Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I diagnose myself ... with Hypochondria

My family has a terrible habit of eating. Can you believe they expect it at least 3 times a day? Unfortunately, this was true even when my oldest two were young and we were suffering the broke days of Peter’s medical school. Back then, in an attempt to indulge this habit, I transcribed medical lectures for extra cash, if you can call money for food “extra cash.”

And that is how I became, temporarily, a hypochondriac. I listened and typed out lectures on sundry diseases, and I would mentally check off the described symptoms. Then, when Peter would come home from studying, I would greet him at the door: “My dearest, I think I have prostate cancer.” (These lectures assumed a basic knowledge of anatomy which certain transcribers did not have.)

Another day I would be quite certain I had developed a rare tropical disease from drinking the water in northeast Missouri. Or perhaps a second away from a brain aneurysm? Heart attack? Broken toe? The psychology course was especially troubling as I found I might be living undiagnosed with every mental illness imaginable, although I did almost convince myself I had all the traits of a total genius. I loath to point out I used spell check to see how to spell genius.

Luckily the pharmacology class was over my head. Otherwise I might have decided I was experiencing side effects from all kinds of medication I’d never taken. Instead I learned to listen carefully, rewind tapes over and over and question why a native of India was given the job of teaching students how to pronounce and prescribe drugs.

In short, the job gave us a little more money, I survived all my imagined illnesses, and I learned a little bit about differential diagnosis. As a precaution I never check WebMD with questions, instead checking HubbyMD (technically it is HubbyDO, but that is a different post for a different day). Although, truth be told, I still worry about my prostate now and again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Year on the Beach

The bad news is that our house in North Carolina has yet to sell. The good news is that we're able to release the place we're living now. And they're letting us paint the unwashable flat paint walls and take down the 20+ year old blinds. The blinds lasted less than an hour after the call. The first rooms were painted in less than 24. And Peter, whose schedule didn't allow for any down time last summer, can enjoy a summer at the beach. Also, anyone who wanted to visit us while we lived on the water has another whole year to do it!

In case you think I'm exaggerating the walls, I've included a picture of what they looked like after being scrubbed. The owners said they were OK with any light color. My idea of "light" isn't as light as other people's, so it took three choices before Peter said it was light enough. When we went to paint it turned out the "white" walls were really a blue-so-light-you-couldn't-tell so they probably have an extremely pale idea of light color and Peter was right to insist we go lighter.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dear Sunshine (a letter)

Dear Sunshine,

I miss you. It has been too many months since we've seen each other and I need you to come home from your winter break. Yesterday I bought a hammock so that we could spend some more time together this summer.

It is my deepest wish for us to be together again. Every day I wake hoping you will be back. This morning I saw you glimmering on the ocean and in anticipation ran outside to embrace you, but you were merely teasing me. I don't know if you're aware, but your sister, the ocean breeze, is viciously cruel when you are not around. Please come back and tame her so I can enjoy you both again.

I know my distance from your warmest paths makes your journey back take a little longer, but I need you now!! I can't take your bickering with winter much longer; your promise of return continually snatched away again. Please stop pouting, vanquish winter completely and send her on her way!!

Yours always (or at least until you get too pushy and try to cook me in August),


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adventures of the Winter Vacation (DC)

The Drive
Last month my children had winter vacation. What is winter vacation? A bizarre north east tradition where “they” attempt to make mothers insane by keeping children out of school for an entire week in the middle of winter. This might make sense somewhere where the temperature occasionally rises above freezing, but here it means a week trapped indoors with stir crazy kids. Don’t we pay teachers big bucks to do that?

Anyway, my dear husband had the last half of the week off and we decided to do something fun, like lay around the house or see who could put on the most amount of weight in the least amount of time. Finally, Friday morning, we decided to actually attempt at creating happy memories for the kids. (Not to imply that memories of your parents staring entranced, at various electronic screens aren’t happy ones.) We would drive up to Boston, get a hotel room for the night, and take turns going to our temple. We threw clothes and toiletries into a couple bags for an overnight trip and loaded up the kids. With the Suburban loaded, Peter and I ran in to get some soda and snacks (didn’t want to miss out on the gain-the-most-weight contest) and I told Peter we’d better make sure we both had our temple recommends. You know, before we made the 2 hour drive. We both had them alright; they had both expired 2 weeks before.

What to do? What to do? Well, we didn’t want to waste the whole drive up if we couldn’t go to the temple, but also didn’t want to waste the energy spent loading the kids in the car, so logically we decided to drive 3 times further away to Washington DC and stay an extra night. Of course we ran up and packed for the extra night. NOT!! We decided to stop at the store and buy and extra shirt for everyone. I would tell you how we handled the underwear and socks, but it wasn’t a particularly pleasant (or nice smelling) solution.

The drive to DC was not too bad. Except we forgot to take the Pennsylvania route and got trapped in toll road land. When I said we decided all this Friday morning, it was really more like Friday midday. By the time we reached Baltimore, it was pretty late in the evening so we found a hotel just outside of town (thank you GPS) and called it a night.

The Hotel

Turns out children need to eat on a regular basis, even when travelling! Luckily there was a Bob Evan’s restaurant across the parking lot from our hotel. After unloading our bags, we headed over. Unluckily, while we were waiting to be seated, our youngest puked all over himself and the floor in front of the register. Of course everyone in the restaurant choose that exact moment to pay for their meals. And the employees ignored us while I tried to clean it up the best I could with paper towels from the bathroom while Peter rinsed off Matthew. I headed back to the hotel with sicko while Peter fed the non-vomitting children.

Once everyone was fed and settled back at the hotel and Matthew’s jacket had been rinsed and hung to dry, I decided to get ready for bed. Only when I went to take out my contacts, I realized I had forgotten solution. My 1st solution to no solution was to wear my contacts to bed. Unfortunately, they already felt dried up and suctioned onto my eyes. Removing them after a night’s sleep might feel like ripping a band aide off my eyeballs. My 2nd solution was to pay a fortune to buy some contact solution at the hotel lobby “store”, but the fact that they didn’t have any to buy deterred me. So I drove to a gas station and paid an even greater fortune for the solution to my lack of solution.

Washington DC
That morning we loaded up and headed to a store to buy breakfast and extra clothes. I also remembered to buy a stroller because, even with our in-depth planning, we neglected to pack one. I needed other baby supplies anyway, as I had packed diapers for an ordinary one night trip not a two night stomach flu trip. Any guesses what store we stopped at that had clothes, food, and baby supplies?

We finally arrived in DC and parked near the Washington monument. We then walked and gawked all the way to the Smithsonian museums. Oh, how we love Washington DC! We went through the air and space museum (they have already blacklisted poor Pluto from the list of planets) and the natural history museum (where we spent hours and only finished the 1st floor). We also walked past the capitol building and white house.
We finished the day visiting the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials. By this time it was late and we were all regretting our winter induced out-of-shapeness.

We left DC and headed north to Gettysburg, stopping at a hotel just outside the town. With all the wonderful things we saw on our trip, it should come as no surprise that the highlight for the kids was the indoor pool and all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Gettysburg was awesome (as always), although a little cold and windy. And by little I mean we left the car once and didn’t freeze only because we were moving quickly so we wouldn’t get blown away. As we left, Joseph was upset because he thought we had promised to show him a real battle. Poor kid wanted to see actual fighting. You’d think his brothers and sisters in the car would have fulfilled that dream enough already.

We drove home through Pennsylvania and arrived early enough for the kids to get a good night’s rest before school started again. At least that is my claim (just in case one of their teachers happens to read this!). And that was our impromptu trip to Washington DC. All in all, it was a great trip and one we will make again. Someday maybe we will plan something farther ahead than an hour. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.
P.S. I couldn't help but include a picture of one of the exhibits that gave us the most enjoyment. We laughed and laughed. You mean the climate CHANGES over time?!?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Joseph and the Battle of the Arm

Poor Joseph needed his pre-kindergarten shots. When I called our new pediatrician (who we had never seen) to get an appointment, they had one available the next day. Being such a great mother, I forgot to fully prepare Joseph for the fact that he was getting shots. And he was not happy. That afternoon the area around one of his shots started to get discolored and warm. In a hope of keeping him from getting more upset, I tried to relate shots to a recent trip we took to Gettysburg.

"Your body is fighting the disease! That spot on your arm is the battleground and when your body wins, the disease can never attack your whole body."

Joseph was VERY excited about this. He proudly displayed his "battle" to everyone in the house. Matthew even ran around the house calling out "Ba-ow-ing, Joseph awm ba-ow-ing." I thought I had turned the situation around.

But I had underestimated Joseph. He took my explanation a little too literal; that night he comes into my room, "Ouch! One of those men battling in my arm just popped out of the shot and it hurt."

"Honey, there aren't any men in your arm. The battle is between your blood and the disease."

"Yeah, the men in there are wearing blue and gray uniforms." (remember out recent trip to Gettydburg, I guess he was listening!)

"There are no men, men how could they fit inside your arm?"

"Then who is fighting the battle in the blood?"

"Hemoglobins and the disease."

"Hemoglobins are men this small (showing a space between his thumb and finger 1/2 inch wide), they are fighting in my arm battle."

"Close enough. Go to bed."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

6 Births and 1 Epidural Part 1

There are so many things that can not be described, only experienced. Like color, kissing, chocolate, and (of course) child birth. That is why, a week before my due date, I had no idea I was in labor. Well, that, and the fact that I am very good at being in denial.

It all started when I kept waking up to this uncomfortable sensation. My constant thrashing was bothering Peter, so I decided to get up, hoping that moving would make the pain go away. Now, in my defense: 1) sleeping when 8 ¾ months pregnant is always uncomfortable; 2) all women start with false labor to warm up for the real thing and I had had nothing, 3) the day before at the doctor’s office I had not been dilated or effaced at all, and 4) I had watched Brazilian women giving birth in one of the 2 birthing classes I attended, and my discomfort was nothing to the (obvious from her screams) excruciating pain of that poor woman squatting over the floor.

Anyway, I may not have known what was happening at first, but an hour or so into the Perry Mason rerun, when the “discomfort” was coming exactly 7 minutes apart and lasting about 20 seconds, you’d think I’d figure it out. But I didn’t. Oh sweet denial! I did, however, walk past the bedroom and inform my husband of this weird “tightening” and its timing and duration. Due to his tendency to sleep deeply, I received some mumbled reply. And less than 30 seconds later a wild-eyed Peter burst into the room, “You’re having WHAT every 7 minutes?!?” I assured him it wasn’t labor. More like menstrual cramps (funny, I couldn’t relate uterus contracting to get rid of tissue with uterus contracting to get rid of baby. Oh sweet, sweet, denial).

Peter forced me to call and ask my mother, who assured me that what I felt WAS labor and I should start the drive to the hospital. And, low and behold, she was right. I had decided to keep the epidural option on the table and see how I went without it; I knew that after transition it would be too late. After a while in the hospital, I wanted to know how much time I had left to decide, so I asked the nurse how long it would be before I hit transition. She looked at me like a freak and told me I was already halfway through transition. This meant, of course, that I WAS a freak, since I obviously wasn’t going to need an epidural.

Things went great until it was time to push. That was when we discovered the baby had decided to come out turned the wrong way (posterior). So, during the next contraction, they flipped her. And she flipped back. Thrice. So they flipped ME onto my hands and knees. The baby turned, but as soon as I was on my back again she re-flipped. So I spent the next 3 hours on my hands and knees, pushing out my baby. At one point I asked if I could rest through a few contractions. Everyone laughed, but I was completely serious. Sweet denial that I could just stop myself from pushing even for one contraction.

Finally, the head crowned and I could flip back over. She still came out sideways. And then the nurse told me to stop pushing. Are you kidding me? My entire entourage (Mom, Dad, and husband) abandoned me for the foot of the bed where they could oow and awe at the baby’s head and now the nurse is telling me to breathe in a hyperventilating fashion and not push out the rest of the baby yet. Not push! Who was in denial now?

And as post script, when packing my bags for the hospital I was unsure what to wear home. I asked my mom and she told me (TOLD ME!) that she wore her regular clothes home when she had me. So I packed my favorite jeans. You know when I fit those jeans again? Never. I wish I could stay in denial about my pant size.

Only 2 more births left. Read about the other 3 births here!

Friday, March 13, 2009

What I Should've Said...Was Nothing

With 6 kids in 10 years, it's no surprise, but probably worth some sympathy, that I have spent all but 6 months in the last dozen years changing diapers. Often times two kids at once. I consider myself a {reluctant} expert. No one ever wants to be an expert in this field: I can change a 10 wipee diaper with only 1 wipee (and that can even be half dried out), I can change a diaper without waking up (me or the kid), and I can withstand the smell of stinkiest diaper at least 5 times longer than the average person. Like I said, no one really wants my skills.

That is why the following story is so shocking. One day, as I was changing a particularly well used diaper on my youngest, my husband happened to be sitting near, watching. As I wiped, he began to say, "Why do you wipe that way, it would be much better if ..."

At that point he stopped, a look of panic crossing his face. I think his life flashed before his eyes, or at the very least a picture of the millions upon millions of diapers I have changed.

"Uh, um, well ... never mind."

But he had started the comment! He had the audacity to think it! Besides being a little irritated, I realized I'd been given a gift, something to hold over him. You think you can do a better job? Have you no respect for my years of diapering training? Want to take over full diapering duty? I gleefully imagined weeks of guilt leverage over this half comment, that is until the next day.

The next day was when my sweet hubby got a call from our friend with a simple medical question. I heard his half of the conversation and wondered about his advice. When he was done I asked him, "Are you sure that's what they should do?" He politely told me yes. "Really, shouldn't they be doing something else instead?" "Nope." "Really. Are you SURE?"

(Unlike my husband, I am slower to stop and think through my commentary.) Finally he stopped, looked at me and said, "What do you think I've been doing the last 6 years?" Suddenly my life flashed before my eyes, or at least the millions upon millions of hours Peter has spent in school, residency and the trenches of the Emergency Department. Not to mention the thousands of patients he's seen and hundreds of times he's treated those exact symptoms. Um, I think he might be better qualified to answer medical questions.

In one day I totally lost my leverage. I'm pretty sure my 5 minutes of pestering about his expertise was worse than his one observation he had the sense to stop midway. If I had just kept my mouth shut, I could have totally guilted him into cleaning the house that weekend; but no, I blew my "you don't respect what I do all day" capital the very next day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I’m not good with saying goodbye. More often than not, when moving away, I leave my friends with a quick, “I’ll see you later!” It’s just easier for me to treat final goodbyes like an everyday parting. I think this is partly why I find this post so hard to write.

A week ago last Saturday my mother's mother died. She lived a wonderfully full life and left this earth surrounded by her husband and 8 children. Although her body had been slowly failing as she aged, the end was rather sudden. In typical Grandma fashion, she held on long enough to allow all her children to arrive. As I considered her death and the void she left, I couldn’t help but be thankful for her life.

Down the street from the home where she was raised, Grandma lived her entire married life in a small mining town. Growing up in the mid-west, my memories of Utah center around visits to my grandparent’s town. Sitting at the base of Kennecott copper mine, this town contains a wonderful, and large, central park (probably so fun because it was born before people became too frightened of regular childhood activities) and a quaint, unique church building (that the head of the Church himself had to give the OK to keep open because it is also an old church building).

It was in Grandma’s home that I would freeze in the non-humid, cool Utah summers. It was in their home that I would first be introduced to Anne of Green Gables. It was in their home that I would hear stories of my mother while spending nights in her childhood bedroom. It was from their home that we would visit the copper mine and marvel at tires larger than cars. This is where we visited every 24th of July reunion with my aunts, uncles and cousins; where we gathered on Christmas Eve for divinity and sandwiches with Au Jus sauce. Grandma’s house holds a sacred place in my childhood memories.

It was in their home that I saw, up close, how beautiful a loving relationship can become as it ages. I have always loved watching the relationship between my grandparents. Their marriage has been an example to generations now. The most difficult part of Grandma’s death was realizing the pain their separation inflicted on my grandfather; it was listening to Grandpa reminisce about Grandma that brought me a large measure of peace. I left Grandma’s funeral with a determination to grow my marriage to be like theirs.

My grandmother lives on in her children and grandchildren- and now great-grandchildren. It can be heard in our distinctive laugh (or more accurately, cackle), our playful husband thump (how else to keep them in line?), our love of reading (and chocolate), our devotion to family, and our determination to be happy, to be loving, to be strong. Thank you, Grandma. I’ll see you later.

At the request of our aunts, my very talented sister made this tribute for Grandma in one night. My favorite picture is the one on the top left which shows my grandparents soon after they first met on their missions in the Eastern United States Mission. They are sewing costumes for the Palmyra pageant. My grandfather insists their companions were one step away, you just can't see them in the photo.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Why I went MIA last week.

Last Saturday my grandmother died and I went on an unexpected trip to Utah for the funeral. Luckily Peter had no shifts scheduled, so he stayed home with all the kids (a big thanks to my friend, Twinlinebackers, for watching my preschoolers Wed. while he had meetings). Anyway, I came back very late last night (actually very early this morning) and have a lot to catching up to do, not to mention a few posts running through my head. Thought I would just give a heads up.