Seven Days In the Life…

Challenge: One(or two) black & white photographs from your daily life for each of seven days. No people. No explanations. You may challenge yourself at any time.

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Visiting The Wyoming Dinosaur Center

A year and a week ago, we visited the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, and just had to go back.  I always tell people my nine-year old is “a bit of a dinosaur enthusiast,” which, while true, is an understatement, and ignores that both his father and I are even bigger nerds about it.  I mean, how often do you get to see the actual feather imprints of dinosaurs?!?

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Microraptor (early Cretaceous, China) with feathers on both upper and lower appendages. Wyoming Dinosaur Center

This year, after spending the night in Thermopolis, WY…IMG_4215 in our favorite hotel (warm cookies in the lobby in the evening) and running along the boardwalks and suspension bridge that criss-cross the World’s Largest Hot Springs, we headed over.

I kid you not, the music playing as we walked in was the same as what my husband and I walked, together, down the aisle to: Bach Cello Suite No. 4 Sarabande  (What a gift to have Nils Bultmann play at our wedding.)  I was geeking out and tried hard not to get overwhelmed before making it to the main room this year.  No luck.  It is such a phenomenal collection of specimens from the beginning of life on earth.  So much of what is on the floor is the real fossil, not casts or models, and it is mind-boggling. True, it has amazing, huge specimens of Supersaurus (“Jimbo” for those in the know) and Camarasuarus, but everything here is amazing: Stromatolites, first arthropods, fish, plants, amphibians, reptiles and on and on and on.  Absolutely worth the two (or eight, or 14) hour drive.

It’s a small museum, absolutely packed with incredible fossils. It has the most complete fossil archaeopteryx on display in North America,IMG_4272 (2)

(although The Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta has a replica of the Berlin imprint/fossil that is indistinguishable from the real one.) I made it up to a stony, fossil skeletal lystrosaurus, “the most humble badass of the triassic,” before I couldn’t absorb any more.

I handed the camera over to my six-year-old and the rest of the photos are hers.  I love seeing her view of things.

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Rhamphorhyncus, Late Jurassic
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The framing. Definitely a child of mine.

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Supersaurus in the middle, Camarasaurus rising in background

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Go see for yourselves!!

Race Report: Tri For Children Sprint, 2017

This was my FIFTH sprint!!  I decided last week to sign up.  I was getting antsy waiting for the Sugar River tri at the end of August, and looking at the training plan of brick workouts….booooring.  The weather looked promising, and some of my friends are susceptible to peer pressure, so Stefany and I signed up for an early morning 70 minute drive to beautiful, tiny Ottawa Lake yesterday.  **Note–There are no coffee shops, nearby.  *sad face* **

Had to leave at 4:30 am, so planning and organization were dialed in.  Remembered breakfast and actually ate it.

Wave #11 for the swim, and I was pukey-nervous that I didn’t have my wetsuit.  95% of my wave is suited up, and I deliberately left mine at home and have been training for this…but my inner dialog of “what even the hell were you thinking, Tiefenthaler?” is getting louder. Go for a warm-up run. Get in the water. Line up.  I make some joke about no fish around to eat whatever I’m about to vomit in the start corral, and we’re off!

And it’s fine, great even.  We’re swimming close together, the water is dark with tannins, but no weeds.  Fifty meters in, and I’m so glad I don’t have my wetsuit on—-I’m warm but not steaming up my goggles and overheating like in the past.  It’s lovely.  I’m swimming, actually swimming, and sighting and I realize I could pick up the pace, but actually settle for low and slow.  It’s amazing.

Some of the previous wave are ahead, in the swim lane or clutching to the buoy and looking exhausted.  There are no support kayaks around, so, I’m not the only one asking people as we swim past if they’re okay.  They are.

I’ve been following Stef, and actually push her toward the inner lane now.  I don’t know why.  The only hiccup is the field of water lilies we crawl through on the last stretch and I cannot stop myself from screaming like a little kid a few times.  Oh god, the swamp thing is touching meeee!  Make it through!

A minute slower than what I’ve done with a wet suit, but I know I don’t need it as a crutch any longer.  Yes!

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Onto the bike, and I’m so pumped about the swim I war-whoop as I leave.  This was an interesting bike, and the first time I’ve been disappointed in fellow athletes.  I don’t know the route, despite what I  learned at the last race, but I hear it is “flat and fast with gentle sloping.”  It is. Some new pavement, some very old, some shade, lots of farmland. It is also ridiculously crowded with both sprint and Olympic athletes doing the same course (two loops for the Olympic).  It makes me nervous—narrow country roads, tons and tons of newbie athletes including a whole wave of cancer survivors doing their very best on hybrid bikes, and a couple hundred hot-shot jerks who somehow can’t remember what it’s like to be a beginner.  It’s not a closed course–we’re on the road with vans and pickups and even semis.  TWO bikers of the hundred who pass me call out ahead of time.  Just two.  They’re flying by, no warning, a handful even cross double yellow ON HILLS, and I’m worried we’re about to see a semi cab-bike duel.  You know who’d win that.   **Elite athletes:  Clean up your act.  You were unsafe, unwelcoming, and unkind yesterday and hugely disappointing.  Pick a different race or tone it way the hell down.**

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An unnerving bike.  Told to stay left first and last miles, with a crowd who are new to the rules and a crowd of rule-breakers.  Hard to pass or be passed safely.

I stay in my drop handles the whole time, and just keep eyes are ears out for speed demons on the left and these amazing cancer warriors on the right.  Both are apt to swerve without announcement and it takes a lot of concentration.  It’s the fastest I’ve ever biked, and a relief to be done.

I messed up T2 a bit, forgetting my bib number and rack placement, not taking in any salt, hunting for a bathroom, but the win here is that I’ve gotten so used to numb hands and feet I’m calm and capable and can still tie my shoes.

The run is a struggle, as my calves are so tight I’m afraid they’re tearing in half.  Soon it’s hamstrings, too. I’m wearing my ice vest, but it thaws so quickly and starts to feel heavy and hot. My hands are on fire, but it’s a familiar feeling, and hell, it hasn’t killed me yet. It’s two out-and-back tangents and a tiny piece on a single-track grass trail.  A little shade.  Lots of water stations, thankfully.  See some familiar faces and am so grateful to be out here.  Stefany blows past me with encouragement, and I try to stick with her, but I hit the wall with a quarter mile to go.

Now, in college, my brother ran cross country, and he joked about running (it might have been a long run after a long night)…it was something like “I’m just going to lay down and die.  In a ditch.  That ditch right there.  I’m just going to lay down in that ditch and die.”

And that is all I can think at the end of this race, laying down in a ditch and dying. I know I backed off the swim a little, and twice, I relaxed on purpose on the bike, but at this point, I’ve given everything.  I’m crabby and exhausted and rip off my sun sleeves, hat and ice vest and throw them in the grass as I power by .  I don’t care if I’m DQ’d right now.

The Team Phoenix cancer survivor fans are in full force and they cheer me past the finish line.  What a privilege to race with them and their supporters.  It’s the first race I’ve ever heard my name (and Stefany cheering!) at the finish.  I did it.

I have to sit down before I fall down, have volunteers open bottles and pour water on me, and Stef gets me ice which I shove indelicately down my shorts and bra. Drink the best Coke I’ve ever had.  As rough as I was at the finish, I bounce back really fast. I am more than a little surprised by this.

We go collect all the filthy heat gear I dropped, which some kind person has gathered into one disgusting pile for me. ❤ We gather our post-race snacks from the Controlling Lunch Matron, trade in t-shirts and drift around until my mind starts working again and transition opens back up.

If you can’t tell, I’m totally hooked on this sport.  I loved being out there with all the Team Phoenix warriors and cheering them on.  I love being up early, watching the fog on the lake, getting barfy and nervous, joking, on a new beach with strangers.  I love knowing all the ways my body is alive and capable, and finding new ways to challenge myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: 2017 Lake Mills Sprint Tri

This was my fourth sprint triathlon, and definitely the hardest yet.

Three things in the last two weeks have jabbed me in the gut, hard, about the way people use social media to enhance their image by deliberately omitting the gritty/real/unattractive bits…..and it got me thinking.  I want to tell the story of this race because it wasn’t all guns and roses, or whatever.

This one was the one I wanted to quit.

I’ve had a week to think about it and I know that everything that was hard about this race, except the warm temperature, was something I created by either not being prepared, or by letting my mind get the better of me.

Anyway….Race morning, 4:30 alarm.  I’m up, confident, moving well.  Dressed and fortified with coffee and breakfast in hand, playlist specially curated by my husband starting up and I drive to pick up a friend.

“Chatty Cathy” shows up and I talk, talk, talk the whole 40 minute drive and forget to eat my breakfast (rookie mistake #1).  We arrive and bike into transition to set up.  It’s a beautiful morning.  I see the amazing elite athletes we know, and avoid them like the plague.  God bless them, but I’m a straight-up bitch and I can’t handle talking to anyone I know about anything right now.  Tell me it’s a great day to race and I will punch you in the throat.  Ask me if I’m ready and your beanbag will never be right again. Talk to me about something banal like what I’m doing later and I’ll scream obscenities.  Note to Mom, twenty-some years late:  Sorry about all the high school cross-country meets.  

I set up transition, and here, I shine.  I have got this down.  I’m pleasant with my neighbors. There’s laughter and confidence-boosting. I offer my opinion about socks or no socks when asked.  I make room for latecomers.  I am the ambassador of tri.

And now we wait.  I try to convince my friend to pee in her sleeveless wet suit on land to see if the pee will run out her leg or her arm holes first.  She declines, then goes off to warm up.  There’s no one I know in my age group, and so I mill about with strangers for 50 minutes, alternately running to warm up and flinching whenever the start count and horn goes off for the waves ahead of me.  This is exactly like HS Cross Country and “puke” describes how I feel to a T.  Someone is controlling a drone to film the event and I want so badly to have the means and the skill to kill it with a bow and arrow and watch it burst into flame and fall into the lake.  I dwell on this far too long and overstretch my hamstrings instead of drinking any water (rookie mistake #2).  I’m failing at calm.

I finally get in my wet suit, and get in the water to warm up and my heart-rate skyrockets.  Calm the f*ck down, Tiefenthaler. I back float for a while and think about staying in the roped-off swim area forever.

My wave.  Thank god for earplugs that dampen the whole experience because it is beyond overwhelming right now.  I’m positioned close to the front on the outside edge and the gun goes off.  Beach start. We run in and it’s a nice quick drop-off so we’re swimming right out the gate.  For three seconds, I’m holding my own, and then it’s chaos.  Now, I believe my age group, women 30-39 are some of the nicest racers out there.  They don’t deliberately kick you and if they do, they take a second to apologize during the swim.  However, this is the biggest group I’ve ever swam with, it is a full-body press, and I suddenly can’t remember how to swim.  I’m doing a sort of head-up beginner crawl my six-year-old knows.  I’m thinking “ice cream scoop hands” and then I take and elbow to the head and breathe in the lake.  I come back up, disoriented.  We’re only halfway to the first buoy and I’m mentally done.  I’m overheating and let water in my suit over and over and think “And that’s how you get swimmer’s itch in your crotch.” I drift along and let most of the group go. It’s not until midway that I actually start swimming again.  I’m not the best at judging distance, but this is at least 20% too long.  Longest ten minutes of my life.  Excepting all those minutes of birthing my children. Maybe.

Transition.  Shake it off.  Thought there was a water station at the transition entrance.  There is.  But no cups–it’s for you to refill your water bottle with?  How? Get on the bike with just half a bottle of water and can’t remember the way out. (Mistakes #3  and 4.)

The bike course is beautiful.  I’ve studied the map, but haven’t ridden the course, even in the car, and immediately, I see this is another mistake, especially since the course doesn’t have any mile markers.  The road is smooth, with giant divots and cracks now and then, but it’s distractingly beautiful out here.  I see herons and sandhill cranes, adorable chicken coops and wide open farm fields. The adrenaline from the swim is fading and I’m running out of steam.  I run out of water by mile 6-ish.  Very big mistake.  I knew there were no aid stations out here and yet, here I am, ten miles to go with a dry mouth and an unsettled mind.  It’s gentle, rolling hills, and excepting the young bucks on $6000 bikes rocketing past me, I’m alone.  I never expected to be alone so much in triathlon.  Just me and my (now, toxic) thoughts for miles and miles.  I give myself a weak pep-talk, which peters out when I have to wipe the dry-mouth cotton off my teeth and think about how I’ve never, not once, washed these year-old cooling arm-sleeves. Ew.

And then my stomach goes volcanically numb.  I don’t know how else to describe it, but it is the final warning flag for me that I’ve gotten too hot.  It usually goes along the path of the initial nerve damage I got from MS:  Right hand goes tingly, then I lose my grip, left foot goes tingly, then numb, right hand starts on fire, right foot goes numb and then this sort of firework display in my right, low stomach.  This time, it went immediately to highest alert.  And I start to cry.  I can’t do this. It’s too fucking hot and I’m so stupidly unprepared.  If I use the drop handles at all, both legs go numb.

For the second time this race, I quit.

And yet—how can I?  There’s no shade.  There’s not even a ditch to lay down and die in (This is exactly what I’m looking for.)  If I stop biking, it will only get worse, all alone in the beating sun on a remote country highway.

I keep biking.

I get it together for a bit.  The numbness spreads.  I cry again.  I come up on a guy with his whole leg taped up who is moving even slower than I am.  I pass him going maybe 6 mph and tell him to catch me.  He does and we leap-frog our way down the course.  I see a course sign that is just an arrow, but looks like a giant one, and even though we’re four or five miles out I interpret this as “one mile left” and kick my own butt into gear for a while.  I am beyond thirsty.  All I know is hot pain.

And there’s still three miles to go.

I cry on the way in to transition, drop my bike against the fence since the rack, and my spot, is full, and sit down and sob.  I pull on my ice vest and, of course, there’s no spare water bottle packed.  What even??

I quit. Again.

Except…how?  Take the timing chip off and give it to…who?  Where? Saying what exactly?  “This sucks and I’m done.”?  Just pack up and go to my car?  I drove someone else here.  And here is one of the very few times in life that being a non-confrontational introvert helps me—I don’t know how to quit, so I can’t quit.

I tie my shoes and get the fuck up and walk out of transition in tears.  I mercifully walk past the finish line and grab a water bottle over the fence. There’s no shame in walking….so I start running.  The numbness fire in my belly has morphed into regular old cramps and I laugh out loud, alone on a trail in the woods because hell if I can’t handle those.  God bless periods.  I walk.  I run.  I know the course from watching last year and I feel more comfortable now that the trees provide some cover.  Herons fish alongside the berm. It’s a gorgeous day. The mosquitoes are hovering so I don’t even think of lying down to die in a ditch.  A runner coming back in has a t-shirt on that says “GET UP” and I nod.  I see my biking pal with all the KT tape and keep him in my sight.  I try some Gatorade-like stuff at the aid station and cough it right back up. All glamour, all the time.  I finally pass the tape-guy and tell him one last time to catch up.   I run the last stretch in tears.

I finish.

I did it.  Despite all the mistakes and all the doubts.  I finished.* I quit again and again. I’m never doing it again.

Well…until next weekend, anyway.

*Here’s the thing.  Despite all that, I still finished three minutes faster than I had figured I could do it, best-case scenario. Perhaps, I’m stronger and more capable than I thought. Perhaps you are too.

I found my uneaten breakfast and two full water bottles in the van.  Training on a hybrid bike forever gives a bit of an advantage when you then race on a much lighter road bike.  The best way to train for swimming with a pack is swimming with a pack. I need a sleeveless or shortie wetsuit to stay cool. Travelling with someone to the race just might keep me from quitting.  A second and third water-bottle cage is a good idea, but actually putting the water in the one I’ve got is better.  Biking the course beforehand, or driving it in a pinch, is a must.  

Through it all, I remembered the advice someone gave me before my first race:  Look up.  Enjoy it.  You GET to do this.  

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One night and a hike in Sedona

We spent just enough time in the charming Sedona last week to make me wish we lived there.  We started the morning in Phoenix and drove north to visit Montezuma Castle National Monument, or rather two of us did and the one with pneumonia and I drooped our way back to the car and drank juice and coughed until it was time to go.  I got just enough of a look to be amazed, and realize any pictures I took made it look like a doll house in the rocks. Guy overheard a teenager lie to his sister that this was Montezuma’s summer home.  *snort*  

We drove on through Jerome (more on that coming soon) and finally made it to Sedona just in time to be crushed to realize The Red Planet Diner is no longer.  We mourned the loss of Space Junk, the entree, then found a worthy replacement at MoonDog’s Pizza.  Granted, we were starving, but I’m still pretty sure the pizza and ancho chicken sandwich and spaghetti were great.  I wanted to ask the owner if he was Moondog, expecting some old hippie, and was grateful I didn’t….because we heard a pack of coyotes singing and chattering three times that night and I put it together.  Aha.  Moondogs are coyotes.  See, here, we hear a couple coyotes do a low howl now and then, but the moondogs in Sedona have a LOT to say.  Especially at the full moon.

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Moonrise over Sedona

Even after a night filled with coyotes, snoring, and two coughing kids, we were sufficiently reenergized by breakfast at Nick’s to go on a short hike before the day heated up.  We headed to Boynton Canyon in a designated Red Rock Secret Wilderness of the Coconino National Forest to hike the Vista trail for the supposed vortex at the end.  We’ll take all the good mojo we can get for the Peanut. Perfect for us.  Gorgeous and restorative, and only one of us needed a piggy-back ride back to the trail head. We’ll go back again and hike some more of those beautiful red rocks for sure.

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After a roadside picnic, we piled back in the car for a drive along Oak Creek Canyon, a thirteen-mile stretch I remember well from the first time my husband and I drove it; I was pregnant and the curves and the dizzyingly close canyon walls were intense and nauseating.  This was a much easier drive.  We stopped at the canyon rim and got a chance to get out and look back….and promise to come back again soon.  Thanks, Sedona!

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Dinosaurs of Arizona

The other main reason we went to Arizona last week was to see dinosaurs.  The dino-philes amongst us had heard there were some fine Triassic fossils, models and murals spread throughout Arizona.  Some of us researched how and where to see every last dinosaur and dinosaur-like creature in the state.  We also brought some of our own and showed them around.

Now, my kids were beyond bored with the amazing facts about the Grand Canyon, including the that the top layer of earth there is Kaibab limestone, rock older than the dinosaurs.  As you proceed down the canyon, the rock gets even older, with the deepest part of the canyon being 1.5 Billion, with a “B” years old!! (Vishnu and Zoroaster formations. Geonerds, check out this awesome geologic map of Arizona. )

Of more interest was the rock formations left from the early and late Triassic periods (Moenkopi and Chinle) for the Postosuchus and the Coelophysis fossils they contain.  (That’s “crocodile from past” and a 10-foot-long bipedal, carnivorous early dinosaur.)

We looked high and low and this is what we found…

In Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona

In Petrified Forest National Park and the park’s Rainbow Forest Museum, Arizona

 

At the Museum of Natural History of Mesa

*What a gem of a museum.  The Dinosaur Mountain exhibit is several stories high and combines geologic layers of rock with animatronic dinosaurs, animal, and plant life from the corresponding age.  The flight exhibit was also a bit jumbled, but worth visiting.  Not pictured is the Dino Zone, a room for kids to touch, climb and explore around life-size models of  a stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and triceratops set in front of realistic background murals where my children spent more time than the rest of the museum combined, crawling in and out of a tube.  Because they were raised by animals.*

And then there was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

 

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Some of us see dinosaurs everywhere 

May you too find dinosaurs wherever you look.

We’re Not in Arizona Anymore

Later, I’ll post a fraction of the dinosaurs and dinosaur-like things we saw on vacation, but right now, I’m going to bitch and moan for a few minutes.  Feel free to skip if you’ve had enough already, but I’m going to sit here with my greasy fingers, eating my cold latkes and list off my most pressing worries:

  1. She’s sick. Of course. She was better, almost, and then she finished her antibiotics, came home and she coughed her disgusting, croupy, pneumonia cough all night long.  Again.  Don’t worry, though—her tummy and head still hurt too.
  2. She’s stressed and went to school in tears. (Although, her brother got up early, got ready early and walked himself to the bus stop with absolutely no cattle-driving done by me.  Miráculo!)
  3. Her new doctor says “let’s give a few more days.”  Sure.  What’s a few more days of misery when it has been years.  Sure.

She started coughing last night and I went out to find something, anything, for her, and instead ate two brioche buns with “butter” and raspberry jam in about a minute as buffer against another sleepless night.

And now we wait.  We wait for school to call to say she’s miserable, her tummy hurts, her head hurts, she coughed up something.  We wait for another couple days to call her doctor back and say “Nope, she’s not better.”  And we wait for summer and better times.

Let’s think about vacation and how easy everything was, even if she was miserable, and then replace all water intake with coffee and/or cheese.  Say “We’re just fine” to people who ask, go for the shortest of runs, cancel acupuncture appointments because we’re too stressed to be still with our thoughts, inspect the blinds and find mold all up the back of them and contemplate burning it all down.

*deep breath*

That’s all for today, folks.  Another edition of “Mom’s Thoughts” at another panicked moment in the future.

 

 

The Grand Canyon, April 2017

Ostensibly, this recent trip was about taking the kids to see the Grand Canyon….and they both thought it was a total dud.  I joked beforehand with a friend who had taken her young kids about the whining, “Moooom.  We’ve been here twenty minutes and haven’t even seen a condor yet. Lame.”  In reality, it was less than a minute, no lie, before my six-year-old daughter turned to me and said “I can’t believe we drove a HALF HOUR to see this.”  (Bless her heart.  We actually took a week vacation, a four hour flight and did five hours combined, driving, to get here…but still.)

I’ll put up lots more from our trip in the following days, but here’s some of the best pictures from our morning at the Canyon.  For your viewing pleasure, none of the wilting or whining or “mood enhancers” (Jolly Ranchers, handed out at desperate times,) are included.  But, there IS a condor!

I haven’t enhanced or filtered any of these, only cropping one and spot-removing grit form three images.  The colors of the canyon are muted in the morning and develop as the sun moves overhead.  If you’re not eight and/or hot, tired,crabby, or generally miserable, it would be amazing to stay the day and watch the colors of the rocks “change”.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better

I have what could only be described as a fantasy of going out somewhere to, say, Walgreens, or Target, and running into a friend.  Someone I know and trust but haven’t seen in a while and they ask me how it’s going and I tell them.  I tell the truth.  I say I’m unraveling.  I say I go to bed each night thinking about how lucky we are, this posh existence of clean, quiet air, of safe places to sleep, of money to spend on frivolous things and cats to keep us company, the luxury of having two or more of everything.  And I am grateful for those things.  I am grateful for how healthy we are.  And yet I am never free from worry.  She’s sick.  She’s fine, but she’s miserable. She’s blooming, but she’s stressed.  Her tummy always hurts.  Her head almost always hurts.  She never sleeps.  I never sleep and my thoughts aren’t linear or even coherent and that I get lost and dazed in stores and any time I need to speak, but in the hours I am clear-headed and school hasn’t called and I’m not getting something for her, I don’t know who I am.  I’m pretend to be an athlete and go to physical therapy so I can return to running, but I’m already wound tight and getting manhandled and then watched while I exercise is too invasive but I can’t turn my back on my mobility.  I want to run or lift, but she’s home sick and I could only have made it to a class with a new instructor and frankly, I’ve cried and panicked in front of enough strangers already this month.  I’ve out-done myself.  I tell this person that I’m so, so tired.

Today is one of those days when I don’t get to escape into a few hours of oblivion while she’s at school, pretending that she’s doing just fine and won’t come home miserable and complaining of nausea, tummy pain and headaches.  Today she was home sick with the flu.  And while I’m grateful that she doesn’t have pneumonia, I have added another piece of kindling to the fire of worry—how much radiation has she already been exposed to?  A CT scan and three X-rays.  If each picture is about the equivalent of a years worth of sun exposure, and each appointment has two pictures….and a CT scan is supposedly about seven years of exposure….She’s got thirteen years on her tab already.

She’s asleep on the sofa now.  She told me every twenty minutes, on average, how miserable she was today.  In case I’d forgotten.  Each time is like a dull stab in the gut.  We finally have an appointment to see a GI specialist in six weeks.  SIX WEEKS.  A complaint every twenty minutes for six weeks is manageable, right?

I checked the weather just now and apparently we’re not due for more sunshine after yesterday afternoon’s little showing for ten days.  That’s just before we leave to see the Grand Canyon, a trip, which I have been looking forward to for years.  The thing is, I’ve only planned the beginning.  I can’t bring myself to plan anything once we’ve passed the half-way point.  I can’t plan the return home just yet.  Dammitall that I’ve been in this very spot before.

I just spent a while checking out the UV index in New Zealand.  It’s been a growing idea for more than a year now.  A sabbatical or heck, just a life plan of picking up and moving there.  Every time I think of it, which is often these days, but before I even think of the very real road blocks to such a plan (jobs and money, for example), I am reminded of that stupid saying about ‘wherever you go, there you are.’  Well, screw you,  Clint Black and meditation guides and Confucius just to be safe.  I am sure that if we cleared out and moved across the world our lives would change enough so that whatever we are doing wrong, whatever cause behind her stress and pain, would have to disappear.  Is it school?  Is it allergens? Is it all stress?  Is it an ulcer or abdominal migraines or reflux or just a highly acidic system?  It’s not Celiac or IBD, which we knew.  We can’t call is stress until everything else has been eliminated.  I see scopes down her throat and very specific diets in our future.  Maybe one of those things will help.  Or maybe…we should just throw up our hands and leave the country.  UV index aside, it can’t hurt, right?

We could live in a town called Dunedin for crying out loud.  A namesake of the capital of Scotland and just a matter of pronunciation away from the race of men from the west and King Aragorn himself.  How happy we would be to live in a place that makes me think of Edinburgh AND the Lord of the Rings.

I digress.  I do it a lot.  It’s how I stay afloat.  Because despite all the richness in our lives, including the very truth that we could in fact, uproot and drift or move to another country if we were brave/reckless enough, I can’t escape the basic truth that my identity is entwined with taking care of this little girl…and that I’m failing.

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Did you hear a high-pitched, hysterical laughter in Target the other day? Me too! So weird.

I ran in to a friend at Science Night.  A fellow mom.  A woman who looked me in the eye and reminded me that a whole tribe of moms have adopted me and us.    And I felt it last night.  Rather than stick close to the kids’ posters for long, or making small talk with my in-laws, I wandered about and took pictures of kids and their projects.  I saw a lot of my tribe last night.  Making volcanoes with the first graders, clapping for their third-grader’s cloud demonstration with sincere joy, asking my daughter just how should we take care of our teeth, pacing the overcrowded, over-loud gym and making time until we could go home.  Those are my people.  Near and far. Those are the ones I send distress texts and extensive missives to, the ones who watch my kids and feed them vegetables and make them play outside, the ones with a “chocolate here” label on a cupboard and an unlocked door, the ones who meet me for a swim or run or movie or nachos.

I keep telling her that she’s going to get better, that we’ll figure it out.  It’s time I started believing that again, too.

 

On Being Six and in Chronic Pain

Pattern:

  1. She wakes up miserable.  She feels terrible.  She woke up half a dozen times and coughed her rattly cough and told you she felt horrible and barfy.
  2. You do you best song and dance to get her to eat some toast and tea, get her dressed.
  3. You cajole her and pamper and tease and goad and get the socks she forgot and zip up the jacket and put the mittens and hat on her and get her out the door.
  4. She drags her feet on the driveway, but then she picks up speed like you knew she would, and skips to the bus stop so she can be first in line.
  5. She gets on the bus and you breathe a sigh of relief.
  6. 10:15, you get the first phone call from the school nurse.  You talk to her on the phone and you don’t ask if she needs to come home and she doesn’t say it, so you tell her to rest up and go back to class when she’s ready.
  7. You call back at 11, but hear nothing from the nurse and assume the best.
  8. 1:30 is the second call, from her teacher, saying she just started crying in math, so you say you’re on your way.
  9. You rush over, sign her out, trek down to her room to find her in the hallway, getting dressed to go home, all smiles.  You sigh inwardly.
  10. You wait and pick up her brother, too, who shares his pretzels and the two skip down the street, happy as clams.
  11. She tells you all the things that went wrong today, then all the things she wants to do tonight (go get ravioli, no, go out to dinner, watch a movie, go to Menchie’s).
  12. And you just get angry.  You haven’t slept well in more than six years.  You are done with this roller coaster of her feeling horrible and then suddenly skipping with her brother, and then feeling terrible again  You’d think that when she felt great, I’d feel better.  Relieved.  Happy.  I don’t.  I feel bitter and tired and deeply crabby.  I can’t stand the sound of her croupy, month-long, cough any longer.  I get angry when she has energy and is playful.

Here’s the thing.  When she feels bad, her tummy hurts, her forehead hurts, its visible.  You can see it in her eyes that it’s truly bad.  When she wakes at night because she doesn’t feel good, she legitimately feels very bad.  And I’m so done with it.  We’ve seen her (useless) pediatrician a dozen times, the neurologist twice, an acupuncturist, three different chiropractors.  I’ve met with her teacher and the school psychologist.  We’ve cut out dairy and gluten and sugar and food dyes.  We’ve added water and magnesium and magnets and early bedtimes and fiber and more fresh fruit and whole grains and vegetables and laxatives and even a miserable enema…all the things we’re supposed to do and nothing changes anything.  And sometimes….she feels great.  Really great.  And I’m so tired I can’t stand her constant chatter and requests.

This is not a fatigue that goes away.  This is not something a date-night or Moms’ Night Out can cure.

She was sleeping a few weeks ago.  For the first time in her life, she was sleeping from nightfall until morning and it was disorienting but so welcome.  And then I made the mistake of telling someone and she stopped.  She’s back to waking two to six times a night, me with her, to tell me how bad she feels, to cough on my pillow, to tell me her terrible dreams.

I forgot where I was driving, *while* I was driving three times this morning.  I forgot my keys and phone and purse at a friend’s last night.

I stood in the kitchen for 27 minutes not making dinner tonight.  Not thinking.  Not deciding.  Just standing.  And then it was dinner and I opened a can of olives and called it a night.

 

So when I finally tuck her in and she drips back out to tell me for the millionth time how very bad she feels, I rub her chest with Vick’s, and fill her up with a teaspoon of honey for the cough, give her a drink with Kids’ Tummy TLC, Rescue Remedy and Lemon Balm Calm for the sore tummy and the nerves, ten little pastilles for croupy cough and tension headaches, and a Moon Drop for sleep.  Because I can’t keep giving her ibuprofen, which doesn’t work on her headache anyway.  Because maybe, just maybe, she still believes in magic pills and homeopathic cures.  I don’t. Not anymore. Please, stranger on the phone and in the store, tell me again how essential oils will help so much.  Add it to the list of things I have hardened my heart against.

I’m so, so tired.  I am worn right down.  I’ve done all I can to take care of myself once I use all my best parenting powers to get her to school.  And for the most part, I’m back to full-strength to keep taking care of her when I need to.   I do not know how parents of kids with special needs, or high needs, or serious or chronic health issues do it.  It is chronic for us, but it is not life-threatening or dire or scary.  Just constant.

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I wrote the above a month ago.  I wrote On Being Five (and in chronic pain) a year and a half ago.  This afternoon we head back to the doctor.  Again.  The same useless one. (looking at this, I’m realizing AGAIN that I need a new pediatrician.  Done.) Because it has been another month and no change.  I have no answers.  Add the shame of that to how I already feel about her “not feeling good all the time.”  What are we doing wrong? How have we lived this long just hoping she would feel better?  What do we do now?