Wednesday, November 30, 2016

There's A Bumbie Under My Bed!

It's so nice to get a chance to review some children's books, especially because I have little ones who still like me to read to them, unlike Olivia and Jackson who want to go off on their own.

There's A Bumbie Under My Bed - Bethany Ramos
Are you afraid of the monsters who come out at bedtime? Do you ever wonder what lives under the bed with the dust-bunnies? Bunny-stein that's who! There's a Bumbie Under My Bed is the story of a child's relationship with various monster-bunnies that come out when he is trying to sleep. Count Hopula bounces across his bed while the Were-bunny tickles his toes. The zombie rabbit hops and plays all night, making so much noise. . . Ms. Ramos has created a great story and method for children to befriend the imaginative 'monsters' teasing them at night. By encouraging critical thinking, There's a Bumbie Under my Bed shows children how to turn fear into a fun activity before bedtime.

Do you have a little one who is afraid of the dark? Perhaps they tell you of fantastic creatures that come out once the lights are off? I remember for years Olivia would refuse to sleep because of the flying dogs outside her second story window. She honest to goodness believed that these dogs were trying to get in her window because it was too cold outside. Needless to say, we had a lot of sleepless nights in our home. (Turns out, that child strongly dislikes sleep and functions on little to none even to this day and she's eleven. Yay us!)

With creative illustrations that almost look like spray painted graffiti bordering on the slightly scary side, this tells the tale of a little one who is visited every night by a slew of fantastic creatures. Turns out it's just the child's imagination along with a flashlight to make creative shadows on the wall! It's a cute story that invites you and your child to come up with some creatures of your own.

I'm sorry I didn't get this for review before Halloween because it could have been a cute Halloween read, but if you're looking for a cute little book that you won't easily find in a library or on the shelf of Target, this would be a fun one.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blackbird by Molly McAdams COVER REVEAL

Title: Blackbird
Author: Molly McAdams
Series: A Redemption Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Releasing February 28th, 2017

Cover Design: r.b.a DESIGNS

“Consuming. Enthralling. Sexy. MIND-BLOWING. From the very first line to the very last page, Blackbird sank into me and didn’t let me go. This is Molly McAdams at her best! A must-read that will have you questioning all your emotions as you fall in love with this unforgettable story.” – New York Times bestselling author, AL Jackson

From New York Times bestselling author Molly McAdams comes a powerhouse romantic suspense that will have you questioning your morals and second guessing your view on love.

I live in a world few know exist. I’ve trained for this. I know what to say, what to do, and how to act. I’ve perfected the lethal calm required for this life.

Now it’s time to buy my first girl. But all it takes is one look at the brave girl who starts singing mid-auction for that calm to slip.

Briar Chapman is going to be the death of me, and I don’t care. I’ll take every day with her until that death comes, and I’ll welcome it when it does.

On the outside, Lucas Holt is what nightmares are made of. A man cloaked in darkness, with sin-filled eyes and an enticing grin. A devil so devastatingly beautiful and cruel that his very presence instills fear.

But beneath his terrifying, ever-calm exterior is an affectionate man haunted by a past that refuses to stay buried. And Lucas looks at me as though he’s finally found the only person who can make it all go away.

We’re a battle of the brightest day and the darkest night—and I want to lie in the wake of our war.

Exclusive iBooks Pre-Order

Read a SAMPLE of BLACKBIRD on iBooks!

Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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The Six Train to Wisconsin

I'm doing so well on book reviews so hopefully you'll find a few new ones to read and a few to purchase as well! You'll notice at the bottom of every review now I'll have an Amazon link so you can shop easily, you're welcome, lambs.

The Six Train to Wisconsin - Kourtney Heintz

Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything.

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened. 

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.

I've had this book, and the sequel, on my review shelf for a few months and I'm just now getting to it. I actually flew through this book rather quickly despite it being a little over 400 pages. The point of view switches between Oliver and Kai. Oliver would do anything for his wife Kai, he literally would go to the ends of the world for her. Kai would do the same for Oliver but she is so wholly dependent on him because she's a telepath who makes terrible choices. She feels extreme guilt and wants to save everyone all of the time even at the cost of her life or sanity. Oliver does everything he can to keep her from falling apart. One day, after the death of a child at the hands of her father, Kai is in rough shape. Oliver has been working on a plan to help Kai and he has to put it in motion a little sooner than planned.

Cue their road trip to Butternut, Wisconsin (Oliver's home town) where Kai has effectively been kidnapped by her own husband. Her irrational anger and lashing out at Oliver made her a very unlikable character for me, and I really felt like smacking her upside the head so she'd see that Oliver doesn't want to be there either but he's sacrificing for her well being.

Oh, but it's not all easy because Mickey is also in Butternut, and Mickey is Oliver's first love. Kai is angry that Mickey is a shameless flirt and makes it clear she wants Oliver even still. Now, on one hand I totally get it- I'd be angry if some chick was throwing herself at my husband. But on the other, I'd like to think I'd have some faith in my husband to stay faithful. If you don't have trust then you have nothing. (Except let's remember Kai is a telepath so she knows what Oliver thinks so yeah.. you already know how this is going to go wrong.) My problem with Kai is she acts fairly childish, much like a child stomping her foot when someone tells her no. She drove me nuts this entire book.

I'm not giving Oliver a free pass either, he did lots of things wrong. Anytime you assume you know best for someone so you do things or you fail to be honest with them, it's going to blow up in your face EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And it does in this book, big time.

Mickey's son Lukas, who has taken a liking to Kai (mostly because he has his own powers like Kai, a bit different though so Kai naturally feels like she has to guide him) is kidnapped and in the search process, Oliver makes a HUGE mistake, which Kai witnesses. Cue her leaving instead of talking to him, Oliver making bad decisions, Mickey being an idiot, and we've got a seemingly lost little boy. We meet Nathan, Mickey's ex-husband, who is kind of nuts, and everything fall apart rather quickly.

I really liked the book but I can't give it five stars only because the first 3/4 of the book are SLOW. I kept wondering where the hell the drama was. It took so long to set it up that I almost gave up but then crap hit the fan and I was all in. Would I call this a fantasy book? No, not really. It's a romantic suspense if anything else. Sure, we have Kai and Nathan (and Lukas) with their weird powers but it wasn't enough of a thing for me to push it into a fantasy or paranormal category. It's a solid 4 star read though and I'm excited to read the second book!

Monday, November 21, 2016

AFE update: losing hair, new medication, and migraines.

Last week I had another full week of appointments and this week I only have one, with my counselor. Fortunately I was able to get on the cancellation list so when someone cancelled, I jumped on the appointment, otherwise my next one isn't until mid-December.

I've been talking to a few other AFE survivors online about their symptoms and diagnoses post AFE and it's kind of a downer, really. Almost everyone I have talked to are about six months or longer since their AFE, so not quite where I'm at, but they all are frustrated with doctors who don't know what to do with them. I do know that it's so rare that it's hard to study, so it makes sense that there isn't a whole lot on the books on what to do with us. I'm learning that a lot of what I deal with isn't going to be fixed by time or medicine, that I most likely learn to live with it because there just isn't anything out there.

Hands down the worst are the migraines, with a close second being the feeling of getting the flu all of the time. I'm always achy and tired. But the migraines.. oh man. At best, I get migraines 4 or 5 days of the week. At worst, I'll have one every day. My medicine I can take to keep the edge off works maybe half of the time now. So far the consensus is that it's either hormonal, because of low sodium in me, or a combination of both, courtesy of my broken pituitary. I had some labs last week to measure my hormones and those came back normal, so I don't need hormone replacement therapy yet, which is a GREAT thing.

Another change is the medication I take for my blood pressure and depression/anxiety. So far, I haven't noticed a change in either area except the depression/anxiety medication makes me feel physically sick, so that's a lovely way to start the day. I also decided I need to get one of those pill containers for morning and night because keeping track of my medicine is getting to be difficult. I'm afraid I'm going to take the wrong thing at the wrong time or double up on something I shouldn't. Honestly, I don't know how elderly people keep this all straight.

The biggest change so far is easily my hair loss. I've  never had post-partum hair loss before, and I don't think that's what this is at all. I think it's either hormonal or medication related. It started as a few strands here or there (a few weeks ago) but this weekend I noticed every time I run my hand through my hair, a small handful will come out. It's... weird. I mean, I have extraordinarily thick hair so I wouldn't be opposed to it thinning out a bit but now I'm a little worried I need to call someone about this. I'll likely just wait until my next appointment in December to check on my medication.

But to combat feeling overwhelmed, I put up our Christmas tree on Sunday. Christmas is my most favorite time of year and I'm holding onto it like a life line at this point. We are really blessed, even more so this year, and I'll talk more about that later. I just want to soak it all up, you know?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dear Pope Francis

Oh lambs, my heart. I knew as soon as this book came through my email as a potential review I had to do it. I didn't realize how much I was going to need it soon after it came.

Dear Pope Francis - Pope Francis
In this unprecedented book, questions from children from across the world are presented to Pope Francis — and the Pope himself answers each letter. All too often, the big spiritual questions from children are ignored or written off as quaint, but Pope Francis helps every child feel God’s love and know that their voices are valued and heard. With each question charmingly illustrated by the child, Dear Pope Francis lets the Pope respond directly to each child with inspiring, meaningful answers. Pope Francis's joyful warmth and wisdom shine through for parents, grandparents, teachers and, of course, children.

I absolutely should preface this by telling you I'm not really religious. I'm certainly not considered Catholic (though I'm baptized as Catholic), but I have a special spot in my heart for Pope Francis. I feel like he really, more so than the last two Pope's in my lifetime, appreciates the differences in people worldwide and he really tries to be a good soul towards everyone. Some of the statements he's made about public issues throughout the years have really blown me away and made me look at the institution of the Catholic church a little differently.

And this book... the first thing you'll take away is the absolute candor and his genuine love of children and people. The letters from children come from all around the world and showcase their original artwork, a photo of the child and a little information about where they come for, and translated into English where needed. All of the letters are adorable, some are funny and lighthearted, some are serious, and some break your heart because you can only imagine the weight the child must have been feeling in their heart to write to the Pope for guidance. Questions like, "why do some parents argue with each other?", "do bad people have a guardian angel, too?", "my mum is in heaven, will she grow angel wings?"- so many of these questions are so hard for any parent to answer but the answers the Pope gives are just enough to make you break down and sob. The Pope shows off his personality, not something you'd think you'd really see, and does such a great job at conveying a special message with each response.

If you are book shopping for a child in your life, I absolutely recommend this one, no question. This will be one of those books I'll pull out when I need a little pick me up because though some questions make you hurt for these children, the responses give you a good reminder in your own life.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

More appointments, more pee, and trying. Lots of trying.

After last week, I went into the weekend feeling pretty damn defeated. I did some fun things, to hopefully make life a little more fun and not focus on my failures and struggles so much. But let's talk about the medical stuff first.
Last week I saw my endocrinologist and he reviewed the lab work I had done the week before. My thyroid is still considered low functioning, and everything is basically the same. He was concerned that I'm still peeing too much, which means my diabetes insipidus is maybe not as controlled as it could be. In order to figure that out, he ordered me to do a pee-in-a-jug test where they test it to see how much salt is absorbed into it... or something like that. Turns out, I peed 3 liters in a 24 hour period which is considered elevated and peeing 10 times in the course of a day is kind of high. So the recommendation is for me to take another half pill of Desmopressin in the morning (I take a half pill at night) and that should help. All well and good while my insurance deductible is met and I don't have to pay for my medications, but it's dawned on me come January 1? I can't afford all of these pills. I will become that person who has to determine what I can afford and what I can live without. I'll have to just learn to like peeing hourly.


Another concern that I have, which my OB doesn't seem to be concerned about is my scar. Because I was in a really critical situation during my c-section, I have a vertical incision. Normally it's a horizontal one, but what can you do? My problem is that for most of my life, I have had what I have always referred to as my "kangaroo pouch". It's a weird lump of fat under my belly button and no amount of dieting or exercise makes it shrink. Well, half of my scar goes over and under the flap so when you lift the flap, it basically looks like another butt hole. In my stomach.
You see? We can all just call it my second butt hole. The other super disgusting part? Is that because it's a flap (you can see the crease), I sweat during the day (thanks, hot flashes!) and it.. let's just say it leaves a residue and it's so gross. I've become that fat person that has to clean the folds of skin. It's disgusting. I cannot highlight enough how disgusting it is.


This week I saw my neurologist on Monday. That was a really depressing, and frustrating, appointment. I learned that not only did I have lung failure, amniotic fluid embolism, and the right side of my heart fail, but I also had a STROKE. Apparently having a stroke after a trauma involving blood loss and lack of oxygen isn't uncommon. But I was surprised that this was the first I had heard of it. So I left there with a feeling of defeat because though I'm only 34 and my brain is young and relatively healthy, they can't tell me how much I'm going to get back. Certainly memories that are gone, those are gone. But my short term loss? Nobody knows. We're hopefully that my brain testing in January will be more helpful.

I'm scheduled for an EEG today to see if my "brain blinks" are actually seizures. The hope is that they ARE because if they aren't then they don't know what's causing them.

I saw my general practitioner on Tuesday for a full physical. The doctor is GREAT and is so thorough, listens to everything, took a copy of my symptoms list and really tried to go through each one to find solutions. My blood pressure medication and my anti-depressant are changed so we're hoping that helps a few things. Interestingly, when I mentioned the stroke she said I didn't have one. I said, oh yes I did, I saw it on the MRI myself. So she spent 20 minutes going through every report and image in my patient file and sure enough, it's there. Bad news? Is that the MRI was taken on August 4 and the only doctor who would have known about it is the neurologist- the information wasn't readily available in my file so anyone treating me from that day until this week, wouldn't have known it.

Cue frustration and fear.

So now I have to advocate harder for myself to make sure EVERY detail of what I've gone through since August 1, as much of a pain as it is, is in my patient file on the summary page. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal, but if I get into a car accident or see a doctor who isn't familiar to my situation, they need to know right away. They wouldn't know, or maybe have time, to go into the detail pages to look for something.

So that's been my week so far. I'm feeling really down on life in general. More on that another day. But I need a nap and I'm sure you have things to do. More soon, lambs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Avelynn: The Edge of Faith

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you'll know I'm not the biggest fan of historical fiction in general. From time to time I'll pick one up and it grabs me, and that's how the first Avelynn book was for me. At the time I demanded a sequel and the author pulled through for us all.

Avelynn: The Edge of Faith - Marissa Campbell

It's the year 871. Charges of treason, murder, and witchcraft follow Avelynn into exile as she flees England with Alrik. Arriving in Wales, they find refuge among Alrik's friends in the Welsh nobility. Cast out by his half-brothers, Alrik seeks to regain his honor and earn favor with the gods. When war threatens, Alrik embraces gold and the opportunity for his crew to become mercenaries, aiding the Southern Welsh kings in their fight against Rhodri the Great.

Desperate to return home, Avelynn seeks to find a way to prove her innocence, but she is pitted against Alrik as their desires for the future clash. With battle looming, Avelynn's faith in their relationship is further tested through a bitter struggle with Marared, a jealous lover from Alrik's past. Marared's threats turn deadly, and Avelynn runs afoul of magic and sorcery, causing her to question her beliefs and role as priestess.

When Avelynn and Alrik are betrayed, Avelynn is captured and Alrik is charged with regicide. The two become separated, a chasm of greed, deceit, and ambition driving them apart. In an act of harrowing faith, Avelynn will stop at nothing to find her way back to Alrik and break them both free from Wales's bloodthirsty grasp.

I'm just going to get into it- the romance between Alrik and Avelynn is pretty damn steamy, and thank god. I have to say that being a historical romance you kind of assume their love affair would be tame given the time period but nope- and us readers fully benefit from that! We know Avelynn is basically on the run and leaves a mess behind in England. It doesn't take long for trouble to find her as they arrive in Wales, a place familiar to Alrik. Avelynn soon meets Marared, Alrik's former lover, and she doesn't accept Avelynn at all as Alrik's true love.

I have to say I really like how despite being in a Christian world, Avelynn's convictions and her love of the Goddess never wavers and it actually gives her the strength to do what she needs to do in order to clear her name. Things go bad fairly quickly for Avelynn and Alrik and Alrik's fate isn't certain as he's charged with crimes, Avelynn is captured, and people are dying left and right. The only complaint I have is that so many characters are in this book that sometimes I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and what their part in the greater story is. Big points for the story never getting dull, it's fast paced and action packed. There is more action in this book than the last three thrillers I've read combined. You won't get bored and you won't be able to put it down. I also loved how the book ended, it made it feel like if we never hear from Avelynnn again, it would be OK.

I have to give this book five stars because again, it blows away every other historical romance or even historical fiction that I've read. It's not a genre I read a lot of but I'm so glad I've discovered this author through Avelynn.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Say You'll Stay

I have to just put this out there because it's really frustrating me- I am so tired of every book becoming a series. I used to really love it, and it was always a treat if you got a sequel but it focused on other characters in the original story, but it's becoming a trend and I'm formally asking for authors to stop it. It's driving me crazy.


Say You'll Stay - Corinne Michaels

One word. 

It was all he had to do. Instead, he got on that bus and took my heart with him. 

That was seventeen years ago. 

I moved on. Marriage. Kids. White picket fence. Everything I ever wanted, but my husband betrayed me and I was left once again. 

Alone, penniless, and with two boys, I had no choice but to return to Tennessee. He wasn’t supposed to be there. I should’ve been safe. However, fate has a way of stepping in.

This time around, the tables are turned. It’s my decision. Second chances do exist, but I don’t know if we can repair what’s already been broken . . .

I mentioned that I was just wandering about Barnes & Noble one day and this book was just sad and on the floor, all alone. I took it as a sign that clearly it was meant to be on my bookshelf. Then I went home and started it right away because I had a bit of a break in between obligated reviews, so here it is.

Raise your hand if you've read a romance novel full of miscommunication because the characters were young and dumb, not willing to shut up and listen to each other, and just make assumptions- yeah, we're all standing here with our hands in the air. That's what this book is, pretty much all of the way until the end. I really liked Zach, I think he did the best he could and genuinely was trying to make the best decisions for him and Presley. Except Presley is basically every female character I can't stand, who assumes everything, keeps secrets thinking she knows best, and never listens- it never works out yet here she is, being all annoying.

Presley is fresh from her husband's death, the heap of debt he left, and she is heading home- the last place she wants to be. Baseball didn't work out for Zach, so he's been back and working on the farm, and bam- these two high school young lovebirds are trying to fight obvious fate. This time around they both have more baggage than ever before and even more secrets. Are they able to get over the past and to make a future? Who knows, but we spend the entire book trying to figure it out. It's a sweet story, you feel for Presley because what she's left with is enough to drive anyone to the brink, and you just once want her to make the right decision. I'm going to give this book 4 stars. It's not one that I would throw at a person and force them to read, but if you want a good romance with a story line trying to be serious and not cheesy, this is right in that category.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A week of appointments.

I knew this was going to be a tough week going in, and I assumed it would mostly be because I'd be overwhelmed with information. I went in feeling hopeful to see things taking a turn for the better and feeling like I was crossing some major hurdles.

Instead, I'm ending the week feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

It started with my endocrinologist appointment on Monday. He's really great and you can tell they don't see a ton of patients in the course of a day because he spends a lot of time with me. He's also incredibly intelligent and says things like, "fun fact for you" or, "here's some trivia" and then tells me some obscure piece of information that is only kind of related to what I'm dealing with, but mostly useless. It's hard to get annoyed or frustrated because you have to admire someone who clearly has a passion for what they do in their career or how someone can get SO excited over a pituitary gland. But I learned that my MRI showed that my pituitary gland has shrunk even more. If you aren't familiar, you pituitary is kind of like the ignition of a car- it's what fires the rest of the stuff in your body, I guess. The front part is a lot of hormone based things and the back half is a lot of function type things. Both parts of mine are damaged, which is why I haven't had a period, my milk never came in, and I'm experiencing menopause like symptoms. I left there with a 100% official diagnosis of diabetes insipidus and Sheehan's Syndrome.

Diabetes InsipidusDiabetes insipidus occurs when the body can't regulate how it handles fluids. The condition is caused by a hormonal abnormality and isn't related to diabetes.
In addition to extreme thirst and heavy urination, other symptoms may include getting up at night to urinate or bed-wetting. Depending on the form of the disorder, treatments might include hormone therapy, a low-salt diet, or drinking more water.

Sheehan's SyndromeSheehan's syndrome is a condition that affects women who lose a life-threatening amount of blood or who have severe low blood pressure during or after childbirth. These factors can deprive your body of oxygen and can seriously damage vital tissues and organs. In the case of Sheehan's syndrome, the damage occurs to the pituitary gland — a small gland at the base of your brain. Sheehan's syndrome causes the permanent underproduction of essential pituitary hormones (hypopituitarism). Also called postpartum hypopituitarism, Sheehan's syndrome is rare in industrialized nations. But it's still a major threat to women in developing countries.

On Tuesday I had my first appointment with my counselor. She turned out to be really fantastic and I felt completely comfortable with her. She was really nice. I spent about 90 minutes there where I basically outlined how I felt, what I'm going through daily, and then some basic history about me. It felt really good to have someone tell me that what I feel is normal, but it's scary and I need to deal with it immediately. I left there with an official diagnosis of PTSD, severe depression, severe anxiety, and passive suicidal. 

On Wednesday I went to my OB/GYN to discuss hormone replacement therapy. Apparently, age 34 is not a great time to go through an unnatural menopause. I had a series of labs taken and I should hear about those on or before Friday. But my options are pretty crappy. I can take HRT pills (two per day, a combo of estrogen and progesterone) and basically be a stroke risk because of my brain damage and pituitary gland situation, OR I can not take the HRT's and be a high risk for heart disease. It's damned if I do and damned if I don't, but as she said, if I go with the stroke option, there's always a chance it won't happen or would be "mild". Heart disease is bad no matter what, so I took the stroke option. But we'll see. Maybe my hormones are just fine despite my pituitary gland being shot. It's doubtful, but I remain hopeful. But the low point was sitting in the waiting room and realizing I was the only non-pregnant person in the room. Then I started having a panic attack that I couldn't stop. I started crying and getting hysterical. Every woman was staring at me, and by the time I got called back I felt like climbing the walls. When my doctor walked in and I explained everything, she hugged me and cried with me. And it doesn't make it any easier. 

Next week I see my original neurologist on Monday to go over the full result of my MRI. I'm a little nervous but hopeful. I also have a fasting lab and complete physical on Wednesday. My list of symptoms and things I'm dealing with grows every day and I honestly worry that I'm going to overwhelm that poor doctor. I'm starting to get frustrated when they don't know what to do for me. I can't get angry with doctors, it's not their fault I got stuck with a rare trauma. They are limited in what they can do because they just don't know, there isn't enough education out there, most people die. 

So that's where I'm at. I hate that I don't feel grateful to be here. I'm sad, angry, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted. I just.. sometimes I wish I had just died. It would have been a peaceful way to go. I was asleep and that would have been it. I don't know what's in store for me but know that I even care anymore. And I know that makes me sound like a terrible person given that there are so many fighting something worse than me. It's just.. I don't know. This is my new normal. I don't like it. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Grateful Tuesday

This week is going to be full of doctor appointments, so I'll have an AFE update for you later this week. Hopefully. I'll try to take notes at the appointments! But in the meantime, it's November, which means everyone is doing their grateful posts on Facebook and I can't remember to do that every day, so here are some things I'm grateful for:

I'm embarrassingly late posting this, but one of my long time readers, Thotlady, made this sweater and mitten set for Lucy. It's absolutely stunning and it fits perfectly! I'm so happy to have readers who check in with me faithfully and think of my family. I know what kind of time that goes into handmade gifts, so this was such a blessing.
A few of my friends sent me different necklaces with the kids' names and I love how they are so different. This is the last one I got, from my friend Amy, and this is the one Lucy sucks on the most. Good thing it's sturdy!
I'm really grateful for Lularoe and all of my friends who sell it. I have basically been living in my leggings because they don't hurt my scar and I'm too large for all of my pants and I can't afford to buy good jeans, so yay for leggings! Also, thank you to everyone who bought things during my recent Facebook party- I got a free pair of leggings and a free dress, so that was really nice!

I keep saying it, but I don't think I can really say it enough, but THANK YOU to everyone who keeps checking in on me, sending me emails, fun things in the mail, giving my kids rides places, letting them hang out with your families, feeding us, coming to my house and forcing me to go on a walk, and just being really amazing people. I don't know what I did to get all of these people in my life, but I am so grateful to have you all.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Dude Diet

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you may remember the infamous post in which I detailed a lot of the foods I won't eat. I really struggle with meal planning and most of the time I end up cooking for my family and then I forage like a squirrel because I am fully aware that I have the diet of a toddler. It's not often that a cookbook comes across my email for review so when I saw this one I immediately jumped on it because it sounded like it would up my alley. And it was.

The Dude Diet - Serena Wolf

From chef and creator of the popular food blog, 125 outrageously delicious yet deceptively healthy recipes for dudes (and the people who love them), accompanied by beautiful full-color photography.

Dudes. So well intentioned when it comes to healthy eating, even as they fail epically in execution—inhaling a "salad" topped with fried chicken fingers or ordering their Italian hero on a whole wheat wrap (that makes it healthy, right?).

There are several issues with men going on diets. First, they seem to be misinformed about basic nutrition. They are also, generally, not excited about eating "health food." You can lead a dude to the salad bar, but you can’t make him choose lettuce.

Enter Serena Wolf—chef, food blogger, and caretaker of a dude with some less than ideal eating habits. As a labor of love, Serena began creating healthier versions of her boyfriend’s favorite foods and posting them on her blog, where she received an overwhelming response from men and women alike. Now, in The Dude Diet, Serena shares more than 125 droolworthy recipes that prove that meals made with nutrient-dense whole foods can elicit the same excitement and satisfaction associated with pizza or Chinese take-out.

The Dude Diet also demystifies the basics of nutrition, empowering men to make better decisions whether they’re eating out or cooking at home. Better still, each recipe is 100% idiot-proof and requires only easily accessible ingredients and tools. With categories like Game Day Eats, On the Grill, Serious Salads, and Take Out Favorites, The Dude Diet will arm dudes and those who love them with the knowledge they need to lead healthier, happier lives—with flattened beer bellies and fewer meat sweats.

I should be up front with you that I signed up for this book review based on the cover because you know I am a total cover judger. I should also tell you that Penelope grew in-utero solely on my stead diet of nachos and chocolate ice cream with fudge brownies in it. Sure, she was a nine pound monster baby, but she was healthy!

I spent a solid day going through each recipe, diligently tabbing off the ones I knew my family would be willing to try, made myself a grocery list full of things I'm not sure how to pronounce (quinoa?!) or where to even find it in the store, and I started my journey to healthier eating.

We've made about six of the recipes but I have to tell you about two of the favorites that I have made several times- "Taco Bell" Beef Tacos (page 214). Now, I can't remember what a Taco Bell taco tastes like because it's not local to me but we love tacos. Every time I make tacos it's a sick competition between my husband and my oldest daughter who can eat the most (dad lets her win). So if there is anyone qualified to judge these, it would be them. Olivia absolutely loved them and Matt said it tastes exactly like the taco seasoning I normally use. They were really good and we've made them so many times. It's basically going to be my go to taco recipe from here on out.

The other recipe that has been made countless times is the Chipotle Chicken Taquitos. I was a taquito virgin but I had a lot of the ingredients already on hand so it was one of the first ones I tried. We had it as a supper (it's mentioned as an appetizer) so I had to literally triple the recipe and thank goodness because we ate them all. They also re-heat amazingly well for a lunch the next day too, if you happen to have leftovers. I was surprised my son liked these so much since he's not one for spicy foods but he ate them happily. (We may or may not have dipped them in cheese as well because CHEESE IS AMAZING.)

As far as cookbooks go, this is pretty fool proof. In the back there are basic directions on how to cook chicken, so if you're a person who has little to no cooking experience, this is a great cookbook to start with. And it's full of healthy food that doesn't feel healthy. Except the quinoa. I don't like quinoa. It's such a weird thing in my mouth and I stay clear of weird things in my mouth as a life rule. This is going to make a great holiday gift for the foodies in your life this year!

You'll be able to find this book on the HarperCollins website as well as Amazon.

37 Seconds

I knew the minute I had my AFE in August one of my first steps to recovery and healing was to read as much as I could about amniotic fluid embolisms. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot out there but this books stood out to me and I read it in one day.

37 Seconds - Stephanie Arnold
Pregnant with her second child, Stephanie Arnold began receiving mysterious but strong premonitions that she would die during the delivery. Distressed, Stephanie did everything she could to inform the medical team and her family about what she knew was coming. No one believed her, but Stephanie knew they were wrong. When she gave birth to her son, Stephanie flatlined and died on the operating table for 37 seconds, during which time she had a spiritual experience she would never forget.

After reading what Stephanie discovered in her search to make sense of what happened to her, you will never look at life, death, and the afterlife the same way again.

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you'll remember my reservations about my pregnancy with Lucy. At the time, I chalked it up to it being my fourth pregnancy, unexpected and unplanned, and so soon after having Penelope. Now that I've had a little time to reflect on my recent experiences I don't think that's what it was at all. I think it was my body trying to tell me something, perhaps warn me of what was to come. I think I didn't get the message and maybe Lucy picked up the slack and that's why she turned at the last minute, causing me to have an emergency c-section. Because without that c-section, I would have immediately died in my delivery room.

Stephanie Arnold felt throughout her entire pregnancy something was very wrong, that she would die giving birth to her second child. Despite warning everyone around her, nobody really took her seriously. One doctor thankfully flagged her file and that played a part in her survival. The book isn't very long, just under 200 pages, but it's a really horrific and sobering read. I think someone who hasn't survived an AFE, or had a loved one die from an AFE, would have a different feeling about this book. Perhaps you would read it as a bystander next to a car crash- you should look away but you're compelled to stare in awe. As someone who has survived an AFE, I cried. I cried because like Stephanie, I lost so many days of my life. It's hard to explain to others what it's like to come back from that and feel the way I do. One outlet of therapy Stephanie tries is regression therapy where she's hypnotized and brought back to that moment of dying and seeing loved ones in the days immediately following.

I so badly want this. 

I keep saying I wish people  had more video of me, had taken more pictures of me, no matter how painful and scary they would have been. I feel like I'm missing such a huge part of my life and I feel desperate to get it back. I wonder if people who have been in a coma for an extended time feel this way? Is there a way to get closure without hypnosis? I don't know.

This book is one of the best I've read. And I might be biased because it is SO similar to my story, but I highly recommend this. I had such a deflating feeling after reading it that the story has already been told- what would be the point writing MY story? But then after another sleepless night, I decided I have to write my story, it's different in many ways, perhaps important ways. We'll see.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Brain testing and uncertainty. But flowers, too.

The last couple of weeks I've often said I'm not sure if my memory is getting worse or if I'm just more cognizant of how bad it is. I'm not as foggy as I was in the hospital, certainly, but I'm struggling with day to day memory. I'm finding that sometimes I'm really good and then all of a sudden I can't remember stuff that I know I know. Long term memory has some spots but my short term is a total joke. It's a total joke.

I saw a neurologist while in the hospital and had a follow up in August. The game plan then was for me to come back in November for an MRI to compare it to my August MRI and see what's changed, if anything. A few days after my August follow up I got a call from the neurologist's office to say upon closer look, they saw "something" and would feel better for me to see the neurologist at the other hospital in town to have a second opinion so they could, together, come up with a comprehensive game plan for me. Now, I was initially terrified- what the hell did they see? Surely it's not a tumor, they wouldn't make me wait for a tumor, right? Well then I forgot about it (ha!) and before I know it, it's November.  Time for all of my follow up appointments, with all doctors, to begin.
On Tuesday I had my MRI. It lasted a little over an hour and they scanned my head, then did pituitary specific shots, and then some contrast scans. I kind of love an MRI because I'm not claustrophobic so much and it was the most relaxing hour of my entire week.

Today I went to the other neurologist for what I thought was another MRI and some question/answer type things. It turned out to be slightly more question/answer with some "basic" brain tests but no MRI.
I'll preface this by saying the doctor I saw was really very nice. He didn't make me feel stupid at all, and was truly in awe of what I've gone through. He asked me basic questions and took down some of the symptoms I'm experiencing and I felt really comfortable. As scary and uncomfortable it is, I am always 100% honest. I'm finding it's embarrassing to tell people what I'm dealing with. I feel self conscious and wonder if people think I'm being a baby, maybe I should just try harder, maybe I'm not as grateful to be alive as I should be?

I can't stress it enough- I am in a really weird space that you truly can't appreciate unless you're in it. You think you know how you would feel and act but I'm telling you right now you cannot prepare. You can't honestly know what it's like to be alive after dying until you're in it.

Then we went into the basic brain tests. It starts with a dot to dot exercise, I had to copy a picture, I had to draw a clock or something, and I can't remember what else. (HA!) Then he had me do some exercises to obviously test my memory and I honestly couldn't tell you what else he did but I was there for about 40 minutes. At the conclusion, he tells me I have very clear memory and attention issues. His recommendation is for me to come back for a full day of brain testing which is more involved and would be used in conjunction with the MRI that I had done on Tuesday to come up with a game plan.

It was also recommended that I not be alone with the babies at least, and I certainly shouldn't go anywhere by myself with the kids especially with what I call my "brain blinks". And I really hate having to depend on people. I don't want people to feel like they have to babysit me. My mom comes every day and I'm sure she's getting sick of it, god knows I would. I feel like I should be able to do this on my own, I shouldn't need help. Which then makes me feel like a crap mom. What kind of mom can't take care of her own kids?

Needless to say, my drive home involved a lot of tears. I'm feeling pretty down. I know that I'm only three months out from my AFE but I feel pretty discouraged. I feel like just throwing the cards in and saying screw it. Seriously. There are a lot of days where I feel like it would have been OK if I had just died. Which again, is a really strange thing to say out loud. I would have just faded out and that was that.


But then there are days like Wednesday, it was a rough afternoon. It really was. I struggled with Penelope taking a joke of a nap and then crying for three hours on and off for no reason. Oh, and she's learned how to scream for fun, so that's been exciting. Combine that with Lucy who also didn't take a great nap and I was tired. I was so tired, I was overwhelmed, and I was ready to just go to bed. But just as I was getting ready to give up for the day and say screw it all, family- friends showed up.
They showed up with flowers and a book I wanted to buy. If I wasn't on the maximum dose of anti-depressants I would have cried full out. Instead, I hugged her and said thank you. The best part of what has happened to me are the little blessings like this. It's like every time things get bad, someone out there thinks of me and it means a lot. IT really does. I don't think any of you know how big of a part your generosity, well wishes, hugs, and notes of encouragement has been in me still being here. I'm finally at the point where I recognize that I can't do this on my own and that I really need the village to help me. I'm trying to just keep it together and be positive. I'm not dying. I don't have cancer. Millions of people have it worse than me. I know that. It's just hard. Mostly because nobody really understands the spot I'm in.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Workout Wednesday: It's back, lambs.

I have to be honest with you and myself- I am fat. I'm not Mama June fat but if I don't take the reigns soon I'll be there before we know it.

I haven't felt great about myself in awhile but I let it go because I was pregnant with Penelope. And then I got pregnant with Lucy and then I pretty much bounced back from death. I'm still wading my way through those waters, and I'm not doing a great job, but I'm hoping if I did something to get myself back to a better place maybe other things will fall into place. At this point, I'm desperate enough in my depression that not only would I win myself an award for being a great actress but I really need to try something before I lose it all.

So here we are. The brutal truth is that I currently weigh more than I ever have. My highest was 208, and that was the day I gave birth to Lucy. When I went for my follow up appointment after her, about 18 days after I had her, I was 182.


Well today I'm 221.

And when I went for my MRI, not only did I cry while changing into the formless gown, but I ripped the unisex, one size fits all pants. I actually ripped them, you guys.

I can't remember when I have ever felt so low in my life.
So we meet again, Fuckmill. I moved you out of my house for a few years, content at size 12 knowing full well that's a damn good spot for me to be in. But you're back now and then I let you get dusty. But we're going to be friends again whether I like it or not.
And let me be clear, I'm not happy. I want to be skinny. I want to be that mom who bounces back to great shape after having a baby and then they jog around the neighborhood bitching about needing to lose weight. I really want to punch those people. The only upside is that I'm pretty sure I could do it and claim insanity and avoid jail.  I'm fairly certain my weight gain is a combination of my medicine and lack of exercise. Just once I'd like to be prescribed something that makes you lose weight, is that so much to ask?

A large hurdle I'm already facing is just my health. I want to be active but after starting any kind of exercise, I get light-headed, dizzy, and my hips hurt so bad. Then my back hurts, shooting pains down both legs, and a fun bonus? A headache! It's all very exciting. I'm going to ease into t hings and see if that gets better.
No weight loss start up is complete without a "before" photo. I really hope that in a few months I'll see a difference. I'd like to not look pregnant. I feel so self conscious already. It's going to get better. It has to, right?