Friday, February 26, 2010

Day Fifty-Seven, Identity Theft!

One of my respite providers found out that she is a victim of identity theft :-(...unfortunately, she doesn't use the computer at email address, nothing.  When they told her to go online to get it straightened out, she had no idea what to do.  Today for my gift, we downloaded all three of her credit reports.  We went through found any discrepancies and filed the appropriate paperwork to dispute it.  We also filed a claim with the Social Security Administration and put a freeze on her accounts so no new credit could be taken out.  Thank God that the damage wasn't too bad and we caught it.

This would have taken days to accomplish over the phone and through snail mail when it only took an hour online...that was my gift for today.  She gave me a huge hug in appreciation.  I'm loving this!

Day Fifty-Six, Cleaning Solution!

Today was my fourth day taking care of the kids on my own.  I'm enjoying brushing teeth, changing diapers, getting them dressed...I'm finding myself humming as I vacuum and just thrilled to be able to function as a CEO of my home.  I've been able to keep the house clean and the laundry somewhat under control.  Dakota had his homeschooling program today and he wanted to do a play, so we loaded up our puppet theater in the car and I dropped him off.  He was considerably less sad today to go than usual which was encouraging.

I did not sleep well the night before for some reason, I'm not sure why, and I headed off to grocery shop.  I was doing great filling up the cart...I didn't leave much for anyone else and then headed off to the cashier.  As I reached in to grab my wallet, I realized it wasn't there!  How embarrassing!  The cashier was so gracious and told me that at least one person a day forgets their wallet...I remember taking it out to fill out insurance card information on a form and I didn't put it back.  I had to drive back home, grab my wallet and then go back down to pay...sigh. 

I spent quite a bit of time tying up lose ends with the principal to get the two teens going for Monday...but while I was at the grocery store, I picked up some Murphy Oil Soap for my friend.  She absolutely loves the smell of it in my house and I explained to her how natural it is and it is one of the only cleaners that is safe for my lungs.  She ranted about how much she loved it but I knew it was pretty pricey for cleaner and she has food stamps, which doesn't cover cleaners.  I noticed it on sale and grabbed her a huge bottle...she was so excited and thankful that I got it for it.  I also got her "Motivated Mom's" cleaning schedule and printed it out for her.  She loves mine!  That was my gift for today.

Day Fifty-Five, High School Education!

Today was a really rewarding gift...I worked with a teen couple who have a one year old on a plan to get them back into high school and graduated, all while working around the needs of taking care of their baby.  They thought it was impossible, but with a bit of creativity and being familiar with different program options we were able to get the signed up with the paperwork in.  I worked closely with the principal and they are both starting on Monday!  They will be studying from home and doing their classes online...they will take turns studying and taking care of the baby.  I did the enrollment forms for them, got all their documents to the principal, and helped them with picking out classes.  That was my gift for today :-).  They were so grateful and are really excited to start!

Day Fifty-Four, Ice Cream!

I had such a bad day yesterday, I felt defeated all day.  I was weepy and overwhelmed...for some reason, the kids decided to be angels all day.  We had a behavior specialist come and observe several hours into the evening (we were suppose to pretend he wasn't there...are you imagining "Super Nanny" was this type of deal).  Now, Tim and I did a pretty great job at pretending he wasn't there...however, the kids...they were perfect.  They did their chores, they were pleasant, things that would have normally set them off were not an issue...sigh.

He explained to us afterwords that he didn't need to see them misbehave to understand the dynamics.  He thought we had the behavior modification down packed but he felt we needed to allow ourselves to "grieve" diagnosis is traumatic and needs to be given it's due sadness.  He feels the kids are angry at how unfair the world is and we are going to work with a family counselor to help explain to them the situation.  They know something is wrong but they don't know can imagine all kinds of things, so we have a lot of work to do.

I was feeling pretty bad about my day yesterday and how frustrated I'd been.  I also felt bad that a behavior specialist couldn't just swoop in a "fix" our anger issues...but it was good, all in all.  I was standing at the end of my driveway when the ice cream truck came by.  Abbey and I flagged him down and we proceeded to buy ice cream for my five kids and Tim and our neighbor and her five kids...That was my gift for today!

Day Fifty-Three, Outing with a Friend!

Hello All!

I know you may be panicked as I haven't written on my sorry!  It's not because I'm sick, it's actually because I am doing so well that I haven't had time...too busy with life!!! Woo hoo!!! So, I'm too busy taking care of my kids, cleaning the house, and homeschooling to blog...that's a great thing!  I will keep my posts short to get caught up and then we'll go from there.

Today was my meal day so I spent the day with the kids and getting the meals ready for the families in the co-op...Abigail had been up a lot of the night, so she slept in and I was totally exhausted...but not doing too bad.  For my gift today, I had invited several friends to go to a book store outing with was a "Mom's night out" type thing about financial investments, etc.  I had a horrible day with the kids...I felt like throwing in the towel...they were so negative and mean all day I didn't know what I was going to do.  I was totally exhausted but because one of my friends accepted my invitation, I decided to go...I'm glad I did, we had fun.  I drove us there and bought the books that were recommended reading and lent one to my friend.  While I was grumpy and was a nice outing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day Fifty-Two, Pregnancy Test!

Don't worry, the test wasn't for me!  Now that we have that cleared of my friends little sister thought she may be pregnant.  I asked her about it today and she said that her sister couldn't afford a pregnancy test but when she got paid Tuesday, she was going to get one for her.  I was concerned.  I know that when I've thought I was pregnant in the past, the anxiety of each day and night is excruciating.  In my case, I wanted to be pregnant...I couldn't even imagine what this poor girl was going through with this being a possible unwanted and unplanned pregnancy.

I surprised my friend later in the day with a pregnancy test.  She was so incredibly grateful.  After I gave her my gift for the day, I took a long hot bath, did my nails, and totally pampered myself with a "spa hour" home and free.  Tim was still sick with a sinus infection and I just needed some down time.  I was saddened to receive a text message that the pregnancy test was positive.  My friend told her sister that she would help her and if she couldn't do it, that she would take the baby...Every baby is a blessing from God, a miracle in His heavy as my heart is for this very young girl to be experiencing this, I can't help but be overjoyed at the miracle of life...yet again.

Day Fifty-One, Movie for a Friend!

Wow, I'm so excited I survived my first fifty days!  Many days I gave several gifts, so I'm excited as I look back and think of everything I've worked's been amazing.  Today, I was invited by a friend to her church's annual "Women's Conference."  The topic discussed was how to do God's work in your life and they talked a lot about going on a mission.  Going on a mission is something that I would love to do someday when the kids are a bit older and some of them can come with me.  One of the main points of the speaker was to do missions within your community, within your family and church, if you are not able to physically go away on a mission at this time.

As he talked about donating an hour a week or so to a mission and then more often, my friend nudged me and said "You are already doing this!"  It was a great feeling to know that I have been working on a mission bigger than myself and my daily problems.  However, at the same time, I was inspired and imagining all the ways I could give back more.  We truly enjoyed the speakers and then had a wonderful lunch.  This is when I updated my friends about this crazy, amazing opportunity to go to Boston and help Alpha-1 research.  One of my friends jaws actually dropped to the floor and she said, "Who are you?  We don't just meet people like you!"  I'm thinking...yea...crazy people, lol!

I came home quite refreshed to Tim laying on the couch with a serious sinus headache...the kids were sprawled about, still in jammies but I was pleasantly surprised that everyone was fed, medicated, and changed considering how awful Tim appeared.  I cleaned up quite a bit, got the kids dressed and was feeling pretty great about myself for the moment.  I had actually taken care of the kids a lot myself this week, gone to the conference, and still had enough energy left over to let Tim be is good.

The night before, we had watched a movie that was called "The Illusionist"...I wasn't expecting it to be anything special, many movies disappoint me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the ending.  I thought of my neighbor...we swap movies sometimes and I decided to bring it over to her house to let her borrow it.  Her and her husband were thankful and seemed excited to watch it...that was my gift for today :-).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day Fifty - Another Miracle!

God had been blessing me left and right as I work on my service mission to give 365 Gifts in 365 Days, but I could have never even imagined the abundance of blessings He is showering on me, my family, friends, etc.  As you know, He has solved many financial problems with those around me and I am overwhelmed with that blessing...but yet again, He has shocked me!

The genetic illness that I have is called Alpha One, it is very rare only affecting about 100,000 people in the entire United States. This past week, I had spent a lot of time researching my different health options.  Through this research, I was able to find two doctors in my state that are familiar with and treat Alpha One patients all over the country.  I had called one of them when I was first diagnosed and he was no longer accepting patients.  When I called this week, I was thrilled he was willing to see me, however, the co-pay on his services was going to be $250 per visit.  This concerned me, but I had faith that God would take care of the expenses and I went ahead and made appointment.  Later in the week, I was able to find an equally experienced doctor...a couple hours a way that does accept my insurance.  God blessed me and I was able to get the process started to see this new doctor and my co-pay will only be $25 per visit!

There is a huge Alpha One foundation that amazes me considering the disease is so rare.   I was completely engrossed in reading all about experimental treatments that they are trying and research studies, informational days, supports, and events going on.  I realized that my best defense was to get really pro-active and involved in my diagnosis.  The Alpha One foundation offers so many resources to those of us with the disease, the list went on and on.  I noticed as I was scouring the website that they were offering a training in Boston, Massachusetts to learn how to do fundraising for Alpha One research.  My heart immediately started to pound excitedly as our community is very responsive to fundraising and I knew that doing a silent auction/dinner/dance, etc, would be something I could really get excited about!

I sent off an email stating that I was interested, however, the spots were very limited and the event was next I wasn't getting my hopes up.  Well, today, I called the director of the Foundation to get put on the subscription list, etc, and we talked for two hours.  He is an Alpha One with a double lung transplant...the Foundation hires Alpha's to help other Alpha's...and it was just amazing to talk with him.  I mentioned the training for fundraising and he said he'd have the person in charge give me a call.  Well, she did!  She thought I would be wonderful "young leader in the community" and asked if I could get away from the kids on such short notice...I explained how much help I have and she was thrilled.  She also asked if Tim could come too, and I thought, sure, he could come!  She believes that my efforts would be intensified with his support and I totally agreed!

Now, as if that wasn't enough good news, I started to ask her about the cost.  Tim and I had been saving money to get away during our anniversary and the training was the weekend of our anniversary.  That's when she told me it was FREE!!!  Completely...she was going to take care of air fare, hotel, food, everything!  I was dumbfounded...then I asked, would it be possible to stay a few extra days?  Tim has never been to Boston and it's our anniversary and she said we could absolutely stay!!!  Then she gave me the travel agents information and told me to get the dates to them on Monday so they could get our tickets and God!

I was completely overwhelmed and called my mom immediately.  "Mom, I've been chosen to do a training and help set up a charity even in Boston!!!  Next month!!!"  My mom couldn't believe it either...we had been so disappointed that we were going to go so long without seeing each other.  My mom lives just four hours from Boston and I asked if she could come to the event.  It's a Celtic event...Irish dinner, dancing, and silent auction.  Tim and I are going to fly in on Thursday evening, doing training all day Friday, set up for the event Saturday, go to the event, then Sunday more wrap up training.  Then we are going to stay until Wednesday and totally check out Boston!

I then called my Grammy, who is my Dad's mother, and asked her if there was anyway she could come to the event too...she was so excited and said she would come!!!  I still have several family members I'm trying to get a hold of to let them know about it...but I am so excited.  So, Tim and I are going to be in Boston on March 13th for the Celtic Connection Alpha One fundraiser.  If anyone is interested in going, please let me know and I'll see if I can get you tickets.

For my gift for today, I made a donation directly to the Alpha One Foundation...they are just are a couple important websites:  Alpha One Foundation and Alpha see the flyer for the charity event click on "Celtic Connection".

Day Forty-Nine, Teacher Appreciation!

Thursdays are my day of solitude after a really rough start...I have to get four of the children out the door by 730am and then Dakota off and going to the homeschooling program around 8am.  I did not sleep well at all the night before because Abigail woke up complaining about both of her ears hurting...luckily, she is getting the speech skills needed to explain things to me.  She asked for medicine and explained both ears hurt...double ear infection...yikes!

So we did what any mother and daughter do in the middle of the night, pain killers, yummy food, and a good movie.  We cuddled and talked until she was finally, hours later, comfortable enough to go to sleep.  This made me less than 100% when the alarm rang at 6am the next morning.  I was on almost two hours of sleep when I asked Tim if he could handle getting all the kids ready.  I felt horrible as I heard him running around, unable to find uniforms, getting everyone fed and medicated, etc.  But I could not possibly move.  I didn't go back to sleep but rested until around 730am.  At this point, Tim had to leave for work.

Abigail was still sleeping on the couch as I encouraged Dakota to go to his homeschooling program (he cries every morning as he misses me going with him).  Just before I left to drop him off, I was able to call and get Abigail into see the doctor mid-morning, but we had another problem...literally, no food!  Thursdays after everyone is gone, I've been going grocery shopping so we were in dire need.  I usually get back and everything unloaded just in time to get Abigail and Justin off of the bus from preschool.  I had already decided that I was going to try and do Thursday by help.  I felt strong and determined that I could take care of my own children for one happened to be a tough day, lol!

I took Dakota to the homeschooling program and Abigail strapped in the car seat still in her pajama's.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the grocery store and she squealed in excitement...the idea of going out with me by herself is exciting...I hope that someday this becomes the norm rather than a treat.  We went to the grocery store and she was smiling ear to ear...she loaded the cart, unloaded it, helped me pick out items, carried a bag.  The cashier kept commenting on how sweet and helpful she was...and this was a girl with a double ear infection!  She just loves to be out of the house!  She tries to leave with the UPS man every time he comes to the door...she runs down the driveway to try and catch a ride!!!

We came home and feverishly unloaded the groceries that were frozen and hopped back in the car.  Abigail thought she had won the lottery or something...going out again?  With mom?  No other kids???  We got to the doctors office and they very, very quickly got us in and she had a whammy of an ear infection.  Our doctor gave us medication, a plan, and a follow up appointment.  We ran to the car, drove through the pharmacy, where our pharmacist, Patrick, knows me all too well...sigh...then we sped home just in time to get Justin off of the bus.  Whew...deep breath.

I got them inside and fed and we had a relatively quiet afternoon...then I loaded Justin and Abbey up in the van to go pick up Dakota from his program.  He was smiling ear to ear and had had a wonderful day.  This is where my gift comes in...I had gotten the teacher at the program a set of wooden rubber stamps.  When I held the position, I remember that the kids loved my stamped remarks on their papers and it's such a time saver when you have so many students.  So, for my gift, we gave his teacher some "must have" rubber stamps and pads.

Then we jetted home, got everyone unloaded just in time for Justin to start physical therapy...then Jamie got off the bus and Kaylee came in and we got through homework and chores.  Sigh...I'm getting tired just writing about it.  Tim came through the door around 6pm and I told him..."I did it by myself!!!"  He raised his eyebrows...he was totally impressed. 

Day Forty-Eight, Much Needed Massage!

Wednesdays are literally insane around my house...after getting Jamie and Kaylee off to school, Abigail has dance class, Justin has a massage, I have a massage, then Jamie and Kaylee have a half day and come home early, just in time for piano and chores...we quickly shove dinner down their throats in time to make it to their youth church program...sigh...then they plow in the door around 830pm and the whole bedtime routine starts. 

So, needless to say, we don't really look forward to Wednesdays all that much, however, we have gotten used to the chaos.  This particular Wednesday I was not feeling well at all and I could tell by the way Tim was moving he wasn't either.  The hard thing about being the spouse of a chronically ill person, is you don't ever get the chance to be sick!  I watched him take pain medication and rub his head feeling completely helpless when he said to me, "I need to get a massage, I'm having muscle tension headaches," (which are the worse!).

Normally, he would have to wait a day or two to get into a massage and with his work schedule, it probably wouldn't have happened at all.  So I got really excited and said, "You can have my massage appointment today!"  He was a little surprised because missing a massage appointment even for one week can have pretty devastating consequences on my back.  However, I felt certain that this was my gift for today and he accepted it.  I had hoped to possibly get in later in the week...ultimately I didn't, but I was really excited to give him my massage appointment when he needed it.  My back pain will still be there next week and he got to be sick for the day.

By the time the kids started tumbling in the door that evening, I was feeling considerably better.  I was able to get up and help them get their stuff put away.  Suddenly Abigail pulled off one of her shoes and poured a bucket load of sand on the floor.  Oh my!  Under usual circumstances I would have asked my respite provider bathe her, but I was feeling remarkably well.  I grabbed Abbey and put her in the tub with lots and lots of bubbles when Jamie decided she needed a bath too.  I had both girls in the tub and scrubbed their hair as they splashed and squealed loudly.  Both Tim and my respite provider stood outside the bathroom door and told me to go lay down, they'd finish up but I said "no, I'm good!"

I felt a deep joy as I bathed them, brushed their teeth, did their hair and put on their jammies.  I realized, I hadn't bathed and brushed my girls teeth in at least six months.  I then even had the energy to rock Abigail for a long time and we read books and laughed and laughed so loud I thought we were going to wake up the other kids.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day Forty-Six & Forty-Seven, Taxes, Oh My!

OK, do you remember my friend whose boyfriend unexpectedly got laid off?  If you recall, I helped her sister (who lives with her) quickly find a job and helped her create a new budget?  Well, this gal was talking to me about her taxes.  I quickly discovered that the agency she had gone through cost way too much and didn't do a very good job.  So, for my gift day Forty-Six was to do her taxes and my gift for day Forty-Seven was to do her boyfriends taxes.

She was thrilled  as I showed her how they both could claim dependents...while I don't know anything about taxes, I am resourceful and determined and with that, you can accomplish anything!  I did them several different ways until I found the most money possible.  Last year, she paid $400 to get her taxes done and she got about $2,000 back.  Because I took the time to know her situation, I was able to do her taxes for $60 (the cost of the software) and she is getting back $9,000!!!!

Yes, you read that correct!  I'm also helping her amend last years taxes to give her the highest return possible because the tax agency didn't take the time to find out anything about her situation.  Mind you, I have NEVER done taxes before.  But, with Turbo Tax, it is virtually done for you.  Tim, who has done taxes for the past decade on his own double checked my work and I had done it correctly!

I was beaming when I called to tell her.  She was speechless!!!  I feel like God is just pouring his blessings on me in my mission to give.  I thank Him for this wonderful tax return and the unexpected check to one of my other readers.  He is leading my work and what a blessing it has been to me and my both ladies have a huge burden lifted off of them and I know I was a small part of it.  It is very humbling and I'm in awe as I watch God at work in the lives of His children.

Day Forty-Five, Valentines Treat!

Today was Valentines Day and Tim and I hadn't planned anything other than to go out on a date.  We had discussed going dancing, but both of us were fighting sinus infections and the idea of music and dancing was just a headache.  Tim started scouring the Internet for dining ideas when I asked, "Do you want to drive in the city so that Justin can visit his birth mom?"  Who would be a better Valentine than our little casa nova?

I called a family member to see if they were willing to supervise the visit...not expecting a "yes" on Valentines Day, I was pleasantly surprised when he did say "yes".  I called Justin's birth mom and asked if we could drop him off for a visit for a few hours while we went out to eat.  She squealed in excitement.  Tim picked out a five star little Italian restaurant near her house and made a reservation for of the only times left.  I had an hour before we had to leave and I had some extra ingredients from my cooking co-op so I decided to whip up a homemade meal for Justin's birth family for my gift for today.  I quickly made up a baked ziti and garlic bread with corn.

When we got there, I popped the food in the oven and gave her directions on when to take it out.  I gave Justin huge kisses and we went on our way.  We really enjoyed dinner...we got there with all the senior citizens but I enjoyed watching the elderly couples walk in hand in hand all dressed up.  The owners daughter gave me a pink rose which I loved.  The owner came and shook our hand and played a little Italian Bingo with us and thanked us for coming.  We wanted to give Justin and his birth mom some more time so we went to a book store.  Tim and I could spend the night in a book store!  We spent two hours perusing in different sections...him in the business and me in the kids and parenting sections.  I found three treasures...the first was a book called "Our Love Story," it is a book where you answer questions and write all about how you met and fell in love with your spouse and your life together.  The second treasure I found was for Dakota.  It is a book called, "Conversations with My Mother."  In this book, the child interviews the mom (that's me) about her childhood, her feelings, how she met her husband, etc.  It is suppose to facilitate wonderful discussion between mother and child.  I also found a book called, "Heartstrings for My Daughter."  This book is for is where I can journal all my advice to her.  Everything from how to handle finances to a broken heart.  

I want my family to have these journals and keepsakes to remind them of everything I love about them.  As I miss my father, I wish I had asked him to write me a letter...anything to see his handwriting and his, in my writing adventures, I've got three more projects!  I'm busier and happier than ever!

Day Forty-Four, Lunch for Four!

Today was the AWANA Grand Prix!  All five of the kids worked hard on designing and building their cars...not!  Poor Tata worked on them all by himself for an entire day...well, actually, Abigail was his right hand gal.  She followed him back and forth, checking on the paint drying status, adding stickers and wheels, etc...they working from morning till night and she was nothing less than a little doll.  Then Tata got up early to go down to the races and make sure the cars met the regulation weight while we stayed home and got all the kids ready.

We got there two minutes late with the five kids and the five cars.  The stopped the races and checked us in...sigh.  They allowed Justin to sit at the end of the track so that he could see.  We got comments about how good our chances of winning were with five racers and Tim and I split up taking head counts every other minute to make sure we didn't lose anyone in the commotion.

The races were a lot of fun...Jamie and Justin really enjoyed all the sound effects of the race cars.  Abbey and Justin made it to the semi-finals and Jamie made it to the finals...she was just one spot behind getting a trophy.  As the finalist continued to compete, Tim and I took shifts bringing kids up for lunch.  We took up a whole table by ourselves and tried to keep everyone's food and drinks under control.  After I got everyone up and eating, I realized that I had some money left never have cash.  I decided that I should do my gift for the day.  I went up to the lunch line and asked them to pay for the next four people's lunch.  They asked, "Which four people?"  I replied, "Any four people!"

They were so excited and man who looked very poor jumped in line and went back again getting two free lunches.  He stared at our family as he ate.  It made me happy that he got to enjoy his lunch for free.  Then the kids went to play on the playground while the races finished up and I scrubbed down all the chairs and tables from the lunches.  I had several people thank me and I was just so happy that I had the energy to clean up and help was a really great feeling.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day Forty-Three, Flowers!

Day Forty-Three was a pretty great day.  I woke up feeling pretty good even though I had pushed myself so much all week.  I was really excited about today's gift!  My former boss, who helped me in creating the homeschooling program and I were talking last year and she expressed her sheer hatred for Valentines Day.  I can't remember how the details of the conversation went, but I just remember assuring her that I would send her flowers on Valentines to help her get through the most depressing day of the year for a single person.

We only email a couple times a month now, but I was really excited to send her flowers and I wanted to send them to work because I didn't know her home address and didn't want to give away the surprise by asking.  I had a small Valentines bouquet send to the office on the Friday before Valentines (which fell on a Sunday this year).  On the card I wrote, "Last year I promised to send you flowers for Valentines, I bet you forgot!"  She was totally shocked, which made the gift all that more fun.  I don't think she reads my blog, so it was probably even more unexpected.  I ordered the flowers from my close friends flower shop to help support her work, so it was a very fun gift.

I got an email shortly after the delivery...she was so pleasantly surprised and thanked me for not sending red flowers and she couldn't believe I remembered!  She still hates Valentines day, but she said the flowers made her day and that made me so happy.

I was going to start the Love Dare again today but realized while I was still half asleep I told Tim he "was slower than death" as he stumbled around getting ready.  I decided that qualified as a negative statement...darn it!  The first day of the dare is not to say anything negative...geesh...I've gone three days in a row where my mouth said something and it was hanging out there...and I couldn't shove it back in my mouth.  Oh well...I'll try again tomorrow!

Today was also the day of Dakota's Lego Party.  We had booked the party for 430 at the mall in the Lego Store.  He was giddy with excitement.  Jordan, our former foster son, came for the occassion, as well as, three of Dakota's close friends, a neighbor and two other homeschooled kiddos.  We all went to the Lego Store where they started with a scavenger hunt, followed by team building of a castle, and then the fun part, buying Lego's!  Each of the boys got a lego set for coming to the party and Dakota...well, let's just say he made out!  His guests had gotten him gift cards, we had gotten him a gift card, and his birth father and grandmother surprised him with a gift card waiting for him at the store.  So, $250 later and a lego bag so large it took all five boys to lift, we left.  Dakota was on Cloud Nine!

Now, I have to fill you in on some background information before I tell you the next part...which is amazing.  My dad died last year from the same diagnosis I have.  It was only after he got diagnosed in the end stages (due to it being so rare) that my brother and I got tested.  We both have it and in the worst form possible.  However, my Dad was obsessed with the grandkids...he didn't meet all of them because he had a fear of flying and I couldn't bring six children under six on a plane, etc.  He was very close to Dakota and I did fly Abigail up there once before he passed away.  Anyway, the good part of the story is coming, just hang in there!  He had this thing for started when he got the kids the movie "Happy Feet" and they loved it...I'm talking we watched it several times a day for two years!  He never saw the movie himself, but I would describe it as Abbey, Dakota, and Kaylee stomped their feet trying to tap dance like the main character and Justin was laugh so hysterically that he couldn't breath.  Something else extremely important to my Dad was birthdays...they were huge!  He had a three day bash every year for his birthday and the kids birthdays were everything to him.  While on his death bed, going in and out of consciousness, he would sit up and ask if it was Abbey's birthday...he waited until the day after her birthday before he went to heaven.  He fought to hang on to make sure he did not die on her birthday.

I did not handle his death well and had to do significant counseling.  I was having anxiety attacks and health complications.  I was struggling getting going and cried all day throughout the day, every day.  I was pretty miserable.  Then my birthday came in June and to my surprise my Grandmother sent me a very large penguin birthday card.  It looked like the Happy Feet penguin and I thought, "This is an odd gift for someone turning 29?"  Could it be a sign that my father could still see us?  My grandmother was sure it wasn't and that she hadn't been "led" to pick out that card, but I wanted to believe he was still with us.  So I prayed to God to only bring me penguins if they were a sign from my Dad.

In the months of July, Aug, and Sept, almost every time I was hysterically upset a Happy Feet penguin would appear.  One day I was sobbing and Dakota ran up to me with a National Geographic Magazine with the Happy Feet penguin on the front and said, "Mom, look it's Happy Feet"...he knew nothing about my belief, as I hadn't told anyone but Tim and later my Grandmother.  Another time I was crying all the way into town for me and Tim's date and we had to run into a store and sitting at the checkout line was a punch of Happy Feet penguin toys.  Mind you, Happy Feet is no longer a new movie!  Another time I was crying over my Dad and opened a parenting book to find the same Bible verse he had picked out for his funeral.  It seemed every time I cried over him, there was something.  Still thinking I was a bit crazy, the week of the anniversary of his death came.  I was having anxiety attacks all day long and one day I laid on my bathroom floor sobbing to God and my Dad.  I cried and told him everything I felt and to please give me some hope that he was OK, that he was still part of our lives.

I got through the anniversary of his death and was hanging in there when I had Abigail's and Justin's birthday party.  Their birthdays are both in November so we had a combo party the weekend after.  I was helping Justin with something when they started opening gifts.  I heard Nana exclaim, "It's a penguin!"  I teared way, I thought, it can't be.  I slowly turned around to see Abigail holding a stuffed Happy Feet penguin as large as she was.  My eyes instantly flooded with alligator tears, they dropped down my cheeks.  I couldn't believe it as Tata opened Justin's bag and again a huge Happy Feet stuffed penguin.  Who were these from?  Come to find out they were from a friend a Nana and Tata's (Tim's parents) who just adores our kids.  No one knew about my belief of the penguins and Tim's parents were quite confused.  I went in my back yard and cried for an hour.  They were perplexed, but I finally was able to compose myself and go back in and explain.  I told my grandmother but she told me I was very "creative" which is true, but I think there is more to it.  Even Tim, who doesn't believe in anything like that, was starting to wonder if there was something to this.

That night was a huge turning point.  I slept with one of the penguins every single night for weeks.  I prayed to God and thanked Him, I prayed to my Dad and said if this is really you please send Dakota a penguin on his birthday in February...then there would be no doubt whatsoever.  The months came and went and I felt such a spiritual healing and I no longer cried every day, all day.  I just felt true happiness that my Dad was OK and he was with us still.  At this point I told my brother, sister, and my mom about the penguins.  They totally thought it was my Dad...I insisted that they don't send Dakota a penguin for his birthday, that if it was Dad, he would find another way.  They agreed.

OK, this is the part you've been waiting for...did Dakota get a penguin for his birthday???  Well, when Jordan got dropped off for the party, Abigail grabbed the gift bag and pulled out the card and opened it.  It was covered with cartoon penguins!  I just crying...I had no doubt Dakota would get his penguin for his birthday...and from someone who had no idea about the penguins!  I was totally happy and satisfied with this...but my Dad had more in store for us!  Following the Lego party, I had planned to take the boys out to pizza.  However, Dakota insisted that it would be more fun to eat at the Food Court in the mall...and who I am to argue with the birthday boy?  All the boys wanted to go to McDonalds...surprise, surprise :-).  Tim took them to McDonalds while I headed over to Subway to get a healthy sandwich.  When I came back Tim said excitedly, "Look at their Happy Meal toys!"  I didn't think anything of it as I glanced over and all three boys were Kung Fu fighting with little cartoon penguin toys...the Happy Meal bags were covered with penguins...there must have been over 50 of them.  Oh my!  I took a picture of all the penguins and the boys and told Dakota they were from Grumpa Bill in heaven.  He didn't pay much attention and continued to play.  Someday he'll realize how special it was.  The card and toy penguin are going in our birthday penguin collection :-).

Here's the picture:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day Forty-Two, Valentines Party!

As you have read, I've had a very busy and exhausting week!  Unfortunately, I'm having some trouble sleeping as well.  I do fall asleep, however, when one of the kids wake up (and someone always does!) I am unable to fall back asleep :-(.

This happened last night.  Abbey woke up around 12:30pm and I could not fall back asleep until almost 5am and I had to get up a 630am to get ALL five off to school by 730am.  Thursday is the only day that that all the kids are gone for three hours at the same time, Tim is gone too, so I have the house to myself.  It was so exhausting but I got all of the kids off to their programs and went and took a shower.  I debated about whether to go back to bed or not...I finally decided that I had enough energy to stay up and I was going to go to the grocery store.  I hadn't been to the grocery store in weeks because I was too sick, but I really do enjoy grocery shopping, so I was excited.

I got a huge cart of groceries, which was great, because we were totally out of everything!  I was so proud when I got home and unloaded the car by myself.  Tired...but proud.  I had everything put away just in time for Justin and Abbey to come around the corner on the bus from preschool.  They had their very first Valentines party and both had bags of cards and candy.  You could tell that they had a great time.  I gave Justin his tube feeding while Abbey pulled out every candy, licked it once, and then put it down throwing the wrappers on the floor.  It was hilarious when she brought the fruit roll up to me to help her open.  She had never had one before and she had no idea what it was.  She was perplexed as I pulled the thin plastic sheet off of it.  When I handed it to her, she shook it and inspected it and had no idea what to do with it, lol!  I kept telling her, you bite it, you eat it, laughing and she just looked at me even more confused.  Finally, I said, "It's candy!"  "Oooohhhhhh!" she said and shoved it in her mouth :-).

My gift for today was to attend Dakota's Valentines party at the Homeschooling Program.  I created the Homeschooling Program from scratch and ran it until my doctors did not feel I could work any longer...even part time.  Dakota cries every Thursday morning sobbing that he wishes I was still teaching it and he misses me, etc.  I always feel horrible but I'm trying not to let the guilt get to me.  By one o'clock I was a complete zombie and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.  But I pushed myself and drove down just in time for the start of the homeschool Valentines party.  Dakota was just so surprised.  "I can't believe you made it!" he exclaimed and he hugged me and had snacks with me.  He was kind enough to share my attention with all the other kiddo's, my former students.  A few of the Jr High kids told me they were quite upset with me for "quitting"...guilt again.  I don't really consider it "quitting"...I felt God asked me to start the program and get it running, but then to lovingly hand it off to another homeschooling mom...who is wonderful!

So my gift for today was to surprise Dakota and spend some more quality time with him :-).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day Forty-One, One of a Kind Meeting!

I decided to stop the 500 calorie diet since I met the minimum of 20 days.  So far, I have lost 15 pounds and almost 30 inches over my body.  I was able to fit in my jeans that I bought just before I went on bed rest, but no longer fit!  I am not slacking now though, however, I'm moving up to a modest 1200 calorie diet and I will keep you posted on how it is going.  I'm sooo enjoying food right now, even if it's smaller amounts but my ulcer pain came back with the first meal.  I may have to reschedule the appointment with the GI surgeon after all, but I'm hoping it will heal itself.

I sat down to do my Love Dare today and realized that I only did it for three days and then took a week off.  The Dare really builds upon the previous day.  So, I've decided I'm going to start it over and give it another shot from Day One.

I was so excited for today's gift!!!  I found out one of Dakota's favorite authors was coming close to us for a book signing.  We worked really hard on our school work all day so that we could leave early afternoon to get there in time to get a great seat.  We brought the book Dakota already owns of his and bought his newest release at the store.  It is a series called "39 Clues" the author is one of many in the series...including R.L. Stein and Marc Brown and many others.  Here's a brief description:

Books 1-7 of the #1 bestselling series are available now! Read The 39 Clues books to follow Amy Cahill and her brother Dan as they travel the world to hunt for the Clues. Each of the ten books comes with 6 game cards, reveals important information about the Cahills, and most importantly, unlocks one Clue!

The author was the most passionate and funny author I have ever met!  He had an amazing presentation on what it is like in the life of a writer on a daily basis.  He had the kids rolling on the floor laughing.  He expressed how he writes three, four, five times and then realizes it's "junk" and starts over.  What a boost for the kids self esteem!  He showed copies of what his manuscript looks like after the editor has gotten a hold of it...I was shocked, every other word was marked up!  Then he told us how he comes up with ideas, outlines, builds the chapters, etc.

I was totally impressed by this guys of over 150 books and Harvard grad, I learned so much from him.  He was a ghost writer for the "Hardy Boys" and "Babysitter Clubs" series.  His 39 Clues series has just been undertaken by Steven Spielberg to make into a series of movies!  We got there an hour early to make sure we got front row seats and we enjoyed treats in the coffee shop while we waited.  Dakota asked the author questions about the foreign languages in the books and the author admitted that he really does bad with the grammar and has to consult a native speaker.  He talked about how much he has to research because the books take place in different countries and that from the start to the finish, the process takes about a year.  He asked who wanted to be a writer when they grew up and I was the first to pop up my hand, he was impressed :-).

He asked for one more final question and he called on Dakota.  Then my cutie said, "Well, it's not really a question, but a comment."  The author said, "OK".  Then Dakota said, "I've read most the books and yours is my favorite one!"  The author was thrilled and the crowd clapped at his comment.  It was just a wonderful experience.  Here is a picture of Dakota getting his books signed.

Day Forty, Chili for Lunch!

I am so worried about getting behind on my blog this week!  I have a huge event each and every day and I usually pace myself with only something once a week...sigh...but I have no choice in the matter.  Today my gift was very small and simple.  I had to cancel on my music therapist yesterday due to visiting Justin's mom in the city.  Therefore, she agreed to make a special trip to see Jamie and Justin on Tuesday morning.  I knew that because of this, she was going to have a very long day with nine clients in a row and I wanted to feed her lunch :-).

When she came on Tuesday morning, I realized I had double booked Justin.  This happens to me more often than I'd like to admit...sigh again.  I feel like my only job right now is to keep everyone's schedule straight, however, I'm averaging 12-20 appointments a day between all the kids, myself, the therapists, school schedules, etc.  I had to even buy a special phone to help me keep track of everything and it beeps at me fifteen minutes before each thing and honestly, it's beeping at me all day.  So, when she came I asked her if she could do a double session with Jamie (who was available) and stay for lunch following and I was thrilled she accepted :-).

I served her chili with corn and saltine crackers, I couldn't eat with her but we sat and chatted.  Dakota really enjoyed talking with her about homeschooling and all of our crazy adventures planned for the week.  I have not been able to do my Love Dare at all in the past week...sigh a third time.  I've been so bombarded with that cold that I'm just barely making it through my gift giving challenge and my daily Bible readings.  One things I wanted to share was a great website I found for helping me keep track of my daily scriptures.  The website is One Year Bible Online, and it has been perfect for me.  You can either print off a daily reading list to read the entire Bible in one year or you can have the daily reading sent to your email (which is what I do).  You also have the choice of reading the Bible in order to have them break up different scriptures.  I found the first time I read the Bible I really struggled with certain books that were very slow, so I opted to get the "variety" this time around.  They send you about fifteen minutes of reading per day and you get through the entire Bible in just one year.  You can start on any day of the year...I have found it to be wonderful and it's FREE.

Since I stayed up the whole night before crying to Tim, I was like a zombie today.  As soon as our therapist left, I went and took a nap.  This helped immensely. After dinner, I painted Abbey's and Kaylee's fingers and toes in alternating colors.  They loved it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day Thirty-Nine, A Special Visit!

Day Thirty-nine was a very busy, crazy day, as I knew it would be.  It started out with a doctors appointment in the city for Justin with his Neurologist.  We spent one hour waiting for the doctor, but we really enjoyed the time, playing peek a boo and singing songs, and then we spent a little over an hour with the doctor.  We made a lot of progress and we are going to try a few new things to help Justin be more comfortable.  She was impressed with the changes he is displaying with all the massage therapy.

After our appointment, we went to visit Justin's birth mother.  We haven't been able to visit before because she hasn't kept contact with us and was homeless so I couldn't find her.  However, she had a baby about six weeks ago and the State put her on a strict plan and program to clean up her life.  I was delighted when she started calling me and since she doesn't have transportation I offered to bring Justin out to see her.  He has only seen her three times in the past two and a half years and he always seemed uncomfortable.  He won't babble or make eye contact and his expression is so serious...very unlike him.  I got him really excited and told him where we were going and he did so well!

She has a modest studio apartment that is very small but so comfortable.  The baby looks great and we kept telling Justin that it was "his baby" and he laughed and squealed.  He made great eye contact and cuddled with his birth mom, it was by far the best visit they've had since he's been with me.  I was his first placement, I picked him and his older brother up at the hospital.  She handed Justin to me while trying not to cry but she was shaking uncontrollably.  I promised her I would take good care of both of them.  Today, she kept repeating, "He looks so good, you are doing such a good job!"  He does look good and he's so happy and so does the baby.  She kept saying, "You have such a good Mom..."  I could tell she was uncomfortable as to what she should call herself when talking to him.  I told her, "Justin has two mom's, he needs us both."  She was thrilled and started referring to herself as Mommy which was most natural for both of us.

I found out she didn't have a swing yet...the swing is a necessity with an infant in my humble opinion, so I got her a used one, washed the covering, and put new batteries in it.  It is a very small "travel" type swing which was a blessing because her whole apartment is smaller than our bedroom.  It fit nicely in the corner and wasn't in the way, but if she had a normal size swing, I don't know where it would have fit.  The baby loved the swing and I got to cuddle with him while she played with Justin.  We stayed the afternoon until she had to go to her rehab program...she couldn't tear herself away from him and cried as we put him in the car.  I promised her she could see him as much as she wanted and she told me that when she finished rehab she was going to be allowed to visit her oldest son too.  I gave her a coaster with Justin's picture and she cried and hugged me.  She said she was going to bring it to her group and brag about him.  I realized that she only has one picture of Justin, so I'm going to make sure to change that :-) (a gift for another day).

My gift for today was bringing Justin to see her and of course, I wanted to get something for the baby cakes too!  I'm very excited for her and Justin to have a strong relationship.  I've done everything in my power to get her to see him but it never worked out.  I was certain that she wouldn't be able to change for the new baby but I prayed for her anyway.  God again delivered the support and resources she needed.  She is doing wonderful.  She has a great heart and I know that she will always be a wonderful part of all the kids lives as long as she can keep herself healthy.

When I came home I was exhausted, I'd been out all day.  Dakota started making me feel guilty about how I'm not doing what I used to do and Kaylee was fighting me on every little detail of her day.  I just soon as they went to bed I cried to Tim...till one in the morning about how badly I am failing as a mother and a wife.  How I don't provide any financial support to the family, yet my medical bills and student loans take a huge toll, I can't take care of the kids myself or the home.  I feel like a burden right now to my family and it is the worse feeling ever.  We decided to call to get some family supports in place in the morning.  There is a program when you adopted such special needs kids that help your stress management, behavior plans, bonding, and family counseling.  I don't know what or how much to share with Dakota, I don't know how to deal with the guilt, and I'm terrified of Jamie and Justin's future as I become unable to care for them.  I do feel hopeful though that getting supports in place will help us all deal with the stress.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day Thirty-Eight, Late Night Treat!

I wasn't able to fall asleep until 430 in the morning last night.  I actually took this as a good sign because when I sleep all day and night, I know my body is trying to heal.  Being awake all night meant my body had gotten enough sleep.  So I tried not to get frustrated, watched a movie, and worked on paperwork until I finally was able to fall asleep.

I woke up around 830am on Sunday and was able to get everyone up and going.  I knew Tim was planning on working on a project for work until our date.  I realized quickly that the lack of sleep was taking its toll.  I was too tired to do anything but not tired enough to go back to sleep.  So I called my respite provider and asked her to come in early before our date to help with the kids and she got here around 1030am.  I was able to sit and read books with the kids and do a load of laundry, but I was pretty exhausted.  I went to lay down after lunch, still I had no luck falling asleep.

Around 3pm Tim was ready to go on the date.  There was literally no food in the house and Tim hadn't eaten and neither had I so we decided to go to a salad bar.  I was sure I'd be able to get a piece of grilled chicken and veggies without dressing.  I was wrong.  There was no chicken so I put some tomatoes on my plate and grabbed a bottle of water.  We sat down to eat and I was miserable.  I got up and went to the dessert section and came back with a frozen yogurt was huge and it looked delicious!  I sat down with it and Tim started laughing.  He let me take one bite and then proceeded to sprinkle pepper all over it.  We both started laughing and I thanked him for helping me avoid temptation.

When we came home that evening after the movie, I realized I hadn't done my gift for the day.  After the kids were in bed I grabbed Dakota and said, "We are going to get Valentines..."  He has a Valentine party at his homeschooling program this week and I thought it would be fun to go out just the two of us for my gift.  He was thrilled and kept repeating how much he loves "our dates alone".  We found some Valentines and candies that he loved and then he informed me he didn't eat dinner.  I asked him why and he said our respite provider had mixed the veggies in the mac and cheese and proceeded to make gagging noises.

There was a McDonalds right in the Walmart and he said, "I know you are going to say 'no' because it's not healthy, but can we get something to eat at McDonalds?"  And then I said "sure".  He was shocked...I then told him, "I like to surprise you."  He replied that I surprise him quite often and we both laughed.  It's not that I never let them go to McDonalds, but it is less than once a month for sure.  I realized I was an abnormal parent when Abigail at three years old couldn't identify "french fries" for her teacher and I informed the teacher Abigail had never seen french fries before.  You could say, she displayed a look of shock.  Don't feel bad for Abbey...she has now been to McDonalds a couple of times and is no longer a french fries virgin!

We chit chatted while Dakota enjoyed his "Mighty Kids Meal" (as he is too big for "Happy Meals")...this happened in the past six months.  I told Dakota how my mom, his Yaiya, used to take me out really late to McDonalds and I loved it.  She worked a lot and really late into the night, so sometimes, way after bedtime, she just grabbed me and my brother and we went.  McDonalds was the only place open that late at night in our small town.  She always got a Big Mac w/ fries, Diet Pepsi, and an apple pie for dessert.  Dakota really enjoyed hearing that story :-).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day Thirty-Seven, Planning a Party!

Today I was awoken by the phone ringing...I didn't answer it, however, when the same person called right back, I decided it was probably important and answered it in bed.  It was the person who in the very beginning of my blog was having a lot of financial difficultly but left half of her money for the week as a tip for the chamber maid...she trusted that God would continue to provide, well, He sure did!

She excitedly explained to me that she got a certified letter today, thinking it was a serious past due bill, she was not excited to open it.  Come to find out, it was a check for almost $7,000!  The letter explained that when she refinanced her mortgage there wasn't a disclosure of certain fees and after careful review of the account, they needed to refund her that money.  She was floored, "Can you believe this?" she kept asking me.  "Yes, of course, God provides!" I replied.  We both praised the Lord for his greatness and decided the best way to stretch every dollar to get her in a better financial position.  The first thing I recommended was putting $1000 in an emergency fund.  When your budget it tight, a broken appliance, a car repair, medical bill can throw you completely off for weeks to come.  I helped her figure out where was best to put the money and she said, "I'm going to pay off the stuff keeping me up at night..."  And I agree wholeheartedly, that is the way to go!

This was such a blessing to me and yet another testimony to God's willingness to solve our problems if we just hand them over to Him.  He is wonderful!  I spent a lot of the day cleaning up my desk, and getting papers in order.  I also ordered my free credit report.  Did you know that you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three agencies once a year?  If there is something on your report that is not true, it can harshly affect interest rates and insurance premiums!  Believe it or not, 80% of credit reports have a mistake on them.  I highly recommend that you go to "" and get yours.  This one is truly don't need to sign up for anything, no credit cards required.  If you have already gotten your free credit report it will tell you and not allow you to do it again.  I was pleasantly surprised to find no mistakes on the one I printed out and reviewed...I will be doing my other two in the coming months.  After this, I slept the afternoon away until dinner time.

Dakota and I had set up a date after dinner to plan his birthday party.  We are a little last minute since his birthday is the 17th but I've just been too ill to do anything.  I explained to him what his birthday budget was and he started getting creative about themes, games, etc.  He decided he wanted a "Lego Party" and he wanted to invite four of his very best friends.  I jotted down all his ideas on paper and we decided to find some printable invitations online.  When searching, we found that the Lego Store actually has it's own party package.  The kids go into the store and have a scavenger hunt, build a lego creation as a team, and then they each get a lego kit as a gift.  I showed it to Dakota and the party package happened to be the exact amount of our budget!  He was thrilled and we called them and booked his party.

He is having his party the Friday before his birthday which falls in the middle of the week, so we decided we would do his cake with just the family on the real date of his birth and he's very happy with this plan.  On Saturday, he is going with his Tata and Nana on a long train ride for his present from them.  He is very excited!

Day Thirty-Six, Yummy Dinner

Today I couldn't even get out of bed to get the kids on the school bus...I was that weak and dizzy.  We all slept until my respite provider got here at 830am and she got everyone up and going while I slept until noon.  When I did get up I was feeling pretty good so I finished up making my meals for the co-op.  However, as I started loading them into my car I became incredibly dizzy and weak.  My respite provider was gone to the park with the kids so I really didn't have any help at the house.  I decided to call my friend who is always asking me to call her if I need anything.  I asked her if she would possibly be able to deliver my meals for me.  She gladly said yes and loaded up her kids and came right over.

I'm very thankful for my friends and my support, knowing that I have people to call when I need help, have people to cry to,  people to laugh with keeps me going.  This bronchitis has definitely gotten me discouraged and I am having to dig really, really deep to keep any kind of positive attitude.  Shortly after my friend came to get the meals our speech therapist came to work with Justin.  I always love having her here and today, even though I was in PJ's and unkept hair, today was no exception.  She got Justin working with a spoon and applesauce, he loved it, but kept missing his mouth.  It was way too cute and really cheered me up.  Right after she left I went back up stairs to bed and Tim came home around 3pm to relieve the respite provider.  My whole family was very happy that I made one of their favorites, Upside Down Pizza, and I even got a text from one of the gals in the co-op saying how much her family liked it.

Late that evening, Tim and I cuddled up on the couch and watched a movie.  He kept rubbing my hair and saying how much he was hoping I'd start feeling the end of the movie, I felt like I had started to turn the corner.  My breathing had improved and while I was tired, I wasn't overly weak.  I knew better days were just around the corner!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day Thirty-Five, A Family Buffet

Today was my worse day by far...I couldn't breathe at all without breathing treatments and my lungs were aching and burning so bad I couldn't stand it.  My doctor had me come in for an hour to do a vitamin IV.  This is where she gives me an IV full of all kinds of vitamins (which is especially helpful since I'm not eating much).  I haven't lost any weight this week and have actually gained a couple pounds since starting my antibiotics.  They are making me very bloated and I suspect the weight is just water weight, but it is still discouraging.

After the IV, I came home and slept for several hours. When I got up I started preparing my meals for the co-op.  I'm switching my days to Monday, so I actually have to do meals Friday and this Monday.  Therefore I decided to do both meals at once...Upside Down Pizza and Tuscany Pork Tenderloin.  Thursday afternoon I started working on cooking up all the hamburger for the Upside Down Pizza.  I realized that our fridge was so packed with leftovers that the food was seriously going to go bad if I didn't do something.

I grabbed all kinds of dishes and warmed up everything, set up spoons and plates in an assembly line fashion and called the kids to dinner.  They were stunned, "What is this?"  I told them we were having a "Restaurant Buffet" night.  They absolutely loved it and there was so much to choose from.  When Tim walked in, he said, "Oh a buffet" pronouncing the "t" at the end...Then Dakota proceeded to argue with Tim on the pronunciation for quite some time.  I tried to keep my eye rolling to a minimum.  I was too sick to get out of my PJ's or to even read my love dare today, but I will pick back up where I left off as soon as I can.

I do really felt like I spent my day making my others happy though...I cheered up my brother and sister who are going through their own struggles and although I couldn't pull off a full "Restaurant Night" for the kids, I was able to do something special for them too.  After dinner I became incredibly dizzy and almost fainted.  I am getting weaker by the minute it seems and the antibiotic isn't doing the trick.  I made it to the couch when my family started complaining about having to clean up after the buffet.  I was really hurt and lost it.  For the first time in months I yelled at them that they didn't understand what I am going through and went up to my room and locked the door.  There was no way I could clean up after dinner and I was really offended.

I got over it pretty quickly and Dakota came and knocked on the door.  I let him in and he asked me, "Are you ever going to get better?  You are sick all the time!"  I told him that I honestly didn't know if I was going to get better, but I had every hope and that I am trying the absolute best I can.  I don't know if that was the answer he wanted, but it is the only one that I had.  After getting all the kids to bed, Tim came and held me so tight for hours.  I didn't apologize for yelling, he made it clear I didn't need to.

I get a lot of compliments on how clean the house is especially for having so many children.  The truth is, cleaning comes quite hard to is not natural at all.  If you too, are domestically challenged or overwhelmed with your house, I have a recommendation that has helped me.  It is a called "Motivated Moms" and was recommended to me last year by a friend.  I really love it!  It is a planner that tells you what you need to do on a daily basis to keep your whole house clean, it also includes things like to order Rx's, change air filters, all that stuff you may forget in the middle of chaos.  It's only $8 and you download it immediately and print it off.  It has really helped me and my family keep the house on track.  I've included a link to the "Motivated Mom's" website on my blog.  She is a Christian home schooling mom as well and I love to support stay at home moms!

Day Thirty-Four, Jump Rope for Heart

I've been a bit overwhelmed with how sick I am but I spent most of the day chatting with family until my throat was too sore to talk anymore!  I had been thinking about my mom a lot and how she is eating out so much so I called my brother to see if he would be interested in doing "Once a Month Cooking" with her.  This is when you cook one day for the entire month...something that really helped me before I started the meal co-op I'm currently doing.  There are several books, including recipes that have everything laid out for you if you don't know how to get started.  It is a great way to save money and eat more healthy.  He told me about this 94 year old lady who was on the news because she is able to make great meals on a tiny budget...she lived through the depression and just put out a cookbook.  I can't personally recommend it, as I haven't tried it, but it is getting amazing reviews.  You can check out more info at "Clara's Blog".  Apparently she has her own cooking show and tons of video's on YouTube.  Wow, that's pretty amazing..ninety four years old, I can't even imagine it!

My brother was absolutely thrilled at the idea (he loves to cook) and he thought it would be a great way to spend time with my mom.  So I excitedly called my mom to let her know the plan so that she can use the money she saves to pay off debt.  I'm sure we all think we won't have any debt at retirement, but it comes so fast!  Tim is thirteen years older than I am and will be retiring in fourteen we are majorly focusing on getting our debt paid off before that time.  He is one of the blessed few that have an amazing retirement plan - a true "pension", but I want to make sure he doesn't have any debt to deal with at that time either.  Justin and Jamie are "forever children" meaning they will never move out, so he will have to keep supporting them.  We are working on getting our student loans and house paid off in full.

While I was talking to my brother, my sister beeped in.  We had a nice talk and we got laughing pretty hard, which was difficult considering I can't really breathe, but so worth it!  Her and my brother are really excited I'm helping mom get ready for retirement but they are quite sad that she is moving away from them to live with us.  My mom and I have a conspiracy to try and get them to move down here too!  My sister told me I need to build several more guest houses in the back yard...she told me it would be "my gift for the day"...She informed me I have the resources to do it and she's right!  While, I can't build guest houses in the back yard, I would be so blessed to be surrounded by my small family right in my community.  I'll keep praying on it!

My mom was ready to work on finances when she called but my throat couldn't take any more talking.  Sorry Mom!  While we were on the phone, one of the neighbor children stopped by with a fundraiser.  She is doing "Jump Rope for Heart", a program where the kids jump rope to raise money for charities promoting a healthy life and heart.  I thanked her profusely for providing the opportunity for a gift and gave her $5.  She was very grateful and I was happy to know I had gotten my gift done even though I was so sick.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day Thirty-Three, Cornbread

Today the cold has completely taken over and I am the definition of the word miserable.  The itching in my ears, throat and sinuses is absolutely unbearable.  Therefore, I've been in bed all day.  I'm really, really dizzy, but it's not the diet, it's all the fluid in my sinuses.  I have my respite provider for part of the day to help with the kids and this is a huge relief.  Abigail has been laying on me all day long, she is sick too and we haven't slept in days.

By the time that Tim gets home that night, I am so overwhelmed I can't stand it.  I ask him to bring Justin and Abigail to the Urgent Care because they are not getting any better and I honestly can't survive another night without sleep.  I need to go myself but I am too sick to go and bring them so I decide to stay home and stick it out another night.  We agree he will take them after dinner.  We had our meal delivered and unfortunately I knew from the second I took it out it was not going to go over well with the kids.  So as Tim served it, I decided I needed to do something nice for them all.  I made them cornbread with honey for dessert.  This is one of my kids and husbands favorites.  I told the kids that if they ate a decent amount of their dinner, they would get some cornbread.

Dakota, our most picky eater, gobbled it up before my eyes, I was shocked!  He wanted the cornbread and he wanted it bad.  Abigail and Jamie seemed to be able to eat it too without a problem.  On the other hand, Kaylee was really struggling.  Kaylee has been having "issues" with lying lately a phase I expect she will grow out of.  After Dakota finished his and we were distracted, she went and emptied almost the whole bowl in the garbage, but left enough to not be suspicious.  She ran up to tell Tim how she ate it with a big smile.  That's when Dakota (our little family police officer) yelled, "No she didn't, she threw it away!"  Tim verified that indeed her food was in the trash can.

She ran up the stairs sobbing uncontrollably and Tim yelled to her back, "Kaylee, lying is not acceptable."  Seconds later I made my way up the stairs into her dark room and held her while she cried.  I told her that I understood she didn't like the dinner but what she was in trouble for was lying.  As soon as I could get her to calm down I told her that we can solve any problem if we work together and tell the truth.  We then decided that she would try again as long as I picked out the peas and added her favorite seasoning.  She smiled in delight as I blended the left overs up for Justin's tube feeding and thanked me for not saving it for "Restaurant Night".

"Restaurant Night" happens  a few times a month at my house.  It started when my sister and mom were out visiting.  One night when there were leftovers my sister put on her apron and was the "waitress" (which she is in real life after her day job and a great one at that!)  I typed up a menu of all the leftover items and the kids came and rang the door bell, were seated, listened to music and made their order.  Since then, the once dreaded "Leftover Night" has been a favorite night in the house!  If you want to do it, just type up the leftover options (entree, drink, veggie) and let them "order".  Then we serve them a mint.

I'm usually the "Sergeant" of our home, while Tim is the "Sergeant" on the police force...however, tonight I got to be the "good guy" for once.  When I came down the stairs Tim said to me, "So, you gave two gifts tonight!"  Oh brother I thought, here he comes with another corny punchline.  I bit, "Oh yeah?  What's that?"  He replied, "Well, you made cornbread and saved Kaylee from Daddy's wrath" and he proceeded to attack her with tickles.

Then my amazing husband took clinging Abbey and Justin in a wheelchair to Urgent Care.  It took two and a half hours but they left with antibiotics and cough syrup and it was the first night that everyone got some sleep.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day Thirty-Two, A Lovely Email

So it is the first of February, officially onto the second month of my twelve month challenge and I have finally caught the cold!  It is a bad one, I don't feel up to doing anything but I'm pushing myself to do what I can.  I started by heading to my doctors in the morning.  I have lost 11 pounds and 21 inches thus far.  She was happy with my progress even though I did plateau for three days in a row...that was frustrating!  But overall, I'm making great, steady progress.

Dakota and I had a rough day homeschooling...neither of us felt well at all but we can't afford to get behind as I gave him two sick days last week.  Every activity was taking soooo long because Abbey and Dakota kept having chasing matches and hide and seek in between every problem...sigh.  So then by one o'clock he was whining, "We've been studying alllll day!"  Usually we go about three hours, but today, five hours later we still weren't done.  "You enjoy this!" he said, "You love to just watch me work all day, you like it!"  He was getting pretty nasty at this point and I just sighed and told him that wasn't true and he called me a "liar".  Oh boy, I wasn't frustrated because I could see he was really upset.  I told him that he couldn't talk to me that way and I that I don't lie to him.  I asked him to go to his room to read his daily scriptures and to come down when he was ready.  He stomped up the stairs, arms flailing, slammed his door while screaming, "I hate you!" at the top of his lungs.  About twenty minutes later he came down, calm and peaceful and said, "Mom, are you ready to work?"

I'm sharing this because I get comments from people about how "patient" I am and "How do you get the kids to do this or that?" and "Oh, they listen so well, etc"...I want everyone to know how flawed we all are!  Only God is perfect and He doesn't expect or even want us to be.  As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I can tell you, we are far, far, far from perfect and we have our moments, melt downs and so on.  Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart and it is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it is rewarding.

Minutes later the doorbell rang, it was our music therapist.  It is one of the kids favorite times of the week.  She works with Justin first, then Jamie...and we are blessed that she allows Abbey (our budding musician to sit in with her little pink guitar).  We waited for music therapy for over a year so we feel so blessed to get it.  However, recently the state, in it's budget crisis, decided to cut the music therapist's pay in half.  Ouch!  We are so blessed that our therapist loves her work so much she has decided to continue doing in spite of the huge pay cut.  I don't know many that have that kind of dedication.  She has helped Justin go from screaming and crying at every little noise to actively playing dozens of different instruments.  Jamie has a unique talent when it comes to music and she is tapping into that and I dare say it is one of Jamie's very favorite hours of the week.

In the mist of this struggle, our therapist has decided to take on private clients to supplement her new reduced income.  It really has been quite devastating for her to have this happen when she absolutely loves her job and her work, but we all need to eat, right?  So for my gift today, I emailed out all of her information to 100+ homeschooling families in our small town hoping to get her some private client work.  I felt like it was such a small gift and really quite insignificant, but I was feeling so sick and struggling so much with getting through the day that I decided it would have to do.

To my surprise I got the following email from her.  Obviously she didn't feel it was insignificant and the email blessed me so much I just have to share it here:

Hi Desiree

Thank you so much for the lovely email out to everyone!  I'm very blessed to have you guys as a family.  I know something will work out, it always does.  It's just so hard to hear all this negative news all day long and then keep yourself in a positive manner.  Everyday I have to remind myself that there are people in the world, especially Haiti now that are way worse off then I'll ever be. 

And yes, I too, am reading along with your blog.  It's actually a time in my day before bed where I can read what you did for others and I smile, laugh or I tear up for how much love you have for others even despite your physical setbacks.  I always think if you, Desiree, can find time in your busy day with the kids and your setbacks to make the world a better place...I can keep myself in the best positive place I can. I HAVE to be able to keep myself in the positive place.  I've always been a nice person, but since reading your blog I go out of my way to do little things in my day to make someone else's day better...holding a door open, saying hello to the person on the street that just keeps their head down and make them smile, stay a little longer at a client's house to help out with the little kids in the family if they need something.  You've started a movement...a world peace type movement.  I just wanted to let you know that you are making an impression on the world =) And thank you for that!

Take care and thank you for everything,
 Thank you to everyone taking this journey with me.  The emails I have gotten from you have inspired me and kept me going.  I can't imagine how difficult my circumstances would be without your support.  I imagine I would be negative and self pitying...I imagine I would feel hopeless and alone.  But I don't, thank you for that gift.

OK, so for my Love Dare.  I guess I went into this feeling a little "full of myself" because I wasn't concerned at all with the first challenge to "not say anything negative to your spouse," ironically, it ended up being a significant challenge after all!  After our computer got a virus, Tim put everything onto a jump drive that I keep on my key chain, he then wiped out the system completely.  I saw the jump drive sitting there next to the computer and I said to him before I went to bed on Sunday, "Please, please, please put that back on my key chain when you are done, it has pictures from the past ten years on it and every document I work with every day."  He agreed and I went to bed.  Well, when I got going Monday morning and Tim was long gone to work I went to grab my key chain to do time sheets for my respite provider and lo and behold, it wasn't there.

I rolled my eyes as I head to the computer to find that it wasn't there either!  I called up Tim in a panic and said, "Where is the jump drive?"  He said, "It's right where I left it sitting next to the computer."  When I told him it wasn't there he responded with, "Well, I don't know where it is then."  I felt like one of those cartoons where the face turns red and steam is coming out of the ears...I thought I was going to burst.  I refrained from exploding to say "good-bye" but I didn't respond to his "I love you" as I might have went off on a tangent about if he really loved me he would have but the stupid jump drive on the key chain before Abbey had a chance to get a hold of it and hide it!

I spent an hour looking for it, my respite providers needed to get paid and all the info is on there.  I dug through trash cans, I looked in everyone's shoes (which is where Abbey likes to hide things), I moved the whole computer desk and dug in the cracks behind was no where to be found.  I was fuming.  I was thankful Tim was no where near me as I just wanted to say all kinds of negative things!  I'm giggling about it now, but I was seriously irate.  Partly because I was tired and sick, partly because Dakota was giving me such a hard time, and finally because I asked him to put it away so I wouldn't have to go through this!

I was still angry when he got home hours later that night, no jump drive in sight and Dakota still hadn't finished his homework.  Sticking to my Love Dare I resolved not to say anything negative, which resulted in me saying "nothing at all"...Tim could sense something was up and innocently asked, "So who are you mad at?"  I told him about my struggles with Dakota and he sat down and gave him the "You Are So Lucky You Get to be Homeschooled speech"...when that didn't make me feel better he said, "You're not mad at me, right?  I can't just sit here and wonder if you are mad or what I did..."  He was totally clueless.  I took a deep breath and pulled myself together.  I wanted to shout at him, "I'm doing the stupid Love Dare so I can't tell you..."  then maybe stomp up the stairs and slam the door like Dakota had displayed earlier (I wonder where he gets it from, lol).

I spoke very slowly and intentionally, "I'm struggling finding the jump drive."  Period, that was it, nothing more.  I was satisfied that this was not "negative" but a simple fact.  "Oh" he said.  He went over to the computer desk and I thought to myself, "Good luck" dripping with sarcasm.  He appeared minutes later, handed me the jump drive and kissed my cheek.  I didn't say anything, just felt a sense of relief.  I didn't ask where he found it and the night went on as usual.  God challenged me.  I believe that because I didn't flip out, God made it perfectly easy for Tim to see when I couldn't find it anywhere.  It doesn't matter where he found it, what matters is I learned a deep lesson.  I need Tim, I need to love him unconditionally, and I need to stay patient and kind.  Yelling at Tim wouldn't have made me feel better and it certainly wouldn't have made the jump drive magically appear.  But trusting in God and following His word did make it magically appear.

I told you the "Love Dare" is fabulous!  I'm hoping my friend doing hers will update us in the comments section on how her dare is going.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day Thirty-One, No Grammy's...Budgeting is More Fun!

It's official!  I've made it through the first month, most people have long given up on their resolutions by this point and I'm happy to report that I'm still going strong.  I found this verse in my Bible reading today:

Acts 20:35… In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
 It is so true.  So on day Thirty-One, again the cold was kicking the kids butts.  Poor Justin was having seizures left and right which happens when he is sick and Jamie's sugar goes so low that she is unable to move.  She does not have diabetes but adrenal problems.  She isn't able to process the sugar correctly in her body and while a small dose of medicine usually does the trick, it's a different story when she is sick.  While I dealt with Justin's seizures, Tim worked with Jamie.  She was completely limp and unresponsive.  We gave her a normal dose of her medicine and two glasses of orange juice with no improvement.  This meant we had to pull out her emergency shot.  It gives her ten times her normal dose in medicine.  Tim mixed up the solution and gave her the shot.  She slowly started to come around and talk.

At this point our respite provider was here to relieve us for our weekly Sunday date.  I wasn't worried leaving the kids because our provider has been with us two years now and knows as much about the kids as we do.  She put Jamie in the bath, one of her favorite activities and slowly but surely Jamie started to come back around.  We went on our date to the movies and ran a couple errands.  It was much, much easier for me this time to not eat at the movies.  My will power has become very strong.
My friend called me saying that she got "The Love Dare" book in the mail and how excited she was to get started.  We are both starting on February 1st.  She asked if she should tell her partner, I recommended not, and she agreed.  So in addition to my gift giving challenge, I will keep you updated on my weight loss and my Love Dare!

For my gift, I made a date with mom in the evening to start inputting all of her information in the budgeting system over the phone.  This can take several hours to do and I didn't want her to get overwhelmed by the start up time.  So I decided I would gather the information from her and do it myself so that it was an "easy" gift for her to get started.  She informed me that she was missing "The Grammy's" and I informed her that this was much more important and I would only take an hour.  We plowed through quite a bit and made a date to meet again about this in a couple of days.

Since starting my challenge, thirty one days ago, I have gone from sleeping twenty hours a day to 8-10 hours.  I have been able to drop five of my twenty medications.  My pinched nerve pain is significantly improved and no longer constant.  I am more active and exercising and I am homeschooling Dakota again.  I have been able to work out a doable budget even with the loss of my income.  I have lost almost 11 pounds and I have given over 31 gifts!  Thanks for joining me on this adventure.  I'm looking forward to evaluating all of my progress at the end of February!!!

Day Thirty, A Little Sleep!

I am so excited that I made it through the first month...sigh...what a relief!  The kids have not been sleeping well at all due to their colds.  Actually, Tim and I have never slept through the night once our entire marriage, but that comes with having five young kiddo's, right?  I knew Tim needed to work a DUI task force tonight, which means he'll be out from 8pm to around 5am, so I wanted to make sure he got at least a little sleep.  He went to bed around 3am so I let him sleep until 11am for my gift today, he was very grateful.

We have a "system" for handling the late nights that works out well, as well as it possibly could, lol.  Tim is a night owl, so I make sure to get to bed by 10pm while he stays up with whatever children are up...if there are not any, he comes to bed, but he gets up with them if they start crying.  I'm the early bird, so around 3am, I relieve Tim, so he can get some sleep. This way we both get some sleep.  We've never really discussed this, it's just automatic.

So last night I heard Justin crying, he has been miserable with this cold.  So, I glanced over to see Tim wasn't in the bed, but he also wasn't responding to Justin.  Oh no, I thought, he feel asleep on the couch...Tim doesn't do well the next day when he sleeps on the couch.  I looked at the clock and it was 3am...I knew he was toast by this point as they were fussing around 11pm when I went to sleep.  I grabbed Justin and brought him into bed with me, he wasn't happy with this solution and he continued to moan and groan.  He sounds just like the fish Dorey on "Nemo" when he whines...when she does the "whale talk"  Anyway, I decided to bring him downstairs to watch a movie and I needed some water as my stomach acid was getting pretty bad.

It was quite a sight when I came down the stairs...Tim's 6'4" frame was sprawled across the couch, he'd removed most the cushions to get comfy and he was under a little girls comforter.  Abigail was snoring loudly just inches away from the television set on the floor, no pillow, no blanket, apparently she finally collapsed, her arms and legs were spread out like she was sky diving.  She was on Justin's foam mat that he lays on and there is no where else to put him as he can't sit up and can't lay on the couch as he might fall off just like an infant would.  So I quietly laid Justin next to sleeping Abigail.  Well, that was a mistake!  She woke up frantically angry and jealous trying to push Justin off of the mat which sent Tim in a knee jerk reaction..."It's OK" he mumbled wiping drool off of his mouth.  I gave him a kiss and told him to go to bed...he said, "What time is it?"  I told him not to worry, it was 3am and I'd take over.

It took me about 45 mins to convince Abigail that Justin watching the movie with her wasn't the end of the world.  I got really comfy on the couch with the pillows the way I need them and cuddled up.  Then right on cue, Miss Jamie starts jumping on her bed and hysterically laughing.  At this point it is 3:45 and she starts yelling out phrases...she's just learning to talk, so she was saying, "Go to the potty!", "Brush your teeth!", "Eat your dinner..."  Of course, I thought to myself as I plowed up the stairs and informed her that she was to still be sleeping or she'd wake everyone up...not that there were that many sleeping, but anyway.  I was lucky, she did stop.

We all feel asleep after 4am and got up and going around 8am...letting Tim get a few extra hours :-).