Monthly Archives: September 2012

So we had the stomach flu this week…

I’ve really debated writing this up. I am sure my opinion on vaccines or our experience is not new. I’ve also debated writing it since we later figured out some stuff that happened was unrelated to the vaccines. After all was said and done though, even though everything we experienced was in the “normal” range, I wound up filing a report with the site that the CDC and FDA use to monitor the safety of vaccines. So, for the same reasons that I did that, I decided to go ahead and write this out here as well.

Last week the boys had a catch up shots appointment with the nurse at our new health plan.

It’s kind of been my mode of operation (MO from here on out) to just get 1-2 shots per visit. I do this for a variety of reasons, but the main one is aluminum exposure levels. Yes, that’s right, aluminum, not the media-sexy mercury you’ve all heard about. I learned about aluminum after I read The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears. You can read all about that here for free where he has put that excerpt up on his site. While many of the people I know read that book and became anti-vaccine, that was not the case for me. I was mostly just concerned with the aluminum and overwhelming my kids’ immune systems with too many shots at once.

Anyway, we are really, really behind on shots because of this policy of mine and because the kids were sick starting last summer and continuing pretty much all last year until we moved back to Bakersfield in April (which is slightly strange considering the asthma and allergies and poor air quality this area is known for). My other MO (and our beloved and dearly missed pediatricians’ policy) was no shots when sick.

So our new health plan is very much all about meeting their standards and preventative care and governmental protocols and benchmarks, etc. and I’m not completely sure how it works, but I know that health plans get rewarded somehow when they can show that their members are up to date on certain benchmarks, like vaccines. And all three times that I have walked into the offices of our new health plan, the nurses and staff and doctors get all twitchy and wide-eyed when they pull up my kids’ records on the computer. “Do you REALIZE how far BEHIND your kids are on their vaccinations?” they gasp and lecture. Which irks me to no end, treating us as if we are walking bio-terrorists or something.

So before I really realize what is happening at this shots appointment that is taking place in a hallway-ish holding area while I am trying to comfort scared-of-pokes-kids and keep them from touching everything and without being able to discuss it with someone that actually can talk to me about about it (the nurse had to go get another nurse to make sure she was giving the right ones because “shots aren’t [her] thing”), I’ve negotiated down to two shots only, but one of those happens to be the 5-in-1 Pediarix.

Now, if you go to that handy little link I provided you above you will see that just from that shot alone, both my boys got 850 micrograms of aluminum in their system. Their other shot was Pneumococcus which was another 125 micrograms of aluminum for a grand total of 975 micrograms of aluminum. If you read that link you will also see that the “FDA requires, that all injectable solutions have the 25 mcg limit,” vaccines excepting (no one knows why vaccines are exempt). That’s right, folks, my boys got 39 times the FDA’s safe limit injected into their system in one sitting.

Once I realized this, I started researching some natural methods of detoxing aluminum out of their little systems. We had a spa day of sorts around here.

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Immediately after the vaccine, Sprout became this sopping wet emotional puddle and it’s been almost two weeks since the shot and he’s still acting that way. Everything that doesn’t go his way is a major meltdown, tantrum, flood of tears and incomprehensible whining nearly hyperventilating gibberish. Just today I tried to give him a new kind of juice and he got so upset that he was having a hard time breathing and his lips turned bluish purple. Breathe, little boy, breathe.

He also immediately got welts and a red, hot rash at the injection site. A few hours later there was a big knot under the skin that he also still has.

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And then there was the throwing up and the diarrhea. Sprout got it first. All day Thursday and into the evening. He was much better Friday and Saturday, but things came back with a vengeance Saturday night. So I stayed home with the boys Sunday morning.

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When Sparrow started throwing up Sunday night I kind of still thought maybe it was the vaccine. But part of me also knew that there was a good chance that was not the case. I was up all night with Sparrow throwing up every few minutes at times, but an occasional longer stretch would allow us to doze off on the couch together. It was so heartbreaking.

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Just as we were finishing up our billionth load of laundry from the boys, Bean wakes up late Monday night and starts. Stephen was up with her all night since I had my turn the night before.

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Side note: The last few weeks she’s seemed so especially big and grown up to me, but during all this she seemed SO LITTLE.

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After Bean got it, I knew it was just a matter of time and that Stephen and I were going down. And I was right.

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Last one standing.

We only just started to feel normal yesterday, though Sparrow did throw up a couple times again yesterday afternoon. Today we are recovered and I no longer have that feeling of wondering whether I am partaking in reality.

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Cheers! Breakfast of stomach flu surviving champions.

Even though it turns out the stomach issues were unrelated to the vaccine (though Sparrow’s vaccine weakened immune system could have made him more susceptible to picking it up, I suppose), many other things were not. I will definitely be more prepared and we are spreading those shots out more for sure!

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On being unsettled

A few weeks ago we began to seriously consider moving back into our house. And even though there were downsides, like that it was “far” from everything, I kind of started to get my hopes up.

I was most especially excited because as we started to look back over the floor plan, the realization that two giant living/family spaces was kind of unnecessary, we agreed that the “extra” one could be the school and play room.

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And let me tell you, when you have piles of books, workbooks, educational toys, curriculum, dry-erase activity books and boards…

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…like this everywhere, taking over what little space you can find in this two bedroom apartment that is shared by five, sometimes six, humans, a whole room that can be dedicated to this stuff sounds really appealing.

And the clock is ticking on our lease and making a decision.

And then last night I saw a too-good-to-be-true rental (bigger than our house for less than what we are charging our tenants) in the same neighborhood and decided to drive out there. And I called on the rental and it was too-good-to-be-true. And I drove by our house because I enjoy torturing myself.

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And tonight the decision is made. A decision that makes complete sense financially and on a whole lot of other levels, but crosses this off our list as an option. And I’m realizing that I was more attached to this idea than I was willing to admit to myself. And I’m feeling sad about it. And we still don’t know what to do. What next. Where to.

Hopes that maybe this ninth move in nine years of marriage would be the last one for quite some time. That we could finally just feel settled, to have just one solid thing.

All dashed.

First world problems.

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Curry Vegetable Stew

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I never thought I’d like curry. My only experiences had been the pungent smells coming from our neighbors houses as kids and a couple attempts at Indian restaurants that left my sinuses and digestive tract on fire. Then at the urging of Stephen (after he had been out to Indian food a few times with guys at work and loved it), I tried a few Jamie Oliver recipes and took down the amounts significantly (1/2 or less what is called for) and it became an enjoyable experience. Now we have curry a few times a month.

My sister asked me to write up this super easy curry vegetable stew I made the other night. Just for you, P.

Ingredients
-thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
-1 onion, chopped
-1 large sweet potato, chopped
-1 can garbanzo beans, drained
-1 can diced tomatoes (or half a large mason jar if you can your own)
-1 of those large aseptic containers of vegetable broth
-1/2 can coconut milk
-a few handfuls of baby greens (I used a mix of spinach, chard and kale)
-1/2 to 1 cup dry rice (I used 1/2, but next time I think I will use a full cup)
-1 tsp curry powder (we like ours pretty mild, more or less to suit your taste)
-salt and pepper to taste
-other veggies, if you desire (green beans, carrots, celery, and cauliflower would all be great additions)

Combine all ingredients in a pot except greens and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in the greens the last couple minutes of cooking. Serve and enjoy.

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Thoughtful Thursday: A New Mother, Fighting for Her Life

A few weeks ago, Heather contacted me about possibly doing a guest post on my blog or writing something to get the word out about Mesothelioma. It probably could not have come at a better time. I was starting to feel like my blog was this narcissitic place that screamed, “ME! ME! ME!” While I have made peace with the importance of documenting our lives and having a creative outlet, I decided I also wanted to devote some time and space to using this place to get the word out about important causes, companies, people making a difference in this world, and the like. I have not completely come up with the whole plan for this, but I have decided to call it “Thoughtful Thursday.” It may not be a weekly happening, but I would like it to happen somewhat often. It may be a guest post from someone like Heather, or I might put my reporter hat back on, conduct an interview and write something up. If you know someone, a company, an event or something like that which will fit in with this idea of mine, please feel free to contact me either by leaving a comment here or e-mailing me at snlwuertz at gmail dot com. For now, meet Heather and hear a little about her journey with Mesothelioma:

One of the most eventful times in a woman’s life is when she’s expecting a baby and that was no exception for me. My pregnancy was normal, feeling each movement and kick of the little one growing inside. My husband, his family, my parents, and many dear friends – whom I lovingly refer to as my “village” – were there for me throughout the pregnancy, as well as my child’s entrance into this world. My daughter, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005. It all seemed so perfect.

Much earlier than I wanted to, I returned to work when Lily was around a month old. Although I did not feel well, I thought it was just a case of
the “baby blues”. I did not have any energy and experienced difficulty catching my breath. After undergoing various tests, on November 21, 2005, I was diagnosed as having malignant pleural mesothelioma. I was devastated. There I stood with a three-and-a-half month old baby girl – one of the most joyous times in my life – and was slapped with the news that I had cancer. Having been exposed to asbestos as a child, 30 years ago, the lining in one of my lungs had been disturbed, and thus here I was.

To make matters worse, unless starting immediate treatment, my doctor gave me a life expectancy of 15 months. I could not imagine my husband and baby girl having to live without me. I knew I had to do whatever it took to beat this “monster” that had stormed into our lives. I began my quest for the best possible treatment, while my parents cared for Lily in my home of South Dakota. After much research, my husband and I were off to Boston to seek the help of one of the best mesothelioma specialists in the country.

On February 2, 2006, I underwent a surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, where the affected lung was removed, along with the surrounding tissue. My hospital recovery time was 18 days, followed by an additional two months of healing, after which I moved on to radiation and chemotherapy.

While in Boston, my village grew. We met families going through the same traumatic experience. They leaned on us and we leaned back for some extremely beneficial support. While building our circle of support in Boston, my parents were doing the same in South Dakota. Girls whom I had babysat were now babysitting my Lily. Their support means more to me than words could ever express.

When I first welcomed Lily into this world, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would have to battle mesothelioma in the first chapter of her life. I had to experience many of her “firsts” through photos. It was my love for her and my village, and their support, that gave me the strength to battle this disease and reach for the stars. I eventually recovered and am now cancer-free. Never take anything in life for granted, for nothing is guaranteed.


Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

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The “first” week of school

The nice thing about home schooling is we never really stop learning or getting out of the learning mindset. We really like doing “school” and so I have just continued doing it all summer. The area we moved from started school the first week of September. Even though Bakersfield starts a few weeks before that, I decided to keep with the September start date because that was when I always started school as a kid. It was also when our new dance season was starting so it just felt like the right “start” date for the year. If we ever decide to link up with the public charter school’s home schooling program here, I will probably have to change my start date, but for now we are keeping with September.

I decided to tier in our subjects for this school year for a few different reasons: I knew I wanted to kind of focus on learning to read and literature at first, I don’t really have the space for all of the school stuff we are going to be getting this year in this apartment, and I am not completely sure we’ll even be getting to math and handwriting (I’m just not sure they are ready for it). Keeping all of that in mind, a couple of weeks ago I finally ordered our reading curriculum, All About Reading, and the first few books from our literature curriculum, Five in a Row. We officially “ran out” of the Before Five in a Row books a few weeks ago and so I was just kind of improvising (hence The Lorax week). We have some Kumon workbooks, a few other preschool worksheet books, dry erase activity boards/books, as well as some Melissa and Doug learning toys that we were getting a lot of use out of.

My Amazon Prime membership ensured the literature books showed up immediately and we were just waiting around for the reading curriculum which got here yesterday. Last week I went ahead and eased into Five in a Row with The Story About Ping. I followed some of the stuff from the book, but I also scoured the Internet for other ideas, a map of China, the Chinese flag and a few other things. We watched episode 1 of this Wild China series (free streaming with Amazon Prime) which focused mainly on the Yangtze River region. The HD cinematography of the wildlife was really great! We went out to our favorite wildlife park to feed the ducks. It wound up being one of our shortest park trips thanks to an untimely potty accident that I was completely unprepared for. I did find this site that has great ideas for what to feed ducks instead of bread though, which I kind of already figured was bad for them.

I sat down with our curriculum last night and got a general plan for the week and a more detailed plan for today. Having the reading curriculum here makes me feel so much more organized and fills out our school day so much more nicely. I also got around to taking “first day of schoool” photos this morning. Here are some pictures from last week and today:


Our first week of dance went great. Sprout was pretty crazy (running around the classroom anytime the teacher took her eyes off him and encouraging others to do the same), but after a talking to at the halfway point he stopped running around the classroom. He said he had a lot of fun. Bean thought her first week was a lot of work and she missed her old teacher from Thousand Oaks. There was quite a bit of complaining on the way home, but I’m hoping she’ll get used to her new teacher and have fun.


Using colored pencils to make drawings of ducks, boats, and the Yangtze River.


Bean’s drawings of “the boat with two wise eyes” and the page from the book used for inspiration.


Feeding “Ping” and all his aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and friends.


Prep work last night to prepare for this morning.


This is what I had to work with for the group photo. Bean was so full of attitude this morning and threw everyone off.


Nephew.


Sprout.


Bean.


Since there was so much to do with music and sound in our book this week, I used the “sound as vibration” section of our science book. We made shakers, rubber band guitars, listened to and felt vibrations from a triangle, and tried to play the harmonica like Lentil. This, I kid you not, is the exact face Sprout made every single time he plucked the rubber band guitar, as if it is the finest instrument known to mankind. It was cracking me up so much.

I showed the kids where Ohio is on the US map in comparison to us. Quote of the day from Bean after we get done with dance this afternoon, “Mama, we haven’t been to Ohio yet. We need to go there right now. Let’s drive. We haven’t been to China yet either, let’s go there too.”

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Super easy bacon pasta

I love bacon. But it has to be cooked enough. I hated it it for awhile because wiggly bacon was all I had ever known. It shouldn’t be overcooked and black though either. Bacon is probably why I’ll never go back to being a full-time vegetarian. That and I am anti-soy.

Anyway, we all have busy nights when we are rushing around and it seems like running out to eat would be faster and easier than making a home-cooked meal. And then we find ourselves wrangling crazy kids in a restaurant or waiting in a long line with them. Everyone, including me, is whining and grouchy and tired for lack of food in a timely manner.

Well, in the time it would take you to drive to the restaurant, wait in line, pay too much for sub-par food laden with who-knows-what, you could make this.

Super Easy Bacon Pasta

Ingedients
-Bacon, cooked and chopped (The amount is dependent on how much you like bacon. I have made this with as little as three slices because that was all we had left after a morning breakfast, last night I used half a package of the pre-cooked bacon from TJs because that is what I got when I sent Stephen to the store)
-Frozen petite cut veggies of your choice (I often make this with peas, but last night I used 1/4 of a package of TJs “Organic Foursome” which is peas, carrots, corn and green beans)
-1/2 package Farfalle (bow tie) pasta
-a heaping tablespoon of sour cream
-a few handfuls of shredded Italian cheese (I like TJs Quatro Formaggio)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. During the last couple minutes of cooking toss your frozen veggies in there.

2. Remove from heat (and turn the heat off), drain. Return pasta and veggies to the pot which should still be pretty hot.

3. Add in remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.

Makes enough for our little family of five, probably 3-4 adult servings.

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Obsessed with the Lorax

Actual conversations between my kiddos…

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Sprout: This is my super axe hacker! (note, everything is a super axe hacker with this kid) Chop! Chop! I’m chopping Truffula Trees!
Bean: No! I want to have trees!
Sprout: I chopped just one tree.
Bean: OK, but you better not chop anymore! I want to have trees. That’s not the good part of the book!
Sprout: (singing) Let it die! Let it die! Let it shrivel up and die!
Bean: No! Let it grow!

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Bean: (dancing around the living room singing the “Let it grow” song) [Sprout] come with me!
Sprout: Whack! Whack! No! I’m chopping Truffula trees.

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I gave them some peanuts as I was shelling some to snack on myself.

Bean: [Sprout] catch! It's a Truffula seed! The very last Truffula seed of them all!
Sprout: I'm gonna go get my super axe hacker!
Bean: No, [Sprout]! You're supposed to treat it with care, grow a forrest and PROTECT it from axes that hack!

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