Friday, November 30, 2012

Working mama blues...

The transition from a stay at home mom to a working mom has not been an easy one. It hasn't been easy on me, on Kelton, or on the kids. I don't really know how to describe it except hard. I have to work. Our family needs the money from me working until Kelton either gets on disability or becomes able to work again. But he is not happy as a stay at home parent or with not being the provider of our family in a financial sense. And I'm not happy "bringing home the bacon." I'd much rather be at home in my kitchen frying it up.
The worst transition has to be for the kids. Kelton has tried, but is not a homeschooling parent. And that's fine, not everyone is meant to homeschool. And we're okay with sending the girls to public school this year once Christmas is over, but it still is a reminder of what we've lost as a family. And right now as a one car family, if Kelton has to go somewhere while I'm at work, he has to borrow his mom's car (I work too far from home to make bringing me to work financially feasible most of the time). Her truck only has enough room for Zane to go with him, so the girls wind up staying with my mom and Rick. Which is great because they have grandparents willing to keep them. But it makes it to where we see even less of them. The girls don't understand why mom has to work and only gets to see them for maybe an hour a day. (This is a big reason I was looking for overnight hours.) I see my relationship with my kids suffering for the sake of working, and it breaks my heart. I just keep praying that once I am able to either be back at home full-time, or even cut down working to part-time that it isn't too late to repair that damage. I doubt it will be on their ends, but I don't know that I'll ever let go of the guilt I feel for them being in this predicament.

If I am able to separate myself from these feelings, working is actually going well. I do like my job, I get paid well for what I do, and I work with some pretty great people. My only issue is that I'm gone from my family too long. It's 45 minutes away, so on a day when I'm not working overtime, I'm gone a minimum of 10 hours. From 9:45am to 7:45pm. Lately, I've been leaving for work by 7:15am, so I'm gone 12.5 hours. I get home, we eat dinner, and then the kids are in bed between 8:30 and 9:00pm. Right now I rarely see them in the morning since they're late sleepers. Once school starts, I'll see them for breakfast and to drive them to school (they'll walk home together after school). Very, very little time with them. Of course, I see Zane more since he has no real schedule right now, but even he is out by about 10:00pm and wakes once to nurse at night and then is back out.

I think my major issue right now is burnout.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Being my True Self

I don't know what's changed, but in the past few months I've slowly started to be the person I have always wanted to be. That person I was in my head, the one I was without all the filter and censors we put on ourselves so we're 'presentable' to the public at large. No, I'm not as skinny as I want to be. I'm not as tattooed as I'd like, and I'm sporting a growing out pixie rather than the dreadlocks I want. But my essence is truer to myself than it has ever been.

Maybe it was turning twenty-eight. Maybe it has been having all of the niceties of life that I used to build the picture of the perfect life torn away (job loss, health issues, poverty, losing our home, and having to rely on the kindness of others to make it through). Maybe it's been an answer to my prayers. Maybe it is all those things- or none of them at all. Whatever it is, I love it! There is nothing that can compare to looking in the mirror and seeing yourself. Not a mask you put on for the world, but just YOU.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the hoop...

I've followed Sarah Janssen's blogging at Walk Slowly Live Wildly for a long time now. Including her blogging about hooping. Yes, hula hooping has gone to the grown ups. Before seeing it on her blog, I honestly had no idea. And hoop! So beautiful.

This past July, I finally purchased a basic "naked" hoop from etsy. It'sade out of irrigation tubing, and isn't exactly perfectly round, something I'm trying to figure out how to fix. I covered the hoop in duct tape rather than pretty colorful gaffers tape that is commonly used, as I knew it would be getting scraped up from falls, drops, and runaway spins. All of those things have happened and there are holes in the duct tape now.

I couldn't hoop for most of August. It was just too hot to work up a sweat outside in the humidity! Finally, nights are cooling down. After the kids are asleep, once the baby has nursed, I find myself heading outside most nights. The only plus side to hubby's nasty smoking habit is that even on nights I don't feel like hooping, I wind up outside to tell him something. If I waited until he was done smoking, I would forget. Motherhood has left me with a swiss cheese brain. When I go out there to talk to Kelton, I wind up grabbing the hoop to keep my hands busy.

When I started with that 38" hoop, I could waist hoop for maybe minute at most before it started it's twirling drop to the ground. Though the hoop has a way of crashing into my ankle or shin on the way down. A painful reminder to keep practicing! I quickly became a fan of hooping with my hand, my arm above my head.

Now I have waist hooping down, and am trying to learn to waist hoop in the opposite direction. Learning new moves is the ultimate lesson in humility. The second I start thinking maybe I don't look completely spastic, that hoop gies flying off my body, leaving me running after it and laughing at myself. The fact that nobody can see me is another benefit to night hooping.

A week or so ago, I started praying while hooping. I don't own an mp3 player, and have no ear buds for my phone, so I've been hooping silently from the start. Prayer definitely helped that, and I find my prayers while hooping feel more natural ans less forced. It has been an unexpected blessing to find a new way to connect with God.

Tonight I took the phone out and laid it in a chair with Pandora on while I hooped. Suddenly, I was trying tricks I'd been afraid to try before. I was moving more when hooping with my arms over my head. It might have even been able to be mistaken for dancing! Which is amazing, because I have no skills on the dance floor! For the first time it clicked in my head that I could, with a LOT more practicing, dance with my hoop like the women in all the amazing videosy daughters and I have poured over on YouTube.

Speaking of the girls, my dad bought them hoops from the toy store. They love them. The seven year old loves using my hoop, too. A testament to how short I am, I can share a hoop with a 7 year old! I am looking forward to family hooping trips to the park.

Since beginning to hoop, I feel more comfortable in my skin. I feel more connected to my body, I can feel muscles working that haven't worked in a long time! I'm happier and find hooping really helpful when I'm feeling anxious or have had a crazy hard day patenting. I'm so grateful I found hooping! I think I may ask for hooping lessons for Christmas this year, since I pick things up a lot quicker when somebody is right next to me showing me what to do.

Have you ever found yourself loving something you never thought you'd like doing?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Change is coming...

Autumn is nearly here now. The nights have the a crispness in the air, mixed with the lovely scent of fire from a neighbor's fireplace (oh, how I miss a home with a fireplace!). This time of year has always been my favorite. It's held a certain magic for me my entire life. When the temperatures cool and the leaves begin to change, I feel my soul awakening. I'm an odd bird; I come alive in the autumn and winter (and early spring, to be fair), and prefer to spend my summers hibernating away from the heat and humidity.

This time of year is also the busiest for our family. In September we have my dad's birthday, the anniversary of when hubby and I started dating (we celebrate this as much as our wedding anniversary...12 years this year!), and my Pa's birthday. Now, Pa passed away in 2003, but his birthday still holds a special place in my heart. October has our wedding anniversary (9 years this year), my mother-in-law's birthday, and Halloween. Oh, Halloween. This is one of the MAJOR holidays in our house. We love it! November now has Zane's birthday. My boy is almost a year; how did that happen?!?! Then Thanksgiving as well. December has Joey's birthday (which is also my Ga-Ga's birthday, again it's a day to remember her), Kelton's birthday, and of course Christmas. LOTS going on! There's always a reason to celebrate in the fall around here!

I am 95% certain that I will be getting hired for a full-time customer service position I interviewed for on Thursday. I'll start in October if I get hired. I'm very confident in how the interview went, and am anticipating a phone call extending a conditional offer of employment (have to do the background check and drug screening) early next week. Working full-time will be a huge change. It's something I haven't done since I had to quit my job due to hyperemesis while pregnant with our oldest. So, seven years. I am both apprehensive and excited. We've gone nearly a year without regular income. It's been by the grace of God that we've made it out relatively unscathed. But, having regular income that will be enough to pay all of our monthly bills and a teeny bit extra for those unexpected expenses? I cannot begin to explain how huge of a blessing that would be. I credit the mental boost those crisp mornings and nights give me for nailing my interview. Now, if I'm not offered the job, that would be a crushing blow. BUT, I have another place to call for an interview if that happens.

School is also happening this autumn. Both for me and the kids. We did wind up sticking with homeschooling the girls. We're down to one vehicle, and if I were the stay at home parent, it wouldn't be a big deal for me to walk the kids to and from school everyday. But, hubby is going to be the one at home. There's no way he can be expected to walk a half mile each way every single day. Sure, some days he may be able to do it, but other days it would practically kill him. Also with the schedule I'm likely to be working, I'd get home in just enough time to put the girls to bed. I would miss out on them all week, every week. Neither them or I want to have just two days a week where we get to see each other.

I've recently become a bit obsessed with hooping. I ordered myself a basic, "naked" hoop from etsy last month. I'm still not the best at it, but I'm sticking with it, practicing and improving. I find myself hooping most late at night (big shocker, there, eh?). After the kids are in bed, the dishes are in the dishwasher, and the sun is down. I head to the driveway with my hoop and just move. I've never been someone that could meditate. In massage school, we had some students who fell asleep during their massages they were so relaxed. Then you had me. I was the girl that was lying there running budgets and grocery lists and all kinds of weird, random thoughts through my brain. But when I was giving a massage, I could shut my brain off. It was just my hands working, the only thoughts being ones of peace and serenity. I was centered, I was focused. Such a different change of pace from my normal, frenzied self. I feel very much the same when I'm hooping. It's just me and the hoop, and God out there. I don't have an armband for my phone, so I haven't been able to listen to music while I hoop. Instead I find myself praying while hooping. It's a great time to just connect with God and open my heart and soul to His message for me. The girls really want to hoop, too. They try with my big 38" hoop. Anna-Lee (7) is able to do it pretty well, but Joey (4) and Lucy (2) really need smaller hoops. Our Shopko had some on clearance, and a friend said to check Dollar Tree as well, so we're going hoop shopping soon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The summer is drawing to an end. Thank goodness, I say! To say this summer has been challenging is putting it very, very nicely. Our family has had a rough go of things for a while now, but these past three months have easily been the most trying and difficult season I've experienced in my twenty-eight years. I won't go into details, because there is no point in focusing on and rehashing the negative. What I will take from these trials and challenges is faith that God is always there. Even when things have been so dark, when my prayers were prayed in gasps in between aching sobs, He has been there. Giving us the underlying calm. The promise that things were working for His plan, and that He would take care of us if we just had faith. This time has made me a better Christian, a better wife, a better mother, and a better person. But, if I do say so myself, I am ready for a new season in our lives to begin!

This week I will be signing our two oldest girls up to attend public school. School started here on the 15th of August, but we had planned to homeschool them again this year. However, lots of discussion and prayer has led us to this point. The girls are so excited! I'm apprehensive, but excited for them. I admit a lot of my apprehension has to do with us not being morning people. At all. But we will adapt.

Tomorrow (well, today, actually), my husband will take the first step towards having a trial of a spinal cord stimulator. It's just a psychiatric evaluation. They need to make sure you aren't paranoid and going to be pulling wires out of your back because you think the government is trying to control you, after all. ;-) But, it is a big deal. Because once that is done, they can schedule the trial placement of the stimulator! Leads will be put into the spinal column using an epidural injection, and they will be connected to a transmitter on a belt. He'll have that for five days. The trial will be considered successful if he experiences at least a 50% reduction in pain. Some people experience more, but the doctor has told us 50% is what to look for reasonably. I am praying it is a success. If it is, they take out the trial leads, wait four weeks for the back to heal, and then place the permanent stimulator. It is just like the trial one, but the transmitter is implanted in the hip. This is his best option for pain relief.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Well, now, it's been a while since my last post! In some ways, so much has happened, and in other ways not much at all has changed.

We did not get our garden put in. I have a small container herb garden with basil, oregano, lavender, and rosemary. I may add to that since I can winter them indoors. And we have one lonely tomato plant in a large pot. Unfortunately my husband's medications were causing an interaction, and most of May was spent in bad days rather than good days as far as his health went. The whole month is kind of a blur, and any homemaking/homesteading efforts were put off to take care of us as a family first. We do have the chickens though. One, who remained much smaller than her fellow coopmates, did not survive the first heat wave of summer. I am afraid she was just too weak and small to deal with the temperature change. So we now have four hens. I am thinking of trying to find two more to add so we get back to our original six.

The Coop, and one of our clothesline poles.

The biggest thing in May was we have an official diagnosis! Not the constant "we think it is this," "no, wait, now it's this," or "we don't know what's causing the pain, but it'll probably be there forever." An actual, verifiable by tests, diagnosis. Praise God! He has what is known as Syringomyelia. Simply put, there is a cavity in his spinal cord (not column, but the cord itself) that is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. There is no cure for it, and we are unsure right now what caused it. Sometimes an injury could cause it, but neither of us can recall an injury between when he had an MRI that showed nothing, and when this pain started. Sometimes there can be something blocking the normal flow of fluid that can be the cause. This could be his case, but we don't know. Or it could be idiopathic in nature, and just simply be there. The orthopedist who discovered this described a surgery to drain the syrinx (the name of the cyst), and referred us on to a neurosurgeon. We meet with him July 5th. Twenty three days.

The emotional roller coaster of this entire journey is taxing to say the least. On my husband even more than me. I am constantly in awe of him for being strong through this and for his main concern being caring for the kids and I. Both of us are hopeful that this surgery can be done quickly, and that it will help at least get his pain to a manageable level. He has progressed to using a wheelchair outside of the house. Which is good because we can get out of the house and he can do stuff with us and not pay for it with days in bed in even more pain. Because he CAN do everything he used to, but it will knock him down for a long time afterward. Using the wheelchair has given us the chance to resume taking walks at night and going to the zoo.

Kelton (hubby) and Zane (6m) heading to the library.

In another case of God being so, so good to our family, we were able to get a mobility scooter. For free. I found one on Craigslist halfway between here and where I needed to drive to register for college. We need to figure out how to get batteries for it so he can use it. I am putting one of my camera lenses on eBay, and picking up my massage table from a friend this week to sell. If just one of those sells, it should buy both the batteries we need. Once he can use that, we can go even more places, and for longer walks. Not that I mind pushing the wheelchair when we go out, it is certainly getting these legs of mine in shape! But the hills at the zoo are no match for a wheelchair, so we have to stick to the main buildings...this would give us more freedom. 

Our girls are on a vacation with my mom and her husband. Tonight they were eating out in San Francisco. I am doing well at hiding my jealousy. ;) At a time when we can't provide them with a vacation, this is such a great opportunity for them! We are just happy that they are having so much fun, and waiting for them to get home. The house is far too quiet and I miss their chaos! Last week they had their dance recital. Well, the two big girls did, that is. They did so amazing! I love their studio, and they are both looking forward to returning in the fall. 

Reese (4), Myself, Zane (6m), 
and Anna-Lee (6, and grumpy from stage fright) before recital.

I am applying for full-time overnight work. Praying I find something quickly. Kelton has started the process of applying for disability since we don't know after he has this surgery how long it could take to heal or how much improvement he can even reasonably expect. I start classes on July 11th. I did manage to get all 3 classes (English Comp 1, Public Speaking, and Structure & Function of the Human Body) online. It's a very...serious course load, but I'm up for the challenge. Kelton and I are both committed to getting ourselves and the kids on a better schedule and routine, so I'm fitting homework into that so I have no excuses.

The next few months are going to bring so much change. Surgery. School for me. Our two oldest will begin public school in August. Kelton will continue to heal and progress. Last night we tried talking about where we saw ourselves in a year, two years, five years, etc. We couldn't do it. Because there is SO much that we just can't even pretend to know how to plan for. But, through it all, we have faith. Faith that God is good. We have to believe that He is using this all to better our lives. Already, though we have had very trying times, we've also had so many blessings. People in our lives at just the right times, and things happening that we could have never had happen without some divine intervention. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring is well underway, and the warm temperatures are starting to hint at the rapidly approaching summer. Last weekend we moved the chickens out to the coop. They aren't quite sure of the outdoors just yet, but are venturing into the run more and more each day. I need to clip wings as I lift the top of the coop to refill their water and the younger chicks (who we got at the feed store at the beginning of March, so they're around 10 weeks) can now fly up and escape the coop if they want to.

Tomorrow we are building our raised bed. Our town has a "junk day" twice a year, where you can throw pretty much anything to the curb and the trashmen will pick it up. People from all over the metro area tend to go junking, driving around, seeing if people are throwing out trash that will become their treasure. Well, a lady down the road from us was throwing away a lot of old boards. Boards that are perfect for building our garden bed. We're not growing much this year. Some pepper and tomato plants. And herbs. That's pretty much it, honestly. But we have to start somewhere, I guess. With the stress of moving and DH's health stuff, a lot of our homesteading plans seemed to go to the wayside. I haven't even been able to get a clothesline up.

Speaking of my husband's health, he has applied for disability. That sounds so final. Almost like giving up. It isn't, we still try our hardest to cling to hope that one day he will feel healthy and normal again. And it seems that every step forward involves one or two steps back. I try to be strong, and stay positive. But that often involves bottling up my stress and worry to hide it from him and the kids. So once a month or so, it seems that the lid blows off the bottled up emotions and I take a couple of days and need to spend time crying, wallowing, feeling sorry for myself, for us, and feeling understandably angry at whatever it is that is causing this. Once I let myself feel those things and get it out, life starts to feel manageable and reasonable, and yes, hopeful again. It is the loss of hope I dislike the most about those times.

We know the disability process can be a long, arduous one, especially if he is initially denied and we need to appeal. We're prepared, and prayerful that it won't be necessary. The woman at our local office said that locally in the cases like his, it is common to get approved on the first application. And my dad and stepfather both got approved through the same office without appeals being necessary. But, they were much older when they applied, and while it shouldn't change things, I know that him only being 31 may make it harder to get approved.

Today he got a call about the MRI he had last week. The initial MRI was only on the lumbar spine. This one was on his thoracic and lumbar spine with contrast. The call today just said they found a disc issue in his thoracic spine and want him to come in Thursday morning to discuss it. While I generally think avoiding medical intervention is best, I am PRAYING they say there is something they can do that will improve his, and by virtue of being a family, all of our, quality of life. Because right now he doesn't have a lot of quality of life.

The stress is getting to me, and it is trickling down to the kids. They are often with grandparents because it is hard to take care of a husband in pain and the kids. And that is wearing on them, and on us. I hate how separated we are. I am starting a job, because we have to get some sort of income into the house. And my oldest has been progressively getting more and more...sad. There is more often than not a sadness about her. And that breaks my heart. She is such a joyous child, such an amazing soul, it hurts to know we are affecting her this way. She told me today she is afraid for me to work, afraid she'll never get to see me. Oh, that hurt my mama heart in such a big way. I am making a much larger effort to spend time with the kids. To really be present when they are around. There will be a lot more walks to the park, story times, and just quality time.

Right now, I am unsure of my school plans for the summer. I had to leave my spring classes. The daily stresses just did not do well with homework. I am hoping with this new job I have the money to drive down to the college and register for summer classes. I may not be able to get my financial aid in place in order to do that in time. In which case, I just start in the summer. If the disability is processed by fall, that will make it a lot easier, because it will be possible for me to not be working and just focusing on school. I really want to put my all into my classes, and get the most I can out of my education. Thankfully, by finding this program at the community college 50 miles away (and the program is offered online, so it isn't that I would constantly be driving to campus, only if I miss getting into an online class I needed to take in a certain quarter), I will be unlikely to need to take out student loans to go to school. The Pell Grant should easily cover both tuition and books. Such a blessing to think of graduating with no new student loan debt! Even if loans are necessary, the total cost of this program for tuition, books, and fees is less than one year of tuition only for the lowest cost local program I was looking at.

I feel like maybe things are at a turning point. From having so much constantly thrown at us, having bad news at every turn for months on end, to maybe having some hope that things are looking up. Finding out what the plan of action is on Thursday is going to be a big turning point. Being able to start my job will be another one. I arrived today to be told my background check wasn't in and I couldn't start yet. It would be very nice to start to have questions answered. To have uncertainties made certain. No matter what happens, though, we'll get through it the best we can. It's all we, or anyone, can do. Some would look at these past couple of years, and the past six months in particular, and ask how I can go through the things I have and still believe in God. And doubt has crept in here and there. But through this all, I have an underlying faith that His hand is guiding us. That one day, we'll look back on what feels like an incredibly dark time, and we'll see that it was working for good all along.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Doctors visit #8487202

Well, at least that's what it feels like! Yesterday's visit to the spine center was...a disappointment. There was confusion or something and the nurse that made the appointment for us from our doctor's office did not send hubby's medical records to the spine center. We have a copy of the MRI CD, so they at least got to look at that. But nothing else. Based on that, their options were limited as to what could be done yesterday.

The doctor said he does not believe the lipoma is the cause of the meralgia paresthetica (MP, the tingling, burning, stinging pain in hubby's outer thighs from hip to knee). He wants to get another MRI, ruling out anything higher up in the spine that could be causing it. He said if he were us he'd not do the spinal cord stimulator, because if the lipoma isn't causing the pain the stimulator won't help. Not have any sort of back surgery actually sounds like a relief. We called the neurologist we saw last month back about a nerve block injections. But the only problem is those generally involve steroids, and because of the lipoma he has to avoid steroid medications.

We've found a couple of case studies from here in the States and an information page from a health authority in the UK (I tend to like their research into painful conditions more after my struggles with symphysis pubis dysfunction while pregnant) that suggests pulsed radiofrequency can provide significant relief for some people. It is not invasive, no scary side effects like drugs, and can result in long term relief. It is definitely something we will be asking about with our chiropractor and doctors. Hubby has also called about getting a referral for physical therapy. In cases that have gone on as long as his and as severe, it isn't likely to relieve symptoms, but there's always that chance. Before PT can start, he's found some recommended stretches online and is doing those and starting to walk as well. Being in better shape can only be a good thing.

I'm also trying to get him to realize he has limitations right now. While this pain is there he needs to doing things in moderation. If he is doing his exercises each day, pick one other thing to do. Maybe it's cleaning something or mowing the lawn or playing outside with the kids. But just do that one thing and stop. Which is not him. Before this started a normal day involved mowing the yard then playing with the kids and a bike ride after dinner. He was active. Trying to re-train that mindset is, I think, almost as hard for him as living in constant pain!

So right now it is just working on getting records to the new doctor, working on finding a physical therapy place, exploring the radiofrequency option, and finding a new pace for daily life. Nothing is a solution or an answer, but I feel like he has a new level of peace with how things are going. A renewed desire to take care of himself and take his health back into his own hands. And whether or not that helps resolve the pain from the MP, it can only be a good thing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Doctors and Disappointments...

A very hard doctor's visit today. We finally got a doctor to admit that the spinal lipoma is what is causing the pain. But instead of removing the lipoma, he said in no uncertain terms he wants to keep slapping bandaids over it and just trying to cover up the pain. First by trying a spinal cord stimulator. Adding MORE stimulation that would currently be required to control the pain because as the lipoma continues to grow it will cause pain in more areas. And if that doesn't work, or doesn't completely work, cognitive behavioral therapy to teach him to ignore the pain. Why is it such an issue to treat the cause, not just the try to cover up the pain? Isn't that what medicine is supposed to be about? Healing and treating abnormalities, not just making it to where we forget they are there or learn to deal with a subpar life?

In addition to the difficulty of hearing this, the doctor was very patriarchal to me. At one point, I was sure he was going to tell Kelton to learn to keep his wife quiet. Kelton has had very little sleep the past couple of weeks. During the day he is sluggish and in a fog. New parents know what I'm talking about, that fog of sleeplessness that has you running a few paces behind where you normally are. Because of my interests in medical stuff, working in a pharmacy, and helping care for my Ga-Ga and Pa, I am really good with remembering both medication names AND chronological details of illnesses. So when Kelton couldn't remember something today, I would answer for him. This has NEVER been an issue with any doctor, ever. Today I was told I needed to "stay quiet". I had actually gathered my things to leave until Kelton asked me to stay. It was very hard to honor his request at that point, but I did. He told the doctor I remembered these things better than him and that's why I was helping answer, because he may miss details or mess them up because the pain makes it hard to remember everything. At this point the doctor asked if he's been evaluated for mental retardation. I found this completely offensive. Not because there is anything wrong with someone who has some form of mental retardation, but because he was obviously tired. It honestly blew me away, and there will be a letter written to the medical board about how we were both treated today.

Our next step is the NE spine center. We are hoping that if we have enough consultations with enough surgeons, one will agree to remove the lipoma. Every medical study, every research paper we find say that in his case, removal is the way to go. Even scarier for me is that they all say that when symptoms caused by a spinal lipoma are as severe as Kelton's are, that delaying in removal can cause permanent damage. I can appreciate not jumping the gun into a surgery, but this is ridiculous. I'm wishing that spinal lipomas fell into the category of obstetrical surgeries, as OBs seem to be the most scalpel happy bunch around! And I find myself wishing that my surgeon I saw for my wrist were still in the country.

In addition to doctor's we are taking matters into our own hands. I have a friend who is studying herbal medicine right now. We are getting some tinctures and liniments from her to try, and I just placed and order for a pound of dried chickweed to use in a tea form. Chickweed is known to break of lipomas. My fear is that the topical stuff won't work as well as they do on other lipomas since this one is within the spinal column, but we're willing to try! I'd love to start the herbs, find his pain gone and have an MRI done that shows the lipoma is gone. It may not be a very Christian thing to do, but I think I'd have to send a letter to every doctor who said it couldn't be this lipoma causing the pain saying "NEENER NEENER!" ;) Childish, yes. Likely to be ignored? Definitely. But boy would it make me FEEL good!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


March brings spring, and with it many changes around here. I go tomorrow to finish registering for spring classes at the community college. I'm doing pre-requisites so I can apply to a radiology technician program. Classes start on Thursday. Yay procrastination!

On the 13th, Kelton sees a doctor who can hopefully offer us a surgical answer to the condition he has. We have a diagnosis of what the pain is called. But opinions have differed on what is causing it. And there are two different surgeries that can get rid of the pain. One gets rid of (what we believe to be) the root cause, and the other just stops the pain from traveling that far along the nerve path and can just cause permanent numbness versus pain relief.

On the 22nd we have to be out of this house. We can't move into the house we're renting until April 1st. So instead we are going to be moving our stuff to a storage unit my mom and her husband have graciously provided us with, and we will temporarily be living at my grandma's house. My dad and grandma are in Texas for the winter, so she is just turning her utilities back on a little early and we will have an entire house at our disposal. Beats having a single room or being split up. A friend and I are hoping the golf cart is in the garage so we can ride around their small town on the golf cart. Gotta have fun where you can get it! ;)

So 10 days and two moves. First from the house to the storage unit, then from the storage unit to the new house. Very hectic! We also just got five chicks, so they're part of our move, too! Thankfully they're brooder box keeps them contained, and they will stay in there until they are big enough to be in the coop full-time. We'll be buying a coop either from a friend who is selling hers or from the farm store.

The biggest change in March is our sweet little Lucy will be turning 2 on the 23rd! My little half-pint is talking up a storm. She loves her baby brother, following her sisters EVERYWHERE, and animals. Oh, does she love animals! The first store we went to for chicks didn't have the breeds we wanted, so we left. She broke free from me at the doors and RAN through the store back to the bins of chicks yelling "My chickie! My chickie!" She may have my flair for the dramatic, too. I can't believe that at this time 2 years ago I was in the midst of a horrible run of prodromal labor, willing the last of the pile of snow from our 3 blizzards that winter to melt, because I wasn't having my spring baby with snow on the ground! A few days before she was born, Kelton finally went outside and broke up that little patch of snow so our yard was snow free.

I'm praying this month brings answers for Kelton's health. What a burden that would be lifted! I'm praying the move(s) go smoothly, that our family and our chicks stay healthy through the stress, and that we all handle these many transitions with grace and love for one another even in the crazy hectic stressfulness of it all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dreams for the new homestead

We move in about 5 weeks. I need to get started purging and packing! Mainly, I am dreaming of how to make the new home a homestead.

1. Chickens
Anna-Lee and Nugget, Summer 2010

One of the first things we have planned is getting chickens again. Our hens that we had were all sold off or killed by the basset hound we had (she killed the last one 3 weeks before dying, a troublemaker up to the end!). It has been almost a year now since I have had an egg worth eating! Chickens are our at the top of our priorities once we move.

That's not to say we don't have decisions to make! Do we build a coop utilizing the wooden swingset we have in the back yard? Or do we do a dog house set up? Enclosed run is a must, but so we use a chain link dog run? Or build something out of wood and hardware cloth/chicken wire that we can move to different parts of the yard?

Then there's the biggest decision: buy chicks or started pullets? We will only have 3-4 laying hens tops if we stick with large fowl birds. Kelton says chicks. Not only because they're cute and fluffy, but so they can bond with us and the kids before they're pecking size. I lean towards started pullets since they freeload for far less time, and we get eggs sooner. I do understand his reasoning, but my argument is the bird in the photo above. Nugget was an 18 month old hen when we got her. I don't know if she was bought as a started pullet, or rescued from a commercial egg setup. She came to us from a small farm about 50 miles away. She was part of a trio, but the other two were too flighty (common in Leghorns) for us to keep in our backyard. Nugget, however, was the lap dog of chickens. She jumped for her food, followed us all over, and sat in our laps when we were outside enjoying chicken TV. She ate spiders around our house, and gave us a huge egg every single day. Best. Chicken. Ever. I think a started hen from a breed known for their friendliness would have no problem adapting to us fairly quickly.

2. Gardening
I tried to garden last year. I really did. I had a container garden with some tomatoes, a pepper plant, and some herbs. They did well, even with our unusually HOT summer that was muggy with little actual rain. However, I was pregnant with hyperemesis. Combined with a streak of hail and wind storms (bonus to container gardening is that we can throw the garden into the camper when there are 80 mile per hour freak winds!) and my inability to get out and tend to things like I should, the garden failed. Sure, I got some great herbs to use in cooking, and a few tomatoes, and maybe two peppers. I'm still very much a noob when it comes to this gardening thing. I think we're going to try square foot gardening, or maybe stick with the containers. It's something Kelton and I need to figure out before we move. I'm checking to see when I should be starting seedlings, though most will be bought as starts. As we pick the fruits (and veggies!) of our labor, canning and preserving will be part of our gardening journey.

3. Continue on the DIY Train

We are do it and make it yourself-ers. I make my own toothpaste, and our own laundry detergent. We tried a homemade dishwasher detergent, but it definitely left a film, so still searching for the perfect 'recipe'. My Ga-Ga had clothesline in the backyard, and the posts are still there. Our clothesline was something that was a selling point with this house for me, so we'll be getting some line and putting those posts to good use again. Once we are done with freezing temperatures and snow on the ground, I'll be drying outside as much as possible. I'm wondering if it's legal to have clotheslines visible from the front of the house. Right now the line is in just about the most inconvenient spot in terms of having to lug baskets of wet clothes! Moving it to the side yard would be much easier on the back. Since we don't dry underclothes (aside from diapers, which don't count!), the embarrassment thing isn't a factor.

Other things that we want to learn to do for ourselves include sewing, making more of our own health and beauty products (soaps, lotions, etc), brewing our own rootbeer (I say I want to brew my own beer, but I'm not a fan of beer at all!), and I may look into wine making. With the herbs from our garden, I'm planning on making some loose tea blends for myself as well.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On our way.

Today we had a follow up with our family doctor to discuss how the most recent pain medication change and the rather uneventful appointment with the neurosurgeon where he said he couldn't do anything. I think we were both anxious and were both a bit scared today. Just unsure of where things could go, what we were going to be told, that we were going to hit yet another dead end. Or at least what would feel like another dead end.

That isn't what happened. We got a referral to a pain clinic to discuss different treatment options, as well as the possibility of perhaps seeing if he is a candidate for a spinal cord stimulator. Our doctor is also conferring with a neurologist to see if they think a nerve conduction study can tell us anything new that we don't already know. Some medications were switched around yet again, but that's nothing new at this point.

All in all it was a rather uneventful visit. A bit of waiting for this and waiting for that. And maybe once we have those visits we will have a plan in place besides "wait and if this happens we do that." I will say, I am grateful we have the doctor we do. He is so amazing and great at explaining everything, working with Kelton, and really being part of a team with us versus just treating us like children and doling out rules to follow. In short he talks to us and with us, not at us. When you're dealing with something as frustrating as a trying to control chronic pain, the right provider can make all the difference in the world.

In seven weeks we move. To my Ga-Ga and Pa's old house. This house is probably the closest I've felt to a home in my entire life. I never liked my house as a kid. I was, and to an extent still am, convinced it was haunted. Maybe not by ghosts, but there is a very negative energy in that place. And I am not the only person who has lived there and felt it. But Ga-Ga and Pa's is just warm and happy memories of life with them. I've lived there before, in 2007 and 2008. It is a bit sad, but also good in a way. I'm excited to settle in and do some decorating and making it a home.

I will also start school soon. I'm doing both pre-requisites and other classes that boost my chances of being admitted to a local radiology technician program. I will apply next year to start in their fall 2013 class. I haven't been in any sort of school since 2009 when I left massage school for good. I am a bookworm. I am a learner. I love to learn. I live to learn. The idea of being in school again thrills me! I am already geeking out thinking of notes and books and studying.

We are enrolling Miss 6 year old into an online public school. Basically we are enrolling in another district in our state (I admit I don't even know WHERE in Iowa this town is!), and she will attend their online virtual academy. My husband and I are still her learning coaches, but now the work is submitted to the district and they take care of sending us curriculum, the testing, the official paperwork and all of that. It is a good compromise for us. In the meantime, we are still working on Hooked on Phonics. We've been doing Kindergarten, but she's made such leaps and bounds that we're looking at upping her to the First Grade curriculum soon. I'm so proud of her! The love of learning has clicked with her and watching her figure things out around her is so special. When we go to a restaurant I make her read the name of the dish she wants instead of pointing to the picture to tell me what she wants. And she does it! Seeing her face beaming with pride when she discovers a new word is just the best feeling.

Miss 4 year old, on the other hand, is a very frustrating pupil! She is always gogogogogogogo and can't just sit down for even 5 minutes to try to learn letters. At four she isn't able to recognize all of her letters or even tell you the sounds of all of them. Which is very different from her sister, who knew the letters but struggled putting them together. She has a huge vocabulary, far above most four year olds. She just has no interest in writing or anything else involving fine motor skills. We still get pages full of scribbles. It's definitely a struggle trying to figure out HOW to catch her attention, but it's a challenge I welcome.

Miss 1 year old is adding more and more words to her vocabulary each and every day. She understands more, too. And loves having a baby smaller than her to dote on. At 21 months she is starting to work on potty training. Lots of accidents (I will miss having all wood floors when we move for this reason), but she cleans up after herself, and knows it's an "oops."

Mr. Babyman is 2 months old. He was the grumpiest grump ever to grump, but after two weeks of chiropractic care he is now a smiling ball of happiness. He is really good at supporting his own weight on his belly and propping himself up on his arms. He loves his sisters, loves naked time, and loves it when we shake his legs back and forth. The kid smiles with his entire face. From forehead to chin, it is really over the top and so cute. We couldn't have asked for a better baby.

All in all, we don't know where life is headed. There are still quite a few big things up in the air and changes in the near future. But it feels like we are finally on an upswing. And that feels good.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Living with Chronic Pain, Pt 2: Guilt

Guilt. It is a feeling familiar to those who are married to someone with a chronic condition. So. Much. Guilt. You feel guilty that they miss out on things that you know they would enjoy doing with the family. You feel guilty that you still need their help when they need to do nothing some days. Guilt for feeling resentful or angry at their condition, even though you know they feel the same. Guilt for considering it tour fight too, when they have to fight so much harder and be so much stronger than you to make it through the worst times. Guilty for being frustrated in the new and tumultuous dual role of spouse and caregiver. And worst of all, you feel guilty for being well (because both of you being in pain and/or suffering is somehow so much better).

I just want to take a second to shout what I hope you already know: THERE IS NOTHING TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT! Absolutely nothing. All the emotions above are normal. Feeling guilty is, too.

You feel a bit like a single parent, but with the frustration of having a partner still in the home. The maddening thing is that you remember the helpful person they can be and a part of you never let's go of that expectation of helpfulness. Even if your rational brain knows they can't do something, you see them there and your subconscious doesn't see their limitations, just that you're handling way more than they are.

The hardest guilt for me has been feeling guilty about my anger. When my husband lost his first of two jobs his condition has cost him, there was a bogus reason, but we both believe it was due to the decline in performance due to his pain. For a long time I didn't allow myself anger about any of it. Then, I let myself get upset at his employer. The reason he was let go was ludicrous and they should be ashamed! And I felt a bit better. Then I let myself feel angry at the condition. And I am still angry that the doctors don't/can't/won't help him.

Today I let myself feel a different kind of angry. Today I was angry at him. I was angry that he never filed for short term disability when things got bad and instead tried to push through and provide for us. That got us really far. As soon as I admitted that anger, I instantly felt guilty. He worked his butt off until he couldn't anymore. He is in pain and this isn't a choice he made. He isn't lazy, isn't trying to freeload. He helps every time he can as he can. What right did I have to be angry at him?!?

Then it hit me. I had EVERY right. Because I do not feel this way all the time. I do not berate him or judge him or try to make him feel bad because of his condition. But I am battling it too. And it will take its toll on me mentally instead of physically. If I try to push these feelings away out of guilt, they will only fester. I have to be okay releasing them so they don't hold any power over me, over him, or over us.

There's a lot you give up to take care of a spouse, especially on the bad days. That's for another post. Perhaps, we need to give up one more thing. The guilt. Give it up and respect that you have the right to feel that way, and by acknowledging the feelings you can prevent things from boiling under the surface.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Living with Chronic Pain, Pt 1: History

The past six weeks have been a roller coaster. And the ride, it isn't over yet.
(NOTE: This is the first in a series of posts. I am mostly going to be writing about being the spouse/partner of someone with chronic pain. Some posts may be about my experiences with my own chronic pain. However, while chronic, my pain is not severe or debilitating, so I try to be more "out of sight, out of mind" with it.)

Thanksgiving weekend, Kelton was in SO. MUCH. PAIN. Pain so bad the narcotic pain relievers he has been on for almost two years were not TOUCHING the pain. He was scared. I was scared. In the Emergency Dept. they did an MRI. He still had the herniated discs we knew about; but he also had a lipoma we were unaware of. The radiologist that read his report said he thought epidural steroid injections could help.

Since then Kelton has received the 3 injections he can receive for the year. For a bit after the second injection, things seemed GREAT. Kelton even managed to, for the first time in almost two years, stop taking narcotic drugs completely. He hasn't had one in almost two weeks. Last Thursday, he had his third injection. Yesterday, things started spiraling in reverse.

After doing some lifting, nothing extreme, and certainly nothing that would have even been a blip on his radar before this all started, Kelton's leg pain came back. It was mild yesterday, but by today it's like he has never had an injection. Another injection isn't an option. He had a consult and first adjustment with my chiropractor today. Apparently the lipoma is causing spinal stenosis. And any time he strains his back, the pain will return as long as the lipoma is there.

As long as the lipoma is there. Those words both terrify me and fill me with hope. They are scary, because what if the spine specialist we have an appointment with next week (God, please let him last until next week with this pain.) says surgery isn't an option? What if they say it is? Surgery is scary, but the idea of him living with this pain forever is even scarier. We thought the injections were going to be our magic potion, but they weren't. What if they do a surgery and it doesn't work either? At this point, optimism is hard to come by. This pain has cost him two jobs, cost us our house, and cost him the chance to be the father he wants to be (not that he isn't an amazing father, he just misses being active with the kids and they miss playing with daddy!). We're not sure how much more we can stand to lose.

Next Wednesday we meet with the spine specialist (unless we can happen to get in before that, which we're trying to do). I am praying, hoping, and crossing my fingers that they look at the MRI, meet with him, and say "Yes, you're a great surgical candidate. Let's start this process and get you out of pain!" But a part of me, the natural pessimist in me, is saying "Nope. Not going to happen. They are going to say there's nothing they can do, here are some pills to keep you numb forever." I hate to think like that. That is so far from what I want for him. It's even further from what he wants for himself. I see him struggling. I see him getting down on himself; talking about how he is a bad husband and father because of his pain. But that isn't him, he is not his pain. He's still the amazing, strong, wonderful person I fell in love with. And I have to have faith that God will provide us the doctors and resources we need to get him back to feeling like that person.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome, 2012!

It will never be 2011 again. Never. That is awesome. 2011 was a year full of trials. We were pushed to our limits individually, as a couple, and as a family. And we came out the other side stronger, happier, and more sure of the strength of ourselves, our faith, our marriage, and our family. No matter what, the six of us are in this together, and God will provide. Those two simple facts are what carried me through some very, very dark moments. And I'm sure they'll continue to do so in the years to come.

2012. This year will be a year of change. Work and change. I will be returning to school to get my CNA and (God willing) begin working out of the home. My goal is to find a position that lets me work 3 overnight shifts a week so I still have 4 days a week at home with my family. Kelton gets his last in the series of 3 steroid injections to shrink the spinal lipoma on Friday. Hopefully within a month or so of that injection he'll know how effective it was and be able to look for work.

We will be moving. Same town, but we're going to be renting a home from family. The house we'll be in is larger, has a second bathroom, and we can still have a garden and chickens. The wild turkeys that frequent the front yard should mask the noise anyway. These suburbanites don't know the difference between a bawk-bawk and a gobble-gobble. ;) This is a bit of a scary change, but it is also one that definitely feels like a move in the direction that we need to go.

Personally my goal is to get myself back into shape. I don't feel healthy. I was just getting to a place of starting to feel healthy again after Lucy's birth when I got pregnant with Zane. Between the hyperemesis, SPD, and broken tailbone I did virtually no exercise while pregnant with him. The goal was really to move as little as possible to keep myself from hurting or throwing up. I'm actually not too concerned with the number on the scale, but I am extremely in need of toning up! I have made an initial goal of doing 500 jumping jacks a day. I can do only 50 at a time right now before getting winded, but I know that I have to start somewhere. Eventually I'd love to be running again. Trying pilates is on my "to-do" list as well.

I don't know exactly where this year will take us. But I am excited for the journey!