Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I woke up many times last night thirsty and sweating and could feel my knee swelling again. This is a good reminder to me that even though I have been feeling well on the prednisone, it doesn't solve the problem. Whatever is causing the inflammation is still there. My body is still trying to tell me something.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Remembering all the play the two kids did together reminds me of why I could never send them to school and separate them. Even now at 11 and 13 years old, I find them together laughing and continuing the bond that will last forever.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Highlights of my week:
~I have been using our kitchen table as my desk area for way too long. I have had a vision of what I wanted for my workspace, but haven't done much to make it happen. I knew I wanted to find something used and found the above desk and chair on Craigslist yesterday for a great price. Steve and Alexander picked it up for me today. I LOVE it.
~Sophia was fitted for two different costumes on Friday night. This is her first play. Trying on costumes felt so exciting. I am glad I was included. I am beginning to think I am as excited about this play as she is. What I value most from our experience so far with this theatre group is how supportive the kids and adults are to each other. I am glad Sophia is in this environment.
~I started a new class on Thursday morning. I have 12 woman and one man. About 3/4 of the students were in my lower level classes so I felt comfortable the first day. It will be a fun quad. Also, since my evening class was cut, I have all my evenings free for the first time in nine years!
~I met three of my students at Starbucks Saturday morning for what they called our "social time" together. They are a blast. In May they will graduate from our ESL program, but I hope we continue our monthly get togethers.
~Physically I didn't feel too bad. My knee, hand, and feet are still feeling some pain, but overall, not too bad. I was able to get out and do some more walking this week which I enjoyed and the coming week promises warm temperatures.
~Life is good for Cateepoo.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
*This was my first knee x-ray so we don't have anything to compare it to.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Due to a long commute I veered away from my original naturopath and have seen many other alternative practitioners over the years. Each one had something to provide along my journey and has opened my eyes to so many interesting ideas. (If ever we win the lottery, I can definitely see an alternative medicine addiction.)
Since October things have not been good for me. Towards the end of January things went further downhill. I have been in a lot more pain than ever before and in the last month visited a new naturopath closer to home as well as my primary care physician. Although I like the extras that the new naturopathic office has to offer, I am not connecting there. My primary care physician however, I absolutely love.
During my visit a few weeks back with my PCP he asked me to have a knee x-ray. I received a call last week that there was bone erosion and he wanted to see me. Immediately I panicked and called the naturopath I starting seeing in 2004. Her mental energy and honesty have always calmed my spirits and I knew I needed to see her. Early Sunday morning we met. Fortunately I have been updating her on visits with other practitioners and my overall progress so my history since our last visit didn't take long. She has some new ideas and new concerns which she freely shared with me. I think what I like most about her is that she gives me hope while also keeping me in reality. She was very glad I went back on prednisone and warned about the dangers of allowing my body to get to the point it did. We are starting on an anti-inflammatory herb while I am still on prednisone so the transition will be easier when this round is over. We are also looking deeper into my diet. In fact, she questions me about every area of my life: Work - Can I request a room that doesn't use chalk since it cramps my hands? Am I using low odor markers? Home -Is my husband supportive of my health choices? He is. PMS -Am I still experiencing PMS and does RA get worse with my cycle? No and I think so. Stress - Do my symptoms increase with stress? Yes, with both good and bad stress. Weather - Is it still affecting me? Yes. Which season is the worst for me? My husand says spring and I have to agree. She wants to know every detail of what increases my symptoms. She often will ask questions about my early childhood and my mom's pregnancy with me. She is always looking for the cause.
I feel like I have come full circle with this disease. I have returned to working with my original naturopath where I feel safe, I am once again wildly appreciative of the support my PCP gives me, and I am seeing a new rheumatologist in a few weeks. In the beginning of this disease, I was fearful of the disease. Seeing my knee x-ray results, I am fearful of this disease again. It is a powerful disease that keeps fighting back. But, there are differences this time around. When I see the new rheumatolgoist in a few weeks I will be seeing her with a knowledge base that is much more advanced than when I first saw my previous rheumatologist years ago. This time I will not let fear drive my decisions. As we looked at my previous x-rays yesterday I had lots of changes happening even with all the meds I was on and possibly some adverse changes due to the medications I was on. This time around I know I have choices. I know I have more of a say in my health than I gave myself credit for the first time around. And most importantly, not only do I know RA better, but I know ME better. I know the decisions that I make will be decisions that feel right to me. I know that with rheumatoid arthritis we all share common traits, but I also believe that RA is a symptom of something very unique for each of us and therefore I have to make the unique decisions that feel right to me. I feel good about the direction I am going. A little scared, but good.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I think the thing that would most surprise non-homeschoolers is how varied in lifestyles homeschoolers are from each other. We come from many different paths in life. Some homeschoolers are very conservative, while others top the liberal side. Homeschoolers vary on the religious spectrum from one end to the other. Not only do our life experiences vary, but our homeschooling philosophies can also be as different as night and day. But, whatever our philosophies about life, religion or educating our children, I love surrounding myself with other homeschoolers because what we do all have in common is a genuine love for our children and a strong desire to provide a way of life that we believe is the best path for our individual families.
The two days of conferences were devoted to classes and hanging out with friends.
The highlight of the conference for my family was the family dance. After a full day of participating in classes, it was great fun to watch our kids dance together in groups while the parents enjoyed good conversation and a few drinks.
Steve and Alexander getting ready to attend a music workshop. Each child was to bring their instrument and music. The class was a huge success and afterwards the new band performed their song at the talent show. Here Alexander waits for his turn to perform.
I titled last week my "amazing week" and that is exactly what it was. I took full advantage of the gorgeous weather we had in Chicago and full advantage of the prednisone that is living in my body for now. I had a relaxing, fun time hanging out with friends. On Sunday I met with my original naturopath and immediately realized that although she is a drive, she is exactly the person I need to be working with on a regular basis. The energy and truthfullness she gives me is exactly what I need and meeting with her has given me a new sense of comfort.
Today starts a new week for me - an appointment with my primary care physician to discuss the results of my blood work and knee x-ray, plus a new reduced work schedule and a new class. It might not be an "amazing week", but sometimes after an amazing week you look forward to the calmness of the ordinary week. I hope your week is great!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
1. Although the decision to take a two month round of prednisone was hard, I feel very comfortable with my decision. I am happy to report that after one week it is starting to do its work. Honestly, I can't even put into words how much I needed this physical break.
2. This week I am on Spring Break from work and the weather is in the 60's with sun all week.
It is truly amazing how once you title a week "amazing" your mind focuses in on that message and even with a little disappointing news about my knee x-ray and work schedule this week, my mind has stayed in "amazing" mode and so far I have had an absolutely perfect week.
Besides physically feeling well, my "Amazing Week" was kicked off with Sophia participating in her first ever audition on Friday night. She will be performing in "A Little Princess" in May. She has wanted to audition with this theatre group for a year now and I kept saying, "I need to feel better first." I am glad we went ahead with this goal. I am so proud of her.
After Sophia's audition we headed over to a restaurant/pub where we met friends and listened to Steve perform. They asked him to return the next night at a different location and our friends came out again!
My sleep has been "amazing". For months now I have woke up time after time with extreme pain in my knee and shoulders. To wake up in the morning and realize I slept all night is pure joy.
I walked Izzy all by myself on Sunday!!!! Since October I have been unable to walk Izzy except for a few times. She is an energetic girl with lots of energy and strength. We have done tons of training with her, but she still pulls a lot. If you can imagine, this is not easy on ones shoulders and knee that are already in pain. But, I love walking her. It is one of my favorite things to do and it feels great to be back this week. Each morning the kids and I are taking her to a new park or forest preserve. These long walks with my kids and puppy are just what I needed. My cheeks are even red from the sun today. I LOVE it!
My "Amazing Week" is not over. We have another long walk planned for tomorrow and will even be taking Izzy's friend Bella with us. On Friday and Saturday we are attending the INHOME conference and staying in the hotel which is always fun. Sophia also starts rehearsals this weekend. It will be fun hanging out with friends all weekend, learning some new things, and relaxing. More photos of this "Amazing Week" coming.
Friday, March 12, 2010
I haven't seen my PCP since going off meds. We discussed the reasons I went off meds, he explained some of the other drug choices I have, and in the end told me he respects me and since this is my body, I need to do what I feel is best. Wow! He then asked what tests I needed run, asked me to please get an x-ray of my knee (I did) and wanted to know if there was anything else he could do to help me. I surprised myself by asking if he would give me a short term Prednisone plan to reduce the swelling in my knee and knuckle. He was glad to.
I have been completely med free for two years now and Prednisone was the first of the meds to go. The decision to go back on it for two months is not a decision I take lightly. I surprised myself by asking for it and was surprised at the excitement I had in getting started on it. Does this give you an idea of how much pain I have been in lately? This flare has just left me emotionally and physically drained in a way I have never felt. After day one on the Prednisone I did have some regrets when I had to stop taking some of my detox supplements I started on just last week due to possible interference with the Prednisone. But, after many tears I feel good about my decision. I feel like I listen well to my body and my body is telling me it needs a break from the pain.
Today is day four on the Prednisone. I am moving with more ease although my knee still wakes me up a lot at night with pain. The fingers on my right hand were bending yesterday. The biggest change so far though is that my mind feels like it is opening up again. All this pain the last month or more has really caused me to want to do nothing but sit by myself in quiet.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am working with a new naturopath that is closer to home. She was understanding of my decision to go on Prednisone and knew this was a really tough choice for me. She said, "Sometimes when we can't do the things we love anymore, it prevents healing." She assured me we would continue working at finding the root cause of the problem, but wanted to make sure that none of my supplements would interfere with the Predisone. We have been working on detoxing my body and are putting some of that on hold for now as she was afraid one of the supplements may detox the Prednisone out before it has a chance to work in my body. That is the cool thing about working with both natural and allopathic physicians. They can check all this out for you. Plus, while working with a naturopath, I know she will be working at balancing out the negative effects of the Prednisone.
In the meantime, as we wait to see what the Prednisone can do for my body, we will continue to work on healing within. For the next month I will be taking daily therapeutic contrast showers to promote detoxification and treat the pain. If I can convince my family to help out I will also be doing weekly hydrotherapy at home. I have been doing constitutional hydrotherapy at the clinic several times a week for the last couple of weeks while they have been monitoring my flare. I am taking supplements to heal my gut and I am continuing to follow the Body Ecology Diet, but I am adding extra meat to the diet to get my protein levels up. Also, I have increased my fish oil intake for inflammation.
I have had moments this week that I have feared that by taking a round of Prednisone I am straying from my vision to heal naturally. But, really, I don't believe that is true. By truly listening to my body, I am healing in a natural way. I am listening to what my body feels it needs right now. Right now it is telling me it needs a good night's sleep, it needs to be hugged by its family without wincing in pain, it needs a break from feeling drained and it needs to get past this flare so it can put all of its energy back into healing without the use of any medications.
I made a decision on Monday that two days earlier would have felt like steps backwards. Today I feel like I am making steps forward. I am working at reducing the swelling that has been in my knee for way to long, I am giving myself a little break in pain, and I am going to allow myself to have a little fun while moving with greater ease. This isn't a step backward, but a step forwards. This decision was tough, but I am happy with my decision.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Something else I love about Facebook is that I tend to have a lot of early morning chats with homeschooling kids. Since most of our events as homeschoolers are family centered, the kids seem comfortable "friending" the moms and chatting with us online. Sometimes they may just say, "Hi" and "Bye". Other times the kids stay on longer and we talk about our plans for the day or maybe discuss books we are reading. Steve started a fan page for his guitar/singing act and almost all of our kid's friends joined as fans. In fact, many of them are coming out to hear Steve play tonight.
What I have always loved about unschooling parents is they talk to our kids as if they are people that need to be respected. As my kids and the kid's of our homeschooling friends become teens, I see them wanting independence and some privacy, but I don't see them wanting a life away from us. They seem to still like being a part of our daily lives. I like it too. I like the connections that are made on Facebook between kids and parents.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning for three hours I met with my morning group and then returned for another three hour class those same evenings. The personalities in these two classes were as different as can be.
I had thirty students in my morning class. They were very inquisitive and challenged me to be creative in my presentation. I enjoyed this challenge and looked forward to each class.
Unfortunately you can't see the beautiful necklace and earrings Olga gave me from Mexico. I already have plans to wear them to Steve's gig on Thursday.
The students in this class made lots of yummy food. We had food from Mexico, Korea and Iraq.
My evening class was smaller, only about twelve students and ten of those were men. Our evening party was quite different. Rather than homemade food we had pizza delivered and the desserts were purchased from bakeries and grocery stores.
Our eight weeks together were fun. We learned a lot about English and we learned a lot about each other and from each other. At the end of class my 68 year old Korean student who will be reviewing this level again reminded me that it isn't how quickly we move forward, but that we are moving forward. He wasn't upset that he will be returning to the same level because he said last year he couldn't read English and now he can. A good lesson for all of us.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Out of the blue she developed an interest in magic. For two days she has spent almost all of her free time reading the directions to magic card tricks, learning them, and then performing them. And, she is pretty good. This is so different than what I was able to accomplish in a classroom. For one thing, she has plenty of time to read and reread the directions before time is up to either move to a new project or demonstrate she has learned something. Second, she can read the directions and try them out in the privacy of her own room until she gets them right or totally abandon the project if she doesn't find it meets her needs any longer. Third, she has a genuine interest in performing her magic tricks. This is really the test of whether she is capable of following directions, isn't it? Not sitting down and completing a test written by me.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
no matter where you read it
or who has said it,
not even if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own
reason and and your own common sense.
My children have grown up as "unschoolers". Rather than wake early to rush off to school, they follow their individual time clocks of when to awaken each day. Rather than stopping a good book because "reading time" is over, they have the choice of reading, drawing, playing or problem solving all day. They have a relaxed life. They have time to figure out who they are now and what they want to become in the near future. They guide their education while I play the part of the facilitator helping them find what they need or where they want to go.
The older my kids get the more often I find myself patting myself on the back for following what felt right to me when Alexander was only five years old. I believed that children are naturally curious human beings and when we don't force them to learn they will pursue those curiosities. Both kids remind me daily that what I believed then is still what I believe today.
At the end of the summer Alexander shared with me that he wanted to improve his reading and writing skills as well as follow a math book. I listened and he now makes sure I stick to a daily schedule of "school work". Before this time all learning came from play, TV/video games, discussions, museums, friends, family, Internet, etc. Along with following a math book, which is kind of dry in my opinion, he is now in charge of keeping track of our grocery spending and making sure I stay within budget. He actually has great ideas on how to reduce our spending. He created his own chart and will be figuring out how much I am spending on my diet, how much we spend on non-food items and how much is spent on what we call "non-essential items". He is learning through real life experiences.
To improve his reading we chose reading materials that interest him - WWII. He is fascinated with Hitler's strategies in occupying different countries as well as WWII aircraft and weapons. While he likes more of the strategic parts of history, I enjoy the personal stories. What I have found with unschooling is that you have to balance the line of what your child is interested in learning and what you feel is important or interesting. Right now what is working for us is that we read the non-fiction books about WWII together and then I share tidbits from the books I have been reading about Holocaust survivors as they apply to our reading. He sees my sincere interest in learning about these people and learns about them through me while I find interest in the information he finds outside our reading about WWII weapons. We learn together and from each other. Never in my life did I think WWII weapons and aircraft would be so interesting.
As unschoolers our schedule is pretty relaxed. This means different things for different unschoolers. For us it still means we like to wake up and follow a planned schedule for the day. All three of us need to know what lies ahead for us each day rather than spontaneously living hour to hour. If we find that we need more time to complete something we are flexible, but overall we like to have control over our day.
Both Alexander and Sophia are good managers of their time. Their personalities vary a bit here where Sophia likes to live in the moment and Alexander is always thinking ahead. Each day we discuss jobs we have such as walking the dog, dog sitting, homeschool group, grocery shopping, friends, "school work", etc. Once each of us knows what we want to accomplish for the day, we complete them in a fashion that works for us. Alexander likes to get all his "jobs" over early so he can relax and not having anything to worry about. Sophia on the other hand likes to relax first and do jobs at the end of the day. It is almost like she gets a rush out of waiting until the last minute. Either way, they both always complete their jobs.
Here is a typical Tuesday morning for them when I am out of the house:
Complete dog sitting jobs in the neighborhood
Make lunches for all three of us to take to homeschool group
Be ready to go at 11:30 when a friend picks them up.
I have always believed that family responsibilities are important. I think we all like to feel loved, but we also like to know we are needed. When I go to the grocery store without my kids, clerks inquire why they are missing. They have just always been a part of this living experience. Last month when I picked up our monthly order of meat both kids had an outing at a friend's house, but both checked to make sure I would be alright alone. Sophia ended up going with me even though I told her I would be fine. She cares for me and she knows as a family member she is needed.
Here the kids shovel the driveway for me before walking Izzy on a 2 mile walk!
As we move along on our unschooling journey, we find many wonderful things. We find that sometimes we are bored. I believe boredom is a good thing. Sometimes our minds need time to relax without a lot going on to figure out the next project we want to learn about. I do the same thing. I read and read and read about health until I can't take another piece of information. I then read fictional books that have absolutley nothing to do with health or watch hours upon hours of TV and then my mind is back to being curious about the next important thing. As adults we accept this about ourselves, but panic when our children go through similiar periods of boredom.
My children set the guidelines for what, when and how they learn. Many times I have looked at their "schooled" peers and realized that in many areas they don't know the same information, but then I only have to look at what they know that their peers don't and I have no worries. We each have our own interests and our own curiosities. Having the freedom to pursue those that are important to us is so fun and rewarding. I have to laugh because at 11 years old Sophia constantly has books reserved at the library for her. Many of the books she has learned about from online friends and many others from researching a subject. She loves writing. She spends a lot of time online and has become the family expert on the "ins" and "outs" of Facebook. She likes to manipulate the photos she takes and is quite creative. She has found the areas that interest her which consequently tend to blend with subjects she never thought she would be interested in.
Unschooling is a way of life for us. We don't think of education in terms of an 8-4 school day, but rather as part of living life. We are always learning. We are always moving forward. When we allow children that freedom, amazing things happen. I am so proud of the unschooling journey we have made together as a family.
Initially I started this blog as a way to share all aspects of The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo. As my blog reflects, rheumatoid arthritis has taken over a lot of my life and adventures. So, I need to change that. I need to focus on other aspects of my life that make me feel complete. Rheumatoid arthritis is here and it will always challenge me to learn more about myself. I accept that challenge, but for right now I need to remind myself that it isn't my entire life. So, for the time being, I am going to share some other exciting things in my life. I hope you enjoy them!