All posts by Peggy Chenoweth

I am a soon-to-be middle aged below knee amputee. I am also the Mommy to a very active little boy, and expecting my second child. I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. I've lost my leg, but certainly not my courage and love of life!

My Favorite New Product

Now more than ever, it is important for me to remain as hands free as possible. Between steering my knee scooter and holding my baby, I don’t have the ability to carry anything else in my hands. Unfortunately, babies are not notoriously light travelers, necessitating me to adapt.  (It is amazing how much stuff a little baby requires!)

I was a completely different type of Mom with my first son. Fashion dictated my choice of a diaper bag. I shopped a variety of stores, seeking a bag that would look hip and chic.  The fact that it had room for diapers was simply a bonus.

I loved my suede pink and brown, over-the-shoulder diaper bag. Yes, I picked a suede bag. I have no doubt that all of the mom’s reading this post are shaking their heads and chuckling at my novice decision.  My beautiful and cute, albeit highly dysfunctional, bag was quickly covered with spills, baby vomit, urine and dirt. Suede, it turns out, is not easily washable.

Eight years later and I am now a more experienced, and knowledgeable, mom. This time I shopped for diaperfunction over form. I needed a diaper bag that would be easy to carry, distribute the weight and have compartments for everything I needed.

I was immediately drawn to the Fisher-Price Fastfinder Diaper Backpack. A backpack as a diaper bag- what a brilliant concept! Obviously backpacks are easier to carry because the weight is distributed evenly across the back. I wish I had thought of this eight years ago, I could have saved a lot of backaches as I schlepped around with my heavy, stained bag over my shoulder!

Not only is this bag comfortable because it is worn on the back, but it allows me to keep my hands free. Right now, the ability to use my hands is paramount. Although I was drawn to the bag because it was a backpack, I quickly became impressed with the design. This diaper backpack was definitely designed by an experienced parent.

This bag has a designated space for everything, whimsically labeled on the zipper pull for each compartment. From binkies to diapers, knowing that everything has a place has helped me to stay organized. When the bag becomes stained, which I know is a matter of time, the material is easy to wash. As a bonus, the bag is neutral enough that my husband willingly carries it.  (Trust me, trying to convince my husband to carry my pink and brown suede shoulder bag was not an easy sell!)

I cannot recommend the Fisher-Price Fastfinder Diaperpack to every new parent. In fact, it has become my new go-to shower gift for family and friends. My only regret is that I didn’t have it eight years ago.

Simple Bottles

I love kitchen gadgets! My cupboards, cabinets, and closets are overflowing with pint sized machines touted to make my life easier. I have little doubt that I am the ideal target for every sales pitch.

When I was pregnant, I was surprised and delighted to discover that having a baby expanded my 812WVN8zkeL._SL1500_gadget horizons. My goodness things have changed in the eight years since I had my first child. From tabletop bottle cleaners to all-inclusive baby food makers, my kitchen machine horizons have been greatly expanded.

Walking through the store aisles, my eyes locked onto a machine that I immediately knew would take up residence on my kitchen counter. The Baby Brezza is a bottle making machine for formula fed babies. It is like a Keurig for babies!

I received a lot of slack from family and friends when I posted my excitement about the Baby Brezza. After all, it isn’t terribly difficult to make a bottle. Although it isn’t hard, I appreciate anything that makes a repetitive task easier and standardized. The Baby Brezza does both.

The water reservoir keeps the liquid at the ideal temperature for baby. This eliminates the guesswork, making sure that the water is neither too hot or too cold. At the push of one button, the Baby Brezza mixes the proper amount of formula powder with the perfectly heated water, dispensing the smooth liquid into the bottle.

Lumps, under or overheated water, and powder spills are all a memory thanks to this wonderful little machine. Since my little guy was born prematurely, he was put on a strict feeding schedule of every 90 minutes. It was during these endlessly long and exhausting nights that I truly fell in love with my Baby Brezza. In my sleep deprived state, I know that the bottle would be ready in a mere 15 seconds, and that the proportions will be perfect every time.

Since my re-amputation a month ago, I have set up the machine in our living room so that it is within arms reach. It is incredibly convenient that I am able to make a bottle without getting up, and that no mess was created during the process. I am sure my husband appreciates not being called to help every 90 minutes!

The Baby Brezza Bottle Maker has helped me to continue to be an UNlimter Mom during my recovery. It is a ingenious time saving machine for new parents who are formula feeding their baby. The Baby Brezza has made the exhausting job of feeding my baby every 90 minutes (that is 16 times a day) a little easier!

Happy Fourth of July!

Thunder ShirtAlthough I enjoy the Fourth of July, I always have an apprehensive air on this holiday. Being in the amputee community has afforded me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. Unfortunately, far too many of my friends have been inducted into the community because of a firework injury. The brilliant lights and joyful booming that have become a family tradition for so many can quickly lead to catastrophe. Last year there were 11,400 firework injuries in this country, with far too many resulting in amputations.  Please be careful and respect the blast. The colorful and whimsical packaging can be deceitful, fooling many into believing that the product inside is safe.

I have been honored to do some volunteer work in our military hospitals since my amputation. It was during these visits that I learned and saw the debilitating impact of Post Traumatic Stress on our returning soldiers. Please know that fireworks are not only physically dangerous if handled improperly, but the sound can trigger PTSD, especially for our individuals who have served in combat. If you have a neighbor who was active military, I implore you to speak with them before commencing the booming festivities. Providing a little warning that fireworks will be set off can thwart a full-blown flashback attack.

I have always loved watching the firework display from my Mom’s porch, but at times the sounds of her dogs barking and howling muffled the bangs from the fireworks themselves. Her dogs, like so many, have trouble dealing with the sounds on the Fourth of July. No amount of reprimanding and physical reassurance ever helped them calm down, and she almost resigned herself to a night of puppy anxiety each Fourth of July.

A few years ago she mentioned her dog’s reactions to the fireworks when she was at the vet, and was shocked that he had a non-medicinal solution. (Her dogs have a slew of health issues so minimizing pharmaceutical consumption is appreciated.) The doctor recommended trying a weighted anxiety vest for the dogs to keep them calm.  Although she wasn’t convinced that the vest would do the trick, she figured it was worth a try.

The next time the fireworks started launching, my Mom dutifully dressed both dogs in their new weighted vests. As soon as the vest was put on the dogs started to calm down. They barked a little but quickly calmed and left the room. For the first time since she became a dog owner, we were able to both hear and see the fireworks from her window.  While we were watching the display, her dogs were quietly laying at the foot of her bed, seemingly undisturbed by the sounds.

I don’t know if a weighted anxiety vest will work for every dog, but I do know that it works for my Mom’s. It was heartbreaking, and frustrating, watching her dogs become frantic and scared each time a firework was launched. Finding a non-pharmaceutical product that works to calm them has allowed my Mom to enjoy her Fourth of July. I wanted to share the information about the vest because I know that her dogs are not the only ones who have suffered because of fireworks.

Grill Master

In addition to the relaxation which comes from a managing a minimal family schedule, I find cooking meals easier during the summer months. Hearty, and often complicated meals are replaced by quick burgers on the grill accompanied by an ear of corn. The stress of “what am I going to make for dinner” is lifted because I have the grill.

Grilling is an inexpensive, quick and mess-free meal solution. Perhaps more importantly, it is also delicious! I don’t have to plan ahead, which I appreciate because right now I’m recovering from surgery and caring for a newborn. It is taking all of my energy to simply remain in the moment! At the last minute I can take burgers from the freezer to the grill and have dinner ready in 10 minutes.

In order to simplify this already easy form of cooking, a few years ago I broke down and purchased a dedicated set of grilling tools. I grew tired of digging through my utensil drawer trying to find my metal spatula. Although my kitchen spatula worked, it was not designed for the task of grilling. I grew tired of having the little hairs on my arms singed by the flames and heat from the grill.

Kitchen spatulas feature shorter handles because they are designed for frying pans and griddles. Grilling spatulas feature long handles, allowing the grill master to maintain a safe, and comfortable, distance from the flames and smoke. It took awhile for me to breakdown and purchase the grilling tools, but I haven’t regretted them. It is amazing how the right tool can simply a task.

The grilling spatula in the Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set features a heat resistant, extra long handle and a wide turning area. Using this spatula, I am able to avoid the intense heat and flare ups that are the pitfalls of grilling food. I remain safe, and comfortable, while preparing a quick and easy meal for my family.

The set also has a set of gripper tongs, which are perfect when my husband makes steaks or sausages. My little boy loves the corn holders. Although it isn’t a particularly fun task, I have learned to appreciate the angled cleaning brush included in the set.  The convenient carrying and storage case makes it easy for us to find the tools when we need them. During the winter they are stowed in the closet, but during the warmer months they tend to take up residence in the kitchen with the case conveniently fitting between my refrigerator and cabinet.

The Cuisinart grill set was a fantastic purchase for our grill loving family. Sometimes, breaking down and purchasing the right tools for the jobs makes all the difference.  Happy grilling!

Cold Rush

This past week has been spent recovering from my re-amputation surgery. The pain has been relentless, rendering me feeling both drained and useless. I am a stubborn person and it’s difficult sitting on the sidelines. I was becoming depressed, and then I had an epiphany.

I’m an UNlimiter- we may have setbacks, but we are never knocked out completely! I may not be able to take care of my baby right now, but soon the pain will wane and I’ll figure out a way.  That is what UNlimiters is all about, figuring out the way to adjust to live the best life possible.coldrush

For the first few days after the surgery, the only relief I found was when I iced my limb. Because we are no strangers to surgery in this family, we were fully prepared for this eventuality. I directed my husband to the bottom corner of our hallway closet to retrieve our Cold Rush machine.

I love my Cold Rush! This super quiet machine provides a steady cool temperature through the pads. The temperature can be varied between chilly to cold, allowing me steady control. Ice packs start dangerously cold and quickly melt through the stages until it is warm and useless, leaving a drippy wet spot as a reminder of their former glory.  The pads for the Cold Rush are soft, flexible and uniquely designed to fit the user’s needs. Ice packs are the shape they assumed when they were last thrown into my freezer.

The Cold Rush allows me, in a small way, to be independent. My husband fills the reservoir with ice in the morning, and it lasts throughout the day. I realize that it may seem small, but when I am forced to ask for help with everything else, the fact that I can control my own ice requirements feels like a huge victory!

Every member of our family, with the exception of the newborn, has used the Cold Rush. Scott pulls it out of the closet when he twinges his back, and my eight year old has used to after various falls from his tree climbing adventures. My Mom borrowed the machine when she underwent her double knee replacement.  I highly recommend the Cold Rush to anybody who is tired of digging around the bottom of the freezer trying to find an ice pack, only to discover that it is too hard to fit around the aching appendage or that it has acquired a funky smell. If an ice pack has left you wet, or covered with thick blue goo from a puncture, the Cold Rush is for you.

 

Helping the Helper

imageI don’t spend a lot of time lamenting my amputation. I live a happy and healthy life and, for the most part, adapting to the limb loss has become second nature. Perhaps the only aspect of living with an amputation which I utterly detest is the sense of vulnerability. A fall, sore, blister, ingrown hair or a slew of other issues can pop up at a moments notice, rendering me unable to walk.

Last week I went to the doctor for my yearly limb check appointment. I knew that I was having some issues, but a I had hoped to thwart drastic treatment until my baby is a little older. Unfortunately the x-rays and exams revealed that the issues were more complex and involved than I realized. I emerged from the office with a handful of paperwork and a date for surgery.

Having surgery with a newborn is an exercise in planning and frustration. Ironically, I was put into the same situation after my first son was born eight years ago. I was hoping to avoid reliving the past, but it certainly did not turn out that way. After prepping the house and juggling schedules to secure care for both kiddos, I went to the hospital yesterday morning for my major limb revision surgery.

The procedure went well and, although I’m in considerable pain, I am expecting a smooth recovery. I’m already chomping at the bit to wear my prosthesis again. I have a feeling that the next month will feel extraordinarily long as I wait to heal enough to start wearing it.

Unlike my last post baby revision, this time I have more help. My older son is now eight and eager to be a helper. He loves fetching drinks, snacks, pillows and assorted electronic devices for me.

Although he is a great assistant, he is not necessarily the most careful. He tends to drop and spill, many times creating more of a mess for me. I’ve learned to take measures to counter his innate clumsiness.  Sometimes having him help creates more work for me as I have to clean the spills etc..

I have even found some products which help to minimize my son’s propensity for dropping and spilling. When I ask him to fetch me some water, I know that a trail of drops will not be left by the liquid sloshing. During my recovery, and perhaps indefinitely I have been using a large insulated tumbler with lid and straw.

The cup keeps the liquids cold, and the straw makes it easier to drink from while lying in bed. The lid has saved copious amounts of water, juice and soda from spilling out as my little helper eagerly delivers it. When I am able to use my knee scooter again I am confident that I won’t create spills while wheeling around.

Recovering from surgery is always difficult. Adding a newborn to the mix simple adds to the frustration. Anytime I find a product, such as this insulated tumbler, that helps me I am appreciative.

Hands Free Baby Carrier

I prefer to be hands free whenever possible.  Erring on the side of caution, I feel more comfortable keeping my hands available for balance or for grasping handrails. This preference also holds true when caring for my newborn. More often than naught, when I am upright my baby is securely against my chest, comfy and safe within his Moby Baby Wrap.

Okay, in full disclosure I was initially skeptical of the Moby. After I uncoiled the package, I realized that the carrier was nothing more than an extremely long scarf. I was worried that a simple piece of fabric would safely- and comfortably- secure my most precious possession. Before returning it to the store, I decided to give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised by how secure my little baby was tethered against my chest. He was snug against my body, yet not so tight that he wasn’t able to move. The fabric has the perfect amount of stretch to strike the balance between safety and comfort.

I love my Moby for many reasons.The wrap is completely adjustable, allowing me to easily switch his position. Granted, it took me a little while to perfect the Moby wrapping process, but after some practice it is now second nature. I feel considerably safer walking with my little guy when he is secured on my chest as opposed to being held in my arms.

Unlike other carriers on the market, the Moby can be used from birth through 35 pounds. (My little guy was born early and did not meet the weight requirement of the other carriers.) I doubt I’ll have the strength (or desire) to strap a 35 pound child on my chest, but it is nice to know that I can if the need arises!

Tying the Moby around my back distributes the weight evenly, making it more comfortable for me to wear my baby for hours without fatiguing. When I finally take him out of the carrier, I am a little sweaty but never sore.

Having a newborn with reflux, I have learned to appreciate being able to clean baby items with ease. The Moby Wrap can be thrown into the washing machine when it becomes formula/ spit up covered. I am pleased that it can be thoroughly washed instead of just spot cleaned, especially when the item is so close to both of our bodies!

I would highly recommend the Moby Baby Wrap to any expecting parent! I have found it especially beneficial because it allows me to remain hands-free, and hence safer, when walking with my little guy. It turns out that this simple long scarf does an amazing job!

 

Holding my little Timmy in his Moby.

 moby

Spring Cleaning My Prosthesis

Using a prosthesis, I am used to garnering stares and unwatched attention when I’m in public. When I was a newbie the second glances and stares used to bother me. As I’ve adjusted to my disability, embracing my potential and rediscovering my self-esteem, my feelings towards the gawkers have tempered.

A prosthesis is not commonly seen, and it is normal to look at anything that is unusual. I have come to realize that the visual interest I receive is not derogatory but is simply an unintentional reaction. The majority of people probably don’t even realize that they have turned their heads for another glance. Accepting that it is my prostheses-and not me-that has become a lightening rod for stares has been empowering.

Over the years I have become oblivious to the looks and second glances when I’m in public. (I suppose when you experience something multiple times on a daily basis it becomes second nature.) My little boy used to cheerfully wave at every onlooker, which was perhaps the best way to bring attention to their staring. As soon as my little guy started waving, the look of shock and embarrassment wafting on the faces of the offenders was utterly priceless!

Although most of the time I don’t notice the attention, every Spring it becomes magnified. Wearing jeans during the winter, I gradually adjusted to blending in with everybody else. Returning shorts and knee length dresses to my wardrobe expose my prosthesis. Anytime my leg is visible I receive more looks in public.

I know that people are going to look, so I want my leg to look as clean and neat as possible. The socket itself is easy to clean, I just wipe it down with a damp towel. My foot shell requires more effort, but removing the scuff marks, stains and caked in dirt is not impossible.

I’ve learned that a Magic Eraser can save me a lot of time and elbow grease when I want to clean my foot shell. Most of the marks can be scrubbed away with minimal effort, leaving the foot shell clean and ready for Spring. I find myself walking with new confidence when my prosthesis is sparkling clean. I tend to hold my head up higher and walk with more purpose which is a good thing, because I know that people are watching!

 

Pool Bag Packed

Happy (unofficial) start of Summer!

We are chomping at the bit to participate in all of our favorite warm weather activities. From going to the pool on a hot summer afternoon to hanging out with friends and neighbors around the fire pit in the evening, we love summertime. The fact that my husband is a teacher, allowing him to enjoy a prolonged vacation from school with our sons, certainly helps to enhance the season.

Although the weather isn’t forecast to cooperate with our poolside dreams this weekend, we have been busy getting ready. As soon as the thermometer tops 80 degrees, we’ll be at the pool. (The temperature of the water is inconsequential for my son.)

Packing for a family day at the pool requires planning. In addition to the towels, water, goggles, sunscreen and assorted toys, I have to make room for my swim leg.  Although it is bulky and rather heavy, I know that I am lucky to have a designated pool prosthesis. It isn’t beneficial for swimming laps (which isn’t something I do frequently anyway) but it is wonderful for walking, lounging and playing in the water with my son. I feel safer and more stable having two feet on the pool floor, especially when holding a child. Image

After trying numerous tote bags, last year we settled on a roomy insulated shopper tote. This large shoulder bag provides ample room for all of our pool supplies, including my leg. I appreciate that I can discretely carry my swim leg with everything else. I’m used to stares, but avoiding the looks of shock (and sometimes repulsion) when I am carrying a spare leg is definitely a perk to utilizing a large tote bag!

The shopper tote is insulated, a feature we appreciate during the hottest days of summer. I put water bottles and snacks, along with an ice pack, in the bottom of the bag before piling our towels, toys and my leg on top. When we get to the pool and unpack, the refreshments and ice pack stay in the tote. The insulated walls of the bag keep everything chilly, even on the hottest days. Not having to spend $5 for a bottle of water at the concession stand makes this bag worth the investment.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate soon and we can take our inaugural trip to the pool. Our towels and my leg are packed neatly in the tote bag, ready to go when the opportunity arises.

 

Happy Memorial Day!

Easy Watering

Taking care of a newborn has certainly sidelined many of my plans and ideas. I can’t believe it is already the middle of May and we haven’t yet planted our garden. Typically I have seedlings sprouting in March and April in preparation for planting day. This year, we will be relegated to buying plants at the local nursery.

Although I’m disappointed that we didn’t grow our plants from seed this year, I am still looking forward to planting and tending our little garden. It always astounds me how a small section of soil and produce so many vegetables. It is a lot of work, but I have come to believe that food grown in a home garden simply tastes better!

Gardening is not always easy, but I have a little helper to lighten the load. My son is almost 8, and he is eager to dig in the dirt and pull weeds. His favorite garden related chore, finding worms to help the soil, ranks among his favorite activities.  My responsibility is keeping the garden watered. (In full disclosure my son would love to have this job, but he cannot be trusted with the hose.)

Schlepping the heavy and dirty garden hose through the yard each day used to be a frustrating task. No matter how carefully I pulled, I always ended with dirt and mulch covering my legs and forearms. The traditional hose is heavy and often became entwined in my flowerbeds and around my shrubs. I have tripped more times than I would like to recall because the filthy hose became tangled around my prosthesis .

On a whim last summer I bought the expandable garden hose featured on television commercials. I was weary that a lightweight, Imageshrunken little tube would expand and transport the water across the yard to our little garden, but I decided to give it a try. Within seconds of turning on the faucet the hose began to expand and grow. I have to admit I’m not sure who was more excited, me or my 8 year old!

The expandable garden hose worked as promised, and continued to deliver throughout the summer. I never experienced a leak or break in the line. In addition to the novelty factor, the aggravation of contending with a dirty and unwieldy hose was completely eliminated.

I have been impressed with the expandable garden hose. This lightweight hose makes it easier, cleaner and safer for me to water our garden. This is just another product which has helped me to become an UNlimiter!

Call Screening Made Easy!

Stemming from what I can only categorize as extreme exhaustion, I have found myself screening calls on a frequent basis. It isn’t that I am seeking to be a recluse. Rather, I’m simply too tired to exert the mental energy required to maintain a conversation. It has been a long time since I’ve cared for a newborn.  I can honestly say that it is a lot harder at 40 years old than it was when I was in my early 30’s.

I remember screening calls in college. My roommate and I would sit quietly while the phone rang. Only after the answering machine picked up did we receive a clue concerning the identity of the caller. If it was somebody we wanted to talk with, we would pick up the receiver (and the remainder of the conversation would continue to be recorded on the answering machine.) Looking back our method seems so archaic when compared to the convenience of Caller ID.

We have recently taken Caller ID to the next level by introducing a talking cordless receiver. Now when the phone rings I don’t need to Imageget up and frantically try to locate a phone receiver to check the number. After the second ring, the phone clearly reads the identity of the caller.

When we were shopping for new phones last month, the talking Caller ID feature sought because of my husband’s insistence. I thought that the feature was a quirky perk, but never envisioned it to be functional. In this situation, I am happy to admit that I was wrong, and that he was right!

I love being able to identify the caller without moving. I’m so worn out from taking care of the baby, and having so many prosthetic issues, that anytime I can remain still it feels like a victory. The Talking Caller ID phone has saved me both the frustration of trying to find a phone before the ringing stops and unnecessary (and currently painful) walking. Ditching the visual caller ID and making the switch to a talking caller ID cordless phone system has been UNlimiting!

Black Light Remedy

I want to apologize by not posting a blog last week. Although well-intended, I was unexpectedly sidelined. Wednesday night I went into premature labor, and Thursday morning I delivered my second son. He is a preemie and small, but healthy. Needless to say, little Timmy has already wrapped everybody around his tiny little fingers!Image

It has been eight years since I’ve cared for a newborn. Obviously my “mom amnesia” had skewed the memories, allowing me to forget the exhaustion that ensues from the near constant night feedings. To complicate matters, Timmy has been put on a strict feeding schedule to promote weight gain, necessitating that we wake him every 90 minutes to feed. Considering that it takes him approximately 45 minutes to take a half an ounce, I am able to sleep for 30 minutes at a time. To say that I am becoming worn down would be an understatement!

One of the most frustrating aspects of the constant feedings lies with my prosthesis. I cannot simply hop up and feed the baby like my able-bodied friends. I have to take the time to don my liner and my leg, assuring that I have a safe and comfortable fit, before proceeding to take care of the baby. Done on a hourly basis for several days and I started to notice small holes develop towards the top of my liner.

Knowing that liners are quality tested for a certain number of wearings, I began to worry that I was going to exceed this number because of the midnight feedings. Although not ideal, I began to wonder if I could simply keep my liner on between feedings. I worried that wearing it for extended periods during the day and night would compromise my skin health, so I contacted my prosthetist.

After listening to my concerns, he revealed an industry “secret.” Although it is preferred that the liner be removed for at least 6 hours Imageconsecutively each day, the recommended time is not a requirement for skin health. Putting the liner, inside out, under a black light for 15 minutes will kill the fungus and bacteria which might have developed from wearing it for extended periods of time. I was also encouraged to put my limb under the black light to kill anything which might have latched onto the skin, but only for five minute intervals.

With the help of a black light, I am now able to keep my liner on throughout the never ending midnight feedings. It may not sound like a huge victory, but for this sleep deprived Mom eliminating the liner step to the routine is a relief. I wanted to share the black light tip because I am confident that I am not the only amputee who has encountered a situation where the liner needed to be worn for extended periods of time. When it does occur, it is nice to know that there is a remedy available- in the form of a little black light.

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