Thursday, November 29, 2012

A kick in the butt

I would say the past 2 months have been some of the hardest, most stressful in my entire life.  Micah was diagnosed with epilepsy a year and a half ago but the past two months his seizure activity picked up to such a remarkable level that he had to be rushed to the emergency in the middle of the night and then transferred to another hospital where they kept him for 4 days under close observation. That is the short version.

These pictures I took yesterday.  Micah had a really good day and was actually in a good mood, had boyish energy levels again, and was agreeable to some degree.  With the medication doses that he is on now, we haven't seen him like that in a week. I really don't want to talk about all my woes in this blog entry.  I've done enough of that lately.  Sometimes I depress myself.  You know, there is a place for venting, getting it all out, and admitting your feelings when you are overwhelmed and then there is a time when you just have to ask God to pull you out of the gutter and give you a new perspective!

Today was that day for me.  I was at one of Micah's many doctor appointments and the neurologist asked me if there was anything new that they should know about.  I began complaining about the meds not working all the way and some of the side effects we are seeing.

He encouraged me by giving me hope that they are trying to help him, it just takes time.  He asked another question and I went right back into that gutter again complaining once more about this crazy diet I have him on but am seeing no results.

He looked at me and said some people see the glass half empty and some half full.  Then he proceeded to say that if I were in a hospital waiting room, I'd be thankful that my child doesn't have half the problems as some others do.  Smack!  He shut me up real quick.  I didn't know whether to be offended or encouraged.  

After having hours to think about his words, I realize he is right.  I did need that smack up side the head!  I consider myself a pretty positive person most of the time but lately I'm a real downer.  So "thanks Dr. Ray" for speaking the truth and giving me something to chew on.

I'm thankful for these two precious little boys.  I'm thankful that Micah is at home and doesn't have to live at the hospital away from his siblings.  I'm even thankful that we have medication that controls, to some degree, his seizures.  May he grow to be strong, healthy and smart! I'm thankful he can walk, talk and give me hugs.  As I sit here writing this I'm realizing that I've been mourning the childhood that he Micah has been missing out on but really. . . he won't remember this time a few years from now!  It's ok.  God will give grace and is giving it daily to us.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Project Girl

I guess I'm a project girl.  Funny how you can reach 45 years old and still realize new stuff about yourself that you never realized before.  My Mom recently commented at how amazed she is that I can get so many projects done.  It made me think. . .

I do love a good project.  Maybe because when it's completed you feel accomplished.  Or maybe because it gives your day purpose.  It could be that I'm addicted to change.  I've always loved to change the furniture around and do it regularly.  It's like a breath of fresh air.  Change can make something dull and ordinary. . . well, new and different!  It's not always better, but it's different and feels better for the time being.

So I thought I'd blog about a few of my projects.

 We had some much needed foundation work done on the house.  I was out of town when they put in 15 piers to jack up our sinking house.  Rich and the kids had to take down pictures and move furniture for the "jack hammer guys" who were working inside and outside our house.  So when I came home, everything was in disarray not to mention dust was everywhere!  Instead of cleaning and putting it all back together the way it was, we decided to simplify the looks of our home and either get rid of stuff or pack it away in the shed.  We do plan to move in the semi-near future so why not make our home "show ready" now?  You know how when you show a house the experts advise you to clear off your counters and put away pictures and nick-knacks to make it appear clean and simple?  And less stuff is just easier all the way around.  So that's been this weeks project. Here are a few pictures.

This area used to be a lot more cluttered with a spice rack, shelf with hanging mugs and also where we kept all our vitamins.  I like it better now.
This bookshelf was stuffed end to end with books.  I gave some away and packed other up for later when my little boys are older so now I have some free space.

The other project we've all been working on is our front yard.  We are finally keeping up with it.  In the Spring, the kids decided to pull out some unwanted juniper bushes in the second tier which left us with some pretty bare spots.  I picked out a few things to plant there, not wanting anything like flowers that would be high maintenance in the area of watering. Well I'm shocked to report that my sweet potato vines cannot be stopped! The boys are keeping up with the mowing and edging and Rich helps us with the trimming.  I'm trying to be faithful to weed the first tier sections every month so that it will no longer get out of control.

This is the before picture of our house in the Spring when we cleaned things up and planted a few things.

This is now.  Can you see the light colored green vine?

This is another view of the potato vine as it creeps up our stairs.

I also planted this plant with the little purple flowers.  It's called Mexican Heather.  I'm proud to say it is thriving and doing well in full sun with the sprinklers hitting it only twice a week!

Here's a little boy that I planted and he is growing well in the sunshine as well.  He does seem to need a bit more nurturing, though, than the rest!

This you could call an ongoing project.  Cutting my children's hair has always been fun for me but I haven't always done the best job.  I'm learning as the years go by.  My brother was a hair dresser for about 10 years and teaches me a bit here and there when he comes to visit.  He even gave me some nice scissors and helped me pick out some thinning shears as well.  I gave all 4 boys haircuts this weekend.

For years Anthony wanted his hair buzzed like his Dad's.  All of a sudden, he doesn't seem to care and is letting me leave some hair on his head that he actually has to fix if he's leaving the house.

Well, that's about it for now. No more projects on the horizon that I can think of.  I'll take a break for now, until something else hits me that needs attention.  This week we will be working on getting all the laundry done so that we can meet some family for a short vacation.  Who knows, maybe blogging about our time will be the next project I attempt.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Random Happenings at our Home

Levi is now walking everywhere!  He is so cute at this age (13 months) as he walks slowwwwlyyyy all through the house.  He is very purposeful when he walks. . . one foot at a time, taking special care not to wobble too much lest he fall down on his big, fat, cloth diapered bum.  If you catch his eye as he concentrates on walking, he will flash you a very proud smile.  Too bad I don't have a picture of these moments!  This one will have to do.

Micah is learning good character by earning stickers for his "Well Done!" Chart.  When he earns 20 stickers he gets a treat of some sort.  I've never done this with my children because I don't believe in bribing for good behavior but then again Micah is not like my other children!  You can call it bribing if you want but all I know is there is more peace in our home because of the positive encouragement.  He really digs his sticker chart and for the first 24 hours he didn't get a spanking!  That's success in my book.  Now that it's been a week the newness has worn off but it's still working by reinforcing good behavior.  After all, doesn't God bless us when we obey?  So far in a week he has earned a tasty fruit bar he wanted from the store, a trip to ride his bike and feed the ducks, and a $3 ball and bat set.  Little things make him really happy.  He is learning to say "yes Mom" without arguing and is obeying quickly instead of not at all.  And I'm keeping my sanity! Way to go, Micah!

One other random happening is that I'm on a diet.  I know, I know, dieting doesn't work but I beg to differ.  When you decide to eat better to loose weight and feel better, it's a diet.  I'm not sure why people are afraid to say it.  It's not a fad diet like eating grapefruits for a week.  It's just a sensible way to eat and I'm praying that in the process, I can drop 15 pounds!  After seeing myself in some pictures recently, I decided it's time!  So I'm cutting way back on the carbs, no refined sugar for at least the first 2 weeks and choosing to eat more protein and veggies, fruits and nuts for snacks.  And no more snacking after dinner.  Anyone want to join me for moral support?

I'll spare you the picture of me and my flab but there are pictures of my new haircut all over my FB page if you want to see that.  

Gotta go now, and get back to real life.  Just wanted to check in and let you in a few "happenings around here."


Thursday, July 26, 2012

What is the Normal Life?

I've been wrestling with this question lately and finally feel like I've had an "Ah Ha!" moment.  The truth being, I've felt the Lord explaining it to me over the past few weeks.  What is the normal life?  I've been wanting one, not realizing I had it all along.

I thought the normal life was one of ease.  When I look around I see people vacationing, buying bigger homes, and planning parties.  None of these things are bad necessarily depending on what you are seeking but I was desiring an easier life.  Let's face it, managing a home, schooling 4 children, and disciplining two toddlers day in and day out, is hard work. I was tired and we went on vacation.  This gave me the bug to stay on vacation!  I came home and decided I needed a simpler life.  I gave up a few tasks that were burdening me and decided I wanted to be normal.  My 3 year old was acting out (constantly) and I began to seek an easier life.  Maybe if I gave him everything he wanted instead of disciplining him, we would see some peace in our home.  No way!  That's not the ticket and my conscience told me so.  Maybe if I lock myself in my room, no one will bother me!  NOT!  Maybe if I leave the older kids in charge, I could just go shopping all day.  Isn't that what NORMAL people do?

Finally one morning, God gave me a chance to come to Him about it (the baby slept in).  As I began to spill my burden, He showed me, I'm seeking an easier life.  Ok, yes Lord, I do want an easier life! A normal life is not what I'm seeking but an easier life.  One of relaxation and ease. Hummm, something to ponder.

 That night after a day of craziness and chaos at home, Rich stayed home with the two little ones and let me go to prayer night alone.  The speaker began sharing about being tired and wanting the train to stop so he could get off.  Wanting to live a normal life like everyone else and just retire!  My ears perked up, because through his words I was seeing myself. Wasn't I just talking to God about this this morning?   The Christian life is never easy, he said.  The straight and narrow path always involves sacrifice. Choosing the right way (when there is a choice) is never easy.  There is usually effort involved and this means giving up your own desires for someone else, knowing God will bless it in the end.

I had the normal life all along.  A cluttered house, children who fight, and endless errands, laundry, and selfish moments. . . but with Jesus, I can do all things who strengthens me!  The good news is that I'm on the right road and He is always ready to take my burdens and carry them for me. 

 I'm so grateful to be a part of a community that helps me to re-focus. 

I'm thankful for the Spirit that changes us day by day into a more selfless people.

I'm thankful for a God who knows my every need and provides for me the emotional lift I need.

I'm thankful for so much!


P.S. The following are some pictures from Levi's first Birthday

Don't you just love recycled toys?  This one was in the shed from when Micah was little and we brought it out on Levi's Birthday and he loves it.  It's great because both boys can sit at it together.

We decided to have all of Levi's favorite food at his party.  So we were all eating finger foods until the pizza came!

Anthony decided that babies get food on their faces when they eat so he should too.
Pretty comical!

Notice the pizza sauce on Julia's nose.

This is Hannah Swan but we call her Swannie.  She is a wonderful friend from the School of Discipleship Program at Gospel for Asia.

Rebecca is living with us for the month of July.  She has been a true blessing to have around.  Always ready to help.  She is a college intern who is volunteering at Gospel for Asia.

Levi isn't quite sure what to do with this candle but he sure was fascinated by it.  He really loved it when we all sang to him.

Anna is another School of Discipleship student and I love her because she loves to spend time with Micah. She has the gift of encouragement which I love as well!

Aldo is also a School of Discipleship student and he is just awesome.  He loves kids too and is going to be a great father someday!

On the verge of walking!  Oh no, then what will I do?

Monday, May 14, 2012

After 9 Years, finally. . .

So, after 9 years of wanting to do this, I finally pulled it off.  I had a block party! It's amazing how distracted you get with the business of life and never do things you intend to do.  I'm still shocked that it's been 9 years in Texas, in this house, and I just now put a block party on my calender and set the date in stone by handing out invitations.  So let me tell you about it. . .

We've had several new neighbors move into the neighborhood.  When we lived in Colorado, and had just moved into our first home, our neighbors behind us had an ice cream social just so that all the neighborhood could meet us.  We were so blessed by that and it spurred great relationships with many of them for the next 6 years.  In fact, we still visit them when we return to Colorado for fun!

So, I've been telling the kids for years that we should host a party like that to meet our neighbors here in Texas.  What's the worst that could happen?  Maybe only 1 neighbor would show?  Well, then you hang out with one neighbor eating ice cream!  Sounds fun to me.

Our neighborhood is extremely dead.  Everyone has their driveways in the back of their houses and so we never run into anyone.  We don't see many people mowing their lawns because so many of them have yard services.  It's hot 8 months out of the year so no one hangs out in the street playing.  We are just about the only house with kids.

Last month, we were discussing all this around the dinner table and we decided to set a date and make up some flyers.  The kids made the flyers for all 22 houses on our street, I bought ice cream and told my neighbor our plan.  She loved it and committed to coming, bringing an ice cream scooper and some sprinkles.  About 4 days before the party, we knocked on doors and personally handed out the flyers.  We only talked with maybe 7 of the 22 houses but they were all very positive and the children walked away saying, "We have some really nice neighbors"! My thoughts exactly and all it takes is a little friendliness to find that out.

Well, the night came and we wondered if anyone would come.  Before we had even finished our dinner and gotten out there with our own ice cream, a man who lives all the way at the end of our court came walking onto our lawn with his ice chest full of popsicles and lawn chair!  We all hustled outside, as the neighbors flooded out of their caves with waffle cones and ice cream to share!  We talked and visited well after dark and there was even talk of having another block party this month!  We found out that one man has lived here for 24 years!  Another neighbor discovered that she went to high school with another neighbor and they live 5 houses down from each other and never knew it!  Success is so sweet. . .

What's come of it now that we have returned to our caves?  Well, my next door neighbor called me and asked if she could use my number as her emergency contact for a babysitter.  Both Olivia and Anthony have mowing and watering jobs for the summer.  Olivia has babysat for our new neighbor who is a first time mom.  This is all more than I was hoping for.

I'm so glad I finally listened to that voice that persistently kept saying every year for 9 years, "Let's have a block party!"


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saving money continued

So I thought I'd write an update to last months post.  How did I do with estimating what we needed to live off of for a month? Well. . . pretty good with the exception of a few things.  The last week we ran out of butter.  Rich was a little miffed and suggested I go pick up some but I reminded him that buying what we run out of defeats the purpose.  So we went a week without butter.  No problem, we just used oil when cooking and put coconut oil on our toast.  Yum!  I bought too much of other things so when it was time to shop for this month, I just didn't need to buy those things.  2 bottles of Olive oil is too much for us.

This month when I went shopping and then came home to put everything away, I realized I bought some things I thought we were out of but weren't.  Like paper plates and plastic wrap.  That was a bummer because I spent money I didn't need to.  Could I have taken them back?  Sure, but I hate doing that.  Live and Learn.  I need to remember where I've put things!

I'm really digging this once a month shopping thing.  It makes my life easier, because I'm not running to the store all the time.  I know what we need to make it through the month and. . . what we really don't need.  It also makes me aware of how much things cost so that I can recognize a deal when I see one.

So on the "saving money" note, I wanted to share a story with you.

 We've needed a highchair now for about 2 months.  I had been putting Levi in the swing and sitting myself down on the kitchen floor to feed him.  That worked for awhile but was a killer on my back and knees!  Over time he began to not really like his swing anymore since he can sit up and his swing is in a somewhat reclining position so I began shopping for a good deal on a high chair.  Since we really don't think we will have anymore children, I didn't want to pay much.  I do have a flimsy highchair with no padding that straps to a regular chair like a booster seat but the problem with it is we have no extra kitchen chairs in our house anymore!  We'll use it for camping.

So the search began.  I went to 2 consignment stores and 2 thrift stores.  No high chairs except at one store but it was pink and brown polk-a-dotted.  I looked at new ones on Amazon and the cheapest one was $55.  I did check on Craigslist but there was nothing that day that I looked.  One night while on a date with my hubby, we decided to go to Babies R Us to price them.  I had a gift card that would give us a small discount.  Oh my, I was shocked to see that the cheapest one there was $80!

So one Saturday as I was on my way to buy some fresh produce, I saw a sign for a garage sale.  I quickly make a decision to check it out just in case there happened to be a high chair for sale.  Sure enough, there was!  Really?  Now I really wanted one on wheels so that I could well . . . wheel it around the kitchen!  It did have wheels!  The only problem with it was it was filthy!  I mean disgustingly gross filthy.  But guess what she was asking for this food caked, who know what splattered all over, filthy high chair on wheels?  Five Bucks.  She actually said, " I'm just trying to get my stuff out of my garage.  All you'll need is a power hose and some bleach to clean this up.  I'll give it to you for $5."

Probably most people would have thought, "No way,  that's just gross!"  But I thought, "I'm not too good for this.  A little work and I'll have this looking brand new and if not, I'll only be out $5!"  So I took it home and hosed it down with my powered hose and some real soapy soap.

And here we are!  Its a Chicco brand which online new cost over $100!  It reclines, folds up for storage, adjusts to fit right up to your table, and has safety locks on the wheels if you don't want it to roll. Moral of the story? Sometimes it pays to not be snooty. Or, if you look close enough there might be a gem in that garbage heap that just needs a little polishing!

And. . . the best part about it is that he likes it!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Attempting to cut the grocery bill!

Ok, it's just crazy trying to feed a family of 8!  Lately I've been feeling like I'm always at the grocery store buying food.  Every 3rd day it seems, I'm off to pick up something I need, or forgot the last time I was there. This was getting me down since it takes gas to get there and money to buy the food.  I mean it's not like we have money we can just keep dishing out!

Now, I feel like I'm pretty thrifty.  I mean I make our meals from scratch!  It's not like I buy a bunch of convenient food. We hardly ever eat out.  We try and eat healthy so that does cost more, but you'd think it would all even out.  I never buy steak and having a chicken breast is a rare treat at our house.  I buy ground beef and whole chickens and stretch the meat in soups and casseroles.  We eat lots of fruit for snacks instead of chips or crackers and we actually limit our kids helpings at meals.  I know that might sound mean, but our kids have always been big eaters and there is no need to gorge at meals.  We have to teach them to have self control.

I used to keep a running tab of how much I spent on food, always writing down each receipt when I got home and then totaling it up at the end of the month. I got out of the habit of doing that and it didn't seem to help me buy less.  I just was shocked at the end of the month and felt guilty that I wasn't a better steward of our grocery money.

So as I was feeling down the other day that I'm at the store way too much, I picked up a magazine and saw an article titled The Cost of Having Children.   Out of the 10 things listed to do, I do 8 of them already!  Use cloth diapers. . . yes, do that already.  Make your own laundry soap. . . .yep, got that one figured out.  Don't eat out but make your own meals. . . check, do that too.  Pay cash for your vehicles. . . we've always done that.  Use cloth napkins. . . do that one too.  The only thing I don't do is eat a lot of pork because it's cheaper (it's also not so good for you, so not willing to try that one) and. . . shop for the whole month at one time.

Hummm. . . . I had to think about that one.  The writer of the article said it helps save you money because it keeps you out of the stores, so you aren't buying things that aren't necessary.  Plus it forces you to use up what's in your frig and cupboards before shopping again for the next month.  So I tried it.

I already had a list of all the things I want to keep on hand from food, to paper products to cat food.  I took out my list and tried as best I could to estimate how much I'd need for the month.  Olive oil . . . maybe 2 bottles since I make my own salad dressing.  You get the idea.

 The next thing we had to figure out was where to put everything.  We don't have a garage since it's been converted into a family room.  Plus with the Texas heat, I didn't think that was a very good option anyway.  I think it was actually Anthony who looked up as we were discussing this over dinner one night and said, "Mom!  We have tons of space all along the top of our kitchen cupboards!" He's a genius!  Ok, it doesn't look all that great but so far I'm only using that ledge above the refrigerator so it just looks like I've got a bunch of food on top of my refrigerator which is not within sight when you walk into our house anyway.

The other thing I did was utilize our second refrigerator.  I realized I would need more freezer space so I cleaned out my freezer and put much of that stuff like nuts, flours, and bread in my second refrigerator instead.  Which opened the freezer up a lot for frozen fruit, meat, and frozen veggies.

I love this kind of stuff.  I mean this is a real challenge.  So after totaling up last months receipts, I decided to shoot for a lower goal of course.  I took my calculator to Costco and added everything up as I went.  Olivia helped me by pushing a second cart and I was thrilled to see that I spent $100 less than I expected to!

This all excludes fresh fruit and vegetables because you can't really buy those things for a whole month.  So I set aside in my mind $50 a week for that stuff, not really knowing how much it costs us but I know we eat a lot of it.  I'm proud to say, that today I went to Sprouts and only spent $28!  I couldn't believe that I walked out of there with 4 bags of fresh produce for under $30.

I bought 4 heads of lettuce
20 apples
9 avocados
4 white onions
2 red onions
2 bunches of bananas
1 stalk of celery
3 red peppers
6 oranges
14 tomatoes
4 sweet potatoes
10 red potatoes

We'll see how we do the rest of the month but after a week into this, I can say, it's making my life easier and I think we'll save some money!  We are pretty stocked up on food and I don't feel the urgency to run to the store.

Praise God he gives us help before we even ask for it!

Hope you were able to get some ideas from reading this.  I don't usually post about such practical things but I was encouraged to do so.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Always Learning

I haven't posted anything since October!  I've thought about it several times but it's never a very good time for me to just sit down and write anymore.  I can't even keep in touch with friends by phone anymore because of the time it takes to sit down and talk.  There is always something just a tad bit more urgent!  

 Like this little guy!  Levi is 6 months old now and just as
 cute as a bug in a rug.  I don't personally think bugs on rugs are very cute but that expression just seems to communicate something special!

I titled this entry "Always Learning" because I feel like I am doing just that.  Mostly in regards to health.

With Levi, I've recently learned how to make my own formula.  It became obvious a few months ago that I was not producing enough breast milk for him especially in the late afternoon.  After trying two different organic formulas, it became apparent that they were constipating him.  I tried adding a few natural things to his formula to help him go but wasn't real comfortable with that.  How much should I give him and I knew it worked for adults but what about babies? Anyway, checking out all the ingredients in the conventional formula I realized that my little guy was getting corn syrup in his formula and soy in some way shape or form.  These were top notch Organic formulas that cost a lot of money!

So, I researched making my own.  I had a recipe but had always been intimidated by the list of 12 ingredients!  Once I got over that and really checked it out, I realized I had already in my cupboard 7 of the items necessary!  And what made it easier was that the other 5 could be found at the same website and ordered and shipped to my door!  

So now,  I've done it for 3 weeks and it's easy.  I've even got the recipe memorized.  No more constipation and I know exactly what is going into his mouth.  

This is amazing to me!  Why don't we trust ourselves? Why feel inferior to the big guys who produce food for us and our children?  I mean the companies who make formula aren't certified doctors or nutritionists are they?  Even if they are. . . do they know more about health than we do? Have you looked at the items they call food at the grocery stores?  I don't think they have our best interests in mind.

Everything is at the tip of our fingers these days with the web being so accessible.  If you don't know, look it up and if it conflicts with other sources, then compare and use common sense to make wise choices of who to believe.

As many of you know, Micah was diagnosed with epilepsy right before Levi was born about 7 months ago.  We had all the tests run that we had with Olivia when she was little.  Turns out he has the same exact type of epilepsy as Olivia did.  Does epilepsy run in our family?  Nope.  Not one relative on either side had epilepsy or seizures of any kind. As I research this, I'm finding that food allergies can cause seizures.  Olivia is sensitive to about 60 things.  Is it coincidence that she had epilepsy as a child?  It's really complicated and too much to explain here.  I'm not saying that allergies are causing his seizures directly but in a round about way.  If you want specifics, e-mail me and I'll direct you to the website I found.

Of course, the neurologist wants to medicate him.  And it may be that in the end we decide to, but not before researching our options.  The medication that she recommends is Keppra but when we began checking out this medicine we found that the side effect is aggressiveness.  In my opinion, there is enough of this in Micah already that needs addressing because he is a normal 3 year old.  Why confuse this issue with some outside medication if we don't have to?

With Olivia we felt we didn't have options.  We trusted the professionals and didn't choose to learn or be informed ourselves.  We didn't actively take our children's healthcare into our own hands.  We didn't really know any better. 16 years later, we are different people.  We have learned enough about our health to know that sometimes the doctors don't know best.

So what are we going to do?  Right now we are going to try a diet and have a screening done on him to check for food sensitivities, gut issues, and brain pathogens.  I've been on the computer all week checking out alternative cures for Epilepsy and have found quite a bit, actually.  I had no idea there were other options to choose from!  No one told us.

And maybe, they won't help him in the end but we'll be able to say we tried everything and did our best as his parents to make a wise choice for his health care.  In the meantime, I'm learning a whole lot!