Symptoms, treatment, and coping

Holy cow, this is long. May the force be with you.

Overactive / Underactive Adrenals

This one, we think (I need another saliva test soon), is mostly under control. Symptoms frustratingly overlap with everything else: fatigue, insomnia, hard to wake up, alert at night, body aches, depression, etc. I went over this in great detail here.

nap

Treatment: It’s important to find out what kind of adrenal problems you’re having before attempting to simply supplement to treat. Some may have high cortisol (me last time), low cortisol, or a mix of highs and lows. I have a mix this time. For a mix I treated with a Adrenal support protocol made by Standard Process and worked closely with a Naturopath to make sure I was on the right track. Check out the different treatments here. Part of treatment is getting to bed early and waking up earlier, reprogramming your body to produce the correct cortisol amounts at the right times. It can take months or even a year to get it sorted, but I think I’m doing a lot better.

How I cope: Admitting and accepting that mornings are hard and adjusting my schedule to allow for rough starts. I avoid early morning appointments or commitments and allow for enough time for me to get up and ready. We start school later if needed (my early birds get started without me and I check their solo work later). And I try to combat the surge of energy I get at night by using f.lux, a program that slowly darkens your monitor as the sun goes down, and try to get electronics turned off by 10pm.

Adrenal fatigue

If I can’t sleep after giving it a good shot for at least 3 hours of ‘resting,’ I try to do something non-stimulating like read on a regular Kindle rather than a bright screen. I also use some essential oils at night for calming and sleep which seem to help. I take melatonin if my clock gets screwed up badly to reset.

Hashimoto’s / Hypothyroid

I went over Hashi’s here. This has taken a bit of a back seat while we worked on getting my adrenals and cortisol production leveled out, hoping that my thyroid would calm down a bit as a result. I have follow up lab work this month to see how we’re doing in this area.

Lazy Thyroid - sorry no source!

Hashi’s / hypothyroid symptoms also overlap with other symptoms so I’m never sure what is causing what. Hashi’s causes (among other things) fatigue, stubborn weight gain, sensitivity to cold, joint & muscle pain, constipation, hair loss, depression, memory problems, and slowed heart rate.

YUP. I have all of those.

Treatment: I’ve been taken off dessicated thyroid and am to go on a T3 only medication made at a compounding pharmacy, which is supposed to be better for Hashi’s patients.

How I cope: The overlap in symptoms is so great, I’ll go into most of this below. But I’ll address the ‘sensitivity to cold’ thing here. I am always freezing. My basal body temperature is always between 94.0 – 96.5. Sometimes I can get it up to 97-point-something, but never the supposed ‘normal’ of 98.2. Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it’s always low. My nose is usually an ice cube, my fingers and toes are freezing, and I’m shivering when everyone else wants a window open. So to cope, I use hot water bottles, hot pads, hand warmers, and I own a lot of fleece sweat pants and hoodies. I have been known to sleep in a knit cap. Supposedly when I start the T3 medication I’ll see improvement in this area.

always-cold

POTS / Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia

This one is the scene stealer. If I’m fainting, collapsing, blacking out, shaking / tremoring / seizing, that becomes the first and foremost thing to deal with.

POTS fainting

Symptoms are: Blood pressure drop with position change (even rolling over in bed), heart racing for no good reason, 1/3 less blood volume than a normal person, fatigue, headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness, vertigo, heart palpitations, exercise intolerance, nausea, diminished concentration (brain fog), tremulousness (shaking), syncope (fainting), coldness or pain in the extremities, chest pain, shortness of breath, depression, panic / anxiety out of nowhere, joint & muscle pain, dry mouth (horrific, it can wake you up), and unexplained weight loss. Potsies also develop a reddish purple color in the legs upon standing (often splotchy), believed to be caused by blood pooling or poor circulation. I’m probably forgetting some, honestly.

YUP. I have all of those. Well, except for the unexplained weight loss. Ha. Thanks, Hashi’s.

POTS

Treatment Increase fluids (I drink a gallon of water throughout the day), and increase our salt intake, up to between 5000 – 8000mg. Electrolytes are very important so that we don’t end up flushing our system with too much plain water.

Compression stockings sometimes help (haven’t tried yet), raising the head of the bed is supposed to help (haven’t tried yet). Reclined exercises such as rowing, recumbent biking, and swimming (hooray!) are recommended with supervision (I’ve only been okay’d for light yoga, but hope to be able to swim soon). Healthy diet changes can help (GAPS, Keto, and Paleo are often recommended – I’m currently trying Keto), and a host of meds I admit I’m a little reluctant to try. Some go on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds, which I react very poorly too. If you’re lucky enough to figure out what your trigger is, then treatment will involve treating the trigger problem if possible.

pots

How I cope: Physicians with expertise in treating POTS have compared the functional impairment seen in POTS patients to the impairment seen in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or congestive heart failure. Dudes. That is major. Every patient is different though (eg: Tracy has POTS but it’s due to her EDS which complicates things for her, I don’t have EDS, my trigger is something else), some patients are able to work and do housework with few problems, others are on disability, in wheelchairs, and require assistance in the bath.

For me, learning to cope with POTS is an ongoing process, and it’s a pretty overwhelming process at that. If I’m not covered in a rash or swollen, I can look perfectly fine and healthy. Sometimes people look at me quizzically when I’m riding around in a beep-beep cart because geez, I look fine. But I know (sadly from experience) even on a good day, that pushing a cart around a grocery store is an instant recipe for a huge episode in one of the aisles somewhere. I worry sometimes that someone might see me having a perfectly good day at the dog park, and then the next day wonder why I’m shaking and collapsing at church.

Beep beep cart

In chronic disease circles, we pass around the spoon theory to try to explain what this is like. The tl;dr version is this:

Imagine that spoons represent your energy resources. A healthy person has an infinite number of spoons in their arsenal on any given day. They don’t have to worry that the shower they need is going to use up the spoons they’ll need later in order to get to the post office. Someone with a chronic illness (eg: lupus, chronic fatigue, endometriosis, POTS, EDS/HMS, etc.) only has say, ten or twelve spoons on any given morning. Just getting up might take 3 of your precious spoons. A shower might take 4. Getting dressed and doing your hair and makeup might take 2 more, but now you only have 3 spoons left to get through the rest of your day. Click for an excellent infographic explaining it in visual terms.

Save your spoons!

We have to learn how to conserve spoons. On good days we might wake up with twenty. Other days we might be paying for overdoing it the day before and wake up with none.

Practical coping mechanisms include: Getting enough rest, even if it looks like way more rest than a person should need. Taking it easy if I have a bad night or a bad day. Saying no to lots of extra activities when I’m not doing well or if I suspect I’ll run out of spoons mid-activity. Using the ‘beep beep’ cart at the grocery store without shame. Applying for a handicap parking pass and using it if I know the walk from the car to the store is going to do me in. Listening to my pre-sycope warnings and pulling over or getting to a chair (or the floor) when I feel an episode coming on. Using a shower chair. Being open to using a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair.

Coping also means being brave (hard for this introvert) and taking the time to explain to people around me that sometimes I faint or collapse or just crumple, and not to worry if it happens. It also means swallowing my pride and asking for help when I need it, and letting people help me when they offer. And not letting myself feel like a huge burden (ahem, TRACY).

horizontal

One part of coping that my loved ones have a hard time understanding is needing to stay in the race. My husband especially would probably be happier (and worry less) if he knew I was on bed rest 24/7. But when you have a good day you have to seize it! Even if it ends badly, you have to TRY and live, especially if you worry that you may not have another good day for a while. So if I feel like I can take the kids to the movies, run an errand by myself, or go to a homeschool coop activity, I’m going to TRY, even if those around me think it’s maybe not the greatest idea. Tracy wrote a really great post about this here. Be sure to watch the movie, Catching Kayla. It hits really, really close to home.

chronic-friends

Finally, it helps to have a tribe. Tracy and I have hit the jackpot with amazing friends who are willing to drop everything and help. Jennifer, Kat, Amy, Sheri, Paula, and many more… they are amazing. I haven’t made a substitute tribe in Wyoming yet (other than my husband and kids who are all rockstars), but I do have online support groups that will listen to me vent, pat my back, and offer advice. It really helps when you feel like you are the only one with this crazy, banana cakes problem.

Chronic Urticaria and Angioedema

chronic-urticaria-wheals

When this flares up it takes over everything. If you’ve had normal hives or maybe had poison ivy, you can quadruple that pain and itch and you’ll have a rough idea how I feel. It’s so awful. 70 – 80% of people who get it never find out why. Mine is chronic, meaning it can flare up for several months, disappear, and then come back again. Mine seems to have an adrenal connection, but I’m discouraged that it has stopped responding to that treatment this month.

It looks like an allergy, but isn’t always — sometimes through (awful) elimination diets you can find a thing or two to eliminate that helps (for me it was gluten), but doesn’t necessarily solve the problem completely. It looks contagious and can make people recoil from you. The swelling is very disfiguring sometimes, and alarms people. Between the hives and swelling, it can be a very isolating situation.

burden-of-chronic-spontaneous-hives

Symptoms: Giant itchy, puffy welts that sometimes burn or leave bruises, swelling of the lips, eyes, and other areas of the face. Swelling and itching of the bottoms of the feet and palms (this is so miserable I cannot even tell you). It can come and go with absolutely no warning. The wheals / welts can shift around like you’re made out of plate tectonic hives, and even if they flatten out you can retain a splotchy appearance.

Treatment is kind of laughable, the options don’t really cure anything, they just try to shut down your immune system histamine response. Urticaria and Angioedema can be very resistant to antihistmaines and H1 and H2 blockers, so patients are often on higher than normal doses while rubbing themselves down with antihistamine cream that expressly says on the tube not to use it with other antihistamines. Steroid pills and injections can calm your hives down for a day or two, but then they rear back in even greater force, like they were just gathering steam for their come back. Chronic Idiopathic / Spontaneous Urticaria can last for months, even years. Using steroids that long (and some patients do) can cause a host of other problems and adverse reactions.

Here’s a pretty good infographic on Urticaria that I felt was a little to big to stick in this already giant post.

strong-enough

There are some other off-label drugs I’m reluctant to try, but I am considering Xolair injections. There is also an understudied possibility that Probiotics can help with chronic hives, so I’m going to try that first. Last time I had this the hives responded really well to an adrenal protocol and that seemed to be my trigger. This time they initially responded well to the adrenal supplements and were pretty manageable, but now they are back in full force. No idea why. I’m currently on a doctor-supervised therapeutic fast to see if there is a toxin / bowel connection. Seriously. This condition makes you very desperate and you will try anything, and sadly there are a lot of scams out there that take advantage of the miserable.

How I cope: Mostly endurance. Mostly trying not to claw my own skin off. I use a lot of Benadryl cream, and lately Sarna which is pretty awesome (thanks, sis, for recommending it). When the hives are really bad, I take Benadryl around the clock. When they aren’t as bad I can get away with normal doses, but it doesn’t respond really well to it, sometimes it only takes the barest of edges off, other times you can get the welts to flatten out. Oatmeal baths do absolutely nothing. Aloe Vera gel is the WORST, it dries and feels tight and you basically want to die washing it off. I keep an Epi-pen on hand for major face swelling. Salt water helps get the face swelling down sometimes. But yeah, it’s mostly endurance. It’s lying very still and if you can get to sleep you’ve really scored because while you sleep you can’t feel it… though the itch CAN wake you up, and definitely KEEPS you up sometimes.

In closing

all-the-symptoms

That pretty much sums it up, right? Apologies to Allie on behalf of whoever edited her drawing.

But no, there are a lot worse things I could be dealing with. The hives will probably give me a reprieve at some point. I think I can get on top of the adrenals, and there is a solid treatment for Hashi’s. POTS is something I’m probably going to have to learn to live with and accept if we can’t find the trigger, but it’s not the end of the world to periodically collapse in public. I thought it would be the most embarrassing thing ever, but eh, you get over it.

Happy Monday, y’all. If you have an endless source of spoons, I salute you (and also could you run to the store for me? I’m out of cream. Thanks.) If you have a limited amount of spoons, you have my sympathy and wholehearted understanding, come on over and we’ll marathon watch all of Arrested Development, I have an extra heating pad.

xo

* Sorry I don’t have sources for many of these graphics, they get tossed around on my support groups and I don’t always know who made them. If you are a maker of one of these, please let me know and I’ll credit you!

Year in Review: 2014

I’m going to be mad at myself for not documenting my health better this year. It’s been very helpful to have a record in my archives from when I last dealt with urticaria and angioedema, fainting, and all of the things I tried. So let’s see if I can catch up a bit in this year-end review. I’ll probably mess up the timeline a little since I’m going from memory, my scattered archives, and emails sent to my mom and friends. (As is the case with my year-end reviews, paragraphs are less paragraphy and more brief review sentences. Kinda choppy, but helpful for me to look back on.)

January

house projects

We were working through our list to get our house sold. I was working full time from home and the stress was at an all time high with my biggest client and contract re-negotiations that were not supposed to come up again until the spring. After two years of trying to sell the house ourselves, we listed with a realtor.

February

sabra-baby

I was able to go to UT and help my sister during her labor. She was amazing, and gave birth to her little miracle baby on Valentine’s Day. It was a very difficult delivery as he was born with a very large tumor and had to undergo intensive surgery.

March

rental

Our house was under contract and sold! We finished up some projects and due to some work / employment changes I was able to quit web design. The morning after I quit was the first morning I had woken up in a year without feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. The move was quite a whirlwind and very fast. We got rid of a lot of stuff, but ran out of time near the end and ended up ‘steam shovel moving’ stuff in the shop to the rental’s garage with all the good intentions to eventually go through them (ha). With loads of help from friends and people from our ward (church body), we got into our little rental in the country.

April

swimming

We got settled and I started lap swimming. We only planned on being in the rental for a few months, we were busy house hunting; looking at land, designing house plans, and checking out distressed fixer-upper properties. It felt like our farm dreams were finally well within reach. My brother and his wife had a sweet little baby boy.

May

vertical swimming, nope.

We planned our garden and got it planted. I continued to swim laps and vented a lot about stupid lap lanes and grumpy old men waving shampoo bottles. You know, as you do.

June

swim camp

The policy at the pool was changed due to my silly cartoons and fist-shaking, but I was too embarrassed to ever go back. I started swimming in town instead. We went to swim camp early in the month. We got really excited about the carpet-house, but got outbid on the property. I was really, really sad about it and cried a lot. Our cat had kittens.

I started passing out again. I was depressed and stopped blogging and withdrew from my friends. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I met with my primary care doctor who thought I might have POTS and suggested putting me on a beta blocker. I met with my cardiologist who agreed with the POTS diagnosis. Both doctors were afraid of my already very low blood pressure, so they started me on the lowest dose. The heart doctor wanted to do another bubble echocardiogram and transcranial doppler to make sure my PFO repair was still in place. Unfortunately, we didn’t have insurance yet and I was really reluctant to do anything that’d get me back into any kind of medical debt. He said my heart tones sounded good, with the already-known murmur & valve regurgitation (I have 3 faulty valves), and didn’t think it would hurt to wait until fall / early winter when insurance through E’s job would kick in.

July

Family pics

The fainting continued, and we hit a wall in trying to purchase a property. I didn’t want to write about any of it. Even though we were out of debt and had a lovely down payment from the sale of our house, our offer fell apart during the final stages. We worked towards getting private financing, but I started to worry that with my health, taking on a fixer upper right now was a bad idea. We walked away from the privately funded purchase on the day we were supposed to sign the papers. We had family pictures with my side of the family and I didn’t collapse once, hurrah. (No, I don’t know what Sabra & I are doing with our arms, and yes, I have extremely long monkey arms.)

August

summer

Fainting, collapsing, and seizing / tremoring became a normal part of my days. Somewhere in the summer Urticaria (chronic hives) and Angioedema (swelling) came back and I was just like, “Oh sure, why not?” At first I was hopeful because they were less severe than the last time, but they got worse. Somehow I pulled off a couple of camping trips (without E — what was I thinking?) with both sides of the family and I did pretty well except for one evening around the campfire when I started tremoring badly and had to be hauled back up to my trailer in the back of my brother in law’s truck. A+ for super fun party time.

This was also the month this embarrassing thing happened.

My cardiologist recommended I try the Keto diet to help with my POTS symptoms. I got off to a rough start with it; I’d calculated my macros incorrectly and it was making me feel worse.

September

Oh dear, a love note

My mom came up to stay and help. My kids were having a really hard time – we were in a new place, daddy was gone all the time, and mommy was stuck in bed. My daughter especially really struggled during this period and it was hard on all of us. I got loads of bloodwork this month and found that I had Hashimoto’s – I’d been on dessicated thyroid for a few years for hypothyroidism, but now my body was making antibodies against itself. Awesome. I found a specialist in Utah for the Hashi’s who would work with me over the phone until I could see him in person.

My cousin AJ got in a terrible car crash this month and was paralyzed from the neck down. He can move his arms now, but is still very much wheelchair bound. He’s living at my grandma’s house right now and I’ve been so bummed we haven’t been able to get down to see him.

October

Halloween

I continued to treat my screwed up cortisol / adrenal function and saw improvement. I was passing out less, and my mom did not have to be with us 24/7. My hives and swelling, while still annoying, seemed to be under control. Instead of taking 3 Benadryl every 4 hours, I could take 2 in the morning and 2 or 3 before bed. I was able to start driving the kids short distances, and I could grocery shop if I used the handicap cart, or the beep-beep cart, as my kids call it, due to the embarrassing beeping it makes when I have to back up. We were able to go to my friend Jennifer’s Halloween party and do more fun things in our homeschool activities.

Insurance kicked in on the first of this month as well, which felt pretty amazing. I got the kids’ eyes all checked — N’s reading glasses didn’t cost me a dime, it felt like Christmas! I also had dentist appointments for everyone — first time we could get x-rays and I didn’t have to use coupons or cash-price bargaining. K had a few cavities that would have set us back just under $1000 dollars, but the insurance paid for it all. I cried. We started trying to figure out how to get me down to UT to see my specialists and have tests done, but then we got caught up in moving, so I continued to have phone consults and lab work done in Idaho.

E. was still gone a lot, and was wasting a lot of his ‘off time’ by driving 10 hours round trip. We talked a lot about what we should do: Stay put through the winter? Buy something locally so the kids and I could be near our wonderful friends? Move in with my parents temporarily so I could be near my thyroid and heart specialists? Or move to Wyoming to be closer to E? We had looked around at houses in Wyoming but reeled from sticker shock, and rentals were so expensive and often too small for our family. I worried a lot about E. driving home through the winter over the mountain passes in bad weather. At the end of the month a totally do-able rental popped up in WY, and E. jumped on it.

November

BFFs

Another whirlwind move. I was still blacking out and collapsing, but less frequently. Still, nobody wanted me to be packing boxes, fearing the stress and hard work of moving would give me a set back. We had so much help from friends and church members, it was really amazing. The help we received deserves a whole post. With the help of my good friends we were able to go through the junk we’d steam-shovel-moved in the spring and got rid of tons of stuff. All but a few belongings fit into a U-Haul trailer, our vehicles, and our own little flat bed trailer. We stored things we didn’t want to part with like big tools (table saw, etc) at Kat’s house. My friends and I cried a lot. I was healthy enough to make the drive, and followed E. in the U-Haul to Wyoming on the 6th of November.

We had some help from the homeschool group down here, as well as our church here to get moved in. My mom and sister met us and helped, too. It was nice to have familiar faces at the end of our journey. With our belongings whittled down, I was able, with the kids, to get us unpacked and pretty settled in just a couple of weeks. We had Thanksgiving dinner here, and I felt like we were settling into our new normal. With the hives and swelling mostly under control, I felt like I was getting a handle on how to deal with the POTS symptoms. I had to be careful and conserve energy, but we were doing alright. I was able to start very light yoga again and was really excited to be able to move and work my muscles. I could handle most positions well, but had to be careful if a set was going to take me from being low to the ground to standing quickly, or vice a versa, as I could pass out.

December

Beep beep cartFat lipshives

As nice as it has been to be closer to E. (my daughter is so much happier, hooray!), this month has been pretty discouraging. My hives and swelling decided to flare up again and it’s been pretty bad. I’m never sure what I’ll wake up looking like. Huge lips, swollen eyes, or both? One morning my nose was swollen so weirdly it looked like it had been broken. The hives are in their puffy welt stage, and cover me from scalp to toe. They are so hard to get under control if I wake up with them already puffed out and huge. It’s been pretty miserable again and my fainting spells have become worse. Last week I fainted 20 times in one day. Exercise was put on hold again.

After a phone consult with my doctor he encouraged me to try the Keto diet again. He was having good results with it with another patient who had a lot of my symptoms and issues. I figured it couldn’t hurt — and honestly when you feel this way you’re willing to try just about anything — so, with his help calculating my macros this time, I started that again this past week. It’s going better this time and I am feeling a bit stronger, I still have episodes but I’m not collapsing or blacking out as frequently, so my hopes are pretty high. No change in my hives / swelling yet, they are still pretty heinous. I find the diet similar to Paleo, except you can have dairy and eggs if you’re not allergic / intolerant, and I am not. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

The rest of the year

Christmas

Now that we’re settled and have insurance (huzzah!), we have plans to get to UT and see my specialists and finally have some more tests done. I will be getting some follow up labwork here as soon as I get established with a new primary care physician. It’s always fun to train a new doctor on all my levels of weirdness. (It’s not at all fun.)

I know all my symptoms and diagnoses can be kind of confusing, I’ll be back (for realsies) Monday (I already have it written and it’s scheduled to post) to kind of straighten out what I have and what is causing what (lots of symptoms overlap), what I’ve tried, what I’m trying, what I might try, etc. And just a general sort of ‘learning to live with chronic illness’ stuff. I’m always hopeful for healing and finding and treating the triggers, but I also have to learn how to cope on a day to day basis. xx

Tracy’s smile

Disclaimer: I received free product to use on my friend, I did not accept any money for this post. All opinions are my own. This will be my last sponsored / perked / giveaway post.

Some months ago Brian from Smile Brilliant contacted me about doing a sponsored piece on my blog for their custom fitted trays and teeth whitening system. I nearly hit delete. I had pretty much decided to bow out of the sponsorship / giveaway stuff altogether, but I hesitated because my BFF Tracy, had mentioned that she’d really like to whiten her teeth, but couldn’t afford the procedure at the dentist.

smile-brilliant_1000

I shot Trace an email first to ask if she’d like to give the product a try before I turned my back on sponsorships forever. I was worried about offending her and reassured her that I thought her smile was lovely, but she was totally game and pretty excited.

Brian said the product would be perfect on teeth that hadn’t been aligned with braces, so we were a go.

smile-brilliant-box

The box came really fast. Embarrassing, because it would take Tracy and I a while to coordinate our fainting schedules to get this done, and then my move delayed my post. (Bryan has been above-and-beyond patient. Thank you Bryan!)

Inside everything was nice and neat with pretty and easy to follow instructions:

inside-smile-brilliant-box

I have really funny pictures of Tracy with the putty / tray stuff in her mouth but she would not want me to post them. Let’s just say she has a really sensitive gag reflex and it didn’t help that Kat and I made her laugh with her mouth full. We were also really glad that Smile Brilliant sent extra putty, we needed it after our first try.

Note: I don’t think anyone would need to worry about gagging. Tracy is just a super special snowflake in that regard. She like, gags on air sometimes.

For a step by step on using this kit, I’ll post a video Bryan sent me. This lady’s teeth are practically glow-in-the-dark already so she uses the product on her boyfriend. (Oh patient & understanding boyfriend!)

It doesn’t take long to make the molds (even if you gag and laugh-cry and have to make a new one), and everything is provided to mail them back to the company with a postage paid envelope:

smile-brilliant-custom-molds

In just a week we had Tracy’s molds back and ready for use. I was anxious to get her custom trays to her so she could start using them & don’t have a photo of hers (they came in a blue plastic case). Here’s a photo swiped from the Smile Brilliant website:

custom-fitted-teeth-whitening-trays-by-smilebrilliant

Here are Tracy’s before and afters over a three week period. She took some days off in there to let the (normal) tooth sensitivity calm down a bit.

before-after

I’m so sorry these aren’t in the same exact light. The before was taken in my bedroom at the last rental in front of a sunny window. The after was taken in the driveway in front of the U-haul on the last day we were packing up to move (sob). I didn’t do any retouching other than cropping and making sure the white balances / levels were as accurate as could be. I think, even with the funky light, these are pretty true-to-color before & afters.

I have zero problem with teeth being, you know, TOOTH COLORED, but I totally get Tracy’s desire to whiten up in a drastic way, and her smile is a lot brighter. People have noticed and commented, and I think it’s made her more confident when she smiles and laughs.

Having priced out whitening, custom trays, and whitening refills at the dentist (Idaho price: $400), Smile Brilliant’s regular price of $179 – $229 is a great value. Their packages are currently on sale for between $119 – $155.

Coupon & Givewaway

Very Mom readers who are interested in a kit of their own can enter a coupon code to save a bit more:

smile-coupon

(Ahem, yes, I received the kit when I was still on BE.)

Additionally, you can enter to win a Smile Brilliant coupon for $139.95 plus free shipping via Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Thank you

Thanks for reading my very last review / sponsored post, you guys. I will continue to recommend stuff we like and use organically, but I won’t be doing any more of these — I’ll talk a bit more about my decision later.

Help! Stressed out pet advice

Hey! Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans and Happy Thursday to the rest of y’all. I have animal related questions if you are done with your pie.

My animals (two dogs and two cats) were very used to roaming pretty wild and free out in the country — especially the cats who were rescued from feral barncat mothers specifically to be mousers and live out in our shop. This whole suburban neighborhood / tiny backyard scene is stressing everyone out.

dog-stress

The dogs:

We knew going from six acres with endless pastures and minimal cars / vehicles to a postage-stamp sized backyard was going to be a big adjustment, but we figured we’d just keep them inside more. Being inside with us was typically a treat for them, so we figured no big deal. Ha. Ha. Ha. HA. They basically went bananas. They couldn’t understand why they weren’t going outside to their nice heated doghouse (it stayed in ID because it was basically bigger than our entire backyard) and were instead supposed to lay down on the carpet and sleep.

They started obsessively licking the carpet and sofa all over, like every INCH. You could distract them for a little while and then they’d go right back to it. Later, they’d barf up a ball of carpet fibers, dog hair, and partially digested dog food. It was disgusting.

The vet said it was stress and since they’ve always been outside dogs they probably ought to stay outside dogs even in a smaller yard. So we tried to make them as comfortable out there as possible – we got them Igloo doghouses with heating pads inside and constructed new shelter from the wind and snow, and still have them come inside multiple times a day, take them for walks, and play with them, but they are so confused and have started displaying other behavior problems… like barking, crying, and getting kind of growly / snappy.

Azzo especially is barking more. He’s driving the neighbors batty and ruining naptime for our neighbor’s kids. Being so close to our neighbors is a new experience so I’m especially anxious not to mess it up. Some folks in the neighborhood suggested bark collars, but we hated the idea of shocking our already stressed out pups. And it only took a little research to scare me off the method for good.

We are trying training, but he is so bewildered, we’re not getting very far yet… and I don’t see how teaching him “speak” and “quiet” will help if he’s just hanging out back there without us — especially during the night (though we will keep trying, of course). I ordered a supposedly kinder bark collar that sprays Citronella instead of delivering an electric shock, but the reviews are very mixed. Anyone have some experience with any of this? I’m afraid even Citronella is going to be confusing and cause more stress for Azzo.

catstress

The cats:

The cats were pretty freaked out, too. They had diarrhea for the entire first week we were in the new place. So. Horrible. Between the dogs barfing and the cats pooing and the whole move in general, I cried A LOT. We very intentionally rescued Dusty specifically because she was a barn cat with awesome mousing skills. She tolerates us but is far from a cuddly house cat. She wants to be outside working and is losing her crapballs cooped up in here all the time. She is tearing up the carpets and furniture and has taken to chewing holes in blankets (as I type she is methodically shredding an envelope — it is mildly creepy). We have gotten loads of toys but it’s just not the same as having the freedom to prowl and hunt. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that she got out soon after we moved in and was missing for 36 hours in 10 degrees below 0 temperatures with horizontal wind-snow going. I sobbed my eyes out (crying has been a recurring theme lately) and spent hours searching for her, certain we were going to find a body on the side of the road. I was stunned when she came trotting back to the house like it was no big deal. Maybe I should have a little more faith in her and let her wander?

Kevin was a barn cat with wild parents too, but we got him a little too young. He cried for his first few weeks with us and the only course of action was to mother him. He is now a complete baby and is useless in mousing. I’m pretty sure he thinks his sole purpose in life is to be a very plush, very beautiful decoration. As such, he has adjusted much quicker to in-the-house-life, but is still meowing at the door to go out all the time. When we’ve let them out with supervision they roll in the snow. I didn’t think about it, but going from living outside to inside a heated house is probably stressful just temperature-wise. They are drinking loads more water than they used to.

I got them new ID tags, but still feel terrified to let them wander around a new city with so many cars racing about. I think they probably need it, though.

cat-allergy

My other problem with the cats mostly indoors is that my allergies are now INSANE. When they lived outside and only visited for some snuggles, my eyes itched but it wasn’t too bad. But now it’s like I have a perpetual, never ending, horrific man-cold. The Benadryl I take for the Urticaria helps a lot, but them living in here 100% of the time isn’t ideal for either of us. I do intend to get them set up in the garage with access to outside soon, but I’ve got to finish going through boxes in there first… I’m also terrified a the thought of running them over. I am fretting that I should have found homes for them in Idaho where their surroundings would have stayed the same. I would have cried like a baby, but maybe they would have been happier? My husband would never have considered that for the dogs (they are practically like children to him), but honestly, did we just do the world’s stupidest thing by moving these country creatures to the city?

I’ve got the dogs in here for the night and Azzo will NOT stop whining and crying at the door. He punctuates the crying with those sharp, stressed out / worried barks and it’s making Lucy start licking. But if I let him outside he whines in the corner of the yard and licks the fence like it’s made of beef. OH MY WORD. And to think I was so worried about the KIDS adjusting!

** Apologies to Randy Glasbergen for the cartoon edits in red.

We are moving to the moon

moving-to-the-moon

I wasn’t trying to be coy, I’m just a dork and got all the way to the end of that post and realized I hadn’t said a thing about where we were going. And then it felt like I needed to do a whole big explanation thing that I didn’t have time for.

So, I try not to be too specific online about my city / address, because weirdos. But this is kind of hilarious because we’re moving to Wyoming, and since there are only like three inhabitable places in the entire state, it’s harder to be elusive about it. (I exaggerate.) Hint: it’s not the pretty northern / Jackson Hole part I’m already well acquainted with.

the-moon

On my first (and only) trip down to the south-western area I was at first sort of encouraged. We drove down along my beloved Snake River, through gorgeous Afton and Hoback Junction by Jackson. I knew that we’d eventually reach the big empty part, but had sort of convinced myself that it would be similar to south-east Idaho. I mean, I’d already adjusted to the flat farmland of Idaho after moving from the splendor of Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Mountains, so how bad could it be, really?

I WAS NOT PREPARED.

nada-wyoming

The first two photos in this post are not mine (and I am horrible because I do not have the credits, so sorry. Photographer, if you find me, please feel free to yell, I will understand). But don’t they seem like it’s going to be okay? Charming bluffs with sort of a deserty, arty feel, right? And hey! Snaking trains in lieu of a river! I can deal!

wyoming

These two photos, however, are mine — well, they are J’s. We were in shock. It was such a jolt! Of nothingness! I mean, looking at them now that sounds very dramatic and like all the Wyomingites will want to punch me in the face. I can see some of that deserty charm — and I think ID really did help prepare me to do so, because would you not just basically sit down and cry if you were moving there straight from the shadows of these?

Wasatch Mountains

I mean, right?? That was my view out my front room window in the house I grew up in. I completely took those mountains for granted.

Anyway, it was all good though. Because driving through hours and hours of what felt like a completely empty, alien planet — or you know, the MOON — by the time we reached a town, it felt like a breathtaking oasis in the middle of nowhere. We poked around the cities that were near enough to my husband’s place of work to not make a commute utterly miserable, and I found that I rather liked the place. It was a relief, to drive around for a few days and feel like I could more than deal. Even in the lovely little cities, you do feel very isolated knowing all that nothingness is on all sides, though. It feels a little bit like you really super better have your food storage and your back up heat source and, I don’t know, basic knowledge of deer hunting (there are MANY, all over the place), because when the zombies come, I don’t think ANYONE is going to remember that there are these little outposts of humanity in Wyoming and send help.

My friend Tracy grew up in the area and she says that Wyomingites like it that way. I can totally see that. This area is having a boom, but there isn’t anyone (or at least not many) building houses. They have a housing shortage. It’s so bizarre. All these people are flooding to the area for work but there aren’t enough places for them to live, yet the state has more empty, open, and available SPACE than anyone else in the union. House hunting down there has been insane.

Here, I’ll show you what we’re dealing with. It’s called sticker shock.

se-idaho-house

This house above is available near me here in Idaho for $230,000. It is 3100 square feet and has 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. It was built in 2008 and sits on a beautifully landscaped acre. It’s not my dream house or anything, but should give you an indicator for comparison.

Here’s a comparable listing (price-wise and sizeish-wise) from one of the areas in which we are looking:

wy-listing

Asking price is $224,000. It has 2200 square feet, 6 bedrooms, and 3 bathrooms. It was built in the late 70s and sits on a 0.14 acre lot. Now, I’m not going to house bash, I realize these are very different housing markets, and know I could compare a listing in ID to something in the bay area in California and we’d all die of sticker shock. It’s just an adjustment.

Plus we’re coming from years of dreaming of a lot more land; taking steps to try and make that happen, but instead we’re shopping around in a place where it’s going to be a major score if we have enough yard for a couple of dogs to not go completely mad.

So, you know, different! Shelving the dream! It’s probably going to be hard. But we’re not giving up on the dream either. Hopefully this will just be a means to an end… another stepping stone on the path of life. I dunno, insert your own cliche.

My youngest is next to me in bed. He just rolled over and mumbled something about Jabba the Hut. I will leave you with that & schedule this for 5am (rest assured I will not be awake). I’ve got lovely friends descending at sun up (hopefully not right at sun up) wielding packing tape and Sharpies. They are the best.

Sagebrushily yours,
Jessica

p.s. Daylight savings is the WORST. This was the longest day ever with the crabbiest children on the planet ever in all history of ever. We were stuck in the house with various degrees of colds (thank you, Halloween! I totally blame you, just so you know.) (Halloween totally doesn’t give a crap.) So if this post sounds ever so slightly doom and gloom, never fear; I will cheer up when the sun comes up, I am sure.