Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Updating From a Little Girl to a Teen

The color is called "high drama". 
I hope that is not an  indication
 of how we will spend the teen years.
Sophia will turn 13 on Thursday!  For her birthday this year, she asked if we could update her bedroom that was painted pink and green when she was five years old to something that reflects who she is now.  Over the weekend she and I, with a little help from Alexander and Steve with the very manly things, painted her bedroom.  It was so fun!  She always tends to amaze me with how focused and determined she can be.  She wanted to do a nice job and kept a watchful eye out for me that I played my part in doing a good job too. 

We completed three walls in red and one wall in white with black trim yesterday evening.  Everything is in place and it is exactly what she wanted.  Yay!  She described her room as "a little bit hippy and a little bit modern."  I loved that this birthday gift was one that she and I could share together.  As she develops her own distinct thoughts and opinions, we do tend to butt heads at times, but in the end we always seem to enjoy each other's company.  I am glad that at 13 she still values my opinion and WANTS me to share in these experiences because they definitely leave my heart feeling happy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

MyRACentral Week Four Contest - Don't Miss Out!

This is the final week for Arthritis Awareness Month at MyRACentral.  Basically it is a way for us to come together and share our stories with others with the possibility of winning prizes.  This week is one of  the biggest - the prize is a $200 CVS giftcertificate!

The short version of the rules is this: the contest is open to US residents over the age of 18. One entry per person, the contest is open until 11:59 PM EST Tuesday May 31, 2011.

To enter, answer the following question in 200 words or less:

What have you learned through Arthritis Awareness Month that surprised you?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hiking In Vibram Five Fingers

Although I have said "I love my Vibram Five Fingers" before, I really mean it now. After hiking in them on Friday through mud, water, and rocks I have a totally new appreciation for them.  As I hung onto a dog that was much faster than me and didn't hesitate pulling me down steep inclines, I found that the grip on these shoes is awesome. I felt my toes at work gripping the ground and slowing me down. My ankles felt free to move with my feet which is such a different experience than when wearing tennis shoes.  Walking through water was wonderful. Generally with shoes the water stays with you squishing around for a while, but not so with the Vibrams. It was just like walking through water barefoot, although I think the shoes kept my feet a little warmer. I did walk through a few mud puddles which I haven't done in years and that heavy feeling of shoes sinking down into the mud wasn't there either. These shoes are super light.  One of the best things was when I got home I was able to throw the shoes into the wash and today they are good as new!

It was so fun to squish my feet into the mud.

Alexander wanted to explore this sandy area and I followed right behind him without any problems.  

My ankles moved with ease as we climbed over tree trunks.

When I saw how much fun Izzy was having in the water, I had to splash around a bit myself.   

Before jumping into the car, I washed my legs of dirt and grime and did a quick dry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

MyRACentral Contests (You don't have to have RA to enter)

Are you entered  for the Week Three contest over at MyRACentral yet? (By the way, you don't have to have rheumatoid arthritis to enter.  It is for everyone.) You can win a $100 certificate from CVS. We are also having a giveaway of Karen Ager's book about living with RA. Both contests close Sunday evening at 6pm. 

Getting Away for An Afternoon

Sometimes getting away from the normal day to day activities and spending time in nature can do wonders for your soul. Yesterday morning Sophia's babysitting job for the day was cancelled and we took advantage of the extra time by heading out to Matthiessen State Park for the afternoon.

I think we must feel drawn to nature because of the many gifts it gives back to us by just spending a little time with it. Below are some gifts we received yesterday from an afternoon spent with nature.

It allowed us to stop and breathe in the beauty of our surroundings.  It also allowed the kids time to question so much about nature.  The day was full of questions of "why?" and "how?"  I wish I was full of all the answers as they ask them because they are never as much fun to go research later.

It brought out a physical, kid like, behavior in all of us.

Our border collie Izzy challenged me to a run down these stairs.

Mmm.....a mud bath.
Sophia and her love of tree trunks.
Sophia has always needed to go just a little further, never wanting to miss anything. 

Izzy thought we should explore each and every path.  How could I resist?

Is there anything more fun than jumping from rock to rock?

Exploring.....the ultimate fun of being a kid or even letting yourself be a kid again.

At first you try to keep those shoes dry, but finally the water is just too hard to resist.

Using muscles and flexibility for no other reason than it is fun!

And it gives us quiet time to talk and share with our family. 

One thing we didn't expect yesterday was the mosquitoes. We actually left a little earlier than planned because we were so uncomfortable. But, I guess that is nature too, right?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Kids Making Good Food Choices and Paleo Talk Podcast

If you have a little extra time this week, check out Sara Fragoso and Chrissy Gower's Paleo Talk Podcast this week.  The first discussion "Eating Paleo with a very limited budget. Parents are older with health issues and fixed income" is based on eating Paleo on a budget, but also talks a lot about the connection of eating Paleo and having rheumatoid arthritis. 

The third discussion is "Guiding the kids to make good choices. How to not offend or be labeled as the weird kids."  One of the reasons I love listening to this podcast is because these two gals have families and understand the challenges and joys that can come with feeding your kids healthy choices. 

I want to share some of my experiences with feeding my kids healthy food choices. Although we didn't start off making the best food choices with our kids, they have been eating well longer than not.  They were both breastfed until they were naturally ready to wean. (Yep, I am one of those mommas that nursed my kids for a long time and I am PROUD of it!)  My kids do remember eating boxed mac and cheese, but they don't remember a time we didn't buy grassfed meat from a farmer or think carefully about the veggies we were eating.  They have both grown up helping me in the kitchen.   They have both been mostly gluten free for over six years.  All meals provided by me are Paleo meals which means breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They both eat lots of fruits and veggies for snacks.  They both do have indulgences they enjoy.  Alexander will eat popcorn that he makes himself in coconut oil and adds lots of salt and butter.  He also has a Starbucks donut with Steve every Sunday morning.  That is their morning together to get Starbucks and play video games.  Lately Sophia has fallen in love with hummus and eats it with carrots and cucumbers. When she does stray from her diet it is always with bread and she always feels the effects within 24 hours (extreme eczema).  Alexander will eat whatever is offered when at a friend's home, but Sophia will often bring her own food since she does feel the effects of gluten within 24 hours.  They both know the difference between quality food and food that is not good quality.  When they eat foods with lots of preservatives or of low quality, they taste it right away.  They prefer eating foods that make them feel well.

I think our society often believes it is not possible for kids to enjoy healthy foods and even give the impression that they are missing out on something if they don't indulge often in these "fun" foods.  I have always shared with my kids that they are worth the good foods.  As teens, they seem to believe they are worth foods that nourish them rather than wear them down or make them feel yucky.  They appreciate foods that are made at home and shared as a family.  Despite how many in our society live and how many in our society believe, it is possible to raise kids eating a variety of fruits, veggies and meat. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Bike Riding/Grocery Shopping Adventure

I have always wanted to live in a place that I could easily ride my bike to the grocery store, library, or any other place I need to go.  When we moved away from Kansas, that was our intent.  Although we live in a lovely place, it isn't super bike friendly. 

However, a few weeks back Alexander and I were discussing the cost of gas and ways that we could reduce our driving.  He asked, "What places do we drive to regularly?"  We agreed that the library (6.5 miles round trip) and Trader Joe's (8.5 miles round trip) were two places we drive to every week that are within the mileage we felt we could ride our bikes to without any problem. 

Once we made the decision to use our bikes on a weekly basis, we needed something to carry our groceries in.  Steve found what looked to be a great bike trailer for us and yesterday afternoon Alexander and I set out for our first shopping trip via bicycles. 

While we were shopping, I kept saying, "I am nervous this isn't all going to fit in the trailer."  Due to some impressive problem solving by Alexander, it did all fit.  As we were jumping on our bikes to head home, we ran into a neighbor and talked with her a minute.  Then we were ready to take off.  But yikes, there was a problem.  The trailer, which only has one wheel, was too heavy and kept trying to pull Alexander's bike down.  He tried a few things, but the trailer was just too heavy.  So, we thought fast and found our neighbor who was still in the parking lot.  Thanks to her our groceries made it home via mini van while we rode our bikes home.

We returned the trailer last night and will look for something that fits our needs better.  As Alexander and I talked about our trip, we decided it wasn't a failure.  Getting on our bikes and riding to the grocery store made an everyday event more like an adventure.  We had fun working on the problem at hand together and felt good getting outside on a cool day.  And, we were so thankful that our neighbor was out shopping at the same time we were yesterday!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Queen of Nodules

I am becoming the queen of rheumatoid arthritis nodules.  I discovered a new one the other day on my finger.  Part of my freak out procedure is to have everyone near me feel it to verify that I am not making it up in my own head.  Sophia was the lucky one this time since we were in the car together. 
Me:  Feel this.
Sophia:  Oooohhhh...what is that?
Me:  Another nodule.
Sophia:  (No need to explain nodules to this 13 year old.  She completely understands the word). Don't worry.  You still look pretty.
Me:  Yeah, people will say, "From far away she is pretty, but once you touch her, she is all gross and bumpy."
Sophia:  laughs.

At one time in my life, these small changes in my body created a huge fear.  Now, I have a momentary freakout and then I move on remembering that even though a new nodule has become part of my body, my body is also doing some rather amazing things.  Instead of thinking of them as deformities to my body, I think of them as trophies.  They represent the hard work I have put into healing and stay with me as a reminder of what can be and what has been, but not necessarily of what is right now. 

According to WebMD:
  • Rheumatoid nodules usually occur in patients with severe RA. Nearly all RA patients with nodules test positive for rheumatoid factor." (Yep, that's me.)
  • Rheumatoid factor is positive in 70% to 80% of people with RA. Studies show that when RA is linked with a positive rheumatoid factor test, it may indicate more aggressive disease. (Yep, that's me.)
  • Other factors may increase the chance of RA nodules. One study found that cigarette smoking increases nodules in patients with RA. (Nope, not me.) Methotrexate, a commonly used RA drug, has also been linked to increased development of rheumatoid nodules. (Yep, that is me.) Sometimes disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can reduce the size of RA nodules. But patients who take methotrexate may develop an increase in size and number of nodules. If nodules are thought to be a result of methotrexate treatment, a change in medication regimen may help; however, this decision must be carefully made on an individual basis.
Since I have developed several nodules throughout my body the last few years, my rheumatologist has mentioned that methotrexate can be a contributor to the nodules and wants to watch them.  Although I just found this newest module the other day, I planned to bring up reducing my methotrexate last week at my appointment, but I forgot.  I will remember it for next time.  Since my lab work has looked fantastic the last few times and I feel well, I don't think she will have a problem with it. (Oh, we did a new chest x-ray too because she had concerns of nodules developing on the lungs but the x-ray came out great this time!)  We did talk about reducing medications once I felt better when I agreed to go back on them.  I hope she agrees with me, but whether she does or not, the decision is always up to me.  It is my body after all, nodules and all!

Eating Paleo Away From Home

Yesterday, the following comment was left by Isabelle on my post Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis in regards to eating away from home.

Comment: I am interested in how to eat paleo away from home. That is a big challenge for me as I understand that sugar and flour are often put in marinades and sauces so we don't even know they are there. I therefore eat at home pretty much always now.

As I started to reply, I realized I had a lot of information to share and decided to turn it into a post.

Reply: Isabelle, I agree that making your own food is the best option. Like you, we don’t eat out often because even when I feel a food is safe, I often don’t “feel” quite as good as when I make the food myself. However, it is nice to enjoy food with others outside of the home or occasionally on the weekend when making a meal just doesn’t fit into the plan.

Most of the time I bring my own food if I am going to be away from home for more than a few hours. My husband bought me a nice thermos for Christmas a few years ago and it is my best friend. It keeps food hot for up to seven hours. I often pack beef based soups, leftovers, or even sausage and eggs in the thermos. I bring it everywhere: homeschooling days twice a week, car trips, and even to work events when lunch will be served since the lunch is generally full of gluten and preservatives. Pulling out my own food was a little awkward at first, but feeling good is too important to me now. Other foods I often pack when outside the house are salads with homemade dressing, Applegate turkey wrapped around veggies and avocado, and deviled eggs.

I always keep beef jerky (check for ingredients as many brands of beef jerky add tons of preservatives and gluten), almonds, coconut flakes, and Larabars in my purse for times that I am unprepared or feel the need to indulge in something I don’t need. Plus, they are all foods my teens enjoy also.

When I go to a friend’s home to eat, I always offer to bring something that I know is safe for me to eat. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many friends and family are more than willing to cater to my eating habits. (I am willing to do the same for them. I have made many meat based meals and then vegetarian/vegan options.)

There are times when I am unsure of what will be served and it is awkward and even rude to bring my own food. In these situations I always make sure I eat a full meal before I leave the house so I am not starving when I arrive and cave in to the delicious looking food. Generally in these situations salad is served which I will happily eat, even without dressing. I have found that as long as I am eating something, it prevents the uncomfortable questions about why I am not eating the food provided.

When I do eat at a restaurant, I will often check out the menu online before we go. If we have input to where we are going, I always choose restaurants that have a gluten free menu. I may not always be able to eat grain free at a restaurant, but the goal is to at least stay gluten free. This is a compromise I made to myself to keep sane. I tried going the route of not eating at a restaurant with family and friends, but I felt this was not a healthy choice. I generally order items like the bowl rather than burrito at Chipotle (double meat, no beans or rice, salsa, veggies, lettuce and guac) steak & veggies, bunless hamburgers with guac & a side of veggies, sausage and eggs with veggies on the side rather than toast and potatoes, or a salad with meat. I don’t hesitate to ask how the meat is prepared and also request olive oil and a lemon for my salad. We do have one restaurant about twenty minutes away that prepares a delicious gluten free pizza and it is my ultimate indulgent food.

Restaurants are becoming more aware of gluten free options and even if the waiter doesn’t know what you are talking about, the cook generally does. (And if he/she doesn’t, I don’t recommend returning to that restaurant.) I once went to an Italian restaurant for a graduation dinner. There was not a gluten free menu but I asked what they had on the menu that was gluten free. The cook came right out and curiously inquired as to why I follow a gluten free diet. We had a nice conversation and then he told me he keeps a supply of gluten free pasta on hand and also had other suggestions. Recently when we were in Wichita we ended up in a restaurant with only one item on the entire menu that was gluten free. The only way I found this out was by asking. It turned out to also be a paleo meal!

For me, eating away from home generally means planning ahead. The night before I make a little extra food for dinner so I have something to eat for lunch or breakfast the next day if I know I will be away from home. Eating well means sharing my views with family and friends on foods that seem to work well with my individual body and it means doing a little research on restaurants before going. I have even emailed restaurants in advance about my dietary restrictions. This may sound like a lot of work, but really it isn’t. To me, waking up and limping the entire day takes more work than doing a little planning ahead. I know when I eat foods not prepared by me that I am always at risk of eating something that will affect me later. But, over time I have decided that I am willing to take that risk on occasion because I love sharing food with others and realized that by never allowing myself this little spice of life, I was actually adding a new stress to my life. I have realized that I can set a few guidelines for myself such as eating gluten free 100% of the time and then occassionally letting the other concerns fall to the side.

When I was gluten free rather than grain free, I felt I had a harder time eating at restaurants. For some reason once I went grain free, it became so much easier. For one thing, I don’t crave grains or sugar like I did when I was gluten free only. In these situations I was always looking for the exact menu item, only gluten free. Now, I am perfectly content without the grain options and find it fun to see what I can create for myself off a menu.

By the way Isabelle, will we ever see a blog from you? I always love your suggestions and would love to learn more about your lifestyle. I feel you have a lot to share.  As always, thanks for commenting.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Health Concerns?

On Saturday mornings Sophia and I like to go to a free community yoga class.  Each month a different yoga studio hosts the yoga class which allows us to experience a variety of yoga styles. 

This morning the yoga instructor greeted each of us and asked if we had any injuries or other health concerns she should know about.  I heard almost every person ahead of us mention different areas of their bodies that caused concern - knees, elbows, shoulders, ankles, etc.  When she got to us, my heart was beaming as I answered, "No."  I didn't have any health concerns to share with her. 

What?  Don't I have rheumatoid arthritis?  Isn't that a concern?  It is. But my joints are doing fantastic right now. My strength and flexibility appear to be near their "pre-RA" level.  Plus, I know when something feels like it is putting pressure on a joint that I will stop.  I know my body well and I will listen to it.  I don't have anything to prove.  I have seen how far I have come in this last year and I know that what I am able to accomplish is amazing. As I sat and listened to the people after me explain their aches and pains, I felt extremely proud of myself.  My body is doing great work!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Robb Wolf, author of  The Paleo Solution frequently has real life success stories on his blog.  A recent post was on the success of diet and rheumatoid arthitis.  Here's a bit of the story:

Within two weeks her blood pressure was normal. That was nothing compared to what other benefits she has experienced. Since May 1, 2010 my mom has lost 45 pounds, eliminated her asthma and allergies, and started sleeping well every night.

If that wasn’t enough, she is now completely off prednisone and painkillers for the first time in 15 years. AND at her last rheumatology appointment, her blood tests showed that two of three markers for rheumatoid arthritis are now in normal range. She has even forgotten to take her ra medicine a couple of times and plans to talk to her doctor about tapering off it.

Click here to read the whole story.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Barefoot Walking

The more I barefoot walk, the more I love it!  Each morning for the last few weeks I have started out my walk in my Vibram Five Fingers and then each day I take them off a little further from home.  Today I did more than half of my two mile walk with Izzy completely barefoot. 

A few things I have noticed about barefoot walking:
  • I find my feet craving to touch the earth as I walk and let them decide now when to remove my Vibrams, which have become easier and quicker to put on with more wear. 
  • I like walking on the hard sidewalks and then finding soft, cool grass to step into. 
  •  My feet are getting tougher and aren't as bothered by little pebbles. 
  •  I notice more about the nature around me.  I now know which tree leaves want to stick to my feet and which don't. 
  •  I am more aware of trees that drop many seeds. 
  •  I notice that when I walk on hills and need to bend my ankles, they freely move with my foot which is so different than when wearing shoes. 
  • I feel light and free when I am without shoes.  I feel less stress on my hips and knees.
  • When I go without shoes for most of the weekend, my feet seem pleased.  The tingling in my toes and shooting pain disappears over the weekend and returns on Monday when I walk in my shoes for hours. 
When I got home today I gave my feet a warm foot bath.  It felt fantastic!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Almost a month ago my dad died.  This reality keeps hitting me in new waves.  I feel like I have accepted it and I am ready to live life as Cateepoo again, but then it hits me all over again. 

I am a person that requires a lot of down time.  I have always known this about myself and I have always tried to honor it to the best of my ability.  With the death of my dad I have felt this extreme need to just be, to not have lots of things going on in my life. As much as I have tried to balance my own needs with those around me, I have found that my needs are not being met.  I am not providing myself with the down time I need to mourn.

We returned from Kansas on a Saturday after the funeral.  Traveling with a family and a dog wears me out even in the best situations and generally it takes me a few days to feel motivated again.  I missed a staff meeting while I was gone and realized on Monday morning that not only had our program changed, but the manager at this school is more insensitive than I imagined.  Yep, not only did she not send my teaching assignment until Monday morning (new classes started Monday night), but she demanded to know why I wasn't at the staff meeting and played dumb to knowing my dad had died when I forwarded her the first email I sent a week earlier before heading out of town.  Plus, a co-worker told me she mentioned it to her at the staff meeting and she "acted" sorry to hear it.  She never conveyed that to me.   I share this story because it has been weighing heavily on my heart.  I cannot for the life of me understand why another person would contribute to the sorrow a person is feeling.

Besides immediately starting back to new classes and a program I knew nothing about,  the kids had birthday parties two weekends in a row and both Easter and my son's 15th birthday arrived.  Although we are a little more low key than many people on these events, it still took a lot of effort.

I feel overwhelmed.  I feel like I have had to rush back into normal life way before I am ready.  This feels wrong.  It feels disrespectful to both my dad and me.  I know some people need to get back to normal right away.  Not me. I need lots of time to reflect and adapt to this new reality.  

The last few days I have felt like, "Wow, I haven't talked with dad in a while, I should give him a call today."  I miss the simplicity of our relationship.  I miss knowing that he is the one person who never expected anything from me except an occasional hug.  With him I could do no wrong.  There will never be another person that feels this way about me, I know that and I appreciate so much that he gave me this gift for 43 years. 

A lovely friend and social worker I worked with when I taught elementary school taught me that we must always leave a situation on a positive note.  So, here are some positives for this post:

  • When I returned to my Tuesday/Thursday classes (I have taught there ten years and both my manager at this school and the staff were/are so wonderful to me), I was greeted by students who hugged me and said, "Lo siento teacher."  I received hugs and short explanations that they didn't "have the words to share what was in their hearts but they love me."  I felt that love.  Other students shared stories about their parents and I felt the bond I have with them grow stronger.  Despite the differences in our language and cultures, we all have a deep love for our parents and the loss is felt deeply.    
  • I was on spring break during the week of my dad's funeral from my Monday/Wednesday school.  I teach two classes on Tuesday/Thursday at the other school and was not on spring break.  Two teachers took over my classes without any hesitation.  They both asked me to do as little as possible and only focus on myself.  This meant so much to me.
  • The staff at my Tuesday/Thursday school gave me cards and money to purchase a tree in rememberance of my dad.  I can't wait to get one and watch out my window as it grows and changes.
  • Some people that have been more of acquaintances than friends have shown me how truly beautiful people are in their hearts.  The kind notes, emails, and hugs have really warmed my heart.  
  • My immediate family has once again shown me their strength.  Sophia turned out to be a stronger comfort to me than I ever imagined.  She went with me everywhere in Kansas and I realized that I needed her there with me.  Alexander played the part of my protector as he always does.  His calm personality always brings me comfort.  I discovered this has hit Steve harder than I imagined it would.  Although it hurts to see his pain too, I feel such gratitude that he realized how special my dad is and how many little things he did that were so dear.

When we used to ask my dad what he wanted for Father's day, he would always say, "One day without everyone fighting."  Unfortunately with six kids I don't think this ever happened.  For Mother's Day this year, I am asking for one day without anything to do.  I need a day to let my thoughts and memories have a chance to do what they need to do.  I need a day to cry if I need to without having to stop to run an errand.  I need a day to spend thinking about my own thoughts without getting overwhelmed with the concerns of others.  I need a day to just feel my dad and be with him without any interruptions. 

Happy Mother's Day to everyone!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Our Children

I have the most amazing children! I knew they were amazing children before rheumatoid arthritis became a part of our lives, but once it did, I understood completely how amazing they really are. They give me the strength and encouragement to get up each and every day.

My children were six and eight years old (now 13 and 15) when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  They were both at an age when I loved to play outside with them running, skipping, swinging, and bike riding........................ To read more, check out my contributing post at MyRACentral.

While visiting MyRACentral be sure to check out the contest going for Arthritis Awareness Month. Also, you will find lots of great posts here and if you are on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to follow MyRACentral for your daily fill of arthritis news and entertainment.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Life is Always Here

Many times with rheumatoid arthritis I have felt like the veggies in this video.  I have felt vibrant and full of life and then like the veggies, I have felt like I was slowly decaying.  Watch the whole thing.  At the end, life once again returns.  I think this is a good reminder to ourselves that we have to be patient with ourselves during a flare because life does always return.

My son Alexander sent this video to me a while back.  As we were on a walk the other day he brought this video up again.  He mentioned his amazement at how even as the veggies become moldy, new life can appear.  He said, "Really, life never dies.  It is always there.  Even when a person dies, the memories keep growing."  I stopped on our walk and gave my son a huge hug.  I was feeling a little low that day missing my dad and his analysis made so much sense to me in so many ways.