Thursday, May 31, 2012

Transparency: Tips for helping the overwhelmed

Let me just start right here by saying the last couple months......ok, who's kidding who.....
the last several YEARS have been extraordinarily difficult for me.
In the fall of 2005, my husband decides to change his career from accountant to police officer.
He gets hired in April of 2006 as a police officer after months of working through the extensive hiring process required for this job.
During this time, we find out we're expecting our 5th baby.
He is born in May of 2006 while my husband is going through police academy.
My husband begins work, on the night shift of course, in the early fall of that same year.
Just as I'm beginning another year of homeschooling 3 children with a toddler and a newborn.
Unexpectedly, we find out we're having our 6th baby in the spring of 2007.
During this time, I was still overseeing the children's ministries at our church, running the Wednesday evening programs for children, coordinating the nursery, and playing the organ.
When I found out I was expecting, I didn't know how I was going to be able to manage everything on my plate.
So I resigned all my positions, and we quietly changed churches.
(There's more to that story than just leaving our church because I had to much to do.....more later.)
That's when our 3rd son started throwing up everytime we went to Sunday morning services.
It was a half hour drive one way.
Our previous church was 3 minutes away from our house.
My husband was still working the night shift during all of this.....on the weekends.
That meant that most of the time, I had 6 children, including a newborn who was born in January of 2008, to get ready, fed and driven to church, by myself.
When you work the night shift, you don't magically go to being awake during the daytime hours on your days off.
But I struggled along.
In January of 2009, our 2nd child {who was not yet 9}became very ill. VERY.
She was diagnosed on February 11, 2009 with Type 1 Diabetes.
What I was struggling with before all that was NO.thing to this.
It was like unexpectedly bringing home a brand new baby again.....but with none of the support and encouragement.
I didn't know how I was going to handle all her needs plus the obvious needs two of my other children had with their schooling.
I felt like I was drowning.
In the summer of that same year, I had these two other children tested and the results helped me feel some relief that I wasn't going clinically insane and that I was not a worthless failure of a parent.
My oldest child, our oldest daughter, was diagnosed ADHD-Inattentive type.
My third child, our oldest son, was diagnosed ADHD-Combined Type.
But they also told us he was struggling with moderate anxiety levels too.
Hence the vomiting everytime we got off the highway on our way to church on Sunday mornings.
In the meantime, I can hardly get out of bed.
I'm exhausted and irritable, and I don't feel like myself.
I go for a physical and am referred to an endocrinologist for a nodule on my thyroid.
Within one year's time, we go from no medications or doctors to two children and myself on medications for conditions we can't control.
In the meantime, I'm still struggling to homeschool.
The biggest struggle isn't the's GETTING to the schoolwork.
There are so many distractions in a tiny house packed with children and all their stuff.
Especially when you're constantly monitoring blood sugar numbers and medications, and toddlers, and a baby, and ADHD.
ADHD doesn't just manifest itself in being crazy hyper.
It's also sassy and disorganized and messy and aggressive and defiant.
It gets bored in 30 seconds and looks for something to keep it moving....usually by picking on a younger sibling.
So I say all of this....not to complain.
Not as an invitation to you to come join my pity party.

But to ask you to consider what is going on in your neighbor's life.
Or the life of your adult child.
Or the life of one of your fellow church members.
Or the life of the wife of your youth pastor.
Or the life of your spouse.

Why don't you offer to DO something to help shoulder the load they might have?
If you know a family who is living with Type 1 Diabetes.....
ask them if they have any financial needs?
Can you help them with groceries {or diapers or pull-ups} since the cost of medications and equipment for this condition is astronomical?
Would you consider keeping their child overnight so they can have one or two meals where they don't have to count carbohydrates and think about medications to cover their child's food?
How about giving the child a piece of super cool medical alert jewelry that their parent's can't afford or maybe funding that adorable medications bag that they have to take EVERYWHERE with them that contains medical supplies?
Just to distract from how frightening this disease is to live with?

If you know a family who has ONE child with ADHD......
Consider having that child over for just a couple hours {overnight would be better} to play or do crafts, so his parents can have some quiet time?
Some time without the stress.....the constant correcting......the refereeing between siblings?
Maybe you could take that child under your wing and do something special with them every WEEK?
They rarely get positive interaction.
They make everyone around them so frustrated that they daily have somebody upset with them.
They need special, intense coaching to know how to interact appropriately on a social level.
They always have to have the last word.....which causes constant friction with parents.
Consider asking me if my child could use some fun tutoring?
I'll tell you that they would LOVE it.....and so would I.
Someone who loves my children as much as I do and actually wants to do something meaningful for them and wants to see them grow up and be successful?

And don't just say...."I just don't know how you do it."
Because I don't.
We don't do it.......well.
We are barely surviving.
Pray for us.
Call us every week and offer to take a couple children to the park with your children.
I need a break.
I need to have some time to read a book, create something pretty, find new recipes for our extremely picky ADHD children.....clean my bathroom.
Don't give me a book to read.....I don't have time to read.
Don't pat me on the back, smile, and say, "I just don't know how you do it."
Don't ignore that I'm drowning.
If it looks like it might be crazy, ask.
Ask if I need some help....don't wait for me to ask you.....I don't have time to go to the bathroom....
much less make a phone call.
If you wake up with a entire glorious day spread out in front of you with nothing to do, and you wonder how on earth you can fill the time?
Give me a CALL??
Come clean my children's rooms and organize them for me?
I'm burnt out on doing that every week, and it looking no better the following day.
Offer to clean out my vehicle.
I just can't get to that.
Children already are notorious for leaving everything they own in the vehicle but compound that with 6 children who don't like the way shoes feel on their feet?

Come fold and put away my laundry for me?
There is laundry hanging over us every. single. day.
We have no laundry room.
It stacks up in my bedroom until I can get to that too.

Should I really have to ask for help?
I'm not good at that.
I can cook, and entertain children, and make lovely desserts and crafts and.....
all while drowning.
But I don't generally like to ask for help.
I guess I wasn't raised that way.
It's not an excuse.
I'm just explaining why I do what I do,

Doesn't everyone do better with some encouragement?
Look around you.
Lend a hand.
Be Jesus to someone desperate to know if they are even close to doing the right thing.
Give them hope that everything will turn out all right.
Let them know you are on their side and holding their hand as they go through very dark places.
Don't just pray...though that is the FIRST thing that should be done.
And learn that not only can you BE a blessing to those who are struggling, but you will find joy and encouragement for your own life because you gave.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Last birthday of the season

Birthday season runs from January to May in our house.
We have one birthday every month.....with 3 within a week and half's time in April.
Our oldest daughter has her birthday in August.
She just kinda hangs out there by herself......but she likes it that way!

This week we celebrated our youngest son's birthday.
This little guy has been climbing on the kitchen counter since JANUARY to lift the pages of the calendar checking for when it would be his turn to celebrate his birthday!
He finally turned 6 on Wednesday.
What a precious time we all had making him feel special!!
He was just so sweet and grateful and thrilled with whatever we could do.
He asked if I would take him out to McDonald's for dinner, just by himself.
Oh my.
What a yummy treat that was for me.
I can't tell you how that boy has stolen my heart!!
He was just pure delight and sweetness, and that is a memory that I will have tucked away in my heart forever!!
Afterward, I took him to a park that he has never been to, and we just had the most relaxing time just playing on the seesaw together and talking about how much Jesus loves him, and how he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.
I think I had just as much of a delightful time as he did on his special day!!
Click on the link below to see a collage of our celebration!
You can then click on each picture to get a better look!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer fun on a shoestring!!

How can it possibly be that it has been nearly 2 weeks since I last posted?
I seriously thought I had posted here last week sometime.
Where is the time going?
We are speeding ahead toward the summertime!
And can I just say that no one is more delighted about this than ME!!
I love summer.
I love not having the pressure of keeping up with all the laundry every day, the meal preparation, the vacuuming, the phone calls on top of all the homeschooling!!
I love the hot weather.
I love the smell of sunscreen and the feel of sand on my feet.
I love light, summer salads, and watermelon.
I love popsicles, and ice cream.
I love flip flops (which we actually wear year round down here in Texas!).
I love relaxing our schedule and letting the kids sleep LATE.
I love Vacation Bible School!!

But it's amazing to me how quickly my children gravitate to squabbling and running through the house in an effort to slap somebody when they run out of things to do.
That's when I need to have a plan.
Here are some of things we do to curb the cabin fever:

But first......
Isn't this the MOST adorable??
Click on it to be taken to the author's website where you can print it out for FREE.
It's an 8x10 print, and I'm putting mine in a frame to keep it handy for when we get bored!!!

We're almost finished with our homeschooling for the summer, and no one is more thrilled with this than.....
the TEACHER!!!
Let me just say, it's been a rough year for me!!
Several weeks ago, I began thinking toward our summer!!
Summertime is the BEST time to fill in some of the educational gaps that may have sprung open somewhere between the days filled with "SQUIRREL" moments {my description of the attention spans of my ADHD-er's taken from the movie UP}, mountains of laundry to fold, made-from-scratch meals to prepare, and wintertime sickness!!

So I'm always on the lookout for things to do that are not only fun, but will nurture my children in 4 areas:

The scriptures tell us in Luke 2:52:

"And Jesus increased in
{1} Wisdom,
{2} and Stature,
{3} and in Favor with God 
{4} and man."

When I was working as a summer camp counselor at a Christian Camp many years ago, I heard it put this way:

"Here we have a description of the Lord Jesus as a child,
and goals we can develop for our own children.

Jesus grew:
{1} Intellectually
{2} Physically
{3} Spiritually
{4} Socially

These have become "guideposts" for me as I think about the goals I want to set for each of my children to achieve this summer.  I don't want them to JUST have fun, but also to grow in each of these 4 areas as well.

So grab a calendar....I like to print off these calendars from Jan Brett!

Here are these that I automatically start filling in my June-August calendars with:

{1}  Vacation Bible School
Last summer there were no less than EIGHT {8} separate weeks of VBS available in my area
at neighboring churches of like faith.
I absolutely do not feel bad about using these opportunities for my children because it accomplishes all
of the goals listed above that I have for my children.
Also, when my husband and I were directing the VBS program at our own church, we welcomed children
from within the community.
It gave us chance to get to know others in our area, plus the more children, 
the better the gametimes, classtimes, assembly times, etc!!
I was very impressed with how several churches ran their programs and the safety/security they offer the parents.  I also never had a problem with leaving my Type 1 Diabetic child either.
We always found that their friends were all going at the same time too, 
and many of them are aware of her needs.
Then, of course, I always use the plethora of crafts they make as Christmas presents for grandparents!

{2}  Check out your local library!!
For the last 8 years or so, our local children's librarian has had a summer packed FULL of great activities that are free and open to the public.
Tuesday evenings we had puppet shows, music programs, magic shows, etc.

There were different craft times throughout the week,
Read 25 books and earn great prizes.
In the past, we have gotten free tickets for roller skating, the circus, ice cream and more.
I always save those and use them for empty days.

{3}  Look around and see what specialty camps are available in your area.
Last year, my artistic, ADHD daughter did a week of art camp at a local art school,
and a few of our other children participated in a soccer camp.

I've also seen, in my area, horse camps and theatre camps!!

{4}  Summer church camp!!
My husband and I believe that this is one of THE MOST important weeks in the whole summer for our children.

They are away from all outside media, their neighborhood friends, siblings, routine of home,
and it enables them to totally focus on some spiritual decisions and paths they should be taking!
We don't usually have the {roughly} $500 available in our budget for sending three children to summer camp,
so we start in the spring raising funds for this together as a family!!
Our favorite way is to pick up a few boxes of candy at Costco, and set them up in the breakrooms of the places my husband is employed.
We ask $1 a bar and have found folks to be very generous with us!
This year, we're also having a garage sale with grandma,
and plan on selling candy bars and cans of soda there, as well.
All proceeds go to offset the cost of camp.

{5} Special lessons or classes
Is there a specialized skill that you would like your child to achieve this summer?
How about swimming lessons?
Check-out your craft/hobby store for crafting classes during the summer.

{6}  Participate in your local county or state fair!!
Last year my crafty daughter was inspired to enter our state fair, and we had to get these items prepared and turned in during the month of July.
This year, I plan on encouraging my ADHD lego enthusiast to enter a lego creation in the fair.
That will take some time and preparation.
Our artist is also interested and will need to be preparing her entries as well!!

{7}  Other miscellaneous fun things to do:
Get a summer job {dog walking, car washing, babysitting, etc.}

Sonic has 1/2 price drinks and slushies from 2-4 pm every. day!!

Our local school district offers FREE breakfast and lunch every. day. {except weekends}.
I pick-up our children from the local VBS and we head on over for a free lunch at the public high school!!
Lots of our friends are there too!

Does your school district offer something like this that you can take advantage of?

Check this out:

Or this:

Visit your local zoo {we have a membership that offers free admission}
or any museum that has free summer programming.

Check out your local park and see if they have any free outdoor concerts during the summer.

Find one of these:

{8}  Don't forget the holidays!!
Fill in that calendar with the holiday parades and cook-outs too!!
Plan a special party with the neighborhood children this year to celebrate the 4th of July!!

{9} Remember to schedule in some time together in specialized teaching time
One goal I have for my older girls this summer is to learn how to plan, budget, purchase, and prepare a meal for their family.
I would also like them to learn how to be skilled in managing our laundry.
If I get sick, which I often do in the winter, the household needs to carry on.
My girls are old enough now to be able to handle these skills, so each week they will have 
"Domestic Skills Class with Mom."

I also want them to memorize some scriptures this summer as well.
I haven't gotten that completely planned yet, but I'm thinking on a passage per month.

{10}  Finally,  here are even more resources from those
 more creative than I!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Women's Wellness Wednesday: Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

For over a year now, I've been hearing and reading more and more about the importance of Vitamin D!

And how so many Americans are deficient in it.
And it has some pretty traumatic results when you are deficient.
That would be easily mistaken as something else, or even treated with medication as something else.

Some of the issues that I've been struggling with personally that have prompted me to study this more and to increase my own intake of Vitamin D are these:

Depression (big issue at cycle time!!)
Immune function
Thyroid problems
Weight loss

There are several other health concerns connected to Vitamin D deficiency as well.
Did you know that your doctor can ask for a simple blood test to determine whether or not you are deficient in this?
Did you know that more often than not, when a doctor checks for this, his patient is indeed deficient.
Last week, I went to see a new doctor who I'm praying can help me find the answers to some of the hormonal imbalances I've been miserable with for quite a long time.
He drew blood checking some different levels.....including Vitamin D3.

Read this for some really remarkable information on this subject:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

T1 Tuesdays: The highs and the lows.....mostly highs

It's been awhile since I've posted an update on how we're managing our daughter's Type 1 Diabetes.
I guess because there hasn't been much change, I haven't been very motivated to talk about it.
She had her quarterly endocrinologist visit one week ago, and honestly, I dreaded taking her.
So I pawned it off onto my husband.
He was game, and I love him for that.
I love that he isn't afraid to find the building downtown, go through the registration rigmarole, fill out the monotonous paperwork, and get the same 'ol information from the professional we see that particular day.
You see, we rotate.
One visit we see the actual endocrinologist, and the next visit 3 months later, we see the physicians assistant.
I felt like we were going to see the principal knowing that we were failing in class.
I was just so stressed out about hearing how we were failing at that TOO, that I was pretty distressed.
Sure enough, Ashlyn's A1C hadn't changed one tiny bit.
Not even a hundredth of a percent.
Still holding at 8.9%
Even with all the stupid intensive charting logs.
So we just keep on going.
Changing nothing except the amount of long-acting insulin she gets.
Is that it?
I mean, is that the only thing we can do?
I've figured out that what I really need to do is send my struggling learners to school.
That way I can remember to remind her to check her blood sugar every time she puts something in her mouth.
That way I'm sure her numbers are written down every time she checks and we can better gauge any trends she may or may not be exhibiting.
That way I can pay better attention to what she puts in her mouth.
(She does not sneak food, but what child doesn't forget now and then and just eat without thinking about how it will affect them later on?)

But I don't have that option.
We just cannot, in good conscience, send our children to our local public schools.
Private schools are totally not within our financial means.....not even close.
Tutors don't like to help children for free.
Believe me, I've tried finding scholarships or grants or whatever is out there to help.
We fall into every single loophole known to man......literally.
So we're back to square one.
Life is still marching on.
We can just keep doing what we are doing, and trying to do better.
It would be just miraculous to have our continuous glucose monitoring system available to us......
but again, not within our means......not even close.

So, I worry.
I worry what the long-term affects will be on my sweet girl when she is my age.
What will be her quality of life?
I worry that we're failing at giving her what she really needs.

I guess this is just life with a medically fragile child.
I guess all Mama's feel this way.
I know there are Mom's out there with children in much, MUCH more stressful conditions.
I know I should be thankful that she is growing fine, and generally healthy, and sweet, and blossoming.
I know I should look on the bright side.
I know that God has a magnificent plan for her life.
I know.

But....I still wish it weren't so scary.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Funday: The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art

A couple weeks ago I decided the timing was right to take our children to this beautiful museum:

Please note that this is one of many wonderful places to take your children for field trips
that are not open on Mondays.
But we just switched our schedules around a little bit to make it happen on a Tuesday or Wednesday
that my husband was off work.
Best Part = Free Admission!!

There are some really amazing pieces in this collection of Asian art.
This is hand-carved marble.

This museum has only 3 floors.
The third floor, we were warned multiple times, was full of "mature" art.
So we really only had 2 floors that were appropriate for the children.
That didn't take very long to make our way through.
We were sort of glad to get out to the terrace area for some fresh air, a place to run,
and pictures!!

One of the purposes of our Monday Funday's is to be able to relax together
without a time schedule, and to explore new things.
It was such a gorgeous day that once we made our way through the museum
(in less than an hour),
we decided to just walk around the area of downtown Dallas that we were in.
Here is some of the attractions we were near:

with the spire of the
in the background.

This beautiful church is located directly across the street from the 
sculpture gardens of the Dallas Museum of Art.

This is the AH-mazing pipe organ inside the sanctuary of this church!
I only wish we could've heard it being played!!

As we left town, we got to use the new

What day trip is complete without a little Sonic happy hour?!?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What else we've been up to.....a gallery of fun pictures..

So we've been up to some fun things around here besides just doctor visits
and cooking.......

Here we all are standing in this amazing walk through covered with hand-made origami swans.
The museum held a contest in which the lady that made the largest number of these swans by hand 
(using a pre-made kit that they picked up at the Museum)
would win the use of the museum and it's facilities for her wedding venue.
The winner made 3000!!

I was given the wonderful opportunity of directing this year's little drama for our church's
annual "Mother/Daughter Banquet," and this is what our set looked like once we put everything in place.
The title was "Grandma Harvey's Pies."

Grandma Brough and her clone!

Recently, our local zoo opened a brand new exhibit of
Australian animals.
Because we have a lovely membership,
we decided to go check it out.

This little koala was absolutely adorable!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday's Fabulous Family Recipe: "Healthy" Chocolate Frosting

We have our last birthday of the season coming up in about 3 weeks.
Since moving toward a more vegetarian/vegan diet, I have not come up with a delicious
alternative to the traditional boxed or heavily sugared homemade cupcake and frosting combo.
So when I saw this......

**Katie's Photo from Chocolate Covered Katie

.......I just knew I would have to try it!!

It's so super easy to make it's almost ridiculous that we don't already KNOW how to do this.
It just takes a can of coconut (and let me tell ya.....not all coconut milk is created alike!!)
some cocoa powder, a smidge of vanilla, and a sweetener of your choice to your taste.

I tried making a batch from each of these cans just to see what the difference would be.
The can on the left (the generic, runny, store brand) made a voluminous amount of frosting,
but it had more of the consistency of say.....chocolate mousse!
It was doubt about it.....but it did not hold its shape once piped onto
my mini-cupcake bites.
(See photo below)

The batch I made with the "Thai Kitchen" brand was much firmer and more frosting like.
(See the difference below?)

When I took both cans out of the refrigerator this morning,
the generic brand was still quite jiggly and did not separate from the liquid.
The "Thai Kitchen" brand was nearly hard and I had to scoop it out of the can.
But, after separating from the liquid, I got only about 2/3 of a can of firm coconut milk,
so the batch made only about 1/2 as much as the fluffier version made with the generic brand.

I did end up using about 5 TABLESPOONS of Xylitol to get the frosting as sweet as we like it.
But that way it has hardly any carbohydrates per serving.
Super yummy...and it was even better when I put the frosted little gems in the FREEZER!!

For this delicious recipe...go here!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Going off Intuniv......epic fail!! {An update}

So over a month ago, I posted a blog here titled "Final Intuniv Update" chronicling
our plans to take our 10 year old son off his ADHD medication.
The plan was to take him off of it because we just weren't seeing the benefits of it anymore,
and we were going to try a more natural approach to managing his ADHD.
Well, it didn't go quite as we had planned.

Here's the story.
Since last December we just weren't seeing that Grant's dose of daily Intuniv was helping him at all.
It took a couple months of trial and error and trying to figure out the next plan before we made our move.
When we were down to his last pill I called a chiropractor I had gotten excellent reviews about, 
and fortunately she was able to get me in the next day.
I have done a lot of research and reading and listening to other families stories of managing children with ADHD, and I had heard good things about chiropratic having good benefits!

So we decided that before we refill his current prescription for Intuniv or switch to another ADHD medication that we would give chiropractic a try.
The first thing Dr. Taylor said to me when she sat down in front of Grant and I was, "How can I help change your life?"
That was such a loaded question for me that it made me very emotional.
We talked about all we've been through with Grant and where we are now, and she agreed that she might be able to help him.
She explained a particular technique to me that I was completely unfamiliar with, but was willing to try.
So we returned the following week for his first treatment with her.
She used something called the Koren Specific Technique.
It is completely non-invasive and Grant tolerated it very well.
We did this for about 3 weeks.
Dr. Taylor also gave me a couple books for read about diet and ADHD children, and we discussed some supplements that might be helpful for him (DHA, DMAE, Magnesium, etc.).
But after a month of treatments, the changes in Grant were so minuscule that my husband was wondering
if the expenditure was really worth it.
He was not against what we were doing.
The difficult thing about choosing more natural alternatives for managing health conditions compared to traditional medical interventions is the time it takes to see improvements.
When we took Grant off his Intuniv, our pediatrician surprisingly told me that it was fine to take him off cold-turkey.
That was the very first time I had heard that.

The doctor who prescribed Intuniv to us was sure to go over and over with us that he HAD to be weaned off this drug due to the potential affects it might have on his blood pressure.
But I didn't want to spend another $70 for a 2-3 pills just to wean him off.

taking him off cold turkey was miserable for ALL of us!
He was intolerable (hyper, impulsive, making annoying noises, conflict with siblings, crying, irritable, etc.), and by Sunday was begging me to get his pills back.
When we saw the chiropractor the next day, she agreed with me that we all clearly needed some peace and rest in our home and that she could "work around" his medication.
Honestly, I was relieved to hear that.
It was like I needed someone's permission or agreement that we were making a good decision here.
So he's back on it.
(And when I picked up the prescription I made a point of quizzing the pharmacist on how to come off of this medication and she agreed that it needs to be weaned down!!  Keeping that in mind for next time!)
He's taking a liquid vitamin supplement now as well, and we're only going once a month to see her now.
I guess the other thing that's different when working with balancing and trying to improve the function of something you can't that it's hard to make a specific "treatment plan" with a definite end point?
Anyway, in the last week or so, I have also reinstituted a more structured routine with our day here at home and Grant has been much more cooperative with completing his school work since he knows FOR SURE what time it will be over for him and the reward coming if he behaves properly.

This is a difficult journey.
It takes herculean amounts of energy and discipline to keep up a rigid, structured routine that ADHD almost always seems to demand to be managed well.
Dare ya to take a vacation day or a nap!!
It all unravels.
Conflict is always the end result.
You have to make impossibly difficult decisions that always require sacrifice of some kind.
But if I've learned anything in all of's worth it when you see your child struggle for so long....every day....and finally find a place where he can find peace with himself and his surroundings.

I'm still praying for my son.
Praying for the Lord to lead us just where we need to be to get him the help he needs to catch up in his schoolwork, and to be able to function well socially without the help of chemical medications.
God has a plan for him and we are still working to help him find out what that plan is!!