Thursday, January 28, 2010

Geeks of the World, Unite!

Wow. I had more comments and e-mails on my last post than on anything I've ever written, including when I announced my surprise 4th pregnancy.

Turns out everyone feels like a geek at least once in a while, and a lot of people get comment anxiety, too. All of which makes me feel much more normal, whatever that may be. And I've gotten much braver about leaving comments in the past few days. I've even left comments on some famous bloggers' blogs. Gasp.

And to respond to a number of comments I got - if I leave comments on your blog, it doesn't mean that I don't think you're one of the cool chicks, because I do. It means that I either lurked on your blog for a long time before getting brave enough to say something OR you left a comment on my blog first, so I felt safe leaving one in response.

So there.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Social awkwardness

Thanks to Wendi Aarons I've started reading some very funny blogs, and I'm having a bit of writer's block when it comes to leaving comments. Mostly it's because I start channeling my inner gawky 14-year-old, and all my social anxiety comes back to haunt me.

As a teen-ager I was terrified of the "cool girls" at my school, which, looking back on it, is pretty funny because our entire school was made up of geeks. Really, it was like they gathered all the brainy, geeky kids from the entire district and quarantined us on one campus for our own safety. Think about Anthony Michael Hall, John Cusack and the other guy from 16 Candles, and you have an idea of our school. Don't get me wrong - I loved my school and wouldn't have survived in a normal high school for longer than a week without having a complete and total breakdown.

Even though the girls in our school were all brainy and geeky, there were the "cool chicks," and I was terrified of them, not for any good reason. They were all perfectly nice girls. I just always worried that I'd say or do the wrong thing and they'd think I was a loser. So mostly I didn't talk to them or hang out with them or sit with them at lunch.

Anyway, I've started reading these blogs, and the writers are all these funny, sharp women - the adult equivalent of the "cool girls" from school. And I'm terrified of leaving comments on their blogs, because what if what I write isn't good enough or funny enough.

This is what goes on in my head:

This is so funny. She's such a good writer. I wish I could write funny as well as she does. Am I even cool enough to leave a comment? Will she think I'm a stalker? OK, here goes.

This is such a funny post. I laughed out loud. You're awesome. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Ahhhh - I wish I hadn't submitted that. She'll think I'm awful. But if I go back and delete it, she'll think I'm crazy. I can't believe I did this.

Rather, rinse, repeat for just about every blog I read. It's exhausting. So mostly I lurk on these blogs and feel like the geeky outcast watching all the cool girls hang out together. And that makes me feel even stranger, like maybe they're watching me and wondering why I'm staring at them with a goofy look on my face.

Some days it's hard living in my brain.

And lest you think I'm only like this on the interwebs, think again. I do this with pretty much every social interaction that's outside of my tiny comfort zone. This Saturday I went to the monthly Runners' Brunch with people I've been running with for the better part of a decade, and I spent the whole time on edge, worried about how I was behaving. I was so nervous that I swung wildly between talking too much out of nervousness and being silent. I skulked on the edges, using keeping an eye on Elizabeth as an excuse (at least in my mind) for not sitting at the table and chatting. I went home tired and frazzled.

Is it any wonder I verge on being a recluse?

Friday, January 22, 2010

The best laid plans

I really did have a good plan for yesterday evening. And when my plan fell apart, I even had back-up plans. But those didn't work, either.

My plan had been to run with Elizabeth in the babyjogger while Ella was at rock climbing practice. I carefully packed my bag with a dry shirt for after my run, a bottle of gatorade, my iPod, and a book just in case I had time to read (I'm reading Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and loving it). I loaded Elizabeth and Ella into the car and headed south.

The traffic was terrible. An accident on northbound MoPac had tied up traffic on both sides, but I wasn't worried about being late because we had left the house in plenty of time. All was going well.

Until I realized that I had left the one crucial piece of the plan at home - the babyjogger.

If the traffic hadn't been so bad, I could have doubled back to the house and grabbed the babyjogger and still made it to the gym in plenty of time. But that just wasn't an option.

I cursed and grumbled under my breath for a few moments and then came up with what I thought was a brilliant back-up plan. I called a friend who lives between where I was and the gym to see if I could borrow her jogger. Unfortunately, the friend wasn't home. I left a message hoping she'd call me back before I passed her house.

I called another friend who lived close enough that I could make an easy detour, but she wasn't home either. So I headed on to the gym.

While I was there, the second friend called back and said I could come get her jogger if I wanted. I told her I was on my way and loaded Elizabeth into the car. I was thrilled that my back-up plan was actually going to work.

Except for the traffic. Normally I can make the trip from the gym to that friend's house in about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes after leaving the gym, I wasn't even halfway to my friend's house and Elizabeth was screaming in the back seat.

That's when I gave up on my plan of going running. My desperation to run had gotten to the point of being ridiculous. Instead, Elizabeth and I headed to Central Market and picked up some dinner. We had a nice little picnic at one of the outdoor tables and enjoyed the lovely weather.

Once I let go of my frustration that my plans didn't work, I managed to have a good time with Elizabeth. But next week when I take Ella to practice, I'm making sure to pack the babyjogger.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lesson learned

for the past five years or so, I've taken a very low dose of a mild anti-anxiety medication. I started taking it because five years ago, I was a mess - a bigger mess than I am now, which is hard to believe. I was having anxiety attacks in the grocery store that would leave me shaking and gasping. I'd have anxiety attacks at play dates with good friends and their kids. I wanted to do nothing but hide in my house and sleep, which was tough to do with two small kids running around.

I had also stopped eating, which is my typical reaction to stress. And I had started some worrying OCD behaviors like balancing my checkbook four times a day and checking credit card balances at least that often.

My doctor started me on Paxil, and that did not go well at all. It made me want to sleep even more. I knew I had to stop taking it the day I was driving down the road and contemplated crashing my car into light pole, not to kill myself, but to be injured enough that I would end up in the hospital where I could sleep for several days. I stopped taking Paxil the next day and called my doc in tears.

She put me on Lexapro, and that has worked very, very well for me. I don't have anxiety attacks in the grocery store, and I can function at social events without a problem (other than being overly shy). The medication also keeps my tendency towards anorexia under control and eliminates the big OCD stuff like balancing the checkbook. I still can't go to bed without checking all the locks in the house in a particular order, but I view that as a safety impulse born of living in Gainesville, FL at the time of the murders.

This past Saturday, I took the last of the Lexapro I had on hand, but I didn't worry too much about not having my dose for Sunday because I figured I could get the refill on Monday without a problem. I've missed one dose in the past and not had any ill effects.

Except I was out of refills, and by the end of the day on Monday, the pharmacy still hadn't heard back from my doctor on the refill. By that time, I was already in full-on withdrawal mode with weird jolty feelings all over my body and increasing anxiety levels that left me short-tempered and barely able to function. Tuesday afternoon, the doctor's office still hadn't called in the refill, so I called them directly to see what was up. It turns out I was due for an appointment, but someone there forgot to call me and tell me that was why they hadn't sent the refill.

Fortunately, the nurse called the pharmacy, and they filled the prescription right away. It took several hours after I took the dose for the jolty feelings to go away, and the anxiety levels remained long after that. I was not a good mom or wife yesterday afternoon, which really upset me. I lost sleep last night over the events of the afternoon and evening.

I've learned two very important lessons. First, I should never let my refills run out like that again. I need to request them before I'm out of pills. And second, I do need this medication to function, and that kind of bothers me. I had hoped that I had gotten past that mess five years ago, but apparently not. I guess I should just be grateful that I have found something that works well for me without terrible side effect - like making me want to crash my car.

I'm a fan of better living through chemistry.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Casting on

Now that all of my Christmas knitting is finished, I only have two projects on the needle at the moment. This is an all-time low for me lately. I have a few finished projects to show off once I get pictures of them.

First up is another of the "Simple Yet Effective" shawls. I knit the last one out of one skein of Noro sock yarn, and it turned out much smaller than I'd anticipated. So this time, I'm using two different, but still related, skeins of Koigu. I'm also using size 6 needles instead of the size 4 the pattern calls for. This one should turn out to be big enough.

The striping isn't as pronounced as in the Noro version, but I'm loving the changes in colors. It's a great TV-watching project because it's all knitting or purling with a few yarn overs thrown in for excitement.

I'm also working on socks for a good friend. I dragged her into the wonderland of my LYS, and she picked out the wool. I'd say what it is, but the ball band is deep in the middle of the yarn, and I don't want to mess things up by pulling it out. I do know that it is hand painted and incredibly soft. I'm calling these my "Harmony Wood" socks because the colors in the wool match those of the Harmony Wood needles I'm using. I've been toting this project around as my car knitting, but I need to bring it in the house. My friend is going to get impatient for her socks if I don't get them finished soon.
After all the gift knitting I did for Christmas that had deadlines, it's a nice switch to be able to work on fun projects at my leisure.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Peace and Quiet

Yesterday, for the first time since before Elizabeth was born 15.5 months ago, I had the entire house to myself for an afternoon - no kids, no husband. B and Ella were off in Houston for a climbing comp (Ella placed third in her division and qualified for nationals; she's headed to Virginia next month to compete.), and the little three were off with my mother-in-law for a few hours.

I made sure to do all my cleaning and dusting and such before the little kids left so that I wouldn't sit alone in the house and feel compelled to clean. Instead, I took a nap for a an hour or so, waking up in a panic at the quiet in the house. It took me a few moments to remember where everyone was. After my nap, I went to see "Young Victoria" with Wendi Aarons and another friend (one who's not a blogger - who knew such people existed?). I highly recommend the movie; it's well-acted and beautiful. And it was so nice to come out of a movie without a migraine caused by loud noises and explosions and chase scenes.

When I got home from the movie, I still had an hour before the kids arrived, so I watched trash TV (what is wrong with me that I watch Jersey Shore?) and knit.

It was divine.

Of course, today the house is back to its usual level of noise and chaos, and I found myself feeling resentful at the mess the kids had made of my previously spotless home. It's not that they were trying to be messy; they were just playing as usual, but there was still a mess of blocks and puzzle pieces strewn across the living room.

Who knows when I'll have such piece and quiet again. I hope it's not another year and a half.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Plenty More Books Inside

I've finally gotten around to updating my book blog. It's been so long since I've done it, I'm sure I've left a few off the list. I have two new books sitting on my bedside table now, for the nights when I can stay awake longer than five minutes. I've got The Women, by TC Boyle, and The Girls with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larson. I'm also working my way through a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, which I started long before the movie came out, by the way.

Anyway, if you're looking for suggestions on books, cruise on over and take a gander.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Yesterday millions of Haitian residents lost friends, family and loved ones. Yesterday tens of thousands died and countless more were injured. Yesterday one of the poorest nations on earth suffered tragedy that is almost beyond understanding. Yesterday an entire country was reduced to rubble. Yesterday the UN, the State Department and Doctors Without Borders struggled to locate their staff members. Yesterday relief organizations mobilized to send aid to Haiti. Yesterday millions of people around the world opened their hearts and their wallets to send prayers and money to Haiti.

Yesterday held the worst examples of unthinkable tragedy and the best examples of faith-restoring kindness and generosity.

And yesterday Pat Robertson, a supposed man of god, said this:

. . .something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it, they were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil, they said, we will serve you, if you get us free from the Prince, true story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, and ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. . . the Island of Hispaniola is one island cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is, is, prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty, same Islands, uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. . .

How could he think that saying this could serve any purpose? How could he think it would do anything but further traumatize those whose lives have already been affected by tragedy?

I'm not a religious person, but even I know that saying such a thing falls so far outside of what is Christian. Perhaps Mr. Robertson used to a kind, compassionate man, but power and money seem to have led him to become a hate-filled man and a poor example of a "Christian."

Shame on you Mr. Robertson. You had the opportunity to ask for help for Haiti, and instead you chose to broadcast lies and hate.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More hedgehog pictures

Turns out that if I want to drive my hit count into the high 30s, I just need to post pictures of a hedgehog. So here you go - more hedgehog pictures.

Lily is my animal lover, and she has really become attached to Percy. She pesters me throughout the day to let her hold him. Ella has held him a few times, but she usually says, "Gethimoffmegethimoffme takehimtakehimtakehim" as soon as he starts wiggling. Lily isn't nearly as skittish.

Campbell has pet Percy a few times, but he's not brave enough to hold him. Even if he was, I'm not sure I'd let him. I'm too afraid he'd squish Percy by accident. Mostly Campbell dances around and laughs every time we let Percy out of his cage.

Elizabeth is intrigued by Percy - she just doesn't know what to make of him. She stands in front of his cage and makes little chirping noises when she sees him ambling about. But she does not like it one bit when I'm holding him. She starts screeching each time she sees him my hands; we're not sure why.

It took a lot of tries, but I finally got a decent picture of his cute little face.

Percy is going home this morning, and the girls were both in tears when they left for school this morning. I've promised them that we'd offer to Percy-sit again sometime, but that didn't seem to help. The girls and I are also trying to convince B that I need a hedgehog as a present for my 40th birthday this summer. B, unfortunately, is not on board with this plan.

Fortunately, we have 6 months to work on him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Better than TV

Ever since the "Zoo Man" brought baby hedgehogs with him to our preschool, I have been in love with the critters. So when the mother of one of Lily's classmates was looking for someone to watch their hedgehog for a weekend, I jumped at the chance.

Percy moved in last Thursday and leaves on Wednesday, and this is how my children spend most of their waking hours - glued to the side of his cage watching his antics.

But it turns out that hedgehogs, as cute as they are, aren't the most active of pets. They are nocturnal, which means Percy sleeps all day and then hits his little wheel at about 1:00 am for a run. This frustrates the girls to no end, especially Lily. They desperately want to play with him, not watch him sleep. So they tend to sit by his cage and talk loudly in the hopes that he'll wake up and perform. He usually ambles around his cage a little after dinner time, and I pull him out and let him run around the floor, just to entertain the kids.

He is definitely prickly. When he rolls himself up into a ball in my hands, it's feels like I'm holding a bunch of straight pins. It doesn't hurt, exactly, but it doesn't feel good, either. He cracks the girls up by huffing at them when they want to play with him. Percy is trying so hard to look fierce and threatening, but he just looks like a walking pin cushion.

I've considered getting a hedgehog as a pet, but after sitting for one and doing some research, I think I've decided against it. They aren't cuddly animals and have no interest in sitting in your lap and being petted. Then there's the whole nocturnal issue, and their food stinks. So I think we'll just be the occasional hedgehog sitters for Percy.

I've had a hard time getting a good picture of Percy. Turns out the only thing harder to photograph than my children is a reluctant hedgehog. He really does have a cute little face, and he's adorable when he rolls into a ball with just his nose sticking out.

Hmmm. . . maybe I'll be asking for a hedgehog for my 40th birthday after all.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

baby bowling

one of elizabeth's favorite toys is my big exercise ball. ella and her friend m had great fun playing with elizabeth and the ball one afternoon. it's too bad there's no sound, because elizabeth was letting out big belly laughs the whole time, even when she got bowled over.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

sleep deprivation

i know i've been whining for ages about being tired, but i'm going to whine one last time. my goal for this week is to get elizabeth sleeping through the night (i was given the confidence to do it by anymommy's recent post). i don't know why i've had such a hard time with elizabeth. with the other three, i did the ferber system without a problem.

well, that's not exactly true. when we started it with ella, i'd have to sit in the far corner of the back yard where i couldn't hear her scream. but once it worked with her, i became a convert and had no problem ferberizing lily and campbell at about 9 months.

elizabeth has been a different story, however. i think it's partly because she was premature, so i feel like i have to baby her a bit more to make up for her rough start. and i think it's partly because she is still so teeny - not even 20 pounds at 15 months. i worry that she can't possibly store up enough food to sleep for 8 or 10 hours straight.

or maybe that's all nonsense, and i'm just a sucker.

for the past few months, i've been waking elizabeth up at 10 and feeding her in the hopes that she would last through until morning. but she usually only slept until 4 when she'd want to eat, and then she'd usually want to eat again at 6 and then wake up for the morning at 7. on the advice of a friend, i cut out the 10 feeding, just to see what would happen. turns out she slept from 6:30 until 4ish without a problem, so she is capable of going for long stretches.

this past week, however, she switched to waking up at 2 and wanting to play. so now i'm getting hard core with her. when she wakes up, i go in and pat her tummy and make sure she has her woobie, and then i leave. the first night, she cried on and off for almost 2 hours. the next night she cried for an hour, and last night for 10 minutes. i'm keeping my fingers crossed that the end is in sight.

the sleep deprivation is really taking its toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally. i'm not handling stress well, and my temper is shorter than it should be.

plus, my short-term memory is shot. new year's eve day we invited some neighbors over for a tamale party. i went to the store and bought all the fixings that go with tamales - avocados, tomatoes, rice, chips, beans, etc. it wasn't until i had paid for the groceries that i realized i'd forgotten one key item - the tamales. i took everything out to the car and went back into the store, sighing the whole way.

later that day, i was standing in the front yard talking to the mother of one of ella's friends and to a good friend who had just taken lily on an adventure. as we finished talking, i called out for lily, telling her that she needed to say good-bye and thank you to our friend. when i didn't see her running around the yard with the other kids, i asked the kids if they knew where she was. everyone gave me a strange look, and our friend said, "lily, where are you?" lily started giggling, and i gasped. i'd been holding her the whole time. i was so out of things that i hadn't even noticed the 50 pound child in my arms.

i was mortified. but it also strengthened my resolve to get elizabeth sleeping better.

keep your fingers crossed that it works.

Monday, January 04, 2010

knitting pictures

i had planned to post a bunch of pictures of my christmas knitting, but as i downloaded the photos from my new camera, i realized how few pictures i took of the finished items. i don't have any pictures of the slippers in knit for my mother-in-law or the scarf i knit for b's grandmother or the mittens i knit for one of my best friends. i also don't have good pictures of any of the three hats i knit for b, uncle t or uncle d. i'm so bad at documenting my accomplishments.

here are some of the pictures i did manage to get.

first up is the "simple yet effective shawl" out of noro sock yarn. i loved this pattern, which is knit from the top down with increasing stitches every other row. the pattern calls for dividing the skein in half and alternating four rows of stockinette with one ball and four rows of garter with the other to get the striping pattern. the shawl turned out a little too small - it was more of a shawl-ette, so i'm going to try it again with two different yet related skeins of koigu.

you can see the colors better in this picture. it was so fun to watch how the striping turned out. this is the project that got me through one maddening afternoon at a surgery center.

this is the yarn harlot's "one row scarf." i used all the left over worsted weight wool i had from the hats i knit and just changed colors whenever i felt like it. the pattern has a nice texture to it, and the scarf turned out really, really well. i've now knit a second out of wool left over from some mitten projects, but i don't have a picture of it.

i knit this cowl, modelled by goofy lily, for one of my best friends. it was a snap to work on, and the yarn was absolutely lovely. it's some hand spun stuff made out of merino and alpaca that is beyond soft. the colors don't come across well in the picture, but there subtle changes in the reds that make it look like jewels. i have a skein and a half left, and i can't wait to work with it again.
yesterday i felted a pair of slippers for lily and cast on a pair for ella. i found a basic pattern on ravelry that is a snap to knit, and i've been using up lots of the cascade 220 that's been hanging out in my stash for ages. i'm also working on a ruffled scarf for me out of some gorgeous arucania, but it keeps getting put on the back burner because of projects for other people. i've also got a pretty spring scarf on the needles for the nice lady who keeps bringing us food and a pair of socks for one of my best friends. unfortunately, work has started up again, which is going to drastically limit my knitting time.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

starting 2010 off right*

despite my glum mood, we have at least started the new year off well.

i took the christmas tree down on wednesday and had it on the curb in time for brush collection on thursday. i love the twinkly lights and the smell of the tree, but i hate how much space it takes in our already small living room. having it gone makes the room feel so much bigger and brighter.

thursday b and i worked together to get all the christmas lights off the house, and he stored all the lights and decorations in the garage where they belong. christmas is officially put away - yay!

while b and i were on the roof on thursday, a landscaping crew came and cleaned the leaves out of all the front garden beds, pruned bushes and spread a good layer of mulch for us. the yard looks great and is ready for whenever i manage to get new plants for the spring.

new year's eve we had an impromptu tamale party with two other families - which meant a grand total of 9 kids at the kitchen table at one point. after dinner, b entertained everyone, especially campbell, with roman candles, sparklers and whirlygigs. i was just happy that no one called the police on us.

i had a new freelance project come in, and i got a good start on it yesterday. it feels good to be doing something productive with my brain again, rather than just refereeing the girls when they fight with each other.

we've spent today working in the back yard raking leaves, pruning bushes and mowing one last time before spring. b's neck feels good enough, at least it does right now, for him to be up and working, which is a good thing.

in addition to all the household stuff, i've also managed to run twice.

so it's only january 3rd, and already 2010 is going pretty well.

*on my dad's advice, i popped the keys off my keyboard to clean under them, and now it's working worse than ever. looks like a trip to fry's is in order. i can't do my work this way.

Friday, January 01, 2010

farewell 2009*

don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave.

really, 2009 was one for the books, and not in a good way at all. the year kicked off with some serious depression that i haven't quite shaken. that was followed by the first of b's many neck procedures, the latest of which was on monday. and on a related note, why do all outpatient surgery centers only play fox news on the tvs in the lobbies? to quote one friend, "perhaps this is what's wrong with the american healthcare system."

i also had my ongoing fight with blue cross/blue shield of texas, which still isn't resolved. my doctor has filed a second appeal on my behalf, but i'm sure that will be denied, too.

and among all these big stressors, which don't seem that much when written down but have really affected my life, there are the little day-to-day things of managing the house and four kids and balancing my work hours and then fretting when there wasn't any freelance work, and blah, blah, blah.

so here are my hopes for 2010 -
  1. the doctors find something that will alleviate b's pain. it's horrible to watch someone you love be in almost constant pain. the next step may be an electrical implant on the nerves in his spine that will override the pain impulses. it's drastic, but it does seem to work.
  2. get the insurance problem resolved in a way that doesn't involve our coughing up seven grand to the hospital.
  3. get running on a regular schedule again. being able to exercise consistently will go a long way towards getting the depression back under control.
  4. find some way to let go of my notion that the house has to be spotless and the laundry has to be folded for me to be a good mom. i can't manage to do everything, and i need to be better at accepting that i can't.

welcome 2010 - may you be a better year than the last.

and to my wonderful readers - happy new year. may it be a good one.

*campbell spilled coffee on my keyboard months ago, and it has been slowly dying ever since, one key at a time. today, my shift key doesn't work unless i hammer on it, so i'm typing without capital letters, just to save time.