Thursday, February 23, 2012

Things I've Learned....

Things I've learned as the mom of two girls (currently ages 5 & 7):

  1. I am the only one who can flush a toilet.
  2. I am the only one who can close the toilet lid.
  3. I am the only one who can fish things out of the unflushed toilet, such as toothbrushes, hair ties, and handsoap.
  4. I can no longer take a shower (or use the toilet) by myself. I will always have a child (or the cat) who needs my attention during those times.
  5. I am the only one who can change a roll of toilet paper.
  6. Kids will only puke in the middle of the night.
  7. I can make a casserole with all the foods they love (chicken, tomatoes, mac & cheese, veggies) and they will hate it.
  8. Barbie's clothes make her look like a hooker. Don't get me started on her shoes.
  9. Ken likes to wear Barbie's clothes.
  10. Nintendo DS games have a special black hole they disappear into never to be seen again because the concept of putting the games back into their cases will not get through certain thick skulls. 
  11. World War III will always start when I am writing/doing dishes/cleaning/talking on the phone because one of the 25 Barbies is missing and that is the one they can't live without even though she looks the same as all the others. I can only hope she isn't in the toilet.
  12. Bedtime takes two hours because someone always has to get up and pee, usually multiple times. Or they can't find their favorite stuffed animal or their left big toe hurts or they want to know why Zombies eat brains.
  13. They will always ask why I say words like hell and shit, usually in public places such as the grocery or pre-school.
  14. They will always see the midget/old man's buttcrack/morbidly obese person on the scooter in the grocery story and point he/she out, very loudly.
  15. Some days there just isn't enough wine. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Proof That I'm Getting Older. Dammit.

For most of my 37 years on this planet I have been relatively healthy. That is kind of an amazing feat, considering my family history of diseases and maladies, both rare and common. Heart issues run rampant on both sides of my family. Diseases such as dementia, glaucoma, and cataracts are also common, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arthritis. Those are just the “normal” health issues that many people face. But in my family, we also have our fair share of abnormal conditions. My sister has Pompe’s Disease, which is a glycogen storage disease that affects the muscles. It is very rare, only affecting around 1 in 40,000 births. My mother has Factor 5 blood clotting disorder, another rare disorder that only affects about 5% of the population. My daughter was born with a rare disease called Biliary Atresia, which affects 1 in 15,000 to 20,000 births. It is fatal if not caught in time, and although an initial procedure called a Kasai can be done, it is not always successful.  Many babies (including Bittle) end up needing a liver transplant – again, another rare procedure.  So you could see how I’ve surmised how lucky I am regarding my own good health. However, my luck has recently hit a snag.

A little over a year ago, I started experiencing serious neck and shoulder pain. At first I thought I did something to myself when I was working out so I stopped. Then I thought maybe I was sleeping the wrong way. Then I blamed the pain on sitting at the computer for too long, which I do quite a bit as a writer. As time passed, the pain seemed to get worse. But since I admittedly have a bit of a God complex, I kept thinking it was in issue I could fix, instead of consulting a doctor. Finally, I couldn’t take the pain anymore. My neck, shoulder and upper back hurt so much that I could barely move by the end of the day and I was having frequent headaches. So a few weeks ago I decided to go to the doctor. After he took what seemed like half of my blood for about a billion tests and undergoing a few CT scans, I had my answers.

My doctor told me the good news first – he said that my head CT was normal. (I started to take out a notebook from my purse to take notes with, but he assured me I would get a printout of what we talked about. I then asked him to list the statement “Head CT is normal” at the top of the printout in bold letters, so I have proof and can show it to certain people who doubt my sanity sometimes. You know, like my children, John, and my parents.) Then he said that I had high cholesterol, but it could be controlled with diet and exercise and gave me tips on how to lower the bad cholesterol but keep the good cholesterol high. (Here is yet another shameless plug for my love of red wine, as it is probably a factor in keeping my good cholesterol number high.) 

But then he told me the doozy: I have fairly progressive arthritis in my neck. That’s what has been causing the excruciating pain I have been feeling for over a year.

To be quite honest, the high cholesterol diagnosis along with arthritis really threw me for a loop, considering how healthy I’ve been all my life. I associate cholesterol issues and arthritis with people who are overweight and, well, old. I’m 5’2” and 110lbs, which is certainly not overweight. And let’s not forget, I’m 37, not 67. My doctor was very understanding of my reaction and offered tips and advice for dealing with arthritis. Before leaving the office I received a shot of something called Toradol, something I had never heard of, along with a prescription for high-test 500mg Naproxen, which I was to take twice a day for 10 days. When I called John from the parking lot, he told me Toradol is given to football players to get them back into the game after an injury. I thought that was super, as I was headed to Krogers and a pain numbing shot could make grocery shopping so much easier.

For about a week, I had no pain. But then I started developing chest pains and ended up in the ER – most likely a result of the high-test NSAIDs running through my bloodstream. Needless to say, that also scared the bejesus out of me.

Immediately following my diagnosis from my doctor, I had made a few dietary changes. A few days after the trip to the ER I started doing my beloved P90X again. (I have a love/hate relationship with that maniac, Tony Horton.) Since making the changes and adapting to a regular exercise routine I have felt better and the pain in my neck is minimal. I’m really hoping it stays that way.   

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bittle's Four Year Liver-versary!

Four years ago today my baby had her liver transplant. It has been four years of ups and downs, but I would not have traded it for the world.

Because of Bittle’s transplant, she has been given a chance to live – something she did not have before the operation. In fact, her doctors had warned us that she was getting to the point where surgery might not be an option at all, as there is a window of opportunity that closes if a person gets too ill. Getting a liver transplant and hoping that it worked was our only option for giving Bittle a chance at life. I know we are incredibly lucky, as many people on the transplant list do not get the organs they need to survive.

I often think of the donor family and the person they lost. I hope they have healed, although I know the loss of a loved one is something that always leaves a hole in your heart. I want them to know that what they did saved my daughter’s life. I want them to know that their loved one is living on through my daughter and that every extra day with my daughter is a miracle. I want them to know that they are the reason my daughter is with us today, and for that I will always be grateful.

I love my Bittle and every day throughout her long sickness I wanted to trade places with her. I wanted her to have the childhood she deserved. I wanted her to be able to learn to walk, to go to school and to learn to ride a bike. I wanted to take the pain away from her, but I didn’t have the power to do that. However, a stranger, a person we never met, gave my daughter the chance at life. 

My Bittle is now 5 years old and has blossomed into an independent little girl. She loves life, and has a truly impish nature that keeps us on our toes. She loves school and loves learning. Someday, I want her to go to college and be happy in her chosen profession, no matter what it is. Someday, in the far off future, I want her to fall in love. But for right now, I take one day at a time, and simply marvel at how she has grown. Biddle’s liver transplant healed her, and it went a long way toward healing our family. She is our miracle.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Words With Friends - A Valuable Teaching Tool. Maybe.

Okay, I admit it. I am addicted to a little game called Words With Friends. (I believe I've mentioned this game before.) It’s like Scrabble, and people can play it via Facebook or download the app on their smartphones. For those of you who have not yet discovered this little gem of a game, I have a question: What rock have you been hiding under? I would go so far as to say I spend more time playing Words With Friends than I do on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ combined. (In case you’re wondering, no, I do not have a life.)
            Don’t get me wrong; I still carve time out of my day to tend to my responsibilities, namely, the girls. I still manage to keep a (somewhat) clean house, get both kids to their schools, and also manage the duties of being a full time student myself. If I'm really lucky I fit in some time to do some freelance work and actually earn money. But I have to admit, hearing that special sound on my phone that notifies me it’s my turn in any number of the games I have going on still makes my heart flutter.
            As both a writer and a parent, I rationalize my constant obsession with this game by saying that it is a teaching form of entertainment.  After all, I’m expanding my vocabulary. I’m constantly exercising my mind. I’m even helping my children, as they also like to help me “make words”. That’s responsible parenting, right? I’m engaging my children in a game. But not some repetitive and mind-numbing video game that has no educational value (although those have their place in my household too). The way I see it, Words With Friends is a valuable teaching tool.
            One recent evening, I tossed the seven year old, Pie, in the shower. I surveyed the domain and realized that the dishes were done (mostly), the laundry was (almost) put away and the cat was fed. Perfect time to play a few games, as it was my turn in eight of the 14 games I had going on and I most certainly do not like to keep other players waiting when it’s my turn.
            I tapped my finger on the game I wanted to play in first. This game was becoming extremely dicey, as I was losing against my friend by 30 points. I’m not a sore loser; I just don’t like to lose—especially to people who cheat, which I believe my friend in this particular game does on a regular basis with one of the cheating apps. Seriously, how the hell does a person who regularly misspells all of their Facebook status updates know the words “ferly” or “quaen?” I’ve never even heard of those words and I have four damn dictionaries and two thesauruses.
            As I studied my seven letters and the layout of the board, I realized that I could quickly surge ahead by placing my W in a spot that would conjoin two words. This particular spot also happened to be a “TL” square, which means I would get triple points for the W for both words – a whopping 24 extra points on top of the actual points I would get for the words themselves. Then I looked at the board again and realized that if I added an “S” to the end of the one word it would also be a triple word, meaning that my points for the whole word would triple. Happy Birthday to me!
            However, I was doubtful about this move, because this game can be touchy sometimes and words that are deemed derogatory are not playable. One of the words that I was about to create was the word “whores”, which could be construed as derogatory in certain company. Oh well, I had to try, right? I owed it to my self to get as many points (without cheating) as possible. I placed the letters and hit “play.” To my eternal delight, the game accepted the words and I got a whopping 64 points, thereby knocking my opponent out on his proverbial butt. Score!
            At that moment, the hubs walked into the kitchen with the 5 year old, Bittle, trailing behind him. She was trying to show him her latest efforts at cross-dressing her Ken doll, but I thwarted her by shoving my phone in John’s face. I wanted to show him what I did, so that he could praise my expertise and obvious intelligence in this clever word game. I also did not want to say the word out loud, as the 5 year old has a propensity to repeat any word that might be considered as bad. Words such as damn, shit, and hell have all been uttered from her lips, and although I have told her those are bad words, her response to me is that she heard it from me and why do I say those worlds if they’re bad?
            “It let you play whores? Wow. Good job.” John said, followed by an eye roll.
            “Whatever, I’m stoked. I got 64 points for it. And this isn’t one of our games.” I was beating him in three of the five games we had going on, a fact that he was slightly touchy about.
            Bittle promptly left the kitchen, still clutching on to the Ken doll dressed in one of Barbie’s ball gowns. She hustled straight to the bathroom where Pie was showering.
            “Pie, guess what?”
            “What? I’m in the shower.”
            “But mommy played whore for 64 points in her words game! She’s very excited.”
            “I said, mommy played whore,” she yelled at the top of her lungs.
            “What’s a whore?” Pie yelled back.
            “I don’t know but it must be good. Mommy is very happy right now. Maybe she’ll let us have ice cream for a snack.”
            I might be rethinking my teaching tools.