Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day Twenty-Nine, Gift Twenty-Nine

Today was an easy gift day, it's my mom's birthday!  She's turning the big 55 which means next year she gets to retire.   I feel so blessed that she is retiring when she is...Abigail will be starting her Kindergarten year and Dakota will be in 5th grade.  The Kindergarten year is the hardest with homeschooling because your child has to learn absolutely everything!  They can't read independently, write, or anything yet.  They need one on one teaching the whole morning.  This makes things difficult when you are homeschooling more than one child.  Not to mention, Dakota is moving at such a fast pace who knows what grade level we'll be working on when he's in 5th grade!  My mom has graciously agreed to home school Abigail and help out with all the kids after she retires.  This is a huge blessing.  My mom has thirty years of education under her belt and I think I will learn a lot from her and I know she will love homeschooling too!

Since my mom and I have been working hard on her retirement plan I decided to get her the budgeting software that I use for her birthday.  It gives her a one year subscription to the service and it's online so what is great is that her and I can be looking at it at the same time as we discuss plans, etc.  This software has helped  Tim and I see where every penny of our money is going.  We found we were spending more than we thought in certain areas and it has really helped us go back to one income.  Recently we lost around $3500 a month of my income, but with watching every penny and this software, we have been able to continue to pay down debt at a fast pace and really not change a whole lot about our standard of living.  I can't wait to share this gift with my mom!  I know she will be as thrilled as I am to watch her savings grow!  The program is called mvelopes...the setup can be frustrating and time consuming.  However, once you've got it all figured out it is quite simple to use and very efficient.  One of my favorite features is the debt planner.  It shows you the quickest way possible to pay down your debt and gives you a specific time line.  One financial advisor I was watching says you have to give an exact date that the debt will be paid off if you want it to be a "goal".  If you don't, then it's just a dream.  That made a lot of sense to me.

I was feeling pretty great today, obviously I needed some rest and the multivitamins and iron...I won't forget those again!  A lesson learned.  It was my day to make meals.  I made Pork Chops Parmesan and Garlic Bread, the group loves my whole wheat garlic bread!  I was so blessed to have energy and not be dizzy today and was able to make 38 pork chops without a hitch.  I've come to love cooking and especially when you only do it once a week, it's fun...if you are not sick!  So I made my five dinners and placed on in the fridge for us and delivered the others to my close friends.  My family is still recovering from colds, I still haven't gotten it, so Justin and Abbey have been especially clingy.  I spent a lot of my day holding and rocking them and then took a long late afternoon nap.  For the past several days, I have not been too hungry so I was able to serve dinner and sit with them.  Tim and the kids really enjoyed the meal which made me so happy.  I'm still going strong on my diet, not cheating, I've hit a plateau at ten pounds...hoping I'll start losing more soon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day Twenty-Eight, Gift Twenty-Eight

First of all, let me apologize for being behind on my posts.  My computer got a really bad virus and I haven't been able to get on at all.  Day Twenty-Eight really wasn't a day with a lot to write about.  I had two days prior full of energy and I really pushed myself.  I even lost another two pounds, so I'm up to ten pounds in nine days.  However, because of feeling so great, I apparently forgot to take my multi-vitamin and iron.  I am chronically anemic and not taking my iron causes problems, in addition, I've been eating only 300-500 calories per day and I need the multi-vitamin.  I woke up on day twenty-eight so weak that I couldn't make it to the bathroom by myself or hold my own drink to my mouth.  I literally slept the entire day and into the evening.  I realized I had forgotten my supplements and took a dose in the morning and a second dose in the afternoon.  By 8pm that evening I was able to make my way downstairs but it literally put me in a full out sweat.

Tim was finishing putting the kids to bed as I was just coming down.  I sat on the couch a while, feeling stronger, but my back was absolutely killing me.  The whole day on bed rest had done what it always does and my lower back started to spasm.  I decided not to wait this time and took a muscle relaxer right away.  I began to fall asleep from the muscle relaxer around 930pm when I all of sudden popped open my eyes and told Tim frantically, "I didn't do my gift today!"  I was panicked for a moment because I didn't even have the strength or reserve to get online  to do something.  Then I remembered the day before I had gotten address labels from St. Joseph's Childrens Hospital with a donation request.  I had set it aside to do as a gift.

I asked Tim to bring me the labels, an envelope, pen, checkbook, and a stamp.  As I wrote out the check sweat was pouring down my face, I needed to stay lying down.  It literally took everything out of me but I wrote it, stamped it, and addressed it myself.  Satisfied, I laid down and immediately went to sleep and slept through the night.

Day Twenty-Seven, Gift Twenty-Seven

I had a bit of a heavy heart this morning for the person who called me the night before.  She is having relationship issues and I know all too well how difficult that can be from my first marriage.  I married very young (19) and a couple years later had my Dakota.  Five years later when the marriage ended, I was on my own for about six months before I met Tim.  Tim, also having a previous marriage, had a daughter, Kaylee.  Tim and I were meant to be and hit it off instantly.  When we decided to get married and move in together, Kaylee and Dakota got along so well it was unimaginable.  Tim then went on to adopt Dakota and we conceived Abigail on our honeymoon.  While I was still pregnant, we heard about Jamie and all her failed adoptions.

It took 18 months to complete the foster care process and home study, but finally we were considered to adopt Jamie.  While considering us, Justin and Jordan came into our lives.  These were two brothers who needed a place for "two weeks" we were told.  Ultimately, both ended up being adopted.  We adopted Justin and some relatives of Jordan's adopted him after living with us for a year.  While we had the boys, we were denied to adopt Jamie because I was working three hours per morning and they wanted her to have a "stay at home" mom...even though she was in school those hours...sigh.  So, I quit my job and again, we were denied because we didn't have enough income...sigh again.  Shortly after, Tim took a promotion to a police department out in the middle of no where, while I was scared to death to move, the homes were half the price and his pay would be more.  We then applied again to adopt Jamie and our persistence paid off, we were chosen!  From the time we first fell in love with Jamie to the time she actually moved in was about 2 1/2 years.

How did we find Jamie?  Well, there is a great website that has all the kids who are waiting to be adopted.  These are the kids who are legally free to adopt, but for whatever reason, the state can not find them an adoptive home.  They are currently in foster homes or more likely, group homes.  Go to: to look for children in your can adopt from other states as well, it is just easier for visitation, etc, to stay within your own state.  These children usually are older, have special needs, or are in sibling groups.  Here is the only picture in existence of all six of the children together...they all smiled, but not at the same time!  It was after taking them to the circus...we get a lot of stares when we take everyone out at the same time...Left to Rt in back (Kaylee, Jamie, Abigail, Justin), Left to Rt in front, (Jordan & Dakota)...

I'm sorry I went off on a tangent, but my point is that Tim and I went from each having one child to having six under the age of six in just a years time!  The stress was unimaginable, yet we handled it with grace and happiness.  I want this for every marriage and when my friend called about her relationship, I was saddened.  This morning I thought of what I could do as a gift that may help her.  I sent her the book, "The Love Dare" is located right here on my blog if you are interested.  It is based on the movie, "Fireproof", a Christian film starring Kirk Cameron.  His marriage is obviously over at the beginning of the movie, with no chance of repair, however, his Dad insists that he does the "Love Dare" for one month before giving up.  The son, who respects his father greatly, reluctantly agrees.

What is the "Love Dare" exactly?  It is a daily challenge for one month based on the Bible and Christian principles of marriage.  Each day, you read a devotion and you are given a challenge.  For example, the first day the dare is "to not say anything negative to your spouse for the entire day".  It also gives you a place to journal about what you did and your spouses response, etc.  I did the "Love Dare" with Tim last year without him knowing, what was most amazing is that he did not even notice I was doing it!  This showed me that I'm showing him love, kindness, and patience on a regular basis.  However, if you are not showing these things in your marriage, this is a great way to start.  The book emphasizes changing your behavior and most likely your spouse will let his/her guard down and their behaviors will change as well.  You have to go in expecting nothing but to promise yourself to do the dare.

I have decided I am going to do the dare again this year during the month of February in the spirit of Valentines Day.  I think even the best marriages can benefit from "The Love Dare" and struggling marriages could possibly be saved by it.  Anyone who takes the month to really challenge themselves, pray with God, and journal on these challenges will have a changed life, I am sure of it!  So for my gift today, I gave my friend the gift of "The Love Dare"...I ordered it from my website and I expect she will get it by February 1st.  This is when I plan on starting my "Love Dare" so I will let you all know how it is going.  Tim doesn't read my blog on a regular basis, so it will be fun to see how long it takes him to realize I am doing it!  There is also a "couples kit" on my blog if you want to buy it as a gift for your spouse and do it together...but don't try and make your spouse do it :-).  Shortly after Tim realized I was doing it, he went on his own and got the book and did it for me!  It's really quite fun.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day Twenty-Six, Gift Twenty-Six

Well, day Twenty-six has certainly been a challenge.  It started with Miss Abigail getting a cold and staying up half the night, followed by Dakota waking up coughing, and Justin gagging and having a hard time swallowing his saliva.  It was the strangest thing because I am always the first to get sick in the house and the last to get rid of not only were they sick but I felt it was inevitable that I, too, would get this cold.  However, I am typing to you this morning, not sick with all of my family members laying in the living room either sleeping or coughing or a combination of both.

I spent the day mostly working with Dakota on homeschooling.  He really hasn't gotten the attention he has needed due to my illness the past eight weeks, however, he is several grades ahead of his technical 3rd grade level so I always tell myself not to stress.  I have a teaching degree for K-8, but many times I don't feel I can keep up with Dakota's fast pace!  I was pleasantly surprised to see he has really kept up his studies on his own while I've been sick.  Without lesson plans or anyone hovering over him he has managed to keep going at a fantastic pace.  I looked at our goals and I expect he is going to complete the year before we had scheduled!  This has been our best homeschooling year yet.  I'm not sure if it just gets easier every year or if it is his maturity this year, but in the past homeschooling has been my number one stressor and that is just not the case this year.  I'm a bit overwhelmed by his Science course...he's finishing up a unit on animals and going into the human body.  He just dissected a worm and a starfish (shown in picture) with his grandfather, a retired Biology teacher.  I was worried about him being emotionally ready, but he loved it and is looking forward to doing more.  I have to look everything up because the science is much more than I know.  Even Tim who is known for his amazing memory has to look some of this stuff's tricky.

When Dakota saw me on the computer he said, "I know what your gift should be for today..."  Of course I was curious, he then said, "You made me feel better with my cold!"  I scrunched my brow, "I didn't really do anything, Dakota" I replied.  He reminded me that I got him orange juice, delivered it to his room, got him cough drops and just let him have an easy morning.  After he got going we got straight to studying...after about three hours and our eyes were starting to cross we called it a day.  It is wonderful for him to notice the little things I do for him, I don't think that is common of an eight year old.  We have grown especially close lately and have had a lot of time to talk.

I got through my day but couldn't bring myself to exercise which was disappointing.  I'm feeling pretty good overall, just very tired and a bit unmotivated to be honest.  I decided I would work on lesson plans and organizing my desk...I know it's under there somewhere, it has to be!  My respite provider was feeding my kids a delicious dinner while I organized, since I can't eat it's easier for me to be away at dinner time.  Luckily I only have a couple more weeks of this crazy calorie restriction.  It was around 6pm and someone really close to me called to ask for advice.  I was honored and as I reflect I think I said too much and didn't listen enough, however, I went in my room, locked the door and gave her my undivided attention for over an hour.  I thought this was a good gift for today and I know next time I'll do even better.  I also made sure to go on and vote for the inspirational quote I told you about yesterday.  There are actually four CMV stories on the quilt now which is just amazing.  I will have to do a slide show of the kids for you all.

I was able to go to sleep around 9pm until about midnight when Abbey's fever got really bad.  After giving her some medication, I couldn't sleep so Tim and I watched a movie.  Shortly after, Tim went to bed but Abigail woke up, I got her set up with a movie and then Justin woke up...sigh.  So, it's 9am and I've only gotten a couple hours sleep.  Wish me luck on my gift, I'm going to need it :-)!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day Twenty-five, Gift Twenty-five

I know yesterday I wrote about how inspiring the movie "Extraordinary Measures" was to me and Tim. Ironically, the next day, I received an email from one of my special needs support groups. This particular support group is for congenital CMV and Cerebral Palsy. All of Justin's special needs are from cCMV, it's a cold virus, that 90% of the population gets while they are toddlers. However, if a woman is pregnant and get's this particular virus for the first time in her life (usually from other children she has) then the brain does not develop correctly. It results in deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, seizures, even death, and the list goes on.

Due to this virus, Justin is never expected to talk, eat by mouth, hold his head up, sit, or walk. He fights seizures constantly and is completely dependent on others to live. He is four and already has had two surgeries and will experience dozens more, he spends on average five hours a day doing therapy. It is very serious and is affecting 1 in 150 children. It is the most common serious birth defect, yet no one knows about it. I'm part of a group called "Stop CMV", our mission is to get posters in OBGYN offices about CMV, get the information out there and to get doctors talking to their patients about it. It is preventable.

The email I received was from one of the members of the "Stop CMV" group. On the website for "Extraordinary Measures" there was an "Inspirational Quilt" where you could put your story. She put her son's story on the quilt. Now you can click on it and see him and more about CMV. The great part is that whichever story on the quilt gets the most votes will get $10,000 towards their cause. This would really help us get the word out about CMV! So, for my gift today, I went and watched his video and voted for it. You can vote up to one time daily, so please consider voting for your gift today.

Here is the direct link:

It is the orange square that say's "David Carver's Story".

I've also put the trailer and link directly at the bottom of my blog...please check it out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day Twenty-four, Gift Twenty-four

I woke up feeling pretty exhausted, the muscle relaxers do that to me - now I remember, that's why I don't like taking them! My body felt like lead. I sat on the love seat in our room just staring at my dresser wondering how the heck I was going to get myself dressed. Tim saw me and asked, "Do you need me to bring your clothes?" "No" I grumbled...I could tell today was going to be the pity party of the week and I was the guest of honor.

It took me a half hour or so, but I got myself dressed and I stumbled down the stairs to get something to eat. "How much have you lost?" Tim asked me..."8 lbs" I groaned..."That's fantastic!" "I'm miserable, I miss food, I hate this, I can't do this." He reassured me that I could do this, I didn't have a choice. I had been really struggling since my family ate pizza the night before in front of me and I laid there on the couch, starving...literally...sigh. However, I must say that the diet is working, the weight is coming off as well as the inches...I've lost 15 inches over my body in one week.

I told Tim I was going to go get some make-up on as we were planning to go to the movies for our date to see "Extraordinary Measures"...we both had been looking forward to this coming out, but I was in a mood to be reckoned with. I went upstairs and started to walk past my exercise room...maybe if I brought myself to stretch I'd feel better I thought. So I started my yoga program and before I knew it I had done 41 minutes of exercise and it was time to leave for our date. Unfortunately, my mood did not improve. I was proud of myself for doing it while I was so weak, but I was still not happy. I ate a half of a cucumber before we left to go to the movies, all I could think about was all the food everyone would be eating. Not that I usually eat food at the movies, but I do get myself a Root beer as my treat.

On the way to the movies Tim said to me, "Well, I guess we'll be starving together because I didn't eat lunch before we left." I knew he'd never in a million years consider eating in front of me at the movies in my current mood. I didn't say a word the whole drive as I was so unhappy, however, once we got there I started to get a bit excited to see the movie and my hunger was subsiding. I found that it is really bad for a half hour or so and then it goes away. We headed past the concession stand and I told Tim, "You should get something to point in us both starving." He was absolutely against it, but I insisted and his hunger convinced him. While he got candy, soda, and a water for me I went to the bathroom. I felt very good about him getting food, that was my gift for today I thought.

As the movie started I could smell Tim's smelled so good. I haven't cheated once, I have eaten less than 500 calories a day for five days in a row now. I know if I cheat once, that it will be all over, I know myself too well. So I haven't. Now, onto more important things, the movie "Extraordinary Measures". It is fantastic and I really hope everyone reading this gets a chance to go see it. It was so familiar to our's about a very loving couple with two children who are dying and have severe special needs. Everything in the movie looked so familiar to us, the wheelchairs, lack of privacy, the constant Dr's appointments, the hope. Oh my, this family had hope to cure a disease in time to save their children's lives! It was very inspiring and will definitely be in our home collection.

When we left the theater it was cold and Tim didn't have his jacket on. As we headed to the car, I told him, "I'll open my own door, it's cold, get in the car." He was very thankful and I figured that would be another little gift, I adore him and honestly, who opens the car door for their wife each and every time after five years? Well, Tim does :-).

Day Twenty-three, Gift Twenty-three

I'm sorry I missed posting a day, we are going to get all caught up right now!

OK, so day Twenty-three was a tough one, my back was killing me from the day before's decompression therapy. The kids were jumping all over us around 9am and we were so thankful they gave us this long to sleep. However, Tim was a wreck. He had been called out around 3am for a DRE and hadn't gotten in but a couple hours ago. Tim is a "Drug Recognition Expert"...what this means is if an officer pulls someone over and doesn't know what drug they are on, Tim comes out and does an assessment. This is necessary for DUI's to be proven when it's not alcohol or another drug that comes up in a urine test. To get this certification, Tim has to do annual trainings throughout the country and then he is tested with real prisoners that come in and he has to correctly identify what drug they are on with 99% accuracy. Needless to say, there are not many DRE' Tim has been called out in the middle of the night four times already this month.

I could tell he needed some sleep and I was hurting. But I struggled out of bed and down the stairs, I was walking like a hunch back...but I was walking. I couldn't lift the kids very well, I did get Justin downstairs and everyone else walked. I was able to change everyone by having them lye down on the floor so I didn't have to lift. After getting everyone changed, Dakota helped me get breakfast ready and I tube fed Justin.

Then I put in a new movie the kids hadn't seen yet from Christmas and we all relaxed and laid around. Tim came down around 1130 and said, "Wow, thanks for letting me sleep!" I spent most of the day on the couch due to the strain in my back. I couldn't roll over, sit up, nothing. I was stuck there and very unhappy about it. Each hour I got worse and I finally submitted to the pain around 9pm and asked Tim to get me a muscle relaxer, I knew I wouldn't be able to get up the stairs without it. Once I got upstairs, I slept like a log and my back relaxed significantly...Why didn't I take that sooner? I'm not sure! But I know to tell my Dr. to lower the intensity on the decompression next week...I also know to take the muscle relaxer sooner...but all in all, it was a peaceful and relaxing day and I gave my gift to Tim who gives me more gifts on a daily basis than I can even count.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day Twenty-two, Gift Twenty-two

Thank you for all your responses to yesterdays gift! That was very encouraging. Day Twenty-two was quite encouraging as well. I woke up feeling pretty good and couldn't wait to jump on the scale to see if I had lost any weight. I was shocked to see I had lost 5 1/2 pounds in one day! On average, on this diet, you lose 1-3 pounds a day, so I was thrilled. I even had Tim come double check because I thought maybe I was reading it wrong. So that was very motivating. I went straight to my yoga workout but I was sore from the day before so I was only able to do 30 minutes before heading off to get decompression therapy.

Decompression therapy is when they put you on a machine and gently pull on your lower spine to help relieve pressure from bulging disks and pinched nerves. Last Friday's session has proved to be beneficial and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I was quite a bit weaker today and it was a bit too much. I walked in feeling pretty good, but I left not being able to stand up straight. The doctor told me to ice and lay down for at least the next few hours. This worried me because it is my day to cook for the co-op and I had 38 chicken breasts waiting to make Chicken Cordon Bleu.

While I was laying on ice, I did my blog entry and got some emails answered. I was quite dizzy due to a medication I needed but wasn't ready at the pharmacy. Around 2pm, the medication was finally ready and Tim went to get it for me. He said he saw the man by the pharmacy again today and I was glad to hear he was alright after the storm the night before. I knew that I had to get my dinners delivered by 4:30pm, so dizzy or not, I resolved that I was going to start cooking. Tim helped me get the assembly line situation set up and I went to work. I had two pans browning the chicken, then I would add the ham and cheese and broil them, then put them in their pan. I had made up the garlic bread loaves ahead of time, so I had one less thing to worry about. I was getting so dizzy while cooking that I pulled a stool in and sat down in front of the stove...that worked well and when I was done, Tim loaded up all the food in the car for me.

By this point, I am happy to report that my meds had kicked in and I was no longer dizzy. However, my back was hurting so much that I couldn't hardly walk. That's when I asked Dakota if he'd consider coming to deliver the meals with me. I told him I could drive, but I couldn't get in and out of the car and walk the meals up to the door. He looked outside and said, "'s cold and windy and raining mom." Tim was disappointed and said, "Help Mommy out, Dakota..." He agreed, I think out of guilt, but I was going to take any help I could get anyway I could get it!

Well, come to find out, our ride together ended up being amazing. I started out by letting Dakota sit in the front seat, he's never done this before and was quite ecstatic about it. As we pulled out of the drive way he was smiling ear to ear and said, "I know all the houses are close, I read about how you do your co-op on your blog..." I said, "What? You've read my blog? What day are you on?" He replied that he had spent the night before reading it and he had read all the days and wanted to know how to make comments. I was thrilled and told him I'd show him how to make comments when we got home.

We quickly got to the first house and Dakota threw on his hood and braved the storm to deliver the food. As we headed out, he asked if he could tell me all about these aliens he's obsessed with and I said "of course". He talked and talked, describing the strange characteristics and super powers of each one as we sat at the railroad crossing waiting for a train to go through. I was pointing out how flooded the areas were and he was gasping at the usual sandy spots and cars headlight deep in water. I told him I was worried about the homeless people...that's when he said to me, "Like the one in your blog? I'm so proud of you..." He took my breath away and big alligator tears came running down my face. "You're crying?" he exclaimed, "Oh, but it's out of happiness, right?" I nodded my head in agreement and grabbed his hand. He understands me so well because of this blog...what a gift.

This is when I told him that he was giving me a gift by coming to deliver the meals. His eyes grew wide..."I'm giving a gift?" he said. Then I explained, "A gift is anything kind you do for someone else expecting nothing in return." Then he said, "Then it is a gift!" "And so was that compliment you just gave me..." I told him. I don't think he could have been beaming more if he tried.

As we delivered the meals, I decided to show him examples of gifts. I started with letting a car stuck in traffic through when no one else would, they waved at us happily..."That was a gift!" I said. As we drove to our third stop we drove by a long line of people on the sidewalk holding signs in the rain. I was thrilled with this "teachable moment" as Dakota and I had just been studying the First Amendment earlier in the week. I said to Dakota, "What part of the First Amendment are they exercising?" He said, " speech and the right to gather?" "Yes, exactly!" I replied.

Then he said, "Mom, what's abortion?" I found the best way to handle these questions with Dakota is to answer in a matter of fact, scientific, way. I told him simply it was a procedure of a doctor stopping a pregnancy and that it was legal in the United States. He yelled, "That's a wrong law!" Then he looked at me, "You think that's a wrong law, don't you???" "Yes" I smiled. "I thought so" he muttered. "Most Christians don't believe in abortion and this is a Christian group." He thought that made a lot of sense and we decided for another gift that we would drive by them slowly and wave to them in support. When we did this the whole group started waving vigorously and smiling at Dakota. I explained to him that if we didn't have First Amendment rights that people wouldn't be allowed to stand on the street in protest of a law like that. He thought it was pretty amazing.

It took us almost an hour with the train and the storm to get everything delivered and home, but it was the most enjoyable time. We decided that he was going to start delivering with me every week so that we could have that one on one time which is so precious and rare at our house. My gift for the day was cooking one of my families favorite meals even though I was so sick. My father in law moaned and groaned with every bite and the rest of the family enjoyed it too! I, on the other hand, had my little piece of dried chicken and cucumber, lol.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day Twenty-one, Gift Twenty-one

I woke up this morning after seven hours sleep, refreshed and ready to go! Thursdays are the only time the entire week when all the kids and my husband are gone at the same time for about three hours. I look forward to this day as I have the whole house to myself and while I typically don't like to "be alone" and enjoy the chaos of our everyday life, it is nice to have an atypical morning like this once a week.

I laid on the couch thinking I would snooze while everyone was gone but was surprised to find that I wasn't tired. This was very exciting and I decided I would go do my strength training. Today was the first day of my 500 calorie per day diet and I was a bit hungry but not too bad. I did 45 mins of strength training and I've gotten so good at hula hooping on the Wii that I've opened up a new level. I hula hoop for ten minutes straight with about five hula hoops at a time, talk about a workout! I've been doing this to warm up and loosen my lower back before I do my strength training.

After working out, I was still feeling good and I did three loads of laundry. I was thinking, "Wow, I've done more this morning that I have in a week!" I was feeling pretty spectacular. Then Abbey and Justin got off the bus and I was thrilled that I had the energy to feed them and play with them. Abbey and I even did some preschool activities. Abbey, who has a speech delay, said "You awesome, Mommy!" That was awesome!

My respite provider came around 230pm to take over while I went to my massage, they were able to squeeze me in at last minutes notice. On the way to my massage, I headed to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions. The weather was dark and rainy, this is notable as we only get rain a couple times a year, it was quite windy too. When I pulled into the pharmacy, there was a man holding a sign looking for money. I hadn't ever seen him before and was concerned about him out in this weather. I pulled over to see if I had anything to even give him. I scrounged through my wallet to find $4...I wasn't happy with that. So I frantically looked around and I saw my Entertainment book. For those who don't know what these are, they are great. It is a book of coupons, they cost $35 and they have tons and tons of money saving coupons. As I looked at it, I remembered there were tons of free meals at the local fast food restaurants. I knew all the coupons were still there because we don't eat fast food.

I feverishly went through the coupon book and was able to find about twelve coupons for free sandwiches, drinks, etc, all within walking distance of the pharmacy. I wrapped the coupons around the $4 wishing I had more, but realizing it was around $40 in coupons. I pulled up to him in the car and I wanted to make sure to tell him "God Bless" but he beat me to it. As he looked through the coupons he gratefully waved to me. I didn't feel the normal high I do when giving a gift, just a heavy heart for a man in that situation. But it made me feel better to know that he trusted in God to care for him.

I went to my appointment and then back to the pharmacy, as I hadn't had time to go get my prescriptions earlier while I was searching for a gift. He was still there. I was worried about him as the weather was getting more and more rough. I drove away, still having a heavy heart. My car was hit by two separate tumbleweeds on the way home and I almost hit a flock of birds that didn't have the strength to overcome the wind. I came home and ate my little piece of chicken and cucumber and went to bed to watch some TV. The walls were creaking and the news caster kept interrupting with tornado warnings. He said to make sure that everyone was inside and to get in the bathtub and put a mattress over your heads as we don't have basements here. I laughed to myself as I thought, we could never fit us all in a bathtub!

But then my heart became heavy again, for all the homeless people in our area. The flooding is out of control, there is no where for them to go. I prayed for them and for the man I had given a gift today. I hope to meet him again. I pray he was safe through the night. Giving gifts really makes you realize that no matter what challenge you are going still have it so darn good.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day Twenty, Gift Twenty

I was having a lot of discomfort today. I couldn't even get out of bed to go to my massage, which I knew was going to be a problem with muscle pain, but I was just too weak and tired, nauseous and my head was killing me. Driving was not an option. Around 1pm, I had to get myself out of bed for an annual meeting at my house with one of the kids disability workers. This is an important meeting that determines the kids services for the year and without doing it and doing it today, I would lose all the respite and therapies. I did not feel I had the option to cancel and attended in my pajamas. The caseworker asked me if I was feeling OK, and I told her no, I was ill. I had a really difficult time getting through the meeting, I was having a lot of pain and my kidneys were really hurting as well.

We rushed through the meeting and was able to wrap it up in about 1 1/2 hours (these are usually 2-3hr meetings) and that's when I went straight back to bed. I just locked my door behind me as the kids were pounding on it to talk to me, but I just couldn't and I went back to sleep immediately. The respite provider was here, but they always prefer to come and ask me millions of questions :-). I woke up around dinner time and came down and they were being fed a yummy dinner delivered by one of the gals in my meal co-op. My father-in-law, Tata, was here and the kids were thoroughly enjoying his attention...shortly after, Tim came through the door and our respite provider left to bring the kids to their church program - she had been here for over twelve hours at that point...a long day.

I was dragging my feet and feeling awful when my father-in-law said "You really need to eat something, I'm worried about you..." I just sighed. I was totally overwhelmed, knowing that I was starting the 500 calorie diet the next day and I needed to prepare the specific foods so I didn't eat something I wasn't suppose to. But I was just so uncomfortable. I started to mix up the apple cider dressing while Tim went to work preparing chicken. We baked a couple things while I sat there, but I wasn't able to make even a quarter of what I was hoping to. Then I blurted out, completely defeated, "Well, I haven't done my gift today and I don't want to...I just want to give up!" Tim responded with, "You've come too far to give up now." "Really?" I said, "I'm only day 20 into 365 days! That's not far at all and I don't have a gift today and it's already 8pm!" "OK, hop on the internet and donate a few dollars to a charity," he said.

I sighed as I walked to the couch, "What a lame gift" I muttered. "Glad to see the positive attitude" he joked. "Don't you remember the high you had after the restaurant gift?" "That was days ago," I said, "and that was the last good day I've had!" I opened up the computer hoping to find some kind of inspiration to help my foul mood when the phone rang. No one ever calls me this late as they know I'm sleeping so early. I was shocked to see it was Justin's birth mother and eagerly answered. She typically doesn't call me and shows up only about once a year to see him. However, she had another baby about a month ago and called me after that and seems to be getting her life on track. She was calling to check on Justin...I was pleasantly surprised and bragged all about his achievements and we set up a date in the near future for her to see him. That's when she asked me if it would be too much trouble to send her a picture of him over the cell phone and she'd send me one of the baby. I said, "Of course, I've never done it before, but I'll figure it out!"

As I hung up, I shouted to Tim excitedly, "I've got my gift for today!" Justin and the kids were just coming back from their church group at about 8:30pm when I got the text of the new baby. He was so cute and I showed him to Justin who laughed and smiled at the picture. Then I told Justin I needed him to smile for me and Tata and Tim danced around singing "Elmo's World" until Justin let out the biggest grin ever! Snap! "I got it!" I shouted.

I sent the picture to his birth mom with the message "luv u!" and she wrote back, "He looks so big and cute!" Which of course, is nothing but the truth. My good attitude was back and I spent the rest of the evening laughing and visiting with Tata and Tim.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day Nineteen, Gift Nineteen

Most of my day is a blur do to going in and out of sleep. For my gift today I had made a date to work with my mom on her budget for retirement after dinner. She is planning on moving in with us after retirement, we are blessed to have a "casita" which means "little house" in Spanish. It is a good sized bedroom with full bath and closet. We've decorated it and it feels a lot like a hotel room as it has it's own separate entrance. We asked my mom if she'd consider moving in with us after retirement to help with homeschooling the kids, etc. It would be a wonderful situation for everyone as she'd get time with her grandchildren, she wouldn't have many expenses and we would get the extra support of having her here which is huge with my various medical issues. She very excitedly agreed but this means she will need to be downsizing her currently large home dramatically. So we discussed this plan and put a few things in place and made a date to look at things again this weekend.

Following this, I really started to get a headache and not feeling well. I again, tried to go to sleep around headache got out of control. I took one medication at 7pm, it didn't work. So I waited in agony until 10pm to take a different medication (I'm always worried about overdosing)...when Tim came home at 11:30 I was still in unbelievable pain. He is a drug recognition expert and told me that I would be ok to take some Excedrin on top of what I already had taken....this was a last resort as because of the caffeine I knew I'd be up half the night. Well, I was. Luckily, Tim is a night owl and and he rubbed my head as my headache started to subside. We watched a movie until I feel asleep around 1:30am and he got up with all the kids in the morning and got them ready for school (although Jamie did miss the bus) I give him an A+++ for effort.

Then he hugged me and said "you're the best". I'm thinking "What???" I told him, I've been sick almost every day of our marriage, you have to do so much more than you should have to and you never complain, never get frustrated, never are resentful. I started to cry telling him how amazing he is and he smiled and said, "Well, I guess we both lucked out"...I'd say that's the understatement of the century!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day Eighteen, Gift Eighteen

Today was much better than the past two! It was was Martin Luther King, Jr. day so all the kids were home. Tim had asked me if I would mind him going motorcycle riding with his buddies on Monday morning and he'd be teaching a class until 10pm. I thought that wouldn't be a problem and I booked my respite provider to come at lunch and stay through bed time. I forgot, however, that all the kids would home all morning and I'd be by myself. It all worked out though...he left around 8am as we were all getting up. I felt so good waking up, clear headed and energized. I said to myself "Finally!!!"

I was able to get all the kids fed and at least partially dressed for the day. Dakota and I did a great lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr., and we plugged away at a math assignment. My respite provider came over and got the kids going with lunch and took over while I headed down to the doctors office. My natural doctor seemed quite pleased with my progress in the past couple weeks and we discussed test results, hormone levels, thyroid, etc...and of course, my 500 calorie per day diet. I'm in the first phase...I will be eating only 500 calories per day of chicken, spinach, apples, and melba toast for the next six weeks. I will be taking a hormone that will make it so that I am not too light headed, dizzy, hungry, etc. I've done this successfully in the past, but I did evaluate my past roadblocks and I'm trying to knock down those obstacles ahead of time.

First, I didn't always have my special food prepared, so this time, I am cooking all six weeks of food in one day and freezing it. I'm doing this tomorrow morning, so I've been collecting the things that I need to do this. My second road block was that I was still cooking for my family every night, which was very tempting, so with our cooking co-op, Tim has agreed he'll serve dinner while I work on my blog upstairs to avoid the temptation. Lastly, I found that it was difficult to stay on the diet and do everything while I was working around the clock and managing a high stress load. I am no longer working and making it my main objective to not stress so I'm in a better situation to completely and totally focus on the diet. I will be seeing my doctor every Monday morning to monitor my health and progress...I still need to do 90 mins of strength training (PT) a day, no aerobics, and my decompression every week, my massage every week, and my it's a busy schedule.

After meeting with her, I rushed around doing errands and at this point, I'd been pretty much up and going all day long. Then about 5pm, it hit...I was dizzy, irritable, overwhelmed. I had called my mom and she asked me to give her a gift today and to promise to stop using my cell phone in the car. We have had this discussion many times before and while common sense tells me not to use a cell phone in the car, my life with five kids was crazy and work was crazy, etc, and that was the only time I was able to get my phone calls done. I very, very grouchily agreed that this would be my gift. I'm not thrilled about it because it will be such an inconvenience, but at the same time, I know in my heart she is right and therefore, I am committing here and now that I will not answer, dial, or talk on the phone while driving in the car.

By the time we got off the phone, I was beyond grouchy, just down right in a foul mood and by 6pm I decided I was going to bed. Well, my body pain got the best of me and I was still tossing and turning around midnight when Tim walked through the door. He could tell I'd been trying to sleep for some time. "What can I do?" he asked gently. While still in uniform he rubbed my arms and legs to try and minimize the pain until I cried myself to sleep.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day Seventeen, Gift Seventeen

This day was especially difficult for me...mostly because I really expected to feel quite good after staying in bed the whole previous day. I woke up around 10:30am, the reason I slept so late was our new curtains kept the light out. I didn't feel quite right but I was sure if I pushed myself to get showered and dressed it would be all down hill from there. It wasn't unfortunately, I was barely able to get dressed and downstairs before crashing on the couch. I laid there for several hours, my ulcer pain was just unimaginable. The kids kept asking me to do things...I could only lay there with my eyes closed going in and out of sleepy consciousness. I couldn't even watch TV or read, I was that uncomfortable.

By around 1pm, I had had enough of it and I pulled myself off the couch and told Tim I was going to the grocery store. Again, I was sure, if I only got up and going, I would feel better. I walked at a snails pace through the store trying to buy only the essentials. My energy was dwindling by the second. I found that I couldn't even bring myself to smile at the people I passed, I was so miserable. I typically smile and talk with everyone in the grocery felt so foreign to be so anti-social.

When I made it to the check out line I had a hard time unloading my grocery cart. I had happened to go to Walmart where they don't put the bags in the cart for you. As I loaded the bags in my cart I got so dizzy I almost fainted right there on the floor. I was able to stable myself and regain control and drank some of my vitamin water. I slowly but surely loaded the I drove home I saw a couple riding bikes and then a young family pulling their little ones in a wagon. Oh...sigh...what it would be like to go on a walk or a bike ride, I thought... discouraged.

I pulled in the drive way and went in the house, straight to the couch, I almost didn't make it I was so dizzy. I tried to recover until about 7pm when I suddenly realized I hadn't done my gift for the day! I was distraught for just a moment and then I realized the only thing I possibly could do would be a phone call. That narrowed things down and I remembered I'd been really wanting to call my brother who I hadn't spoken to in many weeks. I wanted to compliment him on a gift he had gotten Abbey for Christmas and tell him how she carries it everywhere with her! I knew he'd be thrilled. As we talked I made sure to compliment him...things I am always thinking, but maybe never remember to say. We had the nicest conversation and I told him about my blog. Last time I knew, he didn't have the I hadn't even told him about my challenge because I didn't think he'd be able to see it anyway! To my surprise, he does have Internet now and I sent him the link right away. Maybe we'll get lucky enough that he'll post a comment.

Little Financial Tip:

Some of the following information is from Dave Ramsey's book "More Than Enough".

I found this information and just had to share it with you...Did you know that if you put $2000 in an Roth IRA when your child is 16 and another $2000 in their IRA when they are 17 years old, at a conservative growth of 12% (the average for mutual funds), your child will have over 1.5 million dollars TAX FREE at age 66 for retirement? They don't have to put in one penny more! Isn't it fascinating??? Everyone can be wealthy!!!

Most kids start working around that age, I would highly encourage you to have your child save up $1000 and match it! If you explain to them the impact, I know they will get excited! My son who is almost 9 is already saving for his retirement and we have great fun working the numbers...he's thrilled he will be a millionaire with very modest investments!

Clark Howard also recommends opening up an account in your child's name at Charles Schwab...they have "no load" (means no commissions) mutual funds and they start as low as $100 which is doable for kids and teens.

If you have a 9 or 10 year old, it's time to start discussing saving up for their first set of wheels! Our kiddo's have three pots and they earn money each week doing chores above and beyond their normal ones. Ten percent goes in their "tithe" pot, 40 percent goes in their "save" pot and 50 percent goes in their "spend" pot. They are responsible for buying their own toys in between holidays, ice cream at the ice cream truck, etc, with their "spend" pot.

A couple of days ago Dakota was getting ready to go to a friends birthday party. I said, "Oh my gosh, I've been so sick, I didn't bring you to get a gift!" I yelled to Tim to come take him to the store. That's when Dakota, who is 8, told me he had it taken care of. He explained he had two of an action figure that his friend wanted and that they cost $14.99, he then said that he wrapped it with the gift paper from the closet..."How much did I save on a gift bag?" he asked me. "Well, probably $3..." I replied. He said, "Wow, I saved $17.99!" I was thrilled for him, what a smarty! (I was totally planning on buying the gift for him...when I told him that, he said, no we need to use our money wisely and if he already had a gift that his friend wanted that would be "wasting money")...I guess I'm rubbing off on him :-).

Enjoy the info, I'll be back to post about my gift...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day Sixteen, Gift Sixteen

My posts are getting further and further apart, it is due to my weakness the past couple days.  On day sixteen, I was unable to get out of bed at all...the pain really started to get out of control in the evening.  I am unable to take Tylenol due to liver problems and can't take ibuprofen due to ulcers...a lot of the time I am in pain, I can't do anything but get through it.  Being in bed all day definitely brought back the throbbing in my leg and I have not exercised for two days in a row which has worried me.

For my gift, I knew what I wanted to do, I was just stuck in it was a question of how to do it.  My friends who own a flower shop brought me a beautiful vase of flowers and told me to either enjoy them or to use them for my gift giving challenge.  I was so thankful!  I knew immediately who I wanted to give the flowers to, my neighbor down the street who gave Jamie the cactus stick.  I wanted to go grocery shopping and bring the flowers to my neighbor, but each hour came and went and I couldn't get out of bed.  I couldn't shower or get dressed.  It wasn't going to happen.  So in the early evening I wrote a letter to my neighbor and asked my husband to deliver the flowers and letter for me.  I could have probably shuffled my way down the street in my oversized sweats and disheveled hair, but decided it would be best not to.

Here is the letter that I wrote:

To our kind neighbor,

I don’t know your name, but I know your heart…You gave my Jamie a present that is completely priceless and we will value more than any amount of money, gold, or jewels in the world.

What you don’t know is that you gave your cactus stick to Jamie’s physical therapist. I’m Desiree, her mother through adoption. Recently, I was diagnosed with a very serious and rare genetic disorder. I have been bedridden for months and fighting to regain enough health to care for myself and my children. During this time, I have committed to giving 365 gifts in the next 365 days. I’ve been blogging about it at; you gave us your gift on my 14th day. It was completely and totaling overwhelming and I wrote all about it on the blog.

What you also don’t know is that Jamie is adopted out of foster care. She was taken away at one year old due to severe neglect and broken bones. She was placed for adoption fifteen times unsuccessfully due to her behaviors and was considered “unadoptable”…she spent almost all of her life before the age of five in a shelter. She has had a rough life and has lived with us over two years now and her adoption was finalized this past year.

Your gorgeous cactus stick was the best gift that our family has ever received bar none. My husband and I cried Thursday evening over your love and generosity. There is no way we can ever thank you. I do want you to know that your precious heirloom will be regarded as just that in our home. It will hang over Jamie’s bed as a reminder that God has put many angels on this earth to care for our “special” children and adults who can not care for themselves.

Your gift has rest0red faith in me that even after I am gone, my Jamie will be loved and cared for by people like you. I want to hug you and thank you in person, but I have been too weak since you gave this to her. Please accept this letter of thanks and these flowers as a small token of our appreciation. As soon as I am up to it I would love to cook dinner for you and your family.

With much love,

Desiree, Jamie, and the rest of the family

When my husband came back he said our neighbor was quite surprised and his name is Daniel.  He also told Tim that his grandmother loved that stick and even when more advanced canes came out she only wanted that one.  I'm so disappointed that I couldn't go down there myself but as I look back, I have been having more and more good days and that is what I am trying to focus on.  It is hard not to get discouraged, I am doing the best that I can.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day Fifteen, Gift Fifteen

Today I had pretty low energy again but I did my first decompression session.  It is simply laying on your back while a machine slowly and gently pulls on your spine to give the discs some relief from the pressure.  I was quite sore following but noticed right away that there was some relief in the throbbing down my leg.  When I got home, Tim and I worked with our financial adviser for about an hour, that was good but we were ready for a break.  We had a respite provider here and Tim asked me if I wanted to go out to eat and although I didn't want to get out of the PJ's I'd been wearing the past three days, I agreed.

On the way I asked him if we could go to Olive of my favs, but not one of his.  I kept saying " 3D"...he laughed and said, "Why don't we go somewhere where they serve Italian food?"  I laughed back and said I know, I know, their Italian food isn't anything to brag about, I just wanted their salad and bread-sticks.  I'm going on a medically supervised 500 calorie diet for 6 weeks starting next week to get the weight off I need to quickly.  We are not going to be going out to eat for a while, so I reminded him of this. 

About half way there we got pulled over.  I started laughing hysterically, as Tim is a Police Sergeant and I think it is very beneficial for him to "get a taste of his own medicine" occasionally.  I jokingly said, "This is my gift for the day!"  He laughed back at me as the officer came up to my side of the car to avoid the freeway traffic.  I was still giggling a bit while I shuffled through the glove compartment...I couldn't find a current insurance card, there were four old ones, but nothing current.  The officer said our registration had expired a few days ago, we were both surprised as we hadn't received the annual registration bill in the mail.  I handed him the old policy cards and told him that the numbers should be the same, I just didn't have the updated card.  That's when Tim said, "Baby, they don't check the number..."

OK, so I didn't know what to do at all because Tim has this HUGE thing about NOT telling officers that he's an officer when he's been pulled over.  It is a major, major pet peeve of his and I knew I was not to tell him that Tim was an officer.  However, when Tim said that the officer looked at me sorta puzzled and then I started laughing.  I realized he probably thought I was laughing at him, so I said, "I'm sorry, my husband is a Police Sergeant and I think it is hilarious that he on the other end of things..."  Tim exclaimed, "Oh my gosh!  Don't tell him that, I can't believe you told him that!"  This is when the officer asked Tim to step out of the car and go in the back.

I was terrified, not of a ticket, but of Tim.  I called my mom and told her what happened, I explained that Tim was going to be so mad at me that it was going to ruin our date.  She said, "Desiree, Tim doesn't get mad like that..."  I explained, no, he doesn't, but he would be quiet and not talk and it could ruin our date.  I kept telling my mom I felt like I was going to throw up and we kept laughing.  That's when she exclaimed, "Don't worry! I'll stay on the phone with you..."  Then I said, "What are you going to do from 3000 miles away?  You can't protect me!"  Then we were laughing hysterically.  As Tim opened the door, he started laughing too.  "I'm safe mom, he's laughing"...she said "OK" and hung up.

Tim was an awesome sport and I reminded him that he was the one who let the "cat out of the bag" by making the comment about the insurance card.  He agreed that it would have come across disrespectful if I did not explain what I was laughing at.  So we had a nice ride and Tim said, "OK, we are almost at Arby's..." I hit him and enuciated "OOOOllliiivvvve  Garden!"

Once at Olive Garden we had the best conversation and were laughing hysterically.  Tim kept touching the pasta to his chin like the officer on "Everyone Loves Raymond" it was painstakingly funny.  I remember thinking to myself, no one in the world would ever know the news that we had been given in the past year.  "You know," I told him..."I think these diagnoses have been the best thing that have ever happened to me..."  He said, "Really?" looking quite confused.  "Well, think about it.  I've slowed down a lot, I'm spending more time on the important things, I'm putting my health as top priority, and I'm living each and every day to the fullest like it's my last.  I'm just so happy!  And my challenge, oh my challenge! I'm having so much fun!"  He wholeheartedly agreed.

As we were eating I noticed a family ushered in across the room.  It was a dad and two younger children...they caught my eyes because both boys had longer gorgeous black hair, it was shiny and they were so handsome.  Then I, that's neat a dad bringing his boys to Olive Garden rather than McDonalds or something.  I watched them try and twirl their fetticine on their forks in between gazing at Tim...I'm so in love with him.

When the bill came, I said, so what should we do for our gift today?  I started throwing out some fun ideas and got really excited.  Then I looked over at the family again.  "What do you think of paying their bill anonymously?"  I just had a feeling.  Tim said, "Whatever you want," with a smile.  I could tell that their modest order wouldn't be outside of our budget so when the waiter came we asked for their bill.  My adrenaline rushed as he flagged their waiter, got the bill etc...We paid it and scooted out of the restaurant in a hurry.  There was nothing like that feeling!!!  We were both very excited.

I had told Tim earlier in the day that I really needed curtains in our master bedroom.  We've been in our home two years and have decorated all the bedrooms but ours (there are six and it's a lot of work and money).  But when I'm sleeping during the day, the light hits that side of the house and I'm miserable.  We knew light blocking curtains would be pricey so we went to a discount place that I had a coupon for.  I found the perfect ones, they were thick insulated, the material and color I wanted and within our price range.  I was so excited!  Then I realized there were only three panels and I need eight for our four windows.  I went to the clerk...because they are a discount store they get things once and can't ever guarantee getting them again.  I asked her if she minded checking in the back and she said "no"...I was absolutely glowing from giving our gift and you could tell my good mood was contagious.

Suddenly she comes about of the back with her arms full of the curtains, "We have tons!" she exclaimed. "It's karma!!!"  I told Tim and we happily paid for our curtains and headed home.  It was a wonderful date and a really, really fun gift.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Top five ways you know you have a lot of kids...

  • You can't stay in a hotel room as a family as you will exceed fire safety code standards...
  • The grocery clerk smiles at your two carts every week and says, "Once a month shopping?" and you sadly shake your head "no"...
    • Delivery people ask you if you run a daycare...
      • You consider close supervision doing a headcount every fifteen minutes or so...
        • Last, but not least, you are seriously considering buying a small school bus for daily transportation...
          These are all real examples of my life with five children under the age of eight...hope you get a kick out of them!

          I'm giving my blog a face lift!

          After a reader told me that she was having trouble reading my blog due to the color scheme, I decided to move forward in a different direction.  This is so much more my style, I hope it is easy to read as well!  If you get the emails, please go onto the blog and check it out and let me know what you think!  I chose this for my background for three reasons...first, my counselor likes me to focus on my "favorite place" which is without a doubt in Maine sitting on the ocean for hours watching the mom brought me there every summer growing up and it is one of my fondest memories.  Secondly, it reminds me of "Footprints in the Sand" and reminds me that God is carrying my burdens for me so I don't need too.  Lastly, it reminds me again, of my mother.  Not too long ago I told her I didn't think I was making a difference by only adopting two children when 10,000 more are waiting.  She told me the story of the starfish in the sand...I'll post both here.  Thank you, Mom!

          Footprints in the Sand - Poem

          One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
          Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
          In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
          Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
          other times there were one set of footprints.
          This bothered me because I noticed
          that during the low periods of my life,
          when I was suffering from
          anguish, sorrow or defeat,
          I could see only one set of footprints.
          So I said to the Lord,
          “You promised me Lord,
          that if I followed you,
          you would walk with me always.
          But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
          there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
          Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”
          The Lord replied,
          “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
          is when I carried you.”

          The Starfish Story
          Original Story by: Loren Eisley

          One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
          a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. 

          Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
          The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. 
          The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

          “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? 
          You can’t make a

          After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
          and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the
          man, he said…”
          I made a difference for that one.”

          OK, I'm going to go cry again...out of happiness.  Sorry my posts have been so "deep" today.

          Please vote on your favorite gift!

          I have completed the first two weeks of my challenge...please vote on your favorite gift on the poll to the right!

          Thank you!!!

          Day Fourteen, Gift Fourteen

          I am two weeks into my challenge and I've had one of the most emotional and miraculous days of my life.  I'm quite emotional still although I've had several hours to process the events of the day.  It is 1 am and still I am unable to sleep as I am choked up by the amazing experiences of this one fourteen.  I will try to express to you in writing what I experienced, although I don't know if I have the words to adequate paint the portrait that I saw.

          I started out the morning with low energy and as I wrote my blog I really started to wonder if readers were losing interest.  The hits have been quite a bit lower, however, I have the subscription service now and that makes it so people get the posts without showing a "hit". I wondered if my mom, my biggest fan was the only one left reading out there but figured the whole process has been so theraputic that it really didn't matter either way and did my posting.

          I continued about my day and was experiencing several withdrawl symptoms...fatigue and headaches especially.  I know I'm suppose to do my PT three times a day for at least thirty minutes but I became overwhelmed just taking a shower.  I had the house to myself for a couple of hours and just sighed at the clutter of toys that had overtaken the whole downstairs.  Overall, just feeling a little down.  I tried to think about some of the positive changes that have happened in the past two weeks...

          • I have gone from sleeping approximately 20 hours per day to about 12.
          • I have gone from complete bed rest to exercising about one hour per day.
          • I feel a positive energy that is completely building up by the minute and bringing me closer to God and my family.
            • I have been able to take back over the duties of the household finances and grocery shopping.
              • I have been able to come off of two medications.
                • I am coming to grips with the worst case scenario of my diagnosis and preparing for that while simultaniously keeping all hope that God will provide miracles.
                  • My friend whose husband lost his job...her sister got a job that I sent the very next day...we worked on her budget for two hours Wed night and I was able to help her find enough money to be OK without his income!
                    • I also helped a friend switch her major at college to a degree that would pay three times as much but not take any more time to graduate!
                      • I've gone from being house bound to getting out for my appointments and sometimes getting out just to give my gift.
                        • I have made new friends and met new people through this blog.
                          • I have even put on make-up a few days.
                            • I have lost some weight.
                              • I feel completely and totally that I am doing everything I am suppose to right at this moment in time, that I am good enough and I am proud of myself...which has never happened before, sadly, my perfectionism has always got in the way of me feeling like what I am doing is good enough.
                                • My mom jumped on board and started the challenge with me on Day One and it's only brought us closer...which I didn't think was even possible!
                                  • I am so thankful, happy, overwhelmed with the kindness still in this world even though the last few months could have put me in a state of severe depression and hopelessness.
                                    Thank you Lord for giving me these 15 gifts over the past two weeks.

                                    I got a call mid morning from one of my respite providers that there were no hours left to pay her and my other provider as we had miscalculated and run out!  I was in a bit of a panic as they had already worked the hours and both of them are under financial stress in this econonmy.  So first, I checked our budget and was able to pay them cash if necessary as a last resort.  Second, I emailed my adoption worked, the one in an earlier blog that I gave the coaster to...she is the one who approves and places the hours.  When she had been here, I broke down crying and gave her the full details of my diagnosis, which I'm not posting purposefully here as I want to main focus of the blog to be about giving.  I told her I was fearful that the state may come and take my children away due to my inability to care for them.  I explained that Tim or a respite provider was here at all times in case I was too weak or tired, etc, to handle their special needs.  She comforted me and told me that I am their mom, it doesn't matter if they are adopted.  They absolutely can not be taken away because I'm sick.  She also said that she thought I should start the process of getting more respite hours due to the severity of the situation.  I asked her, how is this possible?  I currently get 50 hours per week of help but this is one on one with the child, so if I am ill and I have providers working with two of the children at a time it is only 25 hours and goes pretty quick.  She said I'd have to start with a doctors note.

                                    Now it took me over 4 months to get the first set of hours due to the severity of the state budget deficit and the long time frames at the state level.  I really didn't think there was any chance of getting more hours but I decided to pursue it and ask the Dr for a note.  However, because I was so overwhelmed at my appointment on Wednesday, I totally forgot to ask him.  She emailed me quite quickly that she had gotten her supervisors approval and the hours were now "in the system".  I went to do the timesheets for the providers when the agency informed me that my hours had been increased from 50 a week for both special children to 70 a week!

                                    At first I was excited, then I realized, there had to be a mistake.  I couldn't stand the dishonest feeling.  Within minutes I emailed my adoption worker again to inform her that she had put in the wrong number of hours and it should have been 20 less per week.  That's when the first miracle happened, she emailed me back saying that she had in fact been able to get the extra hours approved and in less than a weeks time without a doctors note!  Honestly, I'm stunned.  I've been working with them for three years and nothing ever works like that.  It was a God thing, He obviously put it in her heart to go above and beyond to request the hours and for the supervisor to be moved enough to approve it.  With the supervisor never meeting us or being in our home, I'm just so overwhelmed with disbelief.  This is going to make all the difference in the world especially following the new diagnosis from yesterday of degenerative disc disease which is going to require significant hours of therapy a week...hours I didn't know how I was going to do.  It was difficult for me to hold back the tears of joy for the next couple hours.  When I emailed her thanking her over and over she simply wrote back to stay as healthy as possible because your family loves and needs you...

                                    Well, that was just the beginning....Justin and Jamie's physical therapist came for her normal appointment and I laid on the gymnastics mat in our homemade sensory room adoring Justin's eyelashes and chatting with her.  I've become so close to all of my children's therapists that it's like having a close friend over.  We bragged about how handsome and smart he is, etc...I was still choked up about the hours, not knowing how or why God gave me such a gift and for the adoption worker doing something like this without even being asked...I was in awe.  That's when the therapist let me know that she was taking Jamie out with her cane to walk the terrain and some hills outside.  She's working on using her cane to identify changes in the ground and to run and walk outside.

                                    While on their walk, the therapist was chased down by a neighbor at the end of the street.  He is a stocky, Hispanic man probably in his late 30's or early 40's and has an eight year old daughter.  We have only ever spoken once and that was almost two years ago.  Someone had almost hit his daughter running the stop sign right next to his house and he had come to talk to my husband, who is a Police Sergeant in our town.  Other than that I know nothing of this man other than he really goes all out with his Christmas decorations.  Well, he literally chased my therapist down and he had a large stick.  He explained that it was a cactus stick and that his grandmother had been blind.  He said that it was her very favorite stick and he wanted Jamie to have it....hold on while I get another tissue.  He ceremoniously bowed his head holding the stick horizontally and handed it to the therapist.  He obviously thought she was me as we have not seen each other in some time and are of similar age.  She didn't want to ruin the moment so she graciously accepted the gift.  He had tears in his eyes and was very emotional. 

                                    She came through the door with this beautiful stick and told me the story...she too had tears in her eyes. At this point I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude.  I wanted to run down to the house and hug him but I was still in pajamas and not looking well at all.  I'm positive he knows nothing of my challenge or gift giving, nor of my illness. On top of all that, I was a blubbering idiot and wanted to compose myself. It gave me faith that my there are compassionate people in the world and my "forever" children will be taken care of after I am gone.  I thought about how long he must have had that stick and just losing my father recently, I know how important those few things are. Again, I can't describe how it feels that he gave something that priceless to my Jamie.
                                    The therapist said, "It's all this gift giving you are doing..."  I was shocked, "You are reading my blog???"  She said she was and that she was blessed every time she came to our, people are reading it!
                                    So, minutes later, one of my friends comes to drop off her meal for dinner.  She tells me how she couldn't tear herself away from my blog this morning..."You are reading it too?"  I asked shocked...she told me how much she was enjoying it.  I just started crying right then and there, I told her about the cactus stick, I told her about the extra hours.  It was just too much for me to contain.

                                    The second Tim came in from work he asked if I was alright and I nodded.  I honestly felt if I even spoke I would start sobbing...with a joy and deep gratitude I don't know I've ever experienced before.  He came closer and said, "You don't look good, I'm worried..."  It's true, my skin is all broken out, I have horrendous bags under my eyes and I'm pale for me...on top of this, I wasn't smiling.  He pressured me to tell him "what happened" and I said that I couldn't, I was a wreck.  He let it go, I thank him for that.  I went and did one hour of strength training...I hated every minute...but I did it.  I was overwhelmed.  How am I going to tell him what happened without breaking down sobbing?  I don't want him to think I'm a lunatic that can't handle a little good news for once!  And I certainly didn't want to be asked if I was "starting my period" again this week... 

                                    He allowed me to sit in silence, mulling over my day for hours while he got the kids in bed and cleaned up and then he got face to face and said, "I'll wait until you're ready."  I thought I was never going to be ready so I told him I'd blurt it out really fast and he started laughing.  I started with telling him about the hours, he was so stunned and agreed that it could only be a God intervention.  As I tried to tell him the next thing I broke down sobbing. Between sobs I told him about the cactus stick. My Tim always rises to the occasion...not only did he not think I was a lunatic but he held me as we sobbed together.  He was as moved by it as I was...I can't even sleep I'm so deeply touched by this sincere gift of the heart.

                                    As for my gift, after watching the news my mom called and said we should do something to help the people of Haiti and I told her I totally agree.  You are able to very simply do a donation through your cell phone as a text message.  I did this for my gift today.  If you feel at all inspired to help, I'm including the information.  You text a number and code and the donation will be added to your phone bill.  There are two reputable places that I am sure that the money is going to donates $5 and the other donates $ is so simple...and if you think that little bit can't help you are wrong!  The red cross has gotten over 5 million dollars in donations in several days through texting only!!!  The other program is at over 1 million...this is serious money.  So if you feel led to give this as your gift today, this is how you do it::

                                    • Grab your cell phone like you are doing a text message
                                    • In the phone number section dial 90999 ($10 donation)
                                    • In the phone number section dial 501501 ($5 donation)
                                    • In the message section type the word "Haiti ($10 donation)
                                    • In the message section type the word "Yele" ($5 donation)
                                    • You will get a confirmation text sent back to you and you will see the charge added to your next cell phone bill
                                    For more information on the impact of this gift vist

                                    Please do not donate to any other sources without verifying their validity!  I have verified both of these sources in several places.

                                    Please remember to leave your comments so I know that I know someone, out there in cyber space is actually reading this.  If you don't know how to leave a comment, just click the little link that says "comment" right below the post and write it there.  It will be emailed to me and then I will publish it on the can leave your name or do it anonymously.

                                    Thank you for sharing in my miracle day, I hope you have a blessed and giving day!

                                    Thursday, January 14, 2010

                                    Day Thirteen, Gift Thirteen

                                    Day Thirteen was absolutely crazy!  I slept much better and woke up feeling pretty energetic.  I had my massage which was especially painful but I survived and am better off for it.  Then I went to work on cooking!  Five of my friends who also have lots and lots of kids and I are doing a co-op...this is how it works, one of us cooks for the other five one day per week. Every night we are fed a home cooked meal but we only cook once per week.  I'm sure they won't mind if I use their names, so for example, on Monday, Katie cooks for all of us and delivers us dinner, Tuesday Brandi delivers, Wednesday is Rachele's day, Thursday is Val's day, and finally Friday is my day.

                                    However, this particular week I switched with Rachele so it wasn't part of my normal routine.  Cooking for five large families (about 35 servings) is no small undertaking!  However, we are all health conscious and have agreed to certain requirements together and it is working beautifully.  It takes a couple hours to cook and deliver but then you are off for the rest of the week!  I made General Tsao's chicken with brown rice and fortune cookies.  How we set it up is you have to make the entree and one side...we have a google calendar so we always can plan ahead and make sure we don't have similar meals in the same week.  Then we shop the sales!  On average we are able to feed all five families for between $40 and $ that is our dinners for the entire week!  On top of this, we do it for a serving of 8 so there are left overs which has eliminated the need to buy lunches.  This is awesome for your grocery budget as then you just need to do paper products, cleaning, breakfasts, and fresh fruits and veggies!

                                    Anyway, our group is loving it so much so I thought I'd share the idea in case any of the other readers are interested in trying it.  Feel free to ask questions about how we got started tip is to have every one in the group buy five pyrex pans with lids for easy transport.  Brandi etched our names on the sides with her cri-cut...oh boy, I could really write about that!  So if your meal is returned in your dish each night, you should have all of your dishes back by your day to cook!  Make sure everyone in your group lives nearby so you don't spend a ton of time traveling on your delivery day :-).

                                    With that said, I made my five meals and Tim helped me package and load them up (he was such a gem and cut pounds and pounds of chicken, thank you!).  I got those delivered and went to my doctors appointment.  It was a little worse news than I was expecting, all my discs are budging with the exception of three.  It's too much damage for even a surgery.  I'm not sure what all my treatment options are at this point, I am going to a specialist.  However, I need to start physical therapy / yoga type exercise around 90 mins total per day.  I have to up my massages and acupuncture and add some new decompression therapy.  I also need to lose a lot of weight fast, so this was a lot of information to digest.

                                    On my way home from the doctors as tears were streaming down my face, not knowing how I was going to tell Tim another major issue, I saw an elderly Hispanic woman pulling a wagon.  Wait!  I recognized her, she was a woman I just read about in the paper.  She is over 80 years old and has been collecting cans for the past 20 years in our town. The paper was thanking her for keeping the streets clean.  She lives here with family and they stated that she fully supports herself on this income.  She walks miles and miles each and every day and never misses a day, not even Christmas or days of 115 degree heat.  She's in amazing physical shape and shows no signs of slowing down even though she's been hit two times by cars!  I immediately pulled over and chased her down.  I had gotten the kids allowance from the bank in one dollar bills earlier in the day.  With tears in my eyes I thanked her for her hard work and keeping our town clean.  I gave her five one dollar bills and told her this was about 500 cans.  That's when I realized that she didn't speak a word of English but our eyes met and she saw I was struggling just as she...we all have our challenges and struggles.  I'll never forget her beautiful eyes.  Here is the article if you are interested in reading her amazing story:

                                    That was my gift for the day.

                                    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

                                    Day Twelve, Gift Twelve

                           twelve was a tough one.  It was the worst day yet of my challenge.  I honestly didn't want to give a gift, I didn't want to do anything.  However, I read that Cami went through the same thing in her 29 day gift challenge so I knew it was "normal" and that kept me going.  I had the worst night sleep with vivid nightmares that only going through medication withdrawals can do to you.  I woke up in a bad, grumpy, unmotivated, scathing mood and it lasted all day.  I plugged away and went through the motions but nothing and I mean nothing was making me feel better!  I tried homeschooling with Dakota, I read some inspirational books, I did my exercise and nothing relieved the frustration and anger I was experiencing.  The one good news is I could feel it was completely the result of withdrawing from the medication so fast and not my own true feelings because I am very happy, truly and deeply.

                                    So, I didn't want to do my gift at all and when my husband came home for lunch he said, "How's your gift coming?"...Most days he doesn't ask, so of course, today, my bad day, he asks.  I just sorta glare at him and say, "It's not, I'm having a bad day."  Of course, he tried to comfort me and ask me if he could help and I refused to be comforted, I was too frustrated.  It was about 3pm and still completely unmotivated to give I decided I better do it.  I had myself convinced that my positive build up of energy was gone and there was no use, but then something in me said, "Do it, you'll feel better..."

                                    So I pondered for a bit and remembered I had two great cookie kits for kids.  I decided I wanted to give them to one of my neighbors.  Now all my neighbors have kids and I'm very close to them but I do have one neighbor who is a grandmother that I haven't gotten to know.  She has two grandchildren I always see her outside playing with them.  I decide she'd be the perfect person as it is outside my comfort zone and it would be more of a gift to someone because I don't really know her.  I got the recipe together and then brought it over and no one was home.  I think I was pouting and sulking as I came back through the door.  I left the cookie kits in plain sight and reassured myself that I had many hours left in the day to give them to her.

                                    In the meantime, one of my biggest passions is personal finance, I've become quite a bit of an expert on the topic and we have been able to pay off $50,000 in debt in the past two years on Tim's modest income.  I haven't been able to find any books or resources that have anything "new" that I haven't already completely delved into sometime in the past five years, except now.  I found a twelve week financial fitness program that I'm totally loving and I'm getting a lot out of it.  You get homework (quite a bit) every week and then meet with your fitness coach one hour per week over the phone.  My first meeting is Friday and I've probably invested forty hours of work already.  I'm learning a ton...well, the reason I'm telling you this is because while I was in a mood and my gift was not yet delivered I decided to print off the "Financial Planner" that goes with the curriculum.  It's a 150 pg document and my printer, who has been nothing but a kind friend to me, moaned and groaned with every page and beeped every third page saying "paper jam" and my printer, we've had some good times, this wasn't one of them.  So I'm already walking on egg shells and I'm hand feeding this printer.  My kind, "normal" Desiree is telling myself how this printer has been abused and neglected and how lucky I am to have a printer, to be able to afford a printer, etc.  Still, I'm not feeling any better and I'm clenching my jaw so that I don't say any words that my children will ask me to explain later.  Just then my respite provider says, "Desiree, are you going to start your period?  I thought you started around the 20th?"  Ouch, stab, geesh...remember my discussion of lack of privacy.  "No, I'm going through med withdrawals..." I answer to her concerned expression...and yes, she knows my period better than I do...sigh.

                                    So, after I finally get through that I try and bring my present over again.  As I walk up I see my neighbors adult son unloading his truck and ask if she is home...he says "no".  I put out my hand and introduce myself and give him the gift.  I explain I thought her and his boys would enjoy it.  He responded with, "Who are you again?"  I chuckled and said, "I'm your neighbor."  I'm not sure if he liked it or if I just made him uncomfortable but I gave my gift for the day.  I came home and my mom called me.  I explained what a bad day I was having and our conversation totally turned me around, I started to feel much better.  My husband and I snuggled in bed with our hot chocolate as he joked about the drugs he was putting in it to make me have "crazy" dreams.  I slept well and didn't have the nightmares, thank God.

                                    I did wake up around 3am due to pain, I decided to get some work done on my money program and my blog done.  It's quite easy to get through customer service in the middle of the night, I guess not a lot of people are obsessing about their finances at 3am.  I love it, it is so much fun.  I even have my small children on a savings plan so they need to invest until they are 30 a small amount each month and then after that, not a penny more, and they will be millionaires at retirement.  My kids enjoy it too as I am so passionate about it.  My doctors appointment about my pain and my meds is this afternoon, I'm hoping we make as much progress this week as we did in the past couple appointments.

                                    Have a wonderful, giving day!  I'm thrilled to be feeling "back to myself" today.

                                    Monday, January 11, 2010

                                    Day Eleven, Gift Eleven

                                    Acts 20:35 of the Bible states, "It's better to give than receive."  There is nothing that I can think of that is more true than this.  My spirit is in a better place than ever and I'm more aware of my happiness that ever.  The spiritual advisor in Cami Walker's book said:

                                    "Healing doesn't happen in a vacuum, but through our interaction with other people.  By giving, you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life.  Giving of any kind is a positive action that begins the process of change.  It will shift your energy for life."  ~Mbali Creazzo
                                    I feel my energy is changing by the day, it is increasingly positive, I am accepting gifts better, and I am more aware of intentional giving.  The reason the prescription states you must start over if you miss a day during your 29 days is because the energy continues to grow day by day and if you miss a day it depletes the energy.  For more information on this read "29 Gifts" by Cami Walker.

                                    Last night after my blog entry I could not fall asleep, I am suffering from quite a bit of back and leg pain.  I had surgery on my lower lumbar spine over two years ago...I was told one of the complications is scar tissue growing and / or another part of the spine creating a budging disk.  Since immediately after the surgery, I have experienced significant nerve damage on my left side and throbbing pain down my left leg to my ankle every minute of every day.  I have found that with weekly massage and acupuncture are the only way to manage the pain.  The massages are not a "fluff and buff", they are usually so painful that I cry through it.  However, if I don't have them the pain is absolutely unbearable.  The bed rest has only perpetuated the problem.  I have grown such a tolerance to Vicadin that it doesn't help anymore.  I spent half the night awake with my leg throbbing.  I was terrified I wouldn't be able to get up in the morning to get all the kids on the bus.  I was very worried that I was going to lose the positive energy that I had built up from the day, but lo and behold, I didn't!

                                    I woke up this morning, tired, but a "normal" tired if that makes any sense.  I was able to get all the kids ready and on the bus on time and barely broke a sweat.  I had a bunch of work to get done on the computer so I worked on that for about an hour and then decided to take a nap until about 9am.  At that point, I woke up Dakota and had him get going on his homeschooling.  I was thrilled as I was focused and had more energy than usual (I have been off of the bad meds for two full days now).  I was able to do one on one homeschooling for an hour and a half.  We both really enjoyed it.

                                    After this I decided to focus on my gift for the day.  My best friend is in need of some financial planning for her future.  I knew she needed to work with a professional but with her crazy work schedule I also knew getting involved with someone was going to be next to impossible.  So, I called around, found a great person and set up for them to call her after her work hours.  I was very pleased with my gift.  Then around lunch time, I got up and showered as my respite provider came in to meet Justin and Abbey off of the bus.  After lunch Abbey and I played the Wii, we did yoga and hula hooping...she is quite skilled for three years old!  I was even more thrilled to see I have lost another pound and a half since yesterday!  Following this I sat in on Justin's music therapy session in our home and was able to give the therapist great feedback and got some quality time with Justin.  Shortly after, Jamie and Kaylee came home from school and I gave them cookies for a snack and got them going on their schedule.

                                    I gotta say, I was really thrilled with myself and up to this point, I was having a pretty perfect day.  I was feeling great and had spent more time in one single day with the kids than I have in the past month.  Then the phone rang, it was the doctors office, they had my MRI results and they were seriously abnormal around the sight of my surgery.  I needed to be seen as soon as possible.  This is not good news, it means that either I have another buldging disk or the scar tissue is pinching nerves...sigh.  The last surgery put me in a cast for six weeks and I wasn't allowed to lift the children for any of that time.  My mom had to leave her job, fly across the country and care for me and the kids (this was before we qualified for respite care).

                                    I have a doctors appointment for this Wednesday.  This problem has nothing to do with my recent diagnosis that I'm dealing with, however, my back problems are aggravated by the bed rest, the bed rest is a result of my diagnosis, so it's a vicious cycle.  I'm on so many medications right now that my stomach is completely raw with ulcers and I can hardly eat.  I'm drinking pepto bismol like it's juice.  I know the treatments of my back problems and unfortunately it's exercise, medication, and surgery...sigh...I'm trying to get my twenty pills a day down to a modest three or four ideally.  I'm not down, just a bit nervous.  The surgery was extremely painful and tramatic to the kids who were all under the age six and couldn't be held by their mommy.  Not to mention, somebody is messing with your spine...with a knife...scary.  I need to digest this new information, but it will not dissuade me from my challenge!  Don't forget to check in for tomorrow's'll be a surprise because I don't even know what it is yet :-).