Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Great Wolf Lodge

Since we have three birthdays in August, we decided to take a trip to Dallas to the Great Wolf Lodge. We figured this would be cheaper than taking them each to do something special on their birthdays.
It was really nice, because we just had nice quiet evenings for their birthdays, with just our family.
We headed up to the Lodge early Sunday morning. We arrived at 10:30 and got all checked in. Then we hit the water park.
We had bought disposable underwater cameras, and all the pictures inside didn't turn out. Thankfully, there's a part of the park that is outside, so we got a few pics outside.
We had such a great time. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. The kids got along great and it was just wonderful, the whole time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Homeschooling Story

It seems like I've been asked about homeschooling quite a bit, lately. So, I decided to write an entry about why we homeschool, how we homeschool, and what we use.
I'll be the first to admit that I am a paranoid mom. No one is going to hurt my babies. When Matthew was getting to be school age, the school shootings were at an all time high. Either that, or we were just hearing about it on the news a lot more.
Growing up, I went to a great school. The country school that was "safe". I'll never forget seeing the brother of one of my classmates on the Sally Jesse Rafael show. He had been expelled because he had a hit list of who he was going to kill in the school. Around the same time, there was another shooting in a small town a couple hours away, another "safe" school.
If all this was happening at these schools, how could any school be safe for my kids??
Along with all of my fears, was the fact that Matthew was born with some facial differences. We learned very quickly that kids were cruel, very cruel. We also knew that Matthew would be facing surgeries during his early years of school. We couldn't figure out how he would manage to stay caught up in school with all the doctor's appointments we would be dealing with.
And finally, there was the fact that I really enjoy my kids. I couldn't fathom sending them to school for eight hours a day. I couldn't figure out how we could have a meaningful relationship if we only saw them a couple hours a day.
The idea of homeschooling appealed more and more to us, and we decided to give it a go. My kids have never been in public school, we've homeschooled from the word Go.
Over the years, our reasons for keeping them home have definitely changed. Yes, we still deal with the doctor's appointments, we still like being with our kids, and we still worry about their safety, but now it has become so much more.
We started learning about schools and how they teach for the tests. The higher the test scores, the more money they get. The schools have also started dictating what an acceptable absence is. When I was a kid, we could go on vacation, and my parents saying that we were with them, was enough to excuse the absence. Now, if you go on vacation, you get zeros for the time missed. When did the schools take the right to determine what is OK for their kids away from the parents?
There is also the fact that some of my kids have struggled a bit. I have been able to help them through, but worry if they had been in school they would have been left behind. Now, I don't know that for sure, but it seems like something that could easily happen.
Most importantly for us, is that we control what our children learn. Yes, my kids know about evolution, but we haven't taught it as truth. We believe in creation, and so those are the beliefs we've instilled in our kids. We like being able to pray whenever we want. On many occasions, we say a prayer before a test, or if things are getting difficult. We are allowed to talk about God whenever we want.
We have never said we will homeschool forever, we've always said we will homeschool for as long as it works for us. It still works for us, so we are still homeschooling.
As for what we do, I'm schooling four different levels right now. Matthew and Dillon are old enough that they are quite independent. Don't get me wrong, I help them whenever they need it, but for example, I don't have to sit and walk them through every math problem. They have instruction and then can pretty much go on their own.
I am using the workbox system for Collin and Zachary. I started it last year, towards the end of the year, and it seems to be what they need. Collin is one of my kids that struggles. Last year, and probably this year, I sit Zachy and Emily down with an activity (lacing beads in a pattern, or playing Jr boggle, etc) and I work with Collin. Then I switch. Collin plays with the girls and I work with Zachy. We switch back and forth until they are done with their school.
How we choose our curriculum could be it's own post, but I'm lazy so I'll pop a bit in here. In short, it has been years of trial and error.
We have stuck with Math U See our math, but everything else changes yearly. I keep coming back to Alpha Omega Lifepacs, though. Also,. Apologia Science is our science curriculum of choice. This year, we are using Switched on Schoolhouse for the older two boys. Not for all subjects, but some. We'll see how they like it. I'm not sure that Matthew is going to dig doing his schoolwork on the computer, but we'll give it a whirl. We are also using Horizons this year for Zachy. Emily is only 3, but I'll be working on letters and crafty goodness with her.
Is it easy? Nope. Am I organized? Not really. In fact, in most things, I'm quite lazy and I never follow through. This is how I know that God wants us to do this. We pray about it all the time. I couldn't do it without being able to go to God on a daily basis and lean on Him.
I hope this answered some questions. I want to add that I know there are wonderful schools out there, and since my kids have never been to public school the things I said are all things that I've heard from other parents. I don't mean to knock the public school system at all, it just isn't for us.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seven Years Ago

~This ended up being far lengthier than I intended. I understand if you don't read it all. I needed to write this out, for me.

Today is the seventh anniversary of Zachy's heart being fixed.
It was on this day, seven years ago, that we were thrust into the world of open heart surgery.
I remember most of that day, as if it were yesterday. A few things are hazy, but for the most part, it's etched in my mind.
I've never written about this, and decided it was time. Some images may be disturbing to some people, but he's my baby, and he is beautiful.

August 5, 2003, I was induced. Our fourth baby was coming. Our fourth boy. What a joyous occasion! Labor was fast and very painful. I had decided to go with no epidural, and he was sunny side up. When it came time to push, it hurt so bad, I couldn't stop pushing. He was born in four short minutes, and his face would later show the evidence of this. I was told that he didn't actually come face up, but that he came face first, so his nose came out molding of his head, no wonder it hurt so bad.
When he was born, they plopped him on my belly. He was lifeless. I couldn't look at him. All I could do was ask, over and over, "what's wrong with my baby?" The midwife insisted that he was fine, perfect even. After what felt like an eternity (in reality, it was one minute) he let out a cry. A puny, little cry. They whisked him off to be cleaned up and weighed.
We were then allowed to hold him, and the kids and grandparents came in to meet the newest edition to the family.
What I saw, and what others saw, were drastically different. I saw a perfect beautiful baby. The first words out of my mom's mouth were, "he's black". I was so irritated by that comment. Little did I know that my step dad had turned around and left the room. Unbeknownst to me, an argument between him and the nurses was taking place in the hallway outside. He was insisting that they call the doctor, now. They were telling him they knew how to do their jobs and that he was fine, no need for the pediatrician to come. They told him she would be there when she did her rounds. He wouldn't stand for it. After much insistence, they finally called the pediatrician.
When she got there, they took him away, assuring us that they would bring him right back, after they examined him and bathed him.
The next thing we knew, the doctor was talking to us, telling us that his oxygen levels were low and he was on oxygen. They told us he was probably just born too fast and his lungs were still wet. They'd wean him off the oxygen over time.
This was not to be, and before we knew it, we were being blown a terrible blow.
Our baby had a heart defect, and would be transferring to a different hospital.
I was in such shock and so naive, that I asked them how we would get him to the hospital an hour away in our car, with oxygen. They informed me that the helicopter was on it's way. That's when it hit me that this was serious. Much more serious than I wanted to admit.
This all took place August 7. By the time we got to the other hospital, they had him settled in his room in the PICU, and we were greeted by many doctors. They took us in a room to explain to us that Zachary's pulmonary veins hadn't connected right, and that the only option was open heart surgery. They told us that TAPVR occurs in 1 in 15,000 babies. They also told us that he had a 95% chance of survival.
Most people would be thrilled with those odds, but we had just hit something that had a .0015% chance of 5% seemed huge.
That night, they wanted to put a line in his belly button. They told us it would take about a half an hour. Three hours went by, and when we saw him again, he was intubated. We weren't expecting to see him on a vent. That was hard. Really, really hard.
August 8 came. Surgery day. I will never forget riding in the elevator with him, and kissing him goodbye in the hallway. What a horrible thing. I was trying not to break down and cry, but all I could think about was that this could be the last time I saw my baby alive.
The surgery was to take six hours.
I remember the waiting room so clearly. I remember it being filled with people. My mom and step dad were there, and Matt's parents. Some people from some one's church came to sit. I have no idea who they were, and kept thinking I didn't have it in me to be sociable with people I didn't know. I purposely kept my distance from them. They could pray with my in laws, but I needed them to leave me alone.
Being in the waiting room, was somewhat like being in a fish tank...everything around me was hazy. All the sounds were muffled. And yet, it was all so clear.
At some point, my step dad asked me what I was scared about. I said I was afraid of him dying. He informed me that if he did, we would get through, and to not be scared. I didn't believe him and thought it was a horrible thing to say. I know now, he was just trying to help.
There was a time that I went to the PICU to pump. I rode in the elevator, carrying my "personal belongings" bag that held my pump pieces. There was a lady on the elevator who looked at me excitedly and said, "are you here for the reason I think you're here???" I don't know how I didn't cry. I just quietly told her no. When I got to the PICU the cardiologist expressed his concern about me. He told me I had to sleep, I had to take care of me, or I would end up being readmitted to the hospital. I hadn't left Zachy's side. People wanted me to leave the hospital, but home was 2 hours away. They talked about the Ronald McDonald House. I insisted I had to stay at the hospital to be able to pump. My mind was so set on him not getting formula, only breast milk, when the time came. It was the only thing I felt like I could control. The hospital ended up giving us a cot, and I slept on the cot in the family waiting room in the PICU, and Matt slept on the couch. Some nights, he went home, but I never left. As a side note, I wasn't able to do this with Natalie, and going home without a baby every night was so incredibly difficult.
When I returned from pumping, an elderly lady met me in the hall. She asked me if I had a baby having heart surgery. I told her yes, and she proceeded to tell me that her husband was supposed to have had the first surgery of the morning, but he was pushed back for a very sick little baby. She told us she was thinking of us, and wished us the best.
Somehow, everyone in the waiting room must have known we had a baby in surgery. They all stared, often.
After only four and a half hours, the cardiologist came into the waiting room. A hush fell on the room. You could almost see everyone leaning towards us as the cardiologist spoke to us.
Zachy was out of surgery. And he was doing great.
We were finally reunited with our baby. Mother's eyes are amazing, because when we saw him, I never focused on all the tubes coming out of him. I saw past it all, to my precious baby. People always commented on how many IVs and wires and tubes he had, but I just didn't see it.
The one thing I have no recollection of from that day, is where my other kids were. I'm thinking maybe with Matt's grandparents. I have pictures of my mom holding Collin over Zachy, saying goodbye. At some point, they were there. Did they stay the whole time? I really don't think so. But in all honesty, I don't know. Neither does Matt.
The following days would be a blur. I never left, for fear that something would go wrong, and I wouldn't be there. Matt had to go to work, we were so poor at the time, there was no paid time off. I would miss him fiercely on those days.
One week later, we got to bring our baby home. He had no complications while in the hospital.
He not only survived, but thrived.
By the time he was four, he had developed sick sinus syndrome, and would need a pacemaker. His future holds surgeries for the rest of his life. But that's a different story, for another time.
We know what we have. We know what a gift we were given, and how precious life is. There is not a single day that the thought doesn't go through my head of what could have so easily been. I thank God every day for blessing us with this amazing boy, and all our kids for that matter. We truly are blessed.

Please excuse the quality of the phots, they are either scans of pictures, or pictures of pictures. No digital camera back then!

Being weighed, after birth. Notice, no crying. He really never cried very much.

This was right after he was born..well after they got him to cry.

His poor face was so swollen from being delivered so quickly. He couldn't even open his eyes, and his face was completely purple from the bruising.

Getting ready to go for a ride in the helicopter.

This is what we were greeted with after they told us they wanted to put a line in his belly button. He ended up intubated.

The morning of surgery. In all of these pictures, we are smiling. I think we were at a place of trying so hard not to break down, so we laughed instead.

Right after surgery. I was certain he would end up bald, because for days all I could touch was his head. I would just sit and rub his head, I will never forget the feel of that baby fuzz.

Another pic from right after surgery.

On his birthday...surviving..and THRIVING!! Love you, Zachy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

God's Plans are Always Best

When I was a little girl, I used to say I wanted to be a "baby doctor" or a "nurse for babies".
It made sense, after all, I came from a family of nurses, and my dad is a doctor.
When my dad would do rounds on the weekend, I would beg to go. He would take me, and drop me off at the floor with the nursery. I'm not sure what floor it was, but it didn't matter, it was the baby floor.
He would do rounds, and I would stand at the window, watching the babies, and the nurses. Longing to be in there with the tiny little babies.
I had nineteen cabbage patch dolls, and they were each my babies. I remember going to Anaheim, and I insisted that we go to the cabbage patch hospital. I expected to see little bassinets, just like the nursery at the hospital. I didn't see that, and was secretly a bit disappointed that it was just a store.
As I grew, I started to get lazy. And I realized that to be a doctor or nurse required a lot of school. This didn't appeal to me, so I changed my thinking, sure I would be a teacher.
Well, as we all know, that didn't happen either. I got married at the ripe age of eighteen, and only went to a small amount of college.
I figured I had to help bring in some money, so I went to cosmetology school. Pretty funny, huh? What else could have such short schooling that would produce a career?
While I was in school, I found myself pregnant, with Matthew. The school insisted I have a waiver signed by my doctor, saying I could be around all the chemicals. My doctor refused to sign it. Stating that we don't know what affects all those chemicals could have on a baby.
I quit school, with the intention to go back and finish after Matthew was born.
That never happened. Instead, I became a stay at home mom.
Fast forward fourteen years, to today.
I have been a part of the CHD world for nearly seven years now. I have seen heartache. I have seen baby after baby pass away. On facebook, almost daily, there is an announcement of another sweet baby who has lost his or her fight with CHD.
My heart hurts for these parents. I cannot imagine the pain they endure.
And then I realize, that if I were a nurse or a doctor, I would be intimately involved with these parents. If it hurts me so badly when I don't even know the parents personally, I can't fathom how it would be to be involved in their care.
And yet, the best nurses I know have been personally affected by a sick baby, or even a baby who has passed. I just don't know how they do it. I've heard it said that they grow a thick skin. But I know it has to affect them.
I will never forget, when Natalie was in the NICU. The buzz around the unit was that they were getting a twenty-something week baby. The nurses were all preparing. At some point, Matt and I headed out for a break. We passed the neonatalogist and nurses in the hall. The isolette they were pushing, was empty. The looks on their faces was somber. Now, we never did ask, because we wouldn't have been told anyway, but we assume the baby didn't make it.
How do you deal with that day after day?
I couldn't.
Today, I've been teary-eyed thinking of all those babies. I would be a basket case if I were dealing with their care.
God had a better plan for me. Even though I had the plan for as long as I can remember. He knew it wasn't something I could handle. I am so thankful for that.
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