pretty wiped on the way to the car, so when we got to the hotel in Markham (a suburb outside the city and where the Apple offices are), we had an hour of quiet time watching Canadian PBS. X-man was enthralled. Totally different, and yet, the same.

Afterwards, we took a swim in the hotel pool, which is strangely attached to a gym that operates out of the hotel. There were some tiny, tiny lap lanes set up in the pool, and it was filled with non-English speakers doing the slowest laps of breaststroke you ever did see for about 3-5 minutes at a time and then they'd get up and go into the hot tub for 10 minutes... Very curious. Maybe that's what's wrong with my workouts. But they were so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop when we walked into the pool area. And then boom, out comes my child, "CANNONBALL!" and into the non-lap swimming area he goes.

Yeah, he knows how to liven up the place. A few minutes later a Dad comes in with his two small children. A boy about X-man's age and a 2 year old in a swim diaper. I was the only one in the hot tub, so the dad brings them in with me for about 10 minutes. Then I climb out and he takes the toddler out and the five year old jumps into the pool, comes up near the wall and hand walks his way down the wall by X-man.

"Hi! What's your name?" X-man asks.

The boy just keeps on going.

"Hey! How old are you?"

No response.

MacTroll explains that the boy doesn't speak English.


(So from birth, Americans innately think that to speak louder at people who don't speak their language will somehow help them understand.)

Then the boy climbed out and returned to his father.

:-) Markham is not a pretty place. It reminds me of Kankakee or the west side of Rockford. Sure there's stuff around here like a movie theater and a roots, but it's wide apart, and you get the feeling that although there are sidewalks -- no one has ever used them.

After swimming, we came upstairs and played Fireman Sam, i.e. we unplug the hotel phone and X-man gets fake 911 calls from MacTroll and I about emergencies in the area. Apparently, Fireman Sam was only into fires today, because when I called with an injury -- he said, "We don't do that and hung up." Great, 9-1-1 customer service, X-man.

We ate dinner at a stir fry place up the road that was decorated like a cave. It's called Fire and Ice. I got my heap of vegetables on and MacTroll got his beef and noodles going. X-man didn't eat much. He was way too tired. He could hardly sit up right. Of course, on the way there we passed a BK with a GIANT play place in it. X-man is demanding that we go back.

So between a hotel pool, the paintlounge, and the BK, Markham is apparently not a destination of choice for me, but X-man thinks it's just dandy. :-)

It Could Happen to Anyone

On Thursday at the Children's Museum, I sat down and watched X-man play in the fire fighter area for the third time that afternoon. I stood up to take a photo only to have a small child run into me while I was standing trying to get X-man to look at me.

The child was probably in second or third grade, and he was in firefighter boots that didn't fit him well. Plus, he was excited to be there, so he wasn't looking where he was going. The impact didn't leave much impression, except that his booted foot stood on the top of my left foot with a decent amount of weight and pressure (enough to cause mild discomfort) as he pushed off of it as he moved to get to the hoses to put out a house fire. Then I turned to go back to my bench and my ankle wobbled. It didn't feel like a sprain, because the discomfort and instability was fine on the second step.

It was one of those things that happens all the time when you work with children. X-man used to drive me insane stepping on my feet all the time when he was 3 and the early part of 4.

I remember feeling a slight twinge as I walked to the car that afternoon as we left the museum, but then didn't think about it again until Friday morning when I put my foot on the floor to go to work and felt pain. I limped to the bathroom and got ready for work. By the time I got X-man to school, it was still tender, but it wasn't as terrible as it was on wake up.

The pain is on the lateral side of my foot and runs from the mid-point of the side of my foot all the way to the joint at the base of my pinky toe (or fifth metatarsal). The pain went from a 7 to a 3 over the course of my morning. But now it's 3:35 a.m., and the pain and stiffness of the foot is back. I had a freaking bad dream about it, which is what woke me up. A trip to the bathroom had me hobbling again. The worst part is that other than 30-minute walks here and there, I haven't had a good workout in a week, due to the upper respiratory virus crap that has taken over my family. X-man and I are about through it, but MacTroll spent Thursday and Friday with fever and chills. But it's not like I can blame it on running or biking or a fitness class. It was just some kid in a hurry.

And now MacTroll's fever is down, but he's still congested with the hacking cough that lasts 4 weeks. And I'm all gimpy, and we're getting on a plane to Toronto in 4 hours. I'm sure customs and immigration will love the sight of us.

The foot is not swollen at all, and there is no pain when resting, just stiffness. But walking or massage does make a shooting pain go down the bone of the toe.

Fun, right? I'm sure it's not related to my endless bad luck about weird stuff like this. You know, like running and training all winter and finally getting up enough courage to sign up to do the Illinois Half Marathon, only to have some weird child step on my toe and fracture it or something 3 days after I finally sign up?

But then again, maybe this will deter my bad luck from applying to the Kindergarten lottery, right? :-) Either way, I'll be in well supportive shoes all weekend, and will just take X-man to the pool a lot. If the pain persists, I'll be heading over to convenient care when we return to get an x-ray.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pisces, Tae Kwon Do and the Promise

Almost 5 years ago to the minute, I delivered X-man. Born during the astrological sign a pisces, he's in the awesome company of Albert Einstein, Michelangelo and Dr. Seuss. He's supposed to be creative, understanding, introverted and romantic. He's supposed to see how he wants life to be rather than how it is. In other words, his fair talent for denial makes a lot of sense.

Over the last 5 years, I've gotten used to these ebbs and flows of raw emotion. During his 2s and 3s, he hit me, bit me and screamed in my face -- a lot. I tried redirection, time outs, talking things out,  and yes -- sometimes screaming back in his face to try to get through to him that none of this was good behavior. Because, dammit, no 2 year old is allowed to have steak knife. I don't care if the lady at the restaurant had it rolled up in a napkin for you with the rest of your utensils or not. Finally, I learned that when I got to my brink, I just needed to walk away. I took a mommy time out, so I could come back and try again. And the weirdest thing happened, he followed me.

Or, more realistically, threw himself onto my legs and cried, "Don't leave me!" And there were times, dear readers, that my heart broke and I gave in and reached down to hold him and comfort him, and he screamed at me some more, which was not the response I was anticipating. Or, he'd say those words and then hit me and call me a bad mother for walking away. And I'd remove him from my leg, shut my bedroom door and listen to him throwing his little body against it screaming, "I'm sorry. Let me in. I'm sorry. Let me in!" Maybe you had this with your child, too. In my heart, I always thought it was because he and I were alone so often. Other kids are motivated by food, TV, rewards -- mine is motivated only by removing myself from his manipulation. But in this entire world, I was always going to be there and vice versa. As much as we loved MacTroll, we couldn't count on him to be around for anything.

It was hard.

Then the lack of self confidence kicked in last summer, so I started looking into the idea of martial arts as a confidence booster. We started at HMD Academy in Savoy in August, and we attended 2 times a week through November and then 3 times a week December through January. Starting in January after earning his yellow belt, X-man started having stomach aches before every Tae Kwon Do class. He didn't want to go. He'd whine and complain, and say things like he wished "Tae Kwon Do was never invented." I'd tell him sick people go home and go to bed. He'd say he was fine to play, but no fine for TKD. When I talked to him about quitting, he'd laugh it off and say that he was just joking ALL THOSE TIMES he said he didn't feel well. So I went into Master Hyong the last week in January and asked to only come twice a week. And that worked -- for a week. And then the complaining started again.

We missed the week that we were in Paris, and after we came back, X-man was home sick the day of class and then on the day of that Friday class, he begged me not to take him. This week was the same thing, so I told him if he didn't go, I needed to e-mail Master Hyong and tell him that we were done, because I had agreed with Master Hyong that we weren't just going to come and go. We needed to commit and go, or stop. X-man agreed it was time to take a break.

Today, 3 days later after I sent the e-mail, at Navy Pier we went to the Build-a-Bear store. He picked out a baby blue bear with pink peace signs all over it. He dressed it in a Tae Kwon Do uniform that came with all the different color belts you could earn.

Then tonight, he was too over stimulated from his big birthday to sleep. I tucked him in, but he snuck out of bed and tried to play legos. An uncoordinated jump off his toy box made him smack his head on the Lego table. He cried. I held him, then I tucked him back into bed. He was in the hall crying about not being able to go to sleep less than 2 minutes later. So he brought his new Build-a-Bear into my bed (a rare instance these days).

When comfortable in my bed, he asked if he could go see Master Hyong and go back to Tae Kwon Do tomorrow. I told him we'd see how he felt about it tomorrow. And if he still felt this way, we'd need to have a conversation with Master Hyong first. Because we couldn't just go back and forth on a decision. He cried a bit about missing his teacher.

Then it hit me that it hit him. Here was a male role model in his life that he saw 2-3 days a week, every week for 7 months. He adores Master Hyong. He just didn't want to work so hard at Tae Kwon Do, but the two come together. It's a package deal, and I think he mourns not having that connection in his life. Because let's face it, he doesn't get a lot of uncle or grandfather time elsewhere. His teachers are all females, and the other parents he sees are all females. And I suddenly wanted to sign him up for some kind of big brother program.

When I got him calmed down, he hugged his little bear to his chest and said, "Mommy, I think I love you."

"You think?"

"No. I love you. No matter what. I love you."

He gave me a hug and then 3 minutes later he fell asleep clutching his bear. My five year old suddenly looked so much younger and smaller. And I remember not that long ago, sitting up in a hospital room, looking at him all wrapped up in a blanket with a little bloody hat on his head thinking that he was a total mystery to me.

"How many dozens of ways am I going to completely fuck this up?" I thought. Then I leaned over, as I did tonight, and whispered into his sleeping ear, "I promise I will always love you, and I will do my best to not screw this up too badly."

I closed my eyes, kissed his forehead and tried to ignore the two tears falling down each of my cheeks. In both of these moments, I'm quite aware that I, alone, am not enough.

(And if you're wondering where MacTroll is tonight. He's in the guest room. He inherited my fever and chills and cough and cold from last week.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Birthday Adventures

Tomorrow is X-man's fifth birthday. I'm excited. He's excited. MacTroll's excited.

We're heading up to Chicago to go to the Children's Museum at Navy Pier again. We haven't been there since X-man was 2 and a half. I wonder how that review of mine will stand up to a 5 year old.

That's right, at this time in 2006, I'd been feeling regular contractions for about an hour. I remember being excited because I knew we were getting close. And let's face it, I was a miserable pregnant woman. I was at my wit's end six weeks earlier, so at this point I was sitting up letting MacTroll time my contractions when I should have been trying to sleep. Little did I know he wouldn't actually vacate my body until 24 hours later. Yup, I pushed that giant head and its 10.2 lb body outta me. And doing that once -- was quite enough. :-)

(And, although he's holding up five fingers in that last photo, it was taken a year ago, just after his 4th birthday.)

On Saturday, the whole family is leaving for Toronto for a conference where MacTroll is speaking. X-man and I will return on Tuesday, while MacTroll will fly from Canada to Seattle and then come back home again. But hopefully, we'll at least we'll get some time at the Science Center in Toronto and do some painting at the Paint Lounge in Markham. Plus, they have a pool, and a gym in the hotel with a daycare, so I can get some workouts in. Hooray!

When we return, Illinois will be on spring break, and hopefully the weather will allow us to get on the bike and pedal about. A girl can dream, can't she?

Monday, March 7, 2011

To Brulée or Not to Brulée

I went out for coffee Saturday morning at Aroma Café. In the window was an ad for an event at the Canopy Club called "Voulez-Vous Brulée?"

The photo is of a woman naked slightly covered in feathers (click on the link and you'll see what I'm talking about). But what intrigued me, was the description that was totally meant for people who aren't your normal clubbers: "Voyeurs, exhibitionists, freaks, and wallflowers welcome. Costumes encouraged."

And I thought, Well, hell, I'm all four of those things in a way. Plus, this is a totally appropriate venue for the corset

But then I talked to my new friend Cor about it and I wondered if it would be me, at 35, with a bunch of 19-21 year old kids. I didn't want to show up and feel old and ridiculous (or I should say more old and ridiculous than I feel on a daily basis).

This was reinforced today when I was in the "fun" t-shirt section at Target and X-man pointed out that Daddy couldn't have an Operation Game t-shirt because this was the section for "high-schoolers." He then pointed to the poster at a display next to us to an 18-year-old kid. Yeah, okay. Even my 4 year old gets it.

But tonight I went to the Canopy Club web site to look up more info. Turns out Ginger Brulée is getting an MFA in dance from the U of I (no lie). Not only that, but this event is part of her thesis:
By virtue of our collective gaze, we, as a society, bestow upon the beautiful young woman (performer) an intoxicating sexual power— a power that is creative, generative, and, ultimately, addictive. Though she has us in thrall, the nature of her power rests in her own exposure, an exposure that all too often renders her vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
When she matures, she will be expected to relinquish the hold she enjoys over us in exchange for the procreative power of motherhood, the nature of which is still rooted in seclusion. Not unlike the separation of church and state, 21st century American society still maintains that these two powers, that of the creative and the procreative, or, in the words of Simone de Beauvoir, the productive and the reproductive, cannot be held in one female body simultaneously.
Through dance, music, narrative, and comedy, and within the context of third wave feminist discourse, I will ask: Why not?
And that pretty much represents most of the women that I know around town. So maybe I'm not crazy, but I've also never been to the Canopy Club, and it's a school night. 
But I was wondering, if anyone else might be up for going with me? It's on March 17 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and the ticket is $5. And I'd probably be able to go from 9-11 p.m. If it completely blew, we could head over to Boltini. They'd never look at us weird. :-)  I'm not a dancer... but it says wallflowers are welcome. And really, I'm just -- curious.

Live from the Loosey Room

I know you want pictures, but I'm still looking for a chair to go in the corner and I don't have things hung up yet. But I have a full-sized day bed with lots of gray and yellow sheets and a teal cover, which matches the awesome pillows that Quigs made me for my birthday.

There's a framed photo of Princess Leia. There's a full length mirror. There's stuff to make the room smell good, my 2009 Woman to Know Award... and lots of other fun things to put on the wall.

Right now, I've got a cough and a cold. I've taken some Mucinex to try and work the stuff out of my chest, since who really wants someone coughing profusely around their small children -- even if their small children all have the same cold that I suddenly have? So, for the first time, I'm lying in my Loosey bed with my laptop on my chest listening to the same song over and over and over again as I mellow out.

What song? We Can't be Friends by Lorene Scafaria. I find it calming and, oh, so sad.

I've got five more minutes before I pick up the kiddo. I have to remember to talk to his teachers about birthday treat today. And I need him to draw a picture of his family for the application I'm going to put in this week to the University Primary School. Because why not?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birthday Week

In my family, we usually celebrate birthday week. We figure this makes sense, particularly if your birthday falls on a weekday. My sister celebrates birthday month, which I love, too.

X-man's birthday is Thursday. But we started celebrating on Saturday with a family party and then on Sunday with a kid party. This kind of took the whole weekend, so I'm thinking that maybe next year, we'll combine. X-man really could have used some kids to play with on Saturday, and since he's kind of by himself on my side of the family (only one other cousin has had a child and he's 3 months old). I let him open his gifts first, so he'd have some stuff to play with, and that seemed to help. But when I found him at the bottom of the basement stairs in tears because all the adults were talking to play with him and Mom and Dad were too busy getting lunch ready for the all-adult crowd, I started to get tears in my eyes, too.

I loved and hated my birthday as a kid. I got so excited about the fact that there would be one day in the year that everyone would seem excited about me. It might be my turn to be special. And then everyone would sing to me -- and I'd fall apart in absolute tears. Too much attention... And the crying on my birthday  became a theme... for a long, long, long time. So, when I get through a birthday without crying, it's considered a good one. I've had five. Note that this only applies on my actual birthday day. In my late 20's I decided to stop celebrating and told people to just donate money. That was met with some cheers and some anger. Then I went into therapy, where I was told: Celebrate your birthday, Loosey. Celebrate yourself. So, I sighed and kept trying.

So when X-man came along, I decided that, dammit, he was going to have whatever his little birthday desires could be. So, he tells me what he'd like for his birthday, and I go nuts over it. Yes, it's complete spoilage. But no tears. I figure as long as he's being safe, unselfish and not acting like a jerk I'll entertain a lot of things within reason. Though unlike my birthday, this lasts his birthday week. It's crappy, self-indulgent parenting, I know. But I figure the other 51 weeks a year, he gets a hard ass for a mother. So, you know -- I'll go with it.

Today was his friend party. He chose who he invited this year. Mostly it was the people he has regular play dates with and their siblings and then he wanted to invite our neighbors. He's excited about seeing them all outside again when the weather warms. We weren't even home from the Little Gym, when he said from the backseat. "My birthday was great!" Then at home, we got giant "I love yous" and "Thank yous." And he's not even complaining about getting in the tub. Of course,  his new bathtub crayons might be the reason why he's excited about that.

I know he's still four, even though he wanted to wear his birthday shirt today to his Justice League party. But he's so ready to be a big kid 5, it's amazing.

Friday, March 4, 2011

One of my many ugly sides

I don't get jealous. I don't get judgmental. I'm pretty understanding about most things. But I have an ugly issue...

I have a list in my head of things that really yank my chain.

I could dwell on them all, but I think I'll give you one. It's marital, so if personal stuff makes you uncomfortable, stop reading now. Don't worry, it's not sexual. :-)

Anyway, as everyone knows MacTroll is a good guy. He's pretty smart. He mixes a good drink. He's low key and he's very social. He doesn't sleep with women in the bathroom attached to our bedroom. He doesn't get loaded and go home with hookers or porn stars and make them his goddesses. 

Everyone also knows that for the past 10 years, MacTroll has traveled for work. I've gotten used to us being separated. I've gotten used to the back and forth of being a single parent and then adjusting to have someone else in the house. We've always lived very independent lives. And I love the fact that he loves his work. Not very many people get to say that. He loves it so much that his employment is not only his work -- it's his hobby and enjoyment. The Fruit apparently meets a lot of my husband's mental needs, and he thrives on it. Fine, Great.

But periodically, when I'm back home on the range with a child, a dog and four cats, we have a rough night here or there. Riley suddenly catches wind of a sniff or a sight of something wild behind the fence, goes into guard dog mode and insists on being let out every hour to keep watch over whatever it is that he's worried about -- like that plastic bag stuck on a weed that just looks evil or those Canadian Geese that he thinks have gotten too close to our white picket fence. 

Nights like that always happen at the same time as something else, like X-man has a bedwetting incident or he has diarrhea or one of the cats starts throwing up all over the house -- or all of the above. And then I'll end up with a fever or vomiting or something terrible. You know, when it rains it pours, or something like that. 

When it happens and I'm alone, I still have to get up, go to work, run the house and take care of a kid and the animals and keep going. Sometimes it's dog one night and kid the next... just to keep it interesting. 

And my husband will insist that sleeping in hotels is not fun. That his 800-count Egyption thread sheets and maid service and restaurant meals isn't very comforting and that he doesn't sleep well on the road. Yeah, right. No one is waking his ass up at 2:30 a.m. yammering about how there's a monster under his bed. And then when you go to lie with him, you realize the monster is about a cup of urine that you just sat in in your pajamas. Sigh.

So, last night, the dog had a guard dog night. Usually it's the scent of coyote urine that freaks him out a bit. I was ill with a low-grade fever and chills and MacTroll wasn't ready to go to sleep when I was (around 10:30 p.m.) so he went into the guest room. Where I guess the dog got him up six times between whatever time MacTroll decided to go to bed and 6:30 a.m. 

And at 8:45 p.m. tonight, Mactroll claimed he was too tired to carry on and went into our bedroom and turned off the lights. At 9:30 p.m. he was sound asleep. And there I was... on my own, doing bath and bedtime by myself, again. 

Ugly, ugly resentment is my issue. And here I bet you thought I was such a nice woman. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review of University Primary School

Today, I did a 30-minute site visit at University Primary School at the University of Illinois. The building is located just behind the UI Credit Union off of First Street in the Research Park. UPS is a pre-school and K/1st grade program operated by the University. I know several folks who send their children there and love it, but hate that it only goes through first grade. The ideal for most of them being that once the kids are done at UPS they'll test into gifted in the public school district, or at least that's the gist I got from my tour guide.

The building is old. Many other university offices are in it, and the UPS is located on the lower floor with walkout from the two classrooms into a playground area. The teachers use project approach in the classroom and focus on individuality -- a lot. Inside K/1st classroom there are several Apple iMacs available for student useage. There are games, several shelves of baskets containing centers, a large, older carpet, and tables for collaborative learning. The student to teacher ratio is 25:2. One teacher is the head teacher the secondary is a graduate student. Usually there are two graduate students, one in the morning and one in the afternoon to accommodate their own student schedules.

The classroom is very racially diverse. I knew a few of the kids from Next Generation and from around the community. Next to the classroom is a reading room, where there are several couches and shelves and bins filled with books for literacy times. On the other side of that room are the coat hooks, more collaborative learning space and the head teacher's desk.

Being in early childhood, I'm used to the idea that children can learn using just about anything. That is, they don't necessarily need pimped out kidded areas, but from an environmental standpoint, the school was very boring. Lots of white walls and brown areas. There were a few pieces of art and a vase with fake flowers in the corner, but they were high above student eyesight. Plus, they weren't at all thoughtful art pieces. When I arrived the children were still doing individual learning. When it was over, they had popsicle sticks with their names on it, and they were able to choose items for their free choice. X-man would be happy to know they have plenty of board games, including Sorry.

I talked with Christine, my tour guide, about how the children interact in the classroom. One of X-man's main issues is that he doesn't get the social nuances on how to make friends. He wants to just dive in and grab someone's hand and run off with them happily -- but he doesn't understand that sometimes friends don't want to go where you want them to go. Sometimes, they don't feel safe running off so independently, sometimes they don't like to be touched so casually (or at all) and sometimes, sometimes, you can call someone your best friend, but that doesn't mean they think of you as theirs.

So, I had a chat regarding socialization. It's clear that the tour guide was very supportive of her program, but she didn't know much about the other educational opportunities in the district, which I found interesting. It reminded me of a low-key Next Gen, in that the kids came from highly educated parents for the most part, often from parents associated with the university.

On the other hand, there was comfort in the room, because these kids weren't little Einsteins outright. They were normal. One little girl was playing Sorry with a friend. I saw her pick her nose and eat it. Another little girl sat on the floor and turned around in a circle humming. Some of the children were excited about using the computer. A little boy ran over to the game and asked the three girls if he could play. They handed him a piece and he sat down. Boys chatted at the table as they worked on individual building projects. It was good. And none of them cared that I was in the room at all, even when I walked through to check out the other two rooms. They seemed so used to observers, that not even the teachers waved hello. But as I watched them with the students, they were all sunshine and observation and control and encouragement with their little people, which is good.

In the hall, there is a giant guinea pig cage with two inhabitants. I got to watch a little girl give them their afternoon snack of carrots.

The outside play area was small and bland, but the kids do get to go outside at least an hour a day between gross motor time and lunch/recess.

The school day starts at 8:20 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. There is no after-school program, so you'd have to make arrangements somewhere else. The tuition is $625 a month for kindergarten. There are also some supply fees. This makes it cheaper than Next Generation by a couple hundred dollars a month, but without all the flash. Students don't have Spanish, but they do have music. They don't have a big gym to play in. But unlike Next Gen, this program is basically non-profit.

You have to really want your child to get in there, too. The application has many different requirements and the deadline to get the paperwork in is March 18th. Things that are required are a sample drawing done by the child of his or her family, several questionnaires for the parents to fill out regarding the intellectual curiosity and individuality of their children, and then other projects -- like a recording of your child telling a story....

I'm having a hard time determining if I want to do the work to put in the application. It's a completely serviceable program. It works in individuality, which I like, and should we not get a great choice with the public schools, it would be a wonderful back up choice, albeit a lot more expensive in comparison.

But at this point, I understand the practical application of having a plan B. But I just don't want to focus on it this second. Is that wrong?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fear and Doubt in Savoy

So there are things that I'm afraid of and none of them have anything to do with the Unit 4 kindergarten lottery. These are real things. Things that require trips to doctors. Things that cost a lot of money. Things that make my son look at me and see that I am, indeed, not the great pillar of strength that he needs me to be. Oh, the worry that can transcend in those little, blue eyes. He knows something's wrong. He's not stupid. He sees when Mommy doesn't have the energy to move onto the floor and play with him. He sees when Mommy decides to take him out to dinner rather than cook. He's watched my energy levels come and go like the freaking tide. He knows what's normal and what's not.

Today, I went to gynecology to talk to them about my fibroid. It turns out there is only one. It is small. It is benign, and if you're going to have a fibroid, you want it where mine is, completely out of the way, slow growing, nothing big. It's all good news.

The weird news is that she's not sure why my periods are now lasting 6-8 days. The placement of the fibroid makes it the least likely candidate to affect blood loss levels. But the attack plan stays the same, by either slowing my periods or stopping them altogether, it should help my issue with low ferritin, which should help the low protein and platelet count. It's been 5 months since I was diagnosed. We started with the conservative treatment of taking iron supplements for three months. When that didn't work, we ordered an ultrasound to look for fibroids and did a blood test for celiac disease. (And yes, I still take the iron pills.) The Celiac test was negative, but up popped the small fibroid. Then it took me, no lie, 6 weeks to get into ob/gyn. The doctor who came in to triage kept repeating, "You've been feeling like this for five months?" to me. Seriously? Get on the stick. To be fair, she was a resident. But she clearly didn't do her homework. So when the ob came in and the resident started talking to me about my thyroid. I tried not to roll my eyes. "Already been there, look harder at the blood work from September. It's fine."


So my choices were birth control pills, which I have a history of not doing well on, an IUD (Mirena), which appears to be my generation's birth control of choice, and endometrial ablation. I'm all about the conservative approach and don't want to take a pill every day, so we're going to go with the IUD for now, but it'll take another few weeks before I can get in for that appointment. Then, I have to wait another few months to see how it affects me. Some women spot the first few months, some have a shorter, lighter period. Some don't have one at all.

If this fails, it comes out, and we do the ablation. Since I don't plan on ever having children again, I can do this option, which, let's face it -- sounds a hell of a lot better to a 35 year old than a hysterectomy, which is -- surgery. And I'm not eager to be knocked out on any surgical table any time ever again.

But yeah, I'm scared about the fact that they don't know why I'm bleeding longer and heavier. I just am. I don't like the fact that the whole process will basically have taken over a year to go through the "safer" options. I also don't like the side effects of being borderline anemic. I am tired a lot, so my brain tells me to eat, even though I don't need food -- I need iron.

But it is what it is. I'm making the best of it. I have a life to live here...