Friday, June 16, 2017

Serving/Working

We processed 2392 lbs of bread, 1270 lbs of pears, 300 lbs of apples, and helped feed 3302 families.









Service Project

Celebrating a little friend's birthday and putting together packages for children in need.











Cherries

























Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It's Good to be Queen

Reading my sister's blog is like reading the newspaper. My face gets all scrunched up and I'm not sure my eyebrows can handle the expressions I must be making at discovering insane family updates in the drama section. Sure, there are things you wonder about when your dad is engaged to a woman baaaarely your senior. But to have them confirmed and then some. Sheesh.

This Easter was weird for me. I wanted to host, but then the thought of what happened last year (ha!) quickly turned that into a nope. And what to do about parents and siblings who don't get along. Ya. It ended up being a quiet weekend except for the part when a sister missionary came over and went on a holy tirade and told us we are going to Hell for not having Naomi baptized yet. She wouldn't drop it and it was really awkward how rude she was (as a guest in our home with the children present). She probably thought she was standing up for Naomi's soul, but that's not how Naomi took it.

When she left Naomi was like, why doesn't she want me to chose for myself? Does she think I'm stupid? I thought missionaries knew about choice and accountability and free will. I want to learn as much as I can and be ready when I decide.

We explained to her that the sister was probably well intentioned but 1) she didn't know our family or that we have an open learning policy where learning is massively encouraged. 2) What the sister wanted was basically Lucifer's plan. 3) Joseph Smith himself didn't baptize his own son, J.S. Jr. until he was ten for the same reason. If any man ask of God...God can force no man to Heaven, etc.

But honestly, I think the sister just wanted to be right. It was pretty heavy. She got all worked up. I've never wanted to kick anyone out of my home before. We didn't take the bait (honestly, I'm glad she did this. It made a wonderful learning opportunity for the kids to see that we stand up for them and also that not everyone is going to agree with you or be okay with your decisions and that is a-okay) and she left in a self-righteous huff.

Leading up to Easter we did a butterfly release and learned about life cycles. We colored eggs, the girls got some spring themed gifts from us and the Easter Bunny, and we did a little egg hunt at the church.

No formal family photos, Easter Bunny photos at the mall, or weeks of elaborate resurrection themed Family Home Evenings. Simply family time. We didn't even go to church and we liked it that way. I joked to Benj that we are horrible because even the least devout Catholics will at least attend church on Easter and Christmas. I was surprised to be a bit grumpy looking online: Every post about "I just LOVE Easter and am SO happy my family can be together forever" had me in eye-roll, gag, and drown myself in food mood. You know, just sitting here like M.J. with popcorn going, ya, well, my family couldn't even cut time, so... yeah.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a total Debbie Downer about the whole situation. I'm even over the feeling sorry for myself and my siblings phase. I think I'm squarely in the satirical, sarcastic, amused, wondering what could possibly happen next phase. Life is funny. My husband, kids, siblings, and my lady friends are floating me through this. I want to give the whole "I'm so thankful for God" speech, but I poured myself into my faith for my entire life and the return has been zero answers, absolute shock at things I was apparently supposed to be prepared for, and a whole bunch of convenient bumper sticker comments like everything happens for a reason, God has a plan, no, no- you'll be rewarded in the next life, or you need more faith for God to give two craps about you, etc. Ever notice how people are always saying God knows their hearts and what's going on in their lives, but He totally sent people down to check on Adam and Eve and report back to Him. No, no, the people tell me. He probably knew what was going on with them. He sent the messengers for the messengers to learn something. There's always a thing.

So I have my faith but I also believe that just because someone exists doesn't mean they care at all about you. Like your earthly parents. Or your Heavenly ones. You make your own way. I feel powerful when I do what I can without expecting anything from anyone. It's been a life changer for me and my family. So entirely freeing. Rising to the challenge of our own expectations but not worrying about anyone elses has been monumental. *Enter Zayde Wolf singing, I don't believe in no devil, 'cause I done raised this Hell.*

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ramblings in which I whine about my family in probably inappropriate ways.

Benj got me a camp chair that rocks. As in a rocking camp chair. It's amazing. Benj is the best. We'll be able to camp more soon. I have a list of national forests and parks that I want to explore with the fam. If all goes well, I will talk Benj into letting us buy forested land somewhere and we can build a little cabin (with wi-fi) and live like loners; homeschooling, working from home, tending a small garden and chickens (okay, probably not chickens- I like the idea of eggs, but chickens freak me out), and enjoying streams and trees during the day and fire pits and star gazing at night. Ha!

We had out first BBQ of the season which was perfect since it is too early for flies, scorching heat, and bees. It was a last minute decision and Benj cooked up hamburgers and hotdogs while the girls ran around the backyard kicking a ball, bouncing on the trampoline and waving around the parachute. They were giggling and happy screaming. Benj says that will always be the sound of spring. I agree.

I'm still healing well. I wish I had any options for pain meds, but am surviving without. If I keep hydrated and eat every couple hours (for energy to beat feeling tired) I only have a hard time keeping my eyes open if it is after 2pm. I start to feel like I'm sinking or fading after that. I'm happy to be improving a bit each day but am surprised at how slow healing is. I've been annoyed at not being able to depend on my abdominal muscles for much of anything. If I bend over or squat to pick something up-I'm stuck. If I roll onto my stomach for a bit- I'm stuck. A couple days ago I mindlessly picked Caroline up (I immediately put her down). for the first time since surgery and almost died. Oops. I still can't take the garbage out and am having the girls switch laundry. I'm excited for when I can start working out and build muscle strength. Healing first though! All in time. I've had a lot of help this surgery and have been thanking my lucky stars for such good friends.

I have been reading daily reflections in my Spring Edition of A Gracious Space. I love Julie Bogart. I get my neck workout nodding my head up and down while reading her works. She gets it and says all the things I need to hear. I've also been working through The Little Book of Hygge and The Danish Way of Parenting.

For family read-alouds we are going through The Foolish Men of Agra stories and the Time Travel Trio books. And Roald Dahl. We're really all over the place. We like all the things! We just finished Owls in the Family (a hilarious narrative of a young boy's life on the prairie with the wildlife in Saskatchewan) and are on chapter one of Where the Red Fern Grows. I'm hoping to get through that and then The Trumpet of the Swan by the end of spring/early summer.

Benj had a three-day weekend and was able to fix up parts of the house faster than the girls were able to destroy it. So nice. Kids are just...wow. Haha. We will have so many stories to tell their kids.

We drove out to the boonies a couple weeks ago to look at a house. It was on a beautiful property but we didn't put an offer on it. No shop and the house wasn't much too be excited about. I just really, really liked the property. So green. And away from everything.

I've been enjoying phone calls with my grandpa and have been keeping up with handwriting letters. I was both amused and frustrated because handwriting starts off okay, but then Dyskinesia kicks in and my words start getting smaller and more uniform as I work harder to keep my hands and wrists from twitching. I know that it will lessen as we get further away from anesthesia. It's nice to be predictable in that way. It's reassuring.

Caroline is potty training. Herself. She isn't quite able to tell when she had to go but about 2/3 of the time she makes it to the toilet. I haven't had to do much of anything. She had one poo party which Benj had to clean up since I wasn't allowed to operate the Bissell (doctor's orders). She knows how to go, where to go, and how to wash up, and takes care of it all herself. The only weird thing about it is that 1) She is THE LAST ONE! WOOT! and 2) I get the big boxes of 'underpants' (Pull-ups) from Costco. It comes with a million packages of Pull-ups and a single package of nighttime Pull-ups. I think the difference is the nighttime ones hold more pee, which begs the question, why aren't ALL Pull-ups made like nighttime ones? In any case, the nighttime ones are Disney princess themed and the others are Doc McStuffins themed. Apparently, she only wants to pee on Cinderella and Belle. The hope is that when we run out of the princess ones she will chose to wear the Doc M ones. Because it's that or back to diapers until we are out of those (I have a million Costco ones left since I had just purchased them when she surprised me with wanting to wear underpants).

I found a pretty sounding lullaby type song to learn. It has the sound I like. I heard it on Vampire Diaries of all places and when I started thinking about the lyrics, I had a dream of it being sung at my mom's funeral (she's alive). That was weird. In any case, I like the song and it goes along with our collection of folksy/Southern Gospel-ish songs we sing at bed time.

I've been having weird dreams like that. I think it has to do with the relationship I have with my parents. My dad's barely-older-than-me fiance left with her daughters saying it was because she couldn't handle the stress of my mom dragging the divorce on.

I've been really struggling with both of my parents. I don't want mixed into the drama.  Agh. I feel guilty about not being in contact much but I cannot handle the stress. Dad is boo-hooing the loss of his fiance but doesn't seem too cut up about ignoring us kids for over a year. He's only contacted me to ask me favors like can I have someone talk my Mom into signing papers, etc.

My relationship with my mom is nonexistent. I didn't tell her about my surgery and shocker- she knows about it. A special thank-you to my brother who is her informant even when he knows we don't want her to know things. Seriously. So much drama. My mom has been calling me nonstop since surgery and leaving messages like everything is totally hunky dory in our relationship. It's bewildering to me when she completely side-steps and ignores anything I have asked her. So there is nothing there because I can't be fake just to make her feel good. Things are not good. To teach a toddler to walk, you have to let go at some point. As for my own mental health, I can't take much more of the divorce dealings.

Contrast just for the heck of it: my MIL and FIL were just called as temple workers.

I'm still really immersed in Homeschool Land. I have made teaching the girls, hosting events, and serving my fellow homeschooling families my calling. I am also a self-appointed Spirit of Elijah family history guru. Well, maybe not guru, but interested person, sure.

Fun story: I was hunting around Family Search and Ancestry looking for some record -any record- of my great-grandma's marriage to one of her husbands (she had three husbands and was married to one of them twice). I have been having problems linking my family names since my brother (whose name is basically a hiss and a byword around here anymore) keeps EFFING with my records. I can't do a thing about it. Anyway, I was trying to find this record so I can reserve ordinances and asked on my RS Facebook page about how long it takes to get a reservation approved and if you have to have a record of the marriage or if it goes on say-so.

LITERALLY the second my post was approved and posted, I received a notification that I had a new message on Ancestry. Lo and behold, it was from a man stating he was my great-great-uncle; the brother of the great-grandmother whose marriage records I was hunting. I couldn't believe it. Mostly because he was listed as "deceased" along with the rest of his siblings. I went and checked my family tree. Guess what? My brother is a moron.

Every sibling in that line had been marked "deceased." Alterations made my my brother. OMG. So I emailed my brother AGAIN and let him know to expect notifications from Ancestry noting changes corrections I would be making to our line since he was dabbling in everything again. I can't even begin to explain how peeved I am at his messing with things. I have told him repeatedly to let it alone since he has no clue what he is doing. I even called his mission office in an attempt to call him off.

It's so strange because this same brother has also been oddly compliant and helpful when I've requested he release names to me. I mean, he went through and reserved all the names without asking and I know for a fact that he lied about relationship with most of them. There is no way he had my mom's permission to reserve all those names. Sharing isn't something she does. She believes that my grandma can't go to Heaven unless someone is baptized in proxy for her, but she would rather have her wait around in spirit prison until every. single. sibling of my mine is ready to go to the temple and she (my mom) is somehow physically able to do the work by her own self, because she'll be darned if anyone else does it. It's bizarre. It just isn't going to happen. Le sigh.

So (back from the tangent), my great-great uncle and three others of his thirteen siblings are still living. He was delighted to hear that I know who he is and remember his son (I described his as a kind man, beer in hand, who helped me collect clam shells) from a family reunion. I also let him know that he was marked as dead on the website.

He gave me a detailed life sketch of his family and told me that everyone, including my mom, has been spelling his sister's middle name and my grandma's middle name incorrectly. It's Mae, not May, which I think is particularly neat since it is my initials. I've been trying to find a new name to go by since I feel like a completely different person now that my family has dissolved into oblivion. Also, my new friends have been asking about nicknames. So you may see me signing my name differently now. Ha!

He is now an email pal. I've sent him email attachment photos of my family and he agrees that Caroline is basically Grandma reincarnated. He sent me pictures in the mail of his family as well as my great-grandma and her sister, Ethelyn.

I'm excited about the photos. I met Great-Aunt Ethelyn a couple times and thought she looked like a clone of my Grandma Linda, only more white around the edges. She passed a few years after Grandma did. I know there was once a photo of my Great-Grandma Cordelia but my mom has hoarded all those sorts of photos away and well, let's just say I'm not ever going to have access to them while she has them. So I'm excited to see what Cordelia looked like when the photos arrive in the mail.

Did I mention that I received the archived file I requested on the murder of my biological grandpa? I've worked through about half of it so far. I'm going to need my SIL's husband to help me piece together some of the timeline, but it looks like the kid who went down for most of it wasn't the shooter. Possibly. He was an illiterate black kid from NY who had the misfortune of being arrested while attempting to hold up a convenience shop with a gun that was only linked to the murder the day or so before. It looks like the cops beat and threatened a confession out of him without representation or an adult present. He was a minor and must have been scared out of his mind when they told him the other kid had confessed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Surgery Update #5: Six Days Post-Op

I'm healing well and feeling extremely blessed! I have a small army of angels taking care of me. Benj has been amazing (today is his first day back at work) and I have wonderful friends helping with the girls and meals.

I've had a few exciting moments with the Dyskinetic movement, but nothing compared to what I was expecting. I'm thrilled that the meds seem to be keeping ahead of it and preventing it rather than the opposite- being used as a last resort to end storms. Nights are a bit worse, likely since I'm exhausted by then. But then a silver lining is I can take my heavy hitter meds for it at night since Benj is home. So many things to be thankful for.

During the days I now have bursts of energy and feel pretty normal until I suddenly feel like I weigh a thousand pounds and am going to fall asleep and drop where I stand. It's almost like someone hits the reset button on me. I hear that is pretty normal for a couple months.

I am doing my best to take it easy. Probably my biggest challenge. It's difficult to be "up and doing" when you aren't supposed to be up. :) I've taken to catching up on books. We finished Tom Sawyer aloud with the girls over the weekend and tried to watch a Tom and Huck movie we rented on Xbox, but it was so bad we stopped about ten minutes in. So we've basically been watching Moana on repeat instead and no one is complaining. :)

Anyway, the incisions look good (they are now bright green and purple), swelling is going down, and the pain is manageable. I had a surprise when I sat back one afternoon and felt a big tug of pain on my back. No one told me (or they did and I don't recall from the meds), but somehow I got a big gauge that ran up my back at the hospital. While they were transferring me from bed to bed or maybe while I was having a Dyskinesia storm? I'm not sure. In any case, I didn't know about it until I accidentally ripped the scab off. Hullo! That was different! It's the little things that remind you you're alive! Haha. Speaking of, I haven't been this excited about bodily functions since after Caroline was born. Everything seems to be working and improving. Which is the goal!

Thank you everyone for the encouragement and assists (meals, rides, notes, etc.). The meals have been incredibly helpful and I am so appreciative of the love and I know the girls are thrilled to have rides to homeschool events so they aren't missing out. Thank you, thank you! <3 p="">

Surgery Update #4: Home Healing

Thank you for all the sweet messages, texts and calls! I am still keeping food down although my anti-nausia patch is running out. I'm eating light so the transition shouldn't be too bad when I remove it later.

I am mostly able to manage the Dyskinesia with meds. It started getting worse overnight. I've been pretty wobbly and my limbs are doing their own thing, but that was to be expected. All the incision sites look good. No sign of infection. Benj is taking great care of me and has been checking my temp and making sure I have fluids nearby.

The girls have all been very aware of my incision sites and are doing their best to be gentle. Caroline keeps asking to see my tummy and wanting to kiss each incision site, but has to settle for hand kisses instead.

I was able to shower last night and used more of this super amazing hospital cleanser to prevent infection. I also kind of wanted to burn the clothes I wore at the hospital. Haha. No bringing home anything but me! ;)

I've been feeling increasingly stiff around the incisions and am feeling the pain a bit more, so I'm trying to not overdo anything.  We have hit that bump where the heavy hitter meds from the hospital are dropping off. Par for the course.

I have positive feelings about healing and feeling so much better when this is all healed. Right now I have this weird sensory feeling like I'm being led around by the insicions. I can feel my heartbeat in them, which is also weird.

My doctor emailed me the last pathology report and wow, all the little things sure added up to cause a lot of pain. I'm so grateful to have all the diagnoses confirmed and to be on the right end of surgery.

Thank again friends for caring. I apologise if I haven't returned phone calls or texts. My memory is a bit off because of the meds. Much love!
Love,
MaryAnn

Surgery Update #3: It Happened!

Yesterday we checked into the hospital right on time and then were immediately sent back to get prepped. I got changed into one of those fashionable hospital robes and then watched two nurses scramble to find manual cuffs so they could take my blood pressure. When they took my blood pressure, it set off involuntary movement. Then they told me they needed to get blood drawn for labs and also start a port. If I'd known, I'd have suggested they poke me and then take my BP. I got three failed pokes in my left hand before they moved on to my rather anxious right hand. She got that one in right away when the other nurse and I threatened to just have anesthesia come start it themselves. lol

Once they did all the preamble I got to see Benj for a sec while they pushed me into the surgery room. The nurses and docs were scrubbing down and listening to classic rock.  They had me scoot from one bed to another and then that's all I remember until I woke in recovery.

Word on the street is that even after all the consults, I surprised the anesthesiologist by convulsing while under general anesthesia. (No, no, he had assured me. You will be very asleep during surgery. That won't happen). They had to up the ante and hit me with a paralytic. I also convulsed when they pulled me out of anesthesia, but I have no memory of that. The good stuff they gave me just kept coming! They did as I requested and gave me teensy doses in intervals rather then pumping a bunch into my arm all in one go. Patience is key! If they hit me with big doses it whiplashes and causes worse storms once it wears off.

This time I just woke up in a room like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, saying "you were there! And you were there!" Haha. No, not really.

I guess none of the nurses wanted to take care of me post-op (scared 'em with the Dyskinesia) so there was debate about where to send me. I almost ended up going to the peds floor, but in the end they shuffled things around and made a room available for me in recovery. And the nurses came in pairs of two. For moral support? lol They were all really sweet.
I should have written up a card explaining Dyskinesia for them. I got a handful of interesting questions that started with "Doctor says you uh, have seizure or something?" Then I had to explain the or something.

We finally figured out the right mix of meds so I had a mad time of convulsing and puking all night, but by morning there were only slight twitches, the barfing was over, and I was able to have the cath removed and shuffle to the bathroom on my own.

It took a while to be able to keep food down since I was still dizzy but eventually we got it figured out. When the doctor came through to do his rounds I had kept a late breakfast down and brushed my teeth all on my own. He said the surgery went great! The robot did its thing and I didn't have to be opened up more than necessary. He took what he needed to, left what we wanted left, and the pathology reports and photos of my insides were more than sufficient to make me feel good about all the crazy decisions that got us here. It is baffling to me that so many silly things can go so disastrously wrong in just one person! This is just one of the reasons Benj has dubbed me "Murphy" after Murphy's Law.

So I'm groggy on and off, memory seems okay (although I haven't been taking my stuff at home. It's different when it's through IV and being flushed with fluids), I'm able to type! Unheard of before following a surgery. The four incision sites are sore and my skin and muscles feel like they've been put through a blender. But I could tell the immediate difference-the big nasty pit of pain is gone!

When I was discharged I was feeling pretty on top of the world. Being home again I'm crashing a bit since all the good stuff is wearing off. Poor Benj, that amazing wonderful man ran all over the township today trying to find a pharmacy that had the meds I was prescribed because a handful of them were out. I got off my med schedule by nearly four hours and I'm feeling it now.

I had a good nap (thanks again Benj!) this afternoon, my sweet brother brought dinner over, and then we watched Moana for the first time. I'm about ready to drop. but am updating all the requests for updates I've had throughout the day (sorry if I've kept you waiting!) while I wait to take all my evening meds so I don't end up having to take them regularly at wacky times.

I'm grateful everything went so well and we are generally surprised that all the picking though medication options with anesthesia resulted in significantly less convulsing post-op than what I've experienced in the past. It is noticeably worse that the usual day-to-day twitches I have (I've dropped twice today and have almost no control over flailing limbs when they go), but this is such a good starting point. I'm following all my doctor's instructions and I'm thankful for all the support, prayers, thoughts and vibes. I'm looking forward to when I can drive again and resume taking care of things. Until then, if anyone needs me, you know where to find me! I have relinquished my position as queen of the hospital and am now currently queen of the couch (or floor, since sometimes I end up there too. lol)  :)

Surgery Update #2: Nearly There

This afternoon the hospital OR scheduler called to let me know what time to report to the hospital. Thankfully, it is before lunchtime. There was slight concern about timing since I'm not allowed to eat after midnight and skipping meals causes the involuntary movement to kick up a notch.

I will only have to tough it out a couple hours and then they will give me good anti-involuntary movement goodies (the kind I don't have at home) with the mix of anesthesia meds.

I've been feeling prepared and bolstered from so much support, so this evening I am mostly calm. I've had some pain and discomfort and it's surreal to think this could be the last time I jump up to help a child with something and feel like an alien is ripping out of my middle, or Hey! After a couple months I will be able to reach clothes out of the washer without hurting anymore! Or sit, eat or sleep without feeling yuck, gross or in agony. I'm so excited at the prospect of all those things!

At my pre-op appointment I was asked twice what my pain level was. Such an odd question. I've been dealing with this so long that I always want to reply, "compared to what?" I've learned to live with it. It is going to be so interesting to learn to live without it! And that journey starts tomorrow! Woo-hoo!

We spent the evening cuddling the girls and I braided their hair while we watched Benj play through the opening of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Then I tucked the girls in, sang to them, and told them thank you for the sweet beaded necklace and crown they made me so I can be queen of the hospital tomorrow. I love them! Of course I can't actually wear the crown or necklace to surgery, but I will bring them along in the car for good luck.

I'm grateful for all the kind gestures and well wishes for me and my family. Thank you all! We aren't sure what things will look like post-surgery, but we will do our best to update you. I'm off to have a final drink of water before the pre-surgery fast. Loves and goodnight! <3 p="">

Surgery Update #1: Thank You!

I'm going to copy and paste my journal updates from the meal-train site here since they are the most complete updates I have on surgery. Here is #1:

Benj and I are completely overwhelmed with the outpouring of love, service and well-wishes! Thank you so much! To know that help with meals is available is a huge relief to us and we are grateful beyond words to know I can focus on resting, healing, and Benj can focus on taking care of the girls post-surgery.

I won't be able to do much lifting or shuffling around in the kitchen and have promised Benj that I won't attempt to handle knives, etc. until the post anesthesia Dyskinesia storms die down. Silly story to go along with that thought:  Just this last week I experienced an arm/wrist twitch right as I was reaching into the oven. It flung the oven mitt off my hand and I instantly recoiled- dragging the outside of my wrist against the inside of the oven. So I have a little burn on my wrist as a reminder to stay out of the kitchen the next few weeks! :)

Surgery is in two days! My pre-op appointment was last week along with another anesthesia consult, pre-surgery labs, and pre-registration at the hospital. A sweet friend of ours graciously helped out with the girls while I went to all those appointments. I'm so grateful!

Everyone is well-read on my medical history and are confident in the plan to (hopefully!) minimize risks associated with Dyskinesia, although we all expect me to experience storms no matter what we do. I'm just relieved that there will be no surprised medical personnel. In the past, I have had nurses frozen over me looking around with no idea how to respond, which is super disconcerting since I  usually can't speak to them to explain that it isn't a seizure. The surgical team is aware of the Dyskinesia like they were at Caroline's birth, so I shouldn't see any confused or scared faces this time. Ha!

I'm not allowed to take my pain medicine or medicine for the Dyskinesia until after surgery since there are contraindications with the meds they will give me and they want a clean slate so they can carefully monitor and regulate what is in my system. I'm not excited about that (especially since I am in pain and also a bit nervous anticipating surgery which makes me more prone to involuntary movement), but I have pain free days to look ahead to! Two day count down!

Thank you again for your support, you wonderful people! It's so humbling to have an army of people standing with us. We are feeling the love!<3 p="">

Family Science Project