Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rambling Christmas Blahs

I guess it's a good thing I gave up early on the 'doing Christmas things every day' this season because I got hit with a virus that took me down. Big time. I usually get a cold each year that plows me over in some way, but this one was a little different, and not over yet so who knows how long it will actually last.

The week before Christmas I had a wonderfully productive Wednesday (12/17) - I had the day off since I was supposed to work Saturday. I got both Riley and my flu shots (finally), plus ran a ton of errands and got to have lunch with the hubby (without the kid - so exciting). Anyway, Riley started coughing that night and by the next afternoon I was totally plugged up (I don't blame the flu shot for getting sick, btw). I made it through Friday lunch before cutting out of work. Since I work from home I tried to work Saturday, but made it an hour and a half before calling it kaput. While Friday afternoon I was able to take a 3 hour nap before Riley got home from preschool, the weekend was not the same. With this virus I was especially fatigued so I spent a lot of time on the couch or in bed.

Riley was sick too, but my 4 year old still found a way to have bursts of energy that I wasn't able to keep up with. Jesse at some point got the sore throat part of this illness and a little congestion, but not much more. That's sort of how he rolls when he gets sick - hardly anything and I get nailed. Anyway, by that first Sunday my right eardrum felt like it had been damaged - super annoying and I started to cough. My symptoms were way more cold than flu and I never had a fever so it didn't seem like I needed to go in to see a doctor. Plus, when I have in the past I'm always told that it's just a virus that I will need to ride out.

By Monday I wasn't sneezing as much, nor was my right eye oozing anymore, but I suddenly felt super sensitive - like I could feel all the nerves at my skin which eventually turned into the chills and a couple times during the day I felt off balance. Oh, and I often had a headache through this whole thing. Needless to say I didn't work this day either.

On Tuesday the chills  and the weird imbalance thing were gone, but I wasn't feeling much better so again I didn't work. On Monday I was feeling the congestion in my chest and it still hadn't budged on Tuesday (and is still there as I write this). More coughing. Another nap. More TV watching. So over it.

On Sunday, 12/28, (day 11) I finally went into urgent care since it felt like I was getting worse and I'm glad I did. I found out that I have a sinus infection, possible pneumonia, and a virus induced asthma like condition that causes wheezing, shortness of breath, and bronchial like coughing. I am now on antibiotics, steroids, and an inhaler and waiting for them to finally kick in. I don't think I've been this sick since 2000 when I had pneumonia so bad that I cracked a rib from the coughing.

At urgent care - for 4 whole hours.
Wearing that mask with a sinus infection sucked.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was determined to make it to Christmas Eve on my side of the family, but it was already decided that I wouldn't go to Jesse's family on Christmas day since there was a higher concern of compromising my mother in law's immune system after her recent diagnosis. I didn't feel totally up to going anywhere, but hadn't left the house since the previous Thursday and really, really didn't want to miss my family gathering. I was planning to drive my dad there, but then got a big helping of guilt trip from him: "do you want to get other people sick?" and totally broke down after getting off the phone with him.

My breakdown was from a number of things: being down for the count for so long was taxing - I was over it (little did I know it was far from over), missing Christmas - my favorite holiday, and feeling like the hubs hadn't been supportive - at all, while I was sick. Jesse's a great guy and I don't want to rip on him, but he's not the greatest when I'm not feeling well. I have a number of health issues that have impacted both of us over the years - something that I didn't have quite to this degree when we first dated so I think it's hard for him to accept it as our reality sometimes - and it seems even harder for him when I have a virus (and when I was pregnant). I once had a doctor (from the pain clinic) who basically laid it all out and said "we are going to do what we can to make you feel better, and part of that will be you having to learn to accept that this is part of your life." I hated it when I heard it, but it's been so true.

Anyway, Jesse and I had a little talk which was super helpful. He apologized and has been much better since then, but I think he sorta feels that if I just go to the gym a little more or ate a little healthier I wouldn't get hit so hard when sick. Maybe so, but I think some people have stronger immune systems than others. When I talked to the doctor about this she didn't necessarily think it was either the need to be healthier or that I have a poor immune system. She pointed out that these whammy viruses really started after I gave birth to my little germ factory child.

It wasn't like I wasn't getting any comfort while being sick. Riley was incredibly comforting and was so concerned about me even with being sick herself. She gave me numerous back rubs, cuddles, and even sang a song for me about being sick and needing to get a good nights sleep to feel better. Love that sweet kid so much.

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On Christmas Eve, I called my brother, Barry, and asked him to bring my dad to the gathering at my other brother, John's house. I had already asked my brother, Chuck, the day before to bring my dad home since I knew I wouldn't make it late with a 4 year old and a virus. So I stayed home and when I called my dad back to tell him, you could tell he felt really bad about it, but I know he was right (sort of made me feel like a little girl again and not 42. Dad's can do that to you, I guess). I later found out that my brother Chuck didn't make it over there until 10 PM so everyone waited to open gifts until then. My dad didn't get home until 12:30 which is probably the latest he's stayed up in a long time. Chuck had to bring our uncle in to the hospital due to some health issues which is why he was late (this is an uncle that I am not close to, but was a big part of my step-family's lives).

Since I hadn't been out of the house since the Thursday before, I agreed to go out to eat. We'd pretty much run out of food so we went to Big Bowl for dinner and then decided to drive over to Oak Hill park near our house. Every year they light up the trees between November and March and it seemed like a good idea to check them out. On the way there I got a call that my uncle Barney passed away. This is my dad's brother that we just went to visit in Wyoming in September. My dad and I had just been talking about him a couple hours prior as we received his Christmas card and it noted that he was doing well. I was told that he went quickly and peacefully. I agreed to call my dad to tell him the news, but hesitated about if I should tell him on Christmas Eve when he was celebrating with family. We took a quick walk around the park while I turned Christmas music on my phone to try to get the most out of the experience. It was a short visit as Riley was ready to get out of the cold and I was ready to sit down so back home we went.

When I got home I called my dad and told him about uncle Barney. I realized that if it was my brother I would want to know right away. We knew it was coming, but were hopeful that he would have a little more time. It just made this Christmas a little sadder.

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I should mention that I also had dreams pretty much every night that I was sick, but they tended to be disturbing in nature. I don't remember most of them, but often woke knowing that I had a bad dream. In a dream that I do remember, I was in a parking garage and saw someone that I knew, but something about him made me feel uneasy. I ended up in a staircase to get away (it was more of a circular walkway floating in space that led you to the ground floor.) I was between elevator door eight (above me) and door seven (below me) and could see door six as well. Creepy guy was at door six and another guy at door seven. I decided to go to door seven instead of eight because I didn't want to insult the other guy (why would I do this?) by walking away. By the time we got to the ground floor we discovered that creepy guy had killed two people before entering elevator door six. So yeah, I was having pretty disturbing dreams.

The night my uncle died (Christmas Eve) I had a terrible night of sleep. I had skipped the NyQuil which was a big mistake because I ended up sleeping a collective total of about 3 hours. After finally falling asleep I had a dream that I was at someone's house and looking at trinkets on her glass shelves. There were some rubber like tiny frogs that came alive after I knocked over another trinket that had some oil it it. The frogs, who were almost flat, seemed to be trying to clean things up. I was also trying to fix my mess while talking to some people when I noticed that they would try to jump on me, but then fall off. But soon after I found one stuck in my hair and another on my neck. I was trying to pull them off, but became totally frozen and felt like I couldn't breathe as I looked down and found them multiplying and all over me... and then I woke and was up for the next three hours. Yay.

Weirdly, I have this thing about dreams and death. Maybe I'll write about it in another post. I often have dreams and often remember a lot of details in them, but sometimes it seems like my dreams totally get out of control and then someone dies... in real life. Has happened multiple times. I don't really think my dreams foretell a death, but I still find it kind of freaky. Usually the dreams stop once someone has died, but they haven't so either someone else is going to die (this has happened in the past), or the dreams are just because I am sick (which is what I think it is).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On Christmas morning I wasn't that excited when Riley woke up at 6:20. I felt like I was barely running on fumes, but we jumped right in to opening gifts. Jesse had surprised us with stockings (which I actually discovered at 2:30 in the morning when I came downstairs after tossing and turning after the frog attack dream). I think he did a great job with picking them out and am so grateful he did that. Jesse and I don't usually get each other gifts for Christmas so this was really about Riley opening her gifts from us, Santa, and from my dad.

Christmas Eve set up

She loves her bike!

Every year I get my dad a calendar with pictures of the family that includes everyone's birthdays. Last year I made an extra which Riley has really enjoyed. So I made another this year and right away she checked to make sure that I had all our birthdays and special holidays on there. You can add a picture to the actual date and apparently I messed up because I did not add pictures to Halloween and Christmas like last year.

Actually, this calendar was a bit of a rush job. I planned out way ahead of time this year and built the calendar through Snapfish like I have for years. I went to order my two calendars and clicked on a three pack gift option, but then realized I had no use for three and didn't want to pay the extra. For some reason I could not change my order. I deleted it, but every time I went back it only gave me the three pack option. I even tried different browsers and computers, but nothing worked. I sent a message to Snapfish through chat, and after a lot of back and forth they told me I either had to order the three pack or start a whole new calendar. That seemed ridiculous to me so I sent an email to customer service. They responded with the same message, but with terrible grammar. Now I was really ticked. They sent me an email asking about my recent experience with customer service so I wrote back and in a very appropriate and professional way explained what happened. I never heard anything more from them so Snapfish is now dead to me. I've used Shutterfly for books and prints in the past and have been happy with them so in the end I did make a whole new calendar with them (which was actually way better as they save your dates!).

Riley asked Santa for a computer with games on it so we agreed to get her a Kindle. It's been a huge, HUGE hit.

I even got the cats gifts from Santa although this might have been a mistake as I will now need to remember to get gifts in the future for them as well. I'm sure Riley won't forget that Santa brings gifts for the cats too. Above Lucy reaches out for Diablo's catnip filled toy which was clearly the winning toy. That toy has been all over the house while the crinkly toys sit lonely in one place.

And once all the gifts were opened (about an hour later) I went back to bed. I slept for a bit, got up, took Riley out for a quick bike ride, eventually saw Jesse and Riley off to go see my in laws and then I went back to bed again. I have been quite well acquainted with the bed and the couch these last couple weeks.

Jesse took a few pictures while they were at grandma and grandpa's house.

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Besides all of this we did do some other Christmas craft things that I never got around to blogging about because of the sickness and all. It appears I never shared the snowflakes we made a couple weeks ago and hung to the ceiling. We had some snowmen from a couple years ago that Riley made so I hung those up as well.

We then made some ornaments and decorated a plate for the grandparents. We gave some of the ornaments to Riley's teachers and to papa Frank as well.

If it was up to Jesse he would ban glitter from the house since it gets everywhere, but in the end he was satisfied with this project since I sealed the snowflakes with Mod Podge which worked quite well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I would love to say that sums up the Christmas holiday, but my dad called me yesterday (Tuesday) and asked me to take him to the Emergency Room since he was having chest pain. We made this trip together a couple years ago on his birthday and luckily that time and this time they determined that it was likely a strained muscle. They did tests and took x-rays and ruled out the big scary stuff. My dad will be 87 in a couple months and with two of his brother's dying this year, his other remaining brother and his only sister recently moving into assisted living I know it's been hard on him. I could see it in his face. I know he tries to hide it and be strong, but I know the look of fear... and I don't blame him. I just wish I could take it away. Anyhoo, I got to spend much of the day with my dad hanging out and talking (while wearing a face mask so I didn't get him sick) so that was good.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So that's my crappy little Christmas this year, but I have to say that even with this horrible, never ending sickness, my uncle dying, missing the Christmas activities, and my dad's health scare I am feeling very grateful for all that I have. I know this will pass and that I have much to look forward to. And even though I feel like crud and have yet to get out of my pajamas today (ha, or since December 18th) I am so looking forward to Jesse, Riley and I opening up our 'feel good' jar tonight and reading all the comments we've added throughout the year. I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up this year and this holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tis the season

This year I was determined to get in as much Christmas stuff as possible and was so excited when I came across the Twin Cities Holiday Event Guide.  I started planning right away and even sent out a couple emails to friends to plan meeting up. I consulted with Jesse, started to map out my plan, and then didn't really follow through. I thought I would even try to do something Christmas themed each day, but that quickly petered out.

Even so, it's been a good holiday season so far and it's felt like we've had just the right amount of holiday stuff for this year. Christmas for me really starts the day after Thanksgiving, and as mentioned in an earlier post we went to cut down our Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We decorated our tree on Sunday and I realized I took some pictures, but never shared them so here we are..

The day after decorating the tree (Monday), when I still thought we would do a Christmas thing each day, I presented Riley with some new Christmas Pajamas. She was especially smitten with them since they came with a tutu.

I have no idea if we did anything on Tuesday that was Christmas themed and didn't really care anymore. However, we did get to go to dinner with my in-laws including my brother in law who was in town. Again, just realized I didn't share this picture in my last post. Riley sure does love her uncle.

The day after our family Christmas Party we decided to tackle the gingerbread house. Riley really liked this activity last year so I was game at doing it again. We had some structural issues this year where I thought the house was set, but it was not and everything started to come apart... and then finally stopped. Even though there is a gaping hole in the roof I still think it turned out great.

Lucy, the cat really  wanted to help us so Riley had to hold her back a few times. Lucy doesn't look too pleased about this.

Roof separation and chimney slide. Meh.

Oh, somewhere along the line I put up the chain countdown that we've used the last couple years, but even with that we'd forget a day and then have to do two chains the next day.

When Friday came along I suggested that we go look at lights instead of having movie night. For the last couple years I've wanted to check out the Holiday Lights in the Park display, but was having a hard time getting motivated to drive 20 miles to see them. As the afternoon wore on I read a blog post that mentioned them and decided to scrap the idea (thanks Erin for the feedback!). Instead, we decided to take my dad out to dinner.  Jesse received an Applebee's gift card at his work holiday party and thought of my dad right away. At dinner, I mentioned the lights that we decided to skip and my dad said he could show us some impressive lights a few miles from his home. He took us to a neighborhood that was once gated (supposedly 5 million dollar homes), but is now open and all decked out. Apparently, tour buses drive through here. Each house was all decked out in a different style, and even though I'm sure Holiday Lights in the Park was probably much brighter, this was impressive enough for us. Riley loved it - so that's what mattered most. Plus, it was free, we were pretty much the only people driving around and we got to hang with my dad. Win.

Saturday was the day I wanted to check out the new Holidazzle Village and Minneapolis Holiday Market. I've heard mixed reviews about it - mostly how irritated people are that you have to pay to enter the market, but I was determined to go. The Village area definitely could have been built out some more. We went on the weekend that there was a dog sled exhibition and it was almost 50 degrees. I think it might have helped if we had snow as I think there was supposed to be some short rides down the street on dog sleds, but no such thing. We did see some reindeer and Riley insisted that we go on the Holidazzle sleigh to get our picture taken (the sleigh set up was simple, but nice. You handed your camera to some guy who took a picture of your family and you were on your way. It had a short line, but not too bad). Oh, and there was a drum band playing that was pretty impressive.

The market cost us $12 for two adults (Riley was free), plus food, plus the carousal ride, plus some other trinkets... let's just say it added up fast. If you go, bring cash or plan to use one of the ATM machines nearby.

Our first stop was to get food. I can't remember the place we got brats, but it was in the back corner. Jesse got the 10' Christmas Sausage and I got the Nurnberger brat and both were fantastic. Riley ate before we left, but decided she wanted a pretzel. I snuck a bite, but she loved it so much she wasn't really willing to share more than that. I wanted to get some hot apple cider, but since it was pretty warm out, there was quite a crowd, and I was trying to keep track of a 4 year old, I didn't really feel like walking around with a hot drink. Maybe next year.

It's been awhile since I've been to a Christmas market (or holiday market, in this case - um, 17 years ago in Prague, actually), but I would say that this could have been set up a little better. It was the first year so I am willing to let some things go, but I would love to go back next year to see what they learned from this first year. Jesse doesn't want to go back mostly because they make you pay to get in, but I'm sure he doesn't realized how persuasive Riley and I will be about it. 

Riley's favorite part of the whole night was seeing the people light bulbs above. Of course, these happen to be remnants of the parade that ended last year so that confirmed to Jesse that they should just have the parade again. As much as I loved the parade, I was also glad that it didn't take an insane amount of time to get out of downtown. I like that they shook things up and hope that next year is even better.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

This week

This week was a hard one, and yet a hopeful one. It was another reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to make sure your loved ones know how much they mean to you. The week started out like any other and then was turned upside down when we found out that my mother in law, Suzie, was in the hospital. She hadn't been feeling well the week before and finally went in to get it checked out and got some startling news. Turns out she has brain cancer.

Suzie had lung cancer a few years ago and beat it, but the doctors said it appears that one of those nasty, little cancer cells made it's way up to her brain and just hung out for awhile. They speculate that it recently started growing and put pressure on her brain which is why she felt numbness, had balance issues, and then had vision issues.

We were told surgery was not an option based on where the tumor was. It was just too dangerous, but they could do focal radiation. Sunday she went to the hospital; Monday she received an official diagnosis; and Wednesday she completed her radiation treatment. The medical field amazes me. She has to have ongoing MRI's to make sure all is ok, but the success rate is 85% so we are hopeful. And we are so grateful for her in our lives. (Also, lots of gratefulness goes out to my father in law who encouraged her to go to the hospital.)

Jesse's brother, Rich, flew in on Monday from Luxembourg. I'm glad he could come and be close with his mom and brother. We were able to spend a fair amount of time together during the week and Riley was delighted to see her uncle Richie and spend extra time with grandma and grandpa. She knew that grandma was sick and that it was more than a cold, but she didn't really know the scope of what was happening. She was just happy to see grandma. Jesse and I even got to go to his work Christmas party for a little get away while Riley hung out with the rest of the family. I got to see Jesse cut loose a little bit after a week that I know was difficult for him (he even was recognized as a great co-worker/employee by his peers and his boss at the party and got a nice gift card for it).

By the end of the week we were preparing to see Rich off and have one last family celebration while he was still in town. Every year Jesse's family has a large Christmas party in the weeks before the actual holiday. My mother in law is one of 11 kids, and by the time all the kids and grand kids gather together it makes sense to rent a place so we can all gather in one spot. This party was especially meaningful after all that had happened this week.

Jesse, Suzie, Michael and Richie

I love Suzie's smile here and her sister in the background grinning.

Jesse and his cousin, Tatum

More smiles!

Lots of family love

Where's Riley? The little kids love to play hide and seek in this wide open room.

Just a few of the many crockpots

Patsy's amazing veggie tree

Richie's flight was set for the afternoon so Jesse left before Santa showed up to bring his brother to the airport. Riley and I stayed behind to visit with family and, of course, to see Santa. Riley's always been hesitant of the bearded guy and has refused to sit on his lap in the past. A couple years ago she agreed to stand near him, but then regressed last year when Jesse had to hold her. I walked up with her this time and she slid right on his lap. Really? Not sure what happened, but later when I was telling her I was proud of her for sitting on Santa's lap she told me she was a little "shy" about it. Totally understandable kiddo.

Riley only asked for a few things for Christmas and one of them was little princesses and princes. It's actually quite hard to find little princes (and she totally asked where they were), but finding little princesses was pretty easy. Bonus that the princesses' dresses come off and can be put onto the other princesses. She's played with these every chance she's had since Santa gave them to her.

Riley and I decided to do a little 'silly face in the ornament' picture and Jesse's cousin, Ryan, photo bombed us. Ryan is also into photography and recently started doing family sessions. He took a lot of family pictures during this gathering (like I did last year), but I decided there was really only a couple photos I wanted and one of them is the picture below - Suzie with her siblings. All of them were there -  something that doesn't always happen - so it was a great opportunity to get everyone in one picture. (Thanks to Ryan for getting everyone posed and then making them look at me when I wanted to get some shots since there were multiple photographers in the bunch.)

So that was our crazy, upside down week that ended on a good note full of hope and love and family. I look forward to many more years with this wonderful family.