Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life Is Good

It's New Year's Eve and I sit in my bedroom alone with my laptop watching a biography of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, one of my favorite shows. I also sit here listening to non-stop laughter coming from Alexander, Sophia and friends as they play the game Catch Phrase. Such a contrast from the quiet earlier tonight when they played Bananagrams. I see Steve off and on as he comes up to check on me while waiting for programs to load. He is doing an unplanned job that will bring in some extra money that is much needed right now. (sigh of relief)

A quiet night is appreciated. We had a busy day shopping for a new outfit for Sophia at the mall. I try to avoid the mall if at all possible, ordering almost everything online. Luckily we found an adorable dress on the clearance rack for $12 at the first store we went to (as soon as I showed it to Sophia, I wished I had claimed it for myself). We also picked up/made snacks for the kid's party, did a little workout (yes, I am feeling that good) and cleaned. A quiet night is nice. I have caught up on emails and I tried to track my package from Eddie Bauer which contains a new pair of jeans, a pair of slacks and a sweater. I didn't have any luck with the tracking number. After losing 20 pounds on the Body Ecology Diet, I have absolutely nothing to wear and really want new clothes to take with me on our trip to Wichita, Kansas next week. After placing the order I went back and tried to do a three day delivery to make sure I had the clothes in time but it was too late. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they come in time and fit.

We are in for a long night. The girls have been known to stay up until 6am and the boys that are here tonight get along well with the girls, so I doubt they will be asleep any sooner. This will drive our dog Izzy nuts even though we worked hard to wear her out before our guests arrived. Anything out of our regular routine causes her to feel restless. She will come to me whining until the kids finally fall asleep. The laughter and talking, plus snacks, is just too much for this puppy who turns three tomorrow. The kids will be tired and cranky tomorrow and we will take it easy finishing up on season 5 of The Office.

I am a homebody. I love quiet nights at home and I love to have my family near me. So, even though I am celebrating this new year somewhat alone, I have my family close by and my husband bringing in much needed money. For this homebody, life is good.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Improvements In Rheumatoid Arthritis

Yesterday morning I experienced a warm fuzzy feeling. I was looking over my blog from the last few months and realized that most of my recent posts have focused on my family rather
than rheumatoid arthritis.

Our blogs are very personal and a good indicator of where we are in our life. Looking back over my blog I can see when the pain has been at its worst because most of my posts reflect that pain. Seeing that the last month or more my posts have been about my family shows progress. My body is healing and allowing me to focus on something other than pain. This is a good feeling. I still have days that are bad, but overall my mental and physical energy is improving noticably. I am glad I have my blog to reflect on and to help recognize the progress I am making. I am also glad it is here to share the bad days when needed.

As my body continues to make improvements I wish each and every one of you the same in 2010, whether you are dealing with RA, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, or some other life issue. (For those in perfect health, I wish you continued health and hope it rubs off on others.) I hope this new year allows me to share more stories of my adventures with my family and personal growth and less of those adventures that involve the pain and frustration that come with rheumatoid arthritis. Happy New Year!

*Currently I am following the Body Ecology Diet and using a homeopathy remedy that was chosen specifically with me in mind.

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Copies Wanted!

It's a funny thing about growing up. When Sophia was younger she wanted to be just like her momma. She told me often that she hoped she would be short like me, our hair was cut in a similiar style and a few short years ago we had matching pajamas which had to be worn on the same nights. Everything about me was wonderful - I could see it in her eyes and it was the greatest feeling. Now, at 11 year old, she still admires her momma, but she needs to feel different and unique.....she needs to be Sophia, not a copy of me. She wants to stand alone in her beauty and truly I understand that and feel for her each time I hear someone say, "You look just like your mom." She tells me, "It isn't that I don't think you are pretty." I know that. She doesn't have to explain it to me. Last night we went to dinner at my niece's house and as soon as we walked in she said, "Oh, you got her hair cut just like your mom's." I could see Sophia melting as she always does when she hears this type of comment. Later she said, "I don't want to look like a 41 year old woman." He-he. I am 42 and just shaved off a year!

We are going for haircuts this week and I have a feeling Sophia is now thinking about going a different direction with her hair than she was a few days ago which makes me sad. Not sad that she doesn't want to look like me, but sad that she feels stuck in looking like her momma and not looking like Sophia. For me, I see many similarities in our look, of course, but I also see so many differences. I see Sophia who is so beautiful and unique it brings tears to my eyes sometimes just to look at her. That is what she wants from everyone - just to be seen as Sophia and not a copy of her momma.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas here was nice, especially if you ignore the photo enforced traffic violation ticket that came in the mail on Christmas Eve for me, a big gift that didn't arrive on time, and a leak that was discovered in our kitchen after we were in bed and sent Steve out to clean the gutters at 11:00 PM on a wet night. All memories, right?

Really, those events put a damper on Christmas Eve for a short time, but it is hard to stay in that mood when there was baking to be done with the kids and then two hours of viewing Christmas lights with Steve, the kids and Izzy.

On Christmas day Sophia slept in until about 6:30am which amazed me. I was awake for about an hour waiting on her. Our family rule is nobody goes downstairs until we are all awake. Waiting was hard. I was so excited. Following tradition, we headed down to see what Santa had left for the kids and in our stockings once everyone was awake. Sophia received a mini trampoline from Santa which she has been bouncing on almost non-stop. Alexander's gift from Santa was delayed, but the wait will be worth it - a genuine WWII bayonet. He also received a WWII shovel from us. He loves this kind of stuff. Afterwards we ate breakfast and opened the rest of our gifts which I think everyone was more than pleased with.

I was fortunate to receive many gifts this year - all of which I needed or wanted.
My ears and forehead get extremely cold and uncomfortable even when out for short periods. Thanks Steve, Sophia and Alexander. It is just what I need.

Ever since the kids were very little they have made Christmas gifts for Steve and me. This year Alexander jigsawed puzzle pieces and then wood burned the heart and squiggles. Isn't that a creative idea?

From Sophia I received a crocheted scarf. I love it! This is her first scarf ever. She went to the craft store one day and within a few short days a gift for me was under the tree. I never imagined this would be what was inside. The handmade gifts from the kids always mean so much to me.

This year Alexander wanted a blazer. He looks so grown up and handsome, doesn't he?

The rest of our day was spent eating (I had a planned day off from the diet and enjoyed myself, but didn't go overboard which felt nice), playing Bananagrams, and enjoying each other's company. I hope your Christmas was just as delightful.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Traditions

The first two years after moving from Kansas to Illinois, we drove 12 hours both ways to spend Christmas with our family. But, the trip was long and Sophia hated her car seat and it seemed once we arrived we spent a lot of time in the car rushing from one family to the next. It just didn't seem worth the trouble when we could visit in the summer and really relax and spend the quality time we wanted with our family and friends. The decision to stay home and create our own traditions was a little lonely the first year since I come from a large family and I am used to being surrounding by noise and people, but well worth it.

I have really learned to appreciate the time we have with just the four of us. Our holiday is quiet and relaxed. On Christmas Eve we bake cookies for Santa, we bake bread for Christmas morning, we prepare the Christmas meal, and we usually do some type of activity together before Alexander and Sophia exchange gifts with each other. Then at night we leave the Christmas tree lights on for Santa and head to bed. Sophia is always the first to wake up on Christmas morning and I can usually convince her to snuggle in bed with me for a while so the boys can sleep a little longer. Finally, when she can't stand it any longer, we all head downstairs together to see what Santa has left.

I have heard my kids both say that one of their favorite parts of Christmas day is that Steve and I devote the entire day to them. Most of the cooking/baking is finished on Christmas Eve so we have little preparations to do. Instead we spend the day playing. As the kids get older and less toys are purchased I can see us playing board games or finding new ways to spend the day together. Whatever it is, I can't wait. I find myself getting more and more excited each day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Water Park

Early Sunday morning we drove three and a half hours to the Wisconsin Dells for a day/night of water slides,wave pools and most importantly time together as a family. As we headed to our first adventure, The Hurricane,we climbed several sets of stairs before standing in line to wait for our turn. As we waited, I felt this sense of anxiety taking over. The anxiety didn't come from the fear that my body couldn't handle the numerous stair climbing we would be doing because my body has actually been feeling better (I started the homeopathy remedy my friend worked on for me. More on that to come soon!)and the anxiety didn't come from the ride, although I had no idea what I was getting myself into and should have had anxiety about that. No, the anxiety came from the fear that the water would be cold and my hands and feet would not be able to tolerate it. One of the side effects for many with RA is poor circulation in their hands and feet which make the cold unbearable. But, when I stepped into the water, it was warm. Except for a few areas in the park, all the water was pleasantly warm and I had absolutely no problems with my hands or feet. Two flights of stairs feeling anxiety for nothing!

It turns out that RA didn't play a part in limiting my adventures one bit. Instead, motion sickness played its part. On our second run of The Hurricane, I was dumped from the tube backwards and in the dark and felt the first signs of trouble. Then we headed to the wave pool where I laid across a tube while Steve and the waves bounced me around. I ended up taking a little break on the next adventure and then felt fine.

The trip was good and my body did a lot physically. I am proud of myself. Getting away and having fun together always reminds me of how fortunate we are as a family. I look at my husband and feel happy that he is so much fun. He is a good balance for me. I like the way that Alexander and Sophia get along and enjoy seeing them from a distance laughing and talking together. As a family, we just seem to click. I am glad we had the opportunity to get away and started our vacation time with Steve relaxed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

People In My Life: Rocio and Alberto

Around six years ago or so I had the privilege of teaching a series of conversation classes rather than my usual classes which focus on reading, writing, and a little speaking. I LOVED teaching these classes because they were more relaxed and I was able to develop a close relationship with many of the students in these classes. In fact, after several of us had been together for a while, we had a party here at my house. The students planned everything and brought everything, including Coronas for Steve! It was a blast. After we ate the students moved all of our living room furniture out and began the music. Everyone danced, even me which doesn't happen often.

From that group of students I met a very special couple - Rocio and Alberto. We clicked right away. They are a married couple that is the same age as Steve and myself and have been married about as long and like us, they still really like being together. When they graduated from the ESL program they asked for me to attend. I was so proud of them. One year they invited us to Rocio's birthday party and although we were the only English speaking friends there, they made us feel very comfortable. In fact, I will never forget going to their house. They live in the basement of their sister's home with a small kitchen, one bedroom, one bath and a small living room which also serves as their son's bedroom. They took my family on a tour of their home and it was the most beautiful experience. I have been to so many homes of friends who apologize for it being dirty, not filled with furniture, under construction or numerous other complaints. I didn't hear one negative thing come from their mouth. They were proud of each and everything in their home. It was a good lesson for me to remind myself that we have so much.

Over the years we have kept in touch. As a family they have struggled. Alberto has not had a lot of luck finding jobs and for the last year and a half Rocio has been working full time at McDonald's during the day and then six nights a week cleaning an office. She leaves by six in the morning and is home by nine. I love her attitude. When I mentioned how much work that is she told me it was okay because at each job people are so nice. While Alberto is out of work he is working on his GED. They have made a commitment to the USA. They want to live here permanently and once told me to tell them everything about the culture, language, etc that would help them.

Last night Alberto came by my class without Rocio which I knew meant she is still working nights. He had a Christmas gift for me. The instructions were to put it under the tree until Christmas and to give everyone in my family a hug from them. I am truly blessed to not only have a job that I love, but to have the opportunity to meet such wonderful people.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Attachment Parenting and The Family Bed

Even though my years of sharing a family bed are mostly over, it is a time I will always look back at as the best decision Steve and I ever made together. Having our children in bed with us just always felt right. My all time favorite book that was read over and over again is Nighttime Parenting by Dr. Sears. Reading Dr. Sears book made me realize how natural it is to have your child sleep next to you and has been a natural part of parenting until recent years.

Sleeping with my children allowed me to know them in a way that I don't think I would have ever known them. I learned that Sophia needed to sing herself to sleep, that Alexander woke up often with nightmares when he was a toddler and quickly fell back to sleep when he could cuddle with me. I learned that Sophia scratched at her eczema all night long and I could gently rub areas and help ease her back to sleep.

My family has many fond memories of our family bed. For many years we had a twin size bed next to our king size bed and I would wake up in the morning with both kids and I in one little corner cuddled up together. My mom bought us the book The Biggest Bed in the World which we loved and read often together in our biggest bed. We have the memory of Alexander and I laying next to each other listening to the pitter patter of little feet when we first moved into this house and realized we had squirrels living in our attic. We have tons of memories of funny stories that were shared after the lights went out. My most precious memory though is how when the kids woke up and saw our faces, they immediately smiled.

I have heard all the cons of sleeping with your child, but in all honesty, I will never believe them. After sharing a family bed for many years, I have seen too many benefits. I have experienced the gift of having my children with me 24 hours a day and it is just too wonderful to not think that is how we were meant to be.
Here are a few articles on co-sleeping that you might enjoy:
Ten Reasons To Sleep Next To Your Child At Night
Shunning the Family Bed. Who Benefits Most?

Family beds, breastfeeding and attachment parenting have been on my mind lately, more as reflections than wanting new information. We of course have weaned from the breast (I told everyone that my children would naturally wean when ready and they did!) and rarely have a family bed anymore although our dog Izzy has replaced the kids, but attachment parenting is something that stays with you a lifetime. I had this post ready to go and then did a few things around the house and wondered what made me feel the need to write about the family bed. Maybe it is because my family is moving into a new phase of our life - we are becoming a family of teenagers. With that is much excitement and I never wish my children to be any other age than the age they are now. But, it does challenge me to remind myself that the attachment parenting style I made my own when my children were infants, toddlers and children is the same style I need to use today. When I honor who they are and give them breathing room to be that special person, life is wonderful.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hide and Seek

The bitterly cold days we have been experiencing here in Chicago the last few days have meant shorter walks for our almost three year old border collie, Izzy. The kids have bundled up and taken her on a few short walks the last few days but with the shorter walks, we have had to be creative in finding additional ways to use up her energy. Indoor games work well on really cold days and one of my favorite games to play with her is "hide & seek".

To play "hide & seek", one of the kids or myself goes into the bathroom with Izzy. The other one hides somewhere in the house and hollers "ready" when a spot has been comfortably located. The door to the bathroom is opened and instructions to "go find Sophia" are given. Izzy heads down the stairs and begins the search. She knows our smell and also listens carefully while in the bathroom. We have tried to find new creative places to hide but she always finds us because she won't give up until she does. When she finds us her tail wags like crazy, she is rewarded with a treat, and she then heads to the bathroom to begin the next round of the game.

I like this game because she is getting lots of physical exercise running up and down the stairs. She is getting mental exercise by searching for us which border collies have a high need for. Mostly though I like watching her as she goes from room to room not letting anything distract her until she has completed her job.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homemade Advent Calendars

Every year since the kids were very little we have had some type of advent calendar to help count down the days to Christmas. We have made construction paper rings, we have purchased Lego advent calendars, Playmobil advent calendars, and even chocolate calendars. Together the three of us would open each day and marvel at what we found inside. This year the kids were discussing what they would like to do for an advent calendar when I had this brilliant idea. Why don't they make advent calendars for each other?

After some brainstorming, we came up with some great ideas. Alexander found a box and created his calendar for Sophia to look like a Christmas gift. Each day she opens a little door he cut from the box.

Sophia used felt and sewed a hanging calendar for Alexander. So far they have opened several pieces of chocolate candy, tiny ornaments for the trees in their rooms, bells, and a coupon from Alexander for a free night of washing dishes. As they got more involved in making their calendars, the ideas for each other became more individual and fun!

My poor camera is old and tired. I will have to try again on this photo.

Alexander and Sophia have always been very close. They are 25 months apart in age and have just always seemed to like each other. Maybe it is the differences in their personalities, the fact that they are of the opposite sex, that they share so many of the same friends, or that they have just always been compatible. Anyhow, since coming up with the idea of making advent calendars for each other, I have also seen a renewed spark in their sibling relationship. Steve and I have both had to remind them at one in the morning that their laughter is too loud, they come home from walking our dog laughing together, and they just seem to get the other one more than usual. Making the advent calendars and concentrating on one another during this holiday season reminds me of when I was a child with five siblings and my mom came up with the idea of having angels. It was fun to focus on one other person and do nice things for him/her. It gave us a true understanding of what the season was all about. I am happy to see my kids experiencing the same magic of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Slowing Down

I have been on the Body Ecology Diet for almost three months now. Many people have asked, "So, is it working?" The answer to this question is tricky. The main goal in following this diet is to get my rheumatoid arthritis under control. It isn't yet under control. This doesn't discourage me though. Just as many medications for rheumatoid arthritis take several months before results happen, choosing an alternative path takes time too. I am learning though that slowing down to appreciate all that blossoms before a goal is achieved is becoming something that amazes me.

Over the years many things have led me in the direction of slowing down which is so different than mainstream society. Our decision to homeschool our children has helped me be patient with the learning styles and time tables that each of my children follow. Sometimes this is hard when other kids the same age are accomplishing certain skills that my children are not yet ready for. But with patience, I see that it wasn't yet their time to accomplish the same skills because they were busy accomplishing their own individual skills. This is the same for my body. Right now it may not be visually showing all the signs of healing, but with time I will look back and see that it couldn't show joint healing yet because it was busy healing non-visible organs.

My life has also slowed down thanks to rheumatoid arthritis. I do not say "thanks" sarcastically either. Due to my body needing more down time I have had to give up many things I enjoy but have also learned to appreciate many new things. I often find myself the observer in my life. I get to quietly sit back and listen to my children laugh together, I get to watch toddlers in our homeschool group in a way I would never have allowed myself before when life was more hurried. I get to observe relationships and I get time to ponder on my own life and feelings. Slowing down has been good. Two summers ago when my sister was visiting I shared with her how embarrassed I was during one of our outings because we had to move at a snail's pace due to swollen joints. She sincerely replied, "That isn't how I viewed the day. I actually thought it was nice because it slowed us all down." She explained how usually life is so hurried and that I had helped everyone to just slow down and enjoy what was going on around them. At the time it was hard to accept this and some days it still is, but I have learned that she is right. Slowing down is good.

Ridding my joints of pain and swelling is my main goal with this diet but I have many other goals. I feel that our organs all work together and if one is not functioning well, it will affect the others. I have been told over and over that my liver is weak, my adrenals need some work and my digestion is out of whack. It makes sense to me that if these are out of whack, then my joints will be too. So, while setting my goals for this diet, I also want to make sure that all of my hidden organs are functioning well not only to help my joints recover but also to prevent additional diseases from entering my body. This work is not as visible or as interesting to discuss, but it is happening. I see a huge difference in my digestion since starting this diet and with the swelling going down by the day in my knee, I have to believe my liver is improving. Of course like anything that happens in life, it is following the time table is that right for me as an individual and I am fine with that.