Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Late, as usual!

But I hope that each of you out there has had a very merry Christmas indeed!

I've still got houseguests, but at the moment I'm mooching about the house having an utterly unproductive day while I wait for the guys (DH, my dad, and two more) to finish a two-hour water-heater project which is now approaching the end of its eighth hour with no end in sight. I never seem to get anything done when (1) there are workmen in the house, or (2) the water is turned off, and having both at once means a whole lotta mooching.

Right now we ought to be arriving home from our trip to Neurology at Phoenix Children's Hospital to have baby's MRI results evaluated by our neurologist, but they had to reschedule us till next week, so that was canceled. Probably a good thing, as DH would have had to leave the guys hanging in the middle of their project!

Our Christmas went pretty well, though we started out with a small catastrophe. I make our friend Kay's overnight coffee cake for Christmas morning, and this year I made two alterations: I doubled it and put it in a 9x13, and I used yogurt/whey instead of buttermilk. Whether it was one thing or the other, the end result was that five minutes after putting it in the oven, the kitchen filled with smoke, and upon opening the oven door, I found said cake to be bubbling gently and cheerfully over the sides of its pan onto the bottom of the oven! So we had the fire alarm going off, all the doors open, etc. etc. etc., in the middle of family present-opening.

I decided to put a baking sheet underneath and keep baking, and it turned into an amorphous blob of no defined shape, but thankfully still a most delicious one, and we were able to hack it apart and partake, regardless of its rather alarming appearance. Yum.

This Christmas we hosted a first-time ever "mixed" Christmas - i.e. we had both my parents and DH's parents with us. It went quite well, and I think everyone enjoyed it. A success!

But all the same, I don't recommend it, and I certainly hope we don't ever do it again.

Perhaps it would have gone better for someone who is a more successful/skilled hostess than I (which is just about anyone). But I found it rather awkward to mix families. Each family group has a unique conversational style, interpersonal dynamics, and group/individual identity, and to mix them just felt.... uncomfortable. I want our in-laws to know each other, and I wouldn't mind doing it again on a non-holiday, but I think I'd rather stick to non-major-holidays for reunions.

But all in all, it went well!

My mom, however, has been up to her usual tricks! Each time she comes to visit us, she brings a vast, enormous amount of STUFF with her that I spend the following six months or so trying to deal with - gifts, things she's bought for us, things she's cleaning out of her house, things neighbors and friends have given her for us - all very kind, and all very difficult to deal with. This time was no exception - I now have something like ten to twelve moving boxes full of more STUFF to deal with.

And what is worse, most of it this time is the dreaded family heirloom china/glass/dishware. My mom was the hapless recipient of something like five (or more) families' worth of collected china and dishware, but having a high value herself for family heirlooms, she has kept all of it. I have told her, repeatedly, from junior high on, that I had absolutely no interest in having any of it. However, it has now started migrating this way as she starts to weed out her collection - passing it on not to an antique store, unfortunately, but to me. However, when I tried to delicately hint that the glassware was still not on my list of highly-wanted items, the tension rose exponentially, so I will try to weed it out gradually after the fact. I did succeed in sending a few particularly ugly pieces back, so that was something.

I find the family heirloom issue to be a particularly difficult one. Option #1 - Keep a lot of things I don't want and don't have room for. Option #2 - Say I don't want them and insult the family. Option #3 - Get rid of them and end up insulting family again. What's a non-china-collecting girl to do?

The quandary continues.

Of course, the problem would become much easier if I liked our family heirloom china, but as a matter of fact, I find it all to be quite unattractive and/or downright ugly. Too bad my family's tastes didn't match mine! How careless of them! :)

But even if it was beautiful, I still would not want to inherit the hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of pieces of china currently in our family. You wouldn't know it to look at our house, but I'm a minimalist at heart, and the thought of more clutter makes my heart sink.

Moving on!

Christmas Eve did indeed come and go without us settling on a church home, marking one full year of church-home-less-ness. DH was pushing to have us settle on one so that we would have a "home" for the holidays (it's so depressing to be without a church during Christmas!) but I resisted on the grounds that it might be nasty to have a "what have we done?" morning-after experience once Christmas was over and we realized that we had settled on the wrong church just to have a home for Christmas. So we didn't!

The church we've been marginally attending didn't have a Christmas Eve service, so we went to a large local Baptist church for that. As usual, baby was angelically-behaved until the pastor walked up and said "Good evening!", at which point he started squalling his head off! So much for that! But when I walked him out, we ended up having a very nice service-for-two in their lovely foyer, with the sound piped in, so I heard the service in the comfort of a foyer armchair while baby nursed. A lovely evening!

In our church search, contender #3 (the outsider of the race) has recently - and surprisingly - pulled to the fore, due entirely to DH's interest. Considering that DH is an ex-Pentecostal and said church is highly formal, liturgical, and traditional, this is nothing short of astounding!

I have been neutral on the issue. It's been interesting to be back in a liturgical church, but it feels a bit foreign. I grew up in the liturgical church, but became a Christian and have all of my spiritual "upbringing" in the Calvary Chapel/non-denominational/surfer-church type of congregation, so returning to my roots feels.... weird. But interesting. We're going to give it a try for a few weeks and see how it goes.

The main two hurdles are (1) Calvinism, and (2) infant baptism. We're okay with Calvinism as long as it's not ramroding-down-your-throat Calvinism, as was the first church we tried (as in, "Good morning! Let's stand while we recite the doctrines of grace!"). After all, our last church was Calvinist and it wasn't a bit of a problem. It's really how much Calvinism is preached. DH and I find ourselves smack in the middle of the Calvinism/Arminian spectrum, so we tend to shy away from die-hard Calvinism.

Also, this church practices infant baptism. It's not "this infant is baptized, so it's now a Christian" baptism, as was practiced in my home church, but "this infant is baptized, so it's now a member of our covenant community." We're okay with their practice, but we don't want to participate, as we support believer-baptism (i.e. someone is baptized when he becomes a Christian), and we don't know if that would be okay or not with them. We're going to meet with the pastor in a few weeks to go over doctrinal issues, and this will be the most important one to discuss.

Well, back to family! The two-hour project is now verging on something like ten hours - right on schedule! Merry Christmas, all!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight ....

.... Against seasonal colds! Onward and upward!

As a rule, our family spends either Thanksgiving or Christmas sick, and we usually miss at least half of our Christmas season dates (parties, etc.) because of a nice Christmastime cold.

This year, I waited nervously all through December.... still well.... Christmas approaching.... still okay... Hurray! I made it till this past Sunday (when my parents arrived to visit) with no cold in sight. Hurray!!!

I woke up on Monday morning with a nice sore throat. A really good, solid, "Oh crud, I'm in for it now" sore throat.

Grrrr.

So anyhow, I was majorly upset. Sick just in time to be sick for Christmas, to get my parents sick, and to pass on the germs in time for everyone to be ill for Christmas.

I hit the cold hard with every weapon I had in my arsenal. Over and over again, hoping something would help, with the grand result that on Tuesday I woke up feeling.... much worse! Hurray!

However, at about noon, I suddenly got the feeling that I was no longer getting sicker, but was getting better, and by evening I felt great (though still with a minor sore throat). Since then, I have progressed through the usual cold progression (sniffing, coughing), but at about 2% of normal levels (almost unnoticeable).

Something worked!!!

So, with hopes of helping out anyone out there, here is my arsenal of cold remedies that I used, and I hope they're of use to someone!

(1) Zicam, orally dissolving tablets - 1 every three hours after onset of symptoms.

(2)  Vitamin C therapy - From a friend of mine. Took 2000-3000 mg at onset of symptoms, then 1500 mg every hours afterwards (can do 1000mg, especially if bowel tolerance is reached).

(3) Echinacea - Lots. And lots. And lots. Basically, death by echinacea. Went nuts. Two every couple of hours, at least.

(4) Hydrogen peroxide ear treatment. Google it!

(5) Apple Cider Vinegar - 1 to 2 Tbsp. in water, three times a day, preferably on an empty stomach. Got that one off the Arizona birth network yahoo! group for an ear infection, and it seemed to have a good effect.

(6) Airborne - Just for fun, and because it is so very, very yummy. 

Also, the ever-present:

(7) Rest. As in, "that thing I would be doing a lot more of if I didn't have children." But I did mooch around a good deal, as in - "Mommy, I want to go outside!" Me: "Mmmrrph."

(8) Fluids. I've been setting a challenge lately to myself to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, and I kept doing that - and I think it really helped.

Merry Christmas! Stay well!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lab Test Results

Just a quick note to update!

Last week, a med student called from our ped's office to tell us that baby's brain MRI results were normal - possibly slightly enlarged ventricles, but nothing else.

Then two days ago, our geneticist called to tell us that the first two blood tests (of three) came back negative - which is what we were expecting, as they were a long-shot.

While we were on the phone, I mentioned that I'd gotten the all-clear call about the MRI, and she said, "Well, hmm. That's weird." Turns out the MRI did not actually come back all clear, though the deviations were all minor. Things noted were the aforementioned enlarged ventricles, lower-than-normal overall brain volume, and two arachnoid cysts (haven't looked those up yet). Nothing of particular concern, but definitely not a perfectly normal scan.

So now we have an appointment back with neurology to have the MRI scan results evaluated, and we continue to wait on blood test #3, which is the biggie - the chromosome micro-array, the be all and end all of genetic testing. Hopefully sometime within the next couple of weeks!

Off to have a busy weekend getting ready for my parents to visit! It is SAD how many things we just "don't get around to" until the crunch-time of "aack! parents coming! must clean up the house!" arrives. *Sigh*.

Enjoy the last pre-Christmas weekend, all!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blog to Follow

Three-time HG mama "Refuse to be a Womb Pod" is now entering into pregnancy #4, so definitely check in with her to see what's going on and give her some encouragement! Here is her first entry:

Plans, Plans, Plans

That's one thing about HG - each time does not get easier; rather, it gets harder. Why? Because each time through there is one more kidlet to care for! That's definitely the kicker of the "should we, should we not?" question.

Good luck!!!

* Later note: When reading her blog entry, I got the idea that Becky was actually pregnant, when I found out later that she is not yet pregnant but is preparing for an upcoming pregnancy! That's what I get for speed-reading. Tune in anyway!! :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Very Varied Week!

First of all, a letter that will never reach its addressee:

To the person who vandalized our mailbox this week,

Last Sunday, a dear friend and childhood neighbor of mine - a dear woman in her 70's - went to the hospital with sudden onset of mysterious symptoms. By the middle of this week, she had been diagnosed with acute leukemia - terminal. On Thursday, I mailed her a card and letter. This is the card that you took out of our mailbox, ripped open, pulled apart, and threw into the street. I wrote out another card and mailed it the next day.

The original card would have reached her yesterday. The second card will reach her house tomorrow.

My friend died this morning.

Sincerely,
Diana

We are mourning one of the sweetest women in the world, someone who was our neighbor for my entire growing-up years, and who was one of my very favorite people. She was unfailingly cheerful, sweet, kind, and thoughtful - I wish that each one of you could have had the blessing of knowing her! I will miss her dearly.

DH and I discussed the fact that this year has really been an epidemic year for cancer among our acquaintance. Margaret, the friend above who just died of leukemia; our friend Mike who died of brain cancer this summer; our friend and tax-preparer C., who is dealing with breast cancer; our friend K. who is starting radiation for multiple-location cancer; DH's mother, who has had lung spots that they are trying to find the cause for; the mom of a childhood friend of DH, who is dying of lung cancer - and others.

Of course, the discussion of cancer wouldn't be complete without a mention of my amazing Canadian cousin Marion, who at 89 entered hospice this past Spring with incurable lung cancer and a two-week expectation of life, only to emerge triumphant six months later, spry as ever and completely cancer-free (without treatment). We are grateful for the miracles among the tragedies!

The other events of this week have been much more positive and uplifting!

First, baby's MRI:

The fasting was much less traumatic than expected. To start with, I made a point of capitalizing on the timetables. For example, I fed baby a fourth meal at 10 p.m. the night before (as I didn't fancy getting him up at 3:30 a.m. for the 4:00 a.m. cut-off!) and stuffed him as full as I could, and then did the same with the breastfeeding deadline and the water deadline. So when it was all over, baby only had to go about 2 1/2 hours completely NPO, and he didn't seem to mind it at all.

The hospital where we went (an outpatient campus) was excellent, the nurses and anesthesiologist were just great, and our experience was top-notch. In fact, I wrote them an email thank-you after we got home just to tell them how impressed we were. We'd definitely go back if necessary.

The intake paperwork had made us believe that one of us would be allowed to go with baby during the procedure, but we found when we got there that that was not the case - they did all the preliminary stuff with us, but then took baby back when it was time for his procedure. I guess the intake people have their wires crossed somehow! I considered asking if I could go back anyhow, but decided against it (and it probably would have been denied anyhow), so I waited in the MRI waiting room while DH and DS went to the park.

Baby came through his procedure just fine. As soon as he was awake enough to take some water, they brought me back to breastfeed him while they monitored him, and then we went home. Great staff! Baby was a bit drowsy while nursing, and they said he'd be drowsy for the rest of the day, but he decided instead to be rather wired! He didn't nap for several more hours, and then took a super-short nap and was up for the rest of the day completely awake and alert, with no other effects that we noticed.

All in all, a good experience, and we should have results soon!

The other event of the week was my friend Jennifer's baby shower, an event that we have been anticipating for the past five years while we watched our friends go through infertility testing and then adoption proceedings and the pain of two unsuccessful embryo adoption transfers. Baby #6 of 12 is now flourishing and is expected to join us this coming January or February. We are so excited!

I got to help with the food, so I spent the night before making mounds of chicken salad (I ended up making about three times as much as we needed) and coffee syrup, and the morning of the shower I got to share in all the fun of an all-women preparation party as we decorated and prepared food. So very, very fun. A lovely day!

Here is the recipe for the chicken salad, which I just adored! I had never had chicken salad before, but I am a definite convert now:

***

Chicken Salad

• 2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
• 1 cup halved green grapes
• 3/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
• 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
• 2 teaspoons finely minced onion
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
• salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Combine chicken, celery and grapes in large bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; add to salad and toss to coat. Chill until serving.

***

For me, the culinary highlight of the day was the coffee punch, a recipe from a darling church family that has been adopted by the church and which I have had several times. It is awesome!! I had three cups of it, and would have had more had I not been so busy. We are currently watching "Anne of Green Gables," and it made me think of my namesake Diana, who had "three tumbler-fulls"of the "raspberry cordial" that turned out to be red currant wine. Had this punch been alcoholic, I might have experienced the same tragical outcome! :)

And so with that, I share the recipe - it is YUMMY!

***

Creme Coffee Punch

1 (4-oz) jar instant coffee, regular or decaf
4 cups boiling water
4 cups sugar
1 gallon chocolate ice cream
1 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 gallon whole milk

1. In a large container, dissolve cofee in boiling water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Cover and chill overnight.

2. To serve, put half of both ice creams in a large punch bowl. Add half the chilled coffee syrup and half of the milk. Stir to partially melt ice cream. Use the rest to refill the punch bowl when needed. (At the shower, which had a lot of people present, we just put everything in at once.)

***

Yum.

The humor of the day was added by the fact that the big plastic snowflake ornaments, which were suspended from a second-story banister, for some reason kept dropping spontaneously off of their ribbons and falling to the floor below, where they smashed spectacularly on the tile. Thankfully only one person was hit before we all learned not to stand under them!

I can't believe that Christmas is so quickly approaching! I hope that each and every one of you is enjoying the holiday season! We have been going driving almost every night to look at lights and are greatly enjoying it. There is one house in our neighborhood who does the lights-and-music-synced in the style (to a lesser extent) of this famous house, and though the fellow who lives there told DH last year that he puts up his lights the day after Thanksgiving, this year there has been no sign of them yet. DH has taken up the habit of driving past this house almost every night to check, and he is now muttering darkly each time we drive past to see a still-dark house. Ah, well! Maybe that will be our new holiday tradition - driving past this poor guy's house every night to say, "He TOLD us they would be up!"

A very happy December to all!

New HG Blog

Knocked Up, Knocked Over posted this link a few weeks ago, and I wanted to as well! This is a new HG blog, of a mama who is currently in her first trimester with her second child, and dealing with HG:

Building My Baby

You can read all about her current struggles and frustrations (she's in the middle of a doctor-change to try to find a more proactive doctor) as well as the progress of her NVP on her blog.

When I read her history, I read also that their first child, a boy, was tragically stillborn - so this has been a super-hard journey for this mother. HG plus a stillbirth, and now HG again. She could use encouragement and prayers as she continues her journey!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of All Things Ecclesiastical

I'm not dead! Yes, really! Just busy. As always, I have at least ten mentally-written blog posts for each post that makes it to my blog. I hope that at some point in my life I'll have more time for writing! (Though I have the feeling that it won't be for a while.)

These past few months have been terrifically busy.... dealing with the life changes brought by our eldest starting AWANA and preschool, and also dealing with baby's health issues (doctors' appointments and therapy... and the endless lineup of paperwork and phone calls that fall to my lot).

Tomorrow is our first major medical procedure.... a brain MRI. Am I happy about it? Not really. It seems like a lot of modern medicine is simply flinging this and that test wildly about in hopes that one of them will show something... this test is a long shot, and I'm not that happy that we're putting baby through the fasting and the procedure on what seem to be pretty slim reasons. However, I'm much happier that it's the MRI than the dreaded reflux test, so I will focus on that and on just getting through the morning.

Here's an interesting question: The fasting procedures outlined for me by the scheduling office and the woman who called today to remind us of our appointment were completely different. One was breastmilk till 9a, clear liquids till 10a, and then NPO - the other was NPO after 8a. Which will I do? Not sure. They definitely have their wires crossed on that one.

As December arrives, I am reminded again that we have now been without a settled church home for nearly a year (a year on Christmas Eve). This is a facet of our life which I hope changes very soon! I do not, not, NOT like being without a regular church family.

However, at the same time, I don't want to jump the gun and settle down into something that wouldn't work longterm. So it's a double-headed problem.

That being said, though.... I want a church family! I am leaving the decision up to my husband as to which church we choose (though I'm making plenty of input!), but unfortunately he is just as confused as I am.

Right now it's between two churches, with a third one thrown into the mix from a new one that we visited last week.

Our visit to that church was extremely interesting, and I'd like to tell about it, briefly... But I know that this will make some people angry, so just let me say that I realize that in advance!

Okay. so... the church that I grew up in. I always enjoyed church, but I did not become a Christian (as far as I'm aware... I don't have a down-to-the-minute "became-a-Christian" date) until I was in college. At that point, I realized that a lot of what was going on in my church (denomination-wide - I have attended and worked in tens of churches in this denomination) was really unbiblical. As my awareness grew, I was, to be frank - absolutely horrified. I realize that the denomination came from Christian roots, with an absolutely amazing guy as founder, but at the present time I would qualify it as a denomination that has abandoned the Bible as any source of authority and is into some really horrible things. For example, the denomination is openly and strongly in support of abortion. (I checked my facts before I wrote that, so if anyone doesn't believe me, email me and I'll send you the link to the position paper on the church's official website.)

I realize that not all churches in this denomination may follow that lead, which is why I am specifically not naming it. However, as a rule, I believe that there are deep, deep problems.

Therefore, when I got married, I immediately dropped all association with the denomination, and DH and I looked for (and found!) a really excellent evangelical Bible church, and I have had almost no contact with the side of Christendom which bears any stylistic resemblance to the church of my childhood.

Thus, I was in a state of shock on Sunday, when we visited a church that - stylistically - was almost identical to my childhood church (though in a different denomination). But instead of being dead and anti-Bible, it was startlingly alive, and vibrant, and full of passion for Christ and for God's Word and for the sharing of the Gospel message. It was such a shock, and such a paradigm shift, that I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it. All day I thought, "But how.... and how.... and how... and how....?"

Of course, it's quite simple! Style doesn't dictate theology! But I had had the two wrapped up in my mind so tightly that it has been hard to let go of.

I am so glad to have seen this church.... I have really missed the cultural trappings of my childhood church, and it was lovely to see them in this new guise. I doubt that we'll stay there - it might be a bit of a jump for our family, especially for my husband, who grew up ultra-Pentecostal; plus we suspect that we will not agree with their position on infant baptism - but it was a beautiful church full of vibrantly believing and loving Christians, and it was great to see.

Enough said!

Speaking of church, I must say....

On Sunday, during the service, the pastor gave a really super-long prayer - the five-minutes-plus type. When it was over, there came piping through the sanctuary the voice of a young boy, clearly and for all to hear: "Daddy, that was a very long prayer!"

Sheesh. Some people's children.

Except that said child was ours! Talk about a blushing-fest! But a great family memory (in retrospect!).

Speaking of church-related things.....

I would like to offer my readership the following advice, which is not offered in levity or sarcasm, but in an honest wish to save my readers the embarrassment I suffered: Don't give Christmas cookies to Jehovah's Witnesses. Seriously - just don't. A bad idea!

This past week I delivered some - admittedly Christmas - cookies to our neighbors, who are of the Jehovah's Witness faith. They knew that we had been making Christmas cookies, but I figured that cookies by themselves (without Christmas decorations, Christmas notes, Christmas wishes, etc.) would be acceptable. The cookies appeared back on our doorstep the next morning, with an accompanying note. Apparently our poor neighbors were really insulted! So I nipped next door and apologized in person, and harmony has - hopefully! - been restored with some truly wonderful neighbors whom we really like.

But just in case you were wondering - Don't try it!

The next few days are going to be absolutely and wonderfully crazy! I am helping with a shower for a very special snowflake (embryo adoption) baby, and I am super-super excited - and it is going to be a HUGE shower! More than twice as big as any shower I've ever before attended. It is going to be absolutely lovely! 

Off to do a million chores before bed! I am going to try to get baby to eat a fourth late-night meal in order to fill him up a bit before the 4 a.m. solids cut-off. Wish us luck for tomorrow - I will be one glad woman when it is all over!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Making of a (World-Famous) Tradition

We had an absolutely superb day yesterday celebrating Lepkuchen Day! Wow! It was awesome! DH and I decided that, in terms of Lepkuchen Day, we have finally "arrived." This was our fourth year celebrating, and we finally made everything we wanted out of it.

Here's how our Lepkuchen Day history has gone:

Year #0 - We experience Lepkuchen Day at our friends' house. We are instant converts. 

Year #1 - I couldn't get DH to take me seriously about wanting to celebrate it ourselves, so I made Lepkuchen and DH slept through it. That was it for that year.

Year #2 - We didn't get around to making any cookies because we had just bought a house, so we just went over to our friends' house and ate theirs.

Year #3 - We make a big batch of lepkuchen, but we forget to get our invitations out until something like 1-2 days in advance. We end up having a total of one visitor.

Year #4 - Yesterday!

Well, we got a super-late start. Our open house was 9a till noon, but I figured, "Ah, shucks, no one will actually come right at the beginning," with the end result that I was just serving breakfast and starting to preheat the oven when "Ding, dong!" - in walked two sets of neighbors (including the parents of the woman who used to own our house!). I valiantly tried to conceal the scrambled eggs on the table and did some scrambling of my own to hurry some lepkuchen into the oven so that they could have some to eat before they left.

We had an awesome time getting to finally know some of our neighbors. After that we had several waves of church family drop by, so we actually had three hours of steady visiting for a total of 11 guests - a 1000% increase over last year! (An improvement like that won't be possible to make twice in a row!)

We got all (or most) of our lepkuchen made by 1:00, and then we decided to skip nap time and head straight over to our friends' house for their 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Lepkuchen Day open house. We ended up staying for three and a half hours and had a splendid time visiting with them and their visitors while baby slept in a back room and our eldest played enthusiastically with the toys they keep for their grandbabies.

It was the best Lepkuchen Day ever. Seriously, Lepkuchen Day is now one of my favorite holidays. It's a wonderful, delicious, fellowship-filled day that has all the makings of a beautiful holiday, but instead of the sadness-tinged nature of Christmas (I always know that Christmas means the end of the Christmas season) it has all the excitement and anticipation of a holiday season just beginning.

I came to thinking afterward that Lepkuchen Day may be the answer to a prayer for me as well. I have been wanting to start some sort of annual neighborhood gathering, but I haven't been able to figure out how to do it. My parents' neighborhood has always had a yearly July 4th block party, which was always a ton of fun, and I've wanted to do the same thing. However, I am a rotten hostess, being among the socially awkward of the world, and I have been very fearful that my attempts to host a July 4th party of our own would be a terrible flop. Lepkuchen Day, which I can handle much better because I'm more of a cook than a hostess, might just be a yearly gathering that we can host for our neighborhood (as well as our friends!), and perhaps it will spur someone more socially-inclined to host a proper block party of some sort or other. Just a thought.


So, in the interest of having one composite article about Lepkuchen Day, I am going to cut and paste from yesterday's article, explaining the history of the holiday, and then I'm going to add "Lepkuchen Day traditions" down at the bottom (so if you've read yesterday's writing, just scroll down to the bottom.

***

About six years ago, we met an absolutely delightful couple, Dale and Pat. Dale's mother had made a habit of making Lepkuchen in November before Thanksgiving, so when Dale married, he and his wife created their own "official" holiday - Lepkuchen Day, to be celebrated on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and to be dedicated to the making and eating of Lepkuchen cookies.

We thought it was a splendid idea, and after enjoying a Lepkuchen Day at their house (they hold an open house on L. Day to welcome neighbors and friends), we decided that we simply had to join in the fun. We were newly married, and needing some traditions of our own that weren't just adopted from our individual families, and so Lepkuchen Day became our new holiday tradition.

Tomorrow we will celebrate our fourth Lepkuchen Day (or third active Lepkuchen Day, to be honest, since we skipped one when we had just bought our house). I am so excited! I have three batches of Lepkuchen Dough waiting in the fridge (it's made a week in advance), and we have invited our friends and neighbors to join us (last year we had a grand total of one guest, but it was something!). I am really looking forward to it. Lepkuchen Day has become a very real holiday to us, and we love it!

And so, may I be the first to wish my gentle readers...

..... A Very Happy Lepkuchen Day!

And here is the recipe! 



~ Lep Kuchen ~

There are certain things that are nice to know, especially when the world seems to go not well -- the King is coming, my family loves me, and at Christmas there are Lep Kuchen. The following recipe goes back more generations than I know, but probably came from Germany where the K's and H's (my mother’s family) have their roots. Enjoy making the batter, listen to Christmas music while baking them, and then savor the taste...and the memories. DFK

INGREDIENTS (Use high quality ingredients only)

• 2 lb. brown sugar
• 5 eggs (large)
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 1 teaspoon allspice
• 1 “ nutmeg
• 1 “ cinnamon
• ½ “ ground cloves
• ½ cup whiskey (Seagram’s 7 Crown is very good.)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda (Dissolve it in the whiskey.)
• 1 cup chopped walnuts (If you buy walnuts that are already chopped, be sure to check them for any pieces of shells.)
• ½ lb. pitted dates (Use very cold scissors or knife to cut up into pieces slightly smaller than a raisin. Better to cut up your own dates than to buy already chopped ones.)
• 1½ to 1¾ quarts flour (This is about 2 lb. Use a liquid-measure container.)
• Box of powdered sugar (for the glaze) and a pastry brush

PROCEDURE

A. The Batter
1. Cut up the dates and the walnuts (check for pieces of shells).
2. Thoroughly mix brown sugar, eggs, molasses, spices, and baking soda dissolved in the whiskey.
3. Stir in nuts and dates.
4. Add flour slowly (i.e., ½ quart at a time). Dough should be sticky, but not gooey. Don’t add too much flour. 1½ to 1¾ quarts usually is just about right.
5. Mix well. Use hands to blend ingredients.
6. Allow dough to stand 1+ week in covered container in refrigerator.

B. The Baking
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread a thin layer of flour on the cutting surface.
3. Have moist hands and moist rolling pin (cold water) to pat down and roll out dough (about ¼” thick, more or less to personal preference).
4. Cut dough into diamond shapes using a cold, wet table knife.
5. Use a non-stick cookie sheet.
6. Bake 8-10 minutes. Test the first tray to determine if you need to bake them shorter or longer.
7. Allow the cookies to cool, then spread a thin glaze on each. Make the glaze by adding water to powdered sugar until it forms a pasty consistency (a little thinner than Elmer’s glue).

1 batch makes 85-100 of the best cookies on earth.

* My own note: Since I don't like to spend all day rolling out cookies, I do slice-and-bake. The night before L. Day, I roll the dough into logs and wrap in plastic. They're a bit too soft to do just refrigerated, so I pop them in the freezer a few hours in advance so they're semi-frozen. I'm going to experiment to see if they can be sliced when completely frozen, and if that works, I'll post here. Yesterday I discovered that the colder they are, the better (and less stickily) they slice. Also, you can dip your knife in water to keep it from sticking.

***

Lepkuchen Day Traditions

(1) Our friends D&P make Lepkuchen Day the day that they first play Christmas music. I can't pull that off, since I start playing Christmas music in something like February (and I cheat - I really start in January), but it's a great way to do it.

(2) Our friends also make it a tradition that the first song that they play on Lepkuchen Day must be their family's favorite Christmas song. We didn't find that out till yesterday evening, so it was too late, but we'll do that next year.

(3) Our friend Dale has special air-bake cookie sheets, the "sanctified cookie sheets," that are used for nothing but Lepkuchen. They are carefully wrapped and stored and are brought out for nothing but Lepkuchen Day (and are thus in terrific shape). We may get around to this!

(4) Lepkuchen Day is also a day for inviting friends and neighbors over to visit. This is the part that makes it so special! Thanks so much to everyone who joined us yesterday! (And to those who wanted to, but couldn't!) Friends can eat snacks (this year I made apple cider in a crockpot and put out chips and salsa... I am so stinking proud of myself) and help glaze lepkuchen while they visit. We send everyone away with a plate of lepkuchen (as well as all they can eat while they're here).

(5) After Lepkuchen Day, we give Lepkuchen to neighbors and friends. We have some in the freezer for everyone who requested it and our near neighbors, plus our midwife, our mail carrier, etc.








(6) In each package of cookies that we give out, we put a paper tag that reads, "Life is hard, but at least there are Lepkuchen." Our friends this year also started putting a little paper with the history of Lepkuchen Day, and I think we'll do the same next year.


(7) This one is ours! We put a sign on all the doors that said "Happy Lepkuchen Day" and gave what is, to us, the classic Lepkuchen Day quote: "There are certain things that are nice to know, especially when the world seems to go not well -- the King is coming, my family loves me, and at Christmas there are Lep Kuchen." - Dale K.


(8) As Lepkuchen Day approaches, we post manic reminders on social media sites, as in, "Only six months till Lepkuchen Day!" By the time Lepkuchen Day actually arrives, most of our friends and acquaintances are pretty well convinced that we are either unbalanced or actively insane.

(9) We uphold Lepkuchen Day traditions with a religious fervor that drives said friends and acquaintances to the same conclusions reached in point #8. Our friend Dale is the master of this, but we do our best to tread in his footsteps.

(10) We take lots of pictures! This one we completely flopped on. Completely. Not one picture (any pics taken were done post-event.) Next year when you're over, remind us to take pictures! 
 
***

And there you have it! This year across the nation there were five families (plus one to come) celebrating Lepkuchen Day, so, as Dale puts it, "The Lepkuchen Day revolution has begun!" If you're looking for a superb annual tradition, join us next year!

And as they say.... Only 364 days till Lepkuchen Day!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Break Out the Whisky..... It's Lepkuchen Day!!! (And Other Delightful News)

Actually, I've never really had whiskey... it's just an ingredient in that most delectable and tantalizing German Christmas cookie, the Lep Kuchen (or lepkuchen or lebkuchen). So bring it on!

About six years ago, we met an absolutely delightful couple, Dale and Pat. Dale's mother had made a habit of making Lepkuchen in November before Thanksgiving, so when Dale married, he and his wife created their own "official" holiday - Lepkuchen Day, to be celebrated on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and to be dedicated to the making and eating of Lepkuchen cookies.

We thought it was a splendid idea, and after enjoying a Lepkuchen Day at their house (they hold an open house on L. Day to welcome neighbors and friends), we decided that we simply had to join in the fun. We were newly married, and needing some traditions of our own that weren't just adopted from our individual families, and so Lepkuchen Day became our new holiday tradition.

Tomorrow we will celebrate our fourth Lepkuchen Day (or third active Lepkuchen Day, to be honest, since we skipped one when we had just bought our house). I am so excited! I have three batches of Lepkuchen Dough waiting in the fridge (it's made a week in advance), and we have invited our friends and neighbors to join us (last year we had a grand total of one guest, but it was something!). I am really looking forward to it. Lepkuchen Day has become a very real holiday to us, and we love it!

And so, may I be the first to wish my gentle readers...


..... A Very Happy Lepkuchen Day!

And here is the recipe! 


~ Lep Kuchen ~

There are certain things that are nice to know, especially when the world seems to go not well -- the King is coming, my family loves me, and at Christmas there are Lep Kuchen. The following recipe goes back more generations than I know, but probably came from Germany where the K's and H's (my mother’s family) have their roots. Enjoy making the batter, listen to Christmas music while baking them, and then savor the taste...and the memories. DFK

INGREDIENTS (Use high quality ingredients only)

• 2 lb. brown sugar
• 5 eggs (large)
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 1 teaspoon allspice
• 1 “ nutmeg
• 1 “ cinnamon
• ½ “ ground cloves
• ½ cup whiskey (Seagram’s 7 Crown is very good.)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda (Dissolve it in the whiskey.)
• 1 cup chopped walnuts (If you buy walnuts that are already chopped, be sure to check them for any pieces of shells.)
• ½ lb. pitted dates (Use very cold scissors or knife to cut up into pieces slightly smaller than a raisin. Better to cut up your own dates than to buy already chopped ones.)
• 1½ to 1¾ quarts flour (This is about 2 lb. Use a liquid-measure container.)
• Box of powdered sugar (for the glaze) and a pastry brush

PROCEDURE

A. The Batter
1. Cut up the dates and the walnuts (check for pieces of shells).
2. Thoroughly mix brown sugar, eggs, molasses, spices, and baking soda dissolved in the whiskey.
3. Stir in nuts and dates.
4. Add flour slowly (i.e., ½ quart at a time). Dough should be sticky, but not gooey. Don’t add too much flour. 1½ to 1¾ quarts usually is just about right.
5. Mix well. Use hands to blend ingredients.
6. Allow dough to stand 1+ week in covered container in refrigerator.

B. The Baking
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread a thin layer of flour on the cutting surface.
3. Have moist hands and moist rolling pin (cold water) to pat down and roll out dough (about ¼” thick, more or less to personal preference).
4. Cut dough into diamond shapes using a cold, wet table knife.
5. Use a non-stick cookie sheet.
6. Bake 8-10 minutes. Test the first tray to determine if you need to bake them shorter or longer.
7. Allow the cookies to cool, then spread a thin glaze on each. Make the glaze by adding water to powdered sugar until it forms a pasty consistency (a little thinner than Elmer’s glue).

1 batch makes 85-100 of the best cookies on earth.

*****

In other happy, happy news!

Point #1 - Our insurance has tentatively agreed to pay for the more detailed genetic testing for baby! Hurray!!! I say "tentatively" because their letter was rather confusing - they said "yes, we'll cover it, but we don't guarantee payment." Hmm. However, our geneticist's office considers it sufficient to go ahead, so we'll be getting the test done after Thanksgiving and should have results sometime in January. When we get results, we will either (1) have answers, hurray, hurray!, or (2) know that this is the end of the road, and that we will just have to treat symptoms without having a diagnosis (because there is currently nowhere else to go in terms of testing - this is it). So either way will be a conclusion!

Point #2 - We saw baby's GI doctor this past Wednesday. If you will remember, our geneticist wanted us to do a brain MRI and a reflux test to see if baby's back-arching could be due to either neurological causes (the MRI) or reflux (the reflux test). We are not keen on the reflux test because it requires fasting, barium drinking, possible intubation, and most likely restraint for X-rays. So very fun. Plus the fact that baby doesn't really show signs of reflux. But we went ahead with the pre-procedure consult, and thankfully the doctor seemed to agree with us without us even having to voice our concerns! I think her main thought was "And you are here because....?" Or rather, she was concerned about completely different issues! (Baby's low weight concerned her, but I don't think she was concerned about reflux.) Anyhow, in brief, she said, "We could test for reflux by doing test A, B, C or D, but since those are really unpleasant for baby, let's just treat him for reflux and see if it works." If it works, we'll know his back-arching was caused by reflux, and if not, that it wasn't! Hurray! So we'll be going back there in 2 months, and hopefully that will be it.

Off to take advantage of nap time! Good night, all!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A New and Wonderful HG Blog!

I am so excited to announce the presence of a new HG blog on the net!

Knocked Up, Knocked Over

The authoress is writing about her preparations for an upcoming pregnancy after having experienced disastrous HG with baby #1, and she is posting her experiences, her research, her emotions, and her plans. Good, great, wonderful stuff. Take a few moments to read through it! I especially loved her pregnancy/HG game plan (I had one too!).

I am so excited about all the new HG blogs! This promises to be among the best of them. Thanks for writing!

Another Wonderful HG Blog

I am so excited to announce the presence of a new HG blog on the web!!!

Knocked Up, Knocked Over

Friday, November 12, 2010

Doctor #Whichever - Physical Therapy

Yesterday we had baby's first physical therapy session (all the other sessions lately have been evaluations of one type or another).

It went pretty well. I have a horrible time trying to pay attention during these sessions. For one thing, I was obsessing over the fact that I had somehow brought baby to his session with grungy socks and a onesie that had a mysterious stain on it. And he had a really bad haircut (which I've tried to since rectify... only somewhat successfully). The internal agonizing of a mother sure the therapist has written her off as a bad mother. But I digress.

The other thing that I find horribly hard about therapy sessions is that we have our eldest with us as well. And as he is emphatically not the "sit in a corner and read a book" type (like I was), I have to keep an eye on him, make sure he's okay and occupied, and occasionally discipline. So trying to do that while have a conversation with the therapist and participate in the therapy is next to impossible. Or rather, I do it, but I'm distracted and a total stress case.

Moving on.

The therapy went well, nothing much new there.

However, here's something interesting. The therapist mentioned something new to us - torticollis, or persistent head turning in one direction (i.e. right or left). Baby definitely has this - he likes to turn his head to his right, and he has the tell-tale positional plagiocephaly (flat head on one side) as a result. When I searched torticollis to see if it could have anything to do with his back-arching, I came up with something called Sandifer's Syndrome. While we're only guessing at this point, baby does match up with a lot of the symptom picture. With that in mind, we're definitely going to mention it to the GI doctor when we see her this coming week (as Sandifer's Syndrome is a complication of GERD, which will be her specialty).

Interesting stuff! I would really like some answers on this thing. I can't believe how much time and money and effort we've put into a search for a diagnosis which has only resulted in head-scratching and a collective "hmm." It would be nice to be able to have a diagnosis and move on into treatment instead of staying in limbo forever.

And now, on to a very busy weekend! Tomorrow is "Batterday Saturday," the day when we make our cookie dough for next week's annual "Lepkuchen Day" - a holiday invented by our friends, which we adopted into our own holiday traditions. Yum! I can't wait.

Love to all!!!

HG Musings & Advice

My good friend Jennifer, currently pregnant with Embryo Adoption Snowflake baby Matthew (SO exciting!!!) has gone through the wringer with nausea and vomiting during her pregnancy. I wanted to share some of her writings.

First, on dealing with HG, and the discouragement that comes with it:

Week 13: "Emesis"

And also...

Week 24: "Middle of the Night Whining"

And then a great compilation of her how-to-deal-with-it tips:

My Very Limited HG Tips

I always love posting writings from HG mamas, so please feel free to send me links to link to if you have written about your experience or done any "how to survive" articles.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If Two Colds in One Week is a Bit Much....

.... Then two colds plus food poisoning in one week is definitely too much!

Enough said.

But don't think I'm complaining too loudly, because I was blessed beyond measure that this food poisoning was so minor - really, really minor - I was able to get up and function for most of the day. Praise God for that, because I have had enough food poisoning/stomach flu lately - this is the third time in about six months!

So I'm not complaining. But I would really like to knock it off with the gastroenteritis! Bad, bad germs!

This has been an odd couple of weeks. Right now I am having to learn to deal with a paradigm shift in our family, one that is common enough to most families, but which being both new to me and out of line with my personality, has been a super hard-sell. I hate to sound to mysterious - I'd love to write it all out, but I make it a point to write nothing on the internet that I wouldn't like the entire world to see. So for now, onward and upward in terms of uncomfortable and stretching personal growth!

DH is currently considering a possible new job opportunity.... It sounds absolutely wonderful, except in one (to me) essential aspect - it means that we would lose something like an hour and a half of his time every day. I realize that I've been blessed to have him home so early in the afternoons (he works an earlier shift and takes short lunches), but I find the prospect of losing that family time to be something along the lines of unthinkable. Partly because I enjoy his company, partly because I believe that "daddy time" is invaluable to the boys, and partly because the hours between "daddy's home!" and dinner have been the best part of our days for the past year. If this job change happens, we will be back to "daddy's home, let's eat dinner so the kids can jump into the bathtub and go straight to bed." For me, the schedule would be a deal-breaker (even though it's not even a bad schedule, as schedules go), but I understand why DH is excited about this possibility - it's with a great company doing something that he likes (he's been doing work not particularly well suited to him at his current post). So it's definitely a matter for prayer!!

And now off to try to clean up the mess that has happened while I've been too yucky-feeling to do anything about it! That, or to collapse on the couch. The latter looks preferable. Night, all!

Morning Sickness Articles

First, from a pregnancy site:

When Pregnancy Vomiting is Not OK

I found a couple of things in this article that seemed a bit odd; for example, I really doubt if a woman who goes to her OB/midwife vomiting blood will be told, "You probably have an oral infection!" Or rather, if a mother is told that, I think it's probably time to change providers - not just toothpaste brands. In other words, most women know the difference between "I need to brush more often" and "I'm throwing up so much that I'm actually vomiting blood." But anyway, I digress. Any publicity is helpful!


And in much more groundbreaking news, the preliminary findings from the USC HG study are in and (drum roll, please!) there does indeed appear to be a genetic causative factor for HG. Read here:

Severe Morning Sickness Runs in Families

From the article:

"Researchers found that women were more likely to experience a serious form of morning sickness if their mothers or sisters did as well.

"Looking specifically at a very severe form of nausea known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the authors found that women with sisters who had HG were 17 times more likely to also develop HG." (emphasis mine)

So there you have it! Thoughts, anyone?

For myself, I don't know of any other women in my family who had HG. Unfortunately my knowledge of family history is limited, since (due to my parents having had me late in life, and their parents having had them late in life), all of my grandparents were dead before I even hit my teens (most of them before I was born). However, severe morning sickness is something that often lives on in family oral history, and I have heard nothing from either side of my family. My mother had ordinary garden-variety nausea - I'm not sure she even ever threw up. When HG hit me, she was really stumped as to what was going on (we all were, to be frank!). So for me, I don't seem to have a direct and obvious link.

However, I have heard of many other women who said that their HG/NVP ran in their families, and it's nice to know that so that siblings and daughters can be aware and prepared.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Colds in One Week....

.... is really too much!

Yes, two colds in one week is really pushing it. I've had enough!

Last Friday, we went to a lovely wedding. Saturday morning, we (DH, DS and myself) woke up with the beginnings of a cold - DS more advanced than DH and I, so we're assuming that he brought it home. Thankfully, it was a super-super minor cold - the kind where you just feel a wee bit under the weather and are back to normal within a few days. The kind of cold where your body laughs scornfully at said virus - "Bring it on, you weakling!"

Apparently it took us at our word.

On Wednesday, DH woke up and said, "Oh gosh, I feel horrible." Enter cold #2. DH stayed at home for two days, and then I woke up with it on Friday (it hit properly today). We're waiting to see if baby or our eldest will be hit with #2. In the meantime, DS missed an entire week of preschool and AWANA (with cold #1 - he was never really "sick" sick, but I feel bad sending a sniffling kid in), we had to cancel baby's therapy and a multitude of other events, and we're just waiting for #2 to run its course.

I wish that life could just stop when one is sick! It would be lovely to be able to retire properly to bed and just rest when sick... instead of having to draggingly continue through life and child/baby-care. But enough complaining.

I'd update properly, but I'm dead tired - and sick! So until later... enjoy your Sabbath!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Doctor #Something-or-Other: Chiropractor

Today I took baby to see our wonderful-and-amazing chiropractor, Dr. Jenny (who specializes in pregnancy care but also does regular chiropractic care), and while we were there also got her take on infant reflux. She has recommended weekly adjustments (hurray!) plus probiotics, so we're starting that immediately. We have time for 3 adjustments total before our GI consult, so we're going to see if we can make a dent in this thing significant enough to avoid the reflux test (of course, if baby's back-arching problems are non-reflux-caused, it won't make a difference). Here goes! Anything to avoid the reflux test.

Having a busy weekend! A lovely wedding last night, and Halloween tomorrow before a busy week starts. I'd write more, but I should be doing dishes! Cheers, all!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brief Doctor Updates

The briefest of updates, as I'm dead tired and ought to be in bed!

Today we started DSI therapy (play therapy) with baby - today was just the interview/evaluation, so the real thing will start in two weeks. We have a very sweet therapist.

Today we also saw baby's ped for his 1-year check-up (we're super-late). My most important/urgent question for him was - Do we, or do we not, need to do the GI test and the brain MRI? His answer was a reluctant, "Yes, do them and do them now" - reluctant because he dislikes the tests as much as I do, but he does believe that they are necessary. His word is good enough for me, so we are now in scheduling phase.

Then lastly, an interesting/amusing exchange between me, our geneticist's office, and our insurance.

Phone call #1 - from the geneticist:

Them: Just spoke to your insurance, and they won't cover the diagnostic blood test X because they don't cover any genetic testing.
Me: *Gulp*

Phone call #2 - to our insurance:

Me: Do you cover diagnostic blood test X?
Them: Yup, it's covered!
Me: Hmm. 

Phone call #3 - to geneticist

Me: They say it's covered!
Them: Really? Did you check the specific codes?
Me: No... oops. Will do.

Phone call #4 - to our insurance

Me: Are these codes covered?
Them: Yup! All covered 100%!
Me: Yay!

Phone call #5 - to the geneticist

Me: They say it's all covered!
Them: Did you specifically say "genetic testing"?
Me: Nope... oops. Will do.

Phone call #6 - to our insurance

Me: Do you cover genetic testing?
Them (now a different person): Nope, all genetic testing is excluded from your policy - none of it is covered. The first person you spoke to didn't know what she was talking about.
Me: Ah.

So after all that, the end result is that the test (which costs thousands of dollars) is not covered. The insurance gave me the appeal process, which we are now beginning. If it doesn't go through, then we will have to give up the hope of diagnosis and just treat symptoms and then hope for a clinical (i.e. symptom-based) diagnosis from our geneticist at a later date as more of his symptoms emerge with age. Not satisfactory to me - like most Americans, I like pinned-down labels! But we'll see where this whole thing goes... there are a lot of different possibilities out there, and we're just beginning.

My goodness, the medical system is exasperating!

Night, all!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Updates on Baby

I forgot to mention that we had baby's evaluation with occupational therapy (i.e. fine motor skill therapy) on Friday. It was done by an excellent therapist at our house. Baby (who is now almost 14 mos.) measured, by ability/mobility/etc. to be in the 4-5 mos. category, which is where he has been rated by his other therapy and medical evaluations.

The recommendation was made that we begin OT with baby, but after discussing the issue with our DDD coordinator, we have decided to hold off on that, simply because we just can't take too much more! We're already slated for physical therapy and DSI therapy (I can never remember what that stands for), not to mention oodles of more specialist appointments - so we've agreed that we'll reevaluate at the beginning of the year. I'm so thankful - I'm pretty much at my limit for appointments and such.

On Monday we see our pediatrician for baby's check-up - thank goodness! I have half a million questions to ask him, the most important of which are his opinion on the advisability of the GI test and/or the brain MRI. We have a really good working relationship with our pediatrician - he is super-non-interventionist, and prefers to let nature take its course, so if he thinks that these tests are necessary, I will feel completely reassured that they are necessary and that we should go ahead with them. It's great to have a trust relationship with care providers! It's kind of like the relationship we have with our midwife. If she said "You need a c-section!", I would say "Hand me a knife!" - because we have such a strong bond of trust and friendship, and I have seen her be so honest and respectful of my decisions, that when she gives advice in an emergency, I don't need to question it. It's pretty much the same with our pediatrician! So I'm hoping he'll be brimming over with advice on Monday, because we can sure use it!

Right now, besides therapy, baby is scheduled in November for an ophthalmological (eye) evaluation, a physical therapy evaluation, and a GI consult (preparatory to the reflux test, if we go ahead with that), and we'll also be doing the micro-array blood test as soon as paperwork for that arrives. It's going to be a busy month - hopefully a productive one!

I have to admit to feeling somewhat frustrated over this whole thing.... Over the past two months, we have met with something like six or seven (or eight or nine) caregivers, had countless evaluations/exams, done two blood draws, an EKG and an ultrasound, spent several hundred dollars in co-pays, and run all over the Phoenix valley.... and it seems that no one really knows what is going on, nor are we much closer to a diagnosis. Or rather, it's not quite that bad. We have gained a lot of fragmented information, seen a lot of people and forged a lot of good working relationships, checked a lot of specialists off of our to-do list, and ruled out a lot of possibilities - it's just that we are lacking any sort of final diagnosis or coherent direction with regards to treatment.

One thing that bothers me about the medical scene is that it is so fragmented. Each doctor gives you his/her opinion, but each doctor is working in a vacuum, so it's impossible to draw all the cords together. What we really need is all of those doctors together with us in one room for a few hours so that they could bounce ideas off of each other and argue up a storm while they discussed ideas. I think that would be much more helpful than trying to network all of these individual doctors and practices together long-distance via faxed reports. I also see why working the medical system takes so long - with delays and long time spans between contact and actual appointments, it could easily be another 4-6 months before we have anything concrete. Yikes!

Okay, off to do something more concrete! I'll update after Monday's appointment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Camping Trip #2 for the Year

This past weekend we had our second two-child camping trip - this time to Lost Dutchman State Park, located outside of Apache Junction, AZ, at the foot of the Superstition Mountains.

All in all, a good trip!

By which I mean that we're all alive, relatively unscathed, and still on moderately good speaking terms with each other.

Anyhow...

After we got our camp site and ate lunch, we realized that it was too hot and shadeless to stick around, so we drove back to Goldfield Ghost Town, an attraction we'd noticed on the way in - only 1/4 mile away from the campground.

It was fun! We didn't stay long, but we did take the train - how could we not? - which our eldest greatly enjoyed. Here's the view from the train:


There are two places to ride - an open-air car or the caboose. We were put in the caboose. A word to the wise - do NOT go in the caboose. Hot, airless, enclosed, hard to see anything, and impossible to hear the driver (he gives a brief history of the Superstition Mountains). But still fun!



Pictures of the ghost town - I have no idea what is real and what is "yea olde ghost town" invented for tourists:






Our eldest's favorite - an antique steam tractor that is the exact likeness of "Trevor" on Thomas the Tank Engine:



The church - "Church on the Mount" - still a functioning church, and my ideal church building - loved it!!!





The church's minuscule Sunday School/fellowship hall - adorable!






Our camp!


Our car with the Superstitions in the background:


We actually ended up taking two cars with us because we had SO MUCH STUFF. And believe it or not, I did my absolute best to pack lightly. Crazy.


Baby waking up from his nap! He didn't get very good naps during our trip, and the next day (when we came home) he took five naps - basically slept the entire day away! Poor baby, he was so tired!


The two most exciting parts of the trip for our son - the TENT and the AIR MATTRESS. Life doesn't get any better. 



Our camp kitchen - hot dogs, SPAM, baked beans, marshmallows.


Baby sacked out in his stroller.






Our eldest's attempt at photography.




So... we had fun! Outdoor cooking, a visit to a local attraction, two trips back into town for forgotten supplies (tarp and lantern batteries... and ice cream while we were at it), half an hour driving around Apache Junction while we waited for the sun to go down, a walk around the campground, and all the fun of sleeping four people in a tiny tent. Wildlife: Lots of desert birds, flocks of quail, tons of coyotes at night (I love their sounds!!), a spider tunnel so big that it must have belonged to a tarantula, ground squirrels, and others.

The downside to the trip was the fact that one of our party simply has a hard time with camping. So beside all the fun, it was rather stressful. So when we got back, we had a long discussion about how we can make our camping trips less stressful, and we've come up with ideas that we're going to try - possibly renting a tent trailer, or trying to find a cabin, etc. etc. However, this trip was much less stressful than our last, so we're at least making progress!

Another factor to consider was that this trip, like all others, turned out to be much more expensive than we anticipated. We have allotted $15 per month for "camping money," and I had $25 for this trip - $15 for our camp site and $10 for unforeseen expenses. The actuality? The cost was more like $75 when we added up camp site, train ride, trip #1 for supplies (and a toy), trip #2 for supplies, ice cream, and lunch when we got back because we were too tired to cook. So my $25 was completely insufficient! However, as we only go twice a year, saving $15 per month should work out pretty well for future trips - I'll just have to be sure to have enough saved up. The trials of learning a budget! 

But all in all, a success!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Genetics

Yesterday we made our long-awaited foray to our geneticist - the last specialist on our list of specialists to visit that was assigned by our pediatrician.

I went in with great hopes. The other visits (neuro, cardio, developmental peds, therapy, etc.) I kind of considered "fact finding" missions - just data-collecting, which would culminate in this final visit when we would receive ANSWERS.

I was wrong.

We have no answers, just more questions... and more specialists to visit. *Sigh*.

We had a super-long visit - first with the nurse, then a genetic counselor, then the intern, then the doctor with the rest of the team. The doctor was truly excellent - highly recommended. We talked, and talked, and talked, and they looked at baby and asked questions and looked at our family tree. Very good stuff.

However, no answers. Not even real guesses. She named a few syndromes that vaguely matched his symptoms (Angelman's and Smith-Lemli-Opitz - what a mouthful!), but said that she was not satisfied with either solution.

First off, they are going to send us (as expected) to get the more detailed chromosome micro-array test. That will just be a blood test, and it should tell us all we ever wanted to know about Glenn's chromosomes.

However, the doctor told us that this test is so new that even though we will get a diagnosis, there may be no information on it (though there likely would be in a few years). However, it's a starting place. That will be whenever we get the paperwork through, probably in 1-3 weeks (plus processing time).

She also requested an infant eye exam, which we have set up for November.

She also requested two tests that we're not sure about. The first is a GI test for reflux, to see if reflux is causing his back-arching tendencies. The second is a brain MRI, to see about the same plus the other neurological symptoms.

We agreed to them, but after researching the tests, are really questioning them. The GI test is an unpleasant test with risks of its own, and it also requires a 12 hour fast. I am really not happy about putting an infant through a 12 hour fast. Baby is not sleeping through the night - he eats several times per night - and trying to keep him happy without food for 12 hours would be a nightmare. The brain MRI requires general anaesthesia for an infant, and will, I'm sure, also require a fast because of the anaesthesia.

So our question is - How much of this stuff is truly necessary? We want to know what's going on, because we know there are some moderately serious things afoot that we need to know details on. But we don't want to put baby through painful tests if they're not really necessary. So tonight I drafted an email to send to the geneticist, asking, in short, which tests truly are mandatory and which could be avoided or postponed. I hope that she is willing to work with us and isn't just annoyed (an understandable reaction!).

At this point, we have more specialists underfoot than I can even count - baby's medical records are in a 1 1/2 -inch notebook and about to expand to a 2" because we have so much paperwork. I am not desperately worried about the state of baby's health, because whatever is going on he is still happy and content and not suffering or actively sick - and those are my main concerns - but I am worried about how long this process is going to take and the path that we will have to take to get there. So far our path has been easy - just a checklist of to-do items, but now it's getting a bit trickier.

(I just tried to send that email mentioned above, and it timed out and erased everything - blast! Now back to writing it all again from memory.)

Have an awesome week, all!!!

Input Needed

Hello, HG mamas out there! I would love any input you all might have on behalf of a friend who is dealing with some severe NVP/HG right now. She has had bad NVP/HG for her whole pregnancy, but now, at 24-ish weeks, after several weeks of "it's finally getting better," her NVP is back - stronger than ever and getting worse. She has tried Unisom and Phenergan, both to no or little use, and the Zofran that got her this far is not helping that much anymore. She is still losing weight, though baby seems to be doing well. Does anyone have any advice for this mama? Medications to try, good advice to give, how to know when to get help, etc. This is beyond my knowledge, so I'd love to hear from experienced HG mothers out there.

Warning: Absolutely no "brisk walks in fresh air" or "sucking lemons" or "listening to soothing music" etc. etc. etc. Heavy duty advice only!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Unusual Morning Sickness Remedy

I found this really randomly:

Birth-Joy: Morning Sickness Cure

Being that I know absolutely nothing about anything mentioned here, I cannot say yea or nay - but this is a morning sickness blog, so I post all that I see! If you try it and it works (or doesn't work), do let me know!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Worrying and What Came of It

I have been spending a lot of time worrying lately. Not that that's anything new - I'm definitely a worrier by nature. I can worry with the best of them.

And oddly enough, I don't worry about some of the things that normal people worry about. For example, baby's health problems - right now, at least, I'm not the least bit worried. I've been able to leave it completely in God's hands.

Anything else? *Worry, worry, worry.*

Part of my problem is that I am really (too much) into planning. I plan-plan-plan-overplan - lists, plan A/B/C/D, etc. etc. etc. I plan around eventualities that may never happen, around all the different outcomes that may come from any decision, etc. etc.

In fact, not too long ago, I actually started a heated discussion with DH in the car over "You know, what if, in 20 years or so, one of our sons does such-and-such? I know it may never happen, but we need to have a plan now!" Yes, seriously. DH, who in true spousal-opposites fashion, does not like discussing the future at all, was predictably irritated, and we ended up going at it hammer and tongs.

Anyhow, as I said, I've been worrying a lot lately - about so very, very many things. Should we have any more children? (And if so, how many, when, how, in what manner, according to which birth control philosophy?) Where are we going to call home for our church decision? (I thought we had FINALLY gotten that squared away, but DH chose to throw another monkey wrench into the works this past week.) How are we going to educate our children - home, public, private, charter, hybrid, Montessori, Waldorf, traditional, etc.? What is going to be my eventual calling within the birth community? (Yet another question that may have 20 years before I need an answer.) Should we stay in Arizona, or should we be open to moving, especially as my parents are considering a cross-country move?

Yikes!!! The funny thing is that all above questions could wait a good year or two or more for an answer - it's just that I am a complete stress case with any open-ended, unmade decisions in my life. I hate-hate-hate having any unmade decisions, and having a plethora of them has been beyond-stressful.

Well, a night or two ago I was praying through these decisions, and I felt a persuasion that I just needed to stop worrying (and stop trying to get the unmade decisions made) and leave these questions with God for the time being - as it were, at the foot of the Cross. To just drop my worrying, leave my questions and problems with God, and trust him to make the answers known to me in His timing, rather than mine.

Can I say that this is a difficult proposition?

But I am doing my best. Not that it will definitely stay that way, but I am trying to wait for God's timing. After all, He knows if He wants us to have more children.... how He wants us to educate our children... where we are going to call our church home.... how I will eventually be involved in the birth community.... where we should be living. I just need to trust him to reveal His answers in His timing.

Just a few thoughts.... worrying does not go away easily! But I'm doing my best.

"Natural Morning Sickness Remedies"

Ran across this on a blog I follow, so I thought I'd share! Nothing much to do with HG, but for normal morning sickness:

Normal Morning Sickness Remedies

I'm also adding another sidebar category (this will be the first entry) for remedies for "normal" morning sickness. Just for any NVP mamas who wander across!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 1 of Fall Challenge

Up late after a long debate with DH, now relaxing with a quick blog post. Tomorrow starts the first week of Women Living Well's Fall Challenge - she is giving one practical and one spiritual tip each week to make our homes inviting and welcoming and loving. I can use all the help I can get! So tomorrow, I'm getting out my candle... and then working on her much-more challenging spiritual tip.

Are You Distracted and Distant or Making Your Home a Haven?

Oh, how very, very, very convicting.... definitely check out her article!

This week will have preschool, AWANA, MOMS Club, and our meeting with the state therapy people - both to transfer our care to the next department, and to set up a schedule for baby's therapy. I find the whole process rather intimidating - I'll be glad when it's over! And the bigger challenge will be finding things to do with our eldest while I am doing therapy with baby. I do NOT want to use the TV as a babysitter, especially multiple times a week. I am considering trying to hire babysitting.... but that could get pricey. I would appreciate prayer for the whole process, and that I would be able to get the scheduling and the personnel issues worked out easily and smoothly!

Have a great week, everyone! Love to all!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Good Stuff, Part I

A while ago, I posted that I was going to make a concerted effort to purposely neglect my hobbies (especially birth-related lore) and to focus on my spiritual life and my family.

It has had great effect! Let me share some of the great things that have happened.

(1) I discovered that there are great resources to be found in Christian mommy/homemaker blogs! I got a recommendation from a friend for one or two, then went off of "blog roll" lists to get more, and am now reading a considerable number of them. I wouldn't have believed it, but they have been SO incredibly helpful! They have encouragement, reminders, gentle correction and admonishment, practical ideas for child-rearing, discipline, family time and a host of other topics, recipes, and other great stuff. So helpful! Here's a partial list - I don't have time to do the links, but if you google them and add "blog" to the end, they'll come up:

A Wise Woman Builds Her Home
Angel Wings and Apron Strings
AnneElliot.com
Femina
girltalk - Conversations on biblical womanhood
Like a Warm Cup of Coffee
Women Living Well
MckMama
Passionate Homemaking
Raising Homemakers
Raising Olives
Working on a Full House

Good, good stuff. Let me know if you have any others to recommend!

Extra Note: Today I achieved recipe nirvana with a recipe found on one of these blogs: Pumpkin Waffles with Spiced Whipped Cream from Women Living Well. So incredibly good. Try it - and don't forget the whipped cream. Yum yum yum. 

(2) Whenever I get inspired, I start making organizational notebooks. About a month ago, the papers flew as I went into a notebook frenzy! It was just great. I started out by making a notebook with a tab, paper, and page holder for each major holiday. Then, whenever I see an idea or a tradition that I want to add, I can slip the article into the page protector or note down the idea.

This is really helpful for me, because I am clueless when it comes to decorating, traditions, etc. They just don't happen spontaneously for me. So planning is in order! I'm excited to see where they take us as this year's holidays start off.

After that, I made further notebooks:
- A travel notebook - with tabs for ideas, planning, locations, car games, yearly vacations, camping trips, etc.
- A marriage/womanhood notebook - tabs for marriage, personal development, goals, etc.
- A parenting notebook - tons and tons of tabs for parenting advice, school info, snack ideas, etc.

And I'm getting tons of articles from the blogs I'm reading that I copy and print off for my notebooks!

(3) I'm getting serious about planning trips for our family. We've never been into traveling - no money and little motivation. But our trip to Dallas-turned-Tucson this summer made me realize how fun family vacations can be, so I'm now saving and planning for one short family vacation a year plus two overnight camping trips (spring/fall), plus our usual trips to see family.

(4) I've really gotten into using the library. I'm using several anthologies of children's books - "The Read-Aloud Handbook," my favorite, plus "Honey for a Child's Heart" and "Books Children Love" - I order the books every week and pick them up. It has been great! I'm really enjoying getting into children's books, especially now that our son is old enough to enjoy beginning chapter books.

I used to think that writing children's books was rather silly - as in "I could do that while I brush my teeth" - but now, upon reading more, I realize what an art and a craft there is to it. Love it!

(5) I am doing my best to spend time with my family and not obsess over the house. Sort of. I'm an obsessor (sp???) by nature, but I do my best. I am also learning speed cleaning!! I read "Speed Cleaning" by Jeff Dial and the Clean Team, and though I didn't get to finish it before I had to return it, it was excellent and I highly recommend it.

One of the main points of the book was that a majority of "cleaning time" is not spent actually cleaning, but running back and forth getting materials to clean with. This is certainly true for me! Time running back and forth to get the vinegar, the windex, the paper towels, the scratchy pad, etc. etc. The answer, according to the book, is to carry most things on one's person, and other things in a carry-all that goes to each room. That way, one can move around a room only once to clean it, plus another time to vacuum, and then one is done.

So, in my apron (and with me) I now carry a toothbrush, a bottle of windex, a bottle of 409, a moist cleaning towel, a duster, and a whisk brush. In my carry-all I have bathroom cleaner, Barkeeper's Friend, more cleaning cloths, a scratchy pad, and a couple other things I can't remember. I need to get a proper cleaner's apron rather than the flimsy one I have now, but it still works.

And it works! I can now clean my house (sans vacuuming) in 30-40 minutes. So I do that during one of our son's preschool times, and the vacuuming/mopping during the other. It doesn't include deep cleaning, but hey - I wasn't getting to deep cleaning anyway! It's been a big improvement for us.

(6) I resuscitated my prayer life with the uber-new-and-sophisticated Ritz Cracker Box Method, and it's been a big success. Most prayer methods drive me to distraction because of their eternal sameness, but having the variety of this method has been a big improvement. Similarly, my Bible reading time has also been improved simply by borrowing my husband's ESV (rather than my NLT) - I love having a new version (my favorite so far!) and new study notes to read.

(7) I have been purposely studying parenting - reading good books (like "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Children" - great book!) and praying daily (and fervently!!!) for wisdom, grace, and the character needed for being a good parent. It has really had great effect.

Parenting is hard. It is the hardest spiritual/emotional thing I've ever done in my life (the hardest physical things are reserved for HG and childbirth). It has tested me beyond anything I could ever imagine - and I'm only 20% done with the first child! (And 5% done with the second!) Some days I have literally ended my day in tears - and I'm not the crying type. I have realized how much I need God's strength, wisdom, spiritual filling, and grace. Focusing on learning about parenting and on praying for wisdom has had great positive impact.

***

I think there's more, but I need to get to bed! More later (if I remember anything), and have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!!!