Creativity · Family · Parenting

The Piano Guys

Shhh… It’s a secret. Ironic, I know, that I’m putting this on my blog if it’s a secret. However, my kids don’t read what I write. I think they listen to me at least part of the time, but read my blog entries? ….Not so much.

We bought tickets for the Piano Guys Christmas show in December!!!!

I’m thrilled!

Our elementary school music teacher introduced the kids to The Piano Guys. When I say “introduced” take it that she plays their music for them at school. He’s a BIG fan of both his music teacher and The Piano Guys music. This is his favorite song. Students are also allowed to start orchestra in 4th grade. He chose the cello. Seriously, my child is a fan.

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Bringing home the cello for the first time!

My 9 year old son asked for two things for Christmas this year. He was on the ball since it’s only September and still 90+ degrees F. The request came back in July! He would like tickets to see the Piano Guys Christmas show and to build some sort of greenhouse for his garden. How fabulous are those requests?! I’m still working on the greenhouse idea. The kit versions that our local farm storms sell probably wouldn’t handle our persistent Midwest winds. The concert ticket option fits in beautifully with our effort to facilitate memories with and for our children as gifts.

His music teacher told him the tickets were sold out. Good thing mom was on it about two months ago! Boom.

Health · Perspective

Invisible Symptoms

Today I’m filling a chair. That’s virtually it. At work, I’ve answered the phone (a lot), taken messages, updated the website and made a to-do list. But…. much of that to-do list will just have to wait for tomorrow. My brain is altogether exhausted.

When a brain is tired, one might think it’s from being a contestant on Jeopardy or perhaps sitting at an important round-table business meeting. Today, my brain is fatigued from a main platter of MS with a side of crazy female hormones. Friends, that’s a bad combination!

Last week, my husband and I trekked to Denver for my annual neurology appointment. Overall, I’m doing very well and MRI-land is completely stable. We both love being active and outdoors, so in addition to the yearly neuro appointment we spent the day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I met with a new-to-me neurology NP for this appointment the day after our hike. This was the most informative appointment I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps this was because she had a medical student with her? The med student actually performed the physical exam (the works – walk on toes, follow finger, tell me when the vibration stops on your foot…). With each test, she explained whether my results were “normal” or “typical of MS patients.”

My three biggest concerns were addressed. Two of these, I’ll talk about here. Numero Uno is fatigue. I found myself needing 20-40 minute naps a few times a week this summer. If you read my previous post about our summer activities, you’ll see a constantly on the go schedule. Who had time for naps?!

Guess her prescription. Seriously, just guess…

It was to…. TAKE NAPS. Her exact words were “a nap can do more for you than any medication I could prescribe. You need to take the guilt out of getting rest.”

She explained that where the lesion is on my spine, I have a “loss system with invisible symptoms.” When my brain contacts my legs (and thankfully they still do), my legs hear the request as a whisper and they SCREAM back. It takes my body more energy to do things because the lesion slows down communication.

When my legs SCREAM back, it comes across to the onlooker as over-reactive reflexes. This was my second concern. My feet and legs have such a touchy reflex that spin class is difficult. As my body heats up from exercise, they become even MORE over-reactive!

Her response: “Get used to it and be happy about it.” Well…. alrighty then… She further explained that I should be ecstatic that my legs and brain are communicating. I guess that means that I’ll strap my feet into my spin bike and just roll with it (pun intended).

After my physical examination, she told me that I’m doing all the right things. I’m drinking a plethora of water daily and my nutrition is good. Continued exercise and guilt-free sleep are my  prescriptions in addition to the Tecfidera.

When I relayed this information to a nurse friend of mine, her response was that it was refreshing to have a medical professional NOT push medication. Instead, she recommended I go back to the basics of self-care: sleep, exercise, and water.

Thus, I have. I napped both Saturday and Sunday. I exercised in some form 6/7 days last week. Water? Always 90-110oz a day.

I can’t reverse the damage already done, but I can make sure I’m doing everything possible to prevent progression.

Much love — Jen

Faith · Family · Health · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Long Hiatus

Back to writing. This has been a goal for months. Cue the triumphant music!

Shortly before this long writing hiatus began, my life was increasingly frazzled by anxiety. I’d been battling this for months… basically the majority of 2018. After suffering a couple actual legitimate anxiety attacks while my husband was away on a trip and then (quickly after) chosen to sit on the jury for a brutal murder case, I sought help from my family practitioner. She helped me get chemically back on track with the assurance that with a very small amount of anxiety medication, my already strong coping skills would kick back in.

She was correct. I stopped wanting to run away from my family. The crazy sweating, racing thoughts, and desire to be alone stopped! My coping skills like reading, exercise, washing dishes, etc… were able to climb back to the surface and work their magic.

Good thing those stopped because baseball started for my son in March and ran thru July. Even after 4.5 straight months of baseball, he was disappointed when it was over! I ate more hot dogs in those months than I have in my entire life. We started the season wrapped in blankets wearing gloves and ended it sweating thru tank tops and shorts. Totally worth it!

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Pee Wee District Champions!

My daughter had 6 weeks of a coach pitch/ t-ball combo in the mix as well. The kids had us hopping all summer. Something at the ball field Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday (all day) and Sunday evenings means that this mama is investing in better lawn chairs next spring. It’s on my Christmas list. The kind of lawn chairs that fold up and have hydraulic shocks — the deluxe model – will be worth the cost.

We took a family vacation to South Carolina in June to visit family and introduce the kids to the Atlantic Ocean. They flew for the first time. Nerve wracking for me, but honestly, they gracefully handled layovers, a diverted flight to Charleston and tarmac time due to a storm, turbulence when our pilots squeezed us into Columbia’s airport before the storm hit again, and security when SOMEONE put an open water bottle in my bag unbeknownst to me. (eye roll)

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Family in South Carolina

After a flight to Las Vegas in March, my spine/ lower back started to hurt. After solid scoldings from my family practitioner, husband, sisters, and a nurse friend, an MRI revealed a bulging disc at L5 – S1. This is actually a relief given my MS history. I was flippant about how serious this was until I stopped being able to move without pain. Up, down, walking, sleeping, standing… it was all painful. I started Physical Therapy. There it was revealed that along with the disc issue, my SI joint was also rotated. How incredibly humbling it is to go from running half marathons to not being able to walk! Anyone who has been thru PT knows that it’s a slow, meticulous battle. I graduated PT, bought a SI support band (Serola BioMechanics gets 5 stars from me!), and recently have waded back into running. It’s only one mile at a time, but as the saying goes “you have to learn to crawl before you walk.”

Mixed into the fun was VBS, fishing, playground time, family time, wheat harvest, fall crop planting, our full-time business, and many many more activities. Summer seemed to rush by. I’m not sad it’s over. It wasn’t a hustle, nor did it feel terribly stressful. It was simply FULL. Full of good memories and time spent together that we all appreciate.

Here we are now. Back to school and September is already rolling. I will try to write more regularly. I’ve felt it stirring in my mind and my fingers to get back to it.

Much love — Jen

Perspective

On the topic of cartwheels

I don’t remember as a child making a judgement on shorts and jeans based on if I could do cartwheels in them. I was and am still quite decent at cartwheels, round-offs, and handsprings. However, I don’t remember deliberately making fashion choices hinging on those activities.

For the past month, everything my 6yr old wears has to pass “the cartwheel test.” This means she literally does a dress rehearsal of the outfit- every single day- with cartwheels across the living room.

You’d be shocked at how many outfits don’t pass the test! This means she repeats the whole process over until the fashion matches the function.

This morning, she wasn’t feeling the cartwheel approved outfit we chose last night, so the outfit was reworked. She settled on turquoise converse shoes, black and turquoise athletic pants, and a flowered pearl snap blouse.

I’m quite positive I wouldn’t have chosen this combo, but she’s rocking it with a strawberry colored, non-brushed messy bun. Honestly, she’s pulling it off in impressive style.

Wouldn’t it be great to take a page from her book on fashion and confidence? I’ll add this to the growing list of things my daughter has taught me.

Creativity · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Dodgeball and Our Village

Life has me on a bit of a writing hiatus. Here’s a few “Good News” highlights:

Family dodgeball at Christmas. My dad’s extended side is large- about 60 strong. Every year, Christmas dodgeballhosting rotates among the original siblings. Since we are too large to host in a home, we tend to meet in a community center. 2018 ushered us into a celebration in the middle school’s all purpose room and gymnasium where both my aunt and uncle work. If you haven’t played dodgeball since you were a child, you are missing out! We played kids vs. adults, boys vs. girls (all ages), and then split two siblings and families vs. the other two siblings and families. Ages 2 to 69 played. Of course, there was also a buffet of food, a kids’ gift exchange, an adult gift game.

 

The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” rang true again this past weekend. I came down with a respiratory virus complete with fever. This particular weekend, I was supposed to make 16 half-birthday treats with my daughter for her first grade classroom. (This is done for kids with summer birthdays.) A dear friend- our adopted grandparent- answered my text plea to make treats. She picked both my children up, dropped the older one off at basketball practice, and proceeded to make vanilla cupcakes with chocolate chips AND a custom purple frosting with butterflies. My kids used their decorating talents to make the butterflies out of pretzels, candy hearts, and licorice. This amazing woman then fed my children lunch and brought them back out to the house.

Yes, my daughter has her own sense of style. We aren’t squelching it at this point. It doesn’t make the top 40 of battles we need to fight.

Best wishes — Jen

Faith · Perspective

No Resolutions

I am diving into 2019 with no resolutions. This whole situation puzzles me. Planning and setting goals is my thing. However, one lesson 2018 events taught me and continues to teach me each day is the best laid plans typically end up being altered or scrapped altogether.

The study I did with my local women’s group this fall helped me to shift my thinking to being content in my current moment. Content does not always equal happy. Content means I’m not looking forward past my current situation thinking that I’m missing something and better things are ahead. The task is to find the best in the present and rest in that. It’s the difference between flailing or trying not to drown and rolling over onto my back and floating with the current.

I may choose a word to help me focus in the coming year, but that will wait until the dust settles a bit from the holiday season. End of year at work coupled with an entire month of family gatherings discards itself as a mental fog.

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Best wishes for 2019 and much love,

Jen

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The Relaxed Invitation

How do you plan your holiday get-togethers?

  • A) Is it a long-standing set date?
  • B) Perhaps, you belong to a clan of planners, carefully comparing notes and schedules long before the weather gets cold and snowy.
  • C) Or maybe you belong to the third group- last minute, throw it together holiday revelers?

My family fits in groups A and B. My dad’s extended side is so large that we’ve established the first Saturday following Christmas to be the set, annual date for celebrating together. My mom and sisters fit into group B. We checked calendars in October to set dates for December.

My husband’s extended family is all-the-way group C. This year, I started the group text. Someone had to do it. There are multiple nurses on this side of the family. Because of this, we try our best to work around their holiday shifts at the hospital and clinic. There are also family members who have about four hours on the road to come back for festivities. A lot of different facets to consider.

After compiling everyone’s dates, I waited for someone to metaphorically shoot their hand in the air to host. …*crickets*…

Being the organized person I am, the next day I sent out a text that read “December 16 – J&J hosting – lunch at 12:30- meatballs, bread, and drinks provided. Please bring a side, snack, or dessert.”

And that’s that.

Maybe it’s the mid-30’s thing hitting where I’m finally starting to feel like an organized adult? Or it could be the realization that no matter what I do, there’s going to be curve balls and kinks.

Reality says that I don’t have to “Wayfair” my whole house into something it isn’t to host Christmas. My text promised a warm place to gather with some food and drinks. The meatballs will be in a crockpot, rolls in a basket, and drinks in a cooler. A buffet of other snackables and food will be provided by the rest of the family. There won’t be any flourishes of extra décor on the veggie plate like I saw being demonstrated on the Today Show this morning. The bathrooms will be clean and the floor swept, but I can’t promise that every single Nerf dart will be picked up.

How did this relaxed revelation happen? For those who know me personally, this has been an area of personal growth. I was thinking about my grandma Mona. My grandparents constantly had our large extended family in and out and in and out and in… almost every single day. Holidays, we descended on their house like a swarm. There are just that many of us. All the furniture was full and people were relaxed on the floor or against a wall visiting and enjoying our time together.

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The only thing grandma Mona seemed to worry about was making sure we washed the dishes after meals. We’d sing songs – always getting in a couple verses of “You Are My Sunshine”- talk and laugh together while we washed, dried, and put away dishes. She provided a warm place for us all to gather with some food and drinks. The rest was up to us as a family.

It was a relaxed invitation.

Our holiday was and still is based on love for God and each other. This strong foundation is why we still gather today. Although our patriarch and matriarch have both passed away, we still enjoy the Christmas holiday as one, quite large family. Differences of opinion are set aside to laugh together and catch up on our ever-extending group.

This season, it is my turn to extend the relaxed invitation to my husband’s side. Come on over – there will be meatballs!