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Monday, August 18, 2014

Cloth Diapering

Before Anna was born, Hans and I made the decision to try cloth diapering.  We said we'd do disposables when she was first born and switch to cloth once she'd grown a bit.  By the time she was large enough to start cloth, though, I was feeling two things.  The first was guilt for how many disposables were ending up in our trash each day.  The second was complete and utter fear for the extra work cloth would mean.  In the end, though, the guilt won out and Hans and I started the cloth diapering routine.

We stuck to it for about a day and a half and then we found out about Mom.  While she was in the hospital I just couldn't fathom the added pressure of figuring out cloth diapering, so we quickly switched back to disposables, but as we started to get into a routine with Mom I started to feel guilty about using disposable again.  So, it was time to go back to cloth.  In an effort to talk about something other than Mom, I figured I'd share with y'all my experience so far.

Simplicity
First off, it's super simple.  Yes, it requires us to do a little more laundry, but we don't really worry about folding anything.  Once they're done washing and drying, we just throw them in a drawer.  The only other problematic thing is that poopy diapers have to be rinsed off before washing, and this can cause issues if we encounter a poopy diaper while in public.  At home we have a diaper sprayer, so that makes it easy, and in public I'll either wrap up the diaper until I can rinse it at home, or I'll rinse it out in a toilet somewhere.  It's no big deal.

Leakage
I've heard some people complain that cloth diapers leak a lot more than disposables.  I think this really depends on the diaper.  My one recommendation: double gussets.  We've used three different brands and two types of cloth diapers.  Only one of them has been fairly reliable about not leaking, and it has double gussets.  Part of that is because Anna has skinny, little legs.  The other side of that is you do have to make sure you're using the diaper 100% correctly.  Whenever I put it on Anna, I have to double check that everything is covered.  This takes about an extra 5 seconds, so no big deal.

Types
It is easy to get lost in the different types of cloth.  There are flats, pockets, prefolds, all in ones, and all in twos.  Then there's hemp, cotton, microfiber, bamboo, wool.  Further still, there are Best Bottoms, Grovia, Bum Genius, Lil' Helpers, and many more.  Choosing what's best for you can be difficult.  I actually went to a two hour class offered by a local shop to learn more about them.  Best. Decision. Ever!  I still don't know much about the different fabrics, but I know what I like to use the best.  I love Best Bottoms, All in Twos.  They're double gusseted and easy to transport when I'm out and about.  Plus the inserts are interchangeable with Lil' Helpers, so I have a few more options. 

Cost
Yes, it's true.  Cloth diapers seem more expensive at first.  One could easily spend $500 on a full set of cloth diapers, and that's way more than a $20 box of disposables.  But, look at it this way.  That box of disposables may last you 2-3 weeks (if you're lucky).  Those $500 cloths will last you until your child is potty trained.  And yes, you will spend a little more on water, but it's minimal.  Most people say it's about as much as having an extra person showering in your house each day.  So, not too bad!  I'd say the trade off is worth it.

OK, I know some of this info may be over some of your heads.  If you haven't looked into cloth diapering, it can all seem a bit overwhelming.  I promise to some day do a post explaining everything I've learned (although I'm still learning).  Just know, though, it's really not that hard.  I mean, if I can do it, anyone can!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Update

First, an update on me.

I'm exhausted.  This has been a crazy week of running errands, packing, and caring for Mom and Anna.  I am also, however, completely and totally amazed at how wonderful people can be.

Last Friday, I put out a little plea.  It wasn't anything huge for me, and I really didn't expect to get much feedback.  The idea was that, if people wanted to help, I'd tell them how they could help the most.  The response was amazing, and I felt so loved.  To each of you who responded, THANK YOU!  Even if I don't end up accepting your offer, the simple fact that you reached out to me was a huge help.  Knowing that I'm not in this alone is a huge help.  Tonight, a classmate I haven't really seen in 10 years brought dinner for me and my family.  She made sure that it met dietary restrictions, and tried to make it something that would be easy on the stomach while going through chemo.  It was so wonderful, I just wanted to cry.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mom

Mom has good days and she has bad days.  The only thing we can really do at this point is take it one day at a time.  This was not a great day.  She was in a lot of pain.  Monday was a great day.  Maybe tomorrow will be a good day again.

She had a port implanted yesterday, and she started chemo today.  This means that, more often than not, she's just exhausted.  We're really hoping that the chemo will take effect, and, even with chemo symptoms, Mom might experience some relief from some of her ailments.

Anna

Anna is my little ball of sunshine.  She's my source of joy in a sad time.  She's coming along nicely too.  This week, at least, she seems to be in a fairly good mood.  She's sleeping well and eating well, and growing well.  The only thing I've really noticed is that, come evening, she's tired and cranky and ready for bed.  That's OK, though, because I feel the same way.

Anna loves bath time best of all.  She kicks and smiles, and the other night she laughed for the first time.  She's enjoying more and longer awake times, and she loves being able to look around and see as much as possible.  She makes me laugh, and that's quite a good thing.

The dogs

Mom's dogs, Kyla and Alex, are adjusting to their new life quite well.  They're getting used to not chasing the cats (that's a hard one for them), and they're being quite sweet.  Cody and Lollie (my sweet, sweet kids) are being extra snuggly and loveable.  Whether that's because they know I'm stressed and need the love, or because they're jealous, or because they're stressed and need some love, I'm not sure.  Whatever the reason, I'm loving their attention.  I feel bad, because I feel like they're often the ones who end up neglected, but those snuggles each night and morning are just perfect.

Hans
Hans is so supportive.  I know he's tired and frustrated.  I know he wishes we didn't have to worry about all this.  Through all of this, though, he's right on board.  He's been helping me cook and clean and transport dogs to the kennel.  He'll wake up early with me when there's an early-morning doctor's appointment, and he's always happy to take Anna when I just need a break (even if she's screaming).  He's just perfect.

Actually, just so you don't get too jealous of my awesome husband, I have to share this story:  This morning, he was helping me get out the door so Mom could get to chemo.  He poured me a smoothie and sent me on my way.  When I got home 8.5 hours later I noticed one thing.  He'd left the door to the fridge wide open.  Irritated does not even begin go describe my anger.  I had to throw out so much food!  Oh well!  I guess I can forgive him.

So, we're all doing OK, but we're also all preparing for what's to come.  Wish us luck.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back To The E.R.

Well, surprise.  We're back in the E.R.

When Mom first came back home, she was doing amazingly well.  She had been discharged early, because she seemed so strong.  As the days past, she continued to do well.  Apart from a medication issue with Percoset (she reacts oddly to it), she seemed OK.  On a scale of 1-10, her pain was holding at about 2-4 (normal for post-surgery), she was cheerful, and while there were a few little kinks and hiccups, everything was fine.  If she had a bad day, that could generally be attributed to something (a long day the day before, hard PT, etc).  That was different today.

Yesteray, she seemed to be in a bit of pain, but Wednesday was a big day, so I didn't think much of it.  Today, though, was different.  Today, she was claiming to be at a level 8-10 on the pain scale.  In addition, she was disoriented, had trouble remembering recent things, couldn't repeat simple things back to me, and was a bit combative when I tried to get her out of bed.  When here physical therapist arrived, I asked her to evaluate and give me an opinion, and she said we should head to the E.R., so here we are.

It's been 5.5 hours, and I'm exhausted, but we finally have a few answers.  I was worrying about a whole slew of things: more tumors, brain metastases, stroke (although not all the symptoms for that one added up).  Here's the result:

-The back and spine look good.
-Not much has changed from an oncology standpoint.
-The biggest change is a bit of growth in the mass on her skull, which has caused a bit of swelling.  That's causing the confusion.  Hopefully some steroids will help.
-There are signs of a UTI, so she's on some antibiotics

They're sending us home, and we're to follow up with her oncologist on Monday.  From there, she'll have a port implanted, and she'll start chemo next week.  We should know after the first few treatments whether or not the cancer is responding.

On Another Note
So many of you have offered love and support, and I am so grateful.  We are eternally grateful for the outpouring of love.  Many of you have also asked how you can help.  Here's the problem: I hate asking for help.  I doubt I will ever feel comfortable just calling you up and saying, "Hey, could you lend a hand?"  It's just not how I function.  However, I will take this moment to list a few things that we could really use.  If you can help out in any way, please let me know.  Don't hesitate to call, text, or email, or even just stop by.

We could use:
- Meals.  I'm actually somewhat prepared for food, but not the food she needs that's really supposed to help with cancer.  Not only that, her tastes have changed dramatically, and she's not eating much.  I'm trying to switch us over to a plant-based (mainly vegetarian), all organic diet.  The hardest part of this is researching what to make (I've always been more of a meat and potatoes gal) and then actually finding time to make it.  If someone, anyone, wanted to make even just one meal and then hand over the recipe, I'd be so appreciative.

-Help with Anna.  I love caring for her.  I love the time I have with her.  I particularly loved today's bonding time (dancing to classical music followed by snuggles on the couch).  However, I also love having some time to clean or prepare meals or go to work or go to the gym.  If anyone would be willing to pitch in for an hour or two (or more) each week I'd probably be brought to tears.

-Help packing and moving.  Mom moving in with us means more than just packing up some of her belongings.  It means we have to clean out my old office so we can clean out her bedroom.  Then we have to pack up everything in her apartment, decide what to keep and what to trash, and bring some of it back to our place.  Some stuff may end up in storage, and some may just be sold.  However, it's a lot of work, and with Anna it's not getting done as fast as I'd like.  I'd love some help.

-Care for Mom for some time in September.  Hans and I are trying to make it to a conference for the kennel the third weekend in September.  It's in Chicago, which means we'd probably be gone for about 5 days or so.  The problem is, we can't leave Mom alone that long.  Not only that, she won't want to be without her dogs, and we need someone to take care of her AND her dogs.  Having someone to check in on her throughout the day and stay with her overnight would be the most amazing gift.  Heck, even if it was a different person each night it would be amazing.  Please!  Can anyone help?

-Positive thoughts.  The reality is Mom might die.  Actually, the odds are that she doesn't have much time left.  I know this.  She knows this.  Her doctors know this.  However, we don't actually need to hear it.  I don't need to be told to prepare myself.  I don't need to be reminded.  The only way I'll actually make it through this is if I remain in some sort of state of denial.  Please let this continue.  Please, no more "I'm so sorry" or "Oh how awful."  It is awful.  It freakin' sucks!  I really don't need you to tell me this.  I just ask, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

So there you have it.  That about sums it up.  Thank you!  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Preparing For Battle

Let me start by saying that Mom is doing well.  She'll start chemo next week, and she's in good spirits.  Admittedly, we're kind of driving each other nuts, but that's a whole other story.  Right now, though, we are both preparing ourselves for battle.

Mom is resting, recuperating, and trying to eat healthy.  I am arming myself with as much knowledge as possible about her disease.  I'm reading books, searching websites, scheduling doctors appointments.  I'm creating anti-cancer meal plans, and I'm just trying to prepare for what's to come.

Hans has been amazing through all of this.  He's been helping with meals and cleaning.  He'll come home from a day of work and carry Anna around all evening simply because he knows I'm exhausted.  He's just been wonderful. 

Honestly, the only one I really worry about is Anna.  She's too young to understand what's going on, but she can certainly sense the stress.  I worry about what sorts of effects it will have on her as she grows.  I worry that I'm not spending enough relaxing, Mommy-daughter time with her.  I worry that, when she's fussy, it's not because she's an infant and they cry, but rather because she's too stressed out.  Of course, all those thoughts leave me more stressed, and the vicious cycle repeats.  To alleviate the situation, I'm trying to make sure I spend at least an hour of good, quality time with her each day.  Yesterday, that time was spent swinging on the porch swing during a gentle summer rain (it was beautiful).  Today, that time was spent nursing in bed and watching Netflix.  I love that hour each day, because I can feel both of us relax.  It's important.

And my one relief is that the kennel is continuing to do well.  I'm not back in full swing like I'd anticipated, so I'm relieved that it can continue functioning with only a little guidance.  My staff is great, and I'm constantly getting compliments on them.  While I'm making an effort to be there a little more, it's helpful to know I can focus on family as needed.

So, that's life for now.  It's exhausting, and it's not ideal, but it's my life.  At least I'm able to wake up each morning and greet the day  For now, though...

Good night!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Life

Stage 4

Metastatic

Small cell

Lung Cancer.

Today I sat with my mom in the doctor's office as he explained that the type of cancer she has is not considered curable.  I felt a mixture of emotions all at once.

I was angry.

I was angry with her for not having quit smoking sooner.

I was scared.

What does this mean for the future?  How much time do we have?  What will she have to go through, and what will that mean for me caring for her?

I was overwhelmingly sad.

As I held my daughter, not yet 2 months old, all I could think was that she'd never get to know her grandmother.  Her grandmother, my mom, the woman who held me, and cradled me, and sang to me as I was doing to her would not be around to see her grow up.

My mother, Mom, Mommy, would just be a person in a picture.  A person she maybe will wish she once knew.

It's this thought that brings me to tears every time.

I can't imagine life without my mom.

A little over a week ago we thought the pain in her back was just a bulging disc.  We never imagined this.

To her credit, she has a positive attitude.  She's taking things one day at a time.  I'm trying to follow her lead, and most of the time I'm OK.  But then I look at my daughter.  I think how this is supposed to be a joyous time in our lives, and instead it's marred by this horrible news.

Life kind of sucks right now, and I'm clinging to any small bit of hope I can find.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Puppy Love

They say everything changes when you have a baby.  One of the biggest changes I've heard is your relationship with your pets.  I've seen numerous reactions towards pets when a baby enters the mix.  Some dogs are relegated outside.  Some cats are limited to one or two rooms.  Some people even give up their beloved pets because "it's just too much."  Heck, I got Cody simply because the lady who had originally wanted him found out she was pregnant and didn't want a puppy and a baby (crazy!).  Generally, though, the most common thing I've heard is that the relationship simply changes.  I've been told that the moment your child is born you realize that nothing else is as important.  You realize that your dogs or cats are pets and not the same as your children.  Well, I'm here to tell you that may be true for some people, but it sure as heck isn't true for me.  If anything, my love for my dogs and cats has grown exponentially.

When Anna was born, the first thing I thought of was how I couldn't wait for the dogs and cats to meet her.  I knew they'd be fine with her, since they've been around plenty of other small children, but I wanted to see how they'd do with her.  Would they be excited?  Would they be annoyed?  Would they care at all?  I have to say, even I couldn't predict their reaction.

When I first came home, I was so excited to see my dogs.  I went in first, without Anna, so the dogs would have a chance to jump on me and love on me, without me worrying about a tiny baby.  They were thrilled at first, but once Cody had a chance to sniff me he immediately seemed scared.  He retreated to a corner and started to shake.  This was very unusual behavior, so I went out to Hans and asked him to go inside.  Hans said something seemed off, but otherwise Cody was normal.  He put both Cody and Lollie outside while I brought Anna in.  I set Anna on the floor in her car seat and told Hans he could let the dogs in.  While I waited for them to come in, I pondered what was wrong with Cody.  I was really scared he could smell the baby on me and that he wouldn't take to her like I thought he would.  Boy was I wrong!

Cody and Lollie came through the door.  Lollie went to her normal spot on the couch, tail wagging ferociously.  Cody, however, went straight for the car seat.  He gave Anna a once over while I held my breath, and then he immediately started giving her kisses.  Any sign of fear or hesitation was completely gone, and when Cody looked at me he was happier than I have ever seen him.  Lollie did some celebratory (attention-seeking) barking, and I loved on both of them.

I then took a moment to figure out what had happened with Cody earlier.  This may be reading to much into it, but I think his fear was based on the fact that Anna was no longer in my belly.  I think he thought something was terribly wrong, and I truly believe that he immediately recognized Anna when he met her.  Cody and Lollie had spent the past nine months smelling Anna, listening to her heartbeat, and getting to know her in a way that I could only imagine.  Their attitude around me was one of the first reasons I decided to take a pregnancy test (Cody was very protective and Lollie just seemed confused).  Their sixth sense allowed them to bond with her in a way that no other person could.  It was as I realized this that I also came to the conclusion that these dogs are my world.  Their love for me allows me to grow and to love others.  Their love for Anna only makes me love them even more. 

Since that first day, things have calmed down a bit, but their attachment to my only child hasn't changed.  They come to her when she cries, they greet her with kisses, and they guard and protect her constantly.  Anna has slept against them.  She has learned to accept (and I think love) their kisses.

Now, I will admit one thing.  Time for them is limited.  There is a difference between a baby and the dogs.  Anna is completely 100% helpless.  I can't leave her alone for a moment.  Unfortunately, this means less time to go on hikes and less time to simply hang out with the dogs.  That doesn't mean I care for them any less.  It only means I have to make more time for them, and I am more than willing to do that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Facing Death and That First Mile

I had a realization a few days after I gave birth to Anna.  I was thinking about Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and I realized that, if I lived a mere 50 years ago, there's a good chance neither Anna nor I would have survived this pregnancy.  That's really startling.  It's hard to think that, even though I did everything right, even though everything prior to her delivery was well within normal, even though I was kind of awesome at the whole pregnancy thing, mere luck or fate meant Anna was an emergency C-section, and without modern medicine, there's a good chance we would not have survived.  I even wonder how things would have turned out if I hadn't happened to have a doctor's appointment scheduled that morning.  Hans would have gone to work.  I would have stayed home.  I would have told him I wasn't feeling well, but I'd call if I thought there was anything to be worried about.  I don't know when I would have headed to the hospital.  I can imagine I would have called the nurse around 10:00 a.m.  Chances are I wouldn't have gotten to the hospital before 11:00.  How  might our story have ended if we'd had these delays?  Would Anna have made it safely into this world?

This is really hard to face.  I'm lucky that I have nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to her birth.  I didn't eat poorly, I didn't gain a lot of weight, I stayed active, my blood pressure and blood sugar were beyond perfect, both her and my heart rate were normal the entire pregnancy (until that last day), and I followed the doctor's orders.  But to think that things could have ended so differently is scary.  When I first thought about this, I was in such new-mom bliss that it was just a passing thought.  As the weeks passed, however, it really started to sink in.

I'd look into my newborn's eyes or I'd watch her sleeping, or I'd feel a twinge where my C-section scar is, and I couldn't help but think about how lucky we were.  Then I'd start to think about all the years ahead and all the dangers we face.  How sometimes you can't control anything.  And then I'd start to panic.  In the past, when I've panicked, I've gone for a run.  That rush of endorphins and the feeling of sweat dripping down my face is one of the best feelings in the world for me.  Not being able to run post-op, or do any sort of real physical activity, has been awful.  The first few days I was still in enough pain I didn't care.  Getting out of bed was a work out, and I had no desire to run.  By the middle of the second week, though, that itch to lace up my running shoes had set in. 

Yesterday, I had a very relaxing day.  It was perfect in almost every way.  I stayed in bed, I nursed, I ate well, Anna wasn't fussy.  And yet, I still ended up crying by the end of the night.  I felt overwhelmed by life.  I felt flabby.  I felt misunderstood.  Call it postpartum blues or call it anxiety.  Whatever you call it, it sucked.  And then this morning, Anna woke at 5:00 a.m. for a feeding.

I nursed her, changed her diaper, and looked outside.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was just rising, and the morning had that grey, not-quite-awake feel.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I did a quick assessment of how I felt: Great.  I told Hans to keep and ear out for Anna, I put on my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and headed out. 

I told myself I'd keep it slow.  I told myself I'd keep it short.  I told myself I wouldn't be too upset if I wet myself after half a mile due to stress incontinence (although I made sure to empty my bladder before I went out).  After a brief warm-up, I started my run.

A mile and a half.  Actually, less than that.  1.34 miles to be exact.  It wasn't even half the distance of my last run almost 5 weeks ago (two weeks before Anna was born).  However, it was the most wonderful experience.  It wasn't fast (an 11:15 min/mi pace if you must know), but it wasn't terrible.  I was tired when I was done, but I was able to finish.  And I didn't wet myself!

This morning, I feel refreshed.  This may sound overly dramatic, but I kind of feel like I'm coming back from death.  That panic I felt yesterday evening has dissipated, and I'm left with a euphoric, victorious feeling.  I'm not even 3 weeks post-op (2 weeks, 6 days to be exact), and I know I'll need to take it a little easier the rest of the day, but I feel great.  I may not be able to run a marathon or even a half marathon tomorrow, and it may take a lot of time to work back up to where I was, but I feel great.  That first mile was wonderful