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Of Braces and Home Improvement

now it's a post-orthodontic journal

January to March 2006 
z Sunday, January 1 

Have you visited out Frappr ArchWired members map lately? We have almost 200 members giving a "shout out" from the four corners of the world! There are so many members, the map can't display them all at once when it loads unless you ask it to. Here's what it looked like (total members) at the end of December:

I think this is so cool. It's one thing to know that we have readers everywhere, but it's another thing to see it like this on a map. And this is just a fraction of the people who read ArchWired and are active on the Forum. It really drives home how this has become a global community made possible by the internet!

And speaking of an international community, there are three little flag icons on the home page which contain basic information about ArchWired in three languages: German, French, and Spanish. More may by added in time.

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Last month's Braces Poll asked how braces would be effect the outcome of a job interview. I was surprised how many people thought that braces evoke a negative response in prospective employer (35%), but most people thought that the response would be either neutral (41%) or positive (23%).

From what I've learned by reading what job seekers say in our Metal Mouth Forum, braces do NOT seem to be an issue in a job interview, nor do they give the prospective employer a bad impression. I think that prospective employers probably think it's a positive, because it shows that you are taking care of yourself and that you value your own self-esteem.

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I actually have some dental news of my own, but it's not too good. A small piece of my bottom Hawley retainer broke the other day, out of the blue. The retainer still fits in my mouth just fine. Upon closer examination, I realized that the metal piece that broke is a support that helps keep the retainer stiff. Fortunately I have another previous one that fits just fine, so I'm using that for now. I am supposed to see Dr. Vogt (my ortho) in a few week, so I'll ask him what he thinks. I'm sure it can't be fixed.

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The continuing saga of my health problems reaches a conclusion. After a full sinus CT scan and a full lung test done in the hospital, I am totally in the clear. No sinus problems. Absolutely no asthma -- perfect lungs -- so fortunately it is not Reactive Airway Disease. So what is/has been my problem? All that is left is Reflux. Specifically a type of Reflux called LPR -- the type that is in your upper digestive tract. I've been on acid reducing meds for about a month (otherwise known as Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs for short). I've also been on a reduced acid diet, which is a fancy way of saying that I've been eating bland boring food and staying away from all tomato products, coffee, tea, vinegar, and most chocolate. I mean....how can a person totally give up chocolate? Especially a woman! That is just asking too much! So I eat it in moderation, LOL.

Well I'm happy to report that the PPI drug (Aciphex) has been doing a great job, helped I'm sure by my bland bland bland diet. (I had been taking Prilosec OTC but it wasn't strong enough -- Aciphex is by prescription). It's possible that the antibiotics I took (Augmentin) and the inhalers (Advair and Atrovent) contributed to the Reflux. I'm hoping (cross my fingers) that this is a temporary thing and will resolve itself within a couple of months with the help of the meds. I can't go much longer without my beloved Indian food, and you can't live in California without eating Mexican food. How I miss salsa!

This is so weird, because I never realized that I had "heartburn." My symptoms were so minor that I never really noticed them, but that is the way LPR is -- they call it "silent reflux." Since being on the meds I've felt SO MUCH better. I never realized that I recently had a minor tightness in my chest, or that I seemed to clear my throat a lot, or that my "post nasal drip" might not be what it appeared. Oh yeah, one more thing. The doctor had my blood tested for a bacteria called Pylori (which gives people ulcers and heartburn symptoms). Fortunately that test came back negative, too.

In my research (you know I had to do research about this) I found a message board similar to our own, but of course this one is all about Heartburn. It is called The Heartburn Help Message Board and it is run by a guy who calls himself Hawk. I found some great advice and information on this board. If you suffer from Reflux, take a look at this board. The main website is Heartburn-Help.com and the Message Board goes by the same name.

*******

I have continued my ongoing project of cleaning out closets and junk in preparation for the upcoming Floor Refinishing Project in our house -- which will begin in mid-January (Oh God help me!)

Our house was built in the mid-1950s and there are still some crappy looking old elements inside of it, including these old square ceiling lights -- an early and ugly attempt at "recessed" lighting. Finally we had them ripped out and replaced with real recessed lights. Wow, what a great difference! We also had an exhaust fan installed in the kids' bathroom. We had a stall door installed on the tub a few months ago and now that the kids are using that bathroom for regular showers, we needed better ventilation in that room. I'm just trying to do all the messy stuff while we still have the gross old carpet, because now I don't care if it gets dirty.

Anyway, in case you don't know, refinishing the floors means moving all the furniture out. For a family of four. All of it. Well, except for the kitchen and the bathrooms. It's almost as bad as moving.

I spent most of December going through closets, mostly my kids' closets. If you have kids you know that the word challenge doesn't even begin to describe the task. But fortunately my kids fully understood and they actually consented to giving away and throwing out some of their stuff! Bags and bags and bags of stuff went to Goodwill. And bags and bags and bags of junk went to the dumpster. And one big bag of pristine stuffed animals and dolls went to a local battered/homeless shelter (because I really thought those kids could appreciate some really nice toys). Oh yeah, I also sold a few choice items of value on eBay and got a pretty decent price for them.

Every nook and cranny (OK, well almost every one) has gotten the once-over. Why am I being so anal about this? For one thing, my family tends to be a bunch of packrats. And secondly, I refuse to schlep a bunch of useless crap into boxes, and then be forced to put it back on the shelves when the floors are done. So we have downsized considerably. When your old "business suits" appear on VH1's "I Love the 80s" you know it's time to throw them in a big black trash bag and drive them to their new home at the Goodwill. Someone, somewhere is jonesing for a long purple jacket with really really big padded shoulders, I just know it.

I also got rid of what my daughter calls my "mom jeans." I am so mortified. I never realized that I sometimes wore Mom Jeans. In fact until recently I'd never heard of Mom Jeans. Then I saw it a parody of it on VH1. Or was it MTV? And now that I know about them, I don't want them on my body or in my closet. I am a new convert to the temple of the Low Rise Flair. My daughter breathes a huge sigh of relief. I think I'll raise her allowance for helping me end my membership in The Potentially Frumpy Mom Club. You know you're getting older when your kids can actually offer you valid fashion advice. It's pretty scary.

In terms of the actual refinishing, we've had to change our plans a few times. We verbally hired one contractor who promptly began to flake out on us. Fortunately we never signed any papers with him and today I'm giving him the heave-ho. We found another contractor who is a bit more expensive but who actually returns our phone calls and has great references.

We're still trying to figure out the "where we're going to live while this is taking place" part of the project.

One thing is for sure: the month of January will not be boring.


Friday, January 13 

Aaargh, I just spent a small fortune at Pottery Barn Teen online. I promised my older daughter that we'd re-do her room after the floors get done -- eventually. But then the other day a new PB Teen catalogue came in the mail. There's a particular sheet set that she loves. And a particular bed. Not to mention a rug. And a lamp. And a pillow. Oh, and that chair is so cute and it would be so perfect!

Well I didn't buy all of it. I bought the sheet set and the pillows because I realized that although the catalog was new, some of the items were already going "sold out." If we waited another month or two they would no longer be available. So much for "waiting until later" as I'd promised my husband. Everything in this catalogue is sorta mix and match which is both a blessing and a curse. Do we coordinate the sheets with the pink or the blue accessories? Which would look better? Who knows....better order both and we can return the ones we don't like. Or sell them on eBay (a lot of this stuff winds up on eBay, it turns out). I did my order on the phone because I was having trouble finding what we wanted online. I cringed when they told me the total. I warned my daughter that she'd be living with this style for....well, basically the rest of her time here in the house...ya know, like FOREVER.

I don't have a lot of confidence in her style decision. Kids can be so flighty and flippant about these things. First she wanted her room to be "minimalist Scandinavian" and now suddenly she wants "colorful teen." I might wind up needing to return the whole darn thing and start over from scratch. (no no, please no!)

Choosing paint colors for her room will be our next fun romp. And a new decent desk. After that, it will all be accessories -- drapes, lamps, rugs -- that will be pretty easy.

It's fun re-doing rooms but at the same time it is a major headache. You have an idea of what you want, but the trouble is finding it. Searching for stuff is exhausting. The Internet makes it a lot easier -- you can spend hours surfing and getting an idea what's out there without schlepping all over town. That's why I relented and bought my daughter's stuff from the PB Teen catalogue. It's a little more expensive than what I could find for her at Bed Bath and Beyond or Target, but it will save me HOURS of searching and running around. You like that one? Fine. Point, click, done.

Speaking of finding things on the internet -- I've been looking a lot of furniture online. We are (finally) re-doing a lot of stuff in our house in the next few months:

* A new dining room set and matching china cabinet (I've never had a china cabinet, so it's about time!) The formal dining table we have now was given to us by a relative who didn't need it anymore, and it's not our style at all.

* Living room furniture (notice I didn't say new living room furniture....that's because we barely have any furniture in there now, so we're finally getting something decent to sit on!) The living room will also get 2 rugs and new drapes (I'm dreading the drape part because I fear it will be very expensive).

*New TV room furniture (because the junky stuff we had in there for years when the kids were small is trashed and we deserve something good -- not to mention some real storage so their games and books aren't always spilling out onto the floor).

*Re-doing my older daughter's room (as I mentioned above). New bed, new bedding, new desk, a rug, lamps, new paint, new drapes, and God knows what else. NO FLOKATI RUG! Those things are just too darned weird and you can't vacuum them!

Well, while my head was spinning looking at various pieces of furniture last night on the web, I think I found the china cabinet and matching dining set we will get. This is very exciting because I thought I'd be searching FOREVER to find it and I just stumbled across it by accident. It was one of those "OH MY GOD THIS IS IT -- I LOVE THIS!" moments that one hopes for when shopping for furniture.  I'm hoping to be able to see it in person in a nearby store sometime soon. If it turns out to be the set we get, then that's one set of items I can cross off my long list!

Speaking of all this re-doing, work gets started on our floors on Monday (in 3 days)! The moving guys came the other day and put all of the furniture from the bedrooms and the TV room into the living room. Everything is all jammed together. It's insane. Thank God for those Ziploc Big Bags! Phase 1 starts Monday when those 4 rooms and the hallway will get done. That will take a little more than a week. Then the furniture gets moved back in, and the living room/dining room furniture gets put into the garage. Then Phase 2 begins: the living/dining room and the entryway (which is now yucky tile and will be changed to matching hardwood). That will take at least another week. We won't be back to "status quo" until early February. At least we still have full use of our kitchen through all of this.

We decided not to get a hotel room. We have a couple of rooms upstairs which I recently de-cluttered. The kids' airbeds will go on the floor in one room and hubby and I will sleep in the guest bedroom.  We'll all share a small bathroom. A little tight on space, but for a few days it should work out fine. That's what I keep telling myself....it will all work out fine.....


Wednesday, February 1 

Well, the floors are 75% done. We spent a rather painful 10 days crammed into our upstairs while they did the first half of the house (which included the bedrooms). Turns out, the floors were in terrific shape. There were only a few scratches in them (which sanded out fine) and only a couple of pieces of wood that needed to be replaced. We really lucked out! The floors had an unusually heavy coating of wax on them, which the floor guys labored to removed with at least 3 sandings. But when they finally got down to the bare wood -- it was amazing -- like new! All that wax had protected the wood and kept it in pristine condition!

I chose a light golden stain for the floors (which are red oak). I originally had wanted to go with "natural," but because the floors are old, "natural no stain" would show more of the imperfections. The light golden stain is just enough to give the wood some character yet provide some blending.

Finally the day came when we could move the furniture back in, and it was wonderful for everyone to once again sleep in their own beds inside their own bedrooms! It was also exhausting putting everything back where it belonged. Of course there are still some boxes to unpack -- I just ran out of steam.

We had decided to get rid of the ugly old tile in the entryway and replace it with more hardwood, framed by a simple walnut border. Unfortunately, there is a staircase at the bottom of the entry -- and it turns out, it was sitting on top of the tile -- it was not built into the subfloor as the floor guys had assumed. Suddenly I had to scramble and find a contractor to demolish the tile while shoring up the staircase. Our floor guys didn't want to touch it because they were afraid of doing damage the staircase.

Well the heavens were with me on this one. A quick look in the phone book revealed a contractor who lived right around the corner -- with the same last name as one of my daughter's schoolmates (indeed he was in her class). Lucky, lucky, lucky that his company could spare a day to come out and do this work for us! Otherwise, the whole second part of the project would have gotten delayed at least a month (because of course the floor guys have other jobs booked after mine).

So on Friday the 27th, my entryway was filled with rocks and dust as they sledgehammered the tile to oblivion while ensuring that the staircase remained intact. It was very very loud. And very very dusty. And I am so very very glad that it's over!

Two days later, on Monday, the floor guys came back to put in the new hardwood floor for the entry, and tear up the carpet and refinish the living/dining room. They said that the contractor guys did an excellent job getting the entryway floor ready for them. Again, we had no idea what the wood underneath the living/dining room carpet would look like (other than something about "wide plank.") Well wow, it is lovely! The wood alternates between wider planks and narrower ones and looks really nice. Apparently it is quite expensive to get a new floor that looks like this, so I consider us very lucky to have made this discovery! Once again a few pieces of wood needed replacing, but it wasn't too expensive.

Of course I had some insecurity pangs during this process, especially when they were tearing out the tile. You know, that moment of "Oh God, what have I done?" But when the floor guys put in the new floor with that nice walnut border, I realized that I made the right choice. I think it's going to look really great when it's done.

Hopefully the whole thing will be done by next Monday (Feb. 6th). Then it is onto the next phase of this huge project: re-painting several rooms, and picking out furniture and drapes. I have another consultation with the interior designer on the 17th. Thank God. Because really I don't have a clue about what color to paint things or what sort of furniture to choose. Drapes particularly elude me. I have a general idea of how I want the finished room to look and feel. Getting there is the hard part. In that respect, I'm sure the designer will be worth every penny!


Wednesday, March 1 

I am happy to welcome a few new advertisers to ArchWired.com.

Oral Breeze makes a Waterpik-type device that you can hook up directly to your sink or your shower (QuickPik and ShowerPik). Several readers on our Metal Mouth Message Board have sung its praises.

Welcome also to the makers of Damon Brackets and Inspire Ice Brackets, who are new advertisers. If you are not familiar with the Damon system and its advantages, or the "ice clear" braces, you may want to visit their websites for information.

The iBraces company, which makes custom lingual brackets, will also continue to advertise on our site. As you may notice, none of the ads flash and they are not animated. That is because I do not want ArchWired to turn into one of those sites where everything on the page annoyingly flashes at you. These banner and tile ads change upon page refresh, so every time you refresh the main page, you will see different ads.

I also want to point out that ArchWired's content is not swayed by its advertisers. Much like a newspaper, there is a distinct line between advertising and editorial content. Our advertisers must meet a set of strict requirements to ensure that you are only exposed to high-quality products and services that will be helpful to you.

The advertising revenue we receive from these advertisers helps to defray hosting/maintenance costs, and will also help me to provide more informational content to you in the future.

In addition, I'm very excited to help introduce a new type of dental floss for braces called SturdyFloss. This product was created by a dental hygienist from Virginia. It has a rigid but bendable threader tip. This makes it easy to shape and maneuver exactly to your requirements. A box of 100 strands is reasonably priced at $13.99. For a limited time, you can email me for a free sample! This is one of many new products that I am happy to help introduce to you guys. I am always on the lookout for new and innovative products to help make "life in braces" easier. If you ever come across a great new product, drop me a line and let me know.

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On the home front.....We haven't made much progress in our house, which is very frustrating. But at least I have managed to get rid of almost all the old furniture we didn't want (most given to charities or posted on Craig's List). But alas, I still can't pull my van into the garage because now, in addition to one piece of furniture that still needs to go, there are a lot of boxes. I'm hoping that when that one piece of furniture is gone, we can re-arrange the boxes so that I can fit my car back into the garage!

The decorator spent quite a bit of time with me a few weeks ago. She is coming back on Friday with sketches of furniture and recommended placement in the two rooms which are now virtually empty. (The "TV room" where the kids hang out only has a TV set/video equipment/oak display stand and an Aero-bed with loads of pillows, so they can sit down and hang out on something -- and lots and lots of boxes shoved into one corner. And the Living/Dining Room has NOTHING in it except for the kids' computer and a couple of folding chairs -- it's like a ballroom in there!)

She told me that in the Living/Dining room, we want to start with the living room rug. She said that the rug ties everything together and should be the first piece we pick out. I want something modern, which rules out 95% of the rugs that are sold in stores. I'm just not into that "oriental rug" look. Well, I looked at contemporary rugs online until I was cross-eyed and came up with about 20 that I liked. Then I went to a couple of local stores to see some rugs in person. That is challenging, because most rug stores only carry traditional oriental-type rugs. Anyway, as I found out, you can just never tell about something until you see it in person. One rug, which I totally passed over online, is a major contender. Online the colors in that rug didn't really translate well, but in person it was a whole other story. It may not be large enough, so I have to consult with the decorator before I buy it. But at least it is all wool. I would go with acrylic if I had to, but of course wool is usually a better choice.

I made a painful realization the other day. I can't use my regular old upright Hoover vacuum cleaner on these hardwood floors. It will scratch them if used regularly! We bought our vacuum (one of the upright Windtunnel models) about a year ago when the old one died. At the time we never imagined that we'd take the carpets totally out. So now I'm researching Canister-type vacuum cleaners. Because, as I've discovered, dry-mopping a house full of hardwood is not fun or efficient. I'm torn between a few models by Electrolux, Bosch, and Kenmore. I like to do thorough research on appliances and unfortunately none of these cleaners gets really high grades in every area. The Bosch and Miele are great of course, but in most cases the price tag is way too high. I just refuse to spend $400 or more on a vacuum cleaner! I mean, sheesh, it's a VACUUM CLEANER fercrissake! My only requirement is that it have some decent allergy filtration in the exhaust, (not necessarily total HEPA).  I'm hoping I can find a good workable machine for about $250-$300. My husband rolls his eyes at this "unexpected expense." But hey, what can I do? Hopefully this new appliance will last a long time. And we can still use the old upright Hoover for the upstairs, which is still carpeted.

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OK, enough about the house. I've also been "working on myself" during the past few months. I made a new year's resolution to try to lose 10 lbs or more. I'm not far from my ideal weight, but being so sedentary last year really caused the pounds to creep up to an uncomfortable level (as in: my reliable old jeans were too tight to be comfortable, uh oh....). So I've been eating very sensibly and exercising about 4-5 days per week (alternating between aerobic and weight training). So far, I've lost almost 5 lbs. It's really nice to be able to do the weight training again and feel strong and muscular (something I have really missed). It will also help keep my back strong in the long run.

I'm also growing my hair, which (if you've ever done this, ladies) you know can be really annoying. Right now it is in that "ugly in between phase" when it doesn't look very good no matter what I do. I plan to go to a special salon in a few month and have them re-do my hairstyle. I'm growing it all out to give myself as many options as possible. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, but have always chickened out when the hair got too out of shape and annoying. But this time, I am armed with hair clips and barrettes, and even one of those fake hair clip-on things. I'm waiting for the ultimate irony: if my new hairstyle winds up looking just like my old one!

My life is like a series of TV shows: "This Old House" and "This Old Girl." LOL.

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Did you watch the Olympics? My daughter has a crush on Apollo Ohno, so we just HAD to watch all his races. He's a cutie, so I'll say that my daughter has good taste in men so far ;-)  Those races were pretty exciting. I felt sorry for Sasha Cohen, missing out on the gold medal for skating again. Maybe next time....

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Oh yeah, one more thing. My reflux problem seems to be gone. Thank God! I was on the Aciphex for a little more than 6 weeks. I began to read about how it isn't good to stay on those PPI meds for the long term and decided to try getting off of it. Well it wasn't easy. I had major stomach pains and nausea for about a week, even just weaning myself off of it slowly. When I was totally off of it, I switched to just taking a generic Zantac 75 whenever I was going to have acidic food. That worked like a charm. Then after a few more weeks, I sometimes didn't take the Zantac, and about half the time I was OK. Most of my symptoms have disappeared. This leads me to believe that most of the damage was done by the asthma inhalers I used when I was sick. Maybe now it is all healed and back to normal (??)

So now, I just take the Zantac or pop a few Tums/Rolaids/Gaviscon when needed. I think I'll be OK. Hopefully my doctors will agree. I'm dreading going back to them, because I'd rather not take those PPI drugs if I don't really need to. I saw a gastro doc and I may have an endoscopic procedure done to see if I have a hiatal hernia or anything like that (caused by violent coughing when I was sick). Let's cross our fingers and hope that everything is staus-quo. I'd rather stay out of doctor's offices and off major meds for the time being and just concentrate on happier things.

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