Saturday, September 20, 2014

Transitional Imperfection

We expected that our younger son would have a bit of a rough transition to school. Since it is an alternative education school with more relaxed and more common sense policies for the younger kids than what public school doles out I didn't think it would be too drastic.

We expected lower grades, challenges with learning to memorize foreign language and developing study habits. I had no clue how he would do remembering assignment, if he would comply or be open to keeping a "student diary" type calendar or at least use an app on the iPhone.

We figured homework would be an adjustment but truth be told he has either no homework, a half hour, or an hour's worth a night. For 9th grade!

He is doing Singapore Math and they have a combined Algebra I & II class. The whole class is a combined grades 9 & 10 since grade 9 enrollment was too low to justify the creation of a class just for them, so kids are at different math ability levels. He seemed to forget everything he learned last year, even basic pre-algebra stuff so it was a bit rough at the start. I asked what the textbook was, thinking I could buy one, and asked instead if he could take his textbook home at night (they normally make them leave them in class). The school decided to send him home with a brand new Singapore textbook to leave here. My husband is helping him. I am just as capable but they are leaving me alone due to homeschool burnout and stress over my eye condition.

I have not seen grades yet.

I seriously have let go and am letting the school handle my son. It is very different to just let go and let it happen. I thought all responsible parents help their kid such as if they struggle with a math concept, to suggest they go watch Khan Academy's video on it, until that gets ingrained so the student does such a thing on his own.

We told our son he is not being pulled out so he is there for the whole year no matter what.

So far, so good, I think, after three weeks in.

Friday, September 19, 2014

First Public Show For My Business

I did my first public show to sell my soap and body care products which I formulate on my own and create in small batches myself. I was asked to participate after the organizer found my etsy shop. I had only five weeks notice so rushed to make some fall and winter scented soaps and products that would be good for stocking stuffers. Since the soap has to cure for a minimum of four weeks you can see I rushed in week one.

The show as billed as a harvest to holidays market and was pushing to buy for Christmas. Thing is, it still feels like summer in Houston. It's not October yet and people are not even in the Halloween mindset let alone thinking of Thanksgiving then Christmas.

It is a major undertaking to pack up inventory, buy and prepare all the supplies for the display, load it into your vehicle, drive to the place, unpack the vehicle, set it all up, look presentable (after all that sweating), then sell and then tear down and shove it all back in your car and drive home. After days of prep to wrap and label and get signage for prices, I was faced with bad weather.

We had gully washer thunderstorms with rain the size of half dollars. There were multiple flash flood warnings from the National Weather Service. Roads were closed. I left at noon and drove an hour through that insanity. Thank goodness there was a roof over the drop off area and a cart. I actually had a hand truck at home, but while using it the axle broke rendering it useless.

Attendance was estimated to be 500 but I would say only 200 came through, at the most, and some of those were kids and babies in strollers. It was just that kind of rotten weather day that after dealing with it you wanted to just stay home at night. Especially because although it was sprinkling or dry at shopping time, the prediction for more gully washers all day the next day was known to all. It was a depressing weather day for Houston.

I made 25 sales. I understand a first time buyer may be afraid that my product sucks so they want to buy one or two bars to try out. The challenge is since this is an annual market only, they do not have access to my product except for the etsy shop. Some young women said they would buy via etsy. Maybe that generation is more Internet shopping comfortable and not minding to pay $6 to ship 8 bars? I doubt the older ones would shop online.

I don't know whether what I took in was good for the bad weather or bad for me in general. The door to door time was 10.5 hours and that doesn't count packing up everything and loading and unloading the car. We were encouraged to discount or offer a special sale so I knocked $1 off my price and added tax after (formerly the 8.25% tax was inside my price).

I like home shows the best. The audience is targeted. The actually want to be there hearingabout your   product and friends can be influenced by other friends more than just relying on direct sales pitches from the business owner. When you are an artisan maker of things your passion is making the thing not necessarily being a salesperson first and foremost. But when you make and sell you have to have at least decent sales skills.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Decluttering In Short Spurts

I was folding laundry and when I went to put the t-shirts away I realized the drawer was overflowing. I realized I probably had not done a clean out in a year so I decided to just tackle it.

I removed each item and put them in a stack. I thought I had it organized but this soon revealed some confusion. In realizing the minor chaos I had ideas on how to better organize things. You can do this for yourself while working with your own things. I will share my process for this. It took me about 45 minutes to do four drawers and to select items to donate and to pack those in boxes to ready for donation.

1. Workout pants and shirts in bottom drawer. Special clothing for exercising, Under Armour, yoga pants, running shorts, etc. I removed items that I have not worn or that are too large now for the donate pile. I found a sports bra there and moved it to the bra drawer.

2. T-shirts that we call spirit wear: logo shirts for our kid's sports teams and FIRST Robotics team. I realized I have the old hated sport club so those went in the donate pile. I don't want to advertise them anywhere around here so they are gone. Some "Life is Good" shirts which I don't wear around on a daily basis can be used for exercising.

3. For gardening, arts and crafts, and soapmaking I selected two of my husband's wrong sized dress shirts, three mock turtlenecks that are stretched at the neck, three stretched or stained comfortable t-shirts, and one sleeveless knit shirt that is too old ladyish to wear out.

4. Plain casual t-shirts for wearing around that fit well and are flattering on me. Tight knit t-shirts to wear layered in winter. Golf or tennis type shirts designed to wick away sweat that I wear in hot weather.

While I was on a roll I decided to tackle the pajama drawers (three). Shirts are on the top, I pared it down to the ones I actually wear. Bottoms are in the next drawer, I got rid of some that are not comfortable enough so never get chosen to be worn. The last drawer is nightshirts or nightgowns, I got rid of one I never wear.

All the drawers are not quite full. All the laundry is clean and put away so I know everything can fit.


A basic principle with keeping stuff and clutter is having too many is the issue. There is no need to keep souvenir shirts for teams you now hate, or shirts that are too big now and are unflattering. There is no reason to keep fifteen stained t-shirts thinking you need them for gardening work when your schedule and laundry washing routine means three shirts can suffice.

The biggest help in decluttering is putting everything in one spot and seeing that you have too many. When the excess is seen and realized it starts to look ridiculous and stupid if not greedy (hoarding up stained t-shirts for what reason?). So it is easy to let go of the unnecessary crap.

Donate your stuff to a nonprofit organization and take the donation slip to use as a write-off on your federal income taxes, that's what we do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vayarin Update

I was asked how Vayarin is working for my older son (age 17). Here is an update from my original post: Trying Vayarin For Older Son.

We did not notice a change but he is still on it. He eats no fish and lacks nutrients from his picky eating.

The insurance does not pay for it but the drug store runs it through them and they then give us a 20% discount. It's an odd arrangement.

It was $58 a month until last month when it jumped to $63.

We are having trouble finding an over the counter fish oil supplement that doesn't reek and make him gag and puke upon trying to swallow it. The Vayarin is tasteless.

I note that my son's health issues which were diagnosed in June 2014 may have contributed to a lack of focus, memory, and alertness. He was diagnosed with hypothryoid, very very low vitamin D, low calcium and magnesium. He's on all kinds of supplements now.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Posterior Vitreous Detachment

Today I consulted with my retina specialist group. My husband wanted to be there to hear and ask questions, so he left work early and drove me, which was helpful since it's too hard to drive after the higher level of dilation.

Two days ago I suffered an episode of posterior vitreous detachment. I am at high risk for this being severely myopic. The doctors always said there is a high risk of retina detachment but no one ever mentioned this precursor stage this is more common than retinal detachment itself.

So on Saturday I had a new bad floater that was clearly defined and black, a vertical line with zig-zags. When looking straight ahead it appeared as one line but when I moved my eye it would move to the side then open up like a tall oval and would shift around.

On Sunday when I woke up I saw that the black line was starting to fade and have fuzzy edges. It also seemed shorter. It had a new blurry center spot which made it harder to read.

On Monday when I woke up the area was more of a dark gray and it was much shorter, kind of like a crumpled up bunch of lines, resembling a wad of paper you bunch up before throwing away. I could see the edges but they were a bit soft.

Treatment Plan

I am not on restricted movement and can exercise fully. I am not on medication. The doctor said there is nothing to do but wait.

In the next two to three months I am at a higher risk of this occuring again and this time having it tug at the retina so hard that it tears the retina away and results in a retinal detachment. If I find new floaters, flashing lights, or partial or total blindness I was told to call them immediately and demand to speak to a doctor. I was told to wait no more than ten minutes before phoning the answering service  back and demanding an eye exam, no matter if it is a weekend or at night.

A retina detachment would mean a laser surgery is required.


I still have this horrid headache that began Saturday morning but it supposedly has no connection.

There are no nerves in this eye area so there is no sensation. There is no pain.


I am tired from not getting enough sleep lately. My hormones are probably off because I have been waking up hours earlier and unable to fall back to sleep. I feel worn down by the headache.

I do not fear death itself but honestly my most dreaded thing or my fear is living life with impaired vision or blindness. I began wearing glasses at age seven and have always taken great care of my eyes since I have been told since my early teen years that my myopia is so bad that I was at risk for retinal detachment. My great grandmother suffered with a botched cataract surgery and infection after surgery, and had impaired vision after that. One grandmother went blind in one eye overnight due to undiagnosed high blood pressure causing eye problems and my other grandmother had a detached retina that healed partially after surgey then suffered with old age type macular degeneration that left her almost completely blind, unable to read or watch television, or see faces of people right in front of her.

I don't' want to go blind.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Retina Issues

In fall 2012 I had an eye exam for new contact lenses with an optometrist. I was offered a retina photograph that was a new technology. I agreed to pay out of pocket for it as a screening tool. Well, the test was abnormal and I was sent to a retina specialist ophthalmologist. I was diagnosed with splitting retinas in both eyes. The doctor admitted the technology is so new that the truth is they don't know how many people walk around with benign split retinas all their life versus the emergency split retinas that cause a tear and a detached retina. The course of treatment is an annual exam by a retina specialist to track the status and see if it get worse.

So I have had two visits to the retina specialists, one every twelve months. In August I burned my eyes with store bought liquid soap that clogged the dispenser so when I plunged it down it squirted directly into both eyes. This was real soap, liquid Castile soap and it was just awful. I had chemical burns in both eyes and followed up with an ophthalmologist the next day. He did an ultrasound of both eyes and said I had floaters. We discussed my splitting retinas. We made a plan that every June I will see him for a regular eye exam and new prescription for glasses and contacts then six months later will be my annual exam with the retina specialist. So my retinas will get checked every six months.

I have severe myopia and have worn glasses since the second grade. I have been told all my life that I am at high risk for detached retinas and may wind up blind some day. I surely hoped not, losing my vision is a bigger fear for me than dying.

Yesterday I got a headache and saw a new black line in my right eye. I was a jagged shape of an oval of sorts. When looking straight ahead it looked like a line. When I moved my eye the jagged line moved and opened up to a thin oval, moved around a bit then would settle into a vertical line. It is about half of my "height" of my field of vision. In a lit room the line was black. In a darkened room the line was silver and white and kind of flashing.

Eleven years ago I had half of my right eye go black on the right side. I had a very low grade headache. This was during a blizzard when the state declared a state of emergency and closed the highways. No doctor would see me as they were all closing for the day. My kids were little and I was home alone with them. I fretted. The best I could do was see an eye doctor the next day. I prayed to God right then for healing and I would believe if he cured me. The black lifted and I was left with only a wavy vision and flashing lights. My ophthalmologist diagnosed it as a migraine with aura.

I had a full physical and the doctor said I was perfectly healthy. I had that daily low grade headache and the repeating migraines with aura. I went to see a homeopathic doctor. She put me on the blood type diet. This cleared my headaches. I only kept it up for nine months. It was hard for me to never eat dairy, corn, soy, or wheat plus a long list of veggies, fruits and other whole foods. The migraines did stay away though, until now.

Anyhow yesterday I was thinking this was a migraine. I went right to bed to rest. I took Advil. Later I sent my husband to buy Excedrin Migraine. I rested all day. I drank more coffee for the caffiene. Then I worried I was dehydrated and pushed water fluids. The headache would not stop and the vision was the same. I had cancelled the daytime plans and backed out of a party that night. I rested and rested, no relief.

By nine at night I was getting worried this may really be my retina. I read online about vitreal tears and the risk of retinal detachment. I phoned my retina doctor and waited for a call. They never did call me back that night.

On Sunday morning, when it his the twelve hour mark I called the doctor's answering service again. The doctor did call me an hour later. As I suspected he is worried it is a vitreal tear.

Today the black line is more fuzzy and it is surrounded by an area of blurriness. It is hard to read and even looking at anything is strange as the vision is disturbed.

Best case scenario is this is a new floater which will fade over time or that my brain may get used to dealing with. It is typical that this will never go away. Worst case scenario is this is a tear that can turn into a detached retina and then need laser surgery. Worst case scenario for that would be partial or complete blindness in this eye, which is my dominant eye. Worse than that would be if the other eye starts.

I worried this day may come someday. I was not ready for it to start right now.

I have my first market to sell to the public in four days. I had planned to do last minute prep all weekend and to really cram in a lot of necessary work. I have been resting and now that work is not possible.

My younger son was given a project to do for homework on Thursday. He has to come up with a fundraising idea, flesh out pros and cons and hows and details. He needs to write this up in a trifold brochure. (He needs to learn how to use that format on the computer too.) He needs to develop an oral presentation to be given in front of the class.

We knew he'd put it off and indeed it's due tomorrow and he has not started it yet. He was busy with his sport and the fundraiser for the sport on Friday and Saturday. He has a sport team party Saturday night. But it's Sunday and he needs to do his homework. I just lectured him informing he and his older brother of what is going on with my eye and how my first priority is my health today. That their first priority is their schoolwork and not video games. That they had fun Friday night and Saturday, and now it's time to get their assignments finished up. That I will not be nagging them or helping them. It's about priorities, and today my priority is my health.

I'm scared to death.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It Lasted 2.5 Years Exactly

When my older son turned 14 it was as if a switch was flipped. There was a lot going on that week: the 1800 mile move being the most stressful and he had just finished a course of antibiotics for Lyme Disease and not yet feeling back to his old self. Puberty hit big time and it was when my son began pushing us away.

I know what psychologists say about the teen years and the development of the concept of self. That was happening here. The worse stories in books of severe backtalk didn't happen but there was moodiness and brooding, an increase in anxiety and some holes punched put into walls and a broken hand from one failed attempt when he hit a stud.

The exploration of the outside world began with listening to music that is different than anyone else in the family had ever heard and the sneaking of watching TV shows via Internet that we would not have allowed if we had been consulted.

There was some pushback and a couple of declarations that we were the worst family in the world. Mostly there was a lot of being quiet and not sharing much. Being closed off and confiding in friends and the girlfriend of one year. This confiding in the girlfriend was a bit dangerous because it kept important information from us, information that would have helped us get better help for him.

The two most dangerous times were when he was having behavioral changes due to leaky gut from the daily antibiotics from the acne antibiotics and the psychiatric symptoms brought on by the trials of two different ADHD medications. When the teen confides in the girl not his parents it can get dangerous. Oh and there was the time he rode away in his bike in anger and I happened to be driving down the road and saw him cross the street and nearly get hit by a truck, who swerved to the wrong side of the road to avoid hitting him, which almost meant that I and my younger son were almost hit in a head-on collision. This stuff would seem too bizarre for a fiction book but it was our real life.

I was greatly helped by a therapist who does neurofeedback therapy who explained my son's qEEG scan and how the frontal lobe showed activity and ADHD type activity and how the best thing for our son would be to do what was possible to get him to remain alive until about age 24, when the brain would calm down and be functioning in a better way.

It has now been three years since that first switch and the various medical problems that we discovered along the way. Great gains have been made since he began taking thyroid medicationfor hypothryoid   and supplements to aid his extremely low vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium levels. The various medical doctors, ER staff, hospital staff and others have been consulted when necessary and second opinions have been sought.

When he hit 16.5, exactly, it was if a switch was flicked back on. He began turning back into his old self. He started treating everyone better, saying please and thank you, expressing gratitude for things. He began doing thoughtful acts, offering to do things for me, buying treats for me and his brother. He was smiling more and laughing more. He opened up and was back to telling me things. He asked for back scratches. He was sitting next to me and just talking. He asked me to watch his favorite TV shows with him. He wanted me around, he was not always running off and away. He also opened up to my husband after getting closer with me. He and his father began spending more time together talking about things like computers and the stock market and political current events.

I waited until this state of affairs was consistently happening for six months before mentioning it on the blog.

I have heard from parents with kids older than mine that teen boys go off and isolate themselves for a period of years. In some cases it starts in middle school and doesn't go back to normal until 12th grade or after a year or two being away at college. Some say their kids returned to their old self after college graduation. I am overjoyed that my older son's time in that phase was only two and a half years.

I love him so much and wish him good health and happiness in life. I think he is in a good place as he's been in 12th grade for about a month now. He's enjoying his life right now and it's so great to see.