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Things have been busy in the last 6 months.  Hell, thing have been busy in the last year.  In fact, the last year has been a difficult one, which is why I’ve been so scare on the posts.  It’s hard to write humorously when you’re mired in shit.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not finding humor in my life, or that I’m focusing only on the bad times…just that I’m finding it difficult to take some of our everyday situations and turn them into a funny commentary on parenting, relationships, mental illness, atypical neurology, and what raging assholes 3 year olds are.  Actually, that last one might not so so hard to write…

In the last year, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, have had to readjust my expectations and my life based on my body and the medications I have to take to prevent irreversible joint damage, started weekly psychiatry appointments for Future Cult Leader to get a handle on her anxiety, ADHD, and daily meltdowns, I’ve struggled with my bipolar disorder, helped my mother after her surgeries (plural, with another one likely coming up) and the after effects of those surgeries (MRSA flare!), dealt with my aging grandmother’s progressing Alzheimer’s disease, hospitalization, moves to different homes and a rehab center for her severely broken shoulder and subsequent surgery, and other minor annoyances that are just part of life that have complicated some of the above events.

On the good side: Future Cult Leader is safely in a healthy weight range, has become a lot easier to handle, Evil Genius has made strides learning how to use the bathroom like a human being (no diapers, holla!), I’ve made some awesomesauce friends, gotten addicted to Words With Friends, had the privilege of officiating the marriage of 2 close friends, have managed a couple times to get my joint pain under control, have strengthened my relationship with Monsieur Stoic (today marks the 6th year anniversary of the day we became a couple), turned 30 (fuck yeah, 30!), have improved my photography skills (maybe eventually I can turn it into a career…who knows?), done a bit of traveling, and I’ve gotten to know my long lost brother who recently moved to Oregon from the Easy Coast to attend Oregon State University.  So it hasn’t been all bad.

Tell me, readers…how has your last year been?

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The problem with life is that it ruins everything

Yup.  I’ve been MIA.

The last several months have been whirlwind of…well, stuff.  School started and since I was trying to be Super Bad Ass Mom Extraordinaire, I signed up to work my flat tuches off for the school.  A position on what amounts to a PTO’s board (which sounds more important than it is), taking over an art literacy program, volunteering to work with kids in Future Cult Leader’s classroom, and various other projects meant I was often busy.  And, you know, mom stuff: clean the house, hang with the kids and Monsieur Stoic, attempt to have a social life, keep in touch with extended family, hookers and blow, advise the president. You know, business as usual.

Then something happened.

I’ve experienced joint pain for almost a year.  It comes and goes, but it kept getting worse.  Then it got baaaaaaaad.  Like, I couldn’t button and zip my pants bad.  I couldn’t hold hands with my husband.  I couldn’t squeeze the damn toothpaste tube.  And there were times I was so stiff in the morning I felt like I was going to shatter when I walked down the stairs.  And tired.  ALWAYS tired.  So I did what any rational person would do.  I imagined myself on the show House MD and decided I was going to die of some obscure disease.

Not really.  I called up my doctor who gave me a referral to a rheumatologist.  The rheumatologist listened to my complaints, checked my x-rays, looked over my body, and told me I have rheumatoid arthritis.

I had already suspected as much, since both my mother and grandmother have RA, but I was kinda hoping for an explanation of the pain in each of the joints that were hurting.  I was more or less flattened by the news.  RA is some bad, bad shit.  It’s not like normal arthritis (osteoarthritis) where the cartilage in your joints break down from wear and tear and injury.  It’s an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks the lining of your joints, leading to painful swelling, joint deformity, and erosion of the tissues and bones around your joints.  Even the small joints in your ears can be affected.  It also affects your organs: skin, eyes, heart, lungs, just to name a few.  It also causes extreme fatigue.  Osteoarthritis looks like the kid who gets picked last in gym class in comparison to the big, hulking bully who steals your lunch money on the playground that is RA.

The weeks following my diagnosis were dark.  I was already struggling with not being able to go at the speed I was used to, which was a blow in and of itself.  But finding out that this wasn’t something that would go away with time?  Depressing as hell.  I was already aware of some of the risks after watching my mother deal with it for the last 10 years, but I wanted to take charge of my disorder.  So, I did some research.  Let’s face it, worst case scenarios aren’t exactly the greatest pick me up.  And then there were the reactions of the people around me.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of supportive and understanding people in my life.  But man, the sucky responses can really get to you.  I got everything from telling me not worry and changing the subject to making it about them to people avoiding me like the plague.  Stoic wouldn’t even talk about it until I picked a fight with him over it.

Within a few days, the medications started fucking with me. After a couple weeks they went from fucking with me to waterboarding me on the rack.  Mental and mood changes were listed as side effects and oh yeah, I had those.  I got all spun up.  Couldn’t sleep (there wasn’t a sleeping pill in the world that could knock me out), couldn’t focus, itching to move around, extremely irritable.  And I was worried about everything.  That means one of two things:

–my anxiety was my puppet master

OR

–I was headed into a hypomanic state.

My therapist, who is totally my hero, jumped right in and prescribed another anti-psychotic.  Which was great and all, except it’s extremely sedating.  So on top of the joint pain and fatigue, I was so groggy and slow and felt like a total moron.  I was sleeping 10-12 hours a day and had basically abdicated my role as a parent.

That was a few weeks ago.  I’m doing better now.  My new anti-psychotic dosage was reduced, so while I’m still pretty groggy in the morning I’m at least functional.  I’m more at peace with my diagnosis and had a really good visit with my rheumatologist this week.  My RA is early and mild, which means that joint damage will be minimized.  The medications have already improved my quality of life.  Even better, they could still take another month to show me what they can really do.  Since they’re working so well right now, we don’t need to think about the heavy hitting drugs that can cause cancer and wipe out my immune system.  I have a good prognosis and a good chance for remission.

Despite the good news, sometimes I get really angry because, hi, a couple of chronic mental disorders and now a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease?  WTF did I do to deserve all this?!  Most days, though, I’m okay with life.  It’ll get better.  I will get better.

So.

I apologize to my readers (all 30 some of you!) for my absenteeism.  Hopefully I don’t have to start sucking up to you for forgiveness.

All that coffee must have stunted my growth

Another undesirable trait of Monsieur Stoic’s is his habit of forgetting that I? Am not his height. I’m no shortie, standing as I do between 5’6″ and 5’7″. But at 6’4″, Stoic tends to stand a head above a lot of people, and it’s really hard for him to grasp that that 10 inches? Is a HUGE difference.

Going back to the same backyard project: while carrying the ladder from the back yard to the shop, Stoic lifted the ladder over a chair and was stopped short when I pulled on the ladder. “What?”

“I’m not tall enough to lift this ladder over this chair.”

His solution? Another tall person solution. “Then swing it over the table” which was to the right of the chair and in the direction we were trying to take the ladder.

“DUDE. That requires getting it over the chair in the first place! I CAN’T DO THAT.”

And again, later, when we were moving the porch swing….

“We need to move it back that way.” He motioned back about 8 feet, then proceeded to lift the swing near the top of the structure. I simply raised my eyebrow at him. He leaned down to pick it up where I was picking it up, down near the base, where I *actually* had the leverage to lift it.

Oh, and there was that one time we argued over whether or not I would be able to lift our 70 pound LCD TV onto the wall mount 6 feet off the ground. To get my point across, I agreed to give it a shot. Luckily, he stopped just before I dropped the freshly repaired piece of technology on his foot.

All the keys to the doors in the house? On top of the door frame. I can reach, if I stand on my tip toes, strain my shoulder, touch my tongue to my nose, and wiggle my right nipple. And he can’t figure out why I get so annoyed when all the doors are locked.

And, sooner or later, I invariably find all the most useful things in the kitchen on the top shelf. You know, climbing up on the counter was a lot easier when I was a kid. Now that I’m out of shape (it’s that damn bon-bon and soap opera habit of mine) and no longer 16 years old, lifting my foot above my waist AND THEN EXPECTING IT TO DO SOMETHING LIKE PULL MY WEIGHT OFF THE GROUND is more like the start to a bad joke.

I suppose I shouldn’t forget his point of view. After all, he’s been tall for the last 20+ years; plus, he’s spent most of his life doing physical projects with Womb Mate who is less than an inch shorter than him. But, I’ve decided all that is null and void because: he complains that he hates having to bend down to kiss me.

OH SURE, FORGET THE HEIGHT DIFFERENCE WHEN WE’RE LIFTING HEAVY SHIT BUT COMPLAIN ABOUT IT WHEN WE’RE MAKING OUT.

It’s like it causes him physical pain to speak in coherent sentences

Monsieur Stoic has this terrible habit of forgetting that I am not his brother. See, they’re identical twins. This means I have nearly embarrassed myself a couple of times by almost grabbing my brother in law’s ass because the two of them often dress alike, completely coincidentally, so unless you’re paying super close attention to the tiniest of details it’s easy to confuse them from behind. Or while being bounced between them on a trampoline. But that’s another story.

As it usually is with twins, they have their own form of communication. They may not have the full extent of the twin ESP you hear about, but they can get by using only a couple words at a time and understand each other perfectly. I guess that kind of shorthand comes naturally when you’ve been womb mates. The problems is this: I didn’t share a placenta with my husband. I need more than 2 words to know what it is he wants. We’ve been a couple for 5 years, but that isn’t long enough for me to decipher his cryptic ass messages.

The other day, in order to make the house presentable for the photographer to come get some photos of the house so we can con someone into buying it, we needed to remove an extension ladder that leaned on the balcony off our bedroom. It was a 2 person job to take it out to the shop, so like a good little wife I agreed to give him a hand. “Walk it backward,” he told me. “It’s heavy.” As that was all he said to me, I assumed he wanted me to walk backward with the ladder, facing him, like one would help carry a table or a couch.

Nope.

Stoic grabbed the ladder, straightened it, and started moving it. The feet started to come off the ground, so I grabbed the ladder at that end and tried to move backward with it. “No, don’t grab it. Walk it backward!”

“I’m trying!”

“No you’re not!”

“DUDE. YES, I AM.”

“No, walk it backward.”

“Like put it upright and make the ladder walk backward?”

“No. Like this.” He proceeded to demonstrate by holding the ladder at a diagonal angle and walking backward while keeping the ladder stationary, moving his hands as though he was on monkey bars. The ladder’s feet never lifted off, and the ladder wound up safely on the ground. Oddly enough, he did this just fine without my help.

“Wait. So you wanted me to guide the ladder down to the ground so we could put it on its side to carry it?”

“Yes.”

“So why didn’t you just say that? I’m not your womb mate. I need more than 2 words to know what to do.”

That same day, Future Cult Leader was Losing Her Shit last night in pretty epic form. A few days ago I swore that the next time she threw a fit I would take video to show her later and, okay, to get some validation by showing the video to people and going AND YOU THOUGHT I WAS EXAGGERATING. Since I needed to step back from her, I thrust her writhing body into Stoic’s arms so he could take her to tantrum in her bed where she wouldn’t get hurt or hurt someone else. Five minutes into their time upstairs, I get a text.

“Video?”

I stared at the words, trying to figure out what he meant. So I tapped out “what?” and hit send.

“The tantrum.”

Perhaps it was because I was so rattled by the force of Cult Leader’s fury over a dinner she refused to eat, even though she didn’t actually know what it was, but I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. Was she Losing Her Shit because I had mentioned we could rent a video soon and didn’t run straight to the nearest Red Box to pick one up? Of course, this would be more than adequate to send to Womb Mate, who probably wouldn’t have even needed the second text.

I responded. “Stop speaking in sentence fragments, please.”

He came back with “want to video the tantrum?”

SERIOUSLY. WHAT WAS SO HARD ABOUT THAT.

A clever man would put the poison into his own goblet

If you’re a mother, then chances are you know about Caillou. If you’re a mother and have half a brain, then Caillou annoys the ever loving shit out you.

For me, it’s not so much the cartoon itself. That bratty little 4 year old buys me an hour of peace every morning, an hour that I can use to screw around on the internet get a bunch of chores done around the house. No, what gets me is its effect on Evil Genius.

First thing in the morning: “Dai-yoo? Dai-yoo?”

“Sorry, baby. Caillou is still night-night.”

Right after breakfast: “Dai-yoo? Dai-yoo?”

“Sorry, baby. Not for another hour.”

As soon as 9 AM hits…

“DAI-YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

And after Caillou hour is over and we turn the TV off…

“NOOOOOO. DAI-YOO!”

Snack time: “Dai-yoo?”

Lunch time: “Dai-yoo?”

Before nap: “Dai-yoo?”

After nap: “Dai-yoo?”

Every ten minutes for the rest of the day unless she is occupied: “DAI-YOO, MAMA, PEAS? DAI-YOO?”

WHAT is it about that show? Why does it enthrall her so much? Why is she so obsessed with it? After much study and contemplation, I have my theory.

Caillou is sending out subliminal messages to my daughter. See, she is a clever, clever girl and already has a well-developed mischievous side. Suffocating her mother? She’s tried it! Strangling her sister? Check! Escaping the house when Daddy is in the bathroom? Hell yeah! The kid ain’t not no dummy, and she’s deceptively cute enough to use her powers for the dark side and get away with it. But she knows that in order to conquer all, she’s going to need some assistance.

That’s where Caillou comes in.

Caillou is obviously nothing more than a carefully coded message from the enemy, except instead of being tied to a pigeon’s leg it’s delivered via children’s cartoon. Are you over the age of 5? Nothing to see here! But for the wee ones there are cues in the animation, secret messages in the dialogue. The songs are cute but full of we’re-not-in-this-alone morale boosting. The credits pull it all together into a anarchist’s cook book for toddlers. That’s why Evil Genius is obsessed with it. Each episode covers a different topic and if she misses a day, that’s one more day she’ll have to put off her diabolical plan.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. THIS CHICK IS OFF HER ROCKER. I don’t claim sanity, but hear me out. There’s a reason this child’s pseudonym is Evil Genius. I invite you to come spend some time in my house. Watch what happens when we deny this child of her Caillou. Then you tell me: is this cartoon really as innocent as its creators want you to think?

We’ll call this a warning

The Internet Police showed up at my door this morning and gave me a warning about blog neglect. It’s a serious issue, they cautioned me, and not something they take lightly. I need to get my act together, they said, and start treating my blog with the respect it deserves.

So, here I am.

Look. I apologize. I really do. But the dog ate my IP address.

I have had both a serious case of writer’s block and serious case of no free time since I last posted. It’s a deadly combination, almost as bad as having no fashion sense and a low self esteem. When I think I have a great idea, I don’t have an opportunity to sit down and pound it out. When I have the time to sit down and pound it out–crickets. Annoying ones. Anything I could possibly have to say winds up looking like this:

Loud. Words…sticky. Shiny. Sleeeeeeeeeeeep. Pants. River otter! Soapy, slimy steering wheel. Duvet cover. What? Vodka.

I’m hoping things slow down enough soon so I can actually sit down and nurture my creative process. But I worry if that happens, I’ll stop being able to sleep without Ambien. How do the two relate? They don’t. I just wanted to throw it out there that I can fall asleep at least half the time without the use of pharmaceuticals. IT’S A BIG DEAL, FOLKS.

Yeah, that’s right. I can perform a natural biological function. I AM AMAZING.

Anyway.

To sum it up: I suck. I’m going to try not to suck soon. In the mean time, suck on my suckiness.

Moving on up

If you don’t live around these parts, then the Astoria Column is this:

Why are most towers built to resemble penises?

and it’s 125 feet of terror. Or, it is if you’re afraid of heights. And ohhhhhhh, I am. I can’t even climb a 6 foot ladder without feeling like I’m going to soil myself. One hundred twenty five feet, so multiply that by about 20. Or 21. Or, if you’re literal like my husband, 20.8.

I have no idea what possessed me to climb the column. Call it a lapse in judgment, a moment of stupidity, or thinking my balls were bigger than they are. Either way, it was not my brightest choice.

Inside the column is a metal spiral staircase with 164 steps that lead to the top.

ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FOUR

About halfway up…

Me: “WHAT WAS THAT?!” I drop down to a whisper. “Is that an earthquake?”

Him: “No.”

Me, in a desperate whisper: “I THINK IT IS. IT’S AN EARTHQUAKE.”

Him, patiently: “No, it’s someone else coming up the stairs.”

Me, a little louder: “ARE YOU SURE?”

Before he can respond, we hear voices. “Oh. I guess you are.”

Later….

Me, in another panicked whisper: “WHY ARE THEY LAUGHING. DO THEY NOT REALIZE THAT WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE UP HERE?”

And later still…

“I CAN FEEL THIS SWAYING. ARE WE SWAYING? I THINK WE’RE SWAYING. WE’RE GOING DOWN.”

Needless to say, I was relieved to get down, even if I nearly had to scoot down the stairs on my ass.

It was a hell of a view, though.

An addendum

Stoic and I finally settled on a road trip for our vacation. Tomorrow we will be driving up to Astoria, staying the night, and then taking Friday and Saturday to drive down Oregon’s highway 101, and coming back Sunday. And I’m excited to go, because not only is it a break from the kids, but HOTEL SEX! WOOT!

(Oh, and the change in scenery as well as the beauty of the Oregon Coast is a plus, also.)

In order to pack, I needed to iron a pair of jeans. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but I assure you it’s actually necessary and not my neurotic showing. My washer is awesome and I love it, but it has this awful tendency to crease the hell out of my clothes. My iron and I don’t get along and my steamer and I have been in a few arguments, so I will take whatever steps to avoid it I can, even if it means smacking the crap out of my clothes before throwing them in the dryer on refresh 5 times.

Ahhhh, energy efficiency.

So I lay my jeans on the ironing board with my nemesis in hand. Lo and behold, what do I find?

Goddammit.

Those circles are glitter, and all the arrows are pointing to all the different directions you can find glitter on my jeans.

So EVEN THOUGH I line dried the shirt, and EVEN THOUGH I shook out all the clothes before I put them in the dryer, and EVEN THOUGH I shook them out when I folded them I STILL HAD GLITTER ON MY JEANS.

All thanks to this shirt:

This little bastard is the culprit.

To exact my revenge, I took it outside and beat it to get rid of the loose glitter. Instead, I succeeded in making it look like Tinkerbell took a shit on my front porch.

There is now a glitter shirt embargo placed on this house.

Get it off me!

I know some moms do a load or 5 of laundry every day, but I’ve always been a person with a laundry day. I much prefer to get it done in one shot than to spend time every day folding clothes. Oh sure, I could have Monsieur Stoic do it, but his way of doing laundry is appalling and makes me twitchy. In fact, on the rare occasion he does do laundry, I write him out detailed instructions because I’m a control freak who can’t let go. Or something like that.

Part of having kids is buying clothes, so we went to a department store some time last week to return a couple items that sucked and pick up some things that don’t suck. Since Future Cult Leader has this thing where she grows taller and taller, she’s heading straight for the girls 7-14 section. This both excited and saddened me. It’s sad because, oh hey, last section before the juniors section! And what’s in the juniors section? Clothes that I don’t find appropriate for girls under the age of 18! The excitement? Came from my hatred of glitter.

Fucking glitter. It was an awful Mariah Carey movie (erms…from what I heard, anyway), everyone jokes about how it’s the dumb way for shit to go down when vampires from crappy series that have a cult following step into the light, and like Dimitri Martin said, it’s art herpes. It gets everywhere, and you can’t fucking get rid of it. Why is this relevant? BECAUSE CLOTHING COMPANIES PUT GLITTER ON LITTLE GIRL CLOTHING. My god, I think I’ve even found it on little girl underwear. WHO NEEDS GLITTER ON FREAKING UNDERWEAR WHEN YOU’RE 5? TELL ME. I REALLY WANT TO KNOW.

It’s like the people who manufacture clothing are soooooooooooo desperate for your money that they’re pimping out their shirts however they can. Or jeans. JEANS. It’s not enough to be cover the body and maybe be stylish. HEY, BUY OUR SHIT. WE NEED MORE CIGARETTES AND HOOKERS OVER HERE. Put glitter on a little girl shirt and you can guarantee that most little girls who walk by are going to pull this number:

“*GASP*! Authority-figure-who-has-taken-me-shopping-and-made-the-mistake-of-walking-by-the-girls-clothing-section, see that shirt? It’s glittery! It’s so pretty! Please please please please buy it for me! I really really want it! I’ll do anything for it! You want me to kiss your toes? I’ll lick the bottom of your foot if you just buy me that shirt! All the kids are wearing shirts with glitter on them, it’s so shiny and beautiful and please please please please?”

My girls are not girly girls. I don’t have a problem with this, because kids should get dirty and wrestle and play hard and jump and not worry about getting dirty or breaking a nail. Don’t get me wrong. Cult Leader loves herself a pretty dress, and Evil Genius loves to put on pretty shoes and every article of clothing she can hijack, but then they go outside to roll around in the mud, much like Scrooge McDuck would roll around in money. Danger? They laugh at it. Getting loud and rowdy? Yup. Non stop activity? Hell yes.

But if you show them a shirt with glitter on it, that’s the only shirt in the world they want and will stop at nothing to get it. Even the 2 year old is attracted to glitter, kind of like a magpie. Those clothing companies, they addict them young. So I figured, hey. Once we hit the big kids section, THERE WILL BE NO MORE GLITTER. What self-respecting 7 year old wants glitter on her clothes?

The shirts Stoic picked out for Cult Leader? COVERED IN MOTHERFUCKING GLITTER.

I can’t escape it. That shit is my lot in life. And the worst part about glitter covered clothes? They make more glitter covered clothes. I can shake the hell out of mine and Stoic’s clothes when they come out of the dryer but since glitter is like herpes, or worse than herpes, we’ll still find it when we put the clothes on, or 10 washes later.

If I was ambitious, I would start an anti-glitter campaign. Because no one’s lint trap should look like this:

All that glitters isn't gold. It's annoying.