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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Cat Needs Prozac

No, this isn't a mental health joke. My cat literally needs Prozac. Didn't realize that they made cat Prozac? Neither did I.

This is Jodie. I got Jodie when I was in graduate school and lived alone. She was a 3 month old farm cat that my brother's friend was finding a home for. She was this sweet tiny little thing, no more than 2 1/2 lbs, that would sleep on the corner of my pillow and sleep on my desk while I did homework. Such a good little friend. 

Several years later, however, she's an annoying mess that purposely pees on shit that is important to us. It's like she KNOWS. The kids' Mickey Mouse couch, the bathmat in front of the toilet - right where your feet would go, my favorite work bag, Jeff's hoodie...heck, she even peed on Ginny once when she was a tiny baby. I can't make this stuff up. We thought she was lonely, so we gave her attention...doesn't help. We changed her food, gave her more privacy, payed extra attention to her littler box, got new toys....nothing helped. 

Finally, we found her old vet records and brought her to the vet for a visit. Yeah, yeah, we hadn't really brought her to the vet since we moved here, but there was no real reason to - she's an inside cat. Jeff brought her in this morning and the vet thinks she's stressed and this is how she's acting out. I've had friends suggest that before, but we thought we could make an effort to control her environment as a fix. Apparently not. 

After a husband, four apartment moves, two kids, and a dog, my little cat roomie basically hates life and lets us know this on the reg. Don't get me wrong, I can see how all that is stressful; Lord knows it stresses me out. The options are rehoming or medication and, on a logistics front, I'm aware enough to know that a 7 year old cat with an anxiety problem isn't exactly in high demand for adoption and she doesn't deserve to sit in a cage or be euthanized. Medication it is. 

I have no idea how much this is going to cost us, but apparently chicken flavored Prozac will be mailed to the house for Miss Jodie's anxiety. It sounds so absurd to me, but if this works, I don't even care. The positive of all of this is that at least she doesn't mark up furniture or carpeting - just laundry baskets of clothes, book bags, blankets, etc. On a recommendation from a friend, we picked up Anti Icky Poo - an enzyme based spray cleaner that removes the strong animal smells from surfaces. So far it works really well, but hopefully we won't need to use it for very long.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Half #2 and a Serious Talk about Dehydration

After completing my first half marathon two weeks ago, I knew I wanted to race again while I was trained up. I signed up for the Hands on House half marathon in Lancaster, PA since it was a good cause, a well established race, and took runners through the beautiful Amish country side. What could go wrong?

Since we have family in the Lancaster area anyway, we drove out the night before and took the kids to the Hands on House children's museum after I picked up my bib. They loved it! It was a little small, but for the price, I was happy with it. There were several rooms of activities where the kids could pretend to do different things (be a farmer, shop at a grocery store, deliver mail, play dress up, etc.). I thought the kids would be zonked out after playing for over an hour, but when we got to Grandma's they were wound up as anything. Just another example of how kids are completely unpredictable.

The next morning, we left around 7:30AM to get to the race and get set up. For such a rural area, I was expecting it to be a mad house, but the parking and shuttles were very organized. Jeff dropped me off and I hung out around and stretched while he parked. There were three races going on that day; a 5K, a 10K, and a half. Looking around, you could pick out the half runners all decked out with their Camelbaks and belts full of gels and bars. It was looking like it was going to be a hot day and with the race not starting until 9AM, I was worried about the sun and heat.

The race started and the half marathon runners took off first, followed by the other races. The half and 10K overlapped for the first 3-ish miles, at which point the 10K'ers turned around and the rest of us kept going -- out into the corn field wilderness.

From the very beginning, I knew the temp was going to make this race miserable. It was significantly hotter than the temps I had been training in and there was not a single cloud in the sky. Blazing sun for the next 13 miles. There were a ton of water stops, one at almost every mile, and I drank at each one, grabbing at least one cup of water and one cup of Gatorade (second race in a row it was lemon-lime. Ewww).

When Sarah and I ran Diva's, we payed close attention to our mile times; intentionally keeping it slow in order to pace ourselves out properly (and safely). I tried so hard to do it again for this race, but once I looked down and realized I had PR'ed my 5K time by a few minutes, I knew I was in trouble. I had looked at the elevation map for the course before hand, but only payed attention to the hills. I neglected to take into account the steady down hill trend over the first several miles. Who starts a race on a down hill?!

Though my split time was good, around mile 7, the hills started. Two thigh burning hills spiked up and then back down again over the course of about 3 miles. The down hills were so steep, we were tip toeing down with tiny baby steps so we wouldn't fall. It was pretty insane. After the hills, miles 10-13 greeted us with a steady incline to the finish line. Start with a decline and end with an incline? My pacing plan had no chance.
Waiting for Mommy at the finish line is boring. 
Mile 10 brought on another fun obstacle. Chills. Chills? It was 85* outside and blazing sun - why was I getting goosebumps? The breeze was far too light to chill my sweat. At mile 11 I realized that I wasn't sweating. I didn't know what was wrong, but I knew something wasn't right. I crossed the finish line a little over 2:50, but in reality, I'm just glad I crossed it at all.

This is where I hope to spread a little education about dehydration and heat exhaustion. I had been drinking SO much that it didn't even cross my mind how severely dehydrated I was regardless. I must have drank over 60 ounces of fluid during the race, but it wasn't nearly enough. Had I been more aware of the signs and symptoms, I would have walked sooner or drank significantly more.

Signs of Dehydration:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dry mouth, lips, and nose
  • No urination despite fluid intake
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
It's easy to see why dehydration symptoms can go unnoticed while you're running. Not responding with more fluid intake, however, can lead to serious, dangerous health issues. If it is hot outside in addition to being dehydrated, heat exhaustion and stroke are a real danger.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:
  • Dizziness
  • “Goose bumps” (particularly on the torso and arms)
  • Nausea (sometimes accompanied by vomiting)
  • Moderate to severe headache
  • Weak legs
  • Lack of coordination
  • Rapid pulse
  • Heavy sweating often accompanied by moist and cold skin
  • Muscle cramping
Signs of Heat Stroke:
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness in the legs to the point that the runner may fall
  • Strange behavior (including flailing with the arms and shoving)
  • “Fuzzy” thinking
  • Rapid pulse
  • Cessation of sweating and hot/dry skin
  • Body temperature that may reach 104 degrees or higher
While I felt alright after chugging a few bottles of water at the finish line, when I got home from the race, I laid on the couch nauseous, weak, and shivering. It was an awful feeling. I'm so glad I didn't fixate on my goal and took it easy those last two miles. No race is worth getting hurt.

All that being said, this was a well organized race for a good cause.....but I have no plans of running it again. The weather was a fluke, but the hills were a killer. I did get a post race gourmet grilled cheese though, that was definitely a bonus.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Birthday Prep for the Big F-O-U-R

I can't even believe I'm writing this post. Charlie is going to be four in just over a month. FOUR! Every year that goes by, time flies faster and faster. I keep hoping it'll get easier to watch them get older, but it doesn't. So instead, I drown my sorrows in over the top Pinterest inspired party planning!

Now, I completely understand that I don't have to do a party with a fancy theme. Truth is, I really enjoy doing it! I think party planning is a ton of fun and gives me an opportunity to do something crafty.

Charlie's first birthday was Very Hungry Caterpillar, his second was Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, his third we went to Disney World, and this year will be his first "friends from school" party. I asked him what he wanted to do with his friends at his birthday party, to which he answered, "I want to paint!" Honestly, I was shocked I got an answer at all, so I'm going to run with it. An art party it is.

Luckily, there is a ton of cool stuff on Pinterest about preschoolers and art from projects to decorations. I'M SO EXCITED!

So far, I've been focusing on activities and gathering up supplies. I scored $.25 Crayola crayons and paints at the back to school clearance sections in Target and WalMart. They'll be great for favors, decorations, and activities. I am on the hunt for paint trays (though we may just recycle egg cartons), brushes, markers, and something for the kids to paint. I'm torn between some kind of little wooden car or figure or their first initial (about $2 a piece at Michaels). Some other things I'd like to put together are...

  • A scribbling wall
  • Smocks with their names on them as favors
  • Decorate your own cupcake (instead of cake)

I love this idea for decorations, so I'll also need to find some empty, blank paint cans. I'm not sure where to get those just yet, but I'll figure it out.

Lots to do and time is ticking away. First on the list is going to be invitations to send to his friends at school.

Ten 4 year olds with paint....what could possibly go wrong?

Follow along with my birthday Pinterest board as I pin the heck out of this party.

Follow Jen (All Four Love)'s board Charlie's Birthday on Pinterest.

Monday, September 22, 2014

VTech Go! Go! Smart Animals Forest Adventure Playset Review & Giveaway!

**This post was sponsored by VTech and contains links to their products and media outlets. The product being reviewed was provided to me by VTech free of cost. All opinions are 100% my own and I do not review products that I don't believe in or use myself.**

With the holidays rapidly approaching (crazy, right?), we've started to keep an eye out for things the kids would enjoy getting for Christmas. It's tough with little ones; you know their general interests, but until they start specifically asking for things you're kind of shooting in the dark. I've always been a fan of VTech products and the quality and variety they offer, so I was thrilled when I was asked to review a new product from their award-winning Go! Go! Smart line of toys. 

This is Ginny's "this is for me?!?!" excited face. She adores anything having to do with animals and though every single animal out there is a "puppy" right now, she was in love. 

The Go! Go! Smart Animals Forest Adventure Playset is a smart mix of traditional role playing activity with modern technology, creating a multi-sensory interactive learning experience for children. The Forest Adventure playset includes Blake the Bear and his merry go round play set. With two SmartPoint locations, Blake interacts with the playset as he rolls along the tracks and around the center. He lights up and sings several different cute, short songs (and I can honestly say, they are catchy, but not annoying!)

With our set, we also received Mary the Monkey and Aiden the Alligator who have equally adorable songs about eating bananas and swimming in swamp. A cool bonus, all of the animals have on/off switches on the bottom to prevent them from being activated while being stored, meaning no creepy toy sounds in the middle of the night. You know what I'm talking about. 

The playset has four parts to manipulate in addition to the two SmartPoint locations. The butterfly spins (Ginny's favorite), the squirrel goes up and down the tree, the red gate swings open and shut to route animals off the merry go round, and the flower spins the entire center piece. 

This playset is not only compatible with other Go! Go! Smart Animals and playsets, but also with the entire Go! Go! Smart Wheels world, opening up a tremendous number of creative combinations for kids to explore! Plus, all of the SmartPoints are recognized by the animals and vehicles, so the tracks don't just link together, but the pieces actually respond to sets that aren't their own. It really is a genius design that will grow with your child's interest. 

Ginny has really enjoyed playing with this set and often carries the animals around with her or takes them to the kitchen to shoot them cross the tile floor. I'm excited to expand on our set with other parts from the Go! Go! world and see what else we can build. 

The VTech Go! Go! Smart Animals Forest Adventure Playset retails for $14.99 while the Smart Animals retail for $7.99 each and are available in stores and online. There are a variety of Smart Animals beyond these three including a zebra, giraffe, and hippo!

If you're as excited about adorable singing animals as we are, you're in luck! VTech is offering one Go! Go! Smart Animals Forest Adventure Playset AND two additional animals for one of my lucky readers! Enter with the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to VTech for sponsoring this review and giveaway!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Charlie Update & More Tests

Sooner than expected, we got a phone call from the children's hospital with Charlie's immunology test results. The good news is that his overall immunoglobulin count is good and that he is producing functioning B and T cells (click here if you need a little biology refresher, I know I did!) This means that when he is sick, his body can handle the illness like it normally would. The not as great news is that it appears that his body has so far been unable to retain antibody titers, the "memory" that helps your body learn a disease and prevent reinfection.

When looking at his blood work, it appeared as if he had not received his TDAP vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, or HiB vaccine despite being up to date with all initial shots and boosters. He could be lacking immunity for other vaccinations, but these are the ones they typically test for at this stage of the game. For some reason, his body is unable to use these vaccines to develop antibodies against diseases, which means though he is vaccinated, he is currently susceptible to them. This could also be why he has been plagued with otherwise simple, but recurring infections such as ear, nose, throat, lung, and intestinal infections. Individually, they are simple childhood illnesses, but combined into one 3 year old's file, it's a symptom.

What now. Well, after I had a small freak out that my once thought to be vaccinated kid isn't really protected, the doctor told me the plan. Charlie will be starting prophylactic antibiotics from now until we figure out what is going on. We are hoping it doesn't cause his stomach issues to flare up, so lots of probiotics will be on board as well. Let's pray for no tummy issues.

In the meantime, he's going to be revaccinated with a different kind of pneumococcal vaccine called Pneumovax 23. It covers a wider range of diseases than Prevnar 13 and, though I don't know the scientific words for it, seems to stick better in children with this issue. In 4-6 weeks, he'll get more blood work done and one of three things will happen...

1) He will have a positive response to the vaccine and retain the antibodies. If this is the case, the doctor will still follow up with him every few months to make sure he's maintaining a good level. It's not a fluke that he has no antibodies from his previous vaccines or illnesses - something is happening, but "how fast?" is the question.

2) He will have zero response to the vaccine and show no antibody levels when the test is rerun. In this case, we will talk about different therapy options to treat the deficiency.

3) He will develop antibodies as a result of the vaccine, but lose them quickly. In this case, the test will show a reduced level of antibodies meaning he has the ability to gain immunity, but cannot keep it. This would also result in a discussion about immunoglobulin therapy.

With flu season rapidly approaching, I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I'm nervous for him and I'm especially nervous for Ginny. If Charlie gets sick, he has a strong enough immune system to fight it. Having a weak ability to fight off illness, however, means he can bring home everything under the sun and potentially give it to Ginny. She has a normal immune system on the front end, but if she does actually get sick, she'll have a hard time fighting it on the back end.

This is a lot to digest. On one hand, it is an incredible relief that we weren't overreacting to the number of infections Charlie has had in his lifetime. On the other hand, it means more blood work and who knows what else in the future for him. While I readily acknowledge that in the grand scheme of what could be wrong with my children, we are comfortably and safely seated in the shallow end of the still doesn't feel good. All we can do is be thankful for the resources and support we have access to during this time and pray for more positive/positive-ish news.

All I can say to wrap this up is, please get your flu vaccine and make sure your family is vaccinated. I'm not looking to start a vaccine war, but when a child is unable to take advantage of the security vaccines give, we have to trust that others around us are protected and not unknowingly spreading disease. For more information about immunizations, visit the Center for Disease Control's website or speak to your pediatrician/doctor.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My First Half Marathon!

I DID IT!! I ran 13.1 mother effing miles! My first half marathon is in the books and I could not be happier. No, not that it's done and over with, but that it happened. Racing is all so new to me, so I'm not exactly an expert at race recaps, but I'll try to cobble the day together for you.

This all started when Sarah told me she wanted to run my first half marathon with me, in celebration of my 30th birthday. She suggested the Diva's Half in DC since the course was great for first timers and, c'mon, there would be lots of pink, sparkles, and awesomeness. It was a little sooner than the half I planned to run in Hershey, but training worked out fine and after our 10 mile run a few weeks ago, I was ready.

This. Beautiful motivation. That medal would be mine!!
If you're not familiar with the DC area, there is this game they like to play when advertising events. When something says, "in DC" or "in the DC metro area," it could mean it's in the DC belt line, but more than likely it means somewhere in Maryland or Northern Virginia. In our case, the race was in "DC, j/k it's really in Northern Virginia wine country." Now, that was fine with us, just thought I'd share. ;-)

We drove down to Virginia on Friday night so we could pick up our race packets, check out the expo, and get some rest before the early morning start. The expo was small, but really neat. I picked up two awesome shirts and a quintessential running accessory.....the 13.1 sticker. I swear, expos do not cater to superstitious runners! I hated buying these things BEFORE I ran the race, but I had no choice!

After a little shopping and a delicious carb loaded dinner, we headed to the hotel to lay out our clothes for the morning and hit the sack.

One thing I never realized, a race that starts at 7:30AM requires you to be there at 6:30AM (and make that 6AM if you want to pee before you start!) That makes for a very early morning, which is not normally my forte. Somehow, I got my life together at 5AM and got ready to head out. I brought several things to wear; I wasn't sure what I wanted to run in. I decided on this and I'm so happy I did. I bought this shirt several months ago when I decided that I would be running the half. Aside from making me laugh, it's so true. This beast was on my bucket list and I had no idea when I wrote it that I would be crossing this off before so many other things.

After a very confusing trek through the dark, foggy wine country, we thanked the heavens we purchased VIP parking and got our butts to the race. After realizing the time had come and gone for us to wait on the massive bathroom lines, we found our corral and got ready.

Nerves. There was a sea of tutu clad women on all sides of me (and a few guys here and there). Everyone adjusting their headbands and skirts, fixing pony tails, and setting Garmins. I couldn't believe I was there. Six short months ago when I ran my first 5K, I would never have believed I would be doing this. Yet, there I was.

Wave one left and wave two scooted up towards the starting line. Wave two was announced and off we went.

As we got started, we refocused ourselves and talked about our goal - to finish with a smile. We ran the first mile at a solid, but slower pace. With 13 miles to knock down, there was no need to burn ourselves out. We stuck to a 2:1 run/walk interval and despite a few weird looks and one unnecessary (and slightly rude) comment from a woman sprinting by during mile one, we knew it was right and we were not the only ones run/walking.

Thanks to our planning, we were able to stick to mostly negative splits throughout the entire race. There were a couple of miles that included beastly hills that slowed us down a bit, but I am genuinely proud that at no point did I want to stop or give up. I felt strong and can honestly say that my last few miles felt as good as my first few.

Evil, evil hill around mile 6!
Over half way done!!
The course was nicely paved road that was closed off to cars, save for the occasional idiot who somehow missed the hundreds of women in costume running far as the eye could see. The mile markers were a relief to see as they passed and the water stations seemed to pop up just as I needed one. I definitely could have managed my bathroom breaks better, but hey, what can you do.

My favorite part of the race was the other runners. The kind words, the waves and head nods, the encouragement, the hilarious racing shirts, the inspiring quotes - it was awesome. One woman was running 7 months pregnant, another for a lost loved one. One runner I met, a man named Sid, had run hundreds of half and full marathons, wearing a different fallen solider's picture on his back for each race. The inspiration was incredible.

You know the days where you REALLY feel like you're living? This was one of those days.

The perfectly overcast day turned to drizzle as we rounded the course to the last half mile. We were speeding past other runners and I could hear the music and excitement at the end. At the 13 mile mark, with .1 mile to go, a team of volunteers handed out pink feather boas and tiaras. Then the last .1 mile. A distance I could hardly run with any kind of confidence less than a year ago.

The announcer called our names as we crossed the finish line. I threw my hands up and wanted to cry.  I had done it. I moved my body for 13.1 miles. What a feeling.

We finished in about 2 hours and 41 minutes. Not too bad for a crowded, hilly course. And as predicted, as soon as I was done and had gotten a bit of rest, I was back online looking for more races. I've got the bug.

I used to tell people who ran for fun that they were nuts. The truth of it is that yeah, we are kinda nuts. The thing I appreciate about running is just that; it has a mystery to it that you can only understand if you do it. It's such a simple thing, the simplest of things if you think about it. Movement, forward motion. It's what we're made for, so that's what I'll do.

A tremendous, unending thank you to Sarah. You are an incredible inspiration to me (and many others out there). I may have been able to physically run these miles without you, but without your motivation, positivity, and kindness, I would have had no idea what I was capable of achieving. The courage and confidence you helped me find has truly changed my life. You are a beautiful person, inside and out, and I'm so appreciative to have you as a friend.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Running More Tests

Ever since he was tiny, Charlie has been a fairly sick kid. It's hard to quantify what that means because all kids get sick and all daycare kids get especially sick, but I've always wondered what was too much. In his short life, he's had numerous illnesses and infections that few others around him seem to get. While the occasional strep epidemic rips through daycare, often he's the only one that gets sick...really sick. From bronchitis to pneumonia to croup, strep, RSV, and at least 15 ear infections, he's had it all. Don't forget about that year of c diff that he just couldn't shake, no matter the antibiotic. It's not just what he's getting and how frequently, but the number and strength of antibiotics needed to clear it's just too much.

After meeting with a second gastroenterologist about his c diff infection, she took one look at his chart and told us that she couldn't help us until we got his immune system checked. This was the first time a doctor had suggested that maybe this was more than just illness, but a weak or impaired immune system at fault. After a summer of appeals and letters to the insurance company, we got an all inclusive referral to the immunology specialists at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; one of the best hospitals for this specialty. It's out of network (way, way out of network), but by some crazy fortune we got it approved.

An 8:00AM appointment was made and while we didn't get a spot at the Ronald McDonald House for the night before, they did help us make a reservation at a nice hotel a block away at a seriously discounted rate. Together, we headed out to Philly.

We had started telling Charlie a few days earlier that we were taking him to a special doctor in the city. He was not happy. This child does not like doctor and quite frankly, I don't blame him one bit. Luckily, once we arrived, the city it's self was enough to distract him. Getting a room on the 10th floor didn't hurt either.

The next day, we walked to his appointment. I took Charlie in and Jeff took Ginny for a walk. We've been to several specialist appointments for one thing or another and this was, by far, the best appointment I've every taken a child to. We sat with the doctor and his team for TWO HOURS talking about Charlie's history, his growth and development, my concerns, their examination of him, what tests they wanted to run. I truly felt like they were trying to get a clear picture of what was going on and making a game plan. I had fully expected to have 15 minutes to explain what was going on, be handed lab orders, and go home. They even gave Charlie (and me!) crayons while we waited for the doctor to look things up and put together the lab orders.

Though the appointment was significantly better than I expected, it still included a ton of blood work for poor Charlie. Seven vials of blood. UGH. I felt so, so bad having to hold him down so they could draw it. Thankfully, the phlebotomist was amazing and stuck him on the first try and got in and out as fast as she could. The blood work will break down the antibodies and immunities that he has and has built up over his life time and see how well his immune system is functioning.

On a nerdy note, the science behind what they're doing is kind of amazing. They can pull apart his blood and actually look at what antibodies he has, what is missing, and how well he is making certain cells. We should know more in about two weeks.

Daddy hugs make everything better.
I have always wondered whether his immune system was up to speed. I hear a lot of excuses when he's sick; he was a preemie, he's in daycare, all kids get sick. It was such a relief to hear from the doctors that I am not, in fact, crazy or overreacting for wondering this. After looking at his file, they are just as concerned. Obviously, I'm hoping these labs come back that nothing is wrong, but either way, I just want to know what is going on and how to help him stay healthy.

So do donuts. Donuts also make things better.