Friday, November 13, 2009

Commander of the parking lot! Dictator of traffic!

I am the parking lot monitor for the girls' school.  It's an insane situation in that parking lot and so I volunteered to help out.  You see, the school is on the end of a dead end street and the parking lot has an area for the buses to turn around using a three (or more) point turn.  Most drivers wait to enter the lot until the bus has turned around but there are some who try to navigate around the bus making it a bit of an intense situation.  I was asked to stop the traffic for the buses because of these few people.  There are also some people who park in the turn around zone.  Mostly, they're people who don't normally drive their kids to school and so they don't know the drill.  If the buses haven't all come yet, I ask them to move and point to the parking along the fence where it's safe for them.

Then there's the parking lot itself.  Oy.  There is a certain flow that parents need to follow and it's a strictly one way flow.  Once the buses come, I usually just stand at the side of the lot and help people who don't know the drill or ask people who park in the "drop off zone" to park along the fence.  I usually only have to move from my post at the fence once a week.

Today! Ugh!  While I was stopping the traffic for the buses, someone parked in the "enter" area of the parking lot not realizing it is not a parking space.  I didn't see who it was and so I couldn't stop them.  So now instead of an enter and exit area of the lot, we have only one lane.  I got to play traffic cop and direct the traffic in the parking lot so sanity would remain.  I felt like such a jerk stopping people coming in to let out the three cars leaving the drop off zone but it had to be done.  Most people smiled and gave me the WTF look and I would just shake my head, shrug my shoulders and smile back.  One lady rolled down her window on the way out to tell me I was doing a wonderful job in my role of parking lot cop today!

So, it's nice to be appreciated.  I knew that when I was just standing there I was helping people, even in a small way, but today it was so nice to be told that I am appreciated.  The car turned out to be a substitute teacher's car and so I met him in the lot and told him the routine.  Then he moved his car and all was good.

All hail Sara!  Dictator of traffic!  Commander of the parking lot!  All cars know me and fear my wrath!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Narcolespy and me

Hi. My name is Sara and I'm a narcoleptic.  I was diagnosed this past August after years of medical tests trying to figure out why I'm so darned tired all of the time.  I finally had a light bulb moment and asked my doctor if I could get a sleep study and the result was a narcolepsy diagnosis.  It was such a relief to know that nothing life threatening was happening.  The only thing I ever knew of narcolepsy before my diagnosis was what I saw on TV sitcoms and I have found that everyone I have ever talked to about my narcolepsy has the same understanding of it.  So, here is all you ever need to know about narcolepsy brought to you by little old me. :)


A normal sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes and most people will have five or six sleep cycles each night.  There are two different kinds of sleep in each cycle: Non-REM (NREM) sleep and REM sleep.  Most people have a significant proportion of their sleep as NREM sleep early in the night and increase the amount of REM sleep the get with each sleep cycle.  The earliest REM sleep occurs in most people is usually 30 minutes.  A person with narcolepsy will enter the REM stage of sleep with little or no NREM sleep.  The average person will wake after completing each sleep cycle but won't remember it.  This means they wake every 90 or so minutes each night.  When I did my sleep study, it was shown that during one hour of the night, I woke 11 times.

There are four common symptoms of narcolepsy: cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, and automatic behaviour.  Most people with narcolepsy don't have all the symptoms.  I have two - cataplexy and hypnagogic hallucinations.

Cataplexy is the sudden weakness of muscles. It is usually brought on by strong emotions but can occur at anytime.  The muscles weakness can be as mild as facial muscles relaxing or as sever as total collapse and everything in between.  Cataplexy can often look like a seizure.

Hypnagogic hallucinations occur during the moments between wakefulness and sleep when a person is falling asleep or just waking up or while dozing.  They are very vivid and lifelike and are often frightening.

 Sleep paralysis is when a person is unable to move or talk while waking.  This can last for a few seconds or a few minutes.

Automatic behaviour occurs when a person continues to perform tasks while in a sleep episode. When they wake from the episode, they will have no memory of performing those activities.

Interestingly enough, narcoleptics are often diagnosed with insomnia until it is discovered that they have narcolepsy.  The most common symptom of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness.  Narcoleptics will often have trouble falling asleep at night due to the disturbed sleep patterns.  Both of those occur in insomnia and so a misdiagnoses of insomnia is not uncommon.*

Narcolepsy  kind of goes in spurts.  It usually starts in the teen years but is not often thought to be a reason to seek treatment as it is brushed off as laziness.  It will get increasingly worse and then plateau for a few years and then get worse then plateau then get worse... As the narcolepsy increases in its severity, a person will experience more symptoms and will eventually seek treatment for them.

And me

I first saw my doctor about five years ago because I was just so darned tired all of the time.   I had always been someone who likes to nap and sleep, but the sleepiness was starting to interfere with my life.  My doctor put me through a bunch of blood tests over the next few years as I came in to see him.  Then I started getting really dizzy.  Dizziness isn't a symptom of narcolepsy but I seem to get dizzy when I'm tired.  More tests and more normal results.  Then I started having my cataplexy episodes and would trip a lot, drop things and even fall down the stairs.  Finally I requested a sleep study be done and voila!  Narcolepsy.

I am currently on a daytime stimulant to help me get through the day.  It helps me a lot in that, even though I really really want to sleep, I feel like I can get through the day without napping.  I am supposed to take a nap each morning and one each afternoon, but I laughed when I was told this as I am a stay at home mom with four kids and can't exactly just squeeze a nap in.  Actually, I don't really know anyone in the real world who can just up and nap during the day other than retired people.

I was called lazy when I was a teen but I really couldn't help it I was just so tired.  Even now, I feel like I'm lazy when I just have to lay down.  People over the age of three aren't supposed to need naps!  I'm not at the point where I will randomly fall asleep (like what is shown on sitcoms) but there are times where I can't physically resist having a nap.  I also have boughts of insomnia two or three times a year.  I am currently in the middle of one right now and it's just horrible.

I am supposed to stick to a very strict sleep routine and so I go to bed at 9:30 sharp and get up at 7:00 every day.  Even on the weekends.  I love sleeping in, but it really helps me to stick to the routine.  This kills me because I am just not a routine kind of person.  However, during my insomnia episodes, all of that is thrown out the window.  I will sleep an entire day so my body can catch up on sleep once the insomnia is over.

I am tired a lot.  There are times where I will refuse to drive because I don't think I can concentrate enought to be safe.  I rely on public transportation a lot so I don't have to drive (the environmental impact is the main reason, though).  When I am overly tired, I get stroke-like symptoms.  My head will tingle and half or all of my face will feel like it's been frozen - kind of like a local anaesthetic.  I also have a hard time focusing.  I know that's a common symptom of sleepiness but somehow this is different than what I experienced before my narcolepsy got worse.  I can't even describe it, it's just weird.

I hate having the hallucinations.  Some are really frightening and lifelike.  I had one where I hallucinated that my husband was on the floor dying right in front of me.  But, mostly, my hallucinations are just lifelike.  I can have several before I finally snap out of it.  Most of the time, I hallucinate about getting up and doing my morning routine so when it happens it feels like I have started five days, instead of just one.  I have been having these since my teens and I have taught myself to bite my tongue if I just can't tell when I am awake or asleep.  If I feel pain, I know I'm not hallucinating.  My biggest fear is that I will one day wet the bed when I hallucinate that I'm going to the bathroom.  So far so good on that one, I'm happy to say.

When I have a family get together and we're all laughing and goofing around, I will often drop things and trip over my feet.  This is always accompanied by a kind of freezing feeling in my brain.  That feeling is also there when I am experiencing extreme emotions that aren't so nice - like frustration, irritation and anger. I remember three specific occasions when I was frustrated beyond frustration with my kids and ended up falling down the stairs and one occasion when I was irritated beyond irritation with Lilly when we were walking and I ended up on my keister on the sidewalk.  These are all symptoms of cataplexy.  The more tired I am, the more likely I am to have a cataplexy episode.  Sometimes they're as simple as having a hard time typing.

When I am in a hypnagogic state (the state between sleep and wakefulness) I will often have involuntarily muscle movements.  This happens almost every night in my fingers.  But from time to time my jaw will involuntarily snap open and my head will snap forward.  Sometimes my arms or legs will move involuntarily.  I was worried when these things started happening and asked Kevin what seizures are like and ruled them out when they felt completely different than what he was descrining.

It is such a relief to have answers to all of the problems I had been having.  Everything that was making me worry that something was seriously wrong with my ended up being a symptom of narcolepsy.  But, I am really tired of being tired.

*What brought on this post is this piece of flair I found on Facebook:

Because not only is it possible, it's common for narcoleptics to have insomnia.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ten real reasons to have kids

I visit STFU, Parents* daily and love to join in on the snark in the comments.  (Before you click that link, be forewarned - if you are easily offended as a parent DON'T CLICK THAT LINK!  If you don't like to see pictures of or read about poop, barf, placentas and the miracle of birth, DON'T CLICK THAT LINK.)  While many of the commentators there have children, I would wager a guess that the majority don't.  Those who don't have kids often make a comment along the lines of "Why would anyone want a kid?!?"  I can't say that I blame them at all.  If all I was ever exposed to regarding babies was what was posted there, I may have had those same thoughts myself.  I would like to take this opportunity to tell those childless people about some of the benefits of having kids.  No, this isn't going to be one of those "fresh out of the bath baby smells" kind of lists.  I mean, sure, there are those but they aren't real for people who have no kids.  You just don't appreciate those thing until you become a mom (or dad).  Here are ten real reasons to have kids, in no particular order.

6 - Early boarding and exiting a plane
You can travel with kids.  It's not as easy as doing it without kids, but it can be done and it can be done well and as you are called to the plane for early boarding you get to walk past others who will be sitting there waiting for another fifteen or twenty minutes.  See that couple with no kids who are going to spend a week in a tropical paradise sipping margaritas on the beach?  You may be spending your time on the beach building sandcastles and may only go waist deep in the water, but you get to board before them.  And then you land and you get to leave the plane several minutes before them, making your vacation start before theirs.  When the vacation is over and everyone is just ready to go home, you will again be the first on and off that plane.  It may not be a big deal to some but early boarding makes me feel like royalty.

4 - Halloween candy
There comes a point in everyone's life when they are officially too old to go out trick or treating.  Then we move out of our parents house and buy our own bag of candy to hand out to the kids who show up at our door on Halloween, but we miss out on the variety and the sheer amount of candy that the kids get.  Once you have your own kids, the free candy is back!  I am currently typing this on a three day sugar high.  And the more kids you have, the more free candy!  I have four kids so that was four bags of candy that came in this house this Halloween.  Don't let anyone try and tell you that the candy is just for the kids, either.  It all goes into one communal bowl and it's open candy season.  Sugar high, get ready for day four!

9 - McDonald's
I can't eat McDonald's much since my gallbladder surgery five years ago and there's the whole obesity links to processed and fast foods issue too.  But, I have been knows to go both before and after I had kids. When I went in and tried to order a kid's meal (with cookies instead of a toy) before I had kids, I wasn't allowed to.  But with my kids, I can order as many kids meals as I want and no one will question it.  I now happily eat my cheeseburger happy meal and McDonald Land cookies.  (The first time I was turned down for a happy meal, I asked for a manager and still, no go.  I was 17 at the time and was told I had to order each item separately.)  There's also McDonald's play land.  You see, the equipment is for children age two to twelve and their parents.  So, I like to get my kids their food, have them sit at the table while I take a few trips down the slide.  And if there are small kids I plough through on the way down, total bonus!

3 - You will own them at Scrabble (and other board games)
One day, my kids may be smarter than I am but until then, I totally own their asses at Scrabble.  I am one of the world's worst spellers (spell check FTW!) and I feel oh so smart beating the crap out of their Scrabble score.  I do help them when they ask me to. Not as much as I probably could and one day they will beat me at Scrabble and their victory will be all the more sweeter because of it.  Same with Monopoly.  Hey, if they don't pay attention when I land on a property they own, why on earth would I freely give out that piece of information?  Winning is just as sweet when it's an eight year old you are beating.  Some day, my kids will all own my ass at any number of board games but not without a fight.  Until that day, I get to reign supreme as Queen of the Board Games.  Bask in the glow of my presence!

10 - You will win belching contests
Perhaps this one isn't such a big deal with the dads, but for me it's a big thing. Whenever "the guys" have a belching contest, I can never compete. But I can out belch my kids.

1 - You get a video game partner
This one has two benefits, really.  The first one is that you will win until they get above your level of skill.  For me, it has been ten years and counting.  The second one is that, even when they are below your skill level, you will have a co-op partner.  Then when they reach or even surpass your skill level, you will have a great co-op partner. Flank the guy, sneak around behind that alien, I'll hold aggro you get in behind all these guys.  For the times when you just can't find someone your age to play video games with, kids will always be there for you!

8 - There are numerous things you can blame on your kids
That funky smell, why your house is a mess, the chips ground into the family room carpet, why you haven't raked your lawn yet - these are all things you can blame on your kids.  It's really handy when you're out shopping and you just ate a burrito for lunch.

7 - You can buy "kid" food without being questioned
I love Poptarts.  Love, love, love 'em.  We don't have them in the house very often (I am a bit of a freak when it comes to processed foods) but I don't have to answer the "why do you have Poptarts" question when I do.  Before kids, it was something I had to answer for. If I want to buy large quantites of chocolate milk, no one bats an eye.  If there is a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in my pantry, no one second guesses me for it.  If someone happens apon a half eaten tub of chocolate chip cookie dough in my house, I just tell them I bought it for the kids.  I do share these things with my kids, of course.  It's only fair since they are the excuse that I use.

4 - Kids are a built in excuse to get out of almost anything
"You're inviting me to a gathering to see your slide shows of the Alaskan cruise you took?  What day? Oh, shucks!  That's the day of Madeleine's gym meet!"  (Does anyone use slides anymore?)  You can get out in advance or at last minute with a "sick kid" if you just don't feel like going when the time arrives.  Sure, you can say you're sick but... you don't sound sick.  Or you can say your husband is sick but... then why don't you leave him at home and come by yourself.  Somehow people will try to talk you in to rearranging your plans (visiting your dying grandmother? eh, just go tomorrow) to fit theirs but would never ask you to miss your kid's gym meet or leave a sick kid at home.

2 - You get to warp their minds
Yes, you read that right.  You see, children are a blank canvas when they are born and you have a choice to make.  You can teach them to sing "Row Row Row Your Boat" or you can teach them The Imperial March.  You can take them shopping at Wal-Mart every Saturday or you can tell them that Wal-Mart is evil and everyone who enters never leaves quite the same.  You can sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" before bed or you can sing "Video Killed the Radio Star".  You can play I Spy while standing waiting for the bus or you can discuss the best plan of action should the zombie uprising happen right then.  The choice is yours.  However, this benefit may be short lived.  Once the kids reach about nine and ten, they get a mind of their own and will use it.  If you have done your job right, though, the affects of your warping will linger and be evident as they conform more to societal norms.  Currently, Lilly refuses to read Twighlight because "Vampires don't sparkle!  They burn into a big pile of black ashes in the sun!"  I feel my mind warping on her will be long lasting, we'll see about the others in a few years.

See, parenthood isn't all runny poop, baby barf and pee puddles in the middle of the store.  There's so much more to it than that!

*I really love that place. When I got the news that Kevin's surgery was cancelled, it was the second place on the internet I went.  I needed to laugh and STFU, Parents didn't let me down!  But, I am finding now that it's catching on, more and more parents are posting.  I have a rule there that if it's a "meh, I don't see the big deal with this one" post, I don't post a comment defending or saying it's not a big deal.  That's not what STFU, Parents is for. It's there for the snark and I will read the snark and enjoy the snark even if it's really no big deal.  I have also used it as a place to ask what childless people would think of if I took Lilly to an all ages concert in a bar (but that was after my snarky comment - must have the snark).  STFU, Parents is not for us to defend anything whether we see it as a big deal or not.  It's not there for debating purposes.  It's there for its snarky goodness.

Picture time!  Here they are at Halloween.  Lilly is obsessed with all things Chinese right now and so is dressed in a "Chinese dress".  I think it may actually be more of a Kimono but she was happy.  Madeleine is... Madeline!  Victoria is a chocolate chip cookie.  And Rosemary is Belle.  I tried, I really really tried.  But depsite my best efforts, the one who looks most like me is a princess.  However, the one who acts most like me is a chocolate chip cookie so that's something, I guess.


Lilly, Madeleine and Victoria have their costumes picked out for next year already. Lilly will be Miss America, 1910 (yes, a zombie Miss America). Madeleine will be a Beatle Beetle. And we are trying to talk Victoria into being a Monkee Monkey (her and I are big Monkees fans. So is Rosemary. I should record Rosemary and Victoria singing She Hangs Out. It's their favourite Monkee song.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Holy mother of hell (please don't read if strong language offends you)

Let me apologize in advance for this.   I am working on a new post that is much more fun than this and I'll have it up in a couple of days.  I have been trying to make this post more constructive and more productive but I can't.  I guess people can just use it to see what raw emotions come with living with a critical/chronic illness. These emotions are not just mine.  They are the emotions of the families dealing with the any number of illnesses.

They fucking cancelled Kevin's surgery!  No reason was given why and no date has been rescheduled.  God damn it!  Have we not been through enough?  Did they really have to do this to us?  Sure, those fucking doctors can go on and live their charmed lives and take their fucking vacations, we'll just put up with all of this bullshit for another few months, years, decades or whatever.

So, doctors, first, you tell us it can be fixed and then the very next day tell us it can't.  Then a year later you tell us it's not good and normal that Kevin is going paralysed and say you need to fix it.  And then after the five hour procedure you tell me that it wasn't fixed and can't be fixed the normal way because it's too close to a major artery.  Then you leave it up to me to tell Kevin this.  You didn't even bother telling him in the two hours he was in recovery and I couldn't see him.  Thanks for that you pricks.  Then a year later you want to try a new procedure.  And then a week and a half before the surgery is to happen you call us and cancel without giving us a reason or reschedule date.  FUCK. THIS. SHIT.

You know, Kevin and I have been nothing but patient.  When we go to the ER, we know that if we wait a long time for results it means that Kevin isn't a priority and it makes us happy!  It's when things go fast that makes us worry.  We have been kind and understanding and now you're just tromping all over us.  No more!  The squeaky wheel gets the grease and we will be that squeaky wheel.  Kevin is getting worse and worse and our patience has just run out.  You can toy with someone only so much before they snap.

People often ask me how I'm doing and I always say that I may be hanging by a thread but that thread is made of titanium so I'll be fine.  But even titanium has its breaking point.

I will go back to being optimistic in a couple of days.  For now, I'm going to be mad.

Never let it be said that I won't admit when I am wrong

My friend Dana informed me yesterday that there is indeed toxic makeup.  So, I will freely admit that I was wrong in assuming that no one would make toxic makeup.  So, let me modify my Halloween is dangerous! statement and say that you should check labels for toxicity.  And perhaps it would be prudent to monitor your kids when they put their makeup on.  You know, to make sure they don't eat it. ;) OK, OK, to make sure they don't accidentally get any in their mouths.

This made me wonder just what it is I put on my face every few months when the occasion calls for it. Using my mad google skillz, I found Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.  The pressed powder I use got a rating of 7 out of 10 for toxicity, 10 being the highest toxicity.  My preferred eye shadow received a rating of 5 and my favourite lipstick received an 8.  I use eyeliner and mascara too, but don't have a preferred brand for those.

Now, my makeup routine is pretty simple and I don't use it frequently. Others use it daily and use a wide variety of products.  Why are we allowing these things on and in our bodies in the name of beauty?  I like to feel pretty and look fabulous when I go somewhere that is more adult in nature but do I really need to poison myself to do that?  I will still continue to use these products until they're gone, but when it's time to replace them you can be sure I will be looking at the toxicity level of each product before I buy it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Life After People - Humans vs. Nature

My exciting life involves going to Costco once a month to get some good bulk deals.  I always buy myself a treat while there.  Usually it's hot chocolate or raisin bread, but this week I saw the History Channel series "Life After People" for $20.  For those who don't know, I don't have cable.  My TV gets nothing but fuzz and so I generally am clueless as to what is available on TV to watch.  I didn't know about this series, but when I read the back of the box I knew it was something I would enjoy, as would Kevin, Lilly and Madeleine.  So, I bought it with high hopes.

After watching the first episode, I can say that I don't think I will be disappointed.  Many of the points they make are very thought provoking.  In the very first episode, they mentioned a vine in Texas that would take over if we were not here to keep it under control.  This vine is not indigenous to Texas but was brought over from Japan to be used as feed for the livestock.  This vine can grow up to one foot each day.  They are having so much trouble keeping it controlled now, during people, that should we just disappear it isn't hard to speculate that the vine would become the dominant vegetation in Texas.

This got me to thinking about just how smart we humans think we are.  We see something that looks like it could solve the problem of not being able to feed livestock and just bring it over without any thought.  Instead of thinking that perhaps we as a species may not need to eat so much meat and thus reduce the need for so much livestock, we figure out ways to keep up with out lifestyle and pat ourselves on the back about just how smart we are to come up with it.  But, now this vine is taking over.  It is doing what it has been designed to do through how ever many millions of years of evolution.  We humans consider ourselves an intelligent race, but one vine can bring down the destruction of what we build.  Weeds and water destroy our roads and we keep patching them up.  Humans are a mere blip on the evolutionary line while plants have been around for millions of years.  Who are we to think that we can outsmart them?

The force of nature is one that humans can never compete with, it will always win.  It may take years, decades, centuries or millenia but nature will win.  We can wipe ourselves off the face of the planet through a nuclear war, and life will still go on on the planet. 

There is a satellite orbiting the planet that contains the DNA sequences of Steven Hawking and a few other people of note*.  The idea behind this is that should something happen to us, the DNA sequences of these people will help any alien civilizations to understand or even rebuild the human race.  But, what this documentary shows is that this hypothetical alien civilization will need to find Earth fast because that satellite will enter the atmosphere and crash to the planet after we have been for for 150-300 years. 

All of our best efforts to ensure our survival as a species cannot compete with the forces of nature.  I say we embrace this fact!  Know that the human race, when it dies, is gone.  Know that we are doomed.  Then we can stop looking at what we will do to ensure our survival and start looking at how we are living today.  I would like to see the end of poverty and war more than I would like to know that when whatever is going to happen finally does happen humans will have left their mark.


This somehow involved NC Soft.  Their name and logo were on a piece of equipment during this segment.  They currently have a new MMOGRP out called Aion.  I have left World of Warcraft for Aion and I am never looking back.  Check it out and join in the fun!