Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Explaining the Birds and Bees

Not too long ago, Emily expressed interest in knowing how babies are made. I know she is a little old to just now be getting this information, but I was waiting for her cue. I thought when each of her siblings were born, she would start asking questions. This never happened. Instead, she waited until late one night when everyone was getting ready to go to bed. Since I am one to seize opportunities, I told Garrett to listen too. Actually, if you want to know the truth, Mark was putting the kids to bed and when Emily started asking questions, he hollered for me to come--quickly. He says this is my territory. He's probably right. I tend to be better at using correct terms for anatomy and I try to keep things simple, but truthful.

I also happened to mentioned that making babies is something only married people do. I don't really care if they are married or not when they start having sex. However, I would like for them to grow up thinking that is the thing to do.

Emily seemed to take the birds and bees discussion in stride. Garrett, on the other hand, has decided he never wants to get married.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Geneticist Appointment 11-23-10

I took Emily to a geneticist appointment today. Though I haven't written about it in The Story of Emily yet, some of you may know that Emily has a genetic disorder called Oral-Facial-Digital Syndrome Type 1 (OFD1). When I reach the point in her story when we get the diagnosis, I would like to tell more about OFD1. However, for now, you should know that it is a very rare genetic disorder and that kidney problems are sometimes evident in patients with it.

Emily has been seeing geneticists since she was just a baby. At first, we went every six months, then every year. Her last visit was almost 3 years ago. In that time, we didn't have any new concerns so there was really no need for an appointment until now. Lately, Mark and I have noticed how Emily is very flat-footed and that her ankles turn downward when she is standing. We didn't know if this was connected to her genetic condition or not. When I brought it up at her check-up, Emily's pediatrician (Dr. M) suggested we talk to the geneticist (Dr. E) about it. Dr. M also ordered a back x-ray to check for scoliosis (a problem seen in OFD1 patients sometimes), blood work to check for kidney problems and a renal ultrasound to do the same. We had these tests done about a month ago. Mark and I are also concerned about Emily mouth. She has several clefts in there. None of them are of the pallet, but on her gums. These cause problems with her teeth alignment.

The beginning of the appointment was much like all the others. A genetic counselor and two interns came in to ask lots of questions. I answered everything from questions about Emily's development to our concerns for her. They measured and weighed Emily, then asked us to wait for the doctor. Emily went to play in the playroom and I read a magazine. I was just starting an article on how to prevent the flu when Dr. E came in. I fetched Emily and he did his exam, paying special attention to the clefting Emily has on her gums. He watched Emily stand and walk barefoot and agreed with us that she needs further examination.

After Dr. E was through with his exam, he asked Emily to go back to the playroom (to which she happily agreed) so we could talk privately. Dr. E sat down on his stool and looked me right in the eyes with "that look". Yeah, I knew what that meant--I was about to hear something I wasn't going to like. I steeled my spine waiting for the bad news, but really, it wasn't as bad as I feared. Dr. E informed me that Emily's renal ultrasound was normal up until the last image. On that image it showed that her renal pyramids show up more than they should. The good news is there are no cysts (something every OFD1 parents fears). The bad news is we need to find out why and what this means for her. The other good news is that all her blood work came back normal. The other bad news is Emily has a 5 degree curvature of her spine. That's not a big curve, but better to get it checked out now rather than later.

All in all, I think the appointment went well. We now have referrals to a cleft clinic (for her mouth), a well-known orthopedic hospital (for her spine and feet/ankles), a neuro-development clinic, and probably a nephrologist (for her kidneys). It may seem strange for me to call it a good appointment after getting all those referrals and the bad news about her kidneys. However, the referrals mean our concerns are not being swept under the rug. As for her kidneys.....until we know there is something concrete we need to worry about, we'll try not to. We've been through so much already with Emily that if I worried over every little thing, I would be a total basket case.

As we learn more, I will keep you updated. In the meantime, prayers and good thoughts sent our way are always welcome.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Newest Family Member

We have a new pet. Her name is Molly and she adopted us. Mark and I had been discussing getting a cat for a long time. I wanted to get one from the shelter and I thought we would wait until after the first of the year. Then one day in mid-September, this cat shows up on our deck. She started following the kids around, wanting to be petted. We've had strays show up before, but she was the first one that was friendly and I didn't feel the need to run her off. We started feeding her and she hung around (like any smart cat would do). Anytime I washed dishes or the kids were at the table, she would perch on the window sills and watch us. Mark and I decided we should keep her.

A month went by and the cat got a name, a vet visit and the privilege to come inside. I have to say she is the easiest pet we have had so far. We've had a dog, guinea pigs, frogs and a slug. All of them are gone now, but Molly is here to stay. The kids fight over who gets to feed her and clean the litter box. I am not delusional in thinking that it will remain this way, but I am enjoying while I can. It's been a month, maybe it will last........ She really is quite fun to play with and love. I've didn't think I was a cat person, but maybe I am.

Here is Molly when she first showed up:

Here is Molly today:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Garrett is one whole hand!

Garrett turned 5 years old last month! He is such a smart, amazing little guy. Can I still call him little now? I am constantly astonished by his imagination and vocabulary. Garrett loves to tell jokes and make up stories. Most of his stories involve superheros of some kind, saving the Earth. More and more, the superheros are also named Garrett. Mark and I really chose well when we named him. He loves his name!

Birthday grin!

Do we have to take another pic? I want to eat cake!

Opening an awesome present from Aunt Jessica, Uncle Jeremy and Cousin Morgan

So excited to get this from Memo and Papa!

Funny photo-op with brother and sister.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

Our super hero duo, Batman and Robin. Gotham will never be the same with these two fighting the bad guys. Payment may be rendered in lollipops.

The first astronaut in our family. Thankfully I was able to capture the moment when she claimed the living room floor for the wonderful U.S.A.

The cutest little witch around. Already conjuring American flags out of thin air, or out of her sister's hand.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Grandmother, Ma

"To know Ma, was to love Ma."

These are the words my sister wrote in an extended obituary that was read at the funeral. They reflect the feelings of everyone who knew Ma; she was so easy to love. She was warm and open, caring and honest. She was also unselfish, kind, strong, sweet and funny. She never forgot birthdays or anniversaries. Her door was always open and if you stepped into her house, you would find yourself loved (and fed). Before you left, you would always get a hug and an "I love you".

August 1923-October 2010

Ma was very sick for a long time before she passed. She spent her last few years in a nursing home where she was visited daily by friends and family. Unfortunately, I was not a frequent visitor because I live so far away. Therefore, I didn't get to spend as much time with Ma as I would have liked. As the years went by, I saw the changes in her when, first, she had to use a walker, then, a wheelchair and when she was bedridden. However, most of my memories are of the times when she was an independent woman, living in her own home. These are the memories I would like to share with you. I think it is the way she would want to be remembered as well.

Family was of the utmost importance to Ma. She loved to be surrounded by us. At the beginning of every month, we would gather at her house to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with homemade cake and ice cream. Ma would hand out birthday cards with some money tucked into them. If you lived out of town, you'd get the card meant for you in the mail. It didn't matter if you were celebrating your 5th or 50th birthday, Ma always recognized you on your day. Thanksgiving and Christmas were also spent at Ma's house. Ma would cook, and cook and cook to feed everyone. Her house would be packed with people, but she wouldn't have it any other way. Under the Christmas tree was always a gift for each person present. She'd even buy extra presents and keep them in a closet just in case there was an unexpected guest. Ma wanted to make sure everyone was included.

Ma's entire hallway is covered with framed photos of family, from about 3 feet off the ground to the ceiling. Just about every inch of space is taken. For the photos that wouldn't fit on the wall, Ma has a stack of photo albums on, under and in her coffee table. Even when I lived at home, I would take a walk down the hall to see the photos and I would spend time going through the albums. You never knew when you would see a new photograph. Every photo tucked into a Christmas card or letter found a place in Ma's home. When Ma moved into the nursing home, photos still arrived in the mail or delivered in person. She had two giant bulletin boards filled with photos. She also had a digital photo frame so she could still be surrounded by her family.

Ma loved to crochet. From the time I was a little girl, I can remember Ma sitting in her chair with skeins of yarn at her feet and crochet needles in her hands. She made blankets, or pillows or pot holders or tissue box covers for everyone. She put so much care and thought into each piece too. One year, my sister and I received pillows from Ma for Christmas. Mine was pink and hers was purple, our favorite colors at the time. Graduations, marriages and births all warranted a blanket. During my senior year, Ma crocheted a beautiful blanket in the school colors. It was raffled off to raise money for Project Graduation.

Some of my favorite memories of Ma revolve around getting her mail. When I turned 16 and got my license, I was like a lot of teenagers--I wanted to drive any chance I could. For years, my mom had been going after work to get our mail and Ma's mail at the post office every day. Using the guise of wanting to save my mom time, I volunteered to take over the errand. I'm sure my mom saw right through me, but I am so glad she let me start getting the mail. If Ma wasn't at home, I would leave her mail on her table. But if she was home, I got to spend some quality one-on-one time with her. She would always tell me to get a coke from the fridge and a snack. I always chose a Little Debbie oatmeal cake. Then, Ma and I would sit at her table and talk or we would sit in the living room while she crocheted and talk. I will always treasure that time spent together.

Ma was so much more than my grandmother. She hailed from Arkansas, but she was proud to be a Texan and especially proud to be a resident of her little town. She was the first female on the town council and a charter member of a new church. She helped open the town museum and she started the senior program at the community center. Ma wore blue jeans more than dresses. She had big feet (which I inherited) and was very tall (which I am not). She spoke her mind and was not afraid to let you know if you were out of line. She loved to watch Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Ma always smelled of Youth Dew, had a tissue up her sleeve and money in her bra. She loved to listen to Gospel music and George Jones. When it was on, she liked to watch Hee Haw. She sang at musicals and rode on floats in parades. Ma never sat on the sidelines and watched life go by. She lived it.

Ma with me, my mom and her sister.

By coincidence, when I was preparing to write this blog post, I came across our wedding video. As I watched it, I was reminded of something I had forgotten during the bouquet toss. I was standing, bouquet in hand, with all the unmarried ladies behind me. Off to the side, out of the camera's view was Ma. She said something to me about also being unmarried and everyone chuckled. I jokingly told her to come on and get behind me. Laughing, she shook her head "no". The count down began: 3.....2.....1... I leaned over and made a neat underarm toss right to Ma. She could do nothing but catch the bouquet. We had a re-toss, but the first one was the best.

From the time Emily was a baby, we took a 4 generation photo when we could.

Notice all the photos on the wall?
I count myself lucky that Ma was able to meet all four of my children. Here she is with baby Emily:

Ma with baby Garrett

Ma with baby Anna and me.

Ma with baby Austin and me. This photo is out of order, but I wanted to save it for last.

So, I leave you with this song, Go Rest High on That Mountain, written and sung by Vince Gill.

Friday, October 8, 2010

So many things to post about, so little time

Hi All,
I have lots that I want to share, but I simply do not have the time to be as detailed as I would like. I will be going out of town for a few days very soon. When I get back, I promise to update you on the following:

  • We are (most likely) getting a new family member.
  • Emily and Austin had their annual check-ups.
  • My dear, sweet Grandmother passed away.
  • Chapter 13 of "The Story of Emily"

While I am gone, Mark will be holding down the fort. I am positive he will do an excellent job. I hate to leave you all hanging, but I will have much to write about.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Play Dough

Tonight, the three oldest kids and I made peanut butter play dough. I remember making it as a kid in elementary school. Since I had such a good early school experience, I try to incorporate things I did as a child into our homeschool. This was their reward for being good this week. Peanut butter play dough is surprisingly easy to make and bonus points because it taste really, really good. However, I would not recommend it for those with food allergies. After all, it is made with PB and dry milk with some honey.

The kids working hard.

Pausing long enough to say, "cheese".




Hmmm, I think I can get more this way.

Anna got to eat some cereal instead.

The flash is too bright!

I'll share with you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Park and Water Play

Last Monday, Mark and Austin both had doctor appointments scheduled. Early in the morning, Austin's doctor's office called and canceled his appointment. Since the kids had already been told they would get to go to town, we loaded up the whole crew for Mark's appointment. I thought I would take them to Chick-Fil-A and let them have lunch there and play until Mark was done. We dropped him off and headed to the restaurant. I got the kids unloaded and indoors without any problems. I ordered the food. The kids asked if they could go play and I told them they had to wait until after we ate. Just as the workers were putting our food on a tray, I got a text message from Mark saying, "I'm done."

Well, crap.

Anticipating disappointed faces and possible tears and/or tantrums, I turned to the kids and told them Daddy was done and we needed to leave and go get him. The kids surprised me and only protested a teeny-tiny bit. I think they knew we couldn't leave Daddy at the doctor's office while they played. That would just be wrong. They may have also only protested a token protest because I promised them we could go to the park before they were able to formulate an argument.

We got our food and got back into the van to drive up the road for Mark. Just as I put on my blinker to turn into the parking lot, I got another text from him. It said, "Hold on. Having X-ray of my head."

Are you kidding me!?

Luckily, Mark was finished within a few minutes of us getting back to the office. The X-ray was to look at his sinus cavity, so nothing serious. I told him the deal I made with the kids and we headed to the park. I love this particular park. It is really well built, with a castle right smack in the middle. There is a toddler area on one side, but the best feature to me is the "fence" around it. There is only one way in or out. As long as I can see it, I know that my kids haven't wondered off or been abducted. It was a nice, clear day, if a little warm. We only got to stay for about 30 minutes, but the kids had a great time.

Yesterday, Mark did some outside work and took the three oldest with him. I stayed inside with a napping Anna. Two things happened that led to the third thing, that led to the fourth thing. One: The kids got filthy. Two: Mark washed his motorcycle. 1+2=3

The kids had so much fun taunting Mark and then running away from the water hose. He got them all in the end. I would have loved to have taken my "big" camera out, but I wasn't about to risk it getting wet. The kids were completely soaked. This is what led to the fourth thing. Being the smart woman that I am, I went into the house and gathered up clean clothes, underwear, towels and soap. You've heard of "hosing a kid down" before you allow them in the house? Well, that's just what we did. Our deck is very private so no need to worry about the neighbors. The kids got squeaky clean and dry before they came inside.

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's the little things in life....

I adore getting new things for my kitchen. Recently, I have acquired two new additions. One is a set of awesome oven mitts. My old ones were wearing thin and in fact, one had a hole in it. I had to be careful not to burn myself when using them. Anyone that knows me knows I can be a little careless and accident-prone so this was a real concern. My new oven mitts are sturdy and also really pretty. As a side note, we plan to paint the kitchen walls red soon, so the mitts will match nicely.

My second new addition is a new skillet. With a family of six, our old 10 inch skillet was just not cutting it anymore. I knew we would have to get a bigger one eventually, but when I made supper the other night, I realized the time was here. I had made a shrimp and mushroom linguine, but I doubled the recipe to feed our crew. Rather than risk it bubbling over, I had to pull out another skillet and divide the food into each to finish cooking. Of course, that meant another pan to wash and since I'm not big on doing dishes........ Anyway, here is a pic of our new monster skillet. It's actually an 11 inch chicken fryer, but it will do the job nicely!
See how big it is compared to the 10 inch on the right? I don't care if it makes me weird, I love my new skillet!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Meet Jeffrey

We have a new family member. The kids are now the proud owners of a new pet. Did we get a fluffy bunny rabbit? Maybe a cuddly kitten? Perhaps an energetic puppy? Oh no, we couldn't be that conventional. Now maybe your thoughts have turned toward a gecko, parakeet or even a mouse. Nope. That's won't do for us either. Our new pet is none other than Jeffrey, the slug. Mark found this monster Leopard Slug outside one night. I captured the little bugger to show the kids and they promptly adopted him. After a week of calling him "Sammy", Emily decided he should be named Jeffrey. So without further ado, meet Jeffrey:

When he is all bunched up like this he measures approximately 6 inches (the length of a dollar bill). When he is all stretched out, he comes in at almost 8 inches. That's some slug!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Story of Emily, Chapter 12: The Learning Curve

The Story of Emily

Chapter 12: The Learning Curve

March 2001 began with some exciting news. Mark was able to find Emily and me a ticket to fly all the way to my small hometown airport for only $137! This was HUGE. Every time Mark and I had flown to see my family we flew to Dallas and drove the few hours to my parents house. Flying into the little airport was always too expensive. I don’t think I will ever forget the cost of that one ticket as long as I live. I hadn’t planned on taking Emily to Texas until the summer, but with a price like that, we couldn’t pass up the chance.

Emily and I boarded the plane to Texas the second week of March. This worked out well since it was also my mom’s spring break. I was a little nervous to be flying with an infant for the first time, but it was a breeze (for the most part). Emily was only 7 weeks old and she did great. I found that nursing her on the plane was no big deal. I had a window seat and I just used the side next to the window to feed her. I was also the only one in the row on that side, so when she needed a diaper change, I used the empty seat next to me. I had a handy plastic zip bag to put the dirty one in, a tip I picked up working with preschoolers. The only problem I had the entire trip happened on the short flight from Dallas to the little airport. We experienced a rough landing and the panel above my head popped out and swung by the connecting wires, just inches above my head. Even with that incident, it was so nice to be in Texas again. I hadn’t been home in 15 months!

The day after we arrived, my parents invited the whole family over to meet Emily. On one hand it was a great day, on the other hand it was an eye-opening day. It was wonderful to see so many of my family members in one place. Usually when I flew in, I had to go from house to house and town to town to visit everyone. This time, I didn’t have to go anywhere, they all came to me. I think at one time we had close to 30 people in the house. With all those people, though, came the inevitable noise. It wasn’t that it was loud in the house, it just was not quiet anymore. Emily didn’t take so well to the rising levels. She began to get stressed, which in turn, stressed me. Eventually, I just took Emily into my parents’ room for some quiet time. It didn’t take long for her to calm down. As I was sitting in the room with Emily, I realized that she could easily get over-stimulated.

Emily’s reaction to the noisy environment was added to a list of concerns Mark and I were compiling to share with her pediatrician. That may seem extreme to some, but we were on the outlook for anything that could be out of the ordinary. We knew from my work that the earlier problems are spotted, the better. We didn’t want to miss a potential issue by dismissing is as “normal” baby behavior. In the weeks since her birth, Mark and I had noticed a few things with Emily.

From the day we brought Emily home, we called her attitude “contrary”. She had very definite ideas about what suited her and not. Sometimes it seemed like nothing would make her happy. She didn’t like to be swaddled and she hated newborn gowns. So many moms had raved about those gowns that I had several. If I put one on Emily, she would literally cry until it was removed. And speaking of her crying abilities, she was a determined crier. I’ll state right now, I am not a believer in “crying it out”, especially for a little baby. When she cried, I tried as hard as I could to meet her needs. Emily, however, would not be comforted by my (or Mark’s) attempts to find out what she wanted. She was only satisfied when she got exactly what she wanted. No amount of cuddling or holding or patting would pacify her unless that was what she was seeking.

One thing we noticed was brought to our attention back when my parents were visiting us. Emily had been on one of her crying jags and I had handed her off to my mom. Mom got Emily to calm down by rocking her back and forth in her arms, much like this video from FRIENDS. The very next day, we went out and bought a baby swing. Some parents and babies don’t like them, but for us it was the best invention ever. That swing was the one thing that would almost always calm Emily down. Sometimes, though, the swing wouldn’t work. I’ll admit that occasionally, I had to put Emily in her bassinet and walk away for a few minutes. I hated to hear her cry, but sometimes I had to go and collect myself so I could do it all again. I only did this when I had exhausted all the options I had to make her content, but still it was hard.

Besides the other issues we were having with Emily, I began to think she had low muscle tone in her arms. I noticed that her legs had much more strength than her arms. This is where working at the school came in handy. Had I not had experience with kids with both low and high muscle tone, I might not had ever picked up on it. As much as I enjoyed my trip to Texas and introducing Emily to my family, I was restless to return home so Mark and I could present our list of concerns to her pediatrician at Emily’s 2 month check-up. As new parents, we were learning not just the ins and outs of having a baby, but also the ins and outs of having one with special needs.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Working on Chapter 12

Hi All,
I just wanted to let you know I am currently working on the next chapter of The Story of Emily. I hope to post it within the next few days. Ideally, I'd like to finish two chapters so that I can be ahead of the game, so to speak. My break has lasted a little longer than I anticipated. Just blame it on the kids. ;-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Made a Special Desert

Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to make a Baked Alaska. My favorite movie as a kid was Annie. When Annie first arrives at Daddy Warbucks' house, the cook gives Miss Farrell the menu for the evening meal. The desert was Baked Alaska. Here is my take on it:

First, I needed five bowls for the ice cream. Most people use ramekins, but I found these bowls at Target. I thought they would be handy to use later as they came with lids and only cost $0.99 each.

Then I lined each bowl with plastic wrap. It makes it easier to get the ice cream out later.

Next, I divided the ice cream between the bowls. These went into the freezer to set while I moved onto the next step. I chose to use Coffee ice cream. The 1.5 quarts wasn't quite enough to fill the bowls to the top.

I used one box cake mix and poured the batter into two pans. You can use one pan, but then you have to slice the cake later. I was trying to save a step. I used a spice cake which I think goes well with coffee ice cream.

Then I cut 5 big and 5 little circles out of my cakes. For the big circles, I used a 6th bowl. For the little ones, I used a drinking glass. After I cut my circles, I started on my Italian Meringue.

Next, the challenge began. Gordon Ramsay says to warm the bowls with your hand to get the ice cream out. He must have warmer hands than me. I ended up dipping the bowls in a warm pot of water. Mark helped me with this and in getting the Meringue right (I've never made it in my life and he has).

Once we got the ice cream out, I stacked the cakes like this:

Then I took the meringue and spread it around the cakes. I used the flat of my knife to create the peaks all over.

Now my favorite part: I got to use a blow torch to finish the Baked Alaskas.
I have to say, they turned out pretty well. While they tasted as good as they look, I did think they were awfully sweet. I was only able to eat about half of mine and that was pushing it. However, this is one desert that freezes well so there are currently three half Baked Alaskas in my freezer. I try not to think about them late at night when I want a snack.