Monday, June 30, 2014

After a 4 month hiatus we now return to regular programming...

Whew, was that a blogging break or what? It wasn't really intentional, life just kinda got really busy, really quickly and I think we've fallen into a little groove here in Texas. Back in March we had been stateside for about six months and I would say we have definitely settled down. We've met neighbors, made friends, started new hobbies. I started scrapbooking with Project Life so my blogging has lagged as I try to scrap our time in Italy. We also have had a slew of visitors and generally kept really busy. Ron and I are both taking online college courses so that keeps us busy.

Lets see if I can sum it up:

March- Let's see, in March was I post-op from my surgery and finally allowed to resume normal activities. About that same time, the kids had spring break from school. This was the first year in quite a few where we decided to plan nothing. We went nowhere and it was sort of amazing. We relaxed. We played xbox, drew with sidewalk chalk and blew bubbles. We explored thrift shops and playgrounds in our town. The following week B's niece, nephew and nephew's girlfriend came to visit so that of course meant visits to Kemah, crawfish dinners and fun. Frozen came out on digital download so we watched a lot of that and at the end of the month, Ry turned EIGHT years old!
He chose a dinner at Chili's and received the two things he wanted the most: a Kindle Fire and Lord Business Evil Lair lego set.

April- Ron's youngest brother came and stayed with us for a few weeks so it was a different dynamic having seven in the house instead of six. The weather finally started to warm up without so much rain and allergens and we spent most evenings outside. After my surgery I had made it a goal of mine to make some lifestyle changes. I had given up soda back in January and after having my surgery, realized just how much weight I'd put on (roughly 15lbs while overseas and then getting settled here). Ron had already surprised me with a treadmill but it was nice to finally be able to walk in the evenings outside. I started out walking with an end goal being running (but in April I was nowhere near running yet!) We bought the kids a basketball hoop and the boys kept pretty busy ''shooting hoops". Easter came and went. Ron took the kids fishing a few times and discovered new areas around the bay.
Overall the month passed by really quickly!

May- May was a BUSY month! At the beginning of May I pre-enrolled Connor into KINDERGARTEN!

What? This little guy is already going to school? Yeah I can barely believe it. He's also already reading a lot of signs, captions, etc as well as spelling and writing notes up a storm. That first weekend in May we so excited to go to San Antonio to visit Aunt Debbie and Christoper. Chris was graduating from his tech school in the AF and it was our chance to see him before he moved to his first duty assignment: Japan! It was so much fun getting to spend the weekend with them and to see our ''old stomping grounds". We went (of course) down to the Riverwalk and the Alamo as well as the Quarry and the Japanese Tea Gardens.
 
Sidenote...this was the last time my kids were at the Japanese Tea Gardens:
Yeah, that was THREE years ago. Seems insane huh? Anyway, I digress. So we had an amazing Mother's Day weekend with family (yay!) and returned home to a busy week of Mother's Day brunches at school, Field Day, and because we are completely insane and because I have an amazing husband who pretty much lets me get whatever I want no matter how ridiculous....we got a new puppy! I pulled out every card for this one folks. "I'm turning 30 this week" and "We've been married 10 years babe" were said. And he said "Okay, Okay, but we're just looking"  Yes, yes we just got a puppy last year (Can you even believe that Lucca is almost two!?). But we're settled now. We're in a home that we own and we have no intentions of moving EVER, we won't need to worry about an overseas flight and I wanted this puppy. Now I'll be honest, I had asked before, several times throughout our marriage and was always met with a ''are you insane, you want that now? Maybe when the kids are older and can help take care of it". Because you see, I got a puppy but not just any puppy either. I got a Great Dane.
That is Stella, at 8 weeks old meeting Lucca (who weighs 14lbs). Now Stella was nervous and timid and so utterly adorable and tiny when we got her on May 15. She is very smart. She learned her name in less than 2 days, her and Lucca became instant BFF's, she got house training and crate training down quickly. The "issue" of course with Great Danes is their size. And because we've always rented and always moved, we have always had little dogs. Hence why Ron always said that we could get or even rescue a Great Dane once the kids were older. We wanted the kids to be comfortable with a big dog, not afraid. Well little Stella was born into a litter of 12 pups and her owner wanted a re-homing fee but wasn't asking any sort of outrageous price. This was the perfect opportunity to get a Dane; the kids would see her grow day to day and know her without a fear of her size. With summer right around the corner we would have plenty of time to leash train her and play. Well as I sit here and write this, my now 36lb Stella is snoring. Here is a picture from last week:
Why yes, that is my husband carrying/hugging our now 13 week old Great Dane. To say she's found a way into his heart is an understatement.

So anyway, back to May. We got Stella and that same week Logan and I celebrated our Birthday's. We had a small party with friends and a taco bar here at home. The following week Auntie Michelle came to visit! YAY! Of course we went to Kemah and Galveston and downtown Houston and hit up the outlet mall a few times. We went on Dolphin tour boats and ate Tex-Mex and grubbed on s'mores in the evenings. We basically had fun every.single.day for a week.
And immediately following Michelle's visit, we had more visitors. Nanaw and Papa and Grandma Phyllis came down for a week too! They arrived end of May and stayed into the first week of June. We did much of the same activities (Kemah, Galveston, Dolphin boat tour, Outlet Mall) with them as we did with Michelle but we also spent evenings chit-chatting and staying up late with Grandma watching Criminal Minds :) Grandma was diagnosed with Parkinson's while we were overseas so while she gets worn out a little easier these days, she's still a night owl and still keeps up with the kids!
 
It was a lot of fun having them here. While I often wish we lived closer, I love living here and I love having so many visitors (and that we can accommodate them). They stayed until June 8th, then had to head back to Kansas.

June- It's summer break! With suddenly no visitors and Ron back at work, the kids and I found ourselves with entire days needing to be filled with fun. We initially bought a kiddy pool for the backyard but have since grown to love the neighborhood/community pool. I was extremely nervous to take them to a big pool by myself. One mom and four kids who don't know how to swim real well, is totally nervewracking. But we loaded up their arms with floaties and tried it out: so. much. fun! It's a big pool and is never crowded. The kids took to the water like little fishes and the lifeguards are attentive. If it's not raining, we head to the pool every afternoon loaded down with snacks of course.

On rainy days we watch movies. I've made it my mission to show the kids all the good movies from my own childhood. Last week it rained every.single.day but it gave us an opportunity to watch 'Back to the Future' 'The Princess Bride' and even 'The Sandlot'. They also have fallen in love with "Hey Arnold". We bought a family pass to Moody Gardens, which is resort/park in Galveston. It has three Pyramids, one is a Rainforest, one is an Aquarium, and the other is a Museum and has a 3D and 4D movie theater as well as a "Beach" with imported soft sand, a water playground, a zero entry wave pool and a lazy river. The first time we went we did the Rainforest and Aquarium. Last weekend we tried out the Beach. While it started storming two hours in, we had a lot of fun before we got banished from enjoying the beach due to lightning.
Today we took to exploring a nearby Nature Center that has a 1 mile walking trail. We saw lots of rollie-pollies, ladybugs, slugs, birds, two snakes, toads, a slew of butterflies, snails, palms and cacti. It was hot (93 degrees when we started) so there was plenty of whining (both heat and snake induced) but afterward they all admitted that it was a lot of fun.

With the boys all being in school come August, Maggie and I are keeping an eye out for fun things to do just the two of us. I mentioned above that I had started working out and I'm now up to walking/jogging anywhere from 1-6 miles a day (usually treadmill in the morning and outdoors in the evenings but that's dependent on weather). I can even run an entire mile, in 11:22 seconds. I realize that is a jog to most but I am really proud of myself as I have never ran an entire mile without walking until now, at age 30. I just ordered a jogging stroller so that Maggie and I can go on walks/runs in the mornings after dropping the boys off at school this fall. She is really excited to go with me and while I wouldn't have thought I would ever buy a jogging stroller for a 3.5 year old, she is still really petite and I know she isn't in anyway up to walking 4 miles. After a great recommendation from Amy and prior knowledge with them from Hollie, we went with a BOB. I'm stalking the FedEx man I'm so eager for it to arrive!

My doctor gave me the okay to workout the second week of March and since then, I have. I walk at least 10,000 steps everyday (love the fitbit) and then mix in yoga, the shread dvd and using the stability ball as well at least 3 times a week. I've never been one who likes exercising but I really do find myself enjoying it and I love that ''me'' time. I love being outside more, I feel myself getting stronger and I've lost 11lbs without using any pills, shakes, vitamins, etc. I don't want to diet, I want to have a healthy lifestyle, be here for my kids and set a good example.  So the evenings that I used to spend sitting at the computer eating oreos, surfing pinterest and blogging...I no longer have time for. I'm usually exhausted by 10pm! So while there has a been a significant lack of blogging, that's only because we're busy living life (don't worry I'm still busy eating oreo's too!).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tooth Fairy!

Logan will be seven years old in May and prior to last night, had yet to lose a tooth. Ryan is a year older and has lost seven teeth so to say Logan was eager for a visit from the tooth fairy, is an understatement.

When I took the kids to the dentist back in September, Lo had a panoramic X-ray taken and the hygienist commented that his permanent teeth were just under the gumline and that he should lose those baby teeth "any day now". Well Lo is terrified that losing a tooth with hurt. He's our cautious child, always asking if this is "too dangerous" and he will not wiggle his teeth no matter how loose. Yesterday his one bottom tooth was so loose it was practically sideways and I had had enough. I could see the permanent tooth behind it. So we looped a piece of floss around it and criss-crossed pulled and that little baby tooth came right out!
He finished brushing his teeth, wrote a note to the tooth fairy and was ready for bed.
He was so excited I think he was laying in there awake until 10pm! This morning he awoke to find two crisp $2.00 bills, which to quote him "I didn't even know that these existed. I thought they were fake money. Like 5.00 but it was backwards". He was a wee bit excited :)

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Buon Appetito!

Well, our Italian night dinner was a hit! While it wasn't as good as Walter's it was pretty close. The Penne Aurora was almost spot on, I think I used just a touch too much cream as it was a little too sweet. That being said, we ate it all and the kids raved on. While it wasn't the same as Regina's, it was the most authentic pasta we've had since returning to the states.
And the bruschetta tasted nothing like Walter's but it was delicious! I think I used the wrong tomatoes but it was really good....like so good that even Ryan and Logan each ate a piece and those kids HATE tomatoes. It smelled really good and the mozzarella bubbled up nice and they just couldn't refuse.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Having an "I miss Italy" day

Today I am having an ''I miss Italy day." *sigh*

Last night, I had dreamt that I was back in Italy visiting friends. Now I just left six months ago so I'm not sure it's really time for a visit yet but whatev, a dream is a dream.

In it, I went alone and my bestie Amy picked me up at the airport. That dream-hug we shared felt SO real!

In the dream, I stayed at her house and we did all the things we used to. We chatted about life and had a cappuccino, we ate lunch at Regina's, stuffing ourselves on Penne Aurora and Margherita Bruschetta. We went shopping and I picked up pottery, olive oil and we went to the winery where I bought six bottles and joked that I really hoped the airline didn't check my bags. At some point we were in snow, which was a bit weird but I guess just weird enough to remind me it was only a dream.






So I woke up with that ''homesick'' feeling. Missing friends and a place from my past. Then when I looked outside, it was super foggy. I didn't snap a photo but I should have. It was like northern italy foggy. It seemed like most mornings from October-April, every morning it was a blanket of fog.
This is the kind of fog common to Italy this time of year...
So between the dream, then the weather, I just missed Italy today. I woke up immediately craving a cappuccino and a cornello con crema. 
This is a cup of perfection once I add about 3 packets of sugar :)
Instead I had a cup of coffee from my Keurig and hopped on Pinterest. 

It is officially my mission this week to make margherita bruschetta and penne aurora that tastes at least a tiny bit like Walter's. I found a penne aurora recipe that seems sorta similar. It's on a french recipe site but the others I found just didn't seem right.  The problem is I never asked Walter enough times what was in it to finally break him, lol. He always just laughed when we said we needed the recipe. It's a big feat ya'll. I can't seem to find a photo of the pasta (probably because I inhaled it before I thought to take a photo) but this is drool worthy bruschetta. 
What you can't see under that glorious cheese is that the bread is toasted, then lightly brushed with olive oil and a swipe of pesto, then topped with chopped tomatoes that are sprinkled with sea salt and maybe tossed with a little more EVVO, add in a bit of pepper and basil and then melt mozzarella on top. 

Heaven on a piece of bread, in short. 

So today is Ron's last day at home. It's been 11 days since my surgery and my incisions are healing nicely and I can go all day without a nap. I do get tired and I do get sore but overall I have been pleasantly surprised at how smooth this recovery has gone. Well because it's his last day home, I made us go grocery shopping all together. So I could be sure to get what we wanted/needed and he could push the cart and do all the heavy lifting. 

I bought fresh mozzarella. I bought fresh basil. I bought the pricey pesto. I found and purchased campari tomatoes (because they didn't have plum tomatoes and these look most like the ones I commonly saw at IperSimply). I still have 2 bottles left of my garlic infused olive oil from Bonamini (which apparently I never blogged about...say what!? I need to catch up!) and sea salt. I found the toasted type bread. It's not hard like a cracker but it's not soft like American bread.

Tomorrow is the day. (today would have been the day but I already had chicken prepped in the crockpot). Tomorrow is the day where I will attempt what is probably the impossible. On the menu is Penne Aurora and Margherita Bruschetta. Wish me luck!

I have a feeling that tomorrow night will probably be the evening where I try to talk Ron into letting me go back to Italy for a quick visit. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Recovering

I wrote a little about my health history in the "parents" tab at the top of this blog. Normally that isn't news that one shares on a public blog but I'm not normal. See I was surgically diagnosed with severe endometriosis, just two days after my eighteenth birthday. It had been speculated for a few years prior. After my first diagnostic laparoscopic surgery, my surgeon said that from the looks of things internally, the extent of the endometriosis that I had made my uterus look like that of someone who had already had "a couple" kids. I had a prolapsed uterus, endometriosis and "mild" PCOS. Not great news when you just turned 18 and as someone who had always dreamed of having a houseful of kids, dreamed of just being a mom. I found myself a new doctor and went on.

It was a lot to take on at 18 years old. Between the timespan of turning 18 and finally getting pregnant at 21years old, I had four total laparoscopies to remove endometrium and ovarian cysts. I had been on several birth control pills, taking them continuously as to not have a period. I did the depo lupron shot and it was horrific. Mood swings like you wouldn't believe, night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain, headaches...horrible stuff. At this point B and I were engaged, we eloped and decided to immediately try to have kids.

My odds were crap but they were best while I was young. I did several rounds of clomid (a fertility drug) and it didn't work. I ended up with a husband who deployed to Iraq and me finding out I needed surgery again. While B was deployed, I read a book called "taking charge of your fertility" and it made sense. Maybe my cycles weren't normal. Maybe I was ovulating, just not when I should be. So I charted my temps for months and learned that I did ovulate; just later in my cycle. For the first time in three years I was off of any birth control, I was charting my cycles and taking pain killers for the bad days. When B came home for r&r, we got pregnant.

It wasn't an easy pregnancy; my husband was deployed, I was really sick, I ended up with PIH and on bed rest. But I was *pregnant*! And March of 2006, three weeks early, I gave birth to Ryan. Afterward I nursed/pumped milk and went on the mini-pill. In September we were SHOCKED to find out we were surprisingly pregnant again. Logan's pregnancy was picture perfect. (I should add that once I was pregnant I was completely pain-free. While nursing, my period stopped and I was pain free.) But after Logan was born in May of 2007, I learned not to trust the mini pill and went with a Mirena IUD instead.

By November 2007 I knew something was wrong. I was in a LOT of pain and I went in to the doctor on a Friday only to learn I would have surgery Monday. I had a huge cyst in my left ovary. I ended up having another diagnostic laparoscopy; where my doctor removed both the Mirena as well as my left ovary and left Fallopian tube. It was extremely hard for me to process but I was so blessed with my two boys that I didn't hesitate nor regret losing the ovary. After the surgery I went on seasonale; the pill that you take for three months straight. Only when I got to the end of the three months, I didn't get my period. On a whim I ran to walgreens and bought a pregnancy test. More to give myself piece of mind than anything but what we learned was that I was pregnant again and that a)my body doesn't respond well to hormonal birth control and b) that apparently I didn't need two ovaries.

I had Connor in November 2008, nursed him until September 2009. By that December I was in pain again and we were talking about a hysterectomy. After all I had three healthy boys, I had tried everything else to control the pain and even though I was 25, it made sense. B and I talked and decided that we would try for one more baby. And if it didn't happen right away and I couldn't handle the pain then I would have the hysterectomy knowing I had the three boys that we were meant to have.

That first month, I got pregnant with Maggie. I cherished being pregnant for what we knew would be the last time. It was an easy pregnancy and birth and Maggie nursed until she was almost two years old. While extended breast feeding was never the plan, it worked. She was thriving and my periods hadn't returned, so I was pain free! Best of both worlds. Sissy weaned in August of 2012 and since then, it's been an uphill battle trying to control my pain. April 2013 it got bad but we were overseas. Birth control pills, naproxen, Percocet...it was to the point where nothing was working. We started talking about a hysterectomy but I didn't know how I could do that overseas. How would B miss that much work? We lived in a two story house, how would I get Maggie, groceries, the dogs even...in and out? I put it off.

I managed to deal with the pain for eight months. Eight months of pain, irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, periods that would be three weeks long and I couldn't take it anymore.

I found a gyno doctor here who came recommended and was knowledgeable with endometriosis. His action plan was the same as my previous doctor: a laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy with removal of all endometriosis. My right ovary had been functioning just fine, I got pregnant with just it twice, so the plan was to leave the ovary so I wouldn't need hormone replacement drugs.

On Thursday afternoon I had surgery. Yesterday evening I came home and today I am resting in my bedroom. The surgery took over four hours but was successful. My right ovary was perfectly healthy and remains. I have three incisions on my belly and while I am in some pain, it's not even as bad as my period cramps used to be.

I'm 29 years old and for the first time in 18 years I'm not dreading my period. It's an amazing feeling! While I do worry for my daughter, and I hope she doesn't have to go through this, I know that if she does, I will be able to support her. Despite what doctors say about endometriosis, every person is different and it doesn't mean you have to settle.

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