Friday, April 29, 2016

When I Figure Out What Works

I know myself well, but I don't always do much with that knowing.  For instance, my habit forever now has been to identify a problem, find a solution that works, then when the solution is effective and I no longer feel like I have the problem, abandon the solution because, well, obviously I no longer have a problem.

You may see where this is going.

Lately the problem has been that my children, who I really do like and love and take joy in and all that jazz, do not give me one minute of time in this house to do anything not related to their needs.  I have tried to find solutions to this, and here's how that has gone:

Early mornings before they wake up:  They wake up the minute my feet hit the floor, which means they wake up too early and then start whining by nine a.m., and I have had no alone time and they are exhausted tyrants.

Twins' nap/older kids' TV time: The twins now require a moving vehicle to nap.  I know, they freaking own this joint.  But if I don't offer them the car ride, they roam around like zombies, except much more aggressive, until bedtime at which point they refuse to go to bed because they are too tired.  Toddlers are complicated.

I was squeezing in some time while the twins napped and Wren and Sam played at a park, but now Sammy is refusing to get out of the van and play.  D has recommended I boot him out by force, but it only took one day of him staying in the van for me to see what was going on:  he has identified the girls' nap as Sammy time.  Wren's playing, I'm available, it's perfect.  And it is, I guess, because no one in our house is every lacking in their desire to be focused on one-on-one.  Sammy figured out how to make it happen, so he's a genius that way because I have yet to figure out how to shower without at least one two year-old using the shower curtain to play peek-a-boo with my butt.

For a short time, a beautiful time, I basically required D to kick me out of our home when he walked in the door so I could recover from what could best be described as parenting trauma.  It worked.  I had those moments of reprieve to look forward to all day, and I was rejuvenated enough to deal with bedtime, which with the twins includes 15 bedtime stories with a side of appetizers after which they scream for 20 minutes because, well, being a toddler is so VERY hard.

After about a month of these planned alone times, I felt so good that I figured I didn't need them anymore.  I mean, the days seemed to be going by without many issues.  I was holding my temper, using my kind words, for the most part refraining from losing my crap.  It wasn't perfect, but I felt so much better.

So I quit what worked.  D tried to talk me out of it, but I was like, "you're not the boss of me and I know what's best" and then I had to eat every one of those words when I approached him last week and told him I thought my sanity was actually at stake and I might need to start doing that thing where I abandon the small ones.  He was very understanding because he is the nice, consistently stable one in our relationship.

Oddly, this whole problem has to do with an issue I have not yet successfully addressed:  self-love.  In the book of Mark, we're instructed to love others as we love ourselves, and this has always been one of the wonkiest commands I've ever received.  Yes, I am a selfish being, truly involved in my own little universe way too much of the time, but this, I have come to realize, is not actually proof of self-love.  In fact, I think some of the most selfish people on the planet are actually huge self-haters.

When I look at the evidence, it's obvious I have had a hard time figuring out how to put others before myself while loving my neighbor as myself and not exasperating my children.  When I can't make all of this happen, I binge eat sugar, which is really only a short-term solution.

I read an article here recently about how self-love is the beginning of most love stories, and it made sense to me.  It goes along with what Donald Miller said in Searching For God Know What about us being completed by God and not needing to run around with insecurities trying to one up people.  If we could see how God loves us, we would naturally love him first, then we would have no problem taking care of ourselves because we would know we weren't doing it out of selfishness or conceit or some worldly view of self-involvement.  We'd love ourselves to make sure we could love each other properly.

So I'm committing to having dinner with my family and then leaving every night for the next seven days.  I've done this for the last four days and I feel SO much better, which means we're back at that place where I quit.  I am such a logical creature.

I will probably only be gone about an hour, but hopefully it will be an hour of restoration that will keep me from licking icing out of a container, staying up until two in the morning trying to do everything, and playing a reel of worst parenting moments in my head on repeat.  None of that is self-love, and if I am supposed to love others as I love myself, I seriously need to get it together.

My people and a random guy walking to his car

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book List for April

I have read some solid books this month and abandoned a couple in the middle.  I am going to finish up the month with All Things Cease to Appear, which I will review next month.

A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin: This was my first read of the month, and it was addictive.  The story focuses on a mathematician whose genius presents unique problems for his interpersonal relationships.  Switching perspectives part of the way through, the book still maintains its flow and shows the flaws and redemptive qualities of the characters within the pages.

Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid:  An unexpected quick read, Hamid has crafted a tale of money, drugs, and morality in Pakistan that I devoured in two days.  The characters are tragically flawed, but the story keeps you hooked.  Told from different points of view throughout, Hamid gives you enough information to keep you holding your breath until you turn the last page.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli:  Don't let the title intimidate you.  Rovelli has written a simple book about complicated theories that anyone can grasp (and I never took physics in high school or college, so I DO mean anyone).  True, I can't discuss the more detailed parts of quantum mechanics, but I did grasp information that makes me want to do more research.  My biggest regret is that I wanted to read this one a second time and take notes, but another patron has it on hold, so I will have to grab it again later.  Big takeaways:  we know so much more now that we did a century ago; we still don't know that much at all.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood:  Mind trippy, for sure.  This was my introduction to Atwood's work, and it was quite an experience.  In the future, citizens who have fallen on hard luck can join Positron where they will live an ideal existence in the town for six months of the year and serve time in Positron prison for the other six months.  They rotate every other month so know one is in one place too long.  No joblessness, maximum productivity, what could go wrong?  I couldn't put this one down.  I was both parts obsessed and horrified by the situations unfolding in front of me.  Atwood effortlessly created a sci-fi story with twists and turns that didn't feel contrived or forced and left me thinking about the way the human mind works.

Money-Making Mom by Crystal Paine:  To be honest, I only made it through the first 100 pages and skimmed the rest.  Paine runs the Money Saving Mom blog, which I have read for years.  This book was helpful, but if you have already followed her blog, there isn't much new here.  Her stories about being financially responsible were easy to skip because we are already pretty frugal.  Basically, if you're new to Paine's ideas, grab this one.  If not, I wouldn't bother.

1924:  The Year That Made Hitler by Peter Ross Range:  This was another one I abandoned, not because it wasn't good.  Well-written, detailed, and interesting, this book seeks to explore how an uneducated outsider could become Germany's dictator, and it moves forward with the idea that Hitler's year in prison prepped him for his role as dictator.  The book also explores Germany's situation after losing WWI.

All of this was interesting, but at the end of the day I didn't want to read about Hitler.  I know enough about Hitler; he's been the focus of a million studies, and for good reason.  It's important to understand how something as horrific as the genocide he led could take place.  That's part of the reason I grabbed the book, especially during an election where I've seen many people justify unjustifiable behavior so they could keep supporting a dangerous candidate.  But part of the way through this book, I realized I would rather read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Corrie Ten Boom than about Hitler.  Again, this book is well written, but I tired of the topic quickly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Floors and Tidying Progress

A friend mentioned last night that I had posted pictures of us pulling up our carpet but never posted the new floors.  Here they are:  

This is the living room.

The hallway

We broke up with our carpet, and there is none in our entire house.  What you see in those pictures is what is in every room except for the rooms with tile.  We love it, and I think it took me so long to post pictures because though the floors are done, this tidying up process is still in progress.  The floors being redone just fell in the middle of it and helped move it along.  Here are some highlights from our putting-the-house-back-together project.

My Proudest Accomplishment so far:

That's right, a closet in the hallway no one even sees.  I love this because it's where the homeschool supplies, library books, and activity kits (puzzles, Lego sets, etc.) are.  We use it daily, and it's easy to keep organized because you can see where everything goes, and the contents are not all over the house.

How we decided what to keep and what to get rid of:

We kept toys that are a jump off point for imagination such as blocks, puzzles, games, action figures, train tracks, and arts and craft kits.  A few stuffed animals made the cut, and the entire dress up bin survived because they really do use the items in there, hence the immense amount of laundry I am always washing.  Very few, if any come to think of it, items requiring batteries made it, unless they are outside push toys or walkers that also sing songs.  The idea was to get rid of anything the kids could just stare at, as we were hoping not to have things like that in the house in the first place.  I am by no means a technology-free parent; my kids get TV time and are perfecting their video game skills with D.  However, we like that kind of stuff limited, and it's hard to limit if they have tons of things in their rooms that allow them to stare without thinking.  

By far, I have the least clothes, and I LOVE IT!  I will have to grab a couple of tops and bottoms for summer, but my side of the closet is simple with very few choices.  I kept only clothes that bring me joy, and since I am not a clothes person, that wasn't hard to figure out.  Everyone else had clothes donated this round, but I still feel like there's some work to be done in their closets.  

We're not bringing in several pieces of furniture we previously used because they were serving as storage places for junk. Plus, the floors give the house a feel of being very open, and it would be easy to ruin that with too much furniture.  We do need a couple of items that we'll buy in the future, but for now less furniture seems to mean less places to put items we don't need.  

What I've Learned:

Out of sight is not out of mind.
I feared that storing items in places we already had, like closets or shelves instead of on furniture, would mean we never used them.  The opposite has ended up being true: now that everything is stored in the right place and easily accessible, we all use items we previously forgot about more.  Having a ton of things in sight is overwhelming; I don't particularly use something just because I see it all the time, and neither do the kids.  Now we can open a door and see things easily, so we find what we want without problems.  

Decorating is easier for me when I have less distractions.
I'm not a decorator, but now that the house is pretty tidy, I can look around and see places I'd like to add pictures or other decorative items.  When the house was too full, I didn't do that.  Clutter was our decorating.

Cleaning is more appealing when the house is tidy.
I am never going to love cleaning our bathrooms, but now that their is not so much junk in them, it will be faster, and that makes it more appealing.  Same for all other kinds of cleaning.  I enjoyed dusting the other day because I didn't have to move a hundred items before getting started.

Tidying my outer world helps my mental world.
I feel like I have freed up space in my brain.  There are a lot less thoughts about where is that or why do we have that or how does everything end up a mess every single day?!?  It takes minutes to pick up and put things back, and I have much more time to live my life.  

There will be interruptions in every tidying journey.
The boot on our front loading washer tore, so D set out to fix it on Saturday.  As soon as he pulled off the first retainer holding it into place, the retainer broke.  We didn't have that part, of course, so he installed the boot (YouTube videos lie about how easy this is, but after three hours and one trip to Lowes, that washer was defeated) and we ordered the retainer on Amazon.  Amazon sent me an email today, and from my phone I only saw the words, "One of your items has been delayed".  I prayed it was our book ends since Asher was vomiting every 15 minutes and we were quickly running out of towels.  It was not; it was the retainer for our washer.  So, while our house is tidy, we will have dirty laundry junking up certain areas for a couple more days.  Thank God for laudromats; at least all vomit was washed out of clothes today.  And we did get our book ends, so the day was still kind of a win.

Because we like to keep it classy.  These
are technically more fun than
a retainer for the washer.

FYI:  I am basing my tidying project off of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  Her advice will either be your thing or it will not.  I love her; some of my friends think she is a complete nut.  I don't talk to my possessions, so I agree with them on some level, but her method is exactly what I need.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thoughts on Extremes and Gratitude

On March 14th after 11 really good days, I struggled with dizziness, balance issues, and fatigue for most of the day.  The world attempted to spin out from under me twice but righted itself before I fell.  D came home early and found me on the couch where I was holding it together until I saw his face.  At that point, I lost all composure for about thirty minutes while the kids played outside.

When I could see straight again, I went to the health food store and explained my issues to the sweet manager there.  I had been on a low sodium diet for a month with moderately positive results, but here I was again at the mercy of Meniere's after only 11 good days.  He listened then sent me home with three new supplements.

I then called my chiropractor and asked if his practice could help me.  He said yes, so I saw him twice in the next week.

Thus began the period of acupuncture needles, massage, no more than 1700 mg of sodium a day, and B6 diuretics, among other things.  It also began the period of my symptoms receding, my energy level coming back up, and my fear of having another episode slipping to the back of my mind.

I have had three amazing weeks.

Yesterday was my follow up with my ENT who I adore because he did not treat me like a nut job when I stumbled into his office a couple of months ago saying, "something is up with my ears and my balance, and somehow I think my period is related."  He said, "Yeah, that makes sense" and he got me a diagnosis.

Last week he had a representative call me to see if I'd be interested in participating in a clinical trial for a new drug for Meniere's.  The drug is the same, actually, but the dosage is being changed so it can be administered in one dose instead of four or six.  Because of how much better I felt, I said no.  I expected my ENT to be thrilled with my progress, so I was surprised at his reaction.

ENT:  Wow, you hit this stuff with everything at once so I can't really tell you what is helping.  It could be any of the changes you've made.

Me:  Whatever it is, I feel great!

ENT: Well, I hate for you to have to keep doing all of this.  Maybe if you have a few more good weeks, you can start pulling back on some of this and pinpoint what really works.  It's just, it's a lot to do when you have to keep it up.

Let me explain why this caught me off guard:  the clinical trial was going to require that I have a needle shoved through my ear drum into my inner ear to completely shut down my vestibular system.  The current side effects of this procedure that calls for four to six applications are increased vertigo, increased dizziness and accelerated hearing loss for months.  Then when that is all over, the body has to figure out how to use the balance systems it has left to function.

I have bilateral Meniere's meaning it's in both ears.  It would be a complete guess as to which one to start with, and because of the increased risk of deafness, it would not be a good idea to do both.  So I might have had this done and not improved.  Plus, it's a clinical trial.  I would have been in human guinea pig territory.  Instead of four to six doses, I would have received one megadose.

So for my ENT to think taking four extra vitamins a day and going to a chiropractic spa while not salting my food is extreme floored me.  Needles inside of my ear drums are extreme!  A chiropractor popping a bone in my ear is not that big of a thing.

I discussed this with D and my sister, and they brought up a very relevant point:  Celiac prepared us for this journey.  They both thought what my doctor was experiencing was shock more than anything.  When offered a treatment that only involved I show up, he assumed I would take that over lifestyle modifications.  A decade ago I probably would have, but after the complete overhaul the Celiac caused in our lives, diet modification, supplements, and chiropractic care seem like obvious places to go for help.

In the midst of our early Celiac experiences, I couldn't see that going through the fire would lead to refinement, that God might be preparing us for changes that affected the rest of our lives in a positive way.  But now I do.  Whereas I probably wouldn't have even researched alternatives a decade ago, I now have no problem seeing these holistic opportunities as gifts, not burdens.  I hope I'll do a better job of explaining that when I see my ENT for a follow up hearing test next month (I will have a lot of those.  Despite my outward symptoms not being prominent right now, the hearing loss can continue throughout life.)

I know I will probably still have bad days.  There's nothing to say this brief reprieve is going to hold.  And it is work, in a sense.  I don't eat out, even at the approved GF joints we can go to.  The sodium levels are too high.  I now drink my once a week coffee decaffeinated, which does feel a bit like defeating the purpose of coffee in the first place.  But the work is worth it, and so is the perspective.  My word for this year is gratitude, but it's very easy to get off track.  I have been guilty of complaining lately about how the Celiac won't seem to leave Wren's colon alone.  That battle is apparently going to continue indefinitely, and there are times I absolutely seethe over that fact. But we're managing it, praying about it, seeking advice from those in the medical field and the holistic community.  We've been on these journeys before.  God gives us the strength to continue.  And He is still in the healing business.  We've seen that repeatedly.

So I'm grateful today, for Celiac and Meniere's and outside-of-the-box options.  For learning experiences and growing experiences and perspective.  For days on my feet and weeks without throwing up and for what Wren called "a really amazing poo" this morning.  I'm grateful that our bodies are amazing creations meant to work a certain way, and though they can go off the rails, they can sometimes get back on and keep moving.  And even when they can't, our souls can grow and flourish, can grow closer to the Creator no matter where our journey leads.