Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Medical Marathon

The last two weeks were chock full of doc's appointments for us.  It began Wednesday the 16th with a swallow study for Christine. For the test Christine drank and ate food w/ die in it while getting xrays to see where it was going (this is being done because she sometimes gets a rattle in her throat after drinking).  The initial findings were somewhat as expected.  They saw some small micro aspirations and recommended thickening her liquids (which we have already been doing).  I was comfortable with those findings and was having a pretty good day until the specialist called me later with some unexpected news.  She said she looked over the scans with her supervisor and they felt that Christine is actually having trouble even with the thickened liquids and they are recommending a g-tube.  She called Christine's pediatrician and who seemed to be less concerned than the specialist because Christine has not had any respiratory problems and is growing fine (not underweight).  Isaac reassured me not to worry about it until we talk with the pediatrician about it more (should do that by Friday at the latest).  But I was kind of freaking out a little bit.  I feel like this would be a big setback for Christine developmentally.

I saw Christine's primary physician on Friday (for Nate's well visit) and talked briefly about the swallow study and Tuesday Christine saw a developmental pediatrician at Riley North. Thankfully, we're all in agreement that because Christine has had no history of respiratory infections, breathing trouble, or weight gain issues we are not going to pursue a g-tube.  The developmental ped said there are obviously risks either way but that he saw no reason why we should not continue doing what we are doing, just "proceed with caution".  We'll keep an eye on her growth, thicken her liquids and make sure she continues to eat well .  Its probable that with continued therapy to work on her oral motor skills she will out grow this.  I am relieved to say the least.
We were previously using baby cereal but since the swallow study we have been using "Simply Thick" to thicken Christine's liquids.  We have noticed a decrease in the frequency of her little throat rattle.  And an increase in an effective cough reflex.  We are pleased with these changes but will continue to monitor her feeding situation.  Please continue to pray that this resolves itself and does not become a bigger problem down the road. 

Nate's well visit was uneventful (in a good way) compared to our other doctor's appointments.  He went through the motions of the eye exam (he has 20/25 vision), physical exam, he demonstrated his strength (what boy doesn't like to show off his guns?) and told the doctor all about what he is learning in school, his hobbies, etc.  As suspected, Nate is a pretty healthy, growing boy and there is nothing alarming or concerning going on with him.  Thank God!  I have enough going on with the other two to keep me busy!

Christine saw genetics at Riley on Friday the 25th. We waited 10-15minutes in the waiting room.  Then a nurse took us back and weighed and measured Christine and showed us to an exam room.  Another 10minutes go by.  The intern comes in and asks the usual medical history, family history questions.  She also does a physical exam of Christine.  Then she goes out to "staff" with the geneticist. Another 20-30 minutes go by.  The doctor comes in and asks some of the same questions that the intern already asked (did they even discuss Christine at all before he came in?).  Then he proceeds to ask questions like: "So having two special needs kids, do you feel like its your fault?", "Do you feel guilty?", "Do you blame yourself?", etc... I was fine up until that point and I lost it.  I was teary and sniffly the whole rest of the appointment.  The doctor said that he is assuming since two of our three kids have a similar condition that its probably an autosomal recessive trait and Isaac and I must both be carriers of whatever it is.  If that is in fact true then if we were to ever get pregnant again the baby would have a 1 in 4 chance of having the same thing that is causing Joe and Christine's delays.  The doctor did not recommend doing the same blood tests that Joe has had done because he assumes they would come back with similarly unhelpful results.  So, he and the genetics doc that Joe has seen in the past will be putting their heads together to assess what tests have already been done and seeing if there are any others that they recommend doing on the kids and/or Isaac and I to try to get some answers.

Last but not least, Joe saw a physiatrist on Tues the 29th. We have never been to this doctor before but she came highly recommended from one of our First Steps therapists.  When we first got there we went through the motions of all the usual stuff: weighing, measuring, medical history, etc.  Seeing as this was my fifth doctor's appointment in two weeks I kind of was on a roll.  I was answering questions that the nurse nurse who was doing our intake hadn't even gotten around to asking yet.  She stopped and asked me if I was in the medical field.  HA!  She said I sounded very knowledgeable and comfortable with medical terms that most parents are not familiar with.  I told her I had been around and had had a lot of appointments lately.  She said it is great that I am this involved.  I thought it was part of the deal, I never thought about being any other way.
Anyway, finally the doc came in.  If the comments from the nurse had at all gone to my head the doc brought me right back to reality.  She did a pretty thorough exam, she checked his range of motion, watched him hop around, watched him take a few steps with my help, got to hear him scream when he decided that he was done and wanted to go.  She wants xrays of his hips because one side seems a little longer than the other.  She said she might want another MRI, but not until she has seen the films from the last one (which was almost four years ago).  She wants Joe to have a hearing test.  And when we come back to see her later in the summer she wants to see Joe with all of his equipment, ie walkers, orthotics, etc.

Obviously we have a lot going on.  Joe has two more appointments coming up in June in addition to the "homework" just given to us from these doc's appointments.  And since Joe does not qualify for summer therapy services through the school he is going to be starting OT and Speech at a local pediatric rehabilitation center.  We also just found out that one of Christine's First Steps therapists is changing jobs and we will be having to find a replacement for her.  Our schedule just keeps getting busier and busier.

Please continue to pray for my children's development.  We still sometimes pray for them to grow strong and catch up.  But usually when we pray at bedtime Isaac will pray for "Joe to learn to walk and talk soon" and for "Christine to crawl and learn to talk".  Our God is a big God and He works all things for His glory.

All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Travel Tips

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." -- Lao Tzu

Sometimes any travel with kids feels like a thousand miles! ;-) But in the end all the hard work that goes into traveling with kids is totally worth it (most of the time)! As Summer Break is coming soon I thought it might be helpful to share some tips for traveling with young children.

Last year for spring break we drove from Indiana to New Mexico for spring break. We had four adults and four kids (two under 1yr who were still nursing). It was a ton of work, but also a lot of fun. Here are a few things I would recommend to families planning on traveling - especially when driving long distances:

- pack lots of snacks (saves you from spending a fortune at gas stations)

- pack busy bags (just google busy bag ideas - you'll figure out which ones are best for traveling

- whether you are a gamer family or not bring a portable game device! On the long road you will be thankful for anything that stops the "Are we there yet"s that will be coming far too often!

- make pit stops to potty or sight see when needed - don't be too confined by a driving timeline

- bring portable dvd player (with head phones) - I know some may have an aversion to this but if you are traveling a really long distance you will be so glad that you did it!

- be involved, interact with the kids, play road trip games ie. liscence plate bingo, I Spy, etc

- don't have too high of expectations ;-) Relax and enjoy the ride!

If you are looking for inspiration on where to take your next family vacation check out this site: Budget Travel compiled a list of viewer voted places that every kid should visit and made The Top Places Kids should See before age 15. Todd at FamilyManMinistries takes his family around the country in their RV and he suggests some of their favorite camping spots.

It took me six years to convince my husband to do a road trip together, just the two of us. Then it was another two years after that before we took one as a whole family. And honestly that was only because I had gotten to the point that I was going to go with or without him. He had built up in his mind how hard and potentially awful it would be to be in the car so long with all those kids. But when it came down to it he did not want to miss out on being a part of the special memories that would be made on a trip like this. He decided to dad-up and do it. And we are all glad that he did! It was a great trip! And even though this year we are keeping things a little closer to home, we are looking forward to doing another big trip someday soon!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Srawberry Pickin'

We had the pleasure to spend the morning with some wonderful friends at a local farm this morning.  The kids romped up and down the rows of strawberries picking the ripest (after some coaching) berries and enjoying the beautiful day.

 Do those strawberries look delicious or what?  I can't wait to make shortcake... and smoothies... and jam... and pie... and muffins... and I don't know, something else yummy!

Here is our whole group: four mommies, one "auntie", four girls and nine boys! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hubby's 30th!

Today we had a family gathering to celebrate my hubs' 30th birthday.   He is a wonderful husband and father to us and we are so blessed to share this life with him!

Like most men the way to Isaac's heart is through his stomach.  I planned a special menu for his birthday lunch.  I made:
Root Beer Pulled Pork in the crock pot
Baked Zucchini
Easy Corn (cooked frozen corn for a couple of minutes in my PC Micro Cooker with a Tbsn butter, a tsp bacon fat, salt and pepper - YUM!)
Then the family pitched in a few dishes to complete the meal:
loaded french fries
deviled eggs
guacamole & chips
cut watermelon & cantaloupe
And we finished it all off with a Rocky Road Cake.

With all the family here it was a little rowdy... but it was nice to all be together to celebrate such a wonderful man!  ;-)

For all the times you reached back to hold my hand,
let me have the last bite of cake,
told me I looked beautiful first thing in the morning,
Sat with me through the film I wanted to see
listened patiently to the details of my hectic day,
and for all the happiness that you bring to my world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

American Bible Challenge

I recently got a press release for the Game Show Network's casting call for The American Bible Challenge.  If my schedule would allow it I would love to do something like this.  So, instead I'll live vicariously through those of you who can.  Check it out!

Santa Monica, CA – May 15, 2012 – Calling all Bible fans: GSN (Game Show Network) and the creators of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" are looking for you! GSN is currently traveling across America casting contestants who want to have fun and compete to win money for their favorite charity by appearing on THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE, a new game show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. Casting sessions will take place as follows:

Sacramento: May 18th - 19th
Los Angeles: May 18th- June 3rd
Atlanta: May 25th - 26th
Chicago: June 1st - 3rd
Dallas: June 1st - 3rd

GSN is looking for teams of three people who have competitive spirits, great personal testimonies, a familiarity with pop culture—and, of course, an awesome knowledge of the Bible.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate your faith, have fun with your friends, show off your Bible expertise, and potentially make an extraordinary difference to your favorite charity by winning money on its behalf.  CLICK HERE to get more information about the casting call!
THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE is a studio-based game show in which contestants compete based on their knowledge of the Bible. Questions will be designed to acknowledge and celebrate the Bible’s continuing importance in contemporary life and culture. The contestants will share their compelling back-stories and each team will be playing for a worthy charity.

Jeff Foxworthy, currently seen on GSN in his role as host of ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER?, is one of the most respected and successful comedians in the country. He is the largest-selling comedy recording artist in history, a multiple Grammy® Award nominee and bestselling author of more than 26 books. Widely known for his redneck jokes, his act goes well beyond that to explore the humor in everyday family interactions and human nature, a style that has been compared to Mark Twain’s. Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy recently reunited for “Them Idiots Whirled Tour,” which was filmed as a special for CMT.
THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE is produced by RelativityREAL for GSN, with RelativityREAL’s Tom Forman and Embassy Row’s Michael Davies serving as Executive Producers on the project. Nick Stuart and Maura Dunbar of Odyssey Networks are Consulting Producers. Odyssey Networks is the country’s largest multi-faith coalition dedicated to producing and distributing media that creates understanding among people of different beliefs and perspectives. Jeff Foxworthy also serves as Producer with J.P. Williams and Jennifer Novak as Executive Producers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

God's Provision

The past couple of months have been a blur of concern, decisions, and changes. Isaac's parents made the leap of faith to close the counseling center that has been their family business for the last thirteen years. His mom's health has been a roller coaster that seems to be down more often than up and the decision was made that it would be best for her health to enter retirement.  They have moved to their lakehouse in northern Indiana where Isaac's dad is looking for a job in the area.  

Isaac has worked for the counseling center since the beginning so obviously the decision to close effected us greatly.  Because all the counselors wanted the opportunity to speak to their patients individually without having to worry that they would find out about the closing via the rumor mill we have had to keep the news to ourselves for quite some time.  We knew about it for almost a month before we even told my parents.  That was so hard!

Naturally, when we found out there was a mixture of relief (we knew this would be the best thing for his mom), concern (we wondered how easy would it be for Isaac to find another job), and excitement (this gives Isaac the opportunity to explore a "new" career field that he is interested in). Isaac quietly began having conversations with a few men at church that he is close to about job possibilities and had them help him work in his resume.

A friend that we have known for many years through church has been nudging Isaac to interview at his work for a couple of years now.  But Isaac had been happy working at the counseling center and saw no need to seek employment elsewhere.  Well, now the need had arose. Near the end of April Isaac had his first job interview in nearly fifteen years.  It went well. The following business day a job offer was made. Yay!

It has been a really rough few weeks for Isaac as he has had to work on finishing things up at the office, saying goodbye to coworkers and clients. He genuinely loved doing what he did there, the variety of his position.  He handled the finances, the computer networking, and he did substance abuse counseling.  He had not looked for another job until now because he was happy working where he was at.  So it has been especially hard seeing everything that he has worked so hard for end. Honestly, he hasn't quite been himself in awhile.  Its been wearing on all of us.

But finally the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing.  Today is the first day of his new job.  He will be working as a level two IT support person for a company who makes/sells hardware/software for video surveillance systems.  Isaac has already been able to familiarize himself with the system and is confident that this will be a good fit for his personality and his skills.  It will be different for him to be working in one specialized area since Isaac was so used to being the all around go-to-guy for most things at the office before.

Also, the new hours will be an adjustment.  Isaac has been afforded much flexibility while working for his parents and they accommodated his sleeping disorder by allowing his hours to be dictated by his sleep schedule.  Obviously a big corporation will not make such allowances.  For his week of training (this week) his hours are 8a-5p, so he left the house at 6:45am this morning!  But his usual hours will be 10a-7p.  Those hours were a relief in that it will be better for his sleeping issues, but it will be hard to not have him around for dinner during the week.  We will all have to get used to all these changes.

We are eager to see what the Lord has in store for us in this new phase of life. We know that He has it all worked out for His glory.  We're just along for the ride! 

So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:7

God is good!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Craft Camp!

A couple of us decided to put together a craft camp for our kids this summer.  While we have not done a craft camp before, we have done similar gatherings for Valentine's Day and Easter. Basically its a play date that includes a craft and a couple of games or activities on a certain subject, theme, etc. We may still have some kinks to iron out but we feel like we have a pretty good handle of how things will go.  I will post updates along the way to show you how it goes!  ;-)

We kept it to just families a small number of families to avoid too much chaos. Also we tried to stick with families who have similar age kids to keep things simple and not have to worry about too many different skill levels or interests. This is the invitation I sent out to a few families that we thought would be interested in joining in the fun:

We will be meeting from 10am - 1pm on Monday mornings through June and July ( June 11th & 25th and July 9th & 23rd).  We will rotate homes and responsibilities. Each time we meet we will plan on doing a craft and activity/games together, then share lunch.

June 11th - Lehi will be hosting - theme 
Summer/Beach  - we will be painting shirts for the kids (and adults if you want!) so you will need to bring a blank t-shirt for each kid (does not need to be new, just clean).

June 25th - Beth will host (teamed with Jen) - theme 

July 9th - Wani will host - theme
Fairytale/Medieval/Dress Up (Nate's birthday is on the 8th so I will have cupcakes  to share)

July 25th - Sallie will host (teamed with Mia) - theme Fair(?)

Whoever is hosting will be primarily in charge of the day's activities and crafts (though still might share that responsibility with someone else if needed).  The other moms would then be responsible for bringing the food for everyone to share for lunch. We will assign different foods each week to help keep things running smoothly.

** Here are some websites that we used as inspiration when getting ideas for this "craft camp".  Feel free to use them or other online resources when planning your share of the camp.

DIY Summer
Camp from Parenting -

Mommy & Me Book Club -

Guest post on Brown Paper Packages about DIY Summer
Camp -

Family Fun Summer
Camp Crafts -

Skip to My Lou
Craft Camp -

I am eager to get things started! We enjoy getting together with our friends and of course we love doing craft things too!  Its going to be a fun summer! Feel free to send me any links or suggestions you may have to help our craft camp go smoothly!  Thanks!

The Southern Institute

Fridays Unfolded

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Freezer Cooking

I have lofty goals of someday being a super couponer who does freezer meals and has it all together.  But for now I am working on baby steps here.  The couponing thing is more of a casual thing for me right now.  So, I decided to work on the freezer cooking area for awhile and see if I can make some headway there.
As with any thing you have to find what works for you and your life and schedule, etc.  Thankfully there are tons of great resources out there to help you get started.

Money Saving Mom has some great tips and printables on how to do Freezer Cooking
The Kitchen Witch Freezer Cooking (also my photo source)
Lots of great ideas, tips and recipes at Once a Month Mom 
I think this one was one of the pioneers of freezer cooking: 30-Day Gourmet

If you like crock pot meals try this list of recipes from KoJoDesigns
Joelen has a great list of freezer friendly meals on What's Cookin' Chicago

What I have been doing is making large batches of easily frozen items from time to time.  So, as of yet, I have not done any large scale freezer cooking days where I stockpile a whole month's worth of meals or anything like that.  Every couple of days I make extra of something and pop the excess in the freezer.  I've done taco meat and shredded chicken for use in various dishes as well as a few complete mini meals.  Here are a few recipes that I have used lately:

mini quiches (bacon, egg and cheese biscuit muffins)
pizza muffins
pancakes (I use the recipe in my mom's old Betty Crocker cook book - but modify it some, sometimes we'll have apple cinnamon, choc chip, banana, etc)
taco cups
french toast (pretty basic, but when we reheat them we use the toaster!)

I'm enjoying seeing my little freezer stockpile grow.  It makes me feel like I've got a good amount of backup for those days when we're super busy and I done have time to fix a whole meal.  Maybe someday I'll brave the big freezer cooking day... but for now I feel good about taking my baby steps!  ;-)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Look whooo's TWO!!

Update: Christine has been getting increasingly active lately. She recently learned how to transition from her belly to sitting. She is doing it all the time! And so proud of herself too! Though it sometimes put a damper on naptime because she'll sit up and want to play instead of falling asleep right away! But its a good problem to have!  All of her therapists are excited about the progress that she has been making.  And of course, so are we!
Another big change is that Christine is done nursing.  It really was a gradual process, but almost accidental.  I was planning on nursing until she was two and I made it within two weeks!  We were down to only bedtime feedings for the past few months and then recently it was getting to be every other night.  Then a couple of weeks ago we had a couple nights where she was trying to bite me and I stopped and tried again the next day only to have her bite again.  Then the next night she wasn't interested at all.  It is a little bittersweet since Christine is probably my last baby.  But we had a good run and I am happy that I was able to nurse her for 23mos and 2weeks.  ;-)  

Christine's cute little owl outfit is a mommy-made creation!  I have had the tank top and leggings for awhile (I got them on clearance at Children's Place).  Then just a few weeks ago I found the coordinating owl fabric at Walmart and added the skirt to the top and made the matching hair clip.  The cute little owl buttons on the top and hair clip I found at JoAnn Fabrics.
What is a party without a little drama?  Joe got upset just as people started arriving and Christine is a sympathetic crier.  She was so sad.  But once things got going both she and Joe had a great time!

I wanted to do a little craft with the kids but I did not want to have a whole lot of prep-work or anything.  I was inspired by these toilet paper tube owls.

So I gave the kids some tp rolls and markers and let them go crazy!  Ours aren't quite as fancy as the inspiration ones but they're cute!
We also did a played "Pin the Owl in the Tree" with the kiddos.  Nothing fancy but they had a good time!  Some of the owls looked like they were going to take a nose dive!  ;-)

A friend from church loaned me some owl party decorations that she had printed out for her daughter's birthday party a couple of months ago.  They were awesome!  You can by the printable PDF files on Etsy HERE.

I pinned this Owl Cupcake Cake on Family Fun's website a couple of years ago and have been dying to use it!  

I try to give myself a little slack and not expect my creations to look exactly like the inspirations... especially since I improvise a lot!  ;-)  All in all, I was pretty happy with my owl cupcake "sculpture".

We all enjoyed the cupcakes. But none as much as Christine.  She devoured it!  I turned away for a second and she had nearly the whole thing in her mouth, wrapper and all!  And she decided that I needed to be smeared with icing just like her.  It was so cute!
As usual the birthday girl was blessed with wonderful gifts from our families. Its funny how Christine gets clothes as a gift way more than the boys ever did!  ;-)  I guess its because girls are so much more fun to buy clothes for... they're so darn cute!!

Thanks again to all our family for being such a wonderful source of love and support to us!  
We love you!

"The love of a family is Life's greatest blessing."

The Southern Institute

Sew Chatty

C.R.A.F.T.'s Making Monday Marvelous

I'll also be linking up to a few of these lovely blogs.