Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Journey: Tattoo Removal - Part 1 of 2

Okay, this isn't really "my" journey...  But it is my husbands.  And it is a topic that I think some of you might be interested in.

When my husband was in 8th/9th grade he and a friend gave each other tattoos!!!  YIKES!!!  His is a small cross on his arm.  Of course, my in-laws were not happy and this is something that, for a few years now, my husband has been embarrassed by.  It is a small tattoo (just slightly bigger than a quarter) and it is hidden by his work shirts but it is still embarrassing for him when people do see it.  

Anyone that knows my husband also knows that me posting this picture was very embarrassing for him.
But, he married me and I am all about sharing information that might be helpful to others - no matter how embarrassing! ;-)

For a few years now we have discussed ideas of professionally done tattoos that could maybe cover the one he has.  The ideas were often dismissed as he really just wished he never had a tattoo in the first place.  So, what I am going to share with you on this "journey" is the process he is going through to have the tattoo removed.

Don't get me wrong, we are not completely against tattoos.  I have one too, but it was professionally done and in a place that I can hide very easily.  Also, for some people, body art is a great expression of their personality.  

Have you heard about Mark Wahlberg's decision to have his tattoos removed (one that he had originally covered up by another tattoo)?  Did you know that prior to having them removed they had to cover them with make-up for his movies!  And he had a lot of tattoos!!!  He decided to have his two oldest children join him during the painful removal process in hope that it would discourage them from ever getting tattoos.

Now, back to our experience!  My husband had his initial consultation with Dermatology Associates of West Michigan.  Here are some details about my husbands tattoo and the expected process:

  • His tattoo was done with India Ink (you can buy at craft stores) which is often referred to as a "prison tattoo".   This form of tattoo is usually easier to remove because the ink doesn't go as far into your skin as a professional tattoo.  Which means he will need less treatments than he would have if it were a professionally done tattoo.
  • His tattoo is a little bigger than a quarter.  Size matters when it comes to how much this process will cost and how long it will take.
  • When you have a tattoo removed you must do it in a few treatments (sessions).  
  • They have proven that two treatments can be done successfully in one session.  For example:  My husband will have 2 treatments done during his first appointment.  They will perform the first treatment (zap the tattoo with a laser), he will sit for about 45 minutes while the area starts to bubble, and then they will zap the tattoo again.  Two treatments - one appointment.
  • They can numb the tattooed area prior to each laser treatment.  There is no additional cost to him for this.  The treatment, without numbing, is expected to hurt as much as it did to get the tattoo.
  • My husband is expected to need 2-3 visits (4-6 treatments) to complete the process.
  • His appointments need to be about 6 weeks apart.
  • The first appointment (2 treatments) should cost about $300 and the following visits (up to 2 treatments each) should be about $150 per visit.  
  • So far our out of pocket cost has been a $25 insurance co-pay for the consolation appointment.

This is part 1 of this journey.  I will have a follow-up post once the process is complete.  That will include his experience and out of pocket cost.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monster Jam World Finals XIV (2013)

My son is a future monster truck driver in the making!!  Or, at least thats what my little five year old aspires to do when he grows up!  I have to admit that as a family, we really enjoy going to Monster Jam events!

Pit party prior to a January 2013 Monster Jam event in Detroit, Michigan.
We were waiting in a LONG line to get an autograph from the Grave Digger driver.

Detriot Monster Jam - this driver was near us so we snuck a picture.
Unfortunately my son was off using the restroom but his sister was able to get into the shot

Monster Jam 2013 in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Much smaller venue but it's near our hometown and still a fun event.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan you wait in one line to get autographs from all the drivers (way cool)!

This driver was really happy to take pictures!
As we approached the spring of 2013 my family struggled to find a vacation destination.  We had visited California in the fall of 2012 so California wasn't really on the top of our list.  We thought about traveling to New York City (on our bucket list) but as I researched the things we wanted to do, I discovered that a recent hurricane had caused some of the top tourist sites to be closed for repairs....  I did not want to do a "bucket list" vacation and not be able to do the "bucket list" sites.  So, we decided on Las Vegas.  Three reasons:

  1. We like the food and entertainment.  Plus my husband could sneak out for some adult time while the kiddos slept.  Probably not the adult time you are thinking of when it comes to Las Vegas!!  No gambling, drinking, nudity, ...  Just some fun comedy shows and concerts.  It may also be hard to beleive but Las Vegas can be very kid friendly - as I shared in a previous blog post post.
  2. My mom and step-dad were spending the winter in Arizona.  We hadn't seen them in months!  So, we decided to surprise the kids by having them join us at the Grand Canyon.
  3. Monster Jam was hosting the World Finals in Las Vegas!!!  We just had to make sure we attended at least 1 day of the weekend long event!  The event took place on Friday and Saturday (already announced changes for this in 2014).  We attended the Saturday event.
Here is our Monster Jam World Finals XIV 2013 experience:

There was soooo much going on for this day long event!!!

There were a ton of these guys around for pictures!

We decided to wait in line to get autographs from the main Maximum Destruction (MaxD) driver.
We successfully got autographs from Tom Meents and all the other MaxD drivers!

For $5 per kid they could play around in some inflatables for a while.

Monster truck rides!!

After watching the trucks for a while, we really hoped we got on this one (you don't get to pick - it depends on what truck is ready when you are in front of the line).  The driver of this truck really seemed to be having fun on the track.  

We got to ride the truck we wanted!!  We were on it with a group of really fun people.
It was by far the best part of the activities!!!

They had some awesome trucks to look at.

There were a lot of these around.
You could buy them there if you wanted and you could play with them on a track they had set up.

We colored and decorate signs for our favorite drivers - FREE.

I saw this in the movie "Waking Up in Reno"!  I was so excited to finally see it in person.
My kids LOVED it!!

There was a huge entertaining area for Grave Digger, Son-uva Digger, and Grave Digger the Legend.  However, there were only two times of the day set for autographs and I know my kiddos would not last standing in line again, for hours, to get more autographs.  So, we missed out on that opportunity.

An auction hosted by some of the people from "Storage Wars".

The monster truck parade took place just before the big event.  The people that have attended this before knew to get a seat very early on.  We had to stand the entire time behind all the seats.  It wasn't too bad but I know my kiddos would have enjoyed it more if they had seats.  It was a great parade where all the drivers and their trucks were showcased!

Waiting for the parade to start.

The parade

The parade

The parade

The parade

The parade

Finally time for the big event!!!!
Yes - the sun was in our eyes for a little bit but it was gone before the event started.

For $5 you could rent these chairs.  They made for better seating and you could just leave them at your assigned seat when you were done.  We did not rent them but a couple that left early gave us theirs to use for the rest of the event.

Ready to cheer on our drivers!

Three hour time difference and on our first full day of vacation....
It was no surprise that my little ones didn't last through the entire event.!
It was a very memorable experience!!!  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Getting Personal: NovaSure Ablation

Okay, here is another "getting personal" blog post.  If you haven't realized from my previous "getting personal" posts - these are geared toward women.  My male readers may want to skip past this one :-)  I know that discussion of these with my brother makes him very uncomfortable - LOL!!!

Oh, and I must remind you that I am not a doctor!  You should consult your doctor concerning your specific experience.  Also, everyone is different - what I experienced may be completely different for you.

On this blog topic, let me start by saying that I was never one who had horrible menstrual cycles!  Many of my friends and I started taking a birth control pill when we turned 16 (don't judge - it was a choice made prior to any sexual activity).  Those pills actually got me to a point where some months I would never have any sign of menstrual bleeding!  When I did have bleeding it was always very minimal.  I never had major cramps either!

Now to bring you to my more recent experiences.  Around the time that I gave birth to my youngest is when our insurance companies (we have switched a few times) started only offering prescription insurance for generic drugs.  There was even a tier on how much we paid depending on which generic  medication we took.  So, the option to stick with my usual birth control became very expensive!!  As I started using a variety of generic medications my happy days of low maintenance menstrual cycles came to an end.  Because of some migraine issues I had (another blog post coming soon).  I debated about switching from the birth control pill to one of the other options offered.  But, my insurance covered about zero percent of the cost of those, so I stuck with a generic pill...

Almost two years ago a major change occurred with my cycle.  I'm going to attempt keeping this as "clean" as possible but we are talking about my menstrual cycle so....  Simply put, during my menstrual cycle I started losing a lot of blood.  So much that I would barely leave my house for the 3 weeks (yes - 3 WEEKS) that it lasted!  I was losing so much blood that it made me very weak!  So, it was time to make a change!

One of my friends had went through an ablation and she was more than pleased with the results.  I remember researching what an "ablation" was and thinking that it was so barbaric!!!  Really!!  What I read was that they basically cover your uterine wall and burn it so it becomes scar tissue!!!  At the time, my issues were not big enough to even consider going through this.  However, I was interested to talk to others that had gone through this process.  For those that the ablation worked for - they couldn't brag it up enough!!!  But, I also found a decent amount of ladies that had gone through an ablation but it didn't work for them.  So, they went trough this "burning" process only to have it not work!  Which they then needed to go through a partial hysterectomy to take care of the problem!  YIKES!!!

Back to me and my issue:  it became very clear to me that I needed to take a major step to reduce/stop my blood loss.  So, I talked to my OBGYN about the next steps that I could take.  He recommended a NovaSure ablation.  It is the one that he prefers and has the most success with.  I also found out that NovaSure is the procedure my friend had done with great success.  I shared my concerns with my OBGYN since there are so many people that I talked to who's procedure was not successful.  His response was that I must be talking to a uncommon group of ladies because such a large percentage of failures was not his experience.  Plus, they wouldn't still be offering the procedure if there were that many unsuccessful results.  Right??  None of the people that I talked to used the same OBGYN that I do so I took that into consideration.  Eventually, my husband and I decided that an ablation was the best decision for my situation.  My insurance approved this procedure so that I would only have a $20 co-pay.  Why so cheap?  They do this procedure in the office while you are awake!!!  Yikes!!  But, affordable....

Another decision had to be made.  If I went through with the ablation, I would no longer have a uterine wall that would support a fertilized egg.  But, I could still get pregnant (fertilize an egg)!  The idea of having a "fertilized egg" sitting and waiting for a cozy home to grow but have no place to rest was more than I handle.  So, we had a few choices:  I could continue taking a form of birth control, my husband could get "snipped", or I could have my "tubes tied".  At this time, the reality of this whole process really sunk in.  My husband and I decided a few years ago that two kiddos were enough for us.  But, we also decided not to take any permanent steps toward this (just in case we ever changed our minds).  Now, were we ready to completely giving up on the idea of birthing (we could adopt, ...) more kids? We decided to get my "tubes tied" which would be done at the same time as the ablation.  Now this "in office" procedure for $20 had turned into an out patient procedure that would require me to go under Anestassia at the hospital.  At least I wouldn't be awake when the ablation was done (it sounds so barbaric)!

My day of testing came where my doctor needed to verify that a NovaSure ablation was going to fix my problems.  During that test (which I was a wake for and it did hurt some) he slide a small camera into my uterus.  He discovered that I had a small uterine fibroid.  It was small enough to allow room for the NovaSure procedure but he explained that he would need to remove the fibroid.  That would be done during the procedure by using a small tool to "chew" (yes - that's the word he used) away the fibroid.

The procedure:  I was knocked out so there really isn't much to say about that.  When I woke up they gave me some pain meds and sent me on my way.  One of my close friends told me that when she had the ablation procedure done she had cramps and was uncomfortable for a day.  That was about the same for me.  Also, the doctor had warned me that there would be some bleeding but mostly a clear liquid discharge for a few days.  That makes sense, there is a giant internal scar trying to heal inside my uterus...  And, that's exactly how things went for me.   Getting my "tubes tied" wasn't a big procedure in my case.  There was one small incision under my belly button but they actually reused a spot that I had from a previous surgery (gall bladder removal).  The only follow-up appointment I had was to see how that incision was healing.

Did the ablation work?  I would love to tell you that it did but instead my answer is a great big NO!!!  It helped... but I went through all of that and I still have a menstrual cycle.  It's much better than it was but I really hoped to never have to deal with a menstrual cycle again!  And, to top it all off, my portion of the bill (after my insurance paid their portion) was $2,000!!!  Much more than the $20 I would have paid for just the ablation!!

Where do I go from here?   Well, it's been a few months and my menstrual cycle still seems to have minimal bleeding.  As long as it stays that way I will not take the next step (partial hysterectomy).  Should I go back to my doctor and complain about the procedure not working 100%?  Maybe...  But I'm going to just hold on to that until my next appointment with him.  I'm not sure if having a second ablation is an option or if it would even work.  Plus, I don't know if I would want to put myself through that considering that my situation has improved so I'm not as desperate.

That's my story.  I'd love to hear yours!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Collecting for a Cause: Ronald McDonald House

Pop can tabs (or "soda" can tabs - depending on where you are from) have become a new craft craze.  But, for many years I have heard of using them as a way to help fund dialysis for those that need it.  A year ago my daughter decided that she wanted to start collecting tabs so we could "help people".  She started collecting all of them from our house or anywhere she went.  To help, her brother even started picking them up off the ground and bringing them home from school!  After we had collected a few tabs my husband started researching to find a place where we could donate them.  

Well, it turns out that there isn't really a big demand for aluminum tabs.  However, we did discover that some of the McDonalds franchise owners have decided to accept the tabs as donations.  They recycle them at the cash rate offered for aluminum.  The money they receive is then donated to the Ronald McDonald House!

My kiddos taking in their tabs to a local McDonalds that offers this donation service.

The container they have on the counter to put the tabs in.
My kiddos were so excited to "help people"!!  I'm glad that we were able to find a service that they could contribute their hard work toward!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Gift Sets #2

I'm back at it - more gift sets ;-)  These gifts were made for very special people in our life!

Spa Gift Set:

For my daughters very best friend who turned 7.  Her favorite color is purple.

A robe, nail polish, compact mirror, back massager, ... A variety of things to go with a "spa" theme.  I found a photo storage box that it fit in perfectly.  I love the idea of being able to re-use the "gift wrapping"!

Ready to close up and wrap.

The robe:  here is the one I gave my daughter.  I purchased the robes at a great price through  Then, I picked up some soft material to sew around the edges.  Now they have matching robes - except for the colored edges that individualize them.

The wrapped present.  I just added some ribbon, a fluffy pen that I found at the dollar store, and a zipper pull with the birthday girls name on it (hard for her to find things with the correct spelling - I can totally relate!)
Toy Story Gift:

This was for a little boy celebrating his 1st birthday.

Toy Story DVD/Blu-ray combo with a book (has sound buttons) and a coordinating stuffed doll.
I wrapped it up in a photo storage box.

Painting Gift Set:

This was a gift for my mom.  She is one of those people that has everything that she really wants so I always have to pay attention to things she mentions a desire to have.  I have a set like this that she has admired so I decided it was time to get her started.

Small tote, variety of basic paint colors to get her started, a variety of brushes, paint trays and bowls, paint pens, and an easel.

All of this fits in the tote (and will make it easy for her to access and store).
Movie And Game Night Gift Basket:

This was for my sons best friend (and twin to my daughters best friend that received the spa gift set) who recently turned 7.  I always find it is easier to shop for my son than my daughter but it's harder for me to put together boy gifts than girls gifts...  So, I tried to incorporate a few things that I know this little guy likes and it was a success!

Front view: candy, movies, gum, games, baseball cards (his party was at a baseball game), ...

Back view:  popcorn, drinks, more candy...
The basket is a plastic popcorn bucket so it can be re-used.

All wrapped up!  I used some scotch tape to hold the items in place (not visible) and a couple of glue dots to hold the bow in place.

Book Gift Set:

I forgot to take a picture of the unwrapped gift but here is the wrapped gift.  It was a box set of books that fit this 9 year old birthday girl perfectly!

I wanted to jazz up the gift so I added a fluffy pen (from the dollar store) that was in her favorite color.