Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to (home)School

All three of our girls attended a private school last year.  This year, they decided they wanted to homeschool.  Honestly, I wasn't convinced.  Last year was the first time I was home without children in many years.
It was quiet.
It was calm. 
It was maddening. 
Missing your children isn't a good enough reason to homeschool, though.  I had always felt a very strong conviction to keep my kids at home, but I just didn't feel it this time.  Maybe I was afraid I couldn't do it because it had been almost ten years since I'd taught young children.  In spite of my excuses, they insisted they wanted to stay home.  Jim has always been supportive of all of my decisions, though he certainly prefers that we homeschool.  Truthfully, I felt a lot of pressure and finally gave in to them.
1st day of school breakfast w/a heart
School began for us the first week of August...

...and it's been wonderful. 

All the reasons for homeschooling that I had lost sight of through my fear-clouded vision came back into view.  It only took one day, actually.  It became clear when I watched all of the girls interact on the first day--the laughter and excited chatter, when I saw Madi transform from bored to engaged as I handed her the chalk and asked her to be the teacher, and when I exchanged a book for a more advanced one for Emma.

I homeschool because we are a family and learning together is a privilege.

I homeschool because my children's learning styles and personalities are unique.  We can work until we find the perfect fit for them.
I homeschool because I want them to have a well-rounded education; learning is more than desk work.

I homeschool because I want learning to be fun.
The fear is still there, but thankfully I have help.  The little girls attend an amazing co-op and Mary is taking some of her courses at a local college.
I'm glad these hard-headed determined children didn't give up on their mother when she wasn't seeing clearly.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Up to Our Eyeballs in Eggs

I just looked back and realized that I haven't posted a chicken update since we received our three day old chicks in January.  You can read about it HERE.  A lot has happened since then... 
  • Five months and three days later, we got our first egg,

  • Jim finished the coop (I LOVE it),
They Free-Range And Only Sleep In The Coop

  • we lost three,
  • one chicken required late night stitches,
  • three hens went broody,
  • we don't have a rooster, but just hatched a new chick (figure that one out--haha), and
  • we've enjoyed the experience so much that we decided to name our little farm after one (Any guesses?).
The hens started laying small and we had a few strange ones, but they've got the hang of it now.  All of them have been laying regularly (hence the title of the post).

An Egg Inside Of An Egg!
We've been giving the extra eggs away to friends and family.  Hopefully, one day we'll be able to sell some of them. I'm working on a website for the farm and Jim is building a yard sign to help get the word out.  We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Simple Mayonnaise

Out of the many exquisite-tasting sauces we enjoyed in France, mayonnaise was one of my favorites. Had I known how simple it was to make delicious mayonnaise at home, I would have been whipping it up ages ago. 

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder   
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice                

1/4 teaspoon salt                       

2  eggs (from pasture raised hens, if possible)                              
1 tablespoon white vinegar (double the vinegar if you don't have lemon juice)                      

2 cups olive oil

Put all of the ingredients, except the oil, into a blender.  Set your blender to medium and sloooowly drizzle in the oil until fluffy and creamy.  The slower you add the oil, the creamier the consistency.  Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the fridge.  That's it!

So, why have we been using the expensive mayo with (probably GMO) soybean oil and preservatives? 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Alveolar Bone Graft

There aren't many personal stories about Alveolar Bone Graft surgery, so I want to take the time to post and share our experience.  Hopefully, it will help other moms and dads out there. :)
Early Morning Arrival 16 July

Our daughter is 8 years old and had the surgery a few weeks ago. She was born with a unilateral cleft, had surgeries on her lip and palate when she was 2 years old, and has undergone 3 fat transfers. 

I have a lot of random thoughts about the surgery bouncing around in my head.  Hopefully it will be clearer if I type them out in bullet form.  So, here are a few thoughts and "lessons learned:"

The procedure:
  • She had a tooth in her palate removed 6 weeks before the surgery to give it time to heal. 
  • Surprisingly, her surgeon recommended that she not have a palate expander before the surgery (said it was old-fashioned). 
  • He preferred using bone (which came from her hip) instead of Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) because he it was easier to mold it into the cleft.
  • Surgery timeline:  We had a 515 a.m. show time.  She went into Surgery at 715.  They started "charting" the surgery at 755, called us back to speak with the doctor at 915, and updated us from Recovery at 1015.  She was in her room and resting by 1100 a.m.
  • He said her gum will be completely "normal" and ready for orthodontics one month post-op.
Cleft In Gum

Random thoughts on our experience:
  • Mentally, this was a difficult surgery for me.  We knew it was coming and she had already gone through a lot of procedures (one only 3 months earlier).  I was really struggling, especially after reading about the long recovery time. It wasn't nearly as bad as I feared, though.  The first 3 days of were similar to her palate recovery.  After that, she was very much like her old self.
She looked very normal immediately after the surgery.  I was surprised there wasn't more swelling.  On Day 2, her face was very swollen but that was completely normal.
The Worst Swelling: Day After Surgery Leaving Hospital

  • At the end of a week, she was only a little puffy around her upper lip.
    Playing Thumb Wrestling With Dad 
  • They attached a pain med ball to her hip in surgery.  It worked incredibly well and Madi didn't hurt at all. 
    Pain Medication For Hip
  • I read some children have this surgery as an outpatient.  I'm very glad we stayed overnight.  She did great, but it was nice to have professionals checking on her.  Also, she wasn't able to eat or drink much, so I believe the I.V. was very important.
  • The most difficult problem we had in the hospital was caused by the Morphine.  She needed it but, at the same time, it made her nauseous.
  • I used the prescription pain meds more often than with her other surgeries.  We used them as prescribed (she acted a little loopy for a while) then we went to every other dose (Advil or regular Tylenol in between). Three days after the surgery, she only took over the counter medicine.
  • Also on Day 3 post-op, Madi was walking around (slowly) and even went outside for a little while.
  • I was worried about feeding her, but it was also a lot easier than I was expecting.  The first 3 days, she was on a liquid diet.  After that, she could eat anything that was soft (nothing that had to be bitten down on with her front teeth).  I'll list some of the foods below.
  • One week after the surgery, she was asking to ride her scooter.  Her appetite was completely back to normal and she would have been fine to go to school (surgery was in July), though no sports for 6 weeks.  At two weeks, she was allowed to swim. The restriction had to do with the healing of her incision, not the risk of injury.
What worked well for us:
  • A protein shake shaker:  Oh my goodness, this worked so well!  Madi couldn't drink out of a straw and a regular glass could've bumped her lip or been messy.  The shaker had a curved-type spout that made it very easy for her to use. 
    Some Worked, Others...Not So Much
  • Ice Packs!: I can't stress this one enough! The medicine would sometimes make her dizzy and hot, so she loved having ice packs on her neck and face.  Even after she was feeling better, she still enjoyed them, which was great because it helped with the swelling.
  • Plastic spoons:  This might have been overkill, but I didn't want metal to accidentally hit her gum in the beginning.
  • I bought Ensure shakes, but the hospital gave us Pediasure shakes to try.  Madi liked the taste of Pediasure much better (though she was so over them after a couple of days).
  • A Magic Bullet-type blender or a regular blender for making liquid foods.
  • I gave her extra calcium before the surgery in chewable form.  She drank a lot of milk, orange juice with calcium, and shakes after the surgery, too.  I don't know for certain this helped, but hopefully it gave the bone in her graft area an extra boost.
  • She used an anti-bacterial mouthwash the night before and a few days after her surgery.  Again, I'm not sure if this made a difference or not.
  • A recovery area in the living room so she could be close to us and comfortable.  It took a few days before she could walk up stairs.  We gave her a bell to ring if she needed anything (she rang it a lot--haha).
  • A shower bench:  I would recommend purchasing some kind of little stool, if you don't have a built in bench.  Madi was a little weak the first few days, so this made it possible for her to sit down in the shower. 
Not necessary, but helpful:
  • A Mother & Dad/Daughter day:  We drove up the day before her surgery for the required pre-op visit.  Nothing much happened at the doctor's office, but spending the night in the hotel (I made sure it had a pool) and giving Madi special alone time with us was a wonderful experience.  I believe the time together helped all of us mentally prepare for the surgery. The hotel had a special rate for hospital patients. 

  • A diversion:  We bought her a DS and gave it to her the night before the surgery.  She played it until it was time to go to the operating room and even tried to play it when she woke up.  I usually don't allow the kids to play video games for long, but the DS was worth its weight in gold this time.
A New DS

What didn't work:
  • A water-pik:  I read about it on another blog.  I thought I could use it to gently flush out the area (I bought one for children).  Her surgeon said absolutely not.  He did stress the importance of brushing her teeth immediately (avoiding the repaired area, at first).
  • Too much special food:  The shakes were great, but she could eat most of the same things we ate, sometimes modified with extra liquid in a blender.
  • Gatorade and Jello: I normally don't buy these products because of their ingredients, but grabbed them in a mad rush to stock the pantry the night before we left.  Gatorade is loaded with sodium and wouldn't help the swelling and the Jello (and the dye) just wasn't necessary. 
  • Walking:  They really encouraged us to get her moving as soon as possible to avoid stiffness in her hip.  We carried her everywhere most of the time.  If I had to do it over again, I would wait until she was ready.  She loves to run and play, so it didn't take long.
  • Not planning some away time for little sister:  A lot of attention was paid to Madi the first couple of days, of course.  Emma was very sweet and attentive, but after a little while I think she felt a little lonely and left out.  If I had to do it over again, I would schedule her a play-date or two with a friend or cousin to get her out of the house a bit. 
    Little Sis Taking Care Of Madi
What she ate:
  • For about the first 3 days she had liquid (drinkable) foods from her protein shake bottle:  Nutrition shakes, drinkable yogurt, pureed chicken & dumplings with extra broth (She loved this, probably because it wasn't like all of the other sweet drinks.), creamy tomato soup, juice, chocolate milk, thinned milkshakes, etc.  
  • When she felt better we switched to soft foods:  scrambled eggs, spaghetti, breads, cut-up fruits, cheese, etc.  She could really eat most anything, as long as she didn't use her front teeth to bite it.  She even ate a peanut butter & jelly sandwich one day.  I just made sure to cut everything into little, bite-sized pieces.  I told her to pretend she lost her two front teeth and reminded her often not to use them.
What she didn't eat:
  • Crunchy foods that require using front teeth: corn on the cob, crunchy tacos, raw carrots or celery, whole apples, etc. 
It's been a month since Madi's surgery and she's had no problems. The stitches in her mouth dissolved  and you have to look closely to even see an incision scar on her hip. She's scheduled for another post-op visit next month to get an X-ray of the bone, so I'm excited to see how it's doing.

I'm still amazed at how well the surgery went and how quickly she recovered.  We had many friends and family praying for Madi and the family coming over with hugs and get-well gifts helped so much, too. Thanks everyone so much!  

If you have any questions about the surgery that I didn't cover, please feel free to email me. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I (HEART) Lucy!

I really want the benefits of raw milk for my family.  The problem is, our small acreage isn't big enough to support a dairy cow.  We could have goats, but they've never been my favorite animal--far from it.  My apologies to all of you goat lovers out there. Maybe it has to do with the mean buck we had when I was a kid (pardon the pun).  That also might explain why I get a little creeped out over their eyes.  The horror stories I've heard about their destruction of property, including fences, doesn't help either.

Anyway, the answer to our having a small place and my weird fear of goats...a Miniature Jersey!

I started looking for one shortly after we moved here.  Surprisingly, a purebred Miniature Jersey is difficult to find.  I've heard there are only a few hundred in the U.S. We could have gone for a mixed-breed, but we want to do our part to keep the quality of the Mini-Jersey breed intact. To read about their history click HERE.  God provided by allowing us to sell some things we left behind in France right before the purchase! We owe so much thanks to our sweet French/Russian friends, Michael and Vika, for their help!

I think these beautiful, gentle creatures are perfect for a small homestead.  I'm so excited we have a Miniature Jersey and that we will eventually help other families have their own.

I'm certain there will be many more posts about Mini-Jerseys to come, but for now here is our sweet Lucy.  She's 6 months old, named after Lucille Ball for her hair (yes, another redhead in the family), and sweet as pie. :)

The girls are excited that she's "kid-sized."

Excited About Things To Come

For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:10-12