When Mom is Temporarily Broken

When Mom is Temporarily Broken

I have often joked that if I were a horse I would have been shot or put out to pasture years ago.  Luckily for me I’m not a horse.  I have rheumatoid arthriti.  I have had it for 22 years in fact. I have been fortunate to have good health insurance and receive the best treatments available.  Most of the time my disease is in remission, with just an occasional flair up.  Still, even when the inflammation and disease is under control often it is the other stuff that really takes its toll on me.

The chronic fatigue is the worst.  Sometimes no matter how much sleep I get it doesn’t matter.  Exercise helps, some, but there are times when doing exercise is really hard because even though my RA is well controlled, the osteoporosis in my feet and knees from two decades of disease is permanent and that pain almost never goes away.  I have had multiple surgeries on my foot trying to piece the bones back together.  This summer I will likely have my first knee surgery.  Sometimes I feel like Humpty Dumpty.

Then there are all those lovely side effects from the meds that allow me to live.  Most days I go about my life and I can almost be oblivious to what is happening inside my body.  You would be amazed what you can get used to and even learn to ignore when it becomes your daily version of normal.

Then there are days like today.  Today is not a good day.  Everything hurts just a little bit worse than usual.  My neck is stiff.  I can feel the heat of the inflammation on my upper back and in my shoulders.  Add to this a lovely headache with a topsy turvy stomach and it makes for a rather unpleasant day.

On a day like today I don’t want to cook.  On a day like today I don’t want to clean.  On a day like today I don’t want to play Uno with AJ when he asks me or read Jigsaw Jones to Casey when he asks.  On a day like today the children have learned that Mommy is temporarily broken and my body just needs some time to fix itself.  AJ is pretty understanding on days like today.  At thirteen he understands that sometimes I have limitations as well as good and bad days.  Its harder for Casey.  At six he doesn’t get why I was able to play with him yesterday but not today when I look just the same.  He doesn’t understand that sometimes a person can be sick on the inside and not look sick on the outside…but he is learning.

Luckily for me my husband picks up the slack and loves to play with the boys.  Still, it is a little sad to watch them all hop on bikes and go for a ride when I haven’t been able to ride a bike for at least a decade.  The boys will ask me to sled down the big hill and I would love to, but I don’t dare.  A wipe out for me isn’t just a laughing matter.  A wipe out for me can mean months of PT or some other serious injury.

Still, I know there are so many people in this world who are so much worse off than I am.  I try hard to focus on my blessings.  I am still able to walk and go about daily life most days, I’m not dying anytime soon (God willing), and they are always improving medical advancements that just might put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.

So today I will let the boys play a few extra video games to keep them busy, microwave a somewhat healthy lunch for them (they made their own cereal for breakfast), and try to take it easy so my body do whatever it is it needs to do to feel better.  But tomorrow?  Tomorrow I will play Uno with AJ and read the next couple of chapter of Jigsaw Jones to Casey. Tomorrow I will stand at the top of the hill and cheer my boys on as they slide down at break neck speeds, because life goes on.

The Practical & Natural Medicine Cabinet

The Practical & Natural Medicine Cabinet

I have a compromised immune system. It is a major side effect of the medications use to treat my Rheumatoid Arthritis. As a result, I catch everything and then take 3-4 times as long as the normal person to recover. Colds almost always turn into bronchial infections or sinus infections. The flu will inevitably turn into walking pneumonia with me. So I am forever trying to boost my immune system with supplements, healthy teas, and plenty of sleep (though I often fail when it comes to the sleep).

Because I get serious infections so often, I end up on antibiotics once or twice a year. I have noticed that lately when I get sick I am getting prescribed stronger and stronger antibiotics because my body has started to build up a tolerance to your basic run of the mill amoxicillin. This means when the day comes that the proverbial super flu finally comes a knocking, I may be in serious trouble.

Because I don’t want my children to develop a resistance to antibiotics I always buy antibiotic free meats and dairy. There have also been some changes to our medicine cabinet that honestly really work for my kids.

Most cough syrups don’t work. Don’t believe me? Ask your pediatrician. Many of them are not safe for children under six. Plus, they are filled with dyes and artificial flavors. So what is a worried mom supposed to do?  Not to mention that what ever I do needs to be simple, straight forward, and be effective.  I don’t have time for bogus products that don’t deliver.

kids_cough_syrup_product11There are now several honey based cough syrups that actually work surprisingly well. I’ll admit I was skeptical. If actual medicine was proving ineffective how was honey going to do the trick? But the honey is thick and soothing on sore throats, and the nighttime version of Zarbees has melatonin in it, an all natural chemical that the body makes at bedtime, which helps little ones to fall asleep soundly so they don’t cough during the night. Genius! (Honey is not safe for children under a year old.)childrens_nt

For sore throats I keep a supply of Burt’s Bees Natural Throat Drops, free of dyes and artificial flavors. The honey pomegranate ones taste pretty good and just like Maty’s and Zarbee’s Cough Syrup, the honey really coats raw throats.

salineWhen it comes to drippy, stuffy noses, Saline Spray is awesome. Small kids really haven’t mastered the art of blowing their noses. Saline helps to break up mucus and thin it out so it is easier and more effective when you blow. It also moisturizes raw and painful nasal passages.

Next is a treatment I bet many of you remember from your own childhood. When I was sick my mom used to slather my chest with Vicks Vapor Rub. Breathing those menthol and eucalyptus vapors really did amazing work in clearing up sinus passages.vapor_rub_product111

Maty’s Soothing Chest Rub works just like Vicks but is free of petroleum jelly or petrochemicals.

pedialyteAnother common illness this time of year is tummy bugs. Besides having a supply of Pedialyte for maintaining fluid and chemical balances, I have learned to keep a supply of Witch Hazel Wipes in the house as well. When an attack of diarrhea happens, children’s behinds get raw and painful really fast making it hard for them to wipe. These wipes sooth a rear end with the very first use.

butt wipes

The last important item in the medicine cabinet is children’s ibuprofen for fevers that go above 101. I have learned not to medicate a fever right away. The truth is a fever is your bodies immune system doing what it is supposed to do, which is fight off foreign invaders. So actually a mild fever is a good thing. So before you dose, check your child’s temperature to make sure it is really necessary.

***I am not a medical professional. I am not pretending to be a medical professional. My advice is not to be taken as treatment for your child’s illness. If your child is sick then consult with your own pediatrician about the products listed on this page. These are just suggestions I have learned from speaking with my children’s pediatrician and doing a little research of my own, as well as watching my own children’s progress while using the natural remedies mentioned in this post. I was not paid by anyone to review these products, I just really like them and they work for my kids.***

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I’ll Love You Forever…Even When You Are Driving Me Crazy

Love you Forever

I remember the days before I was pregnant with my first child the time spent longing for a baby.  I remember buying pregnancy tests in three packs because I was too impatient to wait the recommended number of days after sex to see if I had conceived.  I remember the joy I felt one January day when I tested positive for a baby…only to cry my eyes out when I started my period the very next day.  You wouldn’t think it would hurt that much.  I had only been knowingly “pregnant” for 24 hours, but after two years of trying it was like a knife through the heart all the same.

That day was the day I said out loud, “I give up!”  I was done trying to get pregnant.  It was just too painful to fail month after month, year after year.  Who knew the secret to getting pregnant was to stop trying to get pregnant?  Seriously!  I conceived my son the very next month.  No counting days, no plotting of ovulation times, not even the routine purchasing of a pregnancy test.  Before I knew it, January was mid March and it dawned on me one day that I couldn’t remember having a period in February.  I doubled checked the calendar and saw the date circled for January, but no circle for February, and now it was March.

A quick trip to Rite Aid and one bathroom use later and there it was.  Two blue lines.  Not one, but two.  I was scared to be excited.  After all, I had two blue lines in January and that ended in the blink of an eye.  I kept the knowledge of my condition to myself for a couple of days.  I was afraid to jinx it.  It was like if I actually spoke the words, “I’m pregnant,” out loud then it would suddenly go away.  After a week of it not going away I finally told my husband.

baby ajEvery mom-to-be hears over and over that the first three months are the most risky.  Most miscarriages will happen during the first trimester.  What I didn’t know, though, was that during the first trimester your uterus is building up lining and preparing to grow a baby, so you feel a lot of cramping.  For a woman scared to death of a miscarriage cramping and that “feeling of starting” a period makes for a living hell.

It is no exaggeration to say that every day for the entire first trimester I would go to the bathroom constantly to check my undies for any signs of blood.  I tried not to focus on it.  I really did.  I knew the fear and stress and I was putting on myself was no good for me, and probably not for my baby, but trying to tell yourself to not to be afraid of your worst fear when you body constantly feels like your worst fear is in process of happening is like telling a fish not to breathe water.  It can’t be done.

baby aj 2Finally the days passed on the calendar and I entered that oh so much safer second trimester.  Yes, women could still lose a baby even at this point, but somehow the pregnancy felt so much more real to me now.  I was in my fourth month and I had heard the heart beat at the doctor’s office.  There was a heart beating inside my belly and it was magical and my own heart was filled with joy.

Everyone would always ask, do you want a girl or a boy, and my answer was always the same.  “I’m pregnant!  Finally!  I don’t care what it is!  It’s a baby and its mine.  As long as it’s healthy I am the happiest mom in the world.”

As much as I would have loved for this to be a magical time to go with the miracle happening in my belly, it wasn’t.  My marriage was falling apart.  My husband had agreed to a baby, but I am fairly certain now that when he made that agreement he was under the impression that I would never succeed in getting pregnant.  Now suddenly I was, and he was not happy about it, and he let me know just how unhappy he was about the situation every chance he got.

Further, my Rheumatoid Arthritis was out of control.  By the end of the pregnancy I was no longer worrying about the baby coming out of it alive, his daily kicks let me know he was just fine, but I was seriously worrying about whether or not I would get to the end still alive.

Miraculously, and being induced three weeks early, my sweet little baby boy was born, and my life was for ever changed.  I had a new purpose.  I was a mommy and this little tiny person needed me.

AJ 5 indy

Today my “baby” is soon to turn 13, and this morning he said some very harsh words to me that left me speechless.  The angry thoughts rolling through my head were very different than the ones that came out of my typing fingers today.  What started out as a snarky and angry blog somehow became a stroll down memory lane, and the realization that the mouthy teenager insulting me this morning is still my baby boy, still needs me, and hopefully will always need me just a little when he is grown up and living on his own.

my babyChildren can bring us to the brink of madness at times, but once the anger passes, only the love remains, always and forever.










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I Had My First Husband Arrested

Arrested bI know it is impolite to air one’s dirty laundry in public, but this story represents of lot of who I am, the decisions I make even today, and is the source of my strength.  I now know I can face anything, deal with anything, and come out stronger when all is said and done.  If I can do this, I know women everywhere can do this too, and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

I was not a popular girl in high school.  I wanted to be, and because I wanted to be I tried too hard, which just encouraged the other kids to make fun of me.  Graduation came as a relief, and then I blossomed in college.  In college the smart kids are respected, not called teacher’s pet or brown nosers.

Just before I graduated from college I met up with a high school friend I knew for a long time but had not seen since graduation.  Like me, he wasn’t popular in school either.  We dated, I fell in love with him and he fell for me.  I was only 23 when we married after a year of dating.  What I did not know was that during the year we dated he was working very hard to hide the “crazy” from me.

About one month before the wedding I saw glimpses of his temper, but we were under a lot of stress from planning a wedding on a ridiculously small budget, buying a house and moving, and his mother was driving us both crazy.  It was so easy for me to say that once our life calmed down again he would stop being so angry.

I didn’t realize at the time that those early emotional outbursts were actually a warning bell ringing loudly telling me to run for it.  My parents knew though, because they tried on more than one occasion to talk me out of marrying him, but when young people are still in that lovey dovey life is wonderful stage of a relationship, not only are they blind, they are also as stupid as a brick.  I couldn’t understand why my parents weren’t happy for me.  Maybe he wasn’t perfect, but who is, and we would be just fine.

It was three weeks after the wedding that we had our first fight.  I don’t even remember what it was about, but he screamed and yelled at me for hours.  Then once he calmed down he cried and apologized and said he wouldn’t do that again.  I spent seven years going up and down the roller coaster of his ever changing moods.  He would get mad, scream and yell, then apologize and want sex to know that all was forgiven.  In the beginning I would argue back, but after a year or two I stopped arguing back and just endured his verbal abuse.

I sometimes thought of leaving him, but no one from my family or his had ever been divorced.  Marriage was supposed to be for better or worse and I still naively was holding onto that belief.

The problem with being in a verbally abusive relationship is that after a while, the victim in the relationship begins to be slowly brainwashed.  If you are told over and over enough times that “everything is your fault, you made me do this to you, you’re a bitch, why can’t you be more supportive,” you actually start to believe it.  I remember thinking all the time that if I could just change then he would be happy.  If I got a new hair cut, lost a little weight, cooked the perfect dinner, etc., then he would be the happy guy I dated and treat me better.

I did try to leave twice, and both times he came a begging and crying and apologizing and like a complete moron I bought it hook, line, and sinker.  Yes, I was stupid, but remember I was also a little brainwashed by this time.  Plus, the kicker was, he had never hit me.  Sure, he had thrown things across the room, yes he had put a hole in the wall, but I wasn’t an abused woman.  He had never laid a finger on me no matter how mad and enraged he was.

The second time I tried to leave him I told him I would only take him back if he allowed me to have a baby.  My biological clock wasn’t just ticking; it was more like daily grenades going off in my head.  I wanted a baby more than anything in the world and he was very much anti-baby.  But he agreed to have a baby and wanted me to take him back.  I showed him the day I tossed my birth control pills in the trash.  He just shrugged his shoulders.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the constant stress I was under kept my disease in continuous flare-ups.  I truly believe he thought I would not be able to get pregnant due to my assorted health issues.  Guess what, my girly parts work just fine.  Eventually I did get pregnant and that was the trigger that seemed to truly send him over the edge.

He ramped up the verbal abuse tenfold.  He would scream right in my ear until I was all but curled up in a ball sobbing on the floor.  Sometimes I think he was actively trying to make me lose the baby but whether he wanted it or not, I did give birth to a little boy who looked just like him at first (thank god not anymore).

Things became truly frightening once the baby started crawling.  He would leave the basement door open constantly even though I would close it ten times a day so the baby didn’t fall down the stairs.  He refused to believe me that the dog was a danger to AJ.  It wasn’t until she bit AJ in the face that he finally agreed the dog had to go.

I remember sitting in my mom’s kitchen and her telling me that I needed to leave him for good.  I looked at her and said “I wish he would just punch me in the face already.  That would be the last straw.  Then I would know what to do,” because remember, at this time I still did not think of myself as a battered woman.

Then it finally happened.  About a week after Christmas, on a Friday, he didn’t come home from work.  I called his cell but he wasn’t answering.  The baby had been sick that day and I was exhausted.  It was 11 o’clock pm and I finally went to sleep.  I figured at this point he was at the bar and when he drank he snored, so I put a pillow and a blanket on the sofa and locked the bedroom door to get some rest.

I was jarred from my sleep after midnight when he suddenly kicked in the bedroom door.  He was FURIOUS.  He grabbed me by the head and shoved me down into the floor, knocking over the night stand in the process.  Then he mashed my face into the mattress and I couldn’t breathe.  Just as suddenly as he came he let go and walked out of the room.  I stood up shakily and for some crazy reason I righted the night stand.  I don’t think I had really processed what had just happened and my first reaction was to stand the table back up and put the clock back on it.

I stepped out of the bedroom and into the hallway and saw him come back towards me.  He held up a kitchen knife and said, “What do you think of this?”  I lost it.  I tried to run past him to get to the stairs but he grabbed me around the waist and threw me back towards the bedroom.

For the next three hours he held me at knife point and kept telling ME to kill HIM!  He wanted to commit suicide but I had to be the one to do him in.  I was at a loss.  I remember talking and talking trying to calm him down but much of it is a blur now of just what in the hell I was saying to him.  About four in the morning his drunk began to wear off.  He was more lucid and I was able to talk him into putting the knife away.  It finally occurred to me that I was not going to die that night.  Until that moment I truly believed we were going to be on the news the next day as a murder/suicide.

I tried to take the baby and leave the house but he held the door shut and wouldn’t let me out of the house.  I had no choice but to put the baby back to bed and pretend that everything was okay now.  The thing I remember most about that night was a deep and powerful longing for my mother.  I just wanted to go be with my mom.  For the first time I was bruised, bleeding, and yes, I was now officially a battered woman.

With the dawn of morning my husband got up, poured a bowl of cereal, and acted like life was just fine.  He didn’t mention the trauma of the night before and offered to pour me a bowl of cereal, too.  As far as he was concerned, it was all over and done with now, but it was not over for me.

Later that day I went to “visit” my mom and made a hasty detour to the police station.  I filed a report, showed my cuts and bruises, and cried while clutching my son to my chest.  The officer wrote everything down and told me to go home and not mention anything to my husband.  I didn’t realize it at the time but it would take a week before they actually arrested him.  That was because they were putting together a restraining order to deliver to him as well.

I was called on Thursday and told to make sure the baby and I were out of the house by 5:30 on Friday, that they were coming to get him then and wanted to make sure we were safe.  My father went that night to buy new locks for the house.  All day Friday at work my stomach was in knots.  I remember throwing up once from the stress.  After work I told him that I was going to run to Target with AJ.  He just nodded his head and said fine.

Actually, I went to my parents’ house to wait for the phone call from Officer Fitzpatrick to tell me it was safe to go back home.  The call came just a few minutes before 6:00.  My husband had been taken away in handcuffs, was in lock up, and was given his restraining order barring him from coming anywhere near me.  Because he was arrested on a Friday, he wouldn’t be able to post bail until sometime on Monday.  He would spend the entire weekend in jail.  I breathed a sigh of relief and then my Dad went with me to my house to change all the doorknobs and deadbolts.

My now ex-husband called me from the jail six times that night crying like a baby begging me to drop the charges.  What he didn’t realize though was that the night he beat me and held a knife to me, he changed me.  I was no longer brainwashed.  I was a woman with a baby who did not want to die and I was NOT dropping the charges.  I was standing my ground.  I was strong enough to do what was right not just for myself, but for my son as well.

I truly believe abused women need to tell their story.  Not only is it part of the healing process, but maybe, just maybe, another woman will read this story and will find her strength and a way to flee from her tormentor. 

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