November 30, 2010

Sick day

I'm home with a splitting headache today. Harry wasn't feeling well either, so of course, he went to the vet. He had some apparent neck pain. So $84 later, he's got sone doggie Advil, and we're cuddling on the couch.

November 29, 2010


There are a few things that I really, really love doing over the holidays. And one of them is setting out my nativity scenes.  I don't like just any nativity scene, they have to mean something to me- like the glass one my sister sent to me while I was living in Brazil, all alone and away from any family; a porcelain one that was painted by my sister; and this one...

A hand-carved wooden one I bartered for in a market in Hartbeespoort, South Africa. The market I made my husband stop at with me on the way back to the Johannesberg airport where we would then fly home. The market where we had to go to the ATM. Twice. To get more money for stuff I HAD to have.  Cash that we didn't have on us, because Beerman had just gotten a speeding ticket (although he did talk the police officer down from 500 Rand to 100 Rand, because he knew I was on my way to the market and would have killed him if he'd spent that much money on a speeding ticket!)

Each year, I pull this nativity out, clean it up, and set it out. I love its colors. I love how smooth it is.  I love that there is a cross as a part of it, even though the whole idea of a cross wasn't a part of the nativity. And I love the memories of that day; the one that started in Botswana, went speeding past a police officer in Zeerust, on to the Johannesberg airport, and all the way back home again.  All done with my own child, waiting to be born.

I'm always on the hunt for a new nativity that means something, but that's not always the easiest thing to find.  In fact, this was the last one I bought.  Maybe it's time to find a new one.

November 28, 2010

Fa la la la la

To celebrate the first day of Advent, this morning we decked the halls with Christmas music on.  It's so sweet, which songs C-man loves.  And cuter yet, that he hates the Nutcracker Suite.  Apparently they play it during rest time and he hates it.  Not funny by itself, until you realize that's what Mrs. Holtz used to play for me during Kindergarten rest period, and it was YEARS before I could listen to Tchaikovsky without flashbacks.  (Seriously, is that in the Kindergarten teacher's handbook?) So we had a good laugh about what sucky music the Nutcracker Suite really is, and then rocked on to the next song.

But back to the decorations... C-man loves putting up the ornaments. His decorating style leans toward the "clumping" style, with all of his ornaments are on 3 branches.  The ornaments I put up that he could reach? All got rearranged to be on those same 3 branches.  He thinks it is beautiful.  And who am I to judge the 3 baseballs together with the Polish racing sausage and JJ Hardy? (JJ is still revered as a Brewer of Christmas past, apparently).

The one big tree tradition we have is that we get an ornament from wherever we travel.  It's always such fun to bring them out each year and remember where we got them - from Botswana to Italy to Sanibel Island and more.  (Except this year, we got one from San Diego, and I can't find it anywhere, which is driving me crazy!)

It was a really nice morning.  And to keep it going, before we head to see My Son Pinocchio at First Stage, I'm on my way to find an Advent wreath to light during dinner tonight. A great way to start the season.

Fa la la la laaaaaa...

November 27, 2010

Ribbits and Wings

C-man and I went to see the Chorus of Frogs exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum today.

After we were done with the frogs, we continued on, seeing some pretty cool mummies (there is an exhibit coming in January that will have over 50 mummies - C-man is thrilled!), extinct animals, and the butterflies.

While mostly unthrilled with the real butterflies, C-man really loved learning about them on the computers and in the hands-on experiences.
 Riding the bizarre giant beetles was fun too.
And, of course, we saw the lighted humpback whale, the museum's traditional holiday thing.
Overall, a pretty good morning.

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from my future news reporter

At least we rank above cake.

* Disclaimer: The only set up to this was, "Hey, buddy, what are you thankful for?"  The rest was all his.

November 24, 2010

Latest funny quotes

C-man is always full of funny anecdotes. Lately, a few gems have come out of his mouth that were better than others:
  • Ingrid said a funny thing at school today.  She said that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren't real.  But she's sooo wrong.  How ELSE do you get presents on Christmas?
  • So answer me one thing - Do you take money out of my piggy bank and put it under my pillow?
  • "Can I have some cheese with dinner?" "No, buddy, you had cheese in your lunch." "But I pooped twice at school! Once by the lunch room and once before rest!"
  • While I was baking my cakes for cake decorating class, "That cake smells so good, I can't stand it! You're going to have to bake another one, because I need to eat some NOW!"
  • Hey Mom, you know what the best country in the world is?  Butt-swana!  Get it?  Butt-swana!

November 23, 2010

Short stories

Once upon a time, we drove 9 hours to South Dakota to pick up a really stinky, abused dog.
Brought him home, cleaned him up and ended up with one of the sweetest dogs ever.  (Even if stinky and wet is still his favorite way to be.)

Once upon a time, we followed someone around with a video camera, because he entered our world and wowed us as he learned to do amazing things.

Only to be taught that he doesn't just learn to do amazing things, but that I would want to live each day to be half as amazing as he is.
 Once upon a time, I went looking for a honey weiss.

And found it attached to a honey unimaginably sweeter.
Once upon a time, I was incredibly blessed.

And for that, every single day, I am thankful.

November 22, 2010

What it's like

Once in a while, I'm asked to explain what it's like to live with arthritis; a chronic disease that causes pain, inflammation and swelling.  I'm sometimes even asked what it feels like.  And while those are questions without simple answers, I'm going to attempt with the simplest answer I can.

What does it feel like?  There are two parts to that question - physically and emotionally.  I'll start with the physical, since that's a bit easier.

You know when you've had a bug, flu or otherwise, that knocks you on your butt?  And you know when you are recovering and on the upswing; when you are feeling better and are so excited that you can actually DO something other than lie on the couch all day?  So you do.  You get up and are excited to try to do stuff.  But you get about 1/3 of the way through your to-do list, and then have to collapse on the couch because you're so exhausted and your body just aches too bad to keep going.

That's me many days.

The difference is I never know which day is going to be one in which I'm capable and have energy and one that I'm going to be exhausted and incapable of doing most anything.  Because that's the thing about a chronic condition, it doesn't ask permission or give me a choice.  Instead, it just takes over when it feels like it; regardless as to those three more things your husband just has to find in the grocery store, whether your son is literally begging you to throw him across the pool one more time, or if it's time to get dressed and ready for work in the morning.  Because no matter how inconvenient it is, sometimes you have to physically sit down right then and there because the pain is too much to stand any longer.  And conversely, sitting in one position too long can be really difficult, seizing up every bit of your body to the point where you feel like you need an extra set of hands to straighten you out.  Hard church pews, long meetings at work, or car rides aren't just painful, at times they can be beyond excruciating.

And what does that pain feel like?  Well, that varies day to day.  But the closest I can explain is it's a cross between having worked out too much in the previous days, those times when your muscles are totally stiff and seized up with being the most swollen and bloated that you've ever felt.  Then throw some broken glass in-between your joints with some shooting, radiating aches from those joints for good measure.  If you've ever had a broken bone, and felt its deep ache when it was healing, it's that type of pain that radiates throughout.  Some days the pain is so intense, every bit of my skin hurts, so I can't even stand being touched.

Which leads to the emotional side of things.

Hugging is a normal greeting. And family members deserve it. But some days, being hugged actually hurts. And that's such a horrible feeling, to not like being hugged sometimes.  To have to ask my clingy, lovey kid to get off me, because he's hurting me is a horrible, shameful thing.

I love writing down to-do lists.  I like accomplishing things.  I don't like being inactive. And so when I am, it feels worthless.  These days, I'm inactive way too much and my to-do lists grow longer, with few things getting checked off.  And, of course, the more I sit, the less active and capable my body becomes.  Which, of course, leads to horrible body image and disappointment in myself.

And even the fear of the disease can sometimes be overwhelming.  Not of the disease itself, but of its effects.  How much am I going to be able to do?  Have I just committed myself to doing something I won't be able to follow-through on when the day comes?  Am I going to disappoint someone yet again when I back out of something because, well, I wake up and find out I just can't do it?  And worse, is when I follow-through on something I know my body isn't up for, because I know the following day I'm probably not going to be able to move off the couch.

So while the pain itself is exhausting, so is the emotional toll.  And that means my need to sleep on difficult days definitely increases.  I'm not sure if it's because I need more sleep, or it's because I wake up so often during those times because I'm in such pain that I need to do it for a longer duration.  Regardless, it takes more time out of my day away from my family to have to do.

Am I depressed? Well, sure.  Wouldn't you be?  But the pain causes the depression, not the other way around.  Not that the medicine doesn't add to that too, because unfortunately it does.  But that doesn't mean that I'm not happy at times.  A lot of times even.  Chronic conditions never go away, so I can't live my life in misery.  Just don't confuse me laughing with me not being in pain.  Because one has absolutely nothing to do with the other.  I do not have a choice as to what I feel.  I can only cope with it the best I can.

Many who have osteoarthritis try to can relate.  And it's hard to tell them that it's not even close, so I don't try.  Because pain hurts, and I won't minimize that, especially when they are just trying to understand and relate what they feel to what I feel.  But it's not the same.  The difference is if you have osteoarthritis, movement is really important for joint lubrication.  When you have an autoimmune arthritis, like rheumatoid or my version, psoriatic, moving more makes you hurt more.  And that already present exhaustion, just gets worse.  This doesn't mean I shouldn't move.  Quite the contrary.  The problem is moving doesn't help make me feel better, it helps keep weight off which does actually help.  Keeping a smile on my face when people tell me to "just do something", though, is not very helpful, and just ends up making me feel lazy.

But this post isn't about pity or sympathy,or even an instruction manual on how to treat someone with a chronic condition. I've just never put what it feels like all down in one place.  And I'm stopping here, because I'm sure I could go on for pages and pages, describing the anecdotes of my days and what it feels like both mentally and physically for me and my family.  But I promised a mostly simple answer to the questions and want to make good on that.

The good news is I have learned a bit from all this. I tend to judge people and their situations much less now.  Because while I don't park in a handicapped spot, those dirty looks I sometimes get for taking the elevator to the 2nd floor still suck.  And so I refuse to judge others' circumstances.  It's a lesson I wish I didn't have to learn this way, but am glad I've learned it anyhow because I can try to pass it on to others.

November 20, 2010

Busy day

We spent the morning together, going to the dog park.
Then I took a cake decorating class, learning that cake decorating probably isn't my strong suit, but crossed #95 off the list.
Dragged the family out in the freezing cold to get our Christmas card photo taken.
Took C-man bowling for the first time ever.  We played 2 games, and he got a 75 and 85 (with bumpers).  He was thrilled. I was pleased I broke 100 both games.
And then we came home and realized the best part about cake decorating? The cake eating.

Nestled in

God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest."

November 18, 2010

Thursday Thirteen bullets of random stuff

We have secured our plane tickets to Albuquerque for Easter break and I now have a bazillion country songs randomly streaming through my head as a result.  Who knew so many songs referred to Albuquerque?

I've never been to New Mexico, and am quite excited about it, even though it's months and months away.  But I love going to new places so much, it's a real thrill to have something on the books.  We're open to doing just about anything, so if you've been to NM and have any fun tips, let me have 'em!

There was a Quidditch World Cup held in New York last weekend. Can someone please tell these freaks that they look ridiculous with those brooms stuck between their legs?  You know, because they CAN'T.REALLY.FLY!

Next week is Thanksgiving.  When I was in 1st grade we had a Thanksgiving day party.  I don't remember what they served, but I remember I didn't like what was on the menu so had absolutely nothing to eat that day. And the teacher made me drink the white milk out of the carton that was almost room temperature "because I took it". (I didn't, the mom helper handed it to me).  I've never liked milk, and that room temperature 2% milk experience sticks in my mind so vividly all these years later.  Maybe that's contributed to why I don't feel like Thanksgiving is such a big deal?

At that same party, I was assigned to be an Indian. My mom put my hair in 2 french braids (like she did EVERY day of my childhood) and wrapped them in these leather things we had bought in Minocqua the summer prior.  I didn't want to be an Indian, because the hats were way cooler for the Pilgrims.  It would have been way more interesting had I known I have Wampanoag ancestory.

We're heading to Beerman's grandmother's house as usual. I've been assigned the cranberries.  Sometimes, there is real peace in routines.

C-man has show and tell every Monday. And just like his 3 year old pre-school and then K4, each week has a letter theme.  When they run out of letters, they move to colors.  (On the 3rd year of this, I'm beyond tired of it.  They're 5 and 6. They know their letters and are spelling and writing words.  Can we please move on?!) And it can't be a toy, which eliminates about everything in C-man's life.  So not only do I have to remember to do this over the weekend and get it in his backpack for Monday morning, I was stuck with letter E this week.  He took the book, "The Cow That Laid an Egg".  Close enough.

People I know are getting their email accounts hacked left and right lately, so it was a good reminder for me to go through and change all my passwords so you don't get an email request to pay my kidnapping ransom to a Nigerian bank account.  Now I can't remember what the heck I've changed half of the passwords to, including one of our bank accounts.  At least it's money that won't get spent now!

C-man continues with Chess Club each Monday. I'm amazed at how excited he is about it and how much he's learned.  I volunteered the previous 2 weeks, and it's really cool how the older kids help the younger kids to learn.

C-man is also signed up for Little League next year.  It's hard to believe he's old enough for honest to goodness Little League.  He'll be on the younger end, since his birthday is March, and the cutoff is the end of April.  But I couldn't bear the thought of enduring one more painful year of rec league coach-pitch.  Now if I could get the kid to field some grounders, life would be good.

I signed up for a cake decorating class ages ago, and it's this weekend. I have to make 2-8" rounds to take with me to decorate.  Hmmm... which flavor should I make?

I've been on the hunt for a good German language program, but can't find anything but Spanish.  Spanish is useful. But I get Spanish. It's German I don't understand.  Plus, it's #5 on the list.

Parent-teacher conferences are next week.  This school year has gone so fast.  C-man's report card was really, really good. I'm so thankful.  It'll still be interesting to get the teachers' perspective on him, though.

November 16, 2010

Flashbulb memories

They say that kids remember things in flashbulb memories; those flashes of single moments in time. I contend I still have these as an adult. And one of those times is when my child was just an infant, probably 3 months old. It was late at night, and I was nursing him, as I ALWAYS seemed to be doing round the clock in those days. (The child hasn't gotten this big on air and rainbows!) And I remember his warm, hungry body against me one evening, with his striped legs slung over the crook of my right arm, I was thinking, "He's gotten so big already!"

Little did I know, I hadn't seen "nothin'" yet.
As I've been giving away C-man's old baby clothes to people who need them, there are a few things I have not been able to part with for sentimental reasons.  This little pair of pajamas is one of them.  Because I swear I can still smell his baby breath when I hold it up to my nose.

November 15, 2010


No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. - Hal Borland

Regardless as to what the calendar says, The reds and yellows of Fall have transitioned into the browns and grays of Winter.  Warm summer days have moved into crisp fall breezes that have now become damp, chilling winds.  Hats and mittens and scarves are on their way out of the closets, as a necessity, not a nighttime nice-to-have.

I really mentally struggle in winter, with the cold and grayness of it.  So I find myself bracing for it, like I am seeing an oncoming car careening toward me.  And I hate that.  Because I've used this oncoming funk as an excuse to eat poorly and move little; two things that make me even more off-kilter, cycling back around to more bad habits.

So I need to find my inertia.  Just that one springboard to get me moving toward a more healthful lifestyle again. Because this just isn't working for me.  And since the pain isn't going away, I can't continue to use that as my excuse either.  Sigh... Time to get off my butt.

On a whole different note, who could believe I now have a 12 year old nephew?  Happy birthday A.Wall. 

And in a total Fail, so much for paying for Amazon's guaranteed delivery date - It looks like your present will get there on Wednesday.

November 14, 2010

Finding Faith

Faith is a really important part of life. And I don't mean just a faith in God, although that is where many people, including me, find a lot of it.  I also mean having a faith in the goodness in people. Or in the beauty of nature.  Or of the love of others.

But however we find faith, I've decided that we all need to believe in something.  Because an absence of a true belief in something good or better than the current circumstances makes life just too narrow, too abysmal, to do without it.

I can go for days, weeks, months, heck, even years without thinking about the concept of faith and what I really believe in much.  And then, out of nowhere, my eyes are opened to something that challenges and shakes me so deeply, that I need to go back to the foundations of my beliefs and ask if that's really what I still believe.  And if I do, do I have the strength and courage to act on it?

Recently, I've found myself in the middle of one of those times.  And I've realized that the idea of faith hasn't been at the forefront of my mind the way it should have been.  Guess it's time to go back to the basics.