First Day of School!!!!!!!

Ah, the first day of school, a day I anticipate and yearn for all summer! This year is a bit different because for the first time in about twelve years, only two of them will be starting school.

This year, Ambrose (on the right) is a senior and Laurence (left) is a sophomore in high school. Ambrose will be focused on finishing up his plans for the next phase of his life, and Laurence is joining the electricity trade program at the high school.

Good luck this year, boys!

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In the Navy Now

Holy donkeys the last two weeks have been a whirlwind. After Morrigan learned he would not be able to go up to school in Kansas, he began last-minute searches for new plans. He applied to the local community college. He applied for full time jobs. He started looking at junker cars to buy. And he scheduled to see both Navy and Army recruiters to see if those were viable options instead of doing college first as originally planned.

Long story short: After several intense days of paperwork, background checks, discussions, and tests, Morrigan decided to join the Navy. He scored off the charts on the ASVAB and qualified for the nuclear program. A year ago, before he decided to go into Japanese in college, he’d spent years wanting to go for a biochem degree, and the nuclear program is designed to graduate its candidates with an associates in biochem with options to enter further schooling. It all seemed perfect for him!

On Monday, Morrigan went overnight to do the medical testing with hundreds of other candidates bussed in from all over, and a bunch of ceremonies took place Tuesday afternoon. Morrigan swore into the Navy and signed his contract.

At present, he has a ship date set in March, but there’s a strong possibility that’ll be moved much closer since he’s just out of high school and his clearance shouldn’t take as long to go through. Jason and I meet with his recruiter this afternoon at her request. We’re all just trying to wrap our heads around this, with all the other changes, and we’re happy that he’s happy and excited about the next part of his journey.

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Silent Child, by Sarah Denzil (audio)

Ten years ago, Emma’s six-year-old son Aiden drowned during a flood when he wandered away from his classroom, his body never found. Now, Emma has managed to scrape her life back together. She’s married and pregnant and trying not to dwell on the child she lost – when he walks out of the woods, mute and obviously abused, and back into her life.

The short version: This thriller was interesting and mostly well-done, with the occasional moment of flat character development or contrived plot or question unanswered. I mostly chose it and read it because Joanne Froggatt (Anna from Downton Abbey) read the audio and I love her voice. I knew she could do a great job at audio-acting and she did! She turned the book into an experience for me and I loved that. Unfortunately, the book itself fell flat by the end for me.

For the longer version, I won’t give away major spoilers (like the culprit) but I will need to talk about plot elements, so there will be some vague spoilers. Skip away if that bothers you!

The long version: There were a lot of great ideas in this book and at first I really enjoyed it. Aiden’s psychological state seemed spot on, particularly when the reader had no idea what he had suffered over the ten years he was missing. Some of Emma’s psychology was a bit weird – like thinking Aiden was conspiring against her with his previous captive??? – but what do I know, I’ve never been in that kind of eery situation! I could forgive that. But then a few things just came so out of left field and should have been so obvious. There were several nasty characters who were either immediately identifiable as Bad People or who veered so suddenly into the role that it didn’t feel realistic. Denzil’s trick with making multiple people responsible was interesting but felt very contrived. Some questions were never answered at all – like why Aiden did everything a certain person said, and why he wouldn’t help his mother when she was hurt – and Emma’s action when it came to a fellow school teacher at the end felt both unnecessary and completely out of character.

I don’t know. The book started out really well, and the story was interesting…but then it felt like the plot just kind of dissolved into multiple plots that didn’t mesh well together, and had to be manipulated into working together. There were too many instances of characters suddenly going flat and two-dimensional (especially Emma’s husband) and too many loose ends. It left me unsatisfied, and honestly I would have abandoned the book about 3/4 of the way through except that I loved Froggatt’s performance so much. I suppose in the end it was another case of a thriller just not quite living up to what I would have liked, but that seems to be the story with me and thrillers, so it’s really no surprise.

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Sunday Coffee – Adjustments

Sorry to be quite absent lately. August has been a whirlwind so far, what with trying to figure out what Morrigan is going to do now and my body trying to adjust to a new medication. Fingers crossed that we have some answers on the first of those this week. (As for the second, there’s just an adjustment period I have to wait through.) In the meantime, Jason and I took some time out yesterday to join in with a local group for the August Harry Potter Community Day. We met up with a huge group of folks at a local library (where we could reach tons of Inns and Greenhouses, as well as a Fortress, all indoors on the 105-degree day). The library had a giant Harry Potter festival going on for unrelated reasons, so there were all these kids running around dressed up for different houses (and one toddler in an AMAZING Hedwig costume made with real feathers!!!). It made the whole thing quite fun, and we got a great picture of our group out by the inflated acromantula!

I’ll see everyone soon, I hope! The boys start school in just over a week, and like I said, I hope Morrigan’s situation is settled this week. Fingers crossed for us, please!

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Better Than the Best Plan, by Lauren Morrill

Ritzy’s life has always been a bit unpredictable, but she never expected her mother to just abandon her right before the end of high school. Not quite old enough to look after herself, Ritzy is thrust into the foster care system and placed with a woman who, unexpectedly, has a history with Ritzy and her mother.

I must get this out of the way immediately: My overall reaction to this book was disappointment. I love Morrill as a writer, and for a really big chunk of Ritzy’s story, I loved this book as well. Morrill captures so well the nuances of a girl who always lived in poverty and her first experiences with a wealthier lifestyle. There was a lot of wonderful, multilayered discussion of family, foster care, and class, and the characters were well-drawn.

But.

[I can’t really say the rest without going into spoilers, so read on only if that doesn’t bother you.]

The ending of this book really bothered me. Ritzy’s relationship with her best friend is left mostly in tatters, with a hurried patch-up and no real understanding or growth on Ritzy’s part. The Ali plotline is mostly left alone, a messy situation that comes in at the end and isn’t really dealt with. And the situation with Spenser, who is a complete a-hole and not worth Ritzy’s time, is given a free pass so that the two can get together. I just didn’t buy their romance, which is odd as Morrill usually does a phenomenal job at the romance part of her books. And with so many other interesting things in the book, the romance feels like a side plot that could have been left out. Actually, it felt like the romance was the reason behind every other plot point at the end – the best friend story, the Ali story, even where Ritzy ends up in terms of the foster care situation. For me, the romance being the impetus for it all feels like it’s sending the wrong message, especially as Spenser really was an a-hole. I would have loved for Ritzy to dump his a$$, make her decisions without even thinking about him, and patch things up with her real friends, rather than basically shoving everything aside for a boy. Hence, my disappointment.

I’ll of course continue to read Morrill’s books! I tend to super-love every other one, so maybe the next one will be perfect for me!

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July 2019 in Review

July was an exercise in endurance for my family. Not only did we have the last of the surgeries and weeks of scattershot happenings, but we got a few unpleasant surprises that have altered the course of at least this next year of our lives. Back in early July, Morrigan found out that his “full ride” ROTC scholarship only covered tuition, not room and board. We could deal with that. He took out some loans (about $10k) and switched to cheaper housing on campus at KU. But a few days ago, the DOD denied him altogether because of a few self-diagnosed “allergies” (like pineapple makes his mouth itch). He cannot reapply to the Air Force, and he loses his scholarship completely. Without it, he would need to come up with an additional $15k to attend KU, even with their scholarship granting him in-state tuition rates, and we just can’t afford that. All of a sudden, on July 29th, my son no longer has a college plan, and without the Air Force, his career plans must change as well.

(frazzled me…)

These are low blows, but we’re working on them. Morrigan has applied to a local community college where my dad is a prof, and is currently looking for both a job and a cheapo car. He’s also considering going into Navy or Army right away and deferring college, instead. Everything is a bit scattershot and up in the air right now, but one thing is for sure: Our original plans to drive Morrigan to Kansas on August 21st are no longer our plans. We didn’t really see this one coming. I’m just glad that by the time this second big blow came, Morrigan had pretty much prepared himself, and he’s actually feeling okay about this (most of the time, anyway). Still, how frustrating, right? Thank goodness he has some options!! And also: thank goodness President Obama passed those laws that allow us to keep him on our insurance regardless of whether or not he’s a student!

As for me, I’m just ready for the heat to end and school to begin, as all my readers might expect. I’m reorienting myself constantly with all the new changes and trying to catch my breath. Fingers crossed that the next month goes smoother, right??

Reading
Very little reading in my life right now. I only managed to read a single book this month, The Stranger Diaries. At least it was really good!

Watching
It’s been a TV-heavy month for me, which is fairly typical of the summers, I’ve found. I finally got to see the Good Omens mini-series, which was AWESOME and definitely my favorite thing watched all month. I also got to see the newest season of Stranger Things, and an interesting based-on-real-life mini-series called Mrs. Wilson. (Ruth Wilson plays her own grandmother in that one!) Then my youngest son has been binge-watching Friends, which I never saw much when it was on, so that’s been an interesting cultural touchstone to see. In movies, there was only one this month – I finally managed to watch the third volume of How to Train Your Dragon, which I actually thought was better than either of the first two movies.

Health
July was another month of doing very little in terms of health. I mostly ate gluten-free. I did some gentle walking for Wizards Unite. Aaaaand that was about it, until late in the month when I saw my PCOS doctor and she put me on a new medication. I’ll write about this a bit more once I’ve had time to evaluate it, but I’ll just say here that starting a weekly injection (that I do myself!) is a really scary thing. Beyond that, despite the lack of exercise and my total apathy toward health this month, I did manage to maintain for the month, and I also confirmed that gluten is bad for me. Both are WINS in my book!

Highlights of July
Since July was an exercise in just-keep-swimming, these highlights were REALLY needed to keep me going…

  • Jason’s surgery went well and we’re done with surgeries for the summer, yay!
  • meeting my nephew Kyler for the first time!!
  • family reunions: seeing siblings and some extended family for the first time in months
  • Morrigan enjoying (most) of his Appalachian Trail trip
  • my grandpa getting through his surgery and out of the hospital successfully
  • new (much cooler) haircut! –>
  • Laurence finishing summer school
  • Ambrose turned 17!
  • Summer Sendoff party for the new college kids (oh the irony…)
  • and of course, tons and tons of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite!!!!!!! Especially Community Day, and meeting up with other players in person!

Coming up in August
I have no idea. Yay! School will start for the two younger boys on the 19th, and we have a few family birthdays, and Jason is going to Wisconsin at the end of the month for his brother’s wedding. Otherwise, the rest of the month will all depend on Morrigan’s situation – military or community college or full time work or…who knows? I was looking forward to getting back into a routine, but at this point…sigh.

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Wellness Wednesday – Carb Diaries, Part 2

Back in early March, I bit the bullet and increased my daily carb intake from around 35% to over 50%. It was the first time I’d eaten that many carbs on a regular basis in about seven years, since a doctor urged me to cut them back in 2012. As it turns out, my body never adapts to lower-carb diets. My muscles need glycogen! For the last five months, I’ve been learning to live this new way and experimenting to figure out what is and isn’t related to seven years of terrible-for-me nutrition.

March – Eat All The Carbs

March was purely about increasing carbs and seeing what happened as a result. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, or exercise a specific amount, or anything. The only goal was to eat more carbs, see what happened, and ask more questions. I had a lot of good results, and began to wonder about some of the stranger symptoms I’ve had over the years. Could the Effexor side effect of really high body temp (not a normal side effect!) be related to the body temperature problems I had due to lower carbs? Could calorie counting for weight loss actually work now, the way it used to before I cut back on carbs? Could my PCOS symptoms and abnormal hormone blood tests be related to the abnormal menstrual cycle and hormone changes that began when I cut carbs? Would injuries like my broken foot have healed faster and more normally if my body was properly fueled? Etc.

Of course, I can’t answer every question, but I’ve learned something important throughout my adult life: When you have an underlying problem, you’re going to get weird reactions to things most people respond normally to. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if you have an underlying condition, you might have extreme weight gain on medicines that don’t normally cause weight gain, or you might not react normally to the calories-in-vs-calories-out equation, or your broken foot might take years instead of months to heal. All those years when I had the tooth infection, my body never responded normally to anything! But it began responding normally as soon as the infection was gone. March was about discovering that I’d essentially had a seven-year-long health condition, and now that condition was gone. And of course while I’d like to have discovered this years ago (or never gained the condition in the first place), March was about finding hope that I’d have some control and normalcy back for my body.

April – Failing to Count

The plan for April was to count calories and see if I could lose weight. Unfortunately, April was a bust. I tried counting calories, but other health issues took precedence, and I discovered one small negative side effect from reintroducing carbs: my daily calorie intake increased, because carbs don’t fill you up as much. There was just too much going on, so I put off this goal and just continued to relearn how to balance a diet with a higher carb percentage.

May – Nixing Gluten

In an attempt to counter what is likely an autoimmune disorder (the hives stuff), I cut gluten from my diet. I’ve said before that I have a complicated history with gluten, and this seemed to be a good first step. The goal was to cut gluten for a couple weeks, then reintroduce and see what happened. However, as soon as I cut gluten, the whole calories-in-vs-calories-out equation suddenly started working. I began losing weight slowly but surely. The negative side effect in April – increased daily calories – disappeared because I didn’t need nearly as much food when I cut gluten, even while keeping my carbs around 55% of my diet.

By the end of the month, my body seemed to recognize that I was getting enough carbs on a regular basis, and some of the weirder symptoms – like sudden extreme thirst if I had a day when that percentage dropped below 50% – leveled out and/or disappeared. All the positive results I noted in the first link above remained positive, while the two mixed results have either turned positive or have been dealt with by other means (ie starting an antidepressant). And speaking of antidepressants – that question above about body temp and Effexor? Well, turns out that WAS related to my diet, because I don’t have that symptom now. Yay!!

June – Crashing, Burning, Getting Up Again

So…June wasn’t a good month for me, and while I kept eating GF, I started eating a lot of junk and drinking too much alcohol, and long story short, I regained the weight I lost in May during the first three weeks of the month. I got myself together in the last ten days, though, and discovered two things: First, I tried re-adding gluten. That resulted in a mild feeling like a cold or allergy symptoms (that I knew couldn’t be true allergies, given the number of antihistamines I’m on for hives!). It also resulted in several days of mild stomach cramps and a bump up in weight because I was carrying water (my face was so swollen!). Second, I confirmed that with the higher carb levels in my diet, the weight bumps from too-much-alcohol don’t stick around for weeks/months as they used to. They flush out like any other too-many-calories-fests and disappear after a few days. Despite the first three crappy weeks of June, I ended up the month less than half a pound over where I began it. Cool.

July – Testing, Testing…

July marked my second set of blood tests since switching my diet over, this set specifically for PCOS and hormone levels. And as it turns out, the change in diet seems to have little effect on the bloodwork – at least after only a few months. My progesterone is still too low (though a tiny bit higher), my testosterone still on the higher side of normal (though a tiny bit lower), and my estrogen is sitting about exactly where it’s been. Time will tell if these slight changes will continue to improve.

***
To be honest, other than back in March and May, I’ve done very little to really check what is and isn’t going on in my body. All I know is that my facial inflammation has disappeared, heavy exercise and strength training no longer give me week-long crippling pain, I have more energy, and many of my longterm medical problems have disappeared. That’s all good enough for me!! I’ll continue to keep my carbs high!

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