Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Week One Done

May 27, 3008

I had intended to call this post "Week 1 in the Can" because I assumed Erin would spend more time in the bathroom than she actually did. As it was, she had an hour of diarrhea last Thursday and two other moments that we cut off with Imodium before she ever reached the State of Diarrhea. The rest of the time was "Normal. Full Speed Ahead." No nausea either. What I have noticed (for anyone who may be considering adopting The Rhino into their own household) is that Erin's energy pattern and eating habits have done some time shifting. She used to eat most heavily at breakfast and dinner and go pretty lightly at lunch (no criticism intended of her school cafeteria). Now she eats about the same at breakfast, pretty heartily at lunch and after school. If I wait too long on dinner, however, I have to toss most of it out. By about 8:00, her motor slows down considerably. We'll see if that pattern holds this evening. We have an event with Chet and Lea Ann Edwards that doesn't start until 7:00. She's resting now so she can keep the party going.

I didn't have any idea what to expect when we had counts done today. Surprisingly, she posted decent numbers:

HGB 9.4
WBC 5200

ANC 3920
PLT 376,000

As usual, Erin's hemoglobin is the least robust of her blood numbers and almost two points lower than two weeks ago. The chemistries were still pending when we got the signal that we could hit the highway. Not needing to hear that message twice, headed out, leaving instructions to let us know if anything fell out of range. No calls so far. We didn't see Dr. Russell today, who had some days off coming, but Dr. Murali seemed quite pleased that Erin is not longer taking anything, including plain old tylenol, for pain. He may have been pleased, but I have been virtually ecstatic for the past two pain-reliever-free days.

The Mystic '97 didn't pass on to the Houston Open semis, but the last two weekends have shown much improved play and great promise for next season. Erin has tryouts next week for next year's team, then we (the team, not just the Buengers) will take a month-long hiatus from practice. We managed to double up on Memorial Day cook-outs, spending Sunday evening with Erin's good buddy Jesse and his family and their delicious ribs and Monday at the Burchill's pool with Nico and Co., the Foote Clan, and hamburgers and hot dogs.

We checked blue bird boxes yesterday morning, and believe it or not, those mama and papa bluebirds are still getting after it on the egg laying/chick raising front. My mom's friend Manuelita took this photo of Erin and also the one after of our bird friend (blue heron). If you look carefully you can see that she also caught two bluebirds in the same frame (on top of the kickback goal).

Saturday, May 24, 2008


May 24, 2008

I'm on a public computer at the Courtyard Marriott, but didn't want to leave you hanging. Erin finished the first five days of The Rhino with practically no problems (I can report one hour of diarrhea and discomfort on Thursday evening, brought to heel by Imodium, but so far that's it.). We get a two day break on the setting-the-alarm-to-give-meds routine and then do irinotecan alone next week (no temador). We'll see how the counts hold when we go to Houston on Tuesday.

Nothing wrong with my van that $1100 wouldn't fix, so I have new valve springs, a re-compressed valve, and thrown in for fun, new brakes. Hey if you want to go, you have to be able to stop.

The Mystic '97 have played at a high level this weekend, but have ended up with two ties. Given the evenness of the talent pool, we are still vying for a spot in the semi-finals. For Erin fans, you will be excited to know that we believe the chemo has helped. I actually saw Erin running the field, filling her lane, with her old stride and pace this morning. You can not imagine how that makes Walter and I feel.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wild Life

May 22, 2008

The Wild Life--Part 1

Willie tried his hardest to entertain us at dinner last night. He played rope toy with Teddy, and although she never actually became airborne, he did swing her around impressively. He also attempted to break the sound barrier while running circles in the living room, but left us contemplating a quick trip to the vet as he failed to reach Mach 1. (Really, why tolerate a dog like Willie if he can't even create a good sonic boom at mealtime?) Finally, near the end of dinner right before Erin started on her evening pill swallowing extravaganza, he settled down with what looked like a tasty stick or perhaps a purloined bit of table scrap. The look on his face and his seriousness of purpose said it all: "How much delight would my audience have with a mere stick? Wouldn't a smallish lizard, entrails exposed, create a much bigger sensation?"

I wrestled the lizard corpse away from him and settled back down to keep Erin company as she popped pills.

Erin: "The tail."

Mom: "What tail?"

Erin: "The tail."

Mom: "What tail?"

Erin (more loudly): "THE TAIL."

Mom (no glasses) scans the floor: "Walter, I don't see a tail, but Erin thinks she sees one."

Dad (walking to the spot, napkin in hand): "Oh, that's just a leaf."

Erin (insistently stomping over to the spot and pointing): "The black and green and brown thing, right there! That tail."

Dad: "Got it."

Erin (returning to the table): "Pass my pills."

The Wild Life--Part 2

Our neighbor, Ed, doesn't like animals. No pets at his house. No fondness for other folks' pets. No kind pat on the head for Luke. No kind word for Teddy or Uma. Needless to say, Willie is an abomination. He wanted no part of the matter when Baby Bun took up residence under his propane tank.

Perhaps the goat that jumped through his (closed) bedroom window yesterday morning didn't get the memo.

Across the fence from our neighborhood, a new family has taken up residence. They brought with them a few children and four assorted goats. Willie found the goats the first morning after their arrival and immediately took it upon himself to provide them with aerobic exercise, extreme aerobic exercise. Since then, the poor boy has not left the house unleashed. I'm not exactly sure what happened yesterday morning. I just know that it didn't involve Willie.

I think one of the goats found a way through the sieve-like fence meant to contain them and was shopping the neighborhood, sampling the various garden offerings. I suspect that Jade (weimaraner) and Buster (golden retriever) caught a whiff of goat and offered to escort her home. Startled by their friendly offer, she may have dashed toward Ed's bedroom window, much like the birds in the Windex commercial. Jade's owner was fairly certain that she had not contributed to the incident by chasing the goat, although the goat hair in Jade's mouth may suggest otherwise.

The deputy came out and assessed the situation. He told Ed that you have to expect these things when you live in the country. He then loaded the goat into the back of the cruiser and took her home.

The Wild Life--Part 3

No story. Just two photos of the wild life in the country. The first is a bee clan that set up shop in the water meter. (You got to feel sorry for the meter reader. We had a apiary come out and move the bees to a bee box. Luckily, they were not Africanized. Unfortunately for the meter reader, the poison ivy remains.) The second is a stalk of bamboo that grew up through a pair of bags of pine bark mulch. We moved one of the bags to take this picture, but this Japanese-style grass poked through them both like a spear and just kept growing.

Now, on with the stuff you visit for: an Erin update.

does not have diarrhea yet. In fact, as of 8:00 this morning she is still tending the other way. Increasing gas production gives us hope that we will have a break through, so to speak, soon. The lack of movement doesn't appear to have made her uncomfortable. I have given her zofran as a pre-med for the chemo and so far no nausea or vomiting, but her appetite is not as hearty as usual. She slept soundly through the night both Tuesday and Wednesday and had a romping good time at school.

Giving temador and irinotecan has gone remarkably smoothly. I get up and give the zofran at 5:00 and go back to bed. Walter gives her the four temador capsules about twenty minutes later. At 6:20, I slip her the irinotecan with a cranberry juice chaser. Erin just sits up each time, downs the meds, and snuggles back under the covers. She's back sawing z's before we leave the room. We had considered pursuing an alternative delivery systems, like repackaging the irinotecan into empty gel caps each morning. So far we're holding off. Erin doesn't protest taking the Rhino. She doesn't even grimace when she swallows. This is a big relief.

Erin refused tylenol at breakfast both yesterday and this morning and headed out to school. I checked on her around noon yesterday and had to talk her into taking tylenol. I'm not really sure that the chemo has worked this fast to relieve the pressure on her spine, but she's definitely more comfortable. We swam for an hour after school yesterday before PT.

Yesterday I called Erin's nurse to ask if we could deviate from the protocol by serving the irinotecan with Cranberry Pomegranate. We used to serve Erin's accutane with blueberry yogurt, forever ruining Erin's taste for blueberry yogurt. I figured if she was going to develop an aversion to something by associating it with irinotecan, CranPomegranate was a better choice than CranGrape or even regular cranberry juice.

While I had the nurse on the phone, I mentioned that Erin was having such an easy time with the irinotecan, which I was barely covering with juice, that maybe I should just squirt the 3.2 milliliters straight into her mouth and down her throat, thus guaranteeing no spillage or leftover Rhino in the Dixie cup. The nurse advised against it.

Nurse: "That stuff really tastes nasty. I doubt she would drink it."

Mom: "How bad could it be? I can't imagine the small amount of juice I'm using would do much to mask the taste if it were horrendous."

Nurse: "Really nasty. I wouldn't recommend giving it without juice."

Mom: "I think I'll taste a drop just to see how bad it is."

Nurse (practically screeching into the phone): "No! Don't do that! Don't you know that stuff is toxic?"

Mom (to herself): "I can squirt 3.2 mls into Erin every morning, but can't take a drop on my tongue to see what it tastes like?"

So, my van's still in the shop. The tow truck dragged it in Tuesday evening. The mechanic called Wednesday morning. I had lost all compression in one of the cylinders. Not good. The spring on the valve had broken. He's going to replace the spring and see how much I damaged the cylinder before I got the car off the road and stopped. If I'm lucky it's not ruined. My luck has not run so well lately. Until then, I'll drive Davis's van. He doesn't need it. He has a Pittsburgh bus pass. I think those busses are air conditioned. Davis's van isn't.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

98 Degrees in the Shade

May 20, 2008

I won't give you the blow by blow (I'm lying. I really will give you the details), but I will say that even though my van broke down between Navasota and College Station on that very dangerous stretch of Highway 6
  • exactly where there have been numerous fatal accidents in the last few years,
  • during rush hour,
  • right where the traffic speeds up anticipating the speed limit bumping up from 55 mph to 70,
  • when the outdoor thermometer wavered between 98 and 99 degrees
our day went better than I expected.

Erin started the day at 4:00 this morning with complaints that back pain woke her. She couldn't get comfortable. In addition, the new antibiotic (Vantan) meant to control any diarrhea that irinotecan
might generate and the tylenol with codeine I had given her for back pain had clogged up her system and left her constipated and straining to get comfortable. On top of that she started gagging and vomiting (possibly in anticipation of taking nasty oral medicine later in the day, but maybe because she had a bug. I didn't know. What I did know was that if she vomited she couldn't keep down pain medicine or chemo.). Her well of cooperation had run pretty dry, even before we finally got to clinic.

Dr. Russell saw beyond the obvious negatives of Erin's situation to hone in on an explanation I hadn't thought of: tumor growth could explain Erin's deteriorated condition this morning. She sent us for an x-ray
(during the x-ray I didn't even know enough to be worried. I just thought she was looking to see if Erin's poop was backed up). The x-ray came back perfect.

I was still worried about the irinotecan staying down, as it has a reputation of winning the nastiest-tasting-liquid-oral medicine contest. If she couldn't keep it down, Erin would get it as an IV drip (not a big deal), but we would have to keep coming back to clinic every day until she demonstrated she could take it orally and keep it down. I even envisioned a scenario where Erin would get de-hydrated, and we would end up in-patient. With a little help from Mrs. Ativan and Mr. Tylenol with Codeine, Erin managed to take all of her meds successfully, with no back wash or gagging, and slept away most of the afternoon observation periods. This was an ultimate triumph, given the roadblocks of the day. A little car trouble on the hottest recorded May 20th in the history of Brazos County was just a bump in the road.

Now we're home. Erin is happily working on the flag for her class to carry on Field Day on Friday, and I'm going out to walk Willie.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mystic 97 Captures the Bronze

May 18, 2008

Erin's team's roster this spring wasn't large to begin with. Fifteen players dwindled to fourteen when Abigail moved to England for a semester (hurry back, Abigail!) and shrunk a second time when Kaitlyn had an ankle injury that wouldn't improve without complete rest (come back as soon as you can, Kaitlyn!). Then, Marla had a chance to go with her cousin on a make-A-Wish trip, and we all knew that's what she needed to do.

So, the Mystic started the state tournament with twelve (although two actually arrived late, so the first game they began a player down 10 v. 11), including Erin. The first day, she played about fifty out of sixty minutes each game. We beat the number one seed, 2-0, and left so much on the field that we lost our second game to the eventual state champion Lady Rapids from New Braunsfels.

Sydney, already nursing the croup on Saturday ran up a 102 degree fever overnight (get well soon, Syd!) and her mom took her home, leaving us with a squad of eleven (no substitutes) playing against a team with seven extra players. The Stingers scored first, but instead of backing down and feeling sorry for ourselves, we battled back, eventually playing the ball past their keeper and holding on to a tie. I don't know if there is a metaphor here, but find one if you'd like. Here's our Mystic, tired, but happy.

Medical Outlook: Erin started a specialized antibiotic on Friday to combat the main side effect of her new treatment: diarrhea (which I suppose I am going to have to learn how to spell if it's going to become an intimate part of our lives). Tuesday, we will drive to Houston to pick up the irinotecan and temador combo that we hope will bring that tumor to its knees, crying for mercy (at which point we will say, "No, no mercy for NB."). Dr. Russell wants to give the first dose in clinic that day, just to see how Erin tolerates it and to make sure there aren't any unanticipated, wonky side effects. After that she will take three or four temador capsules each morning, wait an hour, then take 3.2 mls of irinotecan mixed in Crangrape juice. Each three-week cycle we will do this for five days in a row, take two days off. Do it for another five days. Then take nine days off. Repeat. We will scan during the sixth week and hope for measured improvement.

Friday, May 16, 2008

So I Pulled Out the Suitcase

May 16, 2008

Most cancer parents keep a suitcase packed in case of fevers, unexpected admissions, and the standard in-patient stuff. Tonight, I'm packing Erin's bag.

I'm putting in her black jersey and her white jersey, her black shorts, her tornado socks, her shin guard and cleats. Tomorrow we leave for the state tournament for the South Texas Cup. It's better than the hospital.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

May 15, 2008

Erin blasted out of the starting gate this morning like the last two weeks of back pain, barfies, and the down lows were a figment of our imagination. We spent the morning visiting Jane Long Middle School, where Erin will go next fall as a newly minted sixth grader.The biggest problem she can anticipate there is that the desks are built to accommodate the larger end of the spectrum of middle schoolers (some of whom are gianormous). After a morning among the giants and giantesses, we returned to Mary Branch Elementary where everything is just right. PT went equally well, with Erin performing strengthening exercises she hasn't felt up to in two weeks.

PT, you say? You and Walter will continue to torture her with physical therapy even in light of this weeks news? Yes. We plan on Erin sticking around a lot longer, and she definitely has back and core muscle issues that need attention. We want to work on them now, before she turns into a teenager and takes the don'ts and won'ts. Anyway, she needed a good massage to do her best at fifth grade field day tomorrow. She's scheduled to run the 600 meters at 9:25 in the morning and has some other event a couple of hours later.

Erin has done so well to day, you'd think that she had already started chemo instead of stopping it yesterday. That won't happen until next Tuesday. Dr. Russell and I had tossed around a variety of ideas this week. We strongly considered ABT-751, because it can achieve the quality of life with a low personal burden that Erin hopes for, but since it doesn't really hold much promise for tumor shrinkage, we decided to hold that one in our hip pocket for later and go with temador/irinotecan for a few cycles. Lest you think that the trip down to Houston was a complete downer, check out Erin and Katie at the aquarium on Monday evening:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not What I Expected

May 14, 2008

When I went to bed last night, I had calmed myself considerably. I accepted that Erin's news, though unwanted, was not unexpected. Parents in relapsed NB-land have a talent for living their life while waiting for the other shoe to fall. We didn't have a concrete plan yet, but I reminded myself that we had more options to choose from than we did three years ago when Erin relapsed. I knew I would sleep well. A restless night on Monday, followed by a long and psychologically draining day at clinic, rush hour drive time, and those three glasses of wine almost guaranteed it.

Sleep came quickly and lasted until 2:14, when Erin's hand gentled me from my dreams with the news that she didn't feel well. I figured back pain had waked her and that she needed a massage and some cuddling. I had it partially right. Her back did hurt, but it didn't take me long to adjust my perspective. What convinced me? the vomit. Erin spent most of the next eight hours cycling between the sofa, the toilet, and Walter's big green chair (normally green, not stained green). We've had such an easy go the past few years that it took until sunrise to remember that I had a cache of zofran (the miracle anti-puke) drug stashed away for just such occasions. She managed to hold the second one I gave her down long enough for it to do the trick. An hour later she kept a tylenol down and an hour after that her celebrex. With the barfies and the back pain under control, she caught a nap around noon and woke a refreshed woman. A quick call to her nurse, Beverly, at UPA confirmed that this virus was a come-and-go type and that she was most likely "done" with it by mid afternoon. Whew!

The whole experience was surreal. . .sort of a realistic preview of any heavy chemo option that we might choose. If we need to follow that routine we will, but I think we lean towards finding a path more similar to the one we've followed so far: minimize the amount of time away from school (Erin's first priority) and maximize the amount of time she feels well (Erin's fourth priority). For the record, when we asked her, she said her second priority was for it not to be too much of a burden (her words). I asked her whether she meant a burden to us or to her, and she said to her, but that she didn't want it to be a burden to us either. How could I dare tell her that I wouldn't consider it a burden to cut off my right arm and drink the blood if it would cure her?

Since Erin didn't go to school, I stuck pretty close to her side, venturing away, whenever I could to check the e-mail and see if Dr. Russell had started answering the questions I had barraged her with last night and early this morning. You're probably a whole lot more disciplined that I am, but I can tell you that checking mail every seventeen seconds does not make it arrive any faster. In fact, it wasn't until around 2:00 when Tracy Ash called to check on us, that I learned that Wednesdays are Dr. Russell's day off. Well, it's not what I expected, but it's a more palatable explanation than any of the other dozens of others that I had considered to explain why she wasn't responding.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Too Smart

May 13, 2008

It should surprise no one that a tumor produced by the brainy Erin would eventually outsmart its treatment plan. So it didn't shock us today that the CT scan showed that Erin's tumor has progressed, and we will now have to form a new plan. We've had a great run: 9 months on cyclophosphomide, 19 months on etoposide, and before that 9 months of the topless cyclone (topotecan/cyclophosphomide) without progression. If only the next rounds of treatment can match that!

We don't have a definitive plan yet (still in consultation with Dr. Russell), but I do know that Erin will have many fewer pills at her place at dinner tonight.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Audacity of Mrs. Bun

May 12, 2008

During those weeks when Willie wore his E-collar and felt miserable, the neighborhood bunnies ran amok. Baby Bun ventured far from his home under the house near the end of the road to set up a fort under the Cook's propane gas tank, oblivious that he had ventured onto Jade and Buster's turf. Luckily, Erin and my mom rescued the naive Baby Bun and returned him to his nest. Not that he was the only bunny who had taken advantage of Willie's downtime. Mrs. Bun must have missed Willie's attentions during those dark days, because in his recovery she has taken up some wild and wanton ways. At dusk last night, as we made the curve near the pond and headed towards home, I noticed her first. She was sitting in the middle of the road coquettishly looking back over her right shoulder. There she remained, batting her eyelids, flaunting her bosom, and flouting the all the rules of the animal kingdom. Clearly, she was waiting for Willie to notice her. She has done this multiple times lately. She wants him. She's willing to vie for him. When he finally notices, the seduction begins. Willie doesn't exactly understand how to play her game, but he's willing to try. In the end, after much chasing and snuffling, Willie is left dreaming of the possibilities and admiring the audacity of Mrs. Bun.

I wish I could tell you unequivocally that Erin has recovered from what set her low last week (just like Willie most assuredly has), but her energy level and aches and pains have ebbed and flowed. She felt well enough to practice soccer on Friday night and lasted about 70 minutes (which is about the best her back allows these days). She took an easy start to the day on Saturday, then helped her coach Lisa Villalobos with Hot Shots (pre-school soccer players) for a few hours. She didn't feel like doing much the rest of the day. The quiet time gave her an opportunity to retire to her room and work on her top-secret Mother's Day project, while listening to The Beatles ad naseum.

Sunday she woke up felling reasonably perky and presented me with a new, beaded chain to hold my eye-glasses [NOTE BENE: I have reached the age where I have not yet moved into bifocals, but can't read with my glasses on or drive with my glasses off. Needless to say, I spend the greater portion of the day donning and doffing my eye wear. Keeping my specs in chains helps me immensely. Otherwise, I would waste an even larger portion of the day wondering where I left them when I took them off. Now I'm so accustomed to wearing them on a chain that when I take them off, I just drop them. Definitely a bad habit, if you forget to wear a chain!]. When we headed off to church, I thought we had turned the corner on the virus and its debilitating effect on Erin's outlook and comfort. The next time I saw her (an hour and a half later) in the choir area at the front of the chancel waiting to sing, I could tell she hurt. She made it through both pieces her choir sang, but when she joined Walter and me in the pew, she just slumped for the rest of the service. We got stuck in a big Mother's Day lunch crowd at Gina's, and eventually the wait got too long and my mom took her home. She just couldn't get comfortable at the table waiting.

I prepared myself to hang out quietly with her the rest of the afternoon, but she rallied. I broke one of the rules of good mothering and suggest we take a walk around the lake. . .BAREFOOTED. We had a jolly time--only a few burs and nothing really icky stuck to our soles--and it warmed us up enough that Erin made it through all of her home exercises except "the birddog" with no complaint. Tomorrow's scans will tell us a lot about whether these back issues arise from tumor pressure or from something else. We're hoping for something else, but even that is not a free pass. Somehow, we have to find a way to shoot the gap between the Scylla of too much activity and the Charybdis of too much sloth. Overdoing and underdoing seem to trigger the same discomfort cycle.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Bit Better

May 8, 2008

Erin felt well enough to go to school this morning, claiming she felt like a 67 on a scale from 1-100. I think the day pooped her out. She agreed to physical therapy after school, but not soccer. I have hope that she just has the BVC (Brazos Valley Crud) that most local residents get this time of year, and that it will run its course by the weekend.

I turned in final grades today and will make myself scarce from the office
(thus avoiding the belly-achers and whiners) until it's time to gear up for summer school. Now if I can just find my to-do list.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2008

May 7, 2008

I needed some good news today. Apparently, I violated Scott Finestone's strict instructions (see the Saturday, February 10, 2007 entry on Zach's caringbridge page)
for avoiding bad luck and tempting fate because I forgot to say "Kaynahorah" and spit three times (ptuii, ptuii, ptuii) last week when I got off the phone with Dr. Russell. She had phoned to talk about Erin's blood labs and to let me know she had been working on a new road map for Erin that extended her current treatment plan out another three years. Given that optimistic outlook from her doc and the fact that I was feeling confident about Erin's health save for her back (which we were handling through standard channels), I failed to ward off the evil eye (literally and figuratively).

You already know about the eye infection. Well, the virus she has in her eye, or perhaps an independent contractor virus, has set up shop in the rest of her body, giving her an achy back, a stiff neck, a headache, and swollen lymph nodes in her right groin area. For those of you in the know, I'm sure what you have just read is sending up all kinds of red flags. I'm holding tight to the virus theory, but am glad I don't have to wait longer than next Tuesday to take a closer look inside to see if something more nefarious than a kid virus is causing Erin's woes.

On top of Erin feeling punk with the kind of symptoms I don't like to see, we learned this morning that our friend the amazing Hans (shown stage left) has something ugly on the bone scan of his arm that might be relapsed NB. I just get so angry that families all over the country and all over the world have to live with this burden. Tell your son his cancer "booboo" has come back. Tell your daughter the back pain sidelining her from her favorite activity may just be a side effect from cancer treatment, not her cancer grown back, although you can't be certain either way.

The google alert that came in a few minutes ago to my email account brightened my un-cheery disposition. Today, the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act passed successfully through its House Committee with few amendments, the most noticeable one was that it now has a new title: The Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2008. Congresswoman Deborah Pryce is the leading co-sponsor for the bill and the mother of a neuroblastoma angel, Caroline, who died as a nine year old. The bill now has to move to the floor of both the House and the Senate (where it has bi-partisan support and a majority in each chamber already signed on as co-sponsors). If it passes in different versions it would have to be reconciled in conference committee before being sent to President Bush for a signature. I continue to have high hopes.

If the bill becomes law, our next battle would begin: fighting for appropriations to fund the the legislationl. That will be a monumental fight, but for now, let's take the bit of good news. What we are working for has taken another step forward. Knowing that has lightened my load a little today.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Eyes Have It

May 4, 2008

I have scrubbed my hands more times in the past three weeks than I have since Erin's original diagnosis and treatment. Cleanliness may or may not be close to Godliness, but it certainly helps to soap your hands up before dealing with eye infections. Willie is much better now, but it doesn't look like dirty hands are in my future. Erin's right eye got pink and crusty last night. This amateur doctor is making the call early. . .conjunctivitis. I'll try an over-the-counter remedy until Monday when we can see Dr. Parr and get some antibiotic drops. Looks like I'll be in the hand wash/eye drop biz at least another week.

On Friday, Erin, Nico, Adam and Jesse got into the spirit of the weekend on Friday by doing some dewberry picking, then some tart baking. Not satisfied with a simple dewberry tart, they got creative and added apricot jam, crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, and apple bits to their tarts to multiple the taste and diversity of their creations. The entire process (INCLUDING CLEAN UP) was self managed and adult free. In fact, we were relegated to the deck with liquid libations to await the final product. Let me assure you that the tart's butter crusts were the tastiest pastry I have had in a very long time and made completely from scratch.

The Mystic '97 brought home the silver medal from South Texas Cup play yesterday and qualified for the state tournament in two weeks. We were three minutes away from the gold, having taken a 1-0 lead early in the first half and held it, but a tying goal at the end of regulation threw us into overtime, where we ran out of steam. Erin played bravely, despite her back injury. She has made it through just one complete practice in the last six weeks, and usually goes until her back pains her, then sits out and ices it down the rest of practice. With only two substitutes yesterday (the other team had seven), the team needed her to play as many minutes as she could. She managed to space her time out across both halves and the two extra periods, starting both halves, with a midway break, then going back in. It was tough to keep her back warm and loose when she was out, but I ably served as masseuse in between, and we kept her from tying up.

I want to end with photos and Erin's own explanation of her recent invention project for school (made from balloons, papier mache, and assorted detritus from around the house):

My invention is called the P.A.T or the personal air transportation. Everyone will soon have one after it becomes popular. It solves several of the world’s problems:
  • gas usage;
  • legs tiring on long car trips; and
  • driving when tired
A P.A.T is a ship that has balloons inflated on the bottom. These balloon’s work like hot air balloons to float the car up into the air. The difference is that instead of using some sort of flammable gas to heat the air to inflate the balloons, the P.A.T. depends on solar power to create heat to fill the balloons. Heat, of course, rises making the whole ship float. To propel the P.A.T. forward, there is a large fan array attached to the end of the ship which is also powered by solar power. On the inside, the driver and the passengers ride in comfortable seats. The driver can turn and face the others in the car because the P.A.T. flies it self. It comes equipped with sensors on the outside, so if it spots anything in motion coming toward the ship it alerts the driver. There is also an alert if the moving car is approaching something stationery. Another feature of the P.A.T is that each seat is equipped with different exercise machines: tread mills, bike pedals, etc. My model only shows the bike peddles, but each machine allows the person to do something useful while traveling.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Conehead, the Barbarian No More

May 2, 2008

Willie still has his contact lens (until Monday), but the cone came off first thing this morning after nine style-filled days. His reaction really reminded me of the early years of Walter and my marriage. For many years in our early married life, Walter and I had ten-and-a half month contracts with the university at what I now consider laughably low wages. During the six-week summer stints when we had no pay checks (and practically nothing saved), we had to scrimp to make ends meet, dining on pasta and anything else we could afford on our stretched-thin budget. We became experts at making special combos from whatever we had in the house, until even our imaginative brains were taxed by the pantry that held only a jar of olives, a box of pearl barley, and a quart of V-8 juice. Once that regular fall paycheck hit the bank, all of our pent-up spending urges would come swooshing out, and salespeople at any shop we entered could boost their commissions.

When we took the cone off Willie this morning, he did two things in quick succession. First, he apologized profusely for whatever it was he had done to merit such a wicked punishment and swore he would never do whatever it was again. Second, he made a break for it, as if he had pent up urges of his own, much like our spending urges after a long summer. In this case, he had to investigate across every fence, under every out building, and through every narrow space that he had been barred from for the last week plus. Wearing the cone apparently adversely affected his hearing because in every test we ran this morning (regardless of pitch, decimal, or tone of voice), he did not return when called. When he finally dragged his sorry self back to the house, he was happy as a clam (can anyone tell me why in the world a clam would be happy and where this simile came from?).

Erin had the TAKS tests this week (a make-up reading test for having taken a pre-spring break vacation the first time it was offered and the fifth grade science test). Neither did any good for her back. Apparently, the teachers/principals/administrators want everyone taking the test to try their hardest. To discourage anyone from rushing through the test in the hopes of finishing early and having fun, no one is allowed to do anything except sit at their desk and read until every single person taking the test is done. One child got sent to the office for drawing at her desk (too much fun?). Since Erin was taking the re-test in reading with the students who had not passed the first time, everyone was very concerned that the test takers take their time. Erin finished her test at 11:25, but had to stay seated until 2:59 when the last child finished. Thursday, I was wiser and picked her up from school when she finished. Unfortunately, the Wednesday session had wreaked havoc with her back. In physical therapy on Thursday she was so knotted up that the whole session was heat and massage (no exercises, not even any stretching). Anyway, for a variety of reasons I'm glad to get this week behind us. Hopefully, she can continue making progress on her back after this setback.

We did manage to turn Thursday into a productive day. With Davis home for a couple of days and Erin out of school over the lunch hour, we made it a family event to attend the opening day of Gina's. For those of you wondering if the new Gina's would be as good as the old Gina's. . .all I can say is try it. We're going back (Leslie, do you want to meet there after church on Sunday?).

I'm going to end with a story that some of you will think I have made up. I swear everything I'm about to write is true and totally Erin.

At breakfast the other day, Erin started asking roundabout questions about her Make-A-Wish trip. After a few exchanges, I gleaned that she was trying to figure out if she could ever have a second wish. I figured she was wrangling for another trip to Wyoming (which was going to have to come on our own dime next time). When I finally asked her what she had in mind, if she ever did have another wish. She said she would ask to meet all the Senators and Representatives in Washington personally, so she could ask them to support the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. I told her that it probably wouldn't do much good to meet them all, because she wasn't their constituent. So she amended her wish, and said that she wished she could meet Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in person to tell her about the bill and ask her to support it. I told her that was a good idea. Then she looked at me and said, "I think the Senator doesn't support the bill because she's not informed. And I think she's not informed because her staff is incompetent." Another adult at the table said, that that wasn't true. She didn't support the bill because she was a [and he named something that starts with trog and rhymes with lodyte]. Anyway, I had to agree with Erin's assessment. I don't think the bill is on the Senator's radar at all. This would be a good time to go to my April 11 entry and refresh your memory about how to contact legislative aids.