Friday, December 5, 2014

Breastfeeding Supply Mayhem

 
 I always said I'd give breastfeeding a try from the start of my very first pregnancy. I tried with baby 1 with no such success thanks to an early induction, a 'late term preemie' sucky latcher and lazy eater, and a supply that tanked because of such. I tried again with baby 2 who was full term and a fantastic eater, unfortunately too fantastic. Again my supply was no where near enough to keep up with his hunger so I pumped for 6 weeks and saved my milk for his rice cereal later down the road. When I got pregnant for the third time I vowed that I would try yet again, perhaps third time was the charm. Well with the wee dude currently 9 weeks old it has been an immense struggle.

Dude #3 has been the best and most successful breastfeeder of them all but we are struggling and I'm not sure how long we will be able to keep it up. He latched immediately after birth and pretty much hasn't left my boob since. Eating a bazillion times a day, aka 19-22x a day on average OYE! I had no qualms with this for the first few weeks knowing he needed to establish my supply so all day and night the kid nursed which was/is more than a challenge to take care of the other two kiddos let alone do ANYTHING for myself. At his 2 week appointment he'd already gained a POUND over his birth weight and I was so encouraged, yay things were actually working for dude 3! Well he continued to eat a million times a day and so I decided to hit up the lactation consultant when he was a month old to see if we could get the feedings down. I also found out at this time that his weight had fallen off and he'd only gained a few ounces in 2 weeks. Her thought was that he wasn't transferring the milk appropriately, he was "creasing" my nipples which meant he was doing a lot of work without a lot of reward so the nipple shield was our fix. I dread the nipple shield by the way, it's a pain in the butt and I was really wondering how in the world I was going to add the nipple shield to the chaos of nursing in public every time we went out, as if the dumb nursing cover wasn't hard enough to wrangle. But I was determined to make it work so we went with it. At the same time she told me to start supplementing formula if he needed it and was still hungry after I nursed him on both sides for 40 minutes.

A week later weight was back up yay! After the nipple shield we have corrected his sucking to efficiently empty the boobs but clearly supply is still an issue because he needs anywhere from 1 to 10 oz of formula every day to stay happy despite continuing to breastfeed 18ish times a day. I have been determined ever since to cut out the formula which means my supply needs to increase since he's obviously not getting enough from me. This has led me to try everything known to man to boost my milk supply...

My Milk Supply Toolbox so far- things I've tried/am trying
  • The lactation consultant
  • Weekly breastfeeding classes/ weigh ins
  • Placenta encapsulation- yep actually did this, more on that in another post
    Brewers yeast
  • Lactation Cookies
  • Increased water/fluids
  • More Milk Plus- a tincture with Fenugreek, Nettle and other herbs to boost supply including Goats Rue which stimulates mammary tissue in those who've had breast surgery
  • Power Pumping (this was a major fail and made things worse actually)
  • Special milk increasing tea concocted by an herbologist for me that includes fenugreek, red raspberry leaf, catnip, nettle, cinnamon, and various other herbs
  • Marshmallow root, also brewed as a tea to beef up the content of my milk to help with weight gain
  • Basil, same as above
  • Acupuncture (appointment coming up)
  • Metoclopromide (Reglan)- a prescription medication that has been used as a galactagogue (it also gave me post partum depression with baby 1 but I tried it again this time hoping for the best. Turns out after 2 days I had to stop the med because it was doing the same thing again.)

So I've pretty much tried everything there is to try. It surely isn't for lack of effort that we're having problems. Dude still eats at least 15x a day and gets formula and I'm starting to realize that I may need to just be ok with that. I hate it though, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel completely disappointed and feel like a failure as a woman and mom. I'm not sure why my body just won't cooperate but for whatever reason it doesn't seem to be. This is my frustration too when I hear other moms so insistent on condemning the formula feeders, they couldn't possibly understand my effort and struggle and still judge and put down moms who are unable to exclusively breastfeed. For people like me it isn't a choice and it sucks, I wish there were more understanding in the mommy world about this. 

My other main contention with "giving up" whatever that may mean at this point is that I notice a major difference in the dude's demeanor depending on how much formula he's had. The other two boys had colic and major GI issues, they were on hypoallergenic formula for a year and it was awful. This little dude hasn't had ANY of that, no stomach issues or gas or fussiness that is out of control UNTIL he has a lot of formula. That kills me. Because I know that the breastmilk doesn't do this yet I can't give him enough so I HAVE to give him something that makes him feel horrible.

Not sure where this road will lead, I'm continuing to try, I'm determined to fight as hard as possible to keep boob feeding the kid. If my body will let me. If anyone has any other magical cures or ideas I'm more than willing to try! And for any other mommas out there struggling, know you're not alone.




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Friday, August 22, 2014

One Year.

It was just after midnight when my phone rang. I looked down to see that it was my step mom calling so I took a deep breath and answered...

"Your Dad's gone" a solemn voice echoed on the other end.

It was the phone call I had been dreading for 2 years.

I told her I would be over shortly and hung up to call my brother whom I had spoken with just hours earlier telling him that he shouldn't waste any time getting over to visit Dad in the morning as something seemed off, I just felt it when I was with him earlier.

"Hey bro...." the silence was deafening.....  "Dad's gone Home"


I laid in my bed for a few moments wanting so bad for this nightmare to be over, to wake up from the dream. A million thoughts at once. I got up and grabbed my glasses and walked out into the living room where my husband was still awake watching tv.

He looked up at me and said "Hey, what are you doing?" and I couldn't bring myself to even utter the words again so I just stood there blankly. "Oh. Oh no." he said as he stood up to hug me. "I'm so sorry babe..."

I grabbed my car keys and told him not to say anything to the kids until I was back later and I drove over to my Dad's house. The whole drive over there I kept thinking of the last time I had seen him, just hours beforehand... my step mom and I had gone to the chapel to make the arrangements for an intimate formal viewing. We had just signed the papers for a cremation service...Literally hours ago.

There was an insane storm going on during all of this, in fact I laughed as I held my Dad's hand earlier that afternoon and said "Dad, do you see all of this? The angels are here for you... I think they've brought all of Heaven with them!". It was quite a sight outside, hail and rain and thunder and wind like I've never seen before... oddly enough the storm centered right over our small community and that was it...

When we returned from the chapel with the final arrangements in place I went up to give my Dad a hug. Though he hadn't opened his eyes more than a handful of times in a week and usually laid there pretty peacefully, I could tell that tonight he was restless. He didn't seem comfortable. I covered him up with a blanket and started to massage his hands when he turned to look at me and started grimacing and making some very odd noises. It startled me and I said "Dad what's wrong, what's the matter?" He did this a few more times as I asked if he needed more pain medicine. He was unresponsive, had been for a couple of days at that point, so I gave him some more morphine and waited a few minutes. He was still acting odd so I gave him another dose and also some Haldol hoping to calm him down, I upped his oxygen a little bit and I sat with him. I kept thinking I just wanted to stay, I almost called my husband and told him that I was going to stay the night on the floor next to him... but I didn't.

He seemed to calm down a little bit over the next hour, his breathing more relaxed, so I turned down the light and gave him a hug "Love you Dad."

I left the house, still uneasy, about 10pm and called my brother who had just arrived in town to let him know to head over first thing in the morning. I knew something wasn't right. I got home and laid down shortly before getting the phone call.

All of that ran through my head over and over again as I drove to his house. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. After all this time, we were finally doing this. The awful phone calls. The late night call to the hospice nurse and coroner. Just utter disbelief. Pain that knocks the wind out of you.

I went inside and up the stairs and saw my Dad laying there, just as I had left him merely hours ago. His head was tilted to the side and his eyes were slightly open... I had to look twice to convince myself that he really was gone. I knelt down beside him and laid my head on his chest and cried. I held his hand and stroked his head in absolute disbelief. Every ounce of my body screamed in agony. "Damn, Dad." "Damn." I sobbed.

I watched my brother walk in and come up the stairs and do the same double-take that I did and shake his head. I stood to hug him and we all cried. We all sat around in silence, all having the same million thoughts racing through our heads.

My step mom said that he had been resting easily, she had kissed him goodnight around 11:00 and got up at midnight to give him his pain medicine and he was gone. I just knew it.... I knew I should have stayed and not gone home but obviously that's not what he wanted. He didn't want me there. It was quite fitting since the past several months had gone in a similar fashion, almost like he was pushing me away, trying to tell me to move on and stop worrying about him... to move on with my life... move on from cancer and all it has taken from us. The whole time I just wanted to be there, as I told him at his first chemo session that I would be... and it's like he was increasingly telling me to stop. Perhaps he had seen, better than I could, all that cancer had taken not only from him but from me, my family... sucked me dry and he wanted me to stop letting it... even that night.

"Enjoy your life Baby Cakes" that's all I could hear as I laid on his chest. "It's time."

I began to help my step mom pick out his suit from the closet and the gray tie he had requested in the last coherent conversation I had with him about 10 days prior. Which shoes would he want... it was all so surreal.

By now the hospice nurse had arrived, she had to confirm that he was really gone and call the doctor to get the death proclamation. She also called the mortuary company that we had decided on only a few hours prior so they could come and get him. When they arrived they were so professional. I mean what an awful job to have, awkward, emotional... horrible but they were wonderful. They let us have our time with him and then got him on the gurney to come down the stairs. What a weird experience, I could hear them struggling to get him down the stairs, afterall it took 5 firefighters to get him up there in the first place trying to keep him as comfortable as possible. I watched them load him into the hearse and close the doors... and that was it.

We all continued to stand around in disbelief and finally left to go to bed. When I got home both of the boys were laying in our bed sleeping. I saw my oldest open his eyes as I climbed in and I just stroked his hair softly, he kept staring at me intently. "Momma... is Grampa in Heaven?" it took my breath away. I couldn't believe that he knew somehow... "Yea baby. He is."

What a day... what a day... I can hardly believe it's been a year. Who am I kidding, I can hardly believe it happened at all. It still isn't real that he's gone. I feel like the Universe gets extra wonky around death anniversaries, like the vibration speeds up because weird things happen. Memories that haven't dawned on you in ages all of a sudden pop up. Things seem out of place... it's hard to explain. It is similar to when he died, like the veil between heaven and earth kept thinning out until he was gone. I feel like it's doing that again. I can feel him close by now, just like in the opposite sense I could feel him drifting away.... which probably makes no sense to anyone but me?

Even the kids have been obviously noticing it, they've been talking a LOT about Grampa lately. My youngest who never really gets emotional about missing him has been crying about missing Grampa every single day for nearly 2 weeks... "You miss your Dad momma?" "Yes baby I miss him" "Me too" :( Out of the blue he is constantly talking about missing him.... I've yet to tell them that it's been a year, not that they could comprehend what that means anyway, or that we're going to have a celebration to commemorate things but they can definitely sense it all.

A year later, it still feels numb. I have to shake my head any time I think about that day, when I think about it all... I remember the initial diagnosis and sitting there dumbfounded as a surgeon still wearing his blue cap explained to us that he had just removed a tumor the size of a cell phone during the cystoscopy. I remember the look of shock on my Dad's face when the same surgeon repeated the findings to my Dad later in his room as the gravity of it all started to hit. I remember the phone call my Dad made to me the day everything took a horrible turn as he told me they'd given him 2-4 years... "So....that's it?!?" long pause "that's it, kid"... how had he found the courage to make that call to me...? I imagine it took the same courage as I needed to call and tell my brother that he was gone.

It's all an epic whirlwind of shittiness really. It still sucks today as bad as it did then. I still have no good answer for my kids when they cry to me about how they miss Grampa. I tell them they can visit him every night in their dreams and they respond "but Grampa doesn't come in my dreams!" how the heck do I fix that...? I tell them that I promise he does come but sometimes it's hard to remember our dreams and they look at me confused and continue to cry. They don't get it and they don't know how to fix the hurt in their hearts anymore than I do. I'm not sure if it'll ever get easier.

So what do you do a year later... the same thing we did that night... put one foot in front of the other, continue to look to the sky and listen intently when he sends his love and reassurance from heaven and "live my life Baby Cakes"

I'm trying Dad.

But I'll always wish you were still here to live it with me.





 
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Mexican Family Vacay Babymoon From Hell Part I


We were so looking forward to our trip to Playa, we kept commenting on how excited we were to be doing the all-inclusive thing where we could just show up and not have to think about a single thing. No worrying about where we wanted to go for breakfast and lunch or how much to budget for the day, no carrying money around, etc. Just show up and relax! We've stayed in all-inclusive resorts before and never had a problem (unlike many folks who refuse to travel this way because you're "trapped" if things are bad), in fact our favorite resort was just about an hour away in Cancun, The Royal Solaris. Unfortunately our long awaited trip was anything but relaxing.

Where to even begin with an explanation of our family vacay to Mexico... I guess from the start, at the airport. United Airlines so kindly booked our seating arrangements with the kids sitting on one side of the aisle and us on the other. Thankfully the dudes were behaved enough not to completely ruin the experience for the other travelers seated next to them but it was an exhausting 4 hour flight constantly reaching across the aisle to keep them entertained and happy. Oh yes and we were in the last 2 rows of the plane which meant ALLLL of the people on the plane and flight attendants were walking past our seats to the bathrooms every .4 seconds. In the end, we landed, the kids loved the flight and had a blast so all was fine as we took the shuttle to National rental car where I'd pre-booked our car. I reserved and paid our rental car fee via credit card before we arrived, when we showed up it was a classic bait and switch and we ended up with an extra $150 worth of charges that were MANDATORY yet never once mentioned until we arrived of course, including an 18% tax rate... nice. Got the carseats in the car, and the seatbelts don't lock out to properly secure the carseats... I guess this is normal in Mexico?? Ugh, I was beyond annoyed by now and hot and swollen but we got on the road and drove cautiously down to Playa Del Carmen ready to be done with our long day of travel.

Managed to find the resort, pulled the car up to the front not exactly sure where to go and got out to check in. No one greeted us or pointed us in the right direction... so we just went to the counter and got checked in by a less than enthusiastic person that basically didn't speak to us but just handed me a paper to sign and slapped green wristbands on us and told us someone else would show us the "amenities". At this point, Pepe, our "tour" guide says "welcome to my country" and asks how old we are.... say what?? Yes, he asked us how old we were after finding our name on his chart "for marketing purposes". We ask him whether we should go park the car before our "tour" and he says yes so I stand there with him and he proceeds to ask me what we do for a living as hubby parks... once again whaaaatt?? I started to catch on to what he was doing, he was gathering info for his timeshare presentation that he was attempting to rope us into. You know, you must meet certain qualifications ie. age, income, etc in order to be a good candidate. At this point I got annoyed and stopped answering his questions. We'd been traveling for nearly 12 hours and I just wanted to get him to show us our room and take the kids to the pool as we'd promised all day long. Instead, he sits us down in the lobby, orders over some lemonade and proceeds to show us a magazine page by page of ALLLL the areas in the Mayan Riveria that are pretty and touristy and he then tells us that we should do a tour during our trip to see all about the amenities in the resort (I thought we were already doing the "tour" with him...??). We just nodded along and he tells us that 8:00am is LATE for the resort, that things get moving very early here and says so I'll sign you up for 8 am tomorrow for the tour. Uhhh whaaatt? First off buddy we're on vacation, I'm not waking up "early" for some stupid tour on the first day, what the hell? He asks us "when you book these kinds of vacations what credit card do you usually use? Visa or Mastercard?" I finally look at him and tell him we're done, the kids are ready to get to the room... I was in complete disbelief that this was how they "welcome" guests and I could've slapped someone. Oh one other tid-bit Pepe informs us of is that unless you're one of the Royal Elite guests you only get to eat in the variety of non-buffet restaurants 1 night per 3 nights stay which meant we'd get to dine at an actual restaurant just one time during our trip and all other nights we were stuck with the buffet. WTF? This surely wasn't mentioned on ANYTHING I read, not on our travel reservation, not on the website, nor mentioned at check in... I basically took all of this in and resolved to get the hell out of the lobby, get to the room, and deal with it in the morning. There was no way I was going to accept that, they'd be fixing it for damn sure.

Off to our room to FINALLY relax... supposedly. They gave us a golf cart ride to our building, I was busy taking in the sights and didn't really notice how far we went and even after staring at the map of the resort didn't really grasp how LARGE the place was. I mean the entire resort was huge, it was more than a hike to get to ANYTHING which I started to realize after a day or so when my feet were swollen up like balloons and I was getting contractions every damn time we left the room. We finally started counting the distance after a few days and came to the conclusion that it was nearly a QUARTER MILE from our building to the main center of the resort where most of the restaurants were, the snacks, the main pool, pretty much where you needed to go for anything. The lobby, parking lot and other restaurants were even farther. Oh yea, and our room was on the 3rd floor... with no elevator. Hubbs informed me that it was 34 steps... oiy.

Our "upgraded" room (thanks to a promo I found online) was a junior deluxe suite which meant a living room area and bedroom area with balcony. So the kids had a pull out sofa for a bed and we had a king. I threw the luggage down and sat on the bed getting ready to decide what we wanted to do for dinner since our hopes of hitting the pool were out thanks to Pepe. I immediately noticed some nasty looking "drip" like stains on the headboard of the bed... omg... BOTH sides. Ick. Figured I'd sleep on the opposite end of the bed and once again deal with this all in the morning because I was OVER IT by then.

Off we ventured to our first dinner. A buffet of Mexican fare sounded great so we stopped in to La Mascaras one of the resort buffets and had some pretty decent food. My only real complaint was that the restaurant had no air conditioning. It was hot as hell and humid even at night, so we sweat to death during the meal but at least filled our stomachs, listened to some mariachi, and headed off to explore a little bit of the resort before hiking back to our room to sleep. We'd soon find out that sweating to death and lack of air-conditioning was going to be our life for the next 6 days YAAAYY, literally everywhere. Apparently this is what makes an "Eco-Resort" ..... hmmm.... or something like that I suppose. Oh and another inkling of what was in store for us at the "Eco-resort" was the abundance of mosquito repellant dispensers located every 20 feet around the entire resort like a hospital with hand sanitizer or something. Oh boy... this was day 1.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We've been up to a lot!

We've been up to a lot...

 Mostly this. 


 

Expected to join the crew in October :)

Since the holidays it's been a whirlwind into summer at the Maven house. There was a surprise trip to Ireland for Mr. Maven's 30th birthday. I finished my BSN and started a new job. I'm now working to finish my MSN. Business has been great and busy. We've had lots of family time. Celebrated the wee Dude's 3rd birthday. A lot! Looking forward to the rest of the summer, I get to meet my nephew soon, another vacation (our last as a family of 4), and then the newest member of the clan will be arriving. More updates later! Read more!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Joy. Peace. Love. A fresh start at life after death.


Joy. Peace. Love.
That's our family motto for the coming year. Three simple words that symbolize so much for where the past years have fallen short. Not that we haven't had love and joy and peace (ok maybe not so much peace with a house of wild toddlers), we have had these things but they've been overshadowed by so much darkness.

2014 will be a year to go to the light.
Quite figuratively and literally...

My Dad made his journey to the light just 3 months ago and it still hasn't completely sunk in that he is not a mere phone call or state away. Maybe it never will? I still feel as if he is around me all of the time, I frequently look through his pictures and remember and laugh at good times. The holidays have made the hurt a bit more stingy... I think of each Christmas breakfast we spent together and the jolly smile he had on his face each year that we arrived. He was usually shuffling about in his slippers with his nice red silk shirt on throwing eggs on the griddle. "Merry Christmas Baby Cakes!" he'd always say as he ushered me to pour a glass of champagne or get a mimosa. I would typically come flying in the door late and irritated at the busy schedule we had the rest of the day visiting each household and he'd just squeeze me and smile and tell me to relax. My Dad always put on a huge breakfast since our routine had always been to start off our holiday extravaganza at his house in the morning.

This year there wont be a big breakfast with mimosas and Christmas music playing in the background. There wont be stockings filled with socks and chapstick... and other random essentials that we could always count on Dad to have waiting for us. No bubble lights on the tree to laugh at in all their cheesy glory. No card to open... he always picked a special card for each of us for Christmas.

There's nothing joyful about that reality. There is nothing joyful about recounting the last two years of watching and enduring so much suffering. 2014 will be a year to rediscover how to find joy again. To create joy in new experiences. Easier said than done, but we will do it.

Joy.

It has been an immense struggle to find joy through the heartache and frustration these past few years. Times that my sorrow was palpable by anyone around. I would do my best to fake it and hope that my mind would somehow convince itself at some point... Very hard to see the rainbow when you're sitting in a downpour. I think I managed to do a pretty decent job of keeping it together, with the love and support of my husband picking up the slack when I couldn't physically stand through the nightmare. But this new year.... 2014.... I am SOOOO ready to find the joy in life again. I will find joy again. And not just in the big things but in ALL things. I can turn a page to a new life, a fresh start and take a deep breath at what awaits.

Peace.

I am only thankful for death in one regard. Giving my Dad peace. Peace after a war-like battle. 2014 will be an even greater opportunity to know peace. Peace not only for my Dad but for ourselves, our new life, and the people still around us. After a battle not only with illness and cancer there have been larger emotional battles for all of us involved as we've been able to see who is really in it for the long haul. Who is truly there when the house of cards falls? Death will open your eyes to things you never could imagine... unfortunately it enlightened us to the fact that there were a lot of people we thought were there for us, that meant something to us, that were family, that completely abandoned us during one of the hardest experiences one will ever endure. This new year will bring peace in my mind with the way the cards have fallen, knowing that as the page is turned it will only go up from here. The fat has been trimmed and those who've stuck by are the only ones who deserve to join us for the future. I wish myself and my family peace in knowing this.

Love.

Through watching my Dad suffer until the end I have learned a lot about love. From all angles I have learned a lot. What it means to truly give love to someone else and pour everything you have into them, what it feels like to receive love and support from someone when you need it. The give and take UNCONDITIONALLY, no strings attached, pure care for another human being. 2014 will start with a completely new appreciation for love, genuine love that is not dependent on anything other than the fact that someone would sacrifice any and all of themselves to give to you if you needed it. So many relationships I've wasted concern with that didn't deserve my love... not this year. My love will be reserved for those that reciprocate. My Dad had my back no matter what, til the end, as I did his. Throughout this experience I've learned just how few people I have in my life that can give me the same, these people deserve to have ALL of me, my full attention, and in 2014 they will get it since many of the distractions, emotional "suckers", and fake friends and family have been eliminated from my life.

A new year means a new start. It's the close of one chapter, or in our case an entire book, and the beginning of another. I'm not really sure how you start to live after death but I can say that the process of surviving death will teach you a lot about life. I look forward to our new book. To a year of Joy. Peace. and Love.

I can hear my Dad in my ear any time I think of those 3 simple words.... and he offers me another 3 words in return as encouragement... "Enjoy The Ride"

So 2014 Dad, we will, we will enjoy the ride. We will miss you always but we will find a brand new life of Joy. Peace. and Love. because of you.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Decor on the Cheap: Herringbone Drum Pendant Ikea Hack



Ever since Ikea came to Colorado I've had a bit of an obsession with their mod furniture given the alternatives here... you either get American Furniture on the cheap or you're stuck with Ethan Allan price tags. For those who like a more modern vibe or sleeker look, well you were out of luck. Needless to say, many a weekend are spent in the 'rat maze' at Ikea while we've been re-decorating the house. My favorite part about Ikea furniture is that it's versatile and thanks to my contractor hubby it can be sliced and diced and custom configured into anything that I want it to be. It's kind of a DIY'er dream.

I was flipping through one of my many house decorating magazines and stumbled on this photo and fell in love with the look (which would later become a big inspiration for our #operationredecoration) and mostly fell head over heels for the huge Galbraith & Paul drum shade pendant light! What I did NOT fall in love with was the $500 price tag... So I went on a mission to create my own. I wanted a large (20+ inch wide) drum shade that was short to hang in our tall entry way. Fabric was first, I almost went with a plain black and white chevron until I magically found this herringbone batik which couldn't have been any more perfect. And much to my surprise I was able to find a clearance Rutbo lamp at IKEA which I hacked up to make the guts of the lamp rather than purchasing a bunch of lamp making parts and rings.

My husband took my Ikea find apart and removed a few sections of height to give me the short wide drum look I wanted. A few quick runs through the sewing machine and some hot glue and voila. $22 Ikea hacked drum pendant. It really couldn't look any more identical and I love it!

Unfortunately Ikea apparently doesn't make the pendant Rutbo anymore... but they have several other paper type lamps that are cheap that you could modify to create a similar look.

Happy DIY'ing yall!


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting Good At Suffering

Well there's a whopper of a title for you. I have to admit it half makes me want to vomit and half makes me laugh (thanks to my twisted Irish humor and ability and inherited gift to make light of any situation. quite literally). I have to say, after a few beers this evening, that this idea is resonating within my head.

Is it possible to get good at suffering?

And then comes the WHY? And the agreement that the idea of such is horrible... but yet one that many of us will experience at some point in our lives.

For those who don't know the shitastic adventure we've been on for a couple of years now you can check over here for the short version. Cancer is a like a "joy" ride from hell and unsurprisingly it brings with it a LOT of suffering.

I made a post around my birthday discussing the idea of getting used to the crappiness and constant uneasiness of living with cancer (or someone close to you who has cancer). As I said, for many the cancer road is a short lived experience, for us it was about 2 years of utter chaos, anxiety, anguish, vile, awful... and and and (are there any better words to describe the hell other than HELL?? I think probably not). I almost felt as if someone suffering from an eating disorder in the sense that your true reality is inherently distorted in your own mind. Millions around you can easily say you're crazy, I see this and yet you see a completely different picture, but you're TRULY unable to distinguish this... it's like you're not looking in the same mirror as everyone else. You think the sky is yellow when everyone else tells you it's blue, and we're talking a conviction in your beliefs that its yellow... talk about a complete disconnect from reality. After a while of this constant bombardment to your current "normal" you stop the fighting and eventually concede and settle for his new version of "normal".

That sounds so bizarre to write... I'm sure there are people out there who've experienced something similar and completely understand what I'm saying. It sounds awful and I'm not going to lie, it is! But there is no other option if you intend to continue functioning every day of your life. You MUST find that new sense of normal and continue to plod along whether you agree or not because when it comes to health and disease you're not really a contender in something like cancer that will run over the strongest of fighters. Trust me... and without discouraging all of the current fighters out there I will attest to the idea that in the end it's not really up to you nor I whether our loved one is the winner in the end... as I got to witness, ever so painstakingly, the fight doesn't equate to the end result. What is meant to be will be.

BUT. And with a big BUT, I say to any and everyone fighting (just as my Dad would've said to them) Don't you EVER. give up the fight!!!!


EVER.



I told myself on a daily basis that miracles happen every day. And they do. You nor I is privileged to know the reasoning on "why" they happen for some and not others and therefore you MUST keep fighting. You MAY be the miracle. And by damn if any similar fate ever bestows me you can bet that I will go down with the most outrageous fight ever witnessed, I will fight for that miracle with every cell in my body.

With that said, I buried my Dad 3 days ago. It was symbolic because he was cremated 2 months ago but this was the final goodbye. We held a wake in his honor just as he asked us to do. And it was perfect... I mean really...

Perfect. 


I felt him smiling and laughing the entire way through. And in some ways it helped my psyche... in others it hurt. This was an official goodbye. ... Not that I'd been avoiding it prior... I'm not in denial that he is gone. As morbid as it sounds to those who haven't experienced a death this close to home I can say that I saw the man hauled down the stairs  of his home on a gurney by the mortuary company... I held his hand and kissed his forehead in a chapel when he was more than expired. I touched his body that was a mere shell on this earth as clearly his vibrant life was gone. I'm not in denial that he is gone.

It wasn't pretty, it was real. I'm ok with the real.

And here we are left with the suffering...

It hurts. Yes it hurts. We have done this too many times to count in the past few years... I lost an Uncle the day my second son was born, at his funeral my second Uncle announced his health struggle and was gone about a year later... 2 months later my Grandfather joined them on the other side.... and less than a year later my Dad rounded out the male family quartet in Heaven.

FYI. Heaven is/has been having the most insane reunion/party since then. The party has arrived folks and I can only WISH for one moment that I was there to experience it myself... I'll get my day eventually and I smile at that prospect. It took me a long time to get to this point.

There are tears. There are awkward conversations about Heaven with my children who are too young to understand the gravity of what has happened. Their Grampa was at my house 4-5 days of the week for years and now it ceases... His pictures are hanging around the house and they are told that they can visit him every. single. night. in their dreams if they want to but that does not fill the void of a man whose personality was nearly indescribable to outsiders. We get it. They really don't.

There is comfort in trying to tell myself that I was lucky enough to have 27 ish years of memories made with this man.... but anger that it was cut short... Comfort that he held each of my newborn sons commemorated with photos but yet they probably will NEVER remember him given their age at his passing. There is comfort in thinking thank you that it was NOT my child nor husband that is gone, but a parent and then guilt for even having such thoughts as if it trivializes his importance in my life...

It's a very dynamic and complicated matter, death.

I feel as though I've gotten good at death...

I mean isn't there some sort of easiness with practice? I've sure had a lot of unwanted practice over the past few years.... I guess in the end I say that the dimensions of suffering don't surprise me anymore but the hurt. the anguish. the sorrow.... those do not change. They don't get easier. Practice doesn't make perfect in death, and as I've comforted myself in the past few months stating,

"At least I was lucky enough to have someone in my life who made all of this hurt that bad"


I was lucky to have a man in my life who was my everything, that I will miss with every ounce of my being. And it HURTS! Many people aren't lucky enough to know what this feels like...

I am sad to see him gone, I am even more distraught to finally give it that official goodbye, But I am thankful to have had him here. He made all of the sadness worth it. He made every memory count. And I can only hope to pass half of this feeling on to the next generation... may they know his spirit, his worth and his legacy as I did.

I love you Dad.
Thank you for being you.
Thank you for teaching me to be ME.
Though our time together was cut short I thank the man upstairs for every day we got together. Walk by me, guide me, and be by my side in death as you were in life.... until we meet again...

Love,
Baby Cakes.


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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Greatest Defeat. If I could have just one more hug.

I have a post that I've been dreading to write. One that represents the realization of one of my greatest fears... something I've fought with every ounce of my being to stave off and keep away... to close my eyes and wish I was in a different place. It's a battle I didn't win.

We didn't win.

And it makes my heart ache and split into a billion raw pieces across the universe. To put it in black and white truly feels as if my body has been ripped in two... and I suppose it kind of has.

A very big piece of me. my life. my dreams. my love. my inspiration. my strength....... now rests in eternity on the other side.

My Dad fought an immensely admirable battle for 2 years. 2 very long arduous years. He valiantly soldiered through until his last moments here with us.... until the angels finally came down in storm of fury to carry him Home.

I have never felt such a hole, such a void. I am learning slowly, day by day, to put one foot in front of the other and to cherish each moment for all it's worth, to suck this life dry to the last drop. I miss him every moment of every day and wish for just one more hug.

I find peace in knowing that he is in a much better place. Cancer doesn't win in Heaven. I am proud to call this great man my Dad and I know that I have an incredible guardian angel on my shoulders now....

His amazing spirit will live on through all of us.

I will write more later of the unbelievable journey. There are so many things to process in my head, this has been the hardest experience of my entire life to handle and not crumble, so many days that I've nearly hit the floor. But for now that is the update, the reason for the blogging hiatus, while we reel ourselves back in from this and plan the worlds greatest wake to honor someone I admired most on this planet. Read more!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

V-Tech Review & Giveaway!

Lord knows there is no shortage of kids toys in our house! However, it never stops me from searching for new and fun things to keep the Dudes entertained with their unending energy. I am a fan of toys that have dual purposes and are compact since I can't stand the idea of my home looking like a daycare center.... it quite possibly already does despite my greatest efforts... :::shudder:::  And my last requirement is durability because the Dudes are ROUGH. On everything.



I was excited to have the opportunity to check out one of VTech's latest and greatest, the 2 in 1 Shop and Cook Playset. What I liked about it was that it serves multiple functions and offered the chance for both boys to play with it despite their different ages and learning stages at the moment. It is a cute little play kitchen complete with stove, sink, and oven and then converts into a shopping cart that they can race around the house like Lightning McQueen because ANYTHING in the house that has wheels is zoomed around loudly like a race car. It even comes with some play food and utensils which is nice because there is nothing more irritating than buying a toy that shows some awesome set-up with the words "such and such not included" causing the poor kids to throw a major fit after we get home without all of the goods in tow. The Dudes are very into playing kitchen at the moment so they were PUMPED when this bad boy came out of the box.

The playset has some pretty smart capabilities, it distinguishes a pot versus a pan on the stove and makes the appropriate 'boiling' or 'simmering' noise, my husband thought that was fantastic. Dork. He also raved about the fact that you could use a penny to access the battery housing rather than searching for a screwdriver! "You make sure you put that in your review!" he was awkwardly giddy about that part since he gets the job of assembling all of the crazy kid toys in the house. I on the other hand found other things more important like the idea that it tells the kids to be sure to wash their hands before cooking! Life skills and such :) The older Dude immediately starting placing the appropriate utensils in their stickered areas, you know all OCD of course, and the little one immediately started eating the plastic food. Par for the course.

My only complaints thus far are that it is kind of large, there's no hiding it in a storage cube but to be fair it is much smaller than our smallest "kitchen" play thing since it folds up. If the legs could fold in somehow we'd be golden! Other than that, since it is smaller than a traditional "kitchen" playset it's pretty much a one kid at a time toy which doesn't always go smoothly at our house (are we the only ones?). The concepts of sharing and taking turns are critical for this toy!

Some specifics from the toy guru's

2-in-1 Shop & Cook Playset

·         The 2-in-1 Shop & Cook Playset transforms from a shopping cart to a kitchen in a few simple steps.
·         The cart responds with fun phrases and sounds and when kids are ready to cook their meal, the cart becomes a play kitchen complete with a sink, oven, stove burner and cutting board.
·         The playset encourages pretend play and exploration while teaching about food, colors, numbers, music, following directions and more.
·         VTech has a full line of developmental stage-based infant and preschool learning toys that provide the appropriate tools for every age and stage of a child’s development.
·         With nearly 40 new product introductions in this category this year alone, VTech has one of the largest lines of infant and preschool electronic learning products, each one chock-full of play value for unlimited, open-ended fun.
·         From encouraging mobility and exploration among the youngest of infants, to introducing preschoolers to early learning skills, VTech’s line of infant and preschool toys introduces children to early learning skills and helps establish a lifetime love of learning.
·         Ages 2-5 years, MSRP: $49.99
 Win your own below!!

Leave a comment with your "toy requirements" and things you typically look for when shopping for new toys. Extra entries for getting social with our VTech friends, just follow the rafflecopter below.


***I was provided product for this review and giveaway from VTech although the thoughts and opinions are my own***


a Rafflecopter giveaway




And here is the rest of it.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Ethics In Cancer

Have I mentioned that cancer sucks?? Oh ok, just wanted to make sure that was out there. A brief post today covering the following- exhaustion, helplessness, frustration beyond frustration, and anger.

Can you be mad at someone who's dying??

If someone in front of you at the grocery store had a terminal illness and pissed you off would you confront them or give them a 'free pass' because well.... it's kind of rude to scream at a dying person, no?

A pretty straightforward case of ethics here, but what if that person was your father? Not so clear cut anymore is it... Yep, that's how my Monday started off, screaming at the cancer dude about how he was being a jerkoff and is completely unappreciative of the insane amount of work, care, consideration, and plain old bullshit that I've been giving and putting up with for two years now. I think I've been giving him the free pass this entire time because how could you NOT?? But I'm pretty tired, and exhausted and overwhelmed with it all and I'm tired of being the scapegoat. At some point you can't just continue being the punching bag right? Or maybe you should just keep taking it... because afterall they're the one with the ultimate short end of the stick. How can you get angry at them for hating this shitty journey and being short tempered when they think you're making it worse by doing things like keeping them in the hospital longer than they think they should be or by ruffling the feathers of a doctor here and there. In his mind apparently this is making things worse for him and it's my fault.

I understand the irrationality of this thinking... I understand what the real problem is, I can read between the lines. I've usually just taken it in stride, put up with it and ignored it but I couldn't ignore it today. So this Monday I broke all the ethics rules and gave the man a taste of his own medicine and now I get to deal with a mixture of guilt, anger, and frustration since the "rules" are blurred in the cancer game. Read more!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Hospital Drive

Every time I make that drive to and from the hospital after another cancer catastrophe I tell myself I should write it down, I should write that experience down so that I never forget it. What a stupid thing to think, like I could EVER forget that... every time it's the same. The ride out is full of anxiety wondering what I'm going to find when I walk in those ER doors, my mind is busy on the ride out mentally scanning a million medical terms, diagnoses, medications, imaging reports... possibilities upon possibilities of what is probably going on, what questions I need answered from the docs, etc. It's case study time, it's get down to business time and while there is worry and concern floating somewhere in my brain it's suppressed. No time for that kind of thing on the drive out.

It's quiet. I don't have the stereo on. Depending on the time of day I am agitated at the other people on the road (part of the anxiety) because I'm in a hurry to get there. The drive out is fast and I come flying in the ER doors, past the security and into the room like a tornado. I check on my Dad, give him a squeeze to let him know I'm there and then it's time to work. I flag down nurses, I ask millions of questions, I request the doctor to come in as soon as possible. I have them pull reports from the computer, I check vitals, I examine my Dad, I check his bags, pulses, comfort... he is my patient for that time.

And the rest of the day consists of that. I have grown to have zero patience for the doctors and nurses that have not shown up for the day to WORK. I don't give them that option. Things are on point when I'm there, everyone is held acutely responsible for what they're doing and if they aren't up for the task they're asked to leave in no uncertain terms.

The drive home....... the drive home is..... something that would be hard to witness, which is why it's a good thing that I'm alone every time.

It starts with the walk out of those hospital doors. Just yesterday I walked out the doors to heavy snow falling at the end of April. (I had just posted about how my birthday this year was much better than the previous year where my Dad was currently admitted to the hospital and we were told that his cancer was back, now stage 4. Well I spoke too soon I suppose, this year went well until 48 hours after my birthday... a frantic phone call at 4am... an ambulance ride.... and we're back at it again).

The snow was falling and I stopped and stared at the sky and thought, "I've made this walk with every type of weather and season.... sunshine, rain, wind, cold, and now snow...."

After the walk I get to my car and by this point my brain is off, autopilot takes over. Depending on the days events I usually end up re-capping what the heck has transpired over the past several hours and what that means going forward. Lots of anxiety, unknowns, concern and worry. This perpetuates the knots that have been twisting and turning in my stomach since I arrived.

At some point a trigger goes off, like the dam gives way, and the tears start to fall while I shake my head in disbelief. There are a million racing thoughts....

WHY.... WHY.... why....?

Is this ever going to end, will we ever be able to finally take a deep breath?

It's not fair. NOT FAIR!!!!!

GODDAMNIT!

I just cry... and struggle to breathe.... I hit the steering wheel so hard that one of these times I'll surely break my hand. I scream and I cry and continue to shake my head in disbelief. I think of all the times I've made this drive, I think of all the times I've walked through those ER doors, I think of the day we found out that he had cancer.

I hyperventilate.

I sob.

I crank up the radio as loud as it goes.

I zone out the world and I see myself as if I'm watching a movie.

A zillion disoriented thoughts pop in and out of my head bouncing around like a pinball machine.

My kids, my husband, neglect, short temper, work, bills, moving, help, this sucks, my poor Dad.

I wonder if my step mom is having a similar experience in her car in front of me.

I'm tired, I hate this, why the hell was that doctor such an idiot, I wonder if they checked this lab report, at least he has a fridge in his room that's nice, how will he be tomorrow. What if he has a seizure tonight.

The drive home is slow. It drags on in a surreal time warp. In reality those short 20 minutes feel like hours.

I remember things, I remember chemo appointments and conversations we've had, I think back to the day we found out about this nightmare and how the surgeon still had his blue cap on, I remember the drawings the urologist made for us at the last appointment, I remember the day I fell to my knees on the porch with the latest news, I remember previous early morning phone calls from my stepmom and subsequent trips to the hospital.

I wonder how we got here. Again, why. I imagine what a phone call would be like if he didn't make it through the night... what would they say, how would I react, how would I tell my kids. This is not something I should have to be dealing with right now.


What the fuck?!! How can we continue living like this all the time. This is just ridiculous and exhausting. No one can understand this, if someone were watching me right now they'd think I was insane.

I picture my Dad's smile and I laugh about a memory. I think back to some of my treasured times with him and I see my life playing like a movie, memories of everything from swimming as a young girl to learning how to drive to watching him play with his grandkids. A whole life of memories....

I smile and laugh and I belt out a song on the radio, I put my head back against the seat and continue to watch myself from up above and think of how nice it would be if this were all a dream that I could wake up from some day. I think about what life will be like when the cancer is gone, gosh that will be a nice feeling.... but it could always come back and how would that conversation go.... I don't know that I could ever take hearing that news again.

I sigh at the idea that this constant state of limbo and uneasiness is something we will have to deal with forever.

More disbelief. And laughter turns back to tears. I think of how this must be from my Dad's perspective, I can't even imagine... ugh... And then rage, this is bullshit... I just want to scream and hit anyone and everyone I can get my hands on.

GODDAMNIT.

I feel like an alien with 10 different heads and emotions and thoughts all going on simultaneously. This must be what it's like to be schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder. Everything is completely disjointed, manic highs and depressive lows, laughter and tears and rage... All in a 20 minute drive.

This is just insane. I'm SO sick of having these drives!! I'm up, I'm down, I smiling and then flipping out and then angry and then sad. I'm singing and dancing and then I'm punching the steering wheel and screaming.

By this point I usually interrupt myself from going insane because I'm at the final few streets from my house. Suck it up and stop crying. Get yourself together. I surely never walk into the house like this! I turn the switch off and breathe.

This stupid mascara, why did I buy this kind it is all over my face ugh! Blink blink blink, get your eyes dry. I fan my face and take deep breaths. I give my cheeks a few slaps and grab some chapstick.

Making the last few turns into the neighborhood. Keep it together... I shun any thoughts that will bring the tears back.

I put the car in park and take one final look in the mirror. Alright, inside we go... it's still snowing...

I'm tired. Back to the real world.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another Year, Another Candle On The Cake

Well I happened to look back at my post from my birthday last year and my first thought was that was only a year ago?? It seems like 10... it's probably aged me 10 at the least. I'm happy to say that my Dad is here to celebrate another year with me, something I did not believe I was going to be able to say. This past year has been full of ups and downs and a state of limbo, not unlike the past few years really but yet so different at the same time. I think we've found a new 'normal' with everything and seem to have adjusted to this life with cancer... if there is such a thing as adjusting. I'm not sure many people get the chance to do this because usually cancer shows up and it's a whirlwind and then the person is gone, like a tornado that just rips the earth right from under your feet. In our case it's more like a housefire, a slow burn.... It's like an extended version of a cancer tornado with the possibility that the fire may go out, you just never know. (If that makes any coherent sense to anyone that hasn't dealt with this???)

So we've found a way to 'adjust' to life with cancer. What does that mean?

Well basically it's a constant life of good and then bad and then good and then bad.... It's weeks where things are quiet with nothing to report and then weeks of chaos, emergency admits, doctors to argue with, a stubborn patient to argue with, and stress. Lots of stress. On average it's at least a lot of appointments and things to keep track of, surveying the situation on a constant basis and an unending nagging in the back of your brain. The time I spend with my Dad is also a mix, sometimes I feel like the "old" Dad is back, we talk like we used to, we have coherent conversations, he remembers things, he smiles and jokes, he has energy, he calls ME to see how I'm doing ..... and then there are other times where the lights are on but no one is home, he's tired, conversation is forced and awkward or we're fighting over his stubbornness to heed my advice.

That's what an extended life with cancer is.

I've come to a place of acceptance with the situation, not acceptance that this is happening because I will NEVER accept that nor understand why but an acceptance that this is our life so we need to roll with it. There's a bit less panic (depending on the week) and a bit more calm about it all for lack of a better word.

I have stopped clinging to things so tightly, like the idea of moving which we had intended to do last year before we found out about the latest diagnosis and we put an abrupt hold on shortly after. I would never in a million years have conceded to the idea of moving farther away from my Dad (even 30 minutes) this time last year. With all of the uncertainty I wanted to be as close as possible to soak in every last thing that I could, if it was the last.

It's not that I don't still want this, I do, but I've decided that putting my life on hold for the sake of cancer and the havoc it's caused is making me even MORE powerless against it all. The truth of the matter is that life is going to unfold the way it is supposed to, I don't have a cure for cancer so I certainly have no control over what is going to happen with my Dad.... I can kick and scream and fight and hold on for dear life but it isn't going to change anything. In the short term it makes me feel better to at least know that I am here for support, all caught up in the middle of this ball of yarn, and that probably won't change but in the long term I am letting cancer take over even more aspects of my life by doing this and not letting go....

So this year, we will move.

It's things like this that are a part of adjusting to the new normal. And I can't say if this is how I'd feel if we didn't have great feedback on my Dad's prognosis, if things were progressing I'm pretty sure I'd still be clinging. For dear life. But since things are stable for now I feel like I can let go a little bit. My Dad's cancer is just that, stable, at the moment. Essentially for the past 9 months of scans there has been no cancer progression. The original mass is gone and there are no soft tissue indicators of cancer at all. The bone lesions are all still present but have not spread or grown or gotten any worse. The thing about bones is that they take a long time to heal so these spots will show up on the scans even AFTER the cancer is completely gone until the bone has regenerated. This process can take a long time so it is possible that the cancer is gone and the lesions haven't healed yet, or it's possible that the cancer is still there, only time will tell. What we do know is that whatever treatment we're doing right now is helping, it's doing it's job.... so we hang around in limbo as usual. The main problem at the moment is dealing with complications from the cancer and chemo, dealing with the nephrostomy tubes, ureteral fistulas, and constant infections...

And that is how the past year has gone. We continue to be cautiously optimistic but mostly we've all been learning to continue to live while dealing with this instead of wallowing in stagnation. We've had a lot to celebrate, a lot of good things that have helped us keep perspective I think. Family weddings, my graduation, vacations, new houses, a lot of firsts, and 2 little dudes to provide laughter and distraction.

Overall year 26 was an experience- both good and bad, lessons learned, struggles endured in all ways. My mental capacity was stretched to the absolute maximum and through it all I've learned a lot about life and myself. It has given me some much needed perspective on so many things from friendships, to unconditional love, to marriage, to perseverance, to my own strength. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't give all of that back to crawl back under the safety of normal life before all of this but at least I know I survived it.... and so the mission for year 27 is to continue to move forward, eyes ahead not back.


 
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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The CPNE Weekend In Photos

This is part of my post series on Excelsior College's ADN nursing program and the CPNE experience. See all related posts over here. 



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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Gauntlet: What is the CPNE- Clinical Performance In Nursing Exam

This is part of my post series on Excelsior College's ADN nursing program and the CPNE experience. See all related posts over here.
Gauntlet noun
1. A form of punishment or torture in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines facing each other and beat the person forced to run between them
2. An onslaught or attack from all sides
3. A severe trial; an ordeal. 

Yah.... that pretty much sums it up perfectly actually.


So I have been finishing up further nursing degrees through Excelsior College, more on that whole journey later. For now I'd like to journal a bit about my CPNE experience so that it may help any future students gain some insight. I share it here because, well this is my life and this is a HUGE part of what I've been busy doing the past yearish and because I can be long winded so I have plenty of "space" to dish it out here. If there is anything I can do to help anyone attempting this complete insanity of an experience I'm more than happy to do so. It is a weekend that I will never forget as long as I live and goes down in the history books as one of the top 3 hardest experiences of my entire life, for those that know me, that is saying something. 

For those unfamiliar with Exclesior's program, the CPNE (Clinical Performance in Nursing Exam) is the capstone for the ADN nursing program. After finishing the classes/coursework you ship off for the capstone to one of a dozen hospital testing locations. The CPNE is essentially a weekend long hospital examination testing your comprehensive knowledge and application of practice of everything you've EVER learned. It must be completed with 100% accuracy and is highly subjective, survive all 3 days and you are granted your degree, make a mistake and you buy yourself a ticket back home. 

Stress doesn't even begin to explain it. Pressure is laughable. This experience has brought former combat marines to their knees. Seasoned paramedics and nurses with triple decades of experience have crumbled.... with a pass rate of around 40% (or less, even though they will tell you it's 62%) it's a doozie with all of the cards on the line. I won't try to explain this to anyone who isn't going through it because most will laugh at you and think you're overreacting about doing something so basic. All I can say is that I could cherry pick ANY nurse, ANY doc, ANY nurse practitioner, surgeon, etc and bring them to the exam and they'd fail the first 4 seconds easily. I can also say that there are very few things in my life that I have ever doubted my ability in, not just been uneasy about but really and truly doubted myself. This was one. You could be the best nurse in the world, the smartest individual on earth and still fail this exam.



    Day 1 is your lab simulation day, completing an IM or Subq injection after mixing two separate medications in a single syringe. Packing a wound with a wet to moist sterile dressing. Hanging a secondary medication and calculating an appropriate drip rate. Administering an IV push medication. Simple skills that must be done precisely, systematically, to the approval of your examiner in the way that THEY want it done, in the amount of time allotted. If they tell you the sky is yellow you better say it's yellow... 



    Day 2 is the first day of your patient care scenarios. You receive a Kardex with a variety of areas of care that you must assess and/or treat. Simply speaking, you must first write a care plan for the patient which must include specific elements and then be approved to the T by your examiner. Then you must implement all of your interventions and areas of care assigned. Then you must evaluate and document narrative notes on your care plan and all care you implemented. This again must be done within very precise parameters, must include very specific information, and the entire thing must be completed within a set amount of time with timed phases within the entire scenario that you must hit on point.


    Day 3, if you survive to this point, is again patient care scenario/s. You walk out of the hospital with either a passing letter of congratulations or absolutely nothing but a $3000 bill for your efforts and 'encouraging' words to take a break and try again another time. 

I wish I had been prepared for how insane this conquest was when I decided to enroll in Excelsior's program. Sure I was told about the 'clinical weekend' at the end, I was told it was your capstone and that obviously you had to complete a variety of tasks to pass the program. I was told that there were no traditional clinicals for the program and that this weekend served as an 'ultimate' clinical for the school to sign off on your ability as a nurse in practice. I thought well sure, no problems with that, one weekend is much better than hundreds of hours at a hospital! I was NOT told that it was this. That this would be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. I was not told that it was a "do or die" set up. I was NOT told the real statistics of the pass rate (they still wont admit it, but I can do math and I know that 1 passer out of 6 each weekend is NOT 62%). So I offer this info to anyone looking into this program as an option thinking it's great. Do your research, talk to students, read the boards, get the REAL scoop. It is obviously do-able, people DO pass and graduate but you will fight for every second of this degree. And IF you make it to the end, to the CPNE, you will fight even harder, pushing yourself farther than you knew you could to survive the gauntlet and get your hands on that precious letter.

Had I known then what I know now, I probably would've opted for a traditional nursing bridge program, forked out the extra cash, and saved my heart the equivalent of 80 years of stress. For those of you finding me that are already in the midst of CPNE prep, 2 things: 1- you're probably thinking those exact same things. 2- It CAN be done, eye on the prize folks, eye.on.the.prize.
Lastly, I will preface this information with the fact that I did this program while working from home. I continued to run my business, deal with your average life stuff, raise my dudes (they were about 1 and 2 1/2 when I got going), and continue to maintain half time status with online classes at my community college while doing this program. I'm a bit crazy when it comes to that, if you have the ability to devote more time than I was able to into this program you're already doing yourself a favor, TAKE THE TIME, realize from the start that it is going to require a LOT, and plan accordingly.

More Excelsior & CPNE posts here-

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frugal Living: Practical ways for ANY family to save


So I saw an article on frugal living via Yahoo today and it didn't sit right with me for a VARIETY of reasons, mainly the insinuation that an average American family of four can live on $14,000 a year, afterall this was the title of the article. As I began reading I kept thinking over and over, I call BS... or as my Dad would say, "there's a fly in the ointment"...

Here's a few of the things that got my eyebrows raised without getting into the whole details- I can say that your average family doesn't have phenomenal government paid for health care (our family health insurance, should we opt to have it, would cost a mere $600 a month, and that's for a pretty much CRAP plan with a $5000 deductible before they pay a dime and a $25,000 family out of pocket max. Even if you never have to use the plan and only incur the monthly premium... well half of your "$14,000" budget is dunzo.) Not to say that our military and their families don't deserve great healthcare, they do, but unless you've served don't count on anything close to VA benefits!

 Next up the idea of having no house payment because you laid down $30,000 cash for a 3 bedroom "fixer-upper"... I literally shudder at the idea of an inhabitable (and I use this word loosely) space with 3 bedrooms that I could move my family into for $30k. I don't care if it was foreclosed, abandoned, auctioned off, whatever. I find it a wee bit of a stretch to think that this price could buy you anything NEAR a 'house', I don't care where you live. Perhaps I am wrong... in which case I will say to anyone who lives in an area that has a decent property in this price range consider yourself lucky and go for it. The rest of us are S.O.L. on that idea. And that doesn't even account for the fact that you don't save $30k in cash on a $14k salary. Obviously. So the real story here is that they saved all of this money over a long period of time while the family was making a helluva lot more than $14k a year.

Same with cars and car payments- see above, you don't save this much cash with your tiny $14k a year, especially if you're spending $400 a month on groceries (that's a whole OTHER issue). Or hand baking your own bread rather than buying prepackaged (fyi, your single packet of yeast is more expensive than a .99 cent loaf of store brand). So what I'm getting at with all of this, I could go on, is that after I read this and picked the story apart (which may have been Yahoo's irresponsible false portrayal of this family's situation) I thought, what can I get out of this?? And that is, what can your average family do to save money and live more frugally in a realistic scenario.

We most certainly aren't living on $14k a year, but we do have pretty much a single income household, and while my hubby works his butt off every day for us, that income is most definitely sub par for what he's worth. Meaning, we aren't rolling in dough here folks and we've learned a LOT of ways to keep costs down while still enjoying things that we like. We sacrifice in certain areas to splurge in others. After you get used to stretching a single paycheck for several (8+ months) when you're self employed you tend to learn to be creative in managing your funds, or lack thereof.

I'm all for trying anything new and practical that can save us money but I do draw the line on certain areas, and I firmly believe there should be some sort of line, whatever that is for your own family. For example I will not drive a Prius or tiny little car; my SUV is huge, gets horrible gas mileage, but is safe, snow capable, and holds all of our crap. That is something I won't budge on. We have decided to purchase only organic and gmo free food (as much as we can afford) which has tripled our grocery bill each month, that's something we feel strongly about so we find a way to make it work. And things like homemade toothpaste, toilet paper, or whatever other extra-creative money saving extremes are out of the question, I'll gladly pay some green for the real deal.

Here are some of the things we do to save money that your average family can easily do to clamp off the outgo each month.

Utilize The Dollar Store: If you haven't been in one, go! Make sure it's a true dollar store- some are not. The best rule of thumb for the dollar store is to check there first before buying it somewhere else, chances are they have it. Price check your typical household items a couple of times at your grocery store and compare. You can get a TON of stuff here that you wouldn't think about that'll save you money!
  • Holiday things- easter basket stuff, valentine candy, xmas decor/wrapping/bows, halloween candy, etc.
  • Gifting supplies- all of them from wrapping paper, to tissue paper, to bows, and gift bags, not even Walmart can beat $1.
  • Household Items- cleaning supplies, kitchen goodies like zip locks, aluminum foil, trashbags
  • Organizing supplies- bins, buckets, closet organizers, totes, they have TONS of this stuff
  • School & Project supplies- paper, pens, folders, envelopes, posterboard, homeschooling goodies, etc
  • Party supplies- plates, utensils, decorations, serving wear, I always get a handful of party things here
Re-evaluate your cell phone plan or carrier: We opted for Sprint since their data plans were unlimited, it saved us a considerable amount of money.
  • Price shop all of the carriers for what your specific needs are, see if they offer to buy out your old carrier contract if you switch. 
  • You can get really good prices on new phones by going through Walmart. When we switched to Sprint I signed up via Walmart online and ended up getting a $500 phone for $100 and they waived the 'activation fee'. If your intent on going to the phone carrier store to sign up at least ask them if they will pricematch, can't hurt. I'd do the same thing for plans or deals that another company is offering, always ask, the worst they can say is no. 
  • Be creative about your plan, hubbs and I opted to do separate accounts instead of a family account because we were able to get both of our phones for super cheap, we waited 6 months to secure our deal and THEN switched to a family plan. By doing it this way we ended up saving a couple hundred in the end.
  • Always see if your employer or spouses employer gets a company discount at your carrier, we save 18% I think thanks to this!
COUPONS: Did I mention coupons?? If you don't know how to coupon, learn. It can be very time consuming if you want to go crazy with it (which I used to do), but you don't have to go all or nothing. I still find time to do a decent haul 1-3x a year and when you get things for free it's clearly worth your time! I typically only coupon for household items now since they have a better shelf life than food products and it's something we'll always need so I'm free to stockpile galore. We have a VAST supply of laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products, toothpaste, razors, shampoos, body soaps, and various medicines that I got for free that will last at least a couple of years. You do the math... And they are all name brand products (Tide, Crest, Pledge, Garnier, Dawn etc) no need to worry about getting some unnamed mystery product.

GROUPON: Along the same lines of couponing, utilize Groupon, Living Social, Moolala, Tippr, Weekly Plus, etc.

  • This is how we save a bunch of money on our 'fun' things like dinners, activities, movies, etc. I plan to use this for a family getaway when the timing works out too.
  • We get our formal family photos done this way for pennies on the dollar. 
  • I get photo canvases for our house here that would normally cost me thousands for $30-$80. 
  • Occasionally grab yourself some mani/pedi, massage, and hair coupons, no need to completely forego these extras if you can get a deal. 
  • These also make great gifts!
SNAPFISH.com: I wait for their 'penny print' sales to stock up on the bazillion pictures I've taken over the past few months or year. I ended up ordering ALL of our wedding photos doing this, paid about $50 in total for 800 4x6's shipped to my house!

Be thrifty with clothing: STOP shopping at the mall or any other 'specialty' store, splurge every once and a while and that's it.
  • Ebay it- I have no problem getting some gently used kids clothes on Ebay, this saves us a good amount between both dudes.
  • Ross/TJ Max- get your namebrand stuff here for a fraction of the cost, it's fine, no one will know and you can laugh allllll the way to the bank at anyone who side eyes you for doing this.
  • Utilize online discount sites- 6pm.com is great, free shipping and a TON of brands that will periodically go 70% off. Gilt.com, Hautelook.com, Zulily.com all of these 'deal' sites will save you money if you insist on owning some ridiculously priced item.

Pricematch your household bills: I recently got fed up with our latest trash bill since every time one comes in the mail it seems to have ANOTHER increase in "fuel surcharge", like they figured out people would accept this and just continued to run with it even though gas prices have been pretty stable for over a year.....
  • So I merely Googled a handful of other ones and found one for $15/mo (as opposed to our $30/mo) AND they offered new customers the first 3 months for only $10/mo. Well duh, no brainer there so we called our current company to say buh bye and they offered to match the price!! We didn't even ask, so lesson learned there, should've done that a LONG time ago. 
  • Same concept for our Comcast (cable/internet) bill, extortion is putting it lightly, I need to own Comcast. For easily 5 years now we wait for our bill to magically go up, as it always does, and then I call and ask whether they're running any promos that we can switch to. Every time they have something that ends up cutting the bill back in half. They're starting to be more stingy but by entering into a 'contract' you can usually get similar results, or ask them to match Century Link or another competitor.
Get rid of your house phone: unless you really need it or something, get rid of it if you haven't already. Even cell phone carriers will offer plans to add a line that will ring to a voicemail for much cheaper than a land line.


CFL lightbulbs: I will say that I haven't seen any enormous change in our energy bill since switching over but anything is better than nothing and I DO know for sure that the CFL bulbs last a lot longer in our house than the traditional bulbs. And you can buy CFL's everywhere now, even the dollar store.

Amazon: This little gem saves me a lot of money.
  • 'Subscribe & Save' for diapers/wipes- MOMS, I can tell you this is the cheapest way to get diapers, I've price matched it everywhere. Granted we buy Pampers since they're the only thing that work so if you're set with a storebrand that may be a better alternative, check and see. No one, not Walmart, not coupons, not Babies R Us can match Amazon's subscription prices and it is wonderful to walk to my front door to get diapers rather than piling everyone up in the car to go.
  • Prime Accounts- If you order things online frequently, check prices at Amazon, they usually have excellent prices and if you enroll in the prime account you get free 2 day shipping. This isn't for everyone since your prime membership isn't free but for us it saves a LOT of money because I order things constantly for business, birthdays, and especially around the holidays. I also get a discounted membership price for being a student ($49ish/year) so I'll milk that for all it's worth! 
Craigslist: We use this all the time to get deals on things. Kids toys, backyard climber toys, miscellaneous household things like a stand up freezer for the garage, car parts and accessories, lawn mowers, you name it we've gotten one for a phenomenal deal and I couldn't even begin to add up the savings. We sell things here too when we periodically go through our things, easier than sitting all day for a garage sale. Also, be careful on Craigslist, people can be creepy- act accordingly, never go alone, never show anyone something alone, avoid showing things at your home if possible, etc.

For business folks: I save money on biz expenses by doing a handful of things
  • Get rid of your fax line and use email-fax services, or just email since it's 2013 and that's how things are done. 
  • Vistaprint is your friend for all things advertising. I always scout for free coupon codes and discount codes to get free postcards, biz cards, cheap brochures, hang tags, yard signs, banners, etc. 
  • Stop paying a monthly website hosting fee and convert your site to a blog. If you don't know how to set up a blog with a custom template, adjust the html/css coding, or route and transfer domain names.... LEARN! I save $40+ a month doing this.


Alrighty so if you're still reading, you can see there are a million ways that you can save some cash in your every day life. These are all realistic practical things that ANY family out there can do, so why wait? Set a savings goal, make it a hardfast rule that any money that goes into that account does NOT come back out for any reason and start stashing it away. One of the best things I heard about managing money is to "tell your money where to go, or else it will just go away". This is so true, when payday hits I immediately pay all of our bills and throw money into savings before that money starts to disappear with random gas station purchases or fast food runs here and there, it will vanish if you don't put it somewhere, trust me! Once you get in the habit of spending less and putting a little bit away at regular intervals you'll notice a big difference.

Any other great tips on how you save money?? I'm always willing to try!



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