Friday, February 28, 2014

Inside the American Medical System: Making a Medical Notebook I (Part 5 in the Series)

After our appointment with our baby's first specialist - when we received a mistaken clinical diagnosis of Downs Syndrome - both DH and I reacted in very personality-specific ways. In other words, DH got on the phone (and stayed on for the next six months), and I started making computerized forms and compiling a medical notebook.

I ended up being the one in charge of medical records, appointments, and all communications, and having a medical notebook was a life-saver. Until you've been there, it's hard to imagine the complexity involved in coordinating and connecting multiple people (doctors, nurses, secretaries) in multiple offices, in multiple hospitals and locations, and making sure that each office is in communication with the others and that each has all of the records and lab results needed. Without sufficient organization, it can turn into a nightmare.

In this section, I will share the two main forms that were our lifeline, and then (in the next part) some additional minor forms. Unfortunately these are not printables (I have yet to figure out how to make printables - enlighten me, someone!), but you are welcome to copy and paste for your own use.




Two Major Forms

(1) Phone/Fax Email Record

As soon as our adventure began, so also began the phone calls and emails (and faxes and letters).

All. the. time.

It was constant. And keeping track of them - in exact and minute detail - was vital, because I had to have every single bit of information at my fingertips and ready to give to other caregivers. The key to being in the medical system successfully is having all information at the ready at all times. Thus, when we began, I used the following form every time that I was on the phone (calling or being called) or that I received or sent any other communication. I cannot tell you how helpful this was, and it was vitally useful almost every day.

When issues come up - and they do, often - one of the most helpful things is being able to pull out a sheet of paper and say, "I talked with Maria at 8:17 a.m. on Monday, January 20th, 2014, and she said such-and-such." When you have chapter and verse, people take you seriously.



Phone/Fax/Email Record

Date:                                       
Time:                            

□ Received a call
Person Receiving Call:                                                    
Person Telephoning:                                                       
          Office/Practice:                                                        
          Return Number:                                                      
       
□ Made a call
Person Telephoning:                                                          
Person Receiving Call:                                                    
          Office/Practice:                                                        
          Return Number:                                                      

□ Sent fax / email
          To:                                                                                    
          Fax # / Email address:                                                     


□ Received fax / email
          From:                                                                                
          Fax # / Email address:                                                     


Record of Call/Fax/Email:
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   







* A side note: I used a similar method of record-keeping when a local OB practice kicked me out of their office after finding out that I had hired a midwife. Although it took me nearly a year to get around to writing to the head OB about my experience, when I did so, I was able to quote details down to exact dates, times to the minute, physician and secretary names, locations, conversation details - everything. That, combined with a calm and reasonable tone, resulted in an incredibly positive interaction with the head OB. He didn't change his mind on dealing with midwife clients (though I hope that a seed was planted), but our interaction was great. When you can stay calm and stay organized, great things happen.


(2) Doctor Visit Record

A second sheet was the following - a record sheet for each doctor visit. I would complete the first part while we were in the waiting room, and the second part right after our visit. It was incredibly helpful to have detailed and accurate records. Sometimes I could just hand my notebook over to a specialist for him or her to go through my records of other doctor visits, and each of them loved it!

(It also really impresses doctors to see clients who are intensely organized and detail-oriented - and that's always a great way to start a doctor-client relationship off on the right foot!)

Having records of payments and addresses was also helpful for tax purposes. (I actually kept different record sheets for taxes, but I won't go into that here.)



Doctor Visit Record

Patient:                                                                                           
Date and Time:                                                                              
Specialist type:                                                                               
Doctor:                                                                                           
Practice:                                                                                         
Address:                                                                                        
Phone:                                                                                           
Fax:                                                                                               
Reason for visit:                                                                             
Payment:                                                                                       


Advice, Prescriptions and Other Notes:













In the next part, I will share some additional minor forms that we used to keep records in our medical notebook!

Click on Part 6 to keep reading!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Which the Baby Formerly Known as Moose Turns TWO!

Two years ago, our youngest woke me up at 2:48 a.m. and told me in no uncertain terms that he was on his way! Six hours and 45 minutes later he was here, and was promptly criticized as "Moose" when we found out that he was a whopping 9 lbs. 9 ozs. (Birth story here.)



Two years later, here he is! Two years old, walking, talking, and able to throw a really mean tantrum when he wants to.


This year we did our birthday celebration in stages. First, his birthday outing (above) to our favorite place, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The next day, his birthday dinner of our new favorite - egg rolls! Then last night, peanut butter birthday cake (recipe) and gifts from Grandma and Grandpa - boots and a hat!





As a side note, I must say that I am incredibly thankful that the grandparents gave such a modest birthday gift. I often feel overwhelmed at the thought of so many toys and new possessions every Christmas and birthday, and it was such a joy to celebrate a birthday so modestly. And he loved it! It's oftentimes the expectations we create in children that cause the misery and the insatiable greed. The 2yo was thrilled with his boots and hat, and he desired no more. I hope to chisel down gift-giving in all areas of our household to regain sanity and gain a permanent hold on the clutter-beast.

And so here we are... two years old! The terrible twos are here in force, and it's so interesting to see how differently they manifest in different children. Our eldest went through the terrible twos-threes with standard tantrums. Our current two-year-old has chosen entirely different manifestations, such as hitting, screaming, and throwing things when he's mad. Oh, the joy. I have my work cut out for me!

But he is a little darling, all the same. He is very affectionate and sweet-tempered (when he's not screaming, hitting, or throwing things, that is), and he is a natural neat-freak and an avid helper. He loves to clean up messes (something our eldest has never even remotely considered), help set up tables at church, and gets very fussy if his clothes or hands get dirty. It's hilarious, and I love watching how different he is from his elder brother, who can walk into a room resembling a hurricane disaster area and say, "I don't see anything to clean up!"

I confess that I am intimidated at the thought of going through the two-three years again. With our eldest they were not fun, and I'm putting that mildly. But I'm hoping that I'll do better this time, and I also know now that just because things can look hopeless at various times doesn't mean that they are. There is an end in sight, and things do improve - I just have to keep going.

In the meantime, we had a great time celebrating baby's second birthday, and in thanking the Lord for his life and his presence in our family. I know I'll be relying on the Lord's strength and wisdom every step of the way, but I can't wait to see how things go through coming years.

Happy Birthday to the baby formerly known as MOOSE!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Inside the American Medical System: Our Story, Considered (Part 4 in the Series)



Going through all of these previously forgotten blog posts to find the material to write this story has been absolutely fascinating. Now that I know the outcome, reading my reflections as I walked through those times is amazing.

Why did I feel such a need to have an ultrasound, even though I am not an ultrasound-lover? Why did I have an instinctual knowledge that something was wrong? At the time, it was just confusing. But now, looking back, I very clearly see God's hand leading and guiding me through that time, working powerfully in our lives to produce great good.



And as I look back, I am profoundly grateful that our sweet baby was given to us. Why? For several reasons.

Firstly, because he is the light of our family - a true joy, and a treasure. We adore him.

Secondly, and I say this to our shame, our nation has become a nation in which non-perfect babies are frequently told, "You're not wanted here." Our nation's rate of abortion for our sweet babies with Downs Syndrome hovers somewhere around 90 percent, which is a tragedy and a disgrace. Our baby's problems are much, much more severe than Downs Syndrome, and I shudder to think of what might have happened had he been conceived in a family that would have tossed his precious life away had they discovered his problems prenatally.

I cannot state this strongly enough: Every baby is a gift. Every baby is a precious miracle. And whether a baby lives for a few seconds or many decades before he is called to eternity, that baby's care is a sacred stewardship from God. Our nation will be called to account for the way we currently are tossing aside 22 percent of our precious infants in abortion clinics because we don't want to be inconvenienced by unplanned births or babies with special needs (and that doesn't count all of those aborted through abortifacient birth control).

The message, again - every baby is precious.



Our little guy is with us for life. We will be carrying him, changing him, feeding him, looking after his every need - for life.

And that's just fine with us. The Lord has called us to a holy calling. And we are extremely grateful that He has trusted us with "one of the least of these." Our little guy is a child who will never grow up and move out, but will need help and love for as long as he is on earth. That doesn't change the fact that he is precious. He is not someone "who should never have been born" or someone who is a "burden on society." The measure of a society is how it cares for those who cannot care for themselves. Our baby is a miracle, and is much loved, and it will be our joy to provide for him, however long he lives.

As I've written lately, God is faithful. He is working mightily in our family. And this sweet baby is part of our journey.

We're so grateful for his sweet life.



In the next couple of installments, I will share how we created a medical notebook to stay organized while in the medical system, and also the conclusions I drew and lessons I learned through our experiences.

Click on Part 5 to keep reading!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cooking Through CHINA - Chinese Fried Rice!

One of last month's cooking projects for our CHINA unit study was fried rice!

It was a huge hit, scoring 4.8 out of 5.0 on our family rating system. Even better, we have discovered a recipe that has become part of our family's regular meal repertoire, and it's definitely a keeper.



Fried rice has as many variations as there are families that make it - it's that versatile! Fried rice is basically a method of using leftovers - "a little of this, a little of that" - and transforming those leftovers into a scrumptious low-cost meal. You can use a variety of vegetables, utilize any type of leftover meat, and choose from lots of different spices. As a mama to a culturally "larger than average" family, discovering this dish has been a godsend, because it's a great way to feed lots of people at very little expense.



The Recipe

We used the recipe for Fried Rice from the book "Cooking the Chinese Way." A very similar - and absolutely scrumptious-looking - recipe can be found here

Enjoy!


Next time you make rice, make some extra for the next day - and experience this great Chinese dish!

Enjoy! 



Monday, February 24, 2014

CHINA Craft - Making a Chinese Flag!

As part of our unit study on China, we painted China flags - easy, fun, and inexpensive!

Printable Chinese flag pages can be found here (or with a coloring key here). A little red poster paint, followed by some stars cut from gold wrapping paper, and voila!


It may resemble a grisly murder scene, but it's really the flag of China. 

In our country studies, I find that country maps and flag paintings are two easy crafts to start each unit - lots to learn, lots of fun, very little planning. I plan to continue using those two activities to start each unit, followed by the other country crafts that I find.

Enjoy!



Saturday, February 22, 2014

CHINA Crafts - Paper Mache Chinese Bowl!

As you all may remember, I swore off paper mache now-and-forever-AMEN with last summer's craft super-disaster.

However, this craft did sound fun... so I relented and decided to give it a go!

Thankfully I'd learned some lessons from last time.
  • I chose a craft with a much smaller scope - just covering a tiny bowl (not a huge balloon!).
  • I found a much easier recipe for paper mache (equal parts by volume flour and water, whisked together).
  • We did this outside and planned to have a bath and full-clothing change afterward.
(Original directions here. Not having PVA glue on hand, I switched over to plain paper mache, which worked beautifully.)

As usual, the 7yo did his best to head for the hills (anything to avoid getting his hands sticky!), and the 2yo did his best to dive headfirst into the goo (he glories in messes!).


Oddly enough, the 7yo is nowhere in sight. Hmm.


It took only 15 minutes to complete, and it looked pretty good! Then we had to sit back and wait a week for it to dry - during which time, of course, I questioned why on earth I had used one of my favorite mixing bowls as a form!



After it dried, we painted it in stages - three coats on the outside, then three coats on the inside. Finally, I copied the characters for "Happy New Year" onto the inside of the bowl. (This whole step-by-step process took about a month and a half!)



The end result was beautiful! Highly recommended as an easy craft when studying China - it took us a while to work through all the steps, but it was fun, kid-friendly, and made a beautiful end-product!



Enjoy!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Visiting the New Mormon Temple in Gilbert, Arizona

This past week, I scratched an item off of my life-list - visiting a pre-dedication Mormon temple. This is an opportunity that doesn't come one's way very often, if ever, so I was very excited about this!



Originally we planned to take the entire family, but we decided against that, and I went solo instead. It's a good thing I did, as I spent a good hour waiting in various lines (which would have been oh-so-fun with two toddlers), and guests were asked to leave strollers outside (ack!).


About to turn left to reach the temple. 

Quick note: Please forgive the picture quality here. Though I admit to a penchant for taking somewhat-sideways pictures, I don't take them this sideways - at least not on purpose! These pictures are the result of trying to juggle many things in my arms while clicking blindly with my phone - due to the bright sunlight, I could see nothing of what I was photographing. My cousin said, "Just call them 'art shots' and people will be really impressed." My husband begs to differ - he says they're too embarrassing to show in public. However, they're all I have - so here goes!

Introducing... "An article with really skewed pictures!"

Taken on the way from the far-away overflow parking lot. The sidewalk to the right was a constant flow of visitors coming and going. It was quite a walk! 


The question will probably arise - "Why are you interested in Mormon temples if you're not Mormon?"

It's true. I'm not Mormon. However, I am fascinated by the study of comparative religions, and I love finding out more about different religions - especially the religions that lay claim to a relation to Christianity.

Additionally, the Lord has given me a great love for the Mormon people, and I have carried that love with me through adulthood. I have always had many Mormon friends, acquaintances, and neighbors, and learning more about their religion has always been an abiding interest. It's especially applicable now that we live in an area that has a per capita Mormon population that rivals (and in some areas exceeds) Salt Lake City, Utah.

I also have a deep respect for the Mormon church on a practical level - the way they organize their churches, meet the needs of their people, and plan for the future has always seemed very praise-worthy to me, and I think that we Protestants have a lot that we can learn from the practicality of the LDS church.




The tour went smoothly and was staffed by tens (hundreds?) of very dedicated volunteers - though one could tell that they were rather overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of visitors.


Most of my time was spent waiting in lines like this one...


.... and this one...


... and this one! 


The first part of the tour consisted of watching a short video on the subject of Mormon temples in the visitor center, followed by a non-guided tour through the temple itself. We saw many aspects of the temple, including the entrance area, the marriage room, the marriage waiting area, the baptistry, and the Celestial Room.



Though we were asked not to take pictures inside the temple itself, you can see the rooms that we saw here:

Pictures Inside the Gilbert Mormon Temple

It was fascinating to see the room-types that I have read about for so many years. I was disappointed that the tour was not guided and narrated - I had anticipated tour guides taking small groups through the temple and narrating each part - but wandering through at one's leisure was fun too. When I saw the sheer number of people there, too, I realized that narrated tours would have been almost impossible to carry out logistically - there were just too many people.

The tour confirmed what I have long noticed and appreciated about Mormon architecture - an emphasis on solid quality and flawless beauty, without the least gaudiness, excess, or ostentatious display. Beauty with nothing showy - I loved it. I've always been a huge fan of Mormon architecture.

Conclusions?

It is not my intention to turn this post into a discussion of religion or a theology debate. I will simply say, therefore, that I enjoyed my temple tour very much. The staff was friendly and helpful, and the building was of excellent quality. Though I didn't learn anything new (being in a very Mormon-heavy area, I've always been fairly well-informed on the basics of Mormonism), it was great to experience in person the highest expression of the Mormon religion. I very much appreciate the kindness of the LDS people in opening their temple free of charge to non-Mormons during this pre-dedication time.

Did any other local friends take time to tour the temple? Let me know what you thought!






Thursday, February 20, 2014

Inside the American Medical System: Our Story Continues (Part 3 in the Series)

Read the beginning of our story here!

Continuing the saga...



A few days after our visiting our midwife, we found ourselves in our pediatrician's office for an official evaluation to find out what was going on. To my relief, our pediatrician immediately took us seriously, and after a few minutes of listening to my concerns, agreed that there was something serious going on. 

At this point, a few will be saying, "But why wasn't this discovered during his well-child visits?" The answer is simply that... it wasn't. Baby had lots of issues, but they were all mild enough - at the time - to fly under the radar, and nothing was ever found amiss during his check-ups during his first year, even though we were very orthodox with following the exact recommended schedule of visits. His problems became more and more evident with time, as he fell further and further behind his age-mates developmentally. Thus it was that I, and not our wonderful pediatrician, who first detected that something was wrong.

I should also say that this incident led me to have much greater faith in my abilities as a mother. In other words, when something is wrong, I will know. After doing lots of research and now having lots of experience with doctors and well-child visits, we know longer participate in this system - we have completely opted out of well-child check-ups. A mother who lives with her children around the clock will know when something is amiss and needs to be checked out. We are now in the process of switching to medical practitioners who do not require well-child check-ups. 

Continuing on...

When our pediatrician met with us, word quickly spread through the office that we had something special going on, so the crowd in our exam room quickly swelled. We ended up having myself, our baby, our 4yo, our pediatrician, several nurses, and an intern or two crowded into the tiny room. It was like a party! Everyone was talking at once, and it was actually a hugely positive experience. As I've mentioned before, acknowledging a problem and having people take one seriously about it is immensely to be preferred over having nebulous and semi-acknowledged fears hanging over one's head. It was an exquisite relief to be getting somewhere.



At the end of the visit, we didn't any concrete answers. Our pediatrician, however, acknowledged that something serious was going on. Baby was not developing physically as he ought, and there were lots of little physiological signs that had flown under the radar - clinodactyly (crooked pinky fingers, a soft indicator for lots of genetic disorders), single palmar crease, mild facial dysmorphology - lots of signs pointing to something like Downs Syndrome. But there was nothing to say definitely, "THIS is the problem." Instead, we were still left with a mystery.

However, our pediatrician immediately sent us in several different directions. They were:
  • Labs for general blood work and genetic testing
  • Developmental Pediatrics
  • Neurology
  • Genetics
  • Physical therapy for evaluation
And thus, the real adventures began.

As anyone who has been in the medical system knows, the complexity from there on out was so incredible that it's hard even to trace the web of what happened from day to day - and we didn't even have to deal with much of what others have to deal with, like surgeries and hospitalizations and multiple medications, equipment, and procedures. Ours was, as medical cases go, fairly simple. And yet it took hours and hours per week on the phone to deal with details, appointments, schedules, labs, connecting various doctors, and all of that.

I'll deal with the details of how I dealt with that in our next section on making a medical notebook, which was an absolutely life-saver. For now, let me try to summarize what happened from there.

One of the first shocks that we experienced was how differently the various caregivers responded to our baby's case. There were one or two who took a very casual attitude: "Listen, lady. Your kid's fine. Why are you bugging me?" And there were others who took a the-end-is-near-and-we're-all-gonna-die attitude - completely alarmist. It was all over the chart.

We hoped to get answers, but alas, there were none. And we never received any answers, despite repeat testing of all sorts (brain MRI, blood tests, cardiology tests, and the chromosome micro-array done twice). To this day, four years later, we still have no diagnosis for our baby's condition. We are simply one of many families whose child has an undiagnosed genetic disorder. It is hoped that at a later date further genetic testing may be able to give us answers, but that is a long shot.

In the meantime, we were sent everywhere on earth in terms of specialists. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, play therapy, cardiology, gastroenterology. You name it - we've been there. We learned a lot in each office, but again, there were no answers.

At the current time, we are no longer seeking a diagnosis - primarily because there is no purpose in doing so. Whatever our baby has is obviously so rare that there is no known data on that condition, so searching for an answer would be for our personal satisfaction only, not to the help of our baby. We have reached a peace of knowing simply that God has given us a very special baby, and we have stewardship over caring for him and loving him. That's all we need to know.

As our baby has grown, his problems have become more and more evident. The technical term is "global delays" - meaning that every area of his development (physical, gross motor, fine motor, speech, mental, etc.) is greatly delayed. At age four and a half, he is now just beginning to crawl. It is guessed that he will some day walk, and may have a few words, but will probably never have great speech skills or be able to read. Formal education will not happen - we will be focusing on life skills, if anything, and he will be with us for life. This is not a burden, but is a great gift and a wonderful stewardship from the Lord. We are grateful to the Lord for giving us such a sacred trust, and we are grateful for his precious life.


Who doesn't love a monkey?

In the next part in this series, I'll chronicle how I created a medical notebook to navigate through the complex web of doctors, etc., and then move on to the lessons we learned during this time.

Click on Part 4 to keep reading!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Inside the American Medical System: Our Story Begins (Part 2 in the Series)



Though our little guy is now four and a half years old, I've never written down his story. If you go back to my blog entries for August and September 2010 (starting here and here), you can read the beginning of our journey into the medical system. I'll cover that in a minute.

And in a way, you could say that our journey began at that point - on the day that I took our little guy in for our pediatrician to evaluate the problems that were becoming obvious to our family.

But in reality, this story goes back further - much, much further. In fact, the Lord had been preparing me for the arrival of a baby with special needs for years - even decades. When it happened, it was not a surprise, but rather the fulfillment of something long-known.

Here's how that happened:

I was raised to be strongly pro-abortion. The philosophy taught was simply that abortion was a necessary evil - "Better aborted than unwanted." I began the journey out of that place of darkness quite early - I began to question the ethics of abortion in my early teens, and began gradually to travel the slow journey toward becoming completely and fervently anti-abortion and pro-life, which is where I am today.

However, in my life is a much-loved person who is, and always has been, very pro-abortion - adamantly so - and who has always made it clear that he/she would immediately abort any child with health problems.

And thus, about fifteen years ago, the thought popped unbidden into my head, "I wonder if I will ever have a baby with health problems in order to show this person that all babies are precious and deserve life?" I didn't consider the question in depth, but the thought remained in my mind all those years, with a half-aware assumption that a baby with special needs might be in my future for that very purpose.

Fast forward to when I was married.

We accepted the culturally-popular mis-truth that "you have to use birth control for a few years so that you can get to know each other," so we waited a decorous two years before deciding to start our family.

When we decided that we'd waited "long enough," our first child was quickly conceived - but was miscarried at nine weeks. Though I was puzzled by my near-complete lack of pregnancy symptoms, I was completely clueless of the obvious signs that we were headed straight for a loss. (My miscarriage story is here.)

Our second child was completely healthy and born at term. Except for crippling hyperemesis gravidarum, the experience of which formed the basis for this blog, there were no complications. I felt no misgivings about his health, and we refused all prenatal testing and ultrasounds.

Our third child, however, was different.

From the very beginning, I felt deeply that something was wrong. At first, I was convinced that I was going to miscarry. That didn't happen. But the feeling that something was wrong didn't go away. And as the pregnancy progressed, I began to wrestle with an unexpected (and unwanted) feeling - the feeling that I ought to get an ultrasound. Normally, I don't like ultrasounds, and I don't get them unless absolutely necessary. But this time I felt that I needed to.

And so we did. And they found nothing.

At that point, I started to feel like I was a neurotic mess. Why on earth was I doing so much worrying and fretting? Baby was fine, we were at the twenty-week mark, and there was nothing to worry about.

Control yourself, woman!

I couldn't help but wonder if my fears were portending either a stillbirth or birth complications. However, I didn't have any strong feelings that way, so we continued ahead planning our second homebirth.

Maternity pictures one month before baby's arrival! 

The rest of our pregnancy went smoothly, with no complications. I went into labor at something like 39 weeks and 3 days, and my labor lasted seven hours, eleven minutes. We had a bit of a dramatic finish, as baby's heart started doing some fairly serious decels during second stage, and we had to rush pushing a bit. NOT fun. And baby needed suctioning and stimulation to get started. However, as all birth junkies know, those are among the most common of birth complications - nothing out of the ordinary.

Read baby's birth story here.

Baby's on his way.... 


... and here at last!

When everything was over, I felt relieved - but also confused. I had spent this entire pregnancy worrying. Constantly worrying. And here I was, with an uneventful pregnancy, a (relatively) uncomplicated birth, and a seemingly healthy newborn.

At that point, I really started doubting myself. Why was I such a worrywart?

Baby's first year, however, was quite eventful. Right after the birth, we were plunged into catastrophic nursing problems that were absolutely nightmarish. We ended up seeing lactation consultants repeatedly, pumping around the clock while bottle-feeding, going in for tongue-tie, and having to retrain baby to the bottle. It was a very hard couple of months, and a time that I hope never to repeat. After we finally got all of the problems cleared up, and the breast pump triumphantly returned to the nursing store (with a big good riddance!), we thought we were in the clear.

And we were. But only for a couple of months. Then the next storm began to brew.

The first time I noticed that something was not quite right was when a sweet friend gave us an exer-saucer for baby. In reading the label, I saw the words, "For infants of four months and older with good head and neck control." Wait a minute. Our baby was more than four months old, and didn't have good head and neck control. There was no way he could sit in that exer-saucer!

But I dismissed the thought and still thought our wee one was within the lower confines of "normal." And so the year continued. But I began, gradually, to notice that baby was falling further and further behind in his milestones, as well as displaying other concerning characteristics (such as a lack of ability to make eye contact or smile) and a small cloud of fear began to gather.

Finally, a month before our little guy's first birthday, I allowed my fears to surface. This is not normal. I am officially worried about this baby. And I packed him up and took him over to our sweet midwife's house to get her opinion.



One of the reasons that I value our midwife's opinion so highly is that she, like me, is extremely anti-fuss. She doesn't support unnecessary tests, and she is extremely calm and unlikely to make a fuss when none is needed. Thus, I knew that I could trust her opinion, because she would not overreact if I was worrying about nothing.

However, after I laid out my concerns to her, my midwife said immediately and clearly, "Yes, I think there is something wrong. Yes, you need to go see your pediatrician right away." That was enough for me, and I immediately made the appointment to go in and have our little guy evaluated to find out what on earth was going on.

Through it all was a small feeling of relief - I was not crazy after all. All of the worrying, the intuitive Spirit-led knowledge that something was indeed wrong, had been correct. And the knowledge that whatever it was was finally here, instead of being forever-anticipated, was a relief. We could deal with reality instead of a nebulous cloud of uncertainty, fear, and vague apprehensions. The shoe had dropped, and now we could deal with the shoe instead of worrying about it.

To be continued!

With his big brother! 
Click on Part 3 to keep reading!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Cooking Through CHINA - Egg Rolls!

I'm pleased to announced that we have a new front-runner competing for first prize in our "Cooking Through CHINA" project (part of our homeschool unit study on China). And it is.... egg rolls!

These were an enormous hit with everyone!

We made these as a birthday dinner for the now-2yo, and he loved them too - he actually ate two and a half of these critters by himself. Wow.


The Recipe

We used a great and super-simple recipe for egg rolls. We made it as is - the only discrepancy we noted was that the recipe produced about 20 egg rolls instead of the stated eight. 

We used this recipe for sweet and sour sauce.  No modifications, and it was quick and excellent.

Enjoy!



Egg rolls are super-simple to make! The filling was just seasoned ground pork, cabbage, and carrots, and the wrappers are purchased pre-made. Each takes about 30 seconds to roll.





Aided by my trusty assistant (or, to put it more truthfully, by the two-year-old who was too cranky to put down):



As usual, DH served as my fry-cook while I played sous chef. 





Not healthy, but certainly delicious! Rated a 5.0 by each voting family member on our family rating system


Definitely give this a try! It's gone on our keeper-list - DH says it's one of his favorites! 


Friday, February 14, 2014

Awesome Homeschool Science - Owl Pellets!

Several weeks ago, our family got to see owl pellets during a raptor presentation that our homeschool group attended. They were really neat! Owls digest the meat they eat, and then regurgitate the indigestible fur and bones in the form of a tightly packed "owl pellet." In dissecting an owl pellet, one can very reliably piece together the skeletons and find out what the owl ate!

The 7yo was immediately intrigued, and as soon as he got home wanted to go looking for owl pellets. As we do indeed have a pair of resident great horned owls, he and DH immediately took off for the owls' favorite haunts to see if they could find any pellets.

And indeed they did!



The 7yo enthusiastically donned gloves and used a pair of tweezers to dissect the pellets. From those two pellets, he was able to find the skeleton of a bird (most likely a dove) and some sort of rodent.

It was great fun, and a wonderful learning experience. Hopefully we'll be able to repeat this experiment as often as the children want - as long as we have our beautiful owls, we should have owl pellets!

I love the versatility of home education. Experiences like this are simply woven into and through our lives, and they're usually not a part of "sit down and answer these questions" textbook learning. They're wonderfully spontaneous - they spring up unexpectedly in all sorts of ways, and they're always wonderful. Catching the passion of a child's interest and feeding it is a wonderful experience.

This was actually the first time that I'd ever seen an owl pellet. We never saw them in school, and though my mom did bring one home for me once, I found the very idea repulsive and never even opened the envelope. DH had never dissected owl pellets in school either, so this was a first for the whole family.

I love how much we're ALL learning!




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Inside the American Medical System: An Introduction (Part 1 in the Series)

This series has been in the making for over five years, and the time has finally come to write it! I'm so excited to share with you our experiences in the American medical system with our baby boy, and I hope that what we learned in the process, and the tips I hope to share, will be useful to you!

I'm not quite sure how long this series will be, but here is a basic outline:

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Our Story
Part 3 - Creating a Medical Notebook I
Part 4 - Creating a Medical Notebook II
Part 5 - Lessons Learned

Today's Part 1 installment, our brief introduction to this series, will cover the following:
  • What will be covered in this series
  • What will not be covered in this series
  • A brief discussion of personal bias

Let's get started!



What WILL Be Covered In This Series:

In 2010 we began this journey with our then nearly-one-year-old baby boy. Over the following couple of years, we journeyed in and out of doctors' offices, hospitals, labs, therapists' offices, etc., as we searched (fruitlessly) for answers, for a diagnosis, and for advice that would help our wee man. This series will be based on our experiences, which included:
  • Repeat visits to numerous specialists' offices, including pediatrics, developmental pediatrics, neurology, genetics, cardiology, and gastroenterology (among others)
  • Lots of oh-so-fun lab tests
  • Other tests including MRI under general anaesthetic, repeat cardioechograms, etc.
  • Therapy evaluations and ongoing therapy of various forms (PT, OT, speech, etc.)
  • Extensive genetic testing

What Will NOT Be Covered In This Series:

There are many areas that our journey did not include, and thus this series will not be reflective of those areas of the medical system. I do not want to claim more than our experience has actually covered, so I wish to be very clear that there are some areas of the medical system of which we have little to no experiential knowledge. Those areas include:
  • Advanced medications, medical equipment, or assistive devices
  • Surgeries
  • Repeat hospitalizations

A Brief Discussion of Personal Bias:

Everyone has a bias - even if he refuses to admit it! I am no different, and I have a definite bias - a bias in favor of naturopathic medicine over Western medicine.

In the American medical system, there is unfortunately (at the present time) a huge divide between Western medicine (drugs, devices, surgeries, labs, etc.) and naturopathic medicine (herbs, supplements, lifestyle, diet, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.). Unfortunately, finding medical practitioners who are well-versed in both healing modalities is nearly impossible. Naturopaths usually don't have the ability to do surgery or handle emergency situations, and Western medical doctors are, alas, usually completely ignorant of any healing methods outside of commercial pharmaceutical drugs. I would love to see these two extremes find a happy middle ground in which both methodologies could be practiced by the same caregiver, but such practitioners are so rare as to be practically non-existent. 

As American health care providers are usually "one or the other," most people tend to navigate instinctively toward one healing modality or the other, and I much prefer naturopathic medicine with its emphasis on diet, lifestyle, midwifery-style care, herbs, and non-drug healing whenever possible. Our experience in the Western medical model both confirmed and greatly strengthened my bias. However, I also gained a great amount of respect for the vast amount of knowledge held by Western medical doctors, and I hope to present a balanced view of our experience - though my bias will, of course, be ever-present. 




Monday, February 10, 2014

Celebrating Chinese New Year!

As part of our ongoing study of China, we were very excited to celebrate Chinese New Year!

(We originally planned to have our studies on China finish with this celebration and then move on to a new country, but we find that we're not yet ready to part ways - so we are going to study China through the end of the year. We will then start the new school year in May with a new country!)

There are many ways to celebrate this 15-day festival, and we wanted to do as many as possible - which took quite a bit of time!

We started on the first day of Chinese New Year with a New Year's feast! We made:
  • Chicken = for wealth!
  • Apples = for peace!
  • Long noodles and vegetables (cabbage) = for long life!
  • Almond cookies


We decorated with some of our books on China and some of our China crafts.



Additionally, we wanted to give the children the traditional red envelopes that Chinese children receive on Chinese New Year. I made some homemade envelopes by copying the characters for "Happy New Year" onto red construction paper. 



But then we received a wonderful surprise! Two hours before dinner, we got a package in the mail from a cousin who knew of our China studies - real Chinese red envelopes! How awesome! We ended up using both. The 7yo received money, and the babies got suckers.



The dinner was a huge hit! The 7yo was wildly in favor of the proceedings, and we had a great time. 




Then the following week, we attended a Chinese New Year Festival in town. It was really awesome! We got to see several cultural performances, including Chinese pop music, traditional Chinese music, Chinese folk dancing, professional yo-yo performances, and others. The 7yo got to be on stage as a volunteer during the yo-yo show!



We also got to see the famous dragon dance, which was a big hit with the kids:

Second dragon not pictured here, but they dueled bravely.


We also got to stroll through the booths and see lots of things which have been only in books until now: Chinese art, fans, Chinese umbrellas, bamboo plants, Chinese lanterns, silk clothing, chopsticks, etc. The 7yo was thrilled, and he took every opportunity to say "Ni hao!" to passersby, regardless of whether or not they understood him!

Chinese New Year was a big hit - it may be with our family as a permanent holiday!

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!