Friday, February 01, 2013

Boredom Busters--homemade clay

Here in this part of Texas, we experienced approximately 3.4 days of winter this year, and I must say we weathered them quite well. Aside from having massive hot cocoa overdoses, this was partly due to having requests to pull out the Homemade Clay recipe. It's really not that messy (for all you OCD moms), and you probably have all the ingredients on hand. If you ARE a bit perfectionistic, you may not care for my ingredient amounts...they take a bit of "tweaking", but mostly because clay seems to vary in consistency from one batch to the next.

Homemade Clay

1 cup salt
1/2 cup water (to start will add approx. 1/2 cup more later)
2 T. oil (baby oil is great for the smell, but cooking oil works just fine)
2 cups flour

Mix well. Add more water bit by bit, until a soft, but not runny, dough forms. It will stick to your hands a little, but should be pliable. Divide, and add drops of food coloring. Mix until you arrive at "dinosaur green", or penguin foot yellow", etc. (You may also want to leave part of the batch off-white.)

Let your children sculpt to their heart's content. Have a baking sheet ready for them to put their finished works of art on. Bake at 250 degrees until clay formations are hard. This usually takes about 45 min. or more, depending on how thick/big the creations are.

Your more serious artist may surprise you with their talent, and if all else fails, you will end up with clay snakes and worms. Lots of snakes and worms.

(This is a shot of my children catching snowflakes on their tongues. What's that, you say? You can't see any snowflakes? Well, trust me, they were there. I think we counted 17.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Growing Pains

Our 3-year-old commonly wakes up in the middle of the night crying because of growing pains. I rub his little legs, give him Ibuprofen, tell him he's getting taller, and cover him back up. These pains have been an issue with all our children around this age, and if you think back to what it was like to have your bones elongating, it's no wonder the pain brings about tears in little people.

Thankfully, the pain us not constant, and it's just gradual enough to where your child doesn't usually look taller in the morning. From one month to the next, their pants are shorter, though, so the evidence is certainly there. Growth took place. Tears and pain were endured, but it was not in vain.

As Christians, we should be looking out for growing pains all our lives. Perhaps not the physical kind, but the emotional and spiritual variety. When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, we will not remain stagnant and unchanged. We may not see our growth from one day to the next, but often we will feel the stretch, the pain, the discomfort or unsettledness. This may even be accompanied by tears and sleepless nights.

Hopefully, over the years, those who know us will be able to see the evidence of growth in our lives. We may be more patient, more gentle, more joyful. Perhaps where we were once quick to pass judgement, we are able to reach out in love. Maybe what once would've ruffled our feathers or had us completely stressed out will now be seen as an opportunity to exercise faithfulness.

Growth, at least spiritual growth, doesn't just happen because years pass by. You may know people who are mature in years, but have no more spiritual maturity or evidence of the fruit of the Spirit than they did decades before. Being older certainly doesn't automatically make you wiser or more godly.

So how do we grow? Through our trials. The words of the workout instructor on a DVD I recently purchased are true: "Don't be afraid of the pain. Getting through the discomfort is what makes your body react and respond, and begin to change."

There's not going to be much growth if we aren't willing to endure the growing pains. But take heart, my friend, for "blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Elizabeth's 6th birthday--Tea Party Style

"Mommy, how many more days until my boathday NOW?" I've heard that question countless times over the last month. This child started counting down to her birthday way earlier than she should've, which made the wait almost interminable for her. We discussed her plans, her gift requests, her updated gift requests, her altered gift requests, her food requests, and her gift requests again. She hyperventilated a little each time she had thoughts of what it would be like to be living her birthday, and her blue eyes just sparkled at the idea of it all.

Talk about pressure for a mom. We like to keep things fairly simple, although we do like to make a big deal out of our kids' birthdays. (I think some of that comes from feeling that in a big-ish family, it's a good chance to focus on just one child at a time, and give them extra love and attention.) Thankfully, without much convincing from us, our kids have chosen family celebrations over big birthday parties with lots of guests involved. I prefer that, because then I get to actually spend my time with my birthday child, rather than handling the details involved with hosting a big party. (I tend to get a little stressed with those sorts of things. I already know my children's weddings are going to send me over the edge.)

So I hope today wasn't a let-down for Elizabeth. I really don't know if anything could've lived up to the expectations I'm guessing she had, but she's a sweet little spirit, and she seemed happy. I think just the fact that her sister made her bed for her this morning was enough to make her day!

Elizabeth is our quietest child, and frankly, she's just stinkin' lovable and easy to be around. She constantly professes her love and shows affection, she is easily pleased, and she is generally very agreeable. She loves her stuffed animals (particularly "Pips" the hamster---short for "Pipsqueak"), doing arts and crafts, being read to, and the color yellow. She is not afraid of much, and there have been times her older siblings have called on her to handle something they're not brave enough to deal with (like squishing a bug). She is compassionate, and has always been very conscientious for her age. She was born almost 2 weeks late, and hasn't sped up since. She is also the one who says that if she has to grow up and get married, she promises she will either live with us, or next door to us. I'd love for that to happen.

Today was all about her. Emma Catherine did her chores for her, she opened presents, we had her requested breakfast (orange danish rolls and eggs), and then we finished preparing for her tea party. I say "finished preparing", because the majority of yesterday was spent getting things ready for her tea party, as well. (By the way, if any of your children ever decide that penguin cake pops would be a great idea, I urge you to convince them otherwise, unless you happen to have a week to spare.)

The tea party was fun, although the male-folk crashed it a bit by discussing guns at the table. Apparently they weren't very well-versed in tea party etiquette. Grandmother and Grandfather spent most of the day with us, which included watching a movie together and having dinner at Whataburger.

By the end of the day, we were all so tired and sugared-up that we didn't even bother with cake and ice cream! (Something to look forward to tomorrow.) But you can't have a birthday without blowing out candles, so we made do.

Lord, thank you for our sweet middle child. Thank you for the joy she adds to our lives, and the calm presence she offers. Thank you for her sweet character, her thoughtfulness toward others, and her love for her siblings and parents. Father, please continue to draw her heart toward You, and may she grow to be a faithful woman of God, a loving wife, and a devoted mother.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Westley is 2!

Our silly, chubby, clown of a baby turned two today, and it was a very sweet day. The weather was almost exactly like the day we brought him home from the hospital---cold, cloudy, and wet. (Except on the way home from the hospital, we were crazy enough to stop by Costco for lunch and some shopping. "You know you're a veteran parent when...")

Westley is our resident goofball, doing crazy things both for our entertainment, and even when he doesn't realize anyone is watching him. Odd little shuffle-walks, squinched-up faces, and impromptu wiggling of his fingers in the air like he's tickling someone are some of his tricks. He also has a fearsome fencing stance, and a mighty roar, just to keep up his reputation as a tough guy.

He still nurses, and we call him the "all-terrain nurser", because he will drink while laying down, sitting down, standing up, or upside down. Really. (Side note: between the last two babies, I've nursed every day for more than 3 1/2 years now. That's got to be some sort of record, right?)

He is hitting that 2-year-old verbal explosion, acquiring new words every day. He's able to put two words together, such as "", or "eat...cake". He got really good at that second one tonight as he caught sight of all that sugar. His favorite article of clothing is shoes, which he pronounces "yooz", and he scrambles to put his yooz on any time he thinks someone in the family may be going bye-bye.

The kids still treat him like he's a little baby. Ok, to be honest, we all do. They fight over who's going to get him out of his crib, they make him scream by smothering him with affection, and tonight everyone wanted to sit next to him for his birthday dinner. I must admit, for all the insanity that comes with having lots of kids, the sweetest part as a parent is getting to see their love for one another.

We decided Westley probably wanted Chick-fil-A for his birthday dinner (which he showed his approval of by plowing through his meal and then requesting us to go buy him more). Then we came back home for cake and ice cream with grandparents. His older siblings remarked that "it was their best birthday EVER!", which is funny---low-key, homemade cake, two simple gifts. Thankfully, they're easy to please.

I feel compelled to write a little about Westley's birth, since he sort of missed that whole post during my blogging hiatus.

Remember the wild birth story of our fourth child? The exciting one where Shepherd was almost born on the side of the road? Well, we'll just think of it this way---if Shepherd was the Hare, Westley was most definitely the Tortoise.

We were determined to not cut it quite so close this time, and assured the new midwife that we weren't planning to take chances. As much as I loved to do most of the laboring at home, we intended to make it in plenty of time this go 'round. And that we did. In fact, this was my first pregnancy to ever have a dry run to the hospital. That's right, folks. The fifth-time mom was just sure she was in labor, and headed in to have a baby. Only to not have a baby. It was cold, it was late, and of course, the hospital was locked. (We seem to have a theme going with that.) Only THIS time, because we were delivering at a new hospital, we actually went so far as to head to an entirely different building than the one we were supposed to be at, so it's a good thing it wasn't delivery time.

(Doesn't this look like a fake belly?!?)

Take 2: a week later, contractions are convincing again, and we head back in. I'm really calm, so they don't take me very seriously. I get that patronizing "ok, honey, we'll send you to triage to check you in a minute." While I'm back there, I debate as to whether I should fake like I'm out of control so I can get a little attention from the nurses. I decide against it, and eventually the midwife is there and they do a check. "Wow, you're 7 centimeters! But you look so composed!" Yes, ladies, that is what I've been trying to tell you. They knew I wanted to have a natural childbirth again, so thankfully no one tried pushing anything on me.

So here's the deal. This is real labor. Only, because I had so much amniotic fluid, and because my uterus just wasn't in prime shape any more, the contractions were doing no more good than if they were squeezing on a really strong water balloon. For hours. And hours. Aaaaand hours. Fifth baby, the fourth one sprinted his way out, so what's the deal, kid?

This was a tiring labor, physically and mentally. The progress was so slow, and I wasn't used to working for hours through contractions with such little movement toward the goal. It stopped being fun after awhile. Eventually, I let the midwife talk me into breaking my waterbag of steel, which is always what keeps me from delivery. Every time, I know it will help get me to the end, yet every time, I'm so scared to let them do it. (Well, except for with Shepherd, because I was already at the end with him, and I knew I could be done in a matter of minutes if only the water would break.)

So Niagara Falls was let loose, and that big ol' baby finally started deciding to do his part. The progress was still slower than normal, but at least we were getting somewhere. It came time to push, and we stalled out yet again. Why was this guy so stubborn? Then the head showed itself, but the ever-calm midwife was hiding some concern---the cord was wrapped around his neck, so she tended to that.

Usually after the baby's head is born, the body is only a push away, but not with this little guy! He was still taking his sweet time. Only after he came out did we figure out why. He was huge! Well, huge for me. My babies had all been in the 5 1/2 or 6 pound range, but Westley was 8 pounds. I was too tired and shaky to even hold him after such a long labor, so I just stared in disbelief at that scale. Who WAS this chubby little dude, and what had he done with my typical peanut of a baby?

I remember how heavy he felt. Of course, it was love at first sight. He was worth the drawn-out labor, the stretch marks that I'd finally earned, and being the size of a house for the last few months of pregnancy. (p.s. This was the first pregnancy that I wasn't sick as a dog, so now we know what happens when you don't throw up for your first few months---all that extra nutrition really makes for a plump baby!)

Please don't think I expect you to still be reading. I just need to chronicle this next part because it was such a noteworthy time for our family. You know those routine newborn screening tests they do to check the baby for genetic abnormalities? The ones you just assume will come out normal? Well, sometimes they don't. We got a call late one evening when Westley was just a few days old. Our pediatrician was letting us know that Westley had tested positive for an abnormality called "Biotinidase Deficiency". It means that his body couldn't make it's own Vitamin B7 (Biotin), which is an essential trace nutrient. He needed to be seen by a genetic metabolic specialist to see if the test results were correct, because if they were, permanent damage could be done to his hearing, and if the problem weren't corrected in time (quickly!), he would begin having seizures that meant it was too late. Even if we began treatment after that, his hearing would be gone, and death could follow soon after.

No need to panic, right? Wrong. The specialist couldn't see us any time soon. Really. He was the only one in the state that dealt with this problem, and he was only in town on Mondays. Of course, his Mondays were booked out for months. Even after talking repeatedly to a very kind nurse, there was no chance of an appointment in time to stop this freight train that I was just certain was going to take my ticking time bomb of a baby any day now. So the nurse tells me that in the meantime, we just need to start him on Biotin treatments, which we could do with a prescription from our pediatrician. Sounded simple enough.

That is, it WOULD have been simple if our doctor was in town to prescribe it. Thus began the frantic search for anyone who could help us get a hold of our records from that one office, and get prescription-strength Biotin in our hands. Meanwhile, the lab that was performing our second round of bloodwork (to determine if the first results were incorrect) was taking I called them as often as I thought prudent, only to be told that those results take weeks to come in. Are you feeling my pain yet? To say it was a tense few weeks of agonizing stress is an understatement.

I'll fast forward a bit, though, and take you to our answered prayer. Finally, after what really was a ridiculously long wait for lab results, we heard the news we'd been praying for: the second screening came out negative. Apparently, when the phlebotomists are taking those blood samples, if they don't let them dry all the way on that little sheet of paper before sealing the baggie, it frequently shows up as a false positive. Who knew? Who knew that a lab worker's haste that day would cause our family's world to turn upside down for over a month, costing us so much anxiety and quite a bit of money?

I'll tell you what, though. I will never again take for granted a normal test result. It is a beautiful thing. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Lord, and when you think of all that has to go right in order for a healthy baby to be born, it's staggering that we should think of it as anything but miraculous.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Kid Interview (from May 2012)

So my last post was a bit heavy. I thought we could use some lightening up around here, so here's a great interview you can do with your kids every so often. Get them each in the room alone with you for a very important interview, and try not to howl at their answers.

When I did this a few years ago, we had quite a few answers relating to vacuuming. This time around, screaming and tickle-torturing seem to be the popular themes.

Kid Interview conducted with Emma Catherine (age 9.5), Garfield (age 6½), Elizabeth (age 5), and Shepherd (age 2 ¾):

1. What is something mom always says to you?
Emma Catherine: I love you.
Garfield: I love you.
Elizabeth: Clean up because it’s dirty.
Shepherd: Don’t scream.

2. What makes mom happy?
Emma Catherine: Brushing her hair.
Garfield: When we’re sharing and being kind to each other, and when we’re loving on you, and when we come in the morning and snuggle with you in bed.
Elizabeth: By hugging her and kissing her and obeying right away.
Shepherd: That we cannot scream and being playful.

3. What makes mom sad?
Emma Catherine: When we’re growing up.
Garfield: When we’re being mean, and when we have to get spankings.
Elizabeth: Disobeying her.
Shepherd: Screaming.

(Does this look like the face of a screamer/trouble-maker?)

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Emma Catherine: Singing funny songs.
Garfield: By playing the blue crab game and playing with us, and kissing us all up, and steamroller smooch.
Elizabeth: By tickling me.
Shepherd: Tickle torture.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Emma Catherine: You were an adventuring kid.
Garfield: You liked it and you were playing, and you would go to your grandfather’s house and pick tangerines and oranges.
Elizabeth: A little girl and playful.
Shepherd: Grandad Green and Grandma Jan gave you a little pony.

6. How old is your mom?
Emma Catherine: 33.
Garfield: 39? 31?
Elizabeth: 80.
Shepherd: I don’t know.

7. How tall is your mom?
Emma Catherine: 100 pounds? Or is that too fat? I don’t know.
Garfield: Taller than the office desk, and not as tall as a door, but you can reach the top of the window in the office.
Elizabeth: About 3 feet.
Shepherd: WERY big!

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Emma Catherine: Loving on us.
Garfield: Stay home and play with us and do fun stuff with us, and resting.
Elizabeth: Play with us and stuff.
Shepherd: Tickle torture.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around.
Emma Catherine: Organize.
Garfield: Work---office work, and go out to places because you usually don’t bring us to HEB.
Elizabeth: Washes dishes.
Shepherd: You get scared.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Emma Catherine: Being loving.
Garfield: That’s kind of a tough one.
Elizabeth: Kissing me.
Shepherd: Jesus.

11. What is your mom really good at?
Emma Catherine: Piano.
Garfield: Typing. You do it super fast without looking.
Elizabeth: Cooking.
Shepherd: Tickle torture.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Emma Catherine: Running super fast, and cartwheels. I’ve never seen you run fast before.
Garfield: At being mean.
Elizabeth: Pogo stick because you always do one jump and then fall off.
Shepherd: Not tickle torture.

13. What does your mom do for her job?
Emma Catherine: Takes care of us.
Garfield: You work on the computer, or helping Daddy with his jobsite stuff, kind of telling him what he should type.
Elizabeth: Wash dishes and clean them and stuff.
Shepherd: You tickle torture me.

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
Emma Catherine: Salmon.
Garfield: Do you like mashed potatoes? I don’t really know.
Elizabeth: Orange chicken.
Shepherd: Salad.

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
Emma Catherine: For how well she cleans.
Garfield: That you’re my mommy.
Elizabeth: You make Mickey Mouse pancakes and it’s hard to do that, and you make round crabby patties…I mean, what is it called? Salmon patties.
Shepherd: Not spanking me.

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Emma Catherine: Beaker.
Garfield: Maybe Daffy Duck.
Elizabeth: I tink the Tweety bird on Looney Tunes because he’s cute and funny and says, “Did I just see a Puddy Tat? Yes, I did see a Puddy Tat!”
Shepherd: A monster! And you would eat me, and I would run away from you.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Emma Catherine: Go on dates.
Garfield: We play together, and I love going places with you, and playing games like finding Grandpa Looky.
Elizabeth: Cook and play, and I love to bake cookies together.
Shepherd: Tickle torture.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Emma Catherine: We both love back scratches.
Garfield: We both have brown eyes.
Elizabeth: We both have brown hair.
Shepherd: Family.

19. How are you and your mom different?
Emma Catherine: I love to train dogs, and you’re not too big on it.
Garfield: You’re a girl and I’m a boy, you have long hair I have short hair, you do girl stuff, I do boy stuff.
Elizabeth: Pecause of our eyes.
Shepherd: Not family.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Emma Catherine: Because you give me Rocky Rocky, and plenty of love.
Garfield: Because you play with us and snuggle with us, and give us Rocky-rocky, which I love, you read us books, and I love that stuff.
Elizabeth: Because she kisses and hugs me and always tells me that.
Shepherd: Because you love.

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Emma Catherine: La Madeleine, or Schlotzsky’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and the beach.
Garfield: Taco C, the Dollar Store, Schlotzsky’s.
Elizabeth: Taco C.
Shepherd: Schlotzsky’s

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Year with Type 1

A year ago today, our firstborn, Emma Catherine, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Diagnosed by a doctor, that is. Mommy instinct had told me months prior that that's what she had...that's why she was needing to go to the bathroom constantly, drinking water like she was in the middle of the desert.

Ignorance caused me to suppress that personal diagnosis, although I had already told my husband and some family members that I was pretty sure she had it. "Let's just make it through the holidays first, ok? We don't want to put a damper on things." Then, "We just need to get through this wedding we're all in on December 30th. Wouldn't want to miss out on any of those festivities. We'll make an appointment when we're through with that."

So make an appointment we did, and the Lord was gracious to us. Little did I know, my procrastinating could've landed us in the hospital with a coma on our hands. That's the way many kids first find out they are diabetic. Instead, we were able to have her blood sugars tested with our family practice doctor, who at first said that she didn't appear to have diabetes.

Later that afternoon, we got the call. The suspicions were correct, her blood sugars were way too high for a child who'd been fasting, and here was the name and number of the pediatric endocrinologist that we needed to see immediately.

So it began...the whirlwind diabetic boot camp that saw us sitting in a specialist's office for two full days. Two full days of still trying to process the diagnosis, two full days of blood being taken from a very scared and confused child, two brain-swimmingly full days of trying to comprehend what they were trying to help us learn---the ways in which our lives were about to forever be different.

We practiced giving each other shots in the office so we could be assured we knew how to give them (and that they really didn't hurt). We learned about counting carbs, and counter-balancing them with insulin. The crash course was necessary, since you have to dive in and start correcting high blood sugar right away. We'd check her blood sugar and give her four shots a day, effective immediately.

I remember it all like it was a few weeks ago. Suddenly I felt like watching her put food in her mouth was equivalent to watching her eat poison. Eating out, which we had to do between appointments, was ridiculously scary, since their food didn't have nutrition labels on it. I needed to balance out that sugar, but I didn't yet understand how.

I was afraid I would permanently damage her by doing something wrong. I panicked several times, though not in front of her. I, my husband that second night, because I couldn't fathom that God thought I could take this on. Not me, who was already perpetually overwhelmed by the humbling task of parenting and home-educating these five children.

(This is Emma Catherine captured in a scene where the Lord gave me peace...told me we'd be okay. She's asleep in my bed loving on her new diabetic bear that her doctor gave her. "Foofie" is his name, and he wears a medic alert bracelet, and has patches on all the places where he can get shots.)

God's grace was evident throughout. He graciously allowed us to be diagnosed without a traumatic experience. He graciously allowed Emma Catherine, who previously would cry about things like getting her blood pressure taken, to act like a brave hero about those shots. He got us through the hardest part---those first few weeks---with relative smoothness.

And He's seen us through this year.

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A Fresh Start

Whoa. Did I just hit the "New Post" button on my blog? It's been three and a half years since I've done that. Three and a half years that I feel like I've lost, for various reasons that I quit blogging. Most of those reasons seem silly now, but at the time I thought I was doing the right thing.

So here I am, attempting to breathe life back into something that was so therapeutic for me years ago.

I love the feel of a new start. The Lord's mercies are new each morning, and I'm grateful that He gives repetitive order to our lives. Night follows day, again and again. Seasons repeat themselves, bringing comfort and predictability to our year. Calendars come to a close, and even though there's only one day between us and the previous year, we somehow feel as if all things can start afresh.

So as I lay in my bed on New Year's Day morning, making a puppy pile with my husband and two littlest boys, all of us sleeping due to illness in our home, the groggy thought popped into my head: "Blog again." I have no idea why now, but seeing as it seems as good a time as any, I decided to listen to my foggy brain. I'll try to ignore the nagging feeling of sunk cost---all the years I missed out on blogging---and try to instead redeem and preserve the memories from here on out.

Life, with all it's good, and all it's bad, is a story. We should tell that story.