March 2010


N is still progressing beautifully.  We removed his second set of casts on Thursday night (boy, was that ever a chore!!).  On Friday, he was fitted with his new, custom leg braces. 

If you look closely at this picture, you can see the inner part of the brace that is similiar to a shoe.  That is designed to support his arch and heel properly, and stretch his toes slightly upward to prevent him from curling them down.  That assembly goes inside the main part of the brace (likes like a big boot) above. This part actually velcros very tightly around his ankles to prevent him from pointing his toes/foot.  The customizable settings you can see on the side (a short band and set of screw that attaches the upper and lower “boot” parts together) are set such that he can flex his ankle and foot into more of a bend, but not less of one.  That is also the purpose of the rubber “bump” and the thing sticking out of the back of the boot.  It allows him to flex his calf forward, but not go beyond 90 degrees to his foot.  Hope that makes sense. 

S actually had the pleasure of choosing the colors and such for the brace inner pads and velcro straps.  He chose blue since N is a boy, afterall, and he chose the horse overlay as a surprise for me!  Isn’t he sweet!

They are a bit more difficult to use than they appear.  First of all, N’s foot is so little, that we have to literally pull that bottom velcro tight enough you fear you will cut off circulation, otherwise he can wiggle his foot back into the toes-down position.  Another challenge is trying to get those braces into his shoes. 

This is not an easy task!  First of all, the adjusters on the side of the braces are very difficult to wedge into the shoe, the bottom velcro strap likes to try to fold oddly when it goes in, and one brace is cut about 1/2 shoe size longer than the other.  I have since moved him into one of A’s extra pair of shoes.  It’s about 2 shoe sizes to big for him without braces, but the braces actually fit a lot better in those shoes, and they appear a lot more comfy.   Anytime he has the braces on, he must have shoes on.  Right now, he is wearing the braces for about 3 hours in the morning, then 3 in the afternoon to get him used to them gradually and break them in.  That means a lot of on and off! 

We have been given a very nice surprise with this step of his therapy.  The braces give him a lot more confidence, and he has now done this on several occasions:

Previously, he refused to even try standing alone, but now he will stand for ever-increasing periods of time! Praise God!!

He hasn’t yet built enough confidence to try to take a step alone yet.  At this point, his hip flexors are still very weak, so his legs are actually somewhat wobbly when he walks.  I think he senses that.  He does, however, love to walk, and as long as he can hold someone’s hand, he will walk anywhere you take him!

The progress N is making is just incredible.  We are so excited that he is catching up so much faster than anyone ever imagined.  If you remember back when I first posted, if N stood up on his feet, he looked like this:

Before therapy

It was literally impossible for his leg muscles to relax and stretch enough for him to put his foot flat on the floor.  Now, after about 9 weeks of therapy, he is capable of this:

We can actually stretch and move his feet with an almost-normal range of motion and flexibility.  It is wonderful!  He still has to be reminded to “put those heels down!”  (I feel like I’m giving horseback riding lessons again!  LOL)  The fact that he CAN do it now, though, is just amazing.  There was no way just 9 weeks ago!  His calves and ankles were so incredibly tight. 

At this point, we still have a long way to go, but he is making progress weekly at this point, and I sense that he is starting to feel and even desire the new positions we are training his muscles into.  I look forward to seeing what the next month or two holds.  I would love nothing more than to see him walking this summer!!  Only time will tell.

We are really wrapping our school year.  I am so thankful I started so early in the summer last year!  We wound up so far ahead that we have really been able to take a relaxed pace this last month as we wrap things up.  I have learned that spring cabin fever, which I get a severe case of every year, has only made it more difficult to focus on teaching school.  And considering how often JR asks to go outside to play, I dare say he is experiencing the same inability to focus!  Thus, the relaxed school day has served us well lately! 

We have, however, been enjoying some different hands-on activities to supplement our school-day.  After a severe windstorm recently, JR discovered a small bird’s nest had fallen from a tree.  It had contained 3 little blue eggs, 2 of which had broken in the fall, but 1 was still in tact.  He was very concerned about the baby bird inside, so he placed the egg gently back into the next, then placed the nest in the highest bush he could reach.  Bless his heart.  It had been so long, there was no chance of momma bird returning, but he watched out for that egg for about 24 hours.  We finally convinced him she wouldn’t return.  So he went out and got the nest and egg, and began studying them both, asking questions as he did.  I saw a prime science lesson in the making, so we began discussing nest-building at length. 

While fiddling with the egg, he accidentally broke it, which allowed him to turn his focus to the nest.  After he asked what nests were made of, I gave the assignment to carefully tear the nest apart, layer by layer, and see for himself. 

As he did so, I pointed out (and made him feel) how soft the inside layer was to help protect and warm the egg.  We carefully removed that layer, and discussed the next, slightly coarser layer. 

Layer by layer, we disected the nest exploring its contents.  I have to admit, I have never actually done this before, so it was pretty fascinating observing the intricacies with which these little creatures can build these natural homes for their babes!

When we finally finished, we had several neat piles from the layers, consisting of things like down feathers, hair, string, leaves, straw, dried grasses, twigs, and so on.  A very interesting experiment that he hope he will remember for a long time.

M is eager to start school at this point.  She will just turn 4 this summer, so I am still trying to decide what I want to do with her, and how involved I want her to schooling to be.  In an effort to give her and A something new to be doing though, I bought a Montessori bead activity to reinforce their learning of patterns, colors, shapes, and fine motor skill development.  This particular one is from Melissa and Doug, and they enjoy it immensely!  Even A, who never sits still will play with this for 1/2 hour at least.

Oh, my love of and passion for homeschooling just increases as time goes on!  I love being able to share these moments with my children.  I look forward to many years of it!

These tortillas are the best!  Thanks so much, Terri ,for sharing!!

They are so incredibly easy to make, and the ingredients are simple.  This means you can make them as healthy and organic as you want!!

(This majority of this recipe is copied directly from a Yahoo answer page, but I edited slightly based on my own experience.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup lukewarm milk 

1.  Stir together the flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and oil to the milk and whisk briefly to incorporate. Gradually add the milk to the flour, and work the mixture into a dough. It will be sticky.

2.  Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with flour and knead vigorously for about 2 minutes. The kneading will take care of the stickiness. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rest for 15 minutes. (This dough will not rise, but it needs a rest.)  

*Note:  Instead of kneading by hand, I just used my kitchen aid mixer, adding a bit of flour until it was nice dough ball.  It worked beautifully!

3.  Divide your dough into 8 balls of equal size, cover them, and let them rest again for about 20 minutes. Avoid letting them touch, if you don’t want them to stick together.

4.  Dust your work surface with flour. Working one at a time, remove each piece of dough and pat it into a 5-inch circle. With a rolling pin, roll out the tortilla, working from the center out, until you have a 7- to 10-inch tortilla a little less than 1/8-inch thick. (They will almost double in thickness, so I rolled mine pretty thin!) 

5.  Transfer the tortilla to a hot, dry skillet or griddle. It will begin to blister. Let it cook for 30 seconds on med-high heat, turn it, and let the other side cook for 30 seconds. Remove the tortilla, place it in a napkin-lined basket and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.

Although best if eaten right after they are made, these tortillas will freeze well. Wrap them tightly in plastic, and they will keep, frozen, for several weeks. To serve tortillas that have been frozen, let them thaw and come to room temperature, then wrap them in aluminum foil and heat them in a warm oven. Microwaving tends to toughen them.

Here are some tips as to technique:

–Use flour with a low gluten content.  I used freshly-ground soft wheat.
–You don’t want to over-flour your work surface, but you don’t want your rolled-out tortilla sticking to it or the rolling pin either.  I found it worked best when I dusted my work surface, and peridiocally flipped my tortilla over on a freshly-dusted area.  —I used a cast-iron skillet with perfect results!
–I doubled the recipe with no problem.

You can spice up this recipe by adding:

A tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (like oregano or rosemary)
A teaspoon or so of dried herbs
Freshly ground black pepper
A tablespoon of minced jalapeños
A little garlic powder (or substitute garlic salt for the salt)
If you choose to experiment with seasonings, mix dry spices with the flour mixture and fresh or “wet” seasonings with the milk.

These were so yummy, my kids kept dumping the contents and just eating the plain tortilla!

I mentioned in my last post that N was scheduled for his second set of casts.  He got them, and I can’t believe that has already been a week ago and I haven’t posted any pics! 

This casting session went much better.  We had fewer assistants for starters, I came more prepared to entertain him, and we used a different position to allow us to control his squirming a little better.  He still managed to peg the therapist in the head with one casted foot while she was attempting to cast his other one.  No harm done though! 

This casting time has been much more pleasant.  N has had few complaints, despite the issues with the casts.  Once again, though, it didn’t him long to realize he had a new toy to explore, as he began destroying the toes of these casts. 

I told the therapist to pad those toes well, but she didn’t listen!!  Sure enough, by that night, N had started ripping them apart and removing what little padding there was. 

uhhhh....Mom? Mom? Why are you on the floor taking pics of me feet? The view up here is much better!

There ya' go! This really is my better half!

Sorry….he’s such a ham, I got a little distracted!

So, in order to control the cast-picking, we had to sock him once again.  I couldn’t find the white ones I used last time, so we found some old yellow ones that match absolutely nothing he owns.

He thinks I’m just taking his pic here….see how big he’s smiling?  Don’t tell him I’m still trying to explain the casts!

His feet were casted at a full 90 degrees to his legs this time, so hopefully we will see major progress.  I have little walking shoes to put over the casts, but I long-ago gave up trying to keep those on him.  He figured out velcro in about 5 minutes and hasn’t left them on since.  No worries, though, he has figured out how to stand just fine on his own.

The only time he really has issues is on slippery floors.  His hips are still not very strong, so he is unable to hold his legs together very well when those slippery socks and casts start sliding him into a split!  They really don’t slow him down at all though.  He stands, he cruises, he crawls, he rolls around, and I even found him half-way up the stairs this morning.  Of all times to learn how to crawl up stairs! 

Guess it’s time to pull out the baby gates.  Ain’t nothin’ gonna stop this boy now!!

Oh my goodness, where does the time go?!  This year is just flying by.  I feel like this poor blog is so neglected, and despite the fact that I enjoy it so much, it is typically the first thing to be sacrificed and pushed aside when daily life gets busy!  And rightfully so, I guess.  Nonetheless, the blog motivates me to take pics regularly, in the event I ever get around to posting them, and I still love learning from all the blogs I read almost every day.  So, in a meager attempt to semi-catch up with all I have fallen behind on, here is a synopsis of what all has been going on around here:

  When life gets busy, we put the kids on “Flour duty!”

OK, just kidding.  While they like to help, it does require quite a bit of effort on their part to make much progress.  S and I did decide, however, that S is officially in charge of grinding for me.  My daily schedule has become so task-saturated that something had to give.  It takes me almost 3 times as long to grind as it does him since he is much stronger and in much better shape, so now, once or twice a week, he fills my containers for me.  This has helped tremendously!

Like Father, like children!  I have previously had pics on here of the kids pretending to play  instruments during our family worship times, but now, it has become a regular occurance.  JR loves to play his violin, and since he is progressing through his lessons, he is actually making pretty decent sound on it nowadays.  M, on the other hand, continues to pluck away a miserable tune on her half-strung guitar.  Thank God, He only requires a joyful noise and a heart of worship!

Life got so busy, even little N couldn’t keep up the pace!   The other day, I had allowed myself to get busy with something and realized that his little noises had stopped.  I walked in to check on him, and discovered he had crawled under the dining room chair and fallen asleep!  He was so cute!!  Our kids are on such a good schedule that this type of thing rarely happens.  Therefore, I value these pics highly!

A recent personal goal of mine has been to tighten my blood sugar control even more.  When life gets busy, it is easy to let bg control slide a little.  Lately, after being inspired by several factors (not to mention to release of my book that preaches it!), I decided to really buckle down.  In case you are familiar with diabetes numbers, my goal is to be 90 pretty much every time I test.  Although it hasn’t happened yet, I am between 85 and 100 about 75% of the day now.  While I have been pleased with the results, of course, if I do happen to get unusually busy, it is very easy to have a rapid drop in blood sugar.  This pic was taken during one of those episodes where I had a particularly bad low, was very weak, and, after drinking some juice, I just sat down in the floor to rest and wait for my sugar level to rise a bit.  Of course, I was reminded that in a house with lots of littles, there is never a moment of rest!  JR, concerned about me, walked over to give me a hug, M and N jumped at the opportunity for some snuggle time, and Will the dog, who is retired from alerting to my low blood sugars still tends to react to severe lows and had to come over to check on me until he sensed a rise in my levels.  One thing is for sure…I definitely feel loved, even in my worst moments!!

Finally, another update on N…  For several reasons, we had some minor issues with his casts staying together, so we wound up taking one cast off after 3 days, and the other came after 6 days.  Even with that short time in the casts, though, his range of motion in the ankles has improved tremendously!!  We have been thrilled to not only find him naturally standing on his heels (flat-footed) with only periodic reminding, but he has even shifted his weight and posture to a more natural stance that will facilitate him learning to balance and walk!  We are so excited.  He has balanced for a few seconds at a time on several occasions, so we are no doubt making progress!  Because his braces aren’t quite ready yet, and because standing properly is still not coming totally naturally for him yet, the therapist has decided to cast him at least one more time.  So, at tonight’s therapy appointment, new casts are the plan.  We’ll see what color we get this time, and hopefully they will turn out better. 

A few other things are going on as well. 

We are still planning and preparing to move.  The count down is on, with an anticipated move in roughly 70-80 days.  Where are we going you might ask?  We still have no idea!  OK, so we have heard strong rumors, but until it is in official government writing, or at the very least, given to S by the head-honchos, we don’t really know anything.  Thus, we continue to wait.  Once we get word (which could be any day, or could be a month or more from now), things will get very hectic.  Therefore, we are doing what we can now.  We will have to house hunt, plan our trip to the farm (which may be in conjuction with the move, depending on our new assignment location), schedule the movers, and so on.  I’ll keep you posted. 

In an attempt to relax my schedule a bit, and to further prepare for our move, we have decided to cease violin lessons as of April.  We started them in December, having no idea of the issues that would arise with N just a month later.  As much as we enjoy the lessons, however, I refuse to allow business and optional activities to keep me away from my family when we have more important issues like therapy for N and work for S that keeps us apart.  Not to mention the money we will save.  That being said, S and I were very inspired by the Maxwell family, who we saw recently at a homeschool conference, and their musical talents–all of which had been self-taught.  So, while we may risk picking up a few bad habits or not performing to our fullest potential, I have decided to take on the role of violin teacher as part of homeschool.  I figure playing anything is better than nothing.  I purchased two violins, and JR and I will continue learning together.  This is the plan until we move, at which time, we will re-evaluate N’s therapy needs, our musical skills, and our new schedule, and then determine what path to take at that point. 

So there you have it.  A brief synopsis of the goings-on in our home.  Now maybe I can write more focused posts on more specific topics.

I have a new pet in my kitchen.  Much like my kitchen-aid, she’s black all over!

dehydrator

My new Excalibur 3900 Food Dehydrator

We are loving this bad boy!  I got her a little over a week ago.  I have had it on my “list” for about 6 months, but couldn’t justify it until now.  Then, I thought about waiting until after we moved, but I realized how I might miss 1/2 of the fresh fruit and veggie season if I waited any longer.  So, I finally broke down and bought it. 

Since then, we have made a number of dried foods:

More dried apple rings than we can count!

Apple, apple-yogurt, apple-cinnamon, and apple-banana fruit leathers are a favorite with the kids.

Ground Beef Jerky

And more!  Thank the Lord, Sam’s Club had a great deal of a huge bulk-bag of organic apples for about $5, so I got a bunch to play with.  We have made so many apple rings and apple leathers that I think S is sick of apples!  I also took advantage of a deal on bulk sliced mushrooms and dried those.  I am very happy with those results, and they will be perfect to have on hand for those last-minute dishes.  Remember that cow that went in my freezer a few months back? Well, in an attempt to finish everything before we moved, we had eaten almost everything except probably 30 pounds of ground beef.  I was somewhat stumped as to what to do with it all–until I found a delicious recipe for Ground Beef Jerky!  What a perfect solution!  I am learning just how much water is in our food though.  It is amazing how little is left after dehydrating!  I can spend several hours prepping all of it, and with 6 of us eating a snack, we can eat over half of it in about 15 minutes!  Oh well.  Labor of love I guess! 

Just for the record, if you are in the market for a new dehydrator, the Excalibur is awesome!  We had an original model (not excalibur) with the round plastic trays that had a hole in the middle, and the air would blow up through the holes to dehydrate.  It had no custom settings or anything, but it worked.  I needed more though.  I think the Excalibur is my answer.  Because of the size, the customizable thermostat, and the horizontal airflow, I can rise bread, make yogurt, and dry or warm small items in it, in addition to dehydrating.  I also took advantage of a deal that allowed me to get a great dehydrating book free with it, which has helped tremendously! 

So, one day, when I get a garden growing, all my friends and family can expect to receive lots of lovely, dehydrated, natural foods!…..That is, of course, if I can keep the kids (and me) from eating it all first!

Don’t you just LOVE yard sales?  I sure do!  I am not much of a shopper when it comes to malls and such, but I can find my way around a yard sale with no problem!  I got to thinking of some of the awesome deals I have found in just the last year while yard sale-ing this morning.  I got S a huge lot of old (aka “quality”) tools one time for $15, for example.  I have been keeping my eye out for either matching or complimenting twin-sized comforters for the boy’s room.  Since we will eventually have 4 beds in the boy’s room, though, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.  I had almost given up, when I found a matching set of 2 denim “bed-in-bag” sets with sheets and everything for $30.  The great thing, I already have 2 denim sets on the bunk beds we have now!  Woohoo!

Then there was the cute ceramic crock and spoon holder with my “Fruits” theme for the kitchen.  I got the whole set for $3.

Remember those new/old cast iron skillets I got off freecycle?  I can’t possibly hide those in a cupboard!  So I got this iron pot hanger at a yard sale for $3.  Are you jealous yet?

I have lost count of the massive amounts of clothes bargains I have found.  I generally pay $.25-$2 for clothing, and if I get a large enough quantity, then the seller will often work out more of a deal.  I buy for all seasons and I buy ahead of the size the kids are wearing.  I have labeled storage bins for each gender and each size.  After finding a bargain, I bring them home and wash them, and then add them to the appropriate container.  Then, as the kids outgrow their current clothes, they always have something to move into.  Later, I can limit my actual store (or more yard-sale) purchases to the items I need to fill in the “gaps.”  I should also note a recent thing I have started.  Since M and I wear a lot of long skirts, I have found it is very difficult to find them.  Short is the style, not long!  So, while I often buy my skirts online when I find a good clearance, I get juniors or ladies knee-length skirts at yard sales, and then sew a new side seam to make it a long skirt that fits M.  It is working great, and while I don’t have the time or know-how to sew a long skirt from scratch (believe me, I’ve tried!), she is now outfitted with lots of great skirts for several seasons, and they probably average out to costing me $1 or less each.  This morning I bought one that was a 2x, so I figure I can make 2 or maybe even 3 long skirts for her out of that $1 purchase! 

I have bought most of the kids’ shoes from yard sales.  Again, I typically buy in advance.  I paid $1 for the name-brand hiking boots below, and they will likely fit JR by this summer or fall.

Not only do I feel like I am being a good steward of my finances, but it is also nice to know I am not supporting unethical clothing manufacturers, that I don’t have to worry about the kids being kids and getting dirty since their clothes are inexpensive, and that I am recycling someone else’s “junk.”

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