Friday, November 10, 2017

Reflections On My 35th Birthday

I am officially thirty-five years old.

I am also one of the lucky ones.

I have thought that sentence many times in my head, but I don't know that I have ever written it here. I'm going to do it again, for emphasis...

I am one of the lucky ones.

My birthday is one of my favorite days. It is a day to celebrate my life, to recognize how much I have and how much I have accomplished. It's a day to thank my parents for bringing me into this world. It is also the day when people I love, from the many scattered pieces of my life, reach out to me and wish me well. I am surrounded by so much love from so many good people, and that is why I am so lucky.

My first best friend in life is still in my life, thanks to social media. My cousins, who I haven't seen in years, share their lives with me daily, also thanks to social media. The girls I loved in middle school have grown into women who I still adore spending time with today. I have an incredible group of friends from high school who get together a few times a year and get along without skipping a beat. I have college friends who share their big life events with me. ME. Why am I so lucky? My husband is smart, kind, and makes me laugh. We are so different and we love each other whether it makes sense or not. I have witty, generous, intelligent, good children - they love to read, explore, sing, and laugh. My family is incredible. Have you met my parents? They are good and kind. My mom is the most giving, caring person I know and she lives right across town!!! I have aunts and uncles, too, and they have always made me feel loved and accepted. I married into a big family and gained sisters, brothers, cousins, parents, and grandparents who have shown me love and friendship, and I AM SO LUCKY. I get to go to work in a building full of strong, intelligent, capable women who show graciousness and compassion every day. I actually really like all of my coworkers, and I genuinely adore many of them. Can you say that? Why am I so lucky? I have friends from church who have not judged me or treated me differently since I left the religion that brought us together. I have made new friends through a supportive ex-Mormon community and I have gained forever friendships that have changed my life. I have an amazing bunch of new lady friends who feel like family, because my daughter made friends with great kids at school.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I am insanely lucky to be surrounded by so much love from so many people who matter so very much to me.

So... Thank you.
Thank you for making me one of the lucky ones on my birthday and everyday. I value our friendships and connections more than you may realize.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Round 4 of JA Meds and P/T Working Mom Life

Emma Update:

The MRI of her jaw showed bone marrow edema. That means swelling. In her BONE MARROW. I didn't know that could even happen. The doctor was looking for swelling in her synovial fluid, at the joints, to confirm the presence of arthritis. There was NO swelling there, though, and there was zero visible joint damage, so... good news! However, the presence of swelling in the marrow and the symptoms of pain each morning gave her doctor and me enough reasons to say: Time to restart Enbrel.

This was the longest unmedicated remission she has experienced yet, so that's a small victory! Still, exactly seven months after her last injection of the stuff, I gave Emma her first weekly dose of Enbrel this time around. That was eleven days ago. She started feeling relief just four days after her injection. She says that chewing in the morning is completely pain-free now. I am a happy mommy. Hopefully it stays that way.

What now? Every week for the next year or more, I will poke her in the back of her arm and inject 1mL of her wonder-drug into her body. Every week she will get a piece of candy after her injection, because she deserves it. We will monitor blood work regularly. We will keep our fingers crossed that Enbrel continues to work its magic and life goes back to normal.

I'm okay with all of it. This is my normal, after all.


You know what's not normal? Going to work EVERY SINGLE DAY. Okay, not every day, because I don't work Sundays and I only work about half of all Saturdays, but still. Also, I know that it actually is pretty normal for most folk to go to work daily, but it wasn't my normal for about seven years, so I'm still adjusting.

I drop the kids off at school and go to work. I leave work and pick up kid #2. We have about an hour before we go back to school to pick up kid #1. Sometimes I squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store. Sometimes I spend the entire hour trying to get kid #2 to eat his after school snack. Sometimes I sweep the kitchen, catch up on dishes, or start a load of laundry. Once both kids are home, it's more snacking and homework, and "PLEASE practice your piano!" Some days it's a trip to the library and swimming lessons. Some days it's karate and piano. I squeeze in making dinner, packing lunches, feeding all of the pets twice a day and cleaning up their poop, starting a fresh batch of kombucha every 10-14 days, vacuuming twice a week, and cleaning various pieces of the house here and there.

It's busy, but I'm managing. The only thing I can't seem to fit into it all is a non-weekend shopping trip at Costco. I need to figure that one out soon.


How are you?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

JAWthritis?

I get accustomed to the patterns and rhythms of life. I get lulled into a state of peace, and I forget how easily the "normal" can change.

Emma's arthritis has always followed a pattern. When it all began, the arthritis flared in her ankle, then knee, before other joints revealed their involvement. Subsequent flares have followed similar patterns, always beginning in the knee or ankle. Both are big, obvious joints with familiar symptoms that make identifying the presence of arthritis fairly easy.

This time is different. (IF this is a "this time.")

During this summer, Emma complained off and on of pain in her jaw when chewing. It always happened first thing in the morning, then felt better as the day progressed. I wondered if this was arthritis, or if it was caused by clenching over night, since the kid has a history of grinding her teeth when asleep. Then the pain stopped and my brain stopped pondering the cause.

Then her knee showed a little more squish than normal, and she had some stiffness there a few nights in a row, and I thought: AHA! The ******* arthritis is back! So I started some homeopathic remedies and emailed her doctor, but the squishiness went down and the stiffness went away, and my brain stopped stressing.

Then the morning jaw pain returned. We tried a mouth guard at night to prevent clenching and the jaw pain went away, and I sighed in relief.

Then the morning jaw pain returned. This time, the pain was accompanied by a clicking sound. We tried the mouth guard some more, the jaw pain stayed. We used essential oils, the jaw pain stayed. One day, about a week in to this particular adventure, it hurt not only in the morning, but also at lunch time. When my girl came home from school and told me that she couldn't chew quesadillas, I knew the jig was up.

I emailed her doctor.
The next day. her doctor, Emma, and I had a video appointment. (Technology is so cool!)
The NEXT day I spoke with the scheduler in radiology and Emma's first ever MRI was on the books.

I cried that day. Multiple times. I cried like a hysterical, broken down woman who carries the grief of knowing that her daughter is in pain. I cried like a working mom of multiple children who has to juggle schedules and childcare and plan to face early morning traffic to take her daughter to an appointment in a big, loud machine to confirm whether or not the joints in her jaw are indeed being attacked by her own immune system. I cried like a woman who worries and fears possible bone damage in her beautiful daughter's growth plates on her face.
After my lunch-break (aka "cry-break")  I moved like a zombie through the rest of my work day.

Thank goodness for an incredible, relaxing weekend after that. I needed to forget my worries, and I was able to do so with dearly beloved friends and my husband in a beautiful place.

Then the new week started, and we prepared by watching youtube videos full of MRI noises and adorable nurses demonstrating how an MRI appointment usually plays out. (Again, I must say: Thanks technology!)

Now we are here, at the end of the day of Emma's first MRI.

We got up early and got to the appointment with plenty of time to spare. Emma looked adorable in her special hospital gown, but since she asked me not to post the picture, I won't. The appointment took an hour. The MRI machine was loud, and my kid was SO GOOD at holding still, even though she didn't want to and was getting a headache by the end. She also got an I.V. injection of contrast dye LIKE A CHAMP. She didn't even flinch, because she is incredible.

After her appointment, I took her out to a pancake breakfast, naturally. Then I took her through a drive-through dairy for her very favorite pineapple and strawberry ice cream cone, because ice cream heals all wounds. THEN I took her to the grocery store and bought her a pizza Lunchable, because crappy food makes kids happy. Finally, I dropped her off at school.

What I should have done next was come home, lie on my couch, and sleep off the emotional exhaustion that has been steadily increasing for a week.
I didn't do that, though, because that's not who I am. I am neurotic and high-strung and I really like using my time to do jobs that I don't want to have to do later. So, I did chores, things that don't really matter, but help me to feel better.
Which means I'm still exhausted, on so many levels.


So what's next?

I wait for results. I wait and feel exhausted and sleep fitfully and I wait. Now that you know, you get to wait, too.

Thanks for sitting and waiting with me during this one, friends.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Times They Are A-Changin'

My Baby Turned FIVE.
No, seriously. I have a five year old and a seven-and-a-half year old. How is that even possible? Wasn't I just pregnant with kid #1 yesterday?

Liam is an amazing little dude. He is outgoing, social, and will chat your arm off if you let him. He has lots of passion for life, a great desire to explore and climb, and very little concern for his well-being. He also sucks at listening and following directions if he is mid-Lego-building or show-watching. He drives me crazy.
I love him madly.

Emma is awesome. She loves art and music, but I have to fight to get her to practice piano. She loves reading, but is quite particular about the type of book she'll choose from the library. She loves to swim, but dislikes swimming lessons because they are "no fun" and she doesn't like when her instructor tells her what to do. Welcome to the rest of your life, kid. Her freckles match mine, her stubbornness matches mine, and her sensitive nature matches mine. We're going to butt heads in her teen years, but I think we'll come out okay.
I love her dearly.
Emma is still off all arthritis medication and has been so for nearly six months. Fingers crossed her arthritis stays away, but I'm not so sure it is listening to me. We're keeping a close watch on a squishy knee of hers. Autoimmune diseases are stupid.

That big kid will soon be in 2nd grade, the baby child is about to start kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN. I'm not old enough to have such grown up kids. What is even happening?

With both kids out of the house every weekday, my life is going to change. I'm a little bit excited and a lot bit anxious. I know they'll do amazingly wonderful, (have you seen these kids? They're incredible!) but my routine is about to change, and anytime I face a big change I get nervous.

It's nothing too new... I'm going to work more at the veterinary office where I have worked part-time for the past twelve years! Soon, I will work daily instead of one or two days a week. I'm going to be back to the grind!

Hooray for work outside of the home! There are many things about my job that I look forward to: Adult company, financial compensation for a job well done, using my skills to help others! Things I am not looking forward to include: When the hell am I going to have time to do the laundry/go grocery shopping/clean the toilet/sit down and relax?!?! Those are all the normal concerns of working people, but I've been mostly at home for the past seven years and I run my household like a machine, so I will need to adjust. And adjusting to change is hard.
It will all work out, but my machine is going to need a tune-up and some new settings.

Anyhow, that's what is new with me. What's going on with you? What do you do when you are facing life changes and feeling nervous? What changes are you currently experiencing in your life?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Art. Art Art Art. Art.

E-Mom! Did you take a picture of the name?!?!!?
Me- I think I can remember "Still Life with a Melon."

For months I have been longing to take Emma to a fine art museum because I know how much she would love it. Finally, today, we went.

In case you wondered, I was right. Emma loved the experience. Poor Liam was dragged along too. He was bored and quickly grew tired of being told to hold my hand, to stop jumping, and to go dance in the corner away from the sculptures, but hopefully some of his memories of today are pleasant. 

Emma is my artist. She will draw, color, write, dance, sing, or create at the piano with a patience and attention span that frequently amazes me. She has been this creative being since she could first sing and hold a crayon. I love that about her. I want to nurture that element in her. We absolutely had to buy a sketchbook at the museum's gift shop because she insisted and I couldn't say no. *sigh*

My parents are members at The de Young and The Legion of Honor museums in San Francisco, which means I got to get in for free! (I like free.) Mama, the greatest woman in the universe, drove the kids and me to The Legion of Honor this morning. It is a wonderful museum that I have been to many times. I have fond memories of going there as a kid and as a teen, but it's been a while since my last visit. There are paintings and sculptures within those walls that moved me when I first saw them, artwork that I will always hold dear, and I'm glad I was able to share that space with my children today. Bonus: The special exhibit right now is of Monet's early work, which I'm glad we were able to see, even if it was crazy crowded and we were exhausted.  

It was a lovely day. Behold our photos:



Me, Sassy, Sassier, and a famous bridge.

So many Rodin sculptures.

Emma was really attracted to still life paintings. 

My girl and a Renoir.

"Get dressed and stop bothering the cat!" -A story of my life.

Two beauties admiring two beautiful Monet paintings. 

My favorite girl in front of one of my favorites.
"The Russian Bride's Attire" by Konstantin Makovsky

Babies + Monet = Swooning Mom

He wasn't miserable the *entire* time.
In addition to still life, Emma adored all of the fancy ladies.
This was purchased on a postcard and is pinned into the wall next to her bed. 

Someone insisted on buying a postcard image of this one, too. 

Mom! Mom was there, too. 

I wasn't allowed to carry my backpack on my back,
but sometimes I carried this monster on my front.




Also, because tomorrow is Memorial Day...




Seek beauty and art all around you, my people. It is nearer than you might think.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

What's Up?

Let's talk about life, shall we?

My daughter is amazing. She is 7.25 years old, has a doublewide gaping hole in her teeth, and is as sassy as ever. Her arthritis is officially in unmedicated remission - her last dose of meds was February 19th, 2017. Fingers crossed we see no JA for many, many, many months. Even with no active arthritis for over a year, I shield that kid. She is only just now learning how to ride a bicycle without training wheels, partly because her knee flares in the past made it really hard for her to pedal, partly because I fear her falling, hurting that knee, and causing another flare. Ugh. Am I a lame mom?

My son is amazing. He is 4.75 years old, a daredevil, and a selective/terrible listener. He brightens my world when he runs up to me and hugs me, just to say that he loves me. I don't push that kid very hard. He'll be ready enough when kindergarten comes in a few months, but he won't be ahead of the game and his penmanship will be pretty crappy. That's okay. He is a kid who likes to pick up sticks and wave them around like swords, he climbs everything and fearlessly jumps off, he makes friends everywhere he goes. He'll do well in life.

I'm me. I'm happy and healthy. I dyed my hair dark burgundy a week ago and love it. I'm contemplating my next step in my education and career. I'll be working more hours once school starts up in August. I may go to school to become a licensed veterinary technician. I really want to take some Spanish classes so I can keep up with the kids. However, I hate spending money on myself, especially since we have a goal of adding on to the house in a few years, so we shall see what happens.

The Cowboy is doing well. He loves working in the next town over instead of commuting across the Bay Bridge every day. He recently fixed his Suzuki Samurai and got it to pass SMOG, so he has his beloved "truck" again. Driving it makes him giddy and joyful. He spends a lot of time shopping, researching, and thinking about ways to improve the Samurai further. He then spends time designing, fabricating, and welding to actually improve it further. He hopes to use the remainder of his free time driving over rocks and wilderness trails. I went off-roading with him once or twice. It's fun but it's not really my thing, however, it sure makes him happy.

The kids and I submitted letters of resignation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a couple of months ago. It took some time to process, but the requests have gone through and now I am officially not a Mormon anymore. That means our names will not show up on the roles in our local congregation. I feel really good about it. I don't want to be a "non-active" member on their roles, someone they worry over and feel obligated to visit. I know people will still worry about me, but by removing myself from their records, I'm freeing myself and them of the guilt inherent in the system. I'm glad my kids' names are removed because I want them to be able to make their own choices regarding religion, when they are old enough to decide for themselves, rather than being pulled in one direction simply because they happened to be born into it. Barry will stay on the records of the church because we are different people who like different things. I'm just glad that, in spite of our many, many difference, we still like each other.

So, what's new with you?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Books of 2016

Another year over means another year of books have been read.

I still don't read as much as I'd like. I know my iPhone is part of the distraction, I'm not sure what else to blame. Still, this year was better than the year before, so that's good news.

  • Spindle's End by Robin McKinley was a really, really, really great variation on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. I loved it. 
  • Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - I managed to clean up and organize my clothing and books, but I didn't get rid of all of the other clutter in my home. I will say, my clothes in my dresser are folded in the way the author recommends, and it does bring me great joy to see all of my colorful socks at once. 
  • Royal Target by Traci Hunter Abramson was a cute, fun, yet unrealistic read. I like my book group ladies because they introduce me to books I wouldn't pick up on my own. 
  • The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein - A normal life full of trials all told from a brilliant, faithful dog's point of view. A great read. 
  • Rising Strong by BrenĂ© Brown. I'm not even half-way through this book. While I like what BrenĂ© Brown has to say, I find it really hard to read "self-help" type books. I will probably finish this book eventually. In the mean time, I highly recommend her videos and TED talks. 
  • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen was a great book. Another twist on Sleeping Beauty, but in a very different, heartbreaking way. Read it. 
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - I had listened to the audio book of Cinder in 2015, and listened to Scarlet, Cress, Fairest (I read this one on an ebook!), Winter, and Stars Above in 2016. These are more variations on beloved fairy tales, set in a robotic, space-age future, and I loved them. I really enjoy audio books because I can multi-task and still enjoy a good book. 
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse was a beautifully poetic look into the journey of transitioning through life. 
  • Enders Game by Orson Scott Card - Fantastic. A little different from the movie that came out a few years ago. I need to read the entire Enders series now.
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton was a wonderful novel following several stories at different times. I was thoroughly surprised at the end, so that was good. I'd like to read more by this author. 
  • The Last Girl by Joe Hart - This is the first book in the Dominion Trilogy. It's about a girl who breaks free and saves the day in a distopian America. I'm curious where the story will go, but the writing didn't suck me in the way other stories of this type have, so I don't know if I'll read any others in the series.
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman - I only made it half-way through this book and I don't know if I'll ever go back and finish it. The idea behind the book is very interesting. It is a true story about the woman who saves hundreds of Jewish people's lives during WWII in her family's zoo in Warsaw. I love the story, however, this book bounces between reading like a novel and reading like a dry history text book. I kept waiting for it to suck me in. It never did. 
So, my grand total for 2016 was 16 books. Two maybe don't count since I didn't finish them. So, it's more like 14 books and two half-books. C'est la vie.
I should get extra credit for the countless picture books I have read to my children this year, including many diverse creation stories, myths, and classic tales. I'm also becoming quite a bilingual reader, because I can read Spanish children books, too. I don't understand many of them completely without using the Google Translate App on my phone, but I can read them!

2017 is upon us and I am already reading four books. What is wrong with me?

All year long, I've been slowly reading The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner. She was brought up in a polygamist off-shoot of the Latter-Day Saint tradition. It's hard to read because it is slow moving at times and deeply troubling at others. I will definitely finish it. Eventually...

I'm also reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, one chapter a week, in sync with the podcast Harry Potter and The Sacred Text. Reading, pondering, and hearing their discussion on the chapter is a fun experience.

This week I started the January book for my book group as well as the first book in the Selection series. 

If you're trying to get more books in your life, do it for free. I HIGHLY recommend you spend some time at your local library and get a library card. I LOVE our library!!!! Also, I use the free Overdrive App on my phone to check out ebooks and audio books from my library. My other book supplier is Amazon.com - I have a Kindle and a Prime membership, so I have access to one free new book each month, one month before it is released to the public. Books are awesome. Free books are awesomer!

Cheers to a year of reading, my friends!!!!