How intimate, TRULY intimate, are you with the significant people in your life?

I’m talking about the stuff that is REALLY INTIMATE.  Passing gas.  Using the toilet.  Discussing bowel movements.  Seeing each other in highly unflattering bathroom moments.  Because when you really get down to it, the list of people we’d sleep with is way longer than those who we’re willing to let see us naked on the can, bearing down on a particularly hard nugget.  Amirite?

So you’ll understand then why it’s hard for me, one who is usually quite open and honest, to talk about my problems.  They involve nouns like “stool” and “rectum,” with illustration by adjectives like “watery” and “bloated.”  And then there’s the discussion of pain.  Everyone has abdominal pain from time to time, just like they have fevers and diarrhea.  So how can one explain this pain?   I could be dramatic: “like a rolling, roving object, splashing and thrashing in your gut, making a low, gurgling resonance that represents the inner lining of the colon opening up, starting to bleed as it quickly loses layers of protective mucosa…”  Or, be self-righteous in the status claim of this being high on the totem pole of pain: “like childbirth, except without the periodic rest periods between contractions.”

I hate myself a little for each of those descriptions above.  I mean, can she get over herself already…?

On the upside, writing about colitis offers endless scatological metaphor.  Explosive diarrhea, like a rocket ship upon lift-off.  Smells that suggest the entire city’s sewer line has been directed to out-gas in your bathroom.  Having an illness that is hard to get behind.  Feeling like you’ve got shitzopherenia (oh you know, fear of shitting) or worrying how you’ll pass off untimely flatulence.

A sense of humor may be required to appreciate that upside.

This dude gets it, though I advise to stop the video after his song.

Our first foray into this world began less than a month after Paul and I were married.  It fast-tracked us into old-married-couple territory.  We talk about poo more than Peace Corps volunteers.  Luckily, though, my problems were never firmly pinned down to anything specific, and I have spent the last 10 years without treatment and without incident.  We felt confident it would never happen again.

Until last Saturday.  (Refer to text above for more insight into Saturday.)

So that has been my week.  The upside is that insurance is covering this non-specific colitis (after our sizable deductible) and that today’s scope (while still waiting for news about the biopsies) showed a mild presentation that probably will not require treatment.  This is a very good thing.

For comparison’s to Magpie’s costs, today’s colonoscopy was $1000, total, including anesthesia.  Because this amount is lower than our deductible, we had to pay the whole amount before the procedure.  Another $21 was spent on the colon prep.  (Which, by-the-way, SUCKS way more than the old phospho- soda and magnesium citrate used just a decade ago and available for pennies over the counter.  Also, for those using HalfLyte, the orange flavor, if even detectable, tastes like salty feet.)  We paid for the procedure and meds out of our Health Care Savings Account (HSA) — which, in case you don’t have one, is an account with pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses.  It’s pretty much the greatest thing to medicine since the stethoscope.

My constitution is shaken a bit by the fact that this happened, but the outcome (so far) is so great that I feel nothing but thanks.  Also, Paul got in some good fart jokes in the doctor’s office.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that I wish you all lovely, gentle, post-coffee Zen moments each and everyday.

So… did I gross you out too much?  Can anyone bond with me over bowel issues?


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Changes more than skin deep

It took 20 years but I am finally out of puberty.

What I mean is that I have literally had acne, non-stop, for 20 years.  And babies, those babies, only made it worse.  More than 20 years of dermatologists, creams, lotions, soaps, and medicines.  The problem is that my acne is an inside-out thing.  No cream or lotion could impact the painful, embarrassing cysts.  It has to be treated from the inside.  So I took antibiotics off and on for a decade — for so long, that I have blue-tinged scars on my face from the overuse.

Then this summer, with the impending insurance changes looming, I got fed up.  In my 30s and still worrying about breakouts?  Freaking out when the kids touched my face?  Grimacing at every picture of me looking back with shiny skin?  ENOUGH.

I found a new dermatologist and agreed, finally, to Accutane.  Isotretinoin (Accutane is the well-known brand name) a controversial, highly controlled drug, largely because it causes incredibly severe birth defects.  To take it, you must register with a government system and demonstrate use of TWO forms of birth control.  Then you take pregnancy tests monthly via blood work in a lab, and within a 7 day window after that negative pregnancy test, see your doctor, get the 3o day prescription and fill it.  If you miss that 7 day window, you’re out for 30 days.  I’ve been on the medicine since August and I can honestly say that it has completely changed my life.

My skin is unrecognizable from what it was before.  I feel like I finally have the skin of  “normal” person.  The changes are everywhere.  The small bumps that were always present on my face and chest are gone.  My cysts, which were non-stop prior to the medicine, have slowed and disappeared.  Small breakouts have become more and more isolated.  Over my entire body, my skin is smooth and soft.  The oily shine that I always had, that shows up in every picture, is greatly reduced.  I still have the bluish scars, but compared to what I’ve had in the past, this is an absolute dream.

And then, a surprise.

Something about the medicine has changed my attraction to mosquitoes.  I’ve talked about this before — how mosquitoes swarm me, how I can’t be outside at all after 5pm with dozens of bites even while wearing DEET, how getting 20-30 bites during 5 minutes of weed pulling while no one else is bothered is completely normal.  In the last few weeks, we’ve done several evening picnics in the park with mosquitoes all around — and Paul and I have been shocked to find that I’ve walked away over and over again without bites.  Even more surprising, this last time, Will, Paul, and Kate all got bit.  We are convinced that the medicine, which changes how the body makes and releases oils, has changed whatever mosquitoes found so irresistible about me.

So I write this as a message to anyone with moderate acne and particularly with cysts.  My experience has been fantastic.  While it’s not an easy drug to take, the results have been more than worth it.


Also.   On a related note.  Does anyone have recommendations for a good overnight moisturizer?  And maybe a daytime tinted one?


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Where I go on about men’s reproductive health, in a TMI sort of way.

It took us a year, but we’ve finally signed on with a new insurance.   We actually managed all this a few months ago, but opted to remain on our current COBRA insurance for a little longer.  The change date has provided some motivation to attend to some business.

It was one of those business needs that brought us into the appointment where I sat and watched a young female doctor feel up my husband.

Talk about awkward.

We were counseled over and over again about the procedure.  “It’s considered permanent,” we were reminded.  “How many kids do you have now?” they asked again.  Finally I showed them a video of Kate, one where she is Very Upset because we’ve asked her not to eat raisins out of the trash can.  And followed it up with a recording of Will talking about Ninjas from Chinese who taught firemen to fight dragons (“they’re real, you know, really.”) in the 1740s.

“Right,” they said, “but who knows?  You may want something different two or three years from now?”

*sigh*  Look.  We have eenie and meenie and Mama don’t want no mo’.  Okay?

So they made the appointment.  It was last Thursday.  After a week of recovery, I’ve been granted permission to discuss it as long as I don’t use photographs.

What’s it been like?  Well, ladies, in the 5 days following his procedure, my darling husband has made dinner 3 times, cleaned up the house twice, helped out with several loads of laundry, done the dishes repeatedly, and brought home flowers.  Trade virility for dinner, clean laundry, and flowers?  Yes, please!

As for the actual procedure, I wasn’t allowed in the room.  The report from the nurses was that he spent the whole time chatting and laughing with the doctor.

Oh, THE DOCTOR!!  The urologist!  The guy who does exams and surgeries and consultations on men’s most sensitive bits?

Dr. Woo.


So Dr. Woo worked on Paul’s wee whilst everyone cracked jokes and laughed away.

I sat in the waiting area, yapping on the phone to my friends who called all morning to check in on Paul.  The conversations, I’m embarrassed to admit, involved a lot of giggling.

Guys, I’m sorry to laugh.  It’s not that women don’t believe that this procedure involves discomfort.   But the bottom line is that we child-bearing women don’t exactly feel that this particular duty of yours is all that big of a deal, comparatively speaking.  We’ve spread our legs quite a bit more.  I mean, you have this micro-procedure and then spend a few days sitting comfortably, blissed out on pain meds, with complete control over the remote (for the love, Discovery Channel!  Do you really need to air Mythbusters 18 hours a day?!)  By comparison, women go through our reproductive responsibilities with much greater wounds to heal, including whole organs and systems of organs to reshape and reposition.  PLUS, at the end of it all, there is a tiny person who is either crying, pooping, or clamping down on our sensitive bits at 2 hour intervals 24 hours a day.  Let us feel like we’re evening out the score a bit by giving us that giggle at your snip-snip.  (I’m not heartless, you can still have the remote.)

But back to Paul.  He had taken a few valium before reporting to urology but was still nervous.  The nerves turned him conversational.  He chatted with the doctor, Doctor Woo – and oh, the details one can discover!  The wonders of the scrotal muscle and other random details, “hey, check this out, I know that feels weird in your back… if I pull harder, it’ll make you nauseous!”  They even let Paul see the section of vas removed.  The whole thing took maybe a half hour.

When I walked in, Paul wasn’t there.  There was iodine on the chair and a small, tiny, practically microscopic drop of blood.  Cauliflower started to grow in my ears.  My poor Paul!  Where was he?!  I stepped to the side to hold onto the counter.

Then Paul strode in chipper and happy from the bathroom.  We got our discharge instructions and were on our way.  He practically waltzed out of the building.   I remained dizzy and had to take a few deep breaths before driving home.

He made a lot of jokes about needing to buy a sports car immediately upon leaving the hospital.

Unfortunately, his discomfort set in after a few hours.  It was easily managed with rest and drugs.  He was a trooper over the next two days, as I had two back-to-back 10+ hour days of workshops – while he was alone with the kids.  It’s now day 10 and he’s still pretty bruised, particularly along his left side where the vas was “deep,” according to Dr. Woo.  But Paul is definitely healing.  If he does a lot of walking and bending he gets sore, but feels better in the morning.   He is concerned about some of the pain that remains and a potential difficulty with healing at the incision site (if the situation doesn’t change or worsens, he’ll call the doc back Monday or Tuesday).  But all in all, it barely put him out of commission (a day or so) and the discomfort, even though it’s still hanging around, has not impacted our lives much at all.

It’s not over.  First, we need to make sure that the whole discomfort thing (identified by Paul as muscle related and extending up into his left side) is a non-issue.  Second, we need to make sure that he is, in fact, sterile.  After 15 emissions we have to take in a sample to be sure he’s free of little X and/or Ys.   A friend thought that it required ONE HUNDRED emissions before such test, and although Paul perked up a bit at this possibility, I confirmed: 15 is more than enough.

The most memorable moment for me was when Dr. Woo, kind and gentle Dr. Woo, clapped a hand on Paul’s arm before the procedure and said, “I’ve had it done.  And I can say, man to man, that’s it’s no big deal.”

So there you have it.  Dr. Woo, the Wee specialist, says it’s no big deal.  And from our perspective, at least so far, we have to concur.

UPDATE, Nov. 2nd: Wound opened up to (stop now if you’re already into TMI territory) blood and puss. Paul called the good doc and they called in an antibiotic. No worries still, but at least Paul is feeling less like “man who called wolf” — hopefully incision site will continue to heal now.


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Where my music’s playing

8pm flight from LaGuardia and I’m back in short-sleeved 85 degrees New Orleans before midnight.  With this to greet me.


(Photo by Paul, and outfit by A., I think?)

Aye, but there’s a rub.

Notice Kate’s front tooth?  The one on the right in the picture?  See how it’s gray?  It’s from when she fell a few weeks ago.  My Colombian go-to Dentist friend checked her out and advised x-ray due to abscess potential — gray indicates restricted blood flood which usually heals on it’s own, but could also worsen.  As I understand it.  We’ve been busy and the whole no dental insurance thing has us gun-shy.  (To my credit, I did call the LSU children’s clinic — THREE TIMES — and never got a call back.)

A few times Kate has complained of tooth pain, though we’re not sure if was really legit (or just her hearing me freak out about it.)

Anyone else have experience with the gray tooth?


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My new career?

The second cast went on week before last.  He’s in this one three weeks (removal day is October 1st).  If everything goes as planned, the arm will have remained unwashed for 6 weeks.

I was not there for cast removal and replacement, but the report was that Will’s dark blue X-wing cast (with autobot logo) made quite a stir.  The technicians cut carefully around the paintings and gave Will the cast to take home.  (Will has an uncanny fondness for things others would see as landfill fodder.)

So… anyone have a creative re-use idea for a full arm cast with an X-wing painted on it?


Last weekend, I fulfilled my promise of painting “Optimus Prime, ALL of him” on The Little Man’s arm cast.  He watched Mulan while I painted.  This time, he managed not to wipe his hand across the wet paint part way through, which really sped up painting time.

It was late in the afternoon and rainy, so it was tough to get a good picture.  That, and the fact that Will, once released from the grasp of Mulan’s comforting glow, WOULD NOT STAND STILL.   We’re outside, the ISO is on, like, 500 million, and the kid is STILL blurry.


He’s posing with the cut-out I used for sizing guidelines.  Because of the bend in the cast and the bumpy surface, both times I’ve used cut-outs to help determine appropriate spacing.  Not that the method produced perfect results, but it was enough to keep Will happy.

So, starting around October 2nd, anyone have ideas for re-using one full arm and one half arm cast??


PS: Please forgive my overuse of the comma. I’m just so very fond of it.

Arts & Photography

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The Star Wars Cast Transforms and Rolls Out!

By my count, the number of times a mother should be prepared to pass out when her child breaks a limb is 6, depending on how much she plans on re-telling stories from any part of the process. No matter how many broken bones, blood, or carnage you’ve seen.  Apparently, all of that is inconsequential when you’ve birthed the hurt kid.

Included in that count of six are two incidents during the casting process.  But don’t worry, fellow Mom.  You’ll get through it.  Then you can bring your kid home and melt his or her medicated brain.

While Paul attended a meeting a the kids’ school, I tried to redeem my lousy constitution for my son’s injury by helping him decorate his cast to his heart’s desire.

Will’s heart’s desire = Transformers.  And Star Wars.

Transformers seemed easier.

I printed out the Autobot decal and cut out the negative space to use it as a stencil.  It turned out alright, not as clean as I’d hoped due to the holes in the surface of the cast.  But, it was cool enough to pass at school.  (And cool enough to trump the little heart I added near his hand.)

After school today, the painting continued.

Will painted the women’s reproductive system.

(He said it was a stage with a king and queen performing.)

Paul painted, too.  Intently.

Kate bonded with yellow ochre.  And gave *Jazz Hands*!

While they painted, I prepared for Will’s next cast request.

Luke’s X-wing fighter.

Unfortunately, part way through the painting, Will reached over and swept his hand across the cast, smearing the whole thing.  (I had walked into the kitchen to get more paint.)

There was a lot of fixing and repairing.

Did you notice little R2?  (Look very closely.)

Here is a view of all three: the Autobot decal on his upper arm, the X-wing on his forearm, and the tiny heart near his thumb.

Did I earn enough cool Mom points to last me awhile?  I figure I need to save up when I can.

Mi Familia

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Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things

If I start now, maybe by Christmas I’ll be caught up on all the thank-yous we owe for the past week. To say that we are humbled by how our friends have supported us through all the craziness is an understatement.

Re-entry to the U.S. after time abroad has historically been hard on us… job layoffs, yellow-jacket attacks, coughing fits that lead to popped-out ribs, identity theft, car failure, malaria-like illness with hospitalization… those are the sorts of things that welcome us back to the States. We figure it’s karma at work. That we have been so lucky in work and travel abroad that things have to go wonky at home in order to even out the karmic balance.

This time back found both of us with mild-but-annoying respiratory crud and Kate not quite over a sinus infection. Kate and I worsened, we saw a medical provider and were treated. Then we were exposed to the flu and took steps to ensure no one would unintentionally bring illness into the kids’ school. Then Will broke his arm. Then he broke out in hives so suddenly and completely, with swelling to his face and lips, that his pediatrician encouraged a fast trip the ER (after 4 hours of waiting without treatment, Will’s face swelling subsided and they left without being seen). Somewhere in all of this, it became clear that my lingering crud was not only failing to improve, but getting worse. So yesterday I saw our new primary care physician for a magical breathing treatment that made Every Difference. Other key moments within all the above were our work hours, finding strange black dust on Kate’s bed from the wall (we don’t thing termites, but what…?), my leaving my wallet in the parking lot of the local grocery store, and the truck clutch giving out mid-intersection (close call).

But the real story is how many people have rallied around us.  So many people have sent well-wishes via phone and email.  Paul’s Mom was here to help with Kate while Paul and I cared for Will and his injury.  Emmy and family brought Will a beautiful made-by-kid-hand card, a huge sack of candy and the biggest darn lollipop I’ve ever seen.  Gwen sent Clare’s dry-arm pouch.  Ann Marie brought red beans and rice with sausage and brownies.  Kathryn brought artisan pizzas, quiche and eclairs.  Ecoee and Melody brought a bag of games and made fabulous make-your-own burrito dinner… with cupcakes. 

No really, check this out:

I know.  I KNOW!

Paul and I are so incredibly thankful and feel so completely and totally speechless.  We look forward to returning each favor.  (We’ll step up our culinary skills for it, promise.)

Also?  We are surrounded by the most wonderful, giving, thoughtful people.  Thank you.


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“Mommy, you’re like my pillow.”

Will seemed perky this morning and asked to go to school. We brought him, with pillow to keep his arm up. An hour later, the school called, he was uncomfortable and out of it, and he was ready to go home. (FAIL.)

After dropping Will off at school, I went to Rouse’s to get snacks for my workshop today. I felt very on top of things, running early, getting food for everyone, and having somewhat of an idea of what I was going to do. Until I was out in Kenner, almost to the meeting site, when I realized my wallet was missing. (FAIL.)

After a panicked stop at a coffee shop for a phone book and a call to Rouse’s, who had my wallet, (WIN!), the truck clutch gave out in a major intersection. (FAIL.)

Thankfully, no one hit me, I survived near collision, and managed to figure out how to drive it the rest of the way. (WIN!)

At the advice of Paul, I managed to drive the car home. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I almost died.”

Paul: “I think the problem is due to engine heat.  You should be able to drive it home.”

Me: “What, to the morgue?”

Paul: “Really. It’s happened to me a bunch of times. It should be fine after sitting for a few hours, as long as you don’t drive it for too long.”

Me: (Silence.) “Well, okay. But how long is too long?”

Paul: “I dunno. Just don’t drive it long enough for the clutch to start to stick again.”

Me: (Silence. Pondering if I should write a quick will?)

Things perked up big-time when Emmy and kids brought treats for Will.  Will had just woken up from a 5 hour nap (hello, drugs!)  I’m not sure if he even remembers there was candy involved, but he hasn’t put down the card Ana made for him for one second.

One may think that this video is showing Will on drugs, but in truth, the meds had worn off.  (He trips even heavier when heavily medicated.) This is just Will being Will.  He’s telling me about teeth, why the fall out, and what holds them in until they fall out… with a surprise at the end.

Mi Familia

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“I wish I’d never seen monkey bars.”

He was so proud of himself.  Even though he had to jump up to reach them, once his hand held, he swung  across those monkey bars with confidence.  When other children approached, he kindly demonstrated the hang and swing, dutifully encouraging others to try, too.  But then, that’s just our sweet guy.

Finally he complained that his hands were hurting.  He showed Paul his palms, which were beginning to show signs of blisters.  “Maybe you should take a break?” Paul suggested.

“Just one more time,” Will said.

And he jumped and grabbed the first bar with his right hand.  But before he could grab the next with his left, he slipped in mid-swing, coming down on his left arm.  He jumped up in a scream so fast Paul said it was as if Will’s body had bounced on the pavement.

Paul, the parent with experience in broken bones, was extra helpful to Will while we went through the ins and outs of x-ray, exams, and setting the splint.  Among Paul’s finer stories: the pain of x-rays, discomfort while sleeping, itching, and gross things that come out of casts.  Still, that’s probably better than what my face looked like when I cut off the make-shift magazine cast that held his arm from playground to hospital.

Both bones are broken in his left arm, a little above his wrist.  The ER at Children’s was terribly busy, so we didn’t get to see the x-rays.  He’s in a hard splint until the swelling goes down and then back to the orthopedic for more x-rays and setting later this week.

Family Stories
Mi Familia

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5-year old medical practice.

Kate recently failed a middle ear hearing test.  Yesterday, Will complained that his left ear (his problem ear) hurt and that he couldn’t hear out of it.  I called the doc; Paul took them this afternoon while I was teaching.  This is the story that unfolded for me when I got home:

Paul: Will’s ear tube fell out.

Me: Wow, already?

Paul: Except he put it back in.

Me: What?

Paul: Tell Mommy about your tube, Will.

Will: My tube fell out after lunch.  I put it back.  Then the doctor found it.

Me: You put the ear tube back in your ear?  Just pushed it in?

Will: Yes, I put it back in.  A lot of earwax pushed it out.

Paul: The doctor said the hole will be around for a few more weeks, maybe months.  There is fluid inside the eardrum, though.  We just have to watch it and keep using his ear drops.

Me: Will, next time something falls out of your head, put it in your pocket and tell an adult before you put it in your ear, okay?


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