Friday, December 27, 2019

FREE Tall Espresso Beverage @ Starbucks Every Remaining Day in December!


Starbucks has announced Pop-Up-Parties at 200 random locations every remaining day in December, starting today.  The list of participating locations will change each day, so keep checking the list for any in your area.  When you find a nearby party, top in between 1-2 PM that day and nab a FREE Tall Espresso Beverage!  Limit one per customer. 

What a great way to end the year!  Thanks, Starbucks! Red heart


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Shoulder Rehab–This Week’s Developments

So this week’s physical therapy for my shoulder was fairly uneventful, except that it was more of the painful table slides from last week and the addition of caning for external rotation like this:

This week, I got my flexion to 115 degrees, and the goal is to get to 140 degrees by Friday of next week.  I have already met the goal of 80 degrees for abduction.  But for external rotation, I’m still stuck at 15 degrees with no additional progress, and my goal is to get to 40 degrees.  Yuck!  That’s why we added the cane exercises this week to my home routine.  It honestly feels like it’s impossible for my arm to externally rotate any more than it is, and it’s so painful even to have the therapist manipulate it that far. 

My sleep quality has further declined since adding the table slides and caning. I’m doing them twice a day at home, along with the pendulum and stretching exercises that I do 3 times a day at home.  At therapy appointments, the therapist has me do pulleys, and he also does some joint mobilizations as he tried to stretch out my range of motion.  All of this adds up to waking up many times per night with pain and an inability to get comfortable after the first few hours of sleep.  Last night, I woke up 8 times, and I got less than half an hour of deep sleep.  No wonder I feel so tired!

At this point, I’m trying to work hard to make small advances at therapy, but it’s a little discouraging to be making such small gains.  I really just long to feel normal again.  This Friday will be the 6-week mark, so I should be cleared to come out of the sling for altogether.  I’m kind of looking forward to that, because It hasn’t been very comfortable to wear it since they remove the immobilizer.  I really feel like it just aggravates my neck and shoulders.  I take it off whenever I can just rest my arm in my lap at home. 

It took me two full afternoons to wrap Christmas gifts this year.  It’s so hard with one arm and trying to make use of both hands with one hand so close to the body.  It’s very awkward and takes twice as long!  It’s finally done, though.  It hardly even feels like Christmas.  I didn’t even get to enjoy shopping the way I normally would.  I did a lot of my shopping online to avoid the crowds with my sling.  It’s felt like a very strange holiday season!  But I press on.  I’m trying to stay positive. 

One cool thing is that I ordered a paddle brush hair dryer from Amazon to see if I could use it to dry and style my hair with one hand.  It works great!  Now I don’t have to trouble Steve with having to hold the blow dryer while I hold the brush.  That was very awkward.  So at least there’s one more thing I can do for myself again.

The downside of trying to be self sufficient with only one arm is that my good arm is most definitely getting overworked and has started aching much of the time.  I’m trying to be careful not to overuse it, but that’s easier said than done.

No doubt, Friday will be a big milestone day for me.  Aside from coming out of the sling, I can also transition from passive-only therapy to active therapy.  I don’t know that my shoulder is even capable of moving on its own, but I’m anxious to find out.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Physical Therapy Update–Assisted Movement

So far, I’ve only done passive movements at my physical therapy appointments.  Basically, I lie down on my back while my therapist manually manipulates my arm in various directions, rubs out the muscles in my shoulder, and tries to increase my range of motion while my arm is just dead weight.

Yesterday, though, was 4 weeks post-op.  This was the first big milestone, which brought about some changes.  First, my therapist added assisted passive movements to my regimen, which meant adding pulleys and table slides. 

With the pulley hanging on the wall, I had to sit in a chair and pull down on one side of the pulley with my good arm while allowing the other arm to be pulled slowly up on the other side.  that was a lot harder than it sounds!  My arm didn’t want to go very high at all. Then I moved to sit at an angle so my arm was pulled slightly out and up, and that was so much easier! 

For table slides, I had to sit on a chair parallel with a table, rest my arm on a towel to reduce friction, and lean my body forward slowly, thereby sliding my arm forward at he same time without engaging the muscle at all.  Then I had to turn the chair slightly away from the table and repeat the movement, sliding my arm slightly out and forward. This was such a painful exercise!  The table slides are also added to my home therapy routine 3 times per day.

Second, the therapist removed the immobilizer pillow from my sling and refitted just the sling to my body.  No more waist strap, and my arm is no longer held out away from my body!  On the upside, it made it a whole lot easier to drive my van.  I was able to put my seat forward and tilt my steering wheel down to a more comfortable position again, and the sling no longer interferes with turning the wheel.  Much better!  The downside is that a new arm position is uncomfortable and not as restful.  It hurts a bit.

With all the changes, I found myself up a lot during the night in miserable pain!  It was so bad…probably worse than right after surgery…and I was so tired and didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was near tears and rocking myself on the edge of the bed.  I woke up 6 times.  I felt awful this morning. 

So today, I decided to avoid doing the table slides until I can calm my shoulder down a bit.  And for the pain, I decided to try the CBD Freeze roll-on I bought before my surgery to have on hand.  I used it a couple of times today, and it really helped…enough that I was able to take a nap.  At bedtime, I think I’m going to try the CBD Recover topical cream that you can rub in for pain and then hook up to my ice machine.for a while.  I’m just hoping to sleep better than I did last night!

I will stay in just the sling this way for 2 more weeks.  Then at 6 weeks post-op, I will reach another big milestone where I will transition to phase 2 of recovery, which involves active movement using the muscles in that arm.

Having this intense pain rear its ugly head when I was doing so well really caught me off guard.  I’m definitely willing to work hard for my recovery, but I hope I can keep this pain under control so I can really do the work that I need to do and give it my best effort.

I made good progress with some of my range of motion this week.  I already met and exceeded one of the 6-week goals, but I still have some work to do to reach the other 2 goals in these next 2 weeks.  External rotation continues to be the biggest challenge, but I did progress from –25 degrees to 15 degrees!  I have to get to 80 degrees to reach my goal.

I can do this, Lord willing!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Photos of Shoulder Surgery

Just a warning…these are actual photos from my arthroscopic surgery, so it could be viewed as a bit graphic by some!  I was so excited that my surgeon finally sent them to me.  So I decided to do a separate post to illustrate all that I had done.

1.  CALCIUM DEBRIDEMENT – This is where he punctured the rotator cuff tendon at the site of the calcium deposit, which appeared white under the surface, and then drilled it all out, removing it as he went.








2.  ROTATOR CUFF REPAIR WITH 4 ANCHORS – This begins with the empty cavity in the tendon that was created by the removal of the calcium deposit.  He screwed 4 anchors into the humerous head to use for tying up the remaining tendon with sutures in order to make the repair.



3.  BURSECTOMY – These photos show the super inflamed bursa, which is all discolored, and the empty spot after it was removed.  All healthy tissue should show up as white or pale.  Inflamed tissues show dark colors.  This bursa had seen better days, which is why he removed it altogether. 



4.  SUBACROMIAL DECOMPRESSION – The post-bursectomy picture also shows the acromion bone at the top.  See how it curves down?  That puts unnecessary pressure on the rotator cuff.  So the decompression involved shaving that bone into a flat plain to eliminate pressure on the future new bursa and rotator cuff, freeing up the space and reducing friction.


subacromial decompression

5.  LABRAL DEBRIDEMENT – While doing the surgery, he discovered many small tears in the labrum, kind of like a frayed edge.  He shaved that smooth so that there will be smooth rotation in the ball and socket. 



6.  SYNOVECTOMY – This shows the inflamed synovial tissue, which also needed to be removed altogether.



Here is the one healthy tissue I had…the biceps tendon!


So that’s it!

I started physical therapy this week.  It’s shocking how it can take an hour to have someone barely move your arm, but that’s the case!  The therapist basically has me lie down on my back with a towel rolled under my shoulder for support, and then he very, very slowly tries to manually manipulate my arm in various directions.  It’s painstakingly slow and painful.  He also rubs out all the little muscles in the top of the shoulder, and that’s the most painful thing you could imagine!  Just touching on the surface of the skin hurts, much less pressing down and rubbing on those muscles.  It’s excruciating, truly!  The therapist said it’s not from bruising but from the seizing up of all those muscles as a defensive response to the surgery.  Ugh!  It’s definitely going to take a lot of work to work out those kinks and stretch everything back out!  I can barely even tilt my head to the right because it’s all so tight and locked up.  He said as those muscles in the shoulder loosen up, so will my neck.  I can’t wait!

I have another week to go in the immobilizer sling.  Next Friday will be 4 weeks post-op, and then I can remove the immobilizer pad and just wear the sling by itself after that.  I’ll have 2 more weeks thereafter in the sling, and then if all goes well, I can come out of the sling at 6 weeks post-op on December 27th.  Yay!  My arm will be free for my birthday on the new year! 

My therapy up until then will only consist of those passive movements.  If I can achieve the target range of motion in passive motion by then, then we will begin to work on assisted movements thereafter.  I can’t wait!  There is a lot of aching and the need for icing after therapy, but it’s so worth it!  I had therapy yesterday and slept with the ice machine on all night, but when I took my sling off for my morning pendulum exercises today, the shoulder definitely felt looser than before.  That’s awesome!

Clearly, it’s going to be a long recovery, but I’m on the road to getting back to my everyday  life, and I’m happy about that!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Shoulder Surgery–Post-Op Appointment

So on Monday, I had my 10-day post-op appointment with my surgeon.  He showed me the digital photos taken during my surgery and explained everything they found and how they repaired it.  In addition to the calcium debridement, subacromial decompression, bursectomy, and rotator cuff repair made with 4 anchors in the bone, they also discovered that I had many small tears to the labrum, which is the rubbery cartilage rim in the ball and socket.  The edge of it looked like the edge of a feather, all wispy-looking from the tears.  So he ended up repairing that, as well, by shaving down the frayed edges and leaving a smooth surface.  So in the end, I actually had 5 different surgical procedures done.

He told me that he was really glad I brought my case to his practice, because it made a great teaching case.  He said he had 2 students observe during my surgery, and they were all shocked by the enormous size of my calcium deposit.  He said at 2 cm, it was the largest deposit of calcific tendinitis his practice had seen this whole year!

I wanted to share the pictures from my surgery, but he still hasn’t sent them to me.  When I get them, I’ll come back and revise this post by adding the photos.

I told him I never took any of the narcotic pain meds and that I was just taking Aleve twice a day.  He prescribed a stronger anti-inflammatory medication for me to take twice a day for a month with one refill as needed thereafter.  It’s called Diclofenac Sodium 50 mg.  I can tell you that since I started taking it, I have really had no pain at all, and I feel great!  I have not even had to ice during the day…only at bedtime.  And I am sleeping better, too.  That definitely helps with overall well-being.

The nurse removed the bandages and the stitches in my 5 port incisions.  That really stung, because she swabbed each one with alcohol right before snipping and removing each stitch!  Ugh!  But the incisions have healed so nicely that you could hardly see them!  Impressive…I don’t expect to even have any scars remaining in a couple of months!

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20191129_185242 20191129_185247 

The doctor told me I could start physical therapy this week, but I couldn’t get an appointment with the Thanksgiving holiday, so I ended up scheduling this coming Tuesday morning as my therapy evaluation appointment.  I will be going back to the same rehab center where I had PT on my shoulder earlier this year.  The doctor told me to do PT 1-2 times per week for 1-4 months, as determined by the therapist, so they’ll make that determination at my evaluation next week.

The surgeon told me I have to continue to wear the immobilizer sling for 4 weeks post-op, and then I can remove the immobilizer pad and just wear the sling portion for at least another 2 weeks after that.  So I will end up in the sling for at least 6 weeks, as it turns out.  I’ve had it for 2 weeks already, so 4 weeks to go.  That will take me to after Christmas some time.  I guess if I can get out of it by my birthday, that will be cool!

The timeline the doctor gave me shows the goal to return to normal activities in a range of 3-6 months out.  I can’t wait!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Shoulder Surgery: First Week of Recovery

Day of Surgery: 

It was Friday morning.  I was barely holding myself together in the lobby. My anxiety level was steadily climbing.  Fortunately, I knew I’d eventually be getting IV sedation beforehand, and I knew that would help.

Image result for baylor surgicare fort worth

My surgery was delayed an hour, because it took that long for two very kind and talented nurses to successfully place an IV in my arm. This was something I expected.  It happens to me every time.  My veins roll, especially when I’ve had to fast for 12 hours without any water whatsoever.  They also branch off or vanish into deeper tissue too soon after the spot where they are visible under the skin. I forewarned the nurses, and they tried all the tricks of the trade to avoid sticking me repeatedly. In the end, they just apologized and said they’d have to go deep. Ouch!  That was still better than placing the IV between my thumb and first finger like they did when I delivered my youngest child.  That was horribly painful and left me bruised up pretty badly, so this was a piece of cake in comparison, and they were sincerely trying their best not to hurt me.

In addition to the IV ordeal, they had to do an EKG as a baseline for the anesthesiologist because of my history of irregular heartbeat.  All this took extra time.  The whole staff was exceptionally caring and really helped me to feel comfortable.

Once the IV was in, Steve came to sit with me until I was taken back for surgery.  I was given a cup full of pills with 1 oz. of water.  It included Gabapentin for pain and a host of things to counter side effects like anti-nausea, Zantac for stomach acid, Benadryl, etc.  I should mention that I seriously dislike narcotic pain meds and have never taken them when prescribed.

Surgery took about 1.5 hours.  Afterwards, the surgeon spoke to my husband and told him the calcium deposit was even larger than the MRI had shown and turned out to be about 2 cm, which is about the size of the whole tendon.  He said I was a real trooper to have lived with a deposit that size for so long, as it’s extremely painful.  Good thing I have a high tolerance for pain.

In the PACU, they woke me up and offered me soda and graham crackers.  As soon as they sat me up, I got horribly sick from the pain meds.  Steve was waiting with me and said I did not look or sound like anyone he knew until after I got sick, and I seemed more awake and lucid after that.  The nurse said the same thing.  She helped me get dressed, but I had already been placed in the sling, and my arm was completely numb from the nerve block, so they could only pull my top stretched over the sling, so it was really only half on.  And I couldn’t wear a bra, either, so I felt really exposed and uncomfortable.  They draped my warm shirt over top of my shoulder with the sling, and that was it.  I had to wear compression socks throughout surgery and for 48 hours afterwards to prevent DVT.

I went home with a pump attached to a catheter in the back of my neck that would continuously feed numbing medication into the brachial plexus to take the edge of the pain responses in my whole arm.  That was helpful.  I had to carry the pump on my shoulder with all the tubing every time I got up until it ended early on Monday morning.  Since I won’t take narcotic pain meds, the nerve block pump combined with Aleve at home really helped get me through the first few days.  The doctor insisted on prescribing at least a low dose narcotic, so he gave me 5 mg hydrocodone combined with 325 mg of Tylenol.  We filled it, but true to my word, I never took any of it. 

I never ate much.  My daughter made me some oatmeal raisin cookies.  I had three of them by the time I went to bed.  That was it for the whole day, plus the pack of 2 graham crackers and 2 Sprites that the nurse game me in recovery.

That night, I began a pattern of never sleeping more than 3 hours at a time, and I began waking up about an average of 6 times every night.  I left the tv on and just watched until I fell back to sleep over and over again.  My arm remained numb that whole night.

Saturday, 1 Day Post-Op:

I mostly stayed in bed.  Hubby brought meals to me.  By evening, I went outside and walked up the street and around the cul-de-sac by my house 3 times.  I was exhausted.  That was about all the energy I had in me at that point.

That night, though, I woke up to horrendous pain in the middle of the night.  I stayed hooked up to an ice machine with a cooling shoulder cuff most of the time during the day and throughout the night.  I was close to tears.  I was tempted to take the pain meds but thought better of it.  Instead, I hit the dosing button on my nerve block pump and got an extra bolus of numbing medication.  I waited it out and eventually got back to sleep, but it was a rough night.

Sunday, 2 Days Post-Op:

I felt nasty because I couldn’t bathe or wash my hair, and I still wore the same clothes since Friday.  Gross.  I wasn’t up to going to church and canceled my symphony ticket.  I didn’t make it to either church service that day. 

That evening, it was time to remove the surgical bandages and replace them with waterproof Band-Aids to cover the sterile tape on my arthroscopy incisions.  We discovered I had 5 of them…1 in front, 1 on the back of my shoulder, and 3 on the side.  That was more than we expected, but everything looked normal and healthy. 

Resized_20191117_173956 Resized_20191117_180032

I felt weird coming out of the sling for the first time and extremely stiff.  My inside upper arm was extremely puffy, like a sack of fluid hanging there that had pooled at the top of the sling.  I wasn’t supposed to bathe yet, but I set the shoulder bag with the pump on the floor outside the shower door, and hubby made a drape of plastic storage bags taped over my shoulder so I could at least shower the lower half and keep the shoulder and catheter dry.  I got to change my clothes, but I still couldn’t wash my hair.  I felt a bit more human but still gross. 


The whole process of getting out of my sling, changing the bandages, making the cover, getting a partial shower, beginning the pendulum exercises on my shoulder, and changing clothes took 2 hours!  I was so tired that I didn’t make it out for a walk.

Monday, 3 Days Post-Op

Hubby stayed home and worked from home that day, because we knew the nerve block would end at some point that day, and he had to be here to remove the catheter when the alarm went off indicating that the medication was gone.  That happened at 6 AM, but it turned out there was still a fair amount of medication left in the bag…it was just laid flat on the bed while I slept and had pooled to the other end of the bag.  Oh, well.  It was good to be free of the catheter tape.  It had really been irritating my neck and limiting my movements, and not having to carry all that tubing and the pump bag made it easier to get to the bathroom.  Without the benefit of any numbing medication, though, I began to feel all the steady aches and pains in my arm and shoulder.  Ugh.  Tolerable, though.  I began switching my Aleve to 1 in the morning and 2 at night to help me get through the night.  Night time brought lots of involuntary muscle spasms and flexions that were followed by horrible pains.  The ice machine continued to be my best friend, especially at night. 

I began to resume homeschooling Holden during the day, and then I’d go ice up.  I had Steve remove my sling 3 times a day for the pendulum exercises.  My shoulder felt so tight and stiff.

That night, free from all the extra gear, I was finally able to have Steve help me wash my hair and get a full shower.  I nearly cried in the shower because it felt so good to get clean!  I said it felt like a spa day!  LOL.

We noticed that the puffy area on my upper arm was also pooling the blood from surgery, so a substantial bruise began surfacing, all black and yellow.  Yuck!


Tuesday, 4 Days Post-Op

My sleep steadily improved, and I began walking longer and at a faster pace each day.  I still woke up lots of times, but the quality of my sleep was improving.  Steve had to go back to work this day, so I was terrified of being at home without him.  I got up with him at 5:30 AM each day to get my morning exercises done out of my sling and get hooked back up to the ice machine for another short stretch of sleep.  That routine began to work well.  Hayden was home for part of the day, so I could call on him if I needed help with something.  I continued homeschooling on schedule.  I had to ice up after each set of pendulum exercises and was really only off the ice machine while teaching.

Wednesday, 5 Days Post-Op

On this day, I had almost no pain.  I felt amazing and could hardly believe it!  A friend from church stopped by to visit and bring dinner, and she said how great I looked.  I felt wonderful.  I would soon learn that there would be good days and bad ones.

I ventured out to evening church services for the first time.  The bumpy car ride was challenging, but I survived.  It gave me hope that I might make it to the hockey game in Dallas that I’d purchased tickets for long before I knew I even needed surgery.

Thursday, 6 Days Post-Op

I’d had a bit more pain overnight but was okay until I walked backwards out the front door to carry the box containing the nerve block pump to the mailbox to return it.  I didn’t realize that the glass storm door wasn’t open all the way, and I backed right into it with the back of my sling arm.  Oh my gosh…the PAIN!  So intense.  It lasted most of the day and shot right down my upper arm.  Icing was the only thing that helped.  So awful!

Holden, who is 11, figured out how to get me in and out of my sling, so I was at least able to get out of it to exercise during the day.

That night, I ventured out with the family for the hockey game, so this was my first big outing…long ride, and a long time to be out.  I had a great time, and I survived!

Friday, 7 Days Post-Op

Hubby decided to work from home since we’d been out late, and the rain would have made for a slow commute.  It was nice to have him home.  He needed to do some grocery shopping at Sam’s Club, so he asked me to come along and get him his membership card and help point out what we needed.  It was good to get out again.

I had some discomfort but iced when I needed to and had a decent day.  My stomach hurt all day, and I didn’t eat a lot.  So I decided to try only 1 Aleve at bedtime instead of two in case that was upsetting my stomach.

My hand on the surgical arm had remained so puffy all week that I could not get my wedding rings back on.  After slathering my hand up with lotion, I decided to try again to see if the fluid retention had improved any.  I was finally able to get the rings over my knuckle, and then they were comfortable.  Yay!

Saturday, 8 Days Post-Op

According to my Fitbit, I got my best sleep score yet.  I only woke up 3 times overnight, and I felt pretty good when I got up.  I went to my desk and paid bills and made a grocery list.  We went to pick out a Thanksgiving turkey and a few other things we needed.  We went out twice to two different stores.  It was a lot, but I had a good day and felt okay icing up between errands.

I haven’t had much pain today, and I feel like things are going well.


So far, so good!  The pendulum exercises feel better to do each time with less pain and stiffness.  I’ve started spending short stints outside of my sling after the exercises to keep working my wrist and elbow and to rest the arm on a pillow just to let my arm breathe a bit.  It gets super itchy in the sling.  I feel pretty good! 

I’m planning to go to church in the morning, the symphony in the afternoon because I forgot to cancel my ticket, and evening church.  It will be a long day, so I don’t know how well I’ll do without my ice during the day.  I may have to take my portable ice pack to the symphony.  We shall see!

Overall, I feel like I’m doing well, and I am anxious to go to my post-op appointment with the surgeon on Monday morning.  If it goes well and everything looks good, he’ll be removing the bandages for good, including the sterile strips, and I should be able to ditch the sling (at least unless I’m out in public and need to protect it).  I should also be cleared to drive with the other hand.  I’m supposed to start physical therapy for passive movements next week, as well. 

My understanding is that I won’t be able to use my arm for anything but passive movements for at least 6 weeks.  The therapist will be giving me movements to do at home.  These first few weeks are devoted to preventing scar tissue from causing frozen shoulder and to opening up range of motion.  Any movements I would do would be from the elbow down with my arm pinned to my side…no reaching or raising of the arm.

I believe the second 6 weeks of therapy is where they will begin to strengthen and expand range of motion.  But it will be literally months before I can do anything useful with my arm.

Healing can take 6-12 months.  I had calcium debridement, rotator cuff repair with anchors, bursectomy, and subacromial decompression.  That’s obviously going to take some time to heal.  But I’m optomistic!  As much as I want to get back to my regular routine, independence, and regular workouts, I know that is all many months away.  The last thing I want to do is injure myself by popping out an anchor or something that would require a revision surgery.  No way!  But I plan to focus on doing all the home therapy exercises and getting out each day for fresh air and some faster-paced walking to keep my cardio health in check until I can work out again.

At this point, I’m glad I had the surgery, because it gives me my best chance at being pain-free and functional down the road.  My condition was only getting worse with time, and after living with chronic pain for over a year, it was time to take steps to get it fixed once and for all.

The surgeon said he’ll be sending me photos of the arthroscopic surgery to show me what all he found, but I haven’t seen any yet.  Maybe he’ll show them to me at my office visit on Monday.  I can’t wait!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

I Survived Shoulder Surgery!

I can only type with one hand, so I have to keep this short. I had my surgery yesterday afternoon. It was delayed because it took two nurses an hour to get an IV in my arm!  I have this issue every time, so I expected it.

I had calcium debridement, rotator cuff repair with anchors, bursectomy, and subacromial decompression. The surgeon told my husband that the calcium deposit was even larger than the MRI showed…it was 2 cm…and he said I was a real trooper for living with that in there because they are so painful.

I’ve been suffering with this pain for over a year and already did anti-inflammatories, cortisone injection, and 12 physical therapy sessions, only to have the pain return, and I didn’t find out the real problem until I saw the doctor again and was sent for x-rays. Then I got referred to an orthopedic surgeon who sent me for an MRI and told me I needed surgery.


So here I am, one day post-op!  I have a nerve block with a continuous pump for 3 days.  I can feel my arm but it helps take the edge off the pain.  I’m hurting, but I’m trying to avoid taking the narcotic pain meds, so I’ve only taken Aleve so far.  I’m using an ice machine for swelling.  I have to wear an immobilizer sling and not drive until I have my post-op appointment after 10 days. Then I will start physical therapy again in that week, once a week for 12 weeks.  The first few weeks are only passive movement and then assisted movements after that. It will be a long time before I have full use of my arm again, but I’ll get there eventually!

My ultimate goal is to be able to resume my daily workouts. When I can do that, I’ll know I’m finally healed from this whole ordeal!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

REVIEW: Elephant Learning Math Academy by Elephant Learning Math Academy.

I was given the opportunity to review Elephant Learning Math Academy with my 11-year old son, and I was pretty intrigued to see how it works.


Elephant Learning Math Academy is a subscription-based online learniImage result for elephant learning math academyng program that helps kids advance their math skills.  It is an automated math academy for kids age 2-16.

The company feels so strongly about the efficacy of their program that they guarantee your child will learn at least 1 year of math in 3 months by using the program just 3 times per week for 10 minutes per session.  That’s just 30 minutes/week! 

The program cost is $35/month, making it less costly than signing up at many popular brick and mortar tutoring facilities on the market.


This is an intuitive program that is designed to automatically detect what your child understands and what they do not, thereby guiding the practice to work on areas that need better understanding.  When your child begins, it first asks a variety of questions in order to determine placement into the program.  Holden was 11.8 years old when he started, and the program placed him at an Elephant Age of 10.3.  That was a bit of a surprise, but I figured he’d get that number up in short order. 

Getting Holden to work on it for just 10 minutes at a time was never a problem.  It’s such a short time commitment that it really isn’t a big deal to work on it in addition to his regular school work.  In the beginning, he was really excited to see that there were so many “games” to choose from for his daily questions, and he wanted to work for more than 10 minutes so he could try more of them.  The program will allow a little extra work, but not beyond 20 minutes per session.  It conveniently tracks the time for you and ends when the max has been reached.  However, he soon found that the “games” were really all the same, just with different graphics.  He began to lose some his enthusiasm at that point, but he still didn’t mind doing it.  I would say it’s less like a game and more like themed animations for answering questions.  So to him, it didn’t matter which theme he chose from that point on.  It’s colorful, but not particularly motivating to him one way or another.

Sample of Themes Sample 2 of Themes

Each time I peeked over his shoulder now and then to see how it was going, I noticed he was still answering the same types of questions as the previous sessions, and that had me wondering why.  I noticed that his Elephant Age had still only progressed to 10.5 in all this time, and that progression had happened early on, but there had been no changes since then.

I went away for a few days to celebrate my anniversary near the end of the review period.  When I returned and logged him in to work on the program, a message popped up saying that he was struggling in multiple areas and that we should consider having him retake the placement test.  I mentioned it to him, and he started panicking at the though of having to start over, so I opted out and let him continue where he was.

Soccer Question

I have since contacted customer service to ask for advice on how to proceed, and I’m waiting to hear back.  He obviously has NOT covered a year’s worth of material as the program promises, so I’m wondering where the disconnect is happening.  I suspect from my observations that it is simply his ADHD.  He will often start talking while working on it and get distracted or accidentally touch the screen and thereby change his answer without realizing it before pressing enter.  He prefers to use the app on our Android tablet rather than doing it at the computer, which by the way, works very well.  I love that portability option, as it saves his progress in all formats whether he uses the app or the computer. 

I really don’t blame the program.  It doesn’t know if he was careless or truly doesn’t understand the question.  I know from watching him that he understands but is making careless errors, and for that, it is preventing his progression through the program.  So my conclusion is that it may not be the best fit for him because of his inability to focus, but it certainly could be for a child who isn’t so easily distracted.  I think he is becoming bored with it, simply because he is stuck on the same types of questions over and over again, which only adds to his inability to focus.

After each session, he can see how he’s doing in each category of problems, and it’s color-coded for easy understanding.  He does like watching his progress this way.


Within each category, you can click it to see more detail of the work and progress within that category.

Detailed View

I can also check at any time to see how well he is keeping up with working on it regularly by viewing a Playtime Analysis at a glance.

Time Spent

In addition, I can see a detailed history of whether he has passed or failed each concept every time he uses the program. 

Breakdown of History

I wasn’t clear on how I was supposed to use this feature, but I also discovered that there was a worksheet section that appears to be extra written practice that I could print off for him to do each day.  That’s a nice option, too.


In theory, I love the idea of an intuitive program that keeps your child right where they need to be until they are ready to move on and that keeps progressing them at their own pace.  In practical application, though, I can see where a child like Holden can fall through the cracks of that intuitiveness.  He is doing much more advanced math questions in his regular math program, so I know that he has the ability.  I just think his ADHD makes it perhaps not the best format for him personally, and I think he would be more engaged with it if it had an actual game element to it rather than just themed animations.  But I would encourage you to give it a try and see if it is right for your child! 

Check out what other Crew members have to say about Elephant Learning Math Academy by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Veteran’s Day FREEBIES

Image result for veterans day

Aside from freebies and deals on food at over 100 restaurants, there are lots of freebies on shopping and services for military members and veterans on Monday in celebration of Veteran’s Day.

There’s even one freebie for EVERYONE:  National parks are waiving entrance fees for all on Veteran’s Day!

If you are an AMC Stubs member and purchase a military movie ticket now through Monday, you get a FREE popcorn

At Great Clips, veterans and active duty military members can get a FREE haircut on Monday or pick up a free haircut card to use through the end of the year.  Non-veterans who get a haircut Monday get a FREE haircut card to give to a veteran which can be redeemed from Veteran’s Day through year’s end. 

At Planet Fitness, veterans and active military can work out for FREE through November 15th, and they can even bring a friend to work out with them for FREE!  And after their workout, they can enjoy a FREE HyrdroMassage and chair massage, as well!

At participating Sports Clips locations, veterans and active duty military can get a FREE haircut on Monday!

Through Monday, veterans and active duty military can get or renew their Amazon Prime membership at a $40 discount, making it just $79!

In addition, veterans and active duty service members can receive discounts ranging from 10%-25% off their entire purchase at stores like Target, Kohl’s, KMart, Leslie’s Pool Supplies, LL Bean, Dollar General, Bed Bath & Beyond, Albertsons, Staples, Walgreens, and Academy Sports!

To all veterans, thank you for your service!  Enjoy your special day.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

FREE Doughnut @ Krispy Kreme Today!!!

Visit Krispy Kreme Homepage

Stop by any participating Krispy Kreme shop today in your Halloween costume and get one FREE doughnut of your choice! 


Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

My Shoulder Saga

Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve had my fair share of drama with my left shoulder.  I’ve been struggling with chronic shoulder pain for over a year.  I’ve done anti-inflammatory medication (Aleve), cortisone injection, 12 physical therapy sessions, 4 x-rays, and an MRI in search of a solution.  It improved after the injection and physical therapy, which at least allowed me to regain full range of motion.  But once I resumed my normal exercise routine over the summer, it got gradually worse all over again.  Just before and right after I had the MRI, I saw an orthopedic surgeon.  He informed me that I have Calcific Tendinitis.  Basically, my injured rotator cuff tendon has begun to fill in the muscle tissue with calcium, as if trying to form a bone.  As my body tries to reabsorb the calcium, it creates one of the most painful conditions found in the shoulder.  Its presence causes inflammation of surrounding tissues, and it just gets worse.  The surgeon said the MRI showed that the calcium deposit is significantly larger than the original x-ray showed it to be.  In fact, the deposit takes up nearly the whole tendon.  So now I’m scheduled for arthroscopic shoulder surgery on November 15th.

MRI of Calcific Tendonitis

He said my bursa is so inflamed that it has to be completely removed (bursectomy).  Then they will break through the tendon wall and shave out the calcium deposit, making sure to extract the fragments so they don’t cause further irritation.  But because my calcium deposit is so large (up to 1.5 cm), it will leave a major void in the tendon that is equivalent to a large rotator cuff tear.  It’s too large for a side-to-side suture repair, so he will have to do an anchored suture repair.  With that, he will drill 3 anchors into the bone and tie interconnected sutures among them to stretch and secure the remaining tendon to the bone (interlinked suture anchor rotator cuff repair).  The surgery will be performed under general anesthesia, as well as a peripheral nerve block with an attached pump that will keep my whole left arm completely numb for 3 days.  I will have a follow-up with the surgeon 10 days after surgery.  Then I’ll have 12 weeks of physical therapy once a week with additional PT exercises to do at home every day.  It can take up to 6 months to heal fully, and it will be at least 3 months before I will be able to lift my arm above my head.  Yikes!  This is going to be a bit of an ordeal to recover from.  Getting dressed will be challenging.  Washing my long hair will probably require assistance for a while.  I’ve watched other people’s stories of recovery on YouTube, and women say that getting bras that fasten in the front is key if you hope to get one on at all.  I suddenly realized that my whole approach to daily activity will be affected for quite some time post-surgery.  I guess I should seriously consider putting up the Christmas tree a couple of weeks early or else I may not be able to get it up at all!

The upside to this whole thing is that the doctor assures me I’ll be pain-free at the end of it all.  No more chronic pain.  That’s something to look forward to!

If you’re curious, the first patient in this video had the same kind of surgery and suture anchor repair that I’ll be having.  Her results 3 months post-surgery were amazing!  That’s exactly what I’m hoping for!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

REVIEW: Smartick by Smartick

I had never heard of this math practice product before, so I was really curious when we got to review an online Smartick subscription by Smartick.


Smartick is an online subscription-based program that allows students ages 4-14 to practice their math skills.  The program is intuitive, so after an initial placement period, the program begins at a starting point just below your student’s current level of understanding.  Then practice problems are provided, and the program adjusts automatically as your student progresses through each concept.

Parents can monitor student progress and performance through the parent dashboard.  In addition, you can opt to receive daily emails that let your know your child has completed their work for the day and also gives you a detailed breakdown of the topics covered, how your student scored, and how quickly they responded.  It notifies you if your student is performing satisfactorily, if their work is improvable, or if their responses times are too slow.  You can also receive a weekly summary.

The parent dashboard also includes the option to leave an encouraging message for your student or to set up a rewards system of your own design.

The program can be accessed via the website or via a convenient app for Apple or Android.  Both require online access so that progress can be stored interchangeably in both platforms, providing you with the flexibility to use either platform at any time.

You can read about the methodology and how the program compares to another popular program or sign up for a free trial to see if the program is right for you.

This subscription can be purchased for $49.99/month, $134.97/quarter, or $419.88/annually.


Holden is 11 and has ADHD.  His attention span is short if the delivery is not stimulating.  So anytime we can practice math skills in a colorful and engaging online format, I’m willing to give it a try.  Holden has a pretty good general understanding of math, but he struggles with retaining the methodology over time.  Therefore, I find myself reteaching and reminding him quite often.  That’s why although he was 2 years ahead in math, we’ve thrown on the brakes this year so we can focus on the basics and retention of information before moving on to Pre-Algebra concepts.  Also, because he refuses to write any math problems down, his response time is very slow, and this turns math into a lengthy chore for him, which is greatly affected by his lack of attention span.  It’s a vicious cycle.  So when we received Smartick for review, I was excited at the prospect of giving him the extra reinforcement and practice that he needed in a format that he actually liked.

Smartick is intended to be used in 15-minute intervals about 4-5 days a week for maximum effectiveness.  That short time commitment makes this a good fit for Holden right off the bat.  He also enjoys the portability of using the app version on our school tablet, which he can take outside and use while lounging in the hammock, for instance.  This makes it feel less like school work, so that’s a big bonus for him.

In the beginning, the program was assessing his current level.  The parent indicates the grade level of the child at signup, and the program starts with problems below that level and adjusts up as appropriate.  Once it determines a starting point, it notifies the parent that placement has been made and what the student will begin working on first.  This is great when you’re trying to fill in learning gaps, because the program will pick up on those and ensure that your child starts where they really are, regardless of age or grade level.  The very first message I received reiterated that parents should NOT be helping their student complete the work, as that will affect the direction of the program, which picks up on the student’s needs automatically.  I”m so used to helping him and answering questions, and he’s so used to asking me that it worked out better if I got him started and left the room so he could complete it on his own.

I love the daily emails that let me know he has done his work for the day and give me a detailed summary of how he performed in specific content areas, as well as whether or not his response time was too slow.  Slow response time continues to be an issue for him, as I expected it would be.  But I’ve begun to see improvements in this area over the course of the review.  Yay, Smartick!

In addition, I can go onto the website and log into the parent dashboard to view his progress details as well as his individual session details.

Holden loves that in addition to the regular sessions, there are some fun skill-building games that he can play in the Smart Brain section, and he chooses to do these on his own, which impresses me.  He’s particularly fond of the Simon game, which improves memory.

I counted about 27 games in all!  They are broken down into categories for memory, reasoning, attention, and flexibility.  He apparently never noticed the clickable tabs that take you to the games in each category, so he has only played the memory games so far.  Now that I’ve showed him how to find them, he is excited to try out the others as soon as possible!

A colorful game environment keeps Holden’s attention better than anything else, so knowing that he can play these after his regular session is a great motivator for him.

Today, Holden will be working on coordinate planes.  Here’s an example of what the questions look like in his daily sessions.

So far, he’s really been enjoying it, and getting him to complete his sessions has not been difficult.  After thoroughly reviewing the parent dashboard, however, I’ve been unable to determine whether or not the program thinks he is performing at his grade level or not.  Nowhere that I’ve seen indicates what his current performance grade level actually is.  This is information that I’d really like to know so I can assess where were should be working in our regular math lessons for school.

Overall, I love this program, because it is an effective way to work on gaps in math learning.  It’s not parent-intensive, Holden appreciates the immediate feedback, it doesn’t require a big time commitment, and it has a fun and engaging format that makes it attractive for my son.  Any time we can get in extra math practice and it not feel like a chore is a win-win for us!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about Smartick by clicking the banner below.