Category Archives: Projects

The Accidental Sabbath: Plans for 2017

accidental-sabbath

The last third of the year can become unenjoyably busy for our family very easily, with ten family birthdays and our anniversary sprinkled in among the bustle of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So in 2016 Greg and I resolved to designate one day from each weekend in October, November and December as an “at home only” day: no outings, no plans, no chores and no to-do list.  We called it a family Sabbath, although we first instituted this for practical reasons and our own comfort rather than as an effort to obey the religious guidelines of Sabbath keeping.

When we first decided to implement this in October, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we would benefit so much from the rest this boundary around our schedule would afford us.  There was one problem though. The only date that worked well for Rowan and June’s joint birthday party fell on the same weekend that the huge Lego tour would be in town. The Lego event that Rowan has been asking to return to since he saw it the last time it came to town two years ago.  The one I had been excited to take the kids to for months.

We looked at three different scenarios: attending an abbreviated weeknight Lego session, packing the Lego fest in on the same day as our at-home birthday party, or breaking our Sabbath guidelines and attending the beloved Lego event on the second day of that weekend.  We decided to break our new rule and go to the event on the second day of the weekend. After all, we made the rule so that we could enjoy the holiday season more fully, and we knew we would all enjoy the Lego fun. This never sat right with me though.  In seasons past when our busy-ness sapped our strength and joy, our schedule was (over) filled with fun, enjoyable things- no drudgery; yet the pace still wore on us. So I sensed that breaking our Sabbath boundary to avoid missing out on something fun and enjoyable was not going to work at all.  I knew that every single weekend during this festival-and-party season, the prospect of something fun, memorable, important or educational would beckon to us, asking to be dropped into that emptied Sabbath calendar square.  Still, I persisted.  I told myself, “We’ll go to the Lego fest this one time, then that’s it- we’ll protect a Sabbath day each week through the end of the year.”

Two days before the big weekend, I went online to secure tickets.  I had delayed, at first, because we were throwing around our scheduling options, and next due to reluctance mixed with a delusional belief that the less popular time slots wouldn’t sell out.  In reality, all of the time slots for this hugely popular, once-every-two-years event sold out long before I got around to checking on tickets.  So we didn’t go.  After the excitement of their birthday party, the kids never even asked about the Lego event that weekend.  They still haven’t- it just hasn’t come to mind. While I’m sure the event would have been a blast, I was surprised that there really was no sting in missing it.  And we had a very restorative day at home instead.

That first experience illustrated to us the immense value of rest, and it revealed that the one obstacle that most often robs us of rest- the fear of missing out- is actually not a very formidable foe; it turns out that the thing we feared- the phantom prospect of missing out on something- never materialized at all.  True, we did not attend the Lego event.  But during our peaceful unplanned day spent at home, we did not miss it either.

This is how we started to implement the principles of Sabbath as a family.  We continued this practice of keeping one weekend day clear for the rest of the year.  We have enjoyed it so much that we are going to continue it indefinitely.

A quick look back:

Unbeknownst to me, this Sabbath idea was percolating at the beginning of 2016.  Last year began with a post about The Big Rocks: Self-Care for Care Givers, which describes prioritizing items in your schedule which are of the most value to you, then fitting in less important or unimportant tasks around those big rocks. It seems as though the rest of last year was a slow, progressive implementation of that post as our family pared down our schedules and our possessions.  That was providential because 2016 was indescribably stressful for me, with so many people, opinions and mistakes thrown into our well-established routine via the Medicaid hoops, nursing SNAFUs, invasion of our introvert sanctuary, the start and shuffling of twice-a-week therapies, the transition from ECI to the school system and ongoing nursing and Medicaid difficulties. This “Big Rocks” process of purposefully stewarding our time and energy protected my sanity last year.  At the same time, I was completing an intensive spiritual discipleship program through our church which introduced me to the works of CS Lewis and other gifted Christian and Jewish theologians.  As I studied, the themes of prioritizing my time and resources and seeking rest stood out to me, given my stress.  Naturally this led to the study of the Sabbath, with is prominent in the Jewish theology I ventured into, and which is the subject of the Bible study I ultimately finished the year on (Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe).

A look ahead:

As I mentioned in the last post, however, this attention to rest and Sabbath results in less blogging.  Or no blogging.  So, while I have many topics and resources I would love to share, posts in 2017 may be sporatic.  If you ever wish to check-in with us or ask a question, feel free to use the Contact button on the blog.   We don’t expect any big medical changes for June this year, since she recently got her g-button out (WOOHOO), and her doctors want her trachea to grow for another year before re-evaluating options for another attempt at removing the trach.  However, Greg is hoping to transition into a new professional field this year, so we are waiting to see what new adventure his school and career opportunities will bring to us as a family, in terms of our routine and location.

We are quite excited about the year ahead.

 

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Crazy Heart Block Quilt- Complete!

I mentioned recently that I finished the “Crazy Heart Block Quilt” that I started for June last summer while she was recovering from her LTR surgery.  Here’s a peek at it and a few things I learned.

crazy-heart-block-quilt

I didn’t know if my kooky idea for this quilt would work at all, because in order to do it, I had to try some unconventional techniques and break a few sewing rules.  First, I hand sewed a stack of irregular shapes at the bedside in a crazy quilting style because, first, I love that style, and secondly, it does not demand precision that I cannot maintain while sewing in the ICU with June, stopping and starting often and without using a table.  Later I overlaid the irregular shapes with a fabric square with a heart cut out of the center to reveal the crazy quilted section below. Each crazy quilted section is built around a green frog fabric piece, because June loves Hopkins the frog from Signing Time.  (And because I acquired lots of great frog fabric.)  The hearts-and-crazy-quilting squares were sewed into 2×2 squares, and alternated with 2×2 squares of pink and the same frog-patterned fabric that the crazy quilted sections are built around. Then, much to my discomfort, June decided she wanted the quilt to be bound in dark blue, which is not located anywhere else in the quilt, but, hey, it adds an interesting contrast.

 

crazy-heart-block

What worked: June loves the quilt.  Also, using the negative space of the heart-shaped squares turned out just how I hoped.

What didn’t work: I mixed all types of fabric for the quilt including flannel, fleece and quilting cotton because I was working exclusively from my stash.  This is dangerous because different fabrics react different to wear, tear and washing which can damage the quilt. But I wanted to try it anyway to test the limits of what I can mix and match from my large and varied collection of fabric of indeterminate type.  The quilt held up surprisingly well after washing, although one crazy-quilted section did rip and needs repaired.

Special Needs Family Outings: What Didn’t Work (for us) Part 2 of 2

Today we conclude the special needs family outings series with the second part of the discussion on what did not work so well for us (see part 1 here).  Here we’ll share difficulties we encountered during two of the most challenging travel situations we have faced: flying and handling a medical emergency away from home.

Special needs family outings What Didnt work

 

Flying With a Medically Complex Kiddo

June thought having her own airplane seat was pretty cool when big brother wanted to take a turn as mama's lap baby

June thought having her own airplane seat was pretty cool when big brother wanted to take a turn as mama’s lap baby

Two winters ago, our family made the unusual decision to fly across the country with the kids in the middle of RSV season.  My grandfather had passed away after a long illness, and it was important to our family to join the many people who were gathering to celebrate his life and honor his memory.  In order to do this, we faced many challenges including flying with very young children, having access to June’s medical equipment during the flight, and combating the risk of contracting a cold, flu or RSV in the cramped germ incubator that is an airplane.  One idea we had was to snag the first seat in our section, reducing the number of people we are close to.  That did not work, since we then had no underseat storage ahead of us, and we had lots of equipment to stow in arm’s reach.  Another bright idea we had was to be the last people to board the plane, so we reduce the amount of time we are sitting in stagnant air before the plane’s air circulation/cleaner system is operating (the internet said this was a good idea).  That backfired as well, as the plane was full to capacity and passengers were already having to check their carry-ons because the overhead storage was full.  Along came us, with 6 carry-ons which were all essential.  We stood awkwardly at the head of the plane isle while other people’s luggage was shuffled and checked to make room for ours.  And also so that we could switch seats with some very kind passengers in our section since our spots at the front wouldn’t work for us.  When we were seated, we discovered that the essential items we needed to have on-hand (oxygen concentrator, suction machine, and emergency bag) did not all fit under the seat in front of us, so one item had to be stowed above during the critical take-off and landing times, when we aren’t allowed to stand up. I waited very nervously for those few minutes wondering what would happen to me if June did have an emergency and I had to stand and take out our equipment during that critical take-off time.  Thankfully we had no emergencies on either flight. Lastly, on the flight back, which I made alone with the two kids, Rowan had a loud, one-hour melt-down during which we collected some stares, some sympathetic grimaces, and even some gold fish crackers that a compassionate mom brought to us from another section of the plane.  These things were all stressful, but not insurmountable.  Despite the logistic adjustments during boarding and the tantrum, the kids were fascinated by the flight and we had a really wonderful vacation. While Greg and I enjoyed seeing everyone and having dozens of extra hands helping with the kids, the kids learned about their great-grandfather’s amazing life, met many relatives, played in snow for the first time, and witness vehicles driving on lakes.

Vehicles on frozen lake in MN

 

Local Medical Care Is Inadequate (and everything else went wrong)

June, two days after an unproductive trip to the local ER, recovering splendidly and having fun on our road trip this summer.

June, two days after an unproductive trip to the local ER, recovering splendidly and having fun on our road trip this summer.

When travelling out of our own metro area, Greg and I always look up the nearest children’s hospitals in the event that June needs emergency care since most adult or non-specialty hospitals don’t have the experience and equipment to help her.  During our recent road trip, we were encouraged that we would be close-ish to *the* best children’s hospital for trach patients in the country (Cinncinatti Children’s). But when June developed a bad stomach bug, we were 5.5 hours away from Cinncinatti.  June was getting dehydrated vomiting every 30 minutes, so we decided to seek an IV at the local hospital while we evaluated whether we should make that 5.5 hour hike.  My sister graciously took Rowan for the day while Greg, Miles, June and I went to the hospital ER in the mid-sized city close to the relatives we were visiting.  As always, I warned the nurses that it is always very difficult to get an IV in June, and even moreso when she’s dehydrated.  So, I pointed out the only two sites that are successful for IVs 90% of the time, requested ultrasound assistance in locating the vein, and asked that they not draw blood from an established IV.  Some of the nurses were condescending and short with me, stating that they will use their judgment as professionals, and they proceeded to use sites other than those I showed (which failed), tried repeatedly without the ultrasound (which failed), got an IV with the ultrasound and then drew back for blood on it (which caused it to fail), and ultimately did not succeed in establishing an IV at all. The doctor prescribed June an anti-nausea medication which I refused because I knew from previous illnesses there is a life-threatening interaction between it and her heart medication.  The doctor also ordered a chest X-ray but discharged us before reading it. In short, the ER trip was a torturous waste of our time.  Thankfully, June’s vomiting subsided on its own without complications. But that was just the beginning of our misadventures.

In the hospital Greg and I ran down our cell phone batteries entertaining June and keeping family members updated. Miles and I left the hospital with plans to charge my phone in the car, pick up Rowan from across town then return to pick Greg and June up. But I discovered that my charger was not in the car; it was with the jumble of cords we had unpacked back at our lodging.  As I pulled away from the hospital, my phone died completely.  I didn’t have the address or phone of where Rowan was staying.  I didn’t have a map or GPS.  I couldn’t contact Greg. And after one or two turns on one-way streets, I didn’t even know where the hospital was anymore.  So. I drove in “boxes,” always turning right onto one-way streets to stay in the vicinity until I could find something I recognized.  Finally I recognized a street name, then a landmark, and then, by divine providence…Greg and June, who had exited the hospital and were headed for my former street-parking spot.  And Greg’s phone had 22% battery life.  So we rationed the battery to find our way to pick up Rowan and then to navigate to the place we were staying, 22 miles way.  We watched the battery life dwindle as we traveled the dark rural roads.  Near the end of the journey found ourselves on an unlit dirt road lined with 6-foot-high corn on both sides, and our headlights illuminated a fork in the road that wasn’t on the map. And then the phone died completely.  If the horror movies are to be believed, we just knew we were all about to be devoured by zombies.  I must add that despite the drama of it all and the danger involved (we were lost, without communication, in a deserted area with a sick, medically complex child), Greg and I laughed at the sheer absurdity of the situation, and the fact that we tend to have more than our fair share of wild surprises like this.  Ultimately, we saw a light off to the right, so we decided to try that fork. This is another glimmer of divine providence, because the light turned out to be that of the relatives house where we were staying.

June got over the stomach bug fine with Gatorade and some phone consults with our doctors, and we went on to have a ton of fun on the trip.  The boys actually developed the stomach bug as well just in time for our drive home.  But we took advantage of the leisurely pace we had planned for the drive back, and since the kids mostly preferred to rest or play quietly while they were recovering, the drive home was actually pretty relaxing.  We even enjoyed a stop at Dinosaur World without any gastric emergencies.

Dinosaur World in Kentucky is awesome.

Dinosaur World in Kentucky is awesome.

I hope that these stories of our shenanigans may offer some knowledge, wisdom and humor to other special needs families.  I hope they don’t dissuade any special needs families from travelling if they’re considering doing so.  Because despite these bumps, these trips have all been worth it.  The memories we made far outweigh the various difficulties we encountered.  These things have been good learning opportunities, too, and have helped us to prepare better next time.  Which means that every time we venture out, we are increasing our ability, wisdom and mobility as a family.  And collecting some good and unusual stories along the way.

Special Needs Family Outings: What Worked (for us)

We will end the special needs family outing series with two fun posts: what worked for us when travelling near and far, and what didn’t.  I am excited to share this because as I mentioned in the first series post, we’ve done a lot of adventuring this summer! Here are a few of our travel ideas and plans that DID work for us recently or in the past.

Special needs family outings What Worked

Packing: Lists, Redundancy, and “The Question”

Kid Suitcase

The biggest concern that I have about travelling anywhere is not having a critical item during an emergency.  We combat this a few ways. First, by using a packing list and packing map that shows where everything is stored (see our free printable here).  Secondly, in addition to the fully stocked emergency bag that we take everywhere, we store duplicates of essential items in convenient places.  This includes:

*Trachs and ambu bags in June’s room, the stroller, upstairs, one under the driver’s seat of the car and one in the back of the car with the oxygen tank

*Suction catheters in the glove boxes of both cars which could be used as manual suction if the suction machine wasn’t available

*Sterile g-tube kit in June’s room and in the car

*HMEs in the suction bag and in the car console

*Extra G-tube extension and 60CC syringe in the suction bag

*When travelling out of state, I bring either our spare suction machine or a spare suction canister and tubing

And finally, Greg and I ask a quick question- The Question- anytime we venture out– “What is the most important thing we could forget?” This serves to remind us that the vast majority of forgotten items are easily replaceable on the trip, so we don’t even inquire about toiletries or small clothing items we may have missed.  This allows us to mentally check off only the “most important” things are those that can’t easily be acquired, like glasses, wallet, ID, cell phone chargers, prescription meds, and June’s specialized medical supplies.

Planning: Extra Time, Flexible Schedule, Exercise, and Breaks Alone

Dino World

We have been fortunate to take the kids on two cross-country trips in the past 2 years. They both went wonderfully, although with humorous bumps along the way which I’ll talk about in the next post- what didn’t work.  The key to enjoying long trips away from home, for us, has been building flexibility into our schedule and accommodations, including:

*Not scheduling a specific arrival time when driving so that we could stop every 2-3 hours during the day to play at local parks without feeling like we’re on the clock (Oh how Google maps has changed this aspect of vacation as compared to my childhood; at any moment we chose, we could navigate to the nearest park, some of which were tiny neighborhood playgrounds that we never guessed were there.)

*Extending our first trip by one week because it was going so well; there was a $100 fee to change the flight date, but we viewed it as an incredible bargain for a whole extra week of vacation.

*Extending the drive time home on our recent trip by one day (and an extra hotel stay), knowing that there were several sights we wanted to see along the way (like Dino World, which was awesome!) and that we would be tired from the exertions during the vacation

 

*Ensuring that, even when seeing family, we always had a private space of our own available to us to tend to the kids’ needs for naps, food, and recharging our introvert batteries.

Help: Seeking and Accepting

Beach

Rowan has a day at the beach with his grandparents

We are blessed with wonderful friends and family.  So when planning to travel, we think of ways that others could help, whether it is the family and friends we are visiting or even the hotels we use.  First, we are able to lighten our packing load by borrowing bulky items like a room humidifier, pack and play or cold weather extra clothes.  Secondly, when hazards to June are involved in the group plans, such as a trip to the pool or beach, we utilize the extra hands available to let the boys enjoy the sand and water while June plays elsewhere.  And lastly, we are grateful for extra hands when emergencies arise.  During our last trip, June unexpectedly got sick and had to go to the ER (more on that in the next post, too).  My sister, who we were visiting, gladly took Rowan for the entire day while we navigated an unfamiliar hospital system.

Electronics: Save for Last

Ghosts in the Car

The kids spent an appreciable amount of time cracking up about pretending to be ghosts early in the road trip.

This one may be relatively unique to our family, as I know many people have great success with electronics in the car; but I find that if I give the kids a phone or tablet early in the trip, they get frustrated when they can’t find or do EXACTLY what they want on it, and soon the phone is getting beaten on and thrown.  (Anyone else experience projectile iPhones while driving?)  And of course there’s the battery life issue.  In contrast, I find that the kids get a whole lot more mileage (literally) out of creative play like coloring, stickers, light bright/etch-a-sketch, and imaginary games; I think these activities are flexible enough to engage the kids pent up energy. As noted above, the kids spent about 20 minutes gleefully pretending to be ghosts.  Another time, Rowan was thoroughly amused to find that June was taking the pretend play so seriously that if he pretended to spill imaginary milk on her, she would cry urgently for a change of clothes. Reason wasn’t really helping, so Greg and I intervened by arming June with an imaginary jelly bean launcher. We all had silly fun dodging imaginary candy.  And I much prefer that to dodging non-imaginary cell phones. We find that- at least for our Safari family and the ages/stage the kids are in now- these imaginary pursuits can fill nearly an entire day of driving, and when the kids do *tire* of them, we introduce the electronics for more passive entertainment; the kids even nodded off watching their phones when they received them towards the end of our daily driving.

Those are some of the things that went *right* or have worked well for our family in our current situation.  There were plenty of hiccups thrown in as well though, some of which are pretty funny in hindsight. We’ll share those in the last post of the series: what didn’t work so well!

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

There has been a flurry of activity here in the Safari Household recently as we transition from our dino-mite summer back into our typical routine.  Several posts are vying for very scarce editorial attention, and which one will triumph first is anyone’s guess.  So in the meantime, I thought I’d share the topics of these posts which I hope to cover soon:

  • Leaving Facebook- I left FB “for real,” as in deleted my personal account.  I deactivated the FB page for this blog in the process, but you can still follow Yes This I Know on Twitter, Pinterest, RSS and by email.
  • Continuation of the Nursing Saga- I reached my limit with dreading the nursing visits, and we “let one of our nurses go.”  ***Joyously singing the Frozen song now***   Meaning I now only deal with one nurse visit per week.
  • Crazy Heart Block Quilt– I am both thrilled and surprised that I finished this recently, just over a year after starting it while June was in the PICU recovering from her LTR (The project does not require anywhere near a year to complete; I say I’m surprised because I usually have to caplitalize on momentum to finish a big sewing project, and there’s just no momentum to be had on personal projects while parenting 3 kids under 5.)
  • Special Needs Family Outings series- several posts about our travels and special needs travel decisions in general
  • Reading- I’ve been in reading hyperdrive this year as a lot of varied topics have been important or intriguing to me, and unexpected connections seem to arise often between subjects or to ideas I’m mulling over at the time
  • Homeschool Curriculum 2016-2017- homeschool planning posts are always exciting!

….and a couple of stragglers that might escape the drafts box onto the blog eventually.  Maybe even a Quotes of the Day.

Special Needs Record Keeping

Parents of medically complex children handle reams of paperwork- that which we review, sign, and much of it we are given to retain for our records.  It’s all part of our secret part-time job.  My rule of thumb for filing vs recycling is that if it can easily be found on the internet or in books I own (ie vaccination info, first aid, general parenting advice), if it’s an easily accessible record such as on the hospital’s online patient record portal, if it’s legal form letters (hippa, liability, institution policies) or if it’s not likely to ever be an essential reference (dme packing lists), then I recycle them.  This rule usually eliminates any information that isn’t especially helpful and specifically about June.  This has helped me pare down significantly the files I retain, but it still leaves quite a bit. After not quite three years of using this system, these are the records I’ve retained- the “short” stack on the left is medical bill records, and tall stack of files is the actual pared-down medical data on June, and the spirals are my own notes from doctor visits and hospital stays.

Special Needs Record Keeping

I found that June’s records alone were taking up a whole file cabinet drawer.  When I sat down to write a “concise” review of her medical history for a genetics consultation, I had to admit that at this point and volume of data, I needed to further organize it in order to make it useful.

Previously, I saved the medical bills in folders by year, which works well for  the annual schedule of our flex spending, health savings, and taxes etc.  But I kept all of the medical data in one folder (and then a second and then a third) filed chronologically, rather than splitting it all up by institution, year or subject. The reason for this bulk file approach, besides not having toddler-free time to work on filing systems, is that for a good portion of June’s early life, every service, specialty, and institution was delivered inpatient.  If I were to break it up- would a dermatology consult while inpatient go in the hospital file or a specialist file? Would g-button instructions from the hospital go in a hospital folder or in a surgical info folder? Would g-button instructions from the DME company go along with those hospital g button instructions (wherever those end up) or with the DME file, or with the hospital file since we received them while inpatient? On and on and on. So I just put everything into one file chronologically until that system became ridiculous, which is now.

I picked a hybrid organizational system for this data including a general medical data files separated by year- data which I further thinned- and specific files for organizations when they have enough paperwork to warrant it.  So the tower of paperwork has been distributed among:

-4 files of general Medical info: 2013, 2014, etc which includes anything not in the folders below; this tends to include timeline-relevant info on June’s health including pcp, specialists and inpatient

-Medicaid

-ECI

-DME

-Speciality pharmacy for Synegis

-Speciality pharmacy for Lovonox

-3 files, one for each nursing agency we’ve had the misfortune of utilizing

-My notes spirals

-Surgery photos, pictured below.  This includes her two trach placements, g-button surgery, larygotracheal reconstruction, a lot of bronchoscopies and various minor sedated checks and OR procedures, with each procedure netting between one and three of these surgery photo pages.

Surgery Pictures

The files are all manageable and easily referenced.  I think this system will serve us well for a while, which is good given that it took me a year to finally sit down and cross this off of my to-do list.  And the motivation for it- writing the “concise” review of June’s medical history- was well worth the effort.  Doctors are using to try to draw connections between her varied symptoms and history to see if a genetic syndrome might be present, despite no clear diagnosis from the exome sequencing.  But just as valuable to me is the fact that I have a copy of it in her medical bag and can quicky give any new professional a concise but thorough history of her so they can have a complete clinical picture.

Mom Problems: Meal Planning

I’m not sure what changed or when.  For years I was good at meal planning.  I made a master list of all of my favorite recipes for everyday use, for entertaining and for quick/no-bake options.  I composed weekly meal plans for several months at a time.  For a while I juggled a mixed vegetarian and carnivore household, and later I juggled a non-dairy non-soy diet for myself and June while the boys continued to eat like humans.  I made my own granola cereal, chocolate and ice cream.  We even went through a period when June couldn’t eat, which sounds like it would make things a bit easier, but try maintaining a functional kitchen- and using it- when you have an active toddler around who can’t be allowed to access food.  I handled all of that fine, and enjoyed the challenge.  And I don’t know what changed, but recently

*I’ve become completely and utterly inept at meal planning*

Meal Planning

I never knew the were so many ways to mess up at it.  I’m still discovering new ones….

In addition to not starting slow-cooking meals on time, making too little or too much food, forgetting to refrigerate left overs, letting left overs spoil, forgetting key ingredients while shopping, forgetting key ingredients while cooking, letting key ingredients expire, using all of a key ingredient in one recipe when it’s meant for two, letting meat and produce spoil before their meal night is scheduled, and ALWAYS forgetting to prepare the sides, I also frequently….

….grocery shop too late or too early to order from the meat counter.

….find weird cuts of meat on sale that don’t quite perform right in recipes

….don’t notice when a recipe sneaks a whole other recipe into the *instructions* area (now serve with Spicy Mango Salsa!!)

….am disappointed when I attempt that trendy “freezer meal” thing (so, it still takes a ton of time to prep and THEN cook from frozen, and by nature it’s a large volume of one flavor/consistency you are stuck with as meals and left overs.  Am I the only one not seeing this as a “magical economical cooking hack”)

….somehow can never keep paired food in the house at the same time for the no-bake options….eggs and bacon, peanut butter and jelly, bread and lunch meat, cheese and crackers….

….buy too little milk for several weeks, and in subsequent weeks I double stock our milk twice or three times, creating mandatory milk binges in the house.

….stock up on frozen meals as a fool-proof way to have food available, but day after day I realize I’ve missed the 1-billion hour advance window that I need to put it in the oven for it to be ready by our early dinner time

….have no idea what canned goods we have because the kids have started using them in their pretend games.  I end up saying things like, “Rowan, go check your train and see if there are any diced tomatoes in there.” (The answer was no, and I substituted spaghetti sauce, which really is a whole other way to ruin a meal.)

I don’t know if it’s having a third kid, mom/nursing brain, or maybe I just decided I need a break from meeting the challenges of meal planning after fielding all of our crazy dietary needs for the last few  years. That, and it’s now nearly impossible to do a full grocery shopping trip with the three kids plus June’s emergency bag; the best I can do is bring my double stroller, hang a several reusable bags from the handle bar on some mom clips and shop until those are full. Whatever the reasons contributing, we seem to be single-handedly supporting the fast food industry near us.

Suggestions from veteran moms??  How do you handle the ever-changing stock of household food, dozens of expiration dates and time frames, perishablity of healthy fresh foods, starting prep at the right time in the day while juggling 100 other things, and the challenge of fitting time to sit down to meal plan, then shop, then, yes, actually cook then clear/refrigerate into your week?

Wow: An End-of-the-Year Sigh.

The last month and a half has been difficult. It’s not the kind of difficult that needs fixing, it’s just one of those periods of rough transition that inevitably comes and must be weathered in order to emerge with the tools you need for the next season. I call this a ‘desert time,’ referring to the many times in the Bible that God led people into the desert for a period of difficulty and growth, like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David and Jesus.

cropped-263e5-desertmoses.jpg

Factors in the mix include:

  • the kids’ adjustment to the new baby- which brings emotional and behavioral parenting challenges despite the fact that they are both in love with their little brother
  • our family’s adjustment to June’s ongoing and changing medical needs- which also brings emotional and practical routine changes for all of us constantly
  • a few recent emergencies and hospital trips with June (which all resolved well)
  • the irregular schedule that comes with a new nursing baby
  • the difficulty of having energetic young children under the same roof as elderly dogs
  • the need to adjust physical limits and teaching/discipline strategies as the kids’ abilities and independence increase each day, not the least of which is June being able to remove her pulse ox and HME at will (more on that soon)
  • the kids’ love of “sensory play,” and the soap, water, pom pom, toilet paper, cereal, coin, fabric, dirt, paint …. messes that result, often as a surprise discovery for me due to the previous point
  • never-ending adventures in potty training ‘interest’ from the kids that I *try* to patiently encourage and help them with, but that doesn’t seem to be developing into actual training
  • the typical holiday busy-ness with related events and tasks (though seeing family and friends was a very welcome treat)
  • time spent launching my baby sign language business which was time well spent, but definitely a tight fit into our schedule and routine
  • the normal end-of-the-year paperwork for the house, taxes, insurance, banking, career, etc.

This month and a half I’ve been mostly praying a variation on a specific part of the Lord’s prayer- “give us our daily bread-” by praying for manna for the day.  By prayer I mean words mumbled with a palm on my face when the newest parenting challenge presents itself, as an alternative to breaking objects out of frustration- not prayers done formally during a serene, set-aside time. This is a reference to the Old Testament when God provided daily food- manna- to the Israelites every morning in the desert, but only enough for that day or that day plus the Sabbath.  Similar to my favorite slogan, “One day (or hour or minute) at a time,” I find it comforting to focus on God’s provision for the current needs, even if the future needs and provision are unknown. And, like manna, I’ve had just enough energy and patience each day during this time to compete the bare essentials.

But I think and hope the ‘transition’ period is over and the ‘new season’ has begun.

A few tools I have emerged with, and have big hopes for, include:

  • Prayer/meditation/alone time which I strive to capture once a day
  • Continue to prioritize my own self-care and non-parenting activities like seeing friends, being involved in several church activities, and learning sign language
  • Toy rotation (see this wonderful series on it)
  • Rotation of the chore magnets, so that the often-skipped chores move up in priority the longer I avoid them

Chores Magnet Board

  • Updated homeschool schedule– we’ve been pretty unstructured so far, which I feel is a good fit for the kids’ ages.  However, I think a little more structure will help curb the conflicts between the kids and the surprise messes.
  • Reorganization of several common “problem areas” of the house, which are no longer functional or which aren’t a good fit for the kids needs right now
  • Expanding the use of “toy jail” to include temporarily losing toys that aren’t picked up at the end of the day
  • Rehoming my sweet dog, Sahara, with my parents, perhaps temporarily until her hip problems and the kids’ spontaneity aren’t such a dangerous combination

SaharaBed

  • Playdates or outings- I plan to try my best, but it may not result in many trips because of our need to keep June away from sniffles/coughs, our need to be near to June’s medical equipment, June and Miles’ sensitivity to cold air, and having to work in/around June and Miles’ feedings
  • A part-time return to cloth diapering, which I love but I avoided when June was young due to her health; I hope it will help with potty training and the challenges of having three kids in diapers
  • Breathing. I’m surprised how often I catch myself nearly holding my breath when I’m stressed.  Seems like breathing is good. I’d like to do more of it.

Baby Signing Time! (Exciting news…)

I have big news to share.  Soon I will be a certified Baby Signing Time instructor!  Regular readers here know how much of an impact Signing Time has made on our family, as our daughter June uses American Sign Language exclusively to communicate.  I am so excited for the opportunity to share American Sign Language with other families.  I will be able to offer signing classes to children under 5 and their parents, as well as provide Baby Signing Time, Potty Time, Signing Time, and Rachel and the Treeschoolers products to my clients.  See the decision chart below for more information about these products, or visit this link for the entire catalog.  If you have your eye on something, contact me for discounts!

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I will have an instructor website and social media accounts live soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Signing Time or purchasing any products (the DVDS make excellent gifts!) contact me here or via my This I Know Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Updates and Free Printable for Parents!

A few updates:

♥  I am officially the mother of three kids under 4 years old.  I know because I now own a minivan.

Meet our newest sweetie, Miles.

Welcome Miles

The delivery went as planned, although I had a brief scare when he needed some oxygen after birth.  The medical team assured us this was a routine occurrence for c-section babies, as their lungs need some help drying out.  As promised, the doctors deemed him perfectly healthy after a brief visit (not admission) to the NICU for oxygen, and he was able to room in with me from then on as I had hoped.  We were even discharged from the hospital early!  After two days inpatient, I asked the attending when I could bust outta that place, and she said, “You and the baby seem to be doing fine- I’ll draw up the paperwork now!” It’s still amazing to me.  An uncomplicated hospital stay is such an odd experience.

My surprise escape from the hospital threw off my hubby’s secret plans to buy me a car while I was inpatient!  When I was texting him to arrange to be picked up, he was negotiating with the car dealership with the two older children in tow.  The car was not ready in time to pick me up, as he had hoped. But that meant I was able to accompany him on an extended test drive before the purchase, and I received my roomy, versatile, swiss-army-knife-of-vans (the Odyssey) later that week.

♥ I am still not used to having a typical newborn.

When I’m feeding Miles, I often check to see if I’m occluding his trach, only to remember he doesn’t have one.  I can’t imagine growing tired of hearing him cry, whimper, and “talk.”  I sometimes wish I could vent gas from his belly via a g-button.  When I bring him somewhere and I don’t need to carry a suction machine, resuscitation equipment or back-up medical supplies, I always feel like I’m forgetting something.  And I totally did feel like a nurse was going to chase after us when we left the hospital with him.

♥ Delayed nesting makes for strange priorities

When June was born, I wrote about being in a perpetual state of nesting before her birth as well as while she was in the NICU for months.  With Miles, I delayed nesting until after his birth, for the most part; I never took my estimated due date or his homecoming as a guarantee.  Now that we are home, nesting is happening in full force, leading to some strange decisions about how to spend my time.  Did I finally move the dozen boxes of diapers that have been stacked in the living room for over a month?  No.  I just grab a pack every time I run out at Mile’s changing table. However, I suddenly felt I MUST finish constructing the Indominus Rex puppet that I drafted for Rowan a while ago.  (Ok, so, on the scale of “first attempts at making a hand puppet” and “things drafted by hand from scratch,” it’s pretty awesome.  On the scale of puppets in general, it’s a little clumsy and misshapen.  The kids love it though.)

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Also inexplicably high on my list: wiping down all of the kitchen cabinets and baseboards.  And working in the garden that I created in May and did not tend all summer. Thank goodness for the automatic garden sprinkler that came with the house. This is also my first attempt at gardening, and honestly…..I don’t know which plants are weeds and which are food.  I forgot WHAT I planted and where.  There weren’t many survivors.   Except for these.  I know these are carrots.  That I grew.

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♥ A special needs sewing and DIY series is coming up!

Stay tuned.

♥ And now a printable! Laminate these “baby sleeping” door signs and never be bothered by a door-to-door salesman again.

I’ve used a hand-written sign like this for years, and I’ve finally got around to making a printable version.  It works wonders.  No more dogs going insane over a knock from FedEx or pushy electricity company reps or mysterious religious missionaries. Put one on the door as well as on the doorbell.  I recommend that you cut the signs out first BEFORE laminating, then leave a quarter- or half-inch border of lamination around the sign when cutting it out again after laminating. This will make it more waterproof than if you laminate the whole page and then cut the sign out, as the lamination pouch makes a better seal to itself than it does when there is a layer of paper inside.

See the free JPG and PDF versions of the printable below.

Baby Do Not Disturb Sign JPG

Baby Do Not Disturb Sign PDF