Sunday, November 27, 2011

Long Weekend

I just had a "sort of" 4 day weekend and can't believe it's already time to go back to work! It was only "sort of" because I did have to work 4 hours on Thanksgiving day, but it was from 7am-11am so I had most of the day off. Gene has a 5 day weekend, but he's taking an online class and had a huge amount of work so most of his time has been catching up with school.

Wednesday we spent the day in Decatur. Since Gene was almost transferred there last summer and there's still a possibility he'll be transferred in a year or two, I wanted to see the town. I've only been there twice that I remember and both times were to go to the zoo. I didn't pay a lick of attention to the town or the surrounding area. Wednesday's visit was all about seeing if we could stand to live in a town best know for their stinky ADM plant. My first test was to check out Rock Springs Nature Center. If this place failed to live up to Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria, the rest of the town better ROCK! Yeah, the place was AMAZING! Hiking trails, biking trails, museum, art gallery, kids' area, indoor birdwatching area, ponds... It was great and the kids loved it. We didn't do much hiking because of my foot, but we went into a pine forest that started out as a Christmas tree farm and the kids were in love. Logan right away decided he could live in Decatur and even Kaylin slowly started to come around. We then drove around town a little, ate at Cheddar's (!) and checked out the shopping mall. We drove back through town to the zoo and children's museum area and were impressed by Lake Decatur, the size of the children's museum and the flamingo and pelican exhibit seen from the zoo parking lot. The zoo was closed for the winter and the children's museum was almost closed for the day so we didn't go inside either. I'm not quite sure how we managed to squander our entire day in Decatur doing next to nothing, but we decided we'll have to go back another day soon and go to the children's museum and find the Caterpillar plant. Overall, I would have to say I could live in Decatur. I picked up several brochures at the nature center and Macon County has a lot of conservation areas and fun stuff to do outdoors. There are plenty of animal shelters and veterinary offices and of course the zoo where I could potentially get a job. It could be a fun adventure.

Thursday, we went to Thanksgiving dinner with my dad's family. The kids had a great time playing with their cousins. Kaylin made green bean casserole and cupcakes, so I didn't have to cook anything :) Kaylin was a bit overwhelmed because the boys decided to play boys against girls in whatever game they were playing and Kaylin happened to be the only girl against 6 boys. Uh, yeah. I don't think the fact that two of the boys are toddlers even helped much. Abbey and Mollie eventually showed up so that evened things a bit. It was a good time.

Friday, the kids went to my parents' house to play with their cousins. I went birding with Meghan. We did our usual circle of Banner Marsh, Emiquon, Lake Chautauqua, Sand Ridge and Spring Lake. At Banner, we watched bald eagles hunt and saw dozens of mute swans. We were shocked by the small number of ducks at Emiquon. Two weeks ago there were thousands and thousands of coots. A report from earlier in the week had tens of thousands of ducks. All of the coots and pelicans from our previous visit were gone, along with the vast majority of the ducks that had been reported earlier in the week. We did see a nice variety of ducks including shovelers, goldeneyes, hooded mergansers, pintails, green winged teal, mallards, grebes, etc. It was shocking that water that was COVERED two weeks ago was now mostly empty. We moved on to Lake Chautauqua and saw a group of 7 swans in a field on the way. Once we got there, we saw another 30+ on the water. I saw my first harrier and several more bald eagles. A nice man with a nice spotting scope gave us a close look at the swans and determined they were tundra swans. Woohoo! Another first! We talked to him about birding for a while and then moved on to Sand Ridge where I think we saw a red tailed hawk and a few sparrows. We stopped at the Jake Wolf fish hatchery because Meghan had never been there. The place is impressive, but as always, we were the only visitors in the incredible museum area run by a bankrupt state. We moved on to Spring Lake where the duck and goose decoys vastly outnumbered the living ducks and geese. We had planned to eat lunch at Larry's Family Bar just because the name is so stupid, but they were closed for the winter. Oh well. We had to drive to Pekin instead.

The birding was a little disappointing because we were expecting to see thousands of ducks, but it was still worth the trip. The icing was a stop at that crazy landscape store in Manito with all the huge lawn statues. I had never been inside and was sort of expecting to find gardening supplies, but the store was full of smaller garden statues and all kinds of cool stuff picked up at sales and auctions. I walked out with a set of 4 owl trivets that I plan to hang in the kitchen, a wooden pig tray and a flying pig garden statue. I LOVED the store and absolutely plan to go back. If you would have told me I'd actually BUY something from that place I would have laughed. It's my new favorite store.

Saturday we put up the Christmas tree. The kids were shocked at how small it is, but THEY picked it out two or three years ago! "Yeah, when we were smaller and it looked huge!" It's probably 5 1/2 feet tall so it's not tiny, but it is on the small side for a tree. I'm fine with it.

I have a doctor appointment for my foot on Monday and I hope he lets me stop wearing the cast, but I doubt it. I'm not in horrible pain or anything, but my ankle just doesn't feel right. The injured tendon still hurts, but I don't even know how to describe what's going on with my ankle. The muscles feel tight. My calf muscles are also tight. I keep putting heat and/or icy hot on them but it's not helping.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mean Grandparents :)

Mom and Dad- stop messing with my poor boy. He came to me last night and told me "Grandpa and Grandma ARE moving in with us." I told him that no, they most certainly are not. He sadly said "Yeah, they spent too much money on vacations." I told him that you guys are teasing him. Please confirm this next time you see him!

Thursday I got a cortisone injection in my foot. The doc put me in a huge bandage until Sunday, so I'm back in the surgical shoe that I despise almost as much at the boot. He also told me to "Take it easy." I asked him to define that a bit more but he just laughed at me. It turned out I was in so much "pressure pain" from the injection I had no choice. I didn't sleep much Thursday night because just the pressure of putting my foot on the bed was annoying enough to keep me awake. It hurt to walk on Friday so I spent most of the day Christmas shopping online and playing Angry Birds. By evening the pain was significantly better and I went to dinner with Gene, but I still wouldn't have been able to walk around a huge store. I'm hoping I'll be fine for a grocery trip today and will be back to "normal" tomorrow to go back to work in the boot. Stupid feet!

I keep trying to look up vegetarian recipe ideas, but every time I find a good site I get bored and start following links to more interesting stuff. I don't write anything down and finish as clueless as I started. I hate cooking. Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Nothing

Happy Birthday, Mom! I'm glad you loved the squirrel ornament so, so much!

I've gone a week without Diet Pepsi and have been beyond surprised that it hasn't bothered me. The aspartame withdrawal I was so dreading never happened. I miss the fizzy feeling in my mouth from soda, but that's about all I miss. I'm not craving it or having to use will power to keep from drinking it. I am drinking tea because I'm not going through caffeine withdrawal at the same time I'm starting a new diet AND in pain with my stupid foot. I need something to keep me going while I'm slogging around in my soaking wet, knee-high cast at work!

The vegan diet is going okay. I've lost a few pounds, but am already bored with the food. I need to force myself to look up new recipes and get new ideas for different foods I can eat, but I find it so boring I look at one and am done. I have not had any noticeable changes in pain levels I can attribute to the diet, but it's only been a week. Also, I'm sure there is a big difference between an acute injury and chronic pain. I will need to get past my tendinitis before I know if my plantar fasciitis is improving. I'm going to get a cortisone shot right after work Thursday, so hopefully that will help. I than have to "keep quiet" the next two days so maybe I'll force myself to look up recipes. Whoop.

Logan was very disappointed to learn that my parents would not be coming for their usual Friday night visit last week because they were on vacation YET AGAIN. He started ranting about how they were spending all their money on vacations and that if they ran out of money and had to move in with us, they most certainly were not going to sleep in HIS bed! It was one of the best rants I've ever heard and has kept me laughing all week. So Mom and Dad, if you carelessly blow through all your money taking vacations, DO NOT assume you will be taking over Logan's room because it ain't happening!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cast? Noooooooooooo

Well, my good news is that the doctor released me to go back to work. My bad news is that I'm in the hated plastic air cast for at least a couple of weeks. Ugh. I know it could be much worse, but man, I HATE wearing that stupid cast!

During my time off I was researching different things about tendon injuries and how to heal them. One thing I came across was using diet to reduce inflammation. This interested me because not only do I want my feet to stop hurting, I also need to lose weight. In the past year since I missed a bunch of work for my tendon tear, I stopped exercising (doctor's orders) and gained a lot of weight. I was depressed about my feet hurting all the time and started eating more and more restaurant food, prepackaged food and junk food. My diet soda consumption is at an all time high. It is time to change my evil ways.

I just had an extensive blood panel done through work and other than my weight being too high and my good cholesterol being too low, all of my numbers were good. I need to change NOW, BEFORE my numbers start crashing! I started a vegan diet as a bit of a science experiment. I KNOW it will help me lose weight, the experiment is if it will actually help with inflammation. Will the diet itself help my feet feel better? I think it's worth a shot.

I have WAY more research to do, but starting yesterday, I quit drinking diet soda and switched to tea. I've heard quitting aspartame can be brutal and I don't want to quit aspartame AND caffeine at the same time because I just missed 4 days of work and don't want to miss more. I also eliminated meat, dairy and eggs. At the moment, my diet is centered around fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, quinoa and beans. Lots and lots of beans. I can also have whole grain pastas, rice and breads. I'm going to start out really trying to keep vegan, but seriously, this is about my health, not about not eating animal products. I will still wear leather boots and I'm not giving up my furs. Kidding... I have nothing made of fur. I'm not going to pay big bucks for egg-free bread (if bread is made with eggs- I have no idea.) Anyway, I'm being radical right now in an attempt to lose weight and completely change my eating habits. I doubt I will remain vegan or vegetarian forever unless it truly makes me feel so good I can't go back. I think it's easy to say I'm skeptical about the benefits of this diet, but this is something that if I don't go extreme and instead try to do in baby steps it's not going to happen.

Today is my baby boy's 9th birthday. How is that possible? My tough, strong baby who always knew what he wanted has turned into a tough, strong kid who always knows what he wants. Logan works hard and tries hard; he is neat and organized; he likes rules and takes pride in being good. Logan has always concentrated on his interests and this year they really turned to sports- especially baseball and football. He prefers playing sports, but when he watches them on tv he doesn't watch passively, he studies the players' moves and tries them out. Logan is very interested in weather- especially tornadoes and thunder storms. Instead of watching fire extinguisher safety videos online, Logan now watches storm videos. He knows all the different kinds of clouds and points out tornado sirens on top of buildings. He reminds me so much of the risk manager at the park district it just makes me giggle. Logan, I couldn't be more proud of you or love you more! Happy birthday!

And one last thing... I had an amazing morning of "car birding" yesterday. I was still in the bandage and surgical shoe, so hiking around wasn't an option. Meghan and I drove to Banner Marsh, Emiquon, Rice Lake, Chautauqua, Sand Ridge and Spring Lake. We birded mainly from the nice warm car, only getting out to walk short distances. Banner and Emiquon were the big winners. Banner was teaming with dozens and dozens of swans. They were everywhere! Banner is usually home to several pairs of mute swans, but we scored yesterday and found at least one trumpeter swan. Emiquon was filled with thousands and thousands of coots. Miles of coots. I looked up what a group of coots is called and it is a "cover." The coots were indeed covering Emiquon. There was also a nice mix of pintail, northern shoveler and green wing teal, along with mallards and dozens of white pelicans with probably hundreds more too far away to see more than white dots. We also saw common snipe, grebes and a few bald eagles. Oh, and a snow bunting! It was a very fun morning.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

P-T Conferences, 2011

Yesterday was one of my least favorite bi-annual events- Parent-Teacher Conferences! I haven't had the best luck with conferences in the past. Tell me my daughter is disorganized and her grades have slipped because she keeps losing her completed homework assignments? Yes. That is so true and we are working on it and she has improved vastly in the past two years. I like to know whether or not my child is participating in class and how they are doing in general. I do not like to have my thigh rubbed and then when I get up to escape, my back rubbed the entire 15 minutes. I think drama is ridiculous and when you tell me with huge eyes and exaggerated arm movements that my child doesn't conform to normal 2nd grade behavior because she jumps in puddles at recess, I will lose all respect for your authority. Especially after you tell me the same child is NOT disruptive in class, but quiet and a good student. Don't scare me to death that my child is falling behind in reading to the point we need to spend $$$$$ on tutoring NOW and then make it completely obvious you haven't attempted to get to know my child at all in his first quarter and really have no idea what his issues are. If a teacher doesn't want to (or doesn't know how to) put forth the effort to get to know a child on a personal basis, fine. That's probably way above and beyond her job description. But if you're going to do that in primary school, at least be like the upper grade teachers and treat the majority of the class like a herd. I'd rather my kids be ignored than have some idiotic teacher try to crush their individuality.

Logan's in third grade this year and has his first good teacher. I've noticed a huge difference in his attitude and willingness to learn, and after the conference I realized why. He hasn't had any bad teachers, but they've all been just okay. Mrs. H has actually made the effort and taken the time to get to know my kid. She laughed about everything from Logan's neat and organized desk to his deep voice. She understands that while Logan enjoys some praise, too much embarrasses him. She wasn't all rainbows and happiness, she also talked about how he likes to daydream and sometimes bounces or shuffles his feet. I don't like this teacher because she kissed my butt, I like her because she gets and appreciates my kid. Anyway, this conference tied for best ever with Kaylin's third grade teacher who was the same way.

I talked with four of Kaylin's teachers and I'll have to poll my teacher friends about whether I should show up for any more of her middle school conferences. I have to admit, I'm ONLY doing these so my name is on the piece of paper. I know she's well behaved and doing just fine. I know her biggest issues are organization and just finding where she put her completed homework assignment. ALL of her bad grades in 4 of 5 classes were due to misplaced homework. Huh huh, that's just something she's going to have to figure out for herself! I'm not wasting one puff of breath nagging her about something so stupid! If she spends the time doing homework and then loses it, that's her problem. I'm definitely not going to check her binders for neatness or clean out her backpack! These are things she needs to learn for herself and much better to learn the lesson in middle school than when she's in her twenties and it actually matters. Anyway, I talked to the four main teachers and not one of them said anything I didn't already know. It was a whole lot of waiting in line for very little information. I sort of felt bad for making other parents wait who may have actually had real concerns and needed to see the teachers.

Kaylin and I both had dental cleaning appointments yesterday afternoon. I have never feared or disliked going to the dentist, but the newest requirement had me squirming. It seems that the government has finally decided that dental health is very much tied into the health of the rest of the body and therefore is much more important than previously believed. Wait, what??? As one can imagine, the dental professionals are more than a bit annoyed at this "amazing news" they (and everyone else of any intelligence) have known forever. Anyway, their governing bodies are now requiring them to do a torturous gum test as part of a cleaning. It involves scoring SIX areas of EACH tooth by jabbing a metal poker into the gums and measuring how far it goes in. It hurts. A lot. I sort of freaked out because I got called back first and was terrified if they tried this on Kaylin she'd be out the door and gone. It's only adults. Phew! I just hope "adults" are not ages 12 and up or we may have to go the sedation dentistry route for basic cleanings!

My foot is significantly better following several days of rest. I'm starting to hope a little that I won't have to wear the air cast at work, but I probably will.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stupid Foot!

I'm off work because of my feet again. This time is most likely only for a few days with tendinitis and fluid build-up. I started having some pain at work last Thursday, but my doctor doesn't have appointments on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so I called first thing Monday morning and made an appointment for Wednesday morning. The pain was totally manageable; I was trying to be proactive and get in to see the doc before it got out of hand. Then Monday morning we had an animal escape drill that had me running all over the zoo. I was in so much pain Monday night I could barely sleep. Tuesday morning I called and begged to be seen. They worked me in at 2pm and my fear that the pain was from the same tendon I tore last year was confirmed. I was immediately sent for an MRI.

The MRI results came back late Wednesday morning. I had to go to the doctor's office (rather than just a phone call) because he wanted to wrap my foot. No new tears, just tendinitis, swelling and fluid build-up. I have a ridiculous bandage that goes all the way to my mid-calf. The bandage is so huge and bulky, I have to wear a surgical shoe. I'm off work until (probably) Tuesday to rest my foot and because there's no way I can work in this bandage/sandal combination. At my appointment Monday, the doctor will decide whether I can go back to work wearing only a brace or if I need the stupid, hated cast. I'm not trying to be negative, but I have little doubt I'll be in the cast. Probably for months... Stupid feet!

This time I can't pinpoint any incident that would have caused tendon injury. He said I must have twisted my ankle or something, but there is absolutely nothing significant I can remember. I often come home covered in bruises I have no idea how I got, but I am so careful with my feet I can't imagine any twisting or jarring that I wouldn't almost panic over and REMEMBER. Oh well, at least I'm not on crutches! I had to use them until my MRI results came back and I have to say I hate crutches even more than I hate the stupid cast!

I'm planning to use my time off to sit on my butt and go through the kids' clothes and toys. Logan just recently started wearing long pants for school and play and I about died laughing at how short they are! He'll be 9 next week and I discovered most of his school pants and jeans are size 7! Whoops! I took him to Farm and Fleet last week and size 10s fit him fine. He has to have 10 slims or they fall off, but the length is good. I then realized that most of Kaylin's long sleeve school uniform shirts are size 7/8. I guess I have some shopping to do! Maybe I can do all or most of it online.

Today is exciting because I'm expecting the UPS delivery of my new binoculars. I broke my beloved old Bushnells and discovered that getting them repaired was going to cost twice as much as I paid for them. Gene's going to attempt to fix them, but it involves perfectly gluing the prism to the roof of the binocs and you have to adjust for glue shrinkage and I really just had to admit to myself that my binoculars are broken. The end. Anyway, I tried out some Nikons at Bass Pro a few weeks ago and then read reviews on Amazon. It turned out they not only had good reviews, but were half the price and with no tax and free shipping. Yes! Today's supposed to be rainy and awful, but I'm hoping to go "car birding" in the next few days and try out the new binocs!