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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Time to go Home

Joseph and I are waiting at the Heathrow Airport for our flight to Istanbul, and then on to London.  He's very happily playing in a lovely indoor play area (bless whoever realized that children - and by extension everyone within half a mile of them - are happier when they don't have to sit quietly while waiting for their flights) and I'm enjoying being able to talk to just about everyone I meet.

He had his last appointments on Thursday and we've just been waiting to go home ever since.  After a lot of tests, his GI doctor ruled out any reason that Joseph should be having problems and decided that he's just gotten into a habit of involuntary regurgitation.  Evidently this is a thing.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy my time in London immensely.  Joseph is a very pleasant traveling companion - old enough to talk and (sometimes) reason with, but not so old that his feelings are hurt when I'd rather read a book than talk to him.  We've had a great time visiting all of the playgrounds in central London area and I've made my way through four books.  Joseph has enjoyed riding on trains, buses, taxis, and even a boat one day.  I've enjoyed finding a very tasty French restaurant half a mile from our hotel and eating there for our last five nights in town.  We've both enjoyed spending our time with nothing much to do but amuse ourselves.  We've had dessert every night and enjoyed things you can't get in Dushanbe like blueberries and asparagus.  Joseph has had a banana for breakfast every morning.

I think that I would have enjoyed this time less if I were alone instead of having Joseph to keep me company.  I've had to take care of him and had someone to talk to and he's given me an excuse to sit around at parks a lot.  We've had a great time together and I think we'll both remember our time in London fondly.

But now it's time to go home where my responsibilities are greater than finding out how to get to the next new park and where to eat dinner.  I have five people who have been missing me and even more, missing my presence keeping everything running the way they're used to.

So, back to real life.  But London was fun while it lasted.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What Four Year-Olds Really Want

London is a very exciting place to travel to - people come here from all over the world, after all, and there's a very big industry centered around showing all of those people the amazing things that London has to offer.  There are shows and restaurants and tours and boat rides and castles and museums and zoos and more castles and more shows and more food.  You could spend a whole month doing things and still have lots of things left to do before you had to go home.  There is an endless array of options.

If you are an adult.  Or a teenager.  Or maybe even a child over the age of ten.  But not a four year-old.  Forget about impressing adults - we're easy to please.  We'll go see practically any old show (did you know that they made Aladdin into a musical?), eat at any restaurant that looks like it serves food, and visit an endless number of castles looks at rooms full of dead people's stuff.  The people who are really hard to please are small children.

Take them to a greenhouse filled with butterflies of all different shapes, sizes, and colors and they're ready to see dinosaur bones after thirty seconds.  That's about sixty cents a second.  Wait through a fifteen minute line, thread your way through a Saturday crowd to find those dinosaur bones, and they're asking to go home to play on the iPad after sixty seconds.  Make them go and see dead bugs and all they're interested in is the elevator.

And forget about all of the restaurants that London has to offer, because all a four year-old ever wants is pizza.  Every. Single. Night.

But there is one thing that London has that stirs the heart and imagination of every four year-old boy: public transportation.  It doesn't matter if you've driven through the mountains of Central Asia on the Silk Road in your own car, driving through London in a taxi is much more exciting!  Because there are... cars... and buildings... and people.  Forget about hiking through pristine mountain valleys when you can stare out the window on the Tube and see... darkness!  And if a taxi is fun, the top of a double-decker bus is better because it's taller.  Same cars and buildings and people, but now you're higher up!  And higher up is always better.

If Joseph could design his dream vacation, he would take various forms of public transportation to all of the different playgrounds in London (where he would have me push him in the swing for at least an hour), stopping only to eat pizza for every meal, and going back to the hotel at the end of the day to play the iPad after he went to sleep.

So it looks like Joseph is living his dream vacation.

I've thought about taking him to Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London or Parliament or Big Ben or something very iconic, if only to get a picture of him standing in front of something recognizably London, not just endless pictures of him in parks, but so far I haven't mustered up the spirit to get it done.  Unfortunately, I'm not much of a tourist, and my laziness and cheapness have combined against me paying good money to see something I'm not that excited about while dragging around someone who is even less excited (and whines more loudly) than me.  Maybe if we're here long enough we'll get around to it.

But for now, we're taking the preschool tour of London.  It may not be worth coming to London for, but it does the important whiny people happy.  One day I might actually come back with someone who can appreciate it (only Brandon right now) and then I can actually see London the way it was meant to be seen.  But until then, I'll be at the park.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Joseph Update

Joseph and I have now been in London for almost a week.  When we flew in last Tuesday, the initial plan was to be home by now.  But as we all know, plans and reality are often two entirely different beasts.

We landed Tuesday in the afternoon after two entirely uneventful flights.  I read, managing to finish an entire Orson Scott Card book, and Joseph played on the iPad, slept, and watched movies.  It was all very low-key.  We got to our hotel without any problems, completing Joseph's day of Exciting Ways You Can Travel (a train! an airplane! a taxi!), and getting pizza for dinner that evening.

Wednesday afternoon I took Joseph in for his initial consultation, and plans started quickly diverging from reality.  "Well," the doctor said after I'd finished my story, "the first thing we need to do is have a 24-hour acid study.  Then probably a few blood tests.  And we'll finish with a barium swallow.  How's your schedule for tomorrow?"

We decided, after considering the tolerance of a four year-old of a tube down his note and into his throat for 24-hours, to have him admitted for the procedure.  So the next morning Joseph and I made our way to The Portland Hospital for women and children and got him all checked in.  After an hour or so, another doctor - the pediatric GI specialist we had flown here to see - came and met with me.

"I think we should change the way things are done somewhat.  Instead of just doing an acid test, I'll perform an endoscopy on Joseph, then put in a wireless probe for the acid test and you and Joseph can go home this evening." That sounded like a fine idea to me.  "So we'll set it up for six o'clock this evening."

The only problem was my own doctor's appointment - the endocrinologist - was scheduled for six o'clock that same evening.  Some some emailing and calling to the medevac ladies - bless them forever - and my appointment was moved to next Tuesday.

With nothing to do before five o'clock, Joseph and I headed to the nearest playground.  After having two options in Dushanbe, it's been amazing to have so many playgrounds to choose from in London.  While at the playground, I got a call from the GI doctor's assistant.  The endoscopy was scheduled for seven that evening and Joseph would be put under general anesthetic.  Since it would take him some time to come out from it, the doctor thought it would be a better idea to have Joseph stay overnight in the hospital.  I thought so too, imagining myself trying to get a semi-comatose four year-old from the hospital to our hotel late at night.  So the hospital stay was back on.

We headed back to the hotel around five and Joseph changed into his 'nightgown' to wait for his very first general anesthetic.  The anesthesiologist, who had clearly been doing this for a very long time, came and outlined the procedure before Joseph got taken down to the operating theater.  After an elaborate story where the two teddy bears and the doctor couldn't figure out how to blow up their birthday balloon, Joseph very enthusiastically showed them how to do it, taking in big breaths of anesthetic and passing out in about twenty seconds.

The scoping went well and the anesthesia, combined with jet lag, gave Joseph a very restful night's sleep.  He finally woke up at six the next morning, reasonably confused how he had gone from the teddy bear's birthday party to his hospital room.

We went home (home being a loose term, meaning 'the place where we usually sleep while we're in London) with a wireless receiver for Joseph's acid probe, and another round of appointments scheduled for next week.

So now we're just waiting to hear the news from all of the tests.  I think eighty percent of medical things is waiting around - waiting for an appointment, waiting for test results, waiting to see what is going to be done.  With the appointment schedule we currently have, the earliest we'll be getting back to Dushanbe is next Saturday morning.  This is, of course, without having actually done anything about Joseph's condition.  And so we're probably in for some more waiting before all of this is through.

But I suppose there are worse places to be waiting around for medical appointments and so I'm probably not going to complain.  I think Brandon, who is left holding down the fort with all of my abandoned domestic responsibilities, gets to go first.  Meanwhile, I'm going to get some more gelato.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Public Service Announcement

It was Thursday night and Brandon went into the office to finish a few things off.  I stayed home, checking out library books for my upcoming trip to London with Joseph.  Traveling with one child (when you're used to traveling with four and husband) is pretty much traveling alone and that means lots of time to read.

I had spent some time that day preparing for the upcoming trip to London.  The train tickets and visas were bought, credit card companies and banks notified of our travels, medical paperwork rounded up, and flight schedules checked.  It's always good to be prepared, and be prepared early.  I've learned that the hard way.

Around 10:45, Brandon called.

"Hey, I'm trying to get the car and expediter lined up for you, and I can't find your flight confirmation number.  Do you have it?"

I vaguely remembered an email from several weeks ago that had flights listed for Joseph and me.  Flying to London is so much easier that flying to the States.  Two flights, and you're there by three in the afternoon.  I scrolled through my inbox and found the email.  Listed were the flights - one from Dushanbe to Istanbul and the second from Istanbul to London.  But there weren't any confirmation numbers.

"I don't see any confirmation numbers," I told Brandon, "Maybe travel purchased the tickets and simply forgot to forward the final email on to us."

"Well, hopefully that's what it is.  But I'm sending an email to travel and visit them first thing in the morning."

Then he came home and we went to bed.

The next morning he called the travel office.  "Yes, this is Brandon Sherwood.  My wife and child are traveling to London on medevac next Tuesday [Monday is a holiday here], and we can't find the ticket confirmation numbers."  Talking talking talking talking.  Brandon hung up the phone and turned to me.  "Good thing I checked last night, because it turns out that right now you and Joseph have no purchased plane tickets to London."

In the end, things were sorted out.  Someone was waiting on someone who was waiting on someone who hadn't sent something that needed to be sent.  Thankfully, the things were sent or found or made again and by the early afternoon we had actual tickets with actual confirmation numbers and the crisis was over.  As crises go, it was a very short-lived and easily solved one.  I like those kinds.

But.  If Brandon hadn't decided to get things in order and double-checked about confirmation numbers, it would have been a much bigger crises.  Because Joseph and I would have showed up to the airport at 4 in the morning, marched our way up to the ticket counter and gotten blank stares for our trouble (that happened once in Athens, by the way).  I'm not sure what would have happened next, but I imagine it would be been quite troublesome.

So.  Next time you're traveling (and especially if you've entrusted your flight arrangements to someone else) make sure and check your tickets.  It might save you a lot of trouble.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

In which I (again) reluctantly give in to the advance of technology

First I bought myself a Kindle.  Then, not wanting to share with Brandon on R&R, I bought him a Kindle.  Then Kathleen got a Kindle when she started fourth grade.  And finally my parents gave Sophia a Kindle for Christmas.  We now have four Kindles.  We also have a laptop and a desktop computer.  We have lots of technology, enough that almost everyone in the family could rot their brain on electronic media without having to share with anyone else.  Sharing is so last millennium.

Then a friend offered to sell me a used iPad.  Brandon and I had discussed tablets many times and had always come up with the same answer: no tablets.  There were a variety of reasons - we already have two computers, we don't use the computers we have that much anyway, we didn't want the children wasting their times on games, we prefer to spend time together as a family (whether anyone likes it or not!), we didn't have them growing up.

But the most compelling reason of all was to hold the moral high ground.  Because if you can't be snotty about something, how can you feel better about yourself than everyone else?  We don't eat organic food, we don't buy carbon offsets, we vaccinate our children, we drink sodas occasionally, and even let them eat breakfast cereals colored with red dye 40.  We didn't have much of a leg to stand on except technology.

But deep down, in that place where Brandon can't see, I wanted an iPad.  I justified it with the excuse that the girls wouldn't have to carefully arrange their computer time when Sophia starts using a more computer-intensive curriculum in the fall.  After all, that really is almost inhumane.  Nobody should have to fight for computer time.  It's a basic human right, to have all the computer time you need.  It's for school after all.

But really, the lure of pretty, expensive, cutting edge technology sang its siren song in my ear.  "Look at me," it whispered, "look how thin I am, with my smooth oleophobic glass.  I can give you computer access half a second faster than any other machine you have.  No more cumbersome typing, just fancy tapping.  You don't have to look so unfashionable with your laptop.  Nobody cares if it's a MacBook Pro.  It has a keyboard.  I don't have a keyboard.  Just a smooth, shiny screen.  I'm so sleek and sexy.  And I can bring you apps."

Mostly I ignored it.  For all of its whispering, it cost money and Brandon wasn't about to agree to any more internet ordering any time soon.

But then I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  Which in itself isn't really an excuse for ordering unnecessary technology.  But taking a four year-old to your endo appointments because you're in a foreign country is a pretty good one.  I pitched to idea to Brandon, and surprisingly, he agreed.  About five minutes later I was drooling over the offerings showing off their thin lines and alluring specs on the Apple website.  Within a day my new toy tool was on its way.

It arrived with plenty of time to get everything kitted out for my upcoming trip to London.  I bought movies, downloaded apps, purchased books, and learned about all of the super-fancy swiping I could do to make my iPad experience even more user-friendly. The children enjoyed making slow-motion and time-lapse movies of themselves, and Brandon even enjoyed the feel of his finger slipping across his iPad's smooth oleophobic coating.  There's nothing so enjoyable as conspicuous consumption of consumer electronics.  It's all so very American.

And so now we are like everyone else.  When our airport waits stretch to interminable after twenty hours of traveling and the children just. can't. sit. still. and we used up all of our polite asking two continents and an ocean ago, we have the magical iPad to bring out and shut down their little brains with.  When we're waiting at a restaurant for our food to arrive and it's taken 45 minutes and everyone is half an hour past their bed time, the iPad can come to the rescue.  And of course when I'm taking with my doctor in London, Joseph can keep his incessant little voice quiet while he watches his favorite Wallace and Gromit episode for the fourth time that day.  Technology really is amazing.

But still, I'm not getting an iPhone.  I still have to have that shrinking moral high ground somewhere, right?  Cause I'm not planning on giving up those breakfast cereals.  Ever.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lowering Those Standards

Did I ever tell you that I have hypothyroidism?  Probably not.  After all, nobody told me I was having thyroid troubles until a few weeks ago.  So, I guess there's no way you could know either.

It all started a couple of months ago when I noticed that my running was going downhill.  Although technically it probably started before that.  I've never been a fantastic runner - I run from obligation and not enjoyment - but over the years I've gotten a pretty good feel for how fast I run (using a treadmill makes that quite easy).  When I'm in peak condition I can run at 6 mph by the end of my run, and when I'm nine months pregnant I can run at 4 mph.  Which is slower than Brandon walks.

My speed dropped bit by bit - first my top speed was 5.5 mph, then 5, then 4.5 then 4.  And it stayed at four.  I could maybe explain 5.5 or 5 or maybe 4.5, but definitely not 4.  That's how fast I run when I'm 39 weeks pregnant, not when I'm supposed to be normal and healthy and not pregnant.  I decided something was not right.  A call to the embassy doctor, an office visit, and a couple of blood tests later, it was confirmed.  Hypothyroidism.

And like that I gained my very first lifelong medical condition.  But it turns out that, as far as lifelong medical conditions go, hypothyroidism is one of the easiest conditions to deal with.  Take a pill, have blood draws occasionally, and you're good to go.  Pretty simple.

When the doctor called and told me the news she offered to start me on the medication immediately.  "But," she continued, "I do have to tell you that our medication did expire a month ago."  Since I'm trying to get pregnant, she recommended I visit with an endocrinologist when Joseph and I are in London this week (two medevacs for the price of one!).  And that doctor might want to run their own tests, so perhaps waiting on the medication would be the best idea.  I agreed.

So that leaves me a firm diagnosis (yay!) but not much to do about it until I visit with that doctor in London (boo!).  Which means that I've just have to deal with being hypo for awhile.  This means that on the good days I feel like I'm four months pregnant and on the bad days I feel like I'm nine months pregnant.  The good news is that I've had some experience feeling crummy for long periods of time.  The bad news is that I've never dealt with it very well.  Every day I start with a firm promise to be nice and cheerful and smile all the time.  Some days I (mostly) keep the promise.  Some days I don't.

And so, for now, I just have to lower my standards.  It's the best way to try and keep a grip on sanity.  Your bed isn't as neatly made as I like?  That's okay - you'll just sleep in it later anyway.  Those messy clothes drawers really aren't such a big deal.  After all, my drawers are clean and I don't have to look in yours.  As long as the clothes are put away somewhere, I don't really care how they're put away.  Feel free to not finish your food.  Pancakes are a perfectly reasonable dinner food.  Movies are the best babysitter ever.  Schoolwork gets done and that's what counts.  After all, the school year is almost done anyway.

There are some days when we have pancakes for dinner because really, food is food and everyone likes pancakes better than whatever else I had on the menu.  The house is a little messier than it usually is, but that's why I have a housekeeper come twice a week to make the mess go away.  And nap times occasionally last until four in the afternoon.  It's times like these when teaching the children to only wake me in dire emergencies pays off.

Thankfully all of this has an ending date - a few weeks, they say, after I start taking my magical pills.  I wonder sometimes how much I can blame on my thyroid (and I blame that whenever possible) and how much is just the vagaries of growing old.  I'm trying to contain my expectations, but sometimes it's hard.  I suppose I can always 'forget' to take my pills when things aren't going so well and then blame the thyroid.  It's always nice to have a convenient excuse.

Until then, however, everyone will get to enjoy those lowered standards.  I'm pretty sure they're not going to like it when they're raised again.