Monday, December 29, 2014

The B-Word

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with budgeting.
It's just cute.  And this blog post really needed
something cute to redeem it from the scary B-word.
Enter my cat sitting on my newly delivered Christmas presents.

No, not that one.  In our house we call the word "budget" the B-word.  As you can tell, we have a love-hate relationship with budgeting.  Mostly hate.  As in we hate it so we don't do it.  In my house I pay the bills, we always have enough money, so all is right with the world.  (I know some of you may have to take a moment to pick your jaws up off the floor at the idea of me being in charge of my family's finances rather than Hubby, but that's just how our family works because I hate the job only slightly less than Hubby)

I come from a family of "money" people.  Hubby likes to joke that it wouldn't be a family get together without a discussion about finances.  My whole family follows a budget and gets a weird glee out of investing money.  I, on the other hand, like to stick my fingers in my ears and sing LALALA at the top of my lungs whenever such conversations come up.  I like to save money.  But budgeting?  Yuck.

Until recently.  When I have felt very convicted in my prayer times to concern myself with money.  Not making money, but in being wise with the resources God has given us.  Despite not really being a big New Years Resolution kind of girl, I have decided to make 2015 the year that I put my family on a budget.  Without crying.  Or screaming.  Or hiding under my blankets and hoping it will all just go away.

So I unplugged my ears for just a few seconds over Christmas dinner in time to hear my sister and brother discussing what they use to track their budgets.  They both use a program called You Need A Budget (henceforth to be called YNAB).  I pretended disinterest--didn't want to shock them or anything.  But when I got home, I looked it up online and signed up for a free 34 day trial to see how I liked it.

I admit it was a little confusing at first, but I watched the intro videos to learn the program and set up a very un-exact budget.  How do you guess the amount you should budget for clothes when you have no earthly idea how much you spend on clothes for your family?  Or home repairs?  Or car repairs?  I have always just had a chunk of money automatically transferred to our savings account every paycheck which we use to cover future expenses and repairs.  So the money has always been there, just not with a name or in special budgetary categories.  And I don't keep track.

This style of money management is apparently called a Spending Plan.  We have a "budget" for the essentials, set aside enough money every month to cover annual bills (ie. car insurance) and unexpected expecteds (ie. car repairs, appliance repairs/replacements, medical bills), and whatever's left is either put into long term savings or used for wants.  (I will note that we have a health savings account and a retirement account, but those funds are taken out of Hubby's paychecks so we don't have to think about or budget for them).  So we aren't complete financial losers.  We are what I would affectionately call "middle of the road money managers."  Which has worked for almost 13 years without us ever running into a problem.  But we could do better.  So...

Ya, B-word.  Hmmm....

But I am determined to do this.  Because it's important.  Or so everyone else seems to think.  Yesterday I bought the real deal YNAB program.  I skipped right over the next 30 days of free demo and just bought the whole program, for better or worse.  Because it was on sale.  And I am hoping having that little icon on my phone with a handy dandy App will remind me to enter my purchases and keep our budget up to date.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dear Parents, Friends, Family, Strangers who have never dealt with severe food allergies

Dear Parents, Friends, Family, Strangers who have never dealt with severe food allergies,

I get it.  I get that you think we are overreacting.  That we are being drama queens when it comes to reading food labels, questioning every ingredient you put into your freshly baked cookies, when we have to shun your kid's birthday cupcakes because they contain an ingredient that we have to avoid.

You've never seen or experienced a major allergic reaction, so you don't know, really know, that this is serious.  Let me paint a picture for you of what it may look like when your child, or someone else you love, or even you eat something only to experience an anaphylactic reaction.

Picture this:

You are sitting around the dinner table with your family eating a delicious meal of tilapia, a food that your family has eaten on other occasions.  But this time, instead of your son eating it and going about his merry way, his face starts to turn red.  As you sit there watching him, his lips start to swell.  Then his tongue.  Suddenly he is drooling and has tears running down his face, but he can't actually make crying sounds because he is struggling to breathe.  His throat is starting close off.  You fly, not run because that would be too slow, so you FLY to the medicine cabinet and grab your arsenal of epipens, searching for the one with the most hopeful expiration date (cursing yourself for keeping the old expired ones around "just in case").  You fly back to your son, you tell him this may hurt but to stay perfectly still.  You shove a needle into his thigh and count to 15 and pray.  You pray like mad.  Then your husband whisks your only son away to the emergency room because you are too panicked to be trusted behind the wheel.  Your husband has a second epipen grasped in his hand--just in case.  Just in case the effects of the first epipen wear off before they make it to the ER.  Once in the ER, all you can do is wait.  Wait to see if he is going to go into cardiac arrest. Wait to see if he is going to relapse after the medicine wears off.  Wait to see if he is going to live or die.  This time you are lucky.  The doctors send him home with a week's worth of steroids and a new epipen prescription so you can rearm your epipen arsenal.  Now you are back on high alert as you wait to see if your son is going to wake up in the morning.  Will his last prednisone pill wear off in the middle of the night when you are sleeping?  Will he die before he has a chance to tell you he can't breathe?  You and God have never been so close.  But thankfully, this time, your son wakes up and lives to play another day.

This is my son's story.  I am the mom of a son with life-threatening food allergies.  This is the reality of my life:

Every day I am on alert.  Every. Single. Day.  No food can be trusted without a full accounting for its contents.   
Every grocery store visit sees me armed for battle.  Can we eat this food?  Let me read the ingredients to make sure it doesn't contain something that can kill my child. 
Every party and potluck is a parental nightmare of ensuring my child can find food he can eat--and yes, I do allow my child to rush to the front of the line so he can find food that he can eat before it's all gone.  I don't care if it's rude.  Or if you question my parenting skills.  I do what I must to keep my child alive. 
Every meal out requires to waiter to make special trips to the kitchen to question the chef about ingredient lists.   
Every birthday party took on new meaning as my son had to forgo the birthday cake with its "kill me now" eggs.  "Mommy, why can't I be normal like the rest of the kids?"   
Family recipes had to be thrown away or reworked.  I had to learn how to cook and bake in a previously unheard of way.  My cookbook shelf filled up with new options that sounded more like what not to eat than actual recipes--The Egg-Free, Peanut-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Fish-Free cookbook.  Delicious.

I just want you to know that when we say that our child can't eat something, or we can't eat something, it's not because we don't like your food.  Or you.  It's that we really can't eat it.  Not even a little taste.  Not even just this once.  Not even if you put just the tiniest little bit of something in your wonderful cookies.  It only takes a minute amount.  One bite.  One time.  One exposure that sends us to the ER fighting for life.

You don't have to "get it."  You don't even have to believe me when I say that my child is allergic to this or that.  Or that I can't eat your seafood dish because the last time I ate salmon, it required benadryl and prednisone and shocked my heart enough to give me an irregular heartbeat for three months.

All I ask is that you honor me or my kid with respect for our situation.  That you say okay without rolling your eyes when I ask you to keep your child and his peanut butter sandwich away from my child.  When I ask what is in your home cooking.  When I request to read the packaging on every unknown food.  When we say no thank you.

And when accidents happen, like last night, that you understand my fear and trepidation.  Because once again we found ourselves at a potluck.  This time it was just desserts.  I knew better, but I didn't think.  I let my son go through the line alone.  I didn't check his plate.  I didn't even think about the peanuts and tree nuts because he outgrew his egg allergy two years ago.  So cookies are fine.  Until my girls informed me that David had a cookie just like mine.  My peanut butter cookie with a hershey's kisses on top.

I nearly died.  Right there on the floor.  My heart broke into a million pieces as my eyes scanned the room.  "Please don't die.  Please don't die." was the chant running through my mind.  Where is David?  Where is David??  WHERE IS DAVID???!!!!  Finally I saw him.  I ran to his side.  Did you eat this cookie?!  "Mom, I took a bite and realized it was peanut butter so I spit it out."  Oh, Lord.  My mind was racing--I have an epipen.  I have a phone to call 9-1-1.  There are two doctors in this room right now if I need them.  The allergist told us that David probably had outgrown his peanut allergy (an as of yet untested miracle if true).  So it's probably okay.  But on my sweet goodness!!!  What if the allergist was WRONG????  What if David is still allergic to peanuts????

He lived.  Not even a hive.  Nothing.  Thank God.

This is my life.  This will probably always be my life.  One day David will grow up and move out and be in charge of his own food allergies and his own life.  But I will never stop praying and reading labels and cooking in such a way that is David-friendly.

If you take only one thing away from this letter, let it be this:  We're not making shit up about food allergies to get attention.  It's real.  And mistakes kill.  "Just this once" can turn into being front page news--I've read about two guys who died in the past 6 weeks.

You don't have to "get it" but please respect it.

Lisa--Mom of a child who is allergic to tree-nuts, fish and mangoes and outgrew his allergies to peanuts, eggs, milk and soy.  Who is allergic to shellfish and fish herself.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tomato-free, Nightshade-free, Sugar-free Ketchup

About a year ago I started getting horrible leg aches every now and then which always started when I laid down to go to sleep.  My head would hit the pillow and the horrible, deep leg aches would start.  I took tylenol just to dull the pain enough so I could get to sleep.  I had no clue what was causing it, just that I hated it.

Because I follow the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating most of the time, and have been for almost two years, I started noticing a pattern for my leg pain.  I'd eat out at a fast food restaurant and order fries--and that night I would be in pain.  Surely not!  I went a few weeks without eating white potatoes, then ate fries--leg pain.  Oh dear, please tell me it isn't so!

Of course that meant I needed to do some online research to see if eating potatoes could really cause leg pain or if it was just in my head.  Sure enough, it is a common symptom of a nightshade sensitivity.  I looked up what the different nightshade foods were and found the answer to another trend.  Whenever I ate pizza, I always felt terrible at bed time and woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn.  So I decided to order my pizza without sauce the next time we got it--and I didn't have any adverse side effects.  When I trialed avoiding peppers and then reintroduced them, I had adverse effects as well.

I was crushed.  Very, very crushed.  My cooking had involved heavy use of tomatoes and peppers.  I ate pico de gallo probably 4 days a week!  To suddenly have to cut out pasta sauce, pizza sauce, peppers, tomatoes, and chili powder eliminated nearly half my regular dinner menu!

But I have been avoiding nightshades for a few months now and was starting to grow melancholic about cooking in general.  What could I make for dinner that didn't involve my favorite foods??  Tacos?  Not unless I left out the chili powder.  Chili?  I tried talking Hubby into letting me make a tomato/chili free chili and he just laughed.  My go to meal of chicken or sausage sauteed with peppers and onions?  Out.  A quick spaghetti?  Out.  Meatloaf?  Just not the same without that crusty ketchup glaze.

Yesterday I was poking around on the internet looking for a tomato-free BBQ sauce.  Because I love BBQ sauce.  I found a few options that I am going to try, but something else I found by accident was a ketchup recipe that is nightshade-free.  Yes, apparently you can make a ketchup substitute that doesn't use tomatoes.  I had to try this because I love ketchup.  A lot.

I had to alter the recipe I found a bit to make it to my liking and to also make it sugar free to comply with my Trim Healthy Mama eating plan.  I admit I was skeptical, but it actually tastes pretty good.  So here is my night-shade free, sugar-free ketchup recipe adapted from this recipe.

Tomato-Free, Nightshade-Free, Sugar-Free Ketchup
1 C fresh cranberries
1 C apples, peeled, cored and chopped.  (Can use pears)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 C water
1 tsp ascorbic acid (I have no clue on this, but I threw a teaspoon of vitamin C powder in there anyway)
1 tsp THM Sweet Blend (or other sweetener)
2 tsp himalayan pink salt (or other salt--may need more as my salt is extra potent)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp allspice
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook on stove over medium heat, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.  Use an immersion blender, or pour into a regular blender, and mix until smooth.  Store in the fridge, or divide into smaller portions and freeze what you won't use within about a week.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Family Game Night--Day 3 of Play

Yesterday we had to run errands, one of which brought us to the mall with its super awesome escalator.  Just ask my kids, they will tell you.  "Mom, can we go up the escalator??  Please??  How many times??"

I stood at the bottom while I watched them go up, and I thought that was silly.  I should go for an escalator ride, too.  Because that's fun and I need to have more fun.  Up I went, down I went.  Up the kids went, down they went.  Over and over.  The girls' stuffed animals even got to slide down the middle near the end.

We were done with our shopping but the kids begged to walk the mall.  Because apparently in my family, mall walking is the "in" thing to do.  Fine.  Lets go walk the mall.  Despite the fact that we had a bunch of other errands that we still needed to do and it was approaching lunch time.  Whatever.  So we walked the mall, we threw pennies into the fountain, and I had flashbacks to doing this exact same thing over the years, which used to involve needing to change my kids' shirts at the end.  I'm grateful times have changed, but sad that my kids are growing up too fast.

David still can't keep his hands out of the fountain

After dinner we cracked out David's birthday present for family game night.  We played Ticket to Ride, which only Hubby had ever played before.  I don't normally go for board games, but I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this game.  Despite losing to a 7 year old, Miss Joy, who kicked our butts.  Despite Lizzy blocking my route which caused me to call her all sorts of names like "Snot," "Booger," and "No more Christmas presents for you."  (Hubby said that he would buy her presents because she didn't block his train route and because he doesn't love me, obviously)

I got in the game, literally.  I laughed and played and learned the strategy of the game so I know how to beat Joy the next time we play Ticket to Ride.  (Which is the most important lesson I learned yesterday)

This post may contain affiliate links – Ladybug Farms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program  designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dance Party Take Two--Day 2 of Play

This would be Joy and me working it last night to some more 90s music.  This time Hubby decided to play old Christian songs, like Jesus Is Alright With Me by DC Talk, because that song is a classic from our high school days.  And then he threw in some other classic songs from high school like Keep Em Separated by The Offspring, which incidentally I just looked up the lyrics for and was rather appalled.  No more listening to that song in front of the kids.  Oops.  Guess that's what happens when the singers scream the music so you can't understand what they're saying.

But, despite our lack of discretion in song choices for our impromptu dance party, we had fun.  Even if Hubby spent the whole time laughing at me dancing around.  I had fun and the kids had fun.  That's good enough for me.

The only one in the house not having a good time was Shinx.  She sat on Hubby's lap and gave us her best disgruntled look that I am sure was her way of saying, "Why are you dancing around like crazy people while listening to super loud music when I am trying to sleep??"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

60 Days of Play

I'm ready for my hair cut, Mom

I lied.  It was a small lie, but a lie nonetheless.  When the nurse asked me if I was claustrophobic, I said no.  Which is how I found myself in an MRI tube with my eyes squeezed shut praying and doing just about anything to get to a happy place.  To ignore the fact that I was strapped to a table inside a coffin-sized tube for 35 minutes with no way out and told to remain absolutely still.  (I figured I could tough it out rather than risk being sedated--no thank you)

I prayed for everyone I could think of.  That took all of 10 minutes.  Maybe.  It felt like an eternity, but since I couldn't wear any metal, I didn't have a watch on.  Not that I could have looked at it anyway with my arms all twisted up like pretzels inside the coffin.

Next I moved on to just praying for God to distract me.  "Take my mind off this situation.  Help me to shut out the banging noises and the shifting board I'm laying on that startles me every time it jiggles and pulls me deeper into the tube."

An image popped into my head of running through a field with someone, chasing each other with buckets of water in a big water fight.  And I heard God whisper to my soul:

I want to teach you how to play.  You have been focused and serious for too long.  
It's time to laugh and play.

I thought about it for a while seeing as I had nothing better to do.  I needed to learn how to play, but how?  I decided right there that I could not make a list of things to do that would be playful--that would defeat the purpose of learning to play.  Play a game with the kids today--check!  Ya.  Just seems to ring hollow to me.  

It needed to be spontaneous things.  Fun things.  Things that made me belly laugh.  But I also wanted it to be intentional so I wouldn't set it aside or forget about it in a few days.  I wanted it to become a habit.  God obviously considered it important that I learn how to play if He told me so.  

Somewhere between the swooshing banging and the clanging banging of the magnets, the idea to do 60 Days of Play came to me.  This was on Monday, and if I started that day, 60 days would put me at an end date of January 1.  Perfect.  Do something playful every day until the end of the year.  I can do that.

I drove home feeling slightly battered and bruised mentally, craving my Mom's old trick for scary doctor's appointments when I was a kid--slurpees (or slushies or icees, depending on what they call them in your neck of the woods).  But I drove straight home because dinner and my family were waiting for me.  I walked in the door and found this on my counter:

I almost cried.  Hubby got a really big hug and got gushed over.  I smelled them, and took a picture of them, and never saw a more beautiful bouquet of flowers.  So, that has nothing to do with learning to play, but definitely needed to be shared.

That evening I snuggled with Joy and watched a movie.  We had a tickle fight and laughed.  It was as good as I was gonna do that night.

Lizzy dressed up in her Halloween costume
which she did not wear on our date, but she
looks beautiful here so I had to share it.

Tuesday, I took this beauty out on a date.  I let her pick the place and she chose ice cream McFlurries at McDonalds.  I laughed and said okay.  I listened to 15 minutes of her telling me all about Pokemon and evolving and battling.  I have no idea what she was talking about, but she was animated and so I was engaged fully in her.  We talked about life and family and what she loves to do.  We laughed and I tried to hide the fact that I was a hot mess over how fast she is growing up.  She's so beautiful and kind and fun and tall and not my little girl anymore.  But we laughed and had fun and I counted it as my playful act for the day.

And that brings us to today.  Yesterday I bought a new game.  Today we played it.  A lot of laughter was had, someone--not mentioning names, DAVID--knocked me on my bum and made me lose when he bumped into me with his bum.  We played 5 rounds before we collapsed on the ground laughing too hard to play anymore.  

A second opportunity presented itself for some serious fun when Hubby got home.  He put a 90s music playlist on the sound system and the kids and I danced around to some pretty awesome songs like Barbie Girl, Bye Bye Bye, Macarena, and lots of other songs I used to listen to.  My kids laughed at my taste in music and I told them to be quiet.  It was beautiful.

Tomorrow I can't tell you what I will do because I'm not planning ahead or making lists or turning this into a science experiment.  This is about me being spontaneous and jumping in on the fun and laughing until I cry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

She's A Seven Year Old With A Business Plan

Making banana bread all by herself

Joy has shown an interest in cooking from birth.  Or so it seems.  She has always been my little shadow.  "Mommy, can I help make dinner?"  Which has transitioned to "Mommy, can I make dinner all by myself?"  She's seven.

Today she and Lizzy were discussing their futures.  Joy said that she wanted to own a restaurant.  I suggested that maybe she could be like a family friend who runs a catering business out of her home.  That way she could work from home, work on her own schedule, and take time off when she has other things going on.  She loved that idea.  Except she wanted to take it even further.

She grabbed a piece of paper and told me to take notes so she would have all her ideas written down for when she's older.

She wants to have a catering business but she also wants to teach cooking classes.  Classes for kids, classes for women who are like her mom and get married with few kitchen skills, classes for couples that end with a date night eating their prepared food.  Her list goes on and on of how she is going to do this, some of the dishes she wants to teach, when she would teach them.

I sat there looking at her across the breakfast table and could see that this was real for her.  She really wants to do this.  She probably will.  Every day she asks me if she can make a new recipe for things that leave me shaking my head because they are not normal kid things and are made from scratch.

They may have looked messy, but they sure were good

Last week she asked if she could make banana bread.  I said sure but that I didn't have time to help her.  She made the entire thing on her own and it was good!  Like really good.  Last week she also asked if she could make chocolate covered pretzels, which were also better than store bought.  She and Lizzy made it together.

Rolling out crackers and poking holes in the dough

This afternoon she asked to make crackers.  From scratch.  I found a basic recipe for saltines, but she wanted to flavor it up.  She added fresh chives and various other herbs of which I didn't pay attention to.  I tried one of her crackers and I just looked at her, "Joy, you're scary.  These are really good.  I would buy these and eat them."

Did I mention that she's seven?  A newly turned seven year old?

Two weeks ago she made spaghetti and was all set to make her own pasta sauce from scratch when I told her there was an open jar in the fridge.  She was grabbing the canned tomatoes ready to whip up some marinara sauce because she had a recipe in her cookbook from the library that told her how to make it.

Reading through a cookbook from the library
all ready to make marinara sauce from scratch

As I've watched her grown in skill and confidence over the past year, I've realized that I need to just step back and let her go.  Forget the mess, forget the inconvenience.  This is a real gift she has and the best thing I can do to help her is to give her free reign in my kitchen.  To step aside when she asks to cut up the chicken even if it's raw meat, to hand her the cake mix box and say "Have at it.  Call me if you need any help."  To let her try her hand at things that I think are too hard for her, to let her add her own special seasonings to spice up the recipe.  To let her watch the Cooking Network even if I think it's boring.  To encourage her passion.

Because God has clearly given her a gift for cooking and I want to let that gift grow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Waiting to Jump--Lizzy Got Her Ears Pierced

When Lizzy turned 9 in June, we offered to let her get her ears pierced.  She thought about it and said no.  Every time we go to the mall (all 2 times since her birthday) and walk past the jewelry store, I ask her if she's ready.  She gives me a scared look and says, not yet.

Today we were at the mall for lunch and a movie.  As I was sitting there eating my lunch and talking with my Grandma, Mom, Aunt and Sis-in-law, Lizzy came up to me and said:

"You know how you said I could get my ears pierced whenever I am ready?  Do you think I could get it done today?"  I handed her the phone and told her to call her Dad to make sure it was fine with him.  He said yes, we had a half hour before our movie, so we went to get it done right then.

As I stood there filling out the waiver form, Lizzy said, "Mom, have you ever had a funny feeling in your tummy because you were excited but also nervous?"

"Yes.  I get like that sometimes.  And I want you to know, you don't have to do this.  Even right up to the last second you can change your mind and we'll try again another time."

Nope.  She wasn't going to do that.  The sales woman asked Lizzy if she wanted a count down before she pierced her ears.  "No, just do it."  Lizzy hopped up into the chair and got her ears pierced with barely a flinch.

As we were walking through the mall to the movie theater after we were done, she had the biggest smile on her face.  She was so happy, so proud.  But I told her what really made me proud of her.  And it wasn't because she'd gotten her ears pierced today.

"Lizzy, it really took bravery to wait until you were ready to get your ears pierced.  I've asked you several times if you were ready and you knew that you weren't.  You didn't let me talk you into it but waited.  Being able to say 'no' or 'not yet' takes more bravery sometimes than saying 'yes.'"

It may have taken Lizzy three and a half months to decide she was ready to get her ears pierced, but I am glad she waited.  She learned that you don't have to say 'yes' if you're uncomfortable.  It's okay to wait.  Which is a lesson that will serve her well down the road when it comes to bigger things like peer pressure.  Sometimes saying 'no' or 'not yet' is more courageous.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Joy's Miracle

Popeye smile vs a more straight smile

We have the choice to purchase dental insurance for our family every year.  Last year I noticed that Joy had a crossbite.  Meaning her teeth did not meet in the middle as they should.  Her upper teeth shifted to one side.  As a child, I also had a crossbite and wore an expander for my upper jaw for about 6 months.  Which is why I even noticed Joy's teeth issue.  But I put off seeking treatment because we didn't have dental insurance last year.

This year we signed up for dental insurance specifically to cover the necessary treatment for Joy's bite.  We went to the regular dentist and I asked him about it.  He agreed with me and referred us to the same orthodontist that I saw as a child.  In April they took x-rays and pictures and the orthodontist examined her bite.  He agreed that yes, she has a pretty severe crossbite and will need braces or an expander.  But, because her front 4 teeth hadn't all grown in yet, he wanted to wait 6 months before starting treatment.

We went in today for her appointment where Joy had new pictures and x-rays taken and had an examination of her bite by the orthodontist.  While I was sitting in the office waiting, I had all these visions of how much this was going to cost.  How much pain it would cause Joy.  What it would mean for her diet--nothing sticky or crunchy rules out so many of her favorite foods.  Especially with Halloween and Christmas right around the corner.  How long would she have to have this thing in her mouth?  Would she have to wear a retainer for the rest of her life to keep her jaw in place?

After all the results were in, he turned to me and said that Joy no longer has a crossbite.  None.  She needs nothing.  For some reason, her jaw just expanded on its own.  No explanation.  He said he'd never seen it happen before.

You can see her front teeth were off centered in the top picture
and how her top molars were inside the bottom molars

After he left the room, his assistant just looked at Joy and said that she was magic.  She had never seen anything like this happen before.  I knew better.  This was no magic, this was a bonafide miracle.

I went home to get her pictures from 6 months ago to compare to today's.  Such a difference.  You can visually see that the roof of her mouth actually changed shape.  Her smile went from a Popeye smile to a normal one.  Her front teeth went from off center to centered.

It's not every day you get to see an actual miracle happen.

Can you see in the bottom picture how the roof of
her mouth expanded?  And how her front teeth
essentially opened up?  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reclaiming My Health

Can I just take a nap before hiking the rest of the way back?

Last fall I started experiencing major fatigue.  As in wake up tired, fall asleep while teaching the kids school, take a nap every afternoon, and go to bed early every night tired.  It basically wrecked my life for months.  Take the kids to the park?  I'm too tired.  Go to the grocery store?  Just let me chug some caffeine and hope for the best.  Clean my house?  Just let me take a nap first.

This was not normal for me, or for anyone really.  I went to my doctor with a  list of blood work I wanted her to run.  I had her check my thyroid, my iron, and my vitamin D.  My vitamin D was a little low and my thyroid labs all came back in the lab-normal range.  My iron was right at 12.0, the bottom of the range.  

I was stumped.  And pretty disheartened.  The only thing worse than being told there's nothing wrong with you when you KNOW there is something wrong with you is being told there's something seriously wrong with you (like cancer or some other horrible disease).  

I lost my appendix in November.  For a while I thought maybe that had something to do with the fatigue, but three months later I was still exhausted.  In March I had another surgery and ended up with an infection that put me back in the hospital for 3 days.  Again, I waited to recover but a few months later, I still felt terrible.  

I asked my doctor to run some new blood work.  This time we found a winner.  Ferritin.  Ferritin is your iron reserves.  While my iron level was still normal at 12.0, my ferritin was tanked.  Almost non-existent.  I started taking large doses of iron daily.  Two months later I was retested and my ferritin went from 6 to 11.  Optimal is over 50.  The iron did help me feel a little better, but just barely.  I was able to accomplish a few more things than before, but I was still dragging.

During this time I kept doing research trying to find the thing I was missing.  I sent away for a cortisol spit test to check for adrenal fatigue.  Yes, it did show that my cortisol was below range in the middle of the day, but it wasn't so far off that I should feel this bad.

A few weeks ago I had repeat labs down to check my ferritin and on a whim I asked my doctor to check my B12 level.  Vitamin B12 is another one of those things that can cause fatigue when too low.

My B12 came back in range so I dismissed it at first.  But further research showed that while my level of 361 was in lab range, most people feel symptoms if it is below 450.  So I bought B12 supplements and started taking them.

Two days later, I had pep.  Strange.  What is this mysterious energy I have?  Why am I not falling asleep in the afternoon when I'm trying to have my prayer time?  Huh.  A week later I felt normal.  Three weeks later and I am a new person.  

My house is clean.  My laundry is all caught up.  I have gutted, purged and deep cleaned over half my house since Labor Day even with starting homeschooling again.  Because after teaching my kids all morning, I HAVE ENERGY LEFT OVER.  

We joined the YMCA last week.  While my kids played in the pool, I swam laps.  A bunch of them, all in a row.  Last night, NIGHT, when I used to crash from fatigue, I did an hour long water aerobics class.  And I wasn't exhausted by the end.  

So I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with fatigue and isn't finding answers, don't give up.  It took me many doctor visits, 2 surgeries, 1 spit test, 5 blood draws and almost a year to figure out the source of my problem.  I just keep thinking: What if I had given up?  What if I hadn't asked the doctor to add that B12 test on a whim?  

I don't know why my B12 was low when I eat so much meat, eggs, and other B12-rich foods, but today I don't care.  I am just happy to have energy again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

The opposite of Love is Fear.  If you are filled with fear, you cannot love.  If you are consumed with love, you cannot fear.  Because perfect love casts out fear.  

For years God told me in my prayer times that I needed to grow in love.  I did not get it.  I loved my family just fine.  I loved my friends just fine.  I had ooshy gooshy feelings for my Hubs.  What does this mean, grow in love?  

Only in hindsight can I see what God meant.  

In the past I would hear God speak to me and tell me to do something.  I almost always ignored Him.  Write someone a letter of encouragement?  Nope.  That's embarrassing.  Tell someone they look pretty or how I admire them?  Nope.  I barely know them and that would just be weird.  Talk to that stranger who looks sad and alone?  God?  Do You know who You are talking to?  My mom said to never talk to strangers and I am sticking to it.  


So much fear.  

Too much fear to take a leap of faith.  Too much fear to actively love the people God was placing in front of me.  Until one day I was done.  Done being a shadow of who God created me to be.  Done being afraid.  Done hiding.  Done running away.  Done, done, done.  

I wanted to be an evangelist.  I wanted to reach out to the poor, the needy, the lonely.  I wanted to do so many things.  I wanted to be a missionary, somewhere exotic or in my own city.  I wanted to be a writer.  And in my head, I was really good at this stuff.  But where my soul longed for these things, my brain said, "No!  It's scary!  Dangerous!  You'll get hurt!  You'll fail!  No one likes you.  You are a wreck of a person, so what could you possibly have to say that would help people?"  

I used to hide who I really am from people.  Even from my Hubby.  But one day I woke up and decided that I was done hiding.  I went through some really dark times in my life all on my own because I was too afraid to seek help and support.  No more!  If I am struggling, I tell people I am struggling so they can walk the road with me.  Even if they can't actively help me or solve my problem, they can give me hugs and pray for me.  And that is often enough.

Recently I discovered that one of the gifts God has given me is to be a truth teller.  I tell people the truth about me, not because I think I have it all together, but because I don't.  I rejected fear and now I will freely tell people about my life.  Why would I tell people about my struggles?  Mainly I share because there is always that one person who is going through a similar struggle who needs to hear that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

That mom who feels like an outcast because she can't get that nursing thing down and resorts to bottles.  Dear Momma, I've been there.  My kids have turned out pretty darn good despite being raised on formula.  That wife who isn't sure if there is any hope left for her marriage.  Dear Wife, I've been there.  I had my bags half packed when God smacked me upside the head and then transformed my marriage into something beautiful.  That woman who has struggled with depression or anxiety, but is too afraid to seek help because she doesn't want people to think she's crazy or incapable of handling her life.  Dear Woman, I've been there.  It wasn't until I hit rock bottom that I was willing to seek help from my doctor.  And I am eternally grateful that God brought me to rock bottom so I would realize I needed help instead of settling for a "good enough" life for the rest of my life.  

And now I get it.  Why God said I needed to grow in love.  I was so consumed with fear that I could not love.  I could not share myself with others.  I wasn't able to listen to other people share with my God-ears on.  I wasn't willing to take risks.  To reach out to people.  To love others.  I loved on the surface where I lived.  Now I live fearlessly and love deeply.  I love too much to be afraid.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Battles We Wage In Our Heads

I spent the last week wrestling with some stinking thinking.  Like bad thinking.  I tried to change the subject in my mind, used distraction, but the thoughts just kept coming back.  Where did these thoughts come from?  God, I am a terrible person for thinking this.  Why can't I make these thoughts go away?

And because I am slow, it didn't dawn on me that this was just one more in a long string of attacks from the devil that I've experienced in the past year.

Tonight I figured it out.  God, I resist the devil and Your Word says he must flee from me.  Flee, devil!  You have no place in my mind.

Instant peace.

Just like when Hubby prayed for me about all my stinking thinking about homeschooling this school year.  I spent two weeks in agony over the thought of teaching my kids.  I didn't want to.  I didn't think I could.  Every time I thought about it, it made me want to cry.  I kept praying for God to make me stronger.  What I really needed to do was tell the devil to shut up and go away.  Hubby prayed for me and the peace was instant.

I read this quote back in the winter and shared it on here before after my second hospital stay in under 6 months.

If I Were The Devil
By Tommy Nelson

If I was the devil, I'd tell you what I'd do.  I would try to deceive you and get you into error.  I would get you off base.  And if you still stayed true, I would try to disqualify you.  I would get you immoral, I would get you where no one would believe what came out of your mouth.  I would make you a tabloid, where nobody would believe you.  I would remove your confidence until you were afraid to speak because your life was a shamble.  I would get you into sin.  I would prowl like a roaring lion to devour you morally.

And if I couldn't do that, I would try to make you successful.  And I would distract you if I couldn't disqualify you.  I would get you busy.  I would get you so distracted to the gospel that no longer would your prayers be about holiness and souls.  They would only be about the bottom line in your business.  I would get you materialistic, and no longer concerned about the spiritual nature of life.  If I couldn't do that, I would divide you.  If I couldn't divide you, I've almost lost you.  You know what I'd do then?  I'd discourage you.  And then if I couldn't discourage you, I'd try death.  I would try my best to kill you.  That's what I would do to take you out.

So far this year satan has attacked me on almost every single front addressed here.  In every instance, I wallowed in the situation for a few days or weeks before I realized it was an attack and needed serious prayer.

Tonight I asked God: Why am I being attacked so much?  Why am I such a threat to the devil?  I am just one person who doesn't even do much.  I stay home.  I homeschool.  I don't write books.  I don't have a lot of influence.  I'm not important.  I'm just me.  

Because you aren't afraid anymore

I used to be afraid of everything.  People.  Bugs.  Letting my kids out of my sight.  Messing up.  Failure.  Losing my house.  Being poor.  Not having enough food.  Fitting in.  Staying home alone.  That I had an incurable disease.  New things.  The list was endless.  Fear consumed my life.

I am not afraid anymore.  I spent 33 years in bondage to fear, but not anymore.  I will not allow myself to be neutralized ever again.  

If you are like me and find yourself being sidelined with crazy thoughts or situations, don't wallow in it.  Stop and pray.  Command the devil to shut up and flee.  The closer you get to the Lord, the more you say Yes to Him, the bigger target you will become.  Learn to recognize these attacks.  If the thoughts running through your head are crazy talk, if they plague you, that is a dead giveaway that it's not you, but an attack.  If you suddenly find yourself paralyzed with anxiety over something, that is a dead giveaway that it's not you, but an attack.  

Fight.  Daily.  Hourly.  Do not let the devil use your mind as his playground.  Do not allow yourself to be neutralized.  Resist the devil and he must flee.  


Monday, August 25, 2014

A Grown Up Tantrum

The other day I asked my girls to fold a load of their own laundry.  A smallish load.  I dumped the hamper in the middle of the living room and told them to get it done before lunch, a half an hour away.  I walked away.  But not far enough away that I couldn't hear the ensuing conversation.

"Joy, you need to fold your clothes."

"I'm not going to fold them until you start folding yours."

"Well, I'm waiting for you."

Girls, just fold your clothes already!

"But mom, folding laundry is my least favorite chore."  As if Joy's position on laundry would sway this laundry-loathing mom.

I don't care.  Fold it anyway.

The tears, the drama, the whining and complaining!  Twenty minutes of insisting she just could not fold her own clothes.  Complete with a pile of kleenex next to her on the floor used to dry up her buckets of tears.

Finally I told her I was going to throw her clothes away since she didn't care enough about them to take care of them.  I scooped up the pile and walked to the trash.  Blood. Curdling. Screams.

"No, Mommy!  No!!!!"

"Joy, you have two choices: I can take care of your clothes by throwing them away.  Or you can take care of your clothes by folding them minus the tears."

Thankfully she went with choice number two.  She sat down and proceeded to fold her pile in five minutes.  When she was done, she cheerfully proclaimed,

"If I had just folded my laundry without all the crying, I would have been done a long time ago."  Ugh.

Today I handed Joy another pile of clothes to fold, to which she said, "I know it will go a lot faster if I do it without crying."

I went to post this on my facebook page.  Which is when it hit me--this is a critical life lesson that we all need to be reminded of.  Life goes a whole lot better when we do things without all the tears and drama.

A few weeks ago the reality of homeschooling my kids another year hit.  As in I did not want to do this even a little bit.  I pursued every option other than schooling my kids myself.  I had this dread consuming me--I cannot do this.  I cannot teach my kids this year.  I don't have it in me.

An old picture of me I found last week that about
sums up how I felt about homeschooling this year

I wrestled and prayed.  I just kept hearing God say, I know you want to have your kids do a virtual charter school or go to school, and I will permit it.  But my perfect will is for you to school them yourself.  This is where the bigger blessings will be found.

Me, who has been working so hard on listening and obeying right away, on jumping off the cliff and taking risks, doing anything the Lord asks me to do--I was kicking and screaming.  Crying.  Telling God I did not like this plan and just was not going to do it.  Even if I knew He wanted me to.  Even if my Hubby had prayed about it as well and felt strongly we should home school another year.  Didn't matter.  I prayed for the money to fall from the sky so we could send our kids to private school.  I prayed that an online school would actually work for us.  Anything that would let me off the hook.  Full blown tantrum.

Hubby came into our bedroom a few days ago and saw me flopped out on the bed, probably looking completely pathetic.  He asked me what was wrong.  Brave man.

"How sure are you that we're really supposed to do this home school thing again this year?"

"Very sure."  Darn it.

"Straight home school or do you think online school would be okay?"

"Straight home school."  Because clearly Hubby hates me.  Hmph.  "Lisa, how about I pray for you."

"I think you need to do some spiritual warfare while you're at it."  Because even in the midst of a full blown tantrum, I knew that this dread and helpless feeling wasn't me.  Hubby prayed over me and I swear that when I lifted my head up when he was done, all of the weight was gone.  Just gone.

Dread of another year.  Gone.  Feeling completely incapable of educating my children well.  Gone.  Desperate search for any other solution than me teaching my own kids.  Gone.  All of it.

The next day I was praying about it, "What the heck was that God?"  And God just laid it out there--Whenever you are at the start of a really important journey, the resistance from the evil one is always the strongest.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.


So I fully expect this upcoming school year to be the best year ever based on the amount of resistance I experienced of just getting here.  Maybe the devil doesn't like that I felt inspired to have us read through the Bible this year.  Cover to cover.  Every single life giving Word.  That probably had something to do with it.

Life is a whole lot easier when we just get on with it without all the tears and drama.  So bring on the new school year.  I'm ready.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Grieve

My Grandpa died yesterday.  While it wasn't unexpected, it still hit like a ton of bricks.  My Grandpa is dead.  I know I will see him again when I leave this earth, and I know he was in pain and lived a long life (he was 93), but it still hurts.

At the same time every news site, my Facebook feed, and passerby are talking about the world.  It seems like the entire world took a vote and decided to blow up at the same time.  Genocide, martyrs, drug trafficking, human trafficking, civil wars, refugees and people wanting to send them back, the list is endless.  And it's everywhere.

I have been following it, reading the articles, on my knees praying and interceding for these situations and these people.  It has consumed my mind for weeks.

Today I just could. not. take. it. one. second. more.  I turned off mobile data on my phone in an attempt to shut the world out.  I decided a media fast was in order.  I crawled back into bed and pulled the blankets up over my head.

Wake me up when it's all over was my heart's cry.  Please, God.  Wake me up when it's all over.

I am a fixer.  I want to fix everything.  And 99% of the things that consume my mind right now are things that I cannot fix.  They are things that even entire governments cannot fix.

Jesus, how can You stand it?  How can You watch Your people be slaughtered?  Displaced?  Every day.  You see it all, even the parts that the news doesn't report.  How do You do it?

I asked Him with my head under the blankets, as I tried to shut out the world.

I cry.  I grieve for every life that is cut short.  I know every one of my children by name and I grieve for Anya and Amar and Oscar.  Every life I created and filled with hopes and dreams, every single life that is taken away--I grieve.  I grieve for every life that ends--even your Grandpa.  

But then I rejoice because I know that this is not the end.  I have already Won!  While my children's earthly lives are cut off, their eternal lives with Me are just beginning.  I rejoice because I know how the evils of this world end.  I Win.  Every day.  I Win.  That is how I stand it.  I grieve and then rejoice.

So today I grieve and rejoice for my Grandpa.  I grieve and rejoice for every person who has been slaughtered, displaced, stolen from their family and sold into slavery or worse.  Because I know that this is not the end.  Jesus wins.  He wins every battle.  Every situation.  He always wins. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why You Wouldn't Want To Go On Vacation With My Family

The Smoky Mountains--The view from my balcony

Last week the Hubs, David and Lizzy went to summer camp while Joy and I went to the Smoky Mountains with my parents, my sister and her family, and my brother and his family.  I went into the vacation expecting to have a good time and to end the week refreshed after a week in the mountains.

God laughed.

Instead God had a plan to test me in every area where I am weak.  Safety, security, physical endurance and personal space.

We came prepared for the 10 hour drive

Sunday we went for a hike to a waterfall.  It wasn't a hard hike, but it involved preventing little children from throwing themselves off a cliff every few feet.  But the waterfall was beautiful and I let Joy take her shoes off and splash in the pool of the falls.  I thought about saying no, but then I realized that she'd hiked all this way, and why the heck shouldn't she get to play in the water?  I told her to take her shoes off and have fun.

Splashing in the waterfall

Sunday night was when all the fun happened.  It started with my family all wanting to go into town after dinner.  I didn't, so Joy and I stayed back to go to the indoor water park at our resort.  Twenty minutes into our fun, the pool was closed due to thunder and lightening.  As we were waiting at the shuttle stop to take us up back up the mountain to our condo, the cell phones of the other people waiting at the shuttle stop started going crazy with beeping.  Tornado warning!

Suddenly I am the only adult in a foreign place having to make a decision--do I stay at the bottom of the mountain and camp out in the lobby or do I take Joy back to our room at the top of the mountain?  To our fourth story room.  I needed a second opinion because I come from Michigan, the flat lands.  I don't know anything about tornadoes in Tennessee in the mountains.  I asked a security guard and he said we'd be fine in our room.  So up the mountain we went.  In a golf cart.  That struggled the entire way up.  With Joy freaking out next to me because we are in a foreign land, alone, in a struggling golf cart, on our way up a mountain with clear views of the quickly approaching storm, and the wind whipping all around us.

Storm rolling in over the mountains--the lightning was amazing

"Joy, God did not bring us to Tennessee just so we would die in a tornado.  We are going to be fine."  And then I prayed with her to be peaceful.  Thankfully we didn't die.  The tornado stayed north of us.  But we did get some really cool pictures and videos from our balcony of lightening strikes until they got a little too close for comfort and went back inside our room.

But the adventure didn't end there.  Oh no.  We were all tucked into bed, sound asleep, all 12 of us, when it hit.  Sirens and flashing lights all around us.  Have you ever been woken up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night in a foreign place?  I stood up and looked around me trying to figure out what was going on.  Everyone converged on my living room/bedroom and we stood around trying to figure out what was going on.  "Is that a fire alarm?"  some not-so-quick-witted person finally asked.  My goodness, I think it is!

Sweaters and jackets were hastily thrown on over our pajamas--because it was cold outside--and shoes were put on.  SOME of us even took the time to get fully dressed (not naming any names here, but they were over the age of 50 if that tells you anything).  I grabbed my purse and Joy, who was completely out of it after I woke her up because the sirens didn't (and she claims to be a light sleeper).  And out the door we went where we were told to exit the building.  Down 4 flights of stairs and out into the night.  We stood around not sure if this was real or a prank.  After a few minutes the resort security told us to go further away from the building.  We walked to the lower parking lot.  All 12 of us.  When the heavens opened up and the rains started.  Noah worthy rain.

Our condo in the middle of the night.  2 of our cars were up high.
We were told to move to the lower area so the fire trucks could come.

"Run for the cars!"  Which was good advice, except 2 of our vehicles were in the upper parking lot that was currently closed off for the fire trucks.  Which left all 12 of us and 1 van.  Which we somehow all squished into.  Which is when I started laughing.  Hysterically.  I laughed until I cried.  Because this is exactly how our family vacations always go down.  Somehow we always end up with a crazy story to tell at the end of our vacation.  ER trips, falling over a waterfall, nearly falling off a cliff, monsoon rains that flatten our tent, fire alarms in the middle of the night.  I have stories, oh so many stories.  I'm not sure if we've ever taken a non-dramatic vacation.

The good news is that the alarm was due to a short in the system and not an actual fire.  So after about a half hour we were all back in bed.  Wet from dashing through the rain, but safe.

Monday we went on a leisurely hike.  Or so I thought.  Unfortunately Joy was tired out from the day before and I ended up carrying her on my back for about one out of the four mile hike.  But the views were pretty.  We followed a river for almost the entire hike and it ended in a little waterfall where we sat and ate our lunches.

I'm too tired to hike another step

Tuesday I declared a day of rest for Joy and me.  We spent the day at the water park.

This shot was for Hubby--We sent it to say hi

Wednesday we went on a bear hunt at Cades Cove.  This is the highlight of every trip to the Smokys for my parents who come every year.  For the rest of us, it is not nearly so exciting.  It involves driving around an 11 mile loop at 5 miles an hour looking for bears.  If a bear is sighted, it results in a traffic jam that would rival any rush hour situation in a major city as people stop dead in their cars and all get out, take pictures of the bears, and try to get close as the park rangers yell at everyone to get back in their cars and move along.  Thankfully, this year we got lucky.  We took a cut through road that most don't take and came across 2 bears up in a tree.  No crowds.  No rangers.  We got lots of pictures, got way up close, and it was really cool.

Bear in a tree

Thursday we went the Ripley's Aquarium in the Smokys.  Which has been rated the fifth best aquarium in the world according to TripAdvisor.  I agree with them.  It is a really cool place and well worth visiting if you are ever in the area.

Manta Rays are such happy fish

Thursday night, as we were deciding what to do on Friday, I made the mistake of telling Joy that it was our last day there so if there was anything that she really wanted to do, let me know.  And the waterworks started.

"I don't want to go home!  This is the best vacation ever!  I will miss my cousins and my aunts and uncles.  I want to stay here forever!"  On and on she wailed.  Finally she sniffled and asked, "Mom, since it's our last day, can we make tomorrow the best day?  Can we goto the water park and then get ice cream at the stand?"  Sure.  Which is exactly what we did.

So there you have it.  The recipe for the best vacation ever.  Hiking, tornadoes, fire alarms, water parks, bears, fish, and ice cream.

And a really good story to tell at the end.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Our First Real Summer Vacation Ever

A month ago I had grand plans to continue our schooling all summer.  I've done homeschool lite every summer since David started school.  Math and reading every day we are home, with some science and history thrown in when I have time.  But then I realized I was completely done with school.  While I wasn't experiencing burnout, my kids were.  And my school year of being "sick" and too tired to do much had left me with a really messy house and yard in need of some major TLC.  I prayed and decided it was time to give my kids a real summer.  No school.  No structure.  Just an open day with endless time to play and be creative.  My kids didn't even know what that meant.

The whining of boredom commenced immediately.  I ignored it and told the kids they could fold a hamper of laundry if they were incapable of finding something to do.  Magically they found a game or project to do.

See, I don't cater to my kids' boredom and I never have.  I want them to be bored.  Because boredom makes them turn to new things for entertainment that they generally avoid during the school year.  Books they'd never read unless they were desperate.  Games they're too busy to play when there are other things to do.  My basement is completely filled with a fort the kids built where they play for hours every day, even reading and having their prayer times in their own little beds they've made for themselves.

Making their own Pokemon game

My kids have spent many hours up in our climbing tree.  Hours laying on a blanket watching the clouds.  They paint my driveway with water.  They draw.  Make up games.  This afternoon they asked if they could create their own drinks--which were just really disgusting sounding smoothies involving fruit, tons of cinnamon and a little stevia.  I averted my eyes to the mess they made, happy that they had found an outlet for their creative minds.

Joy teaching Lizzy how to fry an egg--the latest accomplishment for both girls

All this unlimited free time has made me discover a few things about my family.

1. My kids are not used to so much free time.  While I've always summer schooled with good intentions, I'm beginning to realize that maybe dealing with regression is a small price to pay for my kids having the time to discover new hobbies, new games, new books.

2. My kids lead a very structured life.  I've always had a routine and structure to our days.  Always.  My kids could depend on the same daily routine and an almost always same weekly routine.  Not any more.  I can't tell you when we will make it to the library or the grocery store this week.  And I don't care.  We'll go when it's desperate (we're nearly there).  It's good for my kids to have their routine shaken up.  Teaches them to be spontaneous.

3. My kids are creative geniuses.  Up until now I have always wondered if my kids were a little abnormal in that they don't come up with make believe games, stories, or other similar things the way I did as a kid.  They do, but not nearly as much as I did.  But now I can see that I have just never given them the time to be bored enough to get their creative juices flowing fully.

Making Perler bead creations

4. My kids fight when they are bored.  This took me a few days to figure out.  David was constantly pestering the girls just to make them mad.  Hubby pointed out that David just didn't know what to do with himself.  Oh.  So maybe some structure is necessary.  Boo.  Today I decided I would play a game with David.  I don't like games but David does, so I was speaking his love language.  We played Rummy.  Then the girls saw us playing and wanted to play, too.  So we all played Rummy.  This afternoon I read 10 chapters from "The Sign of the Beaver" to the kids before I finally called it quits.  We usually only make it through 2 or 3 before the kids are done.  Guess their attention spans are improved when they have nothing else to do.  Right now they are outside having a squirt gun fight.  And I am choosing not to care that my house is going to get wet when they're done.

5. We all needed a break.  I thought I was fine and could do school all summer.  But after 3 weeks off, I've discovered I needed this time.  To read.  To just sit and stare out the window.  To work on a project when the inspiration strikes.  To have the freedom to drop everything and meet a friend at the park for the afternoon.  To not care that things aren't getting done.  To paint.  Yup, I am going to attempt painting on an actual canvas this week.  It's been about 25 years since I've tried.

I averted my eyes to this little mess--
and made them sweep up the sandy mess in my bathroom

This summer is nothing like anything we've ever done before, but it's exactly what we needed.  So if you decide to drop by unexpectedly, don't be surprised to find three monkeys up a tree, laundry all over the living room, and projects in various state of completeness all over my dining room table.  Because that's how we roll this summer around here.