Monday, August 27, 2012

1st Day of School

Today went better than I could have ever imagined!  I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

This was a couple days ago...Mitch installed a "dry erase board" for me.  It is actually a piece of melamine (shower board) that is inexpensive.  He did a great job dressing it up by making a frame.  Hanging it was a family endeavor...but doesn't it look like they're all in time out??

This was the first class of the day, one that we will attempt to do all together, spelling.  Today I began placement tests.  Zeke started crying with the very first word.  I was hoping this wasn't a sign of the rest of the day!  I didn't tell the kids, but when a child spelled 3 words wrong, they could stop.  When Zeke started crying on the first word, I began praying that he would just spell them wrong and be done.  But he hung in there for about as long as I guessed he would!

Who let Obi on the table?  He is wanting to help us glue things, I think.

By the end of the school day I was pretty tired, and my voice is almost gone.  I've done a lot more talking and reading aloud than I'm used to.  But today was probably the best first day of school we've ever had.  I think everyone is ready to do more tomorrow.  (Even though Micah and Eden are slightly worried about how much work their science class is going to be.)  I know I'm excited!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


When I was pregnant with Micah, friends of our family sent me a cool journal that I could keep track of each doctor appointment while pregnant, and each appointment for Micah after I had him.  I loved this journal so much, that for each subsequent pregnancy I created my own version of the journal.  I buy blank journals and make "forms" inside where I can fill in the blanks as I go.  I leave space to journal thoughts or letters to each of my children.  They are treasures.

I recently took Obadiah in for his 15-mo checkup (at 16 months, lol, a little behind).  I was concerned about diarrhea, and had made a note under the "questions/concerns" section of the journal.  I flipped back a couple pages and noticed I had made the same note at 9 months.  Hmmm.  When I thought about it, I remember him struggling with diarrhea around the same time we went to Florida, too (when he was 13 mos).

This particular episode began around the first of August.  By the time we went to his appointment, he had been pooping every day between 3-5 times per day.  Nearly every single poop was a '6' on the Bristol Stool Scale.  I haven't been able to notice a predictable pattern, except that he is not likely to poop when we are away from home.  Sometimes his poops are very acidic and leave his bottom very red.  I can tell before I even change his diaper--when I pick him up, he will be very stiff and he will cry the second we enter the room where I change his diaper.  It's heartbreaking.  :(

The first concerning thing the doctor noticed is that he has had poor weight gain over the past 4 months.  He didn't lose weight, but he "fell out of his growth curve."  Basically he went from being close to the 50% at 9 mos for weight to down to under the 25% by 16 mos.  The doctor ordered a stool sample.  The stool sample tested negative for giardia and other parasites, but it did show white blood cells present.  Based on this information, she is referring us to a pediatric gastroenterologist.  That appointment isn't until the end of September, so she said that if he "gets better" in the meantime, we can cancel the appointment.

That part is a little confusing for me.  What does "gets better" actually mean?  Especially considering my note about diarrhea at 9 months.  He may seem to "get better" for a few weeks, only to have this pop back up again later, right?  Everyone that I've talked to has encouraged me to keep the appointment regardless.  I also plan to keep a detailed diary of what he eats and how he poops, but I didn't think I should keep 6 weeks' worth.  :)

I questioned if his issues could be dietary.  I don't give him juice, the most common culprit of toddler diarrhea.  I learned that a loooooong time ago with my other kids!  Speaking of the other kids, they too have had similar poop patterns--a handful of grapes means a poopy diaper within hours.  I have always wondered if a fructose intolerance malabsorption runs in the family.  I usually try to control what they eat until they are potty trained, and then figure they can manage it themselves after that.  Knowing this, I also try to balance what Obadiah eats...a banana or applesauce to counteract acidic foods like oranges or tomato-based foods.  Obadiah seems to be worse than the other kids were, but that could be just poor memory on my part.  The one thing I have looked hard at is milk.  Afterall, right around 12 months he started getting milk in a cup and we gradually weaned from breastfeeding.  So that could be it, right?  The doctor was confident it is not milk.  So we're kind of in a holding pattern.

The weird thing is the fact that he doesn't poop away from home.  Is this a factor or just a distracting detail?  Last week while we were camping he pooped only once each day.  We came home Friday around lunch time (after he had already pooped that morning at camp) and guess what?  He pooped two more times upon arriving home!  How is that that he went Sunday (Sundays we are on the go--to church and other places) through Thursday only pooping once per day, and upon returning home he resumed his "normal" diarrhea schedule?  It's something that I plan to make note of in my diary for the G.I. doc.

I'm praying for answers to help our little man.  He is such a happy guy with a strong will and, I believe, a high pain tolerance. 

Small Update

I know I haven't been blogging much, but I've been very busy doing other things.  I have been spending a lot of my time preparing for school.  But I've also been spending a lot of my time just taking care of kids.  It is overwhelming.  :)

I have a few garden pictures mixed in here, but not much.  These were taken at the beginning of August and it's been very dry here up until yesterday (though not very hot), and my garden now looks sad indeed.

 Obadiah decided to take his climbing shenanigans to new levels.  Needless to say, I drew the line here.

 Still mostly green 3 weeks ago, this pumpkin is now completely orange.

 I waited all summer for the purple and white flowers to bloom, now I enjoy them tremendously, though the blooms don't last long.  The marigolds are amazing here at the height of their glory.  Now they too are fading.

 This was quite a nice harvest of tomatoes and okra...and my one, lone ::sniff:: ear of corn.  I actually didn't harvest the okra soon enough and it was gross.  I learned something though!  Next year I think I'll try again, though my okra plants are still blooming so I may get a second harvest yet this year. The corn was not very good.  I need some good seeds.
 Micah signed up for 3 weeks on staff at Camp Lebanon, then after completing those he has been able to go back two more weeks.  Out of the past 7 weeks, he has been at camp for 5 of the weeks, and we went camping together as a family 1 of the weeks, so he has only been home for 1 week.  He won't know how to act when he gets home tomorrow!  We start school on Monday, so that will be a change of pace for him.  :)

 Such a silly boy!

 We have been studying Zoology 1, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Apologia) this summer, focusing on the units on insects.  What a fun journey this has been, at least for me!  We found this little guy (a mayfly??) on our window screen just after he had molted.  I thought it was very cool.

 We wanted to go to Virginia to visit family this year, but we just couldn't swing it.  I really wanted to do something though, so we opted for 5 days of camping.  We picked Mille Lacs Kathio State Park as our destination.  It was a great choice!  There were activities every day at the Interpretive Center.  We also took some hikes, swam, fished, and looked for wildlife (always interesting to do with a noisy, rambunctious group).
 The park has lots and lots of deer.  We saw many!

 {Tirzah and Obi}

 I couldn't keep the boys out of the woods, and I didn't even try.  It was wonderful to be out in creation.  Thankfully, no one got into poison ivy, not even Malachi who had nothing but flip flops to wear because he forgot his tennis shoes (an occurrence so common I should tape a note to the dashboard of the van).

 Look what I caught with my trusty scooby doo pole!

 Zeke caught this beautiful (can't believe I just said that) mink frog.

 This little insect was fascinating!  He is a phantom crane fly.  He has air pockets in his tarsi so that he spreads out his legs and catches currents of air when he flies, so he looks like he is floating through the air.  His unique coloration causes him to disappear when flying through shaded-but-sunny areas, so he has a "phantom" like act of disappearing-reappearing to trick predators.
(Thanks to the park naturalists for helping us identify it and find information about it.)
 We drove over to Father Hennepin State Park to fish on Lake Mille Lacs.

 Josh caught a decent small-mouth bass.

 Eden caught a beautiful...though small...walleye...yum!!

 Tirzah was not nearly as impressed with her small mouth bass as the rest of us were!

 For some reason, Obi REALLY wanted this fish!  He was right there grabbing at it the entire time Mitch and Micah fought to get it off the hook.
Speaking of Micah, I have never seen so much patience as I did from him while we were all fishing.  He patiently got each and every pole baited up and ready.  He was incredible!  Not a selfish moment in the afternoon.  He loves to fish, but it was amazing how much time he sacrificed to help everyone else.  

 Eden became quite the pro at catching least the tiny ones.  Apparently she stopped counting after 18.

 I caught a walleye too...I think the only way I'm going to get one for eating is to drive to Culver's.  I love my Scooby Doo pole.  ;)

 Zeke too.

 I decided to load up the younger children and take them swimming after a while.  I could only handle so much stress of having Obi and Tirzah running up and down the dock without life jackets on.  I was too nervous.  The water was cold, and they didn't swim much at all.  Just enough to get wet and let the sand stick to them.  They were SO dirty.  The theme of the week, I believe.

 One of the most interesting hikes we went on was a self-guided nature walk that took us through a bog.  Being able to look at a bog, right in front of us while reading about it, really helps bring other books to life.

 The Emersons came and visited us at camp one day and went hiking.

 The "observation tower".  I went up on the first day, but the kids wanted to go back a second time with the Emersons.  I wisely stayed at the bottom.  No need to see it twice!

 Headed home!

 This is how Josh looked after spending just a few minutes with a neighbor's cat that got outdoors.  Definitely worse than ever before.  :(  We suspect he is also allergic to horses.  Hopefully I will get to test that theory tomorrow.

Mitch planned a day at Valleyfair with the oldest 3.  Micah actually said he didn't want to go, and willingly gave his spot up to Zeke.  THEN, Micah got called to go to camp this week, so it all worked out well anyway.  The four of them had a blast at Valleyfair, though Eden claims she doesn't really like rollercoasters.  I am so jealous.  I LOVE rollercoasters.  But I think that I'm getting too old and I get motion sickness easier now, so I don't know if I could handle it.

Alright, that's all for now.  I could write more, but I don't have time!  :)

Friday, August 03, 2012

A Concrete Project

Mitch decided that he would like to extend our driveway, move our mailbox, and move the fence gate that is beside our house.  This sounded like a big project to me, but I was ok with it as long as he was ok with me not handling the shovel!  He started on July 6th...

Our mail lady has been complaining about our mailbox for a few years now.  She has threatened (in writing) to stop delivering the mail if we didn't move the box.  She never did carry through on her threat, but we are finally going to move the box, which is falling apart anyway.

The grass beside the driveway is not doing well.  It is full of weeds, and when it rains the water puddles up in the mud by the corner where the driveway meets the sidewalk.

This will take care of the weed problem!

Obi was allowed to play in the dirt and mud all he wanted.  I am sad to say that he ate some.  Or a lot.  But remember the freedom he has to play in the mud...

July 15th...moving along nicely.  This is hard work!

We found a lot of sand that proved to be useful.  We repurposed the sand by digging it out and spreading it on top of the dirt.  We filled the hole with rocks and dirt, then covered it with sand.

There were worms, lots of worms.  Tirzah claimed them all as her own and named them and made up stories about them before placing them in the garden.  She said who was mommas and daddys and babies.  Obi might have tasted one.  Maybe. 

Today, August 3rd, was concrete day.  We had some crushed rock (actually recycled concrete) tamped down on top of the sand, and some wire.  We are grateful that Paul's neighbor, who used to do concrete work for a living, came to help us with his cool tools.

Everyone gathered to watch when the cement truck arrived.

Mark has been a huge help to us during this whole process--what a blessing!

Now, remember what I said about Obi and the freedom to play in the mud?  Well...
He almost did, but thankfully I put my camera down in time to snatch him away.  He is fast, but sometimes I'm faster.

At this point I had to go back to being mom and had to put down the camera again.  I didn't get any pictures of Dan smoothing or brushing the concrete.  I love watching this because it's like an art.  We thought we would have plenty of concrete, but we actually ran out!  We had to make TWO runs to menards to buy some concrete and mix it by hand to finish up the small part down by the road.  We could have had the truck come back for not much more than it cost to do it ourselves...hindsight is 20/20.

We got our new mailbox in (we even had the mail lady come by and approve it first, LOL)...doesn't the post that Mitch and the kids designed look great?  

I forgot to get a picture close up, but the fence is also moved to be even with the back of the house.  The kids would always "disappear" around the side of the house and then sneak out of the yard or get into trouble.  Now I can see both gates easily from the back yard.  I wish we had thought of that when we were installing the fence 9 years ago, but heh, I'm more thankful for a hubby who is willing to do the hard work to fix it.  When the concrete is dry we want to put up a basketball goal out front.  In the winter we will have more room to park the vehicles.

This certainly wasn't a weekend project, but it was a big project that improves the look of our home.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the many friends who came out to help us!