Friday, August 21, 2015

2 Years.

2 YEARS. Wow 2 years. Yep it still feels epically shitty to write that... you know as I sobbed into my husbands arms tonight I asked him whether he thought this would get easier or not...

"Do you think 10 years from now it won't hurt as bad..." "I don't know babe. I don't know."

The tears fill the void of something so huge it's unexplainable. A complete void in my life... a deep crevasse so long you can't see the end and you wonder what else it can swallow whole. I thought when cancer reared it's disgusting head in a hospital waiting room 4 years ago that this was the extent of the ugliness it bared. Little did I know that this ugliness would reach farther into my life and the future than I could've ever imagined. Don't get me wrong, every day life is far beyond cancer. The piece that it stole will never be replaced but the shattered brokenness is slowly less jagged and rough. The majority of days are vastly happy and full of exuberance and LIFE. Take that cancer you asshole.... LIFE..... did you hear me????


But there is no denying the hurt and void from a person so missed it must be viscerally obvious to those around me. Is it not? My Dad was a damn rockstar, he had plenty of faults but he owned that shit. At least to me, he owned it. I resonate with his life philosophy. I am surely no perfect peach here, I am sassy, feisty, smart, gregarious, full of piss and vinegar at times (of which I am NOT ashamed), stubborn, sensitive, shy, and highly complicated just as my father. He had a certain way about him, you were either on one side of his coin or the other and I probably sat on a random 3rd side of that coin.... he and I got each other.  We surely were together in some previous lifetime which makes his absence all the more devastating to me and my family.

He will NEVER know my third son. It rips my heart apart to type that. It's so cliche to say things like "of course he does, he's always with you" well goddammit if that were true things would feel much easier. Let me be the first and certainly not last to tell those outsiders EFF THAT. Who the hell are you to say that he is always here, you don't know.... shit neither do I.... I think I do, I tell my kids I do but effing death means that you're in another place that no one, no where, actually knows about. Comforting is not exactly how I'd describe those sentiments although you'll hear me tell myself that very thing on nearly a daily basis. It's clinging to hope of some sort... it wouldn't be human to give up on that idea right??

2 years.

How the hell has it been 2 years since I watched a hoard of firemen carry my frail father up flights of stairs to his final resting place with a smile as I greeted him "you're home Dad. you're home." His look conveyed that he understood what was happening. He knew he was coming home to die.... gee what a wonderful thing to behold. His saving grace, I'm sure, was his pure exhaustion with the circumstances.... despite my profuse protest in his medical care at the end I was not the power of attorney.... I can't elaborate on that at this point, it's too much... but the end result is that my Dad made his way home where he wanted to be to spend his final days with us. 

I was there every. single. day.

It was 5 days from the moment he left the hospital until I received the phone call that he had gone Home.

What would he be thinking today if he were here... what would he think of my crazy 3 boys... of little baby C???

Would he like our new house...

What input would he have on the engine swap for the S10...

What jokes would he crack about my nephew and watching my brother as a Dad...

Would he want to teach my boys to ride motocross like he did...

Would he be at their T-ball games....

Would he be there to witness me graduate with my masters degree...

I have 2 years + a lifetime of questions to ponder, scenarios of what-ifs... a void to fill that can never be filled. I have lived an experience that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies and survived a loss that many peers, family, and friends will one day experience.... yet I feel I have no wisdom gained from my shitastic experience.... What do I tell them if and when they reach a similar fate... it sucks. Less than encouraging. 2 years in and it still feels like a dagger to the heart. 

I guess my only silver lining thus far is that the hurt must equate with the loss. I lost an amazing man and that is a level of hurt that won't soon be gone. 

This August 22nd... I toast to you Dad... to the Mad Max rockstar that you were... for the zero apologies you made for being you... to the influence you had on me and my life.... to the gene pool you left my awesome dudes... 

I CAN'T WAIT for the day I see you again old man!!!! I can't flippin wait. You better pick my butt up on your Dyna and ride me off into the sunset. 

I love you. I miss you. Goddamn I miss you every day. 
Until then,
Baby Cakes.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

WGU: Single Term Tricks of the Trade

I am frequently asked how I was able to complete the WGU so quickly and whether I have any advice for upcoming students. I can tell you exactly what I did to study and finish however keep in mind that this is what worked for me during my enrollment. You may study differently, your courses may be different, etc.

Below are my tips along with my insight into EACH course that I completed (I left a couple out that were missing pre-req's like speech but the general courses are here)

A note on the gist of things at WGU:
Learn to be flexible. Things change frequently with WGU- courses, course requirements, etc. During a single term I didn't have any course changes but I know several students who have been enrolled for a few terms who have had changes throughout their enrollment which has caused frustration here and there. Just be prepared for it. Focus on ONE course at a time. Usually any changes are typically in your favor, they'll adjust cut scores for assessments or they'll do things like cut down hours on your practicum (I WISH this happened for me... I did 90 hours and they switched it afterwards to 45). Try to be patient and if any changes adversely affect your progress be sure to speak up for yourself, typically you are able to argue your right to continue just as you enrolled without the changes if you choose.

OA's versus PA's
OA's are objective assessments, these are multiple choice tests that are pass fail based on cut score (which by the way equates to a "B" grade or competency level at a traditional school). You take these via a testing center or via a web cam in the comfort of your own home where you are actually proctored by real people. A little weird to get used to but once you work out the occasional kinks of the web cam this is great. The way the new software works you don't even have to schedule your exams out ahead of time you can literally jump on any time you'd like and take the exam at will. Highly convenient.

PA's are performance assessments, a nice way to say "papers or presentations". These in my opinion are horrid. It ends up being a BIG long redundant paper (some 35+ pages for example) that cover a million areas on a rubric that demonstrate your knowledge and competency on that particular course. Each course has a completely different set of rubric requirements, some have power points associated, some like Biochem require you to make models & drawings, but in the end it's essentially paper writing at it's finest. I loathe PA's which unfortunately make up 90% of the MSN program. (BSN is roughly 50/50 ish).

Which order to take the courses in
I tried to decipher each course when I started to see which I thought may be the best to take first, come up with my own schedule of completion, etc. I learned after speaking with my mentor the first time that while you can technically take the courses in any order you'd like there is a "typical" way of doing things and in the end I went along with this. No need to make waves if this was a good way of completing what I needed to do. Most mentors will suggest that you take Health Assessment and Care of the Older Adult first along with possibly Community and Population Health. (Course numbers will change but typically the course names do not, so learn both). This order was fine to get me into the groove of things.

My Personal Course Timeline:

I ended up taking each OA with about 2 days of prep time ending with the 3rd day testing. I outlined my schedule ahead of time to give myself 2 days of study on the material (granted I had small kiddos at home so a "full" day of study is relative). The 3rd day I spent the morning reviewing and cramming again and the afternoon taking the exam. For each OA my usual method of approach included skimming the Course of Study to find relevant points. Checking the course community gave me a lot of insight on what to study in fact many courses have their own "study guides" compiled by the course mentors that will really help you focus in on what is required for the OA. Outside of good documents like practice exams and notes that you can find in the course community you can see questions and answers from the mentors to other students which usually end up being your own questions. Browsing over these things in the community will give you a good vibe on how the OA is going to go.
UPDATE: Specific course communities apparently don't exist anymore to my knowledge... I'm not sure why they did this?? Instead on the right hand side of your course of study there is now what's called "course chatter" which serves a similar purpose but in my opinion is no where near as helpful. That said it is somewhat helpful if you can navigate around to find important documents and frequently asked questions. Do this before reading through your course of study, you can waste an awful lot of time if you actually go through the COS page by page, reading by reading, DON'T. Get the overall gist of things by surveying the course chatter first, also check out some of the online discussion boards especially Facebook, this will provide great insight as well and THEN you'll know what to study.

PA's were a little bit different story. I devoted one week to each PA, some went a little bit quicker, others a little longer but overall this was a good yard stick. I spent the first day pulling up the rubric and task instructions and outlining my paper. Then I would browse around the course of study to see where I could pull info for the paper that would meet the rubric requirements. Lastly, it was a matter of filling in each section of the rubric.

A guide to PA's.

DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT over-do the PA's!!! The task instructions can sometimes derail you into going overboard on what the task is actually requiring. At the end of the day you are being graded by the RUBRIC. Literally. Your course grader is given a copy of the rubric and your paper and that is ALL they grade from. So if you run off on a tangent in fluff that has nothing to do with a rubric requirement good for you but it will not really help your cause in the end. Keep It Simple. Answer the rubric questions/req's and be done with it. By outlining your papers based on the rubric sections you set yourself up to stay on topic, to the point, and you make it 10x easier for your grader to grade.
That being said when it is time for a PA. Pull up Taskstream so you can see the task instructions and rubric right there in front of you. Outline your paper with your name and course information at the top and block out each line of the rubric A1----- A2c----- B----- C----- etc. Fill it in as you go. IF YOU need to reference the course of study materials to fill in the paper sections do it as you're writing, do NOT go through and read a bazillion pages of text ahead of time, only scout out what you need to finish. Plenty of areas on rubrics and even whole PA's are based on your opinion requiring no real text involvement. If anything the interwebs are your friend to find info concisely to include.

Powerpoints: If and when your course includes a power point, a random tip, you can use Google Drive to create a powerpoint without buying the software. You can also get Microsoft Office for free with your WGU student email (instructions to follow). Label each slide of the Power Point in accordance with the rubric, again makes it easier for your grader. KEEP it simple! No need to get all fancy and put pictures and 70 slides with fancy transitions and music to convey a simple requirement.

Taskstream Grading:
Not the quickest thing on the planet, thankfully they now show you the "queue" which they didn't have when I was doing it, at least now you can guesstimate how many days of grading you're in for although I'm not sure that helps you ha! Stalk away or just sign up for text notifications on your work.

Message Boards:
USE THEM! I used the RN to BSN Facebook page ALL the time to bounce ideas off of others and to help others. It is priceless insight that you'll gain there.Utilize the search feature on the page to check previous posts about the same subject matter. No one here is going to give you answers to your tests... I mean c'mon people (and YES people really do get on there thinking they may get this info??wth?) but they will help you troubleshoot things and give you similar tips to those you're reading here.

I used some pinning to save important things I wanted to reference later, not a ton of info here but feel free to check out some of the things I compiled or start your own board to keep organized.


Health Assessment:
This should be no issue for anyone with prior medical experience. If it's been a while since you studied or Nclex'd be sure to brush up on your typical assessment stuff. I personally went through the chapters in the Course of Study and took the practice exams at the end of each which helped. This is going to be pretty typical black and white knowledge along with the application of "critical thinking" just like a good old NCLEX. As for your video, many people (including myself) put off the video part because, well it's weird to video tape yourself for someone to analyze... awkward. Take it from me, it isn't hard at all, just get it overwith! My best advice, print off the list of things you're supposed to do in your video and put it in a binder to use WHILE your taping yourself. I literally checked off each thing as I did it to make sure I didn't miss anything. I brushed up on assessment techniques via good old YouTube (since there are some interesting ones to cover that you don't normally do... hello jugular vein distention measurement???) and then did it.

Care of the Older Adult:
Again basic knowledge of elder care here, this will closely mimic your gerontology nursing class from back in the day. BUT, this is the one OA that I failed!! I was shocked. A little tidbit, outside of your general elderly medicine, variables, assessments, etc make sure you READ IN DEPTH on the dang Medicare and insurance crap... for some reason my assessment was about 70% Medicare questions (and I KNOW my insurance stuff, so this was excessive). Otherwise hope your version of the test isn't so pigeonholed into this arena. This is supposed to be one of the easiest and most remedial of all of the BSN courses.

Community & Population Health:
If you're planning to finish your BSN in a single term, better get this one going immediately. You cannot log practicum hours for your final practicum until this course is done. This one was my first PA course. It consisted of 4 "tasks" ie. 4 papers of various requirements. I did what was recommended and that was to finish the tasks in backwards order, so task 4 then task 3, saving task 1 for the end. Reasoning was that task 1 is pretty intense and long and it helped to get a few other writing tasks under your belt before jumping into that one. You get to see how the whole grading thing and Taskstream work along with getting used to the rubrics. The long paper is ultimately a set up of your final practicum, you research your specific community and look for deficits and things that you can essentially work to research more for the final practicum where you log all of your hours.

Applied Statistics:
Some people struggle with this one, not sure if that is because of the newer version of stats or just different learning styles. I thought Stats was not too bad. I read through the community advice to focus on Chapters 1-4 knowing them like the back of my hand. I read the chapters, took each quiz at the end and re-read areas that I missed on the quizzes. Lastly, I printed the course study guide (probably housed in the "course chatter box" now) which was compiled by the course mentors and made sure I knew all 100 of those questions very well. In my opinion the OA was identical to this practice study guide.

I don't have the best advice for the nutrition OA simply because I know nutrition very well. I had 3 nutrition courses in my undergrad prior to this one and it's a lifestyle thing I've always been educated in. So that said, this was a very easy exam, basic principles of what to eat for certain populations ie. pregnancy, wound healing, etc. Which foods are high in specific nutrients, that kind of thing. A patient post op with renal complications should eat which choice of meal, etc. One area I remember being a little trickier was the vitamins and minerals, I had quite a bit of content on this which seemed a tad unbalanced, worth brushing up on.

I was a huge fan of Biochem! Some people hate it but I thought it was a welcome relief from multiple choice tests and paper writing. I mean how can you go wrong when your homework consists of making chemical models out of legos or candy... or k-cups ha! You don't need some fancy molecule kit for this one, using items around the house is perfectly fine as the course mentors will tell you. The subjects are quite complex that you are learning here, very detailed... especially DNA transcription and translation. In my opinion I had to actually pay attention to the content and videos to truly understand what I was doing and it was fine. It's mostly YouTube videos put on by the mentors that are easy to follow and the Thinkwell Guy. I LOVE the Thinkwell Guy, he's like an older version of Bill Nye the Science Guy talking about way more boring things but he makes it slightly entertaining :) Enjoy biochem, it's the only course in the whole shabang that is set up like this.

Professional Roles & Values:

This one is very blah. A good one to get over with, it's not hard it's just very boring. The whole course is essentially about nursing theories, how to decipher them, ethics, professional accountability, playing the role of a scientist, detective, and manager, ugh... You will end up writing about various aspects of this in your portfolio but no need to over-do this one, just study what you need and get done with it.

Info Management & Technology:
The exam for this one was pretty challenging I thought. I figured it would be a general application of how technology systems integrate into medicine, it was NOT. This was a very detailed exam asking you to know the differences between certain technology systems, how to troubleshoot them, how they apply to different facility uses,etc. Lots of informatics specifics, electronic record ins/outs, HIPPA regs, etc. I did much better on the pre-assessment than the actual OA for what it's worth, the only course this happened.

Evidence Based Practice aka The Beast:
This one sucks, it really just sucks. The only thing worse is having to do it AGAIN (for the most part) in the MSN program... dreadful. There are a couple of tasks for this one. First you learn about types of research and write a paper about that while you classify a few examples into the type of research the represent. Then you take some case studies and write about them. And then you're ready for the BEAST. For the last task, you are picking a problem to research, compiling this research into an annotated bibliography, summarizing your findings, discussing how this can relate to your current place of work, how you'd present it to the big wigs there, etc. That's the simple version. The extended version is that it is LONG, monotonous, repetitive, and annoying. My best advice for this one is to do it all in one or two sittings. Find your research during one and write the ENTIRE thing during the next, don't stop and start this one or you'll never finish. Pick a topic that is SIMPLE, use the examples you find in course notes or message boards. DON'T try to reinvent the wheel or impress your graders by finding some fabulous specific NEW idea that is actually interesting to you, they won't care. You won't find your articles, you'll want to punch yourself later for doing this. Stick to the tried and true- handwashing, CAUTI, actually just those 2, pick one of those and you'll do fine.

Organizational Systems & Leadership:
This one will sneak up on you. You read the rubric and think it's not too terrible, 2 tasks. The main drudgery with this one are the IHI Modules. No idea how to explain those to anyone who hasn't read through a couple so I won't bother. Just remember this, log in, start the modules and skip to the tests. Don't sit there through all of them intently or you'll be there for 57 weeks. Seriously they are awful and there aren't any shortcuts other than skipping to the tests, taking them, if you fail skip back to the end again and take it again until you pass. You can't finish the BSN without doing these dang modules, you'll need your IHI completion certificate for your portfolio. Your big paper consists of completing a LONG root cause analysis with all the components.... not my cup of tea. You'll be glad when this one is done.

Leadership Experience:
Leadership is the whole point of the BSN as most BSN-RN's are more in management and they have to "lead" people. The paper here consists of an investigation into a specific problem at your workplace that you intend to research and propose a fix for. Your fix will explain a lot of things including a cost scenario and you'll present this whole thing for your "key stakeholders" at work. You'll need them to sign off on your presentation. It isn't a bad task but it can be a bit tricky to coordinate this "presentation". Again pick a simple solvable problem, you don't need to show them how to travel to the moon just pick something common and relevant- staffing shortages, technology deficits, etc.

I thought this one was odd, almost like putting together a resume for your school experience, a lot of kumbayah this is what I learned, this is how I grew as a professional... weird. Nonetheless, super simple task. You're basically reviewing a lot of your coursework, including excerpts from some of them and writing a synopsis of their relevance to your career.

Community Health Practicum:
The dreaded practicum. You are now at the end and revisiting that very first community health project you did. You'll take the problem topic you chose and now spend a bunch of hours out in the community investigating it so you can write about it in depth. I had 90 hours to do and I did this whole course in about 2-3 weeks time. I spent about one full week making site visits around everywhere I could possibly think of to log time, each day about 6-8 hours of traveling around and then about 1 full week to write the whole thing. A bit of fudge factor in between. If you start early getting on everyone's calendars for meetings this won't be too hard to do in a short amount of time,otherwise better plan on 4-6 weeks of consistent work on this one, especially if you can't devote a block of time for a week to knock out those hours. I specifically picked access to mental health resources and found a TON of resources, had no trouble getting my info or hours. There are a list of topics to choose from, as I've said a dozen times don't reinvent the wheel, pick one and go. Don't overcomplicate it. As soon as you're done with Community Health 1 jump on these hours and start looking ahead.

That's the long and short of it.... those courses can seem to be quite overwhelming but they're doable. Get a schedule together with a goal of completion for each one. Allow time for grading and revisions... taskstream graders aren't exactly the quickest, my longest paper took nearly 7 full days to post! Always keep about 3 courses in your field of vision if you're planning to accelerate so you can work on them somewhat simultaneously but pick one at a time to finish, then go to the next. One day you'll turn around and your circle will be completely BLUE! YAY.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

WGU: After the RN a tale of the BSN and MSN journey

So what have I been up to since the dreaded CPNE which led to the dreaded NCLEX waitfest which led to the Colorado RN licensing extravaganza....??

Oh you know just keeping on with the glutton for punishment theme. I have migrated myself to WGU, Western Governors University to pursue my goals of getting my BSN and now MSN.

A little synopsis. I researched every school known to man prior to jumping into my BSN after being burned by Excelsior. I surely wasn't making the same mistake again! I wanted to push through and get that BSN at a minimum because I knew as life went on it'd be more critical to work and I'd also find more and more reasons to postpone the idea. I am a professional procrastinator of course. Western Governors University ended up being my top choice for a few reasons.

1. Work at your OWN pace. Not a "pretend" work at your own pace but a REAL work at your own pace place! It really is, I can attest to that now.

2. Cheap. I mean I hate to say put it that way but a degree on the cheap sounded appealing especially when I was **thisclose** to signing up with Regis University for the exact same degree in which I'd pay triple the money (and couldn't work at my own pace).

It was  a pretty simple choice after some investigating. I also really liked the idea of a "flat fee" cost scenario versus a pay by the credit hour scenario which is common at almost every other university out there. More bang for your buck I guess should you choose to take advantage of it.

The short story.
I completed my BSN with WGU in 3 months for a flat fee of one term/6 mos which put me out about $3500.

I had 38 competency units to complete which was 16 classes.

I spent the first 3 months of my 6 month term laying my Dad to rest doing zero work for obvious reasons. I spent the last 3 months actually completing the work.

It was not the hardest thing I've ever done, the CPNE was. The BSN just took dedication and determination. It was more drudgery than difficulty.

The common questions/concerns...

Are there clinical hours involved?

Will my Excelsior nursing credits transfer in?
The short answer is yes. All of my prior credit transferred in with no problems. You receive a block of credit for your RN license and they evaluate each additional course from there. If there are courses that do not apply to the BSN curriculum you will be required to take/re-take those courses. DON'T freak out about this. Even if you end up with an additional class or few remember they are not extra costs, they are built into your term, typically you fly through these classes in a couple weeks each. You have to remind yourself this doesn't work like a traditional college where each additional course is an additional 3 credit hours to complete and pay for which pushes you into one semester after another.

What about Nutrition?
EVERYONE is required to retake nutrition. WGU has their own "version" that they want you to have, no amount of bellyaching to admission will change this. I had 3 different versions and none of them were good so I had to retake it too. It wasn't a big deal. At. All.

You have to take Statistics?!?OMG?
Yes. yes you do, unless you have it within the last 5 years. I had it but it was past 5 years and I flipped out about stats. I thought it was going to be HELL. It wasn't. Their version of statistics is how the information applies to nursing concepts and nursing management. There is no math. You don't need a graphing calculator you don't complete math equations. Stats is simply an overview of what information can be gathered USING statistical measurements, what those types of measurements are called, and how they apply to healthcare. So woosah the stats.

Will the pass/fail 3.0 gpa ruin my future plans?
Since it is a competency based program you either pass or fail, there are no A's B's or C's. Therefore the maximum gpa for completion is a 3.0. Many people flip out thinking this will RUIN their chances of future schooling, entrance into NP programs, blah blah. I can tell you since I was a tad skeptical myself that I finally researched said future schooling and NP programs. I looked at them ALL. All of the ones I investigated required ONLY a 3.0 gpa. And this includes prestigious universities like Duke, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, etc.

Check it out for yourself

If you are concerned with being competitive in such a program you can simply take additional coursework through a local university to boost your gpa or take the GRE. Don't fret about the gpa thing, it is truly a non issue. I have spoken with more than a handful of folks who completed the program who are actively enrolled in various FNP programs around the country with no issue.

How quickly can you complete the program?
I was told at admission that the average time to complete WGU's RN to BSN program was 18 months, aka 3 terms. There are dozens of us who have done it much quicker obviously but there are many many more that don't. You have to evaluate your own personal strength as a student, a distance learning student to make that assumption. Keep in mind there is zero hand holding with the program, if you do not succeed by teaching yourself information this may not be the program for you.

Should I do the BSN or just go for the MSN?
This is a highly personal choice. This is also somewhat dependent on the current curriculum as it frequently changes here and there, nothing major but there are changes. I did the BSN and figured if I wanted to later I could do the MSN but didn't want to jump all in right off the bat. That was a dumb decision, I should've just done the MSN. Here is why- I ended up going right into the MSN program anyway and I could've saved myself 5 classes if I'd done it straight thru. You end up repeating some courses with minor tweaking when you do it in a two step process, on top of that there are a couple of classes you are required to do for the BSN that you don't have to do if you go straight MSN. The beauty is you can stop at your BSN if you choose to. You can get your BSN degree once you finish that coursework and quit if you really want to, you don't have to wait until the end of the MSN program. This is definitely the way to go in my opinion.

So if you're considering pushing on to another set of letters behind your name I can't recommend WGU enough. I liked it enough to move forward with my MSN. It delivered as promised and was truly self paced, it was easy to navigate, the support I received was fine, and once again it was CHEAP.

I'll update when I can on my process for completing my BSN in 3 months, how I studied, and any tips and tricks I can offer at a later date ya'll!

***Disclaimer, I am NOT affiliated with WGU, I don't work for them or get compensation from them for saying any of this... incase you were wondering ***

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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
  • 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.

:::::UPDATE::::: I gave this my ALL and I mean my ALL for 5 months. Up until that time I was supplementing with formula at every feeding and the dude was eating around 18x a day including nursing all night long. I would side-lie nurse him all night long, while he laid in the crook of my arm and I flipped him from side to side, ALLLLLLLL night for 5 months. It sounds insane to even write that now. My god. No wonder I didn't sleep. And no wonder at now just shy of a year old the dude STILL EATS EVERY 2-3 hours all night and sleeps in our bed. Still.

You read that right. He'll be one in 2 days and he still eats every 2-3 hours at night in our bed. The side-lying ruined his sleep training, literally. It's not possible. Believe me I tried, I keep trying.

At 5 months I woke up and went to latch Baby C and after about 20 seconds he started wailing, he was irked because NOTHING was coming out. Not a drop. And that was literally the end of the nursing because my body flat out quit overnight. I didn't have an ounce of engorgement, couldn't pump a drop, it was over. So he's lived on formula ever since and at the end of the day I am proud of myself for making it this far and mad at myself for working so hard to end up with the same result and guilt ridden for wishing I was more selfish and took care of myself and taught my kid better sleep habits rather than forcing the issue.

Such is motherhood.... a dichotomy of emotions....

The dude is healthy happy and none the wiser!

Fellow mommies out there, give yourself a break and a pat on the back, whatever you're doing whatever happens at the end of the day you're doing your best. Your kid will be fine, they will thrive because of your love for them no matter what version of sustenance they receive. Keep up the good hard work!!!

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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. Read more!

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.


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.


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.


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!!!!


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...


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...

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!!!!!


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.


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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