Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bariatrics, Part 9: Fill 'er up!

I went for my first "fill" today. It was also a follow-up checkup. I've been losing restriction for three or four weeks now and white-knuckling a bit much to keep my portion sizes small and avoid snacking too often, so it was time. I'm down to 251, though my weight this morning was 255. Probably all water, I might add. You can tell from my fingers, ankles and waist. I've probably been eating too many carbs, and I know I'm struggling to get enough water in every day.

Pat, Dr. Schweitzer's nurse-practitioner, agreed that I needed a fill and went off in search of the syringes and saline. Apparently, the Bayview clinic has some new techs who didn't know to put these things in the examining rooms when a lap-band follow-up was scheduled. When Pat came back, she had me lay down on the examining table, then raised it to a comfortable height. She palpated my abdomen a bit around the long scar and thought she found the port. She stuck me with the big needle -- this sucker was huge -- without any surface numbing, I might add. It only pinched a little, then wham -- PAIN! I shrieked. Apparently, she'd completely missed my port and caught my abdominal muscle instead.

This spooked both of us and she asked if she could examine the patient next door while I collected my wits and tried to talk myself into sticking around. A few minutes later, she came back and had me stand up. There I was, pants open, blouse pulled up to my bra and held in place by my upper arms. Pat palpated right around my bra band on the side with the big scar and found it. She stuck the needle in again. Yes, there was definitely a little pinch, but the needle burrowed through what I'm sure is a wall of solid fat and -- bullseye! She hit the port perfectly. I swear I could feel the saline slipping in through the tubing.

Pat put 4 cc's into my 10 cc Vanguard band. She normally puts 6 in for the first fill, but thought I might still have a tiny bit of residual restriction and didn't want to make it too tight.

By mid-afternoon, things started to tighten up again, and a bowl of chili from the deli across the street held me nicely until 7 p.m. Then, I ate ten or so tortellini -- the leftovers from Madeline's plate -- for dinner and was full. Hopefully, this means the scale will be cooperating again soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Christmas wrap-up (I guess that's a pun)

I've been meaning to post about Christmas since shortly after I put up my posts about keeping Christ in Christmas (actually, He's never gone anywhere). I'm such a perfectionist that I couldn't bring myself to write this post -- Excuse No. 846: Not Enough Time To Do It Right (whatever that means) -- until only the detritus of the holiday season remained to be packed away:

Yeah, I preach a good game, but I didn't do any better than anyone else. I pushed myself too hard trying to make it all perfect. Of course, it wasn't so perfect, and I got stressed out about that. But . . . I'm still married and my kid still loves me. I managed not to cry about anything. I didn't stand there proclaim that some inconsequential glitch had ruined the holiday for me. Nope, it was fun!

Christmas by the numbers:

0 gifts purchased on credit cards
1 dance recital
1 chocolate cheesecake
1 bourbon fruitcake
1 rum cake
1 10 lb. rib roast
2 kid concerts
2 batches of candy
4 batches of cookies
6 batches of muffins
And, of course, one happy kid!

Highlights? Or are these low lights?

I am not one of those mothers that gets all horrified when someone gives her kid a Barbie or something with the Disney Princesses on it. After all, Madeline is a child whose favorite subject in school is science and who tries to play football with the boys. Here's the undeniable proof that I'm not allergic to The Princesses:

This is a tent. My mother-in-law gave it to Madeline -- at my suggestion, no less, as the child was making tents out of the sofa cushions and throws in the family room. I pictured a pup tent. Instead, the tent in question fills half the living room. That's okay. We don't have any furniture there anyway.

And here's the Christmas tree in the process of being decorated. Note that it lists.

Our trees for the last four years have listed. Last year's tree listed so bad that we had to rig up a contraption with Joe Weider free weights and kitchen twine to hold it in place. The tree three years ago listed so bad that it fell over, breaking a bunch of my funky blown glass ornaments. (Now I keep the expensive ones on a tabletop tree instead.) All of these trees have had crooked trunks. We bought them all at the same lot. This year, it finally occurred to us why all our trees have been crooked: they are seconds. Yes, seconds.

We found the lot near our house 4 years ago, the first Christmas we lived here. We decided to buy from there because the trees were all so fresh. The cashier told us they truck in a new supply in from North Carolina every week rather than bring them all at once early in the season. The price is also good. The trees run $10 to $20 less than those sold by various civic clubs and churches. But every darned one of them is either crooked or suffers from severe gap-osis. So we're betting that these people sell the fullest, fluffiest and straightest trees they harvest to high-end nurseries, where people who are richer than we are willingly pay $150 for 7-foot trees. The seconds go to the neighbor tree lot. Or that's our theory.

This stuff drives me crazy

A poster in one of my China adoption Yahoo egroups complained today about something. Apparently, she's searching for paint colors and ran across a sort of beige color called "China Doll" on the Sherwin Williams website. She asked why it was okay for corporate America to incorporate racism towards Asians into advertising and asked us all to join her in a letter-writing campaign.


It's highly unlikely that Sherwin Williams was talking about Asian women. Back before there was plastic, dolls were made with cloth or leather bodies and porcelain heads. "China" with a small "c" is another name for the porcelain bisque that was used for the doll heads. Bisque is obviously quite fragile, ergo the connotation of delicacy that accompanies the term.

The term "China doll" with a capital "C," however, has an alternate meaning that is at best unfortunate and at worst a racist stereotype. It describes a stereotypical portrayal of Asian women as submissive and hypersexual. This is not the way I want society to see my daughter, but almost certainly not what Sherwin Williams meant.

The poster's concern reminds me a bit of the flap over a D.C. mayoral aide's use the word "niggardly" a while back.

While I believe that those of us who have adopted children of other races have to become a lot more sensitive than the average white bear to racial stereotyping and occasionally can serve to educate our fellow travelers to the error of their ways, I've noticed a tendency in our tribe to get carried away and imagine slights where none were intended.

I cannot believe that another parent is spending her free time tilting at this particular windmill when there are so many real problems in the world.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sing Along with Julie

Ever since I first sat spellbound in Mary Poppins over 40 years ago, Julie Andrews has been one of my favorite singer-actresses. Recently, Miss Andrews, who is celebrating her 69th birthday, appeared on National Public Radio and sang the following. As someone who just turned 50, it resonates with me, too, a little more than I'd like to admit (or is 50 the new 30? 35?). Anyway, everyone together now, to the tune of My Favorite Things:

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak, when the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache, when the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad!

Friday, January 11, 2008

January is National Hobby Month ...

... and Madeline has been asked to bring her hobby -- or one of her parents' hobbies -- to school next week for Show and Tell. The instructions from her teachers state:

In the past we have enjoyed learning about a variety of hobbies. One child brought a duck decoy that her father had carved. Another child brought the equipment he wore when playing ice hockey. We have seen lots of rock and shell collections, trains, matchbox cars and action figures, coins and stamps.

Let's see .... Madeline could bring pictures of herself in Chinese dance class and at her recent recital. The problem is, except for the fact that all the little dancers save one are clearly Asian, they look like any beginning ballet class in the pictures, replete with pink leotards, white tights and pink leather ballet shoes. Or she could bring her notebook from Mandarin and Chinese culture class and show everyone how she can write the ideograms representing the numbers one through ten. The problem is, Chinese New Year is coming up soon. She had planned to show off her Mandarin tourist phrases and calligraphy during my presentation to the class on China.

Or perhaps she could talk about my hobbies, which include laundry, dishes, and vacuuming. Oh, and counted cross-stitch. I have a handful of unfinished plastic canvas Christmas ornaments she could take in. Me and everyone else's mom, I'm sure.

Noooooo. How about Kevin's hobby? Perfect! I gave Kevin a couple of hundred dollars worth of supplies for his new hobby, which is -- beer-making. Yes, Chez McGee is Maryland's newest microbrewery. Obviously, we're not going to hold a beer-tasting for the kidlets, but we could definitely send pictures of our first batch in preparation.

Now, children, this is a picture of the hops, which give the beer its distinctive flavor:

And this is a picture of the grain while we steeped it -- it's just like making iced tea!

And here is the beer while we boiled it:

Here's the nasty ol' yeast residue in the bucket where we fermented the beer on the kitchen counter for a week. Smells just like dirty socks!

And look, children, here's the finished product! Only 16 more years until you can try it.

Think the teacher will be impressed? Or will we get sent to the Principal's office?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bariatrics, Part 8: SVs and NSVs

Today is the three-month anniversary of my surgery, and this morning, I weighed in at 254 even. As has become my custom, I asked Kevin to document the landmark last night because I was wearing something new and looked pretty good in it. While I've "only" lost 3.8 pounds since my two-month surgiversary (or bandiversary, as they call it on OH), our time frame ran from December 10 through January 9.

The loss was in spite of a lot of very naughty food -- probably not the best descriptor for food; food is morally neutral -- lying around the house and the office. Let's start here at home, for instance. We're talking about 4 batches of homemade candy (3 of truffles, 1 of maple fudge), most of which was given away, but all of which I sampled liberally. We're also talking about 5 batches of homemade cookies, some of which were given away. And that doesn't count the cookies and fruitcake my mom sent. And speaking of fruitcake, there was that fruitcake from Gethsemani Farms that the good brothers of the Abbey of Gethsemani make and sell. Now to be fair to me, I'm not a fruitcake eater (sorry, Mama). But I did eat some of the rum cake I baked for Kevin right after Thanksgiving and tried a muffin or two of the five batches I made for Grandfriends Day at Indian Creek, Madeline's school. I also made (and sampled) a chocolate Chambord cheesecake for Christmas Eve dinner dessert. Speaking of Christmas Eve dinner, there were those two rib roasts. Plenty of leftovers there. I also went to several parties, including a half-dozen retirement parties at the office. (Federal employees seem to like retiring at the end of the year.)

The thing that made this year different, though, was that I was able not to overdo it. The band is my friend in that respect. As long as you don't eat around the band by sending a steady stream of nibbles down the hatch, it helps you stay in control because you can't eat much at any given time. So ... yes, I partied a lot, but it was a meatball here and a chicken wing there, not overflowing plates full of food. At work, I used parties as an opportunity not to buy lunch, since most were scheduled for early afternoon. Probably added a whole $20 to my Christmas budget that way, but saved a lot of calories. I also kept up the exercise. Losing weight during the holidays? Priceless! Now, back on the wagon.

Here's the NSV: My big pants are now so big that I can no longer wear them comfortably. They gap at the waist. They drag the floor even with a belt. I can pull them down without unbuttoning or unzipping them. They have now been relegated to the guest bedroom closet to await their new owners.

I have a nice wardrobe in my current size. Unfortunately, it consists of spring and summer clothes. Back in 2000 and 2001, I was a patient in the George Washington University Weight Management Program. (This, by the way, is a great non-surgical weight loss program. Expensive? Yes. Covered by insurance? Not at the time, but this was during the Great Tech Bubble when Kevin worked in the private sector.) Horrified at the thought of being desperate enough to have an operation to lose weight, I enrolled after the first time a doctor suggested surgery to me. And I lost down to 257 pounds. I hit my low weight in the summer and bought a bunch of clothes for my then-job as an attorney in private practice. I still have them. I am hoping they don't look too ridiculous by the time I can wear them. On the other hand, a couple of the smaller outfits that don't quite fit yet are dressy suits, suitable (yes, that's a pun) for church or dinner in a very nice restaurant. A good thing, too, because my niece is getting married in April.

So I let myself go shopping for some bridge clothes. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by signage that said, "Up to 80% Off," I bought one outfit. At home, where I work 3 days a week,I can live in sweats and shorts for a few more weeks. I'm only in town on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some winter things still fit well enough to wear awhile longer. The outfit I bought is washable. I won't go naked. (I wouldn't do that to people anyway.)

The really cool thing about the outfit, though, is my non-scale victory this week. Before October 9th, I wore a 28 at Lane Bryant, where I have purchased a goodly portion of my wardrobe for a few years. (I'm such a good customer, in fact, that I have their platinum card.) These pants, also from Lane Bryant, are a size 24! And they have a young, hip, skinny cut, too! Wouldn't have done that 60 pounds ago.

I love the picture. I can really tell I'm losing weight now, and when I wore the outfit to work, everyone else could tell. I must have answered the question, "Are you losing weight?" a good twenty times yesterday. I can also really tell in this picture how much I look like my siblings. With a fatter face, that was hard to tell. I blew the picture up to 400% and realized, "Omigosh, I look like a cross between Mike and Patsy!"

Enough about me. Here's a news item I saw today that's relevant to this post. Apparently, the Aussies are considering expanding coverage of lap-band surgery for the morbidly obese to include preventive surgery. Quite a concept there. Here, many health insurance providers cover it for the morbidly obese (body mass index of 40 or more, which usually translates to about 100 extra pounds), provided the insured has one or more co-morbidities (e.g., Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, etc.) and provides some kind of proof that she has been unable to lose a significant amount of weight by diet and exercise. I had to provide a big pile of paper to GEHA. (Not as much as I had to give to China for an adoption, though.) Even then, people get turned down.

The Aussie proposal sounds radical, but the bill for my surgery will come to about $22,000. That's cheaper than replacing both of my knees. Now, the old knees may make it until I'm eligible for Medicare. The surgery was probably cheaper than buying me several years worth of diabetes meds and disease management services, too.

To be sure, the Aussies have a single-payer system (i.e., national health care). But even in our patchwork system, the payer would realize a long-term savings by doing this, not to mention the benefits that would accrue to the patient. It's a darned shame most payers here are too blinded by the need to turn a profit each quarter to see the benefits down the road. It could be done here, too. Is it likely to happen? No.

P.S. If you're getting this on a feed, please forgive the duplicate. I am learning to fool Blogger. My dear friend Lorrie, whose closets definitely look better than mine, has now taught me how to fool Blogger into letting me skip a line. It was ignoring my paragraph breaks when I included a picture. I am certain that this is a bug and not a feature in the new release of Blogger.

I think I like this lady

An Iowa mom finds alcohol in her 19-year-old son's car, so she placed an ad in the newspaper and sold the car. I like her. Love and Logic in action!

And, since part of my rationale for writing this blog is to create for Madeline a tangible record of her childhood:

Madeline An An McGee, let this be a lesson to you!


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Wish

A friend posted this to an e-group we both read. You may have already seen it, but it's worth passing along:

May peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts!

May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet for $100 bills!

May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips!

May your clothes smell of success like smoking tires!

May happiness slap you across the face!

May your tears be that of joy and good health fall on you like a ton of bricks!

May the problems you had forget your home address!