All’s Well That Ends Well

Well, we have made it through the flu (relatively) unscathed. Peanut finished her Tamiflu this morning, Little Miss Sunshine finished hers yesterday, and Nugget is on his until Thursday (but has shown zero flu symptoms). Greg, Wok, Moose and I managed to dodge the flu entirely, thank God.

I did end up at the hospital on Saturday night with tachycardia and shortness of breath; which made everyone concerned I was experiencing a pulmonary embolism. Again, thank God; the doctors ran every possible test on me including an EKG, chest x-ray, the D-dimer test to check for clots, liver function, electrolytes; etc. Everything came back fine (and now we have some groovy baselines for some tests) and it was probably due to stress and anxiety. I had heard all week long from well-meaning people how absolutely bad the flu is this year and how people were just dropping dead from it and the like. Honestly, that really got into my nerves and contributed to my anxiety. My discharge instructions say “avoid stressful situations”. As if it were just that easy! 😉

At any rate, everyone is feeling better and I’m (literally) breathing easier. Now I’m working on getting our life back onto the regular routine. I had no menu plan ready so I sent Greg to Costco with a cobbled together list of what we use the most and instructions to “get food that’s easy to prepare”. So now I need to make a menu plan for this week, get back on chores, and the like.

Honestly, I am 1000% ready for winter to be over and spring to arrive. I noticed that the cedar waxwings are back with a vengeance so hopefully that means spring isn’t too far behind. The official “beginning of spring” birds are bluebirds and robins, who typically arrive within a week of each other. You can be assured that there will be a happy dance done by me when I see one or the other.

AO Year 2, Term 2, Week 9

Despite the sickness that has invaded the house, we slowly chiseled away at Moose’s week. It’s important to give him some level of routine, even when the days are really NOT routine. Both days where we were taking kids to Urgent Care were just free days for him, in which he used his free time to build a giant diorama of Jurassic Park. Once everything settled down, I just looked at my list and picked something off of it to read/do and left it at that.


I’m experimenting with a Happy Planner “Trendsetter” planner to record all of our schooling. Right now I’m recording the hours in the notebook that I’ve been using all year; but will switch over to the Trendsetter for the next school year once I find a good way to use it. The “daily” pages are simply lists like the one above – my goal is to use each week, record all the kids’ weekly assignments, and cross them off as they do them (and record times). There’s a two-page spread at the beginning of each month that I plan on using to track homeschool goals, when to administer reading level tests (for my own edification), etc. So far I’ve just done the one page up there, but I’m really liking it. Red is Moose, purple is Wok, and pink is Peanut.

(I should do a “how I plan” post because I’ve totally figured out a great system for recording all the things that need to be recorded.)

Anyways.

The big shocker this week in our reading was the SHOCKING DEATH in chapter 11 of The Little Duke. I cried during the pre-reading and got choked up when I was reading it aloud to Moose. Even he was shocked and stunned and didn’t know what to think. Interestingly, I received the best narration from him that I’ve ever heard. So it clearly left an impact on him!

We still have a couple things to wrap up for Moose, which we will probably do sometime today or just push it to Monday. My overall goals for the week are to keep the healthy people healthy and the sickies comfortable and not get worse; which seems to be happening nicely. As everyone get better we’ll slowly return to our regular schedule. But until then, it’s nice to sit back and take it easy.

 

New Year, New Beginnings, New Hobbies

Well, that was quite a break! I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas and New Year, and are ready to get back into the swing of things (and prepare for Lent – you know it’ll be here before you know it!).

I received the results of my bloodwork that was done right before Christmas in order to see what my ferritin iron level was at. My overall levels almost doubled, but I still have at least another three months of iron supplementation ahead of me. The good news is that I was able to reduce my supplementation amounts, so hurrah!

What really made me happy was that my doctor ordered a lipid panel as well as a vitamin D panel in addition to iron. Obviously, my vitamin D needs supplementation but my cholesterol is finally doing good things. The overall level went down, triglycerides went down, and “good cholesterol” went up. I can live with that.


We resumed school last week, which was a rough reentry into the routine. In hindsight, I could have waited until yesterday or done a “light” school last week. But, homeschooling means adapting, and I’ve found that if I keep my death grip on what I think is “right” nothing will get done and the kid will get frustrated. We did some adjustments and things flowed quite smoothly yesterday, hopefully we can have the same momentum for the rest of the week.

I changed things up by letting the kids pick where to do things that aren’t writing related (Moose chose snuggling on my bed, Peanut was content with the kitchen table), as well as making sure we are sticking to the schedule and the time limits.

The one thing I’ve done that has had the most effect on my life is getting serious about self-care. I used to think I was serious but oh no, I was not. It takes a lot of effort from everyone but I feel like it’s really paying off for everyone. My doctor suggested a hobby, so I stumbled on some things I like to do (I don’t know if they’re hobbies per se but it really helps my mind to relax and not think about the 493496734699401 things going on that are stressful that I can’t get away from):

  1. Japan. I need to get a system going for learning the language; but while I work on that I’ve been enjoying learning about Japanese culture, history, and pretty much everything else. My husband is awesome and bought me a couple of Japanese cookbooks for Christmas (Iron Chef Morimoto’s, to be exact) and has lovingly put up with me trying out some recipes. We have found that hambagu (think meatloaf but better) is absolutely incredible and the kids will eat nikujaga (beef stew) as long as you don’t tell them that the broth is actually a seaweed broth. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t taste like seaweed. (I’m absolutely shocked I could find kombu (seaweed) and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) locally.)
  2. Cooking. Between Morimoto’s cookbooks and Bittman’s How to Cook Everything {aff}; I’m learning so much about food and cooking and seasoning and the like. I’m not exactly a culinary genius, but it’s really fun to learn and try things out.
  3. Reading. Now that my brain is back up and running thanks to the iron; I can get into books again. I try to have several books going, not so much an easy/medium/hard but more of something related to homeschooling, Catholicism, and Japan.

I used to think that homeschooling would count as a hobby but it can’t; at least not in the capacity that I’m doing it in. It’s really tempting for me to think “oh, I’m starting a Charlotte Mason group as a hobby!” or “oh, I’m reading this book/blog post/etc about homeschooling as a hobby!” but in reality it’s more like a job than a hobby. I do read homeschool books but I try to keep a balance in that I’m reading more about Catholicism and Japan than I am about homeschooling; and trying to talk more with homeschooling friends (both in real life and online) about what’s going on.

I’ve also been extremely picky about my emotional bandwidth. There are some situations going on that are just draining the life out of me but I need to deal with them (aka my mom’s health, the possibility of another one of my kids being on the autism spectrum, etc) and so I’ve had to limit other stressful input. I’m in a group on Facebook for caregivers of people with Parkinson’s; and I’ve had to unfollow the group simply because I just couldn’t handle the posts anymore. I still am in the group so I can get questions answered and the like but I simply can’t emotionally see the posts anymore. (And I’m not even my mom’s main caretaker, I don’t even know how my dad does it.) It feels really selfish but honestly I need to do it or else I’m probably going to have a massive crash and burn fest.


All that being said, I can feel the effects of turning off my brain and just losing myself in a good book or a good recipe. I feel much more peaceful, I’m sleeping better, and I’m not nearly as cranky as I am overall. And because I am more refreshed and patient, everyone in the house is benefiting.

What I’m Reading (and Watching) This Week

I am finally getting back into a nice rhythm for my life. School is going well, housework is getting back onto a system, the kids are mostly behaved again, and the Christmas presents are pretty much purchased and needing to be wrapped.

I did see my doctor this week for a follow-up, who was pleased with my talons fingernails and that pretty much all my presenting symptoms reversed themselves or went away. He ordered more bloodwork to check my current ferritin levels as well as my vitamin D levels so he can tell me how much vitamin D to take. If my ferritin is up enough I can discontinue the iron – hip hip hooray!

He did tell me that I need to do some serious lifestyle changes as the constant stress of having a special needs kid, being in the “sandwich generation“, and others factors are starting to take a physical toll on my body. His recommendations:

  • Three square meals a day, well-balanced and high in protein; minimize processed food as much as possible (which I already have been doing, hurrah)
  • LOTSSSSSSSSSSSS of sleep, as much as I can and as good of quality as I can manage.
  • Light exercise
  • Something to get my mind off of the stress (aka a hobby)
  • Mindfulness
  • Bonus if I can get out of the house at least once a week by myself. If not, lock myself in a room and recharge.

At any rate, here’s what I’ve been keeping busy with:

Netflix was more than happy to recommend “Erased” to me. Chatter in some of the online Japanese learning groups I’m in said it was quite good, although some of the dialog is childlike (which makes sense as kids are doing the talking) and that it’s in a dialect (Hokkaido, if I recall correctly). The Netflix description of the show reads:

After finding his mom killed, Satoru’s time-traveling ability takes him back 18 years for a chance to prevent her death and those of three classmates.

I just started the show and am only in episode 2; but it’s not overly dark or creepy. Gritty, I’d say but not nightmare fuel.

This book arrived and I’m about halfway through it. It’s a series of essays written by Japanese students at the university level (of course, translated into English). The essays take an aspect of Japanese culture and discuss it over a few pages. There’s discussion questions at the end of each essay, which I tend to skip. I can dip in and out of it as all the essays stand alone. They’re well-written and really informative.

We’re expected to get a bunch of snow this weekend, so I’m looking forward to hanging out inside with hot chocolate and the woodstove running. 😀

Thanksgiving week, school, and more

This week, the best intentions were to continue on as usual; but we decided to shelve all the readings and just focus on reading, writing, math, and religion. This worked out well for us, as it allowed us to get ready for Thanksgiving, give the kids a little more breathing room and lessened my stress level a little bit.

For Thanksgiving, we celebrated at home with Greg and the kids. We visited Grandma and Grandpa later in the day; but it was nice to have just us. We pulled off a gluten-free Thanksgiving, even with gluten-free stuffing! I could have purchased GF stuffing for $7.99/6oz (!!!!) locally, but instead I used this recipe with one loaf of GF bread (that was less than $4/loaf at a local grocery store, hooray!). It was absolutely tasty and better than gluten-full stuffing.

I used a recipe for cheddar drop biscuits made from coconut flour, which smelled AMAZING while cooking but came out quite bland. We were all a little disappointed, but oh well.

***
It’s been about 6 weeks since I started getting my iron deficiency treated, as well as trying to go gluten-free. The effects of iron supplementation has been incredible. Almost all of my presenting symptoms have been reversed. My hair still sheds, but what I am more accustomed to as someone with long(er) hair. My nails now need to be clipped as opposed to them breaking off constantly. I am not breathless going up the stairs or chasing after the kids.

I don’t know if the following is because of the iron supplementing or if it’s due to going gluten-free, or even both. But my thoughts are so much clearer, my memory is much more responsive (my Japanese learning is going on quite well now), I’ve lost weight (I am almost weigh as much as I did right before I was pregnant with Moose). My joints don’t ache and hurt. I used to need a sleeping aid each night to fall asleep, but now I don’t need anything and can fall asleep on my own. Furthermore I don’t wake up multiple times a night. I find myself getting almost 8 hours of sleep a night, which probably plays into how much better I’m feeling. My anxiety is dropping and OCD symptoms that I had flaring up are now subsiding.

We haven’t fully “gone keto” since we wanted to get the gluten under control first, as well as letting the iron take effect before doing a massive overhaul. I tend to gravitate towards more keto-y foods over all, but do have some carbs (like corn taco shells). But it’s not everyday for every meal, and I think it’s a good transition into a more keto lifestyle.

***
Finally, I wanted to mention that if you wanted to get a good introduction to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, Charlotte Mason Soiree has “A Proper Introduction“, which is kind of like a CM 101 type online course. I’m working my way through it and have found it fascinating. It’s self-paced and free, so it’s a good way to get some exposure. I’m not affiliated with it in any way, other than I’ve really enjoyed it and I think you may, as well.

What I’m Reading This Week

Now that my brain is coming back online, I’m finding my energy level recovering as well as my concentration abilities. I basically had to pause anything that required some level of concentration – like reading, learning Japanese, thinking ahead (such as bringing a lunch for Greg if he came with me to kid-wrangle for appointments that happened over his lunch break)  – basically teaching the kids exhausted my mind as well as my body.

I’ve been working on pulling my house together. It’s wild to see how tired I was, as it was adequately reflected in my house’s state. It’s not like it’s a total dump but it’s definitely not what we’re all used to. I maintain that the state of my house is a great reflection of my health – I’m a weirdo who enjoys housecleaning, organizing, and decluttering (except the seasonal clothing switch, no thank you!). So if my house is really getting unkempt and there’s no immediately obvious reason; tell me to get to the doctor!

Now that I’m feeling loads better, I’m picking up the books that I put down because I simply didn’t have the mental ability to read them and really understand them. I’m also getting back into Japanese – shockingly I put the hiragana and katakana into long-term memory so it was merely a matter of refreshing things.

I almost purchased a hard copy of this book, after a friend on Instagram had mentioned it. I’ve heard about it before and had shelved it to the “someday” reading shelf in my mind. But after my doctor’s dietary counseling (stop eating wheat and go keto) and my friend talking about it, I figured I should move the book from “someday” to “now”.
And as it worked out, both Google Books and Kindle have the electronic version on sale for $1.99. I don’t know how long the sale will last, but it’s been going on for a couple days now.

I’m through chapter 10 and it’s been a very interesting read already. Some of it I already knew (such as why abdominal fat is not healthy at all) and a lot of it is new to me, especially the science behind modern wheat and what’s in it. I have read a lot that modern wheat isn’t the same as Grandma’s wheat, but this book has done a great job (so far) discussing why it’s so different and how it got to be that way as well as the effect on your body (it’s not pretty). Fascinating stuff.

The process of dewheating is slow and steady, it’s not that I was consuming massive amounts of wheat but there as definitely some wheat going on in the house (cookies…). And it’s funny, I started getting horrible cramps in my belly on our trip when I did have wheat – one would think I’d connect the two? Nope. But it looks like my body is starting to react how the kids all react. So even if I wanted to wheat it up, my body is reacting more and more to it.

My reading plan is to finish the books that I had started but had to abandon due to my inability to concentrate. It’s so great to finally be feeling better!

Just Call Me Iron Mom

I’m happy to report that I finally have an actual direction to pursue regarding my current health problems. A simple blood test showed that my ferritin iron levels were low, and that some iron supplementation should fix me right up. My original doctor didn’t think the iron was an issue as my iron serum levels were a-okay; but the new doctor explained that ferritin iron (the iron stored in your body) and serum iron (the stuff in your blood) are two different things, and you can indeed be low on the ferritin and normal on the serum.

I wasn’t as low as I could be, most likely due to our usage of cast iron pans and consumption of red meat. But, most likely due to these wonderful children; the iron basically has been sucked out of me and never really bounced back to where it should. The new doctor also knew darn near everything there is to know about MTHFR. Mine is the 1298 mutation, which I always understood as “no big deal” vs the more intense 677 mutation. Apparently the 1298 mutation can mess around with homocysteine levels, so he had that checked to ensure it was where it should be (it is). He also said I may need a different kind of methylfolate, as my current stuff doesn’t always play well with the 1298 mutation. Bottom line: any MTHFR mutation should be addressed.

We discussed in detail my Factor V Leiden and discovered that I am clotting more than I did in the past (aka I used to clot only when pregnant, now I’m clotting regularly and I’m definitely not pregnant). I absolutely need to stay on top of the low-dose aspirin all the time (I had been slacking on it, forgetting here and there. Don’t do that, self.)

So that’s the scoop. It’s disheartening that my original doctor, the one who had I had been seeing for years was 1000000% convinced that I was depressed and was more than happy to throw an anti-depressant (and birth control pills) at me. I’m definitely not against anti-depressants – been on them in the past with smashing success – but I knew this wasn’t depression. Even when I told original doctor so; he just ignored me.

I’m making the new doctor my new primary care doctor, as he obviously is better versed in MTHFR and FVL alone; and was very interested in why I felt so yucky and how to fix it. Rather than saying “you have five kids, OF COURSE, you’re tired” he recognized that the number of kids you have doesn’t always correlate to exhaustion levels. I feel like he took everything I told him seriously and didn’t brush me off as a ‘hysterical woman’, which was definitely how I felt when interacting with original doctor. I’m debating whether or not to write a complaint to the clinic where original doctor works, because I feel he diagnosed me based on my history and not my symptoms, and he completely blew off actually listening to me. Anti-depressants are powerful meds, but not every case of fatigue and joint pain is depression (especially coupled with all the other symptoms I have been experiencing). Anyways.

The plan is to treat the iron with iron pills, revamp my diet – new doctor wants me to go back to some form of a ketogenic lifestyle (not super hard-core but definitely lower carb than what I’m doing now) in order to treat my OCD (which had been flaring up since that pesky earthquake in July), and a couple other supplements. If I still feel junky in December (and if my ferritin levels show improvement), he will start investigating autoimmune disorders. Hopefully we won’t get to that point, but God’s will be done.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 9 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 11

This week was one of those weeks where flexibility was the name of the game. It came apparent to me that we had something going on every day of the week and in some instances; had some double booking going on. Happily Grandma helped out by taking the kids to and from choir for me while I went to the doctor; and we basically forced ourselves through the rest of the week.

Monday and Tuesday Peanut (Yr 4) and Moose (Yr 2) discovered the wonder of having all their school done by 11:30 in the morning. I have told them until I’m blue in the face that if you finish your work well (as in, not slopped or rushed through) and don’t dawdle; you can be finished before noon – which leaves the rest of the day for playing, reading, visiting Grandparents, playing with friends, and so on. Sure enough they discovered that I wasn’t yanking their chains.

Peanut and Moose both had math tests and passed. Peanut finally finished up Math Mammoth Grade 3 and can begin Grade 4; Moose moves on to the next chapter in his Math Mammoth text. We also went on to the next list in both Phonetic Zoo and high frequency words.

Wednesday was a day where everything went south but we managed to get things accomplished. Our special needs kid had an extremely hard morning of therapies which meant that that child was fried and drained and needed to rest all day (but was irritable making it hard for others to work), I was fried and drained from whatever health problem I’m having, and it was just blah. I didn’t force school too much on everyone because when we’re at each other’s throats, sometimes we just need to shelve everything and have some hot cocoa (or a Snickers bar) and chill. The relationship with the kids trumps any knowledge they may gain. And besides, who can learn when someone’s antagonizing you, you’re frustrated because things “aren’t easy” and so on.

Peanut did have her heart broken a little bit more about Benjamin Franklin, she was entirely unimpressed that he stayed in England so long, despite his wife begging him to return (and not returning until after her passing). She still thinks he’s a “mostly good guy” though. 😉

Thursday was worse than Wednesday, in that I had a blood draw scheduled for 1 in the afternoon. “Please fast for 12 hours beforehand” said my doctor. Welllll I don’t know about you, but I’m not up at midnight getting my last meal in. I ended up having an unintentional 17 hour fast. At least I was hydrated enough for the five vials that needed to be drawn. I forgot to ask the phlebotomist (I was ready to go to the grocery for ALL THE FOOD) when my results would be in, and since I have no new lab reports in my online account I’m guessing all the tests are done across the state. Maybe on Monday!

(My doctor thinks that maybe I feel so screwed up because my ferritin iron levels may be low, so he’s having that checked, plus thyroid antibodies and like 249820675698719584867 other tests.)

Friday was swim class day and absolutely TGIF. Moose wasn’t impressed to learn that we’re finishing Understood Betsy next week. I find that we’re slowly “falling behind” except that we’re not, if that makes sense. Yes, we got off on our Latin schedule so the regularly scheduled quiz wasn’t on Friday, and next week we’ll do some extra reading to get done with Moose’s first term. But really, it’s not a big deal. I’m finding in necessary to cut myself slack and let go of some tightly held (and wound) beliefs. I’m participating in Brandy Vencel’s “Charlotte Mason Boot Camp” right now. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it while feeling so lousy BUT it’s so great, I’m glad I took the chance and signed up. Plus, I enjoy having to make some time to be quiet, read and discuss and pray about certain aspects of our homeschool and life in general.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

I’m still waiting for my labwork results. One result came back and it’s definitely indicative that something else may be going on; but what depends on the rest of the labwork results. Some of the tests had to go across the state for analysis and my guess is that’s where it’s all being held up at. It’s rather agonizing to continue to feel unwell, have a little idea of what may be going on but not the complete picture. I’m working on being patient, and trying not to refresh the lab results page too many times a day. 😉

It’s quite hard to do anything thanks to how poor I feel. Each day we just take as it comes, and I try to do things when I have energy. Some days are better than others.

(If you want to make bets about what’s going on/play armchair doctor/if you’re Googling around; here are just SOME of my symptoms: brain fog, losing hair, breaking nails, weight irregularities, poor appetite, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, exhaustion, hard to concentrate, random hand tremors and more! And nope, not pregnant; although that would be a welcome reason to feel like trash.)

THAT BEING SAID, I’ve been attempting to read, when I can actually concentrate.

I found this book in a local thrift store for $0.50. I like it because no matter how brain-drained I am each day, I can read a little sentence or two from it and have something meaty to ruminate over. It’s the perfect low-energy book, at least for this stage in my life.

This book is my book when I’m feeling a little more with it in the energy department. Honestly, don’t let the title fool you (you can tell on the Amazon reviews who has read it and who hasn’t) – it’s not what you think it is. It’s a lovely book, written very light-hearted and self-depreciating at times; but does a great job of discussing that whole “submission” thing and how it relates to marriage. This isn’t a ‘let your man beat you’ or ‘say good-bye to having a life!’ submission books, but rather what submission IS and why it’s needed in a marriage. And if you’re curious; there’s one for the men (which I’ve not read) called Marry Her and Die For Her (just in case you were wondering what the men are called to do in a marriage…).

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite marriage-related books I’ve read in a good, long time.

* * *
Say a prayer my bloodwork results can be posted soon and they show something conclusive, either one way or the other. I don’t like the whole “welllll you have symptoms of X but the bloodwork doesn’t agree so it’s probably not X, but we don’t know why you feel so bad.”