Monday, October 27, 2008


Kate visited at the tail end of the summer and introduced me to, a fabulous site with all sorts of handmade items for sale by their creators. There are fun ways to search the site: by color, by location, by how new something is, by how popular, etc. (or should I say etsy?).

So, I opened my own etsy shop at You'll see the TrueJune link over on the right---->. Check in from time to time and see what's new, and also enjoy browsing all the other selections on Comments, suggestions, special orders most welcome...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Diet odyssey II

I felt great when I stuck to my diet, but over time, I lapsed, thinking maybe I was better, maybe things had shifted again. Also, I realized it was annoying to eat out with me and all these restrictions made me a difficult house guest. Not that there isn’t plenty of good food out there that is gluten/corn/dairy/soy free (like, for example, all fruits and vegetables, rice, potatoes, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, chicken, beef, lamb, etc. etc.), but if you are not used to it, you are not used to it. I didn’t think my “sensitivity” to these foods was a good enough reason to refuse eating something someone had made for me. If I was only “sensitive,” having a little every now and then wouldn’t hurt, right? It’s not like I would go into anaphylactic shock.

Meanwhile, I had been hearing more and more about laboratory tests for sensitivities to different foods from several different sources. I decided that if I was going to stick to a restrictive diet, I had to know for sure and have a good reason for my food choices, otherwise, I would waver. So I got tested through for gluten, soy, dairy, egg, yeast, and human antibodies and had the genetic test for celiac (they didn’t offer corn).

It was last May that I got the results: elevated antibodies to gluten, soy, and, to a lesser extent, dairy and human proteins. Wow. Pretty much what the chiropractor had told me. I also had a gene for celiac and a gene for gluten sensitivity. And there was evidence that the gluten had damaged my small intestines, as it will if you are celiac.

Though it is a shock to me, it looks like I am celiac. I was stunned at first, but then it dawned on me that this is really a good thing because there is something so simple and harmless I can to do to feel good: stay away from soy and gluten. I don’t have to take any medications, there are no side effects, I just have good health to look forward to.

I started a renewed gluten/soy-free diet, and within a few days, the eczema that had recently flared up disappeared. My skin cleared up. I felt more energetic and less bloated and inflamed. I feel overall healthier now that my body is not working so hard against these subtle yet chronic irritants.

So I guess that is where this Boulder diet odyssey leaves me. I no longer eat gluten (wheat, rye, barley) because it starts an immune reaction that damages my intestines. Even a small amount is detrimental. I avoid soy as it does not sit well with my digestion either. To a lesser degree, I try to avoid dairy and corn. I don’t find my new diet that much of a burden, on the contrary, I find it of great benefit to my health, but if I’m “weird” about food, now you know why. My intestines thank you.

This has gone too far...

I guess I like to experience the best a place has to offer. In England, their forte was history and scenery and milk fat. There were just so many kinds of wonderful cream and butter to explore! So little time!

In Boulder it is fitness and alternative medicine. Certainly these can be healthy pursuits to explore. So the family has launched into what can only be described as a diet odyssey.

It started about a year and a half ago when Rees began throwing up at night. About once every other week he would wake up, say he felt bad, then throw up, then feel better. The first couple of times we thought he was coming down with a stomach bug, but he was a new person in the morning, completely recovered. Then we thought it might be something he ate, but it would happen even on nights when his diet remained as monotonous as ever. It was a mystery.

I thought about going to the doctor, but what would they do? They could do blood tests and allergy tests and put him on an elimination diet, but that all seemed very intrusive and exhausting to me. It was likely to be expensive and possible they wouldn’t come up with anything.

Instead, I thought I’d take him to this chiropractor/naturopath I had heard about to see what she thought. She might at least point us in the right direction based on her intuition. If it worked, great, if not, there was no harm done.

She looked Rees over and did some adjustments, tested him a bit and said that he needed to avoid five foods: banana, pepper, tomato, egg, and soy. I was surprised. I had been thinking wheat and dairy were the culprits, and since he is a vegetarian, I was concerned about his protein intake. To avoid wheat and dairy, I had been slipping egg and soy into anything I could get him to eat. I slipped it right out again and he stopped throwing up.

One day he absentmindedly grabbed a big fresh tomato Greg had used to make a sandwich and ate a few bites. That night, he threw up. Another time, after a morning bike ride and breakfast outing with some friends, he threw up again. When asked what he had for breakfast: French toast.

He hasn’t thrown up since.

At the same time, Kadin had some eczema on the inside of his elbows. I thought I’d see what this chiropractor/naturopath had to say. She said he needed to avoid peanuts and soy. He had been having peanut butter on a rice cake every morning. When he switched to almond butter, the eczema went away. A few months later, when it recurred, it turned out he had been having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at school for lunch. When he stopped, it went away again.

Easy! Well, easy except for the soy. I started reading labels and we’re not talking just avoid the tofu and the edamamé here, we’re talking soybean oil, soy lechithin, hydrolyzed soy protein, it's in everything. It’s cheap! It’s available! It’s widely used: salad dressing, chocolate, crackers, deli meats, even some frozen fruit.

Given the success with Rees and Kadin's health, I thought I’d give it a go too. Driving to my appointment, I felt I could eat anything, that I had an iron digestion. I was going to be pleased to find out that I was as solid as a rock. But I was the worst of all: no dairy, no soy, no wheat, no peanuts. What???

Well, it couldn’t hurt to avoid these foods for a time, so I launched into a new diet. I felt much better. After a month or so, I felt things were shifting so I returned to the practitioner. Now she said dairy was okay, but gluten wasn’t, soy wasn’t, corn wasn’t. So it was no wheat, oats, rye, or barley for me. Soy, too, was difficult to avoid. But when I stuck to the diet I really did feel better: my skin cleared up, my digestion moved smoothly, I had more energy.

About the same time, the cats started seeing a new vet who made house calls. Whenever I took Rex to the vet he would suddenly transform from lovable goof and sweetie pie into attack cat. The vet hated him and wouldn’t even examine him, so what was the point? With the home-visit vet, appointments went from stressful and useless to gentle love-fests on the couch. Much better. She is also a wholistic vet and so gave me some information about a more natural diet for the cats. They too needed to eat better food and she left me with a handout of helpful suggestions that I put on the fridge.

When Greg came home one day and found a list on the fridge labeled "diet suggestions" that included things like "raw meat," he thought I'd gone off the deep. “This has gone too far!” he declared. I reassured him that it was for the cats. Well, okay then. Just shows you how far the diet odyssey had gone at that point.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dog days of summer

It's been HOT and we've had a serious outbreak of flat cat. Here's what it looks like around here:










Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Norway, two (2!) years ago last June...

(Sequel to Oxford, only a year—or two—late...)

We met my parents at Heathrow and exchanged stories. They had flow 3,000 miles from Yerevan and had brought some food from the Armenian market. We had a few things from Sainsbury's, but the Sainsbury's apricots, though a deep golden color, did not compare in flavor to the Armenian ones. I sampled the sheep cheese and flat bread my mom had brought. The cheese had a very definite animal flavor to it, tasting very much like the way a barn smells. An acquired taste, I guess, so I only had a small bit.

Why my parents were interested in watching the Queen's 80th birthday celebration instead of the World Cup, I have no idea. The England/Trinidad game was going to be on just exactly during our flight.

Grandma and grandpa could only get their seat assignments at the airport, and since the plane was full, they were not sitting together. Great! I jumped at the chance to get my own seat and mom sat with Greg and the kids. I had a wonderfully uneventful flight. As we were standing, about to disembark, the flight attendant announced the score as “nil nil.” Oh boy, the game should be over by now. Then, just as the line out started moving, another announcement: England had won 2 nil. Everyone cheers.

Luggage took awhile since mom's suitcase did not arrive. The airport was small and pleasant and we enjoyed the little glass windows in the floor that had tiny dioramas and scenes behind them. The guy at the baggage claim saw no reason to be concerned and thought the bags were still coming. But they didn't, so mom went to the customer service desk to find that her bag was still in Heathrow. It would arrive the next day.

We debated about the options to the hotel: bus v. train, and took the SAS bus in. Oslo struck me as a big, messy city. We had some difficulty getting the elevator to work with the security system. Tempers (especially mine) were short, the kid's bed was not made. Don't remember what we did for dinner, but probably picnicked in the room. I was tired.

Next morning we all gathered for breakfast, except mom whose stomach was not well. The sheep cheese. The rest of us set off for Akershus and the Viking Museum. At least that was the plan. The cousins were having a great time, but Kadin still couldn't walk. We finally told the rest of them to go ahead and Greg and Kadin and I could go at our own pace. We came across the Resistance Museum, and Greg and I enjoyed that. Kadin tolerates most things. Don't think we would have attempted that with Rees at all as it is a bit disturbing.

Decided to walk to another neighborhood that was billed as "hip" on the way to the Natural History museum and look for a grocery store for lunch on the way. No grocery, so we settled for a 7-11 type of deal of hotdogs and hot pockets. It was not a great lunch and cost us $40(!) We were now on Karl Johann's Gata, a walking street. We enjoyed the human statues there. The nearest bit of green was the lawn at the DomKirke so we stopped there to eat our sandwiches. There was some kind of protest about Afganistan going on, but we couldn't read the signs (in Norwegian) and just ate our lunch and Kadin used the outhouses. We walked a bit farther, towards the hip neighborhood and Natural History museum, but never made it. Just before getting back to the hotel, we found a grocery store. I bought more provisions, found a good calzone place, and that was dinner. Later we learned that our lunchtime picnic site protest was a hunger strike, of all things. How terrible of us!

The next morning we were off to the airport again and then Lillehammer with the tour group. Only Greg and the boys had just finished the 4th Harry Potter and had nothing else to read. We had about 20 minutes to find an English version of the 5th book before we got on the bus. Miraculously, we made it. We asked where there was a large bookstore and were directed to Karl Johann's Gata again. For the life of me, I couldn't understand the name of the bookstore. Finally, when we thought we were near it, we asked again. Then asked the name of the store. "Eeeaiirk" is what the reply sounded like, with about 5 syllables. Turns out, the store was called "Ark." They had the book. In English. Wow. Success.

We boarded the bus to the airport with tour guide Lisa Christine and driver Tor Arne. As Lisa said, no one in Norway has a middle name. Either they have one first name or two first names. I guess that because the selection of names is relatively small, you can be distinct with a distinct combination of names.

We got to know the airport very well this time. The plane was delayed, then the people joining our group took forever through customs, over 2 hours after they were scheduled to arrive. We snacked and amused ourselves as much as possible. We met Laurie and her two grandsons, Chris and Ian, who had flown in from Chicago that morning. They were very tired and jet lagged. I was glad that we were all over jet lag and able to wait in relative comfort. We finally all got on the bus after picking up two more grandmothers and their two granddaughters: Kay, Pauline, Sarah, and Natalie(?). Tor Arne made a wrong turn, and we detoured a bit before getting on the correct highway to Lillehammer. Lisa Christine and Tor Arne argued about which side of Lake Mjosa was the most beautiful: the "right" side or the "correct" side. Tor Arne was from Hamar on the East, "right" side, the seat of the bishop, and Lisa Christine was across from Hamar, on the West (left/correct) side. This was the bread basket of Norway with lots of farms.

Pretty soon Tor Arne said something cheerily in Norwegian to Lisa Christine, she then cheerily said into the mic that we would be pulling over shortly because of engine difficulty. Just like the delays at the airport and the wrong turn, it all sounded so friendly and innocuous in this benign environment. Help would soon be on the way.

It was unusually hot. There was no shade and we had pulled over onto the tiniest of pull-outs, not the greatest or safest place on the busy highway. And we waited for the imminent help.

There were eight kids on the bus who were understandably restless. Without the air conditioning, the bus was like an oven. We all had to get out. Everyone but dad did. He stayed on the bus, as is his way, dressed in full suit.

Most of the kids dealt okay. The four Knuth boys found games to play that were reasonably safe. Ian and Chris did their own teenage sort of thing (game boy). The girl I’m calling Natalie wrote in her journal. Sarah was the most put out. For her and the older boys it had been a very long day indeed. "Why can't we go?" "This isn't fair." "I don't like this," and so on. Eventually we ransacked Tor Arne's store of beverages: water, Coke, Fanta, and sparkling apple juice. That raised morale a bit. I regretted not filling my water bottle for what was to be a short two-hour bus ride.

Finally, a German tour bus stopped to help. We had the fan belt we needed and they helped install it. Finally, finally. We were there for about 4 hours in the end. All I can say is that the acronym for the Norwegian Automobile Association/Forbunding—NAF—was more than accurate. We got on our way, then stopped at a gas station for water and fuel. Kevin discovered that he could get a kroner for each empty bottle from Tor Arne's stash. Excitement.

We arrived at the hotel in Lillehammar about 8pm for dinner. Luckily it was a buffet and luckily it was meant to be late. I was starving. I don't remember much of the evening except being exhausted and hungry and feeling like we had to take advantage in the morning of the pool and the miniature golf and the town and we only had a few hours. Whew! How to take advantage of all these luxuries?

Once again, we managed fine. We had a nice buffet breakfast. Julie and I walked down to Lillehammar center, though it was Sunday and everything was closed. We found a shop to buy some snacks and food for the trip to Brennabu (must be prepared, anything could happen…). Played a little mini golf on the disappointingly maintained course, and Greg went swimming with the boys. We met at Maihaugen, the open-air house museum, for lunch with my parents. Kadin was being a real pill and refused to walk anywhere. His foot did hurt and he was still limping, but what to do at the open-air museum? Fed up, I finally asked at the desk if they had a stroller or a wheelchair we could rent. They provided us with a wheelchair. Kadin happily rode in that.

There was a lot to see and not much time, it seemed to me. First we saw the inside exhibit of the history of Norway. It turned out to be really good. Starting with a cold ice cave it chronicled the ice ages up to the present. The kids enjoyed it and we learned a lot. Kadin related everything to the game Civilization (bronze age, iron age, etc.). I was glad we took the time to do that. Then we went outside to meet our tour guide. This was okay too and she explained things and let us into a house and told us about the customs and traditions. This was good to hear, but I felt we only got a taste. Soon it was time to get back on the bus. A new bus.

Something happened where Kadin went to the bathroom and took forever and we were really late and everyone on the bus was waiting for us and I felt rushed and guilty. We all rushed on the bus and drove to the ski jump. Lisa Christine told us we had only 20 minutes at the jump before we had to leave again for Brennabu on yet another bus. Rush, rush, rush, I was getting tired of this. I was determined to see some of the ski jump. I went down to the top of the lower jump with Rees and we walked very fast up again. Then I wanted to take the ski lift down. Finally we got word that Lisa Christine has miscalculated and we had an hour and 20 minutes. So we ended up at the bottom waiting and waiting.

Lisa Christine said her goodbyes and we were joined by the mother-in-law of our host at Brennabu, an outdoor education center. She would be our guide on the drive. She was very interesting. She had been the original owner of Brennabu, and now it was run by her son and his wife, Elizabeth. The drive was longish and I worried again that it might turn out to be much longer than planned. I always refilled my water bottle at this point. Bjorn was our driver from Valdres, the region we were going to. We stopped briefly to see some petroglyphs along a river of Alg (moose). Got to Brennabu and it was wonderful. Not a sort of deteriorating elegance like the Lillehammer hotel, but a charming, clean, Scandinavian feel. We were served dinner, a whole fish, I believe, but I managed to find something to eat. I was ready to settle in, only to discover that I had left my camera on the bus. Ughh. Bjorn, would we see you again?

We explored our new accommodations and the boys quickly became the “troll patrol,” hunting trolls and chasing them away. We found a “Speise stue,” the eating room; a “Piese stue,” a meeting room in the attic; the “Corner stue,” Corner room; and the “Torkerrom,” or drying room. Drying rooms are a very important part of a Norwegian house.

Turns out this was the perfect way for everyone to be together, have a Norwegian experience, and also have lots of fun. We didn’t have to decide what to do and we didn’t have to decide where to eat. It was beautiful and relaxing. A quick summary of activities:

Day One
We hiked to some boulders to do some rock climbing. Canoeing on the lake after lunch.

Day Two
Rock polishing and horseback riding.

Day Three
A drive in the bus with Bjorn (camera returned, yea!) to see fjords and glaciers and an awe-inspiring thousand-year-old stave church, all the while accompanied by the music of Peer Gynt.

Day Four
Archery and midsommar games.

Day Five
Open-air museum in nearby town.

In addition to the owners and their parents, I most vividly remember Ardun, our indefatigable leader who would entertain the children and “groundups” alike, and Anne, the cook who made the most wonderful berry jams. We were able to visit Ann’s house and her amazing weaving studio where in the winter she wove fabric into traditional patterns to be sewn into traditional dress. And we also got to tour her family’s traditional summer farm, where they took the livestock to new pasture up higher on the mountains.

I took a hike one afternoon with Greg and Julie, startled a European moose (Alg), and it was gone in a flash. And I remember the stunning drive back from the glacier, the miles and miles of mossy landscape well above treeline, both haunting and inviting.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The finder

(From just about a year ago...)

I am obsessed with finding things. I want to know where things are. I will search relentlessly for things. I hate not knowing where things are.

I don't think the kids get this. I think they have learned to be afraid of telling me they can't find something. I will ask them over and over again what they were doing when they lost it, ask them to retrace their steps. I will ask them to clean up. I will lead them on an intense search. I don't see how they can be so uninterested, remember so little about what they were doing. They probably can't stand how determined and single minded I become. "I can't find it, but don't tell mom," I imagine them saying.

If the tape is missing from the kitchen drawer, I'll say, "Did anybody use the tape?" More often than not, "no one" will have used it, there are no recollections whatsoever. Utter blankness. And then I, who have never touched the tape, haven't seen it used, have no consciousness (sub or otherwise) about it whatsoever, will go and find it, clearly used, and then come the revelatory nods, the "a ha's" and "oh yeah's" like a miracle has occurred. Wow, what do you know, it has appeared, out of thin air. Oh yes, you are right, I did take it to make a paper hat. I remember—now.

This summer I was struck by just how good I am at finding things when the dad of one of Rees' friends called to ask if his son had left his gecko fleece jacket at our house. He couldn't find it and they were leaving on a trip. No, I hadn't seen the fleece, I didn't think it was at our house, but I would have a look.

I was pretty sure I would have noticed it if it was here. But I wanted to help him, so I thought back to the last time this friend had been over. I thought about the weather and if he would have likely brought a fleece. I remembered a cool day that week and remembered his mom saying he was going over early to another friend's house. I mentioned this other friend to the dad. He thought a minute and then said, "Oh yeah, I see it now, I put it on his backpack when he was going out that day, then he decided not to take it and I put it back in the closet, just where it should be. I didn't think to look there."

I think I should start a finding business. I hadn't touched the fleece, I had no idea where it was, it didn't involve me in any way, but I helped him find it. There has got to be good money in this.

Update 7/14/08: I have started making the effort to notice when the kids do find things. "You're the finder!" I'll proclaim. Cheers all around. And, just to reward myself (because nobody seems to value this skill as much as I do) when I find something, I'll let my zeal spill over not into a "see, I told you..." tirade, but instead: "I'm the finder, Mama's the finder!" It seems to be raising the interest in finding things around here. Finally.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wine store

I try not to take the kids on too many errands, a few stops is usually their limit. So I was surprised when Kadin seemed okay with going to the liquor store after the bank. He waltzes right in and picks out a bottle of red called, “Woop, Woop,” a name we had laughed over at home.

Kadin (age 7): “Here’s the Woop, Woop, Mom”

Me: “Oh hey, thanks, sure, let’s get that. But I prefer the Fairvalley Pinotage.”

Kadin: “That’s right over here, Mom, here’s the Fairvalley.”

Whoa. What is this kid doing? I was trying not to turn red. It looked like this was a daily occurrence or something. I know a few months ago he came down here with Greg, and apparently they had had a really fun time with it, Greg involving him in every decision.

Kadin: “Did you want a chianti? There’s a fruity one in the middle row.”

A fruity one in the middle row. Okay, we’ll get that too. Honestly, we only go to buy wine every few months, but this was looking really bad. Or really good, depending on your point of view. When I go into a wine store, I can barely remember what I bought, what I liked, where in the store it came from, etc. etc., but Kadin obviously remembered the whole thing in great detail. I might just take advantage of that skill of his and bring him along more often…. It was one of the best mixed-cases we’ve ever bought. A future sommelier in the family?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bear update

(from backlog, this happened just about exactly a year ago…)

I had heard rumors of the bear. After seeing a man in the back yard with a gun and encountering a visiting grandfather who had seen the bear (see original bear post here), I got my turn. We were sitting downstairs watching a movie. You know how sometimes in your peripheral vision you will think you see something big and hairy, the proverbial monster, but when you turn to look it is a robin, or a squirrel? I glimpsed something out the corner of my eye, turned to look, and it WAS a big hairy monster just cruising through the back yard. In no way did it seem predatory or interested in diversion, but it was BIG, strong, and powerful. Awesome. We ran upstairs for a better view and all saw it out the bedroom window. I immediately called the neighbor whose yard he'd gone into, and her husband ran out with a camera, which startled the bear who ran away down the path to the next street over.

I called to report the sighting (which we are told to do, but, I'm learning, might not be in the best interest of the bear). That night I saw ranger trucks with big lights out looking for it. I learned later that it was a 350-pound male and had been tranquilized the next morning and moved to a more remote location because they felt it was getting too used to people.

That was a first for me. I finally saw a bear in the "wild." I am thrilled. There is a surreal feeling to seeing a large, wild creature like that trotting by the kids' swing set and trampoline. The lawn just seemed so wrong.

No personal sightings since but rumors of more bears and a report last week of a mountain lion at 10:30 pm a few blocks away. A few weeks ago, the new family from Scotland took video of the fresh bear scat on the sidewalk just around the corner. Heard some loud sniffing outside the window the other night, but when I went to look, nothing there. Could have been a dog, a raccoon, a fox, or...


I haven’t been posting much, but am inspired to update the last couple of years.

Yes, really!

I have many posts that have just never gotten up, most from a year or two ago. It will be a bit scattered time-wise, but every day or two, along with current events, I’m going to try to clear up the backlog. And I’ll try to give you a hint about when it happened.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer dreams

I’d been having some odd dreams about a month ago. I felt a bit possessed. First there was a dream where I had to be at the airport for a flight that left in 30 minutes. From our house, there is no way to get the airport in less than 45 minutes. Still, I was going to try to make it. Or maybe I’d given up on that flight, but thought I could get on the next one. But first, I had to stop at the school to get something. And, as I was on my way out, I noticed that one of the burners on the stove was on and someone had left a potholder there that had just caught fire. I turned off the burner, wondering how that had happened.

For some reason I went out the back door instead of the front and there I saw the hose running, so I turned that off too. Who left the hose on? What if I hadn’t seen it? Would it have run for a week?

At this point I woke up glad it was a dream and fell asleep again.

This time there was a couple of feet of snow on the ground and outside our front door was the school carnival/festival with various booths and activities. I had four gloves with me and I kept dropping one. Nothing I could do would keep them all together. I kept searching in the snow, and as soon as I found one I would get distracted again, then notice another one was missing.

I woke again. What was my mind trying to do? I felt it had been hijacked by every possible distress. I thought back. I had started taking vitamin B supplements and I wondered if they were helping my brain to grow, but in all the wrong places! Anxiety was not something I wanted to cultivate. Still, I was starting to enjoy the show. Where would my twisted mind take me next?

This time a dream about the cat. Only it was the cat vomiting a huge vomit, a mass bigger than the cat itself. Somehow, I heard myself volunteering to clean it up.

Luckily the streak of disturbing dreams ended. I chalk it up to the transition to summer with its unpredictable schedules and masses of roaming children. Now, I’m happy to report that daily, I find the hose running, the cat vomiting, and it doesn’t seem to bother me at all. I do keep a close eye on the stove burners, though.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The day everything came to a head and then resolved again

The skiing at least goes very well. It's a beautiful sunny day. I feel I ski much better when it is sunny. Before I set out on the mountain I talk to Greg from the lodge and hear that he is once again on the right IV antibiotic and that all is well. By lunchtime I talk to my mom and hear that Greg is out of surgery, that it was successful. I am enjoying the skiing, but absolutely fuming about the morning’s events in between runs. The poor souls who ride the lifts with me get an earful. I am furious! Boiling!

When I get home I have a follow up message from the doctor I called this morning (old number 13) reassuring me that he consulted with the infectious disease specialist and Greg’s surgeon, talked to Greg and my mom, and that all was set straight and Greg is on the right path again.

Around dinnertime I talk to Greg. He is doing well, but still has not been sent home. They are giving him another slug of the IV antibiotic and have given him a prescription for “expensive” orals after he leaves the hospital.

He goes “home” (to my parent’s house) that night. Late at night, the doorbell rings. It is his lost bag. Now he has the books to read, the DVDs to watch, the pajamas to wear, all the things that he had selected to recover in.

Somehow, the return of the bag is the sign that I needed. All is going to be set right, things are coming back together again. And the new “expensive” antibiotic turns out to be half the price of the “useless” one. Phew.

I did try the next day to talk to our regular doctor and get some satisfaction. It was not to be. I don’t know what I wanted, but an apology would have been nice. She did listen, she did explain, she did take her time with a very uncomfortable phone call, but she was also defensive. The practice had circled their wagons. They would admit no wrongdoing. It just made me sad. Time to move on.

Since then I have moved on and signed up with another doctor. Fingers crossed this one will be there when we need her.


Greg continues to do well and recover. He is back home and his PHT levels are back down near normal. We spent last week in Steamboat Springs on spring break. He leaves for Italy on Thursday for fieldwork. He wasn’t able to get a follow-up appointment with the infectious disease guy before he left, so he is going without any antibiotics in his pocket. I guess they have healthcare in Italy if he needs it. We don’t really have a family doctor at present. No one person has followed this, so no loss in starting fresh.

Rees finished his antibiotics and came down with another bad sore throat. This time the strep test was negative. Maybe a virus this time? Maybe end-of-school-year-itis?

Kadin managed to get a tooth abcess the day before we left for spring break and right after he finished his antibiotics, but that too seems to have resolved itself. The dentist is not concerned. I’m not going to dwell on it. It’s a baby tooth. This too shall pass.

Don’t know why everyone is getting sick, but am determined that will end soon too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday morning

Greg has flown to California. He arrives at the hospital at 5:30am this morning. Except for the airline losing his bag (in it most of the $300 pills), he is doing well. At 7:30am, just before he is wheeled into the OR, he calls me. The doctor there has told him that oral vancomycin is useless. It only works in the gut. It does not get into the blood. He wants me to call the doctor who prescribed it and get it sorted out.

I call back the practice and ask them to page the doctor. They say she’ll get back to me. Ten minutes later the phone rings. It is yet again ANOTHER doctor. From my count, this is the 13th doctor we have talked to about this. “So, tell me the story,” he says. I can’t believe it!

“This is the deal,” I say while trying to get the kids out the door for school, ”My husband is being wheeled into the OR in California and he just found out he is on the wrong antibiotic, that the one he is on is ineffective. I want you to consult with an infectious disease expert and find out what antibiotic he should be on and get that antibiotic to my husband. He is at Stanford Hospital under the care of Dr. Jeffrey Norton.”

He asks me if I have the phone number at Stanford. I don’t, but I tell him that he could look it up on the internet, that it is a very well-known hospital. I give him Greg’s cell phone number and my mom’s cell phone number, they’re both at the hospital I tell him.

I am so furious! I don’t want this to ruin my day. I have my make-up ski lesson today. My ride comes in 5 minutes. I don’t want their mess up to impact that as well. I don't want to sit home angry and worried all day.

I think back. It was something I didn’t question, I didn’t double check, and that was wrong. Always question, always double check, do your own research. This is so fundamental to getting good health-care these days. I was asleep on the job on this one. I just so wanted it to be simple.

Signs I had that the antibiotic was wrong:

The ER doctors ALWAYS consulted with infectious disease specialist before using any antibiotic.

The ER doctors talked (to each other, I overheard) about going onto two oral antibiotics.

My mom had IV vancomycin and when she switched to orals it was a different antibiotic.

There was no evidence that the family doctor also had expertise in infectious disease.

The Target pharmacy didn’t carry it because it is a seldom-used drug.

Sunday morning I had a sudden flash that maybe it was too simple, the oral vancomycin might not be right. Before I called the doctor to double check, I reassured myself that of course it was right, it was the same medication, it seemed so consistent.


Cathy picks me up and we drive up to El Dora. I vent the entire way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The new plan

The new (again!) doctor presents us with a simple plan. Greg wants to leave for California on Monday night. So, on Sunday we’ll start the oral vancomycin to give it a 24-hour trial before he sets off. We’ll keep up with the IVs, but with home administration all day on Saturday.

We like her, this new doctor, we are thinking we’ll have two or three “regular” doctors, maybe that is the way to beat the system and at least have some continuity of care.

Saturday morning all goes well with the home care. This is working, except for a minor blip when I flush his IV and realize that I got a little air into his vein. Instant death like in the movies? I call the nurse and she assures me this is okay.

Saturday afternoon I go to the ballet with the boys and stop to pick up the prescription for the oral vancomycin at Target. They don’t have it, so the pharmacist calls around and we can get it at King Soopers.

I pick it up, but am a bit shocked by the price: $300! For 10 pills. Oh well, they said it was powerful stuff. If it works, it’s worth it.

Saturday night, all goes well again with the IV at home. After he is done we gleefully remove the IV ports in his arm.

Sunday we stay home, no one comes to administer anything, we have no doctor’s appointments, Greg takes one pill in the morning and is done with it. We are normal people again!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Day four

It is now Friday, and we are becoming quite the regulars in the emergency department. Last night we received our first good news: the doctor looked at Greg’s leg and declared that he was not concerned. He saw that it was improving and felt it would improve at an increasingly rapid rate. Not that we could stop the IV antibiotics, but we were moving in the right direction.

Did I say something before about graduating to oral antibiotics? That still seems to be off in the future. Apparently you need to be sort of gradually weaned off the IV onto the pills. They don’t like to take chances. We are now hoping that by the end of the weekend we’ll be weaning off the IV.

The good news is that home health care has now been arranged to start Saturday morning at the house. Surprisingly, it’s cheaper to have someone come to your house than for you to go to the ER. The downside is that home health care won’t come after 8pm. We have been at the hospital since before 10 this morning and this dose (each dose now takes a full two hours to administer, Greg receives the benadryl in advance, every time, so gets incredibly groggy and can’t speak up for himself and can’t drive, requiring both of us to be here) is scheduled to be finished at about 3pm. It’s been a long day. Anyway, as the doses are supposed to come every 12 hours, 8pm is much too soon to begin the next dose.

So, the bad news is that we will be coming back to the ER tonight around midnight for what I sincerely hope is our last visit. The kids spent the night last night at the neighbors since we were in the ER from 5pm to past 10pm (and they were up at 5:30am when we dropped them off at the neighbors for the morning dose). I haven’t been able to regularly pick them up from school. Someone else will have to pick them up again today. We call Felicity about tonight and she plans to come and sleep over while we spend who knows how long in the ER on a rollicking Friday night.

It’s great to see Fe but I wish I could be more of a host. I am feeling exhausted. Up at 5am, 8hrs a day in the ER, in bed at 10 or 11. Tonight it will be get up again at 11:30. I would love to stay up and hang out with her, but think I should sleep until 11:30 instead. We have dinner around 7pm and at 8 I am ready to go to bed when Greg points out that the IV antibiotics for the weekend’s doses have yet to be delivered. I call to find out what the scoop on that is. The good news is that they will still be delivered, the bad news is that the driver won’t be able to get here until 10pm and that we have to sign for them. No problem, Fe can sign for them. But no, it has to be one of the “insureds” who signs for them. Why is it that the meds can be delivered at 10pm but no one can come administer them and we have to go to the ER anyway? Uggh, we have definitely moved now from the wait-and-see phase to a new phase where things are improving, but getting really annoying: the pain-in-the-butt phase.

So it looks like bed at 8, up again at 10, then to the ER again from 11:30 to 3. Then a doctor’s appointment at 9am with his regular doctor (who will be supervising the home care). I am realizing that the caregiver has to be extra careful to take care of themselves. Between all these appointments and the kid’s needs and schedules, I haven’t had much time to rest.

Several extremely annoying (to me) things then happen:

We were under the impression we would see Greg’s regular doctor on Friday morning at 9:30. Nope, the appointment was for Saturday, a fact that was obvious to the scheduler (as the doctor is not in on Friday or Sunday), but news to us. When we asked for an appointment on Friday, then were told the Doctor was not in on Friday or Sunday, then told to wait, then asked if we would like to come in at 9, 9:15, or 9:30, we didn’t realized she was talking about Saturday. That would have been a nice detail to confirm.

The ER does not have the medication ready on Friday night at midnight, even though I asked the nurse about 4 times that afternoon if it would be ready and she reassured me when we left that it was ready and waiting for our return that night, saving us about an hour of waiting. When we get to the ER, the new nurse can’t find it and has to reorder it. It only takes about 20 minutes this time, but so unnecessary! “If only we knew you were coming,” she says. They KNEW we were coming, someone blew it.

We return to our doctor’s appointment on Saturday, ready to finally graduate from the ER, wean off the IV antibiotics, and have someone––one person––who knows the whole history––follow the case from now on, only to be told that Greg’s regular doctor is out. Again. I am a weeping mess by this point. Another mess up. She is sick, but still, we have to start fresh yet again with a new person. Maybe we should have just seen this person on Friday in the first place. What is the value of a regular physician? When the chips are down, you really want to know there is someone there you can rely on. It’s not to be.

But on the positive side, things are looking up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The next chapter: Red Man

It’s 24 hours later, Greg is ready for his fourth dose of IV antibiotics, the one where they decide if he can graduate. It’s 2pm, and if all goes well, it will take less than an hour. If all doesn’t go well, I want to be there, so we go together and worry about who will pick up the kids at 3pm later. He’s a regular at the ER now.

The doctor comes in, “So what, is this your second dose? Third?” “Uh no, this is my fourth.” The doctor is not pleased. It’s another call to the infectious disease specialist for a recommendation. Another hour of waiting.

The recommendation is to go for the big guns, vancomycin, the drug that is used for MRSA, the drug-resistant variety of staph (even though it is likely this infection is strep, but only way to know is to try different drugs until one works since there is nothing to culture). This drug requires a specially timed pump and it will take one hour to go in. We call to make alternate arrangements for the kids. Easy, given our wonderful network of friends. Rees has band rehearsal ("The Hooded Brothers," more on that another time) and Kadin will go to Samuel’s house instead of Samuel coming over to ours. We’re good ‘til 5pm.

In 24hrs again, we’ll know if he can graduate to oral antibiotics.

I watch the ml dripping in on the timed pump. Out of 250 ml, it hits 125ml. Half-way there. Every drop fighting those nasty bacteria. Greg starts itching his head. Lice? I don’t think so. “I’m going to let someone know,” I say. “It’ll go away,” he says. It doesn’t. He looks flushed. I tell the nurse. She comes in, stops the pump, says it is a common reaction called, appropriately enough, “Red man.”

So it’s a shot of benadryl, a dose of pepsid, and a wait of another half-hour and then we’ll try again, but twice as slow as before. We’re here for the long haul tonight. I take Mona up on her generous offer to watch and feed the kids after 5pm. Doctor really wants this drug to work. We really want this drug to work. It seems it’s one thing after another.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Greg is scheduled for surgery next week in California? Behind all of this there has been a blood chemistry imbalance caused by an over-active parathyroid. This wayward gland (one of four small glands located on the thyroid) is telling his body to put too much calcium in his blood. Symptoms are negligible, but can include fatigue and confusion. His PHT (Parathyroid Hormone levels) are about three times higher than normal. His bone density about 89% of normal. His urinary calcium is normal, so his kidneys have been working overtime to keep up with that.

His body is fighting a blood imbalance, eczema, second-degree burns, strep throat, and a raging infection in his leg, and he is walking and talking and doesn’t even break a fever.

My theory is that once his blood chemistry goes back to normal, he’ll have the full repertoire of resources to fight everything else off. I have been counting the days until his surgery, thinking that will be the beginning of the end. The reason he is having the surgery in California is that there is no one who does the minimally-invasive parathyroidectomy surgery (that not only has fewer side effects but also has better cure rates) in Colorado. The doctor in California not only does the minimally invasive version, but does over 100 of them a year. It seems the way to go. Greg even lined up the surgery before he had all the testing done by the endocrinologist here.

If he can make that surgery on Tuesday, the root cause of all of this might be cleared up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Greg has had chronic eczema on his hands and feet for going on two years now. The Chinese Medicine person he has been seeing has given him an herbal soak and home-made salve. While it seems to work, it works VERY, VERY SLOWLY. He soaks about 2 hours a day and, over the past six months or so, it has gotten slowly better, IF he keeps up the soaking regimen. Off and on, when there are open wounds, it seems to get slightly infected and then he soaks it in warm, salty water for a few days and that tends to take care of it. Swollen lymph nodes come, swollen lymph nodes go. It has become a familiar pattern.

Last week a patch on his right foot was starting to get infected again, and in his zeal to nick it in the bud, he soaked his feet in hot water that was a little hotter than usual. The next day he noticed he feet were red from the water line down.

Had he scalded himself without knowing it? Two days later, the red marks turned into huge, painful burn blisters. He hobbled to his last week of teaching classes (actually I drove him and picked him up for most of the week) and made a big impression on the dermatologist he had previously decided to see when progress on the eczema was slow. Can’t hurt to get the dermatologist’s opinion, I thought.

The Chinese Medicine doctor also recommended a full blood work-up, which he did last fall. That turned up an irregularity with one of his parathyroid glands (parathyroids are four little glands that regulate blood chemistry and are found on your thyroid.) If he can just hang on another two weeks until he is scheduled to have the offending parathyroid removed, maybe his body will get all back to normal. Burns are shallow, they will, with time, heal…


Thursday morning, after a nice hike in the foothills, I come home and get the call: the nurse at school saying Rees is not feeling well and has a slight fever: 100.5. I always suspect that those school thermometers are set a little too high.

I bring him home and set him up on the couch. Is it stress, exhaustion, is he really sick? He is lucid, but uncomfortable with a very sore throat. He hasn’t eaten. He is really sick, I conclude, and he checks out and takes a nap. The problem is that tonight and tomorrow is the 5th grade’s big musical production of The Jungle Book. He has been working towards this for months, with early morning rehearsals. I have been helping with the sets, props, and costumes. Tonight he is scheduled to be in the chorus, tomorrow is the big night where he plays an elephant and a snake. He has to be better by tomorrow night.

I finish sewing snaps on the orangutan belly, mend some torn monkey pants, then, when it is time to pick up Kadin, I tell him I am leaving, ask if he wants to come with me, and when he says he doesn’t, I tell him I’ll be back in 15 minutes. When I return I can hear him from a block away screaming in the house at the top of his lungs, “Mom! Where are you? Mom! Mom! Mooooooooooom!.” Just the thing to heal a sore throat.

Guess he is not lucid. The last time he was this unreasonable, the day before Halloween, I took him to the clinic and he had strep throat. I am taking him in again. I know if it is strep, he will likely be feeling much better in about 24 hours, just in time to do the musical. It is worth a try.

We head off to the SmartCare clinic, a walk-in clinic at a Walmart where you don’t have to make an appointment and they charge about a third less than our regular doctor (who couldn’t see him until the next day anyway.) Sure enough, Rees tests positive for strep throat, again.

Does he have it all the time and do I just take him in when there is a big event like Halloween or a performance in a musical? Why is he so vulnerable? I ask around at school and some moms tell me they have heard similar tales where there are a-symptomatic people in the family who keep re-infecting each other. Maybe we should all get tested.


Greg goes to the dermatologist and gets a burn ointment and yet another, more powerful steroid cream. It’s the new plan.

We all try to go to the clinic on the weekend to get our strep tests, but it doesn’t work out. On Monday, Greg is not feeling so well and now the lymph nodes in his left leg start flaring up. Monday night he can’t sleep because of the pain. He calls his new dermatologist (he has already gone to his regular doctor a few times with complications from eczema, with ho-hum results). The dermatologists’ message says he’ll get back to him in 24–48 hours. So we decide today is the day to traipse over to the drop-in clinic and get tested for strep and maybe see about the leg as well.

It’s the Tuesday after daylight savings. Official “grump week.” Rees is home again, not well. After dropping Kadin at school, I drive Greg in to teach his class with plans to go to the walk-in clinic at 11 when he’s done. I have a conference call scheduled for work at 1pm, plenty of time. At the clinic, we ask for strep tests and Greg says he’d also like the nurse to take a look at his leg. We get swabbed, I pass, Greg doesn’t, he’s positive for strep. Then the nurse has a look at his leg. She tells us to go directly to the Emergency Room. Oh boy…from strep test to Emergency Room.

I didn’t think seeing the dermatologist would hurt, but it looks like it might well have landed Greg in the hospital. IV antibiotics for him. And one strong guy too. Eczema, burns, positive for strep, a raging leg infection worthy of emergency intervention, and not even a fever. Go Greg!

So we start the IV antibiotics and it’s a wait-and-see game. In 24 hours there should be good improvement, depending if they got the right drug for the right bug. He doesn’t have to stay overnight, but does have to return every 8 hours until he shows improvement and can graduate to oral antibiotics.

We finish at the hospital just in time to drop Greg and Rees at home so I can pick Kadin up from school and take him directly to the clinic for his turn. “I don’t have strep! I’m not having a throat culture! I can’t do it! I can’t swallow that big stick!” and so on. Kadin is thrilled about the plan. But it turns out our fears are not unfounded. He too tests positive. The nurse writes a prescription for me as well, as it is likely that I had a false negative and we should all be treated simultaneously just to be on the safe side. She doesn’t understand the lengths I go to to avoid antibiotics, but I figure for the good of my family, it’s the least I can do.

We now have the following schedule: Rees swallows one pill twice a day. Kadin chews one pill three times a day. I swallow one pill four times a day, and Greg goes back to the ER every eight hours for another IV drip.