Thursday, February 28, 2013

Growing & Updating!

I’m so pleased with how this blog is growing! It makes my heart swell knowing how many of you read my posts and have taken an interest in our little corner of the word. I also love how many people have learned even just a little bit about Juvenile Arthritis through my posts! One step at a time!

With the growth of the blog I have been given some great opportunities! I’ve been able to do some fun reviews and features and cannot wait to do more!

With that I have decided to step it up a bit! I am now offering sponsor spots on my blog! What does that mean? Well, that means for a very reasonable cost you can have your blog, etsy shop or business featured on my page! Each ad is affordably priced and will offer a full month of exposure. That means each time some one reads a post on my blog they will see your ad! What a great way to reach new people!

Here are the sponsor slots I have set up for now. As I said, they are all very affordably priced! As an added bonus for the month of March if you need an appropriately sized button for your add I will be happy to design one for you at no extra cost! You’ll just need to message me before purchasing So go on! Grab a spot on my sponsor page before they’re gone!SponsorSpots

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Monkey’s First Day of PreK–#WW

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So excited for his first day of school!
He couldn’t wait to use his special backpack from the Arthritis Foundation!
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He’s so excited that he’s dragging Zim along!
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Also linking up today with A Day in the Life for Little Wonders Wednesday!

Monday, February 25, 2013

On the whole Dr. Oz thing…

As you all may know there was an article posted in the NY Times recently written by a mother of a JA child. It caused a lot of stir in the JA community and even more after it was a featured topic on the Dr. Oz show. The article was about how this mother was able to help her son’s JA symptoms feel better by drastically changing his diet. I found the article very interesting and it definitely made me wonder if we’d be able to achieve something similar if we did this with Monkey. I have had the pleasure of ‘meeting’ many JA mom’s through the internet who have done something similar with their young children and have had great success. We’ve discussed going gluten free and even tried it for Monkey but he’s SO stubborn and flat our refused the alternatives I offered.

There are some parents who are absolutely outraged by the way JA was presented on the show. They are saying that it’s showing JA as a simple disease that can easily be ‘cured’ just by just a diet change. I understand their feelings. JA is a disease that very few know about despite the fact that it effects so many. JA advocates have been working hard to raise awareness and this probably wasn’t exactly what they had in mind. I know many people are writing to Dr. Oz about this. It would be nice if he would do a follow up piece specifically on JA and the many ways it attacks our children. It’s so important that people get a true view of this disease and see that while yes, some can find comfort and remission in natural methods others cannot. Sometimes medication is necessary and that’s ok too.

Maybe I’m just naive but I wish people would start realizing that everyone is doing what they feel is best for their child. I wish people would stop judging others because they chose a natural/alternative route or a traditional medicine route. What’s best for your child isn’t always what’s best for someone else’s child…actually it rarely is. We are all unique and therefore require individual and unique treatment. What brings us together though should be a common goal…to help our children on their journey with this disease and do whatever we can to ease their pain.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It’s been awhile!

I decided to dig out the sewing machine today and put some of the piles of fabric I have to use! I have a dear friend who is a very talented baker. Her birthday was this month so decided I wanted to make her a cute little apron.

If I would have given myself more time I would have created my own pattern but since I was in a hurry I decided to do a quick search through my Pinterest boards for this easy tutorial. (The pocket with ribbon accent was my own little addition.)

Now that it’s done I love it and can’t wait to tweak the pattern a bit and make one for myself!

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thoughts on Potty Training…

Potty Training can be quite frustrating. Many people feel the need to start as soon as possible and while some kids do in fact get it at an early age many others don’t. For those that don’t it often leads to frustration and many accidents. I’m a huge advocate of waiting until you child is ready. I saw an article a few months ago that really confirmed my thoughts on the whole potty training issue. You can read the article here. I highly recommend reading this…especially if you’ve been frustrated with potty training!

Here are some things that really stood out to me in the article:

“As a pediatric urologist who specializes in toileting problems, I’ll tell you this: Children under age 3 should not manage their own toileting habits any more than they should manage their college funds.”

“Babies need to experience uninhibited voiding, or elimination, without the expectation of using the toilet at such an early age.”

“To understand the risks of early training, it’s important to know that virtually all toileting problems – pee and poop accidents, bedwetting, urinary frequency, and urinary tract infections – are related to chronically holding pee or poop or both.”

With our oldest I felt the need to start trying when he was 2 years old. Because of his personality he would cooperate to the point that he would sit on his little potty for 3o minutes for me. Unfortunately, his little bum would get sore and he’d want to get up. Thinking he must not need to go I’d let him go about his normal stuff only to find him soaking wet five minutes later. *sigh*

I’d try with him for a weekend, find he wasn’t ready, wait a few weeks, then try all over again. We tried loading him up with fluid, rewarding him with sticker charts, M&Ms, standing up to pee, putting Cheerios in the potty, etc. I thought we tried it all. We resigned ourselves to hanging up the potty towel for a while. Once he was three we noticed his diaper was dry when he woke up. Hmmmmm…maybe it was time to try again. So we’d try, fail, hang it up for a couple weeks, try again. Finally, a few months after he turned three some one gave me an amazing suggestion. A prize box! I went to the dollar store and filled a basket with all sorts of items and treats that a 3 year old would love. That weekend he was SO excited to try again and guess what! He did it! I guess he just needed the right motivation! We went through the basked of toys and treats in two days! By the week we had him in pull ups (since he was in daycare) and a diaper at night just to be safe. He was always dry. Every once in a while he’d have trouble making it to the potty in time for the lovely #2 but I think that’s normal and to be expected. Regardless, we were all thrilled.

Because of this experience we waited until Zim was 3 as well to approach training. Yes, we discussed the potty and going on the potty with him but he clearly wasn’t ready so we didn’t push it. Some one once gave me the BEST advise. When the kid is ready it will just click like a switch. If you push it when they are not ready you end up with frustration and many accidents and wet beds. I don’t know about you but I’d much rather change a diaper in the morning than wet sheets in the middle of the night. We’ve been very fortunate in that with both Bub and Zim once it clicked for them that was it. They seriously had not one accident once they decided it was time. It was such a blessing!

When Monkey’s third birthday was approaching we started discussing the potty with him. Well, he wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with it. Ok, fine….the others didn’t get it until well after their 3rd birthday so we’ll wait. Fast forward a few months, still no interest. Oye. Fast forward to this past month. I noticed that he clearly knew when he had to poop. Not only would he hide but he’d go all the way upstairs to the bathroom and close the door! I tried to follow him once with his little potty promising him all his favorite things if he’d just go in his potty but that resulted in a complete meltdown. *sigh* Oh well…we’ll wait.

Then yesterday happened. We decided to try the potty prizes again. He went with me and picked out a bunch of fun stuff and treats knowing that the only way he’d get them was to go potty. He decided to try before bath and much to his surprise he peed! He was SOOOO excited! “Momma!!!! I did SUCH a good job!” Of course we made a HUGE deal out of it and he couldn’t wait to finish his bath and go pick his special prize! This morning I asked him to try before we went downstairs and while he thought he wouldn’t go he indeed did! I’m very excited that this could be the beginning of the end of diapers for us! I know that these were just two times and I know that tomorrow he may fight me again but at least he knows that he CAN do it. I do hope this is it for him…that this is his time. But I also know that this may just be the start of his potty training journey and that’s ok too. It’s a step in the right direction and for that we are all very excited!

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(Please know that I do not disagree with anyone’s choice to potty train their child at an early age. For some children and parents it works great and I’m thrilled for (and a little jealous) of those that train early! I posted this info and article to help others who’ve been in the same boat as us know that it’s ok if your kiddo trains later in their young life. Each child is different and that’s what makes the world so beautiful.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Common Theme

The past few weeks I’ve been reading more blogs, books and inspirational posts and I’m finding a common theme…

dream

God has put a dream in my heart…a dream that even I am not completely aware of and a dream that I never would have thought possible. I still don’t know what that dream is but I am starting to see glimpses and it excited and terrifies me. My flesh tells me “no way you can do anything remotely like that” but then I’m reminded that through Him all things are possible.

I found this inspirational blog called ‘A Life Surrendered’ and I’ve been reading her series “Dream Again”. I’m way behind but I love what I’ve read so far. Then yesterday she posted this post. Wow…wow, wow, wow. She quoted from a book called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson,

“You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue.”

She went on to talk about how God is just waiting for us, asking us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Yes, He knows our heart and He knows our faith but He often is waiting for us to come to Him. Maybe the reason why I have yet to see clearly the dream He has placed in my heart is because I have yet to ask Him to show me. I haven’t claimed it yet! WOW!

I also read this yesterday in a devotional called Jesus Calling:

“True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless you with what you have decided to do. It is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant MY desires within you. I may infuse within you a dream that seams far beyond your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal. Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on Me.”

With faith and trust I can attain the dream He has for me which is a greater dream than I could ever dream for myself. I’m so in awe of how God is speaking to me and I hope that some of these words speak to you as well. xo

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

From the Mouth of Zim

“Momma, how come God let’s you be mad at us?”

Um, what? “What do you mean?”

“Why does God let you be mad at us? I don’t think God would be happy when you yell at us.”

Oye…first of all remember my post about how I feel like I yell at them all the time? Yeah, this isn’t what I needed to hear. Deep breath….

“Well, buddy, I’m sure it probably doesn’t make Him happy. Even God is angry sometimes but He always forgives us. Do you think it makes God happy when you don’t listen to me or do things you’re not supposed to do? You know that’s usually why I yell.”

I think that stopped him in his tracks. Seriously though! I mean this kid is crazy smart and part of me feels like he was trying to find a way to tell me that I should stop yelling at him. As I said before…OYE!

Zim and I definitely butt heads. He is very different than Bubba. In fact he is a lot like my younger brother…which scares me a little. I mentioned this to my brother once…

Me: “I already have my “some day you’re going to have a child just like you” kid…Bubba is me to the core. WHY did I get one just like YOU?! Haven’t I been through enough already?” 

He says, “Well, I guess it’s because you have great experience and know what to expect. You’ll be fine.” He says laughing. Even now he’s still my bratty little brother. haha

I know that his stubborn nature and strong will are going to be great assets for him down the line but right now they often frustrate the heck out of me! It’s so hard to tell when he’s not doing something just to be stubborn or if he’s truly bothered about something. I pray and pray that I have the tools to be a good momma to him. I don’t want to squash his amazing personality but at the same time I want him to learn that there are limits and proper ways to behave. Such a fine line sometimes.

Through all the crazy that he is though he is one of the most amazing little people. He has this incredible sense of humor…he’s always making us laugh! And deep in his heart he is so caring and grateful. He truly appreciates things and will make sure you know.

Raising kids is so much more difficult than I thought it would be. I mean, we are responsible for these little people! Not just to make sure that they survive until adulthood but to make sure they are trained and taught so they can be a properly functioning part of the human race. Then you add on top of that the spiritual aspect of making sure they know about God and His truths. Well, it’s quite daunting! I have to remind myself though that God gave these little men to us for a reason and He equipped my hubs and I with exactly what we need to raise them even though I often feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. I guess we are all just learning as we go.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Processed Food Alternatives

I’ve been trying lately to cut out as much processed foods as possible and make as much as I can from scratch. I’m finding that it’s not quite as hard as one would think. This weekend I made two things that we normally buy premade that we use often. Canned cream soup and chocolate syrup.

Many of the casseroles I make call for cream soup so I often have cans of it on my pantry shelf. I came across this recipe on Pinterest that looked really simple so I figured I’d give it a try.

I gathered my ingredients:

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Added them all into a gallon zip bag:

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Shake it like crazy and you’re done!

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It was SO easy to make and tastes really good! I will never buy another can of cream soup again! I’m going to look and see if I can find some granulated vegetable bullion to use instead of the chicken.

This weekend we also ran out of chocolate syrup…not an uncommon thing in our house. The boys love their chocolate milk plus it’s a great drink to put Monkey’s crushed folic acid pills in…he never notices. A friend of mine recently posted a recipe for a clean chocolate syrup recipe and said that her kids loved it. I figured it would at least be worth a try! I don’t have any photos of this recipe but it was also super simple and really good! The boys didn’t even notice a difference and it’s SO much better for them! I even put a little in my hazelnut coffee! YUM! Here is the recipe so you can try it too! 

I’m going to start looking for other things I can make from scratch to eliminate more processed stuff from our diet. I’m hoping I can find more recipes that are as simple and cost effective as these! I hope you’ll give these a try too! Let me know what you think if you do! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Working together to make things happen!

As some of you know Monkey was chosen to be one of this year’s honorees for the Spring Arthritis Walk. We are so honored by this and we are working even harder now to raise awareness and funds for the Arthritis Foundation!

Today I spoke with the local coordinator, Kristina, about some more fundraising ideas and ways that we can work together to make this walk rock! I am so pumped and determined to make some of our ideas a reality! (Sorry for all the !!! I’m just really excited!!! haha) So far the fundraising ideas we’ve discussed are:

~ My friend selling baked goods at local offices. (So far she’s already had great success and we SO appreciate that she’s doing this for Monkey!)

~ A cut-a-thon at our local salon.

~ Possible fitness class fundraiser with a local fitness club.

~ Selling calzones or candy bars from local businesses.

~ Setting out donation cans with flyers at local businesses.

~ Possibly hold an online auction.

~ Sell paracord bracelets with a blue ribbon for JA.

I’m also really excited to share with you that Kristina informed me that she is nominating Monkey and our family to be considered to be a National Honoree. How awesome would it be to help raise JA awareness on a NATIONAL level?!

Sometimes it feels like our voices are so small and so often unheard but when we work together we can amplify our voice and share our stories about JA! Together we can make sure that more people know about JA and the families it effects. Together we can help raise funds to further research that could lead to a cure some day! If you would like to help in any way please let me know! You can also join our walk team or make a donation by visiting our team page here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love

love is

Love is an amazing thing. The love you feel for your spouse, the love you feel for your children, the love you feel for your friends. They are all so unique and so very fulfilling. I have found that in order to enjoy these types of love that I must first truly love myself. This can be so hard sometimes because we are our biggest critic and we often see faults in ourselves that aren’t even there. Accept yourself for who you are, the good and the bad, and love yourself! You are an amazing person with unbelievable gifts! You have so much to offer the world! You are such a blessing! You are AWESOME! Have faith in yourself and love yourself for without this you cannot truly enjoy the blessing of loving others.

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Then there is the greatest love of all…the love that God has for us. I have the hardest time comprehending this love. It is so deep and so large and so perfect. He loves me…even when I fail Him (which is often). A friend of mine said something to me about God’s love that blew my mind. She said that God cannot love us anymore than He already does. I always had thought that the more I did for Him the more He would love me. He loves me so much more than I could ever imagine and nothing I do will make Him love me more OR love me less. His love for me is unending, complete and constant. How amazing is that?!

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I hope that today you will feel His perfect love and transfer that into a love for who you are. When you are filled with that love it will bubble over into all the other areas of your life! You will be blessed and in turn you will bless those around you…what a beautiful thing!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Set for Spring with Old Navy!

Seeing how we have three boys we do a looooot of hand me downs. We’ve also been blessed with gently used items from friends and family as well. This is great for us as I’m sure everyone with kids knows how quickly they grow out of clothes and how expensive clothing three young boys can be!

That said, I do love to shop for them! It helps that they get so excited about new shirts and shoes. I love to shop at Old Navy and when I saw that they were having their Kid’s and Baby Sale I knew we’d find some great deals!

When we walked into the store the boys were SO excited. Right away they were greeted with shirts displaying all their favorite characters…Angry Birds, Star Wars, Lego Star Wars, Angry Bird Star Wars! (Do you sense a theme here with my boys?!) I also loved the shirts…I mean seriously…who doesn’t love a bright character tee?! But what I really loved was the price! $8 for a character tee! Usually we get ‘normal/boring’ shirts because they are the cheapest…not this time though! They boys were so thrilled to get some awesome shirts with all their favs!

While we shopped around some more we ran into one of the store managers, Jennifer W. She was so helpful asking if I needed anything. She chatted happily with the boys about their favorite characters and was so patient as they went on and on about the shirts they just picked out.

We gathered up our choices and headed to the register. Would you believe that I got all of this for less than $80?! That’s right! We all walked out of the store happy! I was happy because of the great deals and they were thrilled because of their awesome new clothes!

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Monkey picked these three shirts and these adorable swim shorts!
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Zim picked these…he was super pumped about the Tom and Jerry!
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Bubba picked these. He loves that his one shirt matches Monkey’s.
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Don’t they just look to stinken’ cute?!
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Being Grateful

Today is the first day of Lent and while we don’t practice the traditions of giving things up I am going to start our own tradition. I’m going to live every day in a spirit of gratitude. Today I’m focusing hard on taking my thoughts captive. When a thought of doubt or fear creeps in I’m going to think of all the blessings in my life. I’m going to remind myself that He has faith in me and has given me wonderful grace to get through anything that comes my way.

Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful and focus on our blessings. Often the trials and craziness of life takes over and distracts us. There is help though! Some one recently reminded me of the armor of God and how important it is to put it on daily.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” ~Eph. 6:13-18

He has blessed us with the tools to get us through. It is our job to put these tools on and put them to use! I know it sounds kind of corny but when I read this verse I close my eyes and picture myself putting on armor. I visualize protecting myself with His grace, His word, His truth and His love. When I feel the thoughts and daggers of untruth coming I focus on His protection on me and remind myself to stand firm.

I came across a really neat idea on Pinterest for Lent that I’m going to try with the boys. Kristen blogs about how she and her family do gratitude ribbons. I love this! It’s such a simple way to help the boys focus on their blessings as well. (You can read more about how Kristen and her family celebrate this season here.)

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Today my ribbon is for you…I am so grateful for each and every one of you. It means so much to me that you take time out of your day to read what I have to say. I so appreciate your encouraging words, your sweet comments and your support. I love the fact that I’ve made some new friends through this blog. People I probably never would have met it I hadn’t started writing. You are all blessings to me!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shifting Thoughts

First off I want to thank all of you for reading my post yesterday. I hesitated pushing that ‘publish’ button but I’m very glad I did. Thank you also to those who messaged me and commented. I’m sorry that there are others experiencing the same feelings but at the same time I feel better knowing I’m not alone! Together we can help each other through this. xx

That said, here is part two of my post from yesterday. I hope that you will find encouragement here and I hope that together we can shift our thoughts.

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As I mentioned in my last post I listened to the pull on my heart and headed to church. There is a newer church in the area that we’ve visited a couple of times called Exalt. It’s a lovely, young church that meets in a school gym with a pastor who seems to be very focused on God and the church. I arrived a little late and as the songs ended I found a seat next to a friend who's been going there as well. Pastor Tom began his sermon which was the second part of a series called Perspective. This week’s word was titled “How to Become a Though Shifter.” Here are my notes…I have linked the verses so if you want to read them you can simply click on them.

~God gave us each a dream, a unique purpose. This got me thinking, as I’ve been thinking a lot lately, what is MY purpose. What is the dream that He’s given me? How do I find it?

~This life is not about you. (Phil. 2:5-7)

~You are what you think! If you think you can’t do it, you can’t! If you think you’re doing a lousy job, you will! Oh man oh man…this spoke to me.  (James 1: 5-8; 2 Corinthians 10: 5)  I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I need to take every thought captive!

~To be a thought shifter we must…

ThoughtShifter

~Hang in there! Do NOT give up on God!

~Start a prayer journal.

~We have to think like Him. Thing about pleasing God and loving people.

~If we are empty then He can fill us.

~He sees something in me that I don’t. He knows my design and His plans for me are perfect. Until I take my hands off He cannot truly do the work in me that He has planned.

~Begin to think of others. (Philippians 2:8-11)

~Joy isn’t based on my circumstances but on what God is doing in and through me. Wow. What am I basing my joy in? Do I need to refocus?

~God wants to use your misery as ministry, your pain as encouragement. There is a reason we go through the trials. We must be patient and trust Him.

One other thing that Pastor Tom said that really stuck with me was about self abandonment and surrender. Do I want to stand and face the enemy with God behind me? Yes, He will be there to catch me when/if I fall. BUT how much better would it be to have Him standing in front of me? To stand guard over me and be there to stop the enemy when he comes.

What did I take away from all of this? Well, I need a major attitude adjustment. I also need to concentrate daily, maybe even hourly, on keeping my focus on Him and not on the crashing waves. I need to have faith that He who started a good work in me WILL finish it. I need to have faith in myself! God sees great things in me…I need to see them too!

Before we were dismissed they sang this song…Your Great Name, by Natalie Grant.

“Every fear, has no place, at the sound of Your great name.”

“The enemy, he has to flee, at the sound of Your great name.”

“All the week, find their strength, at the sound of Your great name.”

I know I have a long way to go…I know that all my fears and doubts will still try to control me every day and that every day, every hour, I will need to redirect my focus. I hope that these words are as encouraging to you as they are to me. I hope that you will join me in shifting thoughts and having more faith in Him and in turn faith in who we are through Him. May we find the dream He has planted in our hearts and may we find an amazing strength to live that dream passionately.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Worn

I want to start this by letting you all know that I’m laying out my heart in this post. This is a very honest look into my heart. To some it might sound depressing but to others it might be encouraging…if you too are or have felt this you are not alone. I’m going to break this post up into a couple installments so it’s not a huge book to read. I will say that while this post is heavy there is good coming. In our darkest hours is when we find Him…when we are completely empty He can then fill us. Through our pain and hurt He speaks to us and blesses us to help others.

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Lately I’ve been struggling. I’ve been battling those demons that I think every mother fights…the “am I really cut out for this” demons. The ones that make you feel like you suck at being a parent. That make you feel overwhelmed at life and the crazy moments and crazy mess that comes along with having three kids…three BOYS none the less. I feel so guilty for admitting that I’ve had these feelings. I mean, this is what I always wanted…to be a stay-at-home momma and wife. But why, now that I’m here, do I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing and no clue what God’s plan is for me?

A friend of mine recently went through some difficult times herself. She explained the overwhelming feeling perfectly and this is how I’ve felt lately. “It’s like your standing in the ocean and the water is up to your shoulders and the waves are just rolling in. They keep swallowing you, barely giving you time to catch the smallest breath before the next big wave comes over your head.”

I look at my beautiful boys and feel like I’m failing them. There are days that I feel like all I do is yell at them. Then I wonder, maybe they are acting out because they need me. Then I feel guilty. I wonder if I’m doing the best I can with them. What is even the best for them anyway? How on earth do I know? Where do I even begin? And the house…oh the mess that these boys make! It’s never ending! Thank goodness for my husband…he does so much here to help. If it weren’t for him I think I’d truly give up on the mess! By the time the laundry is done, folded, and put away and the rooms are clean and organized you turn around and it’s one bit chaotic mess again! I’ll be honest, sometimes I think “Why do we even bother cleaning it up?!” I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way….well, at least I hope I’m not.

Sunday morning I felt the very strong pull to go to church. A church that we’d visited recently posted on Facebook Saturday about the message they were sharing this week and I felt God saying to my heart “You need to hear this.” I pushed the feeling aside for the moment. I woke up though and sat with my coffee contemplating. I enjoy church…I love singing and feeling wrapped up in the music. I just really didn’t want to go…I mean, that meant I’d have to get a shower and get dressed and even *gasp* put make-up on! But, I listened to my heart and gave myself a kick in the butt and headed out. On the way I fought the doubting in my heart. I’ve been trying to listen to K-Love more often. I know that when I listen I am filled with a better spirit. The songs are often very uplifting. As I was driving a song came on that really struck me.

The opening words alone made me want to cry:
“I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail”

Again I felt guilty for letting my hope fail. I know my God is an awesome God and I know that through Him I can get through anything. But still I have let these doubts and fears cloud my heart and my mind. But…God wanted me to hear this song…He wanted me to know that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. He also wanted to prepare my heart for the word that He would be speaking to me through the pastor that morning.

Tomorrow I will share this word with you as I think this post is already lengthy enough. Please know that that there is hope here. That while I have felt little hope I do know that my hope can and will be renewed. I pray that you will come back to read what I have to share tomorrow…

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fotobomb Friday - 2nd Installment

We had SO much fun celebrating Zim’s 5th birthday yesterday! Here are some of the many pictures we took!

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Zim!

Today my middle baby turns five…FIVE…how fast these past five years have gone! I can close my eyes and still vividly remember the day he was born and being shocked at how big he was! At 9 lbs even he looked like he was three months old! Just look at those cheeks! Happy birthday little man! Love you SO much!

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Brina’s Story…Another JA Hero

When Monkey was diagnosed with JA I was shocked and confused. I had no clue that a child could have arthritis. Then I found out that there are over 300,000 kids that have been diagnosed with JA! In the past few months I’ve met some JA families through support groups and I’m amazed. Why? Because what these kids go through on a daily basis while still smiling is truly mind blowing. Really puts things into perspective.

Today I’m going to share Brina’s story with you. Brina’s mom, Beverly, asked if I would help her by writing an article about their journey with JA thus far. With her permission, I’m happy to share their story with you.

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Brina is a beautiful girl…full of life and always smiling. She loves animals, arts, crafts and school with her favorite subject being math. Looking at this sweet 8 year old girl you would never know there was anything wrong but Brina lives with a disease that is becoming more and more common among children…Juvenile Arthritis.

As a young child Brina developed normally…sitting up, standing and even walking at the early age of nine months. Unfortunately, Brina would get sick frequently...seemingly catching every ‘bug’ that was going around and taking weeks to get better. She also got frequent ear infections which eventually led to surgery. When Brina was four her parents noticed something else was different. Brina’s right pointer finger had swollen up. Thinking it may have been a spider bite they marked and monitored the swelling but it never changed for the better or for the worse.

Brina’s parents took her to their primary care doctor they were told to keep an eye on the finger. That maybe she jammed it and it just needed to heal. When seeing that it was not getting any better the doctor ordered x-rays and put her finger in a splint thinking that she was reinjuring the finger and that was why it wasn’t getting any better. Over the next 16 weeks Brina became more and more uncomfortable as other joints began to swell. Soon ten of her joints were swollen causing her so much pain that she couldn’t walk.

Almost 6 months after their initial appointment with the primary care doctor, Brina’s parents asked her doctor to please refer them to a specialist. After doing some research on their own they were starting to wonder if she had arthritis. In April of 2009 Brina had her first appointment with Dr. Knibbe, a rheumatologist, who confirmed that she in fact had a childhood disease called JRA/JIA, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis/Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. JRA/JIA isn’t the same arthritis that most people are used to. It is actually an autoimmune disease that is treated with a variety of medications some which include common cancer drugs.

Over the next month Brina started her new medication regimen. Every week she received an injection of a chemo drug called Methotrexate (MTX) given in her own home. Now, these injections weren’t given by a nurse but by Brina’s own family. When she began the injections her mother tried to give them to her but as you can imagine as a mother this was very difficult. Thankfully Brina’s grandmother stepped in to help with the injections. Brina did her best to understand why she had to get these injections but like any child she was not fond of them. Soon the doctor added Prednisone (steroid) to Brina’s medications. Thankfully this was something she could take orally. Even with the two medications some of Brina’s joints were not improving and the doctor suggested doing a direct injection. After 14 months on the medications Brina’s body stopped responding to them. She was also experiencing some of the unfortunate side effects such as days of nausea and vomiting as well as hair loss and weight loss. The doctor recommended adding a new medication to the list…a biologic drug called Enbrel. During all of this Brina was also experiencing severe stomach discomfort and after seeing a Gastroenterologist was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease…another autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the intestines and bowels.

Soon even the Enbrel was failing her and the doctors moved on to another biologic drug called Humeria. This worked similarly to Enbrel except it was administered every two weeks via injection but it caused severe burning at the injection site. Brina was not happy with this new medication at all and often begged her parents to not give it to her. This was all just too much for her young body and spirit.

Brina’s parents decided to seek a second opinion to see if there was a better way to treat her pain and discomfort. In May of 2012 they traveled to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT. Here the rheumatologist recommended a drug called Orencia. This medication was a bit different though. It would be dosed via infusion rather than injection at home. This meant that the family would have to travel to Salt Lake City every two weeks so Brina could get an infusion. Thankfully she responded very well to this new treatment and loved her new doctor and infusion nurse.

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Brina is now on a monthly infusion of Orencia that seems to be helping with her JA. She will also be starting Physical Therapy soon to help with some of the permanent damage the arthritis has done to her joints. Due to the disease and the immune suppressant nature of the medications that Brina is on she is now homeschooled as well. While Brina is doing better and this disease is being maintained her fight is still ongoing. There is hope for remission in the future and that is something she and her family hold onto tightly.

Juvenile Arthritis is a nasty disease. A disease that not many know about and that many view as a minor problem. What they don’t see are the struggles that the children and parents live with on a daily basis. The pain it causes and the adjustments that they have to make every day to make things a little easier and less painful. This is a real disease and one that people need to be made aware of. Over 300,000 children have been diagnosed and the numbers keep rising. By building awareness of JA and raising funds we can help further research and possibly find better treatment options and maybe even a cure for these hurting children.

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(Photos courtesy of Blue Sage Photography)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Sunday!

Like most Pittsburghers our family is definitely bummed about the match up in the Super Bowl this year. Not only are the Steelers not in it but their biggest rival, the Ravens, are playing and the 49ers have a chance to tie the Black & Gold’s Super Bowl wins. Makes it hard to pick who you want to win…wait, never mind, who am I kidding…I could never actually cheer for the Ravens to win! ;)

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We love Super Bowl Sunday around here though because we have a special tradition of our own. Every year on Super Bowl Sunday you can eat whatever you want. I ‘take orders’ during the week so I can do my shopping and then we have a full on pig out all day on Super Bowl Sunday no matter who is playing! This year the boys asked for sushi (not homemade), mini bagel pizzas, and chips. I’m also made a yummy roasted onion/garlic/bacon dip. Also on the menu…Dorito’s nachos, southwest eggrolls, Cheetos and various yummy Edward’s pies. YUMMO!

So what are you doing today? Will you watch the game or will you watch the commercials? I’m looking forward to watching both and hoping for a good game that results in Ray Lewis NOT ascending into heaven. (See clip below if you didn’t catch the skit on SNL last week!)
 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sweet Calleigh Rae

I know not everyone is a pet person but I’ve always been surrounded by furry little things. I honestly cannot remember a time in my life when I did not have a pet of some sort. I love both cats and dogs but I have a special heart for sweet kitties. I’m also one of those who gets very attached to their pet. My kitties are my fur babies.

I’ve had quite a few kitties in my life. Some we had to find new homes for because of behavior issues and others we we have lost due to unexpected illnesses. This week has been a rough one for us. My sweet little calico Calleigh Rae got very sick. We noticed she wasn’t really eating and then after a day or so she just laid around in the same spot all day long. Not really normal for a 5 year old kitty. I took her to the vet and found out that she had regenerative anemia. The doctor was shocked at how low her red blood cell count was. He told me that while she tested negative for feline leukemia he wanted to try her on a steroid and stronger antibiotic to see how she responded. I could tell by his demeanor that it didn’t look good.

We brought Calleigh home on Tuesday and she was treated like she was in a five star hotel. Her favorite place to lay was in front of the heating register so we made her a little blanket bed so she was comfy. We gave her watered down soft food and prayed that she would at least take some of it. Poor girl was so weak. She didn’t even fight me when I gave her medicine to her. My husband even gave up his spot in bed so she could lay next to me on the electric blanket.

Yesterday I called to talk to the vet and updated them on her condition. She didn’t seem to be getting any better and they expected a response to the medication by now. She also seemed to be having hard time breathing. I decided to take her in. I didn’t want my baby girl to suffer. I would have loved for her to stay home until her last moment but she was in pain and I didn’t want her to hurt. So yesterday at 2 in the afternoon I held my sweet Calleigh girl one last time as she fell asleep in my arms. I kissed her and told her that it was all over…she was going to be good now, no more pain, and as I handed her over to the doctor I told her I loved her. How I wished in that moment that she could have spoken back…just so I could know that she was ok.

Sweet girl you are missed more than you know. We all keep looking for you, keep thinking we see you snuggled up somewhere…even Ed misses your crazy late night antics. The boys miss their Calleigh Girlie and I miss my late night snuggles on the couch. I miss your sweet paws reaching out to let me know that you don’t need to be pet but you just need to know that I’m close. I miss seeing you chase your tail while doing flips across the living room floor. I miss seeing you sun yourself in the window while you watch the birds outside. I just miss you and things just aren’t the same without you here.  I love you, baby girl, and you will always be in my heart.

Calleigh Rae