Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review and Why It Defines Me Now

It's the end of a year and time for reflection.  I could post about each family member and what they have learned or how they have grown, but I think that this post is going to be about me.  Not because I'm selfish, but because what happened to me has redefined our whole family.  Moms not only keep the family going, but we set the tone for the entire household.  And my journey this year has really helped changed the face of our family.

At the beginning of 2015 I was still struggling with my fibro.  I was in pain most of my days with just brief times of, well, less pain.  But I didn't want that to stop my kids from participating in as many activities as they liked.  They took an art class, piano lessons, soccer, baseball, archery, and many little things in between.  And I ran them back and forth to each of these activities, whether exhausted or not.  Because I love them and because I didn't want my pain and suffering to hold them back.  But it did.

Then came April 28th, the day that will live in Litwiller infamy.  Matt broke his leg.  Devastating to Matt, of course, but to all of us as well. And to me in particular, because that break meant I had to cancel a long-awaited trip to Hawaii.  And it wasn't a "just reschedule" type of thing.  A once-in-a-lifetime trip, all expenses-paid, and with one of my closest friends.  The dates were non-negotiable and there was nothing any of us could do.  I wept every night for a couple of weeks about losing this opportunity, but it went far deeper.  All I could see was myself losing good things over and over again throughout my entire life.  A never-ending sea of losses and disappointments in my life.  And I lost hope. 

You see, fibromyalgia is about more than just chronic pain.  Most of us also suffer from depression.  When I was in college, my family doctor told me that I probably suffered from depression and should be treated but I told him that Christians don't get depressed and refused to discuss it further.  He didn't press me and I doubt he even mentioned it to my parents.  But it was there, lying just beneath the surface, waiting to come out full-strength once my fibro kicked in shortly after Anna was born.  And I've dealt with it ever since.

Oh, I've done many things since then to help with the depression and the only lasting remedy is to continue to pray and read Scriptures.  And to locate the lies.  We all lie to ourselves constantly, continually, day after day, and those lies lead to the wrong beliefs about ourselves and about others.  Several years ago I did a study called Lies Women Believe by Nancy Lee DeMoss and woke up to the reality of my lies.  I've been working on telling myself truths and that is the only thing that really helps with my depression.  But the bitter disappointment of losing that trip and the reality of caring for a child with a broken leg really tipped me over the edge.  And I spiraled downward.

I didn't smile for about a week.  I cared for Matt, I ran Anna and Ben to their activities, I arranged babysitters to stay with Matt, I ran him to appointments, I made meals.  And then I sat at my computer and watched another dear friend take my place on that trip.  I told Rob at that point that I was not going to hope for anything again.  I was done with disappointment.  I would live my life and just let things happen, but I wasn't ever planning anything again.  I was done.

Enter another friend.  She helped me through many of my dark days emotionally.  I can't thank her enough for helping me get out of my head.  And through that I realized how sick I really was.  I will never lose the tendency for depression because I will never be cured of fibro, but I could certainly take steps to pull myself out of this crazy spiral and do something for my health.  So I signed up to start a nutrition program called Isagenix.  I don't have a ton of money--we live paycheck to paycheck--but I knew SOMETHING needed to change.  And was going to move heaven and earth to make that change happen because I didn't want to live like this one second longer.

I started slow and took the program at my own pace.  Five days after starting I ran out the door without my usual dose of morning pain.  I stopped--and had to text my friend.  I couldn't believe it!!  It was amazing and a little fire of hope started flickering again.

We had another set-back in August when we found out that we don't qualify for a house loan.  I had to let my dream of owning my own home die.  Not going to lie--it was hard and depression came in again.  But this time, it didn't stay.  It didn't linger because my healthier body was able to help my mind tell myself good things, not lies, and I didn't stay in that depression nearly as long.

Another huge event happened on October 31st--I turned 40.  I couldn't wait.  I was so excited to start a NEW decade in my life and define this decade as one of fitness, fun, and a new fabulous me.  And then I started a new challenge that helped me tweak my journey toward a better me and I feel better than ever.  Most days I'm bounding with energy and scaring my kids (in a good way) with how much fun I am.  I exercise, I eat right, and I stay on my super foods.  It's not cheap, but instead of telling myself I can't afford this nutrition, I tell myself I can't afford NOT to use this nutrition system.  We're rebudgeting, I'm using all of the Norwex income for it, and we're doing whatever we can because no one in the family wants to lose the New Mommy. It's worth every penny for this Penni.  :)

Back when Matt first broke his leg, we talked about how we knew God had a reason for it.  Matt could go on and on about all he personally learned during his time with a broken leg and we've really seen him mature because of the experience.  But he summed up one of our biggest lessons best one day a couple of months ago when he was talking to Rob.   Matt said, "Dad, I wish I hadn't broken my leg.  No, you know what?  I'm glad I broke my leg because if I hadn't, Mom would never have started on Isagenix."  While I wish I could have taken away all of his pain and not seen him go through his struggles, I can now see the hand of God in all of the struggles.  God didn't cause this accident to happen, but He certainly used it to change our family forever and for good.

So I'm looking forward to 2016 with my body and mind in a better place.  I'm anticipating Hawaii Trip, Take 2 at the end of January.  Turns out the company hadn't cancelled my ticket so I'm traveling with my same friend to have some fun in Orlando.  It's not Hawaii, but that's not the important part.  Having fun and being healthy is, along with knowing she'll be keeping up with me instead of the other way around.  After that, the sky is the limit.  We're going to have a great year together as a family and grow even more because Mom is finally doing better. 


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Soccer Mom!

Ben and Anna are playing soccer again this fall and the schedule isn't quite as nice as the spring season.  Both have games on Saturday mornings, but Anna plays at 9am and Ben plays at 11am.  That means we have an hour to kill between games, but only really a 1/2 hour because Ben has to meet his team at 10:30.  Sitting around and chatting as a family isn't so bad.

But then there is practice. 

On Wednesdays, Ben has practice from 4:30-5:30.  I drop him off, then go home to feed Matt, Anna, and myself and get them ready, Matt for church and Anna for her practice.  The daughter has to pack a bag with her church stuff inside.  We take dinner to Ben at 5:30 and he eats while we wait for Anna's coach to arrive.  She has practice from 6pm-7pm.  Once Coach Scott shows up, I take Ben home for a shower and he changes for church.  I take the boys and our neighbors and drop them off at church, then turn around to pick up Anna from practice.  She changes in the back of the van (because she thinks the bathroom is too nasty) and we get to church about ten minutes late.  Since her group is in gametime first, she's not really missing anything and she doesn't play anyway.  An hour of soccer practice is enough for her!

We have three weeks left of the soccer season and this mama will be happy to hang up the cleats!





Monday, September 1, 2014

Matt Turns Ten!

I'm a little late in getting this post written, but better late than never, right?  Matt turned ten this summer and we celebrated in ten-year-old style.  I was gone at a convention over his actual birthday, so I told him he could turn ten a week early, not just celebrate early.  He was pretty excited about that because he has a friend with the same birthday so he could rub it in a little about being older. 

We took Matt to the Lego store where he bought a couple of Lego movie sets with all of his money.  Yup, he's at the age now where he just wants money.  Makes gift-giving a whole lot easier!

We wandered over to the Build a Bear factory just to check it out and he decided with the rest of his money that he would make a Super Puppy. 
If you can't have a real dog, make one!  We always let the birthday child pick a place to eat out and he chose P.F. Chang's.  They have a great gluten free menu and Matt loves fried rice.  We actually fed the entire family there for only $20!  I'm sure that will never happen again.
Afterwards we went home so he could spend the rest of his day building his Lego sets.  We also had a yummy dessert of chocolate cake with cool whip topping.

Matt is such a fun guy to have around.  I'm so glad we didn't sell him when he was an over-active toddler!

(That's a joke, folks.  I would never sell my kids.  *wink*)



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Becoming a Sports Family

We have dabbled in sports off and on since Matt was in kindergarten soccer (aka butterfly watching) but this year we dove in head first.  And I'm so glad we did!  While our schedule is crazier, it's been fun to watch the children interact with new friends while learning something new.  And it takes care of physical education.

Matt enjoyed archery in March and April.  I was really impressed with the instructor and the class itself.  Matt excelled in the program and is looking forward to taking more classes in January.


Ben and Anna enjoyed playing spring soccer.  Ben played one year in kindergarten, but didn't really "get" it.  He tried again this spring and loves it.  He'll be playing in a more advanced league this fall.  Miss Anna proved to be quite the little soccer pro and may have found her sport.  And she looks rather adorable in her pink and red soccer gear :)


Ben and Anna also played baseball this summer.  Originally, Ben was supposed to be in a tball league, but it was cancelled due to a lack of players.  He played pee wee ball instead and he's is quite the natural!  We're already looking forward to next summer when he moves up to the minor league.  Anna took a baseball class called Little Sluggers (she's in the middle of the group pictured above--the one with pigtail braids).  It took her a bit longer to grasp the sport, but by the end she had the mechanics figured out.  She will be playing tball next summer.

Poor Matt--he has spent a good part of the summer at ball diamonds and soccer fields, but he always manages to find someone to play with or something to do.  Or bugs me to play Angry Birds :)  Next summer he will be taking a tennis class.  We missed the sign up for this year's class by a week.

And while we enjoy watching the kids in sports, we're looking forward to mid-October when we can take a 2 1/2 month break before archery starts!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Birthday Celebrations

We celebrated two birthdays this month and decided to keep it low key.  We're not really party animals around here anyway :)  Ben celebrated his 8th birthday by playing with a bunch of Legos, going out to eat at Perkins, eating brownies, and having a movie night.  We had planned a trip to Illinois, but the winter-that-will-not-end put a stop to it.

Anna's sixth birthday was yesterday and she is rolling in the dolls!  Her favorite movie is Frozen, especially since the princess is Anna, and she received several different types of dolls throughout the day.  We took her to the Disney store (where she bought more dolls) and then to Red Robin, where the wait staff bought her.....another doll!  We couldn't believe their generosity!  She enjoyed the yummy cake pictured above for a treat and we watched Frozen in the evening.  She was happily surrounded by all of her dolly friends, new and old.  And today she's very tired :)


Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Trip to Legoland

*Note--I haven't been updating much at all for various health-related reasons, but I plan to do more updates this year*

A few weeks ago, Legoland Discovery Center in Schamburg had a give-away on their Facebook page.  Four free tickets if you merely commented on what you planned to do with Legos over Christmas break.  I never enter their drawings, but decided on a whim to enter.  Lo and behold, they decided to give four free tickets to EVERYONE who entered!!  Since Rob had a long break from work, we opted to go asap.

I did a whole lot of planning for this trip:  maps to each location, plans for a mall visit so Anna could see the Disney store, reservations at PF Changs (gluten-free friendly restaurant), etc, etc.  The kids had Christmas money to spend as well.  Most of my planning went well.  I also asked for some advice from a friend who had been there in the past year.  We were set!

We took off after breakfast on Monday morning following our Google Maps directions, which had never failed me yet.  We had two minor problems with the directions, as they missed putting two turns on it.  Thankfully we have brains and knew to continue following the same highways but it was irritating not to be warned that turns were coming.  We opted for the "Bob's Road" route (see the movie Twister for the reference) so we could avoid tolls, hence our lengthy and confusing directions.  We made it in good time and found Woodfield Mall.

Anna was so cute when we entered the Disney Store!  She bounced all over the place and found all of her favorite princesses.  It was very difficult for her to narrow down the list, but she settled on two princes, Kristoff from the Frozen movie, and a drinking cup with straw.  She has almost all of the princesses and they needed princes!!

Rob took the boys down to the Lego store.  We had been told that Legoland's store wasn't as well-stocked at the mall store and Matt had a particular set he wanted.  The boys (all three of them) had fun selecting various Lego items and it was so cute to watch them walk out, each holding a Lego bag.

We got to PF Changs right at our reservation time and the kids loved the food!  Their children's plates are only $3 and there was plenty for our big eaters.  Rob and I enjoyed our food as well.

And then we had to find Legoland.  It's right across the street from the mall, yet somehow Google Maps managed to get us lost.  And I don't handle getting lost very well!!  We finally found it after turning around three times and my three darlings got very quiet in the back:  all three of them praying we'd find Legoland and that Mommy would calm down.   Aren't they awesome??

Rob dropped us off at the door so we wouldn't have a long, cold walk w/o coats.  Good thing we ditched them in the van b/c it was PACKED and HOT inside!!  There were two lengthy lines and the nice people in front of us informed us which was which.  Because I had purchased one advance ticket and had four free ones waiting, we got to enter earlier than the poor people in the walk-up line that wasn't moving at all.  Legoland was at capacity so those people had to wait until others left.  It's $5 cheaper to order your tickets ahead of time--so glad I planned ahead!! 

The first three rooms were models of the city of Chicago, jungle animals, and Star Wars.  The city was pretty cool and some parts of it were moving.  The jungle animals were equally as nifty, our faves being the baby tigers.  The Star Wars models weren't as impressive to our family, as we're not huge Star Wars fans, but we did like the stands at the pod race.  They were filled with more mini figures than we've ever seen in one location!

We rode a rather (boring to adults) ride and shot rocks out of bad guys hands with lasers.  I told Rob afterwards, "Wow!  That was about as exciting at the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland!" which he knew instantly meant "I was bored to tears!"  But the boys loved it and that's all that matters, right?  Upstairs we found a 4-D movie (tons of fun), a little "tour" of how Legos are actually made (fun and informative), and then the nutsiest room in the whole place.  There was a large play area, multiple building areas, and another ride.  All of them filled with children!  ACK!  Our kids played in the playground for a bit then got on the ride.  By this point we had been there for 2 1/2 hours and had seen/done nearly everything.  The kids were happy to troop back downstairs for a visit to the Lego store.

I'm glad we took the advice of others and did not depend on the Lego store for what Matt wanted.  They did have some older sets which led us to believe it's more like an outlet-style store.  The kids all found things they wanted (as did I) and we headed out the door and across the lane to Jamba Juice for a treat.  After that it was back home following the wretched Google map directions which were missing three turns this time.  Somehow we missed one highway in Wisconsin and ended up in Fort Atkinson instead of Watertown, but as I know how to navigate from Fort to home it was no problem.  The kids actually felt relived b/c they KNEW Mom could now get them home!!

We had a great time overall and I'm so glad four of our tickets were free.  Rob and I agreed it was not worth the $15 admission price per person for what they offer.  The kids, on the other hand, said it was worth every penny!  Go figure :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Anna's Broken Arm 2.0

*Sigh*  Where to even begin with this post.  So many "coulda shoulda wouldas" are running through my head right now, but they don't change one single fact.  Anna broke her arm.....again.  It was on a Thursday in August....again.  It was right after a weekend with G & V.....again.  And two days after the first arm breakage Rob fell down the stairs.  He's not allowed off the couch tomorrow.

Anyway, the kids and I decided to head to the park yesterday instead of the pool as usual.  Riverfest (a local carnival thingy) is going on this weekend, making it near-impossible to find parking near the pool.  So I thought the park would make a much better outing for us.  We picked up some gfree cookies at the gfree store and headed over.  They ate some snack, drank some water, and headed to the playground.  I watched them for a bit, them remembered I had a magazine with me.  Three page flips in I heard a horrifying scream--several in fact--and looked up to see Anna flat on her back.  She had been sitting on one of the raised stepping stones and was scooting over a bit for Ben when she fell.  I raced over to her and she just would not stop screaming.  That was my first clue that something was seriously wrong.  My second clue was her elbow itself.  It looked completely wrong with part of the bone pushing in the wrong direction.  I tried having her sit on the bench for a bit, but she was inconsolable.  She kept crying that she wanted to leave.  We headed home so I could clean off the dirt and look at her elbow a little better.  She just wouldn't stop crying and her elbow looked so odd that I knew we needed to head to the ER.

My poor baby didn't want to walk into the hospital, but she had too and we got her to a couch (still screaming and crying) while I waited for the receptionist to be free.  I explained what happened....and she sent us over to Urgent Care.  Yes, because I want to walk my screaming, pain-filled child to a different building.  In protest, I left my van in the ER parking spot :)  We walked over to where Urgent Care HAD been when Rob hurt his back only to find that it was now a private doctor's office.  We had overshot.  When we finally made it in the correct place, Anna was terribly distraught.  The nurse took one look at her and got us right back into a room.  They gave us a man's shoe splint thing for Anna's arm (which instantly became her security blanket) and let us check in from our room.  God bless that wonderful nurse!  Anna got settled onto the table and the doctor came to check her arm.  We were sent to xray, another fun and wonderful adventure where Anna found new heights in her voice and decibels I didn't know existed.  The boys had to wait outside of the room and Matt told me later than Ben said "If I hear her scream one more time, I'm going in there!!"  It's nice to know her brothers have her back :)  Anna was just in so much pain that it was a challenge to get the exact angles necessary for the proper xrays.  Eventually another technician was called in to hold her on his lap and raise up her lower body while I held her arm in position.  Those lab techs had the patience of Job!!  Then the male tech took us back to Urgent Care and I thanked him profusely. 

We had a bit of a wait while the orthopedic surgeon studied her xrays.  Poor Anna was overheated and thirsty by this time, so I sent Ben out to see if there was a water cooler in the lobby.  (The boys knew the lobby pretty well by now with their numerous visits to the bathroom).  The nurse caught him in the hallway and came in to tell us that Anna could not have anything to drink because she was probably going into surgery.  Surgery?  Yep, she broke her humerus bone, right above her elbow, and needed to have it set and pins put in to help it heal properly.  The doc scooted in quickly to confirm.  Anna was again crying piteously over this news.  They tried having her suck on a washrag, but it didn't do much good.

Before too long, we were taken into ER (finally!) and she got one of the snazzy prep rooms.  The boys got to see the garage where the ambulances pull in and we even saw one arrive (to pick up a transfer patient, so nothing too exciting or gory).  The ortho and the ER doc met us and got her story (it matched, imagine that!) then gave us the run down on what was going to happen.  Everyone was so mice and friendly and we felt well-informed on every step.

I had been texting family and friends with the news and one friend offered to come take the boys and feed them supper.  That was a HUGE blessing!  They were being good, but it was hard to focus on Anna and keep the boys entertained at the same time.  (We did have a rousing game of I Spy going on in Urgent Care).  My friend also called our pastor, who came and visited with us for a bit.  I wasn't able to get ahold of Rob until five, but I left a text on his phone that read, "Anna broke her arm.  Totally not kidding."  He called to get an update at 5pm and said he would be right there.  He made it to the ER before she was taken up to the pediatric ward.

I am so thankful that they moved us up to pediatric!  She was the only child on the entire floor and got such wonderful care and attention and had a new teddy bear waiting for her.  By this time she already had her IV line in (and she was pretty brave for that one!)  and we just had a waiting game.  Because she had a snack at 2, they couldn't do the surgery until around 8pm.  Rob decided around 7pm to go pick up the boys, take a shower, and grab us some dinner.  (The cafeteria was closed for construction.)  They packed an overnight bag for Anna as well. 

The surgical team came in just before 8pm and talked to me (she had an AWESOME anethesiologist who was so gentle with her) then they gave her the sleepy meds and took her off.  I could have gone with her down to the room, but the nurses said it is usually better to separate in the room.  That was a hard one, but one of the nurses stayed and talked to me for a bit. 

Before Anna left for surgery, she was very scared.  I tried to distract her and find TV shows, but she was just nervous.  So I asked her who would be with her during the entire surgery.  She answered, "Jesus?"  I said yes and that he would be holding her hand the entire time.  I asked her which hand He should hold and she held up the one that wasn't broken.  It was so hard to send my baby girl into surgery, but I knew that Jesus would be right by her side the entire time and it was all in His hands.

Okay, grab a tissue and keep reading.  Rob and the boys arrived about 10 minutes after Anna went down and we showed them the toy room, books, games, and Legos.  They decided to build some Lego decorations for Anna's room and watch some Shark Week.  The nurse popped in to tell us Anna was in recovery, then the surgeon came up to say that her arm went back into place easily!  Praise the Lord!

When she arrived, she was very groggy and barely registered that we were there but super happy that she got some apple juice.  The boys and I kissed her and said our good-byes.  Rob spent the night because there was no way I could have slept in the recliners in her room.  He was up with her off and on, but they both did sleep for several hours.

The boys and I headed back to the hospital after breakfast to find her up and in the toy room.  She had masterfully eaten breakfast left-handed and wanted to play.  We spent the next couple of hours bouncing from one activity to the next and the surgeon arrived around 10am to tell us that Anna could go home!  Hooray!  She tried to get off the bed right away to leave, but we told her it wasn't that simple :)  We dressed her and packed up her stuff, then waited for our discharge papers.  She got to ride out to the van in a wagon and I took her on home.  Ben and I did our best to get her comfortable.  She's had a pretty miserable day at home.  The surgeon told us she would be in more pain than last year's break.  She's on some prescription pain meds which do take off the edge and she has to keep her arm iced and elevated.  We go in on Thursday to see if the swelling has gone down enough to put on a cast. 

And next August, she goes in bubble wrap.