Sunday, February 27, 2011

my new baby....

This little beauty.  I realized it had been a longer time than I thought since I took pictures when Jesse asked me why I bought it and if I knew how to use it.

The time is long overdue, but it is here.  I am excited and eager to delve back into photography.  Added bonus:  Wes is going to jump in with me!  We are going to take a class together.  I'm excited!  We've been talking a lot over the past few years about making sure we've got a good variety of the arts and music and sports in our home.  Wes never had the opportunity to learn an instrument, and never really learned to appreciate the arts.  But I think he already appreciates it more than he realizes, and I think one day he'll break down and learn how to play the piano (I know he wants to learn but it very intimidated.).  Baby steps.  :)  For now, he is really excited about photography.  I think it will be fun to have a little hobby together.

Last time I was taking good pictures, I was using an antique film camera and taking mainly black and white photos.  Although I believe there is a place for that in the world, I am excited to enter the digital world and think I will fall in love with it quickly.  I am grateful to have something to focus on and be excited about throughout all this stinkin' thyroid stuff.

Friday, February 25, 2011

decisions, decisions, decisions

I thought I'd write up a little update on everything that's been going on with my health recently.  There have been many doctors appointments, tests, tears, prayers, sleepless nights, and days full of confusion, frustration, and gratitude.  I am sure there are still more to come.

I did a phone consultation with a doctor in Illinois who specializes in thyroid disorders and diseases.  She cured her own Graves' disease and had a lot of insight and advice for me. She was very caring and seemed very passionate about her field of work and helping others get better without having to resort to the options I have been offered so far: drugs, radioactive iodine, and surgery.  She seemed to feel like this was triggered and worsened by stress, which sat well with me because I am a big believer in the mind/body connection, and around here there has been far too much stress for far too long.  She also had a lot of insights into nutrition, which I am also passionate about, so it was right up my alley.  I asked the doctor today to order a few extra tests she recommended, and he complied with all but one.  I was told to cut gluten out of my diet, minimize dairy and starches, and to eat lightly steamed, broiled, or sauteed foods for now and begin reincorporating raw foods into my diet starting in about 4 weeks.  She said I should go gradually back to how I normally eat in the course of 8 weeks or so.  She also said that there was a good chance my allergies could improve too, which would be absolutely fabulous since that is a bog part of why this has been so debilitating for me right now.  There is more talking to do, tests to run, and decisions to weigh out.  It sounds like a long, expensive (since I am sure insurance won't cover this) process and although it really appeals to me, I am concerned about the cost and the effect my taking this gentler, more gradual route will have on our family.  I want there to be room, but I am not sure if there is.  All I know is that this doctor was extremely insightful and caring....I felt she was looking at me and my situation as an individual rather than a textbook case.  She actually alerted me to another thyroid issue I have going on, which was confirmed by the new endocrinologist I saw today.

This morning, Wes and I dropped the kids off at my mom's (thanks SO much, Mom) and headed to a new endocrinologist.  The previous doctor we had did not feel right to either of us, and she didn't really want to hear or answer any of our questions, and she definitely didn't like us challenging her treatment protocol of an anti-thyroid medication.  We decided to get a second opinion, and an ultrasound (which to our surprise looked completely normal), and I am SO glad we did.  This doc was a little eccentric (he quacked "hello" when he came through the door, among other things), but it didn't bother me because he was clearly enjoying what he was doing, willing to answer any and all questions thoroughly, and helped us weigh our options for me individually, which really made me happy.  He also confirmed what the doc yesterday said, and that's that I have two autoimmune thyroid diseases, Hashimoto's and Graves' disease.  Apparently, it's rare, but it can happen.  It's probably part of why it went undetected for so long.  I had symptoms of both hypo and hyperthyroid, so my symptoms didn't completely match up to either disease, and possibly the other developed over time since I wasn't being treated properly.  He also said I definitely have the beginning stages of thyroid eye disease.  It helped knowing that while discussing treatment options, and now I know I have to go back to the opthamologist (another appointment, sigh) to get that under control.  I am hopeful that it will disappear as I begin whatever treatment I choose.  I also feel now like I need to get back in touch with the Illinois doctor to see what her recommendation would be.  Right now I think Wes and I are both leaning towards removing my thyroid and then following the natural treatment protocol, but we will see.  There is one more person I want to see and more information to gather before we make a decision.  My heart rate was back to normal, my blood pressure was great, so aside from the stress and anxiety of it all, I've got some time to decide what to do.  We made an appointment for next month at which point we will begin the process of treatment, whatever that may be. 

In the meantime, more tests were ordered along with a sleep study.  Apparently, if you have an autoimmune disease, you run the risk of developing another, so I was tested today for a slew of other things just to be on the safe side.  If I did have something else and they caught it early enough, it may not turn into anything as serious as this has been.  My fingers are crossed that most labs come back normal.

Yes, I said most.  I asked to have my vitamin D levels tested, because Illinois doctor said that there is a HUGE correlation between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases.  I am hoping it's off, because maybe that would mean it could improve with just some good ol' sunlight (further proof that I really need to live somewhere warmer  and sunnier than here, at least in the wintertime).  We'll see what happens.

I won't go into too many details, because unless you are me, it's probably very boring.  We are feeling hopeful that the Lord is leading us to the right people that can help me, and that we will be inspired and guided as far as what to do.  I know Heavenly Father knows me and my body, and that he will help me get through this and figure this darn thing out. 

In the meantime, I feel grateful for all the love and support I have received from my family.  Especially my parents and siblings.  They have really rallied around me and done everything they can and more to help me.  I have spent many days and evenings wearing out my welcome with my three darling but rambunctious bundles of joy and they have been so understanding and patient and accommodating.  It's been a bigger help than almost anything else.  Not to mention my mom's willingness to babysit - without me even having to ask - for every doctor's appointment we've had.  That's no small feat.  It's exhausting and I know on those days nothing else is getting done, and she's very worn out and probably very relieved when our car is pulling away, but I hope she knows how much this has meant to me.  To be able to focus completely on what people are telling me instead of the constant interruptions and demands of three little boys.  Thanks, Mom.  You are amazing!

Making decisions like this are tough and scary and all-consuming.  I feel SO burned out and at times, very discouraged.  But I was advised when I was young to "flee from discouragement" and I am trying my best to follow that advice.  Finding hope can be really hard, but it's always worth looking for.

The hardest part is trying to deal with "real life" in the midst of it all.  There is still family drama, obligations, upcoming birthdays and baby showers and callings and just life.  Wes and I have decided to put the cruise on hold until my health is under control and for now, steal away a few weekends to rest, talk, recharge, and stay connected and strong throughout this process.  I think a family vacation at some point will be good also.  But for now, we need to get away so we can face these challenges head on and be in a place where we can discuss, deliberate, and decide what the game plan is going to be and how we are going to make it work in our lives.  Hopefully soon. 

All the mumbo jumbo aside, I truly am grateful for this experience and what it's teaching me. (more about that later)  I am so grateful for the prayers and support I have received.  I have heard people say before that you find out who your real friends and family are when you go through trials and it's so true.  I am grateful for those who have really been there in one way or another and have felt your prayers and love from far away.  They have been much needed and have brought so much peace and comfort.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, February 21, 2011

morning alone

I would have gotten up a few hours early today if I'd known how it would unfold.  I had an appointment with a natural health practitioner I've been seeing off and on for a few years (she's amazing, and gave me SO much insight this morning).  She doesn't normally do Saturdays, but knows me well and what's been going on, and told me that she could see me at 9am.....and that if I wanted to, then I could come in my jammies.

I wasn't planning on taking her up on that, but I was SO tired this morning, and when our alarm went off I didn't even hear it.  I woke up a half hour later to two sweet, darling boys snuggling right up to me under the covers, and I just couldn't resist the urge to stay in bed.  I loved it.

I threw some sweats on, put a hat on, and left for my appointment.  It went well and I feel better than I have in awhile.  I knew Wes was home and didn't mind if I took my time on the way home.  I needed to run a few errands and have some alone time to kind of unwind and collect my thoughts from the past couple weeks.

I shopped for a dress for our cruise, ran a few important errands, checked out a new clothing store, and just drove around listening to a book on tape.  I'd forgotten how nice it is to just be alone sometimes.  I was really able to clear my head and collect some thoughts.  I returned home rejuvenated and ready to face the rest of the day.

Bonus:  My sweet hubby had arranged for us to go out that night, and had been busy helping me catch up on laundry and cleaning the house while I was gone.  He looked so cute playing Donkey Kong as I walked in. He has been so intuitive these past weeks as we deal with big decisions and scrambling to stay caught up with life.

I didn't have much time before we left, and the kids were so excited for the sitter that they were on the countdown.  Wes and I left the boys in good hands and took off for some much-needed time alone.

I guess I got off on a tangent there, but having the morning alone was so nice and so good for me.  I forget sometimes how hard it can be to just think about things or even enjoy the peace and quiet when there are three little boys everywhere you go.

Everyone's been telling me to take some time out for myself, and I like to go out and be alone sometimes, but it had been so long since I've really done it that I guess I kinda forgot how important it really was.  I understand now and I will be making more of an effort to steal away some time alone in the future.

I love my family with all my heart.  I love being at home with my boys all day.  I eat up every moment.  But I am slowly learning now, again (I swear this same lesson is learned again and again), that part of being able to be a willing and capable mother is taking care of my needs too.....even if sometimes that means a little time alone. 

The morning alone was good for me, and it gave me time to put away my worries and fears for awhile and just be.  I honestly didn't even realize I was capable of that until it happened.  But it was just enough to give me the time I needed to "put away" all the things out of my control right now and know that I've done all I can and right now it's time to put it into the hands of the medical people, natural and conventional, that I have selected and listen to the spirit guide me to what is right for my body....what it needs to begin to heal. To have faith that things will turn out right.

What a freeing feeling that is.

Friday, February 18, 2011

what do two little boys do when it's too cold to go outside?

See for yourself.  I'm about ready to join in myself. :)

my eyes

I know every girl has times in her life when she feels pretty, and times when she doesn't.

Well, there has always been one part of me, that no matter how ugly or un-pretty I feel, I have always been proud of and grateful for.

My eyes.

If you've ever seen my dad, you know that they could be bigger and bluer, but I'm totally content with what I got.

When I was called "chipmunk" or "squirrel" or "buck teeth" at school before I got braces, I would think to myself that I least I had my blue eyes.  Being called "four eyes" when I got glasses never bothered me for the same reason.

When I unknowingly gained 46 pounds with Kolton and then took 4 1/2 years to lose it all (yes, partly due to bad choices, partly due to subsequent pregnancies, and partly due to medical reasons), I could tell myself that I least I had my eyes so I wouldn't loathe myself to the point of never leaving my house (yes I really was that humiliated, shamed, and embarrassed by how I looked....I know now that was dumb, but it didn't feel that way at the time).

When I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, I wanted to make sure I picked the safest, most effective treatment.  Mainly because if I'm going to do something about it, I want it to work.

But there is also another reason I've been so careful.

There is a part of Graves' called Thyroid Eye Disease, or TED.  It is scary.  You can have a whole host of problems from double vision to eyes that bug out.  I have a friend that went through it and it took her 2 years and 6 surgeries to fix her eyes.

Well, depending on the treatment, sometimes they can speed up or cause TED.  Whether or not it's permanent, it's a "luck of the draw" type thing.  I definitely have wanted to avoid that.

I've had a few concerns bout this the past couple months.  One being that I randomly lost some vision in my left eye for awhile.  The opthamologist did find a "foreign object" in my eye that may have been the culprit.  I've also had several episodes of severe pain.  All were in my left eye until last night I was up with pain in my right eye and and terrible headache (I never normally get headaches). 

I mentioned these things to my endo, but she dismissed them.

Today I got up and went in the bathroom to fix Jonah's bottle.  When I looked in the mirror, something was wrong with my eyes.

I can't figure out of one of my eyelids is drooping, or if the other is receding, but either way it looks awful.  And of course has sparked a whole other host of fears and concerns.  And another doctor's appointment. (sigh)

I am hoping and praying as hard as I can that this will go away when my hormones are back in balance.  Hopefully my opthamologist agrees.

check this out

When I logged on my facebook today, I saw this little doozy and got so excited!  Hooray for Power of Moms!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

notes to self:

- I need to remember to turn in Micah's preschool registration tomorrow....and try not to cry again about the fact that he is growing up way too fast.

- I need to call my cardiologist and make sure I know what the red flags are that I need to get in sooner....I kind of wonder if I am experiencing them

- Wes and I need to escape the stress for a few hours and go on a date this Saturday.  I need to make sure I line up a sitter

- I need to get some video of Jonah's crawling backwards.  Cutest.  Thing.  Ever.

- Kolton is grounded from Donkey Kong for throwing a tantrum at my mom's today when I made the boys turn off the Wii and come to eat dinner.  I need to figure out how to establish some ground rules for playing Wii away from home.

- Micah and I have a date to play Geotrax tomorrow.  I'm sure I will need to be adding AAA batteries to my shopping list afterwards.  I also might want to get him and his trains on video some while I've got the camcorder out.

- I need to call the library.  WHY is it so hard for me to keep all the library books straight?  I swear, I pay half the librarian's salaries every year.  Good thing I seem to get my money's worth.

- Our tax return is coming tomorrow and we can FINALLY get a good camera and pay off Jonah's hospital bills. 

- My mom and I need to figure out - again - how we are going to do Joyschool since we still haven't been able to get it going since Christmas.  What a crazy couple months!

- Either I seem to sleep a little better when I go to bed early, or I'm so exhausted every other night from the night before that I fall asleep earlier and sleep a little deeper.

- I need to start taking some Prilosec to see if it helps with my gasping at night.

- I am SO glad I went with my gut feeling to change doctors.  I'm hoping this one will be the keeper.

- I need to think of a few more recipes that feature cooked veggies until I can muster up the courage to face my fears and eat raw again.

- I promised the boys we'd make cookies tomorrow.  I should whip out my camera for that one.

-"Surrendering" to life is really hard sometimes.  I need to get better at doing it.

- Gratitude journaling really helps me feel better.  So does praying.  So does writing.

- My laundry is going to stay 17 loads behind until I am feeling better.  And despite my OCD-ness about it, I'm going to have to let Wes help me with it now and then if we're going to have clean clothes while I'm sick.

- Wes really likes to go to bed early.  And he hates to be late to anything.

- The boys have almost earned Jungle Jim's on their sticker charts.  I need to remember not to forget (no pun intended)

- We should utilize Thanksgiving Point more often.  We all love it.

- I should call MacKenzie and set up a sewing night.  I hope I'm not too much farther behind on our quilt blocks than she is.  Either way, I could use a girls' night in.  :)

- Our spinach and carrots are ready for harvesting.  I should get the composter turning too.

- I love Wes' smile.  And the way he lets me jump right into his arms when he gets home from work.

- We have our temple recommend interviews on Sunday, so I need to remember to bring an extra snack for the boys to have during interviews after church.  SO excited to go to the temple with Wes next week.  :)

- I want to think of something I can do for my parents.  They have helped me SO much lately.

- The kittens need baths this weekend.  And possibly their claws clipped if I can get away with it.

my number one

Tonight, I got some special one-on-one time with Wes. 

Since I have been nursing, this has been impossible.  So, now that Jonah is nearly weaned, we decided to see how he would do with one of our regular sitters.  Lucky for us, it was a success.  Jonah's kind of a Mommy's boy, but he sure seemed to love our sitter too!  I LOVED coming home to her playing on the floor with him while he was giggling and totally engaged in what she was doing.  She is a fabulous sitter and I'm so glad we found her.  :)

We decided to go to the mall and find Wes some clothes.  The poor guy has so much trouble shopping ad finally wore a hole through his last pair of jeans.  He HATES shopping, but he's extremely picky and returns most of what I buy him, so he really needs to shop himself.

Lucky for us, we figured out recently that it's not neccessarily shopping in small doses that he hates, but shopping with the kids.  He had a lot of success tonight, and I was so glad.  And it was fun watching him try things on. ;)  My husband has a pretty cute butt in those jeans he bought tonight haha!

I was so happy to get some time with him.  I really feel lucky and blessed that we enjoy each other so much.  We really are best friends and I feel so happy when I am with him.  My husband is my number one and my best friend and I don't know how I would handle my life if he didn't love me back.

He is so amazing.  I don't know how he always seems to know what I need, but he is very perceptive and dependable.  It seems that sometimes he knows what I need before I do, and I'm so grateful for that.  Especially lately when I haven't been feeling well and I've been in a semi-permanent brain fog.  He just takes charge and takes care of things.  Tonight before we went out, he took the boys to the Dinosaur museum and I had a few hours to myself to do some laundry, out our house back together, and just have some peace and quiet.  (I love being in a house full of boys, but sometimes the noise level is a little too much for me.  I don't usually notice until it's quiet again and it feels so relaxing.) I appreciate so much his love and caring for me and our children, and his desire and willingness to be such an active part in our family.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines' fun

Aside from the "bad parts" of the day, we actually had a lot of really memorable and fun "good parts" of our holiday this year.  I woke up first to find these beauties and a beautifully written card (it made me cry it was so sweet) and some of my favorite chocolates.  I know it seems a little cliche, but this was a first for us.  I was actually really excited about the roses, because I don't get them very often.  I get flowers a lot, and they are always beautiful.  But Wes really likes sunflowers and tends to pick arrangements starring them when he brings flowers home.  And I'm not about to start complaining about what kind of flowers I get....I think they are all beautiful and I love them all.  There's really nothing like your husband bringing home flowers, and there's really nothing like getting roses on Valentines' Day.  I was absolutely delighted!  After such a rough night and feeling so exhausted, these fragrant, beautiful roses, along with the sweet card, gave me the strength I needed to get through the day.

Guess what else I got?  Wes gave me a gift certificate to go to a spa for a day.  A spa.  I've never been to one, but always wanted to.  I love to be pampered (who doesn't), and I felt the incredibly sweet thought behind that gift.  What could be more relaxing than a spa?  My husband is the sweetest man alive.  I'm so excited to go get a massage.  If I could just fill my day with massage after massage, that would be mighty fine with me.  :)

I got a little phone call later in the morning from my hubby.  He'd gotten his first card and gift from me.  I got him a book on tape, snuck him some homemade cookies, and decorated his car with gel hearts.  I also had an idea to grab a small journal and create a little notebook between us.  I wrote him a little note in there explaining how it worked, and left it where he would see that too.  I'll let you know if it goes the way I envision it, because I am pretty excited about it, but I'm not sure how it will plan out.  Either way he got anther love note in there, right? 

After I saw my roses, I crawled back in my bed and read Wes' card to me over and over.  A little while later, the boys woke up and delivered me valentines and hugs and kisses for over an hour.  Micah didn't quite get it, and delivered me every single valentine he had prepared for his friends and family.  I took a picture, but it somehow got lost, darn it!  They were so incredibly cute and sweet and it was so fun to see them so excited!

I got his second card and gift ready while he was gone.  I stuck it right on the bed in front of our pillows.  It was another card and a book designed specifically for us to read together with questions to ask one another.  (these gifts may seem silly to you, but we've had a lot of talks about being proactive about keeping our marriage as strong as it is, and we've been working really hard to make time together to keep that romance kindled and continue getting to know one another.  Hence the upcoming vacation.  And also these gifts.  And thankfully, I think he loved them.
This is a fun idea I stole from another blog a few years back.  During the months of February, each person in the family writes something they love about another person in the family and hangs it up on the kitchen cupboards.  It's a fun tradition that's getting even more fun as the boys are starting to initiate the writing and hanging of the hearts on their own now.  Every mom knows that there's not much sweeter than reading and witnessing your childrens' tender feeling toward others in the family.  It is so heartwarming and sweet.  A treasure I am going to enjoy for years to come.  (This picture is from earlier in the month. I had some darling leftover hearts I'd gotten from a teacher's supply store a few years back, but I didn't find them until right before Valentine's, so we had to cut them out ourselves this year. It took a little longer to fill all the cabinet (and some wall) space up this year because we had to work at our own pace, but I didn't care.)
Before dinner, I began my traditional decorating of the table for our Valentines' dinner.  It was while my mom was over visiting, and soon I had two little helpers, Hallie and Abby, who were tickled pink to see so much pink, sparkly stuff at our house.  It was so fun sharing that girly moment with them.  I hope I get to share them with my own daughters someday....
 I thought the beautiful roses Wes gave me pulled all the decorations together so nicely.  I pulled our heart-shaped pepperoni pizza our of the oven right as my mom left and Wes arrived.  The boys really surprised me at how much they enjoyed the "special dinner".  They loved the "special cups" and the candy all over the table.  It was so fun!  I also finally got a chance to wear my new pink dress (my best girlfriend and I have a long standing tradition to wear something pink and spring-y for Valentines.  It's something I honor every year.) I got at a boutique a few weeks ago.  The boys told me that I was "beautiful", "pretty", and that I "look just like a princess or an angel."  Enough to make my heart melt completely to slush!  It was nice to get a little dressed up after feeling so lousy all day.

Here is my big boy sneaking some candies before dinner!  I just love this boy!  He is such an amazing kid.
Here is Jonah also looking so grown up!  He is this close to crawling, so he keeps me very busy.  Luckily, he was so enthralled with what I was doing, he sat contentedly in the high chair eating puffs and even ate before us and I was lucky enough to get to eat at the same time as everyone else.....while the food was still hot!
The boys loved the addition of heart candies in the cups.  Thanks to my mom for picking them up for me.  Hallie loved the heart doilies and the "cup bracelet" so much that  I had to stop and make her "a very own" bracelet out of some extra garland I had in my box.
We then finished up delivering our neighborhood and family valentines.  Then, I was able to give Wes his last card and gift, which he LOVED.  But what guy doesn't love a gift inside that red and pink bag.  Especially when his wife makes him wait a whole month for Valentines' Day to see what it looks like.  ;)

All in all, it was a really fun and memorable Valentines' Day indeed!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentines' Curse

Well, I had high hopes of our Valentines' curse lifting this year.  But it didn't, although at least this year we didn't go to the hospital.  That was a big plus for sure.

I've been struggling with some serious health issues, and they are still working out all the kinks.  But the current prognosis is Graves Disease.  I'm not sure it is right, but at least they are on the right track.  It's some kind of hyperthyroid problem. 

For those of you who don't understand much about the thyroid, it is an organ in your throat that controls your metabolism.  If it works in underdrive - hypothyroidism, then you will gain weight, be extremely tired, get cold very easily, and get depressed.  (There are probably many more symptoms for it, but I don't know too much about it since it doesn't affect me....yet.)  Some of the symptoms I've experienced myself with hyperthyroid are: insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, goiter, rapid heart rate, difficulty concentrating, heart arrhythmia, heart palpitations, fatigue, dry eyes, irregular periods, muscle weakness, hyperactivity, feeling of being "keyed up" or unable to relax.....

The list goes on and on.  My hormone levels are way off.  My endocrinologist even called me the same night the labs were done to tell me I was right (because she had dismissed me earlier that day in her office, telling me that she thought I was having esophageal spasms and that they would go away on their own.  I knew I was right, and I was so grateful she called.)  I think Wes was starting to think I was a hypochondriac, and it didn't help that earlier that day when I'd done a Barium swallow test, the speech pathologist told me that I needed to "neurologically recondition my mind" since I was swallowing normally and I must be imagining my sensitivity.  That was a horrible test and boy was it a blow to learn nothing from it except that they thought I was crazy.

(Can you see my "difficulty concentrating"?  I totally went off on a tangent there...sorry.)  Anyway, the doctor called that night and said the schedule an ultrasound in her office (what I'd asked to do when we were there the day before).  She said it would tell if there was inflammation (meaning that the thyroid problem could be related to postpartum), a goiter (when your thyroid grows because of the autoimmune problems associated with it), a nodule (a part of the thyroid that can get swollen or make the rest of the thyroid to work overtime), or a cancerous tumor (which I doubt, because apparently, the cancer symptoms are 99% of the time related to hypothyroid or there are no symptoms at all).  It's scheduled for the February 24th and that day cannot come soon enough!  I think I will go nuts if everything looks normal, and here's why:

The treatments for hyperthyroid are not safe or effective as far as I've researched.  You have three options:
1.  Take anithyroid medications (which can cause serious liver damage, prevent your bone marrow from producing any white blood cells, and even cause death.).  They have to be taken for about 2 years in order to "stop" the thyroid from functioning in overdrive.  You then have a normal thyroid or hypothyroid (underactive thyroid, which they then medicate you for.)  Here's the real clincher:  relapse within 6 months of a two year long treatment happens 40% of the time.  What?!  You want me to take extremely dangerous drugs that can put me at risk as well as a baby (no we are not pregnant, but definitely in the "family planning" process now.) for a 50/50 chance of it only helping me for a few months?!  At that point, they will do surgery to remove the thyroid.  Then, since you have no thyroid making hormones in your body, you will have to take a thyroid pill every day for the rest of your life. 

2.  Take radioactive iodine.  This is an actual radiation pill designed to "kill" your thyroid.  You take it either in the hospital or at home, and then you are allowed NO human contact for 4-5 days because you would be putting people at risk for radiation exposure.  Then, once you can finally see them, you need to stay several feet away from them for 4 days, and then you can't kiss your kids or husband, share food, etc. for another 4-5 days.  (HOW in the world is a Mom supposed to not see her kids, especially her baby, for FIVE DAYS, and then not be able to hug him?  How would he react, or the rest of the kids?  Who would take care of them?)  The iodine is supposedly safe and effective.  But, three things can happen:  1.  Your "remission" from hyperthyroid will end at some point, at which you are forced to either repeat the process or have surgery to remove the thyroid (and then take medication for life to replace the hormones).  2.  Your hyperthyroid can turn into hypothyroid, and then you need medication for the rest of your life.  Also, if your body absorbs too much RAI, other organs are affected:  saliva glands, ovaries, and stomach.  If that happens, you are at risk for infertility problems (my biggest concern, because this is what happened to my mom after her RAI treatment), chronic dental problems, loss of taste, and digestive problems.  3.  The radioactive iodine doesn't work, and then you have to make the decision of whether to have surgery to remove the thyroid, or repeat the RAI again.  Some people will repeat it 4-5 times throughout their lives.  Some, within the first few years, some back to back, and some very spread out throughout their lives.   Another "bummer" of this treatment, is that you are not allowed to get pregnant for 6-12 months, since the RAI can kill a baby's thyroid, and then the baby is at risk for many complications, including Downs' Syndrome and even death.  (this risk is also present with the antithyroid medications).

3.  You have surgery to get your thyroid removed.  You then have hypothyroidism for life.  You take hormone replacement pills - one a day - and you're good to go.  You run the typical risks of surgery:  the surgeon missing something or damaging a nearby organ (in this case, the windpipe or the larynx), going under the anesthesia, and getting an infection post-surgery.  But other than the typical surgery risks and having an organ missing from your body for the rest of your life, you are good to go because your hormones will stay level and treatable.  They can fluctuate, but you will never have hyperthyroid again.

You can also choose not to treat it, in which case can leads to many different problems from schizophrenia to congestive hart failure to diabetes and so on and so forth.

Which would you choose?

I did my research and came ready and accept option #3.  It seemed inevitable to me.  But, much to my surprise, the doctor did not want me to have surgery, she wanted me to take the antithyroid medication (did I mention that one of my mom's friends opted for the medicine, and it actually made her symptoms worse and cause a lot of damage to her eyes?  It took her 2 years and 6 surgeries later to fix them.).  The said that 60% of her patients have a long, even lifelong remission, and she wasn't going to let an otherwise-healthy-twenty-something have surgery if the problem could be corrected.  She then went on to tell me that I wasn't her only patient with hyperthyroid and I wasn't really in a position to make a rational decision myself....apparently the concerns I have with the other options are moot in her brain.  She said they do liver function panels with the medications and they stop them if the problem becomes severe.  So what?  Then I just have to deal with permanent live damage and then get my thyroid removed?  This is crazy!

She then confirmed my ultrasound, and prescribed me some beta blockers and sleeping pills (the sleeping pills I won't be taking since I am still nursing one of two feedings a day).  I took my first beta blocker tonight and I don't think I will ever be taking one again.  I feel so awful and weird.  Like I am not really in my body.  I feel calmer, but not really in control.  My head is buzzy and vibrating and I am so dizzy I can hardly stand or walk.  The only perk is that it does seem to be helping my heart rate some.

Needless to say, I feel very unsettled and nervous about the whole thing.  I did another blood test tonight, and if the levels are worse, she wants to start the medication tomorrow.  I really don't think I am willing to take it at this point....I think I'm going to get a second opinion.

Now that that long tangent is over, the Valentines' Curse was not lifted this year.  I spent all but one hour of Sunday night gasping for air and fighting off panic attacks until I finally fell asleep for an hour at 5am.  Wes left at 7 for work, and I was on my own with three very excited boys on Valentines' Day.

Luckily, I had written my cards for Wes the night before, as well as placed his gifts and decorated his car (I gave him a card with a gift three different times during the day.  It was fun!), so I didn't have to sneak and get up that morning.  I let my poor boys watch TV for 2 1/2 hours while I struggled to take a nap, take care of baby J, and call my doctor.  Once the movie was over, I let them deliver a few Valentines, and they played together outside for a little while (thankfully, it was a beautiful day outside).  Luckily, I had planned on Papa Murphy's heart-shaped pizza earlier that week, which my mom kindly picked up along with a treat and dropped them to me and stayed until Wes got home (I started to feel really lousy and got kind of nervous I would pass out or something).  With Hallie and Abby's delighted help, I got out our traditional Valentines' table settings for our "special dinner"....complete with Martinelli's in champagne flutes.  Pizza came out of the over right as Wes walked in, and off went my mom to prepare her family's dinner.  (Thanks, Mom.)

I was really grateful and glad that I at least was able to manage dinner and a few exciting Valentines' deliveries.  The boys really got into the dinner, which was fun for me.  I never get to set the table with so much pink around here. ;)   I will post some pictures of the "good part" of the day soon.  :)  Luckily, the "good part" really was special and fun.  I love that the boys are getting to the age where they are excited about the holidays.  :)

What are my thoughts on our Valentines' curse?  It's really more of a reminder of our blessings.  All this hard stuff we are going through, my health only being a part of what's been going on around here, really have brought our family even closer.  You really don't have the same amount of growth - whether it's love, strength, humility, personal development, etc. - if you don't have challenges and trials in your life that you overcome.  I didn't realize, but it is the same with family.  I've grown and Wes has grown a lot during this time, but the thing I didn't expect was that our family grew just as much.  We are closer now than I ever thought possible with small children involved.  But their loyalty, love, and devotion to me and our family has been nothing short of a miracle.  I don't know how I got so blessed to have such angels for my children, but I really feel so lucky.  My dad gave me a father's blessing a few weeks back, and he blessed my children to be perceptive and sensitive to my needs and our families' needs, and to know and feel of my love for them, and I truly have seen that amazing promise come into our lives these past few weeks.  We've still had all thy typical crazies of course, some days I just want to send them outside to run until they stop being the active, rambunctious boys they are, but they are mine.  And I love them and they love me.

And the reason they are here is because of my Valentine.  My number one.  Wes is more than I ever could have hoped for and he has been so amazing not only lately, but always.  I am never short of in awe at his dedication to his role as a husband and father, and to his job.  Everywhere he works, he quickly become irreplaceable and extremely reliable.  He is a big asset wherever he is: home, church, or work.  I do my best to keep up with him, and I feel so grateful I've been able to rely on him more than ever as I surrender to the current situation and let him help carry me through.  He really is my knight in shining armor, and I love him more than I will ever be able to put into words.  His efforts and willingness to work, love, give, and serve are nothing short of heroic.  Nothing gives me more strength and joy than when I run into his arms when he gets home from work each day or fall asleep in his arms each night.

So, whether or not we've done the traditional Valentines' activities each year doesn't matter to me.  I am just grateful to be reminded of how blessed I am for the people I love in my life, and most of all, for my sweet Valentine.  And I love the opportunity to tell him all day long how I feel about him, and to let his love in too.  He always makes me feel so cherished, like there is nothing in the world that matters more to him than me and the boys.  I eat it up and appreciate the strength it gives me more than he will ever know.

To me, the Valnetines' curse is more of a humorous way of saying that Valentines' Day can be as crazy and unpredictable as any other day.  Each an every year we are blessed to have the opportunity to express our love to one another, reflect on our past year together and our blessings, and take a little extra time to make those "I love yous" of the day a little more special.  Valentines' Day is still one of my favorite holidays, not matter what kind of crazy or not-so-crazy events that unfold with the day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I knew it had to happen sooner or later.  I've been able to nurse Jonah a lot longer than I did with Kolton or Micah.  I planned on nursing for a year, but due to recent health conditions and an upcoming, week long, sans-kids vacation, the time to wean has arrived.

I thought I'd gotten lucky because Jonah refused to take a bottle.  I dreamed of a long weaning where he would go back and forth from breast to bottle with no complaint.

I was wrong.

And I think the process is going faster than ever this time.  I think he will be all done nursing by Monday.

Have I cried.  Absolutely.  This milestone for me is one I never like to come and go.  I cherish those special times between me and my precious baby, snuggling and looking into one anothers' eyes.  I love when baby gets a little older and they stop eating every now and then just to smile at you.  I love how they know that you and only you are the one who can soothe their hunger, and even at times, offer much-needed comfort.

But when it's time, it's time. I hate to let my babies grow up....they never stop growing after that!  And it seems that the older they get, the faster the growing happens.  So I want to hang on to every stage of development for as long as I can.  I want to soak in every last moment.  I want to keep them little for as long as I possibly can.

But as much as I want them to stay little, they want to get big.  It's so unfair.  Even as babies, they watch and learn from bigger people all around them and want to do everything they do as soon as possible.  It seems to me that Jonah has hit most of those milestones earlier than my other boys, and I think it's in large part because he watches his parents and his big brothers do things.

As I am typing this, Jonah is babbling to himself, "Dadadadada!" while busily going through my bookshelf, pulling off books and seeing what they taste like.  Now he's discovered a bag, and he is delighting in the loud crackling sound it makes.  He is nowhere near where I out him five minutes ago.

Where is my tiny, little baby?

I feel so blessed to be a mother.  I have never loved anything as much as being able to be home with my family.  I am so grateful that my husband is a good provider, and that we made the decision together to make sure that I was home to raise our children.  I hate seeing these milestones come and go so fast, but I am so glad that I get to be the one to watch it happen. 

Weaning is going to go fast, and before I know it,this little man is going to be toddling around my house, getting into all kinds of mischief, keeping me very busy.  And I'm going to enjoy (and dread) every moment right along with him.  I am so lucky.

Love you, baby J.  Stay little just a little longer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

taco soup

I really love to cook.

And I'm pretty darn good at it. 

Wes is a lucky guy. 

Seriously though, I really love good food, so I've had to learn to cook food that suits my taste. Not in a braggy way....I just don't like to complain about things and then do nothing about it.  So if I'm going to be picky, then I'd better learn to cook good food!  Wes isn't as picky, but he loves good food.....what man doesn't?  Especially when I'm making it.  He LOVES when I cook.  For some weird reason he finds it attractive.  Maybe in the same way that I find him attractive when he's mowing the lawn or opening jars.  ;)

Well, tonight was supposed to be pizza night, but I wanted to push it to Monday so we could have a heart-shaped pizza on Valentine's.  I had kind of a rough day and didn't feel like doing much in the kitchen (I find cooking relaxing most of the time, but tonight I had three rambunctious boys who I was really ready to send off to bed. 

What to make when I want something healthy and yummy, but really don't have more than 10 minutes.  One of my good ol' standbys is taco soup.

I have seen many variations of this recipe, but I like mine the best so far.  It's so darn easy that I almost feel guilty about it!

I thought I'd share my little standby recipe, so here it is:

Taco Soup
1 # ground beef, cooked  (if you want a lower meat or fat content, you can half it or leave it out altogether and just add more beans.  When we do this, we add 2 cans of black beans.  You can also do 1/2 ground turkey and 1/2 beef)
2 cans stewed tomatoes (it pays to buy name brand on this one - we go with Italian or Mexican)
2-4 C corn (we have used frozen or canned....if it's canned then use 2 cans.  I like frozen better, so I just add a little extra water to the soup)
1 tall or 2 regular-sized cans of kidney beans (we always rinse the beans!  We have also used frozen with added water.  You need to rinse the beans because there is an ingredient in the canned beans that can give you lots of extra...ahem....gas.  Not to mention the chemical content.  But my mom likes the consistency of the soup better with the juice in the cans, so she doesn't rinse them.  Your choice.)
1 pkg. taco seasoning (we order ours that is MSG free from here.  We usually use 1/3-1/2 cup to taste.   But you can also use the regular brand.  They sell large jars of it at Costco, and if you buy those, then use 1/4 cup.)

To make, pour all jars, meat, and taco seasoning in a large pot.  Heat up.

SO DELICIOUS!  My kids never refuse to eat this.  We usually put a little shredded cheese, broken up tortilla chips, and a dollop of sour cream in it.  The rest of my family (my siblings and parents) eat it plain.  Either way it's just yummy.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

when it rains.....

How is it that when life starts to get so crazy you feel like you are hanging by a thread, it always seems to get a lot crazier?  Is it Heavenly Father's way of testing our faith?  Murphy's law?  Whatever the reason, this always seems to happen to me...although so far, in the end, I am always grateful it does.

Man alive, we have been just buried with life around here!  My sweet, amazing husband has really swooped in on his white horse and saved me.  Our love for one another has grown so much.  It's amazing to me that when I am just overwhelmed with life, there's really only one thing I need - Wes.  When he holds me in his arms and tells me it's all going to be okay, everything bogging me down just fades away and I am overwhelmed by the love I have for him and how he always seems to know just what I need.

Wes has sweetly taken over most of the laundry around here on days I really can't function.  He's done anything and everything I've asked for....and even a lot I haven't.  I know enough about men to know that seeing the need and fulfilling it without being asked is really not in their nature, and I have been so impressed with how well he seems to figure it all out and do so much without being asked.

He has given up a couple of ski days that he was really looking forward to.  One of the days was with his dad and his brothers, and I felt so helpless and guilty about things out of my control that I even cried.  I wanted so much for him to have that day.  But it all worked out in the end, a short time (and several uncomfortable tests) later, we finally started to get some answers about what is going on with me.  I think it gave Wes a lot of peace knowing there really is something and that I am not just a crazy, overtired mom.

There is still more testing (and waiting) to do, and I don't feel to wonderful most of the time, but knowing at least in a general sense what is going on is a huge relief for me and has lessened my anxieties about the unknown so much.  We are both eager to get more answers, direction, and relief from all of this soon.  In the meantime, we are so grateful to know something about it all.

Eating the way we have been eating (clean and 60-80% raw) has really strengthened by body enough to sustain me through all of this.  For reasons I can't explain right now, raw anything has been a real challenge, which has changed my diet drastically.  Boy of boy do I feel it!  But I feel so incredibly grateful that we learned so much about good nutrition and really delved ourselves into it last year.  Thank you, Linda Eyre, for the idea of choosing a yearly "Major" and "Minor" for our family to focus on.  It's blown me away to see the rate at which we all learn and grow from it.  What a blessing!

In addition to all the craziness of mom being out of commission and kids watching way too much TV because of it, Wes's Opa, Henry Wouden, passed away last week.  It's always sad when someone you love passes away, but I felt so much more prepared for it (probably since I grew up with my parents running elderly care homes, and then went visiting weekly at an assisted living home with a few buddies until I got married) than Wes was.  Opa was a really good person, and the last year or so of his life was really hard for him.  He'd had a stroke that really slowed him down.....pretty much stopped him from doing anything he normally did, and squashed his independence.  We were so happy for him to finally be free of the burdens he was enduring daily.  It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it, but I am so happy for him to be reunited with his daughter, Johanna (Wes's mom that died of cancer when he was just 6 years old).  I bet they are hugging and laughing and catching up.  I wonder what Henry has told Johanna about her grandsons.  I know she loves them. 

(You know that magical, spiritual time when a newborn enters your home?  The veil seems so thin you could almost grab it and move it out of the way.  Grandma Johanna always comes to visit her grandchildren.  I never know why before, but my father-in-law, Lee, told us once that spirits that haven't come to earth and spirits that have already lived and died do not live in the same place.  I was a little disappointed when I'd heard that, but now I realize that because of that is probably why she's been with each of our boys after they were born.  I hope I am not weirding you out, but I am very serious. I think she came just as much for me as for them, but I know they witnessed a lot more than I did.  But that's another story for another day.  All in all, I just know how much she loves our little family, and how eagerly she must have been waiting for Henry to come home.  What a joyful reunion that must've been!)

I need to write a post about Henry soon.  He was such an amazing, devoted man.  I felt so grateful to know him well before his stroke, and have those memories preserved in my heart and on camera.  He was such a wonderful great-grandfather to the boys and they enjoyed him and loved him very much.  He is already missed something fierce.

Our lives were obviously taken up with goodbye visits, extended family together time, and the funeral after this.  Alas, Joyschool after Christmas still has not begun (although it will Monday, and none of the kids will know the difference) and life continues to be chaotic surrounding all of it.  But it was nice to really be able to take the time amidst it all and contemplate our lives.  What were we too focused on?  What needed to be a bigger priority in our lives?  What kind of person am I and is it in line with who I want to be?

We received many answers and confirmation about the direction we are heading in our lives.  I am grateful for the time we've had to stop, freeze really, the rest of our lives and reflect.  It's one of those times in my life where I feel like I am learning at an alarmingly fast rate and also seeing my own flaws and mistakes brought right out in front of me (in a good, learning way).  I don't know how it happens, but it seems like people always seem to pull it together when everything feels as if it's falling apart.  Such is life, I guess.  It sure keeps me humble, hopeful, and persevering.

The biggest thing I think we've learned lately is that we need to enjoy life more.  We are really good at "whistling while we work" in a sense that Wes and I know what we want as individuals and as a family and are willing and happy to work as hard as we possibly can for it.  And we really enjoy it.  But we are humans who need to stop and take a break from everyday responsibilities once in awhile.  For example, Wes and I loved out of state the week after we got married so he could start pharmacy school.  I was thrown into work and jobs  like I never had before, and I was away from my family and home for the first time - ever (boy was I homesick) and of course didn't really have any time to socialize and make friends because I had three jobs almost the whole time we lived there.  And Wes was thrown right into school and unpacking with me and eating my "new cook" meals and holding down his own part-time job.  We'd always tell ourselves we'd have a real honeymoon later.  But life keeps right on going and we never seemed to find the time or money to do it.  There always seemed to be something more important that frivolously spending time and money away from our duties simply for our own pleasure. 

I think that's how I got so completely lost and have taken so long to remember who I really was before it all happened.  Of course I'm a better person than I was then, but I had forgotten what a mellow, easygoing, laid back person I was because I could only let my assertive, ambitious, hardworker side come out in order to survive.  Being slapped in the face, in a sense, with my physical limitations and saying goodbye to Opa and thinking about life, really opened my eyes to things I just couldn't see before.

And I am excited.  I feel renewed and stronger.  I feel united even more with my family and my husband and my Heavenly Father.  I feel able to discern better when it's time to work and when it's time to play.  And I am ecstatic that Wes and I finally will be going on our honeymoon!

I was given the counsel by a leader of our church to "flee from discouragement".  I appreciate so much that wise counsel, especially in times in my life that get hard and I feel helpless and a little hopeless. I'm glad I had that counsel so I would try even harder to keep my chin up and look on the bright side of things.  I'm so grateful for the things I am learning in my life and for the wonderful people I get to share my life with - especially my family.  I hope to pass on the "flee from discouragement" counsel and example to my children.  Not that it's not okay to feel overwhelmed or a little lost and lonely sometimes, but that when that happens, it means to hang in there and you will be blessed beyone belief.  That the hard things in your life make the good things that much sweeter.


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