July Summer Update 2014

July 29, 2014

It’s almost August! Only about five weeks until my baby starts kindergarten. Sighhhhh….

Until that happens we are going to continue our summer fun. We have been having a great summer. Here are a few pictures of our fun.

Our garden has started producing. And we have started pickling.

Our garden has started producing. And we have started pickling.

Ava has been taking golf lessons again this summer. She really enjoys it.

Ava has been taking golf lessons again this summer. She really enjoys it.

We have been having lots of play dates with friends.

We have been having lots of play dates with friends.

We went to the St. Louis Park splash pad one afternoon with a friend.

We went to the St. Louis Park splash pad one afternoon with a friend. (Ava on the right in the greenish suit.)

We have met Aunt Kimmy and cousins Caleb and Peyton at the swimming pond.

We met Aunt Kimmy and cousins Caleb and Peyton at the swimming pond.

Cousin Peyton hanging with me at the pond.

Cousin Peyton hanging with me at the pond.

Shameless mom brag warning... But doesn't Ava's hair get gorgeous in the summer? This was just air drying after a bath.

Shameless mom brag warning… But doesn’t Ava’s hair get gorgeous in the summer? This was just air drying after a bath.

And finally, we have season passes to Valley Fair this summer. So we have been frequent visitors there — mainly at the Planet Snoopy section of the park.

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We are lucky to have such fun summers with family and friends and make these wonderful memories.

Park Program

July 29, 2014

Last day of Park Program.

Last day of Park Program.

This is the third year Ava has participated in Minnetonka’s “Park Program”. I put it in quotes because that is not the official name of it. I think it’s Summer Adventure Club or something like that. We prefer Park Program.

They do crafts, games, read books, and play on the park equipment at Park Program. The leaders are college students that really enjoy kids. They are assisted by high school kids who also enjoy kids. This year was super fun because Ava’s cousin Caleb was also in her program.

Minnetonka Park and Rec runs programs for different age groups all over Minnetonka and Hopkins. At the end of the program in late July, they hold a carnival for the kids. This was the first year we went. I suspect we will back again next year because Ava had such a blast.

Eating dinner at the carnival.

Eating dinner at the carnival.

Playing basketball with her Park Program friend, Xavier.

Playing basketball with her Park Program friend, Xavier.

Ava was surprisingly talented at disc golf.  She wants to find a disc golf course and play some more.

Ava was surprisingly talented at disc golf. She wants to find a disc golf course and play some more.

Erik swinging Ava far too high on the swings.

Erik swinging Ava far too high on the swings.

Going home after the magic show at the carnival.

Going home after the magic show at the carnival.

Oh, it is good to be a kid during summertime!

Surprise!

July 13, 2014

We drove to Duluth yesterday to attend a surprise birthday party for Erik’s brother’s wife, Jenna. There was a live band, great food, and lots of fun.

Not surprisingly, Ava was the first person to hit the dance floor. She really got the party started.

Ava says, "Happy birthday, Aunt Jenna!"

Ava (and Hans) says, “Happy birthday, Aunt Jenna!”

Lon (the party planner), Erik's dad, Erik's mom, and Erik.

Lon (aka: the party planner), Erik’s dad, Erik’s mom, and Erik.

"I'm with the band!"

“I’m with the band!”

 

If you know me well, you know that I’m a little absent minded. So it won’t surprise you that I’ve been hitting the “publish” button too soon. Like on my garden update I just posted. I was trying to write it too quickly while listening to one of Ava’s stories and instead of hitting “add picture” I hit “publish.”  Maybe the “p” in both words confused me?

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem. But many of you get blog updates via email. And so you will only receive the first two pictures. (Admit it. You thought it was slightly strange to get a garden update with just two pictures of cucumbers.)

So I’m writing another post so you get another email to tell you to please click through to my blog and to see the rest of the photos if you are interested in seeing my garden. Wow. This is getting complicated. So sorry.

If you don’t get my blog updates by email, this post will make absolutely no sense to you. Please just keep reading like this never happened.

 

July 2014 Garden Update

July 13, 2014

It seems  like we watch and watch our garden the first two months. And then all of sudden it explodes! Here are some pictures of our exploded garden.

Our first pickling cucumber to make it to picking size! Now we just need a few more to catch up to make a full jar.

Our first pickling cucumber made it to picking size! Now we just need a few more to catch up to make a full jar.

Most look like this...

Most look like this…

 

If you look close you can see lots of little yellow flowers. Each one will turn into a pickle eventually!

If you look close you can see lots of little yellow flowers. Each one will turn into a pickle eventually!

 

Tomatoes are coming along nicely. They are noticeably bigger since snapping this photo of Friday night.

Tomatoes are coming along nicely. They are noticeably bigger since snapping this photo of Friday night.

We had no luck with our carrots last year. But this year our carrots are looking to over take the garden. They have already overtaken some peppers.

We had no luck with our carrots last year. But this year our carrots are looking to take over the garden. They have already overtaken some peppers.

Ava just had to pull a carrot to see what was happening beneath the soil. I have to admit I was curious, too. I was impressed for the size in July!

Ava just had to pull a carrot to see what was happening beneath the soil. I have to admit I was curious, too. I was impressed for the size in July!

Our jalapenos are doing great!

Our jalapenos are doing great!

 

Releasing Butterflies

July 13, 2014

This is the second year we have ordered caterpillars for Ava’s butterfly garden. Actually this is the second try this year for her butterfly garden. We only received three caterpillars with our first order and two of them died before making it to a butterfly which was disappointing for Ava. Then I read online that they guarantee three butterflies per order so we got a replacement cup. (Insect Lore has great customer service by the way.)

Anyway we received five caterpillars this time. And all five survived to a butterfly. Here is the release last week.

 

Ava was so proud of her butterflies!

Ava was so proud of her butterflies!

Ava's cousins were there to help with the release.

Ava’s cousins were there to help with the release. And eat ice cream.

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***********
“Hello, this is Linda.”

“Hi, Linda. This is Tracy Hovland. I’m returning your phone call. But I’m kinda confused. What is this new medication I’m supposed to take?”

“Lisinopril. It helps your heart not work so hard.”

“I didn’t know my heart was working hard. I don’t really want to take another medication. I’m already taking metoprolol…”

“Wait a second… Tracy, have you spoken to the doctor yet?”

“About what?”

“About your test results?”

“Um, no.”

“Okay. Let’s make an appointment so you can come in and review those results with the doctor.”

“Ummmmmm…okay.”
*************

This conversation happened just about ten years ago. I had a routine battery of tests a few weeks before this phone conversation. I went in the next week and my cardiologist explained that my test results showed “reduced heart function.” He wanted to put me on another medication to lessen the workload on my heart and possibly help improve its function. I remember being stoic and inquisitive while receiving this news. It was the first time I’d heard “heart failure” in a doctor’s office. I didn’t know what it was.

I wasn’t expecting this news. I thought I was feeling fine. But in hindsight, I recognize I had been on a very slow, gradual decline. So slow that I didn’t really realize that I was feeling the effects of low heart function. Or maybe I was in denial. Or maybe both. In addition to not expecting this news, I didn’t know what this news meant. It wasn’t the doctor’s failure to explain it well. It was being 27 years old and being told that you have heart failure. The lines just don’t connect.

What I did know was that it was not good. And this fact hit me when I got to my car after the appointment. I sat down. Closed the door. I began to cry because I was scared of the unknown. This news came out of left field and I wasn’t sure what was next. My husband of one month came home from work a couple hours later and found me crying on the couch. I could not explain why the news was so bad. I just kept saying it was “really bad”.

Luckily my doctor did not tell me exactly how bad it was. My ejection fraction — the amount of blood my heart is able to pump with each squeeze — had plummeted from 65%to about 25%.  Now this isn’t terrible but it’s not good. It’s not good because you don’t have much further to drop before your organs start suffering the effects of low oxygen. But with new medications, I eventually rebounded to 30-35%. Doctors like to see their patients above 30%. So once this happened, life went along as normal.

Five years later my heart failure got worse, which is another story for another day. But living with a chronic illness is my reality now. I think the thing I struggle with most is judgment. Not others judging me. I know it used to bother me — having limitations and people not necessarily understanding because I’m young(ish) and I look healthy. I’m so over that. What I struggle with is my own self-judgment. When I lay down on the couch to take a break so many things go through my head like…

- Would I be tired like this if I was just a stay-at-home mom?

- Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older?

- Should I push through it and get a little more activity?

And the worst one…

- Am I being lazy?

No need to answer these questions for me. I know the answers logically.  But when you are in your 30s with a chronic illness, your equilibrium is always out of balance. When your body aches with fatigue and your chest constricts because your lungs aren’t oxygenating appropriately, obviously something is not right. But I feel like I live a pretty normal life of a 30-something-year-old mother. So when I’m laying on the couch at 2pm in the afternoon when everyone else is hard at work or outside playing with their children, those questions can’t help but creep into my mind. Who knows…maybe it’s good I still question myself. Maybe that means ARVD hasn’t taken me over.

I also struggle with contradiction in my life. Like…

- I made my heart sick by exercise. (No really. I did. The progression/damage of ARVD speeds up with exercise and stress.)
– I attended school for 19 years. Now I stay at home.
– The medications to help my tired heart make me even more tired.
– I have little control over how this disease affects my health — in a society where there are messages everywhere about “taking charge” and “taking control” of your health.

And the hardest one…
– I look and usually act healthy. But my heart is very sick.

I’m a rule follower so contradictions are difficult for me. I like knowing what the outcome will be if I follow certain steps. Especially if I see everyone else following those steps successfully. Every day I’m learning to let go of what I think “should be” and I work to embrace “what is.”

Even with all the self judgment and contradictions, I’m in a much better place today than I was ten years ago crying in my car. The uncertainty about my future no longer scares me. Very honestly, the doctors don’t know what my future holds. They have no idea since my disease is rare and new.  There is little data and this disease is very different from person to person. But instead of letting that scare me, I see hope in the unknown.  Now that I have stopped overworking my heart with exercise and stress, my progression is going to take a whole new path. I choose to believe my future includes a long, happy life with this crazy ARVD heart.

Ten years. I am so grateful.

To read more about my journey with the genetic heart disease, ARVD, click here.

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