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Friday, August 29, 2003

The Chocolate Arrives 

Wow. It looks like Lindt has a good idea of how much chocolate a person can eat in a quarter. The first shipment of the year’s worth of chocolate that I won. I'm still not sure what I wrote that earned me all the chocolate ... I may need to call to see if they have posted it somewhere or something.

It's quite a haul. The cooler it shipped in was about 18" by 16" by 22", and it was chock full of truffles, wafers, one of just about every bar Lindt makes, baking bits, hot cocoa, hot fudge sauce, and a coffee mug. Even the serious chocoholics in the office are a bit intimidated. The person who sits in the area outside my office just said that all she's hearing whenever anyone comes in is "Wow! Oh my god!"

Thursday, August 28, 2003

At Least It's Not Raining ... 

Well, it wasn't down to 10, but Evelin's hCG is dropping. The number was down to 365 this morning, so maybe we'll be nearer to 100 on Sunday and out of the woods sometime next week. We also finally got the results of the bloodtest to see how Evelin was responding to the Lovenox; it looks like next time we'll be able to 30 mg instead of 40 mg, which is good.

As for the car, the guys at the garage were giving big props to Hyundai. Apparently they can check out all the parts, recall, service bulletin, etc., info online very easily, which they liked. Plus they gave good marks to the Elantra (and Hyundai in general) for reliability and ease of maintenance, which is good to hear.

Finally, it looks like it'll only be partly cloudy tonight and no rain, so we might be able to get a good look at Mars!

Surveying the Damage 

Back to the clinic to see where the hCG levels are. Evelin dreamed her beta was down to 10, which would be good; we'll find out the actual number this afternoon. Once the hCG drops to zero (or at least less than 5), we can start looking ahead to IVF. There's a bit of a question about how long we have to wait before beginning the protocol, and having used MTX may mean we can't begin until November or something.

Yesterday, Evelin surveyed the damage the Tuesday-night storm caused to the garden. We lost one tomato plant, but she was able to upright a downed bell pepper. Borers or some other bug had hit the one remaining zucchini, so it got pulled out and we're hoping nothing spread to the butternut squash. Now I have to figure out what to do with all the green tomatoes from the lost plant. Martha Stewart Living had a green tomato chutney recipe that looked interesting ...

And, finally, the Hyundai is ready for its first oil change. 3,750 miles passed so quickly.... Still, it'll be nice to drop it off for an oil change without having to worry about that phone call asking if I want to replace this, that, and the other.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Power Outage 

Last night the power went out. A massive line of thunderstorms passed through D.C. at the start of the evening rush hour, knocking out power to a lot of stoplights on my way home, as well as to our house. Power lines even came down across the Beltway, closing down all lanes for half an hour or so.

Evelin was feeling worn out -- probably a side effect of the MTX -- so she came home early. When I got home, the lights had been out for an hour and she was reading by candlelight.

On the downside (yep, losing power actually counts as fun, so long as it doesn't happen too often or stay out too long), our neighbor fired up his generator a little bit before I got home, breaking the quiet of the blackout. Maybe he has a sick old aunt who lives with him or something, and she requires the electricity to breathe. However, I don't think that's actually the case. I think he has a whole house generator just because he wants to watch TV or something.

Of course this means opening the windows in hopes of getting a little cooler air also invites in all his noise. In the past, it's kept us from sitting on the porch to enjoy the thunder and lightning (this has happened several times now).

Trying to go to sleep, Evelin was able to focus on the chirping of the crickets and the rustle of leaves in the wind. I wasn't feeling so generous.

Irritated, I took a walk through the neighborhood. There were people milling around, kids playing flashlight tag, candle-lit living rooms, and lots of dark, quiet houses. About two blocks in most directions, the power was still on with the normal hum of air conditioning. That's what a blackout should be like, not the roar of one diesel generator keeping a single house lit while everyone else is spending a quiet night talking or reading or playing a game (or even blogging to a Palm) by candlelight.

At some point the generator shut down. I don't know if it was shut off or if it ran out of fuel. A little before 3:00 a.m. the power came back on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Vacation Dreaming 

We could both use a bit of a vacation. Actually, a six-month (or longer) sabbatical sounds divine, not that I could really fund that, but the idea is so appealing. There's a week in October that looks like it'll fit both of our schedules, or at least it used to look like it. Now we may be in the midst of preparing for IVF around then, so who knows.

Even if we are able to go away for that week, it's unclear where we'd end up. I've been playing with a couple of ideas, but Evelin's not sure which she really feels like doing: Alberta and Montana; Ontario and Québec; the Navajo Nation; Washington state and British Columbia; the Wisconsin cheese, beer, and wine tour. All see to involve a fair amount of driving, which is typical for us ... well for me. I just don't cotton to the go-to-the-beach-and-sit-in-the-sun type of vacation. I want to see multiple things -- natural wonders, historic sites, museums, bookstores, etc. -- and I'd rather go hiking or visit a winery or something. Last year when we went to Scotland, we ended up driving 400-plus miles up from Edinburgh to Tain and then around Loch Ness and through Glen Coe on the way back to Edi with side trips to family grave sites, Pictish ruins, museums, castles, pubs, distilleries and even a winery. And a good chunk of that was on roads a lot smaller than the Interstates and highways we would be using to get around in North America.

But with everything that's going on, Evelin's not sure she feels like flying somewhere just to drive a few hundred miles this year. Probably, we'll wait until after the embryo transfer and then just take a quiet week somewhere nearby, maybe a cabin in the mountains or even a place along the beach ... either way getting away from the office would be nice.

Monday, August 25, 2003

'Rents in Town 

That was a pretty quick weekend. My folks flew in Saturday morning and I gave them a quick drive along The Mall and through Capitol Hill on the way home. Evelin had to go to her book club, so my folks and I went to the College Park Aviation Museum, which is small, but neat, and, since my dad loves airplanes so much, it was good to show him a neat museum that's practically in my backyard. The rest of the day was just hanging around, talking about projects that need doing around the house and catching up on things back in Louisiana. Dinner was at Mi Rancho in Silver Spring and the next morning, they were back at DCA around noon.

Even though they said they were game, we ended up skipping Howard Dean's appearance in Northern Virginia. I'm a bit bummed about that -- especially because after talking to them about Dean a bit over the weekend, my dad claims he's interested to learn more (color me skeptical, but he can be a pretty contrarian Republican, so maybe there's hope) -- but an MP3 of the rally has been posted (link through Dean's Blog for America).

After my folks left on Sunday, we headed back to the clinic for Evelin's shot of MTX. She talked to the doctor on Saturday morning before my folks arrived and he was adamant that she come in ASAP for the shot. Evelin'd wanted to wait and let things grow a little more so that we might be able to figure out where the embryo was, but the doctor was concerned -- because we didn't know where it was -- that we stop things now so that no damage occurred, i.e., a tube rupturing. The nurse who administered the shot was a former oncology nurse, so she had lots of extra cautions about the drug that we hadn't gotten before (for example, flush twice because an active form of the drug is excreted through the urine for about 48 hours after getting the shot and it can become airborne from the toilet. She also said that she really liked the color of the methotrexate (MTX), a vivid yellow-green. Apparently two other common anticancer drugs are red and blue and the three together in syringes look really pretty. I guess you have to come up with all sorts of coping mechanisms as a nurse.... Evelin got two shots with long needles (one into each haunch), but only a little yelp.

She dropped me off at the Zoo on her way home, about 30 minutes early for my panda watch shift, so I got to watch an Asian elephant, Toni, swimming around in the pool in the elephant yard for a while. It was a really different vantage point and she moved so differently than an elephant does on dry land. Especially neat was watching her roll onto her side to scratch her back on the wall of the pool. I also kept waiting for her to spray the crowd with water, but she remained well behaved. I guess she hasn't seen the reaction Shamu gets whenever he soaks the crowd.... Nothing to really report about the bears: Mei isn't quite back to her pre-pseudopregnancy self, but she's much more active. She and Tian are scheduled to get reintroduced to each other today, so it could be a fun day to watch on the webcams.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Change o' Plans 

A quick change of weekend plans, my parents are flying up from New Orleans for the night. My mom found a cheap fare on the Internet and since it's been a few years since my dad has been able to get up here, they're flying up this morning and headed back Sunday afternoon. The only downside is that I can't in good conscience take them (they're both rather Republican) to see Howard Dean at his Sleepless Summer Tour appearance in Falls Church this afternoon. Oh well, I'll have to wait until next time he's in the area to catch him in person ...

Evelin didn't hear back from the doctor yesterday, so he may call today or Monday, so we're basically floating along right now. No change from yesterday. Evelin got a bit weepy last night for no particular reason, so the hormone drop might be starting. We still haven't told my parents about this miscarriage, so I don't know if Evelin will want to wait until after they're gone to tell them or not. She told her folks last week, and they're going to see my parents over Labor Day Weekend, so we should let them know, I guess ...

Friday, August 22, 2003

Beta and Panda Pseudopregnancy 

Evelin got the call about this morning's hCG beta: 645. It's still increasing, but not at a healthy rate. The nurse said the doctor wanted to go ahead with the MTX injection, that way, if the embryo is in a tube or somewhere else, it won't grow big enough to cause damage. But Evelin is going to talk to the doctor later today to see if he thinks we can safely let things progress for another week or so. The hope is that we might be able to figure out where things are growing. If can resolve itself, that would be better than intervening.

Anita reminded me that I haven't blogged about Mei Xiang lately. Well, the Zoo called off the pregnancy watch this morning: Mei is getting more active, looking to go outside more often, and the hormone levels have been at baseline for a few days now, so it's officially being called a pseudopregnancy and Mei and Tian should be back to their normal selves in a week or three. Out in San Diego, however, Bai Yun gave birth to a cub on Tuesday. She was/is pregnant with twins and the second cub has yet to be born, which means the second one isn't likely to be born alive. Bai Yun is caring for the first cub, however, and hopefully he or she (there's no knowledge of the sex yet) will successfully grow to adulthood. Interestingly enough, the four-year-old Hui Mei, Bai Yun's first cub, just went through her first estrus and is likely entering into pseudopregnancy.

Nothing 

Well, the appointment went about as expected. During the ultrasound, there was no sign of a sac or fetal pole or anything, just a little fluid on the left side, which isn't indicative of anything. The doctor said that, based on when we did the hCG trigger shot, Evelin was calculated to be at 6 weeks, 1 day, which means we should have been able to see a heartbeat if the bean was growing. Blood was drawn so we'll see where the levels are and then figure out what's next.

If the levels are dropping (at a good rate), then we'll probably keep monitoring and let things happen naturally. If they're still increasing, then it probably means an MTX shot to end things and to hurry the miscarriage along, or maybe a D&C, although there is little likelihood of finding tissue that could be tested for abnormalities and it might miss something as we don't know if the embryo is in a tube or somewhere else. *sigh*

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes 

After the news from the doctor, we had a fairly quiet evening at home. A friend came over for dinner and I made zucchini "crab" cakes. I like this recipe, but frying seems to be a cooking skill that I have yet to master. The basics are:

Peel the zucchini. If it's large, remove the seeds and pulpy interior; this step's not necessary for smaller ones with solid flesh. Grate the zucchini until you have about 2 cups, firmly packed. Put the grated zucchini into a colander, weigh it down, and drain for 2 hours or so. Mix the zucchini well with all the other ingredients. Form into small cakes and fry in a little canola oil until lightly brown on both sides.

It seems simple enough, and it is, but I don't know if I use too high a heat for the frying or what. None really burned, but some did get a little charring in places (I think mostly from the drippings from previous cakes; I had to fry them in about four batches).

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Plans for PGD 

Well, the doctor confirmed it: We are medical freaks. We had a decent chat with our RE at the clinic and it looks like we're going to go ahead with IVF/PGD on the cycle after this miscarriage resolves itself. They took a blood sample to see where Evelin's hCG levels are today; hopefully they've been falling steadily, otherwise it would indicate an ectopic or something. Basically, the doctor started off by telling us that there's nothing he can point to that would explain our recurrent chemical pregnancies. Both of us genetically seem normal, but there could be something that crops up when our DNA mixes, either some gamete thing, which is what the PGD (preimplementation genetic determination) part of IVF/PGD should be able to detect. The other, scarier option is that there's some sort of "killer gene" that crops up, and there's really no way to test every single gene to see what's what.

The plan is, once Evelin has her next period, is to start on birth control pills (which seems like an odd thing to do when you are trying to get pregnant, but that's the first step). Then we start in with Lupron shots, which leads up to egg retrieval and sperm collection. Then the lab checks the eggs and sperm for abnormalities, pulls out the good ones from each, mixes 'em up and then we wait a few days. At the blastocyst stage (either 5 or 7 days), the PGD folks do an analysis and then we put back two or three into Evelin and hopefully everything grows into a healthy girl or boy or twins ... I'm sure I've oversimplified some of this and/or misstated it, but I'll blog more accurately when we're actually in the process. At this point, we just have to wait.

Oh, the doctor also agreed to let Evelin start with the Lovenox shots before a positive pregnancy test; he said that the clinical evidence doesn't support that, but in the past they used to err towards giving the shots too early and Evelin has talked to other people online and elsewhere who started earlier and she thinks it can only help.

Since we didn't get out of the doctors until around 10:00 a.m., and because we had to stop by Staples to buy a new printer (the old HP Desk Jet 550C died ... or so we thought, one of the cables turned out to be poorly seated; but the new printer is cheap (an Epson Stylus C62), smaller and quieter, and the old HP does have some "quirks" that make it less than reliable, so the replacement is a good thing), I decided to work from home. I offered to take it as a sick day, so I guess I'll find out tomorrow if I have to or if I'll get credit for what I get done.

Not surprisingly, I seem to get more done from home than in the office; there are plenty of distractions here, but it seems easier to actually work when I'm not being called in for a meeting or consultation or general whinging from someone or another. Plus, I can crank up some old-school De La Soul or something at home and no one minds. (Right now, I'm listening to the Reality Bites soundtrack and the Me Phi Me cut, "Revival!," is making want to break out 3 Feet High and Rising ... on vinyl. See, this is the sort of distraction -- along with compiling this blog entry -- I have at home, which is no where near as bad as what happens in the office ...)

UPDATE: Okay ... we just heard from the clinic; the numbers are back up to 580, which is doubling from the 137 of last week, but it shouldn't be doing that. There's a possibility of ectopic, but the number is up decently from the 137, so we have no idea what that could mean. I want to be optimistic, but that isn't really realistic. We're going in Friday morning; originally it was just for bloodwork, but they'll do an ultrasound now to see if there's any evidence of a placental sac or anything. If nothing is evident in the uterus, then it's likely ectopic. If there is a sac ... who knows? The going backwards could indicate irreparable damage, even if things were to progress from here. Urgh, maybe we'll be having another consultation next week ...

UPDATE: Vinyl is excellent. After De La Soul, I was flipping through some other albums and just put on Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" 12". The new wave saxophone is great. Next up ... Mental As Anything, Lords of the New Church, The Itals, The Long Ryders ... the possibilities boggle the mind. I definitely need to get a good turntable for the main stereo system.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Fear for the Doctor 

Today, I fear for the doctor. Not our RE, our regular doctor. Evelin talked to the nurse at the fertility clinic yesterday and found out we could get a consult with the RE on Wednesday, but our referral had run out. (Apparently, approvals for treatment are handled differently than approvals for consultations.) Evelin called our GP's office asking for an updated referral and was told she'd have to come in to see the doctor. It'd been over a year since she'd last been in and they didn't see a previous referral in her file.

Needless to say Evelin wasn't happy. "I'm in the middle of my fifth miscarriage, there's nothing the doctor can do for me." They insisted (I don't know if it's an office rule or an HMO rule), so she's going in early this morning. Hopefully, for everyone involved's sake, they won't keep her waiting too long and they give her the referral then and there, instead of trying to say it takes 36 hours or something.

UPDATE [10:40:22 AM]: I just heard from Evelin. She got the referral, but we've going to change GPs. After arguing yesterday, she got an 8:30 a.m. appointment; the doctor didn’t get in until 9:30 a.m. She was upset already, and his bedside manner mostly involved telling her to calm down. Now we just have to find someone (preferably convenient to her office) who's practice is accepting new patients ...

Monday, August 18, 2003

千と千尋の神隠し 

We rented Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) last night. Amazing! The animation was great, but what was really incredible was the story; I'm sure we would have caught more of the subtleties of the tale if we knew more (or just about anything) about Japanese folklore, ghost stories and mythology. For example, I think No-Face (Kaonashi) was some sort of gaki, a "hungry ghost," but the word also has the meaning of "brat or child" (at least the romanji version has that double meaning; I can't find/read the kanji to tell if the two meanings are really different words or not). Either meaning would seem to fit the character. Anyway, it was an amazing movie (even for those who aren't really into anime), and we are probably going to seek out other Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli productions ...

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Apples are Arriving! 

A lazy Sunday at home. It's nice enough out that we should have gone for a hike or something, but nothing ever gelled. The farmers market was pretty packed today, and Twin Springs had some of their first apples of the season: ginger gold and akane. The akane are nice and tart, but the flesh is a little waxy (for lack of a better descriptor); the ginger gold have a crisper tooth, but the flavor doesn't grab the same way the tartness of the akane does. Maybe I've been eating too many fuji apples from Chile and New Zealand and I'm craving the tarter apples. It is still many months until the gold rush apples hit the market; they're the last to arrive, usually not until after Thanksgiving, but they keep all winter and are soooooooo good.

Dinner tonight should be zucchini. We have three we harvested earlier in the week and there's one on the plant that I may pull off this evening. The crookneck squash gave up the ghost last week, so Evelin pulled it out, and the rolly-poly squash has yet to produce a single gourd. The butternut squash, however, are starting to fruit, so we may get some good ones in October.

The first bell pepper is looking like it might be ready for plucking in another week and a few others seem to be moving beyond the bud stage. Tomatoes ... we got to eat the first four cherries this weekend. Sadly, that's been it. The rest remain sitting on the vine getting neither ripe, nor red (or yellow or peach or less green, depending upon variety). I pulled one carrot; it was all of two inches long. Evelin's calendar says we should be sowing our second crop of carrot by now. The basil is looking good however; we may make a big batch of pesto this week, setting some aside to freeze and hoping the plants produce enough more leaves for a second big batch before winter. Yesterday, while cutting the grass, I did find a small strawberry in the front flowerbed that was ripe; nice and tasty. This morning I found two more, but the ants/birds/something had already gotten to them (sigh). The fig tree is as prolific as ever, which the birds enjoy, and if it keeps them away from the raspberries (not that there are any berries on the canes) then that's fine.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Quiet Day 

Well, it's a quiet day. Evelin's brother and his girlfriend now own the car (we hope); all the paperwork has been signed (we hope -- I printed a bunch of forms off the Maryland MVA and the Massachusetts RMV sites, most of them will probably turn out to be unnecessary), and they're off to visit her sister in Richmond before driving back up to Boston. As long as they make it back up there, and the car isn't too far-gone to register in Massachusetts, that'll be good.

We didn't tell them what's going on and, thankfully, they were a bit tired after walking around The Mall and downtown all day yesterday, so we were able to go to bed early instead of sitting around talking. Evelin's doing well right now; things'll start to hit harder when the hormone levels drop and the actually loss begins, but we're sadly too familiar with this now.

I finished cutting the grass this morning and got a haircut and a shave. Evelin's working on some résumés, and we may go see Fellowship of the Ring at the Outdoor Film Festival for NIH Charities tonight. Probably we'll just play things by ear ...

Friday, August 15, 2003

Miscarriage ... 

The numbers came in, and they weren't good: 137, a drop, which means the pregnancy isn't viable. Evelin has to stop all the meds and, hopefully, the miscarriage will happen naturally. If it's ectopic or if things don't progress the way they should (and it's pissing me off that I'm having to consider anything related to a miscarriage as "progress" or "natural") then we may have to go in for an MTX shot to end things, which is even harder on Evelin's body than a natural miscarriage.

I'm blogging this on my Palm on the Metro on the way home (well, writing on the Palm and will upload to the computer to blog it). I can't scream or cry the way I want to, and I'm sure I'm making a parent or two worried when I sort of zone out looking at their baby or child.

In the Pentagon City Metro Station (which is where I boarded the train) the police were talking to two guys. I didn't really look at them as much as at the two handguns and other objects neatly placed on the station floor.

A few stops before the end of the Yellow Line, I almost got off the train thinking I hadn't switched lines. I guess I'm a bit distracted. Other passengers probably do think I'm a bit nuts or something.

The thing I'm least looking forward to is telling Evelin. Especially with her brother and his girlfriend visiting. One thing I haven't blogged about yet is Evelin's sister, who announced that she's pregnant when we were up in Massachusetts for her cousin’s wedding two weekends back. Although the immediate family knows about our previous losses, we've been keeping this cycle very quiet with the family, not telling anyone. When Evelin's sister announced (which was post-IUI, but pre-positive beta) it was a bit of a shock. Understandably, everyone was trying to be sensitive to/about Evelin's feelings, and it didn't work. Long story short, while we're very happy for them, we may have reacted more with stun than glee, which left Evelin’s mom telling her what a good aunt she'd be, which was exactly *not* what she needed to hear. They've all talked since then and 90% of the air's been cleared, but it still is going to complicate the feelings surrounding this loss. Plus, my brother's wife is due with twins in November (another long story short, IVF, and we're very happy for them), so we'll be an aunt and an uncle well before we're parents (assuming we don't go Raising Arizona or some other speed adoption route).

I heard on NPR this morning that they could see the stars last night in New York City. The Great Northeastern Blackout of 2003 didn't reach down to D.C., although the University of Maryland did lose all power for about 20 minutes at the same time everything crashed in New York and Ontario. Evelin is convinced there is a direct link between the two blackouts, but I'm betting it was just a coincidence; after all, they got power back in 20 minutes. New York, for the most part, is still dark this morning. The Globe and Mail has an interesting behind-the-sceens look at how the paper got its Friday issue out despite the loss of power in Toronto; The Washington Post has a similar tale of media copeing with the blackout.

The blackout didn't affect Evelin's brother's flight down from Boston. We picked him and his girlfriend up in Baltimore and then sat around chatting for a while in the evening. Today, they're headed into the city while Evelin goes for a beta and more bloodwork (to see if we need to scale back or up the Lovenox shots). Tonight we may go out for dinner ... I'm hoping everyone else will be interested in Ethiopian, but Lebanese, Indonesian or tapas would work, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Uncle Donald 

I also heard yesterday that my Uncle Donald died Tuesday night. He was the husband of my mother's oldest sister and the one thing that pops immediately into mind was, when I was a kid, he would always greet me and my brother with a handshake. Except, it wasn't a normal handshake; instead, he'd keep the hand caught and wiggle the bottom of our hand causing the pinky knuckles to rub against the ring-finger knuckles it always hurt a little, but was really funny at the same time. I've use the same trick on some little kids and they always know its coming and laugh while still trying desperately to get their hand free ... which is pretty much what I used to do. Since we don't get back to Louisiana every often anymore (and even when we do, we usually don't end up seeing too much of the extended family) it's been a year or so since I last saw Uncle Donald, which I feel bad about, but he had been in poor health and my aunt last night said it was a blessing for him to go so quickly and quietly at home and that he is at peace now....

Multistate Car Registration 

Finally, I got the grass cut, or at least half of it. We've been away/distracted/busy/rained upon so much over the past two weeks or so that I haven't cut the grass since 24 July and the yard was beginning to look like one of those scary houses that all the kids avoid when walking home from school. By the time the rain had started, I'd finished the front and side yards and had gotten maybe a sixth of the backyard cut. There's still a bit to go, but maybe there'll be time to cut it this weekend.

Thinking of this weekend, Evelin's brother and his girlfriend fly in tonight to pick up the Mazda. We're not sure what their plans are, although he said something about driving down to southern Virginia to visit his girlfriend's sister. So we're not sure how much we'll see of them or when exactly.

Federalism is a good thing in principle and it seemed to work well in the pre-modern era. But nowadays -- at least when it comes to things automotive -- I would gladly swap the 55 or more department of motor vehicles around the country for a single federal entity. (And they aren't even all DMVs: Maryland has the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), Massachusetts has the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), and there must be other variations out there.) Both the MVA and RMV websites have info on private vehicle sales (although neither makes it easy), but neither makes it easy or very clear about how to handle a private vehicle sale that involves parties from other states. Previously, when I've moved from state to state, the whole register/reregister in the new state and then deregister in the old state process has been a real pain the ass. At least three of the five or six times I've had to go through the process I've hit some snag that involved multiple letters back and forth with the authorities. Hopefully, Evelin's brother has done some looking into things from his side, and we can achieve the legal transfer smoothly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Still Doubling 

Evelin just got the beta results: 193, which means doubling every 41.8 hours, which is good. Hopefully the spotting is just something odd but normal. We're being happy with the result and are keeping fingers, toes, and everything else possible crossed...

Waiting and Winning 

Well, we went in for a beta this morning and hopefully will get results early this afternoon. Evelin also had acupuncture today, so hopefully that'll help. I'm a little distracted at the moment because Evelin just sent an e-mail saying that she was seeing some spotting. That can be a normal thing during early pregnancy (weeks 5 to 8, approximately), but it also might be a sign of trouble. She left a message with the nurse and will be talking with someone when they call with the beta this afternoon. We just going to try to keep the thoughts positive until there's a reason not to.

Each night, I've been trying to "talk" to the little bean(s) (fetus or embryo seem like too technical of terms; baby doesn't feel right for this stage of development), placing my hand on Evelin's belly and thinking good thoughts towards her/him/them each night; trying to tell her/him/them that we're a safe place, to burrow in and grow well, etc. Hopefully she/he/they is/are listening and this spotting is nothing to worry about ... :|

More on the chocolate, apparently it was the Art of Indulgence contest, sponsored by Lindt, Angel Records and Robert Mondavi, and I was the first place winner. Apparently, I wrote a 25- to 75-word answer to the question "How do wine, chocolate and music enhance your life?" The person I spoke to last night said they would post my answer, but I was a bit stunned and forgot to ask where it would be posted. (I'd like to see what I wrote, as well as to see what the person who won the grand prize (a week-long trip to Switzerland) wrote ...)

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A Year's Worth of Chocolate? 

Well, that's interesting. I got home tonight to two messages. First, the tags for my car finally arrived at the dealership, so I can go get a real license plate; and, second, Lindt Chocolate called because I won a year's supply of chocolate. I kind of remember entering something on the Web, but I need to figure out what it was ...

Wacky Weather, Pregnant Panda? 

The weather in the Mid-Atlantic has been pretty crazy this year. Tons of snow in February, constant rain through April and May and into June. July and August (so far) were a bit more seasonal, a little cooler and more rain, but much of the damage has been done. Our squash aren't producing too much, the carrots and lettuce that we should have already eaten are still growing, the tomatoes are heavy on the vine, but green and hard, and the corn from the farmers market has all be stunted.

But things in Europe are even weirder. My editor in Paris escaped the city last weekend to visit friends in Normandy, where it was still hot. Heathrow Airport in London reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 100 in DC, yeah, that happens. In London? Never. And this heat (not to mention forest fires across the Continent) are on top of the massive floods last autumn. Which leads me to this story from the BBC about a seal from Zoo Praha: Prague's hero seal is posthumous father. I missed the story of this breakout when it happened last year, but I'm not surprised the seal made a run for it. I really like zoos because they play an important role in preserving species and expanding knowledge (both public knowledge and scientific), but many are old, underfunded and suffering from crumbling infrastructure, which isn't good for the animals, science or the public. I'm conflicted.

In zoo news closer to home, I just heard that on the radio that Mei Xiang is exhibiting some cradling behavior, which is yet another inconclusive sign of pregnancy or psuedopregnancy. On Sunday, she was a little more active than she has been in recent weeks, which isn't saying much, but there was no nestbuilding or other pregnancy-related behaviors. I don't know if she is or if she isn't, and she's not giving any definite clues. I think there's another ultrasound scheduled for tomorrow, so maybe we'll find something out. To tell the truth, I hope Mei isn't pregnant because she still is pretty young (plus if Tian Tian has to stay by himself for a year or more while she's raising a cub, it could get a bit ugly -- he really seems to thrive on interaction), but if she is it'll be quite exciting ...

Monday, August 11, 2003

Good Beta :-) 

Evelin just got the call from the clinic: 87.6. That means the hCG is doubling every 48.4 hours, which is good. (The standard we're looking for at this point is doubling every 72 hours.) The numbers aren't super high by any means -- so the likelihood of twins or more is not very great -- but they are doing what they're supposed to at this point. Next appointment is on Wednesday morning.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Have You Cleaned Your Gutters Today? 

When I first convinced myself to start blogging, I figured I would call it “Have You Cleaned Your Gutters Today?” This was in mid-June (about a five weeks before I actually signed up with Blogger) and was sparked by our returning home from a visit to the 'rents in Louisiana to a puddle in our bedroom.

Anyone who lives in the Mid Atlantic knows what the weather has been like this spring and summer -- rain, more rain, some dreary days, followed by more rain. By July it did calm down some, but we've had way more days of rain than not.

Anyway, I had been putting off cleaning out the gutters for a few weeks. It seemed like, after the previous years of drought and near drought, the oaks were determined to get as much reproduction in as possible and the oak silks (the little "feathers" that hold the pollen and then fall off; I'm not sure that the technical term for them is, we've always just called them oak silks) just kept falling. I only wanted to clean things out once, so I was waiting.

The night we flew back (a roundabout route from New Orleans to Chicago to Baltimore) there was a massive downpour, so while we were disturbed to find water on the floor, we were glad it was only in one room and we started planning to replace the windows. (The house has old windows that were put in the 1980s or so, and they're crap. We know they need to be replaced, but the inertia is great ...) The next day, however, the sorry truth came out.

The rain started in the afternoon, so I headed up to the bedroom just to see if I could tell where the leak was coming from. Well, it seems the gutters were so clogged that the water was just sheeting down the side of the house, into the window jamb and then extruding out to the inside sill. It was also happening in all three rooms upstairs (although our bedroom was the worst). We went through every towel in the house and several T-shirts trying to sop up the water as it came in.

As soon as the lightning tapered off (but before the rain ended), I was on the roof, digging tons of crap out of the gutters. I also added little light bulb-shaped wire nets to the top of each downspout to help keep them clear.

This morning, I was back up on the roof. I had noticed a week ago that there were some oak leaves hanging over the edge over the gutters, so I figured it would be a good idea to get up there to check the gutters and to clean out any clogs (with all the rains, a lot of stray leaves, sticks, large branches, squirrel dreys, etc. have been falling). It was good to see that there wasn't much in the way of clogs up there. The wire things seem to be doing their job, although a fair amount of clutter was accumulating around them.

Nothing new to report on the baby front. We go in Monday for the second beta: That'll be the really scary thing to hear. It'll have been three days, so we're hoping for a number at least in the 70s, although the higher the more reassuring ... fingers crossed.

And on the other baby front, I'm going to watch Mei this afternoon. The pregnancy watch is on 24-hours a day now, so maybe we'll have a cub in a few weeks or maybe not.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Thievery Corporation 

Because I work for an international publication, over the past 10 years I have seen a number of variations on the 4-1-9 scam, often referred to as the Nigerian scam although I've seen variations from across Africa, the Subcontinent and the Middle East.

Yesterday, however, another old scam surfaced in the office -- check washing. One of my writers in Africa had a check stolen (either intercepted somewhere in the mail stream or from his mailbox) and it was cashed, but instead of someone just getting the fee we were paying the writer, they washed the check and reprinted the payee, date, and amount fields ... boosting its value to several thousand. The payee was changed to a textile concern in Pakistan, so our CFO is convinced the money has gone to fund al- Qa'ida or something, but the truth is probably much more mundane ... Oh well, the bankers are in the process of trying to track back the money and to credit our accounts.

Evelin got the first Lovenox shot (a low molecular-weight version of heparin). The syringes are kind of neat. The meds are premeasured/mixed and all you have to do is pull off the cap, make the injection and then depress the plunger further and a protective sheath pops up to cover the needle. It still has to be disposed in a sharps biohazard box, but it's kind of cool.

I'm in the office today to try and get caught up with the September issue. We should have finished it by Friday, but it looks like it won't get off to the printer until Tuesday or so. It shouldn't cause any delays in printing or mailing, however, as it's August in Italy and the printer is closed until the 14th anyway ...

Friday, August 08, 2003

Positive! 

Evelin just talked to the nurse: 31.8. So it's a positive pregnancy, but the number is low, which is worrying and explains the hard-to-read test strips. Hopefully it was a late implater or we were wrong about the ovulation date or something. The nurse is supposed to call back so Evelin can talk to her about starting heparin or lovenox [sarcasm]yah! more shots![/sarcasm], and it looks like we're going back on Monday or maybe Sunday to see where the numbers are. So long as they go up, doubling every 72 hours or so, then we can feel good. If they don't ... well, I'll think about that if we have to.

If Elected, I Will Not Serve 

Just a short entry today. We went in for the beta and won't hear from the doctor until this afternoon. The test this morning (I know, we were going to wait for the official numbers, but we figured if we had a definite positive we could ask for the prescription for the heparin and get it right away) was ... not quite inconclusive, but still shy of conclusive. There was a line, but it was really faint. But it was more visible than the previous two test strips. Just a few more hours of waiting, I guess. Oh, and when we were leaving the clinic, we ended up behind a minivan with a "Triplets are Terrific" licenseplate frame. An omen?

Also, I have decided to announce that I will not run for governor in the California recall. Not only am I not a registered voter in California, I think the entire process is quite silly. I urge anyone who was considering voting for me in the recall to first vote no on the question of whether or not to recall Gray Davis, and to then vote for Cruz Bustamante in the event the recall is approved. Or vote for Gary Coleman.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Cheese 

Work is piling up (they closed the issue late yet I'm still behind in getting everything ready for production and next week deadlines for a contract publishing project are coming due) so just a quick entry...

First off, Evelin decided she didn't want another inconclusive test or, worse, a negative from the First Response test, so we're just going to wait for the beta tomorrow...

Second, yesterday's Los Angeles Times food section included a roundup from the judging of the 2003 American Cheese Society annual conference. It sounds so yummy. Last year, the society meet in D.C. and while we didn't try to go to any of the sessions or tastings, they did get a special stand at the Duport Circle Farmers Market the weekend of the convention -- tons of artisan cheeses, including some really unique styles, all available super cheap. We picked up a mild crumbly sheep’s milk cheese, an excellent creamy blue cheese, a fairly piquant jack and a few others that I can't remember right now.

The farmers market we usually go to on Sundays in Takoma Park has an artisan cheesemaker who is now a regular, Keswick Creamery, and they have some excellent fetas and a nice jack cheese called Wallaby.

A year or two ago, I wanted to try to make cheese, but I never took the plunge to buy the equipment, plus I'm a little worried about the level of cleanliness needed to make sure the cheese isn't contaminated. Maybe if I get the winemaking under my belt first I'll feel up to the cheesemaking. Or if I ever get around to taking a cheesemaking class ...

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Inconclusive 

Magic 8 Ball says ... Reply hazy ask again later. This two-week wait thing is getting longer and longer. I woke up at about 3:30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. Around 5:00 Evelin woke up, took a test and came back to bed. After about 15 minutes, I got up to look at the strip (it seems Evelin was willing to wait longer) and saw a line. Of course, being male, I was looking at the wrong line. But, a bit later, there did look like there was a faint line and a sort of weird diagonal line... We were still using one of the SaveOnTests strips, not the First Response, and (unless Evelin is planning something I'm not privy to) it looks like she won't test again until tomorrow morning or we'll just wait for the blood test on Friday. I think both of us are not feeling optimistic about this cycle at this point; Evelin just doesn't feel the sort of symptoms she felt with her previous pregnancies. I think that could be because of everything she's been doing to build up her constitution and, considering that none of those pregnancies made it to term, different symptoms could be a good thing. Try not to obsess. Try not to obsess. Try not to obsess.

On the car front, we still haven't donated the Mazda to the Kidney Foundation. It started as just keeping it around because it would be handy to have a second car for a series of appointments and stuff and then Evelin's brother thought he might want it (a car would give his bike-messenger business in Boston the ability to deliver large packages further), but after this morning, I'm not sure he really should want it. The sunroof leaks, that we knew. Usually it would just be a few drips and a quarter inch of water in the driver-side well after a heavy rain. This morning, Evelin wanted to use the car to go to her acupuncture appointment. Since it hadn't been driven in about two weeks, I went out to check the fluids and to make sure it would start up. There was some weird corrosion on the battery tie-down strap (none on the terminals, though) and it needed some oil, but it started up as nosily and stinky as always. I decided to take it for a quick spin around the corner to help dissipate the cloud of oil smoke it always gives off when first started and to shake out any rainwater that might be hiding in the roof.

You can guess where this is going.

As I head up the hill, I hear a pretty loud slosh sound and think it sounds weird. As I crest the hill and get to a stop sign (the deluge begins). Three gallons -- at least -- comes crashing down on my head, soaking the passenger and driver's seats. The water continues in drips, dribbles and cascades, all the way downhill and around the corner until I get back onto the incline in front of the house. I need to talk to Evelin's brother about this car. Donating it, I know it may have some utility/value for parts and scrap metal; as a business car, I'm having serious doubts.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Beards Fight Infertility? 

I'm toying with the idea of shaving. Since 1990 or so I've spent more time with facial hair of some sort than not, and for the past 18 months or so, I've sported a full beard. This morning I was looking in the mirror thinking that while mustaches alone look a little silly to me, the Amish beard sans mustache is kind of appealing. I did wear just a goatee for a while, but it gradually gave way to a van dyke, and I can't remember ever doing an Amish beard, so it's something I'm playing with in my mind.

Actually, I grew the full beard as part of the fertility thing. For those who haven't gone through visiting a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and/or a fertility clinic, the first step is a lot of tests. Men have to give a vial or two of blood for basic tests for STDs and other issue and maybe an additional vial for DNA karyotyping; they also may have to have a semen analysis done. But these are usually one-time tests. Women seem to have to give more blood for additional tests, and they have to give them more often, as well as go through regular ultrasounds and other examinations. Plus the meds (if a medicated cycle is being pursued) go into her, not him. As silly as it may sound, I figured that if nothing else, I could grow a bigger beard to help the effort.

Okay, now that you've stopped laughing (or should I wait a bit longer?) ...

Okay, now, I know it sounds stupid and really won't make a difference in all this, but growing a beard did make me at least feel like I was doing something to help the process along. So far it hasn't proved effective, but fingers remain crossed and I probably won't adjust the facial hair until we have a positive that sticks.

Last night, I took a look at the test Evelin took in the morning. There's a really, really, really faint line that can be seen under proper lighting conditions. Positive? Evaporation line? Fluke? We're not sure. I bought a First Response home pregnancy test (HPT) on the way home last night, but Evelin decided (at my urging) to wait until Wednesday morning to test again. Fingers crossed.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Return from Massachusetts 

That was a whirlwind weekend. Friday, we spent about nine hours driving thanks to a construction project along the Merritt Parkway, the wedding Saturday, and driving home (much more quickly, thankfully) on Sunday.

The wedding was in Newbury Port, Massachusetts, a cute little town on the coast, just south of New Hampshire. The wedding coincided with Yankee Homecoming Days, a big street festival about three blocks away from the church and reception site. We arrived early (the happy couple had warned everyone that parking was tight at the site even without the festival) and got to see a bit of the festival before heading in to the wedding. I toyed with the idea of getting some big pink and blue dolphin balloons to release during the ceremony, but Evelin talked me out of it. If only they'd had penguin balloons. I don't think I could have been dissuaded if there were penguin balloons... While the Yankee Homecoming Days did mean a lot of traffic trying to leave town about the same time the reception broke up, it was cool because the town fireworks were visible through the windows of the reception hall. It was a pretty good display.

Evelin's family is pretty large. Her mother is one of nine children and Evelin's generation has 25 (maybe more, I'm sure I'm miscounting) people, including spouses and long-term significant others. During the wedding, when the minister asked the family members to stand to affirm their support for the couple and their marriage, our side of the church would have tipped on its side had we been in some sort of cartoon (I'm not sure that metaphor works, but the basic idea is there were a LOT of family members on that side of the aisle).

On Saturday, before leaving for the wedding, we ran around Evelin's hometown a little bit, visiting family and friends, and we got to stop at the grocery store to pick up some Wachusett Summer Breeze. I know I'm supposed to be off beer, whisky, wine, et al., until we have a pregnancy that sticks, but this beer is sooooooooo gooooood and it's only available in Central Massachusetts (or at least only available in New England, according to their website, it looks like they've increased production a bit since I lived up there). I did have a few drinks at the wedding (just doing my duty to throw off any suspicious aunts and uncles), including a Summer Breeze, but, for now, the case is sitting in the cellar, aging alongside a bunch of other bottles.

When we got home on Sunday, I had a little surprise in Dave Barry's column, a mention of my old boss. Neil Barnard is president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is where Evelin and I met a decade ago, and while Barry does make him sound a bit goofy, it's always neat to run across him in the news or elsewhere. I may not still be vegan (cheese is tasty, even if it is full of fat, and I'm as fascinated by artisan cheesemaking as I am with artisan winemaking), but my time at PCRM really did help me get a good understanding of nutrition and I support what the committee is trying to do.

Now it's just a week of waiting for Evelin's beta (the official blood test for pregnancy) on Friday. She took a home test this morning and called to say it was negative, but then she called back later saying that there was a faint line. At this point, she doesn't feel like she has any symptoms, but it's still early (12 days post ovulation), I think, and she's been doing so much (acupuncture, dietary changes, homeopathy, meditation, etc.) to strengthen her body since the last miscarriage that I don't think she can count on feeling the same symptoms as the previous pregnancies. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and if it didn't work this time, then we still have next cycle...

Funny language observation: I may be an editor, but I tend to be a fairly sloppy speller, particularly when I'm focused on writing (as opposed to editing). In spellchecking this entry, I had to doublecheck myself over the word "dissuaded." My instinct was to use "disswayed" meaning that I could not be swayed in the decision to get penguin balloons. "Sway" does work if I were being influence to do something or I could say that "I could not be swayed from" getting the balloons, but dissuade seems more natural. The root for sway, according to my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is of uncertain origin, but it could come from Old Norse sveigja, Dutch zwaaien, or Low German swājen, all of which mean (roughly) "swinging." Dissuade, on the other hand, is clearly from the Latin dissuadere, meaning to advise against. Even if dissway is not an established word, I like the homophone/synonym possibilities for dissway/dissuade, and googling dissway does yield a few hits (although googling for neologisms can be a dangerous hobby).

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