Thursday, December 30, 2010

May...or may not

Today I'm not feeling very well.

You know what that means, right?

Yes...it means fettuccine alfredo is absolutely necessary for my survival. I wish it weren't so. Alas, it is. I'll be adding some pesto - you know, because I need the extra veggie content since I'm sick and all. Garlic and basil are really good for you. Really really reeeeeeeeeeally good. 

I may or may not be forced to use my new pasta rolling pin to make noodles. 

I may or may not be forced to lay on the couch and eat bowl after bowl while finishing Season Two of Arrested Development on Netflix. 

Poor me. Poor poor me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oh by gosh by golly...

A few days ago my dear friend Momma K9 sent me a text that simply read "Bluuuuuuuuuurp. The sound of my thighs expanding."

Can I get an amen or what? Seriously...the food.

We spent all of Christmas Eve with Mike's side of the family. The day began with a peppermint mocha, almond scones, breakfast casserole, and gingerbread pancakes with homemade syrup (also known as maple flavored fat, or, heaven in a bottle). Dinner was a combination of carne asada tacos, homemade refried beans, Mexican coleslaw, fresh corn tortillas, Jamaican patties, curried chicken with peas and rice and too many cookies to remember. I found myself wishing for my leggings and regretting my choice of size 4 jeans.

Christmas day began with cinnamon rolls and candy from the stocking. I know it may be weird, but we're all about health around here. Or...not. After my third truffle of the morning I decided my size 4 jeans mistake would not be repeated and I grabbed my elastic waist leggings. Best. Purchase. Ever. After gifts we went to my parent's house where we dove into the jalepeno artichoke dip, and the seafood dip. And a few more cookies. My sister showed up with hummus and vegetables so I decided to eat a little more healthy and in between bites of almond rocha and sips of hot buttered rum I would eat a cucumber slice. For dinner my dad did up an awesome prime rib roast, potatoes from the garden, 7-layer salad (as requested by Lincoln), and...a crab pot. Oh yes. Prawns, clams, crab, red potatoes and corn on the cob all in one delicious place...with butter for dipping. Of course. My sister-in-law made an amazing trifle for dessert.

On Boxing Day we once again went to my folks for turkey, more potatoes, more salad, loads of gravy and green beans with bacon. And leftover trifle. You can't let dessert go to waste...it's kind of a commandment.

And that's just Christmas weekend. I won't even divulge the kind of food that I put into my body in the weeks leading up to Christmas time.

So, this morning, bright and early, I spent some quality time with Jillian Michaels. I'm hopeful she can help undo what Christmas eating has done.

And if not? Well...I'll maintain that every bite was totally worth it.

(Will you remind me I said that in a few weeks when I'm trying to squeeze into my bathing suit for our trip to Maui?)

Chocolate covered Peanut butter bacon balls. Just one (of many) things I ingested in December. Pretty much, if you want to be a hero to everyone you know, you will make these. Recipe to follow soon!

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Celebrate the Day

Ah...Christmas. The most glorious wonderful commercialized time of year.

You know what I really started thinking about this year? The Christmas carol Little Drummer Boy. I really started listening to the words and I started to get a little annoyed. Who, who in their right mind would invite a drumming kid into a birthing suite? As if poor Mary wasn't miserable enough to have given birth amongst lambs and goats and cows and pigs and all the glorious mess that they produce...someone felt the need to ask a kid to come play a stinking drum? Are you kidding me? Mary nodded, pa-rum-pa-pa-pum...Are you sure? Because I'm pretty sure she would have drop kicked that kid if he tried playing a drum near her newborn baby while she was trying to recover and attempting to figure out how to get her baby to latch on. Seriously...who writes this stuff?

Regardless of my newfound distaste for the Little Drummer Boy and whoever invited him into the stable that night, I really do love Christmas. We have a few traditions we've worked on establishing in our little family - I really hope they carry through with us each year.

* Gifts - Each child gets three of them. We are actually just starting this one. Last year a friend of mine told me they get each of their children three gifts because that is how many gifts the Wisemen brought to Jesus. I loved the correlation and this year we adopted it. Limiting ourselves to three gifts has helped us to reign in our spending, especially since, with young children, they usually open one gift and are so enthralled with it they could care less about the other gifts. There was one year, a few years back, that they had so many gifts some gifts weren't completely unwrapped before they moved onto the next gift. I'm pretty sure that kind of excess isn't really going to help the character building. We also know that as they get older the gifts will get more expensive ... it will be nice for the kids to know they are limited in their wish list.

*Santa - we've gone back and forth on Santa but finally settled on Santa fills the kids stockings. Our main reason for this is, if our kids get a gift that totally knocks their socks off, I don't want to be giving credit to some strange fictional character. I also don't want our kids experiencing the disappointment of finding out Santa isn't real. So, although we talk about Santa filling their stockings, and leave him egg nog and donuts every year, we don't try to shelter our children from knowing the truth. There is something really fun about the magic and mystery of Santa though, so we didn't want to do away with him completely.

* Chinese Food - The last few years we have celebrated Christmas a few days early. This started one year when Mike was working Christmas day, but we've carried it on even though he's been home. It's been nice for the kids to open their gifts without the stress of having to get anywhere. Then we usually do something fun - a movie or the Children's Museum - and we end up at the local Chinese restaurant for dinner. The kids always always want fried rice and egg drop soup. Then we drive around and look at lights and finally head home and have ice cream. It's been so much fun creating our own little tradition. This year the kids will open gifts on Christmas morning since we don't have to be anywhere until later in the day and Mike is off, but he is off in the days leading up to Christmas as well, so we will still do something really fun and end up with Chinese food, lights and ice cream.

That's pretty much it. I would like to start a cookie making or gingerbread house making tradition - but that would require forethought and planning. I would also like to start making gifts for our families but again...the whole preplanning things seems elusive.

Anyway, there is a real possibility I won't be posting again until after Christmas and so ...

Merry Christmas!  I pray your Holiday is filled with family, laughter and love and most importantly the remembrance of what we are really celebrating - the birth of the Savior who was born to die so we might live. I'll leave you with my favorite Christmas tune of all times and the pictures we sent out on our Christmas cards this year. Merry Christmas!!




And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You've touched my life
Because here is where You're finding me, in the exact same place as New Year's eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We're less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might [ really ]live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life









Monday, December 13, 2010

Before and (Very Happily) After

Our second son, Judah, has always been our sickly child. Thankfully, sickly for our family isn't really very sickly ... but still, we've had some struggles.

Without boring you will all the details (of which there are many) I will tell you that when he turned three Mike and I could hardly understand what he was saying and that people outside our home never could understand him. When I brought these concerns to our then pediatrician, we were told, without having ever heard Judah speak, that we didn't need to worry about it until he was closer to Kindergarten age.

That didn't sit well with us and we began looking for a new doctor for our kids. While we looked we took Judah to our school district to have him evaluated. They were more helpful, and affirmed that he did have some speech issues, however he scored an 81% on his evaluation and in order to qualify for services he needed to score lower than 78%. I felt stuck - I didn't know how to be an advocate for my son. While Mike was more relaxed about it and hopeful that Judah would grow out of his poor speech patterns, I was increasingly concerned that they would only get worse as he got older and by the time he was in Kindergarten he would be behind before he even started. It took awhile but we found a new pediatrician and when we went in for our first meeting and I asked about Judah he looked me square in the eye and asked,
"Do you think there's an issue?"
"Yes," I said. "I know they said he should be fine, but I really do feel like there's an issue."
"Good enough for me," he replied. "In my years as a doctor I've learned that mom's know a lot more than they are often given credit for. Find a speech therapist and I'll send my referral."
I felt so affirmed as a mom! It felt so good to be listened to and trusted that I did know what was best for my son.
We found a speech therapist not far from our home and while she was doing Judah's evaluation she asked me to look at Judah's mouth. "Notice," she said, "how when he talks his tongue doesn't move? Do you see that he's using his jaw to move his tongue around? That would be the reason for the 'lazy' speech you hear."
"Is that something he would grow out of?" I asked.
She looked at me wide eyed. "No," she replied. "That's something he'll have to work hard to stop doing." Once again, affirmed in the knowledge that I knew my son and what was and was not normal for him, we set ourselves up on a speech plan.
Judah was in speech for nearly a year when his therapist called me into her office before the session and asked me to watch this video of a student using a new device called a palatometer. I (not surprisingly if you know me) burst into tears. Judah's speech had indeed improved since he'd been in therapy, but it was a very slow process. Seeing the video gave me so much hope that Judah wouldn't need to spend years in therapy; that we may only have months left. Without even knowing if our insurance would cover the new device I asked our therapist to sign us up. The video gave me so much hope I didn't care if we had to pay out of pocket; I just knew that it was what we needed.

Since the spring time, Judah has been using the palatometer for his speech therapy sessions. Even with our sporadic schedule, the improvement has been immense. We only have one car, and Brooklyn has also needed some speech help, si there have been some months when Judah was only able to get one therapy session in. And still, he is talking clearly. It seemed to start slowly, but suddenly, people have been having conversations with Judah. And those same people have been saying, "Wow...I understood every word he said."


I wanted to share these Before and After videos his therapist took of him. I am beyond proud of the strides he's made and am so thankful that we were led to his current therapist. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to embed these videos directly into the post so (sorry!) you'll have to check out the speech therapist's website but take a look! Especially if you know someone who's child is having speech difficulty, they need to know about a palatometer and how it can help.

See Judah's Before and After Videos


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Debt Stuff

Ahem.

So, it's been awhile since I've written on our debt story. Honestly, I shouldn't openly admit this, but I grew tired of writing it. That, and there was just a lot of waiting between paying off our credit card and paying off our car. It was month after month of tight budgeting, not going out to eat, not really doing anything fun ... on and on. It went by quickly though so it is difficult for me to sit down and remember every detail.

However (ah...thank God for however's!) I received this email yesterday from an old friend and it made. my. day. In fact, I cried for a bit when I read it, and when I re-read it to Mike later, I cried again. Not only did the email make my heart very very happy, but it also affirmed me as a friend and encouraged me to continue to stay on our debt free path (which can, admittedly, become tiresome sometimes) and to continue writing our story.

I thought I would write another chapter in the debt free saga but my daughter just vomited over the entire living room and so ... I'll leave you with the email I received. But soon, like, a few days soon, I'll continue the debt free story.

(Oh...and for a little history on this friend of mine, her youngest son was recently diagnosed with DMD (Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy) and she is pregnant with her sixth child! She's pretty amazing to begin with but this email put it over the top for me...)

Hey Genesis,
It's been a while since we've talked but I wanted to thank you for something.
It was a long time ago, right after Simeon was born, I came to visit.  (which by the way, we need to do again, it's been tooo long).
We talked about babies, Simeon's birth, how you weren't having more babies, etc.  But we also talked about $$, bills, paying for stuff, mortgages, credit cards, etc.  You were telling me about (I can't think of his name, pregnant brain, right) the financial guy, you read his book about keeping a budget, no credit cards, putting money in envelopes.  Anyway after I left I told Tom all about our visit.  At the time, I thought there is no way, there is no way that I ever will be able to be debt free.  
About a month or so after that, you posted on facebook that you were officially debt free.  I was so happy for you an Mike (I hope things are still well??, I know more than anyone that life happens, and things come up, but I hope you've been able to stay debt free).  
Well, long story short, I took your advice and decided I was going to try really had to do that too.  Then not very many months later (maybe 2 or 3 months) we got Wyatt's medical diagnosis.  And so much for debt free.  We ended up spending about 7000 to 10,000 dollars out of pocket on medical bills since then.  So we were in debt twice what we were when we talked.  
But after so many hard decisions, fights with our mortgage company, fights with our medical insurance, fights with our car loan people, almost 15 months since I saw you we are officially debt free (except mortgage, which we got a loan modification and are saving about $1000 a month on our house payment) as of today.  No credit card debt, no car loans, medical bills are paid, man does it feel great.
The whole purpose of this email is to thank you.  I have a lot of friends who try to give me advice or say you can't be without a credit card, you need one, that's bull!  You were my only friend that gave me a solution.  As you well know, it's still so hard to live on a budget.  EVERYTHING is more expensive, but Tom doesn't make anymore money.  We've made huge sacrifices, but haven't had to give up what's truly important....a safe place for our children to live and the best medical care money can buy for Wyatt.  I don't know how I can ever thank you enough.  You may not know how much you encouraged us to make a change.
We didn't do this for us, we wanted to prove to our kids, that it is truly possible to live with in your means, I hope that in the last year the kids seeing us struggle to get though everything will not only prove to them ANYTHING is possible, but that also that they need to budget when they want things (as adults) and I hope and pray that they don't make the same mistakes we did.  This is the first time (other than right after we sold our house when we moved here 3 years ago) in our almost 18 year marriage that we have been debt free.  I am a changed person and I hope that my kids will LEARN from my current example, not my mistakes of the past.
Thanks Genesis.  You truly made a difference in the lives of 8 people.  Our family can never thank you enough.
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.
I'm honored to call you my friend.
Love, Melissa
  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I am Momma Bear

Most of you know I'm the oldest of six children. This information, in and of itself, is pretty boring. Just another tidbit about me. However, being the oldest of six children has ... uh ... shaped me into the woman I am today. I basically grew up feeling like I was their second mother. (Side note: our mom is awesome.) In fact, as we've grown into adults, growing out of being their second mother has been a difficult transition for me. And, I know I joke around about this, but there actually was a time when I saw an actual therapist and he actually told me I had to let go of parenting my siblings; you know, especially since I had my own children that needed their own mother and that my own brothers and sisters were all adults and could take care of themselves ... and also that little detail of our own parents being pretty freaking good at the whole parenting thing.

Still, years after that counseling session, there are times when I find those misplaced mothering tendencies towards my siblings creep back up again. The biggest one I struggle with is bossing. I've even tried bossing my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. I'm terrible. I apologize a lot. (Um...at least, I should.)

But the other thing that pops up? My Momma Bear. Like, the big bad grizzly that only tends to come out when someone comes after my own children? Well, she comes out when someone comes after my siblings too.

Which is why, last night, when someone tried posting degrading comments about my baby brothers on my photography blog, I kind of lost it. First, I should say, I will never allow anything about my client's personal lives to be posted on their pictures. Second, I will especially never allow anything hateful or destructive to be said about my client's on my blog. And thirdly, you weasly little anonymous coward, I especially will not allow insensitive, uneducated, misguided comments about my baby brothers and their wives to be posted on my blog. Ever.

I told Mike the things that frustrated me the most:
*I knew the comments were put there to get me riled up and I hated that it worked.
*I knew that the decisions my brothers have made and the paths that led them to where they are, are beautiful stories. It bothered my that they were called into question. I hated that I felt like I needed to defend them; especially since they had done nothing that needed to be defended.
*I was bothered that people were passing judgement on my family; people who don't know all the details, who haven't taken circumstances into account and who don't really even understand the situations.

While I lay in bed last night and pondered how exactly I was going to defend my poor baby brothers and their wives and verbally rip to shreds the person who posted the comments, I had this moment where I heard the Lord ask me, "When did I defend myself?" I thought of the things that had been said about Jesus; the false accusations, the beatings, the questioning and how he never once defended Himself. He didn't need to be defended. He let His accusers say and do what they wanted. Granted, He, being God, had a little more self control than I do and He also knew the whole big picture ... still, I think the lesson is there. Let people say what they will. Don't defend, don't engage in the conversation. Just let the truth speak for itself.

And then I began to think of all the people I have passed judgement on without knowing details. Oh man...sometimes without even wanting to know details. Sometimes, without even knowing them. Sometimes, I try to get all the details and say it's so I won't make a wrong judgement. Wow...how's that for justifying gossip? Once a new mom came to MOPS and was asking how to get her 18 month old to sleep through the night and not in bed with them? Yeah...um, take care of that when he 18 days and it won't be an issue. Later I found out they had adopted him only two months before and he'd been living in a cardboard box before that.

OH. MY. GOSH.

The judgement's I've made against so many people! Without apology, without care, without love. And most notably, without concern for how my words will affect them.

Or those who love them.

So today ... I've felt less harsh toward the person who made those comments. I'm still upset, my Momma Bear still hasn't fallen back to sleep, but I've been reminded of the many Momma Bears who's anger I've ignited with my own callous thoughts and words. I'm thankful for second chances and the opportunities I've been given to apologize for the hurts I've caused. I'm reminded that talking gossiping about others doesn't help them or me; it just hurts. It has kept me from friendships that could have been amazing, it has blocked me from hearing stories that could have changed my life, it has stolen away opportunities for me to show Christ's love.

So, anonymous blog commenter ... I'm sorry you feel the way you do. But thank you for giving me the chance to look inside myself, question my own motives, and learn a little bit.

"As for you, you meant evil against me (and my family), but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result..." Genesis 50:20 (parenthesis mine)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Assassination

Yesterday Lincoln asked me why President Abraham Lincoln had been so disliked. This led to a discussion about slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation. At the end of our discussion Judah said,
"And that's why President Lincoln was shot in the back of the head." Then he paused thoughtfully and asked, "Did he get shot with a regular gun? ... or with a rocket launcher?"