Sunday, October 30, 2016

10/30/16: Almost November!

Well, I'm happy to report I am now 31.5 weeks, we officially have less than two months to go, and this baby is kicking and squirming as much as ever, staying nice and secure in my womb, and while my contractions have continued to get stronger and more intense, he seems to be settled on staying in there for a good little while more. Also I do NOT have gestational diabetes--I was just dumb and ate a cinnamon roll before my first test last time without thinking so my numbers were high and they had to make sure. And lastly, I have now finished my second round of antibiotics to try and get rid of my Group B Strep that keeps showing up and making the contractions way more painful than they should be. So I would say I'm enjoying my third trimester more than my first and second (no nausea, and the contractions are less painful, more just pressure now)--and I'm loving getting to know this little guy's schedule and different movements. It feels like this special bond that only I get to have with him because no one else gets to feel all the nuance in the movement like I do right now. Of one else has to be kept awake in the middle of the night because he's going crazy either...but honestly, I don't really mind it--it feels like a privilege to be let in to his world already before I've even met him.

So I said last time that I would try to write a blog that would actually catch people up on our lives OUTSIDE of pregnancy--and this is my attempt. It feels like this semester has been go-go-go and full of fun things, while also being really busy with school (isn't it always though?). Over the summer, Dave and I splurged on a nice new camera because we were getting tired of our old one having focus issues and wanted to get back into taking good photos before the baby arrives. We both have had spurts in our lives where we've been more and less invested in photography, but we both really love it. Dave absolutely loves that we have the camera because we've never shared a hobby in our whole marriage to the extent that we share this one, haha. We took a few classes over the summer up in Salt Lake to just get a refresher on the basics, and since then we've been playing around taking photos of people and babies and Remus to practice. It's been a blast and I'll post some of our best shots here because we're proud of what we're learning!! We've learned that I really like taking photos of newborns and babies, and basically anything close-up, while Dave enjoys the wide-angle shots of scenery and nature and basically the exact opposite, haha. But he's coming to like shooting people too with our new 50mm lens that we are completely obsessed with.  Also, we've spent a TON of time learning Lightroom and working on our editing skills which has been a blast as well. It's so interesting to see our natural styles come out and see where we're different in our preferences. The differences are usually pretty symbolic of the patterns we've seen in the rest of our marriage too, which cracks us up every time, haha. So photography has become our go-to past time for our weekend nights when we're over school and too tired to be productive anymore--and we love it! (p.s. If anyone has a baby they'd let me photograph, please let me know! I'm trying to practice before baby boy comes!)

As far as school goes, Dave has made some huge breakthroughs on his dissertation this semester, which means he's close to proposing and hopefully defending sometime in the next calendar year--which would complete his program!!! He was also asked to help teach (which means teach) a class this next semester about Bayesian statistics (his dissertation stuff) for his program, which is pretty awesome since he loves Bayesian stats and teaching and he's great at both! We can't even imagine what life without school would be like, but it's feeling like at least somewhat of a possibility at some point in the nearish future now--which is more exciting than we can describe!!

I've also made some strides in my dissertation design, which means I'm getting closer to being able to start the official process of getting it approved, proposed, and defended eventually--but my timeline is much longer than Dave's, because it'll be qualitative and it's going to take forever. But I'm really really fascinated by it, so it makes it relatively easy to work on and once I get going I never want to stop.

Let's see...pregnancy and school...those are the main things in our lives. Oh, and our Sunbeams, of course :). A few weeks back Dave randomly said, "Should we do like an end of year party with our Sunbeams?" and I'm never one to turn down hosting a party, so I of course said yes and he suggested doing it before all the end-of-year holiday craziness and before this baby comes, so we decided on a Halloween Sugar-Cookie Decorating party. We did that this week and it was.......complete chaos. To say the least, haha. Just having seven 4-year olds in our little kitchen who couldn't really do anything by themselves meant that Dave and I didn't stop moving the whole night just to keep things manageable, but it was really fun to see them a little more relaxed than we see them every Sunday. And they were so polite and nice to each other and to us the whole night. We ended the cookies in about 30 minutes and let them play outside with Remus in the backyard for the last 20 minutes and they all just had a ball. Kids are Remus' favorite people, hands down. He just loves being around them and he's so gentle with them. It was really sweet to see some of the kids who struggle emotionally every week really quickly feel safe and bond with Remus. It makes me excited to see Remus with his own little brother coming soon!! So we count the Halloween Sunbeam party as a success because we have been told we are back at the top of the prayer list for one of our little guys--he used to thank Heavenly Father for "Brother and Sister Rackham" regularly, but apparently, we'd slipped in position, and now we're back to being at the beginning of his prayers, haha! And the kids were the most well-behaved I've ever seen them in primary today and just seemed relaxed and comfortable, so I think it was really fun for them and they enjoyed hanging out outside of church together.

I also had an MFT baby shower a few weeks back that my really good friend threw for me. It was just the girls from my cohorts (PhD and Masters) and one of my professors (female, haha) and I felt so loved and supported, it was so sweet of them to do it for me. I sort of had a mini panic-attack as I was opening the gifts because all of a sudden it hit me really hard that we were going to be having a real live baby boy and for some reason I started freaking out about that, haha. But it was sort of like a good freak out. Like...excitement? or something? Who knows? I have another shower this weekend that one of my best friends in the ward is throwing for me too and I'm excited about it--if only to get some adult interaction with these women--it's been forever since we're in primary every week! It's really been amazing to see how generous people have already been with us, and we are so grateful to everyone who's sent gifts and helped us prep for the baby already. Every little bit takes away some of the financial stress of of it all and makes us feel so loved and supported.

The only other thing I can think of is I've been getting trained in EMDR--Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing--which is a therapeutic technique/model for helping clients heal their trauma. I'm totally in love with Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and that's for sure my primary model of doing therapy, but I wanted to be able to do EMDR with my clients who get stuck due to past traumas and severe reactivity around them. I did some EMDR myself with my therapist about a year ago and it's effects are pretty incredible (and quick!)--also the research on it is really really good. I finish my training in December so I'll be fully able to do it with anyone at that point! It's been fun to start practicing it with some of my clients and learn how to integrate it into my couples model when it's so focused on the individual healing. I feel really blessed and lucky to live so close to Salt Lake where all these trainings are offered--and usually discounted for students. I feel like I've been able to improve exponentially as a clinician over the last year and a half or so just because of the networks of people mentoring and training me here and helping me continue to push myself.

Okay! I think that hit the main points! Overall, life is really really good right now, and we can't wait for this baby to make his appearance--once we get the nursery ready and feel just a little more prepped with the right gear. As always, thanks for reading! Especially if you got to the end!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

10/12/16: Third Trimester Update!

We made it! Last Thursday marked the official start of our third trimester with this pregnancy (28 weeks). It feels like time is flying and at the same time 3 months seems like a looooong time to have to wait to meet this little guy...oh yeah, it's a boy! We never really got around to doing an official announcement for some reason on Facebook about the sex, but we found out around week 14 or something ridiculously early like that so we've known for a while now and we couldn't be more excited :). Dave was convinced it would be a girl, but I had a feeling it was going to be a boy. I'm surrounded by boys in this house--Dave, Remus, and even though we call Pepper a girl, we're pretty sure she's actually a boy, hahaha. So we'll add this little munchkin and it'll just be me to represent the female gender in the house! So different from how I grew up--5 girls, 1 boy! But I was surprised to feel pure excitement and love when we got the ultrasound telling us the sex. I worried I might feel a tiny bit disappointed if it was a boy, but I didn't at all! Maybe because I had mentally prepared for that. Now I only get a little sad when I see baby girls with their darling headbands and bows...but boys have some pretty darling outfits too, so I'm not too worried :)

I'm feeling really really grateful to be past 28 weeks and into the third trimester. I never really got that "second trimester boost" that some moms talk about with pregnancy where the second trimester just gives them energy and they don't feel sick and they feel like they're glowing. For me it was filled with lots of painful and intense contractions, a bladder infection, severe back pain (the combination of both, I think), and residual sporadic nausea and vomiting. The third trimester has already felt a little better for me because I FINALLY got a doctor to listen to me about the contractions (the fact that they aren't normal, I mean) so they tested me for infections and once I took antibiotics, they became significantly less painful, which has been such a relief.

I still contract every day sometimes up to 10 times in an hour and I have to stop and breathe through them or do my relaxation techniques to manage the pressure and discomfort, and they're getting more intense as the weeks go on, but at least now I know what's going on so there's less emotional anxiety around it. I have what they call an irritable uterus, haha. Yes, you read that right--an irritable uterus. Our birth class instructor thinks I should reframe it in my mind to "ambitious" or "eager" uterus just so I can enjoy them instead of dreading them, but I don't know, "irritable" seems to capture the sensation best. It just feels like my uterus is mad at me so it's going to put me through labor pains for 7 months instead of just 1. During the second trimester I was anxious all the time about going into premature labor because everything online said that if I was contracting more than 4 times in an hour (please...more like, when have I NOT contracted 4 times in an hour), if it was causing back pain, and if it was regular and didn't go away with lying down it was probably changing my cervix. So that's the difference between an irritable uterus and normal Braxton-Hicks, apparently. The irritable uterus contractions feel a LOT like active labor, and you can't do anything to slow them down really, but they don't affect your cervix (thank goodness), whereas Braxton-Hicks are usually a different, slightly more comfortable sensation than active labor contractions, and they'll generally calm down if you change positions, while still not affecting your cervix.

We still check my cervix and everything at every appt. just to be sure it's closed and not headed for labor and we've done the test to be sure my membranes are still in-tact a few times, which has helped my anxiety disappear almost completely, but every once in a while when I have a night where I'm waking up every hour or so with strong contractions I get nervous again that I could be going into labor. But I never do, I just contract and contract and contract, so at this point, I guess we'll just wait until I feel the urge to push or my water breaks before we head to the hospital! Apparently a lot of women with irritable uterus' accidentally don't make it to the hospital just because they can't tell the difference between their contractions and it's not until they're basically pushing that they realize they've been actively laboring in the last day or so. I'm hoping that's not the case for me, but I could see how that could happen really easily...luckily our hospital is literally 5 minutes away if something like that were to happen. And also luckily, anyone who knows me knows I'm incredibly hyperaware of any and all new symptoms (understatement of the century) so I really doubt I'll miss the signs of active labor with my first baby...

I have been really grateful for the hypnobirthing prep we've been doing, though, because, I've needed to use the meditations and relaxations to get through these contractions (sorry..."expansion waves"...) already and it's helped me understand physiologically what's going on inside of me a lot better, which always lowers my anxiety. We finished our last class last night and Dave and I are both feeling really excited to try an unmedicated birth at the hospital. I've loved how much the class involved the birth partners and worked on what you can do as a couple to cope with the long labor process together and the inevitable bumps in the road. We found an amazing instructor who is very Type A personality, very pro modern medicine, and all about empowerment in the birth process rather than having to birth a certain way or avoiding certain interventions. So we've left feeling that it would be awesome if we could do it totally unmedicated, and if we decide that that's not the right thing for me in the moment, then that's awesome I have other pain relief options I can choose to use, but I do know that unmedicated birthers tend to recover significantly faster and that's important to me as school starts about a week after this little guy is supposed to make his wish us luck please!

I think the only other thing of note about the pregnancy is that I failed my first gestational diabetes test so I had to do the 3-hour fasting one at the office yesterday and should get my results tomorrow. I'm praying I don't have it and the first test was just messed up because I had eaten something sugary beforehand (my bad...won't do that next time). But honestly, if I do have it, that would probably be the best thing to ever happen to this baby because I'd be forced to cut back on indulging my candy cravings and start eating mostly vegetables, protein, and some fruit. That would only do good things for both of us I'm sure, I just would rather not feel forced into that diet if I didn't have to be.

Sorry this was just all details on the pregnancy--most of this is just for me so I remember what's happening right now, but if you got to the end, congratulations, thanks for reading! Hopefully I'll write another post soon about our actual lives outside of pregnancy since there's been a lot going on there too! But for's a bump picture to enjoy :)

28 weeks!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

7/12/16: Pregnancy Details...

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. Winter semester got a little crazy, and then I got pregnant, but I didn't know that was what was happening at first, I just knew I felt nauseous and exhausted all the time. Once we found out (relatively quickly, working with a fertility doctor) the nausea was full-blown and I was basically couch-ridden for a month there in the first trimester. Not sure why it was so intense, but all I know is I was immensely grateful it was Spring semester and I could take the time I needed to just rest and recover every day.

I keep trying to think about what else to write about first, but I'm struggling because it just feels like being pregnant is dominating our lives and thoughts right now. So I guess I'll just stick with the pregnancy strain for now until something else comes up. And I'm sorry I'm not writing about how the recent news events are impacting me. It just feels a little overwhelming to try to dedicate a post to articulating all the feelings right now, but that's definitely never far from my mind right now either.

So...pregnancy. Since I haven't blogged since we found out, I wanted to document how it's been for us. It's been wildly different from the miscarriage last year, in a great way, yet I've been surprised how quickly complaints fall out of my mouth about the physical effects of pregnancy on my body even in the aftermath of the pain of infertility struggles. I have so many friends struggling with fertility and who would give anything to feel as sick as I did, so I try not to complain publicly at the very least, but Dave has definitely gotten earfuls about the seemingly endless vomiting, the peeing every 5 seconds, and the general fatigue that's making it difficult to function. As frustrating as these symptoms have been, though, I haven't stopped feeling overwhelmingly grateful and humbled for the opportunity to grow and eventually raise a healthy baby with Dave.

Last year when we saw the positive pregnancy test, I was filled with fear and trepidation immediately. I was afraid of a miscarriage happening, yes, but mostly I was overwhelmed by the idea of becoming a mom. I didn't feel ready at all to be raising a little one, and I didn't feel like I had worked through enough of my emotional stuff to not pass on some pretty intensely unhealthy patterns I had developed (Remember, I was finishing a master's program that had taken it upon itself to point out to me all of my flaws and weaknesses). I felt like I was doomed to fail as a parent and that I would inevitably raise a broken child who would struggle to succeed in life. Sounds a little dramatic, I know, but when I finally processed what the negative feelings surrounding the pregnancy were about, those were the fears that surfaced.

I don't know when that all shifted exactly, but over last year I've been able to work through the fears by honing in on who I really want to be, how I want to treat people, what's important to me and what's not, and learning how to truly unconditionally love and be loved. I feel like I'm in such a different place in my life than I was a year ago. I feel centered, strong, capable, kind, compassionate, empathetic, and loving. I feel like it's okay that I'll make mistakes parenting and I'll accidentally hurt my children sometimes--because I know how to say sorry, I know how to repair a relationship, and I know how to acknowledge that I'm not perfect and address it when I need to. Not that any of this is coming easily to me yet, but I have a really amazing husband encouraging me along the way and helping me recenter when I feel like I'm losing those pieces of myself. I've surrounded myself with friends who know what we call "Core Erin" and love her and support her when she chooses the harder right. And I feel like I've really got some amazing people who love me and want me to succeed. That brings a whole new level of confidence about this whole mothering thing I've never felt before.

So this time, when we saw the positive pregnancy test, I felt a little bit of fear that I might be miscarrying because I was spotting like last time, but as soon as we confirmed that things were normal and healthy, I didn't feel any more fear--just excitement and love for our little bean!! It's been entirely different this time around and I honestly can NOT wait to meet this little babe in December.  I wish it was December right now (and not just because I'd be one semester closer to graduating...)!! I never thought I'd be this unabashedly excited without the nerves when I was pregnant, but I really feel like, we can do this, and if it's too hard, we'll find help, and we'll survive.

Now, that's how I'm feeling emotionally. Logically, on the other hand, I definitely struggle when I think about the logistics of birthing a child and returning to school about a week later full swing with the hardest semester of my program yet. It's a little scary trying to predict how much my arms will be able to take of holding, nursing, bathing, rocking, and loving a baby, when right now just cutting out pictures for our Sunbeam lessons on Saturday nights have me icing my arms and wrists every Sunday...But we're trying to figure out carriers and find the lightest version of everything possible to help make the transition as easy as possible on my arms. And we know that during school we just might need some outside help because physically I may not be able to do it all. Also, it's always an option to delay a semester of my program, but I really would rather not do that if I can help it. Any delay of graduation makes it all the more likely that graduation will never happen, haha. I'm not the first, and I won't be the last MFT PhD student to have a baby during school, so I know it can be done, and I have some great friends helping me along the way already with it all.

So overall, I'm almost at week 16, the second trimester has been significantly better than the first, but I still have some random rough days, and I'm just getting more and more excited about meeting this little one!!

10, 14, and 15 weeks! And I LOVE maternity clothes already. :) 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

3/20/16: And I Thought I Loved You Then...

"They...They wh--*sob* wh-what...?" These were the words that escaped Dave's lips two Sunday mornings ago almost involuntarily in between sobs as he collapsed onto the side of our bed--his face wet with immediate tears and contorted in agony and grief. His Dad had just called to give him the news that his 27-year-old brother, Bryan, had been found by his faithful home teacher and bishop dead in his apartment that morning and that was all we knew. I was in the middle of waking Remus up for the morning at the time and mentally running through my 3rd hour combined lesson for the day on marriage and pornography for the ward. In a matter of seconds, nothing else existed for me but my husband’s tortured face and his heaving sobs. As soon as I ran to physically support him, he relayed his dad’s message to me and my heart stopped for a few terrifying seconds. I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know what to do, but I felt my hands instinctively reach for Dave’s and pull him into the strongest embrace I could muster. When the smothering was too much (after just 30 seconds or so), Dave began to pace—fervently. He walked back and forth from the tissue box on my nightstand to Remus, to his phone, looking expectantly at it as if if he looked hard enough, his dad would call back to tell us this was all a horrible mistake and his brother was actually alive and well and we could go back to our happy Sunday without a second thought about our mortality. 

But the call never came. I propped myself up against the wall of our bedroom, shaking slightly, aware of silent tears streaming down my cheeks, mindlessly petting Remus, to keep him occupied long enough so he wouldn’t have an accident, as Dave kept pacing the room. Painful thought after painful thought kept intruding and we both spoke them aloud as they came, to no one in particular. “Oh Lysa...She’s alone in Italy, this is going to destroy her.” “That poor home teacher and Bishop…I can’t even imagine.” “Your poor parents…they’ll have to call everyone one by one and relive this conversation so many times today…” “Stasi…Oh Stasi…I don’t even want to think about how she’s feeling.” “Chris is alone in Jersey right now. He doesn’t have anyone to process this with.” And on and on, until we realized it was 8:55 and we needed to decide if we were going to church or not. We decided it wasn’t a good idea to try to handle sunbeams and a lesson about emotional regulation while experiencing major shock and grief with no time to process anything, so while Dave began working on a way to get in touch with Lysa’s mission president for his parents, I began making the calls to let the bishopric and primary presidency know what was happening and we spent the rest of the Sunday just holding each other, crying, and letting ourselves do whatever we needed to do to get through this at home.

* * * * * *

Two weeks later we’ve had time to begin to process and grieve and we feel more stable about the situation, but it wouldn’t be honest to say we’re not still in shock and disbelief. We held the memorial services this weekend in Rigby, Idaho and we were surrounded by family and friends who loved Bryan and love the Rackhams. I sang a song titled “My Little Child”, which was essentially the soundtrack to Merrilie and David’s journey to adopting Stasi and Bryan from Russia so many years ago. It was one of the most difficult performances I’ve ever given, because looking over to find Dave’s father trying with all his might to hold back sobs almost broke my heart right then and there, but with the help of the Spirit, and by some miracle, I actually got all the words out without tears and almost did the song justice for Merrilie. Dave spoke not too long after I sang and he was the picture of emotional vulnerability as he taught about Christ’s beautiful example of mourning with those that mourn how they need to be mourned with through the story of his teaching Martha, and weeping with Mary when their brother Lazarus had passed. It was a beautiful and inspired talk that brought peace (and tears) to us all, I think. I was so proud of him as I watched him proclaim his love for the Savior and his faith in the Savior’s love for Bryan and each of us while standing next to his brother’s earthly remains. What strength and courage.

No father or mother should ever have to bury their son. No brother or sister should ever have to bury their brother at such a young age. But bury him we did yesterday, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how this all has affected me as an in-law of a few years to the family. I was lucky in that my relationship with Bryan was uncomplicated, sweet, and simple. My experiences with him have always been pleasant and he has always been very complimentary and kind to me ever since I joined the family. He struggled with addictions of many kinds, mental health issues, and past traumas from his childhood in Russia that would affect even the healthiest of individuals. I never knew him pre-drugs and alcohol, but what I knew of Bryan was endearing, inspiring, and joyful. The rest of the family was not so lucky. They were with Bryan through the good, the bad, and the ugly of his integration into the family at age 12. There was trauma that Bryan inevitably brought into the family because how could he not? As such, their relationships are a blend of incredibly joyful memories and horribly painful ones, and this makes the grieving process infinitely more difficult, I’m sure.

Yesterday, I missed Bryan, and I was grieving that he was no longer with us, but even more difficult for me was watching my husband shovel a scoop of dirt gently into his brother’s grave as his shoulders heaved with sobs and he looked up to the sky with a face that seemed to plead, “Why?”. More difficult than realizing that I would never see Bryan again was hearing his brothers speculate about what more they could have done and wonder if they had put more effort into the relationship how things would have been different. Watching Dave’s parents wrestle between the pain of losing their son and the relief that his physical suffering had come to an end here on this earth was equal parts heart-breaking and tender.

I titled this post, “And I Thought I Loved You Then…” because I thought I knew what loving Dave was after almost 4 years of marriage, but these last two weeks have taught me that I have more capacity to shoulder my husband’s pain than I ever thought was possible. His contorted face from that first phone call has haunted me every day for two weeks now and it visited us in person again yesterday at the burial, and I couldn’t help but want to run to him and completely take this burden from him. Of course, I could only hold him while we cried together, but there was something comforting in just that small gesture for both of us, even if it didn’t relieve the pain completely. I imagine this is how the Savior feels towards me when I’m struggling to find peace, too—he would rush to me and take the pain away if it would help, but we know that part of this life is to “learn, grow, and come to be”, as my song yesterday said. So as painful as the last few weeks have been for us, I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to love Dave as I’ve never loved before, and to feel his (and his family’s) pain more intimately than I thought was possible, because it has reassured me that I love this man I call my husband more than anyone in the world, and reminded me that I will do anything I can to ease his pain. And in knowing how I felt towards him this weekend, I got a brief glimpse of what he feels for me when I’m in pain (physical or emotional), and I think I got a sliver of the Savior’s unconditional love for me and his perfect empathy for my pain and these are all wonderful things to be feeling as life moves forward.

Rest in peace, Bryan Sergei Rackham, you were so loved and will be sorely missed. <3

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2/10/16: All I Needed Was a Puppy This Whole Time!

I don't actually have anything of importance to say today, but I'm sitting here in the Taylor Building with a random hour in between classes and by some miracle I've already done my homework for my next class.  I wish I could just check out and waste time, but for some reason I've been feeling anxious all week, so my body won't slow down long enough to relax, so I figured I could write instead.  Active leisure, right?

I went back and read the post from a month ago and realized that my health was in a pretty bad place, so I figured I'd briefly update you all.  I finally weaned off of my Gabapentin completely and I feel like I have about 3x more energy than I've had in the last two years.  That stuff just DRAINS you!  They give it to people to help them sleep, so it makes sense, but I had no idea how badly it was affecting me!  So my fatigue is significantly better, and my night sleep has leveled out so I'm doing really well in terms of daily energy now which helps make everything easier, doesn't it?  My pelvic pain is still gone for the most part except when I ovulate or if I eat a large amount of something sugary or full of dairy.  This is just the most amazing thing.  I went to a conference that was 8-5 for 5 days straight last week and I had NO pelvic pain on any of the days.  5 Full days of sitting with no pain?!  I can't remember how long it's been since that has happened.  So I'm still incredibly grateful for the relief and I'll take the random bad pain days because it's so much more manageable than the constant chronic ache I'm used to :)  My arms and joints still get stiff and ache and burn once in a while, but they're not terrible.  I haven't used ice packs in a few weeks, and I barely even take Tylenol or Ibuprofen to manage it.  The exception is if I've been particularly active with Remus or picked him up a lot--then my arms are usually killing me.  But generally speaking, I'm doing way better than I have in a long time.

I think Remus is playing a serious role in my improved health because I noticed a huge anti-anxiety effect when we brought him home, and that just downregulates all the tension in your body, which helps with inflammation, which helps with pain.  So even though I may be more active right now than normal, the times when he's able to cuddle a little bit with me provide a huge pain and stress relief which I think balances out the increased activity.  Of course, his cuddling abilities are still in the very early stages of development because he's teething like crazy (poor guy!) and he loves to run, chase, play, and train.  He gets bored just sitting on our laps chewing something.  He always wants to be working for food or treats, haha.  But he's getting the hang of the whole "calm" thing and hopefully he'll start to even enjoy it as he gets a little older.  He's still the best puppy ever and he's growing!  He was 6 lbs when we brought him home and he's already 10.5 lbs now!!  We still take about 50 pictures a day and have to exercise some serious restraint to not post them all on social media, but we know we have to calm down eventually, so we're trying to hold back :)  He really likes Pepper and always seems to want to play with her.  She's a little more scared of him now that he isn't as shy around her, but they're getting along alright so far as long as one of us is there managing the interaction.  I don't know that he'll ever be totally trustworthy around her since he likes to chase, and she just moves really fast every time she flies, but I'm happy to see the budding friendship develop :)

Dave and I are still both going strong in school and work.  We can't wait for the three-day weekend coming up to spend some time rejuvenating and resting up for the rest of the semester.  Time seems to be flying already this year and we've been blissfully happy with Remus to come home to every day <3.  Also...we're kind of obsessed with the show Madam Secretary right now (First season's on Netflix)--SO good.

Here's some pics of my trip to Seattle, WA for my conference.  Thanks to Stella from my master's cohort for hosting me for the week!!
Medina Park in Bellevue, WA!

This was taken while driving, so forgive the horrible quality,
but the Seattle skyline!

Not the best picture, but I seriously felt like I was camping
the whole time I was in Washington, it was so
green and gorgeous everywhere!!

Friday, February 5, 2016

2/5/16: Remus!

If any of you follow me on Instagram you are well aware of our newest family member--Remus, the most adorable little mini-Australian Shepherd you've ever seen :) I'm not a dog person, I've never been a dog person, not even slightly. And I'm allergic. So it's a little surprising that we ended up with a puppy...but here's how and why it happened:

A few weeks ago my brother and sister rescued a beautiful dog named Maeby in New York and the day they sent us a picture of her I was surprised at how strong my longing to have my own dog was! I think I even texted my sister, "I'm jealous you're having all the new dog-mom feelings!". I've been slowly converting to dogs ever since one of our favorite couples from my program, Austin and Bri, introduced us to their beautiful mini-Australian Shepherd, Nova, last summer right before they left us for Kansas. She was the sweetest, smartest little puppy I'd ever seen and was the first time I'd ever really understood the allure of a dog. Ever since they moved, Dave and I have kept loose tabs on the breeders around here who breed the mini-Aussies and then we rented a puppy early in January because I was feeling dog-hungry (is that a thing?).

I'd never seen Dave so happy as the night we rented the puppy, haha. It seemed like every anxiety, stress, and worry disappeared when he was playing with the pup. It almost broke my heart when we had to say goodnight and give her back and I was pretty sad that I had a headache from being with her all night because we'd rented her partially to see how bad my physical response was from my allergy.

We woke up the next morning (Saturday) and Dave casually said, "I was thinking we could maybe go see one of the breeders around here to just ask some questions and see if you have a bad allergy response to the Australian Shepherds too."  I pretty immediately dismissed him with a laugh and said, "That's just going to make you depressed because it's going to remind you what you can't have..."  But then he showed me a picture of this little guy who was already 11 weeks old and I couldn't resist.

We hurried and called the breeder to ask if we could just come up and meet him and ask some questions and she let us come within the hour.  I had absolutely no intention of actually going home with him because I knew it was a terrible life decision to get a puppy we'd need to housetrain while we were both in school and working, as well as with my health being subpar--I didn't need another potential allergen in the house.

But....then I held him.

And you was love at first sight. I seriously felt like I was high after holding him. Dave described it as watching me "melt". I instantly loved him and didn't want to let him go.  But Dave knew that I wasn't totally ready to commit to getting a puppy and didn't want me to make a decision "under the influence" (haha), so he told her we'd go home and talk it over and get back to her with our answer.

I was still pretty torn after we went and saw him for the above reasons, but I felt like I was on cloud nine and my resolve was getting weaker and weaker. Dave was really good about not pushing me because he wanted to make sure I was 100% on board by myself, but I could tell he wanted to bring him home obviously, and I eventually decided to go with my gut feeling--which was that a puppy would be the perfect for us right now.  So we called her back and went to pick him up later that day!

It's no secret that life has been difficult for us lately with all of my pain, and even though I've found some relief from my pelvic pain recently (MIRACLE!), I've still got a lot of muscle and joint pain that affects me emotionally when I can't do everything I need to for school and life. Remus has been a little ray of sunshine in our life right now.  I don't know if it's just because I'm too busy being worried about him peeing on the carpet or if it's major the oxytocin release, but I definitely don't notice my pain as much when I'm with him.  I am tired and it's a little exhausting being so engaged in training him and attaching to him, but the joy we're feeling FAR outweighs the work we're putting in to the relationship :)

I'll stop writing now because I really should pay attention to this conference I'm at and because pictures are just so much better, right?!  Enjoy our first few weeks with Remus!!

He's not a huge licker, which is great because if we're being honest,
I think it's gross, but this one was a very little and sweet kiss :)
He loves sleeping in his crate at the foot of our bed,
and I love his calm morning personality.

Can't help but squeeze him!

I'm fooling myself if I think I can focus with him on my
 lap...even with this many toys to distract him.

I love his little baseball!

One of the first days we had him I literally sat in the garage for 15 minutes
 and took pictures of him sleeping in the car
because I didn't want to wake him up

We go for walks and he's getting so good at
walking on a loose leash!

I've been grateful for getting out by the beautiful
river behind our neighborhood with him so much.

Relaxed in the car!

Basically, we love him...a lot, and we feel blessed to have him in our family <3 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

1/10/16: There is So Much...

Since it's been a few months since I last updated the world on the Rackham happenings, this blog will probably be chock full of surface-skimming summaries about all the areas of our life.  Sorry!  I wish I had energy and time to go more in depth with everything, but there is too much, so I will sum up :)

He's still loving his job at GoReact.  And our marriage is loving his job at GoReact ;).  It is SO fantastic that when he's home he's done for the day with work and can focus on school or relax without having to be constantly connected to his email.  He's also making serious headway on his dissertation and it's really exciting, but super complicated and basically impossible to understand.  Like really, when I can't sleep I ask him to tell me about his dissertation and I'm OUT. Sorry Dave 0:)  So he's still doing school and making progress towards graduation requirements.  We're looking forward to when he's done with classes so he has more time to focus on writing his dissertation.  Actually we're just looking forward to when he doesn't have to be working and in school at the same time.  That'll be the day, right?

 He also got released today from the Young Single Adult ward bishopric, which is a big deal because it means now we are going to be back attending church in our Provo homeward!!  We're both pretty happy because it just means is one less thing on Dave's plate as far as time requirements.  He gets a whole night of the week back and his Sundays are much less busy--depending on his calling in our homeward, of course.  But we volunteered to be teachers in the primary and the primary is basically always desperate for teachers, so I have a feeling we'll end up there.  We're sad to leave the YSA's and we're not really sure if we contributed enough while we were there, but I know Dave had some really spiritual experiences with some of the kids, and I know I was able to teach some important lessons and at least help reduce the shame and self-criticizing in the ward, along with inspiring some kids to go to therapy (yay!).

I wish I could say Dave gets out pretty regularly to fish and rejuvenate, but that's just not true.  I've been pretty sick lately, so Dave has taken on basically all of the household duties--laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, etc.  So every Saturday he always has a long list of to-do's to catch up from the week.  It's pretty sad and I wish there was a better system or that I could help more, but at least we don't have kids thrown into the mix right now.  I'm grateful we're not having to manage that just yet.

So I think that covers Dave's updates for now.  He's just the greatest husband ever, and I feel lucky every day to have someone so kind and selfless by my side through all of this craziness that is my health.

My health pretty much dominates my life (surprise surprise...), but I'll get to that last or maybe in a different post since there's so much.  So...things other than my health issues...

I passed my first semester of my PhD program!!  In all my 7 years here at BYU, I don't know if I've ever legitimately had a semester that I was worried about failing, but this Fall I honestly didn't know if I was going to pass my classes.  I count it as one of the many miracles in my life that I passed Structural Equation Modeling and don't have to retake that class, haha.  But seriously.  In the last week of the semester Dave was researching for me and organizing my articles and helping me with my references list while I was seeing clients so I could write my two final papers.  It was a HUGE push and I couldn't have done it without Dave's edits and help writing.  Thank goodness I married someone well-versed in psychology and mental health, not to mention APA writing.  #phdlife?  So overall, super surprised and grateful I passed, woo!  Now onto Winter...

I'm still seeing clients one night a week at the Provo Center for Couples and Families and I absolutely love it.  They pay me really well and they have systemic perspectives and are well-trained so I trust my supervisors.  It feels very much like a private practice because I'm totally in control of my clients and schedule and stuff.  It's been neat to see I'm getting referrals from previous and current clients and I've had enough clients contact me to have a waitlist now!  I also see clients at the BYU clinic, but on the advice of multiple professors, I'm dropping my caseload there down to just 2 a week so that I can reserve my energy and use it where I need it most (since I don't get paid there).

  Other than that, my life basically revolves around my health.  So here goes, only read on if you want to know the details of what we've tried over the last few months:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*tldr: I have crazy joint pain and inflammation, and nobody knows why, but the pelvic pain is feeling better after getting rid of surprise parasites we found.* 

So back in November I did the Candida diet--which was no sugar, no dairy, no gluten.  It was hard, but I had a lot of help.  It was actually a really amazing few months where I felt super supported by so many people with cookbooks, recipes, moral support, etc.  I didn't notice much difference from the diet except that my depression seemed to lift a bit, and my energy crashes seemed to lessen or disappear.  Once I had been on the diet for a while, though, I started to see parasites (Just like how the Candida starves, so do parasites, they live on the same foods. So they die and then pass through your body's detox system.) come out, which was FREAKY.  So we immediately got an anti-parasite medicine, and after taking the first one, I started to see different parasites, so I went on a second one (this was all a super emotionally charged, terrifying, and stressful few weeks full of my own research, my doctor's research, and the pharmacist at Walmart's research, mind you, since no one knows anything about parasites, apparently) and it was like magic.  I started feeling better the first night I took it, and then continued to take it for 2 full weeks.  I was passing parasites in droves and it was horrible, but felt very productive because I was killing awful things inside me!

Once I finished that first round of parasite meds, I started to feel pretty horrible again, so I did another round of 2 weeks of it and this time, my pelvic pain went away!  Oh and this whole time I've been sort of on and off the diet because it really makes me nauseous to stay on it 100% strictly, but during this second round, I tried to be perfect on the diet and I think it helped get rid of the parasites.  They say you can never get rid of them fully, but at least I can say they're not coming out of me anymore.  I have NO idea why the medicine helped my pelvic pain, but I've had a lot of days lately where I have none!  Even if I sit all day or something!  That's been amazing.  Just feels like a dream.  But then if I eat something with dairy in it or anything that upsets my stomach it seems to come back a little.  I'm still trying to figure it all out, but something about that second parasite medicine made it disappear for a while.

Unfortunately, throughout all of this parasite madness, my arms and joints have started to kill me.  They just burn and burn and ache and ache and I can't really correlate the bad pain days with anything like activity or food, so I just sit on the couch with ice packs on my wrists and elbows and sometimes cry because I feel like my body hates me.  And if we're being honest it's not that rare that I end up in a total WebMD spiral and end at the result of I'm dying and I have every cancer in the world.

I have now been tested for Lyme, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's, Candida, Parasites, Thyroid issues, Adrenal gland issues, and lots of comprehensive blood tests to test hormones and vitamins.  Everything always comes back mostly normal, except that my adrenal glands are not functioning, so I take a supplement called Adren-All which helps regulate my sleep and energy levels, and my body wasn't processing Vitamin B, so now I take a type of B vitamin that my body can process, I guess, and my Iron is crazy low.  I also have some inflammation in my body, but not enough to be officially diagnosed with Lupus, they don't think.  But I have random big bruises all over my legs and arms that come from nowhere, and the fatigue is out of this world.  I feel like I have the flu--ALL the time.  It makes adulting pretty hard, but I don't want to take a medical leave from school until I absolutely can't do it.  Right now I worked my schedule so I have break-days in between school and client days to recover, so I'm able to do it so far.  We'll see how the semester goes.  I'm trying to be honest with myself about maybe needing to take a break if I'm in too much pain later on, but I really don't want to if I can help it.

So since the pelvic pain was gone for so long, I started weaning off Gabapentin (my previous miracle drug) slowly to see if it might help with my fatigue.  Gabapentin definitely makes me tired and I'm on an incredibly high dose.  The withdrawals are messing with my sleep, which is a bummer, but it should level out here soon.  Other than that, everything is pretty much the same with my medicines--lots of supplements, eating healthy and definitely avoiding dairy and sugar, and I feel like they're all helping and doing what they're supposed to, we just can NOT figure out this arm pain.  It's getting really bad :(.

So my life is basically lived from the couch, in a constant brain fog, struggling to be productive with anything, and once in a while feeling good, but way overdoing it so I end up back where I started--on the couch.  It's not super great, but I have a really checked-in doctor (like he texts me over vacations to check in...) and I feel like we're at least working on all the variables and maybe getting close to figuring it all out.

You're amazing if you made it to the end, that's the update for now!  Thanks for reading!