Friday, June 29, 2007

Q's Recovery

(guest blogger - Val's husband, Q)

Val wanted to post an update on my recovery from Cushing's Syndrome, so here is. I'll try not to be too dull, but Val is the writer in the family.

I had the operation to remove my left adrenal gland back in January, 2006, because a tumor attached to the gland was causing it to produce too much cortisol. As my body had an excess, my other adrenal gland stopped producing it all together and went dormant. The hope was that once the tumor was removed, my body would eventually start producing cortisol at a normal level again. This has not happened yet, and so my endocrinologist has doubled my daily hydrocortisone dosage, to approximate the bodies normally produced amount.

Until now, my dosage had been steadily decreasing since my operation, from a high of 50mg/day, finally down to 5mg/day a few months ago. When I dropped to 5/day, I was getting so tired, that it was difficult to function anymore. I went back up to 10/day about a week later and was hoping that the latest tests would indicate my body had started to produce cortisol naturally. But I guess my increasing fatigue is due to my body having too little cortisol, because it's only getting it from the pills I take.

So, now I'm back up to 20mg of hydrocortisone a day, 10mg the moment I wake up (thank goodness for Siamese Daylight Time), 5mg at noontime, and 5mg in the late afternoon. This should echo the bodies natural production of cortisol, which starts at about 4am to get the body ready to wake, continues then slows throughout the day, and stops in the evening to allow the body to sleep.

I may have to continue taking these pills, three times a day, for the rest of my life. But Val is the optimist, telling me it's not that bad and could be a lot worse. I'm hoping the increased dosage will get my energy level back up to normal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Alphabet Soup

I got this meme from kj's blog. She had some cool, interesting answers and I thought it would be fun to add my own flavor to the alphabet soup. Enjoy

A is for Age: 34 years old, but I don't feel it. And I'd like to think I don't look it, either. I still have acne, for crying out loud!

B is for Beer of choice: None. Beer makes me sick.

C is for Career: Part time college student; part time laundry wench; full time Mom.

D is for favorite Drink: Mango Mantra smoothie from Jamba Juice.

E is for Essential item(s) you use everyday: Laptop computer; iPod; Chapstick; Pureology Nanowax for my hair; debit card.

F is for Favorite song at the moment: "Midnight in Moscow" by Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen.

G is for favorite Game: Playing old-school Super Mario Bros. with my son. Or maybe Name That Tune.

H is for How About Whatever Favorite I Choose: Breed of cat--Siamese.

I is for Instruments played: I took violin lessons in fourth grade. Nowadays, I play a mean iPod.

J is for favorite Juice: Tropical flavored Diet V8 Splash.

K is for Kids: Two tweenage boys and an adopted Siamese kitty. Jango is the baby of the family...a title that Lucas was more than happy to relenquish.

L is for Last kiss: Yesterday when I dropped Q off at his office after our dentist appointments.

M is for Marriage: Yes. 15 years. Sometimes I think Q ought to be nominated for sainthood for having put up with me for so long. Other times, I think the opposite is true.

N is for full Name: Nice try, but not on the least not as long as I can avoid it. I would just like to know what my parents were thinking when they chose my first name. While it's not completely uncommon, I always thought it was a little weird.

O is for Overnight hospital stays: When I had my babies.

P is for Phobias: Power tools. Particularly table saws, but nail guns scream "silent, but deadly". This particular phobia stems from an old episode of Rescue 911 where a couple of construction workers were at a job site, and...I can't continue. It's just too gruesome, but you get the idea. I'm also afraid of dogs, but that fear is mostly quelched when the owner assures me that their pet won't bite, jump or attack. Now, if I see a stray dog running loose in the neighborhood, I will shore up the house, lock the boys in their rooms, and hide out upstairs until it's gone.

Q is for Quote: "Don't pee on my head and tell me it's raining" or perhaps, "Don't insult my intelligence, Kirk!"

R is for biggest Regret: Not buying a house in the Moon Valley area of Phoenix. I love our house here in Peoria. But our newish neighborhood lacks the character of Moon Valley, which was developed in the '70s and '80s. Back when were were looking for a house, we said we didn't want to take on the problems that are inherent with an "older" house. That's why we chose the new build. But in reality, new houses eventually become old houses that need repair, too. Our kitchen counters are warped near the sink. The exterior paint is looking faded (many of our neighbors have already had their houses re-painted). And the carpet is just plain nasty.

S is for sports: Shopping. I consider that a sport. She who buys the most cool stuff for the least amount of cash wins!

T is for Time you wake up: It varies. The Siamese alarm clock goes off sometime between 4 and 5:30. The regular alarm goes off at 6.

U is for color Underwear: Yes. Colored underwear is very important. I'm a firm believer that you should keep 12 to 15 pairs of any color underwear on hand at all times...just in case you get lazy with the laundry.

V is for Vegetable you love: Summer squash...especially when Q makes it with this sweetened soy sauce-like concoction. Mmmmmmm.........

W is for Worst Habit: I am very hotheaded. My overly-diplomatic husband has had to restrain me from many a confrontation.

X is for X-rays you’ve had: Yes, I've had x-rays. Do ultrasounds count?

Y is for Yummy food you make: One of my family's favorite meals is burritos, and I make the beans from scratch. I used to make the tortillas that way, too...which is a very arduous chore. A few years ago, our grocery store began stocking uncooked tortillas, so I now buy those instead. Just cook 'em up in a non-stick frying pan and they're just as good as homemade.

Z is for Zodiac sign: Pisces the Fish.

No tags this time. If anyone wants to try this, they're more than welcome to do so.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Before and After: The Dining Room Wall

What were they thinking? When our house was being built, someone made the executive decision to place the doorbell speaker, thermostat, and light switch "kind of-sort of" on the center of the dining room wall. At best, this layout made picture hanging difficult. At worst, it eliminated the possibility of ever putting a china cabinet in this otherwise perfect location.

When the house was under construction, I gave this issue absolutely no thought. At the time, I had bigger concerns. Would the floor tile get laid out to my exacting specifications? (Yes.) Was the right countertop ordered? (It was, but now I hate it.) Was the leak at the front yard hose repaired? (Yep.) Would we be able to afford the higher mortgage payment? (So far, so good!) The location of the thermostat and doorbell was simply not on my radar screen.

Q pointed out that these items--the thermostat, in particular--needed to be in the center-most location of the first floor. And for the most part, they are. But would it have killed them to fudge it a little, and put them on one of the short, adjoining walls...neither of which are large enough to place a piece of furniture?

For the longest time, I never really knew what to do with this wall. Everything I tried looked wrong somehow. Even my attempt to camouflage the doorbell speaker by painting it to match the wall looks chintzy. Anyway, after 8 years in this house, I think I finally got it right:

I placed the shelves in a way that would allow the framed pictures to lean against the thermostat and doorbell speaker. The pictures can be moved when adjustments need to be made. They look nice, but their main purpose is to hide the ugly.

The shelves also give me more display space for my dishes. The top of the server was getting somewhat crowded...and it probably will again.

The light switch doesn't bother me enough to do anything about it. But if it did, I could always hide it behind a platter.

And to illustrate just how nitpicky I am, I went to the trouble of taping the lamp cord to the back of the server so it wouldn't be seen sticking down.

I have a feeling I'll be changing this display often. At minimum, the mangoes will get eaten.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Testing, Testing

For Christmas last year, I got Q a new digital camera. One of the features of this camera is the fact that it's waterproof. It took some doing, but we managed to work up the courage to actually submerge the camera in the pool. But we did, and here are a few pics we've taken over the last few weekends. They are dark, but that's because our pool is more than 80% shaded over by 1:00.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Truck Nuts

This is for anyone who's ever been stuck behind a vehicle with some plastic junk hanging from the rear bumper. A censored version of this commercial is currently showing on Phoenix TV. If you get offended easily, please don't watch.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Singing Their Own Tune

A few weeks ago, I had an Alice rerun playing on the TV. I know this is one of the campiest sitcoms ever created. But I have a soft spot for anything pertaining to Phoenix in the '70s. Also, the waitress uniforms are the perfect shade of pink, and Flo's hair was the perfect shade of red.

Anyway, just as series star Linda Lavin was belting out her scat version of the closing theme, Q asked me: "Did any other TV stars sing their own theme songs?"

A thought-provoking question this was. I knew that the answer to that question was yes. I just couldn't think of any other star-sung themes at the time.

Later that night, I came up with the most obvious: Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton sang the theme to All in the Family. After that, I drew a blank. But over the course of the next week, I managed to come up with a handful of others:

--Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme was sung by Will Smith himself.
--The Brady Bunch kids sang their theme song.
--David Cassidy sang the theme to
The Partridge Family
--I believe both Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor sang the Green Acres theme.
--Waylon Jennings gets honorable mention for The Dukes of Hazzard theme...even though his role was limited to that of "The Balladeer"
--Gene Simmons' Family Jewels is sung by the Demon himself.
--Reba. I only learned of this one while channel surfing for...something anything else.
--The Fall Guy theme was sung by series star, Lee Majors

--Greg Evigan sang both the BJ and the Bear and My Two Dads themes.

I'm sure there are quite a few others.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday 13

1. I am an excruciatingly slow eater. Most nights, everyone has left the table LONG before I'm done. This is very difficult whenever we're in a restaurant. Q's patient with me, but inevitably, one of the boys will whine: "Moooommm....when are you gonna be dooooone?" I'll be done when I'm done. I like to enjoy my my meals, not wolf them down.

2. We have a new nickname for Jango: the Siamese Alarm Clock. I'm beginning to think that this cat is part rooster.

3. I have been doing a lot of ranting about TV commercials lately. But there's a new one that's beyond cringe-worthy. It's the Degree deodorant commercial with the big, hairy guy who's using the "other" gel deodorant. There's that close-up shot of him drying his nasty, gooey, slimey, hairy armpit with the hair dryer. Ewww, ewww, EWWW, EWWW, EWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!

4. Music download of the week: Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. I love this song, and I'd heard it many times before. I just didn't know the title or artist. And I couldn't do a lyric search on Google because the words are in Spanish. I was happy to hear it on So You Think You Can Dance? a few weeks ago. A quick trip to the SYTYCD message board gave me the long awaited info I needed.

5. I have been on a bit of a cleaning kick lately. I've been organizing stuff, decluttering shelves, fluffing pillows, rearranging my dishes, and keeping flat surfaces wiped down. I think this has been caused by a steady diet of HGTV, DIY Network, and Anyway, I love, Love, LOVE having a clean house.

6. I know everyone else enjoying the clean house, but they're also getting tired of my repeatedly telling them to put their shoes in the closet.

7. Best invention of the last 10 years? Tagless clothing. There's nothing worse than walking around, oblivious to the tag sticking up and out of your shirt collar. Digging down your back to scratch that tag-caused itch is no fun either.

8. I'm trying to lose a few pounds. Among other things, I am trying to cut back on soda pop. This is very difficult when I get headaches that are best cured by a caffeine boost. I can't decide whether I'd rather have pain or cellulite. Unfortunately, cellulite is winning.

9. I currently weigh more than my husband. That is just wrong.

10. Later this summer, we'll be ripping out our nasty, stained living room carpet and installing hardwood floors. We have never done this kind of home improvement project before, but Q is confident he can do the job himself. I'll help where I can, but I'm very afraid of power tools...especially saws.

11. I can't wait for school to start back up again.

12. The boys will throw a fit when and if they read #10.

13. Q has a doctor's appointment next week. We'll be anxious to see what his latest test results have to say. Specifically, we're wondering if his right adrenal gland has resumed cortisol production yet.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Remember This?

In 1987, this commercial was on just about every 5 minutes...or more if you had MTV.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Got Any Cash?

Quinton and I carry around very little cash. With debit cards being so widely accepted, there's really no need. At any given time, I will have between $10 and $30 in my purse...just enough to feed my smoothie addiction for several days. And Q carries even less than that. In fact, he usually gets what he needs--just enough to buy a sandwich for lunch--from my wallet.

And for the most part, this has worked out alright. Until the last week or so.

We are just three weeks into summer vacation and the boys have each been invited to attend several last minute outings and events with their friends' families. And each time, they have needed a little bit of money for snacks.

Last weekend, Lucas got a phone call from a school friend. His family was going to the Diamondbacks-Red Sox game that day. They had an extra ticket, and wanted to know if Luke would like to go along, which he did. In this case, it was a good thing Luke had a few dollars socked away because Q didn't have any cash on him and I wasn't home at the time.

Then last night, Kyle was invited to go to the water park with a friend, whose older brother works there. Kyle just needed to bring $15 for the park admission. That $15 turned out to be every bit of cash I had in my purse. I wasn't even able to give him a few extra dollars for a trip to the snack bar.

For this reason, I have decided to start keeping a small cache of house money available just for these purposes. It won't be a huge amount. Just enough to pay for movie tickets and snacks for two. On second though, it will probably have to equal the per capita income of Guinea-Bissau.

Both boys are always being invited somewhere. And there are times where the other kid's parents pay for everything. This was the case a few months ago when Kyle attended a hockey game with the neighbors. But I still gave him $10 because I didn't want him to go there empty handed. He ended up bringing most of it back.

On the flip side, there are times when the boys' friends come places with us and we pay for their movie ticket, video game tokens, admission fee, snack, or restaurant meal. So (hopefully) it all evens out in the end. One time, I offered to repay another mom for buying Kyle's McDonald's lunch. But she declined, and gave me this analogy: "Years from now, when we're all gone, God will tally up the final numbers, and we'll all be within 10 cents of each other".

I hope she's right.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taking The High Road

A few weeks ago, we reassigned a few rooms in our house. Q's tiny little office was moved to the upstairs loft area that had served as the boys toy room. And the boy's sofa, desk, and TV were moved to the den. Photos of the newly designed rooms are pending. But for now, I don't deem them camera ready. Ironically, the boys' play room is cleaner than the office. (Q, are you listening?)

Shortly after the move, I decided that both rooms needed additional seating. Since I didn't want to spend money on furniture for those spaces, I took the partly torn wicker chairs (thanks, Jango!) from the family room and put one each in the den and the office.

This left the family room with only a couch and ottoman. Two new chairs were definately in order.

I immediately found this chair at When I showed it to Q, he bristled that the price seemed "a little steep" and asked me to "hold off". Let the pouting begin.

Within days, I received an e-mail ad from Pier 1--because I'm on every retailer's e-mail list in America. The e-mail advertised a sale on some wicker furniture, and I took a liking to this less expensive chair. So I showed my second choice to Quinton. His response? "I like the ones at Overstock better." Sigh. I simply can't win with this guy.

I'm starting to think I've set the furniture bar too low. Much of the stuff we've gotten in the recent past was very inexpensive. The wicker chairs that were in the family room cost me only $30 each. The ottoman in the same room was $13. And let's not forget the goodwill! A fair amount of our furniture came from the goodwill of my mother, my sister, our neighbor, my cousin's ex-wive, and several others.

Don't get me wrong. I love that I have been able to furnish and decorate this house very nicely, and for not much money. In fact, it's a point of pride for me. But I would like to buy some nice, affordable chairs that don't require cleaning or a cosmetic overhaul. Besides, all the consignment stores in the area seem to be charging far too much money for crap.

Anyway, today, I was watching one of those HGTV shows where they redecorate a room only by using found objects and under-utilitized furnishings from other rooms in the house. Suddenly, I had a hankering to rearrange a few things around here. I moved some pictures to different walls. I put the boys' school-made pottery projects on display. Then I was struck with a brainstorm.

Two of our dining room chairs aren't used on a daily basis. I moved them into the family room as a temporary--and I do mean temporary, Q--replacement for the old wicker pair.
Here's how they look:

When Q came home from work, it took him little awhile to notice the changes I had made. It took him even longer to notice the dining chairs in the family room. But once he did, I was quick to remind him that I'm saving him us a few hundred dollars.

I'm still in the market for new chairs for this space. But in the meantime, I had taken a route that I don't travel often--the high road. And to Quinton, I'm going to milk it for all it's worth.

The Heat Is On

The 92 degree highs were nice while they lasted.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The "Get Off My TV List", Part 2

--Commercials that offer teaser rate mortgages.

--Those eHarmony commercials where the couples are so sickeningly sweet on each other. Get these people off the TV before diabetes sits in.

--War movies (My dad would be spinning in his grave if he heard me say that.)

--Monk marathons. Seriously episode, once a week is enough!

--Reruns of The Nanny (About a year ago, Lifetime yanked Designing Women in favor of The Nanny. For this, I will never forgive them)

--The GMC commercials where the jingle is Modern English's I Melt With You sung lullaby style. (one more reason why my next car will be Japanese).

--The Baldwins...The Olsens....The Simpsons (and I don't mean Homer and company)

--Those Jenny Craig commercials where Kirstie Alley mercilessly butchers the pronounciation of my first name. ("Vah-REE!")

--"Negative equity applied to new loan balance".

--Those teenage brats who force their mom to get a second job as a giant taco costume-wearing spectacle in order to subsidize their unlimited texting habits.

--WWE, Smackdown, and their ilk. (Don't tell that to the neighbor boy!)

--News teasers. Just tell us, already! Don't make us wait until the final segmant! On second thought, I'll just turn off your program and consult the Internet.

--Paris' jail saga monopolizing airtime on otherwise respectable news stations. Only in America can this be considered newsworthy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Littering Made Legal?

Having been a homeowner almost my entire adult life, I am used to finding flyers and handbills on my front door. They have ranged from jumbo-sized door hangers with pizza coupons to simple business cards advertising a house cleaning business. We also get paper ads for satellite TV, house painting, carpet cleaning, pest control, petsitting services, and realtors. But I find that the most flyers are sent out by landscaping companies.

These things are commonly circulated by a guy walking door-to-door. But not always.

In recent years, business owners have found a way to get their company name on every house without ever leaving the comfort of their air conditioned cars. They place their ads or business cards inside plastic baggies with a few pieces of gravel. The gravel is necessary to weigh the ad down so it won't blow away. They then drive through neighborhoods and chuck these baggie rock ads out the car window, onto sidewalks and driveways.

The way I was raised, that's called littering...unless it's the newspaper. But I've decided to make lemonade out of lemons. I toss the gravel in my front yard and throw the rest in the trash. At the current rate, all the bare areas of our desert landscaping should soon be filled in.

But now the distributors are kicking things up a notch. Yesterday, I was the lucky recipient of driveway litter that employed two new weight methods:

The first was a flyer attached to a clothes pin. No problem, I can always use another clothes pin. They're great for keeping Jango's kitty litter bags closed. The ad was for a house painting service. Apparently, these guys don't have ready access to gravel like the landscapers do.

The second was a landscaping coupon that was stapled to a small wood block. This one made me angry. It was tossed in the driveway, just right of center, but in the path of my car tire. I was able to straddle the offending object, and still park without encroaching on Q's half of the garage. But I was left fuming at the possibiltiy that I could have driven over this unwanted piece of trash and done some damage to one of the tires.

In my neighborhood, these flyers have become quite pervasive. If residents don't remove them at least daily, the front of the house will look like a Xerox machine threw up on it. And a house covered in paper ads is also ripe for a break-in. For this reason, I have to hire a neighbor kid just to pick up our flyers when we go on vacation.

In the meantime, I have decided to boycott any and all businesses who choose to ugly up my driveway with their rocks and wood. To them I say this: If you want me to even consider spending money at your establishment, you would be wise to--at minimun--walk your flyer all the way to my front door. Or better yet, make it into a post card and mail it to me. That way, I can throw it away on my way back from the mailbox.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Generation Text

By now, everyone with a TV has seen the ad where the tweenage girl runs up her cell phone bill with frequent text messages to her "BFF, Jill". In the commercial, the girl speaks to her mother in a series of acronyms that are understood only by the under 20 set. The commercial even has subtitles!

Well now, this lingo has infiltrated my home. Here's the exchange I had with Lucas this afternoon:

"Thank you for helping me unload the groceries."
"You have to pee?"
"No. No Problem."
"Oh...I get it!"

He's talked this way before. But his abbreviated speech has been limited to the jargon that came about back when the Internet was brand new: LOL...OMG...BTW, etc. But the last incarnation of electronic text-as-speech has me completely perplexed.

I guess I have no problem with the boys talking text. Just as long as they don't mind my taking all the fun out of it by asking what WU means.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

This Is What Summer Should Be

Summer in the Phoenix area is legendary for being hot--very, VERY hot. In fact, temperatures can be--and often are--more than 30 degrees hotter than those above.

For the last few days, it's been a different story. Children were playing in pick-up basketball games all over the neighborhood instead of holing up in air conditioned homes, playing video games. I was able to put the top down on the convertible without using the air conditioning.

Earlier this week, we were pet sitting for my sister's dog. Going outside to play fetch and take her for walks all over the neighborhood was not a chore.

We're going to enjoy it while we can. Before we know it, the high temperature will be approaching 120 and a dip in the pool will provide little relief.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Gotta Watch 'Em All

All week long, the boys have been on looking forward to this weekend's Pokemon marathon on Cartoon Network. They have talked of little else since Wednesday afternoon. Apparently, their plan is to go to bed at 8:30 (on a Friday night!) and wake up at 6:00 (on a Saturday morning!) to catch the 30+ hour marathon from the beginning. Apparently, every episode and movie will be shown.

Meanwhile, Q and I will most likely partake of some quiet, child-free time out by the pool.

Boys vs. Girls

My sister and I are always discussing the differences between raising girls verses raising boys. She's the mommy of two little girls, while I have the boys. She speaks of the interpersonal drama and high degree of maintenance that she deals with on a daily basis. Girls hold more grudges, while boys will forget just about any quarrel by the next the latest. Most girls are picky about the clothes they wear. Boys (mine in particular) will wear whatever I bring home from the Old Navy clearance rack.

For a lot of reasons, it would seem that boys are easier than girls. And in a lot of ways they are. But there are a few things that the parents of girls are much less likely to deal with:

--snot rockets

--that smell

--scrubbing pee out of the tile grout

--two weeks of worth dirty socks under the bed

--farting contests


--wondering where those hands have been

--whining about being bored at the mall

--shirtlessness at the dinner table

--pee fountains. pee races. pee jokes. the whole idea that pee can be funny.

--calling Mom and Dad into the bathroom to see what they made

--belching for laughs

--mystery stains

--bicycle tire grime on the new bath towels

--A family budget where AA batteries have their own category

--The fact that the liquid soap dispenser in their bathroom almost never needs to be refilled.

--skid marks

--bare feet that are blacker than the street in which they were playing