About an hour into our 2-week road trip & I'm already blogging from my phone :D We're heading to Chicago today with our good friends ....traveling together and texting from one car to the other as we go! We'll spend two nights in the "windy city" before heading for New York with a stop at Niagara Falls! I'll update as we go!
Sort of at the point where I no longer hope for the best.....I just expect the worst!
~I had the knife out to cut Josh's birthday cake..... just to clear up any concerns!~
As it currently stands, our house is in shambles, the guys fixing it are frightening, and we leave for a 2-week long vacation in 3 days.
It couldn't get any worse, right?
Yeah, that's the one. The cute one sitting in the bucket of water. Our sixth-born. The one that we named "Matthew" because it means "gift of God" and we were blessed with him after my husband had a vasectomy AND a reversal when we decided we wanted just one more.
Unfortunately, at the time of this photo, and unbeknownst to me, water was slowly flooding my dryer.....my BRAND-NEW dryer.
Turns out that Mr. Matt, who has an obsession with our garden hose and has been asked on many, many occasions to turn it off and stay away from it, decided to play with said hose this afternoon. And while dumping all the toys out of a bucket from the garage, filling it with water and then jumping in fully-clothed is endearing and obviously picture-worthy, taking that same hose and sticking it in the dryer vent on the exterior of our house while running water through it full-blast most certainly IS NOT!!
And so while we spent the day packing all the items on the main level of our home....
shuffling furniture around....
taking lampshades down....
and moving anything we don't want covered in six inches of dust up to our master bedroom....
leaving our house stripped to the bare bones and looking as if we're ready to move.....
water was slowly spreading through the dryer vent, onto the laundry room floor, through the air ducts in the floor, and into the basement!
Fortunately for Matthew, the water did not do any serious damage and did not go through the actual floor as it did several weeks ago when the toilet overflowed. This time, it ended up in our sump pump room behind the girls' closet where we had some things stored.
It took some work to get all of the storage items out of the room.....
including rolls and rolls of extra carpet, but it's done now.
And honestly, at this point, that's nothing compared to what we've been dealing with already. The flood that we had several weeks ago completely destroyed a section of our wood floor, and now the entire main level has to be sanded and stained to match the section that has to be replaced. Hence the reason for removing all items from the counters, walls, shelves, etc!
And as if that weren't bad enough, the guys doing the work on the house leave something to be desired, and quite frankly, I'm completely stressed out that I have to go off for two weeks and leave my house at their mercy :/
One of the guys....AKA "Tattoo Guy".... actually asked me the other day if I was offended by tattoos before proceeding to take off his shirt. And later that afternoon, before leaving for the day, he gave me the grand tour of his tattoos in which I learned where each and everyone came from and the inspiration behind them. I was also thrilled to hear stories about his baby, born out of wedlock just one week ago. If that weren't enough, he also decided to go off and leave his tools out in our living room, locked and loaded, assuring me that Matthew could play with them as much as he wanted because he couldn't hurt them! To that I replied that it wasn't the tools I was worried about Matthew hurting!! His response was that he couldn't wait to see what his little boy would begin to do and I kindly pointed to our damaged house and said THIS is what they do!!!!!!!!!!!
I was expecting a couple of guys to show up at my door at 9am today.
I was expecting them to spend the day hanging sheetrock on our damaged walls.
I was not, however, expecting them to rip up carpet in the formal living room.....
carry in loads of equipment....
move all the furniture around.....
and cram it into spaces it doesn't belong.....
put plastic all over the floors.....
and simply make themselves at home.
Nope, I must have missed THAT memo :/
The original plan was to have all this work done while we are away on vacation for 2 weeks....
but we don't leave until NEXT Thursday!!!
And while I knew there would be a couple of guys here today to hang the sheetrock, I must say, I was taken by surprise when they began asking me questions like what was the earliest time they could arrive each morning?
So, not only were they here for today, but they will be back tomorrow (8am sharp), Monday, and all the rest of the days next week. And they will be sheetrocking, ripping out tile, mudding, sanding, banging.... you name it.
Our new car (the one that we bought to replace our 8 yr-old, gas-guzzling, one-tire-in-the-grave suburban) doesn't have a spare.
And with just under one-thousand miles on it's odometer and still maintaining it's new-car scent, it has already suffered two blown tires.
In the one month since we drove it off the new car lot, we've had two blown tires.
That would be TWO.
In case you missed it.... we've had two flat tires.
The first one was due to a small accident. Our 3rd born, Miss Sophie, is officially a licensed driver with a learner's permit. She is currently taking driver's ed, and will be sporting a restricted driver's license upon completion of the course. In the meantime, she has been busy practicing and taking advantage of every opportunity to drive the new car!
Last Sunday, I had to run to our local Target after dinner, and Sophie offered to drive. I was happy to have the company and took my place in the passenger seat. She was doing a great job and we were almost to the store when, of all things, a drainage ditch on the side of the road jumped out and grabbed her tire!
Well, not really. But I think she was hugging the curb a bit to closely and managed to hit the ditch head on, instantly blowing the right front tire.
Fortunately, we were right at the turn for the store, and we were able to make it into the parking lot before stopping.
It was a rather bumpy ride ;-)
Our first call was to Zack. He arrived and went to find the spare.
There WAS no spare.
New car.....no spare.
We called OnStar.
The tow truck arrived.
The car was taken away.
The next day, we learned that our new car........
~wait for it~
HAD NO SPARE.
Apparently, some new cars these days are sold without a spare tire.
They come with a pump instead.
Well, I suppose a pump would be great if you ran over a nail and had a slow leak, but it's not going to work if you have a 5 inch gash across the tire that lets the air out as fast as it's pumped in.
Such was the case with our tire.
I guess that's why we have OnStar?
The problem with no spare and having to rely on OnStar is that you have to wait.....
And then you are towed to the closest facility to where your car is located at the time of the blowout- not necessarily the facility you might otherwise choose.
And this might not be a huge problem if it happened every so often, maybe once every couple of years, or even once a year, or heck, even once every six months.....
but twice in one week?
And I guess that brings us to yesterday. Sunday. Father's Day. A day to relax, enjoy the day, open gifts, try out the new deep (fat) fryer the girls got for their dad :D
We (Zack, Emily, Josh, Matthew, Jacob, Caleb & I) had just hit Costco for some veggies and an uber-sized jug of cooking oil for the fryer and were on our way home when.....
For a long time now, I have dreamed of the day when I might own a massive four-post bed. Silly, I know, but a dream nonetheless :D Over the years, we have tended to buy our furniture piece by piece, maybe getting two dressers at once, but then skipping the matching bed in an effort to save money. Or finding a couch, but not getting the matching chair to go with it. We rarely "splurge" on nice furniture, opting instead to get do-it-yourself bookshelves or scratch-n-dent tables. And as long as we have little ones at home, this will likely be our continued practice ;-)
This past weekend, we "ended up" at Nebraska Furniture Mart. For those of you that aren't lucky enough to have NFM near you.....I'm sorry :( It's an amazing, amazing, amazing place to buy furniture! It's so big, in fact, that it has it's own Starbucks and sub shop! And with miles and miles of rooms of furniture stretched out in front of you at deeply discounted prices, how can you possibly go wrong?
Our original destination was Cabela's for some fishing gear for the kids, but with NFM just across the street, it made sense to go in and browse. After all, we really do need to replace one of our couches, and we would be foolish to shop for a couch anywhere else! So, in we went.
It didn't take long for me to figure out that the leather couches I had hoped would be a solution to our old nasty fabric couch were well OUT of our price-range, and why bother replacing the one we have now with something that will likely end up in the same condition in just one year's time. But before we headed out, we decided to make a quick run through the scratch-n-dent section.....you just never know what you might find ;-)
I barely had one foot through the door of the clearance area when I stoppeddead in my tracks.
Before me, in all it's glory, stood the bed that I had long dreamed of! Four large columns towered up to the ceiling and framed the beautiful headboard and footboard. The gleaming wood was dark and mysterious. It was extravagant, it was elegant, it was majestic.....and it was clearance-priced!!!!!
And not only that.....it wasn't alone ;-)
Along with the bed came a dresser, a chest, a mirror and a nightstand, each one just as glorious as the bed itself. In addition, there was a marvelous bench that stood at the foot of the bed. And although it was separately priced, it had a gorgeous rich leather cushion on top and was simply the icing on the cake!
As I stood and marveled at my find, I began to let my eyes wander in search of a price tag, not really wanting to look, but knowing that would likely be the one thing that would send me sprinting quickly in the other direction.
When I finally caught sight of the price, I found myself catching my breath, not because of the extraordinarily high cost, but because of the unexpectedly low cost! This $11,000 set was now selling for a mere $3500!!!!
What luck, what good fortune, what a blessing, what a steal, what-the-heck-was-I-thinking????
We weren't there to buy a bedroom set.
We certainly weren't there to spend $3500, no matter what a great deal it was.
We had other rooms to furnish before I could ever consider changing my own room. Josh and Noah are in desperate need of new dressers, as the ones they are currently using barely hold one pair of pants. And Allie needs a new mattress. And of course there's still the matter of a new couch.....
But wait. Couldn't we give the boys our old dressers? Why, they would be perfect.... and they even match!
Suddenly I had my justification!
I slid over to my husband....honey, look at this set! Oh my goodness, it's beautiful! I LOVE IT! Just LOOK at that price! And wouldn't this just make the BEST 20th anniversary gift?!?!
(We will be celebrating 20 years on June 16th!)
To my astonishment, I heard my husband say "let's get it!"
Yes, you like it. I like it. Let's get it!
That's when reality came crashing down.
Of course we couldn't get the set. I did love it. But then, I love LOTS of things. That doesn't mean that I go out and buy them. Besides, we just recently ended up having to get a new washer and dryer...oh yes, and a new car......
As we left the store empty-handed, I felt a bit of sadness, but I consoled myself with the thought that someday, when the time is right, I will have my bed.
Before I knew it, the weekend was over and Monday was upon us. I had kids to shuttle, school books to buy, errands to run, and I had to meet my husband at our local DMV to pay the property tax on our new car. Monday, indeed.
After paying our taxes, Zack & I decided to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch at a sub shop next door. It was a nice chance for us to sit and talk, as we only had Caleb with us and could enjoy our conversation a bit more than usual ;-)
Somehow the conversation turned to our upcoming anniversary, and my husband mentioned that I might notice a "charge" on our card. I immediately fussed about it because we had agreed NOT to do anything but go out to dinner. He argued that it's our 20th anniversary, a really big deal, and that he should be able to buy his wife something special after 20 years of marriage. I was adamant that I did not want anything, and after about 10 minutes of arguing back and forth, he insisted that I let him tell me what the gift was. I agreed.
Instead of just telling me what the surprise was, he started with a bit of a story. I didn't go to work this morning he said. I went to Nebraska Furniture Mart. I bought that bedroom set that you loved, and I even talked them down some more on the price and had them throw in the bench at the foot of the bed for free. It's being delivered this Thursday....on our anniversary.
My first response, I must admit, was guilt. Was I such a materialistic person that my husband would think he had to buy my love? Was I so spoiled that people felt they needed to give me things to make me happy? Why did I ever suggest that I would want such a gift? I insisted that he return it.
My next feeling was sorrow. I looked at my husband's face and I knew that I had hurt him. He had wanted so desperately to do something special for me, had taken time off work to drive 30 minutes each way out to a store in an effort to surprise me, and he had even negotiated a better deal on the price, and I had broken his heart.
But as bad as I felt for him, I knew I couldn't justify the gift. I knew that I wouldn't be able to walk into my bedroom and feel anything but guilt. Maybe if we hadn't just gotten a new washer and dryer, or a new car......
I tried to explain my thoughts to my husband, but all I could see was hurt. We HAD to get a new washer and dryer.... and our car was almost 9 years old.... those aren't things you really wanted.... those aren't special.
And he was right. But then, as I listened to his words, I realized something. He cared. He heard me. He listened. He thought about me. You see, the true gift wasn't the furniture.....
Have you ever heard the phrase it's the thought that counts?
Usually, it's something we say when we are given a gift that we don't like, can't use, and are likely to get rid of as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
But this time, it truly was the thought that counted....
That WAS the gift.
A beautiful and glorious gift!
Not only did my husband take the time to think about me, he spent several hours trying to give me the perfect gift.
Only this time it was the act of giving that was the gift. And the gift that was meant to be given, never was..... it didn't NEED to be.
As I began to explain my feelings to him, I saw his face soften. He understood. I was happy.
He called the store and was able to return the furniture, opting for a much better gift instead....
Since we bought our passenger van back in October, we've taken several road trips together as a family. Our first big trip was to Disney World over Christmas vacation, and then we headed to my parents' house in Montana for some skiing over spring break. It's been so nice to have a vehicle that the entire family can fit in, and to not have to worry about trying to stay together in 2 separate cars when we're driving in unfamiliar areas!
But we're about to put our new van to the ultimate test.....
a two-week road trip to the east coast!
We will start here in Kansas and head to Chicago to stay with some friends of ours and tour the big city for the weekend. From there, we head over to the Canadian border for a visit to Niagra Falls! I've been there, but no one else in the family has ever seen the falls before. We decided to go because it's just a slight detour off of our route.....so why not?!
From Niagra we head over to New England. The main reason for our trip is to visit my husband's family.... we haven't been back since Josh was a baby! My in-laws live in Massachusetts, but because they are having an addition built onto their house and there's lots of construction going on right now, we will all be staying at a beach cottage right on the beach in New Hampshire instead! So excited since this is the same beach that Zack & I used to go to when we were dating, some 24 years ago! In fact, our first real "date" was a visit to this beach ;-) Seems like the perfect way to celebrate 20 years of marriage ;-)
Our next stop will be Washington D.C.! We don't have many days there, but we are so excited for the opportunity to show the kids some of our nation's history, as well as explore the Smithsonian and all it has to offer....I'm quite sure the Air and Space Museum will be our first stop :D
After D.C., we will begin the long journey home, with one overnight stop somewhere along the way. We'll only be home for a few days before my mom, Allie, Caleb & I fly to Atlanta for Allie's much-anticipated surgery on the 18th! And by the time we return, the countdown to the start of school will have begun....school starts on the 17th of August!
So the countdown has begun.... yesterday was exactly 3 weeks until we leave!!!
Now that it's summer and school is out and the days are much, much longer, we find ourselves in need of a little structure. Planning activities and putting limits on certain things (i.e. computer time, t.v. time, etc.) helps to some extent, but with 8 kids home all day long, it's vital that we have some way to encourage helpful, sweet, caring behavior.
Ta-da! Here's my plan to survive summer.....
We decided to go with a sticker chart. Simple really. Earn a sticker for things like lending a helping hand, listening, doing something without being asked, or having a good attitude.... and when you have 3 stickers, you get a trip to the treat chest....
Once you've earned 12 stickers, you get to pick out of the treasure chest (or basket in this case!)...
As you can see, it's working really well, and each child has already made one trip to the treasure chest (we've been doing this for just over one week now). We've gotten past the stage where they try to pick up a piece of paper and then ask me for a sticker ;-) Now we're beginning to realize we actually have to earn our stickers.....
Our first 7 babies walked by 11 months, so naturally we assumed Caleb (#8) would walk within the same time frame......wrong!
10 months came and went, then 11, and finally he turned one. Still nothing. Oh, he could stand and take steps, and we knew he was capable, but still nothing!
Slightly frustrating given that we are outside all the time now and he has such a hard time crawling on the hard old cement, but he still refused to walk- and I used the word "refused" because he could walk if he wanted....there is no doubt about it :D
But this morning was different. I was getting ready for the day when I looked over and watched Caleb stand up on his own and totter across the floor, taking about 20 steps and then stopping to bend over, pick up a toy and stand back up.....
what a turkey ;-)
(Sorry this video is going sideways....Emily took it and she turned the camera in the middle!)
A few weeks ago I "tweeted" that I had received some news that I had to sit down for. At the time, I wasn't able to reveal exactly what that news was because we had decided not to tell the person it involved about it right away. Well, now she knows, so now I can share!
As the title suggests, this news involves Allie. Most people who follow my blog know about Allie, but I'll give a brief background just in case you missed it.
Allie has been struggling with several debilitating health issues for the last few years. She was diagnosed with endometriosis in December of 2009 through a laparoscopy after a year and a half of doctors telling us there was NO WAY she had the disease. Traditional birth control therapy to regulate the growth of the endometriosis has failed- we've tried it ALL.... every last horrible stinkin' medication from regular pills to Seasonale to Lupron injections (we did stop short of Danocrin as she really didn't want to start growing hair on her face and have her voice drop to sound like a man! She was also diagnosed with a prolactinoma (a growth on her pituitary gland- hers is very small) through an MRI after her prolactin levels were elevated during several blood tests. In addition, she is a prisoner to migraines that don't respond to ANY of the normal medications. In fact, the only thing that has worked for her is the Immitrex injection, which she refuses to do anymore because it's so incredibly painful. And just recently, we went to see an infertility specialist (I'll explain "why" in a minute) who diagnosed her with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which explains (finally!) the constant acne she's been fighting for the last 3 years with no relief. They found one of her ovaries to be riddled with over 24 cysts and the other had at least 13 (10 or more TOTAL gives us the diagnosis of PCOS).
As you can imagine, each one of these issues is horrible when you're a teenage girl trying to have a normal life, but to have them all at once......
Allie has had to give up dance, change and drop honors classes at school, miss out on countless activities with friends and family, and give up on going to college. She can't work a normal 9-5 job. She can't even make plans to babysit much in advance. She has no idea when she might have a migraine, and when she has her menstrual cycles, she is so crippled with pain that she can't function. She also suffers with extreme nausea around her cycles. She takes meds to try and get her through the worst times, but unfortunately, the only things that truly help are narcotics, and the doctors don't want her to taking them.
We finally reached a point where we were just going to deal with it all as best we could. Just endure as long as possible and then, eventually, accept the fact that Allie would have to have a hysterectomy. We had pretty much given up hope.
Then I learned that March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. That revelation began to get the wheels spinning for me. I suddenly felt re-energized, excited to tap into new possibilities.
I had hope again.
As I began to search online, I found a place in Atlanta offering an exciting new prospect for women with endo. This place, The Center for Endometriosis Care, has two surgeons specializing in a new kind of surgery. A surgery that may rid Allie of her endo forever. A surgery that people come from all over the world to have. A surgery that doesn't just get the top layer of the disease (as traditional laparoscopy does), but can get all the growth that spreads deep down into the tissue causing the extreme pain.
~Maybe I should just take a second to explain endometriosis. This is a disease that is often compared to cancer.....it just won't kill you. With it, the tissue that would normally line the uterus each month to support a possible pregnancy, grows outside of the uterus. It can spread into organs such as the kidneys and liver. It can cover ovaries and the bowel and intestines and there have even been rare cases where it has spread to the brain. It roots deep into tissue and sometimes can't even be seen, making it almost impossible for a surgeon to remove it all through traditional laparoscopy. Some women are riddled with endo but don't have any pain because it's all on the surface, while others may have very little but suffer with incredible pain because it has rooted itself near nerves and organs. It can cause issues with going to the bathroom (pain with urination or bowels). It can cause infertility. It can ruin your life.~
So, back to the surgery. When I discovered that there are several surgeons in the world offering this radical new alternative I had to check it out. We contacted the center and then sent in all of Allie's medical records, and in a short time we received a phone call telling us that they felt they could indeed help Allie- it would be their graduation gift to her! Sadly, they didn't mean they wouldn't charge us, and this surgery, on top of the travel to Atlanta, hotel stay, hospital charges, and anesthesia charges, wasn't going to be cheap.
It's going to cost $15,000.00!
Well, needless to say, we don't have that kind of cash set aside, and despite the fact that we would do anything to help her, that would honestly take a miracle.
We started talking to insurance, and they had us submit a request to have the surgery covered at in-network rates. After faxing and signing and copying all kinds of forms (it was like my full-time job for a week!), we finally got a response.....
They wouldn't cover it. But they did offer a list of more doctors they felt we should see in our immediate area. Lovely. They now wanted us to see infertility specialists, cuz, ya know, Allie's trying to get pregnant and all....... (that's my attempt at sarcasm!)
And so we did. And, just as I expected, they were NO help. I actually felt bad for them because there was nothing they could do. They even told us they thought the place in Atlanta sounded like it was just what we needed....
But, believe it or not, it's the infertility specialist that actually led us to where we are now. He's the one that wrote the letter to our insurance company stating the he could do nothing for Allie and that he strongly recommended we go to Atlanta.
He got us our miracle.
I came home a couple of weeks ago to find my husband pacing the floor. Sit down he said. WHAT? WHY? You're scaring me.
No, no, this is good news he said. He then proceeded to tell me that he had just received a call from insurance and Allie's surgery had been approved at in-network rates (meaning we will pay closer to $5000 instead of $20,000 or more when all of this is over)!
THANK YOU GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm glad I was actually sitting down- the news left me shaking and speechless.
And so, here we are, flights booked to Atlanta, hotel booked, and surgery scheduled for July 18th.
We waited to tell Allie the news until the day she graduated....a true graduation gift.
Sadly, I think she's heard it all too many times before- the promise that this time it will work.
I think she's afraid to have hope.
And I can understand that.
So I'll have to have hope for both of us.
And while we have no guarantee of success with this surgery, we do have prayer. And we have friends and family to pray for us....
and with us.
And so I ask you now, please, please keep Allie in you prayers for the next month. Please pray that this will finally be her answer. Please pray for her to understand that God has great plans for her, and He loves her too much to let her suffer in vain. Even if this surgery doesn't give us the results we hope for, pray that we will all have the strength to carry on.
I want to share with you the passage we had written on her senior dedication page in her yearbook:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Until yesterday, there was still tile on the floor in there, but that all changed when the Serve Pro guys showed up on our doorstep once again. They had come the day before to check the drying process and to see if we could finally get rid of all the big loud equipment.
Instead, they decided we really needed to rip up more floor to be sure the subfloor was getting completely dried out.
That meant the tile in the boys' bathroom where the flood started last Friday. It also meant more carpet in the little boys' room.....
The bath is a Jack & Jill bath, so there is a center section with the toilet and bathtub, and then there are two sink areas, one per bedroom. The floor used to be tile in the sink area as well....
Now it's just subfloor. And the big equipment all over the room....
Well, that consists of fans, dehumidifiers, and heaters.....
and they're EVERYWHERE!
They've been running non-stop since Friday.....
I'm dreading our next electric bill :/
Besides ripping up all the tile, they also ripped up a rather large section of our living room floor yesterday....
I almost can't bear to look at what they've done....it makes me sick to my stomach!
And I can't even begin to imagine how on earth they're EVER going to put my house back together.
Honestly, at this point, I'll just be happy when all the machines are gone...
Keeping the little kids out of the main part of our house is a nightmare! Of course, it's only gonna get worse when the contractors have to come in and begin repairing the damage.
Seriously, I almost wish a tornado had hit our house last week. It almost seems like it would be easier to start over....