Family by Diagnosis

When your child shares a diagnosis with other children you can’t help but identify with other parents. When you look at the faces of those other children you can’t help but see your own child’s face. You share the joy and excitement of their accomplishments and rejoice together over good news received. And you share in the grief and heartache when the news is the worst kind of news. You weep for children you’ve never met and pray for mamas too far away to wrap your arms around. 

A diagnosis grants you entry to a family you never knew existed. A different kind of family where all those children are my children and my child is not only mine but everyone else’s too. Each one different and unique. Each one loved fiercely by a community near and far. 

Most of the time, it’s really awesome to be part of that family. Our children are hilarious. They have the best smiles and the biggest hearts. In fact, many of us secretly believe we’re the lucky ones – that being a part of this family is a gift. But sometimes, when the bad news is coming from all sides – when the bad news is the worst kind of news – sometimes being part of this family is…well…sometimes we wish we didn’t have to be part of this family. Wish we didn’t know the grief. Wish we didn’t feel the pain. 

In those times, there is helplessness and heartache. There is why. Why is this happening? Why is there so much suffering? Why must it be our children who suffer? We ask God our why questions and in the midst of our questioning we are thankful that He can handle them. He loves us and knows we can’t understand. He wraps His peace around our hearts and tells us it’s ok to weep, to doubt, to be angry. He loves our babes even more than we do. 

Sometimes we get to witness a miracle. A divine intervention or healing. Sometimes we witness God calling our babes home long before we’re ready for them to go. And together this family rejoices and grieves. Together we carry on knowing that tomorrow or next year or ten years from now it may be my child this family prays over, my child receiving bad news. We celebrate each milestone, grieve each tragedy. Living through each up and each down of each child with one another all across the world. 

Because we have a secret. We know something no one else knows. We really are the lucky ones. We feel the sharp sting this diagnosis brings to each of our lives every single day. But we also feel the elation that comes from defeating it – even in the very small victories. And we know what it means to give our children to God, to trust Him with their lives, in a very real way. We know what His peace feels like. We know His strength – we depend on it for survival. 

Today is a day of questioning. A day of “why”. A day of grieving for children thousands of miles away. Today is a reminder of how precious time with my child really is, of how finite our lives may be. Today is a reminder to love, to be thankful, to be patient, to breathe deep and savor God’s peace. 

Paper Boat Template

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been pulling together ideas for a co-op class on Pirates. I really liked this idea for making pirate ships from juice boxes.  But after trying a couple different kinds of paint I couldn’t find one that would cover the juice box design with just one coat. If I were doing this project at home with Mikayla, that wouldn’t be a big deal. We would just let the “ship” dry and add additional coats as needed. However, with a class of 14 kids and not much time for waiting between coats I needed something that only had to be painted once.

So in a moment of middle-of-the-night-thinking, I came up with this (very) simple Boat Template. It works perfectly and should be easy enough for kids to do with minimal guidance.

Step 1: Print template on cardstock or other heavy paper and cut on the gray line. You’ll make two boats per sheet. 2016-01-20 15.26.05

Step 2: Fold the bottom edge to the top blue line and crease the fold well. Open and repeat with the opposite edge.2016-01-20 15.26.34

Step 3: Pinch the red dotted line to form a “W” shape on each end.

Step 4: Staple ends.

And there you have it! Paint or decorate as you wish. I intend to finish the boats by cutting a sail out of scrapbook paper, a skewer or tiny dowel rod for the mast and a bit of modeling clay to hold the mast in place inside the boat. Or you can use the finishing instructions from Se7en and her juice box boats.

Click here to download the Boat Template. Happy sailing!

A New Adventure

If you follow me on Twitter or FaceBook or know me at all in real life, you probably know that I love to read. It has always been my absolute favorite hobby. And, in case you were wondering, teen vampire novels definitely count as reading.

I’ve recently started a new adventure as an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books & More. Usborne books are some of my favorite children’s books – beautiful and educational and also lots of fun to read!

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For some time I’ve looked for a job that I could do part time, while staying home with Mikayla, working on my own schedule, that didn’t make me want to jab a pencil in my eye. So basically I wanted a job that didn’t exist. A few weeks ago I stopped by the Usborne booth at a curriculum fair. Then I left the booth because I didn’t “need” to buy anything. Then I came back 20 minutes later because I definitely “needed” to buy some books. The kind woman working in the booth laughed at my difficulty in narrowing down my list of purchases and said, “You should just become a consultant so you can get all these at a discount.”

I dismissed the idea immediately because selling anything is…just…the most terrifying. But then a small, quiet idea popped into my head that this might be the job I’d been hoping for. I can set my own hours, work around our families schedule, get a bunch of free books for our own library and I get to share my love of reading and encourage a love of reading in children. And, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I also want to pay for a trip to Disney.

I am excited about this adventure. Nervous, but excited. I wanted to share my little journey for two reasons. First, because Usborne books are truly remarkable and offer a variety of treasured reading material for children of all ages. If you aren’t familiar, you can browse the online catalog. Secondly, because perhaps someone reading this has also been in search of the impossible to find job and maybe this post will cause you to think of a small, quiet idea – maybe that job isn’t so impossible after all.

If you share my love of Usborne books and would like the opportunity to get them for free, I’d love to talk to you about hosting a home show (or even an eShow).

Wish me luck on what I hope to be a grand adventure. What new adventures have you taken on lately?

This Parenting Gig

Being a parent has to be one of the hardest things any of us ever do. Children require an enormous amount of patience and love and money. They are loud and messy and demanding. And when your sweet darling angel says “Mommy” 763 times in the span of 9 minutes you feel like you’re going to lose your mind. (or so I’ve heard)

If that’s not enough, the knowledge that you are raising a person and are largely responsible for their mental, emotional and physical well-being is THE. MOST. TERRIFYING. THING. EVER.

I remember being about 8 months pregnant with Mikayla and thinking, “I can’t protect her out here.” In my sleep deprived, hormone imbalanced state I believed the illusion that I was in control – that as long as my child was in my womb I could keep her safe. Of course, this wasn’t true. Any number of things outside of my control could have threatened her. What I didn’t know then is that Mikayla would have Williams Syndrome. During the time when I believed I was in complete control, a few of her genes didn’t split correctly which resulted in a lifetime of challenges far outside my grasp of control.

I learned from this experience that we get it backwards. We think being a parent equates to ownership of our children. The belief that we are in control leads to a lot of stress and frustration and fear when life doesn’t go our way. In reality, we are stewards and not owners. Our children belong to God and are given to us to love, care for, teach, feed and answer whenever the precious dears ask a question, even if it’s 763 times every 9 minutes.

We only have our children for a short time to equip them to go out into the world and live as successful contributing members of society who love Jesus and strive to follow Him. They are not ours to fulfill our wishes or dreams.

This is not an easy thing to remember. My nature is to desire control and ownership. I forget that parenting is an act of worship and that my role is not to control every possible outcome of my child’s existence but to love her and teach her about God and pray that she will fall in love with Him. I don’t always do this well. But, when I do remember that she belongs to God and not to me, that God is in control and not me, a sense of peace and reassurance washes over my soul. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to control everything. I don’t have to be anxious about her health. Because I know that God loves her and parents her far better than I ever could.

I may have an easier time remembering my lack of control than most parents. Because every time Mikayla and I go anywhere she insists on having an elaborate conversation with every single person we encounter. There are so many cashiers and store managers and bag boys that know my child by name and we talk to THEM ALL. EVERY TIME. If I were actually in control, this would never happen.

What aspects of parenting do you struggle to remember? How do your children remind you?

It’s Been Awhile

Hello.

It’s been awhile.

 

I took a break from blogging almost two years ago. Initially, I was going to be offline for about 3 months or so. And now it’s two years later…

I was going to say “I don’t really know why it’s taken me this long to get back to blogging” but then I remembered we started homeschooling. Homeschooling happened. Side note: homeschooling has been a great adventure. The psycho-planner part of my personality loves planning out curriculum and lessons and schedules. The not-so-patient part of my personality has found it difficult at times. Overall, it has been a great experience for both me and Mikayla. I truly believe it has been the best schooling option for her and I am so thankful for the privilege of staying home with her every day. Will we homeschool forever? Somedays feel like forever… as for future years, we’ll see when we get there.

Mikayla is doing well. We have started 1st grade this month. Yes, we started school in July. My friends have already informed me that I’m a horrible parent for starting school in July but don’t hate when we have a whole month off at Christmas! Mikayla’s health has been great over the past couple years. We have actually made it nearly two years with only one ear infection (which is definitely an improvement) and have received good reports from all her usual doctor visits this year.

I’m excited to get back into blogging from time to time. Writing helps me process thoughts and feelings and happenings. And I will share those writings with the world. Because it’s 2014 and I can. Also, when I say “the world” I mean “the three of you”.

So, friends, hopefully it will not be another two years before you hear from me.

 

Reader Question: What great adventures have you embarked on over the last couple years? Leave a comment to share.

Time Out

Taking a bit of a break from the online world to enjoy living in the moment.

No checking twitter while chatting with friends.

No reading blogs over breakfast.

I want to practice living wholly, fully in the real world.

I’ll be back online and blogging with a vengeance before long. In the meantime, I’ll check email periodically so feel free to use the Contact Me form.

Let’s see how this whole face-to-face thing works out…

Hand & Body Soap – UPDATE

Made my first gallon of homemade liquid soap about five months ago. I made a second batch about 3 weeks ago. Still really happy with the results.

You can read the original post for the recipe and instructions.

My initial reactions to this homemade product are pretty much the same. I mean…it’s soap. So, not a lot to get excited about. It lathers. It rinses. It cleans.

I plan to continue making it. Sometimes I miss Bath & Body Works antibacterial foaming hand soap…but then I remember that this soap only cost about a ninth of the BBW variety. (Not a scientific number, just an estimation. But it’s probably not far off.)

What do you think? Is the savings worth the time it takes to make your own soap?

Laundry Detergent – UPDATE

For the past five months or so I’ve been making my own Laundry Detergent. I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I was at first, but I’m not disappointed enough to give up on it just yet.

I’ve tinkered with the recipe a bit in an effort to eliminate the “dingy” effects of the soap. Depending on the hardness of your water, homemade laundry detergent can cause your white clothes to look dingy after a while. This has not been a huge problem for us – mostly just t-shirts that have been affected. But, I’d like to eliminate this problem if I can.

You can view the original recipe, if you’d like. I am currently using the following mixture:

2 cups Borax powder (found in the laundry isle)
2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing powder (not baking soda – washing powder is found in the laundry isle)
1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry soap (FINELY shredded)

Use 1 tablespoon per load. Two tablespoons for extra large or heavily soiled loads.

Doubling up on the powders increases the “whitening agents” in each load of laundry vs. the mixture I used originally. It also reduces the overall cost per load a bit as the soap is the most expensive ingredient. I have not, however, done the math on that.

Will I keep using it?

Eh…hard to say at this point. It’s really hard to argue with the savings. Less than $2 for probably 60+ loads is a considerable savings over store bought brands (even with coupons!). My plan for now is to try this mixture a bit longer. If I’m still less than thrilled with the results I’ll try using a different laundry soap to see if I get different results.

The other laundry soap option is Zote. The only reason I picked the Fels-Naptha initially was because I found it in the first store I checked. It might be worth a little trip to Walmart to see if I can find the Zote.

Many recipes you can find online use simple Ivory bar soap instead of a “laundry soap”. I read about some concerns with regular soap clogging septic tanks because it has more oils than laundry soap. Part of me thinks that if it’s ok to use in the shower it should be ok to use in the washer. The other part of me doesn’t want to risk it. Though, it would be considerably cheaper than the laundry soap options…assuming you don’t break your septic tank.

For now, for me, it is still well worth the time and effort it takes to make my own laundry detergent. I’ll keep you posted on the dingy-factor.

Keeping Christmas Simple

December is busy. Thereʼs no way around it. With kids home from school, parties to attend, gifts to buy – its very easy to get so distracted and caught up in the rush that we miss out on what Christmas is really about. Here is a schedule that will help you simplify this Christmas season so that you can reflect on Godʼs many gifts to us and appreciate the time shared with friends and family.

January – October: Complete all Christmas gift buying. I know it seems crazy to think about Christmas shopping in September. But, if you can get your gift buying done well before the holiday rush begins, you will enjoy the Christmas season far more than if you were still rushing to mark gifts off your list. For more on gift giving tips see Time For Christmas Shopping.

1st Week of November: Fill out Christmas cards or write Christmas letters. Put them in their envelopes, seal the envelopes, place stamp and mailing labels on the envelopes. Set aside to mail later.

2nd Week of November: Begin wrapping gifts. You donʼt necessarily have to wrap all gifts this week, but focus on getting the bulk of your wrapping finished.

3rd Week of November: Plan your calendar. Pencil in family traditions or holiday parties that you donʼt want to miss.

4th Week of November: Enjoy Thanksgiving worry free.

1st Week of December: Drop Christmas cards in the mail. Decorate your house – including your tree (note: this can be done the weekend after Thanksgiving, allowing you to get a head start on baking).

2nd Week of December: Set aside some time to bake. Cookies can be baked and then frozen (good as new when they thaw) for holiday parties, childrenʼs school parties, Christmas gifts, or just a family treat. This week you should also make sure gifts to out of town friends and family get mailed.

Rest of December: Relax. Enjoy time with family. Reflect on the birth of our Savior. Savor the special moments spent with those around you.

For additional Holiday Organization tips, visit the Organizing Tools section for tips on making Christmas less stressfuleasy gift givingreducing holiday waste and surviving day after Christmas shopping trips.

Originally posted September 21, 2011.

Dishwasher Detergent – UPDATE

It’s been a while since I started using homemade cleaning products so I thought I’d give you an update on how things are working out.

My favorite homemade product is still the Dishwasher Detergent. Fairly simple to make. Only $1.93 per batch. I haven’t changed the original recipe at all, it is still working great for me.

In fact, I haven’t even had to make a second batch. I made the first batch in mid to late April (don’t remember the exact date) and I’m STILL using that same batch! And it’s not like I never use the dishwasher – I run it at least every other day, if not every day.

Detergent that I made for $1.93 has lasted 4 to 4.5 months. And there’s still probably 3-4 weeks left before it runs out. You can’t find that kind of deal in the store…even with coupons.

I have only noticed one downside to making my own dishwasher detergent – it seems to be a bit harsh on metal after a while. My silverware doesn’t look as shiny as it used to. For me, this is really a non-issue as the only metal I usually wash in the dishwasher is my (cheap) silverware. My pots and pans are not dishwasher safe and the silverware we use was hand-me-down from one of Mike’s aunts when we got married. Ten years ago. Dull spoons don’t really bother me but I wanted to mention it all the same.

I’m also still using white vinegar as the rinse aid. Still thrilled with that as well.

You can find the recipe and instructions for making your own dishwasher detergent in the original post. Anyone else make their own cleaning products?

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