Family, Homeschool, My Personal Journey

Our Homeschooling Journey

For the past few years, our family has been homeschooling our kids. It’s probably the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done as a parent. Every time they learn something new, I know I helped with that. Over the past 3 years homeschooling our oldest, we’ve used a pretty wide variety of curricula. We started off with a really cool workbook from Amazon for second grade, moved Switched On Schoolhouse for third grade, and used workbooks and Easy Peasy for fourth and fifth grades. Each curriculum had great and not-so-great things about them for each of our kids. While I love the way Easy Peasy is planned out, I’ve found that my sweet child tends to phone it in because of the way the curriculum is laid out. This year she is starting 6th grade. As her mom and her teacher, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure she gets as much out of school as possible over the next few years! These middle and high school years can have a major impact on what life looks like for her after 18, so I’ve leaned hard toward a curriculum with some accountability built in. We started school a few weeks ago, and while she’s still enjoying her Easy Peasy curriculum, we are going to try out something a little more structured for the next few weeks! I’ve been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning. We’ll also be trying out the 1st grade curriculum for my little Bear! I’m excited and nervous about what the next 30 days will hold, and I look forward to letting you all know how my experience goes 🙂

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Family, Health & Wellness, My Personal Journey

We Have To Talk About This.

There were several comments on my post about DIY Scratch Sleeves that theorized why my son’s eczema was so bad. I appreciated these comments, but by the time I had gotten them I already knew what they were telling me was true. And I didn’t mean to take a super long blogging break the first half of this year but I had to because my son was so sick. So sick. And he isn’t out of the woods yet, but he’s well on his way to healing from a condition called TSW or Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

Sounds weird, right?

You see, I thought withdrawal from medications was a fairly quick thing… a few weeks, max. In fact, we experienced a minor withdrawal when we switched from topical steroids to essential oils about a year ago. It looked like a minor flare, followed by a ton of improvement. But then on Halloween last year my family went to IHOP and my son was given a strawberry that had spent its life in strawberry syrup being coated in Red 40. We didn’t realize it until after he had eaten it, and as a result we spent several days in the hospital helping his body breathe. One of the steps in that process was a round of oral prednisone.
At his follow-up appointment with his pediatrician, the doctor pointed out that his skin looked great, but was looking very thin. After a couple of weeks, his skin began looking worse than ever, and at that point nothing helped.

The decline :(

In our Christmas photos, you can see that he just isn’t quite himself… and it just got worse from there. We didn’t leave the house for weeks. I hadn’t gone back to the topical steroids, but the prednisone set off the withdrawal that I suppose the switch to oils had *almost* saved us from.

not so bad anymore

If you’ve ever had the inkling that maybe your eczema or your child’s eczema was getting worse on steroids… or that your skin almost seemed to need the steroids… let me just tell you you’re probably right.

just about back to normal

After 9 months of suffering, my boy can play again. We almost never get questions about his skin anymore. I’ve watched friends go through this condition, though, and I know it might not be over for us. But for now we’re okay. And because of what we’ve been through I have to tell people and at least try to prevent another child from going through this misery. Because it’s downright horrifying what my son has had to endure and I can’t imagine not trying to prevent that!

If you want to know more, go to ITSAN.org. You’ll find forums there with people who have and are going through this. You’ll find research and photos of healing. You’ll find a list of symptoms that go beyond skin and maybe it will explain some of the things you’ve experienced that have baffled the doctors. I know I was thankful to find them and talk to other parents who have walked in my shoes, get advice, and help me figure out how to love my son through the hardest thing I hope he ever has to go through.

I have many more photos, but they are heartbreaking and very personal. There are other moms who have shared their TSW stories in far greater detail, and you can find them at http://www.itsan.org/get-involved/IMIA/

Crafting, Family, Health & Wellness

Help for Little Eczema Sufferers – No-Scratch Sleeves

My son has been suffering through the worst eczema flare-up I’ve ever witnessed. Seriously, I didn’t know eczema could even look like this. I’ve seen pictures of eczema that look like hives, red rashes, extremely dry and even very flaky skin, but not this. This is all of those and more. And I know the worst of it is caused by the fact that a three-year-old sweetie doesn’t fully understand the damage his scratching causes. And don’t get me wrong – we still love our eczema cream – and we have also taken the obvious steps of keeping his nails trimmed and wearing covering clothing – but since eczema isn’t merely a skin issue, we knew we had to take other steps.

Last Saturday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I saw his sweet face all scabbed up when he woke up (we cover him when he sleeps – footy pajamas are great – but his face is still exposed, so it gets the brunt of the scratching) and I couldn’t just lotion him and wait out his healing. I searched “eczema scratch prevention” online and found something I had never thought of before – scratch clothing!

There appeared to be two products on the market. One is called ScratchSleeves, and it’s made in the UK and shipped here. For about $23 (shipped) I can have my very own cardigan with mittens that my son would wear under his clothing. His hands would be completely covered, so any scratching would at least be minimally successful. The other was a similar product that’s made in the US and sells for about $25. It was the same basic premise, but the hands on these were open at the ends, and I knew my little guy would figure that out in no time.

Being that I can’t just learn about a product like and then buy it, the wheels in my head began turning and I decided I needed to see if there was a way I could make this myself. I thought up designs, what would be the most effective material to use, etc. – and then I remembered that I’m 9 months pregnant and we just moved into a new house, so all my sewing stuff is still in boxes. After a trip to the thrift store and finding nothing inspiring, I went to Walmart and found a set of 3 pairs of tights for about $3.97 – $1.33/pair!

My original thought was a body suit that would cover my boy from head to toe, including his hands. Then I talked to my brilliant husband and we decided that the most important factor was keeping his hands covered. Before bed that night, I grabbed one set of tights, snipped a small line down the middle, and put them on my boy. Perfect.

No Scratch Sleeves
My boy rocking his red no-scratch sleeves with his Spiderman t-shirt

Now, I realize that when most people think of eczema, something like this seems rather extreme. If that’s you, then I’m sorry but you haven’t seen eczema like I’ve seen. But if you’ve ever woken up and dreaded looking at your child for fear of what they’ve done to themselves overnight this time… if you’ve ever spent half your car trip explaining to your sweet child that it really is important that they don’t scratch… if you’ve ever dressed your little one in clothes that were maybe a little too warm for the weather in hopes that an extra layer would prevent him from hurting himself – then you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and you might just want to make some for your sweetheart. Well, thankfully, it’s super duper easy!

What you need:
-Tights, about the same size as your child. (My son is a 3T and we bought 2T-4T sized tights)
-Scissors

Unroll the tights.

Tights Find the center seam of the tights. Cut about 3 inches (depending on how broad your child’s shoulders are, this may vary.)
Cut Tights Cut Done

Put on the way you would put on a sweater. I find it easiest to roll up the tights to the end onto my thumbs (the same way I would put tights or socks on myself) and have him stick his hand directly into the end. Bring the back around, and do the same on the other side. Pull the front to a comfortable position.

Sleeves Front Sleeves Back

That’s it! Now put a shirt on and you’re ready to go!

Sleeves in PJs
Here he is in the white set with his PJs! I find it fun/easy to make it match his outfits.

My son has been wearing these for about a week and we’ve had minimal problems with them. He still scratches (we’re making diet changes and hoping that helps), but he isn’t breaking the skin anywhere near as easily as he used to. He can function well in them – he’s doing a puzzle as I type, and he can eat, color, and play without trouble.

To wash them, I put them all in a pillowcase, tied it shut, and put them in the washer on delicate. If you want to get fancy, you could get a lingerie bag but we didn’t have one on hand and I was afraid the zipper would cause snags. Some pairs got a little pilly, but a lint shaver would solve that problem. (I love mine, but it’s still in a box somewhere!)

So, that’s one step we’ve taken to help my son’s skin heal. We’re still putting his homemade eczema cream on every day, but this has made the battlefield more level, for sure.

If you make some, I’d love to see pictures!

Family

Date Night – at home!

Image

When we were in our pre-marriage classes, one of the things my husband and I noted was of utmost importance in a marriage was a weekly date night. We spend time together a lot more than some of our peers, but having an intentional date night is so much different! We found out quickly, though, that babysitters are pricey (and a good one is worth their weight in gold!), and weekly was just not happening… heck, monthly was a miracle, and we’re happy to have a good, long date every 3 months! But the expense of it aside, it is VERY important to have frequent dates with your spouse. It keeps that “loving feeling” alive, and while a great marriage isn’t made up of good feelings, they still help 🙂

So anyway, last week I participated in my first legit at-home date. I mean, we’ve grabbed a card game after the kids went to bed, snuggled on the couch and watched movies, etc., but to me, that isn’t a date. Maybe I’m a snob, but to me a date requires planning and intentionality. Well, after 3 weeks of being told by my dad (our #1 free babysitter!) that he’d watch the kids “Tuesday, no wait Friday, maybe Saturday afternoon” and getting tired of being disappointed, Collin decided we’d have a drive-in movie date. It was amazing. We got some big fluffy blankets, dragged them into the back yard, he moved the TV and AppleTV to the back porch, and we laid together and watched 50 First Dates (one of my all-time favorites) in the back yard. It was really something. I felt loved, cherished… I felt like we were friends again. It was very special to me. I decided that at-home dates really shouldn’t be a last-ditch resort when we’re tired of waiting for a “real” date. They can be real dates – planned, intentional, and very fun. (I’m sure this is a realization everyone else came to a long time ago, but I’m stubborn!) So I set out to make a list. I scoured the internet, and found 10 here, 5 there, on all sorts of sites, and compiled them, along with some suggestions from friends, to post here. My plan is to print them, laminate them, and work through them in no particular order. And if you have other ideas, please feel free to post those below!

(I separated out the things that only married couples should participate in… they’re at the bottom! But married ladies, don’t leave these out if you decide to enact some of these date nights with your hubby!)

For everyone:

  • Order in from a favorite restaurant, dress up all fancy and turn on some romantic music you’d hear in a nice restaurant ie: Sinatra, Michael Buble, etc.
  • Make your bed all pretty and eat a fancy dessert (cheesecake, anyone?) together while watching a favorite (or new!) movie.
  • Have an all-out game night, just the two of you. Take turns choosing your favorite board/card games.
  • Theme night! Enjoy the music, food, and drink of a culture of your choice. (Italian, Western, etc.)
  • Music night! Go back & forth playing your favorite romantic (or fun!) songs for each other.
  • Drinks on the back porch. Gaze at the stars, sit together, and just enjoy.
  • Read to each other. Pick a favorite article, some quotes, or a book you’re reading and let each other in on your world!
  • Casual dance night. Pick some favorite songs – or even some of the awful newer stuff – and dance together in the back yard (weather-permitting)
  • Break out the Wii (or other gaming console). Play some favorite video games together.
  • DDR, anyone? Get out the PS2 and bust a move.
  • Laugh it up. Get out a comedy CD or DVD or find something on YouTube. Laugh till you wet your pants, then take a shower.
  • Make a pallet in the living room, pop some way-too-buttery popcorn, and watch a movie you’ve seen a million times.
  • Have an indoor picnic. Get (or make) a fruit or cheese tray and sit on a blanket in the living room. No tv, phones, or computer allowed – just talk
  • Movie marathon. Buy some special treats, and pick a movie theme. (An actor, an era, etc.) Watch two or three movies if you can stay awake!
  • Taste test. Pick a favorite food that has many types and tastes (different meats, cheeses, candies, ice creams – you name it), and take turns blindfolding each other and trying to guess what you’re eating.
  • Cook a gourmet meal together. Enjoy laughing, dancing, whatever while you cook, then eat it together like it was served at a 5-star restaurant.
  • Bake something sweet. From a box, from scratch – who cares?! Enjoy feeding it to each other.
  • Send someone else out on a date! Put the kiddos to bed (theirs and yours), and enjoy the night away from home, just being together.
  • Relive your first date at home… Or at least have cheesecake and watch that first movie together again.
  • Put the kids to bed early (like 7:00). Make stadium food (nachos!!) and enjoy the game on TV.
  • Make brinner and enjoy a “morning” in bed together.
  • Karaoke night! Break out your favorite movie musical classics and serenade each other till your heart’s content! (I’m thinking Grease, Newsies, and several Disney classics until our throats hurt!)
  • Take the TV (or iPad or laptop) to the back yard and have a “drive in” movie. (It’s worth lugging the TV out there. Especially if it’s a flat screen haha)

Married couples only!

  • Fill the kiddie pool with water, put on that swimsuit *ONLY* he can see you in, and soak together under the stars.
  • Snuggle up on the couch and watch your wedding video together.
  • Watch a movie in bed. Naked. No touchy till it’s over! (Okay, I guess you can hold hands.)
  • Play twister in your lingerie. See how long it takes to make him lose on purpose
  • Pamper each other. Take turns giving massages, maybe even take a long shower together and let your spouse bathe you.
  • Make out. You used to set aside nights just for this purpose and it was always fun. It still is. Go for it.
  • Poker night! (Strip optional)

I hope you enjoy enacting some of these at-home date nights! What are some of your favorite stay-at-home dates?

Family

Best Valentine’s Day EVER!

Towards the end of the year last year, Gateway had a huge baptism event where they did outdoor baptisms for hundreds of people. It was really neat, and because it was such an event, Alexa got to see it. As soon as she did, she started asking questions… What are they doing? Why? What does it mean? It was so neat because it sparked a conversation with Alexa that lasted for months! We talked to her a lot about praying to ask God when, and how she can hear God, and what it means to give your heart to Jesus and to confess your faith in him through baptism… And, just like her mama, she soaked it all in, prayed a lot, and finally came to a very big decision.

Alexa talked to me earlier and she had decided she was ready to pray and ask Jesus into her heart. I told her we would wait until evening (Collin & I were at work at the time!) and pray before bed. So, laying in her bed, she and daddy prayed as I stood by beaming about the incredible choice my little girl was making. After she and daddy prayed, she shouted out “This is the Best Valentine’s Day, EVER!” I love it. She has no idea just how right she is 🙂

Family

Baby #3 – It’s a BOY!!

We got to see baby #3 today. We actually got to see him three times this week! It was really neat.
Collin found an opportunity in the “gigs” section of craigslist for me to “model” for a medical conference. We got a $50 Babies R Us gift card on both Tuesday and Thursday to receive ultrasounds in 2- and 3-D of our newest addition. WIN!

Tuesday I have to talk about it a little because it was TOO cool. We were at the FMFM conference in Dallas, and I was the model they used to show a room full of med students what a normal baby’s heart looks like in 2- and 3-dimensions. The “ultrasound tech,” it turned out, was a world-renowned pediatric cardiologist who works out of UCLA. His resume is ridiculous… we could never have afforded to have a guy with his qualifications look at our unborn child! But he spent a good 30 minutes looking at and explaining the intricacies of our baby’s heart… and THEY paid US. It was such a neat experience.

Wednesday We had the regular 20-weeks (but I was 21 weeks) ultrasound at our midwives’ office on Wednesday. It was typical, other than that baby #3 measured a whole 2 weeks small. We’re hoping it’s not a big deal (Alexa & Chris both measured about a week small at that age and were born at 7-8 lbs+/ea.), but it’s something I’ll probably be thinking about in the back of my mind until they tell me it’s fine. The tech thought he saw something, but couldn’t be sure.

Thursday This is the ultrasound we were most excited about. We would get to see a 3-D picture of our baby’s face. We would get to SEE our baby’s face!! But the little man had other ideas. As the tech placed the thingy on my tummy she said “Oh, you’re having a little contraction… that’s normal, no big deal!” then a few seconds later, “There’s the baby… it looks like the baby is using the contraction as a pillow!” Oh gosh. Already silly. And the baby had their hand over their eye. No hope of a good face photo. But we did get one 3D photo anyway:

Baby #3
Baby #3

They were also able to tell us the baby’s gender (finally!) Little bear will be getting a little brother!! It took Alexa a little bit of time to get excited about it – she can’t wait to share her room with a little sister! But she is happy for her brother that he’ll have someone to do boy stuff with, and the idea of a little brother has grown on her. She’s about as excited about him as she was for Christopher now.

I can’t wait to meet this little guy 🙂