photo by Surely Sweet Photography

Changing Diapers: the Hip Mom's Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering

Friday, August 9, 2013

Road Trip 2013

All year we have been anticipating our 15 day road trip to California and back.  We were so busy, though, that we had other things keeping our minds from dwelling on it too much.  I was anxious about how the kids would do with all the driving (I was not ready to hear "Are we there yet?" for hours on end).  I planned our route, made reservations at some RV parks, planned out meals, bought groceries, packed up the camper.... But even up until we left I didn't feel like it was really time to leave.  So much planning, it felt strange to get in the truck and go.

2 days before we left, we had serious truck trouble.  Ryan had to stay up late the 2 nights before we left to fix it (and still get up before dawn to go to work all day).  It wasn't easy chipping away each bearing that had essentially welded themselves to the axle, but at least we didn't have to buy a new axle.  Once again, I was thankful he has super mechanic skills and was able to fix it himself.  Sure did save us a lot of money, and we didn't have to delay the trip. 

We left on a Saturday morning, a little later than planned thanks to the truck troubles.  Our goal was to make it to Carlsbad, NM so we could visit Carlsbad Caverns the next day.  Let me just mention here that there were only 2 things on this trip that I had not seen before, but Ryan hasn't seen any of it.  He's been to San Diego and the beach, but that was it. 

This was our very first night to pull into an RV park with our new (to us) travel trailer and get it all hooked up.  Fortunately, Ryan is a 'jack of all trades' so this was a no brainer for him.  He showed me how to level it out with the jacks and set it all up.  The kids were going crazy from sitting all day, and they enjoyed the small playground the park offered.  We managed to get the kids to bed, since we knew we had a long day ahead.

Carlsbad Caverns was simply amazing.  We took the natural entrance down, which looks like a big hole in the ground.  It was approximately a 1.25 mile walk to the Big Room, all down hill.  Then we did the self guided tour of the Big Room (about a 1.3 mile walk).  Eli was too young for any of the guided tours, so we skipped those.  Because I had to take it slow due to my foot, and the fact that we had 2 kids with us, we were still down there for several hours.  When we finished in the Caverns, we took the elevator up, ate some lunch, then headed back to camp for a break.

Riley was mad that we stopped for a picture, and refused to smile.
He was just ready to get down into that big cave!
Eli was getting tired from all the walking, so he hitched a ride.
Later, Ryan carried Eli on the front and Riley on the back. 
I really wished I had remembered to bring the Boba!

Riley adopted "Batty" and Eli adopted "Batman".  They slept with these each night of the trip.
We returned later that night for the Bat Flight Program.  Since they don't know exactly what time the bats will decide to wake up to find food, the park ranger leading the program shared some facts.  The highlight of the program was the skit they did, with some audience participation.  They needed a "mysterious man" for one of the parts.  Guess who was voted in?  Batman!  A young boy (9-10?) came dressed as Batman, in full costume.  He had to grunt when pointed to for his part, and he did the perfect impression of Batman.  No photos are allowed during the Bat Flight, so as not to disrupt the bats, so we only have our memories of that.  I was actually surprised at how long it took for them to stream out -- we left after 30 minutes and the bats still were coming out of the caves! 

We had to stop and talk to the park ranger, though.  Riley didn't believe Ryan and me when we told him that there was no giant robot bat hanging from the cave ceiling.  He swore he saw one down there, even though we tried our best to explain that is was just shadows.  The park ranger didn't give a straight answer, though, so I'm not really sure what Riley believes now....

Monday morning, we unhooked and hit the road.  We drove through beautiful Cloudcroft, NM, where the temps were only in the low 70's!!  We stopped briefly to let the brakes cool, and enjoyed this view of White Sands in the distance.

You can see White Sands in the distance.
We asked strangers to take photos of the 4 of us at various places on the trip.

Our stop was brief at White Sands, but we had a quick picnic lunch then let the boys play.  They loved rolling down the sand dunes!  We wished we had sleds (or at least cardboard) with us, but we also knew we'd never be able to drag the kids away if we did. 

We continued our drive to stay in Tucson, AZ for the night.  The desert was so hot, and so bland.  We pulled into the Oceanside RV Park in Oceanside, CA just before sunset.  We quickly hooked up, then walked to the beach.  It should have been only an 8 minute walk, but we didn't know where we were going and didn't look at a map.  So after about 20 minutes we finally arrived just in time to see the sun set over the Pacific. 

"Cheese!"  Now can I go play?!

This was the best photo I could get of him.  I'm just sad his face was blurry!
But it captures him at the beach so perfectly, since he was too excited to be still!
 The boys didn't want to leave, but we promised them we would return to spend more time in the sand. 

We spent all day Wednesday at Legoland.  The kids had a blast!!  Riley was able to ride everything, but Eli had to miss out on 3 rides because he wasn't tall enough (about 1" short).  This was never an issue, though, since Ryan or I would just take him to another ride.  We were there about 10 hours, and still didn't do everything!  We skipped the longer lines (anything more than 30 minutes) so we'd be able to see more of the park.  There was an awesome display of Star Wars Miniland, and even a life size model of an X Wing fighter made of more than 5,335,200 legos!!

This was a favorite for all 4 of us!  The boys loved to play and get wet. 
Ryan & I enjoyed being able to sit and watch instead of constantly moving!

How many hugs do you think Darth Vader is used to getting?

The boys protected us from the fiery dragon!
The life size model that took 32 builders over 3 months to build!

Thursday we decided to take a break from Legoland, and have a quiet day.  We drove up to the Oceanside Farmers Market and enjoyed some delicious peaches and plums!  Then we walked out on the pier before going to Carlsbad to find some lunch.  After a wonderful seafood lunch (I had the Scottish salmon, Ryan had swordfish), we had ice cream at Sub Zero, a place where they make the ice cream, yogurt, or custard to your unique taste and freeze it in front of you using liquid nitrogen!  The boys enjoyed picking out their flavors and add ins and seeing the cloud of 'smoke' before enjoying a cold treat.

Juicy plums at the Oceanside Farmer's Market
The pier in Oceanside.
Fro Yo at Sub Zero, Carlsbad, CA
We then headed back to the camper to change into our suits and head for the beach!  This was our first time to Cali in the "heat" of the summer (it was only about 74 degrees and cloudy while we were there).  The water was still cold, but we all got in the water.  Riley told us that he wasn't cold, that his arms and lips were shaking because "they're just scared".  The boys absolutely loved playing in the waves!!  Eli was knocked over countless times, but he didn't care.  We built sandcastles.  I even had the genius idea to let them bury me in the sand (hey, I get to lay there while they stay busy, what could be better than that?!).  It was a good idea, until I had to try to wash the sand off of me.  The pool at our campground had a warm water outdoor shower, which worked so much better than the cold mister they had at the beach.  Then we swam in the heated pool before getting ready for dinner.  No pics of the afternoon, since I left my camera behind so I could also enjoy the sand and water!  And since my phone crashed, I lost the pics I had on there.
We had 2 different people recommend Pizza Port -- a great pizza place with their own micro brewery!  The place was packed, but Ryan and I enjoyed some local craft brews while waiting for the delicious pizza.  We were disappointed they don't bottle their own brew, but we did buy a few local craft beers to bring home for Ryan's 30th birthday beer tasting party. 

Waiting for pizza!

Friday, we headed back to Legoland to visit the water park!  It was much busier that day since it wasn't mid-week, but not terrible.  We brought the camper this time since we had to check out of the RV park by 11:00.  It was only $5 more for parking, but we were able to park near the entrance in their oversized vehicle parking lot.  Again, no pics of this day since I left my camera behind so I could enjoy the fun in the water with the kids.

Riley told me his favorite part of Legoland was "Everything!!  I liked Legoland water park and the regular park!"  Eli told me his favorite was "Legoland water park!"

Late afternoon, we left Legoland and changed in the camper before heading off to the California desert to visit my brother, his wife, and their 2 kids.  I'll post the rest of our trip in another post:)  This one is long already, and our internet out here in the stix in extremely sloooooooooo....oooow to upload pics.  It took about 4 hours just to upload the ones to this post. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Two Years.

Today marks 2 years since our motorcycle accident. I often wonder when the day will come that it won't constantly be on my mind. While I have accepted what happened and forgiven the person who hit us, it is difficult to put it behind me when I am reminded of it with every step I take. Literally.

On April 6, 2013 I participated in my very first 5K. I knew I couldn't run it, but I wanted to do it to prove to myself I could complete it. I felt that if I could accomplish this small feat, then I would be one step (or a couple thousand) closer to putting the accident behind me. I walked it with a friend who is training for a 5K in May. We completed our 3 goals: 1) finish in under 1 hour; 2) don't come in last place; 3) cross the finish line.

During the walk, I felt fine! I was barely winded as we kept up a brisk walking pace. I was proud that all of the work I've put in at the gym over the last 3 months have paid off, in that respect! We even jogged for about 100 feet or so. I have discovered that I am capable of jogging, though it's with a limp and a lot of pain. But I am capable of jogging for brief distances -- something I was not able to do a few months ago. This is a great comfort to know that if my child runs out in a parking lot I will be able to chase them.

Immediately after the 5K, I felt fine. I felt proud. I felt accomplished. My foot was a little sore, but not too bad.

Two hours later, I wasn't feeling so great. We had a busy day, shopping for flooring and picking up our new appliances for the new house. Yes, that's right! We bought a house!! More on that later. My foot hurt so bad that I took a long, hot bath and a pain pill before bed. It was the first pain pill in over a year. Two other times the following week I took a pain pill, as the aftermath of the 5K was just too much.

That proud feeling of accomplishment diminished. I wondered, Why the hell did I think I could do that?! The awful thought crept back into my mind, Why didn't the doctors just amputate my foot? Why did they try so hard to save it, when it causes me so much pain?! Medical technology has come so far that people with prosthetics can do far more than I can.

It is hard to stay positive when every step hurts.

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas holidays is bake. I love to try new recipes, as well as old. This past Christmas, I decided to just deal with the pain of standing in the kitchen so I could do what I love. I have tried to make this decision more often the last several months. I figure, this is something I just have to deal with so I shouldn't miss out on what I want to do. I joined a gym in January and started meeting with a personal trainer twice a week. With my inactivity, I gained weight. I decided I would no longer use the pain as an excuse not to better myself. I try to prevent as much pain as possible, by taking ibuprofen, stretching, and using kinesio tape before anthing that requires a lot of standing or walking. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't.

But when I do something I love, I pay for it dearly. It takes a minimum of a week to recover from a big event. The 5K was by far the worst recovery in a long time. It has been harder to deal with emotionally than I expected. While I'm still proud of myself for doing it, it also made me extremely disappointed that I was one of the last ones across the finish line. No, I wasn't last, but I wasn't even close to being in the middle of the pack. I was reminded yet again of how one moment can change a life forever.

Then the guilt hits. Again. I feel like I should be more grateful we are okay, and I am. I am extremely grateful. The guilt creeps in when I remind myself of how much worse it could have been.

I didn't pay attention to what the charity was when I signed up for the 5K, or even the morning of the event. It was all about proving something to myself (kinda selfish, huh?). It wasn't until later that day when my mom noticed the race's t-shirt I was wearing. The race was to support Jackie's Scholarship Fund. Jackie Murphree is the victim of a drunk driver. She suffered traumatic brain injury, and nearly died in the accident in 2007. Her family has held strong to support Jackie. She has become an inspiration to those around her. 

I feel I don't have the right to complain about the pain when others aren't as fortunate as we were. While I am thankful it wasn't worse, it doesn't change the fact that every step I take hurts. Yes, it could be worse. But that doesn't take the physical pain away. I feel guilty for wishing (at the worst of times) that the doctors had just amputated my foot.

I also feel guilty when I think about how Ryan survived cancer. If he could go through 2. 5 years of chemo and be the amazing man he is today, then I can suck it up and deal with this.

I also have guilt about money. I received a sizeable settlement from the insurance company for the accident. Part of me is thankful for what we got, the other part of me thinks it wasn't enough. I have had a hard time accepting that we do deserve some kind of compensation for the short and long term hard ships the accident caused. It was a stressful ordeal, and I'm thankful we had a lawyer to take care of it all for us. We haven't talked publicly about the settlement very often. I feel like others will judge me for accepting a settlement. Even worse, I feel others will judge me for being excited about getting a settlement.

I used to secretly judge those who pursued a settlement after an accident. I thought they were just being greedy and trying to take advantage of an unfortunate situation.  While many people do this, I now realize there are many people who pursue settlements because they truly did suffer.  I didn't realize until we went through it just how hard it makes your entire life. We paid a lot of money upfront for medical bills, while others went to collections because we couldn't pay them. Yes, we have medical insurance but there were the co-pays, deductibles, and patient portions that we were responsible for.  In addition, there were childcare expenses so I could go to doctor's appointments and physical therapy once my mom moved back home.  I also went to a chiropractor for a few months to see if that made a difference -- that was all out of pocket.  It was hard not just on me, but my entire family: my husband, my parents, my kids, my inlaws.... It was more than just myself affected by my injuries.

I have permanent damage, that I will always have to deal with. How do you put a price tag on something like that? I struggled with finding a magical number that made me feel comfortable. I felt guilty for wanting more, but also felt like I was selling myself short if we asked for too little. Nearly 2 years after the accident happened, we got a check from the insurance company.

It would have been easy to splurge with the money (which we've done a little bit, but not much). We have done our best to be smart with the money. We paid off some debt and medical bills (because I had a lot of medical bills!). We also took full advantage of things we normally wouldn't have been able to do. We bought a second vehicle (the truck Ryan has wanted since before he met me!). We bought a house with 5 acres, in cash. Not having a mortgage is such a blessing for us, as we are a one income family. We are also buying an RV to use for family vacations. Since hotels and airfare are so expensive this will help make those trips more affordable. We are planning a 2 week vacation this summer to visit Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, family in California, Disneyland, the beach, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon. Most importantly, we are setting aside a good emergency fund and retirment savings.

I often joke that my foot has paid for all of these things. Though it's true, and it's a bigger blessing than we can even express, I would never go through any of this again. I can't imagine where our lives would have been if we weren't in the wreck, therefore never receiving the settlement. There's no point in wondering what would have been, but I don't think we would be in as good of a place as we are now.  But I also wouldn't have chronic pain.  It is very bittersweet. I am thankful that something good has come out of something bad. I hold onto that everytime I feel the guilt creep up.

We finally feel like our life is no longer on hold. For the first year, it was all about short term recovery. For the last year, we have been waiting to see what would happened with the settlement. Now that that chapter is closed, we can finally start moving forward. At times, it is harder to deal with the aftermath of the accident now than it was in the beginning. Short term recovery was easy, in retrospect. The reality of the long term effects is hard to accept.

I am working on dealing with the guilt. I also plan to make a doctor's appointment to see if there is anything that can be done for the pain in my foot and ankle. While I don't have an official diagnosis, I am pretty sure I suffer from Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis as a result the permanent damage in my ankle. I have done research to find new ways to find relief for these conditions, to no avail. Everything I've tried provides very little, short term relief. As much as I hate to think about it, surgery appears to be the next step for relief (and it's not even a guarantee). But I'm to the point that I will try anything to reduce the pain in my foot and ankle. I am tired of living in pain. I'm tired of having to decide if an activity is worth it, as it takes a week or more to recover.

The one thing I know for sure, is that God has seen us through the last 2 years. He would have been there through every "what if...." scenario I could think of, if those had come to fruition. He will always be there for us, no matter where life takes us. I have always been, and I continue to be, thankful.

And now, just a few photos of the reasons I am thankful!  These are raw, unedited photos -- far from perfect!  Which is fitting, since we are far from perfection.  These memories hold a special place in my heart.  Not only the memories we have already experience, but the ones yet to come as we see what God has in store for our future.

Taking the boys to see the pond on our new property!

Sunset view from the pond.

The gorgeous view behind our house! It's not all ours, but it's nice to look at!

Ryan showing the boys a prickly pear cactus.

Kings of the Mountain!

Ryan and his new (to us) truck.

Working together at the Children's Museum.

Mr. Fix It, just like his daddy.

I love the bond these boys have!

Easter Sunday 2013