Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No Getting Out Of It

We've put it off as long as we reasonably could. The thought sends icy-cold terror down our spines and threatens the competence of bladder and bowel control. But there is no other course of action that is acceptable.

It is time to throw our son a bonafide birthday party.

For the first 6 years of his life, we were able to get by with the simple "family" party, consisting of us, any available grandparents or close family friends, and the staples of pizza, cake, some streamers thrown up here and there, and presents.

Last year, we thought we were cooked, but as he was just getting adjusted to kindergarten and had no real friends yet, we were able to stave off the inevitable for another year. In the mean time, he has found a nice group of first graders to play with and, more importantly, has seen the glories of a "friend" birthday party. The games! The presents! The theme place settings! The small sacks of cheap plastic dinosaurs or cars or superballs.

Together, Charles and I laid the ground rule: Only 6 invitees (party of 8, counting him and his sister). He came up with his list of who he wanted to come, and it was a good list, comprising his good friends and the neighbor kid, who also is friends with a couple of his friends. Nice boys, all; one of whom just had a party a few weeks ago and had invited Colin. Invitations sent, party paraphenalia purchased for 8, of a Star Wars theme. (Yes, yes. I am wholly aware I am part of the problem of tacky, merchandised birthday ick. I am also supremely lazy and hate throwing parties. Show me a shortcut and I will shell out. We had actually thought to hold the whole damn thing at a place called (shudder) Gymfinity, which specializes in kids' parties in a gymnastics and tumbling arena, but were too lazy to actually book the damn thing until too late.)

Last night, as Charles and I came in the door, kids at the table finishing dinner, with Lilian, (Charles's mom), Colin drops his bombshell.

Seems he has "invited" a large handful of extra kids to his birthday party, many of whom he really doesn't care for, including the kid who is always messing with his stuff on the bus, not in a malicious way, just in an annoying way. Charles and I look at each other to make sure we are on the same page, namely the page titled "No Way In Hell, Kiddo". We explain that he has already given us his list of friends. We have planned for that number and sent out the Darth Vader invitations. The Darth Vader plates, cups, napkins all come in packs of 8. The party favors have been bought in 8s. We are sure not going back to that damn party store a second time.

Lilian, bless her heart, doesn't get it. She thinks it is a matter of space and volunteers for us to hold it in the Green Room. We nix that thought and move on.

[Obligatory aside: Lilian lives with us for half the week and in her apartment in the village old-folks community the rest of the time. Attached to her building is The Green Room, a bleak room reminiscent of a small school cafeteria, complete with cafeteria tables, linoleum in beige, and, for some reason, a decrepit exercycle facing the corner. It is not green, but gray and tan. I think it is called The Green Room as there is a table with a few spindly, anemic plants by the window.]

Later that night, the whole imagined scene of the Green Room Birthday Party penetrates our mutual consciousness: We could have a pinata made of Depends, with a cane to crack it open. It could spill chocolate Ex-Lax and Tums. We could play "Name That Pill" and take bets on which neighbor would call to complain about the noise first. Walker races and a prune tossing contest, of course. Sensibly, Charles reasoned that as it would be the world's worst kid's birthday venue, it would likely get us shunned for years on the birthday party circuit, so maybe it was worth re-considering. I'm not sure I'm ready to go quite that far to get out of future kid parties, but reserve judgment until afterward.

[Obligatory disclaimer: If the above offends you, I apologize and respectfully request you skip off to one of the many other non-sarcastic blogs out there. I love and respect old folks but reserve the right to be stereotypical if it suits me. Plus, I have known many who fit all the above.]

So there. The date is set (12/17, his actual birthday) and the clock is ticking. The only way to halt the process would be to call each parent and cancel, and as I will do practically anything to avoid calling people on the phone, especially people I don't know, you know that's not going to happen.

We have planned to have pizza and pop to start things off, followed by cake and ice cream. Then the presents. That should take up at least an hour, leaving us with one more hour to fill with the dreaded party games. Oh, how I hate party games. My hatred of them led me to refuse all baby showers. Well, that and loathing the whole "center of attention" thing. We will devise a treasure hunt in the house where they will have to follow a series of clues to find the hidden treasure chest. I just need to come up with, say, 2 more games. I'm thinking one could be the lame-o one where you pin a picture of something on the back of each kid and they have to ask questions to figure it out.

Any other ideas?


Desparate here.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

So Self-Absorbed

I think it is the nature of blogging that lends one to blither on about things that would normally be passed over. Before I started inflicting my thoughts on the internet, and you, my fine friends, I would think a thought, have a feeling, muse upon something ridiculous, and then it'd be gone in the ether. On to the next deep thought or absurdity.

But now, noooooo. I must regurgitate for all who stumble on here, either by accident or design. I really don't feel too badly about it, I mean, we can all chose to go elsewhere. And I certainly care, and care deeply what is going on in your lives and heads. Why else would I keep reading your blogs? I adore your blogs. Not like my poor, dear friends who I go to lunch with each week. They are stuck with my drivel, at least until the check comes. But then, I am also a captive audience to them. Tit for tat. Actually, I care and care deeply for what concerns my friends. Plus, they are screamingly funny, like you lot are.

So. How am I?

Surprisingly fine.

I say that with no little amazement.

When our beloved Maia died, about 2 years ago (9 year-old German Shepherd, waaaay too intelligent for our own good. We had to seriously spell around her. Not joking. Anything to do with food, playing ball or going outside had to be spelled. She had a human vocabulary of about 50 words and phrases. She died suddenly in the fall of '03 from canine bloat.), it took about 2 days for the screaming, hot tears of raw grief to pass, then another 2 months for it to pass into serene grief, where we didn't tear slightly when we came home and weren't greeted by a large pointy nose in the nether-regions. A total of 6 months before we were ready to have another dog (Emma).

This time, we sobbed for all of Thursday, moped for Friday, and Saturday, were ready to consider another furry one.

I don't understand, I really don't. It certainly isn't because we love one dog more. No more than you'd love one kid more. Nope.

Perhaps because we had more preparation up front? In our hearts, we knew that what was wrong with Emma was some really bad shit. Maia was fine until she suddenly got sick, went to surgery, which was a success, and then died, because the fuckers kicked her out of the animal emergency clinic only an hour after emergent abdominal surgery. They put her in the back of the SUV at a bit after midnight on a Saturday, because the clinic closed from midnight until 8am the next morning. Now, they didn't tell us of it, when we called, with a classic case of bloat at 9pm on the Friday. Nope. They had Charles drive the 45 minutes to their clinic, did the surgery, and then evicted them. She opened up on the way back to the vet clinic in Freeport, which refused to accept her, despite agreeing on the phone, re-taped her, and sent her back to a 3rd clinic in Rockford (another 45 minutes). The 3rd clinic, staffed by wonderful vets, tried their best to save her, but she died on the table, the result of her too early discharge. Had she been a human on some heartless HMO, she'd have had better care.

Not bitter. Nope.

Emma received top-notch, utterly compassionate care. Everything right was done, and for the right reasons.

You might say that Maia, being very healthy and only about 11 years old by this time, should still be with us, and we would have never known Emma. What a horrible thought. Yet, we have thought it.

I don't know.

Clearly, the universe is a bitch-goddess, and we are Her bitches.

Heh. Bitch. Female dog. Heh.

Anyway, back to my self-absorbed ramblings:

So, there I am in the shower on Friday and I realize that I just miss a furry, adorable, pain-in-the-ass, shedding, happy, trip-over-her-in-the-dark, pile of fuzz. A pile of fuzz that occasionally pukes in the house and frequently poops, not in the side yard, but on the path where we walk. And a cat.

Damn, I miss a cat.

We lost our pain-in-the-ass, soft, cuddly, neurotic cat, Booger (Ok, her real name was Banzai, but what cat goes by her real name, I ask you?) about 6 years ago. On Christmas Eve, no less, due to a sudden, massive neurologic event, probably a stroke. As Colin was about a year old at that time and Maia was about 5 and we were contemplating a move within the next year, we didn't get another cat. But we've missed one. And then Sara came along. And then Emma. And the move out here, and the timing was just never right

Until now.

Can you tell I'm having some guilt?

So, there I am, only a day or 2 after my beloved Emma is gone and, jeez, they haven't even done the autopsy, yet, so I can't even say that she is cold in her grave (or hot in her furnace, as we are having her cremated), and I am thinking of new pets.

And the name, " Molly."

I broach the subject with Charles and he has had the same shameful thoughts. So, maybe they aren't shameful, after all. Maybe the time really is right. So, he looks online.

And today, we went and met Molly. And then, there was this adorable 8-week-old ball of dark, chocolate brown fuzz with golden eyes that could sleep curled in the palm of my hand, who preferred to hang with the puppies than with the other farm cats on the porch of the home of the lovely people who just happened to have a litter of German Shepherd puppies born 6 weeks ago. Puppies who are starting to wean and will be ready at precisely the time we can devote a couple of weeks to intensive attention and training on the 15th of December.

Unless they need to come home sooner, of course. *cough, cough*

Besides, how could you resist this? (Scroll down and absorb all the gooey puppy cuteness.)

Fate? Chance?

I dunno. I just know that this Christmas, my gift to Charles and his give to me comes with hairballs and chew toys.

Be joyful for us.

I think Emma would be.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Rollercoaster is Stopped

The news, it is not good.

In medicine, when things stump you, you are often left wondering if what you are dealing with is an uncommon presentation of a common malady or the common presentation of something uncommon.

It seems that Emma had both.

Last night, the on-duty vet called. Her leptospirosis titers, which our wonderful family vet had thought to send last Friday and have the results forwarded to the emergency clinic, "just in case", came back strongly positive. Good news, we thought. Treatable.

Yes, all very well and good, but how does that explain the bladder not emptying and the nose all congested and drippy?

Shut up, voice in the back of my head. Just shut up.

This morning, I called at about 6:30, to see how her night had been, so I could hear it from our favorite vet of the bunch, Dr G. "Well," she states, "I think I know what is wrong with her."

"You mean something in addition to the lepto?" I ask.


It seems that there is this extremely rare disease, cause unknown, that is hitting dogs, mostly in the Midwest. She's never seen a case, only heard of it in a conference a year ago. Last night, something jogged her memory and she dug out a paper.

Canine Dysautonomia. She has all the symptoms. The dog's nose in the picture could be hers. They check her pupils, which do not contract to a light being shone into them. They gulp and give her a medicine (atropine) which should raise her pulse by at least 40 beats per minute. It only raises by 5, after an hour. This explains all her puzzling symptoms: the peeing, the nose, the not eating, the too-slowly moving gut seen at surgery, the long and short of it.

The nerves that drive all the involuntary functions of her body are failing.

Prognosis: Almost all dogs are dead in a couple of weeks. She's had it a week already.

We've all been willing her to get better, but when you step back and look with clear eyes, she just isn't and isn't going to.

Dr G wanted to get her to a neurologist at the University. She was hoping she was wrong. We know she is not wrong. And if she is, and there is something else shorting out her whole autonomic nervous system, it ain't getting better, either. Then, you must factor in the whole lepto thing. If she didn't have that, we'd been able to take her home. The problem is that lepto is spread through urine contact with mucus membranes and skin, with inhalation another route of transmission, although less likely. We have kids. Selfishly, we have us, too. Lepto is a horribly painful disease. Some die. As her bladder won't empty by itself, one of us will have to push on her belly and squeeze the urine out. Even with gloves, I'm hesitant.

We made the only decision we felt we could. Charles went in and said "good-bye." I stayed home with the kids as we didn't think we should bring them. She was looking worse, again. Sunken. We know it was the right decision but are completely torn up about it.

I am taking some time away to grieve. Thank you all for your support over the past week. It has meant more than we can say.

It's a beautiful, sunny day. She'd have loved it.

I'm going to stop here.

God, we miss her.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Unimaginative Update


Most definitely not Addison's.

All the vets are stumped. Apparently all they discuss is my damned dog these days. Fame and Notoriety. The vet on the night shift last night even shared part of his dinner with her. She did condescend to eat some of his pork roast. Not as much of the dog food, though. Now they are back to wondering if she ate some toxin but we can't come up with anything after an extensive brainstorming session over the phone this afternoon.

So tonight, I will be driving myself crazy going over everything of the week before last. Nothing like fruitless, obsessive thoughts to soothe oneself. I spent an hour with a 5" human medical book on my stomach, mindlessly searching for a human equivalent, instead of napping this afternoon.

Good thing I have Johnny to bounce things off of. (Thank you, angel.)

Good thing I have all of you to vent to.

Wouldn't blame you if you took a week or maybe a month off from this blog. Just a feckin' rollercoaster.

Still, she is slightly better. But not good enough to come home, mind you.

Oh, and her bladder has stopped functioning and is just laying there like a stuporous bum. And she has a tender place at the back of her cervical spine.

Go team!



(I am not writing this. Nope. Nothing happening here, evil twists of fate.)

Last night, when we went in to visit Emma, she was much better. Not herself, yet, but greeted us, had her first nibble of food, from our hands, and started grooming herself. I think the term "perking up" sums it up.

I spoke with the vet who was on duty last night a little bit ago, and he thinks she is even brighter this morning. She is eating some, had her poor socked-in nose cleaned out and is breathing much better. She had her second dose of dexamethasone (a steroid that replaces much of what is not being made in Addison's disease).

Should get those stim lab results around noon today, and then will see what is what.

I'll let you know.

(tiptoeing away)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ummmm...Not So Fast There, Poopsie

Yesterday, a total of 3 nice things happened:

1) I had a pumpkin milkshake, something I've been wanting for ages.

2) I got to snuggle with Sara at the very end of the day and sing her songs.

3) My dog is still alive, meaning that she is not dead, not that she is well.

No, sir. Not well at all.

She has "the dwindles", which in medical terms is not as bad as "crumping" and certainly better than "circling the drain" but really is not doing at all well. Instead of getting to take her home, a tired, yet healing pup, we spent an hour and a half playing "What The Fuck Is Wrong With This Dog?" with the on-duty vet, yet another in a string of simply amazing, caring and competent physicians we have had over this past week. The surgery went fine, yet she has lost all interest in food or social interaction. Her nose is terribly congested, still. Her labs are becoming more, not less abnormal. We ponder and talk things through out loud. She takes us practically minute-by-minute through the events of the past 8 days. (It never occurred to me, for some reason, how much her job is that of a human doctor, specifically a pediatrician. The history comes not from the patient, but from the parents. She felt like our doctor as much as Emma's.) We keep coming back to the possibility of Addison's Disease (aka: adrenal insufficiency) as the underlying problem. Sort of the villain behind the scenes, lurking and twirling his long, black moustache, wrapped in a dark cape.

From the human perspective, she has that "feel" about her. She is that patient who has just undergone, say, successful surgery for her appendicitis, who should just bounce back, but slips slowly downhill. Consultants cluster at the bed, quizzing the nursing staff and each other, pouring over lab trends, urine outputs, the change in bowels, all that stuff we get off on, until someone blinks and says, "Has anyone checked her adrenal gland function?" Everyone else slaps their head, as once again, this great mimicker has been allowed to lurk. The intern dashes off to do the stim test and administer a dose of hydrocortisone, and everyone holds their breath, hoping they are right, as if they are, all should be well and the patient should turn around, nicely.

As last night's wonderful vet said, "It's a pain-in-the-ass disease that won't shorten her life one bit."

We then got to spend some time with our poor, pitiful, pet. She just looks like hell, not so much physically, but her spirit just seems sapped. No tail wag for greeting. No looking us in the eyes, certainly no attempt to lick. So unlike her. This is an almost 2-year-old normally bouncy dog. She is walking on her own and seems fairly comfortable, otherwise.

So, there we are. We should know Wednesday, when the lab results return, although as she is already on treatment, we may see a response sooner. Something to hope for, but I am now afraid to hope.

Maybe you can hope in my place.


Monday, November 21, 2005


Have you ever noticed that when you get some money, in addition to what you normally bring in, such as someone buying a piece of equipment you were selling or that "extra" paycheck that comes twice a year for those who are paid every 2 weeks rather than twice a month, you get hit with an unexpected and not trivial expense? And that it usually either negates the bonus cash or exceeds it? Yeah.

"And how is that sick and beloved puppy dog?" you kindly ask.

"Ah. Let me continue the saga." I say.

When last I left you, it was Friday and we had just gotten back from the second trip to the vet that week. If you don't remember, read the last post for the long version. To sum up: Vomiting, followed by incontinence of bowels then better then incontinence of urine and congested in the schnoz. 2 antibiotics, 2 vet trips, labs, labs, and the info for the emergency vet clinic. Large amounts of paper towels, old bath towels, antiseptic cleaner, and the constant running of the washer and dryer.

Saturday, she really seems better. We excavate boogers, I kid you not, the size of the last phalanx of my finger, which causes her to smile afterward, because who wouldn't if the concrete nose plugs were removed. She eats some chicken. She eats some more. She seems comfortable, if still peeing lots.

Sunday, here we go again, but worse: The pee, the poop, the nose, and she just looks like she's had enough. Charles and I look at each other and decide that we need to trust our instincts and take her in to the expensive pet urgent care. They are lovely and concerned. The vet has spoken to our vet 2 days before, as he had a feeling we would be coming in. The labs were in her possession, the ones from his office and the ones sent to the outside lab that are back. She does a thorough exam and finds that her belly is tender and distended. Her weight is up 3 pounds, despite all the output, her labs, while not bad, are lower, not counting for dehydration, which she is showing some mild signs of. Emma is a trooper. Even when she squeals and jumps back when the sore place on her stomach is examined, she then goes back and"apologizes" to the vet and licks her hand. The x-ray shows her stomach is distended and possibly consistent with early bloat, her spleen is markedly enlarged, her bladder distended. Of course we consent to surgery, which they can perform in a controlled fashion, after they hydrate her and finish another emergent surgery. After all, she really doesn't look like she is dying in front of us.

Last night, after the surgery, the vet called. Emma is recovering uneventfully. They found a spleen 4 times its normal size, which is now in a bucket somewhere, no longer causing her a problem. The stomach was not torsed and is now tacked so she will not have a problem in the future. Her bladder seems fine. The head-scratching presumptive diagnosis is that of "splenitis" causing gastric outlet problems. They still can't account for the bladder. We go up to the clinic to pick her up tonight. We sincerely hope that this is the end of it.

And some good did come out of all that! I cleaned all our main floor carpets, something I've been needing to do for, well, really since we had them cleaned before we moved in almost 2 years ago, then had all our friends help us move all our stuff in through the muck. They look and smell so much better! See! Silver lining! Somebody slap me, please.

In other housekeeping news, for all you llama fans, I have here a picture I finally uploaded, taken last spring.

And, finally:

Q: How do you know it is Thanksgiving week here in the States?

A: Because I have a respiratory infection.

Sadly, with the exception of last year, I have been under the weather for each and every Thanksgiving since I started this line of work, some 15+ years ago. Nice to know there are some things you can count on. Gives you a sense of security in the troubled times.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Double The Incontinence, Double The Fun

Some weeks you just really don't want to repeat.

This is one of those weeks.

Last weekend was lovely: Quiet, productive, slightly social as we had some really wonderful people and their truly nice kids over for dinner and hanging out.

Then, Sunday night, Emma-the-evil-dog, vomits. Hardly worth mentioning. She is a dog. Dogs occasionally vomit. She seemed perky, as usual, and we went to bed after a bit. She gets Charles up in the middle of the night to vomit again. Damn. Unusual but not unheard of. She has a bit of diarrhea outside as well.

Then she vomits on the carpet. OK. It happens.

She seems a bit tired Monday morning and we are somewhat concerned. We go in to work, Lilian (Charles's mom) staying with Sara as usual. Charles checks in with her during the day and it seems Emma is continuing with the GI distress, both ends, as the euphemism goes, but she is drinking, peeing, and otherwise doesn't seem distressingly sick.

As we pull into the garage that night, Charles says, "Well, we should probably expect the worst. There may be quite a mess in there." Being the pessimist I am, I agree that it is best to do so and steel myself for what I consider the worst.

Whooo Boy! Do I need to work on my "Worst Case Scenario" imaginings.

The utter stench as we came in the door was like nothing I have ever smelled before. Me. Me who has had her share of all parts bodily, washed or unwashed. Me with two kids and plenty of sicky yuck in my life. I've been shat, peed, vomited, pussed, loogied and bled on. Come to think of it, I've been hit in the face by all of the above. My point is not to gross you out, but to put this in perspective.

This was BAD shit. Literally.

Poor Emma was contained in the laundry room, the floor of which was covered in about 6 large pools of mostly liquid poo. More on the carpet in the living room. More, along with vomit, all over the downstairs. Lilian was shaken. We stirred and got it all cleaned up. And it just kept coming. Poor, poor fastidious dog. She was past caring, just lying in the puddles, fur matted with the stuff.

She had stopped vomiting, fortunately. Over the hours, the stools diminished in frequency. She was still drinking and peeing. She seemed to rally as we kept checking on her that night. She ate some in the morning as well, so we went to work again on Tuesday. Of course, she got worse again. Charles left work early, taking her into the vet. Area parasites and other horrors are discussed and she is started on a course of treatment, given medication to stem the flow from stomach and bowels, a couple of syringes of fluids, and a set of vials to fill with samples of excrement. Always good to have a project. Makes you feel as though you are doing something.

That night, we wring our hands and are completely unable to collect the samples as she is no longer even having diarrhea, just dripping yellow liquid constantly and refusing to let it be collected.

Then that stops. She perks up. We have no idea if it is due to the meds or if it has just run its course.

Or if it is just messing with us.

Wednesday night, we spend a solid 45 minutes washing her to clean off the excrement. Unbelievable. At least she can now get away from the horrible odor. The house starts to lose the stench, too.

Off we go, last night, to Colin's teacher conference (he is doing just great, thanks for asking) and when we get home, we find a large pool of urine next to her. More in her bed. She had been taken out just before we left and we had been gone a bit over an hour. This dog normally has a bladder of steel. She pees again and again. She stops eating. More hand wringing. She has had a bladder infection once before with identical symptoms. Given the amount of fecal matter that was caked around her nether-regions, if she were a little old lady in such a situation, I'd be shocked if she didn't develop one. Hey, it's all I have to go on. My equivalent of vet training: The medical care of the totally senile. We debate taking her in to the emergency vet clinic 45 minutes away, but decide to see what happens over the next few hours. Only a few incontinent episodes overnight. Then her nose becomes congested. Well, at least she is not incontinent of the sinuses as well, although she'd probably be more comfortable if she were.

This moring, we arrive at the vet for an 8:00 am appointment, which is fairly impressive as 20 minutes prior, I was on the phone with the vet's office, Colin was waiting for the bus (fortunately early today), Sara had just gotten up, and I was barely dressed.

I love our vet. He is very reassuring, thorough, and when a bit stumped, as he was by the pitiful dog, he is not afraid to say so. We discussed the differential diagnosis (I am wrong, it is not a bladder infection, in fact her urine is perfect), he draws blood for this, that, and leptospirosis titers. We add another antibiotic and make contingency plans as, of course, he is heading out on his first vacation in a few years, tomorrow. We leave with some prescription cat food to mix with the prescription dog food that she is now turning up her nose at, probably because she can't smell a damn thing at present, the meds, and a refridgerator magnet with the emergency clinic info on it as well as written directions, just in case.

So. Here I am. Worried. Wiped. Wishing I knew the punchline. I keep telling myself that I need to remember the way I am feeling with the fear and uncertainty, that I can use it in the future to better help those who come to me with similar situations. Maybe at least some good comes of this, but right now, I am feeling a bit lost and sad and all I can really do is give it time and make her as comfortable as I can.

Thanks for listening. It helps.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Just so you know, it is snowing, right now, right here, flakes the size of small snowballs. I estimate about 1/2 - 1" has accumulated in the 5 minutes it has been doing so.

For all who are jealous, "neener, neener, neener!"

For all who are not, at least a little bit, well, you can "neener" me in March when I am completely sick of the stuff.

And in April.

And possibly in May.


Monday, November 14, 2005

20 Things

I am sitting here in bemused shock, having just realized that next week is Thanksgiving week. This means that Saturday is Thanksgiving food shopping day and I'd better get my sorry self together and make that all important shopping list, so I can lose it and have time to make it again. I am nothing if not a creature of ritual.

Speaking of ritual, well actually, not, I hope you all are suitably impressed with the addition of an actual bank of pictures, taken by little ol' me, finally linked to the Flickr account that I set up, oh, shall we just say months ago. Yesterday, I finally had a free block of time, and, with Sara playing merrily at my feet with her new dolls and tea set, connected the two, added the code, and, finally, we have duly sanitized pictures of the surrounding Wisconsin view. The kids are in some of the shots, but not so where I feel freaky posting them. (For yous who I owe actual visible kid faces via e-mail, they are coming, it is just that the tea party could only last so long.) All are taken from our place. I especially love the cloud pictures, as that was the only one in the sky, sitting there for the whole afternoon and most of the night, springing into the most spectacular storm for a few hours that night with constant lightning flickering internally. Its own little tantrum, lonely in the sky. A cloud time-out, obviously, with all the other clouds off playing over Lake Michigan or something.

The lovely and talented (not to mention terribly nice and polite, as she is Canadian, and we all know how lovely those Canadians are, even those who are now 1/2 yank) Karen posted a meme that I liked and thought I'd do. As I have nothing more to say, today seems like a good day to meme.

20 Random Things (of a Monday):

1) I hate peas, but like pea pods.

2) I would be a great candidate to go on that show where they remove you from your horrible wardrobe and re-instate you among the no longer horribly dressed. Actually, my clothes are not horrible, they are just so very the same: Pants or jeans and pullover tops. Today I am wearing khaki pants and a plum colored, long-sleeved, work appropriate cotton tee. I am very comfortable.

3) I did just get a new pair of boots, which I love, and are almost identical to the boots I bought and loved 20 years ago. You'll notice that I got them for 1/2 off. Makes them all the sweeter.

4) My hands are always cold, which feels good to the person who has a very sore throat, but not to the person with a very sore stomach. I apologize for this fact frequently, especially as the water in the exam room faucets never seems to get warmer than "tepid".

5) Yes, I do have a warm heart to go with them.

6) I have rather freaky eyes. They are generally bluish but turn completely teal if wearing a teal top. I have rather more teal in my wardrobe than necessary as I enjoy freaking people out with this little ocular quirk. No, they are not colored contacts.

7) I wore glasses from 2nd grade until my parents let me get contacts at the age of 15 and 1 day. If I am in my glasses and it is after, say 8 am, I am either very sick or feeling very lazy.

8) I would rather miss breakfast than miss a shower, and you all know how much I value food.

9) This morning, my stomach is happily mulling over granola and yogurt, banana, and coffee. It already has it's eye on the leftover lasagna for lunch. It will make due with the carrot sticks and grapes for snack, but will start harassing me about needing chocolate in about an hour. On a good day, I can fend it off until the afternoon. Most days, it gets a fix before 11 am.

10) I am currently exercising to 6 Feet Under and am finding it rather good.

11) I am addicted to Spider Solitaire and the Jawbreaker game on my PC and PDA, respectively.
12) I have very exuberant, but generally well behaved eyebrows. I pluck the few anarchists and can't fathom having them waxed. I use them extensively in my non-verbal communication.

13) I can also raise each eyebrow rapidly and alternately in turn. This usually gets a laugh.

14) I have recently discovered that Stoli Vanil is dangerously good on the rocks.

15) There is a 70% chance of snow in the forecast for tomorrow night. I am childishly excited about this.

16) I love nature documentaries, especially ones involving the ocean.

17) I am fascinated by astronomy and need to spend time with the telescope, something that has gone by the way with small children. I can see picking it up again, in a couple of years, as a family thing.

18) Almost all of my favorite things are presents from my husband, that I didn't ask for. He is marvelous at gifting me.

19) I do not floss adequately. I never have and probably never will. We all have our flaws.

20) The amount of dust on my desk, computer and desk accoutrements at work is appalling and I am unlikely to do anything about it in the near future.

So there we have it. Confessions or something. As always, I'd love to read this from any of you, but will refrain from formally tagging. Have a lovely, lovely day.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sensing The Need

In the last post, as I nattered on about all things Dora, and then lamented that Sara preferred her to Blues Clues, I realized something shocking. Some of you, you who do not have small children, are ignorant of such shows.


Had you not spoken up in your lovely comments, I would have gone blithely on my blogging ways, and you would be reading something else. But, noooooo. You brought this to my attention and therefore I feel compelled to wax lyrical and rant rancidly about pre-schooler shows. (Sorry, Cagey, I just couldn't resist, and you are unlikely to hop in the car and drive 2 states up to hunt me down, especially with your adorable but noodle-necked infant. I am hoping by the time he gets head control, you will have forgotten my using your blog title in such an off-handed way.) You have no one to blame but yourselves.

OK, some housekeeping to get out of the way:

First, Sara received a total of 4 Dora presents: 3 jigsaw puzzles (from her loving mom) and 1 loud, mechanized, battery-operated, gyrating Dora (from her indulgent, and possibly vengeful, paternal grandmother). As no one chose "cuatro Dora gifts", I will fall back on the set of Dora and Boots toys that adorned her cake and add them in to make "cinco Dora gifts". Everyone applaud Jamie, who wins bragging rights. This is especially impressive as she has no two-legged progeny, at least none that she admits to. Three- and four-legged progeny, yes, but they do not seem to need much in the way of heavily marketed toys, being content with sticks, snakes, walks, and balls.

Second, yes, my kids watch, *gasp*, TV. How the hell else am I able to get all this cleaning and closet organizing done that I seem to go on and on about with them always after me to "play" and "color" and do "homework" with them? (If anybody takes that as anything other than complete and utter sarcasm, I will slap them and then mock them for the next 12 months running.) The truth? We watch TV. Some. Some days more, (I have no problem with a sick kid lying on the couch chain-watching show after show.) some days less, some days not at all. We mostly watch Nick Jr (the pre-school Nickelodeon channel) and Noggin (has essentially the same shows, having seemingly purchased their whole line-up from Nick Jr and just shifted the time slots).

Now, on to the shows, from the standpoint of an adult in the same room with them:

Dora the Explorer: The premise is that a bilingual Latina girl and her best friend, Boots, the monkey, go on errands with her talking backpack and talking map. The map knows all and the backpack holds all. There is always a set of 3 things they must get through to achieve their destination. Repetition is key. Repetition is key. Repetition is key. This show annoys the crap out of me, which as an adult, it should. I do like that the lead character is female and not Caucasian. Plus, Sara really is learning some Spanish, like hollering, "ayudame, mommy!" when she wants help. Marketed up the ying-yang as evidenced by all the loudly mechanized dolls and accessories and plates and towels and underwear. A couple of loud dolls are unleashed on the public each holiday season. My mother-in-law will purchase them all, because Sara needs them.

Go Diego, Go!: A spin off of Dora. He is her bilingual cousin who rescues animals and lives in a tropical rain forrest / animal refuge. He doesn't have a talking backpack, he has a talking rescue pack, that has everything. Of course, all the animals talk. Not quite as annoying as Dora, but close.

Blues Clues: The original show was with Steve (Steve Burns) and a cast of animated animals, like Blue (his dog), Mr Salt and Mrs Pepper, Shovel and Pail, Slippery Soap and Side Table Drawer. Steve solves a question posed by Blue, who for some reason doesn't speak words, (unlike the furniture and cooking utensils), by finding clues (marked with her pawprint), writing them down in the handy-dandy notebook, and skidooing into alternate realities, like pictures on the wall and books. Then, in my opinion, the show goes downhill, (although not everyone thinks this is the case) when Steve goes off to college (in reality, apparently, joins a band) and turns the house and show over to his sappy brother, Joe. Joe is annoying, like an over-enthusiastic cheerleader. Steve was more underplayed and just a bit simple. Steve was soothing, Joe grating. Just my take. Of course, my kids prefer Joe. I do like the problem solving aspect to this show and I like the animation. I like Steve (no, not in that way). Several people, mostly his students, think Charles looks like Steve. Neither of us think so, aside from the brown hair and eyes, cheekbones, two arms, two legs, pasty, thin white guy thing. Charles is also about a foot taller and does not dimple. He is also a much better conversationalist. And a better dresser. (Steve wears only green stripes and khaki.) We will not speak of the completely vile and wretched Blue's Room spin-off.

Play With Me, Sesame: A Sesame Street spin-off with the irritating Prairie Dawn. It does have Bert and Ernie and Grover (my personal favorite) but not the good, interesting stuff of the real show. (No Cookie Monster in this one, Dana) Sadly, the real Sesame Street show has seemingly been taken over by the high-voiced irritating-to-the-point-of-violence characters like Zoe, Elmo, Prairie Dawn, Rosita, et al. Teri sent me a link that is completely hilarious involving Grover and Elmo, which I have lost. She may feel up to sharing it again. It is not rated G.

Franklin: Animated, sweet, innocuous, but not irritating, bland adventures of the turtle, Franklin, and his friends: Bear, Rabbit, Beaver, Duck, Fox, etc. It is fine.

Little Bear: Based on the Maurice Sendak books. I like this one. Also sweet but not treacly. About the little bear, Little Bear, and his friends: Owl, Goose, Cat, etc.

The Backyardigans: Animated imaginary "real" adventures of 5 animal friends who share a large backyard. This is actually well written and I may have been known to sit and watch it when it was on and a child was involved in something else. I would never admit to such, though.

Miss Spider: Yes, animated. Story of a family of various sorts of bugs, many of whom were adopted and their adventures. Pretty good. Doesn't annoy.

Max and Ruby: Animated show of fat bunnies, centering around Ruby, the bossy big sister, who is very girly, and her little brother, Max, who is naughty. Guess who we like best?

Maggie and the Ferocious Beast: A girl, Maggie, and her friends, Hamilton Hog and The Ferocious Beast, live in Nowhere Land and do interesting things. Hamilton likes to cook. Maggie is curious and levelheaded. The Beast has spots. Likeable.

Little Bill: Animated. (like that's a shock) Created by Bill Cosby. Story of Little Bill and his family, who live in a brownstone in a big city (probably NYC). I like Little Bill. My kids couldn't care less. Diverse characters, interesting animation. Not cloying. I can watch this on my own. Why the hell don't my kids like this show? I suspect a plot to slowly drive me crazy, that would be foiled if we watched Little Bill instead of Dora.

The Wiggles: On Disney Channel. Sorry, Teri, I think this show is horrible. Not necessarily horrible for kids, just horrible for adults in the same room. At least if the adults in the same room are me. Little is interesting, just loud with bad songs and irritating characters. Basically, the only good thing is that the 4 Wiggles have Aussie accents. Grown-ups dressed in costumes in a frantic land; sort of a cross between H. R. Pufnstuf and Pee-wee's Playhouse, without the drug references of the former, or the over-the-top imagination of the latter. "Spooy" but not in the good sense of the word. (*snicker.* Sorry, I couldn't resist. Don't hate me.)

Rolie Polie Olie: Also Disney. This, I love. A mechanized, happy world of round robot people and their living household appliances, furniture, and celestial bodies. Little 'bot, Olie, and his family live next door to his square-shaped best friend, Billy, and his square-shaped, slightly beatnik family. Animation like Robots, which was also created by William Joyce, who wrote several great kids' books.

So there we have it. My personal rundown of some kids' shows. What's that you say? No purple dinosaur? What purple dinosaur? I know not of which you speak. No purple dinosaur shows in MY universe. Now, don't say I never did you any favors or that this blog is lacking in nutritional value. Hey, even Cap'n Crunch has something like 9 essential vitamins and minerals, right? Makes a complete breakfast when accompanied by milk, juice, eggs, 3 bran muffins, and a super-multi-vitamin pill.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Now We Are 3

Despite everything, Sara has defied us today and turned 3. This means she is no longer a toddler, she is now a little girl. I have a little girl and a boy, whereas just a bit ago I had a toddler and a little boy.

(Oh, hush you, let a mom get a bit mushy.)

The real dilemma is that, as tempting as it is to want to freeze them just like they are, they get more and more fun. And interesting. And they tell you about their day at school and how much they "like and love you". Crap. No winning this one.

So, what is not-so-wee Sara up to? Well, asserting her person all over the place. Ah, the power of a well placed "NO!" Also lots of "I do it!" and "My turn!" She is fluent in her Spanish colors and her Spanish numbers up to 12, thanks to a complete Dora the Explorer obsession. She never wants to color anymore but will beg to be able to do "homework" which is, to my eye, indistinguishable from what we used to do when we colored. I must be missing something. I am sure that it has nothing to do with her brother having to do homework when he comes home from school. She picks up songs amazingly quickly and will sing it back to me after I sing one to her a few times, with multiple verses and identical phrasing, except with all the "L"s replaced with "W"s and sounding more than a bit like a drunken sailor. It is rather nice, her wanting me to sing. Colin always responded with a horrified, "Mommy, no singing!!" and clapping his hands over my mouth. She also quotes extensively from the literature, including the complete works of The Cat In The Hat and assorted books by P.D. Eastman. She is thankfully very snuggly and doesn't overly mind my constant kissing of her.

Tonight, of course, we will have chocolate cake with chocolate filling and chocolate frosting with "Dora" motif, and Sara will open her presents. Then we will all collapse in a glucose-induced haze, probably with an episode of Dora on the TV. Sara needs to learn "trece", you see. Can't have her stuck at "doce". Any one up for a guess as to how many Dora gifts she receives? Bragging rights to the winner.


Anniversary Blog Haikus

Well, it's been a year,
I wondered if it would last.
Now it's integral.

A year ago, I
knew you not, yet now you have
become my dear friends.

Clearly, this is why
I should not resign my job
to write poetry.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Story of Us

Ah. Here we are. November 6th. Now, I am really not terribly sentimental. I celebrate major candy associated holidays, birthdays, and my wedding anniversary. That is enough to keep track of in my selfish little book. However, November 6th is a little special, at least for me.

Anybody care to gander a guess?


Oh, you are so good!

Yes. It is the anniversary of Charles and my first real date. Real date in that it involved a car and money and a movie, as opposed to the night of November the 5th, the day we first made googly eyes at each other, me thinking he was just being, well, drunk and that I was handy, and he thinking that there might be something between us. Good thing he was right, rather than me.

But I am getting ahead of things, here.

Let me tell you the tale of how we became the Royal Couple, to our friends. (Remember, this was in the way back days, when both the Prince and Princess of Wales were not just alive, but to appearances, still in love and married, with children.)

I was a geeky new college freshman, the first week of class, actually, I think it was a day or two before class officially began. I was sitting on the grass with the other four freshmen on my floor, pondering what we should do about the gold Porsche that had been habitually parking in front of the fire hydrant. The fire hydrant that the fire trucks would attach their hoses to in order to put out the theoretical fire that would race through our disgracefully wired tinder-box of a dorm. The first day we moved in, it was drilled into our heads that the place would likely become completely engulfed in 45 seconds from the start of a fire. We were taking no chances. We were also very happy that we lived on the bottom floor, and thus would be able to just climb out the windows and scale the bushes to make our escape.

Clearly, the atrocious gold Porsche needed to be taught a lesson. (Besides, who the hell goes to college driving a gold Porsche, I ask you? Talk about crass. Especially because most of us didn't have the price of a Whopper, without cheese, on 99 cent Wednesday, in our pockets. We were poor freshmen in our little clique, well except for one of us, but we were cutting her slack, plus, she had no car, gold or otherwise.) Yes, there was campus security, but all they would do was hand out tickets, something like $2 a pop. The gold Porsche just laughed at such a fine and continued to use the No Parking area in front of the hydrant as his own personal space.

Well, what would make the Porsche sad, we wondered? Well, to find that all four of the tires were flat, of course. So, the five of us set about letting the air out of all the tires. It was about this time that our floor Resident Assistant (she of the keys and her own single room), Margaret, came up with this very nice looking young man. She had asked her friend Charles (you knew it was Charles, didn't you, clever pants) if he wanted to meet some nice freshmen and he said, "sure." So, he sat on the lawn and chatted to us while we continued our lesson in inappropriate parking of cheesy gold Porsches. He remembers that I was cute and didn't look or talk to him. I remember feeling completely awkward and that he was way too attractive to talk to. He was taking a year off after his Sophomore year, working graveyard shift in a produce warehouse, while he figured out what the hell he was going to do with a Poly-Sci major. (Answer: Return to school and get a second major in Psych, and then figure it all out later.)

So, there we were, each smitten with the other, so we do what normal young idiots do. He goes out with my floormate (the rich one) and I date this nice but annoying putz. As my rich floormate is also dating four other guys (remember, this is the first week of college!!) including the bell hop from the hotel she and her mom stayed at their first night in Portland, Charles happily backs off after the one date with her (she took him out for coffee and pie). In another odd turn, it happens that the bell hop went to high school with me, graduating the year prior. He only went out with her once or twice and he paid, the chivalrous fool.

Flash forward to the night of November 5th, 1983. My floor decides to host a party. The advantage to going to my tiny liberal arts college in the early '80s, is that all drinking is policed by the campus, as it is private property. The learned heads had felt for decades, probably since before prohibition, if the college was even around then, that if underage drinking were looked on with a completely blind eye, not to mention a deaf ear and congested nose, the students would stay on campus to do their drinking and not drive off campus to do so. They were mostly right, especially because freshmen were required to live on campus or with their parents, and most Sophomores chose to do so, as well.

We decide on a sort of tropical theme and make my friend Dolo's patented Killer Punch. I don't remember what all was in it but remember we mixed it in large plastic garbage cans and it had copious quantities of rum, everclear, and Hawaiian Punch, to mask the taste of it all. It probably had other liquid ingredients as well. Also, there was cut up fruit that marinated in the mixture and was served as the only "food". As we had no money, our rich floormate funded it, someone with a license purchased it (maybe Margaret, the RA?) and we charged $5 to get in, for all you could drink and dancing to really loud music. We had a good turnout and we all took turns at the door, collecting money and stamping hands with someone's bunny stamp. During my shift, Charles appeared to keep me company, he being rather buzzed on punch, and me, just a little bit so. We laughed and joked and he stamped bunnies up and down his arms, which for some reason we thought was hysterical. You had to be there.

We then went down and danced and talked, (well, yelled), over the music. Afterward, we went upstairs with my poor roommate, who was really drunk, and stood on each side of her in the bathroom stall while she brought up everything she had in her, and then some. He patted her back while I held her hair, and we made googly eyes over her heaving body.

Que romantico!


He then asked me out to a movie the next night, a Sunday night.

I of course accepted, thinking he was just being nice, as a friend, because why the hell would this lovely, handsome, charming man who did not flee at the sight of a vomiting young woman want to go out with me? As I got in the car, I told him the following: "I can't stay late, I have to study and I have 8:00 class tomorrow." He thought I was trying to be nice but really didn't want to go out with him, silly man. I was just being honest, because, hey, I was a Biology major with her eye on med school. Science classes always started at 8 am as the afternoons were devoted to lab, no extra credit for that fun. He took me to The Big Chill, and we played at being commandos in the parking lot. At the end of the movie, as we were sitting in the seats, he looked over and our eyes met. I swear the room did one of those "wah-wah-wah" things and then, finally, he kissed me.

So, there you have it. Love, or at least lust, at first sight. Aren't I the lucky one? It took me a whole week before I told him so. Didn't want to rush things, don't you know.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween In Utopia

Now I feel sort of sad, really. Or perhaps my hindsight is clouded? I remember Halloween as something for kids: Kids in costumes, kids who couldn't drive, with no set end hour for trick-or-treating. Basically, people turned their porch light out when they either ran out of candy or got tired of the whole thing.

Reading Teri, Rozanne, and others, it seems things have changed from this rose-colored memory, at least in larger, less bucolic places.

Disclaimer: This is almost certainly about to get sappy.

I think things really are different in our little time-warp of a tiny Wisconsin village.

Charles and I raced home from work, cramming sandwiches in our mouths on the drive, arriving home a bit before 6 pm. By 6:15, we were screaming down the hill to the village proper in el minivan, literally, as I recall. At least Sara was, partly in excitement and partly in ire, as she had dropped her stuffed animal on the floor. She is incapable of getting in the car without a stuffed animal and a blanket these days. We let her, as it is a little thing and keeps the peace.

We get to the village, 2 miles away, finding our friend, A, waiting for us on the corner. We had made plans to go pillage with her, her husband, M, and their 4-year-old daughter, K. While waiting for us, M and K went to a few houses to get K's feet wet, so to speak. Actually, that was probably a bit literal, too, as K was dressed in the most freakin' cute Tinkerbell costume ever, complete with gossamer wings and little green sparkly sack-booties on her feet. A tells us that she refused to wear shoes under the booties, so she was running around in her tights and sack-shoes. This is an indication of the state of cleanliness of this town, either that or the state of mind of the mother of a 4-year-old, the mother who has been worn down and no longer can protest.

So, off the 5 of us go, following the path M and K have taken, stopping at houses along the way. Colin, the Red Power Ranger, veteran of one prior trick-or-treat that he is, takes the lead. Sara hanging on to my hand, but willing in her spider costume. After the first house, Sara leaps into the fray, as fast as her short legs can take her. Colin urges her to "Come on!" She falls multiple times in her heedless haste to score more loot and doesn't feel a thing. She is also bundled in sturdy layers of clothes under her spidey outer covering.

We meet up with M and K. M is clearly a professional and wends us through the leaf-choked streets to lit houses with the skill of a true hunter. Not a step is wasted. Sadly, time is against us. Trick-or-treat is only from 5-7 pm and we have missed most of it. Also, the crush of kids ahead of us have emptied the coffers of many houses. It is due to the skill of M that we get to about 20 houses in our allotted remaining 45 minutes, covering about 10 blocks.

Still, they really do get plenty of candy, at least in my opinion, for a 6 and nearly-3 year-old. Of the other people we see, most are kids, well costumed, under the age of 14. All are very polite. One kid didn't have a costume, but his buddies did. Adults mostly accompanied the kids, several of whom also wore costumes. None of whom carried bags for themselves.

One guy, handing out candy from a decorated front porch, laughed and said that we parents looked like we could use a beer. We agreed that he was absolutely correct. We also agreed, to ourselves, that Wisconsin is truly the state that understands us best.

We saw no signs of vandalism, not even a kicked pumpkin. Most of the houses were decorated in some way, several very lavishly. The houses are fairly close together, so driving the kids around really doesn't make sense. The people handing out candy seemed genuinely tickled to be doing so. Granted, we were there at the tail-end, but last year, when we got there at the start, it was the same.

I guess I just wanted to let you know that there are places where "movie set" Halloween happens. We are incredibly fortunate to live in such a place. I wish everyone did.