Friday, May 31, 2013

Living with Laryngomalacia


Yeah, that was my first reaction when Ransom was diagnosed by an ENT with this condition at about 2 months old in 2011.   His case was relatively mild and the noisy breathing began to subside around 6 months and now at 2 years old, is mostly gone.  I still hear it occasionally when he is concentrating on a toy or puzzle but for all intensive purposes, it is gone.

Laryngomalacia is a lazy flap near the voice box.  In most cases it is harmless but can be very scary.

What we didn't know about this condition is that it's inherited and tends to run in families.  Looking back, I believe that one of my older kids had a mild version of this as we could always feel vibrating in his back when he was breathing.  I remember friends being concerned and asking if he was congested.  Our pediatrician at the time (different from our current pedi) only said that his lungs were clear but never suggested anything else.

When Timmy began making squeaky noises around two weeks, I didn't even think of laryngomalasia as I had done little research on the condition and still didn't understand that it runs in families.  At about four weeks he was struggling.  He would have short moments of apnea at which times his nostrils would flare (a sign that I knew to signify breathing difficulty) and his little arms would flail with the startle reflex.  My pediatrician told us he probably had laryngomalacia and to get an appointment with the ENT.  But, that weekend, before we were able to get in to see the ENT, he seemed to decline.  He was exhibiting all of the above symptoms but was also retracting.  We decided to go straight to the ER.  I called our pediatrician as I was buckling Timmy into his car seat and he agreed with our decision to go to the ER.  Once at the ER, none of the doctors had heard of this condition and they were not very willing to believe me.  They wanted to administer steroids and I told them I wanted them to call our pedi first because I was pretty sure he didn't need them.  Then they grilled me about the possibility of him having an object lodged in his throat.  At times it seemed more like an interrogation.  I told them that he has been making this noise for at least two weeks so I doubt it is an object but I was willing to have an x-ray done just in case.  They then wanted to do a test for RSV.  All the while, I kept asking them if we could check out laryngomalasia as I was pretty sure this was the issue.  Well, the ENT on call did not want to come to the hospital as there was no "emergency" but none of the ER doctors were comfortable sending us home either.  So, we were admitted.  This whole process was difficult and, as a mom, I am leery of refusing any medical treatment because of the horror stories of babies being taken away...and we have seven kids...and we homeschool...and we take a postponed immunization route.  So, we aren't exactly a normal American family...haha.
The next day, the ENT came and scoped Timmy through the nasal passage and confirmed that it was laryngomalasia.  He released us to go home.
We kept Timmy on an oxygen monitor for about a week to insure his levels were staying up.  They were.  There is no risk free fix for laryngomalacia.    Surgery is an option for "failure to thrive" babies but comes with significant risks.  Even beyond the normal risks of surgery there is the risk of damaging the voice box.  Timmy is definitely not failing to thrive and we do not want to take the risks so we are waiting it out.  By six months we hope to see improvement and for him to be totally free from breathing issues by eighteen months.  Meanwhile we are having to retrain ourselves just a bit.  I have always known that when a baby or child is retracting, it's time to go to the pediatrician.  But, Timmy retracts every day of his life.  He is going to have some very strong lungs:)

We are getting just a taste of what it must be like to have a child with special needs.  Everywhere we go, people stare.  They aren't trying to be rude, but mostly I think people are concerned.  It sounds concerning!  We are often asked if he is okay and I have already grown tired of explaining so I usually just smile and say that he is fine.  I had a Costco employee ask me if Timmy has asthma and wanted to let me know that he wasn't breathing well. 
This truly has changed our lives for a season.  We no longer take him places where silence is needed like a theater.  After worship at church, I take him out to the nursing mom's room as the noise is terribly distracting to those around us.

I am learning to see parents of special needs children in a whole different light and to be grateful for the fact that six of our children did not struggle in their early months.  I am also grateful that Timmy's laryngolamacia doesn't require surgery.   I am amazed at how a trial can create such a heart of gratitude in me.  But, I think gratefulness is the thing that I have learned most during this time.  I have SO much gratitude in my heart and looking at life just a bit differently:)

I share this story in the hopes that somewhere out there in cyberland, there is some mom worried about her baby with laryngomalacia that can be comforted by knowing that others have walked this same path.  And, that this too shall pass. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

On Boredom and Defeating Giants

"45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”  48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground."  
1Samuel 17:45-49  (emphasis added)

As I listened to one of my kids reading the story of David, the shepherd boy, this morning, I started thinking about David's many hours, days, and weeks of boredom and how it was to play such a profound role in his life.

He was a little boy who was left to tend the sheep in the fields.  He had no television, tablets, or ipods.  HA!  He was just there to tend to the animals and to keep them safe.  I can imagine him sitting under the shade of a tree, watching the sheep, and bored.out.of.his.mind.  What did he do with his time?  It seems that he practiced an instrument, wrote poetry, and honed his skills with stone and sling.  Can you imagine how insignificant he must have felt out there in the fields day after day as the older brothers were taking on the "important" jobs in life?  But, he faithfully prepared himself during those boring days (ie. boot camp) where the Lord had placed him.

As he practiced his instrument, he had no idea that he would later play before the king (or of the spear that would be thrown at him...haha). 

As he poured out his heart in composition, he had no idea that thousands of years later, we would read his works for inspiration in our daily lives.

As he perfected his aim with a stone and sling, he had no idea he would use those skills to defeat a giant and save his people.

 He faithfully sharpen his skills and later became the one the Lord used to calm the king, encourage generations, and defeat a giant.   How differently the story would be if David had sat in the shade of a tree, DS in hand, playing his favorite games to pass the time of day.  Would he have been prepared for the future God had for him?

As David later faced off against a real life giant, he had such amazing confidence in his skills. Yes, he was trusting God, but he also knew that he had developed the talents that God had given him and could confidently charge into battle knowing he had the skill needed.  And, with God's help, he would win the battle.


Boredom is actually a fantastic tool in the lives of our children.  Boredom is what makes kids get creative and practice long hours at instruments, reading, and sports.  Boredom is what is needed to find and develop talents that just may have a profound impact on their adult lives.  If we have activities every minute of the day, kids never learn how to entertain themselves or to develop their skill.  So, when we allow our children to become bored, we are facilitating the honing of talents that will one day help them to win battles in their lives.

I realize that I am slamming technology but, as I have said before, I believe media is amoral.  Just like Anakin used the force for good and evil, so can media be used for both.  However, I believe it is a HUGE time waster!  My kids do watch movies and play video games albeit in limited amounts.  But, I felt challenged this morning as the Lord whispered in my ear.

 "How could that time be better served in the lives of these children I have asked you to raise for me? your life?  Are you facilitating the honing of talents in their lives so they are prepared in the day of battle?  Are you facilitating the honing of talents in your life so you are prepared in the day of battle?" 

Are we entertaining ourselves, afraid of becoming bored and never reaching our full potential?
It is definitely something to stop and evaluate. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Faith Like Hezekiah

Hezekiah’s Prayer:

14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”  2 Kings 19:14-19


I recently heard a sermon on this passage.  I find it amazing and refreshing to see a king who was neither insulted nor challenged to war by the message sent him.  He was obviously concerned, but he just took it to the Lord and asked what the Lord was going to do about it.  Wow.  I would love to live out that kind of faith.  Wouldn't you?

We as Christian parents are being sent a message from the world.  A message that says that our children will rebel if fill in the blank.  A message that our sons and daughters will embrace the world and turn their backs on God.  That they will not continue to follow hard after God.

How do we as parents handle that message?

I recently found myself at a blog specifically for adult homeschoolers of the 80s and 90s.  These individuals are angry at their parents and bitter because of their upbringing.  Keep in mind, that I myself was homeschooled (as was my husband).  As I read through these posts and found the names of some of my childhood friends among the comments, my heart sank.  I heard the world's message loud and clear.  If you teach your children to be different from the world, they will rise up and blog about you.  Well, that wasn't quite the message, but close:)  As I read through story after story, the message became louder and louder.  I had to take this message, lay it before the Lord, and say "Father, what are you going to do about this?".  I am confident that I am loving and raising my kids in the Lord.  I'm not perfect but I am striving to follow what the Lord has called me to do.  So, I have to give the rest to him.

Here it is Lord.  Take my anxieties and fears about my kids.  I lay them before you.  I also spread the world's message here before you.  What are you going to do with it?  Just as King Hezekiah did so many years ago, I am calling on you to deliver us from this threat.
While nations all around were falling prey to Sennacherib's message and being conquered, this nation was spared for many years because of the faithfulness of their leader.

Parents, take your concerns to the Lord.  Take the messages that the world would like you to believe about your children to the Lord and ask Him what He intends to do about it. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

5 Catergories of Screen Free Summer Fun

Media, ah media.  What a great babysitter it can be.  Right?  I have to admit that I do use movies to babysit my kids every now and then.  It's important to note that media is not inherently evil but amoral.  Some of my children use ipods for daily devotions.  So, it's what you make of it.  But, it is essential that we limit the time our kids sit in front of screens.  It can be a great quiet time activity, but, so can listening to an audio book while putting together a puzzle or sketching:)

As summer is upon us and we have less structure to our day, I have to be even more deliberate about limiting screen time.  Don't get me wrong.  We love movies and my boys enjoy video games but there really needs to be a healthy balance of hands-on, mind engaging, active play as well.  By "balance" I am not suggesting equal time.  Haha.

So, here are five categories of screen free summer fun.

1. Build - When kids build things, they are forming basic concepts of Physics in their minds.  They don't yet understand kinetic and potential energy, but they know their homemade tent has the "potential" to fall.  So, build with your kids.  Build with sheets, blocks, scraps of lumber, etc.  Take apart that slide and playhouse in the back yard and see what fantastic things they can build out of all the pieces.  They will be entertained for hours.  Admittedly, this is easier with the littles than the older kids.  But, if your budget will allow, get model cars, boats, or airplanes from a local hobby store. (I prefer to support Hobby Lobby.) There are endless things that older kids enjoy building and you can usually find a coupon if you search online.  Pick up some hammers and 2 X 4s and turn them loose building a clubhouse or tree house.

2. Disassemble - After you have built things, "un-build".  Disassemble things.  It's okay, really.  Go to your local thrift store and purchase old computers or small appliances and let them disassemble and then put them back together.  I'm not big on messes or little pieces all over the house so I have them keep things in an old box.  They love to see how things work and you may end up with a fantastic appliance repair person in your home:)

3. Bake - We love to bake in our house.  Well, maybe we just enjoy eating what we bake but either way, it's a way that we can spend time together.  So, bake things together this summer and maybe even give away part of what you bake to bless an elderly neighbor.  Baking is a great way to practice  living math as you measure things or double (or triple...haha) a recipe. 

4. Create - Unleash the artists in your home and create things with different art mediums.  For the larger families you can have the littles finger paint while the middles paint by number, and the olders copy a landscape painting. Hand out yarn and crochet hooks and see who can make the longest chain (or an blanket for an American Girl doll as would be the case in our home).  There are so many different craft kits available that I bet you can find one that each of your kids will enjoy.

5. Exercise - Summer is a great time to keep kids exercising (now that PE is over).  There are a plethora of ways to keep them exercising without them even knowing that they are doing so.  My favorite is the pool.  Ah, those lazy summer days by the pool, right?  Well, not quite with seven kids.  We play "motorboat, motorboat" and marco-polo.  We have races.  My boys are ever amazed that their mom can still win in a race across the pool., although not for long:)  Good thing it's only one lap!  Haha.  Another great idea is a slip-n-slide for the backyard, a sprinkler under the trampoline, a family relay race, or a morning nature walk.  Whatever the case, be deliberate about keeping those kids exercising this summer.

5. Play & Imagine - Play is one of those things that does not come naturally to me.  I have to be oh so deliberate about setting aside time to play:)  So, this summer we will be busting out the board games and taking time to just play and enjoy one another.  Other great ideas for play are puppet shows, family talent shows/plays/concerts, or dress up.  Now, I know those of you with kids beyond about 8 years old are thinking that there is no way your kids will dress up.  But, sometimes it's all in how you present it.  I admit that if I handed my 11 year old a Buzz Lightyear costume, he would not, could not:)  But, if I hand him a video camera to make his film he would and could.  They all get excited about making a homemade film (maybe from this year's literature *wink*) and jump right in with the planning.  So, in a sense, they are still playing dress-up:)  We are currently in the process of making our own version of "Pilgrim's Progress" and we all have a role.  Now, I know this last suggestion is borderline for a "Screen free" post but it is definitely more along the lines of hands-on, mind engaging, active play.

So, as you plan out your summer fun, remember to include plenty of media free or screen free activities that engage the brain and foster creativity.  You won't regret it or the memories you make in the process.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Downsizing and Organizing

Last November, when our lease was up, we decided to look for a home that would be much closer to where Peter works.  It's been nice to rent for a season as we've been able to try different areas and styles of houses and learn first hand what we like and don't like:)  Right now we are really enjoying having Peter home more and spending less in gas.  The trade off is that we have had to downsize as we moved more central.

With a move and new house, there will always be organizational challenges.  How do you downsize a family of nine 1,000 square feet and still have room to live?  Well, not without many challenges and letting go of unnecessary items.  Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing many of the organizational tricks that I am using to make our home livable and peaceful.  For those curious followers, we are now living in a 2,000 square foot home...but it has a huge backyard and deep covered back patio which are very important:)

Today, I want to share how we have managed to organize all of the kids' clothing.

We decided to turn one bedroom into a family closet.  In our case, it's actually a closet just for the kids but we call it "the family closet".

As I began my quest, I first listed the needs and the extra "icing on the cake" qualities that I wanted in our family closet.

I needed a place to store:
   *everyday clothes folded and out of sight (no clear plastic boxes)
   *hang up clothes
   *cloth diapers (and a place to change diapers)
   *dirty laundry

I wanted:
   *color coding
   *a folding table
   *a pleasant, organized look (as much as possible...haha)

After hours of researching blogs and Pintrest, I chose a plan that we could adapt to our color coding system and stay within our budget.

Here is what I put together.

We purchased two Ikea storage units and Peter and the older boys put them together.

Next, we purchased some cardboard banker's boxes and spray painted them according to our color coding plan.  As you can see, we have  room to grow:)  The boxes where quite cost effective compared to the wicker baskets being sold with the unit.

Then, we purchased a double professional clothing rack for hanging clothes.  The side pictured is for the older three kids and the other side for the little four.

I decided to put our white changing table in the room (to go with the white shelves) for changing and storing cloth diapers. 

I also added a 6 foot white table for folding laundry under the window.  Oh, what a difference this makes!  Now, I never have to scoop piles of laundry off couches to have a place to sit...haha.  Under the table I store three dirty clothes baskets for the older kids.  At the end of the table is a stack of laundry baskets.  One of these is the missing sock basket:)  There are weeks where all of these baskets are in use!

I already have a little shoe organizer for the little boys' shoes and the room has a closet where we can organize the older kids' shoes and little boys' dirty laundry. In the closet we also have a laundry basket (not pictured as it is behind the door) with extra clothes hangers.  We also store paper diapers that we use occasionally on the top shelf.

Lastly, I decided to add a cute little clothes line with my favorite baby clothes from the years:)

I am still looking for just the right curtain and maybe a picture or two to complete the room but I am really happy with the space and atmosphere of this room.

I'd love to hear ideas from other large families about how they organize all the clothes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Beauty in the Desert

Today we took a field trip to the Desert Botanical Garden.  For years I had seen the sign for this place and honestly wondered if a desert garden could in fact be fantastic.  After walking through gardens in Texas and the East Coast, I wasn't sure what to expect from a desert garden.  But, because we were given several admission tickets, I decided to load up everyone and set out to study desert plants.  

Hoping to beat the Arizona heat, we set out early and were able to enjoy some hands-on learning before we melted in the scorching sun.

Here are a few pictures of God's amazing desert artwork.

There was a fantastic butterfly exhibit where we were able to go inside and experience a butterfly habitat. Amazingly enough, they actually allowed the double stroller inside so it wasn't too hard to manage.  Here are a few pictures.

We took along our science notebooks so the kids could spend some time sketching God's creation and recognizing all of the amazing detail in each plant and critter. 

 The little guys just came along for the ride.  They picked up some tidbits of learning by just watching the older kids in the learning process.  It's a bit like a one room schoolhouse:)

I just had to include this "Seussish" plant.  We had a good laugh at some of the plants and their names.  We also were able to see an Agave plant from which our agave sweetener is made.  Overall, a fun day of learning:)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Back in the saddle again.

Well, I am back to blogging.  I think...haha.
For the past six months, I have been taking a bit of a break.  As much as I enjoy blogging about the joys and challenges of large family living, my attention was needed in other areas for a season.  During the six months since I last posted, we moved closer to Peter's work, had a new baby who has laryngomalacia (look for a detailed post in the coming weeks), had a child diagnosed with dyslexia, and had two kids began orthodontic care at varying levels.
Whew!  It's been an incredibly busy six months.  My goal is to continue blogging about our everyday life, large family organization, homeschooling, training up kids, winning little hearts, etc..  But, I will now post on dyslexia and laryngomalacia and the struggles and rewards that we have experienced in learning how to meet the special needs that come with these conditions.
It's great to be back in the saddle again.