Monday, June 8, 2015

What happens when *I* get a cold

Autoimmune disorders are no joke.  And I had just about zero idea of that until I was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome at the end of last summer.  I was one of those "but you don't look sick" people.  Can I just tell anyone I ever thought that about how terribly sorry I am?  I was a fool and you were doing a great job of keeping up appearances.  Before I was diagnosed, I just knew something was wrong with me but had no idea why I would get sick repeatedly, have a hard time healing, wake up feeling like every joint was breaking.  Now that I know it has no gotten any easier because something like a little cold knocks me so far down.  And even though I know how to advocate for my well being, a lot of doctors are dismissive because they don't believe me or think I'm too fat (seriously told to just lose some weight and I'd be fine) or they just simply don't know much about Sjogren's Syndrome.

So 12 days ago, I started getting a sore throat.  This is a red flag to me.  Soon the sneezing started.  Yes!  My body acts like I'm having a horrific allergy attack when I begin to get sick.  My eyes water, my nose runs, and I sneeze about 7,000 times.  I started taking my tried and true combo of Nyquil, essential oils, and lots of fluids.  I slept and slept and the rest of my family started getting sick as well.  Of course, I start to dismiss my autoimmune issues because "it's just a cold".  WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!  I called my normal doctor and asked them to call in a prescription of steroids and some cough medicine.  While I love my doctor, the communication lacks a bit.  After two days of not getting the actual nurse on the phone, I went to an urgent care clinic.  I told the doctor, twice actually, that I had Sjogren's.  He never even indicated he knew what that was.  He misses a few things, like my left ear infection, and draws blood.  Oh and a strep test.  Nothing about my symptoms said strep other than my sore throat.  No fever, lots of sinus congestion, congested cough and wheezing.  Not surprisingly, the strep test was negative.  And my white blood count was normal but my neutrophils were elevated.  This can indicate a bacterial infection but more likely is an autoimmune response indicating inflammation. The only treatment at that level is steroids.  I leave with an antibiotic and a cough medicine with the same ingredients as the Nyquil I was already taking.  That trip and those medicines cost me about $60.

By Friday, 2 days after the urgent care, I was still very sick and my regular doctor finally said she would happy to give me meds, if I came in.  A 45 minute drive and 1 hour wait later, she decides I am sick but it is viral not bacterial as the urgent care doc said.  She also tells me that 1 ear is horribly infected and the other is working on it.  I get 2 shots, a new antibiotic, new cough medicine, and a steroid pack.  That trip cost me over $70.

While I am feeling much better, I am still quite sick.  It will take me another few days to completely recover and regain my energy.  Oh and I did not even mention the best part.  Those steroids that are the only thing that will make me better?  Those are also causing me to lose my eyesight.  Yep, at the ripe age of 38, I was diagnosed with steroid induced cataracts.  Every time I take steroids, in a shot or dose pack, my cataracts are getting worse.  I have already had steroids 2 other times this year.  Most people think, "I had cataracts surgery and it's no big deal." or "Once you have the surgery, you'll be fine and can see again."  I have a hopeful heart but I have a tendency to over produce scar tissue and that is NOT something you want on your eyeball.  I also have a tendency to get the random, weirdo side effects come with whatever I have done.  With cataracts surgery, that includes blindness.  That is terrifying to me.  My choices are so limited though!

I am so blessed to be a stay at home mom right now.  I would not still have a job if every time I got sick I had to take weeks off to recover.  I am fortunate to have great medical insurance and the money to even go to the doctor.  And the money to afford the medicines.  That is not always the case though and we've had to borrow money a number of times to get us over a hump because I had multiple doctor appointments or had to go to the emergency room.  And my heart aches for those who cannot afford their medications or their medications are on a nationwide shortage or they've lost their insurance because they were too sick to work.

The next time you hear me joke about my Sjogren's or mention it or a random person tells you they have Rheumatoid Arthritis or Hashimoto's or whatever, know that we are sick when we don't look sick.  We want your understanding.  We want you to not feel slighted when we can't do things with you or we have to tell you no.  It's isolating and hard to say no but sometimes it's all we can do to get through the week.  And most of us are struggling to balance our lives so that we aren't grieving what we can no longer do and enjoying what we are still able to do for now.  It's hard!

Lots of love and soft hugs to my fellow AI sufferers.  And lots of love to my family and friends who help me through this roller coaster that I never wanted to ride!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kitchen Sink Bars

There are days when I just want something delectable and it's bottom-of-the-barrel-grocery-shopping-isn't-til-tomorrow day.  This means we have canned fruit, bread, maybe sandwich meat, and dry beans.  This time I even ran out of flour so there were no cookies, sweet bread, cake on the horizon.  That meant I had to do what I always do and scrounge.  I think I may have stumbled on something so genius I'm expecting the Nobel Prize for Desserts to come in the mail.


You've heard of/made/eaten Magic Cookie Bars before, right?  I was so very close to having all the ingredients but 1) No butterscotch chips or coconut and 2) my kids hate nuts in stuff (I swear they are not aliens from some nut hating planet).  What I did find was mini chocolate chips, PB2 peanut butter powder, Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits (chocolate ones), rice crispy type cereal, sliced almonds and the ubiquitous sweetened condensed milk and graham crackers (for the crust).

So I whipped up a graham cracker crust in the food processor.  Don't tell my kids that I added the almonds to it!  Pressed it into my oval dish...I don't own a 9x9 pan...who knows why.  I poured on the condensed milk, then did two layers of mallow bits, rice crispies, mini chocolate chips.  THEN I DUSTED PB2 ON IT LIKE POWDERED SUGAR!

That is some genius use of the PB2, isn't it?  ISN'T IT?!?!  You are probably sitting back and wondering why you never dusted anything in PB2.  I mean, peanut butter dusted brownies or truffles rolled in peanut butter powder...seriously just upped my dessert making!

OK, so maybe this isn't a huge revelation or anything but these bars are awesome!  I'm putting the recipe below if you want to try them!

Kitchen Sink Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust:
6 T melted butter
9 graham crackers
1/3 c sugar
1/4 c sliced almonds

Pulse graham crackers, sugar, almonds in food processor until it looks like sand.  Pour in melted butter and blend until thoroughly mixed.  Press into 9x9 pan.  It will come up the sides.

For the filling:

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14oz)
1 c mini chocolate chips
1 c rice crispy cereal (or whatever you have on hand. Pretzels would be good here too in my opinion)
1 c Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits (or another type of chip like butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips)
1 T PB2 powder

Pour entire can of condensed milk over crust.  Then layer 1/2 c of Mallow Bits, cereal, chips.  Repeat with final 1/2 c.  Make sure the condensed milk is covered completely.  Slightly press toppings into condensed milk.  Then sift PB2 powder over the whole thing.

Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Homeschool science is my favorite

Science has always fascinated me. When I was a little girl, my mother started nursing school and my delight in how humans tick began. I learned all the bones in the body before I started elementary school. Then years later, high school chemistry amazed me again! I did not do well with the math and my teacher was dull but how these pieces of the world fit together to make an entirely new thing made me believe in God, science, and alchemy all at once. It was like magic truly existed in the world!

So fast forward to our little homeschool enterprise and I am thrilled to show my children the magic of science. We have done lots of experiments involving shaving cream and plants and paper towels and lots and lots of food coloring. 

This one has been my favorite. We learned about surface tension, polar and non polar substances, lipids, density, and more! The milk magic was so fantastic we got more bowls and added different things like pepper and saw how dish soap broke the surface. We also added oil to a bowl of water and dropped food coloring through the oil. Tiny beads of blue and green collected at the bottom. This lead to a discussion about emulsifiers and then Jello. So tomorrow we will make salad dressing and see how pineapples affects Jello. Soooo much fun!!!

Here is a link to the how to of our milk experiment:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Weekends are not for resting around here.

Weekends are a free for all around here.  At any given time we are making something, getting crafty, or driving around to find an adventure.

This weekend was full of cookin' and junkin' and experimentin'.

Our piles of cookies pre frosting
I made a meat heavy gumbo that wasn't really a gumbo because I didn't really use a recipe and we don't like okra too much.  I taught the hubs how to make a roux.  It was not as dark as it should have been but roux is intimidating.  I don't think I will do this meal again.  It was just ok.

I made this no chill sugar cookie recipe.  It was very easy but the cookies tasted a little eggy.  I didn't have the almond extract so next time I will be sure to add it. The cookies were firm with sharp edges.  We frosted some and sprinkled some.

I prepped veggies for the SUPER FAT BURNING CABBAGE SOUP I plan to make later in the week.  Eh, we'll see if there is any fat burning going on.  I don't plan to eat this every meal for a week and I am mainly making it because I love some cabbage.

I made this Beef Lo Mein for dinner on Friday.  It was phenomenal.  I used thinly sliced skirt steak from Walmart as the meat.  It was about $6.50.  I had the other ingredients on hand already (we love Asian food).  Even though I cringe at spending that much on meat, it was so cheap compared to a restaurant and not even remotely as greasy.

I also did some prep for Taco Tuesday.  Except that it will be on Monday.  And we don't really have a regular Taco Tuesday, it's just fun to say.  I made this hummus and added 1/2 an avocado for flavor and creaminess. Oh and I didn't actually use Old El Paso Taco Seasoning.  I make my own.  I may never buy store bought hummus again because this rocked my face off.

These can be yours for the bargain price of eleventy million dollars!

Originally, I was going to go to some Flea Malls with my dad.  He and my stepmom have the flu or something like it and he decided to stay home on Saturday.  Ain't nobody here got time for the flu so I'm glad he got his rest and we avoided the exposure.  Sweet girl and I decided to visit a huge flea mall about an hour away.  This place was packed to the gills with junk...some good and some bad.  I was on the hunt for some Pyrex type fridge storage with lids.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  The rectangle dishes your granny put leftovers in?  Christy Jordan at Southern Plate has a collection I drool over.  My word in heaven that stuff is pricey!  I found one sublime dish with a lid and it was $44.  Mama can't afford that honey.  The other thing I was on the hunt for is vintage embroidered tea towels.  I use these as hand towels in my bathroom.  Again, people think a lot of their stuff in this area.  I paid $4 for a small dresser scarf that will work nicely as a hand towel.  I will stick to lots on Ebay for these in the future though.  Sweet girl did find a million Beanie Babies and some an American Eagle Outfitters sweater for $3.  It was fun to spend time with her one on one and even though I did not find what I wanted, I'm glad we went.

We are learning about Thermodynamics in science and my kids were having a hard time understanding temperature gradient and heat sink.  I used this walking water experiment to not only explain what gradient means in general but also concepts of permeability/saturation/capillary action.  We used yellow in one jar as our "heat source" and blue in the other for the "colder temperature".  This was fun, simple, and effective as a visual representation.

I also learned all about potato batteries this weekend.  Another homeschool friend asked for help with their experiment on Facebook and after helping her troubleshoot their setup, I want to do this with our kids!

We also got a book delivery from ThriftBooks.  I cannot tell you how much I love this website.  Cheap books and free shipping.  HEAVEN!  My only complaint is that they use several warehouses around the country and some items have arrived ahead of others so we got the 3rd book in a series before the 2nd.

Oh and I forgot to mention watching TV.  We do a lot of that around here.  When the hubs picks what we watch I often find myself taking that time to bake or whatever.  He and I have very different ideas of what is entertaining.  Yeah, I'm looking at you Gold Rush Alaska.

Monday, January 5, 2015


Just a little this and that recap of the year and what's on the horizon.

We have obviously been busy the past few weeks with the holidays.  We had a few family gatherings.  And we have been doing almost nothing outside of that because it has rained and rained and rained some more in the South.

We have been fortunate enough not to catch the flu and crud and pneumonia that has been floating around our extended family.  I attribute that to diligent hand washing and lots and lots of Young Living products.  We use the Thieves cleaner to clean every surface (including light switches and door knobs), we slather on diluted Thieves, RC, Oregano often, we use Thieves hand sanitizer when out, and we diffuse the oils regularly.  So regularly, in fact, I broke my diffuser.  BOO!  I am on the hunt for another one.  I am choosing not to repurchase the Young Living one because it is more expensive than I can afford.  Plus, I would like to have 2 diffusers, one for our room and one for the living area.  I will post what I find and a review later.  My husband and I have also been taking Super B and Sulfurzyme to help with energy, joint support, and immunity support.  I have noticed a huge difference on the days I miss them.

I found an internal medicine doctor that is committed to helping me feel better.  Her attitude was "Autoimmune disease or not, you don't feel well and we need to fix that."  I don't know that I will ever get a definitive, neatly wrapped diagnosis but having someone help me get back to "normal" is a blessing.  She did lots of blood work and found some unusual things.  More tests are on the horizon but her main goal is to get me through the winter without being incredibly ill.  So far, so good!

Homeschooling has been so very bumpy the last few weeks.  Lots of interruptions.  We did not take a formal Christmas break because we had so many randomly timed events.  I did find a new curriculum though.  Discovery K12 is a free, online curriculum that is easy to follow. The kids log in and that day's assignments are right there.  Scores, reading logs, some worksheets are online.  It even records attendance.  The kids click "Completed" at the end of each assignment and move on down the page.  Since everything is in one place, they can work more independently than with even Easy Peasy Homeschool (we had to click to different pages for Math, Science, History).

Alabama History is a required subject here and we have been studying the early settlers and native Americans of the state.  We are planning a trip to Fort Toulouse soon.  The hubs and I love living history.  The kids waver on their love of it.  haha

We are still working on our budget and sticking to it.  We are planning and organizing better which helps.  I am shopping once every pay period.  I still have to get a few things now and then but I prefer shopping in one huge trip.  I am planning our meals before shopping, making a list, and adapting based on what's available at the store.  This week, I was able to get a HUGE ham for $14ish and that will make several meals, including a crockpot of ham n beans.  Such a traditional Southern thing BUT I discovered I only had dried black beans in the pantry.  Oh well...adapt, right?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sometimes the wheels just come off

This is a favorite saying of mine because it has actually happened to us.

Imagine our little family of four, trucking down the road at night in our free 1984 Toyota Van.  Just van.  No fancy model name.  Van.  We called it the Ghost Car because our kids said it reminded them of Scooby Doo's car and they were too little to remember Mystery Machine.  Anyhoooo, we were having a lovely ride until smoke started POURING from the van.  It was so much smoke, when the hubs pulled over, I yanked both kids out of the car and ran away.  I thought it was on fire!  Silly, right?  Except that we had another van that caught on fire once so I wasn't taking chances.  Turns out the car wasn't on fire but there was something terribly wrong.  We called my step dad to give us a hand.  He decided to tow us, redneck style, to his house.  (Redneck style is where you attach a chain to the vehicle you are towing and basically drag it to your destination while someone sits in it and steers)  So I loaded the kids into his jeep and away we went.  There was some God awful noise a few miles down the road and while we were wondering what that could've been, a carload of teenage girls pulled up next to us and said, "HEY! The wheels fell of that car back there!"  Did we stop? Nope.  We dragged the Van the last mile, sparks a flyin.  Turns out the back axle fell off.  Amazingly enough, my hubs found a replacement axle and the Van was still in working order years later when we sold it to a collector of Toyota Vans.

No worse for the wear and a funny story.  I love it when life turns out that way.  Which brings me to today.  I am sick with what I can only describe as allergies from hell.  Except it's not really allergies but a stress related illness compliments of my wacky immune system.  And as I was malaise-ing on the couch, I was surfing Facebook.  I ran across a recipe for something called Potato Candy from Christy Jordan's Southern Plate.  (Just a side note here, I love Christy Jordan.  She is sweet and kind and knows how to cook those Southern recipes your MawMaw made without being fussy or expensive.)  This recipe was insanely simple and something my step dad would love.  He is the eater of all sweets and loves peanut butter.  But when I went into the kitchen, I realized peeling a potato and then cooking it was too much work.  I crack myself up.  I felt too lousy to do this step but ended up spending an hour making Buckeyes.  Do you know what Buckeyes are?  Peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate.  The recipe I did today is at the bottom of this post.

This is something I've done before and I have a really hard time making anything dipped in chocolate.  The chocolate seizes or I make huge globs instead of neat balls or what I'm dipping crumbles/melts/messes me up.  There is typically a huge mess and each time I do these things, I foreswear all dipping stuff in chocolate!  So I blame the sickness.  I was delirious and candy sounded so good and things started out really well.


so round and shiny

I love that knife, btw.

THEN the dipping commenced.  And it was going ok for a second.  I got about 12 balls done and the chocolate was cooling already.  The balls were not coming off the fork well.  GLOBS WERE FORMING.  And then...yep...the wheels came.

I needed to add more chocolate to melt and a piece shot out from under the knife into the floor.  I stabbed a hole into that plastic dish by mistake.  My spoon broke.  The chocolate was too warm and the peanut butter was making the coating slide off.  WHEELS. OFF.


blobs and exposed peanut butter. arg!

I seriously contemplated throwing it all in the garbage and pouting.  But I remembered one time when I used leftover almond bark to make bark.  Imagine that.  So I poured the chunky melted chocolate into a small square dish (it is actually the tray to my food scale) and put the remaining peanut butter balls into it.  I melted the last of the almond bark and poured it over to seal everything in.

This might be genius!

I think I just invented the best homemade candy bar to ever exist!  I put the tray in the fridge, slammed it out on the counter, and cut into bite size pieces (use a really sharp knife and don't saw through it).  The "filling" is smooth and packed with peanut butter.  The outside is shiny and just the right amount of chocolate.  Think Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, which as it turns out is my step dad's favorite candy.  

See?  No worse for the wear and a funny story.  Love it!


Here's my little recipe for what I made today:

1 c. creamy peanut butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. corn syrup
1 lb. milk chocolate almond bark

Combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, corn syrup until a very stiff dough forms.  Shape dough into teaspoon size balls (or bigger, depends on how many you want to make).  Chop almond bark and place in a shallow microwave safe dish.  Cook at 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.  Dip balls into almond bark and place on wax or foil lined cookie sheet.  Store in airtight container once set up.  I prefer not to refrigerate because they will sweat.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The best walk you'll ever take is walking down the aisle

I heard these lyrics in a country song by Jana Kramer.  It struck a deep chord in me.  THAT is the best walk I ever took.  Though the first two years of our marriage was racked with grief and fear and questioning our very faith, we made it through.  Every year since has brought it's own troubles and doubts, arguments and hurt feelings but I look back on that blazing hot day in July and I am glad.

The other day, sweet girl asked us how daddy proposed to me.  He and I just looked at each other and died laughing.  He DIDN'T propose to me.  We were leaving my mom's house one day and I was looking out the window.  I remember how bright and clear it was that day.  While I don't remember what we were discussing, I do remember saying, "I think we should get married."  And he said, "I do too."  And that was it!  It was a little bit crazy since we had known each other oh...about a month.  But we were in the throes of, what I call a case of, love at SECOND sight.  The first time we met, he hardly paid me any attention.  But a few days later, I arrived at a mutual friend's house for a bible study and when we saw each other, lightning struck.  We were each other's answer to prayers said from desperate hearts, longing for a Godly mate.

Our families were delighted over the news and plans for an October wedding began.  The soon-to-be hubs and I were a little too excited in celebrating and I discovered I was pregnant.  I was beside myself.  He was over the moon.  I remember calling my best friend in the middle of the night and telling her this terrible news.  She said, "Amanda!  You are 25.  You are not some teenager working at McDonald's.  You HAVE a great job.  You HAVE a man you love, who is excited."  Her GET IT TOGETHER speech worked and though I had more doubts over the next several days,  I GOT IT TOGETHER.  We scratched the fall wedding and opted for July.  I wanted to look "not pregnant" in my wedding dress.

Every thing went so very well in planning the wedding and in my pregnancy.  My morning sickness was subsiding, I found THE dress, we had the chapel...then I got cold feet.  There was some minor argument with my betrothed about money or a bill or whatever and I ran to my mama, crying.  I told her, "This guy is not responsible!  This guy is not who I want to be with!"  I went on and on.  She looked at me and said words that felt like a bucket of cold water being dumped on my head.

"Then don't marry him."

It was that simple she explained.  If I didn't want to marry him then I didn't need to feel obligated to go through with it.  She said she would support me no matter what I decided.  But God spoke to my heart.  It was like everything was out of place because we had chosen to follow our fleshly desires and I knew if we would make it right before the Lord, everything would be ok.  So on that sweltering Sunday, I walked down the aisle with my fears and doubts nagging me but determined to make this covenant.  I actually do not remember taking our vows.  I only remember the transforming wholeness I felt when we were pronounced man and wife.  I was a Mrs. and I was a changed person and I had no idea what we were about to face.

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