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December 2004

IVF.Cuatro

When I was pregnant with Patrick (or maybe the one before, but I think it was Patrick) my friend gave us a copy of this really annoying book called The Expectant Father. To be fair, the book may not actually be as stupid as I remember it being. Maybe if you are a fertility Normal it might even qualify as a super-fun read, but anyone who has ever suffered while trying to have children knows that 99.9% of all pregnancy books are irritating as all fuck and this one was no exception. Most pregnancy books, you see, are predicated upon the notion that pregnancies end in babies. Ha HA, she observes mordantly.

Anyway, the part of the book that made Steve and me laugh until we cried was the author's continued use of the observation: "Now it is beginning to feel real to you, Dad." As I recall, this first moment of startled realness occurred with 1) the positive pregnancy test, 2) the first ultrasound, 3) the first time the heartbeat was heard, 4) the first kick, 5) the ultrasound that shows waving limbs, 6) labor, 7) birth etc....

"Wait!" Steve would cry as he waded through the first 70 pages that I forced him to read, "I thought it started to feel real to me in Chapter 2 and then again in Chapter 3 but here it says it will only begin to feel real by Chapter 4. Right now the pregnancy is merely surreal, like clocks melting in a desert."

I don't know why we found this notion so damned funny but we did. Three years later I will occasionally serve dinner and say, "Now the porkchop is beginning to feel real to you, Dad" and then gravely repeat that sentence every three minutes until he is done.

This morning I gestured helplessly at the recently arrived giganormous pile of fertility medication in the bathroom and said, "Eeek! What the hell are we doing?"

Steve said something like "We are doing IVF and that is the medicine required, you tool."

And it is right and proper that he then laughed at me (finger-pointing-in-my-face-laughed-at-me) when I replied sincerely, "I know. It's just that it is beginning to feel real to me."

But damn, honestly, I have enough needles to stage "Sid and Nancy" in this old barn and so many glass vials I am practically Ye Olde Apothecary. The problem being that I am not sure what to do with any of it as a) I did not pay attention during our needle class; and b) I asked Julie where she got her drugs and then I totally copied her and ordered my drugs from a place called ivfmeds-dot-com because she assured me they saved her money (quite quite true by the way; I priced the identical order with freedom drug and this was at least $500 cheaper) and all of my medication has shown up... in SPANISH. For you see, ivfmeds-dot-com sells European drugs and those crazy Europers speak all kinds of languages and use weird forms of measurement so that none of my dosage instructions from the RE match any of the needles or vials. It adds an element of suspense, don't you think?

We're cool though, I have nine days before we start injections and how different can Spanish be from French, really? I mean, look at 'em. The countries are like a quarter inch apart.

Ahem:

"No use gonal-f si se dan las siguientes circunstancias:"

Well, that seems easy enough: Don't use gonal-f in the, um, siguientes circumstances.

"reacciones alergicas previa" previous allergic reactions (this is cake!)

"a medicamentos que contengan hormona foliculoestimulate" to medicines (or Mentos, maybe) containing follicle stimulating hormones (well- duh!)

"o a cualquiera de los excipientes" *Blank Stare* Huh. We'll get back to that one.

"tumores del hipotalamo y de la hipofsis" Ah-HA! Do not take this medicine if you have hippopotamus tumors or tumors of the hippogriff!

Oh dear! Ai-yi-yi! No es bueno!


There Is No Way To Neatly Conjoin These Topics

Amazon is providing a link by which you can donate money to the American Red Cross for tsunami relief efforts. I trust the Red Cross to use that money wisely and well, but if you prefer there are many other relief agencies accepting donations as well. If, like me, you have just been sitting at your computer, weeping, it might help.

Steve finally bodily removed me from the Washington Post yesterday, saying "Why do you keep reading these articles? They just make you cry."

"I don't know," I said and cried some more.

There are people who are able to use the written word to galvanize strangers and make sense, somehow, of tragedies so enormous they numb the world. I am not one of them. I deal in the mundane, so although I am not oblivious to the sorrow and horror around me I am going to talk about myself some more. Forgive me.

I have made two loose resolutions in the past week, the first being to update more frequently, daily if I can manage it. I like writing here and I like reading your comments and when I let too much time elapse I feel like I have gobs to say and too little time to say it. A vicious cycle. So this is my intention, anyway, and one of my Christmas presents from Steve was a pocket PC and keyboard so I can do just that while Patrick is in speech therapy. Not that I didn't love getting caught up on my People magazine reading, I did, but how many articles can I read about Julia whatshername's twins, I ask you? Question for you: having read a year's worth of People in the past two weeks I can tell you that her reported due date was "early January" and yet her late November babies were supposedly born at 36 weeks gestation. Um, you do the math for me because somehow it just isn't working out when I do it.

My second resolution is to try and just do one thing at a time. Usually when I write these things I am also prep cooking dinner and putting away laundry and unloading the dishwasher and watching the clock because Patrick only naps for so long, you know. The end result is that I wind up with half a chopped onion, a partially full basket of clean clothes covered in cat hair (no cat can resist an unattended pile of clean clothes), and dirty and clean dishes mingled wily-nily on the counter. Then Patrick wakes up and all work stops so I can play with him. This is why it takes me hours to post a new entry. No more! Streamlined and focussed, I will now efficiently dispatch a given task before moving on to the next one. I will be sleek and beautiful and Good Housekeeping will send a panel out to admire me.

Warning: The following anecdote contains a toddler and his bowels. I also use the word "poop" more often than I have in my entire life. I hate the word. I hate this subject. You are warned.

In some ways Patrick is very advanced for his age and in some ways he is shockingly behind, both of which make him merely human, I suppose. At two and a half he has shown zero interest in his own bodily functions (he does ask me to change him after the fact but that is it) and whenever I enthusiastically ask him if he wants to sit on the potty he always dismisses me with a terse, "All done."

Today I was getting him dressed on our bed (his trajectory and that of the clean clothes happened to come into rough proximity while in our room this morning) and I thought I smelled something a bit... earthy. I delicately sniffed at his bottom and when I did so Patrick said, "Did you poop?"

Meaning, of course, that he knew I was about to ask him that because I ALWAYS ask him that under the circumstances.

I laughed and said, "Well? Did you poop?"

And Patrick uttered the weird "Huhn" he uses in situations when the rest of us say "Yes" or maybe "Yeah." But, in fact, he had not, so I asked, "Do you need to poop?" and he said "Huhn" again.

Burning with the enthusiasm of a thousand coked up clowns I said, "Let's go sit on the potty! Won't that be fun? Do you want to sit on the potty?" and Patrick frowned ever so slightly and said, "All done."

I sighed and rhetorically asked him, "Why do you always say 'all done' when I ask if you want to use the potty?"

He then shocked my lights out by answering me. "It's messy," he said clearly.

What?!

"No, no," I said, "the potty is very clean. USING the potty is very clean. Mommy and Daddy use the potty. Big boys and girls use the potty. Surely you want to use the potty too?"

"Boys and girls use the potty?" he said. "Mommy and daddy use the potty?" he said.

"Yes!" I enthused thinking, My GOD at LAST!

"No. No no no." Patrick shook his head. "It's yucky."

Here I was thinking that Patrick was just unaware of the vast world outside the realm of diapers when, if fact, he has a reasoned antipathy towards it. Great. Bloody marvelous. We will be moving from diapers to incontinence products as he grows.

Sigh.


Sing This To The Tune Of "Fairytale In New York" (Pogues, Of Course)

I had an absolutely delightful weekend (give or take a few days) and I hope you did too.

If you couldn't tell, I have had the gloomy sense for weeks that everything in my life was going a little bit wrong (have I mentioned the law suit? the one reminiscent of Bleak House involving my honored parents? well, to sum: it sucks rancid chunder.) Then last week the skies opened up and Fate began to pelt me with oranges and candy so I am now singing about the house again. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you (besides posting my sauce recipe, I will do that.) I'd like to spread some of this contentment around before Nemesis spies me scraping joy off my boots and decides to smite me some more. 

It was SO NICE to just have Christmas by ourselves this year (that song has been in my head nonstop for a week. Do you remember it? The chorus goes: "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Christmas by myself this year! Merry Christmas!" Steve and I have been changing the words to that one for days. It's been like a beggars' opera around here with normal conversation being sung to the tune of holiday songs: "Do You Know It's Dinner time? Feed the b-o-o-y! Let him have some broc-co-li!" Ahem. Yeah. We are a fun couple, it's true.)

Yet again a parenthetical thought eats my paragraph whole. As I was saying, although I like spending time with both sides of our family, it was delicious to have Christmas exactly the way we wanted with no preferences to consult but our own. This involved a three day screening of the entire extended Lord of the Rings after Patrick went to bed every night (Steve liked the battles and I liked the part when the beacons are lit and after that I kept urging Frodo to stop twitching and just die already. You know who the hero of the trilogy was? Samwise Gamgee, that's who. Go on, argue with me about it, I dare you.) And we ate good things and Steve surprised me with lovely presents and Patrick got a remote-controlled train set that he is in love with and we all laughed and laughed. So... delightful.

And that's not all.

* The insurance company called last week to say they will cover Steve's FISH test from September. The FISH test is an analysis to determine what proportion of Steve's manliness is genetically mutoid and we paid $1400 for it out-of-pocket. To say that we are pleased to hear that our insurance company is picking up the tab is an understatement. And if you are wondering if your insurance company might pay for it for you, should such a thing be relevant, I will note that our insurance covers fertility testing and does not specifically exclude FISH (unlike everything related to IVF, which it has listed in our contract under Services Ha HA, You WISH.) So I ran with that and lo! we are being reimbursed.

* The airline found our bag in Spokane, Washington and rushed it back to Minneapolis on Christmas Eve morning. Then it sat there, unattended next to the baggage carousel, for thirty hours until Steve and Patrick and I did the traditional Christmas morning drive to the airport to liberate our lost luggage. I was APPALLED. I know that some airlines had unforeseen staffing issues this weekend but it still seems inexcusable to me that literally hundreds of bags were just sitting on the floor of baggage claim for days. If you happen to be waiting for someone to deliver your luggage to you right now please accept this gentle tip: NO ONE is bringing your bag. GO GET IT.

* Steve had a surprise semen analysis done at S Grove last Monday, which in itself was enough to cheer me up well into 2005. You should have seen his face when the good doctor asked when Steve's last analysis was done and I told him it had never been done and the M.D. said, "We should do that now then." Heh heh. Steve turned pale and then purple and then pale again. When he returned to the lobby looking grim I cheerfully shouted out, "Did you remember to wash your hands?" and raced for the safety of the elevator before he could murder me.

Just so you know, he DESERVED a bit of humiliation. I sat him down before we went to DC and read him the drug protocol and injection booklet. I spoke eloquently and well of the shots I would get in the morning and then the shots I would get in the evening. I read to him of Estrace and HCG and the birth control pills that even as I type this are making me quietly nauseous. Then I got to the part where it said: "Both partners will start doxycycline..." and he said "WHOA! WHAT?! You think *I* am going to take something? No way!"   

!

I ask you.

Anyway, the semen results came back today and I do not have the specifics but she said they were beautifully normal. This means we can forego the expense of ICSI as it does not statistically increase the IVF fertilization rate in the absence of a male factor. If you see what I mean. We also got my new Day 3 numbers today. As you doubtless recall, the last time I did Day 3 testing I still had hcg in my system and the FSH came back a little high. This time e2 was 21 and FSH was 5, so things are good. Yay.

There was something else but I cannot remember it right now. Besides my thumb is killing me and I need to stop typing. I had read that acupuncture increases IVF success rates so, being a good little internet sheep, I started acupuncture three weeks ago. And despite the fact that I found the needles sting-ish and unpleasant I have gone back every week since then. Then I noticed my thumb was sort of sore for no apparent reason. So I mentioned it and she stuck some extra needles in around the digit in question and by the time that session was over my thumb had swollen to three times its normal size. Then the curve from the thumb tip to my pointer finger turned blue and black in one of the most spectacular bruises I have ever encountered. It looked like my hand had been run over by a piano.

So call me superstitious but  I am not going back to this particular acupuncturist. Although the ways of the East are veiled to me, I maintain this could not possibly be right. I don't care how unbalanced my Qi is, I should not start bleeding internally with treatment.

Oh, and a question, if you please: if you did acupuncture with IVF, how long before the cycle did you start? Because I need to find a new person and, tick tick, I start Lupron in less than two weeks.

More later. Happy week to you.

PS Bec with Ethan, email me please.


O Christmas Bat and IVF.3

Patrick and I just decorated the tree while Steve finishes a business call. Patrick picked the ornaments from the box and then told me where each one should go. I am explaining this in case you come over and wonder why all of the decorations on our tree are two feet off the ground and clustered towards the front. It looks... interesting. Avant garde, one might say.

Once taller-than-us Steve shows up we'll be able to put the crowning touch upon the highest bough and, hooray, we'll be done with the da... blessed thing. So what do you put on the top of your Christmas tree? (that is, if you celebrate Christmas, not to say that you should or that I think everyone does, unlike the Walgreen's pharmacist today who wanted to know how long my 18 gauge needles need to be and then told me to "Be sure and have a very merry Christmas.")

Here at Chez Hipporump the tannebaum is graced by Lester the Christmas Bat who started life as an anemic-looking Beenie Baby but is now so very much more. He's no Spooky, but he gets the job done.

Spooky, in case you didn't grow up at my house, was a hand puppet Grim Reaper and he was always on the top of our tree. Get it? Spooky = Grim Reaper = Angel of Death = Christmas Tree Angel. My father also taught the parakeet, Timothy, how to say, "Birds can't talk" until poor Timothy twisted his head between his cage bars one day in a spurt of existential angst. You can see where he was coming from, of course. I mean, birds CAN'T TALK and yet he was a BIRD who kept SAYING it. No wonder he was driven mad.

I have no idea why writing about Christmas traditions leads me instantly to the macabre. Forgive me.

I had promised to talk about the IVFantabulariousness but I am not sure there is actually anything to say. Shady G was fine. They hustled us from PGD consult (boring) to mock embryo transfer (pinchy) to private needle class (overwhelming and then Steve did a practice one into my stomach and I am here to tell you that the sterile water hurts like a motherfucker) and finally they parked us in our RE's office because he wanted to go over everything from the phone consult in person. He's conscientious like that. Everybody has such cool pseudonyms for their RE that I have been putting a lot of thought into mine. How about... Dr. L? No, too suggestive. Dr. Pepper? Sgt. Pepper?

I'll work on it.

Somehow we didn't have an appointment scheduled with the good doctor, so we had to wait a while until he was free. He was obviously flustered by this fact and kept racing in to apologize and tell us that he would be with us shortly. Seeing as I have waited two hours to see my OB I hardly thought the thirty minute delay was unreasonable considering our lack of an appointment but... ok. Who I am to resist someone who feels my time is valuable?

He confirmed that our odds are about 25-30% unless we actually get TWO normal embryos in which case they shoot up to almost 50%.

He told us that he is trying to get us exempted into their sh*red risk program, although it is unlikely that we will be accepted. They specifically decided to exclude balanced translocatees six months ago when they got a good sense of how poor the odds are for our kind, but he said he would propose us at their next business meeting anyway. The program lets you pay a flat fee for six cycles and refunds your money if you do not wind up with a baby at the end. It would be nice, I suppose. After six failed IVF cycles I could get that wad of cash back and head straight for the racetrack. 

I started birth control pills today. Lupron in 17 days. Then Gonal-F and Repronex. We are planning to be in DC (should all go well) about January 24th and we'll stay through February 5th. Just let me know when you are expecting us at your house and I'll pencil you in. You can throw us anywhere, we're easy. A couple of bottles of a 1997 Cabernet, 600 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, foie gras for Patrick and, of course, no fucking grandfather clocks under the bed and we'll be as happy as ticks.

I have decided that this IVF cycle is no big deal. Not IDEAL in any sense of the word, but certainly manageable. I know that if we never have another child I would always have regretted not trying this option. And there will never be a better time to try it than right now. Therefore, we might as well just suck it up and try to enjoy the process as much as possible.

Hell, who knows. It might even WORK and we'll have a baby next year. Wouldn't that be a kick in the ass?   


Travel Bites

Hello! or Heh-no! as Patrick likes to say.

Speaking of things he likes to say I present you with the following knock-knock jokes, penned by Patrick while he was lap-belted in place on the airplane:

Knock-knock. Who's there? APPLE PUPPY!

Knock-knock. Who's there? JAMMY IN THE CLOSET! [Jam is our one-quarter Domestic Shorthair, three-quarters Deranged cat who does, indeed, live exclusively in our closet]

Knock-knock. Who's there? DINOSAUR NOISES! [Followed by a strange gargling sound that, in the absence of surviving evidence to the contrary, one may safely assume to be an excellent dinosaur imitation]

Immediately after take-off on our return flight Patrick said, "Goodnight everybody. Now I shut my eyes" (he squeezed his eyes shut) "and go to sleep." Whereupon he tucked Bear behind his head, slumped onto Steve's lap, and did just that for almost the duration of the flight. He was, as the French say, yummy.

And that pretty much covers everything great that happened on the trip.

On the bad side we have:

1. After driving an hour from Baltimore we went to Steve's parents to get settled before joining my mom for dinner. "Do YOU have Patrick's bag?" Steve asked. Why no, how could I have the bag with all of Patrick's stuff in it when we had managed to idiotically leave it behind on the rental car shuttle bus?

Baltimore is a perfectly convenient airport from which to drive to DC... ONCE. With the return trip four hours after leaving the place I have concluded it sucks. I don't even like the Ravens anymore.   

2. Someone hit our rental car and scraped the fender.

3. Steve's parents have a lovely old clock that chimes melodiously every. fifteen. fucking. minutes. I am not exaggerating when I say I got three hours sleep between Friday and Monday.

4. I had my eyebrows waxed in Georgetown and they look weird.

5. The airline lost our bag on the return trip and it is still missing. Steve says it is "just stuff" but as that stuff happens to include Patrick's Christmas presents from my mother I am a little sad. Also my favorite brown shirt. And two of Patrick's four baby blankets. I thought of calling the airline and telling them that they have lost Very Important Things in that bag and they Must Find It but then I had to laugh at myself. I mean, other than the occasional traveler who ships actual garbage in his luggage isn't EVERY lost bag full of very important things? So I am trying to resign myself to being patient and understanding. I hope they find our luggage though, my mom is bummed about it.

The IVF stuff was neither good nor bad, just very much there. I'll give you details tomorrow. Right now I have to put up a tree, decorate it, write my Christmas cards (shut up, I know they're late; I forgot,) wrap presents and place an order for $2000 worth of fertility drugs. Fa La La La La.

Hope you're well. We never seem to talk anymore...      


IVF.2

Speech therapy has thrown an enormous spanner in my schedule.

You wouldn't think that this seeming whirlwind of laundry, food acquisition-food preparation-food disposal and Patrick maintenance was actually a finely tuned instrument with each piece working in precision and harmony... but it is true. What once was a clock-work mechanism designed for adequate housewifery + generous loafing is now a smoking mess.

All of a sudden on Tuesdays and Thursdays I am spending 40 minutes driving there, 40 minutes sitting there and then 40 minutes driving back. If you wondered what I used to do with all this time the answer is: write blog entries. So I have been neglecting you and I am sorry. Why is it always the blog readers who suffer?

I think once we get back from DC and the joyous suckhole that is Christmas recedes things should get better. I also plan to start neglecting the plants instead, so that might free up some time.

Tomorrow Steve, Patrick and I fly to Washington, Ruby of the Rock Creek Valley. Actually we will be flying into Baltimore because THEY pay YOU to fly to BWI, it is that much cheaper. And I am all about cheaper for although the Shady G IVF price tag is still a complete and utter mystery to me, I am certain it will be a lot. I am actually beginning to suspect their price schedule is covered by the Patriot Act because I am no closer to seeing it now then I was when I first asked after it five weeks ago. What do I have to do to get assigned a finance person around there? Start trying to sneak freebie ultrasounds?

If you are wondering whether I have committed to this with absolutely no idea what they are charging the answer is, um, yes. But the way I see it, the actual list will only quantify such notions as "Buttloads" and "More than we ever want to pay for something that is only offering a 25% success rate." Steve sees it differently, but Steve can always be easily distracted from financial matters with a bouncing ball or a shiny pen. He's simple like that.

So... IVF. Huh. I guess we will be starting an IVF cycle in about three weeks. Who knew? I think the thing that is causing me the most anxiety is the fact that we all have to be in DC for such a long time in January (anything more than 3 days is a long time in my book.) We had talked about Steve and Patrick staying and then flying out to join me and then Steve leaving Patrick with me... but it sounded like a bigger hassle than just all of us going to Camp Reproduction together. I still think this is true, but it means we have to deal with Steve's work stuff, and finding a house-sitter, and living with my inlaws in the toddler death-trap house of death.

Take care widgits. I'll write again this weekend. Maybe a hitchhiking story. We'll see.

- Is it normal to feel so absolutely ambivalent about a first IVF cycle? I feel calm and resolute because I believe we have exhausted the other option for now but beyond that... I feel very remote. It won't work, so there is no point in getting excited. Still, we are doing everything we can, so there is no sense in being despondent. Is there some middle emotion I should be latching on to?


The Great Big Food Post For Food People

So what was I going to write about? Oh yeah, food. Kitchen stuff. Recipes. My great passion in life these days (after you guys, of course.)

To be honest, while I love to eat, I do not actually like to cook all that much. I mean, I like to cook more than I like to take the garbage can down to the road and more than I like to pick up all the puzzle pieces but less than I like sitting in the bathtub with a glass of wine.

Nor I am a particularly good cook. I know people who can look into the refrigerator and emerge with a divine clafouti (the last of the capers, the rind of a brie, a few olives- mon dieu it's amazing) but I am not one of them. I follow recipes with a grim determination and it is only after I have made the same thing over and over again for five years that I am able to start playing with it.

Still, despite my limitations, it would be hard for me to have spent as much time at anything as I have dedicated to making lunches and dinners and not emerge with a few ideas. As a lazy glutton I always try to make something that tastes as good as possible with the minimum amount of effort.

So, just in time for the holidays I offer the following thoughts (with gadget tips!):

ON RECIPES:

For the most part I get recipes from cooking magazines. Fine Cooking is far and away the best one out there. The title makes it sound like it would be too haute for actual cuisine but in truth it is a very accessible, very good magazine. It could make an excellent gift, now that I think about it. I also get Bon Appetit and Cook's Illustrated, both of which have their moments. I can go months in a row with nothing appealing to me in either and then zing! they come up with a few things that work. Oh, and I have been receiving Food and Wine for some unknown reason. Have publishers just started sending out subscriptions at random (maybe they tell advertisers that they have a circulation in the millions and nobody bothers to notice that 200,000 copies are mailed every month to S. Claus, North Pole)? You would think, knowing my proclivities, that Food and Wine would be right up my alley but... I don't know. All of the recipes are a little over the top and I can never find the specific wines (Linda, I AM getting back to you, I swear) they mention. I am not much of a cookbook person, largely because I haven't found one that moved me since The Joy of Cooking. I am open to suggestions, though.

Oh, and in order to actually use the magazine recipes I have a system. A highly organized system that makes life happy and rich and melodious, as all organized things do.

First, I have a binder. The binder is divided into sensible categories like Entree- Beef or Side Dishes.

Then I have four plastic magazine holders that live in the kitchen cupboard next to the binder.

When Bon Appetit and Food and Wine arrive I sit down in front of a nice Timberwolves game and wield my mini box-cutter with alacrity. If a recipe sounds good I slice it out and tape it onto a piece of notebook paper, whereupon it gets put into the binder.

I cannot bring myself to cut up Cook's or Fine, so I just use a little sticky note on recipes that look good to me. Marked issues then get put into one of the magazine racks. If I knew you better I would confess that the sticky notes are colored-coded by food type, but I do not know you that well. So consider it unconfessed.

I start making my grocery list every week by flipping through the binder and the magazines, choosing (more or less) one seafood, one beef, one chicken, one pasta and one freebie. For some reason five planned meals always manages to cover the whole week around here. I know and love people who find the idea of planning a week's worth of meals appalling but for me the thought of revisiting the issue day after day... ugh.

It is a poorly kept secret in the family that I am more or less obsessed with eating, so I get a lot of cooking presents. Some of these are a waste of space but some actually make my life easier and for that I salute them -

THE LITTLE THINGS I LOVE:

Cuisinart mini-prep- My old one emitted an unpleasant burning smell when used, but I did not replace it until last week when a spectacular series of occurrences resulted in its plastic lid being cloven in two. I looked at the wreckage and promptly put my hat on to go out and buy a new one.

Odd-sized measuring cups and spoons- Williams-Sonoma sells a set of measuring cups in 2/3, 3/4 and 2 cup sizes. Ditto spoons in weird sizes like 2 TB. In addition to these I have three sets of normal 1/4 to 1 cup measuring cups and four sets of measuring spoons. Then I have the classic Pyrex 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cup and 8 cup measuring cups and I use all of them all the time.

Hand chopper- Zyliss makes a great hand chopper. I seem to only use it for garlic but even then I use it all the time. I like the way you get to whack it over and over again until the garlic is nicely minced.

Spoon rest: Mine is a ceramic cat. At some point various people noticed that I cook AND have an abnormal quantity of cats, thus a shopping tradition was born (note: cat spoon rest and cat coasters and cat trivets and cat mugs... Shoot me.) You wouldn't think a spoon rest could make someone happy but it does.

Microplane graters - Um, just because they are cool.

Knives - An extra chef's knife (or two) never comes amiss.

Lots of rubber spatulas - Steve bought me about a dozen in various sizes a few years ago. Very useful so I hope Patrick gives them back soon.

THE MEDIUM THING I LOVE:

12 inch Stainless Steel saute pan- For YEARS I wondered why I could never get anything to brown properly and then I discovered it was the damned nonstick pans I was using. Not that nonstick doesn't have its place but you really need at least one stainless pan. I have heard tell of the new Calphalon ONE which supposedly offers nonstick convenience with the ability to brown. Anybody used one? Are they good?

BIG THINGS I LOVE:

Whole lotta refrigeration: Somehow we wound up with two refrigerators and I have to admit (since I thought it was really really stupid originally) that it is actually very nice indeed. I mean, when it isn't winter here. Now we can just open the door and put things outside to stay cold. It's a little like being an Eskimo.

Whole lotta ovens: This house has two wall ovens and I use the second one more than I thought I would. As a corollary it also has a five-burner stove and you know what? That is just one burner too many. I would rather have four plus a griddle. I'm just saying is all.

KitchenAid Standing Mixer: Makes double-batches of chocolate chip cookies BY ITSELF. Enough said. My in-laws sent it for Christmas last year and it is why I love them. Sort of.

THREE REALLY QUICK DINNERS:

Spaghetti and meat sauce- I will post a link to my spaghetti sauce recipe. I make it about once every two months (actually, I use the same sauce for lasagne so I double the recipe as I go and wind up with about 10 containers to freeze) so I always have some sauce in the freezer. When I am in a hurry I use capellini (also known as angel hair pasta) because it cooks in half the time as spaghetti. Defrost the one, boil the other - voila.

Jambalaya - Zatarain makes a decent boxed Jambalaya mix. I add andouille sausage (keeps in the freezer forever) or sautéed shrimp or leftover chicken to the rice mix. While it is cooking I chop some green peppers and celery and toss it in to the pan after it is done but before it has rested. Meal in a bowl. Don't be sparing with the Tabasco.

Scrambled eggs - Or an omelet if you don't want to stir it. Add: tomatoes, peppers, celery, cheese, ham, onion, sun-dried tomatoes...

RANDOM THINGS:

Bread freezes really well. I buy interesting breads when I am at a bakery and store them for whenever.

Every so often I make double-batches of chocolate chip cookies (or rather, my standing mixer does) and scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto baking sheets. I freeze the dough and throw the frozen balls into Ziploc bags. When we want chocolate chip cookies we just bake 'em frozen adding about 5 minutes to the baking time. I have to admit this does not make for excellent cookies but even a bad chocolate chip cookie is pretty good.

I keep the spices I use most in a drawer next to the stove, face up.

Steve and I drink whole milk. I tried a lower-fat milk once, 20 years ago, and it tasted weird. I have never gone back.

I had Steve cut a panel out of a silverware drawer thing-y for me. You know those things you can buy at Target that keep the silverware separated in a drawer? I bought an extra one and with the slight modification by Steve, it nicely holds my measuring spoons, measuring cups and strange cooking implements (like the pizza cutter) in a drawer on the other side of the stove. 

I store my pot lids in the cabinet under the stove in an aluminum dish draining rack (any day now I am going to send this winning tip into Cook's Illustrated and get my free year's subscription- so don't steal it or I will not get my name in the front with its own black-and-white drawing and I will be pissed.)

I used to make 13x9" lasagnes but we got sick of eating it before we were close to finished with the whole thing. Then it occurred to me to make two 9x9" pans instead. I bake one the day I make it and freeze the other, unbaked. I have since extended this to other things, like enchiladas and everything casserole-y. 

There you go. Four years of my life distilled for your viewing pleasure. If you are not a food person (which makes you weird in my book, but it takes all kinds I suppose) then there is no way you have made it this far in the post. Which means it is just us Normals left and I can ask, do you have anything to suggest for me? Something you did that was just so goddamned clever you are dying to tell someone who will care?

Well, lay it on us.

Tomorrow: How to schedule an IVF cycle from 800 miles away and other stories


Yes I Am Still Alive. Mostly.

This has been a strangely unsettling week for me. Nothing major of course (after all, my life is perfect and every day I wake up and drink a steaming cup of hot gold) just lots and lots of little things that needed to be done or bought or scheduled or fixed or managed or dosed with cold medicine. Enough to make me feel like I was constantly forgetting something important. Most unpleasant. I mean, it might have been unpleasant if not for the fact that just before bed each night I scrub my face with fifty dollar bills.

Ahem.

Yeah, I am looking at you, Cypress Hill. Don't be hating.*

Anyway, I think I at least finished the most important stuff this week, which was getting everything set up for IVF. Well, everything except for ordering the drugs. I am waiting for Shady Grove to send me the actual prescriptions so I can figure out exactly what I am supposed to buy. The cryptic scribble of Lupron 20 (arrow) 5; 75 Repronex; 225 Gonal F did not inspire me with mail-ordering confidence.

Next on my list for the DC odyssey is to figure out the technical logistics of creating a remote office for Steve. He is being singularly uncooperative and laughed nastily when I suggested we just print out the bulk of his files (you remember, PAPER?) and ship them. I do see his point, so I am working on a B plan to create an accessible server while keeping our firewalls in place. Thus far I have only succeeded in losing my own internet connection for two days while I was experimenting. This is what a concentration in Edwardian Literature gets you, just in case you were wondering.   

[Patrick, after a lifetime (albeit short) of needing every light in the house to be ON, is currently going from room to room shutting them all off while saying, "We're in the dark." I applaud his new conservationism but I am now writing this by the glow of the microwave clock. I feel like Edgar Allan Poe.]

What else? I just this second (toggling between three separate windows; and they said I couldn't multi-task) finished my holiday shopping. I either got people exactly what they asked for or else they will be receiving this year's default gift. So if you are over 21 and on my list, please enjoy the wine.

Responsibly.

Sorry to be so dreadfully dull. I seem to be stultified by the looming pressures of Christmas, back-to-back trips to Washington, IVF, never-ending speech therapy appointments and a head cold.

I need to go watch some basketball and stare listlessly into space for awhile. This post was more to let you know that I am alive than anything else. Tomorrow... Monday at the latest... I'll be back to talk about food. Oh how I love food. And recipes. I'll post a couple more for you. 

* See comments on my last entry if you are really curious about what hurt my feelings, but take it from me, it isn't worth the time. Just a little harmless venting at my expense. At least that is how I see it.


Minor Annoyances

Here are some actual examples of how one can extract useful information, tactfully:

"Did something happen to your eye?"

"What happened to your eye?"

"Did you hit yourself in the eye?"

"Did Steve hit you in the eye?"

So, yes, I did go to the party and with a little mascara and a smidge of concealer and a floof of powder and my hair ironed flat around my face and a bright, brave, lipstick-y smile... my deformity was still all anyone could talk to me about. Fortunately Steve and I managed to coordinate our stories and while I was painting a verbal portrait of the excessive gratitude with which the family of the three little girls thanked me for diving in front of that runaway tractor, Steve was using words like "vanity" and "tweezers" a lot. 

Actually, and truly fortunately, they had card tables set up and I am an inveterate card-player so who cares what my face looked like. You know the Earl of Sandwich? The guy who asked that his dinner be served to him between two slices of bread so as not to interrupt his game of whist? My doppelganger.

I could complain about how the speech pathology place dropped Patrick from their schedule as we were waiting (a whole extra week) for the insurance company to authorize payment (104 jam-packed therapy sessions now approved; 2 per week for 52 weeks - huzzah) and, having dropped him, are now saying that he cannot be treated by the woman we liked (the one whose schedule he was on as of last Tuesday; the one who did his evaluation) because she is no longer taking new patients.

As of, like, today.

Really, I could complain about this and it is true I called my mother this afternoon and cried, cried real tears about it. But... oh well. C'est la iniquitous behavior. He will start with some other random person there and although the new times for his therapy could be a lot better (as Patrick will actually be ASLEEP for his Thursday sessions since they had nothing available in the morning) I am sure it will be fine. Patrick has ACED the letter 'B' in just the past two weeks and can the 'SHL' sound be far behind? I doubt it.

And perhaps we can work out a better schedule after the first of the year. One which will allow Patrick to eat AND sleep AND go to speech therapy. Ahem. See how calm and rational I am when my plans are thwarted? Yes.

Which is why I am also so relaxed over the fact that I will be starting a new cycle, not this Friday as anticipated, but in TWO WEEKS, give or take, which will coincide beautifully with the mock embryo transfer. NOT.

Three people have asked what a mock embryo transfer is and the reason that I keep pretending not to see the question is I DON'T KNOW. I don't know anything. I do know that there are times a delicately nurtured person like myself prefers a little pelvic privacy and if my calculations are correct this is exactly what I will not have. I don't even know, can they do an hsg/sounding/mock transfer on Day One? And while I am asking questions of the Less-Than-Optimally-Fertile Set, what do you know about OPKs? I have had a medium dark line next to the ultra dark line for 8 to 10 days and just today got the nice dark dark dark line one wants to see (I mean, unless one was checking just to confirm that a trip to DC was not going to coincide with unpleasantness, in which case one is screwed.) But does that sound normal? Do you get a fairly dark second line for over a week before the real one shows up? Or should I ask to check LH levels when we re-do the day 3 bloodwork? Seriously, any thoughts?

Back to the mock embryo transfer, don't you think that they just insert jellybeans into the uterus to see if they will stick? That's my guess. What else could it be, really?

Speaking of mock embryo transfers remember the Mock Apple Pie recipe that used to be on the back of a box of Ritz Crackers? I read that damned thing 500 times when I was 7 because I thought, "Surely I have this wrong. I'm just a little kid so maybe I am missing something" but no it was true... that Mock Apple Pie had NO APPLES. Which means it wasn't just a mockery, it was a sham. A shamockery, to quote, um, someone.

It would be pleasingly symmetrical for the mock embryo transfer to involve apples, I think.


Maybe If I Just Pull My Hair Forward A Bit

Steve and I are going to a party tonight and yes, if you are keeping track, that does make TWO parties in TWO back-to-back weekends, which must make us the St. Croix River Valley's newest Power Couple. Just let me know if you need me to broker any social deals for you.

Actually, I should say that we are supposed to go to a party tonight. We have an invitation and we have a babysitter (God Bless Nanny Professionals) but...

Well, here was the conversation this morning:

Me: "I am not so sure about the Truly B's party tonight."

Steve: (Coughs) "Yeah, I still have my cold and you look hideous."

Hideous!

Before you start sharpening your fingers (poor Steve, he gets worse press than Dracula) I should tell you he is right, I do look hideous. In fact, I am just back from the Urgent Care where a very nice doctor (whose name I didn't quite catch but it sounded like Kumquat) confirmed that my face is infected. MY FACE, people. My mug, visage, aspect, dial, kisser, puss and/or potato. My pretty part.

Sometimes, hypothetically speaking you understand, sometimes people get their eyebrows waxed for the first time. And they think they look BE-YOO-TI-FUL and they vow to do it again and again but... they are lazy. So they only get their eyebrows tended to every once in a while. And in the ensuing months the eyebrow hairs rebel and say, "Fuck this, I'm growing back!" and a freckle or something responds, "Oh no you aren't!" and there is an epic battle and the freckle wins BUT the hair grows inward and starts brooding. At which point the hypothetical someone might decide to do a little surgery with a pair of tweezers but may only succeed in making matters much much worse. At which point she (or he, of course) might dab a little Neosporin on the area and forget about it, until he (or she) woke up this morning to discover that her left eye was swollen almost shut and the area from cheek to jaw along the hairline was red and blotchy and sore as hell.

So, yeah, hideous.

As I wrote this I realized it is silly, of course, to not attend a festive gathering merely because I am suffering from a slight misfortune. I have just asked Steve what I should wear this evening and was pleasantly surprised when he replied, "Wait here."

Steve, as a rule, is not very interested in my wardrobe dilemmas and has been known on more than one occasion to say, "Wear whatever you like" which is just rude.

I love these live-action posts, don't you? Anyway, Steve has just returned with...

a ski mask.

And when the 2000 mg bottle Cephalexin bounced off his forehead he asked, "Wrong color?"

I married him to win a bet, just so you know.