Elf on the shelf

When Allen was a baby people were telling me about this Elf doll that comes the 1st of December and watches their children every day till Christmas Eve to see if they are being naughty or nice. Then at night he flies back to the North Pole and gives Santa the report on their child. I just could not believe what I was hearing about all the rules and to what great lengths these moms have gone to make the elf do certain things. I kept thinking in the back of my head. This seems like a lot of work? But every mom told me it so much fun and to see the look on their child’s face when they woke up in the morning looking for the elf to see what the elf go into that night.

Forward to this last Christmas I broke down and bought an Elf on shelf. A Couple of weeks before December 1st I started looking on Pinterst, The web, and Blog sites for ideas of what to make this elf do cute things every morning for Allen to see and get interested finding him every morning. Finding a way for him to arrive was the easiest part. Buddy that’s his name that Allen gave him arrived in a box with a letter from Santa telling Allen why he was here to visit him and all the rules about not touching him. For the first few weeks Buddy was with us I had it covered what to do with him every day. The one thing I had to do is wait till Allen went to sleep that night and then go set up Buddy. I did not want to do it in the morning since I never know really what time Allen would wake up. Like I said for the first few weeks I was great with ideas for Buddy but after that I would sometimes struggle with ideas for him. As I would look for ideas on the web I couldn’t help but think do some Moms have a special container for all the props for their elf? I could not believe some of the stuff they had their elf doing and how much time it would take to set it up. I am sure when Allen gets older I will have to be more creative but this year I think I did a pretty good job for my first year. Allen was very happy with his elf, he was very sad when he left with Santa for the year. I told Allen he should be back next year if he continues to be a good boy. Now the next question is do I get Alana her own elf the girl version? Then I tell myself that’s just more work and more ideas I will have to come up with. We will see I have a few more years to decide.

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03
Feb 2016
POSTED BY Erin
DISCUSSION No Comments

Blue Monday

Here’s something I didn’t know until this week: the third Monday of January has been named “Blue Monday” aka the most depressing day of the year. Created by a marketing genius in the travel industry, Blue Monday is when New Year resolutions typically end, credit card bills roll in, and you can count that it’s usually cold outside.

Now I don’t buy into any of the hype. Maybe it’s because I’m a realist or maybe it’s tough to break what is already broken (thanks neuromyelitis optica). Regardless, my take it or leave it/it is what it is attitude wasn’t phased by it. Or so I thought.

One of the most challenging things NMO patients face is navigating personal relationships. Most of us are really blessed to have great support networks but on occasion even the best ones can fall apart. Other than the ask for medical advice, the most common thread on the patient support site is on how to manage relationships when we don’t feel good. For those of us living with disease, stress can really affect us and nothing is more stressful than the disintegration of our relationships. Furthermore, it’s tough to have those closest to us be sympathetic to our physical needs when they are angry with us.

Maybe the universe likes to ‘keep it real’ for me as it seemed like everyone around me on Blue Monday was just not in sync. Despite being busy, I will always make time for my friends and family, especially when they just need an ear to listen. And that was tough because I care and I internalize that and by the end of Blue Monday I was exhausted.

So here’s my advice for patients dealing with drama, either your own or that of others:

  • Get a best friend. I am nothing without mine. She hears out my rants (always siding with me) and is the third party of disbelief (I have to tell you what so and so did! Can you believe she did that?!)
  • Put a time limit to how long you’ll deal with a situation. If you must fight take a time out after a set time. If you’re the sympathetic ear, end the call/visit after a certain time frame.
  • Remember, it’s their drama and they just need an ear. If it’s your drama, know what you need to end it and tell the other party. No one reads minds.
  • Get sleep. Eat. Take your medication. Don’t punish yourself beyond the conflict.
  • Get some physical activity. Take a walk, exercise, get fresh air.
  • Laugh.
  • Remember we’re probably tougher than the other person because we have to kick NMO’s butt every second of every day. That gives us an advantage and thus, not even a fair fight.

Vermont in December

As we approach Christmas Day I am bombarded with the usual holiday insanity of planning, parties, gift wrapping, and festivities. So right before the busy holiday season I booked a road trip for us to the beautiful state of Vermont. There’s nothing more I live for than the quality time I spend with my family together and I wanted to make sure the 3 of us got that in before our attention wandered. We stayed at Smuggler’s Notch Resort, a ski property hailed as the #1 family resort on the east coast and unfortunately (or fortunately depending if you’re not a fan of the cold weather) there wasn’t any snow except for on the top runs of one of the mountains and on the beginner hill.

After 7 years of trying to learn how to snowboard, last year things just clicked so I was really looking forward to seeing how well I’d do this season. This was also the year I decided I’d let Sophie try skiing.

Sophie is 3.5 years old now. I started her in dance when she had just turned 2. At the time I knew she loved music and after a year of weekly classes, Sophie surprised everyone with her confidence on stage. But watching your child go barrelling down a ski hill, even the bunny hill, is something I wasn’t sure I would ever be ready for. Maybe it’s because I’m actually not the greatest on the mountain, my fear of heights or that no parent wants to see their child get hurt but I secretly hoped she’d refuse to strap on the gear and quit. Then we’d try again next year.

But apparently I’m raising one tough kid.

After a few runs with her coach Sophie figured out the magic carpet, balance and how to go down the beginner hill. In fact, she announced that she wanted to do it herself and from that moment no one could help her. By noon on her first day she was focused, confident and having a ton of fun. And she taught me an important lesson.

Sometimes I think I’m up against a challenge or an uncomfortable situation, like having to stand by helplessly and watch my child figure out a dangerous sport. But in reality, it wasn’t tough at all. In fact, had I not left Sophie to her very capable coach I might have projected my fears onto her. That day Sophie taught me that things aren’t always as they seem. Tough situations might actually be challenges where we learn something about ourselves, and our kids.

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Surviving the Holidays with NMO

As we all can agree with from Thanksgiving all the way to New Years is just chaos for a lot of people. I just survived my first year hosting for twenty people at my house. While trying to manage my NMO, having a terrible cold and two sick kids. For people who have never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner may not realize what a production it takes. It takes me a couple of weeks to organize and make a menu. Then a few days to go shopping and pick up everything then a few days of cooking. Then a few days after Thanksgiving to clean it all up and put everything back. While trying to get all this done I try to rest whenever I can even if that means sitting on a tall bar stool to cook. Try to nap when the kids are napping and breaking up my shopping trips into a few days rather go all day running around to all the stores. This year I had two very helpful helpers my mother and Mother in law. They helped me cook, clean or watch the kids. That was so very helpful.

Next during the busy holiday season is my birthday, which is not so stressful on me I get to enjoy being with my family and spending time with them. Eric treated me to a hotel in downtown Denver to watch the parade of lights. It was so nice and enjoyable for all of us especially the kids I didn’t have to worry about if they were getting cold. Now that Christmas is going to be here before I know it. I am buying a lot of my gifts online this year so I don’t have to load and unload kids and bags from the car. Plus how can you argue with buying most of your gifts online while sitting on the sofa with your pajamas on. I just can’t deal with crowds like I use to before NMO and shopping all day. I simply can’t do it. It wears me down so fast then I am in too much pain to deal with Christmas stuff. I want to enjoy Christmas especially with Allen getting older he has been so much fun this year with Christmas. This will be Alana’s first Christmas and that’s always a fun one too. We also decided not to run around to a bunch of houses this year during Christmas. We all can agree its hard living life with NMO then you add all the holiday things that need to get done this time of the year. It can be very hard and can wear you out very quickly. I just try to pace myself the best I can and do a little bit every day so I am not pushing my self too much.

 

Happy Holidays!

The Miller Family

 

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6 years (or 2190 days, 312 weeks or 72 months if you’re counting)

Today it will be 6 years (or 2190 days, 312 weeks or 72 months if you’re counting) since Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) tried to take over my life.

I hate this anniversary.

Every year as the anniversary arrives I try to stay positive and envision myself as some sort of super human. I have a lot to be grateful for (or brag about) – I’m a mom to the most energetic 3 year old, I co-own and run a successful company, I’m a wife to a talented journalist, I have best friends and I still do try crazy shit like run a 10km, snowboard and drink my weight in Chardonnay. Most nights I can’t turn my brain off so I lie in bed, completely exhausted, my body always on fire, my limbs feeling like they’re filled with lead, finally acknowledging that every fibre of my being hurts and I mentally high five myself. Ya. I destroyed today. This fucking disease has nothing on me. And then it’s morning and that egotistical voice in my head sounds panicked. What if today’s the day your feet can’t feel the ground again? What if today’s the last day you ever get to see?

This anniversary always feels like one big morning panic attack.

No matter how much I accomplish the rest of the year, I always feel so defeated on anniversary day. You see, NMO can sneak up on any day, even on one of my ‘better’ days. That is what it is to live with an incurable disease.

I wish I was a big enough person to be gracious today; to be proud that I’m surviving NMO one more year or to simply ignore the day. But you see folks, I am merely just a regular human with a learned ability to know how to fake it. Today makes me angry, makes me sad, makes me resentful. Today I’m more like Gollum, where my version wants to binge eat cheesies, eat several Twix candy bars and spend quality time with Netflix. Don’t look at me!

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If you’re feeling this is dark, don’t worry. Like during my mornings, the internal self pity and doubt does eventually end. Something always jars me back to reality – an alarm clock, a preschooler, sometimes even my own motivation. On anniversary day I do the same and wait for the inevitable life challenge to win over my self deprecation. NMO hasn’t taken over my life; It is my life and that’s a truth I’m always denying. Between the doctor appointments, the daily drugs and the consistent pain, there’s also all the good in my life. But if it’s all the same to you, today I’m gonna take my day and cover my knuckles in cheesie dust.

Summer Photo Fun

We hope you had a great summer. We’ve all enjoyed the many adventures that we encountered despite neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Here are our favourite photos of the summer:

From Lelainia

The Lloyds

My husband and I have been empty nesters for about 5 years now, so it’s challenging to come up with a photo with all of us in the same frame, especially when two of us (Carver and I) are avid photographers and prefer to be behind the lense. This group of photos was taken on Father’s Day this year, 4 days before my husband suffered a major heart attack, which makes them all the more special to me. We took a day trip to Whistler, which is our happy place and did some hiking, swimming, shopping & eating. My son spotted a selfie stick and bought it as a gift for me, so hopefully the next time we’re out having adventures together, we’ll all end up in the same frame.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         From Jenna:

soph  pug  run My happy place is up north in Muskoka country at my husband’s family cottage. In Ontario, Canada, most city dwellers jump at the chance to drive several hours to the great outdoors, every weekend. We’re not as extreme but instead take a couple of weeks off. From Erin: IMG_6288 IMG_6648 IMG_6772 IMG_6826 IMG_7451 IMG_7363 IMG_7282 IMG_7264 IMG_7127 IMG_7057 IMG_6996 IMG_6921   As our summer is coming to an end we sure did have a lot of fun! We did a lot of activities as a family. I really enjoyed watching Allen being at his favorite place, which is the track. Alana is growing up so fast she no longer has the look of a newborn . Eric has been working a lot since this is his busy time of the year. The best part was just doing a lot of things together as a family. From Christine: Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset masterchef This summer John and I did some travelling together and did a UK and Ireland trip together. This is us in front of the Cliffs of Moher.  I’m finishing up the summer as the newest judge on MasterChef Vietnam.

31
Aug 2015
POSTED BY Jenna
DISCUSSION No Comments

The dog days of summer

The dog days of summer are over…well, almost. With just a few weeks before our little girl starts pre-kindergarten, I start the busy hiring season at work and the husband will likely be swamped covering our Federal election, I wanted to make sure we spent some good quality time together.

We’ve had so much fun together as a family unit but vacation season can certainly take a toll when one lives with a challenging autoimmune disease like neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Eating all the bad foods (this year I dubbed it the “butter tart tour”), staying up late, neglecting to exercise and drinking a lot of wine can cause havoc on the immune system. And the heat…the endless hours outdoors makes my nerves scream in pain.

But I refuse to let this disease dictate how I live my life. We’ve kept ourselves so busy it’s tough to remember everything we did but here’s an excerpt of our adventures:

-We spent almost 2 full weeks and a few weekends at the family cottage, swimming in the lake and at the beach, hiking, touring a cranberry bog/winery, and enjoying the outdoors with fires and s’mores.
-My best friend Andrea and I took Sophie to the Art Gallery of Ontario where we participated in clay play.
-The PanAm Games were hosted by our home town of Toronto. We attended aquatic diving and a bunch of free music events.
-My husband’s distant relatives visited from Norway so we spent a weekend acting like tourists in our own city, visiting the CN Tower, the markets and sailing Lake Ontario.
-We visited The Toronto Zoo (we love the pandas) and African Lion Safari (a game reserve).
-We biked long trails, golfed and took up running again.
-We attended a few street festivals like the Night Asian Market.
-We enjoyed the outdoor pools, splash pads and Centre Island, which is home of Centreville Amusement Park.
-Our Toronto Blue Jays have done well this year so we attended a few games already.
-Remember drive-in theatres? We piled the trunk of our car with pillows and watched Minions.
-And we’ve had a lot of ice cream. We love peanut butter chocolate anything.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your summer to the fullest. Next week we’ll be posting our favourite summer pictures. Best of health to each of you.

25
Aug 2015
POSTED BY Jenna
POSTED IN

Just for fun, NMO

DISCUSSION No Comments

Advocacy Update

Profile

 

Last month, I got a surprise email that the MS Society of Canada was featuring me in their MS Research in Action newsletter. What was really great about this was that they also included a link to the advocacy video from the NMO Patient Day in Los Angeles which took place in early March this year. This publication goes out across Canada, so it was an amazing opportunity to bring awareness to NMO. If you’re interested in reading the full article, along with the rest of the publication, it’s here.

I am a Community Representative for British Columbia. What this means is that I am a part of the medical grants review committee. Last year, I reviewed 24 of 96 Personnel grants. This was the first time anyone living with NMO was at the table. I was incredibly happy to be participating as a member if the NMO community and advocating for those living with MS and allied diseases. I was extremely honoured to have been asked to serve a second term. Reviews will begin in late November and I will be flying out to Toronto for the review meeting mid-January. I am excited to dive into the work. If you’d like to know more about this process, you can find it, along with my profile here. Click on where it says “Full interview” underneath my profile.

In the meantime, I have been doing some consulting on various medical projects as well. It’s been really great to be invited to give my feedback and to have a small hand in shaping the outcome. In finding ways to use my strengths and skills to support the work the Canadian MS Society and the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation are doing, I am fighting back against these terrible diseases. We all have a part to play, whether it be by raising important research dollars, raising awareness, advocating for better treatments or participating in clinical trials. The truth is, as patients, we are powerful beyond measure and the best way to know what’s going on is to be a part of it.

That said, I want to thank everyone who took a moment to share their thoughts about the new NMO Patient Card that I posted about last month. I hope that it will be helpful for those who will use it here in British Columbia. Perhaps over time, other NMO centres can adopt the idea and adapt it to reflect their clinic’s contact information. My fingers are crossed!  If you believe it’s something your clinic should have, I strongly encourage you to have that conversation with your local researchers and clinicians. That’s how this whole thing came to be in the first place-it began as an idea, which was then shared in conversation. Our care teams can’t help us if they don’t know what our needs are. It’s up to us to communicate with them.

03
Aug 2015
POSTED BY Lelainia Lloyd
DISCUSSION No Comments

Despite NMO I have a 3 year old now!

 

 

 

This past weekend we celebrated Sophie’s 3rd birthday and yes, it was elaborate. In truth, I know I can get, um, well, a little overboard but I can explain.

 

Sophie’s birthday is technically the end of this month but as a “long weekend baby”, we’ll probably always celebrate it a week early with our family and friends. On her actual birthday we reserve the day for just the three of us as a family unit.

 

Sophie, like all other children, is a miracle. But to me, her day is very symbolic and extra special. Living with NMO (neuromyelitis optica) I was told having children was not going to happen. They said it was dangerous to come off my meds, reckless, not enough medical evidence, etc. To Mike and I, that was just more heartbreaking news. But I worked hard to get back to an acceptable health. And I did my homework about IVF. Then I begged and pleaded my team of doctors until they agreed, with significant warning, to let us give it a try.

 

And then there was the entire IVF process…that’s a whole other post.

 

But in the end, we beat this disease just a little bit because we have her, our miracle baby. And every year on her birthday I’m reminded of how grateful I was and still am for all the love and support from our family and friends and doctors and medical advancements, and (I can go on and on – this is such a long list).

 

And my heart breaks just a little bit more when I think of how NMO might rob me of time with her. This month has been tough knowing we’ve lost one of our big advocates, Candace Coffee, and how her twins are just a year younger than my little girl.

 

So yes, I throw a party. I take months ahead of time to plan intricate details around her theme (this year it was “Princess”) and we celebrate. For this I won’t apologize, be judged or scolded.

 

And as I watched her have an amazing time with her new school friends, dance class friends and family friends, my heart is filled with more happiness than I could have ever imagined. We beat NMO a little bit yesterday, today and if I have anything to say about it, for a really long time tomorrow too.

The royal princess table setting for 12 kids.

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A special guest, Rapunzel, surprised the birthday girl with a visit.
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It wouldn’t be a party without a royal snack table.

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Hummus carriage (with zebras because we couldn’t find small horses).
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Glam station for when the royal guests arrived.
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And special cupcakes with ring toppers that each guest brought home. 11745600_10153490885309461_5620079337406472899_n

The bouncy “castle” was a real hit. cwvDm9asA3Lw9ZNWAbl5esWzZw-1

Her royal highness, Princess Sophie, is now 3 years old.11753743_10152960304720824_6670494545840344038_n DSC07119 DSC06976

Candace Coffee May you in RIP

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Our NMO family is grieving today,as we lost another family member Candace Coffee. I remember when I was first diagnosed Candace and Collin were the first videos I watched of other people having NMO. Sure was very active in spreading awareness for NMO and loved her twin boys so very much! Below is a video about Candace also a link to her Gofundme account that they have setup for a college fund. Please if you can please donate! RIP Candace.

http://www.gofundme.com/yzt34w