We Have A Walker

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William is a full fledged walker now and has been for about two weeks. Walking has always been my favorite milestone. I don’t dread the extra mobility and mess that comes from having a walker. Watching the little one teeter and totter as they explore their world at a completely different view brings me incredible joy. It’s also nice not to have to carry them baby everywhere! However, there is something very bitter sweet this time around as I watch William enjoy his new found freedom being a walker has brought him. I am reminded that he is now approaching one and soon I won’t be able to call him a baby. He will be a toddler. I am acutely aware that this is the last time I will watch my baby learn to walk. Never again will I watch and cheer on my baby to take those first few steps. Never again will I encourage my baby to have the confidence to trust himself and let go of the furniture to walk unassisted. William is our last.

I have known that William was our last; since I was put on bed rest 2 weeks before he was born because of debilitating pain. I knew when the midwives and OBGYNs couldn’t come to an agreement on inducing me. There were those that were in favor and than there were those that didn’t want to deal with the extra complications my back added to the picture. My surgeon said it was probably unwise to have another baby. My pain management doctor said it would be disastrous for my health. My body tells me daily that it couldn’t handle another pregnancy. Knowing all this has made me want to savor every moment of his babyhood. I am acutely aware of what a miracle he is and how blessed we are to have him.

I have carefully saved our baby stuff since Paul was born. As each boy outgrew things I would carefully pack them away for later. When the next baby needed them I would retrieve them from storage. This has been the cycle for the last seven years. However, this time there is no need to pack things away for the next baby. So, as William has outgrown stuff I’ve sold or donated most of it; keeping just a select few clothes to turn into a quilt. It has been incredibly hard to give away the baby stuff; not because I am a huge sentimental person and want to keep every little item but because it makes the knowledge that William is our last a reality. It confirms that my body has betrayed me and can not carry another child.

You hear of those women; who say they feel done. That they can’t imagine having another child. I find myself envious of that because I don’t have that. It’d make things easier if I did. I can’t imagine not ever having another baby. I hate pregnancy….I loath pregnancy but I love babies. I love being a mom. It’s something I dreamed about for as long as I can remember. I tried to adopt a baby at 10 years old. Not as in I wanted my parents to adopt the baby. It was a full fledged case of I wanted to adopted the baby myself and be her mom. I was certain I would make a better mom than her biological mom.

I can’t say that if we were able to still have children we would. I just want that option. I want the option to have another child be there. But, it isn’t an option; so instead I find myself making sure that I am enjoying every ounce of babyhood that William has. I basking in it. As I watch him toddle across the living room I am reminded of all the reasons why this is my favorite milestone. I celebrate it. Soaking up the joy but in the private recesses of my heart I might just cry a little.


1-8th Grade History for under $200 ($25 per year!)

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I had grand plans of teaching history using a  laid out curriculum; that utilized a classical approach. I had researched a ton of curriculum options and settled on one that came with a high cost of several hundred dollars a year. It was suppose to be perfect. I ordered the first unit and quickly realized when I tried to implement it that it wasn’t going to work for us. It was to much and frankly boring. It didn’t keep Paul’s interest. He wasn’t interested in learning about things chronologically. He didn’t want the boring stuff. He wanted to pick a subject that interested him and dive in.  So, we promptly threw in the towel on our fancy expensive curriculum and decided to go with child led unit studies.

In teaching this way our biggest asset is our local library. I let Paul pick a topic and than we go on to the library catalog and start reserving books. Once, they have all arrived (our library is very small; so we rely pretty heavily on inter-library loans.) we go and pick them up. I use pinterest to assembly a list of hands on activities Paul can pick from. We normally do around 5 activities per topic. I try to find at least one field trip in our area that ties in. We will also do virtual field trips via the internet. I can normally find a couple good documentaries or movies on netflix as well.

However, I do have a couple materials that in my opinion are worth investing in. They are materials that can be used over and over; regardless what historical topic you are studying. They can all be purchased for under $200 and will serve you all the way through eight grade. When used in conjunction with the library and internet they help you provide your child with a quality eduction in history. (They could even be used through high school either with a curriculum or continue to be used with unit studies). They are the following:

I bought two poster frames from Walmart ($15 each) to put the maps in to make them easier to use and keep them looking nice.

The other thing is a timeline. I think a timeline is so important for children because it helps them see how history builds on itself. It helps them see the relation between people and events. As we study each topic we add relative events and people to our timeline using figures from the timeline figure collection I listed above. Now, there are timelines you can buy to hang on your wall (like this) but I was to cheap for that. So, what I did was get some painters tape and make my own. I added dates to the tape and that is our timeline. Here is a photo; so you can see what I mean. It’s worked out really well for us and cost me under $5.  So, what is your favorite product for teaching history?

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Learning through TV shows and Movies

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We are big fans of fun educational videos in our house. Videos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you have a very visual learner like a couple of my boys are than maybe the following list will help you. Here are some of our very favorites. Some of them we’ve bought and others we enjoy via Netflix or checking out from the library.

LeapFrog Learning Videos: These videos have long been favorites with our crew when they are toddlers and preschoolers. These videos are a great way to help with ABC’s, numbers, shapes, phonics and other basic early learning skills. We watch them on Netflix but if you wanted to buy them they can be found at Amazon.

Magic School Bus: I bought the complete series off of Amazon and we love pairing them with the books. My boys (and even I) have learned a ton about a wide variety of science topics from watching them.

Wild Kratts: Available on Netflix you can also purchase collections of episodes very inexpensively on Amazon. (Makes a great gift!). We bought the Wild Kratts: Wildest Animal Adventures from Amazon. Paul has learned so much about animals from this show that the last time we were at the zoo he gave the zookeeper sitting next to the cheetah exhibit a lecture on cheetahs. The zookeeper was blown away by all the information Paul knew.

Bill Nye the Science Guy: I personally kind of hate him. He brings back unpleasant memories of being forced to watch him when I was in school as a kid. (I would have rather been reading) but we check out his videos from the library and the kids enjoy them.

Liberty Kids: I can’t recommend this series enough for early elementary age kids studying the American Revolution. It’s an incredibly accurate cartoon series. We bought ours off of Amazon for $5. I have heard that you can find them on youtube as well.

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego: This is a fun way to learn about different geographical places.  The complete series can be order here on Amazon.

Animated Hero Classic Series: We check this out from the library. A series of 20 biographical that are typically 30-40 minutes long. They have videos about people like George Washington, Harriet Tubman, The Wright Brothers, etc. The movies can be ordered on Amazon. However, if you want to order them the best value I have found is directly from the company Nest Learning that produces the movies. We have not watched any of the bible movies.

I recently came across this blog post that has a great list of movies and documentaries on Netflix that can be used with Story of the World. Even if you don’t use Story of the World (we don’t) it is a great list!

PBS shows like Sid the Science Kid, Word Girl and Super Why are great educational shows for kids. They aren’t my personal favorites but kids can still learn a lot from them. They are readily available on netflix or on PBS.

I also came across the website Teach With Movies. I haven’t used it yet because it is mostly geared movies for kids older than mine but it has some good content on it and I’ve bookmarked it for the future.

What are you favorite educational movies or tv shows for kids?


Family Fun on the Cheap

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I love going out as a family to experience new things. I love taking our kids to museums and other activities. However, with 4 kids it can get expensive. We quickly figured out that even with just 2 kids it could get expensive. So, my goal is for my children to be able to get great experiences but do it in such a way that we don’t break the bank! Here are some of our favorite ways to have family fun.

Explore Local/State/National Parks: Many parks are free or very cheap to get into for the day. If you will be going to a lot of national parks getting an annual pass is well worth the cost. It’s $80 for a family pass. However, there have several different kinds and specials. If you are a military family you can get a free one. With 58 national parks there is something for everyone. Go here to search and see what parks are near you or near your vacation spot. State parks are also a great place to visit. It’s easy to find these with a quick google. Same for local parks.

Museum Passes: For our family it is almost always a better value to buy a yearly family pass to local museums, aquariums and zoos. Most of the times they pay for themselves in 2-3 visits. Also, many of them have great reciprocal programs that can be used if you travel often to visit out of state family. The three best values that I have found (that get you access to the most museums/zoos/sciences centers are the following two. Boonshaft Museum of Discovery and CuriOdyssey. I always suggest that if you are buying a membership (especially if it isn’t local) and planning to use the reciprocal program on a regular basis that you call the places you are interested in using it at and make sure they are still part of the program.

Groupon: This is a great place to get discounts for local places. You can also find off the wall places that you might not normally have found. Two years ago when we visited Oklahoma for our Godson’s baptism I was able to get a groupon to The Museum of Osteology in OKC. This is a totally unique off the wall museum and my kids loved it. They wish it was close to us so we could go back on a regular basis. I always encourage people to check out lesser known museums. There are some real gems out there. This summer on our way home from a family reunion we are planning to make a slight detour and take our kids to see The Unofficial Lego Museum.

Blue Star Museums: This is specific to military families. From Memorial Day to Labor Day many museums across the USA take part of the blue star program and give free admission to military members and their families. You can find a list here. The list for the upcoming summer will be available in May.

Tents for Troops: Another program specific to military families. This program is a collaboration of camping sites across the USA that allow military members and their families to camp for free. Info on this program can be found here.

Free Bowling for Kids: This is a great program that families can take advantage of during the summer. Info can be found here.

Free Skating for Kids: Another great program for families to take advantage of. This one is all year. Info can be found here.

Community Programs: A great place to find things to do is to check your local town or nearby towns websites. Often you can find things like concerts in the parks, theater performances, farmer markets, parades, festivals and other free/low cost activities. Not only do you get to spend some good quality time with your family but you also help teach your kids the importance of community.

Local Library: A great place to find things like story time and other fun activities. Our current local library shows new kids movies on a big projection screen every couple of months. It’s free to go. My kids get the experience of going to the movie theater without the price tag.

$1 Movies and Movie Nights at Home: Some communities have dollar theaters which is a great way to take your kids to movies without it costing an arm and a leg. Regal Cinemas offers a program called Summer Movie Express where they play family friendly movies for $1 a piece. Info can be found here. We like to do movie nights at home on a regular basis. We will either borrow a new movie from the library (libraries are a great free way to enjoy new movies) or rent one from Redbox. We’ll have popcorn and sometimes I’ll buy a couple $1 boxes of candy for the kids. Everyone will get into their pjs and we’ll all hang out in the living room and watch the movie together. Here are some other ideas from interest to make movie nights at home more special: Drive in Movie at home, backyard movie night, Dinner Themes to go with Disney Movies and Concession boxes.

So, what is your favorite way to have family fun on the cheap?


Old Friends Together Again

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For the past 6 years on March 4th I have done one thing; no matter what was going on in my life  I’ve called my father. Regardless, of how strain things were between us we connected on the anniversary of Steven’s death. This year it’s bittersweet.  Not only does it mark ten years since Steve passed; it’s the first anniversary that my father isn’t here for. There was no phone call to make. There’s no one to reminisce with who understands who Steve was and what he meant to me. Steve was the one thing my dad and I had in common after I married. Our love for Steve was the only thing that could transcend our estrangement.

Despite, the fact that I felt my father’s loss immensely on the 4th there were two bright spots this year. The first being the fact that there is a lazy dog laying on my couch. We brought Pepper home with us after our visit in November. He was my childhood dog and a gift from Steve. I was 13 when I decided I wanted a dog. My dad didn’t want a dog in the house but said if I paid for the dog I could get one. I had $65 dollars to my name. Pepper was advertized in the paper for $125. So, I went to Steve and sweetly asked him to make up the difference. Steve knew my dad didn’t want a dog and he adored me. So, as my dad use to say Steve and I staged a coup. Steve took the day off of work and drove the three hours and bought Pepper. He told me to enjoy my gift and keep my money. My dad was so mad that Steve saddled him with a dog in the house. Steve just laughed and said, “Well, I couldn’t tell her no.”

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The second bright spot is that hopefully Steve and my dad are sitting somewhere together. Once more kicking back; maybe with a beer (or whatever the equivalent is in the after life) telling tales. Losing Steve broke my dad. He wasn’t ever the same afterwards. Steve was my dad’s best friend but he was more than that. He was a brother. My father was closer to Steve than he was to his three biological brothers. Despite, the fact that logically my father knew he couldn’t have saved Steve the fact that he didn’t ate him alive. Steve told my father once that knowing him gave him 10 extra years. I watched in the  first couple of years right after Steve died the guilt eat my father alive. Nothing helped absolve him of his guilt. I watched Steve’s and Sherry’s tragic ends eat away at my parent’s relationship. My father blamed my mother for his inability to save Steve and that blame became a constant source of friction in their marriage. I watched my father turn to more drugs and more booze to deal with it. Steve’s death haunted my father till the end.

When I went home to see my father before he passed him and I spoke about Steve in great detail. We discussed things that we hadn’t ever spoke about before. I expressed to him that Steve would be waiting for him. My father told me his biggest fear about dying was that Steve wasn’t going to be there. He worried that Steve was still running from his demons. I told him maybe that was why he had to go. It was time he went to save Steve in the afterlife. Maybe, he wasn’t meant to save Steve here but rather save Steve from purgatory.

After, Steve killed himself my father went over to his house and cleaned up the mess that was left behind. He was left with the task of cleaning up what remained his his best friend’s skull. It is a task no one should have to undertake. It is a task that left my father with nightmares in the years to come. He wasn’t sure what to do with the truck bed of dirt, blood, skull pieces and brain matter; so he drove out to a friend’s acreage and buried it all out in the back forty. I asked if he would like some of his aches scattered there; so that part of him could be with Steve. He surprised me by saying, “Oh, that isn’t necessary. When I buried the remains I kept a small piece of Steve; so that he’d always be with me.” There wasn’t much left to say after that.

So, while I missed my father something awful on the 4th it gives me comfort to think that the two of them are joined once more. I hope they are sitting up their shooting the breeze and talking about the good old times; like when Steve called my dad to tell him to come over quick and bring his rifle. He had trapped the stupid squirrel that had been living in the attic in the laundry room.


Birthdays Galore Without Going Broke

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It’s birthday season in our house. We have three birthdays between January and April. Needless to say by the time we get to the end of April this momma is birthday out. However, birthdays are important in our house. For example with one son born so close to Christmas I always want to make sure his birthday doesn’t get lost in the celebrating of Christmas. With their birthdays so close it can be tempting to celebrate them at once but I want them each to have their own special day.

Growing up birthdays were a big deal in my family. My father use to wake me up at 5:24am every birthday to wish me happy birthday. He said he wanted to say it at the exact moment his greatest joy was born.(Funny part of it was that my birth certificate says I was born at 5:24pm. He swore it was a misprint.) Even, after I moved out he would still call me at exactly 5:24am my time. That meant for the 5 years we lived in a different time zone he was actually waking up at 4:24 his time to call me. His birthday call is probably one of the things I will miss the most now that he is gone.

For most parents birthdays are an extravagant expensive occasion. It is an occasion were hundreds of dollars is spent. I am part of several mom’s groups and I think for most a birthday party cost somewhere between $500-$1000 by the time they pay for the party and gifts. I just can’t wrap my mind around spending that much on a child’s birthday. You times that by four and Mark might very well have a heart attack. Time and time again I hear parents say kids have to have these fancy parties. It’s what ever one else is doing. They expect it. You build your child’s expectations.

Our children always enjoy their birthdays and  we are not spending $1000s of dollars on them. The birthday boy gets to pick where they would like eat for dinner that night. (It’s almost always chic-fil-a) We do cake, ice-cream and gifts together. They pick a family activity to do. In past years we’ve had movie night at home, visited museums and picnics at the park. As they get older we start having small low-key parties at our house. Nothing fancy. We invite a few friends over: play and share cake with them. The kids have a great time. The stress is low for me and it doesn’t break the bank.

So, here’s to making birthdays special and remembering that to make them special it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.


Limbo

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I have sat down so many times over the last month to write about my father. I have hundreds of thoughts on the subject of his passing swirling around my brain but the words seem to escape me. In some ways it seems surreal that he is gone. After all he was only 47. It was so quick. One day he was being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and told he had three months to live. Elven days later he was dead. I am left in limbo.

There is no relationship to grieve. We weren’t close. Until, my father became sick I hadn’t spoken to him in a year. I hadn’t seen him in almost five. Long before I kicked my mother out of my house my father had essentially exited my life. In the seven years since Mark and I married I saw my father a grand total of six times. That includes the visit to see him after he was diagnosed with cancer. In those seven years we only talked on rare occasions- holidays and birthdays for the most part. Never longer than five minutes. It wasn’t always like that. Growing up all the way into my teen years my father and I had a very close relationship. We could talk for hours. When his best friend Steve died I was the one; who sat with him for hours as he cried and reminisced. We mourned Steve’s loss together. I admired my father and respected his opinion. We didn’t quarrel and didn’t have a rocky relationship.

My father suffered from tremendous guilt concerning Steve and his inability to save Steve’s widow from her self. After Steve died my beloved father was replaced by an addict. The addictions were many- drugs, alcohol and gambling. He was trying to balance being a functional member of society with nasty addictions. Addictions that cost a lot of money. There wasn’t enough to go around. Money became a constant source of stress. He was desperately trying to balance a house of cards. The stress, guilt and addictions ate him alive. Pretty soon my beloved father was nowhere to be seen. All that was left was a shell that looked like him but the part that counted was gone. The man that was left behind wasn’t the same man that had loved me my entire life.

By the time I met Mark my father’s and mine’s relationship had already started to fray. Marrying against his wishes caused everything to unravel. Despite the fact that my father had no objections to my husband (he was fine with us living together and playing house as he put it.) and I was happy he couldn’t forgive me for getting married. He believed I threw away my life. He was angry that I didn’t give in to his bullying and ultimatums on the subject. We ended up on opposite sides of a line drawn in the sand and there was no middle ground on the subject. The drugs and booze had changed him. The addict couldn’t forgive me or see that I was happy. He couldn’t be happy for me. He couldn’t love the married me. There could be no relationship between us because he despised what my life had become.

When I went home to see him right before he passed he told me he forgave me for getting married. He told me that when you are dying there just isn’t any room for hate anymore. He told me he could see that I had needed to escape and Mark gave me that. He told me he loved me and hadn’t stopped. During the visit I caught glimpses of pre- addiction him. I am glad I went to see him. I am glad I was able to tell him that I loved him and that I didn’t hate him. I am glad that I was able to tell him that I never stopped caring.

However, his forgiveness doesn’t sit well with me. It makes me angry. I did nothing that needed forgiving and his forgiveness doesn’t strict me as genuine. He didn’t forgive me because he wanted to make amends and have a relationship with me. He didn’t forgive me because he thought, “well crap I have four grandchildren I don’t know and I want the chance to know them.” No, he forgave me because he was dying. He forgave me because he was dying and wanted to make sure his affairs were in order and nothing stood in his way of getting into Heaven.

All these facts leave me in limbo. I don’t miss him but feel like I should because he was my father. There is nothing to miss. He wasn’t in my life and I’ve already spent to many years missing him. You can only miss a person for so long before you have to just move on for your own sanity. I can’t feel sadness that he is going to miss this or that event because he missed so much while he was alive. I  can’t mourn the fact that my children lost their grandfather because he chose to not have a relationship with them. They aren’t missing anything because it was never there.

What I can feel is relief. Relief that my father is no longer in pain. Relief that he has moved beyond the world of addiction, guilt and pain that he lived in for the last decade. It feels wrong to feel relief; after all he’s dead. I feel fear that he isn’t sitting in Heaven like everyone wants to say he is. He use to say he was paving him way to Heaven one good deed at a time but you can’t buy your way into Heaven. You can’t dress up sin in fancy clothes and make it into a good deed. My father wasn’t a bad person. He was a good man; who just had a penchant for making bad choices. You can’t walk the line he walked and than assume you are going to automatically make it into Heaven. Though, I wish it was that easy.


Fake It Till You Make It

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“Fake it till you make it” is what my good friend Lauren likes to say. She’s a fellow gimp; a sufferer of chronic pain. Every single person has experienced pain at some point in their life. For most people pain is temporary. It’s something that goes away with they get better or their circumstances change. Then, there are people like me and Lauren, who suffer from chronic pain that by definition either persists for a long time or constantly recurs. A better definition is pain that never goes away and has no end in sight. I have had pain; to some degree for the last five years. I had a nine month reprieve when I was pregnant with Antonio. The pain subsided and went into hiding but came back with a vengeance when he was born.

I was eight years old when they diagnosed me with scoliosis. Scoliosis that was so severe they thought I had bone cancer or something. I thought it was pretty crazy at the time. How could there be something wrong with me? I didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel sick. Six months later I started wearing a hard shell back brace; my personal torture chamber. If I hadn’t hurt before I did now. They said it was going to fix me but all I knew was I went from not hurting to hurting for eighteen hours a day and wanting to do nothing but cry. I had to learn how to function in pain and how to push past it. (This was good training for the future) I wore the brace for three years. Imagine my relief when they said I was done and never had to wear the brace again. If my parents would have let me I would have burned the thing. (I believe it is somewhere in their attic; so maybe one day I’ll get to!)

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Similar to the brace I wore

At 11 years old I thought I was done with scoliosis- done with the pain. Up until high school that was true. In high school I started to have flare-ups. They were almost always in times of high stress. I would end up in horrible pain for several weeks and then it would subside. I had to have special accommodations at my job because I couldn’t stand for 4 or more hours without ending up in pain. I had to quit a job because they couldn’t accommodate my need to be able to sit down.

However, for the most part I still lived a normal life. I was able to go hiking, play sports, go dancing (badly), wear high heels and do things quickly. I had no clue the sort of limitations chronic pain could put on you. When Mark and I were engaged I saw a back doctor and did a bout of physical therapy because of a bad flare-up. This doctor told me I wouldn’t need a spinal fusion till I was an old lady. I thought I had decades. Fast forward five and a half years later Mark and I were sitting in a different doctor’s office and he was confirming what we already knew. I needed a spinal fusion and I needed it as soon as possible. We saw him in April and I had surgery June 6.

My scoliosis had progressed at an alarming rate in the previous five and half years something that was highly unusually. When someone with scoliosis reaches skeleton maturity (around eighteen.) their curves stabilize. If they do worsen it is by half to one degree a year. My curves changed between twenty to forty degrees each. At the rate they were progressing I was going to start having issues with my internal organs in the next few years. My surgeon ended up fusing from T-3 all the way down to L-4. Basically half my spine.

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The black box shows the portion of my spine that was fused.

The pain right after surgery was the worse pain I have ever experienced. Those first few days I was sure that I was going to die because of the pain. Given the amount of pain drugs I was on I shudder to think of what that pain would have felt like without medication. When I woke up in the ICU my pain level was so high I remember begging for pain medicine despite the fact that I was on a morphine pump. Mark says I pushed the button constantly and kept saying the stupid thing wasn’t working. I didn’t even know who Mark was. I just knew that he was important. My lifeline holding me together. The first several months after the surgery are a pain filled haze. There are large holes in my memory.

We had hoped that a side effect of the surgery was going to be no more or at least significantly less pain after I got through the recovery. Pain relief wasn’t the reason we did the surgery; stabilizing the spine and preventing damage to my internal organs was. But we were hopefully it would greatly help with my pain. Originally, we thought it had been successful. Six months out of surgery I still had some pain  but it was way less. As long as I didn’t overdo it. The only part that was still extremely painful was my left shoulder blade area but it wasn’t all the time. It was occasional and I wasn’t going to complain.

July 2013 Mark was deployed and I was preparing to move the children and myself to a new rental house. During that process I started to have pretty severe pain in my right hip/lower back area. At first I thought I had just over done it. However, even with rest and doing every trick I knew to help with muscle strain nothing helped. The pain just got worse. Pretty soon it was radiating into my butt, upper leg and lower back. I started to have trouble walking and started to hear a popping sound. Off to see the back doctor I went. He diagnosed it as dysfunctional si-joint. Also, by this time my shoulder had gone from an occasional pain to an all the time pain.

I have accepted that pain problems will always be part of my life. I’ve been blessed that we have good health insurance and I have good doctors who work with me to try and manage my pain. But managing my pain doesn’t make it go away. It is simply a band-aid fix. We simple put a bandage on the pain to lessen it. When that bandage falls off my pain returns full force. I hurt every single day. Odds are I am not going to tell you that. I am not going to acknowledge it even if you ask.  I am probably not going to tell you that I hurt or I will play it down. When I tell you I am fine when you inquire as to why I am limping it isn’t because I think you don’t care. It isn’t because I am a masochist. It’s because talking won’t change it. Telling you about it won’t change that I hurt and most people don’t get it. I’ve had people tell me it’s all in my head. I’ve had people tell me if I just tried harder to think positive I’d feel better. I’ve had people tell me I give my pain to much power.

I don’t talk about it because it’s hard to explain to someone; who hasn’t experienced chronic pain what it’s like. It’s hard to explain how chronic pain affects every single aspect of your life and the lives of those closest to you. I can no longer go hiking. Some days even walking the couple hundred yards to our mailbox is more than I can do. My children ask, “Mommy are you hurting to badly to do this today?” “Mommy, can I sit on your lap or are you hurting to badly?” My six and four year old shouldn’t have to ask that. They shouldn’t have to understand that sort of physical pain. However, it’s their reality no matter how much I wish it wasn’t. I can no longer do days of activities because it wears me out and leaves me hurting. For example this past weekend when we went to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house. I had to spend the next day taking pain pills and sitting in the recliner with the heating pad to recover. Next week we are going to the zoo with the homeschool group. I have already cleared the next day of our schedule because I know that I am going to be out of commission.

People wonder why I would want to live in an RV with my family. Part of the reason is because I would be able to take care of the space. I would be able to keep on top of cleaning an RV. I am physically unable to keep our almost 2000sqf home clean even with Mark helping me. Something that takes a normal person five minutes takes me ten to fifteen minutes. That’s on a good day. On a bad day it can take me twenty or more minutes. Mopping just the dining room makes my shoulder/neck hurt so badly I have to take a thirty minute rest period. Vacuuming the main carpeted areas puts me out for at least a hour and a half. One a bad day I am incapable of doing either of those things. On a bad day I can barely manage to make meals for us.

The other night I got up to use the restroom and my hip gave out on me. It caused me to fall. Since, Mark was at work I had to drag myself across the floor to our bed and then use the bed and night stand to hoist myself back into bed. Come morning I was unable to get myself out of bed. Mark had to help me. This is the reality I live in. I have to measure everything in terms of if I do x I won’t be able to do y and z. I need to not do x so that later I can do y. My new pain management doctor told me he didn’t know how I was functioning. I told him because I had no other choice but to. My kids deserve a normal mommy- a mommy who can play with them and take them to do things. My husband deserves a normal wife- who doesn’t hurt all the time. So, I’ll fake it till I make it. I will keep putting band-aids on my pain. I’ll wear a smile on my face and pretend I don’t hurt.


The Crazy Dream

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Anyone who knows my husband knows that he likes to save money. He has crazy budget spreadsheets that project out for years. A lot of the times he starts talking numbers and I struggle to keep my eyes from glazing over. It’s mind boggling to me his ability to budget so far out and talk big numbers. He dreams of early retirement and being able to retire when William heads to college. We’ll be in our mid-40’s at that point. This dream and love of saving money means that on occasion he throws out crazy ideas; ideas that I promptly shut down and veto. Sometimes, after the initial veto I will take a moment to reconsider and open up to the idea; like when he suggested we become a one car family.

The other night we were having our monthly budget meeting to talk about upcoming expenses. We were talking about where we could cut our expenses and had pretty much came to the conclusion the only place really left to cut are transportation and housing. All of a sudden he threw out the idea of living full time in a travel trailer. He threw it out there facetiously. Imagine his surprise when I took it seriously. Not only did I take it as a serious idea; I thought it would be a great.

I can see it now you are scratching your head and thinking, “Wait, don’t they have 4 kids?” or “Why, would she want to live in such a small space with 4 kids?” All legitimate questions but it is entirely possible and do-able to live in a RV with four kids. Actually, a ton of people live full times in RVs with their families. This family does it with 11 people. This family does it with 6.There are websites like full time families that are dedicated to helping families find resources need for their travels and connect with other full timers. There are facebook groups, books, etc. The amount of information out there is astounding. They come from all sorts of walks of life but there is one resounding element found in each family- they want freedom and family time.

I was all ready to start this adventure when our current lease is up next fall. 11 months to plan and prepare were more than enough time in my mind. Mark being the voice of reason pointed out some things that made this unlikely…mainly the cost of an rv that would be comfortable for our family size. He also pointed out that a radical lifestyle change like this is something one should be well researched and prepared for. After the initial disappointment (what can I say I really love this idea!) I could see his point. So, with that in mind my hope and dream is that in three years when it comes time to pcs again we can buy a RV and become full timers. (Mark still isn’t sure what to make of my enthusiasm. He is still wrapping his mind around it being a viable option; because he never thought I would go for.) Now, we won’t be able to travel for most of the year because of Mark’s job; that will have to wait till after he retires. We’ll be stationary most of the year.

However, we’ll save a good amount of money than if we lived in a regular house. We’ll be able to save more towards his dream of early retirement. We’ll be able to travel more when he takes leave. Traveling can be difficult when you have 4 kids. Hotels become expensive. Camping is much cheaper. However, I am not cut out for tent camping. RVing I can do. I want to be able to show my kids all the amazing things our country has to offer. I want to take them to see the Grand Canyon (when we are pass the toddler stage. Taking toddlers to the Grand Canyon makes me feel like a panic attack is coming on!) I want to take them to see Yellowstone and so much more. All of that becomes a much greater possibility if we live in an RV full time; own a RV.

It’s not just about the freedom to travel either. Yes, living full time in an RV will have challenges but it also simplifies things. There will be less space to clean. Less spaces means less stuff because you simply don’t have room for it. Living in a large house it is so easy for your stuff to overtake you. For you to end up with more stuff then you really need because well you have the space for it. That isn’t true in an RV. There is a simplicity that comes with living in an RV and having less stuff.

So, there you have it my crazy dream that I want to make a reality.


Laura’s House

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 laura's house Standing outside the farm house.

My love affair with reading began when I was 7 years old courtesy of a librarian named Mrs. Street. I can still see her friendly smile in my mind. I was bored with school and the picture books that were given to me to fill my spare time; while I waited for the other children to finish. My teacher sent me to Mrs. Street with the request that she find me a chapter book to read; something that would keep my interest and keep me from chatting with my neighbor. Mrs. Street handed me The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I devoured the book in three days. I had officially caught the reading bug. From that point on I read book after book. I finished the entire series in the space of a month. I would go on to re-read the series over and over as a child. The set I was gifted fell apart from being read so much in the ensuing years.

I was obsessed with Laura and her stories of life on the prairie. I wanted to be her. I wanted a family like hers and to have adventures like she did. I would disappear into her world for hours. I read her, I played her and I learned everything I could about her. My great-grandmother made me two prairie dresses to wear. I adored those dresses and wore them well beyond their life span turning them into long tunic shirts after they became too short to be dresses. I use to pretend the bottom bunk of my bunk beds was a covered wagon. I had a doll that came with a trunk to store her clothes and accessories in. I used the trunk instead to pack what I would take with me on my trip west. I made a rag doll to be my companion like Laura’s doll Charlotte. I decided that someday I would go to visit all her homes.

My love of all things Little House has not waned over the years; as Mark will attest. The second winter we were living in Virginia we had a huge snow storm that left almost a foot of snow on the ground. I had never seen so much snow in my life. I promptly sent Mark out to buy maple syrup; so I could make snow candy like Laura’s grandma did in The Little House in the Big Woods. The kicker is I don’t even really like maple. I’ve had maple sugar candy and I don’t like it. But, I wanted the experience. I wanted to be able to say I made maple sugar candy just how it was made in the book. If I could have tapped a maple tree and then heated the syrup on a wood burning stove I would have! Alas, our rental house didn’t come equipped with a wood burning stove or maple trees.

pecan tree

Well, this weekend 20 years after I read my very first little house book I had the opportunity to go see Almanzo and her home in Mansfield, Missouri. We drove out there this weekend and it was amazing. It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be. The only thing that would have been better is if I could have actually touched the items on display. I will admit despite the no touching sign I did just briefly touch the top of her writing desk. It was awe inspiring to walk through the house that she walked through and lived in. It was overwhelming for this fan.

I have always loved the idea of being like Laura. Growing up I wanted a farm and use to dream about owning one with chickens and a garden. However, that’s just a little girl’s dream. Reality is I don’t like getting dirty. I can’t grow anything for the life of me. I like modern day conveniences like a washing machine. I always thought it would be cool to churn my own butter but now days churning butter would put me out of commission for at least a day due to my chronic pain. My body couldn’t physically handle the work that would come with living like Laura did.

Walking her house and seeing her belongs reminded me of just how much I loved the little house books. How my love transcended to all things Wild West and pioneer related. I use to make lists about what I would pack if I was traveling by covered wagon and had to fit everything in one. What would I bring? What would I leave behind? Life was more difficult back then. Work was harder. Yet, in a lot of ways it was simpler.

This past August when we moved (even after purging a ton) our household goods weighed in at almost eight thousand pounds. The amount of stuff is overwhelming but yet society says we need all this stuff to be happy. We need a large home to be happy. The upkeep that comes with that stuff and with having the large house is tiresome. I feel like I can never quite catch up. I think that is what appeals to me the most about Laura and the little house on the prairie. I think from the beginning at 7 years old that is what appealed to me. My life has never been simple…my childhood was filled with things that no child should have to worry about. Life was never simple. Simplicity is what I found in her books and what I craved. I think it’s still what I crave.

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