Sunday, November 22, 2015

Being a Slacker

It's been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog. The main reason is probably because we've all been so busy.

I realized I never followed up on the testing that we did for Tom.

1 - Pyrole Testing. Negative. So, that's good.

2 - CFD Testing. Positive for one of the antibodies and borderline for the other, but, it means that we had levels of both antibody types in his system. Whether they caused a cerebral folate deficiency or not, they are there and therefore we have to be careful about ensuring that he gets sufficient folate in a form that can cross the blood brain barrier. It also means that he will stay milk-free for the foreseeable future (milk upregulates the antibodies).

3 - Lyme. Positive. Flaming positive. We don't know when the exposure was, but it's been there in a big way. We ended up doing a month long abx course and we will just need to watch for future issues. We'd always assumed that his joint pains were because of growth, but maybe they weren't. Since the abx we haven't had any issues with them either... Hmm.

We've started the process for vision therapy too. We've suspected that he had some lingering visual issues after his eye surgery at one and he also fit into many of the symptoms of this, including visual fatigue, reading problems etc. Anyway, following his evaluation, we discovered that his visual processing issues are awful. His tracking is terrible which is causing some hurdles to reading. I am honestly baffled how he could read at all. He has a divergence excess and his eyes operate totally independently. When eyes don't work together, they don't give depth perception, and needless to say, he doesn't have much of that either. He also can't see 3D at all in terms of screens, cinema, magic eye pictures. This is something that isn't covered by insurance, but, frankly, who cares? It's something that has the potential to be life changing for him and there is no way we wouldn't do it. He's a couple of weeks into what will be a 10 month process. So far so good. My main goal is that he doesn't hate the process and that he understands what we are trying to achieve, which he does. He recognizes the issues he has and wants to fix them. This has made this whole thing much easier than I ever would've thought. We are doing weekly appts and daily homework, which again, we haven't had any issues with, so, we're all very excited about what this brings to the table.

Well, that was short and sweet... :)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cruising!

This past spring break we took our first cruise vacation. We were looking for something where Jeff could fish salt water areas and where I could relax, but also that would be great for Tom. So, we figured we would try out cruising, which neither Jeff nor I had done before.
We took a Western Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean, which stopped at Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico with 3 cruising days in addition to our port stops.

Firstly, let me just say that we are hooked. The boat had so many things to do, the food was great (and we were able to deal with Tom's food issues easily) and the port stops were wonderful, but, what was also a big deal for us was the kid's club activities for Tom.


Family vacations are exhausting, especially with the child that never stops, but, it worked out really well. Tom loved the kid's club and all the games and activities they did. They even did a little pirate show which he was fully engaged with. I am so glad I have a 'joiner' of a child.

In Roatan, Tom decided he wanted to stay on the boat, so a friend and I decided to take a quick walk whilst Jeff and his friend went fishing. The port area in Roatan was super cute, but the town itself was pretty typical of some Caribbean areas - dirty with small children following you wanting to be 'tour guides'. It was at least nice to get out and about though, although, if I ever go to Roatan again, I'll take an excursion next time.



Belize was really cool. I've been there a  few times before (Ambergris and Placencia) but this time, we had a boat into Belize City and I booked Tom and I on an excursion to the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha with a boat ride on the Wallace River. Tom loved it, as did I. There is something about travel that is so good for him. We stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant and had some great chicken and a drink before our boat ride. We saw a ton of animals - monkeys, bats, iguanas, crocodiles etc.




Our final stop was in Cozumel and that was also wonderful. We did a morning excursion to snorkel with sting rays and again, Tom lapped it up! It was very cool, we all got to pet and feed them too, then we hung out at the little beach area for a drink before heading back to the ship to clean up a little and then go out to explore for the afternoon.
Cozumel was fun - I had the strongest margarita I've ever had in my life and did a little drunk jewelry shopping, picking myself up a lovely silver cuff. Tom also scored a shark tooth necklace that he is very proud of.

All in all it was a great trip. We came back refreshed and relaxed and are already looking towards next spring break!



Friday, March 6, 2015

Tomster's 8!

Kiddo turned 8 this morning, and just as the case 8 years ago when he put in an early appearance, at 6.15 today, in he came, full of birthday joy.
Sweetie pie with crazy hair!
The past few years really have flown. I can hardly believe our tiny boy is so big and grown up.
We've been through a lot in the last 8 years and every year just gets better and better. He is just amazing. He has such joy for life.

This year has brought so many milestones for him. He is reading pretty independently and although still needing a little help on the longer words, he's really getting there. He's also reading for fun, which is wonderful to see. His latest loves are his Minecraft books, which he takes in the car for trips as well as bringing them out in restaurants.

He is a hockey fiend! He loves playing and is getting pretty good these days. More than anything though, he's a true team player, which is something I never knew if he would be able to do. I guess he showed us :). He genuinely loves the sport, works hard at his practices, lives for playing games and loves his teammates. I don't think we could have found a better fit for him - the kids on his team are just super.

He loves Minecraft! I don't get it at all, but, he loves it. He creates things in there that I have no idea how he can see these things as he builds them. I guess we're finally seeing really how good he is with visual-spatial relations. What's more, is that the quest for knowledge about how to improve his game play has encouraged him to read more, which I'm always all for.

Tom has continued with his swim lessons, and now only has one more level before he's officially ready for pre-team, or rather, longer swim sessions to build up endurance. He's also started some riding lessons and loves hanging out with Cutter, the horse he rides.

School continues to go well from most aspects, he has friends in his class and fits right in. He's finally getting to grips with math skills, which were more of a challenge last year although is still struggling with spelling, which is something we are going to tackle over the next few months. He is surprisingly competent in Spanish and of course lives for PE.

The past few months have piqued his interest in cooking - having discovered Masterchef Jr on TV. He says when he's older, he would like to play hockey and if 'that doesn't work out, he'd like to be a chef, with his own restaurant'. He clearly doesn't follow his dad in that respect...

He continues his love of music, even though it has switched from playing (we couldn't fit in violin with hockey...) to listening and singing in the car. The current favourites are Maroon 5 and Fall Out Boy.

His language continues to develop and grow and his social skills are pretty darn good these days. We have been so amazingly fortunate with his progress.

More than anything, he is a true INDIVIDUAL. I love that he is so accepting, so generally cheerful, loves to make people laugh and to try new things. He is just the most amazing little guy and I am the luckiest person in the world that he's mine. The gifts he has, and shares universally, you just can't teach. I am so so proud of him.
Happy birthday Tomster!


Monday, February 16, 2015

First Skiing of 2015

Looking up Monarch Mountain
This past weekend was our first ski trip of the 2014-2015 season. Yes, we're late this year. Tom's been playing a lot of hockey and with us having visitors over the Christmas, we just haven't seem to have found the time to get to the slopes.
Since it's already so late in the season and we are away for spring break (more about that another time), we decided to not get the Keystone passes we normally get and try something new.
Tomster with helmet hair and his new togs. With my 20 year old bag. 
We took our first trip to Monarch Mountain to ski, driving up on Saturday, skiing for the afternoon, staying overnight in Salida, then skiing yesterday too.
Thoughts on the resort? Well, it's an odd combination actually. It's not a large hill, but has a lot of black runs, which, obviously we can't do with Tom (if at all these days). Then, the blues are a lot darker than at other resorts in Colorado, unless it's just my imagination. This, honestly, seems to restrict how many runs we could actually ski. So many of the blue runs, honestly, should have been groomed and would still have been a little challenging, but, double fall lines, narrow runs, trees and moguls are not a blue run.

Waiting for everyone else to get ready
It was good to try something else though and it was pretty cheap for a holiday weekend ski trip.
We stayed in Salida and that was a unexpected bonus - the hotel was cheap, decent and had a nice warm salt water pool. We also had a nice dinner on the river at River's Edge.
Tom has also discovered his new favourite thing - snorkelling. We picked him up a mask and snorkel for spring break and thought it would be a great opportunity for him to try it out.

We're kind of playing catch up with Tom's skiing, as we always do at the beginning of the season, but, he had a blast, despite some initial complaints about his gloves. Apparently they're too small. Hmm.
Anyway, here's the little guy in action! We still use his little Lucky Bums handle - it's so much easier for the lifts with it.


So, he's graduated to poles, is starting to bring his skis a little closer together, but, the biggest milestone we've hit is we're now letting him take his turn at leading our little group!

Final thoughts? Monarch is reasonable, not too far (under 3 hrs), you can get there without using I-70, but, there just aren't many runs you can do with a 7 yr old and the lifts are SLOW. Oh, and the lift line runs down are awful. Especially when you have to do it quickly because your kid loses one of his skis off the lift on the first trip. Not the way to warm up...!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Harris-Stockwell Christmas!

We've had a super busy Christmas. Between both sets of parents being here, as well as Jeff's brother, Craft Fairs that seemed to drag on forever and what seemed like insane amounts of hockey, we survived!
Hobnobs and coconut milk for Santa!
Tom was very funny. He declared "I must've been good - Santa left presents! I was so worried I was going to get a lump of coal!"



Layering up! AF jersey on top of a Broncos jersey on top of another shirt...

Dinner time!
 

Tomster was completely spoiled, as usual, scoring the much-nagged-for Republic Gunship, a new hockey stick, rollerblades and all manner of hockey accessories, including a ticket for his first Avalanche-Blackhawks game in Denver.

Of course, no family Christmas would be complete without some kind of sickness, right? Yours truly went down with flu on Boxing Day, followed by mum a day later...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Houston, We Have A Greenhouse!

Finally, we have a greenhouse. I've wanted one for years. Of course, we get it *just* as winter is coming, so, there won't be an awful lot of activity for a little while, but I am super excited that it's there and ready. Jeff also made me a little bench and another will be forthcoming at some point...

First installation in what will be our veggie garden area!

It is level, it's the pic that isn't...!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making Hard Decisions...And Being Surprisingly Happy About Them.

As my previous few recent posts have indicated, one of the things I have struggled with most since we had Tom is my career lack of progression. There was simply no way in the preschool years that I would be able to get him to all of his appointments and continue working, unless we had an au pair. 
I feel good about that choice for him. He has thrived because of all we have been able to do for him. 

What I've struggled with a lot is since we have started school. I'm not sure whether I feel I am missing out, or that staying home to raise our son is simply not enough, or whether it was a simple economic issue. We have to be more careful with finances because we have one income. 

Society doesn't value stay at home parents enough, that's for sure, but no level of articles about how much they 'should' earn ever convinces me. Because, at the end of the day, you don't get paid for raising your children, regardless of the value of what you do. Nor should you. 

A few weeks ago I went for a job interview in higher education here in town. It was a good job that required a degree in science. It would be a great launching point for the jump start of a somewhat stalled scientific career. It had great benefits and a decent salary. What it was not was particularly flexible. The hours would have been from around 10 am until 5 pm, which is not bad, until you consider that your child finishes school at 3.35 pm. That twice a week he has speech at 4 pm, that once a week we do tutoring at 5 pm. He has swimming at 4.45 pm one day per week. So - our appointments would need to be changed 4 days out of 5. Where else could I fit those appointments? Or would they have to disappear? Add to this fact that now I would need to arrange and pay for childcare for 5 days after school. Now add in snow days, teacher training days, school holidays, small child sick days and the costs that run with that. Our schools here have a 3 month summer break. 

My husband doesn't cook. He does lots of other things I prefer to stay out of (chopping wood, anything involving power tools etc), but he doesn't cook. So, imagine getting home at 5.30 pm with dinner still to make, homework still to do and appointments to fit in somewhere. We would be exhausted and ratty with each other. 

Don't get me wrong, I know that people manage just fine when they have 2 working parents. My sister has done for years, with 3 children. But, it's not for our family. Not right now anyway. 

So, I turned it down and surprisingly I don't feel upset. I think it's because I turned it down because I realised that I would be unhappier doing that job than not doing it. The hubby had said if I wanted it, he would support my choice and we would make it work. I couldn't think of a way it would work and I would be happy with everything else. So, I will continue with my glass work (and I'm also going to expand into selling some stained glass panels), I will work on our garden (the greenhouse went up this weekend!), I will be able to continue to volunteer at Tom's school, I will be able to get Tom to whichever appointment or activity he does. I will maintain control over my time. 

I am also going to pursue my teacher certification in science. There is a big shortage of science teachers in the US (as in the UK) and even if I only ever substitute teach, I won't have to worry about school holidays and expensive childcare. Nor will I miss time with my son, who, these days especially, is a pretty cool little guy. 

I had no idea that turning down a job that I thought I wanted would provide such clarity. Now it feels like I am in control of my choices and I think that helps. 

Pics to follow on the greenhouse... I am so excited to finally have it up!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shutterstock!

So, a couple of weeks ago I submitted some pictures to Shutterstock, which is a microstock site. It allows people to download photos for a fee, and then as a contributor, you get a little token payment.
I was really surprised given that after I had submitted them, I looked in their forums to see a ton of professional photographers complaining about their photos being rejected.
Yay! Go me!
Some have asked to looks at my pics to see what I have taken. Well, here you go!

http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-2639074p1.html


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Testing, Testing!

We've been in slow maintenance mode with Tom from a biomedical standpoint for a long time.
There are some tests though that have been on the backburner and I just haven't got to them. This past week, I've knocked out the final 3 tests that we needed to take care of. And of course, it's doubtful if insurance will cover them. We'll submit claims anyway and hope for the best. Of course, if they come back positive, we'll have a better shot. These tests alone are worth me doing my little job for the time I did.

1 - Kryptopyrroles - Tom has low zinc and his doc wondered if he has pyroluria, a metabolic issue. Anyway, this test will look for kryptopyrroles in urine, if they're there, we will have to supplement with high doses of zinc and B6.

2 - Cerebral Folate Deficiency - This test has been a pain in the arse to organize. It originally had to be shipped with dry ice, but, we managed to work with the lab and get the ok for normal cold packs. This test looks for antibodies to folate, which prevents folate transporting through the blood brain barrier. It is very common in ASD kids. It would also tie into the MTHFR folate conversion issue both Tom and I have. If indeed he has any of these antibodies, we would be upping folate supplementation in a big way.

3 - Full Lyme Panel - Tom popped positive for one band (P41) during the regular western blot test we did a year ago. The problem is that the Lyme tests that Labcorp do aren't really all that useful - they have a lot of false negatives and skip testing of some really specific Lyme bands. If Tom has Lyme, this test (from IGeneX) is the gold standard. What's interesting is that the P41 band is very specific for flagella (the little tail portion of the Lyme bacteria), so, even if not a Lyme causing bacteria, it means he's been exposed to something odd at some point. But, this will answer once and for all. If he has Lyme, we'll be looking at whether it's congenital (ie from me) or just chronic. Hoping it can rule it out at least. Again, Lyme is much more common than realized in ASD. If positive we'll be looking at long term abx to knock it out, although that will probably mean a ton of probiotics to counter it. Not looking forward to the potential resurgence of the yeast beast. But - we will just hope it's all negative.

So, these  tests are ones that had to be done outside of a normal lab, so we had to go to a different lab to get the blood samples drawn (for 2 and 3) and the samples shipped off to the various analysis labs.

Is it wrong that I'm like a kid in a sweet shop waiting for these results. The CFD one should come in first.... eek!

Monday, September 29, 2014

An Epiphany!

Well, who would've thought it? I think I've had an epiphany.
I was just joking with Jeff about me earning 50c today from the adverts on my blog and I made the comment "I'm going to be the queen of making money piecemeal doing nothing for it". Obviously, that's not quite true because no-one reads the blog and thus no traffic + no advert clicks if I don't post things.
I also had some images accepted by Shutterstock and am super excited about it. Especially when reading the forums I hear that long time professional photographers are having pictures rejected.
Putting images on a microstock site has the potential to earn me some money from downloads.

Anyway, do you get where I'm going with this?

My problem all along is that I've been looking for a single answer to my career/livelihood question. The solution? There isn't a single answer.

I've always joked that I'm a "jack of all trades and master of none", but, I suppose, that's not *quite* true, since I am a Doctor of molten salt electrochemical steel refining. Try saying that after a couple of beers.

The reality is that I'm actually quite good at lots of things. I'm competent with business skills and accounting, despite having only a couple of classes in accounting/finance. I'm competent at gardening. I'm getting a little more than competent with my glass work. I'm competent at advocacy. I'm competent at project management. I'm good at solving problems.
I could go on all day listing things I'm good at or competent at, but, I won't, because the point is, it's not ONE thing. I think that's why I've been having such a hard time deciding on which direction my career should take - because it's not just one of several, it's many. At the same time.

I have always been someone that juggles lots of balls and that's what I'm good at (except actual juggling - I'm utterly crap at that). It also prevents me getting bored.

Let's say for arguments that I am actually comprised of a few different people.

One loves gardening and loves being able to cut our grocery bill and lessen out impact on the planet by growing our own veggies.
One has an artistic side and loves creating interesting glass pieces.
One feels the need to use her education and feel respected for it.
One loves to take photos of nature.
One likes money, used to play trade and is careful with finances - and looks forward to tax time.
One loves to volunteer at her child's school and feel a part of his education.
One wants to expose her child to all kinds of opportunities in the world.
One loves to read and relax.
One loves to advocate and stand up for what's right.
One loves to write.

The thing is - they need to coexist. I don't want to give up any of my interests, whether or not they bring in moolah to the Stockwell coffers. Maybe I don't need to?