Friday, April 30, 2010

Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome

I have to go to bed earlier.  And it has nothing to do with my beauty sleep.  My eye is falling apart.
Sometime around April or May, 2009, the dust storms had started and it was continually hazy in our region of the Middle East.  I started waking up periodically with what felt like a massive, sandy boulder in my right eye.  It usually started about 5 or 6 AM and would cause me to bolt upright in pain, tears streaming from my eye as my body tried to reject whatever invader had attacked my sight.
I thought it had to be the sand in the air getting in our room, but it continued after the atmosphere cleared.  Not every morning, just every so many days.  A week or two would go by and suddenly, I’m pawing at my face at some ungodly hour as the call to prayer echoes through the valley.
We left Jordan, returned to the States, and it continued; that’s when I realized I had problem.  My mom and I started comparing notes.  A few years earlier, she had encountered the same symptoms.  She went to an ophthalmologist, who told her she suffered from Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome.  The only way it can be diagnosed is through a special dye or a slit-lamp microscope.  Using these techniques, the doctor can see patterns across the cornea, like a map or scratched glass indicating separation.
The basic concept is that the top layer of cells on the cornea start to slough off, like a hangnail.  This exposes the nerve endings underneath and causes you to want to rip your eyeball out of the socket.  Once the layer gets “glued” back down, the pain goes away, but that can take (in my experience) an hour or more.  Here’s the crazy thing:  The body’s natural tears are too “wet” to get the layer back in place, so you have to use a product with a stronger adhesion and less saline.  I went to see the same doctor, explained my situation and he gave me some sample drops of some fancy stuff.  Upon application, everything goes blurry for a bit, as if you’ve poured oil in your eye.
So, why does it only happen in the morning?  The body hits an REM sleep cycle around that time.  The eye has dried out overnight and as movement increases, the layer begins to snag and pull away.  As the pain increases, the eyelid instinctively snaps open and drags the layer free.  With each successive blink of the dry lid, the layer flaps back and forth giving the impression of matchstick rubbing under your eyelid.
Yeah, it’s painful alright.  And it’s difficult to get back to sleep.  You don’t want to close your eye because any sound causes the closed eye to move in that direction which only adds to the irritation.  Basically, you have to focus your attention on a particular spot in your mind and hope the layer reattaches, otherwise you’re up for the rest of the day.
The solution? Get some rest and avoid stress.  The longer the eyes are open and not blinking (thus washing the surface) the more the eye will dry out in the night.  It also helps not to sleep too late as it allows the eye to dry even longer.  The experts also recommend keeping hydrated and avoiding excessively dry, overheated environments (um... like the desert?); as well as learning to wake slowly without much eye movement to allow the eye gently open without tearing the corneal layer.
There are medical fixes for it, and Wikipedia’s got some resources to follow. For a serious case of RCES, read this poor dude’s blog entry.
I promise, every time this happens to me, Ben Stein's at the foot of my bed going, "Drrry Eyyyes." Between him and the asteroid under my lid, 'bout makes a guy go nuts... or hit the sack sooner.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Suzi: Love & Loathing in Webtown

The internet has been one of my greatest resources both during my pregnancy and since Cooper was born.  You can find everything you need to know…facts, opinions, and medical reviews about every subject known to mankind.  Why did my ankles swell after my delivery when they weren’t swollen before?  How often should I feed him?  What do people think about pacifier usage?  Do gas drops really work?  The answers are all there.  That’s why I love the internet.
Yet this week Scott considered banning me from entering my happy web world.  You see, Cooper has chapped lips.  They grew worse for a few days, so I decided to search for something to put on them to help him out.  Wanna know the only cause you can find for chapped lips on a baby?  Dehydration and/or not feeding him enough.
Now I think I’ve stayed pretty calm about most things since we came home from the hospital.   There hasn’t been a lot of panic around this house, but somehow reading that I was possibly not feeding him enough freaked me out.  I, the one who is responsible for our child’s complete nutritional needs, may not be feeding him enough?  It seems I'm feeding him every 30 minutes AND I'm keeping copious notes of doing so!  So every few minutes I asked Scott about Cooper’s lips, and he always told me the same thing (in a very calm voice), “Suzi, I don’t think there’s a problem.”  Should I call the doctor?  Do we need to go to the emergency room?  How can I possibly feed him more than I am?
Apparently, when you’re a parent and you haven’t slept much, it’s easy to lose your mind.  After some time of this freaking out, I started to pull together what rational thought I had left and looked up the signs of infant dehydration.  Yeah, Cooper didn’t have any of those.  So I managed to make it a few days until our normally scheduled pediatric appointment this morning.
I brought a list of questions to ask the doctor, and of course, “chapped lips” was pretty high on the list.  The doctor’s response?  “His chapped lips are from nursing.  No treatment needed.  What else?”

And that, my friends, is why I love and loathe the internet.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trojan Warning: "Your postal package N******"

This afternoon, Suzi just got an email regarding "Your postal package N2382975" from some dude we'd never heard of.

The email included a zip file and that immediately got me suspicious.  A quick bit of research says this is a new wrapper on an old threat.  The user opens the email, it tells them they need to print off a form or some such action and when they open the zip file, BAMMO... they're sunk.  The cool piece of code is that the "N" number changes randomly from one email to the next; probably makes it little harder to grab in anti-virus software.

In short, practice safe computing and don't open a zip (or any!) file from someone you don't know...

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Note to All Wanting to Send Cooper a Present...

We've had a number of folks ask about sending presents to Cooper here in the Middle East.  It's really pretty nice to be out of sight, but still on people's minds.  Plus, we think it's great that you love our baby!
Jordanians LOVE babies (see Suzi's entry), so there's a large of selection in the way of wipes, diapers, etc.  There's even a local company, called Fine, that competes well with Pampers & Huggies.  There's not a custom of baby showers here.  It's more of a rolling shower, in which people stop by for a few minutes, drop off a gift and leave... much like the visits during feasts and holidays.  The church and our neighbors, even our landlord, have given us all kinds of blankets, clothes, etc.  I've mentioned in the past that some of Suzi's friends here have kicked in bottle sterilizers, cribs, etc.  Just like in the States, clothes get shared and gear gets passed around in the ex-pat community.

So, regarding mailing a package overseas... 
  It's expensive to send: to the tune of $50-$75 for a Flat Rate USPS box. 
  It's expensive to receive: we've now found that insured packages coming from the States are subject to customs fees of about 30%.  That means $100 worth of stuff costs me $30 to bail outta the pokey.  That also doesn't take into account the hassling and haggling you get at the main post office downtown in the form of a little man in a uniform pawing thru everything in the box, throwing it back in and waving you off to wander the halls, peering into smoke-filled offices for a minimum of five signatures and stamps.  Or the laundry-list of interrogations about why someone in America would send you anything and why you wouldn't just buy it here. 
At which point, I usually start waving my arms and yelling, "Gifts, guys... they're GIFTS!"
That doesn't seem too help much, but does reinforce the stereotype that Americans are generally nuts and thus make for good entertainment.

So, here's what we ask: 
Since we've arrived, it's become very expensive to take multiple bags on overseas flights (think $275 for a 70lb third bag), so we probably will have to leave some stuff in Jordan to passed on to other folks.  We're going to be back in the States for Thanksgiving and will need clothes for Cooper then.  If we could have 7+ mo old clothes waiting when we arrive, that would help us tremendously.
Again, we want say thanks for thinking of us out here and wanting to be a blessing to our family.  It means so much to know you care about us!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dad's Update

Rather than rehash what's already been said, I'm passing on what my dad posted on the family blog.  He said it better anyway...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Passports: Tickets to Freedom

[This entry was written by Suzi, who finally decided that she needed to contribute something to the blog.  It was written this morning while explaining to Cooper that 5 a.m. is just way too early to get up.]

One of my parents’ unspoken rules was that my sister and I had a passport, and that we never let it expire.  To them, a passport was a precious, precious commodity…one that was not easily accessible in the Communist land they had lived in.  It was a sign of freedom and a ticket to see the world.
Yesterday, Scott, Cooper and I packed up and headed to the American Embassy to file paperwork to get Cooper’s passport.  We passed through one security area and entered a holding area before another checkpoint we would need to get through.  At 9:30 a.m. there was already a nice size line forming, so we joined the queue and waited.  We had to stand outside, but it was a lovely day, and I was thankful to be in the fresh air and have the chance to practice being out and about with our new addition.
I noticed a security guard in the building kept looking out the window…right at me.  The line was inching forward and suddenly the door opened, and the guard stepped out.  He motioned to me and said to everyone, “We need the baby.”  What?  Clearly he meant me; no one else had a baby.  We figured out that he was calling us to the front of the line so we didn’t have to wait “in the elements.”  I felt a little sheepish walking past all those people, but I also couldn’t help thinking, “I love this baby thing!”  It helps to be in a country where everybody loves a baby.
Once inside, a female guard informed me that she would hold the baby while I passed through the detector.  She smiled and cooed at him and continued to hold him even after we cleared security.  The guard told me she would keep the baby with her while we were inside, but reluctantly handed him back.
It took about an hour to get all the correct paperwork turned in, stamped, signed and paid for, and soon we were heading  back home.
Walking back to the car, I couldn’t help but get a little teary.  My dad would have been so happy to know that his six-day-old grandson had just applied for his very own passport…his own ticket to see the world.
May its soon-to-be tattered pages be filled with many stamps, and may Cooper never let it expire.
Here’s to a lifetime of adventure, my son!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cooper Alexander McGarvey

Hoorah!  Cooper Alexander McGarvey arrived on April 15th, my (Scott) birthday! He was 20 inches long and 8lbs.
We arrived at the hospital at 8.30AM after a fairly long night of contraction counting.  The team at Jordan Hospital went into action and within an hour Suzi was having regular contractions.  Midway through the morning, Cooper was progressing well and at 5PM he made his appearance!
Mom and Cooper are doing well and he seems to be a pretty vocal little guy!
Catch up on all the action in our Facebook album.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

McBaby Updates

After Jaime's delivery, we realized we needed a standard outlet for updates (I almost said, "for dissemination of information," but that sounded so far out there that I decided to put it in a parenthetical quotation... and then I said, "parenthetical quotation.")

OK... where was I?  Oh, so, if you're looking for details on the baby, they'll be right here on the blog.  If you see someone on Facebook or at Wal-mart who's looking for details, just pass 'em over here.  Saves you the time and us the hassle.

Now, if only taxes and health care could be so easy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

eBay... No more?

I got this email from a company I've purchased audio gear from in the past.  I have no qualms about posting it here for you, faithful reader, in case you want some dirt cheap guitar cables or a Behringer mixer.  The call to action is rather compelling... don't shop our eBay store... we can sell it cheaper at home.  He even tells us he spent $16,000 in '09 on fees... of course, he neglects to tell us what he made, but at the quoted 15-18%, that's just north of $100K.

This begs the question... Is eBay on the way out?  Have they priced themselves out of the market with fees?  I've made a nice amount selling on eBay in the past.  I know whenever I'm shopping for minor stuff (mic covers, cables, lens filters, etc) I always start with eBay.  I usually end up at Amazon or some industry site for more high-end gear, but eBay's a decent bellwether for what the market will support for new/used anything... from transmissions to telephony.  For what it's worth, I did hop over to 5150's site just to see if there was something that piqued my interest.  You never know when an extra XLR to 1/4" adapter may come in handy.

And, yes, I did just use bellwether in a sentence.

Scott's Travel Bug - GPS UPDATE!

So, no less than TWO days after I dropped my travel bug off at the geocache in Petra, it got picked up and is on it's way around the world!   Follow my bug on it's adventure...
"To Infinity... And Beyond!"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

GPS & Wonders of the World

Go ahead... sing it with me:
"Yes, I love technology... but not as much as..."
Well, whatever, I do.  And this week in Petra I got to break out my Garmin eTrex for geocaching fun.  Geocaching is 21st century treasure hunting for the common man.  The good folks at log the location of small caches hidden all over the globe.  Some are just a film canister with paper and pen to record your visit.  Others are ammo boxes filled with trinkets and goodies to share: leave one &take one!  You find the "treasure" by entering the coordinates into a GPS and following the trail.  Some are cleverly hidden and others, such as the one I found at Petra, are just out in the open.
Our first caching trip was with Shannon & Melissa a few years ago.  It was a mad dash across Columbia on a dreary day, from roadside caches on Hwy 63 to a monster box of stuff in Cosmo park.  In all I think we found 4 or 5 caches within a 15 minute drive of our house.

When we came to Jordan, I knew there were caches in some of the parks, but this week was the first time I went searching.  I downloaded the coordinates for several caches into my eTrex and while we were marching around Petra, kept watch on where we were in relation to them.  Sure, enough.  We got up to the Monastery and I knew we were close.  The instructions mentioned a tent manned by Maria from the Canary Islands and her Bedouin boyfriend, Attallah.  I walked in and introduced myself.  After some small talk about his family (a newborn kept Maria back in the village) and my quest, he reached back in the tent and said, "You mean this?  I didn't know what it was!"  I exchanged my travel bug for a nice butterfly coin.  

My bug and the coin are coded to allow for tracking.  I assigned a "mission" to my bug to get back to Missouri.  The next geocacher who finds my bug will take it to another site and so on, until it reaches its destination.  The butterfly has to get back to its owner in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.  I'll take it with me to drop in another cache along the way.

GPS isn't just for finding the next Wendy's!  (Altho', I really like Wendy's and wouldn't mind a Baconator right about now...)

Easter, Petra & Child Bearing

Judging by the title, this post is gonna cover a lot of ground... let's see, we got your ancient cities (check!), your ancient religious customs (check!) and your ancient birthing processes (hoping we don't have to experience any of THAT!).

We celebrated Easter on the same weekend as the western world.  On this side of the globe we follow the Orthodox calendar for holy days and most of the time we're a bit different than our friends across the pond.  Our Easter service always includes a multi-national selection of songs, the kiddies come out and do their thing and everyone has a general good time.  We're really grateful to have Jonathon and Sherry Dewey on board thru the end of the summer.  They're good Canadian folk who can cook, sling a hammer and have a darling set of kids, Matthew & Shaylyn.  I mention them here because Sherry took the picture of me and Dammi preaching Friday afternoon.  You'll be seeing a lot more of them.  Sunday afternoon we had the absolute pleasure of a fine Easter lunch at the Ashkar home.  For those who know that 1st Circle haven, it was all you'd expect: a ham from Lebanon, green bean casserole, real mashed potatoes, 7 layer salad... you get the picture.

(insert droning, historical voice) Petra is the remains of an ancient civilization that capitalized on the trade routes across the desert sands.  They borrowed heavily from surrounding culture's architecture to create amazing tombs carved into sandstone.  Petra's one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and a World Heritage Site. After 4 or 5 times of visiting this amazing place, I have to agree with the BBC, it's one of the "places you have to see before you die."  I've not been down there this early in the year before.  Seeing it so green (above) before the summer wipes it all away was refreshing. You can see all of my shots from our recent run south here.
And, for our final subject... we've got FIVE DAYS to go!  That's right, boys and girls, soon it'll be Family Picture Day!  In case you're wondering if the desert sun has finally done me in, I was scoping out some FB albums and realized, "We're going to be taking FAMILY pictures!"  I promptly got all cheesy and stuff.  Our visit last week to Dr. Azar was uneventful, but informative.  We've had a visit to the delivery area and met the nurses there.  Jordan Hospital is a respected name in medicine here and we feel confident we're in good hands.  If you haven't stopped by our Parenting Album on Facebook, here's Suzi at 39 weeks!