November 27, 2016

Dear Hattie, Month 24, er . . . 27 . . . or whatever

Dear Hattie,

I've prayed with you almost every night of your life. When you were brand new, you'd sometimes already be asleep when I laid you down, but I'd still sing the doxology and pray with you. I wanted to make sure you never knew any different. I want to make sure that talking to Jesus is as natural for you as talking to me or Dad.

You're hitting that age now where you're beginning to try and sing along with the hymns and choruses I've been singing you for the last 2 years. You  have no idea what the words mean, but that doesn't really matter. I just want them lodged in your brain (alongside the complete soundtrack of Frozen and various Taylor Swift lyrics) so they'll be there when you are old enough to understand them.

At bedtime, we thank God for all of the good things He gives us. We pray that you'll come to know who Jesus is at an early age. We pray that He'll make you kind and compassionate and that He'll make you brave. I always pray that He'll make me equal to the task . . . that I'll be the kind of mother you need in order to become all of these things.

A couple of weeks ago, I taught you the prayer that I taught your brothers and sister when they first started talking: "Jesus, Thank you. I love you. Amen."

Shortly after that, I went upstairs to check on you guys. Claire was fast asleep, but I was standing outside your door and could hear you in your bed saying over and over, "Sesus, Ank ou. Lol ou."

Jesus, Thank you. I love you.
Thank you. I love you.
Thank you. I love you.

I thank Jesus for YOU every day, my sweet girl.


November 11, 2016

I don't know {about the morning after}

The morning after the election, Jack came downstairs and found me in the laundry room and just stared at me. He didn't even need to ask. "He won," I said.

"Really? Even Michigan?"

"I don't know yet."

"Did he win both the electoral and popular votes?"

"It's close. I don't know."

"I don't know." That was my answer a lot over the last few days. This week was filled with fielding tough questions from my kids that I wasn't prepared to handle. Talking through privilege and responsibility with them. Being thankful they aren't old enough to be on Facebook, so that I can preserve the innocence with which they view some of the people we know . . . from both sides. We had countless conversations to try and help them empathize with voters who feel and believe differently than we do. It's just been heavy.

We watched his acceptance speech, which was uncharacteristically humble. That afternoon, we watched her concession speech and she nailed it.

The me from 2012 would be telling 2016 me to get a grip. The candidate I voted for in 2012 didn't win either. It's JUST an election and we'll have another one in 4 years. But 2016 me is trying to shape older, more perceptive hearts than the 2012 me was. And this loss just felt different.

Thank you, God, for the opportunity to advocate for those who need a voice and the chance to help my kids develop empathy and compassion.

November 8, 2016

On the Importance of Voting

We just got back from our polling place, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it went. It took less than 10 minutes to vote - start to finish. I might actually have a productive morning! (Edited to add: I did NOT have a productive morning.)

Choosing a candidate this year wasn't hard for me. I know a lot of people who have been burdened by this decision, and even this morning were still trying to determine how they would cast their vote. I wasn't one of those people. 

I've known how I would vote since the candidates for both major parties were officially nominated. There's been a general sentiment in my social circles of "choosing between the lesser of two evils" but that was never the case for me. I knew who I thought was best suited for the job and ran the best campaign (or as I like to refer to it: job interview) and I was a tiny bit excited to fill out my ballot. This candidate and I definitely don't see eye to eye on every issue, but I didn't lose a minute of sleep over my decision.

On the way home, despite my enthusiasm about voting (and greater enthusiasm over the end of the rhetoric surrounding this election cycle), I was filled with this sense that the act of voting really didn't make a difference. I said to Kyle, "If we hadn't just done that, the outcome of today's election wouldn't be any different than it will be." And you guys . . . I am right. The election won't come down to a single vote. And he responded exactly as you would expect: "But what if millions of people felt that way?"

Of course I know that, but I've been thinking a lot more about it since then. Why is it important to vote?

Here's what I've decided: It's important for me to vote because we're all in this together, and if I'm not voting, I'm not holding up my end of the bargain. When I filled in the bubble on the ballot (with a wiggly two-year-old in my arms), I'm telling my fellow Americans that if you show up to have your say then I will, too. Our individual votes are worthless. Our combined votes will steer a nation.

My vote this morning was because I feel that one particular person is best suited for the presidency, but it was also for you. I voted because you're going to vote too, and I don't want it to go to waste. I think voting is the ultimate act of solidarity, even if we're voting for different candidates. If we don't all do it, we're dropping the ball. We're letting each other down.  It's somewhat paradoxical, but the truth is that our individual voices can't be heard unless we're all speaking out.

There are dozens of other reasons to vote, and I'm certainly not saying that this is the only reason. But for me, not letting you all down is the most important.

September 5, 2016

Algae Flour Does Not Equal Eggs

Here's a little life lesson for you: No eggs is always better than eggs made from algae flour.

My adventures in EoE cooking have been both time consuming and frustrating. I've been fortunate to have a friend who is well read and great at cooking food that is both delicious and allergen-free. She stocked my freezer full of meals that really made my summer 10 times easier. (Turkey and sweet potato chili? Yes, please.)

Marshmallows were safe to eat and easily available at camp . . . if only there were an ounce of nutrition, I would have been set.
We were at camp for most meals this summer, and if I forgot to pack my lunch and dinner, I was out of luck. It probably doesn't come as a shock to many people that camp food is rarely free of eggs, soy, nuts and wheat. Our food service director did her best to come up with options, and I"m so grateful to her for that. It was tough.

She also made me a birthday cake, and it did NOT disappoint.
So on the days that I was walking out the door and had zero time to pack anything, I could throw two of these frozen meals in a bag and heat them up. It was perfect.

Dessert. Kind of.
One thing that I desperately missed was eggs. I ate eggs almost every day for breakfast. This was how I got my veggies . . . I could usually get two full servings scrambled with eggs, first thing in the morning. On top of that, nearly all gluten/dairy free food substitutes include eggs.

So the day that I found an egg substitute at the supermarket was this shining beacon of hope. It boasted the ability to replace scrambled eggs. It wasn't just an egg replacer to use in recipes; it actually replaced eggs. So without even reading the ingredients, I added it to my cart.

The next morning, I hopped out of bed with plenty of time to cook before we had to leave, because: OMELET! I was pumped. As I was preparing the "eggs" according to the package's directions, I noticed this weird odor. I thought it was coming from our dishwasher, that sometimes starts to smell like rotten food when it hasn't been cleaned in a while. It took me less than a minute to figure out that it was the faux eggs. The more I mixed, the worse it got.

I dug the package out of the garbage to see what they were made of . . . algae flour. ALGAE FLOUR! Yep, that sounds about right, because they definitely smelled like seaweed. Once it was cooked, the flavor wasn't bad . . . but the texture was slimy and the smell wasn't great.

There was another time I tried to make an omelet out of chickpea flour. It did not end well.
Epilogue: I did have another EGD last week and after 10 weeks of eliminating wheat, dairy, soy and eggs, my esophagus was free of eosiniphils. There were still signs of EoE scarring, but that was normal. It was the happiest day of my whole summer, for sure.

I started to add eggs back in this week, and if it goes well, soy comes next. No matter what happens, I'm happy to be this much closer to figuring out the cause of my EoE.
It wasn't all bad. I ate A LOT of tostadas this summer.

June 10, 2016

Eleven syllables

I mentioned in February that I'd had an endoscopy for swallowing issues. It was a blast. Who doesn't love having a camera shoved down their throat, am I right?

My doctor's theory was that I had a narrowing of the esophagus, but she was a little off. The GI doctor biopsied 6 areas, and the results that came back were cryptic and didn't give me much info. I was referred to a GI specialist, and honestly? I didn't think it was going to be a big deal.

5 of the 6 biopsies came back abnormal and I received a diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). It's kind of a hard disease to explain, so you can google that if you want more info. I dedicated the four weeks following my appointment to learning how to pronounce it. It has eleven syllables, you guys.

The bottom line is that I'll need 6 - 7 more endoscopies with biopsy, the first of which was today. Unfortunately, instead of seeing improvement, the symptoms have worsened. Oh, and I have several ulcers that may or may not be related to the EoE.

My recovery from the first endoscopy wasn't all that bad. Today, however, I feel like I've just swallowed a lego brick and can't quite get it down. Will it get worse with each one? I hope not.

Next week I meet with a dietitian about an elimination diet (dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, fish and nuts), and that becomes day zero. From that day on, I'll have an endoscopy every 6 - 8 weeks, followed by adding one of the allergens back in. It's going to be a long process.

My doctor is an expert in the field, and has assured me that it's so good I didn't ignore the symptoms, because we've caught it earlier than most. So why do I find myself wishing I'd just put it off?

April 16, 2016

Dear Claire, Month Whatever

Dear Claire,

We have turned a corner, my dear.

I guess I need to back up.  I haven't written you a letter in over a year (something that you're sure to hold over my head when you're looking for proof that I love your brothers more) so much of the turmoil surrounding your three-ness has gone unblogged.

Your threes were a trying time in our lives. You're strong willed and independent (which is exactly what I prayed that you'd be, so that's on me). You are smart and opinionated. You can get unsuspecting adults and children to do whatever it is that you'd like them to do, using only your words. We're working on harnessing all of these powers for good.

You and I? We've been connecting more. It's not that the preschool years will be smooth sailing; it's just that I've been getting glimpses of the friendship we'll have someday when you're grown. I love laughing with you. In fact, when you think something is funny, you can't stop laughing. You and I have that in common. I really hope you and I will have a similar sense of humor.

Your Dad commented yesterday that he feels like you're constantly doing research; we'll often catch you standing quietly and staring blankly, and we can tell you're taking everything in, processing it, and filing it away for later. You like to pull out the random bits of information that you've gathered at some inopportune times, but that's another story for another time.

We see you acting out the things you observed in some of the most creative role playing I've ever witnessed. You have full conversations with imaginary characters, and can later recall things that you did with these figments in astonishing detail. You'll ask suddenly ask questions about something you noticed a week ago as if it had just happened a few minutes ago. You are one of a kind.

Something I've noticed just recently is that when we're walking, it's like your hand is a magnet drawn to mine. If my hand is by my side, yours just floats to it as if it were out of your control. Whether we're walking down the stairs, in the grocery store, or at the park, your hand finds its way up to mine. I love that.

We have bad days, too. You are very dramatic and feel things in big ways and I am very busy and often stretched too thin. Sometimes we clash, but after apologies are made, we're better for it.

I'm better because of you.



February 29, 2016

What's an Endoscopy Like?

I realize that the title of this post is a little "textbook" but it's the exact phrase that I googled last Thursday night, and I didn't find many helpful answers.  So, if you've come here by way of that search term . . . you're welcome.

I've been having difficulty swallowing for . . . oh, about a year now. It's become progressively worse, so last fall, my doctor scheduled an upper GI endoscopy.  She assumed it was a narrowing of the esophagus, and that it just need dilation. She talked as if it was no big deal, but from that moment forward, I was dreading endoscopy day.

It was originally scheduled for October, but everyone in my family was throwing up the day before my appointment, so I rescheduled for February. I was supposed to go in last Thursday, but we got all the snow, so they bumped me to Friday.

Let me just preface the rest of this by saying that it was a really easy, painless procedure. I had these visions of gagging on a camera being shoved down my throat while two nurses and my husband struggled to hold me still. I probably imagined it that way because it's what happens every time I take one of my kids to get a shot. Really, though? It was so simple.

After I checked in, they took me back and I had to disrobe and gown up. They put sticky heart monitors on me and started an IV (Kudos to that nurse. I didn't even realize he'd started it when I saw him taping it down. The last IV I'd had was when I was in labor with Hattie and it took them multiple attempts before they eventually contacted someone from the vascular department.).  After checking my vitals and going over the typical risks and permission forms, they told me they'd be back to get me soon.

About 10 minutes later, they wheeled me back into a room with lots of screens and machines. The tech and the nurse showed me the equipment (which I was already very familiar with, thanks to my googling the night before) and then began to prep me as we waited for the doctor. They took my vitals again, put an oxygen cannula in my hose and sprayed a NASTY tasting spray at the back of my throat to numb my gag reflex.

They had me roll onto my left side and propped me up that way. They started a drug into my IV, and the rest was kind of a blur. I have a faint memory of kind of gagging and I remember the doctor saying "biopsy" and that's it. The next thing I knew, they were moving me to my back and the doctor said, "That's it!" As they were wheeling me to recovery, I remember thinking, "Wow, I thought I'd go to sleep, but I was awake for the whole thing." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't remember much at all. When I tried to remember what happened, it felt like trying to recall a dream.

When they brought Kyle back to see me, all I could fixate on was that I'd heard the doctor say "biopsy." I wasn't 100% sure if that memory could be trusted. They eventually brought in a report and went over it with both of us. They found no narrowing of my esophagus, but took 6 biopsies of suspicious looking areas in my esophagus and stomach. It could be a week or two before we get results, but the phrase "eosinophilic esophagitis" was thrown out there . . . which is a very specific name for something rather broad and nonspecific.

So, I'm waiting. March is so busy, that I don't have a lot of time to stress about it. I have two fears: 1) That they'll come back and tell me that I have something horrible and life altering or 2) THey'll say, "We don't really know what's wrong. You'll just have to deal forever with having difficulty swallowing."

But that's not really the point. The point of this post is this: upper GI endoscipies? Not that bad.

February 28, 2016

Maybe it's just winter

It is well documented that January is my least favorite month of the year. February, however, is giving it a run for its money this year.

We had two weeks of stomach flu. Fun!

Kyle had surgery to break up 1" worth of kidney stones, which resulted in 5 days of excruciating pain trying to pass them, and one day trip to the Emergency Room. This whole ordeal deserves an entire post of its own.

To cap it all off, I had an endoscopy on Friday, which revealed 6 areas of "suspicious tissue" that had to be biopsied. Double fun!

This month (truthfully, the last year or so) has been lonely and difficult.

Despite all of that (or maybe because of it), I've felt this stirring in my soul. I was driving home from camp on February 1, and felt it for the first time. There's something moving in me. Changing. Growing, perhaps?  I read a quote from Christine Caine last week that said:
"Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you've been buried, but actually you've been planted."

This quote gave me hope and new perspective. Maybe I haven't been forgotten and alone for the last year; maybe it's just winter.

Spring is coming.