Friday, March 30, 2012

End of March Madness

Today I was released from physical therapy! Actually, I wasn't technically released because if my foot flares up and I need more therapy, it could be an insurance issue. After three years of being told not to walk or run for exercise, I've now been instructed to start walking and especially doing hills or inclines on the treadmill. They will contact me in a few weeks and if I can't handle this kind of exercise, I'll need to get more therapy. I still have a small amount of pain. When I sit for any amount of time my legs and feet get stiff quickly and if I don't remember to stretch before I get up it hurts. However, the difference in my pain levels now and 6 weeks ago is HUGE. I didn't even think it was possible for my feet to feel as good as they do right now. I'm guessing the therapy and switching strings at work were equally helpful. For the first time in forever, I'm feeling optimistic about my feet and about the possibility of getting back into shape and losing weight. I'm excited!

This week was my least favorite time of the school year- parent-teacher conferences. I've had so many bad experiences, I've learned to dread them. Logan's was Thursday night right after work. His teacher is one of those syrupy-sweet gushy types. The first words out of her mouth were "Logan Turner is my favorite boy in the class!" Hahaha, I'm sure if I chose to sit out in the hall I'd hear the same comment to every parent. Anyway, she handed me his report card and he had straight As. He's doing great with everything including reading! When I told her about our concern for his reading one year ago, she laughed and said kids learn when they're ready. Logan's well-behaved and when the class had to use the word "integrity" in a sentence, several kids used Logan as an example. I love this teacher and so does Logan.

Kaylin's conferences were a little more stressful. Same old stuff about organization. The vast majority of her bad grades were homework that she completed, but lost in her locker before she turned it in. Most of her test and quiz scores were As. The teachers who absolutely don't accept late work are frustrated with Kaylin. The ones who do accept late work think she's a joy to have in class. The reading/language arts teacher told me our belief that Kaylin's organization improved so much from 4th to 5th grade was probably an illusion because 5th graders are babied since it's their first time moving between teachers and classrooms. They have next to no homework and little personal responsibility. 6th grade is the "real" beginning of middle school and the kids have homework and a lot more responsibility. Ahh. Makes sense. I have to say I have a lot more respect for the teachers who flat-out don't accept late work and excuses. Might as well teach 'em young that if you don't meet deadlines, you don't get credit for your work.

The kids and I are off work and school the next week. I'm excited because the neighbor kids already have had their break so they won't be over EVERY second of the week. We're going to try to go to St. Louis for a day or two, but every time I think we'll go X day(s) an obligation pops up. Oh well, maybe I'll get some housework done. Or not.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My mom's complaining that I'm not writing enough blog entries. Well, I feel like the only thing I've been writing about is my feet and that has got to be boring. Three weeks ago, I switched strings (groups of animals I'm in charge of) at work and at about the same time took over being president of our zoo keeper group. I've spent most of my free time working on these things, rather than dinking around on my computer. Nothing exciting or worth writing about, just lots of research and figuring things out. Switching strings has been hard, but in a good way. So far, it's working exactly as I hoped and my feet are feeling much better. I'm also REALLY enjoying working with my "new" animals- especially the tigers, camel, swans and emus.

This morning I took a break from the crazy and went for a long hike at Banner Marsh with Logan and Duncan. We left home ~6am, hoping to see some cool animals right around sunrise. We weren't disappointed. I kept Duncan on leash while I made sure no one else was in the area. It turned out to be a good thing because there was a dead swan I'm sure he would have rolled in. Unfortunately, it was a native trumpeter swan rather than one of the abundant, introduced mute swans. Bummer, but something ate well. We climbed to the top of the levee and hiked south. I was scanning the trees for owls and the lake for beavers and otters. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed an odd shape at the top of a huge tree that did indeed turn out to be a great horned owl! Logan and I both had binoculars and we watched for a long time. It was his first great horned owl and he was excited to see it. He was even more excited when we walked a few more steps and saw a beaver working in the lake. He was able to see its flat tail and we watched it swimming and diving. There was a second beaver, but it was pretty far out in the water and tough to see even with binoculars. We saw hundreds of coots, thousands of grackles, a large variety of ducks and geese and even a pair of Wilson's snipe. Duncan tore around and had a ball. Logan tore around and had a ball. I hobbled around and had a ball. If Logan hadn't had a football game at 11, we'd probably still be out there.

Logan is on a good flag football team this year. It's great that they score and win, but Logan seems a bit frustrated that he doesn't get as many plays. He has to share the "star" duties with all the other kids on his team. It's awesome to watch him because he's always completely tuned in with what's going on and eager to play. I think he smiles the entire game. I hope we can find him a JFL team this fall because I know he'll love "real" football.

Kaylin came along to the game this week because we promised a trip to Sweet CeCe's frozen yogurt following the game. If you haven't been to Sweet CeCe's, you should probably go today. I prefer ice cream to frozen yogurt, but this place's yogurt is the best I've had. The experience is out of a magical childhood dream. You get a huge cup and fill it yourself with any or all of 8 different flavors or swirls. You then move on to an area with lots of different candy, cereal and other toppings that can be dispensed from wall dispensers. You then move to a buffet table with soft toppings such as fruit, brownies and candy such as peanut butter cups that can't be in the dispensers. They even have hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream and cherries. It is fun and delicious. I can't wait to go back. I might be more excited about it than the kids. Gene loved it too. Oh, I forgot to mention that Sweet CeCe's is at the Junction City shopping center and that the prices are similar to Cold Stone Creamery.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March Madness

I've now had three physical therapy sessions, have continued my home stretching and massage and have been working the outside area at the zoo rather than constantly on concrete for two weeks. The difference in my pain level is indescribable. I'm in shock. When I get home from work I no longer have to strategize how to accomplish everything I need to do before bed in as few steps as possible. I no longer need to wear crocs in the shower. I nearly had a panic attack the other morning when I forgot to take my pain pill before work because last time I forgot I was in agony the entire day. This time I didn't even notice. I haven't taken another pill since.
My feet are still really stiff when I get up after sitting or sleeping and there is still some pain, but it's not ruling my entire life. When I press on the areas of my feet and calf that a few weeks ago would have had me jumping to the ceiling, it now feels like pressing on an old bruise- it hurts a little, but no big deal.
The physical therapy sessions are long and painful, but I think they are helping a lot. I've had two different therapists describe my left foot as "crunchy". That makes me gag. They do painful massage of my calves and then massage my super-ticklish feet while I laugh and shake. My calves are covered in small bruises, but I sure can feel the difference in tightness. After hearing my story about moving from concrete to multiple substrates, the PT said switching was probably the best thing I could have done because working on unstable surfaces breaks up scar tissue and strengthens your feet. One of my major homework exercises is balancing on one foot while standing on a couch cushion because of the instability. Okay, enough about my boring feet, but I'm really, REALLY excited to see this much improvement in such a short time! Hooray!
Otherwise, things are pretty normal. The kids just finished a week of state achievement tests. Logan took them for the first time and was taken in by the created drama from the teachers. He was incredibly nervous about "not doing well enough" and then last Sunday tried to go to bed at 7:30pm to get plenty of sleep. I told him he should try his hardest and that would be good enough. I told him to try not to stress over the tests because they don't matter much to him personally, the teachers are worked up because the overall scores affect how much money the school gets. He actually understood that concept and was disgusted at how worried he had been. He also was disgusted that he couldn't fall asleep at 7:30 and then realized he could go to bed and wake up at his normal times and be fine. If nothing else, I suppose the stupid achievement tests are a good life lesson to always question authority- it is often wrong. In the case of achievement tests and No Child Left Behind, there is nothing right.
Logan has his first football game (indoor flag football at the Y gym) today. He's really excited and hopes his team wins at least one game this year. Last year's team was 0-6. He made several touchdowns last year, but this year he completely understands the game and I imagine he'll do well. This year he's playing for the Eagles. Cool.
Gene built a really nice money collection box for my zoo keeper group's "Vote For Your Favorite Animal" fundraiser. Starting in April, look for the box in the main zoo hallway and after you ooh and ahh over the box itself, drop a few coins (or bucks) into one of the collection tubes and vote for your favorite animal. All money collected will go to conservation. Thanks, Gene!

Friday, March 2, 2012


A few weeks ago, I was having pretty bad issues with my left foot. I did some more internet research and found some stuff I'd never tried before. Gene made fun of my snake oil remedies, but I was desperate for some relief. I read that tightness in your calf can cause (or be caused by) foot pain. This site recommended a couple of massage tools that I bought and used. Over my vacation week, I finally worked out the knot in my calf. It has made a HUGE difference in my pain level! I also am using a knobby foot roller massager that has eliminated the knots in my heel. Again, the pain has diminished greatly!

I did also check in with my doctor. He's been telling me forever that working on concrete is the reason my issues never resolve. I told him I had the opportunity to switch "strings" at work to an area I'd be on less concrete. He told me to try it. I didn't want to stop working with my beloved lions, zebras and red river hogs, but when faced with surgery or quitting the job I love, it made sense to give it a try. Also, the area I was planning to move to is the area I worked before the zoo's Africa addition. Many of the animals are the same and it's not like it was any less hard to leave them a few years ago!

This week I started working with tigers, camel, takin, muntjac and Aussie animals. I am LOVING working outside again. I'm sure it helps that the weather this week has been gorgeous, but I always did love working outside. I laughed every year that my heated and air conditioned building with the Africa animals was totally wasted on me because I preferred being outside. I do miss having a toilet in my area, but that's probably my biggest loss. I'm thoroughly enjoying being back working with my "old" animals. I had forgotten how much I loved working with black swans and emus! And not only am I enjoying the animals and being outdoors, my feet have been great! I leave work and I'm not in agonizing pain!

I'm sure a week of time off and the massage tools contributed greatly, but the change in pain level is huge. I imagine it's partly psychological as well, but hey, whatever works! I'm feeling optimistic about my feet for the first time in years. I also start physical therapy today, so hopefully I can get some good help and advice and keep up the improvement.