Friday, August 18, 2017

Home Sweet Home

We arrived home just before 9 last night, almost 15 hours after backing out of Mamaw's driveway in Michigan.  It was a looooong drive.  My brother left an hour ahead of us and ended up taking a different route but with the same 835 miles (give or take a few) and he made it home in 13 hours.  He only stopped twice though and I just can't do that.  We ended up stopping five times and I had to cath Anna at four of those.  The girls are much better now at not requesting stops as they know it will add time onto our drive.

I finally had a good night of sleep last night, my first in weeks.  I did not sleep well in Michigan and I hadn't been sleeping well before we left.  Thankfully, Anna was prescribed antibiotics prior to our departure.  It took 48 hours to get the test results back (urine culture) and I was in panic attack mode the entire time.  I knew something was wrong and I was beating myself up for not recognizing it earlier.  Anna wasn't experiencing the typical side effects one would have with a UTI/bladder infection, such as a fever.  This was one of those asymptomatic infections that I should have recognized earlier.   She (well, her urine) is back to normal now.

Unfortunately, I was absolutely exhausted on this trip and Rich wasn't there to help out.  I tried to work out the vacation plans so he could fly out and spend a few days in Michigan before we all drove back but that only pans out if a weekend is at or near the end of the trip.  So I went it alone.  Grammy was there but she stayed at Mamaw's house.  My brother, Dan, and I stayed at the same hotel, which was not only super fun for the kids, but extremely helpful.  We took turns watching each others kids when things came up and he helped me find me phone the night it went missing.  I actually thought it had been stolen.  We had all been at Mamaw's house and I had talked to Rich on the phone before we left for the hotel.  Dan arrived a few minutes before we did and we parked near him in the hotel parking lot.  They were looking at the parking space between our two cars because my niece had heard a metal sound when she stepped out of the car and thought she had kicked a nail.  We all searched the area but couldn't find anything.  (They later realized it was a bobby pin that fell out of her hair.) I had been bent over with my big, unzipped camera bag on my shoulder.  We parted ways with plans to meet at the pool after the kids changed.  I went to cath Anna and she asked to use my phone.  There was no phone.  I pulled everything out of my bag.  No phone.  We returned to the van.  No phone.  My brother called Grammy and asked her to check Mamaw's house and yard.  I didn't know if the ringer was on but notifications were so if called, the phone would vibrate.  I checked the van again.  No phone.  I checked with the front desk, thinking at this point that it must have fallen out of my bag and I didn't realize it with the commotion created by six kids.  Grammy couldn't find the phone at Mamaw's.  Dan had all the kids at the pool and told me he would keep calling my phone.  I returned to the room.  No noise from the phone.  I returned to the van with plans to drive back to Mamaw's.  I climbed into the driver's seat and listened.  There was a buzzing.  My phone was under a box of Kleenex on the front passenger seat.  How did I not realize this?  I didn't even think to use find my phone because I'd never, ever lost my phone before.

I'm a terribly light sleeper and every and any noise wakes me up.  We brought a fan with us to use in the hotel room and that helped but it would still take me an hour to fall asleep and then I would wake up a few hours later and be awake for another hour.  Sharing a bed with a little one who sleeps in the middle of the bed doesn't exactly help but that's mom life for you.  

I wanted to pass along a travel tip.  We stayed at a Hyatt Place hotel again.  (This is 100% not sponsored.  Hyatt has no idea who I am.)  I've mentioned before how we like staying at Hyatt Place hotels because of the larger rooms with pull-out sofas.  It's hard nowadays for families with more than two kids to stay in traditional hotel rooms.  Most only allow (or have room) for four people.  When I went to check out yesterday morning, my bill was $2.65 which was water I had charged to the room.  That was it.  Rich and I are both World of Hyatt members and we also have the Hyatt credit card.  I used accumulated points to pay for our stay.  I also feel like Hyatt has the better "free" breakfast.  My brother travels a lot for work and he said it was one of the better breakfast spreads he's seen.

(Grammy, the girls and I stayed at a Hampton Inn and Suites in Syracuse, NY on our way to Michigan.  We had a suite which was really a large room with two beds, a desk/table and a pull-out sofa.  The hotel looked either new or recently remodeled.  That's another option for us now too.)

And, yes, we still use our Disney Visa.  We're thinking about another Disney vacation in 2018.  Maybe we'll have enough points to cover our meals.

I have Michigan pictures to share with you.  Hope to get to those over the weekend.  There's rain in the forecast for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hello from Michigan

I somehow thought it would be a good idea to leave for Michigan the day after seeing a show at Mohegan Sun, which is located two states away.  Although, one of those states is little Rhode Island.  I often think I can do what I did when I was 27.  I can't.

I decided to break up the 830 mile drive here into two days, making reservations in East Syracuse, NY.  There are a ton of hotels right off of the thruway at Carrier Circle and I'm somewhat familiar with the area.  We left home after lunch, which was the plan all along thankfully because I hadn't packed anything.  I had finished the laundry though.  And cleaned the first floor.

I drove from Massachusetts to Syracuse, which was 300 miles, on Thursday.  The girls and Grammy are with me.  On Friday, we drove the remaining 500+ miles.  I was done about an hour before we arrived at our destination.  It would probably help my back if we made more stops and I walked around and stretched but it's such a long drive, I hate to keep adding time to it.  In total, it took us 14.5 hours to get here, which is pretty good time with three kids.  My brother and his kids drove here straight from Massachusetts yesterday and made it in 13 hours.  He only stopped twice.  (I can't do that.)

We're here visiting family and not hanging around the hotel much so blogging this week may not happen.  We're actually only here for a few more days.  I thought I could write while the kids were swimming in the hotel pool but then my niece called out to my brother, "He's going to drown if he tries to play this game."  The girls had created some game in the pool and my nephew, who is the youngest of the bunch, was playing with them.  So, yeah, not much writing happened after that.

Okay, I need to go to sleep.  I'll be back later!      

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Progress photos from inside the cottage

Not this past weekend, but the weekend before, I finally finally finished cleaning and organizing the cottage.  Every surface, except for a few windows, has been thoroughly scrubbed.  When people ask how it's going at the cottage and I mention all the cleaning, they kind of give me a quizzical look.  Maybe because they've seen my house.  (Just kidding.)  I usually remind everyone how the previous owners were elderly and I'm not sure how much use the cottage had seen over the past few years.  Add in the dust from the bathroom demolition and landscaping, and the pollen (gah, this spring was terrible), I just couldn't keep up.  I would clean the floors and a week later, there was visible dust/dirt all over the place again.  Never mind that every single piece of furniture was covered in cobwebs.  We're in good shape now.


The cottage was built with a screened-in porch off of the kitchen.  At some point (the neighbors think it was about 10 years ago), they opened the wall between the porch and the kitchen and added sliding doors.


We plan to add seating to the area around the rug.  Right now, it's the girls' play area.  We've still been using the kitchen table and chairs that were left by the previous owners.  Originally, I thought I could just paint everything but the tabletop is not real wood.  Rich actually picked up a longer table with six chairs on the side of the road a few weeks ago.  (Don't judge.)  It's all solid wood but needs to be sanded down and refinished or painted.  The table actually looks like it came from Restoration Hardware.  That will be a fall/winter project.

As for the kitchen,


it's staying as is for now.  I'm glad we didn't rip it out right away.  Actually living in the space allows you to see what works and what doesn't.  I had thought of losing the upper cabinets and using shelves because the space is cramped and that would probably open it up.  Based on the amount of dust that always seems to be floating around, I won't ever go that route.


The master bedroom is tiny but I think once it's all painted, it will feel bigger.  The few areas with primer alone have brightened the space.  Back in June, right before school ended, I had packed up all the bedside tables and brought them home, thinking I would have time to paint.  Yeah, so that never happened.  We brought them back to the cottage, cleaned off all the cobwebs and added (more) painting to the to-do list.


I love all the old furnishings that were left with the cottage.  Charming!

That's all I have to share for now.  There'll be more in the fall once school is back in session.  I need to sew new curtains for all the bedrooms and the bathroom.  We've been using an old baby blanket for a curtain in the bathroom.

Monday, August 7, 2017

What's up for August - Life Lately


I've been trying to write this post for four days and now we're already a week into August.  Truth be told, there's been a lot on my mind with respect to Anna and the past four days have been mentally draining.  I sat down to write but I just could not focus.  We've been living with spina bifida for ten years and most days, it's just a minor little blip on the radar.  But there are days when the weight of it becomes so heavy.  I worry about her health, her safety, her mindset.  I worry that I'm making the wrong decisions.

The girls and I drove down to the cottage a day and a half ahead of Rich this weekend.  There are two things you cannot forget when traveling with Anna:  her prescription meds and cath kits.  I forgot cath kits.  It's not as if I had forgotten to put them in the van or forgot to grab them as I walked by the upstairs hall closet where they're stored.  I straight up forgot.  We were about a third of the way into our hour and a half trip when I realized my error.  When we leave the cottage, Rich and I have been counting the cath kits in her bedroom closet so we know how many to bring for the next visit.  We don't want to end up with an overabundance there.  I could remember there being 8 left from two weeks ago but could not, for the life of me, remember how many were there when we had left the previous weekend.  I knew there had to be some though and kept driving.  I quickly calculated that we needed five cath kits to get by and hopefully none of them would be bent (yes, additional stress.)  My parents were scheduled to visit us the next morning and I thought they could just swing by our house on their way down and pick up what I forgot.  We arrived at the cottage and there were only three kits.  And my parents were at their beach house so my plan wasn't going to work.

Rich ended up driving halfway and meeting me just over the bridge that night.  I felt really bad that he had to do so.

Right now, we're waiting for test results to see if there's any bacteria in Anna's urine.  She's not presenting symptoms of a UTI but as we learned a few years ago, there could be bacteria present without any symptoms.  I've seen an increase in white sediment these past few weeks and I can't tell if it's bacteria related or something else.  It's often a struggle to keep her hydrated.  You sometimes have to force her to drink water.  I don't want to go into too much detail but after several bad caths, I reached out to the urologist's nurse.      

A note on the bent cath kits, which are unusable.  Our cath kit supplier, who we were so happy with, sold their business to a larger company last year.  It has been one headache after the other dealing with the new supplier.  At first, they sent us the same kits we had been receiving but then those were replaced with essentially the same kit but it must be less expensive for them because the quality is meh.  The mat in these newer kits shreds and falls apart when it's wet which is the most ridiculous thing in the world because it's supposed to get wet.  We had one shipment with a slew of bent cath kits.  The first person Rich spoke with in trying to get those replaced told him that we may have to go back to the manufacturer ourselves.  Think again.  We eventually got those replaced and we haven't seen as many as we had been.  Just had another bent one this morning though.

Under Rich's health insurance, we need to pay up to the deductible for the cath kits.  Thank goodness Rich was paying attention to what we had been charged by the supplier because they overcharged us.  By about $400.  And now every month when he orders cath kits, he needs to explain to them why we don't have to pay.  They can't seem to keep their records straight with the health insurance company.  This requires Rich to sit on hold and sometimes speak with more than one representative before they straighten it out.  They won't send you kits if they think you owe them money so he's forced to do this.

Needless to say, we have a list of other suppliers and we will be moving our needs elsewhere.

So, that's a little of what's being going on "behind the scenes." Let's move to fun life stuff now.
With school not back in session until after Labor Day, we still have quite a bit of summer left here.  We've been spending three to four days a week at the cottage before returning home for dance and appointments.  It looks like we'll be able to stay on the Cape for a longer block of time before school starts.

Last day of school photo, which I don't think I ever shared here.

I can't believe how dark their hair was before the summer sun brought out the blonde.


Speaking of photos I have yet to share . . .








The girls, Grammy and I will be driving out to Michigan again (soon!) for a visit with family.  For the past year, I've promised we would add Kentucky to our vacation but as I began to plan, it turned into a super long vacation.  I couldn't find that much time without an appointment or commitment.

Initially, this is what I thought we would do:

Day 1 - Drive to MI
Day 2 - Finish drive to MI (about half a day)
Day 3 - MI
Day 4 - MI
Day 5 - MI
Day 6 - Drive to KY
Day 7 - KY
Day 8 - KY
Day 9 - KY
Day 10 - Begin drive home
Day 11 - Arrive home

So, yeah, I could have shaved off a day in MI and a day in KY but I know the kids would have been grumpy spending more days on the road than at an actual location.  The other option was to have my uncle meet us in Kentucky with Mamaw but Mamaw doesn't want to travel there during the summer months.  It's just too hot for her.  Our first obligation is to visit with family in MI, so that's what we're doing.  I was also trying to plan this so that my niece could come with us again.  I've been bouncing around dates and ideas with Grammy for months now.  Of course, I didn't know how the competition dance would affect our schedules until June.  I basically just booked the hotels for this.  Talk about last minute.  My brother was able to take time off from work and he'll be driving out with his three kids.  It promises to be a fun cousin vacation!

The girls are all asking me when I'm going to start dinner.  I'll end with all my recent non-Cape sunset photos.









Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chatham Light, Cape Cod Rail Trail with video clip



I'm still pushing to name the cottage Serenity Now.  Rich suggested something with run or running in it so I came up with Runaway or Run Away, both of which seem more like names of boats to me.  It appears that the traditional approach is to hang the family name on the cottage.  Most cottages don't have names so it's not necessary, but something fun.



Rich and I have both been running during our days at the cottage.  We don't use anything to track mileage - only stopwatches for time - so it's a bit freeing at times to just go out for a run not knowing what to expect.  It makes the run go by faster when you pick random streets to run on and create new running routes.  I feel like I've been getting a lot of  unintentional hill work in.  It seems like I always find the streets with the those slow inclines.

Those little specks are my family.



Last week, we headed to Chatham Light after dinner to explore.  Unfortunately, it had been an overcast afternoon so the sky became darker much earlier than normal that evening.  It was also very buggy and, somewhat surprising, the beach was pretty crowded.  After hearing the name Brody 3,000 times, I was about to walk over and ask Brody myself to please sit and smile for the photo.





Two things I don't think we'll ever tire of: sunsets and ice cream.




A few weeks ago, we rode about two miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.  Anna still relies on training wheels and the nut holding one of the wheels on was loose.  Even though we kept tightening it by hand, it still came loose almost immediately.  We returned last week with the tandem attachment, which we use with Rich's bike.  This allows Anna to ride along with Rich and not have to overexert herself.  My brother and sister-in-law handed this down to us.  Unfortunately, we're going to have to look for a different size as this one is meant for little kids and if Anna attempts to pedal, her knees bang into the handlebars.

We hadn't decided beforehand how far we would bike but Emily kept saying she wanted to do the whole thing.  Mind you, that's 40-something miles round trip.  I would love to do the whole thing one day but right now, that's a lot for a ten year old.  We ended up biking 9.3 miles in total.  At the end, Emily said she's never going that far again.  Come on, kid.  It wasn't that bad.

The Rail Trail is a paved pathway stretching 20-some miles from Dennis to Wellfleet.  At some point, I'd like to present a more detailed description of it.  Of course, this would require more biking and bringing along my camera.  July is the busiest month for tourism on the Cape and when it's a bit cool and cloudy, visitors look for activities aside from the beach.  The Rail Trail is extremely busy on these days and summer weekends.  We parked at the trailhead in Dennis and the parking lot was packed both times.  It's such a nice place to bike though.  We've decided to wait until the end of August when the crowds thin to return.  I took a short video clip during our 9 mile ride.  (Hope this works.)