Entries categorized "There's a Rumor it's a Tumor" Feed

Saturday 9: Dedicated To The One I Love

At least this time, I'm only a day late, instead of three or four. Or five. Link is here if you're a latecomer like me!
Thanks to Diana for recommending the Mamas and the Papas. (You can listen to the song here.)

1) The lyrics include the line, "Love can never be exactly what we what it to be." Are you happy with your love life?


I am ecstatically happy. Marrying Rob was the one sure thing, the one thing I got right in this life.
2) Another lyric is, "Each night before you go to bed, whisper a little prayer for me." Do you say your prayers?
I do pray. When I thought my husband was going to die two weeks ago, and when my son was really dying, are the hardest, most earnest times I've prayed. I mostly pray thankful as opposed to asking prayers, but they all count.
3) Mama Michelle and Papa John were married in real life. It didn't end well -- not for the couple and not for the band. Do you believe you could work successfully with a romantic partner?
I have done it, and it was okay. Sure, I think it's doable. Maybe it didn't work in this case, but that's just one example.

4) After the band broke up, Michelle tried her hand at acting and eventually became a regular on the nighttime soap, Knott's Landing. Of course, she could live off of her music royalties while she learned her new craft. If money was no object, what career would like to try?

If money were no object, I would arts and crafts as my working-hobby. I mean, I do ply my hand at it in my Etsy shop, changing my wares with my whims, but I haven't been too successful. I do it for fun more than anything else.
5) There is a famous rumor -- completely false -- that Mama Cass died while eating a ham sandwich. Can you think of another urban legend? 

I can think of a hundred at any other time, but man, you put me on the spot and they disappear! I think my sister-in-law did her thesis on urban legends, or something like that - ask her! ;)
6) In the 1960s, every high school girl wanted to wear her hair like Michelle and Cass -- long and straight. Can you recall a fashion trend from your school days?
It was the 80s. Come on. High hair - high, high bangs with a can of hairspray in it. Ugh. I played along, too. It was not so pretty.
7) With the Fourth of July falling on Thursday, are you able to enjoy a looooong four-day holiday weekend?

I guess you could say that, yeah.
8) Many communities have parades to celebrate Independence Day. Have you ever ridden on a float or marched in a parade?

I have. As a Brownie, and later as an adult Girl Scout leader. Also in the 4H club as a kid and... for something else I can't remember. Dancing, maybe?
9) In honor of the Fourth of July, name your favorite Founding Father.
I think Ben Franklin was my favorite. I'm pretty fond of electricity... 
Well, onto Sunday Stealing. "BRB," as my girls like to say!

It's Not BRAIN Surgery... Except That It IS!


A week ago, on Friday, we were going to go to our friends Marc & Jenna's house for the first time since we moved here, to South Florida. We were headed to Target to do some shopping before our playdate with them and their kids, to get our fruit and dessert to bring to share. 

Rob drove. At least, he started to drive. He wanted to turn left out of our neighborhood, but he turned all the way to the right and bumped the curb. Then, turning left, he made a HUUUUGE, wide turn into oncoming traffic before correcting himself. Driving down the road, he again nearly bumped the curb. Finally, turning left onto the Turnpike, he made a wide arc and turned into oncoming traffic, hit the curb and barely made it onto the right-of-way. I screeched at him, not for the first time, to STOP THE CAR and let me drive. I hadn't been doing any driving since I've become so dizzy lately, but I wasn't dizzy that day, thankfully. He let me drive but denied there was any problem with his steering. Hmm.

On the way to Target, he slurred his speech and was using wrong words to convey his meaning in various conversations we had. He became argumentative when I pointed out the problem and denied there was anything wrong.

Meanwhile, he had a headache. Pain level was about a 4 or 5.

At Target, he was acting like a complete child. It became so ridiculous that I had to treat him like one of the kids and occasionally scold him. He acted petulant and sorry but would act up again, bothering the children and just generally behaving like an ass. He denied there was any problem with his behavior.

At this point, I was frustrated with him to the max and wanted to slug him. However, I was way more concerned than irritated, and insisted we go to the emergency room. He had been diagnosed with a cavernous hemangioma (a benign brain tumor) in November 2012, but back then it was just a "watch and see" condition about which we'd almost forgotten. In fact, I was more worried that he'd had another mini-stroke or a seizure or something than the tumor.


We got home, having canceled our playdate, and prepared to go to the ER. Almost ready, he fell asleep. I tried to wake him and was successful, so I decided to let him sleep and catch a few zzz's myself. We woke up around 8 PM or so and headed in.

They took him back to a room immediately and was admitted before we could blink, practically. They took him for a CT scan and found "some spots" on his brain.  They took him for an MRI, and an MRA, and did an EKG and an EEG, and drew a ton of blood, and then they came back and told us what we already knew: he had a brain tumor.

They also told us something we did not expect to hear: the tumor was pressing on his cerebellum and brain stem, which explained his off-balance behavior and erratic driving.

And they recommended he see a neurosurgeon.

Saturday night, they released him. 

The headaches continued and worsened over the next several days. He seemed mostly 'all there' but occasionally slipped into confused and confusing behavior. 


On Wednesday morning, Rob was slurring his speech again, walking very slowly and with much trouble, and trembling visibly. I woke up the kids and raced him back to the emergency room.

This time, the care was bumbling at best. Even the neurologist seemed like a freakin' idiot who was more confused than my husband. The kept kicking the kids and me out of his exam room and not explaining anything, and I wanted to scream. Friend Jenna came to pick up the kids for me, so I could be with him. They still shooed me out of the room. 

I couldn't take it anymore. I got on my iPhone and Googled "miami neurosurgeons" and started making calls. I finally found one who took our insurance, and they asked me, "Can you be here in an hour?"

Um, YEAH. We will BE THERE. 

Well, by the time I got Rob released against medical advice and got a disk with all of his images from Friday's tests, drove the 45 minutes to the University of Miami Hospital and found the neurosurgeon's office, it was two hours later. And I'd forgotten we now had a co-pay (thanks, Tricare, for 20 years of no medical bills) and also didn't have any money on me. There was much chatter behind the desk, and finally they agreed to see him and let us pay the co-pay on Friday... and so they did.

The neurosurgeon looked at his images and very matter-of-factly stated, basically, "This is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to do it." He had no real bedside manner, but I didn't care because I could tell he knew his stuff. And then he paged a radiology-oncologist to come in and look at Rob's images, too.

The gist of that visit is as such: The tumor is large and quite deep in the brain, so much so that it's very risky to do a 'normal' surgery to excise it. Instead, they're going to do a Cyberknife radiation surgery to blast it into oblivion with minimal damage to the surrounding brain tissue. There is a 70% success rate with this option, which is about as good as we can expect with the 'normal' surgery, now our Plan B.


I took Rob and the kids home that night, where we cuddled Jack suffering from a painful sunburn and even more painful 'growing pains.' I think we finally fell asleep around 3 or 4 AM. 

At some point after noon, lying on Rob's shoulder and chest, I became aware of mumbling and movement underneath me. It was Rob. He was chattering away unintelligibly lifting all four limbs up in the air. I tried like mad to wake him, to get him to open his eyes, but I couldn't. The next thing I knew, he'd wet the bed, so it occurred to me much later that he was trying to get up to use the bathroom. My poor man...

Only Chloë was awake then, so I called out to her to wake up her brother and sister to get ready to go back to the hospital. She and I jumped into a quick shower together while Rob slept. In the shower, I told Chlo that I was going to be asking way too much of her that day and probably for the next few days to come, that I would need a lot of help, and I needed her to just please do what I asked her to do. She somberly agreed. After showering, she gathered together clothes for herself, me, and Rob, grabbed snacks and drinks for the hospital, and got Jack and Sophie ready to go. I am so proud of my little lady-baby.

Getting Rob ready was another matter.

He fought against me while I changed his clothes, slipped on an adult undergarment so he wouldn't have any more 'accidents,' and tried to give him a quick sponge bath. He fought SO hard against me, having no understanding of what I was trying to do for him. Once I got him dressed, I half-walked, half-carried him to the door, with him bracing himself against the door jambs and every other available surface along the way. He was completely agitated and fought every step of the way. Once, he insisted I let him go, that he could walk, so, frustrated, I said fine and said I would let him try. He got ready, and I let him go. I caught him a half-second later when he started to fall. Hmm.

Trying to get him into the van was interesting. Neighbors had pulled up and hollered over to me, "Do you need help?" I shouted back, "YES! PLEASE HELP ME!" and they came over. The woman pulled me aside; the man took Rob from me and got him into the van. I gave them a brief explanation, and they scolded me for not calling 911. Since our house is still in boxes, I was embarrassed to do that and wary. They scolded me again, but in a loving and gentle way. They hugged me, blessed us, and volunteered to help with anything they could do. I was so grateful. Total strangers!

On the way, I called the neurosurgeon and let him know we were headed back. He said to go straight to the ER at the UM hospital and hung up on me. Okaaay. Rob, almost unintelligible still, said, "I hope I get a different doctor this time. That guy was a douche." Yeah, maybe he's douchy, but he knows his stuff and that's all that counts. We'll stick with him.

After I dropped off the kids to Marc and Jenna's house, I zoomed up the Turnpike to the hospital, keeping Rob talking the whole way. He seemed so unhappy, so troubled, so worried that he wouldn't make it. I reassured him a thousand times that he would make it, he'd be fine, and we'd live a long happy life. We had this conversation:

Rob: "Oh, Melanie. I love you more than pickles!"

Me: "Pickles?!"

Rob: "Yeah, pickles are really good!"

I laughed. He was in a good mood, I could tell, all things considered. The ER brought him back to a room promptly. He cracked jokes with me and the nurses the whole time. His head was killing him, and yet he was able to smile and be funny. I had to translate everything he said to the nurses and the ER doctor, because no one else could understand him.

Finally, the nurse gave him a shot of morphine, and then he was feeling better. More lucid, finally, and more chipper. Then the doc came back and told me they had admitted him and all would be well. He said "the team" would evaluate him in the morning and decide whether to do surgery that day. 

I left him, after a thousand kisses, and went to go get the kids. At last report, at 12 PM he'd had some more morphine and was sound asleep. It's nearly 3:30 AM now. I plan to wake up the kids in 2½ hours and head back for the 50-minute drive to see him and the neurosurgeon. My friend Erica is going to come down and get the kids for a couple days. 

From there, it's anyone's guess. We welcome your thoughts, positive vibes, and of course prayers. Thank you in advance. I don't know when I'll be able to post about it again, but hopefully it will be better news...


Oh, My Dawg, I'm So Excited!!!

...or, How We Spent Our Tax Refund!

        ...or, Man, We Should Be One of Those Couples Who Has To Spend a Million-Dollar Inheritance in 24-Hours Flat!

                   You feel me? But let's move on from these 77 alternate titles and get to the meat of this post.

If you hadn't realized, our federal tax refund hit our bank account yesterday. Here's how we've spent it on the kids and household goods in the day since then:


1. First stop, our local post office. We had to mail five or six packages, including the Progressive Snapshot device I'd never plugged into our Odyssey, Penelope, some video surveillance equipment for a mystery shop I'd (never) done, and the keys to our Virginia Beach house to our realtor back in that town. Plus, I had to buy a roll of stamps. Yes, some of us do still send snail mail. And also, we had to bring our lease in so that we could FINALLY get the keys to our mailbox. It's been 3 weeks, and we still have almost NO mail, save for the little bit that trickles down into our PO Box. Speaking of which, the kids and I went to check it while Rob finished up with the lease business, and there were two cards in it from Aunt Stacey (my sister). She sent cards and money for the two birthday babies, Jack and Sophia, having decided together with me that money was the way to go for our kids' respective birthdays from now on.


2. Next stop, Walmart. We spent a buttload of money on household necessities (and a few un-necessities, but not many) there. And Jack spent his new birthday money on this remote-controlled boat he'd been eyeing for a while.


Sophia spent her birthday money on this horse, which goes with her doll that she'd bought with birthday money from others earlier in the month. Granted, it's not tax money, but it happened yesterday, so I have to tell ya.


Also, Chloë and...




... Sophia both got new pairs of skates, which was and wasn't a splurge. It wasn't an absolute need, no, but they did need to get more and more varied exercise, and I needed a skating partner! Rob wanted to buy me a bike, too, but I figure I'll keep an eye on Freecycle for that. (Side note: Sophia fell on her butt a million times but is already zooming skillfully around the block. Chloë is still falling, but she'll get there, I'm sure. Soon as she lets go of all the tree branches, that is.)


 Other spending at Wally-World included food (absolutely necessary, right?), an iron (Rob had left ours back at the Va Beach house, oops), toilet bowl brushes (because, eww, he forgot those back there, too), a plunger (same story), towels and accessories to match the new shower curtains and mats in both our and the kids' bathrooms (splurge-y), a garbage can (forgot it, too), aaaand new bedding for all three kids (Sophia ruined all the old ones. She does that).




Next up, back at home, I went online to the Florida DMV website because we both need new state licenses, and then we'll need to register Penelope and the motorcycle, and then we'll need to get new insurance policies. (And I still freakin' need to fix the gigantical crack down the middle of my windshield, but that'll keep a li'l longer, won't it? It's been a month and a half already, after all...) But the next appointment - you make 'em online, here - for the DMV isn't until May 6th, so I looked at the docs we'll need for the new licenses. Crap, I need a new Social Security card. So do the kids; ours got stolen, which is not awesome. Lots of other stuff did, too; someone stole our "important papers" lockbox I kept under my desk. Ugh. Anyway. We'll go do that business tomorrow. Of course, they'll want my driver's license, among other things, to get the new card, so now I understand dogs and cats chasing their own tails!




We don't need cable TV - -haven't had it for years- - but we do need internet service. This is 2013, after all, and we have numerous electronic devices needing wi-fi. Not to mention the fact that our iPhones get crap for signals in the house on the LTE network, or 3G or 4G for the matter, and we don't have a landline. So, we put in about a half-dozen phone calls to Comcast to sign up for supah-fast (and cheap, compared to what we were paying for Cox in VA) cable internet service. We'd have done it sooner, but, ah, that's neither here nor there. It's done now, and they're coming Sunday, and I can't wait, and yeah.


Jafra Melanie


Next stop, JAFRA, to place an order. I have gotten several from clients that needed fulfilling, plus I plan to start kicking that into high gear, so I needed a few things myself for said purpose. Yeah. I love JAFRA packages. They smell so damn good and always bring promises of buttery soft skin. Mmm, me likey.




Speaking of our iPhones, I've been boosting off my 5's Personal Hotspot to get online and do all the important stuff like tell you on this blahg about that important stuff, and so I had to go on the AT&T website to pay our big, fat bill. That was that. Can't wait to whittle that back down after the Comcast guy comes with our new, um, nothing?




Speaking of paying the bills, I hopped over to our bank website and put in an extra payment for Penelope, and...




...Elsie, Rob's BMW motorsickle.


(Yes, I spelled it that way on porpoise. C'mon, now.)


And then, the really exciting stuff started. Well, wait, first dinner. The kids must eat. The husband must eat. I... must nibble. I gained about 10 lbs during our move and realized it even before I got my scale back a week ago to confirm it, so I've been eating very carefully and am already down 4 lbs since then. I was hoping to take it off by my birthday in September, so yay. But what? am I talking about??




For dinner, after Rob and the kids cleared off the table and cleaned up the kitchen enough for me to cook in it properly, we laid down the new bamboo runner we'd gotten on clearance from Walmart (a minute splurge, yes, but it went with my Fiestaware, and hey, bamboo!) and used the also-clearanced new cloth napkins (hey, reducing paper waste is a good thing). Since we were going fancyish, I decided to make the kids promise promise promise they wouldn't break the wedding crystal we'd gotten from Dr. Lisa and Uncle Faris, and they did pinky-promise, which is as good as gold 'round here. And guess what? The only person who came even close to breaking one was ME. Yup, I'm still the same ol' klutz I always was, rest assured. PS, the candles were Sophie's idear. We are SO decadent. ;P




I'd gotten this Ninja Chopper from my friend, Yet Another Stephanie, back in VA, but I hadn't put it to good use yet. We had avocados, we had guac mix, and we had tortilla chips, so it was time. And guess what? After a few pulses, we had delicious-ish guacamole. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but compared to the improvised batch I made after Rob and - yes! - the kids quickly polished off this one, it wasn't bad at all. Heh. (Mine wasn't either, but it lacked salt. And lymes. And cilantro. And had too much onion. And tomato. And not enough avocado. Damn, it must've sucked worse than I first rememberated.)




This picture is way washed-out compared to the actual scene, but then I whipped up a pork steak dinner from a recipe I'd gotten on the back of a can of Campbell's chicken broth. There was pasta instead of rice, because that's what I had, and I needed to squeeze fresh juice from oranges rather than use bottled juice, because that's what I had and hello, yummier, but other than that, it was pretty much according to the recipe. Kinda. Anyways. Rob says it was good enough to make again, which is high praise coming from him, but all three kids had upturned noses, the punks. I don't see them doing the whole presentation-is-everything thing on me with hummus and pita, or anything, so humph!




However, Jack and Chloë did enjoy the orange slices in the dinner so well that they requested more for dessert. Um, okay, twist my arm a little bit, why don'tcha.


And NOW for the rilly, rilly exciting part!!!


(You'd better be sitting down now.)


(I mean it.)


(Because this is heady, heady stuff, coming up here in a second.)


Are you ready?


All right.


You asked for it.










I bought stuff for homeschooling!!!!!! Yeah, school, baby! I can't WAIT to delve back in and get the kids back on track and have tons and tons and TONS of fun in the process. I love teaching them!!


Here's what I bought over at the Homeschool Buyers' Co-op:




All FIVE levels of Latin American Spanish from Rosetta Stone!!! Whoop!! For cheap! I have been wanting RS for aaaaaaaages, ever since I did a mystery shop at one of their kiosks (oops, I'm not supposed to tell you that) and saw how well it works. Chloë started angling for German, and I would have been thrilled with Latin, but we all settled on the LAS after thinking about what would be the most useful in our lives right now. I can not WAIT to get my teeny-weeny little hands on this baby. Sirrusly.




I usually piece our Science and Social Studies curricula together myself, but this year (starting now), I'm going to get a little help from the award-winning Adaptive Curriculum. I cannot wait to see how that works for us, especially in Social. Science, I've got down, but our Soshe has been a little, well, piecemeal, so I'd like to get it more organized in their brains, y'know?


For teaching Grammar rules more concretely, I got us a lifetime passport to Grammaropolis, which looks very promising. Sounds like fun, too!




For writing and all that goes with that business, I bought us a year's subscription (which is really enough information, with what I got, to last us through the end of high school if I choose) to Brave Writer, a highly rated program about which I've heard nothing but good stuff. Eeeeeek!


And now for the reeeeeealllllly exciting part!!!!


Can you stand it? I can't!!



Because we want the kids to be technologically savvy, and because so much of their work is computer- and internet-based, I have been wanting to get them each their own laptop or tablet for a while. I've been researching and thinking and debating about it; we've had ONE laptop for the kids up 'til now, and it just doesn't work that well when all three kids need to be online to do assignments. With three, I wouldn't need to constantly rotate them out and cut them short on projects - they could all work simultaneously! So after tons more research, I bought them each a Kindle Fire HD 7" tablet on Amazon.com! Wooohoooo, the
y are going to be so stoked, man!






Of course, to protect their shiny new electronical toys, I got them each a case in a different color. Jack's is green, because, well, it's his favorite, and I couldn't find a boyish pattern to suit him.




I think this one will be Chloë's.


Sophia will like this one.


I don't know how much they'll need or use them, but it remains to be seen, so I got them this pack of 6 styli for their Kindle Fire HDs, and also one - yes, just one - wall charger to share. I figure that much we can do on a rotational basis, right?

But I'm still not done outfitting the kids for the coming year. Nope, nope, nope. I did s'more shopping on ye olde Amazon first:


Sophia needs a new queen-sized mattress for the bunk bed she'll now be sharing with Chloë, because we had to leave her old one behind in Portsmouth (doesn't really matter; it was gross). I got her this memory-foam one, which has really good ratings. Remind me to air it out for two days first...

Oh, and for us, I got a new bed frame since Rob left our old one behind at the Virginia Beach house, which sucks because they aren't as cheap as I thought they were. Booger.


For Jack, I picked up a Yamaha keyboard stand (and a new wall charger, since he lost his). Even though he's decided not to pursue lessons for now, the music store folks convinced us to hang onto the keyboard in case one of the kids picks it up. And I can play, albeit slowly and gingerly, so we can all bang around on it for our music lessons in Sweet Pea Academy. It's cheap but comes highly-rated, so I think this one'll do us just faaaahhhhhn.


And finally (as you all breathe a sigh of relief, I know), the kids have been doing some growing since last I shopped for summer clothing for them. Especially Sophia; she's now, like, a foot taller than Jack! No lie. She needed a new bathing suit and picked this one out at Sears.

They all needed shorts and tees, so I bought bunches upon bunches of those for each kiddo, too, along with one dressy outfit for each kid. Inexplicably, after making a painstaking order there, Sears canceled several of my items and let the rest go through. Buh-wha-huh? I have to call them. I want those things, dammit! They need 'em! But it'll keep 'til 0900. Which, oh, is four minutes from now. Serendipity, baby!

Oh, shit, I totally forgot one more big splurge! Well, not like, a boat big, but Shamu big. *Ahem*


Yep. We're going to Orlando on Monday and Tuesday! Rob still has a little bit more time (a month, maybe) on Active Duty, so that means he and three dependents still get in for fah-reeeee at Anheuser-Busch parks through their ongoing Here's to the Heroes Salute program.  That leaves one kid out, so I bought another ticket, along with our parking pass, dine-all-day passes for Rob and the kids (I'll nibble and graze meagerly), and a stroller rental voucher. I can't wait, and the kids are ecstatic! (The stroller is mostly for Jack, who still has trouble walking sometimes, especially for long periods of time, thanks to his tight Achilles tendons, and also to keep the kid out of the sun here and there, and also in case we want it to carry things around the park without holding them.) Can't wait to see the shows, can't wait to see Shamu, can't wait to see my babies' faces when they get to feed a fish or two to the dolphins. Wheeee! That'll be Monday.


I think we'll do this on Tuesday, but we might not. I don't know yet. We'll see. Maybe we'll just come home Tuesday, or we might hang out with my online friend, Gloria, whom I've not yet met, or maybe we'll... hm. I don't know! Suggestions?

NOW I'm finished.

I have some mystery shops to go do today, along with my doctor's appointment for this thing growing on my chin, soooo.... whew! This post took forEVER to write.


P.S. I'm such a liar. That's not all. HAHAHA. The cats got new beds and litter to poop in - LOTS of litter.

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Earth Day 2013


It's super-annoying that Typepad doesn't seem to wanna auto-save anymore, and I lose almost an entire kick-ass post when the screen freezes. But anyways...

While I was going about my business preparing for our Earth Day picnic on Monday, Rob came out wearing this Navy-issue peacoat, with the Meerschaum pipe in his mouth, saying, "Picture me on the bridge of our boat, steering across the Atlantic..." and I totally could. Can you? Course you can. It's still our dream, y'know. In a heartbeat, we would...


I had been searching on the old innernet for Earth Day activities and crafts when I came across The Nature Conservancy's All Hands on Earth picnic website. The idea, in a nutshell, is to foster sustainable food-eating practices by buying local and in-season to reduce, you know, gas and energy consumption from the production and distribution of worlds-away, out-of-season, uh... I said that way better the first time, but you get the gist, right? Right.

I had no fundage available at the time to run out to the Farmer's Market and pick up some deliciousness, so I figured I'd just use what we already had on hand to reduce waste, live frugally, and other great things we try to practice on a daily basis. I had cooked a bunch of chicken tits in the Crock-Pot the night before and still had half a -Pot left, so I tore that up and added some gorgonzola cheese crumbles leftover after our salad fixin's were used up, along with some apples I diced to add some sweetness and crunch. Along with some seasonings and Miracle Whip (Rob's fave), it was aces all around. Total yummo.


We chose Biscayne National Park as the nearby destination for our picnic because, despite the fact that it's too far to walk or ride a bike for us, the idea of Earth Day connotes (to me, anyway) surrounding oneself in the beautiful precious natural resources of our planet, and so it seemed a fitting locale. The last time we were there, I'd gotten a wicked bad sunburn from being too stupid to put on SPF before lying down on a towel with my library book. I just discovered what appears to be a melanoma - for which I'm going to the doc in about 7½ hours - on my chinny-chin-chin Monday morning, so I wasn't taking any chances with those harmful UV rays. We took along everything from SPF 30 all the way up to 85+. Although, really? Is that fo'real?


Aside from our afore-mentioned chicken salad on both spinach and sun-dried tomato wraps (also already on hand), we had mango cubes (I'd searched for a YouTube video on cutting them perfectly:


and it was spot-freakin'-on. Worked like a charm, after many failed attempts on my part.)

Plus, I threw in a bunch of bagged cereal for snacks, and Sophia snuck in half a pound cake for good measure. We served everything on reusable napkins and wrappers, and a pitcher of fruit punch was served in regular ol' plastic kids' cups. Leave no trace, leave the place better than when you found it, and all that.


When Jack dropped a piece of his cereal, this duck walked boldly up to him and looked askance. Not in the "how dare you?!" sense of the word, but "how dare you not feed me?" sense. He stayed there, quacked a few times, and made Jack squirm and squeal a whole bunch. It was hilarious.


We really laughed out loud a moment later when the two ducks on the bottom and left waddled up in perfect unison, speeding zip-zip along the sand to get their pieces of the proverbial pie. They didn't get any from us, although I noticed Sophia "accidentally" dropped one or two their way. Soon a fourth joined the flock, and by then we were surrounded by Muscovies looking to join our Earth Day picnic. Fun times.


After lunch, I sent the kids off on a Nature Treasure Hunt geared for kids aged 8-11, which, hey, is perfect since that's what range my kids all fall into, hey? The first one (of ten) was: "Find a place where an animal made a home," so off they went toward the mangroves to find nests or burrows. The three quickly spotted deep, wide holes in the ground and decided something had dug its way in, and I couldn't argue with that, so I gave them credit.


The second one directed them to make fairy homes out of natural objects, so Sophie had the idea to make teepees out of dried-out palm leaves. Chloë and Jack quickly followed suit; all but Chloë got them to stand without being held.

3. Find a seed - Easy! They just had to look up at the big palm trees everywhere to find them hanging out like so many, um, testicles. (What can I say? It's where the mind automatically goes.)

4. Make a tool, like a hammer or drawing stick. Jack, not being terribly imaginative, picked up a stick and started drawing. Okay, fine. Sophia, surprisingly equally unimaginative, picked up a stick and started hammering the top of her fairy teepee. Okaaaay, Chloë? She picked up a stick and pretended it was a screwdriver, driving, er, screws into the dirt. Better, but totally uninspired. Still, we moved on.

5. Find or name two things that all living things need to survive. The kids shouted out things like, "A home!" "Air!" "Food!" "Water!" etc. This one was too easy for this age group, IMO.

6. Listen for five sounds, including both human ones and otherwise. They listened to birds singing, people shuffling their feet on a nearby path, folks talking, boats' engines starting up at the marina next to us, and the wind whispering through the trees. That last one was my favorite.

7. Find a place where a plant-eater would be happy. Again, in a national park, way too easy.


The eighth one was super-cute. They had to spy on a bug. Jack crouched down first and watched an ant go ten ways to Sunday, all over the sand. Sophia and Chloë traced their own insects, and soon they all met up, head-to-head, with their daddy. I was thinking he probably wished he had a magnifying glass to light 'em on fire, because that's just the kind of Bob he is, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe.

9. Find a pattern in nature. They all came up with A-B-A-B-A-B patterns, so I challenged them to find something other than that. Jack was the first to do so; he found spirals projecting out from the center vein of a leaf, and I was proud.

10. Find something other than an animal that can live in water. First, they named about 3400 different animals before noticing us crossing our arms over our chest, tapping our feet and rolling our eyes all over the place. "Ohhhhh! Like seagrass?" Yeah. Duhhh.

We were done with that, and rather than do sunprints, they decided to go swimming again. Fine and good, but I was freezing and wasn't joining in. The lifeguard came over to speak at us about letting them go too far out without a parent right there (in zero waves, with a lifeguard spitting distance away, but whatevs), so Rob went in while I lay in the sun and fried a little more. My SPF 85+ was failing me, y'all! I reapplied.


Then, Rob rigged up his fishing poles and took us to go fishing. Well, took the kids, while I followed along for some Instagramography of whatever they caught (big fat nothin', it turned out). But check this sign - crocodiles?! In Florida? Gators, sure - we'd seen an 8-footer the last time out, in the canal near our house - but crocs? Who knew? Not I, not me, not us. Jack was determined to find one, but we didn't.

Also, I'm pretty sure they stole that croc drawing from Peter Pan.


Rob didn't have any bait, so he used a Sabiki Rig to try and catch some. He cast waaay far out, and then near, and then far again... but not even the pinfish were biting. So the kids and I went exploring while he kept trying.

We went up to the end of the walk, which culminated in, like, a pier, and looked out at the water. Another fisherman was next to us, so they meandered over to him to see what he was doing. "Fishing." What do you have on your hook? "Bait." He amused me. The kids kept pressing. My kids are pressers. So we learned this about him: He was originally from Ithaca, New York, now lived in Texas, and was here in Miami on temporary extra duty. He had never fished here before and insisted that pinfish couldn't be used to catch snapper, grouper, or larger fish, but Rob taught him how to rig the baitfish for better success (not that he was having any, but he had on previous outings, after all). He was fishing with live shrimp. I had about seventy-nine more facts about him on the tip of my brain, but they all just scattered because of course, I need them right now. Oh, and he gave Rob a beer. That was nice. Maybe it was a consolation prize, since neither man was having any luck with the fishies that day.


Rob gave up for a while, and just then, a manatee came into view, swimming toward the harbor. Another, smaller (I'm guessing female) sea cow swam toward him, and they met nose-to-nose for a few moments before the female turned, and they both swam away in the direction of the marina. It all happened too fast, just like with alligator the other day, for me to get a good picture, so all I have is this one of the four of them looking and pointing. It was SO breathtaking, Chloë was near tears, Sophia couldn't stop exclaiming, and my heart was racing. What wondrous things we've seen in our month here so far!


And then, if that weren't enough, a pelican flew in and landed near us. The kids thought that was just fantastic; they walked over and got in the big bird's face, not knowing how aggressive those things can be. They want fish, and they want it now. The pelican squawked, flapped its wings, and moved toward them. They yelped and jumped back, while I laughed. A third fishergent caught a pinfish - at last! - and threw it in the center of the pier. The kids gawked while the pelican stormed over there and gobbled it up. Only, the fish was spreading its rays, and the bird couldn't swallow it. We all watched, helpless, as it gagged and regurgitated the fish repeatedly, struggling to get it down its gullet with no success. What to do, what to do? Call a park ranger? Finally, with one loud gulp, the fish was choked down and bulging in the pelican's neck. Whew! What a relief.

We went home, exultant in our beautiful day, reliving all the amazing sights we'd seen.

Hope you all had a happy Earth Day, recycling and reusing and reducing. Remember to link up here if you're wordless - or not - today, too!


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Link up here if you're fragmenting with Mrs. 4444 today!

Time flies 

Is anyone else shocked it's May already? For Heaven's sake, our pool will be open in 3 weeks already! I can't believe how fast the time is flying. We are so busy all of the time, it's almost hard to keep up with flipping the calendar pages, I swear. Man. I wish I could clap my hands and stop time temporarily, and just... breathe.


I haven't been here in a few weeks, again, because of our packed schedule. Aside from our usual nutso routines, we've had a billion and one doctors' appointment, and Rob's had an accident that has kept me occupied carting him to those, work, and everywhere else, so... I am off my blog routine again. But! I am here now, and that's what counts, amiriiight?


King neptune

If you've ever thought about visiting my town, Virginia Beach, I just wrote this sponsored blog post about many of my favorite places and things to do here. Check it out if you're interested!

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I love this cute picture of Jack eating wings during a mystery shop a couple of days ago.  With the watch and everything, he looks so grown up! For a nine-year-old shrimp, that is. I've been doing lots of mystery shopping again lately to make some much-needed extra fundage. It's fun, but man, all the reports! Ugh.


I swear, Virginia must be the vanity plate capital of the world. They're so cheap here, after all. Even I have one! I'm going to start taking pictures of the ones that amuse or interest me and posting them as part of my Fragments posts each week (or month, as it were). Can you see this one that I snapped today? It says "RR M8T." Arggghh, Matey! Hee. Do you have vanity plates?


On Wednesday, the kids took part in the coolest thing. We drove up to the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA, to attend a special event: a ham radio chat - which NASA said couldn't be done - with International Space Station Astronaut Donald Pettit! Here, the kids first learned about the early age of exploration, in the times before, during and after Columbus' life, so they could later relate that Age of Exploration to the current Space Exploration.


Then, we migrated over to the closed studio, where we connected with three classes (in New York, Michigan, and Louisiana) and the astronaut in outer space, about 400 km above Earth, over Italy. Selected students were able to ask questions and hear Pettit's answers in real time, and we learned a lot about living aboard the ISS. Did you know it only takes eight minutes to get up there, but two days to transfer into the space station? Wow. I would kill to have that opportunity. Maybe one day they'll take an old fart like me and see what they can do with me. I'll be like the female John Glenn. Anyway, it was really cool, and my kids - especially Jack up there - got a lot out of the experience. Way cool!


I took Rob in for his Neuro follow-up today, after his mini-stroke scares and subsequent finding of a benign brain tumor back in November. I was hoping for a more thorough check-up than the five minute "How are you? Fine? See you in six months" that he got, but I guess no news is good news. He hasn't had any weird things going on like he did six months ago, even after his accident, so I suppose all is well for now. He'll go back in another six months.


Also today, I went in for a my regular dental check-up, fully expecting to have two new cavities. My teeth have been ultra-sensitive lately, especially in two places, so I thought fillings were going to be the order of the day, if not a full root canal or some badness. But the diagnosis was surprising: I grind and clench my jaw and teeth so much that it's causing my gums to recede, and my enamel to wear, which is causing the pain and discomfort. The dentist said he'd be happy to sell me a $600 mouth guard, or I can go pick one up at any drug or sporting goods store for five or ten bucks and try that. Hmm. Tough choice. But yay for no new cavities!


Stay tuned for a post about our train trip up to Richmond last week; we had so much fun in our two short days. I'm so glad MIL suggested it!


Aren't these newsprint nails so cool?! I am totes going to do this as soon as I find where I put the rubbing alcohol. Hopefully that'll work, since Rob drank all the vodka and stuff. Kidding. There's probably not even a beer in this house. I love this manicure, though. Trés cool.


And finally, my 10½-year-old, Chloë, has a "boyfriend," S. Yeah. We've reached that stage. They're mad about each other. I even had to go on a ride with them to make sure they didn't kiss!!! WHAT?! She's TEN, FPS. I'm keeping a tight rein on this one and don't let them hold hands or anything, but S did recently give her a necklace in her favorite color, with hearts on it... oh, my word. I'm not ready for this part!

Chloe 2

Since Chloë had a photo shoot for her acting and modeling "career" recently, my friend Saritah - S's mom - was joking about, "Great, my son is dating a model. That'll go to his head..." but yeah. He is. Hee.

Well, I hope you all have a great weekend, and I'll be back in a bit with my Aloha Friday question & some more updates from our latest travels and adventures. Ciao for now!


Team Odette: Health Watch

If you've been around here for a while, even if you've been in and out, then you know the five of us seem to LIVE at the emergency department and have lots of health issues. Well, we do, and I often get asked about what's going on with so-and-so with such-and-such, so here's a mostly-comprehensive update for all you concerned citizens out there. I'll go in age order, to simplify things, starting with the Old Fart.


Rob had a nasty, scary accident last weekend. We thought he'd broken his arm, which would have been a miraculously slight injury compared to what could have been, but he didn't even do that. He's got what's known as "Goalkeeper's Thumb," and he'll probably need to see a hand specialist for the resultant pain and nerve damage he's sustained. Currently, I'm hauling him to work and his various doctor appointments, which is killing us on gas, but at least he's here to kill us on gas, so I'm thankful.

Other than that, he's doing well. There have been no more stroke-like symptoms and nothing going on with the brain tumor. That's just a "watch and see" situation, so there's not a whole lot to report on that subject. He's great as far as that's concerned. Whew!

Oh yeah, one more thing: He's got an inguinal hernia on which he'll need surgery sometime next month. It's painful for him, so between that and the arm, he's in a lot of discomfort lately. I feel bad for the ol' chap.

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I've got several things going on, and I take an annoying abundance of prescription medications for my various physical and mental ailments. I eat more medication than food in a day, I swear! My diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder I With Psychosis continues to dictate much of how I function personally, and we function together as a family unit, although my current cocktail has found me in the fleeting myth that is mental stability with this disease once again. I'm trying not to focus SO MUCH on the disease, else it takes over and becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy type of situation, if that makes any sense.

I remain in therapy, with the most awesome therapist I've ever had. And I've had a few more than a few! We have made great strides recently and are really getting into the nitty gritty now. It's tough work, but we've had several huge breakthroughs, and I know we are really getting somewhere. My therapist is proud of me, my friend Jenny From the Block is proud of me, and I do believe that I am proud of me. I now believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and I can see that someday there will be an end to the anguish and heartache that have shackled me for nearly three decades to depression and suicidal ideation. It's a tremendously wonderful feeling.

In other news, I'm currently suffering from a lot of bad migraines and have restarted the steroid treatment, along with three other maintenance and abortive drugs, that I used in the past to get things back on track in the ol' noggin. Starting in college and ending when I was pregnant with Sophia, I had a migraine or some type of bad headache every day for 10 years, and the same Headache Clinic diagnostician fixed me up then.  It's not happening as rapidly this time around, but I can feel things are improving.

And finally, I've recently seen the gastroenterologist, since I continue to (sorry) vomit several times a day since my surgery more than three years ago. I started having severe heartburn a month or two ago, and it's gotten progressively worse, so I'm getting another upper endoscopy in a few weeks to see how badly I've eroded my esophagus. More drugs for that, and they work great, so hopefully we can get things repaired in the food tube.


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Not a whole lot going on with Chloë at the moment, which is great. She was evaluated for her growth deficiency several months ago, which is a different form than Jack's, but she's not eligible for the growth hormone shots he gets. At least, insurance won't pay for them, because they're not "medically necessary" since her 5-year-old size correlates to her bone age (according to x-rays and bone scans done on her hands). This was devastating news to her, and she cries every time it comes up. She really wanted those shots; the novelty of being a pixie doll has worn off, and she wants to grow. I think she's lovely just the way she is - as is Jack - so it breaks my heart that she's so disappointed and upset about her body. We continue to work on her self-image, and other than that, she'll be followed by the endocrinologist for her growth issues from here on out. 

All three kids have well-child check-ups coming up on Monday, so I plan to discuss their respective migraine issues (all FIVE of us suffer from them, which sucks as a parent watching them in the same horrible pain you know and have experienced yourself) and see if I can't get them followed by neurology in the same Headache Clinic I visit.


Jack's migraines are the least frequent, and he continues on his nightly shots of Nutropin (growth hormone). He's doing fantastic with that, both in that he's actually growing and I've finally had to bump my 9-year-old boy up to 4T pants (hey, I didn't say he was huge) recently, and also in actually taking the shots. He barely flinches anymore and is this-close to giving them to himself. We're trying to get him to be able to do it on his own, but he's not quite ready for that, so he does everything to set up the shot except press in the actual injection. Other than that, he's doing wonderfully!


Sophia went back to CHKD (Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, based in Norfolk) on Thursday for the breathing issues with which she continues to intermittently experience.


Chloë was with Rob while he was getting an ultrasound over at Portsmouth Naval Hospital (for his hernia), which is why she isn't in these pictures from CHKD. There was a lot of hurry-up-and-wait time for this visit, so I kept Jack and Sophia busy with memory games. This is just a collage of the various silly faces they made while thinking of what was said before that they had to repeat, and what they would say on their turns. I kept having to simplify the game, which was an "A, my name is Alice" type of thing, because they couldn't think of enough place names for each letter and would get frustrated. Still, it passed the time!



Finally, we were taken down the hall so Soph could do another breathing function test, and she did pretty well on that. She struggled a little bit at times, but for the most part, she exhibited good, full lung function.


While I was trying to get a decent picture of that, my silly boy popped up in the middle of the picture and made this face. Goof!

So after talking with the pulmonologist, Dr. E., about the various tests Sophia's had (Pulmonary Function Tests, MRI, etc.), she continues to be concerned about the Cental Apnea and thinks there may be an Obstructive Apnea component to that as well, since I reported Sophia's increase in frequency and volume, and Dr. E. felt enlarged tonsils. I have to get her back to CHKD for an x-ray of her adenoids, and then she's going to see the ENT about possible removal of those and the tonsils.

As far as the daytime breathing issue, Dr. E. continues to be stumped by it. Upon further discussion, the two of us put together that she must have some sort of negative association with new van, and I'm going to get her into therapy to figure out what is wrong. We think they're panic attacks, since 90% of the time, that's where they happen, almost always when Rob's not with us or we are having any kind of dispute up front if he with us. She witnessed an argument shortly after we got the van - actually the night we brought it home - and this issue started within a fortnight or so of that, hence this epiphany. We'll see how it pans out, but I probably won't give a lot of detail on that except to give a yay or nay on whether it's been resolved, in the future.

In other news, Sophia is ENORMOUS. Well, for one of our kids, that is. She eats, like, 10 small meals a day. I mean, it's constant. She's solid and squeezy, but not chubby, so she definitely works off all those calories. She's over 55 lbs at age 7 now, while her 10½-year old sister is about 48 lbs and 9yo brother hovers around 40! The hand-me-downs from Chloë to Sophia have reversed to hand-me-ups, which aggravates the older child to no end, poor thing. When I buy clothes (size 7 for Sophia, while Chloë's still in a 5-6), I make sure to get a few special pieces that are new for Chloë, to ease that sore spot.

And finally, Sophia's migraines are worsening. She's had three since winter began, which may not sound like a lot, but they're really bad when they do happen. She rarely throws up, but she always does when she gets these. She had one on Thursday night and was absolutely miserable until she slept it off and woke up around 0400, bouncing off the walls as usual.

So that's that. Consider yourselves up to date. I'll be catching up on blogging today, since we're heading up to Richmond with Jenny FTB and her kids on the train tomorrow until Friday (sans Rob), and laundry and packing will be our main foci today. I'll need the break from that!

Have yourselves a good one!


Saturday 9: How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?


Link up here if you're playing along with Crazy Sam and the gang today!

1. How did you cope with your biggest heartache?
I attempted suicide. Hey, don't ask the yucky questions if you don't want to hear the yucky answers. I was neither the first time, nor was it the last time.
2. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital?
My husband, in November, when he was having his stroke scares and we discovered his benign brain tumor.
3. How many jobs have you held in your life? How many of those were part of your chosen career field?
Eight or so. Part of my field? Hm. There was my internship at Mote Marine Lab, my teaching assistantship at the U. of South Florida, and ... does the dive shop in Key Biscayne count? It was related, sorta. Other than that, they were just to pay the rent and bills.
4. How did you discover Saturday 9?
Probably from another blog? It's been so long now, I don't remember.
5. If you could take the train from anywhere to anywhere, where would 'anywhere' be?
Oh, I'd go cross-country across the U.S. I've always wanted a long train ride experience, with the sleeper cars and all that. What fun!
6. When was the first time you cooked for someone else?
I don't know, I was probably 10 or so. I don't want to think about that life, though, outside of my therapist's office.
7. What is the worst beverage you've ever tasted?
LOL, Jack ordered something like a Sprite with chocolate or something similar, at Sonic. It was gag-worthy. Oh, icky-puke! All five of us tasted it; all five of us agreed.
8. Is there anything in life you are "certain" about? Firm in your beliefs? Strong in your convictions?
Evolution. Anyone who doesn't believe in it, in my opinion, is stupid. S-T-U-P-I-D. It's an observable phenomenon. Sorry if you disagree, but, I think you're stupid for it. Heh. (Don't let the door hitcha... and all that.)
9. Do you know anyone who has as very unusual pet?
My mother had a pet monkey when she was a little girl. It died of pneumonia. Otherwise.... my sister has somewhere between 50-100 snakes in her basement, all varying morphs of ball pythons, and the requisite feeder mice and what-have-you. And she makes fun of me for having four cats!!
Well, that was fast. Nine questions just aren't enough; sometimes I feel like saying more.
Have a good weekend, if you're still here after #8. Haha.

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Hiya, fellow fragmenting folks! Link up here if you're into bits 'n' pieces today! Thanks for hosting, Mrs. 4444. ♥

So I haven't blogged much this week, not like more than a handful (a small handful, like a lemur's hand. Wait, a lemur's hand? Nevermind...) of people noticed, but I did change the blog header. Do ya like it? I didn't mean to include myself in there, but I couldn't figure out how to center the kids' picture, and I didn't want all that blank space, so... there I am! But the kids, so cute, right??

Mrs. 4444 asked for a health update on my hubs. So here it is: We saw Neuro on Wednesday, and he was in and outta there in five minutes or less. Basically, his spinal MRI was all clear, and they ruled out the Von Hippel-Lindau disease, so that's good. He's still having headaches sometimes, but they're fewer and farther between, if not more mild. So the current treatment will just involve maintenance for that, and occasional monitoring of the benign tumor (cavernous angioma) in his cerebellum. Pretty good. Guess I can stop lining up potential future suitors and counting my life insurance money now, right? (I jest, I kid, I josh, I joke!!)

So I've been hexipuffing these last coupla days. What's a hexipuff, you ask? Why, here are four I've done:


So if you can't tell from the pictures, they're little knitted hexigon-shaped pockets stuffed with a wee bit of fiberfill, and then when you've made enough, you sew them together to make a kind of hexipuff quilt, AKA the Beekeeper's Quilt, as seen here. Cool, huh? I like making them. It doesn't take long to make one, or use up a lot of yarn, so I'm addicted to doing it when I have a down moment (okay, and sometimes when I should be doing eleventy-billion other things, like, um, always...)

Do you have pets? Love 'em? Take pictures of 'em sometimes? Go answer my Aloha Friday question here, pretty pretty please! If you have a post, link to it in your comment as well, and I'll answer yours. Thanky kindly!

So I have had a major upset stomach (TMI but we're talking both ends, living in the bathroom) for three days now. It's NO fun, and I feel sooooo weak. It made me miss my Girl Scout meeting for the second meeting in a row, and I felt badly about that until I learned two things (a) everyone was glad I didn't bring my tummy bug to get them all sick and not mad at me, and (b) they ran the meeting with my Daisies anyway, so the girls didn't miss out. Still, I felt like a crappy Leader. Well, pardon the pun...


Here's the (undoctored) photo that didn't make the cut into the blog header. I think I made the right choice. What do you think?


Did you know you could shrink Crocs by putting them in the dryer? True story! Chloë accidentally washed the one on the right and, well, now we're out a pair of shoes, darn it! Funny, though. I guess we'll wash the other one and give them to someone with smaller feet, huh?


So I took the kids to Sears for their portraits (free sitting fee & 8x10, so that's all I'm getting, because hello, we po') on Monday, and it was first thing when they opened, so no one else was there. So why did it take over an hour, and I STILL didn't get to pick my portrait? Because their computer system wasn't functioning properly. Ugh. That was annoying. That picture better be cute, if I ever get back there to choose it.... ;P

(Note that these are the girls' holiday dresses but not Jack's, which was supposed to be here by the 30th, and, uh, it's not. Grr. Grr, Old Navy, I say, grr!)

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So I've been lame and kind of giving the kids Christmas presents whenever I feel like it, instead of waiting until the actual Day o' Christmas this year. Anyway, I made this dress and shawl (color combo chosen by Chloë; don't blame me!) for Chlo's new American Girl doll that she got for her birthday. Don't you think Faith looks so cute in it? It was super fast to make, too. I'm going to make her a bunch of outfits so she has a whole wardrobe of hand knits. Hey, I like knitting (and crocheting) on a small scale, what can I say?


Speaking of giving them early Christmas presents, they each got one of these cool nightlight lamp thingies from Discovery Kids. Did I show you these already? Well, I gave them to 'em. It was cool because I asked each one privately, separately, which one they really wanted most, and they each chose a different one! Serendipity, baby!!!


One last pic and then I'll let you be. So I totally got these Webkinz (another Christmas present for the kids, I know, I know) for FREE! Can't beat that. I didn't pay one thin, uh, penny, not even for tax. Can you saw AWESOME? Because that was. And they were happy! Look at the boy! The one who "doesn't know how to smile" is doing a pretty good job of it there, eh?

Okay. That's all I got. Lucky you!!  Happy weekend.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Link up with Mrs. 4444 if you're fragmenting today!

NOTE to Mrs. 4444 herself: I have a really hard time commenting on your new DISQUS system. It usually doesn't let me, and when it does, it usually takes me at least four tries. Please, change it back so I can comment?? ☺

Today was the first day in about 3 weeks that Rob (Hubs) hasn't had a migraine of some degree. Hallelujah! The steroid course the neurologist prescribed is working. Whew! His tummy is upset from it, but it's a welcome trade-off as far as I'm (and he) is concerned!

You gotta know when to delegate authority sometimes, and today was one of those days. Between my own health problems, which have been in the background but cumbersome enough these past three weeks, and Rob's, and the kids' various issues, I've been drained. Today was our regular Girl Scout meeting date, and I just didn't have the energy to go, much less run it, or even plan anything. So last night, at the almost-11th hour, I called my assistant and begged her to take over the meeting for me. She seemed happy to do so, and let me tell you, it was SUCH a relief. I'm not really good at asking for help, but I'm so glad I did. I usually am, as it turns out.

Do you have an iPhone, or other Smartphone, like we do? I find I download lots of cool-sounding apps and then rarely use most of them, because I forget about them. Tell me I'm not the only one.

I have a headache. Ironic, isn't it? Actually, I've had one just about almost every day that Rob's had one. Maybe it's something in the air. :\

I have baby fever again, even though neither Rob nor I is capable of making them, after visiting with my friend Donnatello's sweet little girl yesterday. Ah! She's precious. I can't stand it. Babies. I just ♥ them.

Is it wrong, or normal, I wonder, that when Rob was at the height of his health crisis, I was listening to the radio and my iTunes music and deciding which songs might be considered for his memorial service? That, and I was considering who might prospects might be if I were to re-marry. Well, if it's wrong, don't tell me, because I don't want to hear it. Besides, I told him. :P (His opinion? Normal.)

Don't forget that today is mega-Swagbucks Friday! Sign up here if you haven't already. I've already won three times tonight, and we're only 45 minutes into Friday on the Right Coast! I'm up to 52 $5 Amazon.com gift cards and counting... Hey, free money! Don't forget to do the daily polls and watch Swagbucks TV in addition to doing searches; I've boosted my 'take' considerably that way, lately.


Ever since we went to Europe in 2008, I've been coveting a Smart Car (hey, I could put it in the minivan's trunk, or maybe strap it on the back like my Odyssey was reproducing by budding), but then the other day a forest green BMW 325i convertible was driving down the road (by itself, yes), and now I covet that, too. Looked kinda like this, but much nicer, newer, and shinier:



Of course, my dream car has long been an old-style Volvo - the boxier kind - but it'll be a long time, if ever, before I can have any of these cars, what with having to carry around a bunch of offspring and their stuff all the time. Le sigh. So what about you? What's your dream car?

Seems I riled up quite a few people yesterday when I posted a few politically-charged cartoons and status updates on Facebook, so I've decided no more of that! It's not worth losing friends over. Do you discuss politics with the people you care about? I normally don't, but sometimes things are just funny, and hey, I like to stir the pot once in a while... ;)

On that note, I bid you all adieu. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you're in the U.S. of A., and if not, a simply terrific week!

Until we meet again...


What A Pain In The Brain

It has been brought to my attention - by my Self - that I haven't really blogged about Rob's branial-cranial sitchyation, which is so weird, because I tell you every damn thing else that happens to me. (You're going, "We know, we know...") So, having gotten permission from Hubs Himself, I'm going to give it to you here in timeline fashion, as that's the easiest way for me to remember it all, and I may yet get it wrong because the days have blent together in me' noggin. But here goes:

October 29, 2011: While the girls and are camping out with the Girl Scouts, Rob stays home with Jack and endures probably the worst migraine of his adult life. (He used to get them badly as a kid, and has had a few here and there, but none like this.) Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, the whole bit. Classic migraine. Pain scale: 10.

October 30, 2011: We return home. Headache still present. Rob simpers that complaining to me about having a headache is similar to (example I can't remember, but unfair, basically, because I suffer from them frequently and badly myself), to which I reply that he is free to complain away, if it helps, as I sympathize.

Halloween: A better day, but we skip trick-or-treating (kids being disciplined) and do some shopping, during which headache worsens. We cut trip short and go home to medicate Rob.

November 1-2: Migraine present, but not vomiting, at least. Rob goes to work but comes home early both days, in pain.

November 3:  Headache persists and is so bad, again, that we go to ER. Doc takes history, gives Dilaudin, Phenergan, and Benadryl. Relief is immediate. Eventually, he is released and sent home.

November 4: My BFF, Dr. Lisa, inquires about Rob's visit to the ER and headache status. She insists symptoms are not normal and that he should NOT be at work but in hospital instead. Trusting her instincts, I inform Rob of this. He immediately comes home. We head back to ER. They perform CT scan and bloodwork. Labs appear normal, but CT pictures show evidence of TIA's, transient ischemic attacks, aka "mini-strokes." Hi, I freak. We are told they will contact NMCP (Naval Medical Center Portsmouth) to get his Neuro appointment bumped up ASAP. He is released.

November 5-6: Headache persists. Because of mini-stroke scare, I cancel my camping training trip for Girl Scouts to stay home with Rob, who is miserable.

November 7: Headache very bad. Stressed and anxious about TIAs (both past and possible current/future), I call civilian ER and implore them to call NMCP to move up the Neuro appointment. They inform me that 11/30 is earliest available as they have already done so, and to return if symptoms worsen or new ones appear.

November 8: Bad, bad headache. We return to civilian ER for treatment. ER doc once again takes history from onset of headache on 29 Oct and performs an exam. Finds right side neurological deficit, including weakness in hand and low/no reflexes in leg. I implore him to repeat CT scan, to see if there are changes (new mini-strokes?) since Friday's scan. He agrees. CT performed. New spots are noted but not ruled in or out as TIAs. Because of right-side weaknesses, he is transported by ambulance to NMCP and admitted to hospital. I go home, pack kids and food for co-op cooking classes, and drop them off at friend Jenny From the Block's house before heading to NMCP. I find him dozing and in the company of - surprise! - three male roommates, which means I will not, as expected, be spending the night with him. Sad. Neuro does rounds, checks on Rob. Says no food or drink until MRI is done in morning, which sucks because he's starving. Neuro orders pain and sleep meds by IV.  BP still high. I'm kicked out after 10 PM, more than two hours past visiting hours, over the protests of his friendly roommates.

November 9: In NMCP, Rob gets MRI of soft tissue, MRI of hard tissue, MRA (basically, an MRI of the vasculature). TIAs not necessarily confirmed, but not ruled out, either. Diagnosed with benign cavernous angioma, a tumor that's (correct me if I'm wrong) a tight cluster of blood vessels in the back left area of his cerebellum. "Benign" does not mean "not harmful," just "not cancerous." Bleeding could occur, which could cause blindness, kidney, pancreatic issues, and death, among other fun things, so there is much cause for concern. MRI is still needed for thoracic and cervical spine, to see if there are more tumors, as Von Hippel-Lindau disease is now suspected. It is decided to release him that evening and do the MRI on outpatient basis (scheduled for 21 November), keeping Neuro appointment for 30 November. Released with script for compazine only, for migraines.

November 10-11: Headache persists, possible migraine, not helped by Compazine at all. Extremely, worrisomely sleepy. Gets time off work (thank God) and sleeps most of time.

November 12-13: Rob okay, mas o menos, but again very sleepy. Sleeps most of weekend.

November 14: Migraine up to an 8-9. Two doses of compazine don't help. Recommended to take to ER by ??? (someone one of us called, but I was so tired, I can't remember who now), but again, I was too tired, I did not feel comfortable to drive. So, Rob takes an Ambien in order to sleep through the pain, and goes to sleep. Me too.

November 15: Migraine persists. New symptoms: Hyperesthesia, in that the pizza boxes I bought from 7-11 for the kids' dinner and hand over to Rob so I can drive are almost dropped, from the sensation of burning heat. I take them back; they are not at all hot. Not anywhere on the box, despite his protests that they are. Also, later in ER, tingling and numbness along jawline, from middle of ear to center of chin.

So, Immediately following my breast cancer gene appointment (see previous post), decision is made to return to civilian ER for migraine relief, after all-day suffering. Compazine not effective, at all, ever, so Dr. Melanie orders stoppage. What? You didn't know I was an MD? Me neither. We head to ER, which is unusually full. A long wait is promised. I decide to page the NMCP on-call neurologist, to see if we can't get a new migraine treatment med prescribed while we wait. In the meantime, Rob is called back to the exam room in short order, but waits a long time to see the doc. Finally, kids and I are allowed back, just as he is getting hooked up to IV saline drip. We wait another long time, during which NMCP Neuro returns my call, pissily asking what he can do for me THIS time and complaining that I am abusing the call-back privilege. I state that we have, in the meantime, gone to the ER for pain relief, that his primary care is NOT available in the off hours, and so therefore I should do what instead?! Neuro says, "Come see me at 0800 tomorrow so we can get a management plan in place until his upcoming appointments." Yay! Agrees that compazine should be discontinued (see?) and that we (he) should seek pain relief from ER doc until morning.

ER Doc then visits, takes history of this issue (from Oct 29-present) and proceeds to examine Rob. Agrees that compazine should be discontinued and new med prescribed, but upon hearing that we have an appointment the following morning with NMCP Neuro, tends toward providing immediate comfort and letting the Neuro make future medical decisions. Nurse eventually administers Dilaudid for pain, Phenergan for nausea, and more saline for dehydration. Observation ensues. Pain level goes from 9 to 2 quickly. YAYYYYYYYY. Doc decides to give another half-dose of Dilaudid to bring it down further, observe for 10 more minutes, and release Rob. We go home, Rob high as a kite and happy about it.

November 16: 0800 appointment with Neuro. Will update when possible.

Thank you to all of you who have been thinking of Rob and us, praying and sending good thoughts our way. We appreciate each and every one of you. I won't be sleeping tonight, as the kids and Rob have to get up in ~3 hours to get to NMCP on time for Neuro appointment, and I don't want to oversleep. Feel free to entertain me with lovely comments! ;)