I can’t tell you how many times I have come to write just something, anything really, but then I get major writers block. I don’t really write for anyone but myself, yet I find it hard to find any words. I used to write frequently on different platforms over the years, and find it is very therapeutic. I even would write in an actual journal, but I can’t remember the last time I actually did so. I would love to get back to that point. It has been a year since my last post, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to jump back in.

There’s been of changes over the past year, which is to be expected I suppose! Rewind back to last August and my in-laws made the move from California to Texas. It has been great for the kids to actually have family near by that they get to see often. We were pretty used to it just being the two of us (then 3, then 4 haha), first being in Texas for the military then deciding to make it our forever home. Now we have family to spend holidays with, which is so much better than having to Skype to open presents.

Dave got a new job back in October. He is so much happier. He now has guaranteed weekends off and a set schedule, so it has been much better for the family.

My parents came to visit for the Christmas holiday. We fit in as much fun activities as we could. We went to the Christmas market in Arlington several times, drove through Prairie Lights, and froze our butts off at Sundance Square. Christmas day was great with both sets of grandparents there for the kids.

Shortly after Christmas, Dave and I tossed around the idea of buying a house. Our lease was coming up to be renewed and we weren’t happy there. We got all pre-approved, and went on our first house hunting adventure the first week of 2017. We found a house we really liked and put in an offer, but, after receiving a counter offer from the seller, they entered a contract with someone else. It was kind of upsetting at the time. I knew not to get too attached, but I suck at that. The market here was really hot. A house would come on the market and be under contract in the first day. There were many times we didn’t get to go see a house because they had already accepted an offer. We were online looking every night and emailing our real-estate agent lists of houses we wanted to see. By the next day half of them were already under contract.

We ended up expanding our search area a little (we wanted to be somewhat close to Dave’s work). We found a house we loved and decided to put in an offer, though we heard that they had already received an offer. I wasn’t very optimistic and didn’t want to get my hopes up again. I heard good things about writing a letter to the sellers, introducing yourself as well as telling them what you loved about their house, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to include that with our offer.

After 24 agonizing hours, the sellers accepted our offer and we were on our way to buying a house! Let me tell you, it was one of the most stressful experiences to an anxious person like me. We had (stupidly) signed another lease for our apartment because we weren’t sure how long it was going to take to find a house in this hot of a market, so that added to the stress for me.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was actually just a month), we signed the mountain of paperwork and got the keys. The move in process was horrendous. Our house is only 15 miles or so from our apartment, but with traffic is at least a 30 minute drive. That wasn’t too bad, but, in perfect Murphy’s Law fashion, Evie got sick on our original move in day. We ended up canceling the moving truck because Evie had a fever and we were up almost all night with her in our room. She started to feel better the next day so we went ahead and got a truck. While we were mid move, we get a call from my mother-in-law, who was watching the kids while Dave, his dad, and I were loading the truck, and Dawson had started throwing up.

So the first night in our house we had 2 sick kids and a freaked out cat. The next week or two, both kids would take turns being sick. It was a nightmare to be trying to unpack, get the kids acclimated to the new place, and deal with them trading off being sick. Additionally, we didn’t get everything moved the day with the truck, so we had to make a bunch of trips back and forth with our truck to finish up, as well as deep clean the apartment.

We finally got mostly settled in, and the kids really love the house. We went from a 2 bedroom apartment under 1000sqft to a 4 bedroom house with double the space.  Two of my favorite spaces in the house are the soaking tub in the master bath and the gigantic master walk in closet.

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img source: google

I’m going to go total fan girl for a minute now. On April 1st, Dallas Fan Expo was happening and two of the guests happened to be my favorite actors from my favorite show… Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. My husband was the greatest and not only got tickets for us to go, but got me a photo op with both of them *Hyperventilates*

Now the event itself was, excuse my language but this is the best descriptor, a cluster-fuck. So much confusion and chaos. We brought Evie because she loves Daryl and she was so excited. Side note: No, she doesn’t really watch the show, but she has grown up with us watching it. We would watch the Bad Lip Reading videos on YouTube all the time too. When she was 21 months old she would say “WALKING DEAD!” all the time, which may have been slightly embarrassing when people would ask if that’s what she just said. Anyways, poor Evie was so tired. We were standing in line for hours, well past our assigned photo op time, sandwiched in a huge crowd of people. Towards the end of the wait she had to go potty, but we couldn’t get through the crowd. I was crossing my fingers that she didn’t end up peeing on her beloved Daryl!

We made it to the front of the line, and Evie was holding our replica Lucille when we walked up there. JDM saw her with the bat and jumped back and said “Woah!” which then caused Evie to run in the opposite direction! Everyone, including people in line, were laughing at her reaction. Norman said,” Way to go Jeff,” and said that Evie was cute. I’m not quite sure if I really breathed during the whole encounter, but it was awesome. I love how our picture turned out too.

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As much as I would like to continue writing, it will have to wait for another time as it is way past my bedtime. I think kids can sense when you have stayed up too late, so they wake up extra early. Or that seems to be my luck! I promise that it won’t take me another year to update again!

 

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Pokémon Go

You probably have to be living under a rock to have not heard of the new mobile game Pokémon Go. It just came out and exploded in popularity. It seems like it is constantly in the news, but mostly for all the wrong reasons.

I am a player, as is my husband. My husband was actually a beta tester as well. For many people, this type of real time augmented reality game is all new, but we are well familiar with it. Niantic, Pokémon Go’s game developer, released another game in 2012 called Ingress. Dave and I got our invites to play Spring 2013, before the game was publicly available, and have been playing ever since.

A little back ground for those not familiar. In Ingress there are two teams, referred to as factions. When you first join you can join the Resistance (Blue) or the Enlightened (Green). (Team Resistance FTW!)

My account (not a recent screenshot, but it gives you a general idea)

In the game, you visit portals, which are actual locations in the real world. At these portals you can do several things. Hack- when you hack a portal you may receive items such as bursters, resonators, shields, link amps, heat sinks, muli-hacks, turrets, power cubes, portal keys, etc.

If the portal is grey, which means it is unclaimed by either team, you can capture it with resonators that you get from hacking. If it is an enemy portal, you can attack it with bursters to defeat in and claim it for your team. There are different levels for bursters and resonators, and it requires 8 people to create a level 8 portal, which is the highest level a portal can be.

An unclaimed portal

An unclaimed portal

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You can arm the portal with shields and turrets to make them harder to defeat. Heat sinks and multi-hacks make it so you can hack the portal more often. When your team owns the portal, you can link it with other friendly portals as long as there is not another link intersecting it (friendly or enemy). Connect 3 portals in a triangle shape and you make a control field.

Portals linked to form control fields

A large control field

A large control field

Attacking enemy portals

Attacking enemy portals

There is a lot more to it than that, but that is the basics. There is a whole in-depth story that goes along with the game as well. One of the huge things about Ingress is community. A lot of the active community is on Google+, where you will find countless groups for Ingress players around the world.

There are events held. Some are Niantic organized, like Anomalies, which are events in large cities where players battle to control portals, link, and make fields. My husband and I were able attend two anomalies; 13Magnus in Dallas, Tx and Recursion in Austin, Tx. There also community organized events, like farms, First Saturdays, etc. Groups have organized large fields that stretch over thousands of miles as well as field art. The communities have banded together to help players in need as well as mourn one of Ingress’ community managers.

A large field project spanning multiple states

Us at 13Magnus in Dallas

Cross faction meetup in San Antonio

Cross faction meetup in San Antonio

Cross faction meetup in San Antonio

At Recursion in Austin

At Recursion in Austin

November Lima 1331 in Austin

Ingress character Hank Johnson in Austin

Resistance Abilene logo I designed

Evie’s shirts for the anomalies

Those who have played both games with find their basic structure very similar. In Ingress, you can earn badges. One of the badges was for portal submissions. There were a few portals automatically generated when the game first started, like fire stations, libraries, churches, and sponsored locations. From there, everything else was user generated. A portal was generally a place/thing of interest: sculptures, murals, historical markers, unique locations, etc. Because there was a badge you could earn for portals approved, the game was flooded by submissions, both valid locations and not. Eventually they stopped accepting portal submissions, but some locations ended up with a huge amount of approved portals.

Enter Pokémon Go. Niantic used the portals from Ingress (but not all of them since there were a massive amount), to form what we knows as Poké Stops and Poké Gyms. That is why some people have a lot of them near them and others don’t. That is why there are Poké Stops in graveyards and other random places- some Ingress player saw a statue or monument and submitted it to become a portal.

When I was playing Ingress I did not know many people that even knew about the game, let alone played it. My husband really got involved in the Ingress communities and we met many people through the game. We got out of the house and discovered new places playing Ingress. We went to meetups to socialize and hack portals. There were some bad apples, but it was mostly positive experience. Now that Pokémon Go has released, it has amazed me the reach of this game. I have known about it for awhile, and I got to see my husband play before the release. I never imagined that so many of my friends would be playing it, which is awesome. Being part of the Ingress community, I know the potential Pokémon Go has to form a successful gaming community.

What has disappointed me is with the popularity has come the backlash, which I guess is to be expected. In the news are stories of people being robbed, players walking off cliffs, car accidents. All I can say about that is use common sense! The game is 24/7, but that doesn’t mean it is the best idea to go out at 3am by yourself to catch Pokémon. No Squirtle is worth stepping out into traffic for. Just because there is a Pikachu in someone’s backyard doesn’t mean you can trespass to capture it. It really is all common sense. I also know that there are a lot of kids playing this game, and that means that parents need to be supervising and teaching them to pay attention to their surroundings and respect other people’s property.

I keep seeing memes about how “I’m an adult so I have better things to do than play Pokémon,” and it’s kind of sad to me. I understand if you are not interested in Pokémon. Honestly, I know nothing about it save for what I have learned recently.  Different strokes for different folks. That being said, what is wrong with being an adult and playing Pokémon Go? I’m not talking about neglecting your responsibilities (job, kids, bills, etc etc) to play, but playing it in your free time. It gets people off of the couch and into their communities. It brings people together for meetups. Maybe people will get more exercise walking around to catch Pokémon and visit Poké Stops.

Just a few days ago my husband, kids, and I attended a meetup put together on social media. Hundreds of people came with little notice. There were people of all ages there playing. Some, like me, had their kids with them. People were having fun. I don’t see that as a bad thing. I think it’s a great thing. Hopefully more of the future news stories will be about the good this game has brought about and less about the bad.

Some of the Pokemon Go meetup crowd

Some of the Pokemon Go meetup crowd

This was only a small portion of the people who were there!

This was only a small portion of the people who were there!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long Road

Well here is the post I have been meaning to make. I started writing it several times now, but I think that this is the perfect time to share it. Exactly one year ago today this all set into motion. I never saw it coming and didn’t know how much of an impact it would have on my and my family’s lives. WARNING: This post may contain graphic descriptions and pictures.

It’s been one year since I was in the worst pain of my life. (I wrote about it HERE.) It all started with a gallbladder attack, which I was no stranger to. I powered through the pain since my husband was at work and I had a two year old and a nine week old to take care of. Just when it seemed like my pain was easing up, it intensified to something I had never experienced. I was profusely sweating. I couldn’t stop vomiting. I was seeing spots. I felt like I was going to pass out. I was so scared. Dawson was crying but I couldn’t help him. Evie was laughing as I throwing up repetitively.

I started messaging my husband. As the pain got worse, the messages were more frantic. Finally I got through to him and he let work know he had an emergency at home and needed to leave. He worked in another town, so he had at least a 30 minute drive to get home. My mind was racing. Should I call an ambulance? Am I dying? Am I going to have to have emergency surgery?

After what seemed like a lifetime, my husband got home. We had just had our truck repaired and had a rental, so he had to install the car seats before we could leave for the hospital and I attempted to drag myself up to get dressed. Once that was done, he grabbed the kids, and made the long walk down the stairs and to the truck. Being July in Texas, the heat hit me. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the truck, but somehow I got there, stopping to throw up multiple times.

Luckily, we live one mile from a hospital. D drove me to the door of the ER and I made it into the doors before I practically collapsed on a bench. I had to fill out a paper that had my information and reason for being there and I could barely scribble out the words between vomiting. I processed through triage and was sent back to the waiting room. I couldn’t tell you how long we were left waiting, but time felt like it stood still. I was vomiting on myself and in agonizing pain. I just wanted it to all stop.

Finally, I got brought back to a room. They ran numerous tests and finally we had an answer as to what was going on: pancreatitis. I was admitted. The next few weeks are a blur of pain. I had several CT scans, an ultrasound, an enormous amount of antibiotics, and countless blood tests. I was released once, but ended up going back a few days later in pain again, this time for another gallbladder attack. All in all, I was in the hospital 14 days. My surgeon wanted to see me in six weeks, to allow the swelling and infection to dissipate, and she wanted to remove my gallbladder.

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Alone and scared in the ER

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Feeling terrible

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My first of 4 different rooms in July

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I spent the majority of the 14 days alone, which was almost as hard as dealing with the pain.

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It was so hard being away from my babies

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I felt as bad as I looked

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The highlight of my time in the hospital

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ER visit #2

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Ready to bust out of the place

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Blown out vein

I went home for the “last” time at the end of June. My parents had arrived a few days after I went to the hospital, so they were still here helping with the kids so my husband could go to work and school. The first few weeks were rough. I was feeling pretty bad. I didn’t have an appetite and little energy. A few times, after eating something, I would get really bad pain and get sick. Just going to the grocery store to pick up a few things wiped me out. My parents stayed as long as they could, but had to get back to California because of my dad’s job. They had stayed a full month at that point.

I was beginning to feel a little better, but no where near normal. Over the next few weeks the persistent pain eased and I was able to stop taking my pain medication. I thought I was doing ok, but I was barely eating. I had little desire to. Out of nowhere I would have bouts of bad pain and a bloating feeling. I also (TMI) was unable to go to the bathroom without laxatives or softeners. I would feel fine for awhile, then, BOOM, I would be in pain again. Finally, my energy levels were improving and I tried to go back to my normal life.

At the beginning of September, Dave’s parents came to visit. I felt pretty good for most of the visit, save for one day of being sick. Shortly after they left, the State Fair started, so the four of us went out there. I remember that by the time we made it there, I was starting to have some pain. I had to sit for a little while and I took a pain pill. Luckily it eased enough for me to be able to walk around and have a nice time. A few weeks later we decided to go again and had a great time. Evie LOVED the fireworks and would ask every night afterwards to see the fireworks while looking out the window.

October rolled around and we just went on with our normal lives. Around the end of the month, the kids and I got up and started our day. I was picking up toys in the living room when I was hit with pain and nausea. After puking my guts out, the pain was increasing. I was so nauseated. I called Dave at work and begged him to come home to take me to the hospital again. He got here and loaded everyone up and I had him drop me off at the ER. I didn’t want the kids in the ER again.

Once I went to triage, I was brought back to a room pretty quickly since my heart rate and blood pressure were not good. They started an iv and did some blood work. Once they got the results, I was given pain medications, zofran, and fluids. I was given oral contrast to drink and sent over to radiology for a CT scan. When the results came back I was told it looked like my pancreatitis was persisting and I had a large pseudocyst. I had fluid collecting in July, from the swelling of my pancreas, but the doctors didn’t seem too concerned about it. Now it appeared that the fluid had changed and possibly contained some blood. I was admitted.

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The next day I met with a new doctor. He was a surgical oncologist and had a treatment plan to propose to me. He said that I had severe necrotic damage to my pancreas. Additionally, since the fluid around my pacreas had not resolved on it’s own at that point, it was not going to go away without intervention.He told me that he wanted to do long term gut rest. This would both give my pancreas time to rest and hopefully heal and allow the pseudocyst time to “mature” and develop a solid membrane. To be able to do long term gut rest, I would have to receive nutrition another way. He wanted me to get a peripherally inserted central catheter (or PICC line) and I would get my nutrition in the form of Total Parenteral nutrition (TPN). If that didn’t work, the other alternative was a feeding tube, but that was not the preferred option. After the doing gut rest “weeks to months,” he wanted to repeat the CT scan to see if the cyst had matured enough to be drained (more on that later).

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Image source: Yahoo images

My first concern with this was if I could go home. With two young kids and being a one income family, I couldn’t be in the hospital for weeks or months on end. Luckily, my doctor reassured me that I could do this all from home, mostly on my own. I would have to get home health set up as well as a pharmacy to get my medications delivered to me. I would have a nurse come out once a week to take blood and to change my dressing. The pharmacy would use my blood tests to tweak my TPN formula to my needs and deliver them once a week.

I had the PICC line inserted the day after I talked to my new doctor. It is done in your room. They bring in a big machine and use ultrasound to find the vein in your upper arm.They told me it was best to place it in my dominant arm, so it was inserted into my right arm. The whole proceedure is sterile, complete with do not enter sign, face masks, drapes over me, hair nets, etc. My arm was well numbed so I didn’t feel it. After placement, I had a chest x-ray  to ensure it was sitting correctly.

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I started on TPN soon after that. Because of the glucose in the mixture and the damage to my pancreas, I had to have my blood sugar monitored and receive insulin shots when needed. I was taught how to give the shots to myself so I could do so at home as well. After they saw I was tolerating the TPN and I got home health set up, I was almost ready to go home. A nurse from home health came to my room to give me an overview of how to use the IV pump at home, and they arranged for a nurse to come to my apartment as soon as I was released to teach me further and get me set up.

I got home and my nurse arrived with lots of supplies, including the pump, saline flushes, heparin flushes, alcohol wipes, gloves, tubing, and a week worth of TPN bags. She did my admission paperwork and walked me through the process that I would have to do every day. I was to be on TPN 24 hours a day (or as close to that as possible). I would have to disconnect the old bag, flush my lines, prep the TPN bag, prime the tubing, and restart the infusion every day . Unfortunately, I got very sick that night and returned to the ER early the next morning. I was admitted (again) for several days. I was mostly dealing with horrible nausea, stomach and nerve pain, and the resulting dehydration from vomiting.

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Supplies for my daily TPN change

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How I carried around my TPN, pump, blood glucose monitor, extra saline, etc. I had to cart this bag around with me everywhere I went, 24 hours a day

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When my blood sugar was too high, I had to give myself injections. I also had insulin in my TPN itself.

I was released again at the beginning of November. My mother in law was here to help with the kids for a few weeks. After she left, my husband went on medical leave to help me, watch the kids, and take me to my appointments. A few weeks after starting TNP, I developed severe nausea again, this time accompanied with a feeling of pressure on my stomach. Luckily, after a night of vomiting every time I tried to lay down and zofran not working, I had a doctor’s appointment. He believed that the nausea was because my cyst was maturing and putting pressure on my stomach. He gave me a different medication for my nausea and ordered another CT scan.

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Attempting to live a normal life on TPN

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Dawson’s first Christmas

The new nausea medication worked very well for me, but made me sleepy. Luckily, over time, I became accustomed to the feeling of the pressure and the nausea improved significantly and I no longer needed medication for it. 

Being on TPN was a very big adjustment. At first, I subconsciously babied my arm with the PICC, but that was not what you should do. I had horrible neck pains and my muscles were so tensed up. My nurse had to massage out the knots. It would feel like little electric jolts of pain in my neck.Once I got over my fear of hurting my arm, I noticed my pain going away. 

Now I’m a super clumsy person. Add in long tubing to the mix and things get interesting. I was constantly getting my line caught on everything, which was not a pleasant experience (and yes, it can be ripped out of your arm). I would get caught on door knobs especially, and occasionally forget I had the backpack and try to walk off without it. Waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and forgetting I had an iv coming out of my arm was fun. 

One of the hardest things about being on TPN was that I was hungry. The TPN did not take away the hunger pangs. My body was getting the nutrients it needed (except for lipids since they wanted to avoid irritating my pancreas), but my stomach wasn’t getting the memo. Over time it became less bothersome, but it was always there. Occasionally I got a sweet “treat,” but it was out of necessity. Since I was on insulin and had to monitor my blood sugar, I had both highs and lows. I always made sure to have something sugary with me because hypoglycemia could hit me without warning. 

My dressing could not get wet, so my arm had to be wrapped for every shower. The best method was press and seal wrap and medical tape. The dressing itself was very irritating to my skin. I would develop rashes and wake up subconsciously scratching my arm. Dressing changes were both torture and relief. The PICC site had to be scrubbed down, which burned but also scratched the itch that wouldn’t go away. My nurse tried to change up the positioning of the dressing each week to give some of my skin a break to heal. 

I also had to be careful with the position of my arm as certain positions would cause my pump to alarm. I also wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavy (over 5 lbs actually), but with two small kids that was almost impossible. I will admit I had to break that rule many times. I also may have gone bowling using the lightest ball available. My arm ached for days but I had fun. 
Going out in public was interesting. I would have people stare at me, touch my line, freak out thinking I was going to trip on my tubing, and ask invasive questions. One stanger in an elevator was shocked that they would “let me go home with that,” and told me that he hoped it wasn’t chemo. I was asked in the checkout lane what was wrong with me. 

Coming into late November, I was getting used to the PICC and TPN. I settled into a routine and started feeling better overall. I scheduled my CT scan for right before Thanksgiving to check on my cyst. Right before my appointment, I found out that my insurance denied my CT scan. Over the next TWO months (no joke), it was a fight to get my scan approved. My insurance kept saying that my doctor had to call them and explain why it was needed and my doctor’s office kept assuring that he would call. I was getting no where and my home health nurse (who was awesome) was pulling strings on her end to try to get it approved. FINALLY, in January, we found out that because it was a new year I didn’t need approval to have a scan since it would be the first one of the year.

Around this same time, my parents came out to help me again.  This allowed Dave to return to work, which we desperately needed. My dad had recently retired, so they didn’t have to worry about him needing to return to work this time.

I finally had the CT done at the end of January and followed up with my doctor in February. At my appointment I found out that my cyst had matured and that I was going to be referred to a Gastroenterologist to deal with the cyst. I also got the good news that, after months of not eating or drinking, I got the thumbs up to ease back into eating starting with a liquid diet. 

I got my appointment set up with the GI end of February and at my appointment he told me how the procedure would go. They would do an endoscopy, specifically an esophagogastroduodenoscopy  (EGD) and endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). They would examine the wall of my stomach adjacent to the cyst, which  was very large (23cm), and, if they were able to, he would cut a hole into the cyst and insert stents to allow the fluid to drain into my stomach. If they were unable to insert the stents, then I would have to have a more invasive surgery with external drains inserted.

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Waiting for my stent placement procedure

The day of my procedure in March, I was put under general anesthesia and had a breathing tube to help prevent me from aspirating during the procedure. The procedure was pretty quick and I was home in the afternoon. I got to see pictures of the cyst as well as found that my gallbladder was full of stones and should be removed (duh). 

The next day, my throat felt raw. It was very painful.I started running a fever, which is not good when you have a PICC line. When my fever wasn’t going away, I went to the ER with my dad and found out I had an infection. They did a CT scan and drew blood cultures from both my arm and my PICC. I was admitted. I ended having a staph infection and was put on IV antibiotics. I had feared my fever was due to my stents, but they were fine. It was determined to be caused by my PICC line. I had to have my original line in my right line removed and a new one inserted in my left arm. This time insertion was more painful because I wasn’t numbed enough. They also did it differently where I didn’t have to have a chest x-ray afterwards. I got to go home after about 4 days, where I continued to give myself IV antibiotics 3 times a day, in addition to TPN, for the next 10 days.

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For a little while I had a PICC line in each arm

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My infection did get worse before it got better. My infection levels went up and I was sick in bed for a few days, but I did avoid another hospital visit. My parents had appointments and such, so they went back to California for a few weeks March-April. While they were gone, I got great news. Because I was able to eat with little to no pain and my cyst was draining, I was finally going to get off of TPN! To ease me off of it, I had one week that I had 12 hour infusions and then I was DONE. I was going to keep my Picc for my upcoming procedures since I have bad veins, but I was having increasing problems flushing the new line, probably due to a clot. I didn’t want to have to have to use cath-flow (basically a clot blaster) again, so because of that, combined with the increased risk of infection, I had my line pulled. Sure enough, after the line was out, my nurse showed me the blood clot that was in the end of it!

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Infusing my antibiotics at home

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My last week of TPN

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Cute little TPN bag

 

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Bye PICC line!

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Day after PICC removal. My skin was so irritated from the dressing 

After my parents returned mid April, I had an appointment with my surgeon and we arranged my gallbladder removal in May. I had another CT scan for my GI doctor and arranged another endoscopy, this time to remove my stents, just 2 weeks after my gallbladder surgery. It was a long few weeks in May! I had surgery right after my son’s first birthday, an IUD inserted that same week, and the stents removed soon after. My parents also had to go home 2 days after my stent removal.

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Before my gallbladder surgery

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After gallbladder surgery. Not feeling so hot

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Stent removal day

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Ready and waiting to get my stents out

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Ouch

So here we are in July! I healed from my surgery pretty well. I had my surgery followup and was told I didn’t have to go back unless I had any issues. So far, mostly good. I have had 2 scary instances where it felt like I was having a gallbladder attack but I don’t HAVE a gallbladder anymore. I have to follow up with my GI in September to ensure that my cyst hasn’t recurred, and I will bring that up with him then. In the time being, I have been watching what I eat and trying to make changes, like eating a more/mostly plant based diet (basically vegan). It is difficult, I’m not going to lie. I am still working on it. I have been experiencing some pain since starting TPN (my nurse told me that the pure vitamins and minerals in the TPN can go to your joints) mostly in my knees and tail bone. I am trying out yoga and stretching to help relieve it.

Beyond a few negatives, I feel GREAT! I feel better than I have felt since I had pancreatitis, if not before that. I know this post is overly negative, but I feel like this chapter of my life has a happy ending. I am thankful that the treatments, although taxing physically, mentally and financially, worked. I am thankful that I can live normally again and that I got more time to spend with my family. Thinking back on it all, it’s almost like watching someone else go through it, if that makes sense. It feels like it happened yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time. A year ago today I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through this. Today, I am proud to say that I did.

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Family Dinner

The other day I was thinking back to my childhood and teenage years. It’s not something that I’ve done in awhile, but it was nice to reminisce. It made me think about something that I really missed about that time. Every Sunday/holiday we (my mom’s side of the family) had family dinner night. We would go over my Nana and Oppie’s (Grandma and Grandpa) house and spend time and have dinner. It was nothing fancy. The grandkids would hang out or swim in the pool. The adults visited and enjoyed a glass of wine. We celebrated birthdays and holidays. They were good times.

What we actually ate wasn’t really important, but time spent together. I have so many good memories of summer evenings spent swimming in the pool and sitting at the kitchen table visiting. I can still picture my Nana and Oppie’s dog barking as we walked up the courtyard, the (ugly) wall paper, and my Nana reminding people to take off their shoes.

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My Nana at Family dinner. February 2004

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My Mom

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My Oppie was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in July 2004. My Nana had a massive stroke in October 2004. She passed away October 30th and he passed November 3rd, 2004. Family dinners ceased to exist.

A lot has happened in the twelve years since the last family dinners. I have two kids of my own and live in another state than my family. Having my parents visiting with the kids makes me wish they could have something similar.

 

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Hello

I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging, but after my last post I’ve been dreading it. A lot has happened in the almost a year since my last post. It was a very challenging time physically and mentally. I do want to write about what happened, to get it off my chest. I started several drafts in the last few months, but writing about it was very stressful at the time. Things are much better now, so I think I will be making that post soon.

So, on a less depressing note, I’m back! (How many times have I said that now?) It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer here in the Dallas area. Weather has been crazy, as usual for this time of year. Evie is now 3 years old and Dawson turned 1 just about a month ago. My parents went home to California last week (more on that in my pancreatitis update) after a long visit. It was great having them here, but I’m sure they are glad to be home. The kids definitely loved having them here. The transition after they leave is always tough. Evie always asks where they are for at least a week, in hopes they are just at the store or something.

We are locked in a battle of will with both kids. With Evie, we are trying to get her to use the potty, but it’s been a struggle. I know she can do it, and she has, but she is resisting. Also, getting her to stay in bed at night has been a challenge. With Dawson, we are also struggling with bedtime, and even naps. He is very attached to me and screams when put into his crib (or put him down, or get too far away from him, etc). We do co-sleep, but we don’t bed share (his crib is in our room). We have tried bed sharing, and it doesn’t work for us. That’s what Dawson wants though, to sleep with me. Unfortunately, that has proven to be horribly uncomfortable in our queen sized bed and he thrashes around, which means no sleep for me. I am not a fan of cry it out for my kids, but nothing is working for him but just letting him cry. I stay in the room with him, but if I try to comfort or soothe him, it sets him off worse. I hate hearing him cry! I know it’s just a phase, but it sure does suck. On top of that he is teething, so he is grumpy because of that.

I will have to sit down after the kids are asleep on night (haha) and get that update written. I’m sure no one really cares (and my Facebook friends probably already know some of the details), but I want to get it written for myself. To help me release all of the stress of the last year and move forward.

XO

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Life’s curveballs

If I could rewind the clock to the beginning of July, I would have never imagined my month would go in the direction that it did. A little back story: after I had Evie in 2013 I started having strange things happen. She was exactly one month old and I had sudden pain and nature hit me out of no where. After a few hours it passed, and I felt like nothing had happened. I did what any person would do, I googled my symptoms. I found that what I had felt was most likely a gallbladder attack. Soon enough, I had another. One night I woke up with terrible pain. I was vomiting and in agony. I got Dave up and was packed up 3 month old Evie and went to the ER in the middle of the night. They tested my blood, did a chest X-ray, and they did an EKG. After hours of waiting, I was told that I pulled a muscle. I questioned it and brought up the gallbladder and was blown off. I was sent home with scripts for Vicodin and a muscle relaxer. Luckily, the attacks stopped happening.

Fast forward to September 2014. Out of the blue I am hit with a painful attack. I found out not long after that I was pregnant. I went through my pregnancy with a few minor attacks, but nothing horrible. I had mentioned it to my ob, but he brushed it off. I had Dawson in May. Just like with Evie, I had another attack when he was about a month old. On the morning of July 11th, I woke up with the familiar pain creeping up, but this time I was different.

I got up and took a hot shower to ease the pain a little. I got back in bed and managed to fall asleep. When Dawson woke up a few hours later to eat, I found the pain was still there but not as bad. Soon Evie was up for the day and I just did my best to keep on our normal routine. Come afternoon, I was uncomfortable. Evie doesn’t really nap anymore, but I decided today we would nap. I got both kids to sleep and I attempted to rest myself. The pain started to get worse. Then the nausea kicked in. I started to sweat profusely and was vomiting. The pain was unlike anything I felt before. I called Dave in between vomiting and told him I needed to go to the hospital. 

He left work and made the long drive home. I was in agony and now both kids were awake. I felt like I was going to black out. Poor Dawson was crying and Evie was making a mess. I felt so helpless. Dave got in and we flew out to the truck with the kids. Luckily we live a mile from a hospital, but it felt like 100 miles. I need up needing a wheelchair. The wait felt like eternity. The pain was almost unbearable and I continued to vomit. Finally I was taken to a room. 

The pain just wouldn’t stop. I was actually screaming in pain it was so bad. The baby was crying and hungry, and I attempted to breast feed him, but couldn’t manage it in the condition I was in. I sent Dave and the kids home and to,d Dave to get Dawson some formula, which killed me to say. 

They had to do blood work before they could do anything, but finally they put me on fluids and gave me morphine. Unfortunately, that did nothing to lessen the pain I was in. I then had an ultrasound. My results came back- pancreatitis, caused by a gallstone. I was admitted. I spent the next 10 days hospitalized. The first few days were nothing short of torture. I was in so much pain I could hardly think. My case was/is so severe that I cannot have my gallbladder removed for at least 6 weeks because of inflammation. My lipase levels were so high they were off the chart. 

Long story short, I was finally released. I was uncomfortable and having trouble eating, but glad to be home. Five days after being released, I had horrible pain return. Dave took me back to the ER in the middle of the night and I was readmitted. I had passed another gallstone. Luckily this time I only had to stay 4 days. 

I am now back home as of yesterday. Eating is still a struggle. I am uncomfortable at the best of times and in pain other times.  My parents are here to watch the kids as I try to recover. I am so scared that I will have another attack before by pancreas recovers enough to have my gallbladder removed. I feel totally wiped out, but I am glad to be alive. There is a lot more I want today about all of this, but I will save that for another post. 

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Writer’s Block

So I keep getting on here to write but end up closing the tab because I honestly don’t know what to write about. There are a few drafts I want to work on, but I just don’t have the time or energy to focus on them at the moment. As far as a general life update, I feel like I have nothing to say. I am pretty much stuck in the house 6 days (if not 7) a week. D is working crazy hours, leaving the house before Evie is even awake, and getting home around 9pm on average. On top of that, he started school, so two nights a week he has class till 10pm. He also has to go in for 8 hours on his own time on one of his days off.

It sucks, but I just have to deal with it. We only have one vehicle currently, so going out on my own would take too much work to be worth it. Before Dawson was born I walked a mile to my doctor’s appointments when Dave had to work. Once I even made the bad decision to walk a mile to the grocery store. I wore Evie on my back, and was 30 something weeks pregnant. The trip there was easy. The trip back, with more groceries than I anticipated getting, was horrible. Now that I have two kiddos, I don’t plan on walking too far with both for awhile, especially in the Texas heat. I could take Dave to work, but that is really a last resort since he works in another town. He also gets off work at varying times, depending on how busy they are that day, so I would have to drive with both kid out of town at 9pmish to pick him up.

So that’s my life at the moment. My days are pretty busy with the kids and the house but it can be exhausting not having a break. By the time Dave gets home most days it is past what should be Evie’s bedtime and he is exhausted himself. We still try to eat dinner together (albeit late), and spend some time as a family before heading to bed. Dawson is exclusively breast fed, so I cannot leave him for too long. There are days I just wish I could go alone on a nice, quiet trip to Target,and drink an extra large Starbucks drink without having to share with a toddler. For now, I am just going to enjoy my babies while they are little, and try not to go insane.

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Baby’s here!

Since I wrote last, baby boy made his big arrival. I ended up having a repeat c section at 39 weeks. Deciding to schedule the surgery was a difficult decision. Having major abdominal surgery is not a pleasant experience, and one I was not looking forward to going through a second time. Due to logistics and practicality, I came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to set a date. If I happened to go into labor right before, great! Unfortunately, much like with Evie, I had no progression.

Just like my whole pregnancy, my hospital and delievery experience was very different than my first. Section 1 was early in the morning and this one was set for 12:30pm. I arrived 2 hours early and was brought to my room that would also serve as pre-op and recovery (I was moved to different rooms the first time around). I got changed, monitor was placed, iv was started, paperwork signed, etc. The whole atmosphere felt different this time around. The last was more frantic- I came in at shift change so things felt chaotic and cold. I had a really nice nurse that made me feel more at ease this time around.

When the time came, I was walked across the hall to the operating room (as opposed to be wheeled there the previous time). It was like a meat locker in there. My nurse was wonderful and rubbed my arms and shoulders to help warm me up while I got my spinal and brought me warm blankets because I was shivering. Like last time, my blood pressure dropped after the spinal, which caused me to be very nauseous. That was wasn’t very pleasant.

Baby boy came out crying at 12:55pm. He weighed the same as big sister, and they measured him at 18 inches (which we found was not right when he went to his first doctor’s appt- he is actually 20 inches). With Evangeline, I got to see her for a brief time before she was whisked away to the nursery with Dave in tow. This time baby stayed with me in the OR as my doctor finished everything up. I was moved back into my original bed and we all went into my room. I got to have skin to skin with him and attempt to breastfeed him as soon as I was back in my room. With Evangeline, she was gone to the nursery nearly 3 hours and I did not get to try to nurse her till we were moved to the mother and baby room.

After nursing and spending some time with me, baby went to the nursery to get cleaned up and examined. I was feeling relatively good that first day. Instead of a pain pump, I had pain medication put in with my spinal, so I was mostly pain free that whole day. Baby spent most of the afternoon with me. When my husband had to go home (to put Evie to bed), I was told that the baby had to go to the nursery since I was by myself and couldn’t get out of bed yet. They brought him out to me to eat every few hours.

I got a little bit of sleep, but not much. With Evie, I had nurses coming in every hour. This time they only came around every few hours, which was fine with me. Unfortunately, this hospital had very thin walls and I could hear everything around my room. The sound seemed to come through the vent. I could hear other people’s baby heart monitors and women screaming in labor, among other things. This combined with the onset of pain did not make for a restful night.

Early in the morning I was finally allowed to get up. First my catheter was removed and my iv was capped off. I made my first (tmi) painful trip to the bathroom. I ordered breakfast and baby was brought back to me. Around lunch time Evie came to the hospital with my husband and parents to meet her baby brother. She was pretty interested in him and did pretty well while visiting.

Dave came back that evening to spend time with us. I got to finally take a shower and we decided on a name for the little guy. We decided, after much debating, to name him Dawson Everett. Dawson means son of David, which is my husband’s name. Everett we liked and considered as a first name to keep with the “E” name theme, but decided against it.  It sounded good with Dawson, and was still a nod to his sister’s name as well as my middle name (Elizabeth). After the name was decided, Dave went home and I was on my own. 

That night was pretty rough. I was experiencing quite a bit of pain and breastfeeding was difficult for us. Earlier in the day I had a lactation consultant visit me. It was not a very good experience. I had seen one that was very helpful and gentle the day before, but the second person reminded me of my horrible experience in the hospital with Evangeline. They ended up giving the baby sugar water, so I was already feeling like a failure. The LC was being so rough with the baby, and even scolded me when I did something the other LC told me to do. Also, I am very well endowed, so positioning can be tricky. She had me do the football hold, which is very uncomfortable for me. It was just really overwhelming and unpleasant.  After she left, I was feeling pretty defeated. 

As the night went on, I continued to struggle. It got to the point that I was on the phone with Dave crying because I felt like a failure. My nurse, who was also my nurse the night before, walked into the room to find me a sobbing mess. I had told her the night before that I had struggled with my first baby and I was determined not to stress out so much about it. She was great to help remind me of that and reassure me. She got me some  pain medication, allergy medication (I had been experiencing horrible itching as a side effect), graham crackers, juice, and ice water. She them told me I needed to rest, and offered to take the baby to the nursery till he was ready to eat again. I took her up on that and managed to get a few precious hours of rest. 

The next morning I was given the option to be released a day early, which I gladly took them up on. Baby got his hearing test and we did the birth certificate paperwork, and I was finally free. The first few weeks home were rough. My surgery recovery was smooth. I felt almost 100% after the first week or so, but breastfeeding was a huge struggle. I was in so much pain and he was cluster feeding. At night he would be latched for hours at a time. His latch wasn’t quite right, so (TMI) my nipples were so cracked and scabbed. I would literally try not to scream when latching him. 

I would be lying if I said I didn’t think of giving up and going to bottles. There were times I wanted to very badly, but I stuck it out. At his 2 week check up he was back to his birth weight. He started latching better and I healed. He is now over 5 weeks old and we are still BFing. He is growing like a weed and is about to burst out of his newborn clothes. 

Evie is doing pretty well as a big sister. She tells me “I take it,” when she wants to hold him, and she tries to burp him.  She loves to give him kisses. She  knows and can say his name too. 
So there you go, little Dawson’s birth story. I am so happy to not be pregnant finally (I’m also overjoyed about the baby, but that goes without saying haha), and to never be pregnant again (unless I change my mind, which is unlikely). 

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Life update

It’s April! March just flew by and it is already starting to feel like the beginning of summer here. I’m not a huge fan of that, but it is what it is! At least we don’t have to worry about another snow day for quite awhile!

I’m still trying to get things settled how I want them here (ugh). Pregnancy and my husband’s long work days make for a very tired mama. Rearranging stuff really wipes me out, but I’m doing my best to get a bit done a day. It’s hard going from living somewhere for over 6 years to somewhere new. I am trying to make what we have work with out new layout and tweaking as I see what works and what doesn’t.

The pregnancy is… going. This time around has been a lot different than than the first. I am really sore, but keeping as active as possible. Since we are a single vehicle family, I actually walked to my doctors appointments on days D was working. It is only a mile one way, so not bad at all, but a little uncomfortable with the rising temps. I have been having some random contractions, but nothing consistent and luckily not too painful.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. That was really nice and Evangeline seemed to really enjoy it. There were a few animals she got pretty excited about. She saw a momma and baby chimpanzee and she pointed and yelled out “monkey!” She also loved seeing all the fish, and won’t stop talking about “fishies” and monkeys now.

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On Easter we went to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. D and I have been before back in 2012. Since he usually has to work weekends, we took advantage of the store being closed for the holiday to go, since the festival is only open on the weekends. Unfortunately, it rained overnight so the whole place was a muddy mess. We didn’t catch any shows this time, but we watched the parade and ate some yummy food. Evie didn’t know how to react to all the people in costume. Quite a few people stopped to talk to her, but most of the time she just stared or got shy.

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That’s really all that has been happening around here. Most days it’s just me and the kiddo at home all day, so nothing too exciting. I am thinking about packing my hospital bag soon, or at least getting when I need together for it. I don’t want to wait till last minute, even though I don’t need much. I’ve been watching YouTube “what’s in my hospital bag” videos and oh my do some people pack everything and then some! This is not my first time, so I kind of know more of what is necessary/unnecessary, but even the first time I tried to keep it simple in regards to my stuff. I have a few things I will do differently, but nothing major. I don’t do videos personally (or I should say I never have before), but I may do a “what’s in my hospital bag”  blog post for fun.

XO

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Adjustment period

So we have been in our new place about a month now. We still have a lot of unpacking to do, but we have made a good dent in it. It has been difficult unpacking for several reasons. One would be the packers packed things a bit wonky, in my opinion. A box labeled kitchen has some kitchen and then a bunch of stuff from other rooms. I opened a box labeled duffel bags to find a military backpack, small rolling luggage, and my hello kitty collection, among other things. It really does slow down the process when you have to go to other rooms to find a place for things.

The second thing that has made things difficult is actually a person. Little Evie. She loves to try to get into everything and will gladly pull stuff out of boxes and take off with them. I try to get some done during naps or when D can watch her, which is not very often with his schedule.

Third would be the pregnancy. I get tired a lot easier than normal and am generally uncomfortable most of the time. That means more rest breaks and I avoid picking stuff up that is really heavy. My due date is just under 11 weeks away now, so I really want to knock this all out. I’d rather not hurt myself though.

The fourth thing is mother nature. From the day we moved down here in the pouring rain, the weather has been against us. Lately we have had several bouts of snow and ice. Boxes get unpacked, but we have had to wait to drag it out to the dumpsters because it is so slippery out. We get it out when the weather improves, only to have it snow again. Right now it is raining a cold rain that is expected to turn to sleet and snow. Ugh.

I don’t know if it is the whole “nesting” part of pregnancy or what, but not having everything how I want it is driving me a little crazy. It is feeling a lot more like home now that I have some pictures up on the walls, but it’s far from finished. My tastes have changed a lot since I first lived with Dave. We had a lot of posters hung everywhere, mismatched decor, and no general theme. I am now trying to work with a lot of what we already have, but keep things cohesive, while still fitting our style. Dave has a lot of game memorabilia and we have a collection of vinyl figures that I want to incorporate. I also have to make everything kid friendly.

Beyond the unpacking, this move has been an adjustment for sure. First I spent the first 22 years of my life in the same town. Clovis, CA is not big by any stretch, but it does have the advantage of having Fresno a stones throw away. When I moved to Abilene, it was like moving to another Clovis, just without a Fresno near by. It was still an adjustment, learning where things were and getting used to not having a Chipotle near by haha. Now we have moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and this is way different. The actual city we live in has over 300,000 people (vs 100,000ish in Abilene), but the metroplex has 6+ MILLION people. I’ve visited big metro areas before, but never lived in one.

I think the big thing to get used to is the traffic. It takes so long to get places not during rush hour. The thing I’m loving is that we are close to so many things we missed in Abilene, and there is so much to do a small drive away. We used to come to this area for vacation. We have made many weekend trips to Fort Worth and Dallas. We would go to Ikea, outlet shopping, eat at our favorite restaurants, and go to local shows or festivals. Now we can go anytime we want really, if we actually get time to do so.

So that’s what has been going on with our move/adjustment. Nothing exciting, but I will be excited when everything is in it’s place and not driving me crazy!

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