Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We shine, again!

Just a quick note to say that the Johnson Clan has emerged, victorious,  from the Violent Flu of 2011.

My husband suggested that I get t-shirts made which say, "I survived the Great Flu of '11."  It certainly is a time that will go down in infamy, one that we'll never forget and one we hope to never repeat but likely will.  I mean, you get t-shirts for VBS, why not the flu that took ten days of your life? Ten days down, ten days we'll never get back, ten days of being thrown off schedule.  (And we had just returned to schedule following the holidays.  We were doing so good!!!)  That's how it goes, isn't it?

Jeff was the sole survivor, as usual.  He seems to escape the average illnesses, but waits for the big, big guns like staph infections in bone joints.  Escaping the illness might not be the bonus it seems, as he gets double, triple, quadruple duty on laundry, clean-up, and broth-making with extra garlic and onions.   He is a good, good, servant-hearted man.

We are fine now though, and the Great Clean-Up has now taken place.

If you are local, and planning to come to the Lego Club today (not held at our house, but at a church) please know that even the legos are in the process of being dis-infected.  :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When a large family gets sick...

...it takes a long, long time to get rid of the big, bad bugs.  Taking time out from clean up this morning to post a few pictures from this past week.

It's funny how a picture can help me see the beauty from even a week like this one.  It's good to focus on beauty after all of the.....clean up that is required when a large family gets the flu.  Somehow, this all looks prettier than I remember it.

In reality it's been a brutal week of nasty colds followed by a horrible stomach virus.  We'll always remember the January Flu of 2011.   We actually had to throw away a couch following one particularly bad night.  Good thing we never spend more than $30 on a couch.

You know how it is with educating your kids at home, though, we're better than the USPS.  Almost nothing (snow, flu, hail, colds) keeps us from school, although we did cave and took Friday off due to illness.  Along with sickness, our area has had very cold weather and a good snowfall.  When it gets difficult, we just think ahead to spring when the weather is lovely and illnesses are gone, and we are done with the school year and are playing at parks and planting things.  It motivates us.

We're looking hopefully toward a better week.

How have you been?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thanks to my kids for making me look good....

Jacob and I set out today to try and update my blog template.  This place has not had an update in over a year - it's just not been a priority.

Our household is suffering from a nasty flu following colds, plus a winter storm is on its way, so it seemed like a good thing to work on in between baths, tylenol, and loads of laundry.

(Quick hat tip to good ol' Murphy's Law:  What a greaaaaat time for the water heater to die!)

Jake is a busy college student now.  While he lives at home, he also works part-time and has something called a life, which I am working hard to release him, joyfully, to live.  He's trying to make decisions for his next level of schooling.

In the midst of working on my existing template, I realized that I needed to be weaning myself from him technologically, rather than binding myself more tightly and dependently to him.  I set my boy free by my own volition; he was perfectly willing to keep supporting his doddering old mother's hobby.

Thus, I've reverted to a common, pre-made template.  It's simple, but I like it just fine.  It's something I've needed to do.  I've got to stand on my own two feet where technology is concerned, and this is the first step.

Tomorrow, if there's time, I'm going to try to turn on the television all by myself.  Maybe, now that we've found the remote,  I'll even try to find a station using the little box thingy, or *gasp* turn on the VCR.  (Yes, we still have one, with a tv guardian to boot.)

Thanks, Jake, for your help with my blog over the years.  I know you're not going anywhere yet, but I'm preparing myself for the day that you do.  I'm glad Emily is only 15 - she'll be around to beautify my blog with her lovely pictures for years to come.  Maybe by then, I will have conquered the camera too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The power of a man's influence

Four months ago my father was sent to a rehabilitation center for therapy following surgery.  He had gone in for a new style of hip replacement, the kind that features an anterior cut rather than a posterior cut.  This type of replacement is supposed to allow the individual to recover in days rather than weeks.

My father was so hopeful, so excited at the thought of regaining a measure of independence.  His walking had slowed down to mincing steps.  He always lived a high-octane life, a highly independent life, up until the last year.  He feared falling.  We feared his falling.  Neither he nor my mother were able to walk well, both were falling frequently.  Heaven forbid that either one would give in and use a cane.  That might mean they were getting old.

If positive thinking were a magical cure, Dad's surgery would have been a flying success.  As it happened, the top of his femur broke off during the replacement surgery and his hopes were dashed.  He lives with complete adrenal insufficiency, so his daily steroid dependency had weakened his bones over the years.

Rather than walking within a day, Dad was told that he could not touch his toe to the ground for 8 weeks.  He did not want to go to a rehabilitation center.  In his mind, it meant "nursing home," and the thought of a nursing home simply gave him the heebie jeebies.

We convinced him that he had to go for a brief time, that he would be able to get the therapy he needed on site much easier than he could receive it in his home.  Mom had knee replacement surgery three weeks prior and wasn't doing well at all.  She couldn't drive, he couldn't drive.  My baby was due (and came) within 3 weeks.  He didn't have much choice but to enter the rehab center.

I drove the 30 minute drive over several times to be able to be with Dad for his therapy sessions.
The male therapist was good at his job, good with his patients.  He was a big guy, focused on his work, kind and empathetic yet pushing those who were capable to do as much as they were able to do.

I watched my Dad as he flexed and lifted his good leg and then his bad, striving to lift higher and further with each repetition.

I watched the therapist lift my father from his wheelchair to the work-out table.  Dad's so little.  I wish that you knew him, you would understand what I mean.  Five foot tall, one hundred and fourteen pounds in a hospital gown.  He's the size of my 12 year old daughter, but he's barrel chested and as strong as an ox.  He never had legs, he had pistons.  His steps beat a specific stacatto down the street of our small town.  You could always hear Dad coming.

As the therapist's arms wrapped round my father's chest, from back to front, under his arms, I watched my father's face.  I did not understand the look at first.

I expected embarrassment, perhaps.  He does not like to be weak.  I thought maybe he would be discouraged.  It is, after all, hard to get old and the surgery did not turn out as he'd so highly hoped.

What I saw instead was, a man who was reveling in praise of another man.  I saw the little boy, now old, whose father died when he was an infant.  I saw the boy, who was raised by a kind but distant grandfather; the boy who never heard the words "I love you" from an older, stronger male.  Raised in a different time, a time where love was tough and affection was not easily shown, my father was enjoying something he'd not had much of in his life.  He had plenty of discipline, but not the warmth.  He was receiving positive attention from a strong male presence in his life.  The man wrapped him in a bear hug and praised him, and he beamed.  The man praised him, and he nearly worked his muscles into a panic to please. 

Boys need men in their lives.  Apparently, this need, this power for good and affirmation from men to boys, from fathers to sons never goes away.  Maybe this need is more apparent if it has never been met, yet barely noticeable if it has.  My father came to the point after two weeks where he really did not want to leave the rehab center.  It had nothing to do with needed care and everything to do with the boost his spirit received from male bonding and affirmation from a male role model.  It explained many things, and gave me, the mother of six sons, much to think about.

Men, you have no idea of the powerful role you have in the lives of your sons and in the lives of other men.  It is a power that apparently, never fades away.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When I don't know how to pray:

There have been times when I haven't known how to pray,
what to say,
or even had the strength to string sensible words together.

There are times when life is too much,
the crisis too huge
and no words form.

The cry is there -
But that's all that I can come up with.

That's when I know that He knows.
Words aren't even really needed.
Like a child before she is able to write words
can draw pictures,
my mind grabs a red crayon
and a piece of paper
and figuratively scrawls a heart.

Inside my head,
inside my heart,
I lift my sloppily drawn heart up to God.

It says "I hurt,"
and "I don't understand,"
"I trust You."

He takes it,
He gets it,
He knows and
thru the role of the
Holy Spirit
He understands
what my heart
trying to say.

Romans 8:26-27 (The Message)

 26-28Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. 

Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It isn't wrong to be happy.

I know, I know how the saying goes:  "God doesn't want you to be happy.  He wants you to be Holy."  Upon dissection, at the point of the issue, I do agree.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with being happy, and the case can be plentifully built from Christian scriptures* for cultivating joy and happiness within our daily lives.

Yes, God desires our sanctification.  Sanctification, or purification, often comes through difficulties.  These difficulties so often steal our joy; but there's no holiness in a lack of happiness.  Sometimes, we have extended difficulties and it becomes hard to believe that life will ever be any better.   I believe the human heart longs to have peace, and contentment, and yes, even happiness. 

Is it wrong to seek happiness?  If, by happiness, you mean a shallow, selfish, fleeting emotion, then - mostly yes.

If, by happiness, you mean purposefully seeking brightness, hope, healing, levity and relief from depression, then - no.  Seeking to be happy in one's daily life, even though we face difficulties, is an acceptable pursuit.

Some will read this and say, "Well, of course.  Does this even need to be said?"

I have been a Christian for a long time (imperfectly, and struggling, and growing, of course.)  I believe that I can legitimately say that it is okay for a Christian to pursue happiness.  Despite the saying, Jesus doesn't mind if you are happy.  Depression isn't good for anyone.

If you need that in "Christianese," call it "joy."

In this vein, here is a list of things you can do to have a better life - to seek and find happiness.  This is for my friends and readers who are struggling, who need a little "happy" nudge particularly this time of year. This is not my list.  I found it, unattributed, around the web, and I thought that perhaps someone might benefit from it.  I did.  My favorites are numbers 18 thru 25.

So, here you go.  You have my permission to be happy!  :)

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
3. Get more sleep.
4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, ‘My purpose is to __________ today.’  (Think about it.  You'll find the right thing.)
5. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
6. Play more games and read more books than you did last year..

7. Make time to pray.
8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
9. Dream more while you are awake.
10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
11. Drink plenty of water.
12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk.
14. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, OR issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest what energy you do have in the positive present moment.
15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the negative blues away.
18. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
20. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
 21. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
22. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
23. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years, will this matter?’
26. Forgive as you are able.
27. What other people think of you is none of your business.
28. Remember God heals everything.
29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
30. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
31. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
33. The best is yet to come.
34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
35. Do the right thing!

Do you have any to add?

*(I do take care to specify occasionally what Christians generally believe the Scriptures to say, because my friends and readers are not only from Christian backgrounds and I don't want to make assumptions.  God has blessed me with a global community of friends.  I am thrilled to have not only Christians read here from time to time.  I do not want to write for only Christians or frankly, for one demographic.  I'm thankful for the people I have contact with around the world.  What an amazing time we live in.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hashimoto's Disease During Pregnancy

Gabriel is three months old now.  He's a nice, plump, pleasant, chunky-monkey of a baby.  I'm so thankful that he's healthy.  Although there was some stress associated with my pregnancy with him, there were never any direct worries about his health.  He checked out great at every stage of prenatal care.

I do have Hashimoto's  Disease, and have been diagnosed with it for at least 5 years, which means that my last three pregnancies have come to term while having thyroid problems.  I thought I'd write a little about it in this post.  I never did find too much information regarding Hashimoto's and pregnancy (other than to say that sometimes thyroid problems can cause infertility...not my problem, obviously,) when I needed it.  Maybe this will interest some other woman who finds herself in the same situation someday.

Since this wasn't my first dance around the pregnancy/Hashimoto's block, I decided to try some new things with Gabriel's pregnancy.  First, I guess that I should tell you some of the discomforts of Hashimoto's Disease. You can read the standard symptoms by clicking on the link, but for me, specifically, the issues were extreme fatigue, random joint pain and swelling, dry skin, dry hair, frequent headaches, and weight gain on a diet of lettuce.  (I'm kidding about the lettuce part, but only slightly.)

Since I'm a grand-multi-para (that means that I've had lotsa kids,) I have had plenty of time to observe myself while pregnant.  (Don't let my brilliance dazzle you.)  I figured out that my metabolism worked more normally while pregnant than it did while un-pregnant.  Maybe my body decided that being pregnant was more normal for me than to not be pregnant.  (Which stands to reason seeing that I've been pregnant for 81 months out of the last 18 years.  I've also been nursing a baby for over 9 years, total, thus far.  Wowzers!)   Whatever reason, my metabolism just works better while gestating.  :)

Early on in the pregnancy, I spoke to my doctor about the possibility of trying to not gain too much weight.  I told her that in the long run, I weighed about 20 pounds more than I wanted to.  She agreed with me, that due to the Hashimoto's I could try to keep my weight gain low.  I recognize that there is a lot of controversy over how much pregnant women should gain, and whether or not women should be given guidelines at all, and how dogmatic obstetricians should be regarding weight gain.  (I'm up on all of the pregnancy/childbirth/breastfeeding controversies.  :)  I feel that by now I should have gained my Ph.D in pregnancy, if that were possible.)  My doctor and I avoided all controversies, looked at my situation as an individual with a proven track record and thyroid problems, and treated me as such.  That's one thing I appreciate about my doctor - she treats me as an individual.  She's also the doctor for our entire family, which I really like.

I usually gain about 10 pounds in the first trimester due to grazing to keep the nausea at bay.  With Gabriel's first trimester I didn't feel too bad at all - just a little queasy.  I kept pretty strict guidelines over what went into my mouth, making sure to eat non-greasy protein and green veggies (spinach, kale, chard) and very little junk food.  I didn't gain anything, but felt great.  The baby was growing well, too.

I had been exercising for at least six months prior to pregnancy with a video program called T-Tapp.  T-Tapp is many things and has several strengths, but it is designed particularly to help with auto-immune diseases and lymphatic pumping and spinal alignment and the left brain/right brain connection and even hormonal management.  I kept up with the T-Tapp throughout the entire pregnancy, up until the last month.  My work-out routine was only 15 minutes a day, and I did it 3 times a week.

Our lives fell apart around the first part of May, when my husband was in the hospital.  I couldn't be as careful  with what I ate at that point, and exercising was rather hit and miss.  I realized that I was not nearly as stiff or sore if I exercised, and I was able to function so much better when I did.  We told people that we were expecting around the middle of May.  I hadn't gained any weight by then (16 weeks?) but the baby was becoming obvious.

These pictures are a few days post-partum, so my eyes look especially tired.

Gabe's pregnancy was very carefully monitored.  I had ultrasounds every two weeks, and I weighed in at each visit.  I met with the specialist each time to go over any concerns.  I also saw my regular doctor once a month throughout, up until the end when the visits were every two weeks.
In total, by the end of pregnancy I had gained 11 pounds.  I ate well.  I did not starve myself.  I did not eat much sweets or much junk.  It's not that I'm virtuous, I just didn't want it.  (I also had gestational diabetes, and it would not have been good to do so.)  Gabriel weighed 8 lbs. 12 oz out of that 11.

Since Gabe's birth, I have been extremely careful.  In previous pregnancies, I have tended to slide into a Hashimoto's crisis following delivery.  Hormones go crazy with sleep deprivation and milk production.  Metabolism is boosted for a time, but then tends to crash and enter a phase of extreme sluggishness.   I am afraid to crash.  I have too many responsibilities.  

Although I have eaten too much junk food, I have been careful to try to get the sleep I need (by sleeping in later in the mornings if he sleeps) and I started the T-Tapp gently at two weeks post-partum.   The 15 minute T-Tapp routine is gentle stretching and lymphatic pumping - it's not weight-lifting and high repetition.  At six weeks, I stepped it up a little and added in the full 25 minute program, 3 days a week.  Eventually, I have moved it to 5 days a week, with two days off on Sundays and Mondays.  Just this week, I switched out the regular T-Tapp program for what is called the "Ladybug" routine, which is designed especially for hormonal management.  I'm never going to look 20 again, but that's not my purpose.  I desperately need to be in shape for and have the energy and endurance for 9 children, a husband, and 2 elderly parents.  I have to work to feel good, and these are my tactics.  I tell people that I don't "do" anything, but when I think it thru that's not exactly true.  I do work hard to keep the Hashimoto's in line, and when the Hashimoto's is subdued I'm better able to function in all areas of life.  When I miss more than two days of exercise, I am feeling it.

There are times when I feel a thyroid crash coming.  I feel headachey, tense, jittery, panicky, and my heart starts to thump a little faster.  So far, I have been able to head off the crisis by fitting in the work-out and by trying to get good sleep.  I weigh 15 pounds less than I did when I was first pregnant with Gabriel, and I notice that I have more energy and I feel a lot stronger.  I don't mind getting on the floor to help the little ones get their snowsuits and boots on.  I don't avoid digging for a specific pan in my lower cupboards.  When my joints or hips ache, I make sure to do at least the 15 minute stretching and spinal alignment exercises.  They really help.

I have not figured out all of the components of managing Hashimoto's and pregnancy.  What I have tried might not work for everyone.  It might not even work for me every time, but it has been interesting to try and figure it out.  I am not on any thyroid medications at this time.  For me, it seems difficult to try to regulate medications while pregnant or breastfeeding.  Endocrinologists are not exactly a dime a dozen these days.  They are difficult to get into, and not all agree on the treatment of Hashimoto's, particularly during pregnancy.

The above are just the things that I have tried, and over all, I would have to say that they worked remarkably well for this particular pregnancy and early post-partum period.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is there a psychatric disorder whereby people shove things down behind couch cushions?

I say "Yes."  Surely it must be so.
There must be some psychiatric disorder linked to shoving items
behind the couch cushions, and I'm pretty sure we have it.
I'm thinking of starting a new photo blog.
I would call it
"Things I Find in My Couch."
I...get...pencils, and legos....but Really?  Pliers?

The new blog would not include photos of socks or washcloths found while cleaning the couch.
(Nine kids?  I knew the lost socks were going somewhere.  But why were the BABY'S socks crammed down in the couch?  My, but he's starting young.)

Nor trash.
(Duh.  That goes in the trash can.)
(Oh, THAT'S where the whale's tail from the pop-up book got to....)

Might find some interesting things if other parent's played and posted pictures of things they found in their couches.  Today's best find at our house was the ipod shuffle.  It is worth noting that we did NOT find the remote control, which is what we were looking for in the first place.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011

Happy New Year's, everyone!

For those of you reading in various feeds, I did post yesterday.  I soon pulled the post, I just didn't like how it came together.  Most of the info in that post will reappear later this week.  (If I get my act together.)

Do you make resolutions?

I don't, even though I think it is a great idea.  I like to set broad goals which I actually have some chance of hitting.

I have no ambitious goals this year.  Just to survive, maybe.  :) 

I think that my everyday goals will find me.  Many of them are the same as they've been for many years: Keep on, keepin' on.  Laundry.  Staying on top of the kid's schooling.  Healthy meals.  Exercising to stay healthy in order to have more energy and to be a better wife and mom.  More efficient home management.   Teach a teen to drive.  (There's that 'survive' thing, again!)  Grow a healthy family, in so many different ways.

Philosophically, I hope to love better - to communicate that love more effectively, to know and love my children as individuals, to reassure them at the deepest levels that they are loved and wanted and always will be.  I want my friends to know that they are loved.    I hope to understand faith more, to study and to learn; but at the same time to retain a simple trust in a God who cares and who willingly involves Himself in our lives.

Read.  Think.  Learn.  Love.  Create.  Live.  These simple words sum up my goals.  They are how I want to spend my time.  Most days, I wish that I had twice or thrice the time I've been allotted.  There's SO MUCH living to do, so much LIFE to cram into such a small space.  Oh, yes.  I mustn't forget sleep.  Sleep is very important.  :)

Anyone want to share your goals for this year?   Please feel free - I'd love to hear!