Health Update: 6 Week Post Surgery

Well, I got the first of my six week blood results back today. I did a fasting panel on Monday. Results can be read in this manner; Before Surgery/6 Weeks After Surgery

Ready for it? Drumroll please…

  • Iron: 12 / 41
  • Total Cholesterol: 241 / 187
  • HDL: 63 / 44
  • LDL: 161 / 111

Woo Hoo! I'm extremely excited about my results! My cholesterol dropped a significant amount without the use of any medication. I didn't expect that. My iron rose a crazy amount; so much that I no longer take an iron supplement everyday. I'll be supplementing every other day, with the goal of stopping supplements altogether in a few months. What great news!

Seeing how switching to a vegan diet has made such an impact on my health has really opened my eyes. The numbers don't lie. And I feel so much better overall. I just want to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone I know!

See Brooke finally get a handle on her health…


Iron deficiency anemia, Halloween hysterectomy, and going vegan

I have anemia. Bad. I’ve always been on the anemic side, although curiously not during pregnancies. At least not enough to worry about. In fact, I’ve been less anemic during pregnancy than at any other time. Weird, right?

After my last pregnancy I became severely anemic. I was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a rare form of the disorder that is similar to leukemia, but without the cancer. Fortunately, it turned out that what I had wasn’t actually Aplastic, but just seriously severe iron deficiency anemia. Wrong diagnosis, but still in the ballpark.

For some reason I don’t absorb iron properly and my blood cells are extra small and misshapen (teardrops, triangles, helmets), causing me to absorb even less. I don’t carry oxygen well either as you might guess. My bone marrow doesn’t produce blood cells correctly. Any of them. My kidneys signal my marrow to produce blood, but I’m so iron deficient that my kidneys get frantic telling the marrow to produce cells faster than normal. My marrow shoots out immature cells instead of waiting. Immature cells are small and don’t carry iron or oxygen well. So the kidney freaks out again asking the marrow to produce cells due to a lack of iron and oxygen. Vicious circle. I also have a heart valve problem that smashes blood cells. I get triangles as my valve cuts the cells that eddy in my chambers. I experience back flow and irregular beats. Add that to a genetic (we think) problem of weird cell shapes, and you have trouble with a capital “T”.

My lowest hematocrit was a 3. At that point my doctor suggested IV iron supplements. We did that for a year with little change. Even the IV’s weren’t helping.

I sought out a hematologist, but the thought process was the same, iron supplementation and more red meat. Another year went by with no changes.

At my yearly OB/Gyn check my doctor decided to do a full blood panel. I’m over 40 after all, so why not? She also did a quick office iron test because I had been complaining of anemia symptoms. I was at 9. I’m supposed to be at 40. She joked that I shouldn’t be walking around and functioning at that level. Was I functioning really? Tired, forgetful, sickly, susceptible to every infection that went around… I didn’t call that functioning.

Blood work came back a few days later and guess what? Although my blood pressure is and always has been low, my cholesterol was through the roof! 241. No one would have ever suspected that. My kidneys and liver were strained to the point of concern. She called me in shock. She recommended an iron supplement for the short term, told me to change my diet immediately, and wanted me to come in once a week to keep an eye on me. I also have that heart valve problem, so she didn’t want me to mess around. She recommended a hysterectomy as I wasn’t a candidate for ablation or other period stopping options. We had to get my 15 day, severely heavy, periods to stop in order for the iron to get a chance to actually work.

Hysterectomy. At 42.

So that’s what we did, in the hope that Seven, Funny Girl, and the Bunny would have a mother to love them well into their old age; and Hubs could hold on to his loving best friend until we both grew too old to count the years.

Halloween hysterectomies have got to be the most ironic of surgeries. I found it comical and not the least bit intimidating. Good doctor, good hospital, good outcome.

It’s been a little over a month and I’m generally back to normal. Normal for me at least. No exercise until my 6 week checkup, it was major surgery after all. And I’ve been good. No exercise for me. Including Irish dance, which secretly annoys me. I’m on 375 mg of iron a day. Which I’m working on stopping. That amount would kill the average person. Seriously.

Last week my level was at 12. That’s when I decided to really take charge of my health. I had half heartedly gone vegan in order to promote healing after my surgery (a suggestion of my doctor) and just decided, I have a life to live and a good jump start, why not do this permanently? It’s good for my heart, will rebuke the evil cholesterol, and promote iron absorption. Nothing else I’ve tried has worked. I had to try something else.

So, as of November 25, I cut all meat, dairy, and oil from my diet. I’m an oil free vegan! I’ve lost 4 lbs so far and have started feeling a lot more energetic. My next set of tests is scheduled the week before Christmas. I can’t wait for the results!

Friends have been extremely supportive, family however have not. Clarification: Hubs and the kids are supportive, in fact Hubs and Bunny are now vegan as well. It’s the parentals and sibs that think I’m making a mistake. I just have to get them to watch Forks Over Knives I suppose

I’ll start including my progress to a healthy me here and great recipes or products I find along the way.

See Brooke fight for her life with a fork…

thredUP: Like-new Kids Clothes at Great Prices PLUS Free Shipping for New Members!

Have you heard of thredUP? I just found it. It’s an amazing way to get new or like-new, name-brand clothing for your kids at up to 75% off retail. You can shop by gender, size, brand, color, or category. The clothing has been meticulously hand-selected, so you’ll only get items that are in excellent condition. There are thousands of really cute items available! Thousands! I spent a good 2 hours looking at the awesome deals.

Right now new members can get FREE shipping on their first order. Just enter SHIPOCT12 at checkout!

Check out this DKNY dress for $9.49? $9.49!!!

So how does it work? You shop on the thredUP website which has amazing kids clothes at crazy discounts. When your child outgrows his or her clothes, put them in a thredUP bag and send it back to them! thredUP takes care of the shipping, and you get paid for every item that is handed down to other moms, and shipping back too.

You get paid for your old clothes, like a consignment shop only easier.

Mango Guacamole – A little sweet, a little spicy, just like me!

We're doing a remodel on my mother-in-law's home. It's been crazy around here! New paint, new carpet, new bathroom, new roof… So trying to find something tasty and healthy, but also quick and easy is the top priority of the moment. I had rice in the rice cooker, some leftover chicken, mangos, and avocado. Time for…

Mango Guacamole

2 mangos, peeled and diced (dicing, for Funny Girl's benefit, is basically chopping into little squares like a pair of dice)

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 c. cilantro, chopped (random sized pieces, less uniform than dicing, just hack away)

4 medium sized avocados, mashed (chunky mash, not smooth)

1 clove garlic, minced (tiny, tiny chopping. Seriously tiny. You don't want to take a bite and have a big 'ol chunk bite you back!)

1 lime, juiced

1/2 t. salt

cayenne to taste

  1. Dice the mango, bell pepper, and cilantro and throw them in a mixing bowl. If you hate cilantro, add less, and exchange the rest of the 1/4 c for parsley. It's nice too! No fresh cilantro? Use 1Tbl dried.
  2. Add the avocado smashing as you stir.
  3. Now add the salt, lime juice, and garlic. No fresh limes? Use lime juice from concentrate. Start with 2 Tbl and go from there by taste. You can use dried garlic too, just use a lot less. Like a 1/2 tsp.
  4. Lastly, add the cayenne, or skip it. It all depends on whether you want some heat or not.

I served this over warm rice and reheated leftover chicken. So good! Hubs said it was almost like a chutney. This is great with tortilla chips too. Definitely going to have Funny Girl give it a go.

See Brooke finding creative dinner options when mentally exhausted…

Helping your child prepare for school, and life!

Both of my older children could read, write their full name, count up to 100, do simple arithmetic, and correctly identify colors and shapes long before they started kindergarten. Seven actually skipped kindergarten and moved up to the 1st grade after only a few weeks (they wanted to place him in an accelerated program at a 3rd grade level, but we declined).

How did they become so advanced at such an early age? Hard work, an interest in learning, and specific activities to help develop necessary skills.

Bunny is 3 now and has been asking a lot of questions about reading for the past 6 months. She'll ask, “What does this say Mama?” pointing to a sentence in a book, or a sign she sees while we're driving. She's known her abc's since around 18 months and the accompanying sounds since age 2. At around 2 1/2 she started trying to guess what books said or would comment, “E starts with Eve, right Mama?” It's adorable that she gets that bit a little backwards!

I have sisters-in-law that are mothers to very young children, or are expecting soon, that have asked for advice on helping their babies grow to be engaged and excited learners. Since we live away from each other, I thought I'd start posting little tips and hints, things that have helped my kids, and apps I find that are beneficial (or just fun).

While I definitely won't be posting daily, Bunny is a toddler after all, I will post as often as is possible and categorize the posts so they will be easier to access. Until then, here are my top tips for all PreK children, including newborns:

  1. Immerse your child in language. This means talk to your child constantly, especially babies! Talk about what you're doing, your family members, the weather, anything and everything!
  2. Read. Devote a minimum of 20 minutes of your day to reading books aloud to your child. Those 20 minutes don't have to be all at once either. Babies love a little board book story, especially the ones with fun pictures or illustrations. Read one now, it takes 2 minutes, then read another in an hour or so. Toddlers loves stories, so you'll probably end up reading for more than 20 minutes. We do!
  3. Minimize tv. I'm not saying cut it out altogether, just monitor the television programs your child watches and the time. Babies shouldn't be watching, they don't really get anything from it that I can see as a benefit. We have Sunday movie time and watch an age appropriate video together (we don't have regular tv). But we also watch things like Emma or Downton Abbey. Nobody's perfect…

Until the next time,

See Brooke trying her best to raise another reader in the family…

A Well Spent Weekend in SLC

I teach Irish dance every Saturday. It’s fun, and I love dancing, but once in a while I like to spend my weekend not thinking about dance at all. This past weekend I got my chance!

We made a beeline for the Farmer’s Market in downtown Salt Lake City first thing Saturday morning. It was crowded, but not overly. The sun was shining, there was a tiny breeze, and it hadn’t gotten too hot yet. Perfect.

SLC Farmers Market

slc farmers market

Bunny loved the music being played by the buskers. Her favorites were the Naked Piano Guy, the piano is naked not the guy, and the Harp Girls. Her descriptions, not theirs.

SLC Farmers Market Buskers

We didn’t spend much time at the market, we had to check out chocolate at Tony Caputo’s.


If you’ve never been to Caputo’s, it’s a foodie paradise. We love the chocolate selection, cheeses, olive oils, and vinegars. When we need a fix of any of those items, we head for Caputo’s.

Tony Caputos SLC

Love the sign that just says “STUFF”. It’s a great place for meats, pasta, Italian imports, and fish. Try lunch, the sandwiches are out of this world!

Next door, is Carlucci’s Bakery. We decided we had to get Bunny a treat so we hopped in for a quick red velvet mini cupcake and tiramisu. Bunny adores tiny things, so the cupcake was perfect.

Carlucci's Bakery

Sweet cuppincakes carluccis

Off to Ruby Snap to try out some cookies I’d heard were excellent.

Ruby Snap

We tried Betty (oatmeal w/ apricots and cherries), Margo (chocolate cinnamon w/ molten center), Frida (molé dough w/chile de arbol center), Penelope (peanut butter dipped in chocolate), Trudy (chocolate chip), Virginia (ginger w/dark molasses), & Maris (chocolate chocolate chip w/caramel center). Each was soft, chewy, and bursting with flavor. Not for those on a serious diet! We met Tami, the owner, who was friendly and excited to talk about the store. She made great recommendations. The staff was bubbly, and offered samples of other flavors to try. Samples are 1/2 cookies, so if you want to try more than a couple, have them 1/4 them! My favorite was the Frida, hands down. I love the sweet heat this cookie brings!

Waving goodbye, we left Ruby Snap and made our way to Les Madeleines for their famous Kouign Amann.

Les Madeleine's

We were not disappointed. The Kouign Amann (kween a-mon) is a pastry that is salty and sweet with caramelized layers. It’s simple in it’s decadence. There are copious amounts of butter baked inside this little flavor powerhouse! I’ve decided to try my hand at making laminated pastries and it just makes sense to go for the Kouign Amann as my first attempt. I’ll keep you updated when I try.

City Creek was next on the list. It was beginning to get hot and Bunny desperately wanted a cool down. Fountains seemed to fit the bill. I’m not a huge fan of City Creek, it’s alright, and definitely worth a visit if you’ve never been or you like to go shopping. I like the relaxed atmosphere around the waterfall and the creek, Bunny likes the fish, Hubs thinks the retracting glass roof is pretty cool; but that’s it for us.

City Creek fountains

City Creek Walkway

We decided to make our way to the Harmon’s for a sandwich and a cold one. Their sandwiches are good and priced right. They also have some really pretty fruit and veg right now. Bunny loves Dry Cucumber Soda, so we grabbed a four pack and hoofed it to the waterfall to eat.

Harmon's at City Creek

Veg at Harmons

Now we all needed a nap, but it was time to go to Utah County to see Uncle Bean before he had to go back home to Washington. 30 minutes later we were at La Costa in American Fork for a late lunch/early dinner. I didn’t pay much attention to the food, I was too busy talking and laughing with Bean and his family. I love his sisters! I think I’ve found some new friends.

Uncle Bean

All too soon our meal was over and Bean was on his way. We crashed on the couch at home and tried to get a nap. It was a lot to cram into one Saturday, but when you only get one Saturday every few months, you cram.

See Brooke enjoy living life out loud…

Utahns cannot park their cars. Or trucks, or boats, or SUVs…

It’s a sad fact. Most Utahns simply cannot park a car to save their blessed lives.

Awhile ago, we pull into a great spot, park, then go inside to do some shopping. When we returned to our little car, we see this:

Parking in Utah

Uh, how do I even get into my car?

The truck next to us is so close that I can’t get into the passenger side at all.

Idiot car parking


Car parking dummy

Can’t even open my door!

So what genius thought this was ok and how the heck did they even get out of their truck? Seriously? You can’t open the door enough to get out of either our car or their truck. I couldn’t even walk between the vehicles. Did the driver park, then crawl out the passenger side door? Because they sure as sherbet didn’t get out of it on the driver’s side. What’s on the other side of the truck, you might ask? A cart return.

So Hubs gets Bunny in the car seat from the driver’s side, and I stand behind the truck while he backs out so I can get into the car. At least we weren’t boxed completely in.

This happens all the time. It’s annoying. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

See Brooke sigh and thank her lucky stars she has a small car…

Dancing at Red Butte Gardens; yeah I did that

One of my hobbies is Irish dancing. Yep, like Riverdance or Lord of the Dance.

I have been doing a little jig (and a reel) for 12 years now and I love it! My group is called Rinceoiri Don Spraoi. We get to do performances for the community quite often, which I adore, and last week we happened to be at Red Butte Gardens.

Irish dance, Red Butte Gardens, Utah

Dancing in the Orangerie. Hey that’s me!

Red Butte is a gorgeous place to visit if you’re in Salt Lake City. It’s a non-profit botanical and ecological center provided by the University of Utah with 18 acres of loveliness to peruse.

They have a great program in the summer called Monday Family Nights

“Monday Family Nights will be filled with colors, sounds music and dance from around the world. Local Utah cultural groups from diverse backgrounds provide a wonderful night to enjoy the music and dance from their heritage while children enjoy crafts and activities associated with the cultures. Join us as we explore the world of diversity in our own community! Bring a picnic and spend the evening in the Garden with your family.” ~Red Butte Gardens

We opened the summer season with a couple of performances along with our house band Shillaylee. It was such a fun experience! I love, love, love when we can dance to live music! The crowd was great, the atmosphere heavenly, and the dancing fun as can be.
Irish dance at Red Butte

Irish dance at Red Butte Gardens with Shillaylee

If you get a chance, go attend one of their Family Nights. You won’t regret it!
See Brooke dancing her pants off…

Hoping Summer is on it’s way

It’s been cold here lately and I’m not a fan. Temperatures in the 60’s? In June? C’mon! How ridiculous is that?

Today it’s finally a nice sunny day, no breeze to speak of, and hardly a cloud to be seen. Oh yeah! On days like this you definitely want to be outside. I suggest going to a park, taking a bike ride, maybe a picnic. If you’re in northern Utah like me, you’ll still need a hoodie until afternoon. The high is only supposed to be 76 degrees today and right now it’s 65 degrees. Still too cold to really call it Summer if you ask me. By the time August hits and it’s over 100 degrees out I’ll be complaining about it being too hot. Am I ever completely happy?

Still, it’s pleasant out.

Sunny days

Bunny & Hubs like the reflecting pool at Temple Square, Salt Lake City

Taking a walk in the flowers

Taking a walk in the flowers

See Brooke enjoying a little family time in the sun…

Let Karma kick butt

My neighbor, the one who lives directly behind me, appears to have poisoned my vines.

I have a chain link fence surrounding the property that is covered in Virginia Creeper. I love it! The fence and the vines have been there for over 20 years. 20 years! The vines really cool the yard down in the summer. I’m talkin’ dropping the temp by like 15 degrees. It’s so nice to go out under the trees, surrounded by cooling green vines, and hang out with a drink, slackline a bit, chill with family and friends.

slacklining in the yard

Slacklining in the yard at our birthday party. Nice vines eh?!

Virginia Creeper in the backyard

What the vines looked like after our party

This juice box ruined all that.

He wanted a different fence, a vinyl fence for his newly created property. Wanted help paying for it and wanted our fence gone. We explained how that wasn’t going to happen. He complained about the fence and the vines and how he hated them. “I hate your shitty vines!” he yelled, and then said he was going to poison them. Out and out said he would! We asked him not to, said we’d cut them back so he could put up his fence, and we did cut them back. We also had the trees that branched out over the fence trimmed. It looks like he poisoned the vines anyway.

Dead Virginia Creeper

Dead Virginia Creeper. Big difference from before!

The fence went up. The vines were barren. Brown. Dead.

We could have called the city and asked them to fine this neighbor. We could have pressed criminal charges for using a poisonous substance on our property without our knowledge or permission. And we thought about it. Every time I went outside and looked at my dead vines it pissed me off. Really pissed me off! It’s against city ordinances to mess with our fence and the vines on it. It’s against the law to spray poison on someone else’s property. We decided instead to do nothing and let Karma work its magic.

The new fence is vastly taller than our existing 5 foot chain link. It looks like it’s 8 feet from our ground level to the top of the fence now. It blocks the wind and keeps the crap from the cul de sac behind us from coming to rest in our yard. Which is a good thing. I’m sick of picking up shopping bags and wrapping paper from neighbors who don’t know how to recycle or throw crap away. It also keeps prying eyes out. I don’t care to see them BBQ-ing in their backyard, and I’m sure they don’t want to see us partying with our friends in ours.

We get the benefit of a taller fence without messin’ with our own, destroying property, and causing a rift in the ward/neighborhood. What do they get? They get to live with themselves. I don’t know what will happen. You always reap what you sew. It’s the way of the universe. I just have to trust in that and let it go.

The vines are now coming back. With a vengeance.

Healthy Virginia Creeper

Happy Virginia Creeper!

See Brooke let Karma do it’s job in it’s own time…

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