26 December 2009

A stop in Savannah (with bonus)

I enjoy meeting internet friends in Real Life. After all, I met my best friend and my husband online. So far I haven't met an axe murderer, although my parents were half-convinced TheHusband was one before they met him ("he has tattoos!").

This year, I had a Christmas Eve present awaiting me in Savannah -- a meet-up with an internet friend, a fellow member of the sooper seekrit organization, the UCF. This friend prefers to remain anonymous, so I won't spill any info. I will, however, provide the picutre we took of TheHusband, MWT, me, and ThePinkThing.



It was fun, funny, yummy, and I'm sorry that MWT won't be in Savannah on the day we pass back through.

Now it's off to our real vacation. See you in a bit...

20 December 2009

Snoverload

Snoverload: an overload of snow.

Granted for the DC metro area, 7 inches of snow is a snoverload, but this is really insane. We totally got walloped with snow. TheHusband measured in two places in our yard and we got 29 inches of snow. Yes, yes, that includes drifting, but still, it is a ridiculously large amount of snow. The official amount is about 16 inches at National Airport, but that really doesn't reflect real life here in the DC Metro area. I am hoping that we are plowed out by Wednesday. Schools have been closed for tomorrow, and I expect that they will be closed again on Tuesday. I think Wednesday is a half day, so they punt that day, too. ThePinkThing thinks the snow is great (she and TheHusband had a snowball fight and tromped up and down the street this morning). I wish I was up to playing outside in the snow, but since I am still using the cane (and walker for longer walks), that is not in the cards. Boo. She is ecstatic at the thought of a snow day tomorrow. "I like learning, Mommy, but sometimes it's fun to not have school", she just told me. Maybe my place of employment will be closed tomorrow, since I'd like a snow day, too.

TheHusband has cleared the walkway completely, cleared his car off, and made a teeny little path along the edge of the driveway next to both cars. Since we live on a one-block long street with no streets behind us, I don't expect a plow to come through until tomorrow. He decided to bag any further shoveling until tomorrow for that reason.

As I said: snoverload.
____________________
Updated 8:28 pm

Hot damn. My office is closed tomorrow, so I get a snow day too. Yay, me!

19 December 2009

Let It Snow

Ah to be 6 again, during a big snow storm. It is much simpler and more fun.

I am worrying about being unable to help TheHusband clean off the cars (much less even touch the shovel), how he's going to shovel the 18+ inches of snow without having his back go out, and if I'll actually be able to get out of the house on Tuesday for my appointment. ThePinkThing was only thinking about fun. FUN! Snow! Eat snow, swim in snow, make snow angels (including one in the middle of our street), roll down the lawn in the snow, throw snow at Daddy, etc.

I think she has the right way of it... Perhaps I'll go out and eat some snow. :-)


Eating snow


A hand towel as makeshift ear-muffs


Butt-high snow by 5 pm


Shivery-cold


This is as far as I got


Our lonely street


Below knee-high at around noon


Well above the knees at 5 pm


Afterwards -- footie PJ's

14 December 2009

Nothing much to say

Really nothing much to say lately. Recovery is going along, not as fast as I would like, but not any slower than the neurosurgeon is expecting. I just want it to be over and done with. I am not good at this patience gig. But thankfully I am no worse, and there have been no further sequelae from the blood clots.

04 December 2009

Fun with phone menus

Call 1-800-295-0051. When you are asked if you want to continue in English or Spanish, don't choose either one, wait about 10 seconds, listen to the options and press 4. Then press 7 in the next set of options. If your phone has a mute button use it, because any noise (including laughter) resets it.

I literally howled with laughter.

No mother-in-law blues for me

By nature I am a people-pleaser. I am the kind of person who wants people to like me, and I like people in general. When someone doesn't like me, I feel bad/sad/worried. If I am in a situation in which I want to especially please people, unfortunately, I tend to become tongue-tied and nervous.

This brings me to my mother-in-law. I want my mother-in-law to like me. I really want that. She's never exhibited any behavior that makes me think otherwise, but I am still (after over 9 years of marriage) worried that I might say or do something to make her not like me. So I tend to be overly nervous around my MiL, say stupid things, and occasionally behave like a dolt. Mostly because I want her to like me. Add that to a constitutional inability to ask people for help, and you get sort of a mental quagmire. But I waded through it, called up my MiL (who has never been anything but nice to me, remember), and asked if she would come help us.

She immediately agreed and arrived this past Monday. My MiL is not a traveler. She likes to stay close to home. Her usual visits are about 36 hours, which inevitably make ThePinkThing grumpy (why can't Grammy stay longer?) and sad. But this time my MiL stayed for 3 days. And it was great. Fabulous. Wonderful. She entertained TPT (in actuality, TH and I tend to become invisible when Grammy is around), yakked with me during the day, cleaned stuff up, had lots of chat-time with her son, and was a boon to the household.

I can't thank her enough for taking the time away from work to come and mother/grandmother this household, which was sorely in need of it.

And now, perhaps, I will be less nervous around my MiL, and our relationship will be easier.

Note that my MiL reads this blog -- I am not writing this for her or for daughter-in-law brownie points. I am already her favorite DiL (okay, I am her only DiL, so the competition is not fierce). I am writing this because the visit went so well that I wanted to comment on how I hope it helps me get over my overly-nervous behavior around her (no, my MiL will not eat me) and that things will be better in the future. Which is deserving of a "YAY!"

02 December 2009

Happy neurosurgeon is a happy patient

Saw the neurosurgeon on Monday. He is pleased with my recovery so far. I am recovering as quickly as he was expecting me to (barring the bonus DVT and PE). The level of back pain is exactly as he expected. He wants me to see the rehab doc and start planning outpatient rehab.

There is only one thing about my recovery that I don't agree with and really can't stand. He expects me to be off work until January. Ummm, no -- can't do that. I'll go totally nuts. But he understands my need to get back to work, being a doctor himself. So I will try to work from home for a couple of hours a day beginning next Monday (12/7). I suspect that my supervisor and coworkers will be happy. I won't reappear at the office until after the new year, but I need to get back to work. Need to. I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things...

01 December 2009

I am a statistic

It's really difficult to identify how many medical mistakes occur each year, even during hospitalizations. There was a study published in 2000 by the Institute of Medicine that estimated that 98,000 patients die in American hospitals each year due to medical errors. But these numbers are really difficult to substantiate -- and nobody has a clue as to how many survivable medical mistakes occur.

I know that I have made incorrect diagnoses on more than one occasion (hello, that is why we have 2nd opinions...), but I do not believe that any of my errors have directly led to the death of a patient. The closest I came was during residency, when I forgot to order DVT (deep vein thrombosis -- blood clot in the deep veins of the legs) precautions in a new stroke patient. DVT precautions haven't changed in the past 15 years -- compression stockings and/or compression boots (boot thingies that inflate and deflate, squeezing and relaxing the calf and thigh muscles). If for some reason these methods are unacceptable, then the docs use low-dose blood thinners.

Well, I forgot to order the compression boots, and in the middle of the night on this patient's 4th post-stroke day, she suddenly developed shortness of breath and low oxygenation. Not only had she developed a DVT, she had also developed a pulmonary embolus (PE) -- when a piece of the clot in the leg breaks off, moves upstream in the venous system and ends up in the lung(s). Thankfully, the patient survived, although her stroke recovery was not very good (and unrelated to the DVT/PE, most likely). However, I never forgot DVT precautions on any patient thereafter.

This leads to my recent hospital experience.

Post-operatively, I was given SCD's (the compression boots) and compression stockings. However, I literally couldn't stand the damn squeezing of those boots -- inflate, deflate, inflate, deflate. It was making me crazy, to the point where I literally ripped them off my legs. I told the nurse that I refused to wear them, that I couldn't stand it. I have no idea if she passed on this incident to the neurosurgical PA's or not. If she didn't, then she should have ("bad patient in room 3004 is NOT cooperating with the DVT precautions"). If she did report it, nothing was done about it, and something should have been. That leads to the reason why my hospitalization was 14 days instead of 5 or 6.

You see, I developed some mild right leg pain on day 5 or 6, but on day 7, my right leg began to hurt like hell -- worse than my back post-op and worse than the left leg pre-op. It was a different pain, sort of crampy, and drawing up. I told the nurse who passed it on to the neurosurgical PA. The leg wasn't swollen when compared to the other one, but the PA ordered an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot. "Just in case."

Now we all know how hard it is to get any useful information about a test from a technician. Try asking the MRI tech what your MRI showed, and they always say something like "the radiologist has to review it first." I wasn't going to accept any answer like that from the ultrasound technician. So I played the doctor card -- I said that I fully well understood that a physician would provide the final reading of the ultrasound but that I also knew she did this day in and day out. She actually capitulated and told me that yes there was a clot extending from the calf to the lower thigh in the right leg. Fuck, I thought. Fuckfuckfuck. Literally, by the time I got back up to my room, the nurses and the PA already had the final reading which was still "clot."

One treats clots like these with blood thinners, to prevent spread of the clot or pieces breaking off and lodging in less pleasant places. I was started on a drug I'd never heard of (Arixtra), which was supposed to get me fully anti-coagulated within 24 hours. "Fine" I thought. At that point I was placed on bedrest, which was not much more activity than I was actually doing. Except bedrest meant no bathroom privileges, and I had to use the dreaded bedpan. 'Nuff said about that.

Later that evening, around 11 pm, I awoke with left-sided chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. I knew exactly what was going on, and for the first time, being a doctor was a major detriment. You see, I realized that a chunk of the clot had broken off, traveled up through the venous system and ended up in my left lung. Nobody could poo-poo me, or say "everything'll be alright", because I knew exactly what a pulmonary embolus was and that I was in danger for my life. They put me on oxygen which thankfully made the oxygen saturation of my blood go from about 84% on room air to 100% on oxygen. Someone finally got an IV in me and they gave me morphine which helped the chest pain. I was transferred to an intermediate care unit, which they do for all patients with pulmonary emboli (the blood clot to the lung). I called TheHusband and tried to minimize the situation. However, he consulted the University of Google ("blood clot, leg, lung") and found out a lot more than I wanted him to. He then spent a sleepless night.

I remained on the Arixtra and Coumadin (warfarin, aka rat poison) was added -- it is the only effective oral blood thinner available on the market. Eventually I had 98-100% oxygen saturation on room air, and the blood was thinning out nicely, so I was finally discharged, about a week after I should have been.

So even though I am a doctor, paranoid to the max about medical stuff, was being taken care of by an experienced medical team and an excellent neurosurgeon, I am also a medical statistic. A medical mistake. And because of my inability to tolerate the compression boots, I almost died, and now I'll be on blood thinners for the next 6 months at least. But I am grateful and thankful and lucky and happy to still be around...

30 November 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. I am taking the time to wish her a happy natal day, at least in part because if she weren't here, I wouldn't be. :-)

Thanks for being my help when I needed you, especially earlier this month when I was in hospital.

Have a happy day, and many more!

29 November 2009

More RED

This year's plans for Thanksgiving were completely bollixed up by the back surgery I had earlier this month. My extended family gets together every 3rd year, so we have begun to go to my in-laws for Turkey Day the other two years. This year would have been the 2nd in a row spent with my in-laws, which they did not mind in the least. Unfortunately, I was unable to handle that long of a car ride, and I was not quite well enough to be left here by myself. So we had to cancel our plans. TheHusband and ThePinkThing went to local extended family, and a friend came over and spent the afternoon with me. It worked out beautifully. TPT played with her 4 year-old cousin, TH had some adult conversation, and I had a completely relaxing and uncomplicated Turkey Day with a friend. I wish, in a way, that all of my Thanksgiving holidays were that relaxed.

But even though I have basically gone through hell during my hospitalization, I felt like TheHusband really deserved something special because he's had to deal with me in all my emotionally freaky glory these past 3 weeks.

So I arranged for a delivery of RED. RED? you ask. Yes, RED. RED soda -- that cheap stuff that TH loves, that can only be found in the Cleveland Ohio area -- Cotton Club's Cherry Strawberry soda. One of my coworkers went home to the Cleveland area for Thanksgiving, and I arranged for him to bring back some of it. It turns out that he brought back a whole boatload of the stuff. Here you see the haul -- the product of a visit to 2 different stores. Please note that one can is missing. It's already been opened, sampled, finished, and found very acceptable. I'm betting that ten 2 liter bottles and 48 cans last about a month and a half.

Many thanks to my coworker (who even refused payment). I may have to take him out for sushi in compensation (mmm, sushi). Once I am up and about.

I really have great coworkers...

22 November 2009

Early morning emergency (including crying)

(Scene: 7:20 am, my bedroom, TheHusband and I asleep.)

ThePinkThing (standing at TH's side of the bed): Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
TheHusband: Wuh. Huh?
TPT: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
TH: Whassa matter? What's wrong?
TPT: You ate my Halloween candy!!
TH (brain clearly still gummy): I only ate 3 pieces.
TPT: That was MY candy. And you ate more than that. You ate like 50 pieces.
TH: No, I didn't eat 50 pieces of your Halloween candy. I ate a few pieces last night.
TPT: Waaah! That's my candy, not yours.
TH: Okay, I won't eat anymore of your Halloween candy.

(pause)

TPT: Will you turn on The Magic School Bus for me?

(pause while TH goes downstairs then returns)

TH: Do you know that she found and looked in the random bag that I hid the candy wrappers? How the heck did she find that? And it's not like she'd have eaten the Almond Joys anyway...

--For a change, there was a household emergency that did not involve me.--

18 November 2009

Home

I am finally home after a two week-long stay in the hospital (it was supposed to be 4 or 5 days). I will likely post a summary of my hospital experience, although I think I need to get a bit physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger first.

To those of you who sent good wishes, emails, texts (especially the ones about muppet fornication), flowers, and/or called me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You all made an incredibly rough and sometimes scary two weeks more tolerable.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

08 November 2009

Hepped Up on Goofballs!

Hello all,

Here I am hepped-up on goof balls during post-op day four.

Just a note to let you all know I am doing better now that I am VERY medicated and will hopefully be moving to in-patient rehab soon. I will probably remain in the hospital for at least another week but I am making slow and steady progress.

Thanks to everyone who has called, emailed, sent wishes. These things have really helped me mentally and have improved my mood greatly. I will try and stay in touch through the web but I literally can only stay awake and aware for very brief periods of time.

Todays post is only possible via TheHusband who is typing this out. In fact I may nod off and some additional statements may be made without my knowledge or consent. Good thing I like him.

My husband is the most wonderful, kind-hearted, good looking, smartest A1 tip-top terrific person on the face of the planet! I worship the ground he walks on and will always follow his requests and wishes unquestionably!

04 November 2009

In the holding pen

Just sitting here in the pre-op waiting room, hooked up to IV's.

Will be taken back for surgery in about 15 minutes, am hoping to wake up about 3 hours later having no memory of the time passing.

To my fellow UCFers, I have declined ALL of your suggested implants as has the staff here at the hospital for some reason.

Will see you all tomorrow, while on drugs

01 November 2009

Dear Good Friend who is a Giants fan (you know who you are),

I may not be a football fan, but even I know that the Giants got shellacked today. By the Eagles, no less. Good thing we didn't come up to visit this weekend, or I might have had to dodge thrown objects.

Also, good thing that we've been friends for so long, because I am sure I'll pay for this blog post at some point.

Love,
Me

30 October 2009

Halloween on parade

Halloween at ThePinkThing's school. Why yes, I snuck out of work to see the parade...

ThePinkThing as a cheetah (she insists she's a cheetah, not a leopard)


BFFs

That'll learn me


'Nuff said.

29 October 2009

TheHusband's home!

His flight got in 45 minutes early, and since he had no checked bags, he zipped through the airport. I've decided to leave work and go see him.

(And I finally posted something that wasn't whiny or pathetic!)

28 October 2009

Bonus Illness

Woke up with severe belly pain last night. After trying to pretend it wasn't that bad, I finally had to go to the ER. Not as easy as it sounds with TheHusband still in Rome. I tried calling a friend, but she didn't answer her phone. I finally called the only family I have in the area -- my cousin's in-laws. They are amazingly wonderful people who didn't bat an eyelash when they got a call at 2:45 am. They both came over. Bev stayed at the house so that there was someone here for Allison, and Ben came to the ER with me. It was very comforting for me to know that Allison was safe and that I had someone there for me, too.

It turned out to be a kidney stone. Like I need another painful malady. I mean WTF? I can report that pain from a kidney stone is worse than that from a herniated disc. Not that I really wanted to know that, mind you.

I got home around 6:40 am, all drugged up. I called a coworker at around 8:30 to tell him what happened and that I would make it in for a meeting at 1 pm. Not long after that my boss called and told me to be real, stay home, and take care of myself. So I did. I still feel generally crappy but not as bad as I did earlier. The friend who I couldn't reach last night is sleeping here tonight, just in case. I am hoping that Murphy's Law kicks in. Since I am planning for something bad to happen, nothing will...

I can't wait until TheHusband is home (tomorrow).

27 October 2009

BrainSurgeons and a Bionic Back

So I went to see a BrainSurgeon. Actually, I have seen two different BrainSurgeons and another NeuroDoc in the past few weeks. I guess, since the issue is my spine, that I should really call them SpineSurgeons, but BrainSurgeon is just that much more nerve-wracking. Nerve wracking -- get it? No? Fine, be that way.

Anyway, I initially saw BrainSurgeon1 on Oct 6. He's a good surgeon, and I have referred patients to him for 12 years. In fact, he operated on TheHusband's ruptured disc several years ago. He is extremely personable (yes, yes, he's a surgeon -- shocking, isn't it?). But he didn't listen to me and my concerns. We had a nice conversation -- we talked for about 45 minutes. However, much of that was him talking about using a dynamic stabilization device as part of the fusion procedure. Given that FDA has ordered companies that market these devices to conduct post-market studies in order to evaluate reported serious adverse events, I was understandably leery. But he just barrelled on, when I voiced my concerns. Given my other gait and spine related issues, I really think that these systems are a Bad Idea™. I am sure that no surgeon likes working on other doctors, especially one who is in a related field and Has Opinions. But those opinions should be listened to and acknowledged.

So after that exam, I spoke with a very nice and really smart Hopkins neurosurgery resident that I know. I showed him my MRI, described my symptoms, and asked him who he would let operate on his back if it looked my mine and he felt like I do. He gave me a name, called up BrainSurgeon2, and asked if he would see me. So I had an appointment with a Hopkins neurosurgeon within two weeks of that discussion. To be honest, BrainSurgeon2 works part-time at Hopkins and the rest at another Baltimore hospital. I tromped up there with MRI in hand last Monday. He took a history and did a quick neuro exam (very quick -- he's a neurosurgeon). Then he and I got down to brass tacks. He agreed with BrainSurgeon1 in that I need a spinal fusion (eeek!) as well as decompression of that freaking nerve root that is being compressed. He did not think that a dynamic stabilization device was a good idea (yay!), although he did have some other off-label device uses to suggest (NO!).

He then called up a NeuroDoc to see if he could fit me in soon. Turned out that NeuroDoc and I worked together a few years ago, so I got in 2 days later. Unfortunately, NeuroDoc zapped me with electric shocks and stuck needles in me, making me not like him quite as much as I once had. I swear that this is a test which is much better to perform on others than to have done on oneself. Conclusion: "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and is near a pond, it is a duck." He had to stick needles in me to come to that conclusion?

Given my sensitivity to medications, drugs to treat neuropathic pain are not an option. I've failed the majority of other conservative treatments (all those NeedleDoc appointments were in vain). So surgery it is. And thankfully I have health insurance (I will not mosey on down that conversational road right now -- I think that I am about as liberal as Eric in that respect).

So having received a 2nd opinion that I like better than the 1st one, and having failed conservative therapy, AND having refused a bionic back, I will undergo a single-level lumbar spinal fusion next week. Now all I have to do is convince myself that I won't die under anesthesia, wake up paralyzed, be worse off than I was before the surgery, or wake up during the surgery.

I haven't met the anesthesiologist yet -- I will certainly have some suggestions for him or her... Why do I suspect that I will be a really annoying hospital patient?

And let's not even go into the insanity that will be me when I am stuck at home for a few weeks.

26 October 2009

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze



Your public health notice for the day. You're welcome.

23 October 2009

A really nice wife

That's me -- a really nice wife.

One of TheHusband's friends was heading to Rome for business, and called TH for advice about 2 weeks ago. TH lived in southern Italy (Brundisi) for a few years in the mid 80's, when he was in the Navy. He, being the adventurous sort, rented a room with a family instead of living in the barracks. They wanted to learn English, and he wanted to get away from his fellow-sailors. It turned out that they never learned much English, but TH ended up speaking Italian fluently. He went back once in the mid 90's (before we met).

So anyway, back to his friend. The friend was really incredibly freaked out about visiting Italy (hello, it's not Yemen, Somalia, or Afghanistan). I was listening vaguely to TH's side of the conversation and finally said "Why don't you just go and meet up with him in Rome? You'll have a nice adventure and calm down HF." So we looked up flights, and he got a reasonably priced fare. He left last night, with a laptop bag and a moderate-sized shoulder bag (God knows, I can't travel that lightly). He should have landed about 4 hours ago. He gets to stay in Rome for a week, returning next Thursday.

See -- I am a nice wife. But he'd better bring me back a nice present, or maybe I won't be quite so nice... :-)

22 October 2009

Happy Birthday...

... to the BEST BROTHER ever! Thanks for being the best brother I could ever want. I only wish that you lived closer than 3000+ miles away.

Enjoy your day. Your yearly musical interlude (TPT singing "Happy Birthday") will come later.

Prehistoric Spam

I wonder if TheHusband actually missed out on $100,000 about 25 years ago...





Why no, he never throws things out. Except the telegram the spam-pen came with...

21 October 2009

What She Said

You know, I really can't add a thing to this article. I only wish that the morons of the world (ahem, Jenny McCarthy) would read it with an open mind and actually learn something. But then again, pigs'd fly first. Instead, credulous people choose to believe in crackpot theories and revile people who work hard to reduce sickness in the world. Oh, and make death threats against them. Why oh why, do people actually listen to Jenny instead of Amy?

Truly -- while people believe that they are exercising their rights to make their own medical decisions and appropriate medical decisions for their children, inadequate immunization brings a great deal of risk to the population as a whole, as well as to each individual person. Herd immunity is a function of a large enough percent of the population being vaccinated -- if that number too low, herd immunity disappears. You need quite a high percentage of population vaccinated to provide herd immunity for the community. For example, measles and pertussis are rather contagious and may require up to 94% of the population to be vaccinated for that vaccine to confer herd immunity.

Herd immunity confers protection to those who either can't receive a vaccine due to health reasons (immunocompromised, cancer, chemotherapy, infants) or people whose vaccines have failed (they don't "take" in everyone). Therefore, when these "concerned parents" choose not to vaccinate their children, they are actually endangering the health of other parents' kids, even if those kids are vaccinated. So while part of me says "fuck you, evil parents who don't vaccinate their kids, your kids'll pay for it", in reality, it is those who are sick and vulnerable that bear the brunt of these people's folly.

19 October 2009

RIF and the pneumatic gun

Just for Jim, from TheHusband's copy of "Rudder"...

The recruit getting his skanky teeth brushed is TheHusband. Note the BC glasses and the gorgeous hair style, courtesy of the US government -- for free! The poor guy getting vaccinated is a random cohort of TH's, name unknown.



15 October 2009

Harriet the Homemaker tackles laundry soap

We bought a new washer and dryer a couple of months ago. In general, I have been very pleased with both. The washer produces clean clothes, and the dryer gives me warm fluffy dry clothes. Our prior washing machine developed a mold problem, which I was never able to get rid of. Apparently mold is not uncommon in front-loading washers, and the way to deal with it is to prevent it. One way is to use HE laundry detergent. These are low sudsing products that are more easily rinsed from the items in the washer, produce pess residue and clog up the lines less. While there is something innately satisfying about a sudsy wash, it isn't the suds that clean the clothes.

Basically, the workhorse component of laundry detergent is a surfactant. Surfactants are molecules that have hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends. The hydrophilic end is attracted to water molecules, and the hydrophobic end tends to stick to non-water molecules – in the case of dirty laundry, that’s the dirt or grease or oil. Nothing really constructive happens until the water is swished around. Agitation of the water allows for many of the surfactant molecules to surround the dirt or oil and lift it away from the clothing into the larger pool of water. The warmer the water, the easier it is for the detergent to work.

I also try to use eco-friendly cleaning products. I've been using environmentally-friendly HE liquid laundry detergents for several years now (although by the time I started, it was too late for the other washer), but they are pretty expensive and still leave a residue. The new washer has a delay option, in which I can put the clothes inside and the detergent in the little drawer. But the company strongly recommends powder detergent for the delayed option -- to prevent staining.

Anyway, in an effort to use a reasonably eco-friendly and low sudsing powder laundry detergent appropriate for front-loaders, yesterday I made my own. I scouted out a few recipes online and tried out a relatively simple one:

1 bar Ivory soap, grated
½ cup Borax
½ cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)

Stir the ingredients together and use 1-2 tablespoons per load. This makes about 20-25 tablespoons, and probably costs about 8¢ per load.

I learned some valuable lessons from the experience.
  1. Take care when grating the soap. It is very easy to grate one's fingertips. (ouchy, ouchy)
  2. Don't stick said grated fingertips in one's mouth. Ivory soap tastes pretty nasty.
  3. Dry out the bar of soap for a week before grating it. Apparently, it makes the grating process much easier.
  4. Do not accept assistance from a 6 year old. The process goes much less smoothly.

Even so, the towels came out clean and fresh this morning. I'll let you know how it works on a 6 year old's marker-stained and paint-encrusted clothing.

10 October 2009

The Lost Luggage Office

I know this isn't a new story, but each time I see it, I am amused:



The next freaking time an airline ruins my bag, I will sing a video and post it on Youtube. That ought to make the airline sit up and notice (and run in fear from my tone-deaf singing voice...).

08 October 2009

Shuffle off this mortal coil

Considering that I have always been terrified of drowning (which makes it especially hard for me to deal with ThePinkThing's marginal swimming skills), I'm jiggy with this. Anyway, it's all Jim's idea and Nathan's fault.

How will I die?
Your Result: You will die in your sleep.

A peaceful departure into the next life. You are blessed with the good fortune of passing from sleep into eternity. Do not fear sleep. To dream into the next life is a rare gift.

You will die of boredom.
You will die while saving someone's life.
You will die from a terminal illness.
You will die in a car accident.
You will die while having sex.
You will be murdered.
You will die in a nuclear holocaust.
How will I die?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

07 October 2009

Missing child?

I am working from home today, and I got a phone call from ThePinkThing's school about an hour ago.

(ring, ring)
Neurondoc: Hello?
School Secretary: Hello, I am calling from X Elementary School. Is this ThePinkThing's mother?
ND: Yes.
SS: We have her here in the main office. She was supposed to walk home today?
ND: Walk home? No, she doesn't walk home.
SS: Well, we got a phone call from her father earlier today to say that she'd be a "walker" today.
ND: That's not right. She should be at her aftercare program. Are you sure it is ThePinkThing there? (First and last name said slowly and loudly, just in case)
SS: Yes, it is TPT sitting here.
ND: She shouldn't be there. And I guess the buses have left by now.
SS: Yes.
ND: I am a bit confused -- why did you think my daughter would be walking home today? (Mind you, we live almost a mile from the school, and TPT wouldn't be able to find her way home by herself)
SS: I got a call from someone, and I swear he said (insert TPT's first and last names) would be walking home from school.
ND: Okay, I'll be there to get her in a few minutes. What would you have done if I was at work?
SS: We would have taken her to her aftercare program.

(Pick up TPT, who's in the office looking not scared, but a bit bemused. The secretary is trying to figure who was the real kid who was supposed to walk home. As we are getting into my car, my phone rings -- it's TheHusband)

ND: Hello?
TH (in an urgent tone): Where's TPT? Aftercare just called and said she wasn't on the bus.
ND: Ah. She's here in my car. Apparently there was some sort of screw-up at the office and she was told she'd be a "walker" today.
TH: Phew. Okay.

TPT is now at her aftercare program, where her arrival caused a bit of a stir. Several of her friends wanted to know why she was supposed to walk home, why I was bringing her late, where she'd been... I just want to know how pissed the other dad is -- the one who called the office to tell them to have his kid walk home. I bet he'll have a cow on the phone. I certainly would (and sort of did).

This kind of situation highlights all of my worries about having TPT go from one place to another without my (or TH's) direct supervision. And I used the opportunity to reinforce that she shouldn't ever get into a car with a stranger, and who is actually approved to take her home.

29 September 2009

Blog vacation

Things are really stressful right now between boat-freaking-loads of work, my second full-time job (TPT, who is a much more fun job than the first one, but just doesn't pay as well), constant back pain (will be visiting the doctor who slashes with a scalpel next week), visits, visitors, spring cleaning (yes, yes, I know it's autumn), and various other stuff that creeps up and attacks without warning.

Even having the blog is stressful. I want to write stuff, but I am too tired. Then I get annoyed that I haven't blogged. So, in order to reduce my stress by a teensy bit, I am going to take a blog vacation. I should be back in about a month.

However, as an appropriately neurological send-off, I will leave you with the immortal words (and music) of Schoolhouse Rock:



(Although the glaringly obvious neurological mistake in this song annoys me a lot)

24 September 2009

When she cries, I hurt inside

Yesterday, I took ThePinkThing to the allergist. There has always been a potential shellfish allergy hanging over her head. When she was young, we not infrequently went to a local Chinese buffet for dinner. Several times, she developed red spots when we got home. These spots didn't seem to bother her, weren't typical hives, but there was this nagging suspicion that she was allergic to something there. Shellfish seemed the most likely culprit, as the primary reason we went to that restaurant was so that TheHusband could eat lots of crab. Eventually she had a blood test at her pediatrician's office, which turned out "weakly positive". So I finally decided to get her tested for real.

The allergist took a reasonable history and did a quick exam. TPT has never had an ear infection, doesn't have asthma, has no environmental allergies that I am aware of. She is probably the most boring kid he's seen all week. Then came the prick tests. I didn't want to tell her about it prior to the visit, because then she'd just worry and worry. So I told her after the doctor left (coward) and before the medical assistant came in to do the dirty work. TPT was tested for allergies to clams, crabs, shrimp, lobster (thermidor?), and scallops. He also tested her for allergies to wheat, milk, soy, peanuts, and tree-nuts. Why he tested those is beyond me, because she eats wheat, milk, soy, and peanut products with zeal and glee. Not too much in the way of tree-nuts, but not because of allergy. His reasoning for doing the tests was "just to be totally sure", which seemed weak. Probably a combo of CYA medicine and jack-up-the-price medicine. (Why yes, I am cynical. Thank you.) Add in the histamine and saline prick tests, and that meant that she had 14 pricks in her back.

Which comes to the point of the post. She cried. And begged me to stop them from doing it. I held her hand and kissed her head, and told her it would be over soon. After the tech left the room, I told her one of her favorite stories about when she was a baby to distract her for the 20 minutes we had to wait. She wanted me to take this picture so she could see what her back looked like.


The only one that turned up positive was the histamine one (which is done to be sure that the patient can mount an allergic skin response). So crab feast, here we come! TheHusband was ready to hop in the car and go off to Atlantic City to a really amazing all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, but we have plans this weekend, so I nixed that idea. He'll get to eat crabs to his heart's content, as will TPT (hopefully).

22 September 2009

Hostess gift

Wisegeek says that a hostess gift is:
A hostess gift is a gift which is given to the host or hostess of an event by guests. A small hostess gift is generally considered appropriate for dinners and parties, while guests who are staying for several days may get something larger. The ideal hostess gift is tasteful and elegant, reflecting the presumed good taste of the host or hostess, and it is also something which the recipient would not personally buy for him or herself. While the hostess gift might seem like a quaint tradition to some people, it is still alive and well, and bringing a hostess gift to an event will indicate that you are well mannered and that you have been raised in polite society.
What makes a good hostess gift? Flowers -- they're safe, and just about every female likes them. Chocolate? You can't really go wrong with chocolate, but some people are picky about chocolate they eat. Wine is a nice idea but can be troublesome. You run the risk of offending a teetotaler or bringing along an inferior wine to an oenophile's house. And then you look like a dork.

So what do you bring over for a slightly snide, somewhat dry-humored coworker who always enjoys your hi-jinks? Pop Rocks and a marshmallow gun, that's what! We had my coworker over for dinner last night. He's the one who I labeled for the move way back 2 months ago. He's a really funny, witty and smart guy, who ThePinkThing really likes. It might be, in part, because she isn't sure if he is a kid or a grown-up, as she has said. He's 26, so at least legally he's an adult. But he has a marshmallow gun in his office and likes to make people's phones scare the piss out of them.

We played with that marshmallow gun for quite some time. The funniest was when TM (my coworker) acted like one of those ducks in a carnival shooting range, going back and forth, back and forth. And we could even eat the ammunition, which TPT did a lot. As you can imagine, TPT was in 7,000th heaven. Pop rocks and marshmallows? Too good to be true, even though the gun was on loan. But he did leave the bag of marshmallows.





As for dinner -- it came out okay enough. Pot roast, gravy, broccoli and noodles. I thought the pot roast was dry but TH and TM ate up a whole boatload of it. The broccoli was a little overdone, but that was an issue of inattention and poor timing. And the brain jello for dessert. The chicken dinner on Saturday turned out better.

20 September 2009

Adventures in Cooking 1

As I noted in my previous post, it is Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish new year. It is the start of the High Holidays for observant, and even not-so-observant, Jews. I grew up in a somewhat observant household. We weren't kosher in or out of the house (mmmm, shrimp; mmmm, cheeseburgers), and we did not keep Shabbat. We celebrated the holidays that most Reformed Jewish households celebrated -- the High Holidays, Passover, and Hanukkah. As kids we were dragged ... er, um, I mean went to temple on the High Holidays (specifically Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur -- evening and daytiome services.). But really for us the holidays all revolved around family and food.

I grew up in the same town as my close-in-age cousins and about 20 minutes away from my maternal grandparents. My other cousins on my maternal side lived in VT until I was in college, so their presence at the holidays was not constant (but always pleasing). We alsways had dinner at my grandparents apartment on Rosh Hashanah. Baked chicken, brisket, mashed potatoes baked in chicken fat (beyond amazing, but too scary to eat nowadays due to the instant cholesterol deposition that occurs), kasha varnishkes, my mom's jello mold, nut cake at Passover (drool, drool), chocolate chip cookies, chopped liver... Not all at once, but eaten over a few hours. Sometimes we all ate at the dining room table with it opened all the way. Sometimes there was a separate kids table. Was my grandmother the best cook ever? No, but in my memory, the food was fabulous in every respect.

As I have said before, I find cooking to be scary. I never learned the basics (e.g., to brown meat before cooking it in a liquid so that the juices stay in). I am nervous in the kitchen and tend to follow recipes slavishly. Except that I never plan ahead and have the correct ingredients. So then I have to improvise, making me even more nervous. When I get home at the end of the day, I am not often in the mood to cook -- I am too tired. I swear that TPT thought all cooking was done in the microwave for the first 2 years of her life. But I want to cook. If I cook for us, we will inevitably eat healthier foods, less processed, less salty, less fatty. So I am determined to learn to cook some basic foods and make them well.

Last night I made chicken. All three of us prefer dark meat, so I tend to buy chicken thighs. I had about 3 lbs of chicken thighs to cook, and I wanted it to be extra good (Happy New Year and all that). So I incorporated what I had observed my aunt do when she visited, and also what Claudia did with chicken. While it was a totally simple meal, it came out great!

Basically I browned the chicken on all sides in my wok, then I poured in about 1.5 cups of water and the appropriate amount of bouillon, covered and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. I then made my own gravy for the first time ever. I listened to Claudia and made sure to mix the flour in cold water before mixing it with the drippings. Then I served the chicken and the gravy with noodles. Sliced cucumbers were the vegetable, eaten by TPT and me. Not a fancy meal, and probably not impressive for those of you who cook regularly and well, but an accomplishment for me.

Tonight I am having a coworker over to dinner, and I will be serving pot roast, egg noodles, and broccoli. What's for dessert you ask? Brainzzzzzz, of course. (It is actually peach jello made in a brain jello mold, but that's good enough for me.) I'll tell you how it all came out tomorrow.

19 September 2009

16 September 2009

Zzzzzzzzzz. Or not.

(Picture from Abstract City, Christoph Niemann's visual NYTimes blog)

This is literally one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. I want to know how Christoph Niemann got inside my bedroom and my head...

I am not a good sleeper. In fact, I often stay up late to make myself so tired that I can fall asleep more easily. In other words, if I am dropping dead tired, I can fall asleep within 20 minutes. Otherwise, all bets are off. A friend pointed me to this NYTimes blog post by an illustrator, and I about bust a gut laughing.

How the hell did he know???

Scammer receives an "F"

So TheHusband and I are trying to sell our china cabinet and buffet to make room for the new furniture (arriving later this afternoon!). We put an ad up on Craigslist and got 3 responses. I replied to each of these three people. One never responded back. One was so obviously a scammer that I told him that I totally saw through him and to go away.

Here is my email exchange with the third responder:

*****************His response**************

still up for sale?

***************My reply*******************

Yes, they are still for sale. We would love to have them gone by Tuesday evening, because we are getting our new dining room furniture on Wednesday. We are accepting cash only. If you want them you will have get them out of the house yourself (it'll take two people).

Thanks,

***************His response**************

Hello,
I am glad it is still available for sale.I am very much interested in buying your item and i am ok with the price. I am only able to make payment by money order at this time b/c i am away on assignment. Please provide me with your name , address and phone number for payment. It will take about 7days for payment to get to you. As per pick-up, I will make arrangement for the pick-up within 2 business days after payment has been received by you. I don't mind adding thirty dollars so you can keep it in my favor.Please take the posting off craigslist today and consider it sold to me. Thanks

Expecting to hear from you soon.

Regards

(Great, another one of these asswipe scammers, I think to myself. It pissed me off, so I responded thusly)

***************My reply****************************

My name is Natasha Guest. My address is 7359 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814. My number is (301) 652-9200.

(This name is totally made up -- don't know anyone with this name. The address and phone number are for the Bethesda, MD police station. Ha, I think, go there looking for your money...)

***************His response**************

Hello,
I have given my assistant the go ahead to mail payment to you.You should receive payment within the coming week( 6-7days time).Once payment is received we can proceed with the pickup.Thanks for your understanding and patience.
Regards.

(Hmmm. Could I be wrong, and did I miss out on selling the furniture? Regardless, I didn't respond to this email)

***************Newest email**************

Hi,
I hope you are fine and alright. I have been busy myself but doing great. There is something i think i must bring to your notice. After a reconciliation of my account, i discovered that somehow my assistant must have over paid you. The payment that was meant for another transaction was sent to you and the one meant for you was sent to another; however i want to believe i won’t have a problem with you.
Please once you receive your payment, i will like you to deduct your money and send the remaining via western union to the manager of the shipping company that will help me with the pick-up. I will ask them to contact you as soon as possible, Let me know if this is ok with you. Please contact me as soon as you get your payment.
Warm regards.

(A-fucking-ha! My initial thought was correct. I wonder what the Bethesda Police Station will do with that check...)

Unfortunately, we still have the old china cabinet and buffet and are expecting the new furniture today. Anyone want a 60 year-old Queen Anne-ish (traditional?) solid wood china cabinet and buffet that are in reasonable condition?

15 September 2009

The other white meat

My house at lunchtime the other day:

TheHusband: What do you want for lunch?
ThePinkThing: Pancakes.
TH: We don't have any [frozen] pancakes, and I can't make them.
TPT: Then I want waffles.
TH: We're out of waffles, too. How about turkey?
TPT: I don't like turkey. (Odd, since she loved turkey just a couple of weeks ago)
TH: Ummm... (thinks it over) How about this white ham that Mommy bought the other day?
TPT: White ham?
TH: Yes. She bought it with the other ham when we were at Great Wolf Lodge.
TPT: Okay.

Eats lunch.

TH: Did you like the white ham?
TPT: Yes, it was really yummy. But isn't white ham, Daddy. It's really light pink ham. Mommy should buy it again.

Please note that the "white ham" which TPT is referring to was Sara Lee Pre-Sliced Oven Roasted Turkey Breast. TheHusband won that round handily. And I never could've gotten away with it.

Sometimes it concerns me that I have a husband who can lie convincingly at any given moment...

11 September 2009

Fishy Trollopalooza

What could be fishy about a Trollopalooza, you ask? Well, last night (and adding the cherry to the sundae of my anniversary), I got to meet up with the Hot Chick, the famous Janiece. She brought along an entourage, which consisted of the Smart Man (he's smart and nice), the Smart BIL (Smart Man's brother, who made me laugh), and the Hot SIL (Smart BIL's wife, who is Smart as well as Hot).

The fishy part comes from our choice of meeting place -- a sushi restaurant in Rockville. Shockingly, no stinky tofu was involved, although much fish was consumed, down to the last piece of the crunchy shrimp roll. It was a lovely evening -- much talk, stories and laughter. TheHusband and Janice traded Navy stories, which were interesting to hear.

Unfortunately, no other UCFers could make it (I spit in the eye of Michelle's boss for his cowardly ways), although the sushi restaurant might have collapsed under the weight of hysteria if Jeri, Michelle, Janiece, and I were all there together...

Sadly, the evening ended on a violent note, when Janiece offended me, and I took steps...

10 September 2009

This is my husband... (Updated)

This is my husband. There are many husbands, but this one is mine. My husband is my best friend. He is my life. I must master him as I master my life. (That means I get to wear the pants in the family!) My husband, without me, is useless (heh!). Without my husband, I am useless (not true!)

My husband is human, even as I, because he is my life. Thus, I will learn him. I will learn his weakness, his strength, his parts, his accessories, his sights and his barrel (pot belly?). I will keep my husband clean and ready (soap, towels, shampoo, clean laundry), even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

--To TheHusband at the beginning of year 10: Happy 9th Anniversary!

(Adapted from "The Rifleman's Creed", which all Marines learn [and used even though TheHusband was a Sailor, not a Marine...].)
_______________________________
Updated to add the following (thanks Husband!!!):

09 September 2009

09/09/09 at 9:09:09

Cool! Now I'm waiting for 10/10/10 at 10:10:10. :-)

08 September 2009

Ouch, Ooch, Eech, Ank

That was what my brother and I used to say when walking across the hot sand at the beach in Atlantic City. I say it today about my back. I'm off for epidural #3. See you all tomorrow, because I'm already a bit drugged up, and I can't imagine what I'd be writing after my second dose of Valium. Toodles.

06 September 2009

Briefly quiet

Claudia, Doug, and the horde have gone over to Doug's sister's house in Falls Church. They should be back around 4 or 5 pm. Our other internet-guest will be leaving in about an hour and a half. It is quiet here, and ThePinkThing is calmly coloring a Barbie mermaid picture. Although she is enjoying the craziness, she is just not used to it. Claud and I get to leave all of the kids with both husbands and have a girls' sushi night tonight. The boys (and girl) will get a movie night.

More later -- I'll post a write-up and pictures from our visit to the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

Here is a photo for your amusement. Found at boredstop.com

04 September 2009

A Whole Week of Fun (and Chaos)

Yesterday at around 4:50 pm I got a phone call on my cell. The phone said "Hi honey, I'm home!" My BFF is now ensconsed at my house, with her husband and 4 kids, and we get to keep them for a whole week. A whole week! Sushi! Indian food! Hang-out-with-friends time! The Maryland Renassaince Festival! Ben and Jerry's ice cream! Planet Earth! We will even have an extra added bonus visitor -- a fellow-LMB-listie, Christine (xinef), who is willing to trek down from Canada to visit with all of us, will be arriving this afternoon. Chaos Central!

TPT glumly tromped down to the bus stop this morning but was cheered by my saying that I'd pick her up early.

03 September 2009

Labor Day?

After dinner last night we reminded ThePinkThing that even though we will be having visitors from tomorrow through next Tuesday or Wednesday, she still has to go to school. I did mention that Monday was a holiday, so she didn't have to go to school on Monday and could play with the boys all weekend and Monday too. Her reply: "I know Monday is a holiday, Mommy. It's 'Labraham's Day'."

02 September 2009

Arcades, Skee-ball, and Air Hockey

While were staying at Great Wolf Lodge, we dropped some money in the arcade, because we all like arcades. TH loves arcade games, and he spent many hours in arcades when he should have been in school. I loved playing skee-ball (and spent many an hour doing that in one of two arcades on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City [Fun-Spot and Playcade]), so TPT comes by her love of arcades honestly.

Skee-ball has changed quite a bit since my misspent youth of the early 70's. Skee-ball, for those of you who don't know, is a game similar to bowling, but the lane is much shorter, on an upward incline, and the point is to get the baseball-sized ball into a hole rather than knock down pins. It was one of the only arcade games I was good at when I was younger, and I still do well at it.

Great Wolf Lodge has a new-fangled skee-ball game with an alien. The point of alien skee-ball is to nail the swinging pendulum and drop the alien down. Of course, while you're trying to nail the alien, it taunts you. TPT found that part hilarious. I nailed the alien twice in one game and won about 30 tickets. Good for me.

But in the back of the arcade at Great Wolf Lodge was my favoritest arcade game -- air hockey. The game I can't resist. I'll play it even if my back is killing me, and I play hard. Air hockey! You know, the game where the table blows up air from teeny tiny holes, suspending a plastic puck on a somewhat frictionless surface. This allows the players to smack the crap out of the puck using plastic handles. I LOVE this game, and I play viciously (except against little kids -- I will cut them a break). TheHusband also likes air hockey and is not averse to a good hard game.

Our first game of air hockey took place in California -- we found an air hockey table at a mini-golf/arcade place and had ourselves a "nice" game after a round of miniature golf. I bet TH something (I can't remember what) that I would whip his ass. He immediately took me up on the bet. Why shouldn't he? After all, I am short, dumpy, non-athletic, and a bit spastic. He's more than a foot taller than I am and much more coordinated. Easy meat, I suspect he thought. He played easy on me for the first minute or two, but then he realized that was a bad idea. I promptly beat his ass by a score of 7 - 1. Ka-ching!

As it happened, I had never passed along a crucial bit of information. We had an arcade-sized air hockey table in my house when I was a kid. My parents finally donated it to the local Y when my brother and I were in college. But we played it. A lot. So I had lots of practice. I regularly beat my cousins and other boys my age, and I haven't really lost my touch. I did confess after I won that first game, and he vowed never to show me any mercy ever again (at air hockey, at least).

We have an ongoing contest -- we play every time we find a full-sized table. I am the West Coast champ. I think he's the tropical champ (Florida). We found a table at the place where his 20th high school reunion was held and played best 2 out of 3 games. To his great annoyance, I won that match, so I am definitely the Ohio champ. I am now the Virginia champ as well. TPT's eyes were big as saucers watching us whale on the puck, hitting it as hard as we could. Her mom and dad were really trying to beat the other one, no holds barred. She was actively rooting for me, and she jumped up and down when I won (7 - 4). Take that, Husband!

31 August 2009

First Grader


The bus stop is the same as last year, although it seems that only TPT and 2 other kids are at the bus stop. One of the other kids is starting kindergarten today and had no intention of getting on that &^%$*#-ing bus. She bolted twice. Her mom wasn't able to carry her on the bus and her older brother (2nd grade) wasn't able to cajole her. So the shrieking kindergartener was driven to school. We'll see what happens with her tomorrow. TPT, on the other hand, hopped right on the bus and happily went off to school.

I can't believe that I have a kid in first grade. I swear she was just a baby shrieking in her crib just a couple of weeks ago. Now she's in first grade. How did that happen? College is just around the corner, I guess.

ThePinkThing, may you have fun and learn lots this year.

30 August 2009

More From Great Wolf Lodge

We had a very nice time, although 2 full days is about all I can stand.

Our discussion upon arriving at GWL really set the tone for the days we were there...

TheHusband: We're here!
ThePinkThing (gummy-eyed from a nap): We are? Yay!
NeuronDoc: Yes. Let's get out and go check into the room.
TPT: Can we go to the water park now?
ND: After we eat some lunch.
TPT (gets out of the car): Ooh look, Mommy! It's made out of giant Lincoln Logs.
ND (trying not to laugh): They look like Lincoln logs, but really they are fake big tree trunks. And how do you know about Lincoln logs, anyway?
TPT: We learned about them in school and got to play with some.
ND: Really?
TPT: Yes. They're called Lincoln logs because President Lincoln invented them.
ND: Umm, no, they are probably called Lincoln logs because President Lincoln lived in a log cabin when he was little.
TPT: Oh. (pause) Can we go to the water park now?

Lincoln logs were invented by Abraham Lincoln?

We did manage to shove some lunch into her then trundled off to the water park. I really like that they have a family hot tub -- it is large and not as hot as a real hot tub. TPT enjoyed that. She climbed the fort-like thingy in the middle about 25 times to go down the two slides, but what she liked best was the bigger slides that TH took her on. She is not quite 48", but slyly stood on her toes to go on them. After she went on "the big kid slides", the other slides were also-rans.

We hooked up with my friends and their kids on Thursday, and TPT had a great time playing with the older two boys (ages 7.5 and 6) and the baby girl (1 yr). She spent the least amount of time with the almost 4 year-old, partially because of age and partially because she still hasn't forgiven him for terrorizing her a couple of years ago. The only way he gets anything in a house with two older and bigger brothers is to be very forceful. My little only-child isn't used to that. (This isn't TPT in the picture, but I didn't have my camera with me the 18 times she went across this "path").

TPT enjoyed the evening Clock Tower show the first night but missed it the second night, because we were having fun in the arcade (more on the arcade tomorrow). Doug and the two older boys played MagicQuest -- some sort of computerized D&D-like activity, but TPT really wasn't interested. David (the 6 year-old) was especially pleased at her indifference because she gave her magic wand to him (thus he didn't have to share with his older brother). I splurged and got TPT a manicure-pedicure, both of which she thought were great. She is very ticklish, and she just giggled during the pedicure

We made a point of having rooms next door to each other on the ground floor, which allowed for "back-door" visiting. We even ate dinner on Thursday night on our little patio. It also allowed the grown-ups to hang in our room after the kids were in bed (although Doug kept going in to check on the kids). That kind of hang-out time makes me really sad that they don't live nearby.


My BFF (aka Claudia)

Doug
(don't ask what he was holding in his hand...)

TheHusband, enjoying a Pepsi

All-in-all, a nice time. Now it's back to school -- tomorrow is day 1 of 1st grade!

28 August 2009

Wal-Mart adventures

I don't shop at Wal-Mart. I really like the idea of supporting smaller chains or, best of all, mom&pop type establishments. Also there is no Wal-Mart that is convenient to my house. I've only been in a Wal-Mart once, and that was within the past 6 months. I guess I lost my Wal-Mart virginity then.

I am currently vacationing in Williamsburg, VA, and the place we are staying (Great Wolf Lodge) is almost directly next to a Wal-Mart. The convenience is overwhelming. We arrived yesterday, and TheHusband wanted to buy a pair of water shoes, because his feet get sore running around after ThePinkThing. So he went into the little shop here at the hotel. It is actually inside the water park. Did it have any water shoes for men? Nope, none.

At that point, he drove over to Wal-Mart figuring that they have everything there; they'd certainly have men's water shoes, and likely they'd be cheaper. He found a Wal-Mart employee and asked where he could find water shoes. He was told "the shoe aisle." So he went to the shoe aisle. No water shoes. He tried the "Seasonal" aisle, where (shockingly) there were no water shoes. He finally found another (slack-jawed) employee and asked her where he could find water shoes. She looked at him disdainfully and said "the shoe aisle." He told her that there weren't any. Apparently, she rolled her eyes and took him over to some water shoes. But they were women's shoes. Not helpful. Then she walked him over to the men's shoe aisle, where there were... no water shoes. She thought about it and then said "they're out of season." Out of season? In August? In a Wal-Mart literally next to a Great Wolf Lodge? At that point, having had this great big light bulb blink on above her head and having passed on that information, she simply walked away from TH and started talking to a coworker. No apologies, no good-bye. Just simply done with him.

TH ended up trying on the largest women's pair available, but it was like one of Cinderella's stepsisters trying to squeeze her foot into the glass slipper. Unsuccessful. So TH is (somewhat grumpily) running around after TPT in bare feet.

My BFF went to Wal-Mart this morning to pick up some food (she has 4 kids to keep happy). While asking a Wal-Mart employee something, a young woman came up to them. This woman asked where she would find cinnamon sticks. The employee's suggestion was the craft aisle (!), clearly having no idea what a cinnamon stick was. When Claudia (my BFF) suggested that the spices aisle would be a better choice, that was greeted with favor. The employee curiously asked the other customer what she wanted cinnamon sticks for. Answer: "I like to smoke them." (!)

I went over to Wal-Mart also this morning. I needed a few school supplies that were sold out at two stores in Bethesda (crayons and binder dividers). Here is a reasonable outline of that conversation:

Neurondoc: Hi. Can you help me find some school supplies?
Wal-Mart employee: School supplies?
ND: Yes, school supplies.
WME: School supplies?
ND: Yes. You know stuff for kids going back to school.
WME: Oh. (pause) We don't carry school supplies.
ND: What? You don't have crayons and notebooks and paper?
WME: Oh that. They just moved that stuff, and I don't know where it is. You could try the stationery aisle (pointing to the farthest back corner of the store).
ND: Okay.
WME (to another nearby WME): Do we have school supplies?
WME2: Yes. They just moved them.
ND (aaaaaaaahhhhhhh): Thanks for your help.
WME3 (seeing me standing there indecisively): Can I help you find something?
ND (dubious): Do you know where the school supplies are?
WME3: I think so. Over here.
ND (after following WME3 to a nearby aisle, NOT at farthest back corner, mind you): Hmmm. These are office desk supplies. I need some crayons and binder dividers.
WME3: Binder dividers?
ND: Yes, the pages you stick in a 3 ring binder to separate sections of paper.
WME3: Binder dividers? (asks another nearby WME)
WME4: Oh, they're right over here. (walks over one more aisle and points)
ND (truly thankful): That's exactly what I want. Thanks.

I needed the help of 4 people to find school supplies, which as it turned out were in 2 aisles at the front of the store, being as this is the week before most local kids return to school. Sheesh.

27 August 2009

Swine flu!

ThePinkThing is finished with camp. We have an upcoming long weekend of fun and frolicking, then it's the nose to the grindstone in 1st grade. She's enjoyed her summer, splitting it between 2 camps. She has just finished camp at her aftercare program. I think it was a nice program, iwth just the right amount of structured activities and free play.

When I went to pick my daughter up from her last day of camp yesterday evening, I chatted with a friend, the mother of one of ThePinkThing's friends. The mom happened to mention to me that her daughter had just come back to camp after having had swine flu. I was shocked, because I hadn't heard anything about it. TPT's BFF was out all of last week with flu-like symptoms, and I had wondered if she had swine flu, but I hadn't heard anything for sure. TPT had a very brief flu-like illness last week, but she recovered quickly, other than a lingering cough. Now, of course, I am wondering if she had a mild case of swine (H1N1) flu. If so, I am glad, because she will likely be protected during the upcoming flu season. I am also glad because TPT's friend has recovered and looks like she is back to her usual wacky self.

What concerns me is that there was no information passed along to the parents that there had been a documented case of swine flu in one of the campers. Obviously, the director shouldn't mention names, but a general notification would have been appropriate. Fergoshsakes, these people post lice and strep notices all the time. The director said that she was expressly instructed by the main office of the childcare organization (they have multiple locations in the DC area) not to mention that a child in the program had swine flu. She was told not even to mention that one of the kids had a flu-like illness. I believe that this was a very poor decision on the part of the main office, and they will be receiving an irate phone call from a parent who is a physician today (namely me). I tried to find out if swine flu is a mandatory reporting disease to the Health Dept, but that isn't clear. Even if it isn't mandatory to report it to the health dept, it is only common sense and fairness to report a communicable illness to the parents whose children may be affected. Adequate notification is essential when dealing this type of highly communicable and potentially life-threatening (okay, mildly life-threatening) illness.

What acceptable reason could they possibly give me?

26 August 2009

Working like a dog to take time off...

I am insanely busy at work, in order to have a couple of days off. Therefore, don't expect to hear any of my wonderful words of wisdom until Monday.

Just in case you were curious -- the days off will be spent at a place guaranteed to make ThePinkThing happy -- Great Wolf Lodge. We've been before and had a great time. I plan to spend a few hours in the hot tub; in fact, my goal is to come out of there a hot, pink raisin. And best of all, this Great Wolf Lodge comes complete with a best friend. Yes, a real best friend. One who usually lives far away but is currently in my time zone (and has been so for like a whole week now without me getting to slap eyes on said best friend). So, hooray for my upcoming long weekend!

Hope yours is nice, too...

24 August 2009

Brain still in weekend mode

Insert witty, amusing blog post here...

20 August 2009

I'm an Elf?

Not that I have a clue, but apparently I'm an Elf. It's kinda hilarious, since I can't sing, and I don't get poetry. And nobody would ever call me graceful. But at least I'm pretty intelligent.

I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Sorcerer (5th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-10
Dexterity-10
Constitution-12
Intelligence-17
Wisdom-15
Charisma-13

Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

19 August 2009

I (heart) Barney Frank

Mind you, I don't always (or even often) agree with his ideas/stances/policies/posturing. But kudos to him for taking on some of the bugshit crazies who seem to be infesting these Town Hall meetings. He didn't stand there and take it, try to reason with them, try to hold a rational discussion with people clearly not intending to behave rationally, not use the usual political weasel-wording so prevalent amongst politicians.

Sock it to 'em, Barney!



This is the long version. The bugshittiest one is first...

So, would you rather...

...catch swine flu or become a zombie?

I am not sure of the answer, but a bunch of mathematicians at University of Ottawa (those wacky Canucks!) used mathematical models to calculate the effects of plausible pandemics by using an infestation of zombies as the disease vector. This paper has been published.

For disease models, the researchers picked the typical slow-movie zombies from movies such as Night of the Living Dead which infect humans with a bite and can only be killed by a blow to the head. The population was broken down into live humans, zombies and dead zombies. In their model, there was no cure other than complete eradication, and that had to happen right from the start with coordination of efforts. "A zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilisation, unless it is dealt with quickly," they write in the paper. "Modelling zombies would be the same as modelling swine flu, with some differences for sure, but it is much more interesting to read."

For some odd reason, this talk of the end of civilization reminds of a long thread on the Bujold listserv, from at least 10 years ago. Someone postulated that if all of the members of the listserv were magically transported to an uninhabited planet with no Earth food, water, medical equipment or tools, we would all eventually die. The planet did potentially have edible items and potable water but how would we tell? In this exercise, an evil (or mischievous) alien named Yeltar was the reason behind our removal from Earth. After much discussion, it was pretty well agreed upon that, given the above scenario, the colony on Bujoldia was doomed. If the planet came with a user's manual and was eminently hospitable, then perhaps we'd scratch by. Perhaps. And occasionally I still think "Bite me, Yeltar"...
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H/T to The Telegraph
Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times