Friday, November 22, 2013

Magical Medical Mystery Tour

The problem with waiting months for something is that expectations are invariably high, despite one's best efforts. Such was the case regarding my appointment with Dr. Rheumatologist.

It wasn't all bad, of course. He seems to be a good doctor, and thorough. He took a lot of time, asked a lot of questions, and checked on everything I could have hoped for. It's that last part that has me in knots. The thing is, I'm not sick. Not anymore, anyway. And the more time that passes since the illness of last summer, the more I think I imagined it all, or perhaps things really weren't as bad as they seemed at the time (the Complainer Hypothesis - because if you have kids, you know nothing is as contagious as complaining). These thoughts were bolstered by Dr. R's description of my physical symptoms as "vague." (Although I guess if they weren't "vague" I wouldn't need to see you, Dr. R.)

So as I sit here, about to leave for yet another round of blood work and contemplating the other tests that have been/will be done, about 95% of me just wants to cancel everything and run away. This process is stressing me out, and what's stressful is the the money.

Money. Money. Money.

I do not know how much all this is going to cost, and that is truly terrifying. It's fairly accurate to say I am not terribly concerned about the diagnosis, or lack thereof. Lupus? Bring it on. Addison's? Bite me. Liver disease? Stick it in your bile duct. Nothing? Pass the life insurance. But the bill? If it's big, I may need therapy.

What propels me forward is complicated, in contrast to the doctor's simple desire to figure out why my blood work is off. Now, I also would like to know why my blood work - with it's wonderful objectivity and complete lack of subjective influence - is off. I would also like to know if I will be incapacitated every time we visit Colorado, or at least if my ankles will again swell. If so, I will invest in new footwear. However, I would also like to buy a minivan, and eventually a tiny bit of real estate. And in a stunning act of grown-upness, I would like to buy life insurance. I really, really would.
Part of the reason I continue on is that 5% of me whispering what if? I can't stand even that level of uncertainty right now, as small as it may be. I cannot do nothing when there's a chance that finding something could enable me to be around years/months/weeks/days/etc. longer with my family. I don't want to jeopardize my health because of stinginess.
On the other hand, I am well aware that my discomfort with this level of uncertainty is influenced by our broader situation. There remains much uncertain about our lives. I know we will not be living in this particular home by this time next year - but I don't know which city, state, or even country we will be in. I don't know what Jon will be doing, whether I'll have a job, or if I'll have to find a whole new grocery store. With that cloud hanging above, my tolerance for other uncertainties has diminished. I need to know something. I just wish I had an itemized list of the costs.
Another reason I march ahead is because I, dear reader, am a human being. There! I admit it! And I am not ashamed! And as a human being I am susceptible to the sunk cost effect. Truthfully, I would welcome a diagnosis, for the simple reason that it would justify all the cost (money, time, mental calisthenics) that have been sunk into this endeavor. Not that you, dear reader, are prone to such fallacies. Unless you too are a human.

So there it is. You may assume all is well, unless you hear otherwise. That's what I plan to do, anyway.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Candy. It's what's for dinner. And lunch. And breakfast.

I was in error when I last wrote that autumn 2013 wasn't up to par. It simply hadn't peaked. The every day views have been spectacular lately. Bursts of auburn, flaming red, translucent yellow, burnt orange, and purple flamingos. The weather has been similarly pleasant, and that includes Halloween night. This time I was prepared for the almost 200 kids that came to our door. Last year, we had to supplement our candy by sneaking some from the kids' buckets (this was not a bad thing). This year we have left overs, so we'll be making little Halloween houses out of graham wafers.

Originally, the costumes were going to be based on Despicable Me. Isaac practically channels the minions, and pretty much the only fruit Anna eats is bananas, so it made sense. However, I recently finished reading The Sorcerer's Stone to the kids, so Anna elected to be Hermione. The practicality of this choice thrilled me. Almost every part of that costume can be worn as regular clothing, so I didn't mind paying a bit more for the pieces. I purchased the shoes, skirt, socks, and sweater. The shoes and socks she needed anyway, and the skirt was on sale. The sweater was certainly too large (and took the longest to find), but I can sort of fit into it provided I avoid the Halloween candy. The cape came from Isaac's Darth Vader costume, and the tie I made out of ribbon and fabric paint. And yes, I did pat myself on the back for that last idea.

This was going to be the first Halloween that Isaac wasn't Darth Vader (I will note here that the costume fits up to age 10, so I hope he comes 'round once again). I had planned out his minion outfit, which was also thrillingly practical and warm should the weather turn chilly. So I was a little annoyed when Jon asked if Isaac wouldn't rather be a Portal Droid?
Of course he wanted to be a portal droid. What Portal obsessed boy of four wouldn't want to be a Portal droid? I admit I shot some daggers from my eyes at this point. But Jon bravely took on the challenge and planned a great costume using only items from around the house. The portal gun was ingenious. Jon cobbled it together using water bottles, a milk jug, a Nerf gun, and various glowing things. The costume itself was simple, involving white and black clothing and glow sticks.

Of course, these are descriptions of costumes at their most pristine, and that pristine moment was fleeting. Almost immediately after leaving the house, Isaac decided the gun was too heavy. Shortly thereafter, the glow sticks in his socks became itchy and the hat was too hot. Anna's robe was too long and the weight of her 1 ounce wand/stick was simply too much given the ballast of the candy that quickly filled her bucket. Of course, this did facilitate Jon's adopted persona of Sherpa.

I elected to loosen the reigns on candy consumption this time, at least for 24 hours day. I let them eat a bunch after trick-or-treating and the next day. I didn't actually suggest they eat candy, but every time they asked I paused, took a deep breath, and said, "Go ahead." I then proceeded to avert my eyes.
I began weaning them off the next day, and now I let them pick out three pieces in the morning, and they can eat them whenever they want. But that's it - no dessert, no other treats, and everything else is wonderfully and horribly healthy. I did this last year and it continues to go over well. I also see an improvement in Isaac's self control in that he is pacing out his consumption. We did talk a bit about giving away some candy - perhaps sending a bit to the troops overseas who don't get any treats. Isaac listened closely, and very thoughtfully picked out 4 pieces of candy. Anna didn't even bother. To summarize: self-control is up, empathy is down. 

Our jack-o-lanterns also reflected recent interests, although their meaning was opaque to all but the most enlightened of trick-or-treaters. Anna carved out the Mincraft creeper herself, and no injuries were reported. Isaac wanted a Portal theme, so we used one of the Aperature Science logos. I think our family status is now solidly at "geek." I am good with this.

Autumn also means parent-teacher conferences at Anna's school. Overall, she's doing well which isn't surprising. Writing and math are her favorite activities (other than art and gym and lunch and recess, which shall always take precedence). What did surprise me a bit is that she is reading slightly above grade level. It's hard to articulate why this was unexpected, but perhaps it's because her  comprehension so far exceed her verbal production. So part of me believes she should be reading much better. However, I also see her struggle to read, as well as flip letters and numbers and words with great regularity. So part of me assumed she would be a bit behind. Her teacher assured me that this flipping is still developmentally normal - at least until the end of this year. However, Anna is an "older" first grader with a dyslexic dad. So, I guess we'll keep an eye on it.
The other surprising thing is that my dear girl is showing her softer, more... melodramatic side at school. I assumed she saved her tears and penchant for wilting for home, but apparently not. She cries (whimpers?) at least once a day, usually about every day struggles like forgetting a book or not being able to finish her writing at that exact moment. Her teacher is not stern or particularly strict, and is working to assure Anna that these little mishaps are not worth the emotional pain she's ascribing to them. She was wondering if maybe there was something else going on, but I assured her that this is kind of a personality issue with a side of bad habit. Regardless, we're both flummoxed as to the best way to handle this. I think my girl is aware that all this crying is inappropriate, but claims that she just can't help it. I'm not sure what to make of that. I think there's a melodramatic tendency showing itself; perhaps simple immaturity. What I'm dreading, and what her teacher is also dreading, is the social implications of this bad habit. She's going to get hammered by her peers if this doesn't get under control.

And now I am off to collect various children from various places so we can head to the dentist. Anna's last set of fillings is today and she is excited to see the end of Tarzan while in the chair. I am excited to stop giving the dentist my credit card.