Thursday, August 28, 2008

Waiting for the next one

I don't know how mothers with chronic illnesses get through life. This sucks. When I'm not feeling ill, I'm waiting for the first twinge of an oncoming migraine in hopes that I'll have time to take my new medicine and head off the evil brain cramp at the pass. My "cue" that one is soon arriving is numbness, and last night I laid awake in bed for fifteen minutes waiting for the brief numbness in my jaw to start traveling to other areas of the body.

My doctor prescribed me Midrin yesterday, for which I am grateful. Luckily, she's the kind of doctor who feels that migraine sufferers have decreased quality of life if they have frequent migraines, and she's very anxious to find the right combination to keep me pain free. Love her for that.

In the meantime, until I start forgetting the hellish pain, I'm still more likely wake up an hour early so I can start drinking coffee and taking tylenol to avoid a migraine. In time, I should relax and stop sitting on the edge of my seat waiting.

I had a headache last night when Ben made another run for the highway (not really, we're not near a highway). I thought he was just standing at the side door looking outside until I heard Anna screaming. She was outside on the porch, stuck between the door and the jamb. When Ben opened the door and ran, she tried following him. He ran down the graveled alley (how did that not hurt his delicate feet?) and I followed in my slow, tenuous way.

I'm not usually a spanker, but last night he needed an extra reminder.

In happy news, ecstatic news, thrilling news, my sister is giving birth to her daughter Mya tomorrow morning in a planned c-section. Such a happy occasion. Good luck, Jolene! The first six weeks are the hardest.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What It Was

Well, that was a roller coaster ride of hell.

First, the result: Tension.

Before that, it was maybe my thyroid, migraines, lyme disease, anemia, stroke... etc.

I'm not going to give you a play-by-play of this week, just the highlights. A CT scan on Wednesday because during the night I lost all sensation on my left side periodically. A wonderful physical therapy visit yesterday (I'll be going for months). Wednesday also included frequent vomiting and cold sweats.

So it's tension caused by anxiety and stress. Almost a let down, because it could be easily interpreted to be "all in my head." Sure it is, but it's real. All that seratonin, not doing anything worthwhile up there.

All the neck pain and headaches are caused by the shoulder tension.

Physical therapy will be fun and interesting. The manual therapy worked immediately, and she'll be alternating between that and strengthening exercises, even basic pilates. I'm also on nausea medication and lots and lots of tylenol and motrin.

But knowing what is going on takes a lot of the anxiety away, ironically. I don't think I'm dying. I'm not second guessing everything my body is feeling. I'm just taking it easy on myself until I have at least one pain-free day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Brief History of Why I'm Not Blogging

I can hardly believe that it's been so long since blogging. Kind of crazy. But it is what it is.

Truth be told, I haven't been feeling well. It started around Aug. 2 or so. Nausea in the evenings, neck pain when I bend over, pick things up or look far left or right. Over the next few days, the bouts of nausea and pain became for frequent, lasting for longer than before, until it finally lasted all day long.

Then the anxiety attacks, vertigo and dizziness started. I'd be sitting down, thinking about stupid trivial stuff, and all of a sudden, I'd get hot flashes and end up in a dither about silly things. Left in a puddle of tears and sweat, I knew something was wrong. I figured maybe my Zoloft was no longer effective, so I made an appointment with my primary physician for a med check.

The vertigo and dizziness would happen when I stood up or sat down or walked for too long. It starts with the neck pain, and then everything would start throbbing, my hearing, my vision, my aching head. Got to the point where I couldn't push a cart around Walmart anymore.

My whole spine aches, from my neck to my tailbone, when touched.

It's very disturbing. Last week, I spent several nights at my mom's house with the kids. I'm not a very good caregiver feeling like this. I can't carry Anna for more than a couple minutes without needing to sit down. I received a couple chiropractic adjustments, and more importantly, I was able to take two uninterrupted naps a day.

This is all rather depressing. I feel very isolated and lonely. My house is a stinky disaster area because of my limitations. Poor Chris is saddled with so much.

Anyway. My appointment is tomorrow. I hope that it's just a medicine issue. I can get a new prescription for another anti-anxiety medication, and I'll be fine. I'm hoping that all of these symptoms can be explained away by the physical manifestation of anxiety. I'm also hoping that my doctor takes me seriously, because I can't live like this for much more. I miss "life." I miss moving and bike riding. Chris isn't letting me drive anymore because of the random dizziness and vision clouding.

So I'm not blogging. I missed the 10-month Anna post (she's awesome and beautiful, in between a baby and a toddler), but I plurk a few times a day. (You can see my plurk updates in the right hand column of this blog). You can email me to leave a comment about a plurk (cheryl at ccmathis DOT com). Or you can get a plurk account (like twitter, but more personal) and join my group. I miss you all.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ben Screams Ice Cream

What an exciting night for my family.

After a nice bike ride to the park, we drove to Dairy Queen to buy some blizzards for the Children's Miracle Network. Ben eschewed the hot dog we bought him (probably because I put relish on it), so he was stuck watching me spoon a peanut butter cup blizzard into Anna's hungry mouth.

We stopped at Walgreens on the way home so Chris could buy a pregnancy test (it was negative - long story), and I sat in the back seat with the kids. Ben asked for the spoon I was holding.

"Mama. Poon. Ben."

So I gave him the spoon with a little ice cream on it.

"Mama. I-keem. Ben. Peeeez."

I handed him the cup.

He played with it a little, sticking the spoon in and out of the semi-frozen delight. Eventually, he had the nerve to daub a spot of ice cream on his lower lip. He licked it off tentatively. Next, a miniscule dot on his outstretched tongue.

He looked at me and said, "Um. Mama. Um!"

And so the demolishing of my blizzard began. I was happy to hand it over to him.

Our son has been an anomaly in the world of children. Since he started solid food, we've offered him ice cream when we've indulged. Though we snuck in a few bites when he was very young, when he became old enough to recognize it, he refused. Absolutely refused. He'd start crying at the mention of it.

It's been two years of cajoling him. We've offered every time as a joke, rolling our eyes at his emphatic, "NO!" And now he loves it. Now our boy is normal.

Side story. Chris was lactose intolerant until he was five. When his parents got the go-ahead to give him dairy, they naturally offered him a taste of ice cream. He was an *extremely* picky eater, and he refused. Eventually, his parents pinned him to the ground and forced the ice cream into his mouth. He ate it easily after the first taste.

We tried that with Ben, but he became so freaked out, we relented. He has had a couple of tastes that way, and that might be why he's held out so long – he's associated it with the claustrophobia and the forcing.

We are so relieved that the boycott is over. Now we get to introduce him to the wonderful world of icy treats. Yay!

Boyhood Bliss By Blizzard

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Litter Box That Finally Works For Us

I don't often do product reviews. I'm not a popular-enough blogger to warrant PR emails that offer me free products to try out and blog about. My popularity doesn't concern me. I've withdrawn (on purpose) from the race for more readers. If people find me, great. If they don't, that's fine. I blog for my friends and my family, but more importantly, for myself.

Once in a while, I'll find a product I just have to write about.

Today, it's the Tidy Cats® Breeze Litter System. About two months ago, we saw this product on the shelves in Walmart. We were going to replace our old litterbox since we found that it was leaking, even with plastic liners. Ick. The basement grew very smelly, and since it was Chris' chore to clean the litter box, it was rarely done, and the old clay litter reeked. Maisie became very sensitive, and she started to pee outside the box and poo in remote corners of the basement. It's a concrete basement floor. Ick.

Even after changing the litter every week, the smell remained. So when we saw the Breeze® on the shelves, we did the math. The start-up supplies are certainly more expensive than a standard litter pan and clay litter, but we had open minds about price. We'd pay money to not have a smelly house. Even the fancy and oh-so-expensive LitterMaid® systems with the motorized rake failed my tests in the past (the poo would still be wet because neither cat would bury her treasures, and it would cake on the rake). But we were willing to try something new again. Within a month, the Breeze® system would pay for itself, essentially.

We followed the instructions for the transition, setting up the Breeze® next to our old litter box. She used it right away, but we forgot to remove the old box in the time period, so she reverted, and eventually, a slick stream of god-knows-what flowed from under the box. In one hour-long session of rubber gloves and sweat and swear words, I threw out the old litter box, wiped up the icky stuff, then scrubbed the floor with hot water and soap, followed by a vinegar rinse and then a water rinse. No more smelly floor.

The Breeze® system works like this. What seem like not enough pellets are sprinkled over a plastic crate at the bottom of the top tray. A pull-out tray is seated below this. In the tray goes what is basically a gigantic maxi pad. When Maisie pees on the pellets, it slips through the pellets onto the pad below where it is instantly absorbed. When she poops, the feces rest on top of the pellets, where you scoop them out with a standard plastic scooper. We purchased a some plastic garbage can with a swinging lid, and I taped some charcoal smell-no-more pads to the lid and lined the can with double garbage bags. When we scoop out the poop, it goes right into the can. Weekly, we change out the pad, and it goes in there as well. The pellets need to be replaced every month.

It works great. No more smell. No more "accidents" when the clay litter doesn't smell right to Maisie. Just perfect wonderfulness. And now Maisie gets to keep living with us.

Note: The pad is very full after a week. It must be changed. We didn't do this for the first three weeks of owning the system, and the tray was filled to the brim with cat urine. Disgusting. But if you remember to change it every week, there isn't a problem.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Playground Workout

We're slowly climbing back on the horse. No more excuses. We are starting with working out again. At least we aren't starting back near our beginning weight. I don't know. I'm too scared to climb on the scale. I'm going to wait until I can feel a change again, til my pants feel looser.

We went to the Y to workout Friday and Saturday mornings. Yesterday, I biked the kids to the park. Instead of sitting in the grass with Anna, I made up playground workout routine I thought you'd find amusing.

It's a simple playground. A slide/jungle gym with monkey bars. A detached steel swing set.

First, while Anna was sitting in the swing, I worked my arms and back by putting my feet near the base of one of the swing set's legs, feeling my arms take up the weight as my center of gravity shifted. I then pulled my body towards the pole, keeping my pecs tight and feeling my back flex, my biceps bulge. As many reps as it took to make my arms ache. Then, just to prove to my body that I was in charge, I did another set, this time just one arm at a time.

Next, I walked lunges back and forth along the length of the playground as Anna sat and ate grass. After that, I did deep squats in front of the park bench, concentrating on my breathing, feeling my heart rate skyrocket and the sweat start to build on the small of my back.

For triceps, I used the low ladder bars under the end of the monkey bars, just perfect for holding onto while I pressed my lower body towards the ground then raised up again, feeling the strain in my triceps and back, the tightening in my abs.

For calves, I used the first step of the jungle gym. Countless sets of calf raises, alternating legs near the end for maximum effort, the other foot curled around the pulsing calf muscle of the active leg.

Abs were next, on the grass. I twisted and contracted up and to the side, standard crunches, feeling the bulk of leftover baby flap being pushed back and forth on top of the straining ab muscles. Ben came over and joined me, and I transitioned to some stretches and lengthening exercises, some that Ben demonstrated first, exercises he had learned from Baby Gym at the Y.

For fun, I raced him back and forth next to the playground, doing jumping jacks and toe-touches at each end. This was difficult for me, because I have yet to find a nursing sports bra that can control my bountiful glory. Luckily, we were alone at the playground, and my audience was only my children.

After I was done, I felt invigorated and motivated, not only because I had given my body a decent workout, but also because I had shown my impressionable children that we should always take advantage of opportunities to exercise and be in the moment and feel our bodies move.

I was going to go back to the park with Chris and the kids, but luckily, it started storming, so you will all miss out on my beet-red, sweating face and thick, trunk-like limbs, showing nothing of the rippling muscles underneath.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Plate of BenAnna Cake

Oh Anna Kathryn of my heart. I know I write odes to you at each passing month milestone, but I'm so full of moments lately that I want to capture in snapshots of the heart, I just had to put some down on the page.

I looked at you last week and was startled by how long you've gotten. At your six-month checkup, I figured it was a fluke, a temporary state. A tall Mathis baby? Both your dad and I are 5'4". Ben has been small since his birth. He still seems at least six inches shorter than the other kids his age. But you are stretching out, all arms and legs. A gymnast and a ballerina, maybe a track star.

You are easing out of babyhood, and through the misty tears and smiles, I see shades of a little girl peeking through the veil. The special smiles for your brother, the look of incredulity when we don't give you what you want. The pure joy and exhilaration when you see us after an absence. The concentration across your whole body as you examine the mardi gras beads every day, and the graham crackers, and the sippy cup. Like you are going to work every day, studying your world, turning it around and over, learning what it's all about. I'm honored by the hugs and kisses you bestow on me, my magical, flailing girl of light.

And, dear Ben, my little gentleman. I've often contemplated your transformation during your two-year-old days. When before you would trundle around the world, mute and smiling, grunting and pointing to get your point across, now you startle us by clasping your hands together and saying "Peeeez! Mama. Peeez! Getti!", a plaintive look on your face as you let us know exactly what you want for dinner. With language, you've come alive. Now you narrate what you are doing with your choo-choos, you call out points of interest that you can see from the backseat of the car, and you tell us that you are drinking yellow juice out of Ben's sippy cup. You let us know when Anna is crying, when your diaper is uncomfortable, when a toe hurts.

Today at the park while I was doing my playground workout, you joined me, showing me the stretches you learned at the baby gymnastics program at the YMCA, reaching to the sky, hiding the turtle, actually talking me through the movements. It's hard to describe how this change makes me feel. I've always been your mommy, and I've always loved every part of you. We are still your parents, and you are still our tagalong, but now that we see and hear you notice everything around you, it feels like you are a real person, less a baby to cart around and talk excitedly to. Now you do the talking.

My children. My heart. My bits of wonder and effervescent joy. My silver lining.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Reunions and Memories Made

Last weekend we had the pleasure of traveling to a relatively remote area of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan called Twin Lakes. For the American history of my Finnish relatives and ancestors (okay, maybe just the last two generations), we've gathered on the shores of the Twin Lakes campground to eat and play.

We did it again on Saturday. My dad's side of the family, but just his sisters and their families and our family. Pasties in the enclosure. Too many delicious desserts.

Ben played by the water with his cousin Brice, but often just by himself because when you get a 2-year-old boy together with a bunch of rocks and some water, he's self-sufficient.

Chris threw a ball back and forth with some people, then just with himself. Later, he attempted to teach me how to throw a football properly. It didn't work, but the next day, I realized it was quite the biceps workout.

Anna sat in her stroller, then in the grass and dirt, eating said dirt with gusto.

My boys played in the playground area, and Chris showed Ben what the digger is all about. I relaxed on the swing with Anna Dumpling. My nephews threw footballs at each other, and Ben was the monkey in the middle.

Ben throwing the rocks. He did this for an hour.

I seem to have a lot of pictures of Anna in the stroller. Here's another one.

Daddy the Digger dumps sand on Ben's feet.

The monkey in the middle of two bigger monkeys.

I loved collecting skipping stones for my nephew Chaz. Simple pleasures.