Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving Thanks

Our family photo from this Thanksgiving:

Not really our best effort but I think we had used up all of our perfect posing when we did our professional pics earlier in the week so it will have to do.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving full of food and family. And that is why I love this holiday. It is not nearly as commercialized as Christmas, Easter, Halloween or Valentine's Day. And I realize I buy right into that commercialism, don't get me wrong but with Thanksgiving it is simply a day to enjoy family and reflect on all there is to be thankful for in life. I give thanks to my wonderful husband and my beautiful children, our adoring dogs, the roof over our and all the opportunities we have to do fun and enjoyable things together. I give thanks for having family close by - my brother and his family, Joe's entire family and many from my Dad's side of the family as well. I give thanks that although she is a little further away, my Mom has found someone in George who makes her happy with their life in Paradise. I give thanks for family and friends I don't see very often or are in other parts of the country who I am able to keep in touch with through email. I give thanks to have finally made some really good friends here in 29 Palms and that I have a wonderful network of friends that I have met online through birth boards, blogging and mommy groups. I have so much to be thankful for and feel truly blessed. It is a great way to kick off the holiday season. If only I would have remembered to bring the pumpkin cheesecakes I made instead of the leaving them in our fridge (which I felt awful about being that it was our only contribution), the day would have been close to perfect. Here is a few more pics from our day.

Here is Jake with his cheesy grin:

And Jadyn looking cute in her pigtails:

I wanted a pic of her whole outfit, boots and all:

My lil Momma's boy:

And of course Daddy's girl:

My sister in-law Leigh and I:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: Twilight the Movie

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

I went to see the movie at 12:01am on Thursday (technically Friday) with a theater full of screaming teenagers. I am pretty sure that my two friends (who had not read the series) and I were the oldest group of gals there NOT accompanying their daughters. I decided not to write my review of the movie until seeing it a second time with my sister in-law on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. That choice was based in the fact that my love of the books and my high expectations made it nearly impossible not to be disappointed. I thought maybe giving it a second chance, I might better be able to watch it objectively as a movie adaptation. It would not be the first time this has happened. Unfortunately, it failed to be the case for Twilight.

I really thought with all the scenes, interviews and articles I read and saw that I knew what to expect from the movie. I knew most of what would remain true to the book and what would be omitted, added or changed. That said, the movie simply failed to develop the intensity of the relationship between the main characters. As someone going to see the movie who may not have the read the books, I cannot imagine how they could not find themselves lost, confused or at the very least asking themselves whether the two main characters had actually fallen in love. The movie was choppy, the actors were directed to overdo many of the scenes and the special effects were nothing short of cheesy (especially for a scene that had no redeeming value and was not even in the book to begin with). So frustrating!

What was surprising were that my favorite scenes - the ones they got right were the ones with action. I loved watching vampire baseball (which can only be played during a thunderstorm of course) and the final fight scene in the dance studio. I also thought the soundtrack and score (which I was initially lukewarm about) were well woven throughout the movie. And Jacob. My Jacob. An actor that has been raked over the coals for not being right for the part truly shined in his few short moments, something that I think along with a bigger budget (and my dream of a new director, which I realize is not going to happen) gives the sequel a chance to be heads and tails above the artistic creation that was Twilight. Not to mention that the second book, New Moon is my personal favorite so if they screw that one up, I am going to be much more upset.

So what do I do now? Read the books YET AGAIN and revel in the magic that is Stephanie Meyer's words and my imagination, where every scene is for me at least, perfect.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lights! Camera! Action!

Okay so I guess that is really what you say when you are shooting a movie scene but we went to get our holiday pictures done yesterday and we had such a wonderful experience. The kids were very cooperative and I even convinced Joe to come along so we could get our FIRST professional family photo taken. Yippee! I am going to share some of the pictures we got BUT the best two, the greatest of the great are purposely going to be ommitted because they are going to be appearing on our family holiday cards and I want them to be surprise. Once I have sent out cards, I will come back and share with all my blog friends. And BTW, the beautiful bow that is featured in Jadyn's hair is a custom creation of Kaycee's from PrissyMiss Boutique. I was also pretty pleased that the time I spent curling Jadyn's hair managed to somewhat stay intact during the hour drive to Sears (sometimes it really sucks living so far from civilization). Some of the candids of Jake and Jadyn came out so cute, the photographer/manager had me sign a release so she could feature them in her "look book". So without further adieu, here are the pictures:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Funny Nose Knows

#25 What makes him sick.

At one point last week when Jake was puking all day, he begged Joe to give him something to make him feel better. Joe tried to explain to him that their was nothing he could do as he had caught a bug and would be over soon. He told him to just try and hang in there and gave him as much comfort as possible.

The next night at dinner, Jake was talking about how he gotten sick and was glad to be feeling better. He went to tell us that he ate a bug and it had made him sick. Apparently, he had taken Joe's words a little too literally.

#26 What makes him bigger and stronger.

In attempt to get Jake to eat more fruits and veggies, I had recently used an episode of Dora to my advantage. In the episode, they go on an adventure to get the super babies the banana baby food they need to be big and strong. I use this to convince Jake to eat bananas, something he likes but will usually not choose to eat over other foods. One day, I used this technique successfully and he polished off an entire banana and then inquired, "Am I 5 now?" Apparently he thought the results were instantaneous and accelerated age as well. Then one day at school, Jake was pointing out another child at school, the one who goes by the name of Big Jake. He is significantly taller than most of the kids in Jake's class. While pointing him out to me Jake announced, "That is big Jake. He eats A LOT of bananas!".

#27 How to reach a compromise.

I finally figured out that if I put leggings or some other type of pants on with Jadyn's dress, she will wear them without a struggle. Luckily this look happens to be in style and it has been a good way to make use of some of the summer dresses she rarely got the chance to wear, especially since the weather is cooler but not yet cold. I just don't mention that she is actually wearing a dress. At this point, what she does not know won't hurt her.

#28 That distraction can be a good thing.

I remember in August when I read the entire Twilight series in a week. I added a countdown to the movie, which at the time was over 90 days away. I have been so distracted by recent events, I have not even had the time to be impatient about the movie coming out and now the time has come and I am so excited. Myself and two friends are going to a midnight showing tomorrow night, me donning my Twihard sweatshirt. I am hoping the theater won't be too packed with screaming teenage fans (it is after all a school night). I think the movie, while never really being able to live up to the book, is going to be really good and I will be swooning over my favorite stupid, shiny Volvo owner.

#29 How to be supportive.

Can I just say that I have the best husband in the world? He really stepped up to the plate while I was sick, enduring days of work compounded by the children's needs, household tasks, errands I would normally run and running Jake back and forth to preschool the next town over. He was my shoulder to cry on as I spoke of my frustration and worries and always had the attitude that no matter what life was going to throw at us, we were in it together. It was the most potent reminder of why I love Joe so intensely, why he is the love of my life, my partner and best friend and the man who I not only celebrated 10 years of marriage with but hope to celebrate many more to come. Thank you honey, I love you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Be Your Own Advocate

Disclaimer – I realize this is long and it is probably the most personal blog entry I have ever written. It took a lot of courage for me to finally decide to talk about what has been going with me so openly like this. Please only read it if you plan to read through the entire entry. I do not want people gleaning only certain details from it and making unfair assumptions. Thank you.

Last week when I posted about the family being sick, I was not being completely honest about everything that was going on. So here is what has been going on with me:

I have suffered from migraines since I was about 17. In 1994 I finally found relief in the drug Imitrex but because I needed to take it more frequently than doctors and insurance companies would like, I was evaluated by a neurologist to find a preventative medication to stop the migraines from occurring in this first place. After 3 drugs that either didn’t help or had horrific side effects, the experimenting was aborted as I prepared to get pregnant and start a family.

Last winter, after Jadyn was completely weaned I started working with a new neurologist to find a solution to my frequent migraines. It was then that I first started Topamax, an anti-seizure drug that is also prescribed for migraine prevention, bi-polar disorder and anxiety. This is the first drug that significantly reduced my migraines but the side effects were numerous. Since I felt I still had other options, I discontinued the Topamax and experimented with several other therapies that did not have a good result. Therefore, in September I decided to give Topamax another shot, hoping I could get over the initial side effects and finally gain some relief. Well one of the side effects of Topamax is that it exacerbates allergies, so I was forced to add Claritin to my daily regimen. In mid-October I developed conjunctivitis in my left eye from the allergic symptoms I had been experiencing and was prescribed an eye drop to clear up the infection. Related or not, it was during this time that I began experiencing intense swelling and feelings of pressure around my left eye and because of the potentially dangerous side effect of Topamax causing glaucoma, I was rushed for an comprehensive eye exam, which thankfully was unremarkable except for the discovery that my left eyelid was droopy, a condition called ptosis. This led to a return trip to my neurologist where it was decided that due to the pressure feeling my eye, I needed to discontinue the Topamax and obtain an MRI to make sure nothing in my brain was causing both the pressure and the droopy eyelid.
This was November 3rd.

Things slowly spiraled downward from there. First of all it turns out that unilateral ptosis can be a sign of numerous serious medical conditions including undiagnosed stroke, aneurysm, lung cancer, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Horner’s syndrome and thyroid dysfunction. While waiting the week it took to get insurance approval for the MRI, my mind started to jump to worst case scenarios and I became understandably anxious. It was during this time that the kids also developed the flu so right along with them, I began experiencing flu symptoms as well. CT scan, MRI and initial blood work all came back negative ruling out most of the major serious causes of the droopy eyelid and I saw a neuro-opthamologist who ruled out most of the other neurological causes and deemed my eyes healthy. With the Topamax out of my system, the pressure behind my eye started to subside, although I am still experiencing some symptoms from the droopy eyelid because it is not able to do its job correctly and it gets tired throughout the day.

I thought I felt a lot better, at least from the perspective that nothing was majorly wrong with me. I admit to feeling very self-conscious about the asymmetric appearance of my eyes. In reality, I have told very few people because I think if you are not looking for it, you probably wouldn’t even notice it but obviously it bothers me. I can feel it constantly, although I am getting a little more used to it and I imagine that it looks much worse than it really does. In fact, this condition could have been going on for quite some time and only recognized because my left eye was bothering me and the truth of the matter, it is something that I am still coming to terms with that we may never know what caused it in the first place. My neurologist explained that migraine suffers are more prone to abnormalities like this because we have a dysfunctional trigeminal nerve.

But here is the worst part – As last week progressed, the kids recovered from the flu and I continued to remain very sick. Although I had only thrown up for one day, I had persistent chills, body aches, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea and lack of appetite. I had lost 5 pounds in 1 week. On Sunday, which was now day 9 of my flu symptoms, I went to the emergency room where additional tests showed no infection. At this point, some of you may realize where this is headed but I was still clueless.

As recommended on Monday I followed up with my primary care doctor and neurologist where I basically broke down in frustration at everything that was going on. Why was still so sick? I just wanted to feel better! It was between these two visits that I discovered that since Topamax is used to treat anxiety, going off of it can cause anxiety even if that was not the initial reason for its use. Although the doctors dismissed all the physical symptoms I was having as being related to the anxiety, they agreed I needed something to calm my nerves from everything that had been going on and prescribed me some Xanax. Ever since the Topamax, I have been very leery of taking any medication, even the Imitrex I have taken for years, but at this point I was willing to try anything to help me feel better. This is not something that is easy for me to admit. At the same time, guess what? After taking the Xanax I feel like a completely new woman with very few of the physical symptoms of the flu. It turns out, I was having extreme anxiety from the combination of finding a cause for my droopy eyelid and going off the Topamax. My neurologist is confident that over time, the anxiety will diminish although if it persists much longer, I will have to take a different medication that is meant to treat chronic anxiety. While I am completely appalled that a drug I took to treat my migraines has had such an adverse affect on my mental health, the truth I am just elated to finally be feeling better.

And as for the droopy eyelid, I am coming to terms with it. After worrying for the last few weeks that I had a serious or life-threatening illness, I am willing to deal with something that is only cosmetic in nature. That said, I do have to go for a second opinion with another neuro-opthamologist, have a few more blood tests and then consult with an oculo-plastic surgeon, but anything they find would not be serious or life-threatening at this point and the very worst case scenario is that I may be medically eligible to undergo corrective surgery to fix the eyelid but I have not decided if that is something I wish to pursue. A lot of that decision may be based on how symptomatic my eye is, should it continue to bother me throughout the day. Surgery is not something I would take lightly.

So where do I go from here? Well first of all you may have noticed that I was posting a lot less pictures of me and the kids. I have been very self-conscious about what has been going on and only now do I realize that it is precisely why I had disliked the last few pictures I had of myself. I am trying to get over this but it is not something that is going to happen over night. Secondly, one of the reasons that I decided to post this blog entry is in the hopes that I might be able to help someone else. I know all drugs have side effects, some of them very serious but I do not feel that I was properly warned about all the possible side effects of Topamax. Nowhere in my research does it claim that it can cause anxiety like I experienced from discontinuing it and I did properly wean off of it. Certainly, in my case it was a combination of factors because I did not have this problem when I discontinued it the first time but that is neither here nor there. I don’t even want to blame my neurologist because he has been nothing but helpful and understanding throughout this entire process. Thirdly, I really had to be my own advocate throughout this entire process, researching certain things and asking about certain tests. I know I appeared to be a nuisance to my doctors and spent unnecessary money with the trips to the emergency room, but I was not going to back down until I was satisfied with the answers. I finally asked about anxiety both in the emergency room and to my primary doctor and even though my doctor did finally prescribe me something, they were all too eager to dismiss the possibility that a majority of my symptoms were being caused by it. I shutter to think how long this could have continued if I did not finally come to the conclusion ON MY OWN that anxiety could be the culprit. No doubt at some point last week I did have the flu but what else would explain the dramatic change in my condition from yesterday? It was not until I talked to a friend who had gone through a similar experience that I was even willing to accept the possibility that anxiety was the cause of my prolonged illness so I know I am not alone and maybe my story can do the same for someone else. Because I do not wish the last few weeks on anybody and right now my only desire is to get back to enjoying my life and my family.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good Day, Bad Ending

Saturday we went down the hill to civilization to take the kids to see the new Madagascar movie. While Jake has now been to the movie theater a handful of times now, it was our first attempt to have Jadyn sit through an entire movie. On that front, I will consider our excursion a success. Despite what seemed like a million previews and thanks in large part to our preparedness in the snack department, we were able to enjoy the entire movie. Jadyn did however, fall asleep during the last 30 minutes or so. The movie, while not quite as good as its predecessor was very entertaining.

After the movie we wanted to run a few errands while in the area but we knew after an hour plus car ride and two hours in the theater, the kids would need to burn off some energy so we took them to a park a friend had recommended. The park has sprawling paths, bridges, a duck pond and a wonderful playground. My only regret is that I did not have my camera to take pictures of the kids marveling at the ducks as we fed them chips. Then again it was kind of nice to just share the moment as a family and not have the pressure of taking good pictures at the same time. It is definitely a place I would like to take the kids back to the next time we are in the area.

We were able to successfully run our errands and were about to embark on the hour drive home when out of nowhere Jadyn threw up in the car - all over herself, the carseat, her Leapster video game and the seat next to her. What a mess! We did our best to clean up with baby wipes, a change of clothes and some random items we had in the back before crossing our fingers that we could make it home before the urge hit her again. I was hoping maybe her tummy had just gotten a little upset from the flu mist she received on Thursday. We were about 20 minutes from home when Jadyn started whining followed by another round of puking. Again, with very little available to us, we cleaned her her up as best we could and told her to try and hang on as we hurried home. Once home, she was immediately taken the bath and the carseat was immediately disassembled, hosed down and washed. Jadyn meanwhile, went to sleep quickly and slept through the night without further incident but we were not so lucky to be out of the woods yet.

Flash forward to Tuesday morning, when Jadyn woke up throwing up again only to be closely followed by Jake who started getting sick around noon. Poor Jake has such a weak stomach, I am pretty sure he puked once an hour the remainder of the day and finally was able to get some sleep around 3am. By the way, although not as sick as the kids, I have not been feeling so hot since Saturday either. So far, Joe has managed to stay unscathed but only time will tell if he has escaped the virus all together.

So that is where I have been - taking care of sick kids with the distant memory of our wonderful Saturday spent leisurely together as a family. I will be glad when this bout of illness finally passes and frankly, if we were going to get sick, this wasn't a bad week to have it happen. Soccer is over, Monday was a holiday from school for Jake, the Twilight movie comes out next week and then Thanksgiving is in another two. There really was not much going on this week. So we will take the extra time to relax and work on feeling better. I can only hope that the worst is behind us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Month End Report: October

While I hope we are all busy exercising our right to vote today and eagerly awaiting the outcome of this historical presidential election, my blog post today will remain business as usual.

I do promise that I am still working on separate posts for all the cute and fun things both Jake and Jadyn having been doing or saying. I think this past month I have done a fairly good job of keeping everyone updated on what we have been doing and obviously we have been busy with traditional fall activities like soccer games, apple picking, visits to the pumpkin patch and Harvest/Halloween celebrations. We also had our first bout of fall/winter illnesses, something of course that I have come to expect as inevitable. I thought I would take this chance to recap some of the non-seasonal activities that have gone on the last month, especially since the weather has been particularly non-seasonal remaining in the 90's for the majority of the month.

While one or both of the kids were sick and we were forced to remain home from our usual weekly activities, I took out the paints. The kids have shown little interest in fingerpainting but they loved painting these wooden cars and trains with washable paint and brushes:

Jake has continued to prove himself as the protective and doting big brother. Since Jadyn still does not grasp the concept of steering and can therefore not drive her Power Wheel jeep around, Jake made room for her in his Tony Stewart race car one day while he was doing his hot laps around the house. Excuse his expression. This is the 4-year-old cheese grin I had been warned about that Jake now produces when you ask him to smile:

Once the kids were both feeling better, we were able to attend a teddy bear picnic organized by the kids Kindermusic teacher. Jake and Jadyn both enjoyed a morning filled with fun activities at the park including lunch with their favorite stuffed animals, music and a session with the giant parachute including individual rides:


Another new activity for the kids to enjoy at home is imagining and setting up these elaborate "dinners" using all of the food from Jadyn's play kitchen, her favorite tea set and a set of foam blocks arranged as table and chairs:

I have to say for anyone with any combination of infant, toddler and/or preschooler the Block Party set of geometric shapes from Parents magazine has been one of our best toy purchases. The kids find endless uses for this set including our famous obstacle course. They also make great ramps for cars and other vehicles as well as a million other things the kids have dreamed up.

Finally, although everyone has already seen some great pictures of the kids in their Halloween costumes from both the flashlight scramble and playdate party, Halloween day was also extremely busy with Jake's preschool party and trick or treating that evening with their pals Andrew and Aly. The kids had a blast and made out like bandits with plenty of treats.

So I think it would be a safe conclusion to say that October was a busy month and with the holidays fast approaching, I doubt November and December will be anything less.