February 2010

A little update on N:

He had an MRI last week, and we finally got the results this week.  While we were all assuming he had CP (cerebral Palsy), the MRI is the actual step that diagnoses it.  Sure enough, that’s what he has.  It answered a few other questions, as well though. 

For those who are actually interested in the more technical aspects, I will try to explain in detail:

(This is not N's brain, but just a clip-art image I found online)

Basically, the neurologist explained to me that, if you look at the blackish “H” in the middle of the image, N’s brain showed some white areas on each side that are indicative of injury resulting in scarring.  This particular location tends to most vulnerable to this type of scarring between 27 and 33 weeks gestation.  That means, that, most likely, his brain was denied blood flow or sustained some type of injury during this time in-utero.  It is highly likely the birthmother had no control and probably did not have any idea that the issue was occurring or had occurred.  It’s “just one of those things” that can happen to a baby while still in the womb.

It also confirmed that the condition is not progressive, and will therefore never be worse than what it is now.  Seeing as how he is progressing rapidly, we really don’t have any major concerns about his development.  As it is, no one would ever guess that he has an issue. 

One other issue that the MRI gave us an answer to was his elbows.  Well, not the MRI exactly, but the process. Of his joints that are tight, with most you can tell that it is tight muscles that will stretch more and more over time.  There is “give” basically.  His elbows, however, are not like that.  His arms extend to a point, then just stop with a slight bend still in the elbow.  There is no give, no tight muscle that we can feel–it just stops.  I was curious if, when he relaxed during the anesthesia, if I would be able to straighten them more.  Well, as it turned out, the lab techs had a fit trying to get the I.V. into his arm to put him to sleep because of that bend–the arm just wouldn’t straighten enough for that vein to pop out!  When they eventually got it, I noticed the issue was still there.  It was as though his elbows were fused into that position.  After mentioning my discovery to the doctor, they concluded that sometimes that happens in the womb.  Possibly (though we will never know), after his in-utero brain injury, or perhaps due to low amniotic fluid, he just didn’t move his arms around much for some reason.  He likely kept them bent for a long period of time.  This caused the muscles in that area to permanently contract into a “locked” position that prevents his arm from fully extending.  If we try to foce it, we could, in fact, break the elbow.  If it becomes a hindrance later in life, surgery may help, but it is more likely that he will have enough range-of-motion without more invasive procedures.

So, there you have it.  Regarding his progress–it is amazing to see the transformation!  Since his initial pre-diagnosis in mid-January, he has learned to sit with no help, to transition from his belly into a sit, to crawl normally on all fours, to pull up on furniture–everything–to reach for things without getting frustrated, to use both his arms and legs more evenly, and to fully extend his shoulders upward.   With assistance, he is now able to stand flat-footed without his special shoes, to balance on his feet for short periods (like 1-2 seconds), to walk sideways while holding onto something, to walk while holding our hands or pushing something, and so much more.  It is truly impossible to tell how much of the progress is just his age and the natural process, the more intense focus we have on such activities, or the therapy itself.  Whatever is causing it, we are thrilled!  He is catching up on a daily basis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were standing and walking in the next few months! 

Now for the current plans.  Monday, he will be fitted for braces.  He still needs periodic reminders to put those heels down.  We have removed the lower pad from his shoe insert to bring the heel down more, and he is doing well.  But when he is barefoot, he still tends to want to pop-up onto his toes.  To prevent that for a longer period, we will be casting him next Saturday (8 days from now).  I will get pics and explain more when I have a better understanding.  Once the casts are removed, he will wear the braces for a longer period, during his awake hours. 

So there you have it.  Things are going well, and we feel confident that N is progressing beautifully with no difficulties so far!  Praise God!

Ok, after watching my 3 oldest continually descend our stairs in their own unique ways, I decided I just had to share.  You have to see this to believe it anyway.  I did not know there were so many ways to come down a simple flight of stairs!  To each his own!

JR’s descent

M’s descent (only allowed on the bottom half, of course, so she uses JR’s method for the top half)

A’s descent (I don’t have a clue why he doesn’t have belly rug-burns to go with the ever-present bruises on his forehead from running into everything!  This kid is always an accident waiting to happen!)

When Daddy is a biker, you can bet he will make sure his kids are too!  We spent several months last year trying to wean JR off his bicycle training wheels, but he really struggled to get his confidence up.  We realized, though that he was quickly outgrowing his little bike, and we wanted him to learn before moving into a bigger, scarier bike.  Finally, about 8 months ago, he finally learned and has been 2-wheeling ever since.  We began to search for a bigger bike to upgrade him to, but could never seem to find one that was in good shape.  Finally, this past weekend, I came across one on Craigslist for a decent price, and it looks almost brand new!  JR loves it and has been feeling pretty special for the last few days!

M was not be outdone, though.  We noticed on a recent bike ride around the neighborhood that she was also threatening to outgrow her little 12 inch bike, and she is a bit bolder than JR.  So, we figured, why not?  Daddy popped off her training wheels, worked with her for a few minutes, and by the next day, she was biking around the neighborhood on 2 wheels! 

So now we have 4 people ridin’ on 2-wheels, and 2 that aren’t quite into the tricycle stage yet!

We are blessed to have a wonderful church that has a true heart for ministry.  They have a large number of local, national, and international ministry programs to choose from, such that every person can find a ministry that suits them–at least, that is the idea.  Yesterday, we had a special service to recognize and publicize these ministry opportunities, and the congregation was encouraged to fill out little cards to make a commitment to serve Christ through one of these programs. 

At that moment, my heart was heavily burdened.  Now, please don’t misunderstand me in what I am about to say.  There is ABSOLUTELY a place for every Christ-focused outreach and ministry out there.  Many people are led to a saving relationship with Christ through these programs.  However, I have begun to see how the focus on such ministries has turned to the point that we are forgetting one of the most important ministry opportunities we, as parents, have been blessed with–that of raising our children. 

I did a bit of research in the hopes of finding some statistics, but each resource varies slightly in their numbers.  Nonetheless, most agree that, while “Christianity” is the #1 religion claimed by people around the world, less than 50% of those claim to be practicing their religion.  That number gets lower almost every year.  On the other hand, religions that are rapidly increasing in membership include Islam and Wicca.  So, it would seem a logical conclusion that if pagan religions are increasing in numbers and Christianity is decreasing in numbers, then that would mean some of those new members would be folks who previously claimed Christianity.  In fact, the average statistic claims that 2/3 of children from “practicing Christian” homes drift away from the church entirely by the time they finish college!  That’s over 60% of our children!  A few other statistics show that there is no difference between divorce rates within the Christian church and outside the church.  In fact, as a general rule, there are very few differences of any kind when comparing the folks inside the Christian church and outside of it.  That is so sad!  As Christians, we are commanded to “Therefore come out from them and be seperate, says the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 6:17).  The world should be able to watch a Christian and know that something is different–for the good! 

As I sat there in church yesterday, I realized that, while the church certainly meant well, the modern ideas regarding ministry were just not broad enough.  My little card gave me choices between “going on an international mission trip,” “participating in national church-planting,” or regularly participating in one of several areas of local outreach such as a prison ministry, homeless ministry, etc.  I could not fill out the card.  For a brief moment, I allowed the outside pressure of those filling out cards around me to make me feel guilty.  Then Christ reminded me of the struggles I had already gone through, and what he had already shown me over the last few years as I have become a mother. 

You see, the Bible doesn’t say that ministry is limited to the choices on those cards.  What about the ministry of ensuring my young children are sheltered from pagan and secular ways?  What about the ministry of training my children to be passionate over reading and memorizing the word of God, serving others in Christian love, and love each other within our family setting?  What about the ministry of fulfilling my God-given role as a mother and wife, and creating a safe place where my husband and children can always turn in a time of need or struggle?  What about doing my part to ensure my children remain in the statistic of the 30% who REMAIN in church as adults?  Furthermore, what about the ministry of adopting children who may otherwise be aborted or, worse, be born into a life where they may never learn about the Savior?  And rather than encouraging EACH member of a  family to fill out a seperate card, what about encouraging opportunities that allow families to serve TOGETHER in ministry (like we did this past Thanksgiving)?  Or consider how much more effective a ministry could be if I teach my many children to do it together, than if I had tried to do it alone or with a divided focus?

My heart just got heavier as looked around the room, and saw women, wives, and mothers around me.  I wondered how many of them would walk out of that room discouraged that they were “stuck” at home raising their babies and unable to answer the “call” to minister with the church.  Of course, this is by no means what the church intended to do, yet, it happens all the time.  Even the church has allowed it’s worldview to become so tainted and entertwined with  secularism that it completely disregards the idea of ministering within our homes!  How many of our own children are lost to Christ because parents are so busy serving in church ministries?  How often do we apply so much pressure to a young mother who would like to be home with her children, yet we convince her it is much more important to put them in a public school or pre-school or daycare so she can fulfill her “duties” to minister and serve the church?  Oh, my heart breaks at the thought! 

When I was a teen, I participated in a couple of mission trips and worked in the church nurseries.  When I got married, I volunteered at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center, my husband was active in church choir, and we particpated in serving where we could.  Over the years, our callings have changed.  Now, while our focus in still on Christ, our ministry has been re-directed from the church opportunities to the family ones.  My husband is still able to serve within the church periodically, but I generally need to stay home with the children.  For a while, I actually questioned if I was doing the right thing, and God showed me a passage in His Word that helped me understand…..Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a t ime to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. ”

Oh, how fitting and refreshing that scripture has been to me on so many “useless, stuck-at-home, mommy” days!  He opened my heart with that passage to the understanding that this is my time to be a mommy to little ones, and to have a ministry right inside my own home!  It doesn’t even have to be limited to my own family!  We love to invite people into our home –Christian and non-Christian alike–to fellowship, get to know each other, and just enjoy sharing in Christ’s love!  I also realized that God can use those different times or seasons of our lives to prepare us for future ones. 

For example, I always felt a calling to serve on a mission trip in Africa.  Unfortunately, every door always slammed shut, and I was never able to find the way to go.  One day, I realized that, perhaps the mission trips I did serve combined with the call I once felt to go to Africa was just God’s way of opening my heart to the African people.  I didn’t know at the time that He would be bringing the Africans to me through adoption! 

Again, I emphasize that every Christ-led ministry has its place.  We just need to not be so close-minded as to think going “out” is the only way to minister.  Mothers/fathers/parents should not feel guilty, rather they should be encouraged that God has given them an incredibly important ministry within the confines of their own home!  And we should be proud to serve there!

I was recently inspired to make Monkey Bread for the first time after seeing it on another blog.  After trying a couple of different recipes, and tweaking it to our tastes, I came up with an absolutely delicious, but not too sweet and messy, organic version.  Unfortunately, I am not so great at remembering to take pics as I go, so a few got left out.  Sorry.  Nonetheless, here is my extra-easy Monkey Bread recipe:

Monkey Bread

  • make all-purpose bread dough (we use this extra-healthy, home-made version)
  • 1 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup turbinado or raw cane sugar
  • gallon-size Ziplock bag
  • 1/8 cup cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup turbinado or raw cane sugar

Step 1:  Follow bread recipe through 1-2 rises (as desired).  After last rise, punch it down.  On a lightly floured surface, pull small chunks off the dough and roll them into dough balls.  Remember they will almost double in size!

Step 2:  Mix 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon in ziploc bag.  Add the dough balls and shake to coat balls in cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Step 3:  Place balls evenly around ungreased bundt pan (don’t worry–it will be greased soon enough!).  If desired, sprinkle remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture evenly around dough balls.

Step 4:  Dissolve 1/3 cup sugar in butter.  Pour butter mixture evenly over dough balls until just covered.  For gooey-er bread, increase sugar/butter mixture.  Sorry, I forgot a pic of this step. 

Step 5:  Place in oven.  Heat oven to 350 degrees (bread will have time to rise a bit as oven heats).  Bake about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and dump bread onto cooling rack for about 15 minutes. 

Step 6: ENJOY!!  Just pull off the balls and pop them in your mouth!

This recipe can be easily tailored to a bread dough you like.  You can also make it drier or gooey-er by changing the amount of butter mixture.  You could also add a few other spices to the cinnamon-sugar mix for a spiced monkey bread and/or throw in some other ingredients like raisins, cranberries, walnuts, etc.  Have fun!

One of the most powerful convictions I received this weekend was the things that we, as Christians, allow to contaminate our lives and the lives of our innocent children. 

How often do we say “That movie is really good (EXCEPT for that one little part)!”  or “That show is a must see (EXCEPT for that one costume)!”  or “That school is wonderful (EXCEPT for that one issue)!”  You get the idea. 

We seem to have failed to realize that if sin APPEARED bad and undesirable, no one would want any part of it–even non-Christians, in many cases.  However, it doesn’t work like that.  Satan uses the GOOD parts of things to suck us in, and throws in just enough of the sinful stuff to contaminate our minds and spirits. 

This past weekend, Steve Maxwell gave us a wonderful picture of this idea.  He took a brand new bottle of spring water and pointed out how pure, healthy, and good for us it was.  Then, he took another little bottle of brown “sewage.”  He opened the water, put just one tiny drop of sewage into the water bottle, screwed the cap back on, and shook it up.  Then he asked someone to drink it.  He pointed out that the water still looked perfectly clear, clean, and safe to drink.  But was it?  Certainly no one volunteered to try it!  Even that one little drop contaminated the entire bottle with millions of tiny, invisible bacteria and toxins that could cause severe, if not deadly, results.

WOW!  I never thought about it like that!  S and were really convicted about several things in our life that we were allowing to be that “one little drop” in otherwise good influences–be it a single bad word in a wonderful family movie, or an ill-behaved friend of our children, or a downtown activity that was worth doing “EXCEPT” for that one little thing!  We talked a great deal about steps we could take to eliminate those toxins from our lives.  Instead of being measured by the “EXCEPTS,” all things should be measured by God’s pure and holy standards such as is found in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

While we are going to work on improving several areas, one of the first areas is television.  We limit our children to the most wholesome movies we can find–and very few at that.  One of the favorites is Little House on the Prairie.  Unfortunately, M walked in the other day, picked up her water bottle, and said “I’m drinking alcohol!”  We realized after talking to her that she had picked the idea up from LHOP movies (Mr. Edwards is a functioning alcoholic).  Of all the wonderful lessons (a few of which she retained), she was contaminated with one of the few negative aspects of the show.  Our 3 year old has no reason to know anything about alcohol at this stage of her life, yet we allowed her to be influenced by it!  For us, this was a sad, humbling, realization.  Even worse, is that we can never turn back time.  What we can do, though, is make the needed changes now in hopes that we can reduce future contamination.  As a result of this decision, we are unsubscribing from Netflix (where we get our LHOP videos), getting rid of the few videos we still have, and getting rid of the TV, and DVD/VHS player.  It doesn’t get that much use anyway, and I will free up some space! 

I will keep you posted as we discover other areas to clean up, but I challenge you to consider these ideas carefully, and think about what little drops of sewage are contaminating your lives.

WOW!  We returned last night from an absolutely wonderful weekend away.  S and I took our first trip without the children, and attended a conference with the Maxwell Family

It dawned on me today that anyone who thinks our family has it together, would love to know just a few of the experiences we have had in the last 10 days.  I have taken M for x-rays twice and had to poke around in more poop than I care to think about, all because she decided to swallow a quarter when she was supposed to be napping.  I have had 2 violin lessons with JR, 2 therapy appointments with N, had to pack and prepare all 4 kids, a dog, a cat, and myself for the weekend, plus clean the house, then returned in time to take N for an MRI today, and prepare for another therapy appointment tomorrow.  Needless to say, this past weekend was like an oasis for me!

Even though the weekend was actually quite busy the whole time with the conference schedule, it was truly a time where the environment and the setting gave us an opportunity to rest in Christ.  Despite the fact that we were the only parents attending without our kids, we relished being in the most joyous, warm, and welcoming environment we have experienced in a very long time.  The entire group of attendees and Maxwells welcomed us with open arms, fellowshipped with us, and invited us to join their activities.  It was wonderful to see that the older children from these like-minded, homeschooling, child-sheltering, Christ-centered families had matured into social, outgoing, well-mannered, mature teens and young adults.  Many myths and fears often associated with homeschooling children were simply laid to rest. 

Additionally, it was refreshing to me particularly, to look around at those other families, to listen to the messages offered, to have times of prayer, and to simply realize that the choices we are making for our family–to follow Christ’s leading, to shelter our children, to seperate ourselves from the secular world, etc–it’s OK!  In fact, it’s great!!  Better yet, it’s Biblical!  That was like a breath of fresh air for me. 

We were convicted of many things over the weekend, some of which I hope to share on the blog in the upcoming days and weeks.  For now, though, I will say, if you ever have a chance to attend one of the Maxwell’s conferences, take the opportunity!

Just over 7 1/2 years ago, my true love and I were married.  Little did we know where we would be just a few short years later.  We’ve lived in 4 states and 5 houses (and will likely reach state 5 and house 6 before we hit 8 years of marriage), and experienced God’s amazing miracles countless times as we grew to having 4 children.  S has held several noteworthy positions in the military and promoted twice, while I have learned the ins and outs of having a home based business, training horses, and becoming a domestic engineer (full-time mom, housekeeper, cook, everything domestic, etc.).  More recently, we have committed to homeschooling our children, feeding our family as healthy as we can, trying to live a lifestyle that is more God-focused than society-oriented.  We have experienced many things together, good and bad, and have grown closer through the years.

Before we got married, we committed during our pre-marriage counseling to get-away once each year to remember our status as a couple. It was easy to do the first and second year (no kids), the third year we had a baby, but still managed, but since then, our once-a-year escape has been overlooked for other priorities.  This year, we committed to make it happen.  “Coincidentally” it just happens to be occurring on Valentine’s weekend!

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you have probably heard me talk about the Maxwell family.  They authored several books I highly recommend, and were partly responsible for convicting us in several areas of our lives.  They also travel the country offering conferences, and I have wanted to attend one for some time.  Unfortunately, our area of the country is not exactly high on the list for Christian speakers!  This weekend, though, they happen to be holding a weekend conference focused on homeschooling families.  We have to drive out of state, about 5 hours to get there, so we decided to make a weekend of it. 

So now, here we are, clothes are almost packed, babysitters arranged for all 4 kids and 2 pets for the whole weekend.  I found an amazing deal for a room at a Bed and Breakfast for S and I (and it was cheaper than a regular hotel!), and (ssshhh! it’s a secret) I’ve arranged for a little, quiet, surprise Marriage/pre-Valentine’s celebration to be waiting for us after the conference ends on Saturday night.  In just over 20 hours, I will have the love of my life all to myself for 2 and a half whole days!  Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids!  But, I can’t WAIT for this weekend!!   I just hope, after almost 5 years, we can remember some topics to talk about that don’t involve our kids!

I often hear parts of the debate regarding TV’s influence of children.  All I know is, when you limit TV as much as we do, it has a drastic influence on our children.  I can only imagine if they watched the average several-hours-per-day of most U.S. homes! 

We recently had a classic example.  Several weeks after watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie, I discovered M had fallen down a hole:

When asked what happened, she explained, “I’m Carrie, and I fell down the mine hole!  Pa has to save me!” 

Don’t worry, though, JR makes a perfect “Pa” and was doing his best to maintain communication with her inside that shaft.

Of course, when Mom decided M had something slightly more important to do for a moment, she kind of ruined the fun by opening the laundry chute door.

I just love the creativity of my children!

Except of course, when it involves drawings on the bed (murals) or rocks and dirt in my ergo baby carrier (collecting “eggs” from the hen house).

Boy, it seems like the older the kids get, the more unexpected, recordable quotes pop out of their mouths!  Today’s is from M, age 3:

Mom: “M, why are you wearing one pink sock and one yellow sock?”

M: “Because I didn’t have 2 pink socks, and I had an extra foot!”

Guess you can’t argue with that reasoning.

Next Page »