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Okay, medical jargon out of the way, we’ll catch up.  You may recall that my old college roommate, Janet (who is not old, I swear), and I are starting a home birthday party business.  We decided on the name Goodness Gracious.  And we staged a fake birthday party on Thursday so that we can take pictures for our website-to-be.  We went with an Under the Sea theme, since Janet had this amazing papier mache octopus that she’d made for son Ian’s birthday party a couple of years ago.  Our plan is to offer between 5 and 7 basic themes, allowing for tweaking (under the Sea could be made into mermaid or pirate easily enough, Space/robots/aliens, etc.) and we’ll offer custom parties for a fee.  But, as you’ll see, we make a lot of stuff, and while most of it can be reused, we don’t want to be constantly making table linens.  

We used two rooms for the party, one for the craft and games, one for the cake.  Here is the first room, with our themed table and doorway decor :


Janet did the cool stuff, I made the linens.

Janet did the cool stuff, I made the linens.

Isnt he amazing?  Well be sad when some kid inevitably smashes him.

Isn't he amazing? We'll be sad when some kid inevitably smashes him.


I made this banner.  yay me.

I made this banner. yay me.





The table setting.

The table setting.


Well provide the real linens and real settings--no waste!

We'll provide the real linens and real settings--no waste!

So we started them off with some homemade playdough and put out rollers and cookie cutters.  No end product, just something to keep their hands busy while all the guests arrived.  Once all were there and attention was starting to wander, we marched them off for hand-washies while we cleared the dough and the table.  Then we had them do a crab-walk relay race while balancing a bean bag on their bellies.  That sounds fun, right?  What actually happened, was I tried to get them to shut. up. and listen to me and eventually just let them waddle around.  Parties where the moms stay stink.  Kids are SO much easier to wrangle without the moms around.  But these were Janet’s friends and moms of Ian’s friends and they wanted to see what we were up to.  But lord, I’d forgotten how l o u d four year olds are.  yowsa.  Good thing they’re cute.  They I made an attempt at “slippery octopus”–hot potato with an octopus beanbag (that I made, just like the other beanbags.  Because I rule)–but they could hardly hear the music of the laughing/crying/chatting.  They seemed to enjoy it nonetheless.  Then we hustled them in for cake.  We were trying to power out a 90 min party in an hour.  EAT THE CAKE!!  We plan to offer cake as an add-on.  Cost of cake plus a 10 dollar hassle tax.  I can provide gluten-free cake or organic cake or vegan cake or what have you.  But for this party, I made a cake.  I wanted it to be all-organic so it would look nice an homey.  To make pink icing, I blended up some strawberries…but it came out sort of “flesh-toned and lumpy” instead of “sweet and homey” but no one complained.  From cake, we moved on to the treasure hunt.  Janet made little rhyming clues and they scurried around finding them.  At the end, they found this:


papier mache fish filled with goodies!

papier mache fish filled with goodies!

Originally, these were to be mini-pinatas that you smash to get out the goods, but Janet realized the kids would probably rather just have the fish, so she left the hole flap open.  Just like real fish!  If you reach into their butts, you get presents!  And finally, the pinata, which was so awesome it was a shame to smash it:


I made little cloth bags for the kids to put their candy into.  We’ll offer pinatas empty in the basic package, but will fill them with organic candy for a fee.

We booked 3 parties from this one, so that’s a good start.  We need to sit down with our receipts and research and figure out pricing and then get the website up.  I’ll keep you posted…

So I had a weird couple of weeks.  Some of you were in on some of it and some were in the dark.  So I’ll fill you in.  If you don’t care, just go here.  I’ve had this weird vision thing going on (not a George Bush vision thing, weirder) in which my vision almost doubles now and again or my field of vision shakes back and forth or I go to dart my eyes to the right and they don’t quite do it the right way.  Last summer, I saw an opthamologist,  after my optometrist said he couldn’t see anything.  Neither did the opthamologist, who also had me do some blood tests to see if I had, like, scurvy or something (yargh!).  Nothing came up.  And since “you’re fine” is what I want to hear, I just stopped thinking about it.  In fact, in the early fall, my eyes seemed to be behaving much better.  But then it all came back, with more, and it is driving me nuts.  So I brought it up with my GP again, who could still detect nothing, and he sent me to a neurologist.

The neurologist detected that when he had me look up-down-up-down really fast, that my left eye didn’t quiiiite keep up and would end up just a bit off from the right.  Not a team player.  He said he had no idea what was causing it, though, and trundled me off for an MRI.  That was on Thursday the 5th.  I was supposed to get my wisdom teeth out the following Monday.  Friday, I started to feel like I had a cannonball in my stomach.  I thought it must be stress about the teeth and the envelope with BRAIN on it that was on top of my highest bookcase.  I asked the oral surgeon to call me in a Xanax script and, bless him, he did.  That took the edge off the gnawing anxiety, but the ball was still there and I realized that I was just sick.  So I cancelled the oral surgery.  Hosted Ben’s party (see below) while feeling like crap.  I was supposed to go in to discuss the MRI results on Tuesday, but on Monday, he called to say there was “something” on the MRI and they needed me to go back for the contrast MRI.   Comedian Mike Birbiglia has a bit in which he says when a doctor sees “something” on the films it’s never good news.  “We see something on the Xrays…and it’s tickets to the Yankees game!”  Doc had made an appt for me to go back the next morning.  Which is fast.  And fast is scary.  I took a Xanax.  

I took a half of one before the MRI.  They injected me with poison and stuck me in the tube and banged anvils in my ears for 30 min while I made up limericks about my children. A sample:

There once was a young girl named Lily

Who found that she felt rather chilly

To warm up her feet

She turned up the heat

‘Cause putting on shoes would be silly.

Thanks folks, I’ll be in this tube all half hour!  Of course, they then handed me these films as well, but at least they didn’t say BRAIN on them.  Back in next day to doc.  He says that radiology thinks that the “something” from the first film was nothing, but that my optic nerve looks like it might be inflamed.  What causes that?  Well…MS can cause that, so we schedule a spinal tap.  When I moaned loudly, he assured me that it really wasn’t that bad, that they’d do it right in the office, and it would take maybe 15 min.  whimper.  

Thursday, Steve drove me in for the tap.  Yes, all possible jokes about the movie were made.  The room in which they put me had this ugly print of labrador puppies playing with duck decoys.  That struck me as so sad.  “Look!  Puppies!  Happy time!  No needle in YOUR spine!”  Also, it was really badly done.  In truth, the actual lumbar puncture was nothing.  A twinge when he injected the anesthetic and then, when he took the puncture needle out, I had a twitch that felt like a hand buzzer was under my butt.  I had done all the reading I could bear and learned that the jury is out on how much, if any good it does to stay laying down after the puncture, but it couldn’t HURT, so I laid down.  They told me, and I read, that you take it easy that day, stay in bed, and then you’re fine.  Off you trot, just don’t lift heavy stuff for one more day.

Friday morning, I got up and took the kids to school.  Started to do car line and felt…odd.  So I went home.  I had kind of a twingey, zappy feeling in my head.  So I went back to bed.  Stayed laying down.  Now, while this is all going on, I’m fighting a horrid sinus infection.  I could just feel that my skull was packed tight with boogers.  I was taking an antibiotic, hoping to kill it.  Also?  Knotball still in my stomach and I could barely eat anything.  I’d had like 3 pieces of toast with peanut butter all week.  I stayed in bed all Friday.  My head hurt when I got up, but it had been hurting laying down, too, b/c my sinuses were killing me.  Saturday, my mom came to visit and I still needed to lay down.  I felt weak (from lack of food, most likely) and just…wrong.  Saturday night, the headache was bad.  Steve called the doc and he said I should go get the blood patch.

Briefly: The lumbar puncture headache is caused when the wee hole in your spinal nerve column thing (that’s the Latin) doesn’t heal quickly enough and you leak spinal fluid.  Yes, brain juice on the mattress.  The cure is to get a “blood patch,” possible the worst medical phrase since “dry socket.”  This procedure requires an anesthesiologist who will take blood from the arm and inject it in between the layers of the punctured thingy.  The blood clots, the brain juice stops dripping.

Because it is a procedure that needs clotting, you cannot have had aspirin or ibuprofen that day.  I had just had a rather massive dose, because the Tylenol wasn’t cutting it.  So I thought, maybe this is just sinus?  and sent STeve to get a neti pot.  I have resisted the neti pot for I haaaate anything going in my nose.  I don’t swim.  I don’t use nasal spray.  Bleh.  Out-only orifice.  But my head was owie.  So we gave it a go, and had many laughs and–as you know–laughter is the best medicine and I started to feel a bit better.

Woke up Sunday, went to pee, nearly died.  Horrible, horrible pain.  Felt like my brain was trying to slide backwards out of my skull.  I quickly retreated inside to the nice place and Steve had to take over.  He got the kids farmed out and took me to the emergency room.  The light was killing me, so I had a shirt over my head the whole time.  They gave me a liter of saline with caffeine, painkillers, and anti-nausea drugs.  I remember very little of it, which is good, since a DOA kid came in and Steve had to listen to the family come in and grieve.  Ugh.  After a couple hours, I was feeling better and they sent me away with a script for Vicodin and some anti nausea drug.  Woo!  i’m Dr. House!  But the Vicodin was not really cutting it.  I was still in pain.  just not as much.

Monday morning, we called the neurologist and he said “go get the blood patch.”  We went in to the surgical center that afternoon.  3 natural births and I finally ended up with an epidural.  Like the lumbar puncture, it really wasn’t a big deal.  When he took out the needle, he said, “So, headache gone?”  I still had the sinus issues, so I said no and they gave me a coke (first soda I’d had in a year.  Blech).  Another anesthesiologist came in and said “So your head still hurts?”  and I described it to him and he said “Yeah, that’s sinuses.  But did you have the feeling like your brain was being pulled backward out of your head?”  Yes! and that’s gone! “Okay, that was the lumbar puncture headache.”  And it WAS gone!  As was the feeling that something was wrong.  Magical.  That must be the most gratifying procedure in the world.  People come in, in blinding pain, scared to death, and in 15 min, they leave upright and happy.  

I was still really weak and the knotball was still in my gut and my sinuses still hurt.  But it gradually all went away and I am fine now.  Fully back to normal.  Except that my eyes are still utterly weird.  All that hell was just the test.  Gr.   I have heard nothing about the tap results, wand was told it is a “no news is good news” situation.  It’s been about a week since they should have had the results, so I’m assuming good.  I had a visual evoked response test at the hosptial today.  It just involved electrodes on my head and staring at a test pattern.  No needles.  I have an appt. on the 9th to discuss it all and figure out what comes next.  But I feel fine, and I’m glad to be out of bed.

yeah, yeah, I’ll update what’s going on here eventually. But first, some coolness.  I don’t normally do a “cool things I found on the web” post, but this was too good to pass up.

It’s an illusion painted onto the street by German artist Edgar Mueller.  Check out more here

I’m a big fan of transitory art.  I love exhibition architecture, too.  There’s just something about the effort put in for something designed to be destroyed.  Love it.  These street paintings have the added benefit of being an unexpected surprise for most people.  What a delight to just wander upon something like this.

One of the guests’ dad stayed for the party to help out a bit and took some fantastic photos.  These just cracked me up.  enjoy.

I just love that you can see the darts pursuing them in that middle one.

My camera crapped out right at cake time, so I was happy to get this one from the nice dad:

AND we got a pre-smashed pinata shot so that you can get a good look at the full professional quality here: Slapdash ball of tissue paper, on a wire hanger, hanging from a mop, being whacked by an umbrella.  We are nothing if not classy here.  Did I mention I’m starting a birthday party business?  I think I’m a natural.

I’ve postponed my oral surgery b/c I am still down with this virus.  No sense trying to make my body recover from surgery when it’s already whipped from a virus and several days of almost no food (I’m thinking of marketing my virus on Facebook as a weight loss plan.  Effortless!  Guaranteed Results!  No cravings!  You’ll eat as much as you want!  I’ll just not mention that all you want is an occasional piece of dry toast.)  I’m better today, as evidenced by the fact that I’m able to string a sentence together, but still feeling oogy.  Since Steve is in CA every other week, I’ll have to schedule the surgery for two weeks out.  Sigh.  But maybe I can get the neuro appt. moved up.

Ben’s birthday party was today, and my procrastinating really paid off b/c I was too sick to move for the 3 or 4 days prior to it.  So yay.  Luckily, the weather was on my side.  It was over 50 today.  They arrived and set to the traditional Decorating of the Pinata Bags:


Wade, Ben, and Nick

Wade, Ben, and Nick

That kept them busy until all were present–8 boys, all packing Nerf heat.  I had them park their weapons in the living room.  Like an Old West saloon.


But a sampling.  Only 4 kids were here at this point.

But a sampling. Only 4 kids were here at this point.

Then I booted them outside.  I cleared the table and sent Steve out to referee.  There was a lot of noise and fewer tears than I’d have expected.  I sent Julianna out with the camera, so I don’t know any more about what went on than you are about to:

I think I heard of a Capture the Flag game, but Steve said it takes so long to load the guns that it was mostly a game of “Hold on!  I’m not ready!”  And yes, it’s true, there once were no guns in my house.  Even when my child chewed his toast into the shape of a gun and used it to go Bang Bang, we had no guns.  First, I tried squirt bottles.  Oh, he loved his “squirters”


Seriously.  Could you just EAT him?

Seriously. Could you just EAT him?

Gradually, I allowed swords, for whatever reason.  They could…be used to slice cheese, I guess.  Or they’re needed for proper RenFaire attire.  But I managed to keep all actual gun facsimiles out of the house.  Oh, he had them stashed at the grandparents’ houses:


and had Laser Tag guns at MY folks house.

and had Laser Tag guns at MY folks' house.

 None here though.  Until the Nerf obsession.  I think that it boiled down to *I* like Nerf, whereas I don’t like any of the other sorts of guns.  But we’ll pretend that it has something to do with my having laid the groundwork for a non-violent outlook.  And that now he’s old enough to not grow jaded by shooting things with his Nerf guns.  Or something.  Anyway.  We got him the Nerf Vulcan, which is as big as he is.

I called them back in for cake.  Here’s how sick I’ve been:

Store bought cake.  Yes.  12 years in and I bought one.  It was yummy, or so I guess from the tiny lick I managed before my stomach said “I don’t think so.”  He also picked out a Boston Cream Pie cake, since there was an army to feed.  And some of those Dippin’ dots things.  bleh.

Then the present opening, which featured as assortment of ugly things like Bionicles and Bakugan:

The opening was fast and furious and looked like this:

The battery died on my camera and Julianna’s camera hates me.  So most of the shots are freaky in some way.


Quick, Madame Pomfrey!  Get the Skele-gro!

Quick, Madame Pomfrey! Get the Skele-gro!

Then the pinata, which I did make earlier in the week, but was too ill by the time it dried to be very creative.  I just slapped some red, yellow, and orange crepe paper on it and called it a fireball.  What is it?  It’s full of candy.  Shut up and hit it.

Eventually, the families showed up to retrieve the boys.  I must say it did drag as no other party has, probably b/c there was not one thing planned.  Ben went out and rearranged the junk on the porch into an “obstacle course” so they played at that.  But I mostly sat.

Today I’ve had one piece of dry toast, a banana, 1/4 cup of yogurt with honey, and 4 cheese ravioli.  So I’m practically hale!  I changed my sheets and washed my comforter cover yesterday b/c it just seemed so gross to be stewing in those germs.  Likewise the couch blankets.  Figured if I couldn’t find any Native Americans to give ’em to, I may as well wash ’em.  Had the front and back doors open for about 30 min and let the wind tunnel whip around a bit.  So.  On the mend?  Maybe?

Had the MRI today.  I was supposed to go in the afternoon, but I showed up with Lily and her backpack full o’ entertainment only to be told she can’t wait for me.  You must be 12 to wait alone.  For petes sake.  I immediately teared up b/c I’d been stewing and fretting and bubbling just below the surface all morning.  She got me in at 5 pm.  So Lara kept Ben and Lily and back I went.  Okay, the notion that one could listen to music in an MRI?  Bananas.  My first clue was when they handed me those soft squeezy earplugs that you get if you have to hang out near airplanes.  “We get loud, ” said Matt the tech.  And he did not kid.  What on earth IS all that racket?  It was like attending a thrash metal concert.  Dressed as a lipstick.  I closed my eyes as I entered the tube b/c I don’t need to know how close it is in there.  It reminded me a bit of being on an airplane–canned air, weird light, a voice from nowhere and everywhere at once, my racing heart.  Every now and then, my skin just started to crawl and I had to press it down, but otherwise it wasn’t horrible.  I went to the lake.  I had a sun-warmed nectarine on the sand, while the fishies nibbled my toes and the kids splashed and played.  It was a nice break.  If only those death metal kids would have turned down the music.

But then, then they gave me the films.  I do not want these.  There is no possible way I could look at them and think “Oh, that’s all right then.”  I can only find little spots and shadows and gaping holes.  The envelope says “Brain MRI” on it.  That just sounds sinister.  Brain, when you really mean the organ in your head? scary.  And I can’t see the neurologist until next Friday.  Sigh.

And everyone can stop with the scary wisdom teeth stories.  Gah.  Like I’m not in an utter bowel loosening terror already.

I don’t feel good.  Neither does Lily.  So she’s watching Aquamarine for the 30th time and I’m here, whining.  Julianna thought she was falling to the bug, but rallied.  Ben has forgotten that he was ever ill and is short with those of us who are feeling a bit yucky.  Us meaning Lily.  Crap night of sleep.  I turned in early and was out cold by 10.  I was awakened around 11:30 by cries of “MOMMY!  MOMMY I’m all wet!!!”  Thought “crap, Lily barfed.” and leapt out of bed and ran up stairs to find Lily emerging from the bathroom with a slightly bewildered expression like “what?  I was just peeing,” and she headed back to bed.  Realized it was Ben doing the screaming, went over, found him asleep again, and dry.  He used to wake up screaming all the time.  I didn’t realize how little I missed it.  That adrenaline rush that propels you from prone to upstairs in less time than it usually takes you to sit up in bed takes a while to subside.

Then I kept waking up, roasting.  I’d throw off the covers, freeze, cover up, roast, repeat.  over and over.  Broken up only by Evil Sleep Brain saying “Remember how Bev said that the first thing the oncologist asked her was ‘Do you get night sweats?’  Yeah.  Thought you did.”  And Let’s All Just Get Some Sleep Brain would say, weakly, “But it can also be a sign of underlying infection or hormone imbalance.  Or a flannel duvet cover.”  But Evil Sleep Brain had done its work.  So the pattern was roast, throw off covers, panic, doze, freeze, cover up, roast, repeat. Not restful.  ESB was given a toe hold b/c of my low-lying (and generally ignored with my mad denial skillz) worry about whatever is going on with my eyes.  

For a while now, I’ve been getting weird sensations in my eyes–it feels like I can’t quite control them.  From the outside, no one can see anything, but to me it feels like I’m barely able to keep them from rolling around in my head.  Last summer I saw the optometrist–nothing.  The GP–nothing.  The opthamologist–nothing.  And then it kind of went away for a bit, so yay.  But as of fall it was back and driving me bananas.  Went to see a neurologist yesterday.  I really liked him as he shared my taste in books which proves he’s a smart guy.  We shared our love of audio books and our favorite readers.  He confessed that he downloads them illegally (which he said while wiping his hand across his mouth in that jokey “I didn’t really say that” way).  As he took my bp he said, “So, what does your husband do?”  “He’s in intellectual property law.”  beat. “Nah, not really.”  relief.    He poked and prodded and made me walk around on my tip-toes and do math problems (I assured him that I’ve always been likely to screw that up).  Then he had me look up down up down up down many time without blinking and said “Ah HA! Your eyes are misaligned!”  I expressed relief that there was actually something visible going on and it wasn’t just my imagination.  He said, “Well, you’re patting me on the back here, but I have no idea what it is.”  So I get to have an MRI.  Which I’m sure will just be FINE!  FUN!  Not at all leading to body part explosions or heart failure! I was supposed to go today, but Lily is home sick and, well, I’m not so great myself.  So I’ll try again tomorrow morning.  And will meet with the neurologist next Friday–couldn’t meet earlier because I’m–gulp–getting my wisdom teeth out on Monday.*

And my good friend Bev has just found out she has follicular lymphoma.  So really, it’s a wonder I EVER sleep and a testament to the aforementioned denial skillz that I’m not on the floor in a panic attack.  Because let me tell you, it didn’t take long for the relief that the doc actually saw my eyes misbehaving to give way to the realization that that means something IS wrong.  And there’s a whoooole lot of somethings it could be.  I’m going to assume it’s “you don’t eat enough cookies” and stay away from the Google.

*Attention all you people who have wisdom teeth.  Apparently, the older you are when you get them out, the “trickier” it becomes.  Did anyone tell me this in the last 20 years?  No.  I thought it was just a matter of hoping the tooth (which is impacted) didn’t get oogy and then break when being extracted.  Oh no, the various dangers–poking through into your sinus cavity, zapping the nerve in your lower jaw–all become greater as you age.   So go get them out.  pronto.

Ordinarily, this time of year, you’d be reading my frantic, yet undoubtably hilarious post about Ben’s birthday party for which I am always woefully unprepared.  Yet they always come off well, thus reinforcing my slack.  Just like college.  And, indeed, Friday morning I woke thinking “Crap, I have to do Kindergarten Art today, when am I going to make the cake/buy a gift/prepare in any way at all for the party?”  And this time he’d managed to invite a pile of boys, all of whom could come.  But then a miracle!  He woke up sick!  He even barfed!  And thus, no K art, and party is moved until next week.  So I have a whole 7 days to not prepare in any way.  Phew.  Friday I didn’t prepare by reading a book and surfing the web and doing laundry (new dryer!  Woo!  Dries clothes in well under 3 hours!) because we had worn everything we owned and were reduced to walking around in halloween costumes and bathrobes.  Today I didn’t prepare by sewing lots o’ bags so that I can do a big push on etsy.  AND I listened to most of The Mauritius Command–the 4th in the long line of very excellent sea-farin’ adventure tales to which I’m lately attached.  I’m confident I can waste the rest of the week. I’m cool like that.

Oh, and Ben is fine, by the way.


February 2009