Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Holidays are tough!

I have tons of pictures from both our wonderful visit to family for Thanksgiving and then the month-long preparation and celebration of Christmas. In my head I have several funny posts and several thoughtful posts. Instead of actually writing them, I just keep coming up with excuses. You see, the holidays are tough.

Oh I know, the holidays are tough on everyone, especially Moms. We try and make the magic for everyone, stretch a dollar until it squeals like a scalded monkey, decorate and wrap and cook and sing until we want to scream, and fall into bed each night feeling inadequate and like a failure. (Or wait, is that just me???) I am determined to create memories and traditions that my kids will remember for a lifetime. I carry on some traditions that I loved as a child and have created a few new ones as well.

Right now my house is a disaster. Toys all over the floors, legos covering the kitchen table, tinsel stuck to everything and enough colored sugar and sprinkles scattered on the floors to qualify us as a sugar-hazard. Did the kids have a great Christmas? Oh yeah!!!! Was it everything I dreamed for them? Heck no. I am so stressed by the mess around me that I fail to see how happy my little ones are. I see chaos and cleaning, they see a table covered with the creations we built together as a family then played with for days. Do they see the dirty floor? No, they see the remnants of decorating cookies then eating them until their mouths were brightly colored and their tummies full of sweets. Do they notice the pile of laundry calling for my attention? No, they only remember wearing their jammies all day while we played and laughed and ate our fill of yummie holiday cooking.

So why am I so stressed? Sigh. Because I am a failure at relaxing and enjoying the here and now. I know I will miss these times in the future, so how do I learn to enjoy them now? Someone please come kick me in the arse!!!!!!!

Monday, December 05, 2011


In October we had the annual Say No To Drugs Week where each day the kids got to wear something special. In years past there has been slippers day, hat day and sunglasses day. The favorite day this year was crazy hair day. Having only boys it challenged my mad hair skillz. Here is what we came up with.

The Alfalfa with gold glitter

The Golden Storm

Scary Mess with Green Hi-lights

Halloween is a huge trigger for trauma kiddos. I'm not sure exactly why, but invariably it brings out the demons and the behaviors we would love to forget. This year Ahren was totally un-fazed. He has only had very minor issues in the past so it did not surprise me. Seth began having terrible nightmares about 2 weeks before the holiday. I asked his therapist to work with him on the issue of Halloween so she did. My rule has always been that the kids had to wear non-violent costumes. She actually suggested that I let Seth dress up in scary costumes so that it took the mystique out of it. I was hesitant to try it, but figured it was worth a try.

Pumpkin carving. Always a favorite and yucky activity!

It was 80 degrees and no shirts meant no laundry mess. Just a quick wash up and we were done!

Will this child ever get teeth???

So, following the advice of the therapist, I let the boys choose their costumes. Ahren is Darth Vader (I wouldn't let him wear the helmet to trick-or-treat) Seth is a Zombie/Mummy and Levi is Jason (He didn't know who that was but saw the mask and thought it was cool.) Much to my surprise, Seth's nightmares stopped, he began to talk about the cool costumes and how they were make believe and fun, and he thoroughly enjoyed the evening. You know, parenting these kids is counter-intuitive at times. What you think would be the worst thing ever for them turns out to be the perfect thing to help them work through something. This obviously will not work for all kids, but in this case the therapist was dead on.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthday Boy

Seth is now officially 6 years old, and for 2 months he will be 'older' than Ahren. As usual, we managed to drag the festivities out over several days. The weekend before his birthday he got to have a friend over for the day. The friend brought him the coolest rocket launching toy gun. Then on his actual birthday (a school night) we had a special dinner and treats. Then, that weekend we went out to eat at his choice of restaurant (Red Lobster) then had cake and presents. 

We ordered his cake the week before but when I went to pick it up they had forgotten to make it! Luckily, the head baker jumped in, found what she needed and one hour later I went back and picked up this. It actually was better than usual since she had used cake that just came out of the oven and it was so fresh and moist. Seth loved it!

Time to open presents. These are just the ones from us. He had other presents and cards too. Spoiled kids? Naw, just really loved!

First present, a new helmet. Isn't that adorable...umm, I mean really scary???

His little brains are now safe and sound while he rides around like a crazed lunatic.

Next came the football he wanted.  One just his size so he can throw and catch.

Of course there were some Legos. Like we don't have enough....

And finally his big gift, a new Razor scooter. Within sixty seconds of taking this picture he was out shooting down the driveway at warp speed, giving his Mama a heart attack.

We all had a great time celebrating Seth's sixth birthday, and he didn't seem to have any fallout afterwards. I think our little man is growing up.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Harvesting the Bounty

The drought has severely affected my ability to raise our own food. I didn't even plant a garden this year, which turned out to be a wise choice. I would have spent more in water than I would have saved. Plus, everything would have been stunted and died off early. Instead, I bought from farmer's markets and roadside stands. Peaches, strawberries, peppers, etc. Then I got out my handy dandy canning supplies and got to work.

The three pot method

One pot of boiling water (back left) to process jars and lids
One pot to cook the jam/jelly in
One extra large canning pot to process the jars. 
This is hot work, just saying.

Freshly washed jars ready for grape jelly.

Most important part? Teamwork! My little helper wasn't allowed to get too close to the stove but he did provide constant commentary during the process.

One batch of grape jelly, processed and cooling. That should last us at least a year or so.

Fresh strawberries, getting prepped for jam. Note: when using a very sharp knife to cut up strawberries, do not talk animatedly with your hands. This will result in injury to fingers. Just saying.

One of my favorites: hot pepper jam. Gloves are important when prepping the many jalapenos that go into this recipe. The end product is sweet with a spicy finish and totally yummy.

Pot of peppers prepared for processing!

Pickling, freezing, canning, making things from scratch. I love it all. My next project I am wanting to tackle? Making our own jerky from some of the deer meat Chris is filling our freezers with. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I didn't really intend to take a break but I it just worked out that way.  I guess I needed it since I feel all ready to blog and get back to real life. The past month+ I have been on autopilot in many ways. I took a 'vacation' in a way, from the emotional challenges of parenting, working, and handling life. Now I am re-charged and ready to handle it all again!

I have many blog posts in my brain and on my camera, so I will be catching up in bursts.

You know you have boys when....

you have plastic building blocks everywhere

you find rocks in the sink, the dryer, the bathtub, the drawers, etc etc

play guns are part of your decor

transformers walk your hallways

strange orange-soda monsters stage surprise attacks 

haircuts aren't so much done by stylists as by junior barbers (or is that 'barbarians'?)

you send them to wash their hands and more dirt ends up on the sink than down the drain

you find them all asleep snuggled together with their favorite dog and can't help but smile 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LOL Moments

  You can't have kids and not have those Laugh-Out-Loud moments when you hear what comes out of their mouths.

Levi is sick again, second round of strep throat, third round of antibiotics. On Monday, on the way to the doctors office, we stopped to get gas. He saw a bumper sticker that said, "My boss is a Jewish carpenter" and wondered what it meant. We began to talk about jesus, the fact he was Jewish and why they killed him. Levi looked very concerned and told me, "Wow, that is way harsh". LOL!

Today at school they are having a food drive. I packed canned goods into bags and carefully instructed the boys what to do with them. As we pulled up to the school, I asked them to tell me what they were supposed to do with the food, and Seth pipes up, "Find hungry people and give it to them". LOL!

Our turtle had laid an egg a while back. According to Google it takes 60-75 days to hatch. We were cleaning the cage this weekend and couldn't find the egg. I think that it might not have been fertile and she ate it. Levi busts out with, "Oh no, our turtle is a cannibal!" LOL!

Ahren ended up on Red on the behavior chart in school on Friday. That is a drop of 2 levels and not good. I asked him what happened, and he proceeded to begin flapping his arms and stuttering something about quiet time and Christian and then dissolved into giggles. Once he got serious, I made him tell me again. It took 3 rounds before I finally got it. "I was flapping my nap towel and Christian's head kept catching it". (Interpretation: He was spreading his towel out and kept putting it on Christian's head) LOL - but not in front of him. Oh that poor teacher!

And it's not only the little ones, the big kids do it too!

Kaytee called me one day and told me she needed her Visa number. I told her to look at her card, it was on there. She asked me what card? I told her her VISA card. (Duh!) Then she told me, no not THAT Visa, the one she needed for her application to Texas A&M University. Totally stumped now, I had her read the question to me: If you are a resident alien, please provide your Visa number here. LMAO!!! (She's gonna kill me for this......)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Time Flies

  When you don't hear from me in a while it is safe to assume life is just a little bit extra busy and I am feeling overwhelmed. Here are some of the things adding extra load to my days:

Peri Brynn's birthday was October 10th. She turned 5 years old. I managed to not shed a single tear that day, but it still hurt terribly and my mood suffered for many, many days. Five years since we accepted her referral. Five years since I headed to Guatemala and held my 6 day old daughter in my arms. I feel completely defeated and devastated. Yes, there is hope now, and things actually look much better. We may actually be bringing her home....some day.

Seth has started a new type of therapy. Two hours one-on-one every Monday afternoon. This is a combo of ABA (Behavioral therapy) and attachment therapy. He has gone twice and we are starting to see some big emotions surfacing. I have to be super-vigilant and watch his facial expressions and actions very carefully. As soon as they begin to show I need to be right on him, helping him with them and getting him to let them out. It's exhausting.

Halloween - I have always LOVED this holiday! I love to be scared, I love to dress up, I love CANDY! Yes, I am just a big kid. But, for my little guys, this is a horrible time of year. This year I am doing things a little differently. We are making home-made costumes. I have talked and talked about the scary costumes and what they actually represent. We have visited the costume aisle many times to explore how the scary things are just plastic and rubber and make believe. We have now gotten to the point Ahren doesn't scream bloody murder the second he sees a Halloween decoration. I think we are going to do the neighborhood church Trunk-or-Treat. Only non-scary costumes allowed.

It is a daily balance to keep Ahren from getting constipated. Add to that the fact that he has been on 2 rounds of antibiotics which give him liquid stools and you have potty disaster looming. Our school has been awesome. Each day they take him to the nurses office twice a day to potty, then communicate to me what the 'outcome' was. I adjust fiber and meds accordingly each night. I also give Probiotics during and after each round of antibiotics.  Recently a friend told me that Zinc helped her son with his oral hypotonia, so I have also added Zinc daily. Oh, and he was diagnosed with Asthma and is using a daily inhaler-type med. He still wheezes first thing in the morning, but the rest of the day is much better.

Levi - this boy is amazing. He is reading at 250 wpm and comprehending it. I spent an hour with his teacher the other day and she told me she has never had a second grader who could read like this.  They have set up a program where he is pulled out of class every morning and sent to a special reading program where he is doing 4th and 5th grade work. He loves it and it helps him keep from getting bored. They had a big assignment for the month of October. They had to read a book, do a report and make a hat that represented the book to wear in a parade around the school. He picked the true story of the sinking of the Titanic. He ended up reading 2 books on it and doing research on the computer. He designed his hat and we helped him make it. The hat ended up 2 feet tall and was the prow of the boat sinking into the water after the ship broke apart. His report had actual photos of the survivors in Lifeboat #6 as they were rescued by The Carpathia. And yet, getting him to sit down and do his homework every night is a huge battle.

Work - oh my how I LOVE those kids I work with. I know I am not supposed to have favorites, but heck! There is one special little blue-eyed blonde headed sweetie who has totally stolen my heart. When I first met him he never smiled, never laughed and seemed totally disconnected from the world. His mama is absolutely an amazing Mama-Warrior and works tirelessly to heal her child. In a matter of months, he has become a smiling, laughing and yes TALKING little boy. He is now mis-behaving and understands what he is doing. (You should see the sly little glance and smile he gives as he does what he knows he isn't supposed to) He also is showing his own sense of humor, pulling little jokes and laughing at them. I look forward to working with him every week. There are many other patients I adore and am challenged by. The range of patients I see is so wide and varied. Grown-ups with traumatic brain injuries, children with cerebral palsy, kids with dyslexia, and on and on. I receive advanced training every Wednesday morning for 3 hours and have learned so much. We coordinate with other therapists, too, OTs and PTs and ABA's. We design our therapies to synergize with theirs. It takes a lot of effort to pull it all together but it is so worth it and so much more effective. I still have a huge soft spot for kids on the spectrum.  Seeing them bloom is the most rewarding thing ever, and knowing that I might have played a tiny part in that is amazing.

Just so no one feels left out, Kaytee and Ashley are awesome, beautiful, independent women and I fear for the men that fall in love with them. It is not easy to keep up with those girls! They are too smart, too driven and too focused to make life easy for a man. I am loving it!!!!!! I don't think their Step-Daddy is going to have to 'clean his guns' for these girls.

Oh, and for my sweet hubby, who I am still crazy in love with. I love you more than CHEESE!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

RAD induced Paybacks

  First, I want to clarify that I do not write about what goes on here to brag, complain, seek sympathy or embarrass anyone. I write because I would never be able to handle some of this if it wasn't for the people who went before me and shared their stories. It was only through reading their blogs and talking to them that I even had the courage to tackle a traumatized child. So I share what goes on here to pay it forward. Oh, and it helps me put things into perspective. Poop just seems so much FUNNIER in type. LOL!

  So this past Monday I met with Seth's teacher and the counselor. The counselor has a 30 year old son who she raised for a family member. He came to her as a terribly messed up 10 year old and they spent many years dealing with the fallout of RAD. She truly GETS it and we are so blessed to have her a tour school and backing us up.
  The first couple of weeks at school went really well for Seth. He loves school, is the first one ready every morning and is learning so much. He is making lots of friends and seemed, on the surface at least, to be settling into the new routine. Then the fires came and we were all thrown for a loop. No school for a week,  bouncing back and forth between me taking them to work, Daddy picking them up, or me staying home. Things were a bit crazy for all of us. One day they announced at 6am school was cancelled, which left us NO time to make a back-up childcare plan. But, again, everyone seemed to weather it pretty well. Still, I have been on high alert watching for signs of anxiety and stress.
  During this time we were battling Ahren's bathroom issues. He got a HUGE amount of attention at school. Escorts twice daily to the nurse's office, Mommy having to pick him up early (I got the other boys too so they weren't left out), etc etc. Well, you can guess where Seth's little mind went, and actually it is a pretty normal response to a sibling getting so much attention. He calmly announced to me that he would 'probably' have an accident too. (Is anyone as boggled as I am that he would actually TELL me this?) I tried to spin it how proud I was that he didn't have 'accidents' anymore and how grown he was and that I just knew it wouldn't happen to him.
  Well, that worked about as well as handing him a roll of TP and saying 'Go for it!'. The very next day he had an 'accident' in his pants. (Note: the 'accident' was actually a tiny smear of poo about the size of a dime) He didn't let any of the kids in his class know he did it, just the teacher. Of course when he got home he was announcing quite loudly and proudly. We talked calmly about it, again stressing the positive.
  During these few weeks we also began to find small items in his pockets and backpack that did not belong to him. Each time we asked nicely about them and he hemmed and hawed and gave us various stories. Thank goodness this kid is terrible at lying! I began collecting the items and told him I needed to help him return them to their rightful owners, and that it was against the rules to bring toys to school and exchange them. I did not accuse him of stealing, just made it about a school rule and that the 'other' kids would end up in trouble for having them. If they gave them to him, then he could be in trouble for having something at school.
  This is when I made the appointment to meet with his teacher and the counselor. We spent an hour last Monday going over the behaviors he uses, how to spot them, how to talk to him, all the ways we could think of to make him less anxious and more successful emotionally. The teacher shared that she had heard him telling disturbing stories to the other kids, stories about a brother who was murdered and things like that. (All un-true, for the record) She wondered at the time, but now saw that it was another sign of his anxiety. I made sure Seth knew we were meeting, and was even there when he came back to the classroom after lunch. I wanted him to know that we all were there to help him.
  Well........on the surface he was so happy to have the attention, but deep down he was angry and afraid we would get to close to his real feelings. So he began to SHOW us how he really felt. In school he acted up at quiet time, disturbing the other kids, and then on another day decided to chew up paper and spit it on the floor. Each time when she asked him about it he wouldn't tell her the truth. She never accused him of lying but did tell him she knew the truth and he had to drop his bear (behavior chart). For me he saved the big guns. He pooped his pants in the evening 3 times this week. Once we caught him before he could change and twice we found the poopy drawers hidden, but not so hidden we wouldn't find them.
  Here is the part I like. I sat with him today and asked very nicely what was happening. he told me that he kept waiting too long when he was outside playing and that's why he had the accidents. (It took a while to get there, along with many denials that it wasn't him. Too bad he is the only one who can wear underwear that small) So, I sweetly told him that it was my job as his Mommy to help him be successful so I was not going to let him play outside this week. That way he would be closer to the potty and wasn't that wonderful? Oh goodness gracious the wailing and crying that followed. Nooooo, he wanted to play outside. Could he earn it back? I told him he wasn't in trouble, it was an 'accident' so I was just HELPING him. I had to step away for a minute and Chris and I laughed so hard hiding in the laundry room and listening to him wail. We weren't laughing at him, just amazed at how his little plan had backfired so wonderfully on him. I love these therapeutic parenting moments. Sometimes it just comes together in such a way that they teach themselves a lesson, and those are the BEST lessons.
  His wailing lasted about 10 minutes and there was not one single tear involved. Then he sniffed loudly a couple of times and jumped up smiling and ran off to play, having forgotten all about why he was so unhappy. My guess is that each evening when we remind him he can't play outside he will act like no big deal and play happily inside, safe in the knowledge that Mommy and Daddy are his safety net.

Friday, September 30, 2011


  Seth has a new diagnosis. It has taken a long time to pin this one down. It has been camoflauged with many other diagnoses and issues. But today, I feel we really, truly came to the perfect diagnosis for him.

His new diagnosis?


*Random Acts of Madness

Let me tell you how we finally found this diagnosis. It all began one early morning. I got the kids up and started in on the routine to get ready for school. I fixed Seth what he wanted for breakfast. Cereal and chocolate milk. Yum! As i did several other chores, I watched them eat out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly I saw Seth with his hand in the glass of chocolate milk.

Seth! He snatched his hand out so fast milk droplets sprayed all over him and he looked like a deer in the headlights.  "What are you doing?' Answer: Stirring my milk. Arghhhh. Don't stir it that way, use your spoon.

Then I saw that he was eating the soggy cereal with his fingers. Seth! Again the hand is snatched back and the eyes get big. 'What are you doing'? Answer: Eating cereal. Don't eat it that way, please use your spoon. Double arghhhh!!!

Next, I am in the closet pulling out outfits. Seth is around the corner from me, but he doesn't know I am here. Levi walks past him and I clearly hear him say, 'I hate you'.

SETH! I round the corner and he looks totally shocked. I inform him what privilege he loses and he begins to cry and claim he is SORRY, it was a JOKE, and he DIDN'T do it.

When I went to work and told my co-workers, who are all trained in special needs kids, what Seth had done this morning, they all proclaimed he has RAM.

I agree. The PERFECT diagnosis finally.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is how our morning goes

Planned Schedule

3:30 am Chris gets up to get ready for work
4:00 am He kisses me goodbye and tells me he loves me. I try to go back to sleep
5:00 am I get up, knit and watch DVR shows for an hour, drinking in the calmness
6:00 am Get dinner prepared and into the crockpot
6:30 am Jump in the shower and get ready for work. Possibly interrupted numerous times as small people wake up
7:00 am Anyone still sleeping has to wake up
7:10 Prepare breakfast
7:15 Kids eat breakfast, I feed dogs, rat and turtle, put lunches in backpacks, etc
7:30 Get kids dressed, perform daily shoe hunt, double check folders fro homework
7:40 am Out the door
7:45 am Drop kids at school


6:45 am OMG I overslept, throw on clothes, brush teeth and hair, throw on makeup
7:00 am wake kids
7:05 wake kids again
7:10 pull blankets off of kids and turn lights on
7:15 Literally drag them out of bed and prop their semi-comatose bodies at the table, place food in front of them
7:16 Stop whining, eat your breakfast
7:17 STOP WHINING and eat your breakfast
7:18 clean up spilled cereal
7:19 No More whining!!!!
7:20 Throw food at pets, hopefully they all get some
7:25 Grab outfits luckily laid out night before, begin stuffing kids into clothes
7:30 Where are their shoes? I have 7 different shoes, none of which match. Contemplate starting new fashion trend of mis-matched shoes - keep searching
7:40 Grab backpacks, last pair of shoes not on a kid, 3 boys and my purse and dash out the door.
7:43 Turn back around, run into house and grab my lunch, head to school
7:50 Drop kids at school and head to work. (Sniff shirt to make sure I don't smell.....)

Today was an 'As Planned Day' and I love those. But the truth is, no matter how much I prepare the night before, or how well organized things are, we end up with more days like the Reality list. Oh well, we eventually get there and everyone is happy. isn't that what life is all about?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ahren's Accidents

  It had crossed my mind that maybe Ahren was using Seth's most notorious method for getting attention and pushing people away, but only briefly. First, Ahren has ALWAYS had huge issues with constipation. He has been on meds fro three years to help him go on a regular basis. I am not talking the run of the mill episode of constipation, I am talking bloody tears even WITH the medication. His muscles are weak, even those in his intestinal tract, and they just do not move waste efficiently. We have fought hard to keep him regular and not let him get a blockage or develop encopresis*.
  I had noticed that during the first week of school we did not see one single BM from him at home or school. Each day I added more fiber and other 'moving' foods and that weekend he went 9 or 10 times, each one very large. Then it was labor Day then we had the rest of the week off for the fires. He had no problem at home.
  Back to school and again he was getting backed up. I implemented the same measures but this time, by Thursday, he was pretty blocked up and after lunch, recess and then PE, the liquid waste from higher up in his intestines made an end-run around the hard part and he was blind-sided. Accident #1. I thought that maybe I had given him too much assistance and that resulted in his stools becoming too loose. I backed off some and he seemed OK.
  Next week the exact same thing happened, same scenario. Only this time the poor guy went to the bathroom in time, but someone was in the stall. He tried to go to the girls bathroom but didn't make it to the potty. Accident #2. Mommy schedules a doctors appointment and prays he is OK for now.
  The doctor is concerned he has crossed over into *encopresis, a situation where chronic constipation dilates the bowel and reduces the nerve sensations in that area. He is losing the sensation of needing to go. We worked over the weekend to get him cleaned out with little success. This week we are continuing meds, plus probiotics and fiber, and adding prescribed potty times. The school nurse gets him every day after lunch and takes him to her office and he sits on her potty. Seems like a good plan, right?
  Accident #3 happened yesterday at the end of the day. Luckily I was home and could immediately go get him. I also took the super nursing staff a case of baby wipes and a bunch of clorox wipe packs. Bless their hearts they were all hugging me and telling me it was OK. I just HATE this! Is he losing function because of his muscular dystrophy? Will it get better or not? Is he going to be the kid in diapers at school, soon to be in a walker or wheel chair?

  Oh, and the frosting on the cake? My little intentional pooper told me last Thursday that he just might have an 'accident' at school, too. I told him how sad I would be since he has done such a super job, and also told him it is awful for this to happen to Ahren. It's embarrassing and the other kids might make fun of him which would really hurt his feelings. Sure enough on Friday he came home with dirty pants in his backpack and a note from the teacher. Now get this, he managed to get the tiniest smear of poop in his underwear. Then went to the teacher and whispered to her that he had had an accident. She helped him get his back-up clothes and he went back to the restroom, cleaned himself up and changed clothes. Then quietly placed the dirty clothes in the bag in his backpack and returned to class. Not one kid ever realized what he did. Of course, the first thing he announced to us that night was, 'I had an accident at school', all the while wearing a big smile.

I'm sure the school is loving us.......

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oh my aching heart

Ahren, sweet, adorable, big eyed, captivating small boy. Oh Ahren. He is struggling big time at school. Today I got a call from the nurse. Actually it was the third or fourth call from her since school started. Oh how I LOVE this woman! She has taken Ahren under her wing and made it her mission to help him.

For the third time in three weeks of school, Ahren had a major potty accident. The first was just #1, but the next both included explosive #2. Each accident has involved the teacher, the nurse, the assistant and the janitor. Each has included a complete change of clothes, including shoes. And each has been devastating to this Mommy. (Ahren is not upset at all. He accepts the situation and is just, well, Ahren)

We tried to implement a system where each time he needed to potty #2 he went to the nurse's office and she helped him. That worked well for a bit, but today he just didn't have time to get there. He ran to the closest bathroom but someone was in the one stall. So he ran to the girl's bathroom but it was too late. Disaster. The teacher found him a little later and called the nurse. Who called the assistant. Who called the janitor. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Poor baby!!!

Does anyone have any thoughts? Ideas? Solutions? At home he has much closer access to the potty and doesn't have this much trouble. How do we help him? Is he losing some function or is it a situational issue?

Oh my Mommy heart aches. I do not want him to be known as the kid who always messed his pants in school. Kids can be so cruel and the NEVER forget!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finally got this pic off phone

This is how the sky looked a couple of days ago from our neighborhood. That is the Sun behind all that black smoke. Thank Goodness they are making progress against the fires. 

Society of Samaritans is accepting donations

The local Society of Samaritans, or SOS, is gladly accepting all food, hygiene and household products at this time. I just got back from dropping off our load of baked goods, diapers, toothbrushes and paste, deoderant, tampons, the fixings for a spaghetti meal that would feed about 50 people, and 6 bags of dog and cat food. They were so appreciative. I got there just as they were beginning to assemble sack lunches for the firefighters and they were so excited over my cakes and brownies. In fact, they were so nice that we are going to make a monthly donation to them for our community.  What better way to put my couponing to good use!

If anyone out there wants to still donate, I can give you the contact info.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Warning - RANT

  Today is an historic day. One I am trying to impress on all my children so that No ONE EVER FORGETS! So far, the little guys do NOT get it. Not even a little bit. Oh well, there is time.

  Right now, we are dealing with the here-and-now of the fire in our little community. I have spent the last 24 hours couponing, shopping, buying and cooking. I have also called the local YMCA that is the designated center for feeding the firefighters, the three local churches that are hosting evacuees, the national Red Cross number, the local volunteer fire department and anyone else I can think of who might be coordinating donations. There is a good reason the evacuees here are unhappy. That reason is that the relief efforts SUCK. Everywhere, except the local volunteer fire department, either had no one answering the phones, directed you to another number that rang dead, or told me that there was no one available on the weekend who could answer my question. Seriously! I called the dang national Red Cross number and was told that NO ONE was available on the weekend who could tell me where donations were taken. Only my local volunteer firefighter station could help me, and they directed me to a small, local, community based program who was more than GLAD to take my donations.


I have food, diapers, toothpaste and brushes, deoderant, soap, more food, shampoo, drinks, shoes, personal items and much more. The news is full of people BEGGING for help and yet...YET, no one can tell me where it should go.

I am one ticked off Mama tonight. Come Hell or high water, tomorrow all of our donations are going to the local agency, the teeny-tiny community based group who is there to help. Chris thinks that a wildfire is just not important enough or big enough to get people to help. Well God help us all, since it feels a lot like HELL here these days.........

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fire Update

We are still at home. Yesterday was a bad day. The winds picked up to 15-30 mph and switched directions. The total burn area went from 12,000 acres to 22,000 acres overnight. They have used the term 'extremely aggressive' to describe it. They are now using many firefighting planes and helicopters, the largest a DC10 that drops 12,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single load. I learned something new about that. The retardant only slows down the flames, and makes them smaller so that ground crews can put the fire out. It's the firefighters on the ground who do the most important part and have the most dangerous part. The heat has been rising back up here, too, causing many firefighters to suffer heat exhaustion. They are saying it will be back up in the 100's by the beginning of the week.

We missed school all last week and they are trying to decide if we will have any this week either. The smoke gets horrific by the afternoon each day and the fire is constantly moving and growing, threatening new areas, including schools. One of our high schools is being used as the firefighting command center, and the other was the evacuee site until a couple of days ago. The local YMCA in Magnolia has been using volunteers to cook around the clock and provide everything the firefighters need. The evacuees are being taken care of by the Red Cross. Businesses and individuals have opened their doors to people, given out clothing, food, drinks and gift cards, and there are legions of people providing emergency housing to large animals and pets. We are a small town with a HUGE heart. Tomorrow I have volunteered to bake 200 servings of cookies and brownies and drop it off to the command post. I also have clothing and shoes to drop off at the evacuation center.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Wildfire update

Still burning away, still way too close to my home, still causing sleepless nights and stressful days.

This is how this fire thing has been going. As the winds die down at night, the firefighters gain considerable control over the fires. Serious control, like 80-90% contained. Then a new day dawns and the winds pick up, change direction a bit, and the fiend is off again burning in a new direction and threatening more people. The skies are dark with smoke. Large black plumes rise from new areas of burn, turning whiter as water hits the fire. One area dies down and another springs to life. The entire city can now smell the smoke, even 50-60 miles away.

The evacuation center was located between us and the fire and that made me feel a wee bit safe. Then last night they moved it to a spot past our house. We are now in between the fire and the safe zone. No, NOT safe. The evacuation center is crammed full tonight. Not even a single parking spot left. People who had been allowed to go home were evacuated again today as the fire flared up in the same areas.

The hardest part is the lack of reliable news. Where is it burning, which way is it moving, who is in the direct line of fire? There is no info making it to us that gives us that info. You would think that would be important so we would be prepared to evacuate! But no, no news, no details. I fully expect a knock on the door and a bullhorn blaring from the street in the middle of the night and we will have mere minutes to load up and get out. We are ready, as ready as we can be. Still, it would be so nice to have advance warning......

If you don't hear from me in the next 48 hours, we have evacuated. We will be safe and sound. All physical belongings can be replaced. Our lives and our family will be intact. That's all that matters.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Down, down down into a burning ring of fire....

Well Ladies and Gentlemen, it appears that our sweet, small burb has made national news, and not in a good way. We live in Magnolia, Texas, the site of a raging, voracious wildfire that in 24 hours has consumed 7800 acres of land. More than 8,000 people have been evacuated and the schools are all closed for us. Don't worry (I am doing enough of that for all of us) we are safe. We happen to be on the back side of the fire. Even so, I sat up for hours last night watching the golden glow over the tree line, listening to many, many sirens, and calculating how much I could stuff into a mini-van in 3 minutes.

All the while, my sweet hubby snored away, oblivious to the threat and my fears. Well, except for the point at 2 am when I rudely poked him and pointed out that there were a lot of sirens that sounded way to close to our house. That resulted in 20 seconds of mumbling and then more snoring. Is it wrong to be upset because someone remains calm? Why didn't he share my panic? I could have used a co-hort in crisis right about then.

So the fires are within a 2-3 mile point of our house. Many of our friends have had to evacuate. The smoke has permeated our home and burns our eyes. It is dark, like a cloudy day, but it is actually clouds of smoke. Frankly, it feels a little bit like Hell. (Especially the part where the kids have no school....LOL!)

Too close for comfort. I doubt I will sleep again tonight. Fires are blazing up again all along the path it already travelled, since the brush is extremely dry and they can't put enough water on it to soak it.

Scary. Scary. Scary.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Oh Ahren

  For the first time in 8 years we do not have an in-home sitter watching kids in our house. We signed the boys up for the very-cost-effective after-school program run by the YMCA. They stay at their school (I like the idea that no one is driving my kids around) get a snack, do their homework and play until one of us picks them up. Levi and Seth LOVE it. But Ahren? Well, he has an issue. (But of course, it was never meant to go smoothly, right? Someone had to have an issue.)

  It seems that there is an older girl, probably 19-20 years old, who has special needs and is the daughter of one of the teachers. She still attends the high school and they bus her to her mom's school at the end of the day. She waits in the after-school program for the 20 minutes or so until her mom is done and then they leave. It appears that she has the mental capacity of a small child. She is non-verbal but makes loud keening noises when excited. More than anything, she wants to play with the other kids.

  Ahren developed a huge fear of her and we were stumped as to why. All he could tell us was that she kept smiling at him and he was scared. The teachers intervened, the counselor tried to help, and even the Principal stepped in. Still, we could not figure out why he was so afraid of her. He has seen many special needs kids since he spends every Saturday at work with me. Of course, they were all closer to his age and size. It seemed that he wasn't being overly dramatic for attention, either, since he was shaking, crying and truly scared. Each day, once she left he was totally fine and loved the program. I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed. We teach tolerance and acceptance, that God makes people just the way he intends and that we should love people for what is on the inside. So why was my sweet boy being so, should I say, MEAN to this girl?

  I decided to step in and try and work things out. I went to school before the last bell and waited outside his classroom. Once they called the Y program kids, I walked with him to the cafeteria. Hew began to tremble and cry silently as we entered the room. He also got me in a choke hold and I was surprised he had that much strength! We sat down on a bench and I spotted the girl. She was staring intently at Ahren, and moved to sit close to us. She had a Barbie doll that she kept waving at him to try and get his attention. This made him more upset so we moved across the room. She followed us, all the time smiling and trying to get Ahren's attention. Then, frustrated by his lack of interest she moved off and tried to play with some other kids. When she couldn't get their attention, she smacked one boy upside the head with her doll, much like a toddler will do when they can't express themselves with words yet.

  Lightbulb moment. Ahren, does she hit kids often? Yes Mommy, every day, and she pulls hair and slaps them too. Is that why you are scared? Yes, she is always smiling at me and I think she is going to get me. Ahren, do you realize that inside she is really just a big baby and she hits because she wants to play and can't talk? Oh, mommy, she is half grown-up and half baby? Yes, honey. If she hits, tell her No, No, just like you would a little baby.  Oh, I can do that.

  And ever since then he has been fine. One more child will go out into the world understanding the special needs of another person and adjusting their mindset to accept them. (Does anyone else see the irony that Ahren is a special needs kid himself?)

Better late than never!

I refuse to feel guilty because I am

A) Too busy to blog
B) Completely lazy
C) Uninspired
D) All of the above

Sometimes life just gets in the way of things. Things like blogging, shaving my legs, and dusting.

Two weeks ago we had the first day of school. Did you hear me woohoo-ing? Yup, that was me. The school has been awesome and we hand-picked the teachers for Ahren and Seth so that they had a good fit. Seth's teacher is calm, very experienced and will keep very strict boundaries. Ahren's teacher is warm and loving but not easily fooled. She will push him and keep him on track.

 Ever try and get three excited boys to pose for a first-day-of-school photo? 

 The first day of school went very well. No one got lost, no one cried (nope, not me. Maybe a wee bit teary, but no crying) Ahren obviously didn't quite grasp the concept because he asked at least 3 times if he got to come back tomorrow.

Second day of school and Ahren had an accident. The 'urinal' usage issue. I spent the evening giving him a 'how to aim your toot' lesson. Considering I am ill-equipped for such a lesson I feel I still managed quite well. Hit the water!

Ahren also had some issues with going #2 at school. He began holding it, which is a bad thing considering his constant constipation issue. Over the first weekend he went 7 times, just catching up from the week. We decided to add a fiber/probiotic to his daily dose of miralax. Unfortunately that got him moving enough that he had to go at school. He went to the bathroom but tried to pull his pants down without un-doing them and ended up peeing and pooping as he struggled. His teacher found him and called the school nurse, who called the janitor and a teacher's helper. Thirty minutes later he was all cleaned up, in his back-up outfit and back in class. The school nurse has now suggested that if he needs to poop he should come to her office and use her potty. Poor kid, coordination is just not his forte!

 I think I forgot to tell you that we have a working diagnosis for Ahren of Muscular Dystrophy. The definition fits his symptoms the closest so that is what we and the doctors are calling it. He has good weeks and bad weeks. We keep tweaking the supplements and therapies and he is doing well.

We ended the second week of school with Ahren doing a face-plant at school and getting a fat lip. The nurse called me and she didn't want to send him on to the after school program (she has a bit of a crush on him I suspect) so I left work early and picked him up. He looked just fine to me but I am used to his bumps and bruises.

I knew Seth would be on his best behavior at first. In fact, I was counting on that honeymoon period. He slipped up a little last week when he had to drop his color from green to yellow for not keeping his hands to himself. He didn't hit, but was poking another child with his finger while trying to tell them what to do. (Mr. Bossypants lives on)

Unfortunately, on Friday, he came home with a girl's bracelet, a necklace and a red toy car. He claimed he got all three from the treasure box. I happen to know that they do not give more than one treasure at a time, so I asked him about the items. I have now gotten 4 stories of where they came from. Anyone else out there smell a rat? The truth is that he got the mardi-gras style beads from the treasure box and the bracelet and car by some other means, most likely stealing, since he has no true explanation of how he came to have these items in his possession. So tomorrow he will return the items to the teacher and tell her how he got them (no idea what story he will give) I will have already warned her. This should be interesting.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Not Blogging?

  The funny thing is I have sooo much to blog about. So many things to tell you and so many photos to share. Time. I have no time. School started last week and although I am more organized than ever before, it is a huge time suck. I am back to waking at 2 am to just get a little time to myself. Oh the joy of one stolen hour while all is quiet, the chance to watch a loved TV show (or maybe just a little trash TV) the chance to be quiet with my own thoughts. Sigh....I love that stolen time so much. It is very worth a little tired and cranky the next day. Heck, even when I don't steal that time I am tired and cranky. And hot. Still hot. I think we hit something like 40+ days over 100F. I am starting to think I live in hell, and not just because of the heat.

One quick 'first day of kindergarten' story and then I am back to fixing dinner. Everyone headed off in high spirits and good attitudes. Unfortunately, Ahren had an 'accident' the first day. He wet his pants. Not a big deal and he was not upset in the least about it. I wondered if he just didn't know to ask to go, or didn't know where it was or what was going on, so I asked him about it. It took about 20 minutes of sidetracks and confusing info to finally figure it out.

He didn't so much 'wet' his pants as wet ON his pants. Apparently he had NO clue how to use the urinal, so he stepped right up, dropped his pants to the floor and began to pee. Only thing he forgot to do was aim! He pee'd all over the floor and his pants! Oh poor baby! I then attempted to give him an aiming lesson. I must have been successful because he has been dry the rest of the week. Only Ahren!!! LOL!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

School, Laughs, and Stinky Boyz

  School starts this Tuesday. We had Meet The Teacher night this week and I am thrilled with our assigned classes. They let me help pick the teachers and have been 100% supportive of everything I want. We are so lucky to be in such a wonderful public school and with such competent and loving staff. Levi wants to start TODAY, Seth is ready to go and so excited, and Ahren....well, Ahren just wants to wear his new shoes and be able to sit next to girls. LOL! Seriously, that is all he talks about. Shoes and girls.

  Our box turtle, Jack, has been doing wonderfully. He eats everything, gets so excited when he sees me coming, and will even eat out of my hand. Then suddenly, the last few days he has been very quiet and resting inside his log home. I thought it was because the puppy roughed him up a bit this week when the boys accidentally left him on the floor and let the dogs in. I thought he was traumatized. But, this morning, when I went to feed him, I found an EGG in his cage! Jack is a Jackie!!! I have no idea if it is a fertilized egg, but i buried it in the damp rocks over the heater and left it alone. In 2.5-3 months, we may have a baby turtle. How cool is that!

  I tested Levi on my reading program at work to see what his level was and how his comprehension was. That little too, who is entering 2nd grade, read at 250 words per minute and 100% comprehension. For reference, college level is 300 words per minute. Good luck to his teacher keeping him occupied and not disrupting the rest of the class! He asked me what 'embodiment' meant the other day, and was reading (accurately) the labels in Latin on plants recently. Dang, that big ol' egg head is full of brains.

  Seth has quit the bodily-waste problems of this past spring. Not one incident in ages. I am so proud of him! Apparently, before I realized it, he had progressed to another method of punishing me. I began to lose earrings. Only one of a pair at a time, and I thought I was losing my mind. Then, I began to find one mangled earring here, one smashed earring there.... and it dawned on me. I began locking my bathroom door and then soon after that he went on the seizure meds. Since then not one single earring has disappeared. I still have not found all the others. but the destruction of them has stopped. So far I have not discovered any other 'Mommy-testing' behaviors. Is it the medicine? Has he run out of creative methods of testing me? Has he finally accepted I love him, unconditionally and forever? Heck, I don't know, but I will take it! he has been so happy and fun lately. In fact, on Monday, we will be dropping off levi and Ahren at friends' houses and taking Seth, the best behaved of the bunch, with me and Kaytee to the mall. That decision is totally based on who is behaving the best, and Seth wins. I can hardly believe it, but it's true! He has been an angel in public and so much fun to take along with us. My dear sweet boy has come so far!!!!

  The other night, Chris looked at me and said that he thinks Ahren and Seth both have Native American blood in them. Totally confused, I just looked at him. He then announced that they both belong to the Black Foot Tribe, and pointed to their feet. Ugh, black feet caked with grime. And I mean BLACK! Nasty, stinky, dirty boyz. All I can say is I am happy they have had so much fun!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Under Attack!!!

  We live in southern Texas, just outside of Houston. I'm sure, if you have watched any news at all, you have heard that we are experiencing record drought and heat. Today was day 17/18/20? of over 100F heat. No measurable rain has been had since January. Fires are raging across the land, nothing to stop them except dedicated firefighters. Last week a fire sprung up within 2 miles of our home. We were on alert to evacuate, but they were able to contain it. Unfortunately, a barn full of Arabian horses was in it's path and 12 horses died. I see the burned barn every day as I leave our neighborhood. So scary and sad.
  Every living creature in the area is striving to invade our home. Ants, bees, mosquitos, flies, little furry things, and larger furry things. They all want in. It is a daily battle to keep our home to ourselves. We feed and water the deer each day, which is helping them to survive, but how long can they go on? I feel like we are experiencing Armegeddon! If you have never had to deal with something so severe, then you just don't know what it is like. We can no longer water grass or plants. We have low water pressure (picture a severely anemic shower trying to wash off the stink that develops with extreme sweating) Thankfully the schools have air conditioning and once it starts next week our kids will be safe. Running errands is exhausting. Every time you re-enter the car you crank the air and hope it cools off enough you don't pass out or melt. Then just as it gets tolerable, you shut it off and enter another store. It's like Hell in Texas.
  I am cranky and smelly and ugly and sweaty and, well, just plain TIRED of it! But what can I do? I guess the only thing to do is to warn everyone away from us until it cools down and we are acting nicely again. Have pity on us. We are all baked to a crisp.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amazing Experience

See the man in khaki, leading the elephants? That is Darryl Hoffman, world renowned expert in elephants and large animals. He also happens to be the husband of my buddy Deborah and the father of Levi's friend Dylan. We got to spend the day at the zoo with them and it was the most amazing. once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I have pictures to prove it!

This is Tessa and her baby girl Tupelo, on their way to their daily bath. 
 We got to watch from right outside the enclosure as they started bathing them. Tupelo was more interested in our kids than the bath at this point. 
 She wanted to smell them and touch them, just like a human kid meeting other kids would do.
 All of the elephants receive training as part of their enrichment program. In fact, these elephants are treated like royalty. Their poop never even hits the ground. They have people around the clock just for pooper scooping. Every day they have special events planned for the elephants to give them enjoyment. They give them toys to play with, fruit frozen in large tubs of ice to eat, watermelons, etc.

They are just about to open a new section of the elephant area that will triple the size of their space and also give them a small lake to swim in.  There are trees and shade areas and large wooden scratching posts, too. These animals are very loved and doted on. 
 Oh yes we did! We got to go in WITH Tessa and Tupelo!!! You have no idea how huge these animals are until you stand right underneath one. Get a load of Ahren's eyes in the above photo. Her skin was soft and thick and textured like large orange peel.
 They are surprisingly nimble for such huge creatures.
 We also got to bathe them! Seriously, this was the most exciting, amazing thing, to be actually scrubbing an elephant and her baby!!
 That's Dylan in with Levi. Dylan was our tour guide for the day. He knows the zoo inside and out and proved to be an excellent tour guide. 
 Bubbly baby.
 Even my big kid was loving the experience.

Thank you so much Hoffmans for the experience of a lifetime!!!!!!