Friday, September 30, 2011

Luminaries and Cake for the Feast of the Archangels

We love to celebrate for the Feast of the Archangels!  This year we made luminaries for each of the archangels and then had our traditional devil's food cake pierced by St. Michael!

Making Luminaries in honor of each of the Archangels.  These are just recycled jars with tissue paper glued to the outside.  Just use a brush for gluing.  Brush the jar with glue, stick on the pieces of paper, and once dry, put a brushing of glue over the top.  

One for Raphael...

One for Michael...

And another for Gabriel

Our Devil's food cake with the necessary sword...and of course, our own Michael leads the attack.

Last year's cake - admittedly, a bit cooler

Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yarn Along 9/28/11

I've started some Christmas knitting!  I plan on making each of the boys a set of mittens with a matching hat in "their" color.  John Paul will be blue, Michael (of course) gold, and David green.  Baby is undetermined.  I figure I'll have some time after he or she is born to decide on a color.  Hats I can do but this is my first time in the mitten department.  I can't say that it is very fun knitting.  Doing such small circumferences with ribbing on dpns (especially when all I have is the long ones!) is a bit tedious in my novice opinion.  I wish I could find tiny circular needles.  Why don't they make those?   Maybe they do, I just haven't been able to find any.  So, I started David's mittens using the pattern HERE with Knit Picks merino style yarn in Edamame and I also started a certain other gift which shall have to remain clothed in secrecy.  We'll see how these turn out...

I began rereading Heidi the other day.  I know I want the boys to read it at some point but wanted to read it myself again first.  This is the copy I got when I was a girl and one of the few books I held onto into adulthood.  And I definitely needed something a little lighter to read so this fit the bill nicely.

And just because it's fun...this past week I got a very fun package in the mail...

I opened it to find a very happy sight:

I know, not very exciting to most people but this is my first time ordering yarn :)  For some reason I was a bit intimidated by the concept and didn't know where to start.  A helpful comment sent me to Knit Picks where they sucked me in with their low wool prices and free shipping after $50.  This should keep me busy, I think.  And yes, there is some pink in there.  You know, just in case ;)

Friday, September 23, 2011

First Fencing

We surprised our first-born the other day by letting him know that we had registered him for fencing lessons...he was quite the thrilled little boy that morning!  Our community education program has a six week program for beginners and I knew it was just perfect for this little knight of ours.  His first lesson was yesterday.  He seemed a bit nervous when we first got there.  It's always interesting to watch him in these situations when the environment is not what he is used to.  Being homeschooled, we don't have "classes" so things like this are the only exposure he has had so far of having a teacher other than mom and learning with other children.  Parents could wait in the hallway where we could still hear and see the class but without being a distraction to the students.  He was so attentive the whole time and soon had a big smile on his face while he learned the different positions and forms for beginner fencing.  He looked so little next to the other boys in the class.  The best part was at the end.  The instructor announced that the person with the best form would win the prize for the day and get to pick something out of the treasure box.  He led them through some practice drills and watched and then announced that John Paul had been the most attentive to his instructions and had the best form in the class!  My little boy held in his pride, picked out a prize but when he came out to the hallway and saw me, the biggest smile broke out onto his face and he was just BEAMING.  He's pretty excited to learn the 11 codes of conduct that are required memorization in order for him to be made 'squire' (right now, he's a page!) and get to use a real foil for his lessons. 

Some (somewhat blurry) pics of my little knight:

En Garde! Stance 



 Going over the Eleven Codes of Conduct

A very proud little boy...though he wouldn't give me his normal smile ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

David's Hirschsprung's Story - Part III

For the beginning of David's journey with Hirschsprung's visit HERE and HERE.

I made the hour long trip with David to Rochester to meet with Dr. Pegoli.  It was a bit overwhelming not knowing where to go and Brian wasn't able to come with me.  After a long wait, we met with the resident and gave her our story and records that I had collected in the previous weeks.  When Dr. Pegoli came in, he brought two other residents and was immediately so much more helpful than we had experienced here in Buffalo.  I told him the whole story and he looked at the records.  I then described to him the treatment that had been recommended by Dr. Glick.  His eyes got a little wide during that part.  He then told me that if we were to come to Strong, his recommended course of action would be the "conservative" approach that is standard care for Hirschsprung's.  First, David would need a surgery to put in a colostomy bag.  This would require a 3-5 day stay in the hospital as well as...a colostomy bag.  The bag would likely be in around 3 months, allowing his distended colon to go back down to normal size.  He described to me how the colon had to shrink back down to its proper size in order to even think about doing the next step - a pull-through surgery.  The pull-through would again involve a 3-5 day stay in the hospital and then an undetermined amount of recovery.  The child after pull-through must learn how to move and control their bowels and depending on the circumstances, that can happen pretty quickly or take years. 

Dr. Pegoli was very patient with my questions and when I asked him what he really thought about Dr. Glick's approach, he very diplomatically told me that he thought it was wrongheaded and ill-advised.  I then asked him what had been on my mind for a while.  If we have been dealing with this for two years already, what's to prevent us from just continuing what we are doing and avoid surgery altogether?  Were there risks to that?  He surprised me by telling me that this, in fact, was a valid option!  As long as we were diligent about making sure he stayed regular, was growing and developing normally, and we watched for any signs of colitis, that doing nothing (besides active bowel management through medication) was a valid option!  Everything we had read online and in Hirschsprung's literature had led us to believe that surgery was the ONLY treatment for Hirschsprung's children.  It didn't make sense to us since we had been living with it for so long and we had heard stories of people diagnosed in their teens or adulthood.  Obviously, in some cases it WAS possible to live with it but that wasn't the mainstream way of treating it in the medical world.  I left that appointment with a lot to think and pray about.  Should we pursue a surgical solution that could possibly relieve David of the immediate symptoms of Hirschsprung's for good, though involving risk and a great deal of struggle for this coming year?  Or do we continue to seek a different solution and try to avoid surgery altogether?

Brian and I have talked and prayed over it a lot.  We continued to research and learn about Hirschsprung's and debate whether surgery was what we wanted to do.  I learned through various message boards that pull-through surgery is not the guarantee cure-all that is presented on many medical information sites.  I joined one particular message board that contained a great many parents of Hirschsprung's children who were STILL dealing with issues after surgery.  And some of these issues are bad.  Some of the children are completely incontinent.  Some still cannot go on their own and are on consistent medications.  Some have had repeated bouts with enterocolitis (meaning lengthy hospital stays).  Some have had the surgery repeated two or three times.  Those stories have been very eye-opening showing me that by simply pursuing the surgery, we were not guaranteed to have a symptom-free child in the end.  In fact, what we could end up with is a little boy with struggles and symptoms WORSE than what we were already dealing with.  Was it worth the risk to us?  Did the benefits and possible cure of what we were dealing with outweigh not only the inherent risks of surgery but the risks of even worse complications arising as a result of the surgery?

In the end, we have decided to not pursue the surgical treatment for now.  For us, we cannot justify the risks of surgery for the *possible* benefits.  We had great success switching David to an over-the-counter medicine that keeps him going on a regular basis (polyethylene glycol, a.k.a. Miralax).  From what I can gather, this medication is neither habit-forming nor detrimental to any other bodily system.  (Update 5/2017: I've since learned that there is a growing concern of possible neurological and behavioral side effects with the use of Miralax in some children. I still think we made the best choice but I want anyone reading this to know the concern is out there.) In our view, while having our child on medication for the foreseeable future is NOT what we want for our child at all, the risks of surgery and the possible lifetime complications are far worse.  If it could be guaranteed that surgery would work and David would be Hirschsprung's-free, it would be a different story.  But it's not and so we have to make the best decision we can with the circumstances we have.  We still have hope that somehow, some way he will be healed of this and live a normal life.  For now, we are so grateful that his condition is not worse than it is.  And, oddly enough, we are grateful that things for the most part were diagnosed and handled the way they were.  While these past two plus years have been hard ones for David and us, there is the possibility that an earlier diagnosis would have led to a surgery that could have complicated his condition more. 

I have learned so much about this disease and have developed a lot of ideas about its diagnosis and treatment.  I am convinced that breastfeeding on demand from the beginning and for over two years made all the difference for his digestive tract, diagnosis, and overall health.  That combined with the bacterial and digestive benefits of raw milk I believe have been the difference between a relatively normal life for our little guy and his first years of life being wrought with recurring enterocolitis, hospital visits and the resulting possibly lifetime complications.  I pray that he continues in health and that this struggle we have dealt with will somehow bear good fruit for him.  I also pray that if anyone does have similar issues with their own child they can be as informed as possible when making such important decisions.  Please feel free to contact me if you are in that position or would like more information on our little family's journey with Hirschsprung's.

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - volume 1

I'm going to be the awkward new kid in school and attempt to link up with the Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real gang over at Like Mother, Like Daughter.  Such a great way to find joy in the little gifts we are given every day...


Chinese Lanterns...these are one of my fall favorites!  I was driving home last week and someone was selling bunches of them in front of their house.  I love how they look.  When we lived out of state, I couldn't find them anywhere.  All they had were these similar flowers called hanging pumpkins or something like that.  They weren't the same.  They didn't hang nicely and they would go bad.  Since these are partially dried, they last so much longer and add so much dimension to a decorative display.  Oh, and the gourds?  We grew :)  That makes me...


But what makes me even happier than homegrown gourds is these two little ones getting along!  They have been driving this mama batty the last few weeks with bickering and have had such a hard time playing nicely together.  Part of it is me, I know.  Part of it is just too very different personalities mixed in with normal (and insanity-inducing) toddler behavior.


I love seeing this little guy act silly :)


That?  It's our pumpkin patch.  We planted row after row of different pumpkins.  All sorts of varieties in nice even rows of newly tilled soil.  And that sad little green pumpkin is all that grew.  The squash bugs completely devastated my little dream of an awesome pumpkin patch in the yard.  And then the newly tilled soil?  That turned into a massive weed patch as pulling weeds took a backseat to pregnancy exhaustion, tending the boys, and tackling the Baby List.  I won't even dare show you a shot of the entire plot because it is just too awful to look at.  But we did get a bunch of spaghetti and acorn squash (and the gourds!) so those have become our unique little outside fall display in lieu of pumpkins.

You can check out the rest of the {phfr} gang over HERE!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guy Day - Fishing on the Boat

When we moved into this house, the previous owners left a whole lot of stuff.  A lot of it we got rid of or sold on Craigslist.  But they also left a small rowboat.  After two years and numerous offers to see if they wanted to come get it, I think it's safe to say we can claim it as ours.  So, Brian took the older boys out on the creek in the little rowboat for some 'guy time'.  They fished and found turtles and ducks and frogs, stopped and had a picnic and from what I gather, had a wonderful time on their little adventure.
(All photos by Brian...)




Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yarn Along 9/14/11

I finished the green pair of longies a few days ago and decided to work on a new hat for the baby's first wear.  I ended up using the lovely Ginny's Newborn Hat with a Touch of Lace.  Thank you, Ginny!  This was my first attempt at anything with a pattern and I LOVE it.  It made me so happy to see the little lace detail emerge as I knitted and I can't wait to see this on my little one's head.  I chose a white cotton yarn to work with.  I love white on babies.  In fact, I love white anywhere.  It really is my favorite color.  I wish it were possible to find wool in a pure white, but I haven't had any luck yet.  I did change the pattern a bit and made the hat using only 63 stitches.  I always have a problem with newborn hats being too big on my newborns and when I initially tried the original pattern, I was pretty sure that it would be too large for a baby of mine.  I also eliminated the round 7, 8, 16 and 17 in the decrease section because with the smaller size I didn't want it to end up too cone-shaped.  When it was done, I decided to make sure that this one wouldn't end up being too I knit another one!  I told you I really enjoyed doing the lace work!  For this one I moved one size up and cast on with 72 stitches.  This way, I know one of them will fit that first day and if it's the smaller, I'll have another one for the wee one to grow into.

I think my next project will have to be a sweater but I have yet to really fall for any particular pattern.

I'm still working on Life of Christ and will be for a while.  I haven't opened up anything new for me this week, though we've spent lots of time with the homeschooling books and reading books with my David. 

You can check out the rest of the Yarn Along over at Ginny's!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mid-September Daybook

Outside my window...
A cool, clear September morning.  I love September.  And October.  Fall is good.

Thankful for...
A very hard-working husband who stays up late painting so that I can check things off the Baby List.  And that I have about 3 more months to get things ready.  And B12.  It's been a sanity and lifesaver.

Thinking about...
Baby lists.  Nesting.  I am a nester by nature.  When I get pregnant it kicks into hyper-steroid-overdrive from day one.  I know the baby doesn't care if the kitchen is painted or the upstairs shower is replaced but things like that sorely need to be done and it is so much easier to do things like that before the baby is born than after.  And if it's done, a crazy woman like me can so much better enjoy the newborn baby time and just feel READY.

Our lesson schedule for John Paul has been working really well.  He completes his lessons sometimes on his own, sometimes with my help in the morning.  We have a break and lunch and then it's reading time in the afternoon (along with enjoying the beautiful weather before it's too cold!).  I do reading and math with Michael during David's nap.  Our schedule is more structured than many others would like but it works well for us and my children do much better knowing the routine. 

Four days a week John Paul does math, religion, English, reading.  Then there is one other subject that gets rotated in (history, cartography, vocabulary, Latin).  Wednesdays are the day that we still do math but switch into art, philosophy, music, science.  It's simple and it works and that is what I need. 

From the kitchen...
Canned another 6 quarts of tomatoes yesterday.  My shelf looks pretty with all the pears and tomatoes :)  I've had a hard time enjoying or thinking about dinner this pregnancy.  It's become a chore to cook, really, and I don't enjoy doing it anymore.  My family is not getting very exciting or fun meals.  I hope that changes.  At least with the fall arriving there is much more variety and I can get a little more into the whole dinner thing. 

A little layette for this wee one.  Knitting longies and hats and hopefully will tackle a sweater soon.  I'm sort of proud of myself for teaching myself how to knit and it is actually working!  It's the perfect way for me to relax and not do too much during the day...I'm drawn to knit and it forces me to sit and relax either by myself or with one of the boys. 

Working on...
Tackling the Baby List and growing a baby.  And defeating the fruit flies that I know have conspired to drive me insane.

I am going...
Very few places.  I admit I tend toward the homebody side but I (and the boys) love being home...that's what it's here for, right?  To live in, grow children in, and enjoy.  I can't be one of those people carting their kids off to activity after activity every day.  That would be so hard on me and the kids.  It is very nice to get out once in a while, but with trying to start our year off right, lately there has been very little weekday travelling.

For a very long, beautiful fall.  Summer was kind of rough and the heat was draining.  Winter will soon enough be here and it will be hard and outstay its welcome.  Fall is just right.

Life of Christ by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  Slowly.

For David's healing and for so many people suffering in the world.  I am so blessed and there are others who are hurting so much...the hungry, those in dangerous places, refugees, and especially the babies and children who suffer in these ways.

The increasing cars going to work and quiet...David is not yet awake and that is not typical.  But very good.  Mama needs her time in the morning.

Around the house...
Many, many projects.  Almost done with the downstairs bathroom (repainted, caulked, new hardware).  Just a few more touchups to the porch painting.  The trim on a few windows needs to be done and two of the doors need to be painted...goodbye to the burgundy!  I love the way the porch turned out.  So much cleaner and crisper.  The kitchen is getting painted and will be much brighter and lighter.  It was all dark wood trim with brown flowered dizzying wallpaper.  I wouldn't necessarily mind the wood in the house but our property is covered with trees so the house gets almost no sun inside and it is just too dark.  Right now we've got it almost painted all white (except for the dark cabinets which may be on next years list).  I love the white in magazines, but I'm not sure if I can pull it off here so I may need to pick out a color for the upper walls.  Once those three things are done there is still a huge list of things we'd like to do before December.  Did I mention how thankful I am for my husband?

One of my favorite things...
Feeling this little one move...even if it is in the middle of the night.  This baby seems so much more responsive to voices and touch and has been so compliant with moving when the boys are feeling my belly.  Thank you, little one!

A few plans for the rest of the week...
A trip to the park for a homeschool group planning meeting
Projects :)
Little boy haircuts
Haven't decided how we will spend our Sunday but we have committed to making sure we get everything we can out of this autumn!

A picture thought to share...

Monday, September 12, 2011

When Are You Overdue? (Hint: It Ain't What You Think it is)

I was led by a friend to this post HERE and it rocks. Really, go read it. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has a brochure discussing what normal gestational time is for most women. And it's actually good! While most (if not all) obstetricians are members of ACOG, they very often, however, don't follow these guidelines. Normal gestation for human babies is 38-42 weeks which means a whole month of normal. And THAT means you are not "overdue" until you are 42 weeks plus 1 and a woman is not overdue the minute she passes her "due date." Simply reaching an estimated due date is not considered a medically valid reason to induce a birth solely. But it is done and often. Women want to be "done" being pregnant. Perhaps the doctor wants to attend during the day (rather than in the middle of the night or a weekend which is obviously much more likely to happen with a natural onset of labor). I know and hear of births often where the mother was induced because she was close to or a few days past her estimated due date. We have come to view the due date as an expiration date and women who are still pregnant on or after that magical date often feel pressure to have that baby right away or even like they've "failed" or something must be wrong with them that they haven't had their baby yet. 

It needs to be noted here, and is often overlooked, that this whole 42 weeks plus 1 is also assuming that an estimated due date is even correct, a very large assumption to make. The EDD is calculated for most women by the date of their last period AND assumes that every woman ovulates and conceives on day 14 of her cycle. Many women make an educated guess as to the date of their last period because it is not written down. In addition, most people with only a fundamental understanding of a woman's fertility know that every woman's fertility is different and that most women do not ovulate exactly on day 14. It is impossible to guarantee when conception took place (provided the baby is conceived within the marital act). We can know within days and some women can feel ovulation happen but depending on when intercourse occurred, how long the egg lived, how long her fertile signs lasted, there is a lot of flexibility there. We would be well to help mothers think of a due 'month' rather than a single date on which her baby is due to arrive on.

Study after study shows that the unnecessary induction of labor introduces a large amount of risk to both the mother and the baby, both before and after birth. Fetal distress, breathing issues, greater pain, increased narcotic and anesthesia use to deal with pain, longer labor, and more are greatly increased by artificial induction. The list increases as these complications lead to further complications, some longterm and some we are only in the beginning stages of understanding. Artificial induction raises a woman's risk of a caesarean section which also is riskier to mother and baby than a natural birth and carries long term consequences. Of course, there is a disturbing ideology and apathy that accepts survival as the goal. It can be seen in many areas of life, but for me, it is most visible when it comes to birth and the treatment of the unborn and newly born.  Our sights should be so much higher than the goal of not having someone die during birth. We should do everything possible to ensure that birth is a healthy, positive, and wonderful experience for both mother and child. We should do all that we can to protect the immediate AND longterm health of both. The dignity of mother and child demand that but it seems to be so often ignored. The best course of action, provided there are no other signs of complications, is to wait until the baby and the mother's body naturally begin the course of birth. Let's always provide encouragement, evidence based care, and help during those last difficult weeks of pregnancy...not timetables, ultimatums, and fear.

There is so much more to this subject that can be researched. This little post is not meant to be in any way an exhaustive synthesis of the vast amount of information out there but rather a personal reaction to the ACOG brochure and the post linked to above. It is my hope that women will take more and more responsibility for the birth they give their child and will be informed about their own bodies and birth. Mothers and babies deserve that. If this post helps in that, I'm happy :)

Lazy Sunday


Yesterday we spent our day relaxing and enjoying Sunday.  The boys asked that we NOT have "Sunday Funday" because they just wanted to stay home and play with Papa.  So stay we did, although Brian and the older boys took a short trip to buy arrows that John Paul has been saving for since his birthday.  I also got a new camera last week...the one Brian uses for work had broken so he bought a new one and then traded with me.  I've been learning how to use it and already I think it takes much better pictures than the old one (and it's much smaller!).  The boys all had a relaxing day.  I did, too, though I am not good at relaxing and often it makes me more tense in the evening if I didn't "do" anything all day.  I need planned relaxing and it's only truly relaxing when everything else is done and planned.  I'm working on it...sort of ;)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yarn Along 9/7/11

I'm joining Ginny for the Yarn Along once again...I am on a roll!  And...I'm knitting longies once again.  (Obsess much, Mary?)  But they're so cute and I feel confident in the pattern and I can't help myself.  I did finish the soaker I was working on.  I'm not super impressed but it should be a good diaper cover.  The new longies will be newborn size and I'm knitting them with a moss green from the Cascade Superwash wool line.  I love that newborn clothes are so quick to knit!  I know that I should be casting on something for the bigger boys soon...I will, I will.  But the baby stuff is so much more fun to make!  Sorry for the dark's pretty gray here today and I can't seem to take the beautiful photos that others do...not sure if it's me or the camera, likely both.

I'm still working on Life of Christ by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and will be for a while.  But for quick, during the day reading, I've been into Father Brown of the Church of Rome by the great Chesterton.  Short mystery stories that are enjoyable to read with a great use of language.  It's funny, Brian and I did the whole free Netflix trial thing and just recently got into the show Monk.  I'm wondering if the creators of Monk were somehow inspired by Father Brown...they seem to have a bit in common...

Go check out Ginny and her other Yarn Along friends HERE!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Real Meaning of Labor Day

It's the day you put your kids to work, right?  And show them what labor really means?

Actually, Brian explained the day this way to John Paul:

"It's the day that the Papas get to stay home from work.  And do work at home."

But the front porch is getting painted, I'm getting more pears canned, and it's nice and cool outside so it's a good day.  Of course, the boys are more than willing workers if it involves paint.  But, yes, I am that mean homeschooling mom who actually had school today.  But really, do seven year olds need a Labor Day?  (Don't worry, we'll have an easy day Thursday for the feast day ;)

(I know many people who will find it quite amusing that John Paul chose the encyclopedia for his reading time today.  Let's just say it must be genetic.  The boy had no hope.)

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