Monday, June 30, 2008

Simply Posion Ivy

To add to an already exiciting Sunday afternoon, my daughter caught a nasty case of poison ivy. It started on one knee, but after attending a broiling hot groundbreaking ceremony and using ice to cool off, the rash spread everywhere the ice went.

God is merciful and my friend, Fr. Shawn, called in the middle of all this. He recommended Tecnu. Miracle! You have to have this. We washed the affected areas, rinsed with cold water and the rash was practically gone. A dose of Benadryl and Tecnu, problem solved. We did need to repeat the wash and rinse this morning, since we missed a few spots last night. Or its in her hair.

But no calamine needed and no agonizing itch. I highly recommend this Simple Solution: Tecnu!

So, What's Up with Ellipses

A friend posted a note about the over use or misuse of Ellipses. Those three little dots in a sentences that give you time to think or remember what is implied.

I've thought about it and the ellipses don't bother me so much. However, after my reflection, I realized I use the word "so" way too much. That's my pledge, to stop using so, well, so much. I'm not a valley girl and I own a thesaurus. I can do better!

Simply Clean

To achieve a sparkling kitchen, you must sneek up on the activity. First: plan a nice movie afternoon. Buy a soda and some popcorn on the way home from Mass. Gather the family pop the corn, open the soda. As soon as the soda explodes all over the entire kitchen, your opportunity has arrived!

But do not let this spoil your afternoon. Second step, sop up as much soda as you can. Then proceed with your movie. Now relaxed and refreshed, tackle the kitchen in earnest. I choose the bottom up plan. The floors are clear and a Swiffer Wet is simple enough.

Once the floors are finished, use Endust to polish all the cabinet doors. Next, the hardest part is the countertops. Only because every single dish, appliance and knick-knack must be washed. Windex is my favorite for countertops, toaster oven and sink. Everything is sparkling. I also used this opportunity to remove old knick-knacks and declutter my countertops (again).

Finally, you might as well wipe down the refrigerator, dishwasher and stove because, lets face it, the dirt now stands out like a sore thumb. In no time at all you have a Simply Clean Kitchen. (Save the ceiling for another time, it may require paint :-)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy 4th of July

I love this drink! It is so much fun to make! We loved it last 4th and plan on serving this again.

Ice cubes, Cranberry juice, Wild Berry flavor Gatorade Fierce, Diet 7-Up
1. Fill a clear glass with ice cubes. Pour the drink with the most sugar (check the nutrition label) into the glass. For our red, white, and blue recipe, start with the cranberry juice.
2. Very slowly add a beverage that contains less sugar -- in this case, Wild Berry flavor Gatorade Fierce. Be careful to pour it onto an ice cube -- not directly into the other drink -- to keep them from mixing.
3. Use the same technique to add a layer of Diet 7-Up.

Patron Saint for Children with Cleft

I choose Blessed Margaret of Castello. Cleft and craniofacial birth defects do not actually appear on a "list" of Patron Saints, so far as I can tell. Comedians, yes. Cleft, no. I take this as an opportunity to choose someone who clearly can associate with our child's condition.

Although Blessed Margaret has not been canonized yet, she is included in this Patron Saints list. It is pretty extensive. These few lines from her biography has endeared her to my cause:

"The birth of a deformed child is a traumatic experience for most parents. After the initial shock, grace and compassion conquer outright rejection. This was not so with Margaret’s parents. Blessed Margaret of Castello was born dreadfully deformed. She was a dwarf, totally blind, hunch-backed and so lame she could hardly walk. Her father immediately ordered the child to be kept out of sight."

I remember now, so clearly, those first few months before Holly's lip repair. I remember her birth and how immediate grace and compassion conquered any shock Lee and I may have felt. I remember Lee, after composing himself, walked over to hold Holly and kiss her. And later, how I wanted to hide her, not from sight but from ridicule. I did not want to hear any unintentionally unkind remarks, I did not want my other children to hear any thoughts that they might remember and repeat later.

Margaret, without the love and support Holly has received from such a far reaching community, achieved the status of Blessed. I hope that Holly will know the compassion and love of Jesus as well as Margaret did.

"Margaret was remarkable for clarity of mind and for infused contemplation. She willingly embraced her cross because she saw suffering through the eyes of faith. She did not know why God permitted her to have so many afflictions; but what she did know, was that He never permits one single misfortune without good reason. Margaret often wondered why people pitied her since she viewed her suffering as the expression of Christ’s love for her and her means to gain heaven. Pain made Margaret compassionate, sensitive and understanding toward others. She visited prisoners, helped the sick, comforted the dying. In spite of her handicap, Margaret was always joyful and courageous. She never became bitter, never complained, never reproached others, never lost heart. Rather, Margaret sought and found her strength in prayer and the sacraments. In every adversity, she turned to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Dominic…there to find the courage to go on. And Margaret did go on…to achieve an intimacy with the Lord known only by those who love Him uncompromisingly."

Blessed Margaret of Castello, I choose you for our Patron Saint.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

They Passed!

Principal Lee Fisher with the students of
Our Lady of Good Remedy Catholic School
on a field trip to Tanglewood Park
Praise and Glory to God! They passed! The end of the year test that is. All three of them passed.

Clearly we've had a doozy of a second homeschooling year. And my own attention span may have been a little shorter than, say, a fly. Did I say it is only our second year homeschooling? So each of our students is "at grade level or better." Good enough for me. Of course, there are plenty of "areas for improvement." But, I'm so grateful that the whole year wasn't a wash. Who doesn't have room for improvement in their life?

Here's my two cents on testing: test in a group. Pick a standardized test that is well known. Eventually everyone has to take a test in a group. Even if it is just your driver's license test: big crowded room, lots of noise and distractions. And if your students go on to higher education, nothing but tests. That and research papers, lots of writing and tests.

So very glad those days are behind me. (Even though I didn't take this test, I felt like I was the one being tested.) My mom finally finished test taking sometime in her 60's. I'll have to write about how driven to excel our family is some other time. For now, celebrate: They Passed!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scavenger Hunt

Early, early this morning PBS aired a program about "geocaching". The story followed a group of adults, searching for hidden boxes across the US. I first read about this in a Family Fun magazine article about "Letter Boxing". This is a very fun scavenger hunt to take your family on. To date we have only successfully found one box. Mostly because it is local, easy to find and fun to check on the progress, who else has visited and from how far away.

To create your own letter box you need a plastic waterproof box, a rubber stamp, inkpad, notebook, pen and ziplock bags. The stamp is usually a symbol that represents the name of your box. Our favorite is the Frog Prince, with a beautiful, large green frog stamp.

You create a story about your box and hide it. You post clues, directions, compass readings or gps navigation readings to your box online. Then visitors can sign your notebook, indicating where they are from, and stamp their own notebook with your stamp.

There are boxes hidden all over the world. It does seem that "geocaching" is more adult/competition oriented and "letterboxing" more kid-friendly. (Strictly my opinion, from the PBS story, the adults had some kind of point system going, a few were struggling with an "addiction to the hunt!")
Here's the simple home school group project idea: Create letterboxes for your city or church. You can include stories of historical sites or patron saints. Hide the boxes to make a "walking tour" of your area. Bring a map with clues to your town's visitor information center, or parish office. Simple and Fun! I hope one of our home school groups can do this soon!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three Strikes And You're Out

This has been a hard week, suffered a few blows to my pride. The most recent, and third for the week, is a letter from the CDC. Yes, the Center for Disease Control. There is a study for birth defects, and lucky me, we been selected to participate.

I can say No. Still, as an incentive, $20 was included for my inconvenience. Since I haven't done anything but walk to the mail box, I suppose the inconvenience is being reminded that Holly does have a birth defect. No small thing, mind you. I have been basking in the possibility of Holly Marie being named "Baby of the Year" by our local paper. Not that she has, but the potential is so nice to think about.

So, do we participate, and run the risk of more mind numbing doubts: Did I do something wrong? There will be an hour long survey. I am sure the questions will be very in depth. And there is the very real possibility that this "research" could be twisted to somehow, someday support abortion. (England is already grappling with this issue.)

So, what's a girl to do when she's struck out? I headed for the lemon poppy seed muffins. And had taken a bite before I remember to look UP. My thoughts were "Is this going to change Holly's situation? No, and now you've wasted a perfectly good muffin." Into the trash with now marred cake. Hope the sacrifice counts, despite blogging about it!

I (heart) iGoogle!

Having a perfect home explorer webpage sure is the neatest thing ever! Since I figured out how to customize iGoogle, I am even more addicted to logging on during the day then ever. Is that a good thing? Not sure, but it sure is neat (and simple and free).

Here's what I like the best:
1. Having the local weather displayed.
2. A short list of the top Google News stories.
3. The time and date (color coordinated to my theme)
4. The theme! I choose Anne Geddes, which changes all through out the day. All those cute babies and flowers.
5. Google Reader. This gadget (or box) will display my favorite blogs or websites when an update is posted. Reader is under the "more"drop down list at the top of the iGoogle page. Here you can "add subscriptions" to receive updates automatically. You just copy and paste the web address into the add box. Go back to the iGoogle page, then click on Add Stuff, search for Google Reader. "Add it now" and updates will appear on your home page.

Finally, when you are through with your custom page, choose the Tools Menu, Internet Options, and Use Current to make this your home page. Best part is that this is free. You do need to have a google id, still free.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So...How's the Diet?

A few weeks ago, I had a major breakthrough to help get me back on the path to Peace with Food. Just wanted to update my progress since then.

The week before Holly's surgery, I found a new focus to sacrifice food for. That week, I managed to lose 3 pounds. Hooray! The following two weeks, Holly's surgery and my husband's surgery, the real test began. I have managed to maintain but not lose since.

What do you do now? Begin again. I need to focus again. Especially, since I know I will be tested in stressful times ahead. This time I will share my focus: ME. I want to turn to Jesus, instead of food when I am troubled or worried or fearful. I have learned enough to know that when Holly cries, or Bill and Anna fight, or that unexpected bill comes in the mail, I immediately head to the fridge.

What good will that do? Does it stop Holly from crying? Does that extra food calm the argument between the others? Does write the check for the bill? No. What it does do is teach my children that "Food is comfort." And that is definitely a lesson I do not want them to learn.

So for me, for Peace with Food, for the lesson I want my children to learn (Jesus is our Comfort!) I must begin again. Wait on Hunger, Sacrifice Two Bites, Pray. You can find Peace with Food too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Simply Fruit....flies

What a nuisance! Fruit flies are the worst. One summer they were so persistent, I felt like I had some neurological disorder, swatting at the flies, shaking my head at flies so small no one else could see them.

Here's the Simple Solution: Take a small saucer, pour in apple cider vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap, stretched tightly. Poke holes, a kabob stick will work, or a fork.

The idea is that the flies are attracted to the smell, crawl in the hole and are trapped. The only note I have to add, is open and pour the vinegar at the same spot where you will place the plate. Otherwise, the smell distributes on the path you carry the plate, or open bottle. Then the flies are everywhere!

Here's the Second Simple Solution: Keep a bottle of Windex by your kitchen sink, or bathroom mirror. Have paper towels handy. Every time you see one land on the window, spray it. Wipe and dispose. You'll be amazed at how fast the problem is resolved. For some reason the Windex spray bottle works best, any blue window cleaner will do.

(I have mentioned that I spend a lot of time at the kitchen sink? But at least the fruit flies are gone.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

There Are Others!

While all the world seems to circle around Holly, there are other Fisher children. Who, by the way, love their new sister sooo much, and still have managed to keep busy!

Lee and Dad hiking at Hanging Rock

Anna and Abigal, riding lessons at long last!

Bill and Hunter - Play Ball!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Simply Discipline

Or an Examination of Conscience for Kids (and mom too!)

Several years ago, when trying to determine if our child was AD/HD, God sent this book my way. This method of parenting has changed our lives. Today, though, I added a new spin on the approach.

Before you can effective discipline your child, you need to clearly identify what behaviors he/she is working on. In the Caregivers Skills Program, there is a list of 17 clear, undeniable behaviors to evaluate. We have been working from this list for a while. The descriptions are broad enough to cover many aspects of life, instead of "clean my room", we focus on "doing as told", "dawdling" and "helplessness/dependency".

Back to the new spin: Summer is here, and every single summer we seem to have an "adjustment" period to our new schedule. And by adjustment I mean, bad behavior. Arguing, fighting, stone walling. You get the idea.

To, hopefully, head this storm off before it hits, I have printed The List of 17. One for each child. We sat down, one by one, to review the list. I added a scale of "I do this often" to "I rarely do this". Asking each child to rate their behavior. Then added my rating to theirs.

But before we begin, we talked about our call the holiness, Confession, how we as Catholics strive to do better, how we can make the change, St. Ignatius. You get the idea. It was a brief introduction, appropriate for the age of the child. Hoping to put this review in a positive light, not a "you are so bad, let's put in writing" speech. More of a "One of the ways Catholics try to get better is to take a minute every once and a while to see how are we doing. This list is a little check for you and me. Something to see the good things you are doing, and where you can do better."

So we began. Talking about each item on the list, what it means, examples of good behavior, bad behavior. Then at the end, I drew a line down the middle to clearly show what was above average and below. Then we re-read the ones below average. I praised each one for the many good things they we doing and asked them to take the list and pray about it. Ask Jesus to help them do better where they needed too.

Finally, I pointed out that this list was nobodies business but yours, mine and God. And one day the list would just be between you and God. No sharing with siblings. (That means, no tattling on whose not doing what). Since we worked on these individually, no one knows the others list. Sound familiar?

There are a few things that may be added to the list to really make it Christian, like "do I hold a grudge" or "do I forgive readily", or maybe "do I share God's love with others?"

The bonus today was that for my oldest, it is the first time since we began working from this list, that I could see how very much he has grown. How many things are so much better today than 5 years ago.

Will this stave off the storm of New Summer Schedule? I hope so, and if not, it certainly helped me see what behaviors I need to focus on with the children.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Simply Sand

So much fun! When Bill suggested we refill our much neglected sandbox, I readily agreed. We took the trailer to a local rock and mulch place and asked for "half a load" of sand. For $16 we got way more sand than needed to fill our sand box. (Enough to fill in a few holes around the yard too.)

I can't remember how much those bags of sand are at the store, but I remember it would have been more than $16 to fill our box. If you don't have a sand box, a cheap plastic swimming pool will do. One year, for my nephews birthday we bought a sunflower shaped pool at Dollar General which now happily serves as a sand box on their back porch!

Finally the key to success of this plan was that the children had to "do the work"!

I know, Bill doesn't look so happy to move the sand, but he sure has been happy building cities, towns and the rock and mulch supply place, ever since!

Post Surgery Feeding Tips

Most of these have been gathered from reading the Cleft Advocate and Wide Smiles emails. Just thought to share them here:

Lip Repair (3/19/08)
1. Offer the bottle on the opposite side of the repair. Or if it is a bilateral repair, on either side. Holly would gently press the nipple between her gums. Again, the nipple was neither too new(too hard) or too old(too much milk).

2. If this is too hard for your little one. Try a syringe. Offer just a few drops at a time. Ask the hospital for 10cc syringes, and ask for several. So it isn't so hard to keep the formula coming.

3. There are special bottles, like the Soft Sipp or Zip-n-squeeze, but we didn't have to go there. I'll let you know after the Hard Palate Repair.

4. After the first two/three days, begin alternating Tylenol, plain with the Tylenol w/codiene. Codiene can suppress the appetite.

Soft Palate Repair (6/4/08)
1. I approached this like having tonsils out. I figured her throat would be sore, and keeping it moist the first few days would be important. So offer the bottle often.

2. Same applies, not too new or too old of a nipple.

3. Offered apple juice, not cold, but not warm either.

4. Added more Karo syrup to bottles to make avoid the constipation from the pain meds.

5. Mylicon help the first two/three days with the sore throat. Not because of gas, but just to coat her throat to help her swallow medicine or formula. Today is Day 5 and we don't need the Mylicon anymore for that.

6. After the first two/three days, begin alternating Tylenol, plain with the Tylenol w/codiene. Codiene can suppress the appetite.

Hard Palate Repair (10/8/08)
(Now that we have been there, here is what worked for us)
  1. Must say, that no one thing really worked. What I can gather from other's experiences is that you, too, must try until you find something that does work.
  2. We brought a bottle, a cup, a Soft Sipp and medicine dropper. In the end we used all four to get through the first 5 days after surgery.
  3. Day 1, Holly was still drinking pretty well from her bottle. (12 oz total)
  4. Day 2, no bottle, we used cup and Soft Sipp (12 oz total)
  5. Day 3, cup (maybe 10 oz)
  6. Day 4, cup, dropper, sherbet, Chocolate Silk (6 oz total, worst day)
  7. Day 5, bottle only. This was our turn around day, Holly has improved so much every day.

Other things that made a difference: Holly got an extra IV of Zantac, in addition to her normal doses of Prevacid that really, really helped.

All medicines were very, very difficult to give, Tylenol, Keflex, even Prevacid. We thinned out the each dose with water. That seemed to help some. Now a week later, she is able to take medicine better, but not quite as good as before.

Above all else, I prayed each day that God would show me how to best feed Holly at that moment. Each day was different. Perservere, watch for wet diapers and hang in there!

Baby Whisperer Part II

Or maybe this should be the "Cleft Edition."

There are plenty of good websites that help explain feeding a child with a cleft lip and/or palate. Like this or this. Here's a few things not mentioned.

1. Yes, when your new born drinks a bottle, he/she will absolutely swallow more air. At first. Eventually, within a few days, you should see an improvement. Otherwise, try another bottle. Once Holly and I tried the Medela Special Needs Feeder, regular size, I could see that Holly was not swallowing so much extra air. And she did not need to burp so often. The other bottles we tried, including the Mini Medela bottle, just didn't work quite right for us.

2. Can I just say this one more time? It is so very important. A new Medela Special Needs Feeder nipple can increase the amount of time your new born takes to finish a bottle, ALOT. From 15 mins to an hour or longer. Now that Holly is older, 6 months, the switch is not so drastic, but still noticeable. Be aware of how old the nipple is, especially at night. Even more important if your little one is struggling with weight gain issues. You can lessen this impact, by pressing the nipple between your fingers to help "soften" before you begin using a new nipple.

3. Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance ARE DIFFERENT from 'extra air being swallowed." These two conditions are not cleft related. You can tell the difference! Do not let a doctor tell you otherwise. Symptons of milk allergies (like any food allergy) include gasping, wheezing, difficulty swallowing and bloated stomach.

Lactose Intolerance can cause "colic" like symptoms, inconsolable crying. For Holly, the crying would begin about 20 mins after the bottle. This can include diarrhea or constipation. Do not let a doctor tell you, because your baby doesn't have near death diarrhea, there is no problem.

4. Reflux. What can I say about that? Well, if you have the right bottle, the right formula and your little one is still unusually irritable, something else may be up. Like, Reflux. Lots of good info on the web about this too. Holly's main "signal sympton" is a cough that cause her to cry.

Eventually, your baby will drink a bottle like any other, learn to burp themselves and generally be a happy little kid. You can be the Baby Whisperer for your little one, babies really don't cry for no reason at all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two Down

two more to go... Soft palate surgery is over. Now the recovery. She was drinking her bottle almost good enough in the hospital. Now at home, she is sleeping more, drinking a little less, but I am not worried yet. She needs the sleep, too. And, you know, as long as the diapers are wet, we are ok. Here are a few pictures.
Daddy and Holly waiting and waiting and waiting for surgery to begin. 2 hours late. Not complaining, the child before us was have brain surgery. Please, take your time.

Here we are in the room, waiting for Prevacid. So this is after the surgery, about 2 hours after.

This is after the Prevacid. Sleeping. Daddy looks a little tired...Must have been close to 10 pm.

This would be Day Two, perking up a little. Fever is gone. Ready for a walk around the floor.

So we begin working our way back up to a six ounce bottle. Good thing Holly has gained weight enough to start back at 2 ounces again. Thank you so much for so many prayers!

Absolutely have to thank Mrs. Fisher and Aunt Rachel for the outfits they made special for Holly. We had plenty of beautiful clothes, that did not interfere with the IV's and tubes and bells and whistles... What a relief to wrestle with one less thing. Thank you Mimi and Aunt Rachel!

Untapped Job Market

Who knew?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Wicked Women!

"Mom, is it true that women who wear pants are wicked?"

Sigh, my youngest has been to visit the neighbors, again. Sweet, precious beautiful girls who belong to a different church than ours and wear dresses all the time. Am I wicked for wearing pants?
"I wear pants and I am not wicked. Your sister wears pants. Your Mimi wears pants, she is definitely not wicked. Now, I believe it is true that when I wear a skirt other people are nicer to me. " This drew an argument from our daughter, insisting that people treat her the same all the time. Still I maintain, that women who wear skirts are treated a little nicer.

Pants happen to be comfortable. And shorts are too, especially in the summer. Even if Oprah says women my age shouldn't wear them!

Come to think of it, Holly even wears pants and we all know she is not wicked! See for yourself: