Acephalgic Migraines: Fun!

It’s been months since I had one. Holding the hymnbook for Bean during church today, I felt the familiar tingling began in my thumb and lower left lip, and within minutes the scintillating scotoma took over my vision and I could barely see. It starts peripherally, and then gradually zig-zags across my entire field of vision, leaving me with blind spots in the center of my eyes, and only peripheral vision. The worst part is the dizziness and nausea from the flashing, swirling lights. I half-whispered to the woman in front of me in the pew to please watch my kids, and I quietly got up and left the chapel.

I thought I was walking normally, but by the time I reached the hallway, both the RS president and my home-teachers were out there to catch me as I almost fell. They said I was walking like a drunk sailor and looked like I was going to faint, as they propped me on the sofa near the bishop’s office.

There is nothing to do for it except wait it out. Since it’s happening in my brain, closing my eyes or getting in the dark does absolutely nothing. The light show continues. The weirdest part is the odd numbness. Always on the left side, and always creeping across my face and hand. It’s a nice alarm, because if it happens, I know I’ve got to get home, or off the road, and fast.

I’ve had the MRI’s, the CT scans and seen the neurologists. I’m actually lucky, in that the headache that follows is bad, but not horrendous. The neurologist told me I got to “see” my brain having a migraine, rather than feel the incapacitation pain. To be sure, I do get a headache after it’s all over, but usually a dark room, a couple of Excedrin and a few hours take care of it, and I can get back to life.

Our brains are complicated, strange things.

Hey Look! Random Crap!

Hey look! It’s 2:22 a.m. and I’m awake with a terrible toothache! And life is finally “normal” enough that I can roll out a RC again. Huzzah!

As if Universal Medical care weren’t appealing enough a reason to like Canada- the shots of Vancouver are just stunning enough to make me want to go ExPat for a few years. Yowza, lovely place. Plus, there’s the whole Mounty thing. Does dental care come with all the other Perfectly Nice Canadian things?

Speaking of- while I may have been making fun of Ice Dancing on Twitter, those couples just could not have been any cuter. Well most of them. I’m still confused by the Russians and their love of capes and body stockings. But whatever. Am I the only one who thought the dark-haired, owl-eyed Michigan girl is totally in Love with her Brian Krakow look-alike ice-hunk?

I may have finally found the currency that makes Abby’s bladder run: M&M’s coupled with a fear she won’t be allowed in pre-school. The girl has suddenly mastered her bladder. Yesssssssssss.

I babysat for a friend last night, and how quickly one forgets just exactly HOW much work a baby is… as well as an additional three-year old. And boy howdy, is my house not baby-proof anymore! Within the first half hour, the 3-year-old had climbed a bookcase and pulled it over on top of herself. She was fine. But dang! And the baby was practically maniacal in her desire to fling herself down my stairs.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a very scary movie if you are 6 years-old and named Bean. He was only ready to sleep once I assured him the movies was, in fact, no longer even in our house.

It looks like the worker-guys have finally figured out the leak in my roof, only to instead have my toilet go all wacky and leak down into my basement. And now, my toilet is in my bedroom, while the new subfloor cures overnight. In the morning I get a new bathroom floor, and the toilet will go back to where it belongs. (This is the toilet in the miniscule Jack + Jill powder-closet between Abby and my room- there is an actual working bathroom in the house, so I needn’t fear a small child wandering in my room and peeing in the wandering, unhooked-up toilet. Really, I shouldn’t need to worry about that at all. Nope. Not at all.)

Speaking of- Abby calls that toilet “My Secret Potty”. It also may be contributing to the mastery of the bladder.

After breaking my neck trying to get to my personal-trainer appointment (free with membership!) at the Y this (yesterday?) morning, she was out sick. I was bummed. I jumped into a step-aerobics class with the yelling chick (who is very nice, actually) but I was so off-my game I just kept getting mad because I feel like an ape not knowing the steps. Instead I found a stationary bike in a corner and turned my iPod up. Lemons? Meet my Lemonade pitcher…

My landlord came by to say hi, and then offered to go look at my old house, which is empty, and to turn off all the water lines, you know, just in case. I hadn’t even thought of that. It was very, very nice of him. I don’t like going over there. Not one bit.

Ski-jumpers are plain nuts crazy. But it sure does look fun. I love the Olympics.

My ibuprofen must be kicking in, because I think I might be able to fall back asleep now. Thank you, modern Chemists. And to all a good night. Er, morning?

Handle with Care

Basketball, it seems, is a bad idea. Twice this week, Bean has come utterly unglued, and both times were over playing basketball. Team sports in general are not a good idea for PDD kids- and he is no exception. His frustration levels rise, and he doesn’t seem to understand that the other guys are supposed to try and take the ball- they are not being mean- it’s part of the game. The same thing happened when he wanted to play soccer. He lasted one game before his soccer career was over.

He is rambling down the court, concentrating with all his might on dribbling the ball. This is a big deal, that he can actually coordinate his feet with his hands with his eyes and bounce a ball at the same time. But the other kids playing with him in the gym at the Y don’t get this. His disability is invisible. He looks like any other kid. No one knows it’s taken him two years of therapy to be able to hold a pencil correctly and make it move in the direction he wants it to move. Other kids with visible disabilities automatically get cut slack by society. I’m not saying I want my kids to be visibly disabled, but sometimes it sure would be nice if I could just put a sign around his neck: “Handle with Care”

So another boy innocently took the ball from him. And he came unglued. He began to honk, which is a noise he makes when he’s stressed. It the worst sound in the world, and Mo can back me up on that. He runs after the boy who took the ball, and begins to flail and yell. And then everyone stops and looks at him, and I can see all this happening in slow motion, and I am powerless to stop it. My legs are shaky from the workout I just did, but I ran across the court and grab his arm- to which he responds like a wild animal. We are waaaaaay past the tipping point now, and the only option is leaving.

Only he’s getting bigger and stronger and it’s not possible for me to sweep him up like I would have when he was younger.  Also, behavior that the public writes off to age gets harder to deal with when your kid gets older.  I have to literally drag him, honking and screaming, from the basketball court, trying to keep my cool and find Jeffrey and Abby at the same time. I kneel down to talk to Bean, but there is no talking at this point either. Calling for Jeffrey to grab Abby’s hand, I start for the exit, a firm grip on Bean’s wrist. Now the whole lobby is stopped and looking at us. It’s surreal.

Bean starts to flail and scream and is punching me with all his might as I drag him towards the door. This continues to the car, with Jeff holding onto Abby and obediently following the rolling disaster. At this point, I am still fairly under control of my own emotions, and get him in the car. To whit he immediately flings the door open, screaming and kicking, and tries to get out and run away. I put him back. He does it again. I put him back, sternly.

When we got home, he was sort of calmer, which is like saying the forest is only sort of on fire.

I am the mother, and my heart breaks for all of my children. I can empathize with Jeffrey and his frustration at always having to be understanding. I can empathize with Bean, for what he struggles with and that I AM his mediator with the world. I feel terrible that Abby’s easy-going personality usually has her languishing as last on the list.

Bean spent the next hour in his room under his weighted blanket, until he could come out and apologize. He did, and now you’d never know anything happened. He’s laughing and happy and playing downstairs with Jeffrey. And I’m waiting for the Y to call and cancel my membership.

Some days take everything we’ve got.

Food-Storage Milkshake

I was asked to teach a treat I make from my food storage for a Relief Society project this week. It was a no-brainer: Food Storage Milkshakes. How on earth is it possible to make a decent milkshake from food storage? Those large #10 cans full of dry stuff and things the kids turn their noses up at? A milkshake? Are you high? Nope. And it’s good, too. I promise.

I wish I could remember where I first saw this recipe, because I would give credit- I was an unbeliever when I first saw it, but I needed something to do with my dry-pack non-fat milk powder. Oh yes, that’s right NON-fat milk. It’s even healthy…ish.

So- get out your blenders.  You should have all this on-hand, if you have your food-storage star-badge from RS. What? Your ward doesn’t hand those out? (you don’t really have to be a Mormon to make these, but you may not have 749 pounds of canned dry goods on hand like the rest of us- but knock yourself out and make it anyway!) You need:

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups dry non-fat milk powder
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened plain cocoa powder (Hershey is fine)
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 spray of cooking spray. I don’t know why, but do it.
  • Ice cubes to top off blender.

Add all of the above ingredients into your blender. Make sure it’s a decent blender, because you can burn one out on this. Whirl it all on high for two full minutes. The two-minutes is important for texture and to aerate the mixture. If your blender is a little feeble, increase the water by 1/2 cup to make it a thinner shake, and less like a thick malt. Divvy up and serve with a spoon or straw, depending on how much ice/water you used. There is no wrong answer.

Pour them in tall glasses, and top with whipped cream if you’ve got it. Watch your kids beat the door down trying to get at these babies. You will have done the impossible: A thick, creamy chocolate milkshake without a drop of ice cream! Thank me later.

Valuable Enough

Yesterday, I applied to a University. I’ve been messing around with the Community College, which is what I did way back in the day, and a friend suggested I just skip that and go right to the source. It was oddly validating. Until now, I suppose I didn’t feel worthy of a University- I mean, I dropped out of community college 17 years ago, and I never finished art school. I was a slacker and a drop-out. And I self-identified as such. And I fear had I gone back to a CC, I would have continued to self-identify in a less-than promising way. Applying to University takes some hubris and self-esteem, which I didn’t realize until I did it. I am worth a University. I am. And it feels good.

I’m working on a FAFSA application right now, and trying to draw in my transcripts from the four winds. It’s been so long I don’t know if anything will even be useful, but a-gathering I will go. The University also has allowances for life-experience credits for women in my situation- which means I might be able to get credits just for what it took to get here. That’s a great unknown right now, but again, it gives me hope. Fragile, tentative hope, but hope nonetheless.

I am going to do this. I haven’t been so excited about something in a long time. I love school, I love being in school, I love the academic environment, and I love learning. The idea that I might, at this late start, qualify for the University is a huge feather in my cap.  I want my kids to see their mom work hard for something, to study and to succeed. I want them to see that I love my life, and value education. I want them to know I am brave, and that they can be too.

I am filled with hope today.

The New Normal

It’s strange around here. I keep catching myself in little moments holding my breath- pausing and waiting for something- noticing the absence of tension- and wanting to call it something else… and then feeling off-kilter because of the quiet… normalcy. I’m not so dramatic as to think I’ve got post traumatic stress syndrome. Yet, when someone lives in a pressure-cooker for almost three years, and suddenly the steam-release valve is thrown, it may take some time to trust the new normal.

So much for my gift for words, eh? It’s hardly eloquent to think of myself bumbling around the house, trying to figure out What Next… but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Slowly I’ve managed to find most of the stuff I need (with a few notable exceptions like my watercolors and the kids’ books) and have made a big dent in the garage full of boxes.

I have a list as long as my arm of things that need my attention. Maybe they’ve been there for a long time- I don’t know. It’s hard to notice the match under your foot when your whole life is on fire. And then there’s more sorting. Every time I try and tackle something on my list, I realize I haven’t unpacked the box I need for that particular task yet… and then I’m off on a wild goose chase again. Maybe I just need to stop and finish getting the house set up before I plunge forward.

What a blessing to have plain, old, normal problems again. Hello, life. Nice to see you again- it’s been a while. Yes, we look a little different, but oh how I’ve missed you.

Valentine Pppfttt

Clearly I don’t give a donkey’s hiney about Valentines Day this year- but I did have fun making a few small things for the kids. The table is draped in sweetheart fabric, and I found my Valentine dishes.  I found the February banners in a box. After the kids were asleep I made each of them a little card filled with M&M’s and  a gift-certificate for a free ice cream at Baskin Robbins I’d had stashed in my wallet since Christmas. Cost to me? $0. For the kids? Cool beans.

More Little House Vignettes

You can see how tiny my kitchen is- at least compared to before. The Craigslist table is super, and now I just need to find four chairs… as it is, I’m using the boys’ desk chair, my desk chair, a step stool and a box. Oh yeah, that’s how we roll.

I’ve also carved out a little spot in the basement for my easel. It’s not the glorious solarium I had before, but hey, it’s a spot, right? And I’m grateful for it. I’m working on a painting right now.

I like to set up little vignettes around the house. Those are baby shoes from an estate sale under the cloche, but Beanie tells everyone they’re his. Think outside the box. Showcase things with different textures and character. The artwork is a family heirloom from the first world war. While I usually subscribe to the Rule of Three, sometimes, as in the mantle shot above with my grandmother’s kindergarten picture, the terra cotta of the Nauvoo brick adds the right contrast, and I like it.

The music stand contains all my sheet music, and was a garage sale find. The giant M was on the mantle at the old house, but fits nicely here. The other picture is the opposite end of the mantle, and you can see how the terra cotta of the topiary ties in with the brick and unifies the whole thing, but not in a matchy way. No matchiness!

And finally, the top of my piano. At the old house, I had all my photos on top of Phoebe the Buffet, but since Phoebe is in the garage and soon to be garage sale fixins, I had to go to the traditional piano top. It works. It’s not my favorite, but it turned out okay.

Love Letter to My Friends

During the recent weeks and up to the actual move, there were dozens of people lined up waiting to help my family. It was unreal, and when it’s not such a fresh, sore spot, I plan on writing about moving day and all it entailed- if for no other reason that I need a record of what happened. One evening, a woman I love and adore was leaving Little House after she and her husband had worked here all day, and as she was getting into her car, she hollered “Now don’t you dare send out thank-you cards for this. This is family!” Then she drove off.  I know better than to disobey her… but my compulsion to thank is strong, and so…

This last Sunday, with the permission of my Relief Society presidency, I handed out this abridged letter to my ward:

One thing Mormons do better than just about anyone is to circle the wagons. We prepare, we practice, we take classes, we bring casseroles, and heaven knows, we store our wheat. I’ve watched with fascination over the years, as my membership in the church has mellowed from naïve fledgling to active, endowed member. I’ve participated and learned as my friends make a mighty effort to practice what they preach.

Recently, I have found myself in the unenviable position of needing that charity we are so famous for. For a long time, I was the convert everyone checked on and showered with love- but the bloom is long off that rose. And yet- in the middle of this horrible trial, when I cannot see what is coming, and cannot yet sort out the wreckage behind me, I look through the dust to see a circle around me.

The wagons have been circled, and I and my children are safely in the middle of that tight, loving, organized, closely bound company of Saints.

I don’t know what lies outside the circle. And the thing is- I am learning I don’t always have to know. There are people willing to help fight that battle for me. This stuns me. I stand in the middle of the circle, and am awed by the resources and love marshaled on my behalf. Can I really warm myself by the fire of my friend while someone else helps find my cows and serves my children dinner? Not only can I, but I am told I am blessing others if I allow myself to be so served.

At first I was dubious. It’s far more comfortable to give to others than it is to receive. And, the last thing I want is to ever expect anyone to do things for me I am perfectly capable of doing myself. And yet the circle tightens. The love increases…

A home teacher or a bishop stops by to give me a blessing. Another sister is driving by and felt compelled to stop and take my kids. My son is baptized, and on 24 hours notice the room is overflowing with friends from multiple wards. People I show up with hot meals and treats for my children. Sisters roll up their sleeves and bring their cardboard boxes to pack my house. Brothers take my sons under their wings and nurture them in ways I cannot. Dozens of hands lift at once, and the load is lighter for everyone. It is an embarrassment of riches, were I to try and catalog it.

My heart is humbled. Of one thing I am certain; there is no earthly way for me to ever repay the people who have circled around me, who have given me shelter in the storm, who have loved me and my children and preformed miracles as the hands of my Savior. Indeed, no repayment is humanly possible.

Miracles happen. They happen as normal, everyday people reach out to others in their hour of need, and allow the Lord to work through their hands. Hands that wipe the brow, sop the tears, hold the weeping and grieving, and hands that guide the traces of the wagons into that tight, loving, safe circle. Those hands are working miracles. Those hands are the hands of Christ.

With love and gratitude for each and every one of you.

To a large extent, this same letter can be applied to the readers of Dandelion. I cannot describe the gratitude I feel for the prayers, letters, packages, emails and personal expressions of love and support so very many of you have directed my way.  My community- both here at Little House and here at Dandelion- have truly carried me through the most treacherous of times, and done so with such grace and love that I am left speechless.