Friday, December 20, 2013

    Sometimes life hands you lemons....and you squeeze them and juice gets in your eye....You can either choose to throw the lemons down and say forget it, or you can keep on squeezing them because you know the pain and frustration will be worth it in the end.
    Today alone, I have been faced with 2 separate batches of lemons......I'll be the first to admit I cried a little. Then I sulked...a lot. I even thought about throwing in the towel. Who needs lemonade from scratch anyway? I'll just toss what juice I've made and these left over lemons in the trash and buy some from the store.
    Then guilt sets in. How dare I waste perfectly good lemons? Why not see where this takes me?
Misery depends on your point of view. I could choose to see a hard time as a negative and continue to moan and groan about how unfair it is that I'm faced with situations I would much rather leave for someone else. When learning to live life differently, it is time to see all aspects of life, not just the good, not just the bad. There's always another side to the coin.
    In order to move on and grow, I have got to realize that I can learn something! So my method of 'squeezing the lemons' isn't so effective. Perhaps it is time to tackle this hurdle from a different angle.
Ok, enough cliché metaphors.
    From this day forward, I promise to make a positive effort to use each experience as an avenue for learning. I will learn to take the good with the bad. I will stand firm when I am sure about something and be willing to give in when life calls for flexibility.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BzzAgent Bliss! Kroger Skillet Meals

What else could possible make dinner any easier?

As a bzzagent through, I get invited to participate in fabulous campaigns where I receive free products and coupons in exchange for telling the world about it and giving bzzagent my opinion. My most recent invite was for Kroger Skillet Meals. I received a coupon for a free Kroger Skillet Meal, free garlic bread and free salad kit as well as coupons for money off of my next purchases or to just share with others.

Kroger Skillet Meals are found in the frozen food department. Available flavors include tasty selections like Tuscan Style Penne, Chicken Fajitas, Sorento style-gnocchi, Shrimp Lo-mein and Sausage Rigatoni. Selections may vary depending on your Kroger location. I know our local store is terrific about stocking something if I ask them to get some in, so try it if you don't see the flavors you would like!

We tried the Tuscan Style Penne. Chicken, penne, asparagus, and a creamy sauce that tasted like it had sundried tomatoes. Simply empty contents into the skillet, cover, heat, stir and serve. I would recommend pre-heating your oven so you can pop the garlic bread (if you choose to serve it as a side) in the oven while you are cooking your meal. It only takes about 10 minutes and the kitchen smells like I've been slaving over a stove to prepare a delicious Italian dish. The package recommended it served two so we bought an extra bag for our hungry crew. One bag fed myself one serving, my husband 2 and we had some leftover. Bag 2 and the remainder of the first bag fed my 3 boys with some leftover. 

This is absolutely a perfect quick fix for those hectic nights where you work late or have a million activities going on, but don't want to run through the drive-thru. Preparing this was so simple, my 7 year old could have managed with my supervision!

Kroger Skillet Meal Tuscan Style Penne received 5 out of 5 thumbs up!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Starting Anew

     Everyone loves a fresh start. For many people, New Years resolutions mark the perfect time for making changes. What if your New Year wasn't January 1?
What if your New Year was Muharram 1 in the year 1435H?
     For Muslims, Muharram  is the first month of the Islamic calendar. These months do not follow the Gregorian calendar method of 30-31 days with the occasional 28/29 days. Islamic months follow the moon, therefore months are 28-30 days long, hence the year count a mere 578 years off. This is why Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic calendar) changes each year.

     Without realizing it, I made a fresh start in life just before Muharram. I didn't resolve to lose weight or quit smoking (already checked both of those off my list!). My fresh start was taking the Shahada, testifying that I believe in and worship one god only and testify that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a messenger and prophet of God (all praise and thanks belong to Him). By taking my Shahada October 30, I just missed Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha but made it just in time for the New Year!

     As more of my family and friends find out about my conversion I am becoming more comfortable with my new lifestyle. Learning new prayers, new phrases, and new etiquette along with gauging how people will react to my choice.

     It is interesting how no one cares about what you believe until you attach a label to it. Should this label be one that people are familiar with like Baptist, Lutheran or Catholic, no one bats an eye. Add a title that is mysterious or associated with terror, and everyone begins running for the nearest bottle of holy water and shouting "heretic" at you.

     It was not an easy decision made on a whim to convert from my native Christianity. I have spent over 15 years evaluating my beliefs and researching the beliefs of others. When I was a teenager, I was looking for answers and possible modes of rebellion from my parents. As a young adult, I continued to search for answers for my own piece of mind in every religion from A to Z.

    Once I thought I was comfortable with my religion, I began to research in order to be more tolerant of other religions and belief systems. Although I always felt a nagging bit of doubt, I assumed this was normal.

    After enrolling in a Christian college and having to take a class that basically prepares you to understand what you believe, why you believe it and what others believe, I was left with a false sense of affirmation. Surely I had been given the answers to my questions and could focus on worshiping God. Unfortunately, the Trinity and divinity of Jesus remained a source of unease. How can God be His own creator and son? How can an all knowing, all seeing, all controlling God grant humans free-will yet feel it necessary to save us with a blood sacrifice from the very sins He not only knows we are going to commit, but gives us the free-will to commit.

     In search for the truth, I began my quest again. I truly wanted to stick to the religion I was born to and knew. The religion that would give me acceptance and love from everyone I know. This was certainly not fair to me or my children. How can I explain to them a cup of wine and a bowl of crackers are the body and blood of God when I don't understand it myself?

    Refusing to take blind faith as the final answer, I began to dig deep into the Bible. I knew there were commands I was not following. Not just the popular big 10 commandments, but small ones like women covering their hair, for example. I rationalized that if I can't follow the least of these commands, how can I follow the greatest?

   I began covering my hair with bandanas and wide headbands and dressing more modestly. I began to feel free and more honest with myself. I no longer focused on what was hanging out, but what was in my mind and coming out of my mouth.

   I started looking at other religious sects within Christianity as well as other religions that commanded women to cover their hair. Since I didn't feel oppressed covering my hair from my Christian commands, how do women of other faiths feel about being commanded to cover, and who is commanding them to cover?

   One day I stumbled across Islam. Sure I've read about it before, but that is the crazy women oppressing religion of terrorists and I surely have nothing in common with their beliefs. Yet the more I read and searched, the more I felt I was being called home.

     The harder I pushed against it, the closer I felt I was being drawn to Islam. After researching I realized I had so many of the same beliefs as Muslims and the Qur'an held so many answers to questions I never knew I had. Did you know the Qur'an has details of scientific processes? The development of an embryo (Qur'an 23:12-14) and the origin of the universe (Qur'an 41:11) are just a few examples.

The pillars of Islam seemed easy enough:

I Shahada-profess you believe in one god  worthy of praise and that Muhammad is a messenger and prophet of God.
II Salat- salat is the building of a connection to God through prayers and prostration
III Zakat-charitable giving
IV Fasting-abstaining from food and drink during the month of Ramadan in order to feel closer to God and be more sympathetic to those in need
V Hajj-pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in adulthood

     While these pillars are essential to the faith of a Muslim, Allah (Arabic word meaning The God) is merciful and knows that those that are young, sick, pregnant or otherwise incapable are exempt from fasting, those financial incapable are exempt from zakah and those incapable due to health or finances are exempt from Hajj. There are even provisions to accommodate people unable to perform salat in the prescribed manner.

     Women are protected in Islam. While many think it is oppressive to have a woman pray behind a man or cover their bodies, there is a logical reason for these requests. Women pray behind a man because who wants a man ogling their backside while prostrating in prayer to God? While I am trying to focus my mind on God, the last thing I want to worry about is if Youssef can see my panty line while I'm bent over. (Should I wear my clothes loose enough, it shouldn't be an issue, but who wants to worry?) Women AND men are commanded to dress modestly and lower their gaze. This keeps the focus on clean thoughts and on God versus lustful thoughts of the mind.

     Like all religions, there are laws and rules. Like all religions, followers have freewill to choose to follow these rules. Will you get to heaven if you don't follow them, that is between you and God, humans certainly cannot judge you! Just to be on the safe side, I choose to follow the commandments of my God and follow the laws and rules He has set forth to guide us. If you find Sharia law and punishments to be too harsh, the very simple solution is do not break the law and you will not have to suffer the punishment!

     Finding Islam is like finding home for me. I finally feel like I have answers to questions I have been asking for years. Sure I'm nervous about how others will treat me and my family due to my choice, but ultimately I plan to please God no matter what. Insha'Allah (God willing) in my lifetime I can help eliminate some of the fear of Islam and spread the truth of what Islam is and not what others perceive it to be.

Monday, June 10, 2013

ODD....Oppostitional Defiant Disorder and other fun ways to get funny looks in public

My family is quite normal. I am married and we have 3 sons. My family is my world. They give me purpose (typically my daily purpose is to clean after them and play referee, but a job is a job ;) ). I would never trade them for anything.

My boys are quite different, beginning with completely different pregnancies. It is no joke when people tell you each pregnancy and each child is completely different and you will love each of them no matter what.

My oldest son- very typical pregnancy. Sick first 3 months, heartburn and swelling for the entire 9 months. Gained over 60 pounds. I was induced and had no epidural. 15 hours later (only about 6 of that painful) I had a healthy 9 pound 9.5 oz bald baby. Very typical little boy. Hit all the milestones when he was supposed to. Walked a little late, but no big deal. Now he's 10 and is developing into quite the moody pre-teen.

My middle son- very sick through my pregnancy. The only thing I ate was hot pockets...I think I only gained 5 pounds or even lost weight. I was induced and had a lovely epidural. Actual labor about 4 hours. He passed meconium and after a scary delivery I was handed a 9 pound 15 oz dark headed baby. Pretty typical hitting milestones when he was supposed to. Talked a little late, but was so happy all the time. Until about age 2. Then the explosiveness and tantrums began. Chalked it up to terrible 2s....Then it continued into the 3s and 4s and got worse with each year no matter what I did to try to discipline him. Now he is 6 and diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). For a clinical description of ODD click here.

My youngest son- textbook pregnancy. Sick for 3 months, then bliss. Didn't gain any weight (perfectly ok, I was way overweight to start with). I was induced for the 3rd time, got the epidural, it lasted 20 minutes and delivered an 8 pound 10 ounce blond baby after a mere 2 hours of labor.

Now that you know our history, let me explain how to get the most awful looks and unwanted advice anywhere you go. Step 1-wake your ODD child. Step 2-offer them clothing options that they would have accepted yesterday, only to have them send your son into a manic fit equal to having asked him to remove his left foot. Step-3 Have no other options beside taking him with you to the store. Step 4- choose the wrong buggy(cart), go down the aisle that contains what you need. Step 5- explain to your son we are only buying groceries not toys and enjoy being hit, yelled at and groceries knocked off the shelf.....

I've heard all sorts of remarks from 'geez, just give him a good spanking', 'just beat that spoiled brat', 'what a terrible parent', to 'that poor woman'. I also get people giving me suggestions like 'just buy him something little', 'leave him with a sitter', 'try time-outs', etc......Trust me, tried them all and then some.

It's not that often I hear any sympathetic remarks.

I get questions about how we got our diagnosis. While talking to our doctor (physician assistant actually) I described a typical few days for us, his typical reactions to things, and my concern for his safety as well as those around him. (keep in mind, we went to many appointments with our concerns only to have them blown off) When she finally realized there was more to this than a bratty kid, she asked a few questions that ruled out Autism and Asperger's. She came up with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder and told me the only treatments we could do were behavior modification therapy and there was no medication to treat it. I asked for a referral to some place for the therapy and the referral never came. Most of the time I was told no psychologist or psychiatrist in the area treats children under the age of 6.

Dead End.

After a year of researching treatments and any information I could gather on ODD and CD, my husband's cousin told me that her son had ODD and was being treated by a doctor with medication and therapy and had been seeing a local psychologist since before he was 6.


I quickly made an appointment. By this time his kindergarten teacher had already sent home several notes concerning his behavior, we had 1 conference with the teacher and 1 with the principal. She asked me in for a 2nd conference and we learned that their was a counselor that came to the school and saw kids. We quickly signed him up for that.

Our first visit with the doctor was a long one. He asked the typical family history and his medical history. He asked about my son's behaviors and health. He sent us home with a questionnaire (Connors test) for us to fill out and one to give to his teacher to fill out and send back. We went for a follow up appointment and he said based on what we reported and comparing to the teacher's report, our son did not have ADHD or Bipolar disorder. He definitely had Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He started him on the lowest dose of Risperdal (taking 1/2 tab in the morning and 1/2 tab in the evening). That worked well for about a month or 2, then the dose was upped to 1/2 tab in the A.M. and 1 tab in the P.M. After about 3 months Metadate 1x day was added and we have notice a remarkable improvement overall. He has gone from being a roller coaster of emotions, physically violent, emotionally abusive, urinating in heating/cooling vents, urinating in his bed, and barely sleeping at night to more pleasant and easier to redirect, considerably less bed wetting, and sleeping completely through the night.

While the decision to medicate was a difficult one that I fought for quite some time, it ultimately became our only choice. When I was afraid of a 6 year old boy, and his siblings were afraid of him it was time to do something. Even my son has noticed that his medicine has helped. We made sure to include him in the decisions to up doses and add new medications.

Finding support groups for myself and making sure my son has his counselor to talk to has been very helpful to keeping our sanity and finding different ways to cope.

A few helpful books I have found are What Parents Need to Know About ODD, The Explosive Child, and The Defiant Child. While not the only books out there, they are the ones I have found useful. I checked them out at the local library and took notes as I read. We also implemented the Home Token Economy with much success. We even use it for our other 2 children.

If you have any questions about Oppositional Defiant Disorder from a parents perspective, please feel free to contact me!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kroger Low Fat Frozen Yogurt Bar-Delicious!


Hello beautiful!!

 I was blessed to be given the opportunity to try these marvelous frozen yogurt bars thanks to a coupon for a free box from (since I'm a bzzagent and receive free stuff from them as well as coupons and all I have to do is try it, and tell you fabulous folks about it!)

Finding the yogurt bars was simple. Locate frozen section, locate ice cream/frozen yogurt, and voila! Frozen yogurt bars. I picked up a box of strawberry-banana flavored and checked out the price tag so I would know how much they would be upon a future purchase. $4.29 for a box of 12....not bad, not good...I personally wouldn't buy them as a treat for the kids to gobble up in one sitting, but certainly great for my occasional frozen dairy craving.

I got home and immediately opened the box. After opening the package and tasting I was delighted by the taste! I'm not a huge fan of yogurt, but these tasted like strawberries and bananas and not much like yogurt. Perhaps its the texture of yogurt I do not like, but none the less, I really liked finding bits of strawberries and bananas in this bar. Made it well worth the price tag to know it was not simply an artificially flavored frozen hunk of gunk.

 "Oh, but they must be full of calories to taste so good" you say...nay!

 Per 1.75fl/oz bar
Calories:        50
Cholesterol:     5mg
Sodium:          25mg
Potassium:      70mg
Carbohydrate: 11mg
Sugars:             9g
Protein:            1g

Ingredients: Skim milk, milk, strawberries, sugar, corn syrup, banana puree (banana, sugar, water, ascorbic acid, salt), cream, cellulose gel, carob bean gum, guar gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, mono and diglycerides, natural flavor, strawberry and cherry juice concentrate, beet juice (for color) and cultures. 

 If you are looking for a tasty way to get in some dairy that tastes great-give these Kroger Low Fat Frozen Yogurt Bars a try!

Friday, March 15, 2013

What a Year!

It has been just over a year since my life and anatomy changed forever by having a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. At this point in my progress, I can honestly say I do not miss having a complete stomach. There are times, however, that I do miss being able to eat a ton of my favorite food but wow am I glad I can't!

Sure it isn't all sunshine and roses. I have stomach aches and unbearable pain if I eat too much at once or decide I NEED to drink something too close to eating....or my personal favorite (insert eye roll) eating something with too much sugar. It is like a constant reminder that I shouldn't eat it and now I'm being punished for it. It certainly helps put eating consciously into perspective.

Having shed 105 pounds, gone from a size 26/28 to a 12, XXXL to a Med/Large, and I have the ability to run and play with my kids without being in pain or exhausted. All worth the negatives. It is like being given a new lease on life. Yes, cliche, but true.

I always thought I would never want plastic surgery, but now I'm very open to the idea. My surgeon laughed when I told him I would love to look like I had boobs again. This is the one time I regret being unable to get pregnant, at least then I would get some boobs!

At one year post-op I am able to eat just about anything I want to eat and I've tried wine with no negative side effects. All of my labs come back fantastic other than vitamin D-it is always low. Unfortunately not drinking milk has its downfalls. I have orthostatic hypotension and reactive hypoglycemia. I just stand up slowly and carefully and make sure to eat more protein than carbohydrates.

I have a theory for the hypotension. At my larger weight, my body required larger blood vessels and a larger blood supply. Now that I am smaller but still have the larger vessels and blood supply my heart can't decide how hard it has to work to pump that blood. Of course, I'm not a doctor, so I don't know :)

All I know is I am so happy with my decision and hopefully I will enjoy a long and active life!