Saturday, July 28, 2012

Allie's latest project :)

Getting ready to head to Florida for a week of vacation and probably won't be posting again for a while, but I wanted to leave a fun post up while I'm gone!  If you follow me on Twitter, then you may know that Allie was working on a "project" last week to enter in a contest to try to win a new Canon 7D SLR.  The idea was to use slow motion in a short video clip.....here's her entry!  (you may recognize the "actors")




And since you don't get to see Allie in the first video, I'm going to post a video she did of herself last summer.....it's....uh....entertaining.....to say the least ;)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Show us your life: photo displays

Jumping in with Kelly's Korner again today for photo displays :)

If you know me, then you know how much I LOVE to hang and display pictures......to a fault really!  After our recent move, I managed to tone it down a bit and tried to maintain control over my incessant need to frame and hang every picture I take :)  But when you have 8 children, it can be tough to decide just who gets to hang on the wall and who gets stuck in an album!

I tried really hard in this new house to keep most of my pictures in large groupings in one area, but I do have several individual pictures scattered throughout.  This is the display in our front entry....


And just off the front door, in the office, I have this small grouping of pictures....I kept these all black and white.


Heading into the living room, I have one of my most favorite pictures of the kids (unfortunately, it's missing baby #8 as it was before his time!).....


And in the living room I have display shelves on either side of the fireplace with some of my favorite family photos....




Behind the couch in the living room, I have the picture that we took just a couple of weeks after baby Caleb was born that has all eight kiddos!


And in the keeping room, I have a couple more family pictures on the mantle.....


But that's about it for the downstairs!  I did well at restraining myself from covering the walls.....well, at least until I headed upstairs that is.......


Yes, this is my upstairs hallway :)  And this is after I whittled down my collection!


Oh well, you can't win them all!  But I have decided that I like large groupings as opposed to pictures scattered here, there and everywhere.

I have this display in my bedroom....


All 8 kiddos in their baptism gowns....love them!

And their current (well, not really but I'm in the process of updating) photos all sit on my dresser....


along with a newborn picture of each precious child :)


That's about it for the upstairs, but I did save a few for the basement....






And I warned Allie that if she kept getting in the picture I was trying to take she would be sorry.....


*sigh* 19 year-olds......they NEVER listen 


Anyway, here's what we ended up with in the basement, and I've left room to add as needed!


Hope you enjoyed my tour....thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

State of affairs

Spending our last month before school starts trying to stay cool and finding ways to entertain the kids is always a challenge ;)  But we've managed to stay busy, & I've been pleasantly surprised at this Georgia weather!  Much cooler than our Kansas temps for this time of year (although a bit more humid) with plenty of afternoon thunderstorms to green up the grass and refill our pool just a bit :)

Some of the things we have been up to lately:

Playing ABC Mouse on the computer


(Please excuse the blurry picture of Jacob above!)  
If you haven't already discovered ABC Mouse, you should check it out!  We had to pay a yearly fee to use the site, but it is SO worth it (I think it was somewhere around $100)!  I love that the kids each have their own account within the program, and there's even a timer that parents can set so the program automatically shuts off when time is up.  The programs and games are very well done and my kids love them (even some of the big kids!).

We've also been busy with legos around here lately.  We have a gigantic tub of them that we keep up in the playroom, and the kids have literally spent hours up there building all sorts of things.....so engrossed that there is rarely any fighting :)


We've been jumping on the trampoline (when it's not too hot), and The Hulk has even been spotted out there several times!


The boys recently all got haircuts, and Noah decided to go super short for the first time in years!


We think he looks very handsome :)

Caleb will keep his long blond locks for a little while longer....


I'm not ready for him to look like a big boy just yet, even though he talks and acts more like a 4yr-old than a just-turned 2yr-old!

The boys enjoy building anything they can think of, and we've had out hammers and nails more times than I can count to keep them busy.


An old stack of pallets from when we landscaped the backyard has provided a constant source of wood!  Emily has plans to build a really cool rustic rabbit hutch for Ruby using the pallets, but first she has to take them all apart :)

We've spent many hours in the pool of course....


Still so thankful to have it and enjoying every minute we spend in it!

The girls have kept the boys busy with some fun projects.  Allie and the little kids made this fun candle out of a ball jar one day while I was at the doctor with Emily.


And speaking of Emily, I can always count on her (& Sophie) to keep the cookie jar full of yummy goodies!


In addition to prepping for school, running back and forth to doctor appointments and taking all the kids to the dentist, I've been busy preparing for our upcoming trip to Florida!


We are heading to the gorgeous Gulf Coast for a week of camping and fun in the sun!  Destin is one of our all-time favorite places in the country to vacation, and despite limited funds this year, we are still going to make it happen.  I found a wonderful campground that is right on the beach, and for under $200, we will be able to vacation with a family of 10 for 6 nights :)  Where there's a will, there's a way ;)  And I LOVE the beach!!!

We haven't been down to Florida since Jacob was a baby (4yrs ago) because it's just been too far to drive.  But we've done it several times from Texas and Kansas, despite the 2-day trip to get there.  One of the best things about moving to Georgia has been that we are just a short 6-hour drive from our favorite place, and it's also one of the reasons I hope we don't have to move.

And speaking of moving.....


Notice anything different?  

NO REAL ESTATE SIGN

:)

Well, for now at least.

We actually had to pull the house off the market after we kept getting really low offers and finally ordered an appraisal.  The appraisal came back much lower than we were comfortable with, to the point that there is no way we can afford to sell without losing all of our equity and everything we put into the house after we moved in.  Soooooooo, the new plan is to try to stay in the area and not lose everything we have.  Of course, we're not sure that's entirely possible at this point, but it's our hope.  And if the time comes that we have to re-list the house and sell, then we'll do it without question.  But for now, we're not going to worry about that and we're simply trying to live for today.  

It's been so nice not to have a showing every single day!

And since we are hoping to stay, the girls are getting back into the job search.  Not only that, but they are all volunteering at church for permanent positions as small group leaders starting this fall.  Zack & I will be joining them, but we'll be in the nursery with the 2yr-olds (in Caleb's room)!  Sunday mornings are about to get a lot more busy around here with church at 9am followed by the second service at 11 when we will be serving!  And Josh & Noah will both be baptized by immersion early this fall as well- lots to look forward to!

After 6 months of being here, it's nice to finally be putting down some roots in our new community, and I hope that this will be a permanent home.  

But I try not to question the guy who's really in charge ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Living with ADHD

If you've been reading here for long, then you may know that our 4th-born child, Josh, has been diagnosed with ADHD.  Because I am acutely aware of the immense burden this disorder can place on not only the child, but also the family, I would like to share his story.

We noticed something wasn't quite right from very early on.  It really began with potty-training.  Months and months of bed-wetting and "accidents" turned into years.  In fact, it went on long beyond the initial diagnosis of ADHD, to the point that we finally ordered an alarm for Josh to wear at night to alert him (and us) that he needed to go to the bathroom.

Of course, there were other signs as well.  When Josh was just four years old and in his first year of preschool, I remember the teacher telling me how Josh had wandered out of the school building and out into the parking lot one day.  I remember thinking at the time that this must just be what boys were like. More apt to wander, more busy, and less able to focus.  And while he was always sweet and well-liked by his teachers and never disruptive in any way, his inability to focus and stay with his group continued to be an issue.

Another subtle clue was the frequent "forgetting of the shoes" whenever we would get in the car to go somewhere.  I can't tell you how many times I arrived at a store, only to have Josh tell me that he forgot his shoes!  And to this day, I find myself doing a "shoe check" when we get in the car to go somewhere :)

By the time first grade rolled around, we knew something needed to be done to help Josh.  Still unsure of the diagnosis, but leaning toward the general idea of ADHD, we spoke to our pediatrician to have Josh evaluated.  The results left no doubt.

We hated the idea of "labels" and kept everything very quiet.  We didn't go out of our way to announce that Josh was struggling with this disorder, and were very careful to only tell those who had to deal with him directly.  I always made an effort at the beginning of each school year to speak with his teachers and let them know up front what they would be dealing with.  Some years were good.....caring and understanding teachers that loved Josh for the sweet child he was and were happy to work with him to do his best in school.  Other years....not so much.  We had several teachers along the way (beginning with 1st grade- the year that we initially pulled him from school to homeschool) that were, quite frankly, annoyed with Josh, and unable or unwilling to work with him.  But, despite several tough years, I kept sending him back to public school.  (You can read more about our homeschool decision in this post.)

Not only did we struggle with having our child attached to a permanent and potentially harmful label, we were also resistant to treating him with any medication.  We found our concerns over stimulants to be shared by many as we began to research the pros and cons, and after pouring over scores of different sources of literature, we decided to help our child in (what we deemed at the time to be) the safest way possible.

Counseling.

We were convinced that we would be able to teach Josh to focus.  Task boards were constructed, rewards systems put in place, and we were meeting with a counselor to make it all happen.  We were going to save our child while at the same time instituting a lifelong system to help him be successful.

NOT


Grades started dropping, reading skills lacked and we were confronted with the ugly truth.... we needed help.  


Another trip to our pediatrician, heads hung low in defeat.  We had failed.

We reluctantly accepted the prescription, still nervous about what we were about to do, but desperate to change our child's course.  Honestly, I don't even remember what that first drug was....I just know it was one of those dreaded stimulants.  You know, the ones that make your child grow horns out of his head and turn green.....yeah, that.

But we felt helpless to continue to do it on our own.  Drugging him seemed so much easier.

We were quick to realize our initial fears were justified.


Stomach aches, mood swings, stunted growth, nightmares, inability to sleep, loss of appetite.....all due to the drugs.

But the mood swings were the worst.  We could always tell when the stimulant was beginning to wear off.  Josh would fly into an angry rage every night, usually around the dinner hour, and chaos would reign until he finally fell asleep.  It went on for months.  It was hell.

And we could only endure so much.  Back to the doctor we went.  My husband had been doing some new research on the effects of stimulants, and we were convinced they were pure evil in a bottle.  During his research, however, we were led to what we believed to be a solution to our predicament.... a non-stimulant option called Concerta.  We presented our findings to our doctor, and were given the go-ahead to start this new drug.  Unlike stimulants, which only last several hours, Concerta would need to be taken every day and would build up over time with little to no side-effects.

We truly thought we had found our salvation.  Josh was able to focus, his grades began to improve and he seemed much happier.  The horrible stimulant-drop that we had all learned to expect was gone.  His appetite was better and he began to grow taller.  Our only issue was ensuring that he took his medication at the same time every day, and keeping him at the right dosage as he began to grow and his body needed more to have the desired effect.

For several years, Concerta was our drug-of-choice.  We were comfortable with it.  It didn't seem to be doing any damage, and we didn't feel like we were harming our child.

But once again, we were wrong.


After moving to Georgia, we began to see a new pediatrician.  I happened to have Josh in to see him one day for some poison ivy that we were dealing with on Josh's face, and somehow, the conversation turned to Josh's medication.  The doctor asked if we were happy with the results of the Concerta.  I replied that we were comfortable with them.  He then asked if we felt Josh was being helped to the extent that we would like, and I then admitted that it didn't really seem to be working as it initially had, and that there were lots of struggles with school this year.  As he was already taking the highest dose for his size, I had accepted that was all the help he would get, and we would just work the rest out for ourselves.

At that point, my world was rocked.

The doctor then went on to question Josh about his ability to function.  He asked him if he was frustrated or unhappy.  He asked him if he ever felt "dumb".

Josh's answer confirmed everything that the doctor had suspected.....everything that I had unknowingly denied.  He was miserable.  Barely coping, feeling stupid, feeling less than who he was.....or could be.

And I discovered that, in an attempt to protect my child, I had actually done him harm.

An appointment was made to come back, only next time my husband would come along.  The doctor reiterated his ideas to my husband, making a case against the Concerta and for......

you guessed it.......stimulants!

As he went on to explain to us, while the Concerta may be barely helping Josh to focus, it's not helping him enough.  He may be able to keep his grades at a "C", but he won't ever achieve his full potential.  And the problem with that is this: if Josh isn't able to function as a "normal" person, then he won't ever feel "normal".  He will always feel "dumb" and as though he can't do anything right.  Sometimes, doing barely enough can be just as harmful as doing nothing at all.  Josh is at the age where he is learning to function and cope, patterns and habits are being formed, and ideas are being cemented.  If the medication isn't helping Josh and stimulating his brain to function normally, then he is being led to believe that he is not like everyone else, not as good or as smart.  All he sees is his failures, and that leads to depression.  The doctor pointed out that this is a critical time to get Josh on the right path, so that he won't be searching for unacceptable ways to stimulate his brain (drugs, pornography, etc) down the road.  Those things can work as a stimulant and cause an addiction because it gives him the more "normal" feeling that he doesn't get due to the ADHD.

Now, I know I'm not getting all of this right.  It's complicated and I'm not explaining it the best that I can, but the simple truth is that Josh needs something more and the time to do it is NOW.  And the hope is that we can implement coping mechanisms now while on the medication so that his brain will begin to develop the proper paths to dealing with things and then, eventually, he won't need the medication anymore.

After discussing Josh's personality and our concerns, a stimulant was decided upon.  Vyvanse.  We went with the lowest possible dose (the doctor let Josh take the reigns as far as where he wanted to start and how high he would go), and have since titrated up a bit.  Still not where we could go, but where we are comfortable.  And this time, Josh is calling the shots.  Only he knows how he feels, and we are trusting in his decision to get him where he needs to be.  We didn't notice much change with the initial dose, but we also didn't notice any dreaded side-effects.  As we moved up in strength, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were still relatively few side-effects, the worst being an occasional inability to fall asleep at night.  Our doctor pointed out that there are ways to cope with those unwanted side-effects, and Josh having a good breakfast of eggs (protein) every morning is one of the ways we are handling them.  No one ever told us that eating a good breakfast would help combat a loss of appetite.  Not once.

As far as the results of the Vyvanse, we are amazed!  Josh is able to focus, but not only that.  He is reading entire books!  He can sit for hours and write in his journal.  He can have meaningful conversations with the rest of us.  He remembers to do his chores without being hounded for hours and hours to get them done.  He is learning to make lists to help him stay on task, and, what's more, he is taking the initiative to do all of these things on his own.....I have done nothing!  He fights less with his siblings and is more pleasant to be around, despite those typical teenage mood swings ;)  He is happy.

And while I may never understand the path that brought us here, I can tell you one thing for certain.....once again in our lives, we have experienced a miracle.  A "God thing".  Whatever you want to call it, there is no doubt that God has once again intervened in our lives for the better.  The idea that we would go in for poison ivy and come away with this result....not by chance, but by His work alone.  We are thankful for His mercy and continuing grace in our lives.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Show us your life: Foyers

Linking up with Kelly's Korner today for Show us your life: foyers :)

Most of my regular readers have already seen the entire inside of my house since we recently moved to Georgia and I've spent the last few months decorating....sorry to put you through this again ;) 

I decided to start with the outside entry to our home, since our foyer is very small and there's not much there to show!


I love our new front porch.  It has a set of hanging lanterns and double front doors..... a perfect southern porch :)


As you come in the front doors, you can see the living area to the back of the house.....


And if you turn around and look back over the front doors...


you see our last name and wedding date!


To one side of the front door is the office....


And to the other side is the dining room....


The actual foyer is pretty small, but I managed to fit a small wicker chair with a French pillow in the space....


with a fun clock over it!


The only other real furniture in the space is a black trunk that I've had for years and had no space to put anywhere else in the house......


Above the foyer, you can see the second level with the arched openings to the hallway.....


On the trunk is a family picture, but I need to change it because it doesn't have Caleb (baby #8) in it!


I love the lamp I found at Hobby Lobby (50% off of course!).....




And finally, here's a shot looking from the living room back toward the front doors.....


Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Allie's Endometriosis Surgery: One year later

So many of you have emailed me over the last year with requests for more info on Allie's endometriosis surgery and questions of her current state, that it seems appropriate today, one year later, to give you all an update.

If you don't know Allie's story, here is a link back to the post I did last year, shortly after her LAPEX procedure at the Center for Endometriosis Care.  It is a detailed account of the procedure and what you can expect.  From there, you will find more links back to previous posts I have done over the last few years regarding Allie's devastating disease, and even more information about the life-changing LAPEX procedure.  You can also go over to the right sidebar on my blog and click on the word "endometriosis" in the word cloud for more links.  And of course, you can always email me with questions :)

One year ago today, I sat, unsure of Allie's outcome, waiting for a doctor to tell me how bad it really was....yet not really wanting to know.  That day, July 18th, 2011, was a day that truly changed our lives...

for the better.

While I tried to remain positive and hopeful that day, the future was still so uncertain....our paths nowhere near straight.

Looking back and knowing the outcome always gives us such great perspective.  Reading through my old posts and wishing I could tell myself what I know now (and for that matter, tell Allie!) is tough.  It wasn't easy, and there were so many days that we had our doubts.

Doubts that the surgery worked.  Doubts that Allie would ever be pain-free.  Doubts that she would have a normal life.

But it WORKED.

PRAISE God, it worked!!!!!!


And I can sit here today and tell you that, not only is Allie back to living life, but she is doing it much more comfortably!  The life-altering, constant, agonizing pain caused by her stage 3-4 endometriosis is almost a memory.

That's not to say she doesn't have pain, but she can finally deal with the pain that she has been left with by relying only on ibuprofen (1000mg every 6hrs for several days during her cycle- still more than most of us need, but much better than the heavy prescription narcotics she relied on for years!).  And some days are worse than others, but those bad days are so few in comparison to before the surgery, that they don't seem so tough.

The recovery was long, grueling really.  It sometimes seemed that the scar tissue and healing was worse than the endo itself.  There were months in the beginning that we were certain the doctor had missed ALL of the endo ;)  But we hung in there, clung to hope, and came out on the other side.  It's definitely a process.  The healing can take a year or more, and we don't feel that Allie has reached her full healing at this point.  And we have concerns about pains in her back that seem to have remained the same, but we continue to have faith that this too shall pass as we reflect on the miracles we have already experienced.

Currently, Allie is experiencing much more regular cycles (although they tend to get off when she is stressed), less pain, and, as a result, very few migraines.  I am now convinced that the constant migraines were a result of the severe trauma her body was dealing with each time her endo flared.  The pain was simply more than she could handle....hence the stress and migraines.  She has also recognized that she needs to drink lots and lots of water, get plenty of good sleep at night, and eat well.  Since her endo has calmed down, she has had a chance to relax and figure out what is working for her- quite a change from the constant turmoil just one year ago!!


While Allie has yet to find a job in this economy, she is finally at the point where she CAN have a job!  Quite a change from before the surgery, when we were certain she would never have a job or be able to go to college due to the days and days spent suffering in bed each week....sometimes missing an entire week of school!

And to that fun-loving, precious child that was always so full of life before the days the endo took over her life, well....a smile has returned.  She is able to join us on family adventures and talks with joy about her future and all the things she has planned.  A smile has returned to her face, and it replaces the pain that furrowed her brow and brought me to tears each night.  Blessed.  Truly.

So, while it's still a process, and while we know we're not done, the surgery has been nothing short of a MIRACLE for us!  We would do it again, even if we had to pay for it in full....

it's the difference between living life.....and giving up.


And I'm not convinced that this didn't save Allie's life....she was on the verge of being done.

And for that, I am truly thankful to God.

*Thank you Lord, for your constant guidance through this process.  For giving us the answers and the will to do what You knew needed to be done.  Thank you for Dr. Sinervo.  Thank you for providing the means to get to Atlanta from Kansas and to have the surgery.  Thank you for the strength to continue to hope.  Thank you for healing my child and breathing new life into her.  Thank you.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting a little political....

Original post is being edited to add this:

A very kind reader, who apparently didn't want me to suffer the heart attack that I'm quite sure was in my very near future, contacted me and led me to this link: http://www.realtor.org/small_business_health_coverage.nsf/docfiles/government_affairs_invest_inc_tax_broch.pdf/$FILE/government_affairs_invest_inc_tax_broch.pdf                  




Sorry for any confusion....I guess it doesn't apply to ALL of us....but I still find it outrageous!!!!!!!!!!!!!


*begin original post


When does your home become part of your health care? After 2012!

Your vote counts big time in 2012, make sure you and all your friends and family know about this!

HOME SALES TAX 
I thought you might find this interesting.
The National Association of Realtors is all over this and working to get it repealed, -- before it takes effect. But, I am very pleased we aren't the only ones who know about this ploy to steal billions from unsuspecting homeowners. How many realtors do you think will vote Democratic in 2012? 
Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it? That's $3,800 on a $100,000 home, etc. When did this happen? It's in the health care bill, -- and it goes into effect in 2013. Why 2013? Could it be so that it doesn’t come to light until after the 2012 elections? So, this is ‘change you can believe in’? 
Under the new health care bill all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% sales tax. 
If you sell a $400,000 home, there will be a $15,200 tax. This bill is set to screw the retiring generation, -- who often downsize their homes. Does this make your November, 2012 vote more important? 
Oh, you weren't aware that this was in the ObamaCare bill? Guess what; you aren't alone! There are more than a few members of Congress that weren't aware of it either. 
You can check this out for yourself at:

http://www.gop.gov/blog/10/04/08/obamacare-flatlines-obamacare-taxes-home

Friday, July 13, 2012

Country mantles

Linking up once again with Kelly's Korner for Show Us Your Life: Mantles!

We have two mantles in our house.  One is in our living room, and one is in the "keeping" room.  The living room is the only room on our main level where we have a t.v., and it's right above the mantle, making decorating slightly challenging.


It was tough to make it look nice and still fit under the t.v.!






My strategy was basic....keep it simple ;D

The keeping room mantle was a little easier.


I love everything country, and I tend to stick with little treasures that fit that category.


In the center, under my magnolia wreath, I came up with this solution.....


And, of course I have my roosters, which carry over from the kitchen next to the keeping room.


The little Christian Fish was a gift from one of the boys for Mother's Day :)

Thanks for stopping by!

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