Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Quickly I'll Obey

When my mother calls me, 
quickly I'll obey.
I want to do just what is best, 
each and every day.

When my father calls me,
quickly I'll obey.
I want to do just what is best,
each and every day. 

These are the words of the first two verses to a children's song the kids sing in church. It's also a concept my husband and I taught to our 3 year old class in church just a few weeks ago {see here for lesson} It's also a principle we're STILL working on with our 10 year old. I don't know what it is about his spirit that just wants to fight. But just about any time he's asked to do something he cries, whines, talks back, or simply ignores us.

We've tried sooo many things. We've talked until we're blue in the face. We've given consequences which run the gamut. I gotta say, it can get maddening. The older kids (ages 16-22) have even offered their advice ("It would be so much easier if you just do what they ask the first time.")  Of the older three, only one struggled with this, but he finally grasped this by the time he started kindergarten.

That being said, I realize all children are different. I also recognize that this particular 10 year old had a different start in life, and perhaps it was his fight-or-flight response he learned as a toddler that has just stuck with him. The problem is, it is out of hand. Luckily, he's too embarrassed to try this with his teachers any more (at least this past year). Thankfully the daily phone calls and emails home from the school are behind us. Unfortunately he still does this with us. And like a soda bottle that is agitated until it explodes, my husband and I have had our fair share of "exploding." (Not exactly our best parenting moments.)

In our defense, we do not ask very difficult things of him. I'm talking like, "Please go get your pj's on" "please refill the cat's water" and "please fetch me a package of ground beef from the garage freezer" type stuff. I could totally understand his reaction if we were kicking back in our easy-boys, popping bon-bons in our mouths and we asked him to get dinner started, or something. But by his reaction, you'd think we were asking him for his kidney.

Our child's therapist recommended we somehow help him to recognize his initial response, that he tracks it or puts a marble in a jar every time he whines, or something. But she also suggested we acknowledge and reward him when he obeys right away. The hope is that drawing to his attention just how often his gut reply is a whine, back-talk, etc. then he'll begin to self-regulate. She believes that he isn't fully aware until it's too late; in essence, that his poor response behavior is a bad habit, and that deep down he truly does want to listen and obey.

Hence, the chart. {{Click here to download FREE pdf}}

Anytime he's asked to do something and he does it the first time, without complaining, we thank him and tell him to check the appropriate box on his chart. Once he reaches the first "reward" he gets to pick something from a prize jar (coupons for things like 15 minutes extra video game time, 1 soft serve cone, etc.). Anytime he's asked to do something and he ignores, stomps his feet, throws a fit, whines, talks back, etc., then instead of us getting upset we simply say, "Okay, go put a mark in the did not obey side" and he does. Then he still has to go and do that thing which we initially asked of him. If he gets to the sad face box, then he gets the consequence of an extra chore.

We're hoping this works. Today is just the beginning. Wish us luck.....!

Monday, June 6, 2016

I'm The Mom, Not Your Entertainment Coordinator

Ahhhh....summer! I remember summer when I was a kid. When I was in 4th grade, we moved to a little town in Northern Indiana. Those years hold the best summer memories for me. We lived across the street from the town park, which held an annual "Summer Fun" program for kids.

Parents could register their kids for free and drop them in the park anytime between 9a-12p, and again from 1p-4p. There was a monthly calendar of events, most of them free or nearly free. There were board games, organized kick ball, art projects like little plaster of paris molds to create and paint the next day. There was a scout cabin in the park, so in extreme heat we'd do activities inside the cabin. And at the end of each day we got a frozen otter pop. The city hired some awesome youth counselors to run this program. Kids had to be school ages - or at least potty trained to be dropped off and the city parks and rec dept took care of the rest. Awesome tax dollars at work.

Next to the park was the public library, so we also had that option and it was like 50 steps from my front door!

During the summer while I was in elementary school, my bedtime was always the same, every night, even in the summer. We had a routine. We still bathed and ate our meals and did our chores according to our "normal" routine. But the thing that made my summers the most fun were these structured daily activities that encouraged good sportsmanship, exercise, creativity, confidence, and the freedom to just be a kid! (Boy, did my mom luck out too!) It wasn't until we became teens that we stayed up too late, binge-ate, and became unproductive slobs, haha.

I've come to learn some kids - in fact MOST kids - thrive when they can operate off of a structured schedule. I've mulled this over and wondered when this shifted in our society. Then I realized it hasn't. My father was born and raised on a farm. While his "play time" wasn't structured, everything else was - when he woke, dressed, ate, chored, -- all of it. Play time was a luxury if you were lucky! I think so many kids today have become so dependent on electronics and constantly being entertained, they don't even really grasp the concept of "playing."

Okay, so where does this long and out-of-hand-supposed-to-be-quick introduction leave us? Well, this is where it leaves me. I have learned that I function better and my kids function better when we have summer schedules. (At least until they become teens with their own social lives and summer jobs.)

I still have one elementary school age kid and for the last 3 summers, I've created daily schedules and planned activities to keep us both sane. We've learned with him that he requires a full 10 hours of sleep. He also takes forever to wind down. So we have get-ready-for-bed time and actual bed time 30 minutes later, knowing he won't be asleep for at least still another 30 minutes. We are giving him a slightly later bedtime this summer, since he's almost 10. We're going to try 9p instead of 8, and 10p on Fridays. I told him we'll see how it affects him the next day and pending his mood we'll either proceed or go back to an hour earlier.

Tips for planning a daily schedule for your child:

1. Figure which tasks you want your child to complete every day regardless of what else goes on. Put those things in the schedule. I want mine to get dressed every day, unless he is sick.

2. Determine what attributes/talent/skill you'd like to encourage your child to develop. Is there a daily habit in which they can engage that will promote this attribute/talent/skill? For us, we want our children to have their own personal relationship with the Lord, so I give them reminders to pray and hold their own private devotional time. Even though school is out, we don't want them to stop reading either, so we have reading time scheduled too. If mine played an instrument, you bet I'd put practice time on the schedule too.

3. Plug in the "constants" - wake up time, meals, bedtime, etc.

4. Are there weekly chores or activities? Scouts, laundry day, piano lessons? etc. Plug those in next.

5. Check your personal calendar. Plug any family events or appointments into your child's schedule.

6. Now - what else can you do for fun??? Check your local community calendars for free movies in the park, new exhibit at the nature center, special discount days for bowling, free library events, local pool or splash pad hours. Is there a chocolate or cheese factory nearby that gives free tours? Join or create a Summer Fun facebook group page for locals. Share some of these events there - coordinate play dates. We do a library day every 2 weeks and on the in between weeks we do a dollar movie, or other fun activity. Plug those in the schedule.

7. Present the schedule in a draft form. Discuss concerns with the child and of course your spouse. Make changes as necessary.

8. Put simple explanations on the schedule for anything out of the ordinary in order to prevent the "WHY? That's not fair?" For example, if I move bedtime early one night, I put a note next to it like You have to get up early tomorrow for camp. 

9.  Only print one week at a time, as things will come up and you want to avoid reprinting if you can.

10. Have a place where both parent and child can review the schedule and check the progress. We use the side of the fridge and a heavy duty magnet clip.

11. It is the child's responsibility to read and check off their schedule each day. If you do an allowance, you could tie their "pay day" into the schedule as well. Let them manage their own schedule, and resist the urge to micromanage. Don't hover! Give them the chance to work their schedule, and just check in with them once or twice a day to see how it's going.

That's it! I will give you a fair warning that you should probably create the schedule when you have nothing else to do that day. Sometimes this process can take several hours. Once you've got the master schedule finished, then tweaking it each Saturday before printing for the following week will be a cinch. I am including a link to week one of my youngest child's summer schedule, just to give you an idea of how we do it. His schedule is pretty intense, but he has ADHD so every scheduled task is worth its weight in gold.

Good luck! Let me know if you give is a try.  {Sample Summer Schedule Week 1 - Printable HERE}

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Irish Faire Perfect for your St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Honestly, while I can eat corned beef, I am not a huge fan of it. Or rather, should I say my acid reflux is not a huge fan. So, I tend to avoid making it, which leaves me to come up with other alternatives for our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner. But honestly, I love the challenge.

Here are some dishes I've tried over the years, and some that are on my list for future St. Patrick's Days.

First up is my family's recipe handed down to from my Grandmother Velma. She comes from a line of Lawsons and Garveys (O'Garvey), both of Irish descent. This bread recipe can be made into rolls, as many people prefer.

Grandma Velma's Irish Potato Bread
Allan Rosenberg/Cole Group/Photodisc/Getty Image
There is also this yummy recipe from Taste of Home for Irish Soda Bread {click here} which I'll be serving up this year.
Easy Irish Soda Bread Recipe photo by Taste of Home

As far as the rest of my menu, here is what I am making:
Dubliner Irish Chicken {click here}
Photo courtesy of Kerrygold USA | ORNUA FOODS NORTH AMERICA INC
as well as Roasted Ranch Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese {click here}
Photo by Joyously Domestic
I will also be paring it was some steamed asparagus, and for dessert caramelized pears with pistachio creme. (Pictures and recipes to come later.)

12 Other ideas:

Bangers & Mash {click here}

Best Ever Shepherd's Pie 

Irish Fish and Chips {click here}

Boxty, aka Irish Potato Pancakes
Side note: Serve your Boxty with smoked salmon or roast beef & gravy.

Irish Lamb Stew {click here}

Rachel Ray's Irish Pub Meatloaf {click here}

Irish Pork Stew {click here}

One-Pan Irish Chicken {Click Here}

Irish Farmhouse Chicken Casserole

Irish Chicken and Dumplings {click here}

Irish Soda Bread Pizza! {Click here} - True, perhaps this isn't a traditional, ancient Irish recipe, but it is an authentic one, and one the kiddos will love!

Gammon Steak (Irish Ham Steak) {click here}

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Miller Family Dynamics

As a kid, I remember watching certain sitcoms or family drama films, wherein the family dynamics elevate until a major argument breaks out and everyone is mad at everyone else, and finally the lead role is either the hero or gets a second chance, and everyone is soon hugging again. I remember thinking, how ridiculously unrealistic situations like that were. Then I grew up.

I know families where situations have escalated and there has been a blow up and everyone is left picking sides. The difference between their situations and the ones on the big screen, is that they don't make up in 90 minutes. The families I know like this are now (or were for an extended time) estranged from each other. This saddens me.

As much as my siblings and I probably drive each other or my parents nuts, we've always been on speaking terms. All 9 of us. All the time.

Sure, when we were little we'd bicker and give each other the silent treatment over something stupid. But as we became adults, in my opinion, we became better friends than we ever were as children. I'm not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. But, I have quietly analyzed our family dynamics for years, wondering what makes us function.

#1 - We avoid confrontation. I don't mean to say we run from it, although I know there are some of us that do. {Me} What I mean, is if something bugs us about one of our siblings, we don't confront them. We figure, it's just who they are, and if they're happy with themselves and their choices, than who are we to judge? 

That being said, if there was an element of danger to one's life, such as drugs or alcoholism, we'd also be the first to rally together to help them. Even if it meant an intervention, keeping in mind an intervention is the person has to be willing to change or you cut them out of your lives. Thankfully, none of us are in that sort of situation. So, unless we're ready to cut one of the others out of our lives completely, we avoid confrontation. 

#2 - We are good at biting our tongues. Now, for those who know us, you might not believe this, because we are all pretty strongly opinionated about many things. But while we may not be concerned about speaking our mind outside of the family, we self-edit more within.

#3 - We choose our words. This doesn't mean we bottle up or suppress our emotions. We just choose not to share if we don't think it will do any good, or if we don't think the other person wants to hear it. We're pretty good at stating, "In my opinion, I'd rather..." and another might say, "Interesting. I believe..." And we just respect that the other person is crazy, er, um, I mean, has a different opinion. While some have made certain life choices others may not agree with, we all still love each other enough to respect the other person's choices. I think we figure we're all crazy to some extent about something, so live and let be.  

Recently someone jokingly said "Because you Millers don't feel" and then, "You're all just passive-aggressive." Well now, that had me thinking. I know I was pretty passive-aggressive in my first marriage. I feel I have learned a lot from that and have come a long way. As I've tried to reflect on my daily actions at the end of each day, I think for the most part, I have indeed overcome many passive-aggressive behaviors.

I am guilty of a few times I have been offended by someone, and then vented on social media (without using names). After I cooled off for about 24 hours, I deleted the post. That's probably passive aggressive, since I didn't discuss it directly with that person.

But honestly, I'd rather do that instead of confront the person. Why? Well, obviously #1 above, and honestly, because I tend to get over stuff in usually about 24 hours. I take that time and replay the offense in my mind over and over and try to see it from the other person's view. I usually make up my mind it isn't worth fighting over. It's not worth the drama. And I'm always grateful after the fact I didn't allow my feelings to get out of check. I don't think it's always good to confront the other person to fully express our feelings, because it can unnecessarily blow up into a huge argument.

It's sort of like in the "olden days" when people used pen and paper and actually wrote real letters, you'd hear the advice to write the person you're angry at a letter, but don't mail it. The process of writing it out/venting might be enough. I usually like to give it 24 hours. If I still feel bugged, I might even give it another week or so. All the while I pray about it as well. I always tell myself, if it still bothers me, I'll talk to that person. I will say that I've never had that talk with one of my siblings. If something has bothered me, I have always gotten over it. And I've always been glad that the confrontation was avoided.

I probably get this from my dad, but I've never been one to hold a grudge. There is only one person in this world that has hurt me so badly that I no longer have communication with. But that's only because that person has ignored my attempts at a reconciliation. I finally came to the conclusion the stress and frustration of trying to salvage the relationship was futile, and sadly decided to leave it alone. I wouldn't say I hate the person though. And if I saw her in the grocery store, while I wouldn't go out of my way to chase her down to say hi, I would definitely greet her if face to face.

Honestly, I truly believe it is not always appropriate, advisable, or in one's best interest to fully express emotions or hash things out, especially in social situations, or group settings, such as parties, gatherings, church, work, etc.  I think if something occurs which we don't like we can ask ourselves, "Is it beneficial to the group if I fully express my feelings right now?" I believe it is possible to temper our reaction to someone else, while internally acknowledging it ourselves.

"Make a distinction between feeling your feelings and expressing them." This is a statement I read from psychologist Dr. Gay Hendricks. So, do Millers feel? Absolutely. I know I for one feel deeply. We just don't see a need to always express ourselves fully. Especially if it might upset the other person unnecessarily.

#4 - Gentle persuasion. My Grandma Goldie was a sweet little Amish lady, who had an art for gentle persuasion. Upon hearing anyone's situation, she was never one to say, "Try this" or "You should do that." She was never one to push her opinions onto anyone else. Instead she'd say, "Have you considered trying this?" If the person was interested in hearing more on her opinion they could ask about it.

#5 - Timing is everything. Don't poke a sleeping bear. While we may not be as gentle as Grandma Goldie, it seems to me that if one of us Miller kids really thinks another Miller kid should be doing something different, we are cautious in how we proceed. Because here's a little secret. While we don't go looking for confrontation, and while we'd rather just internally acknowledge our irritation for the sake of the group, if we are caught off guard by something directed at us, the surprised uncertainty will almost always result in lashing back, (because we feel attacked) and it will probably be something we will regret saying later. We know this about each other, so we don't go poking our inner sleeping bears.

#6 - We choose not to be offended. This is easier said than done I suppose. I remember being little and getting offended at something my sister said. I went to tattle and my mom asked, "So?" Not that she was being mean, although it probably comes across that way in print. She basically taught us that if someone says something offensive, most of the time it can be ignored. She'd say, "Well, is it true?" And if the answer was "no" she'd say, "Well, all right then." If the answer was yes, she'd say, "Well, all right then." Haha. Yeah, she's pretty down to earth.

My sister said I was bossy and when I told my mom she said, "So. Is it true?" And when I thought about my actions, I answered, "yeah." Which is why my mom said, "Well, all right then." Meaning, if I am being bossy, I don't have to right to be offended if someone calls me out on it.

Another time I tattled because someone called me stupid. My mom said, "So? Is it true?" I said, "No." She answered, "Well, all right then." Meaning, as long as I knew the truth about myself, it didn't matter what dumb offensive thing someone else said. I could rise above it. Who knew "Well, all right then" could have so much power. That being said, bullying was never tolerated. But how she handled that is a whole other blog post.

We don't take things personally. If I invite my sister to come shopping with me and she's too busy or doesn't want to go, I don't take it personally. If I'm at a family gathering and brought a potluck dish and others didn't like it, I don't take it personally. If someone remarks they have a headache but they turn me down when I offer them Aleve because they don't like Aleve, I don't take it personally. If I gave someone a gift and their reaction isn't as excited as I anticipated, I don't take it personally. I shrug and think, "Well, all right then." Haha. It's hard to not take things personally, especially once you start interpreting things as such. It's very easy to assume the other person meant something one way when they did not. Once you start down that path, everything can quickly become "personal", and you will find yourself always feeling hurt or offended by that person.

In general, us Miller siblings are able to spend time together laughing and playing and telling lots of funny stories. I'm not saying we're the template to be followed for all successful family relationships. This is more or less MY analysis, or my interpretation rather, of why I think we all get along so well.
I am sure there may have been times it would have been appropriate to fully share our frustrations. But I also think if something were that big of a deal, it would have eventually come out.

I just returned home from a 2 week vacation, 6 days of traveling and sight-seeing, and 8 days of visiting with siblings. Our theme this year was "SURVIVOR. Out Eat, Out Talk, Out Play." We accomplished all of those things. I know my family had a blast. I can honestly say I do things that drive my siblings nuts. But, they love me enough to let me think they don't care.

I mostly feel sorry for the in-laws. I'm sure it's difficult to adjust to the way Millers do things, especially when we're in full-force.

It's like I told my husband, just nod and smile. Nod and smile.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's In A Name?

As many of my friends are still having babies, I often see the "What shall we name the baby?" question circulating social media. Of course, there seems to be that standard set of unwritten rules parents check off the list while sounding out candidates.

Does it rhyme with a naughty word or a body part? Do the initials spell something unfavorable? Does the name carry a negative connotation (an infamous terrorist, say)? Do the names together create another set of words? (Ben Dover.) Is the name so unique or hard to pronounce phonetically, that others will always be getting it wrong? If yes to any of these questions, then a parent must consider the long-term effects the child's name will have on him or her.

In the past 20ish years, I've noticed this trend of bringing back old-fashioned names. Sometimes the media plays a part in this. Growing up with the name Emma, I can tell you that no one in any of the five schools I attended as a child ever had that same name. Emily was popular, sure. But not Emma. In fact, I often heard things like, "Emma? My grandmother's name is Emma." Once I even heard, "Oh fun. That's our dog's name!" What a compliment, right?

But then something happened. In 1990 the hit family comedy "Kindergarten Cop", featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, came out. In it, an adorable five-year-old Sarah Rose Karr plays a precocious character named, "Emma". You can check her cuteness out here:

Another of my favorite lines is when Schwarzenegger and his partner are teaching them NOT to talk to strangers. Little Emma blurts out, "What about kids? Can we talk to kids?" They respond, "Yeah. You can talk to kids, that's all right." To which she questions, "What about dogs...Can we talk to dogs?" Hilarious. I tell you.

Anyway, my point is, shortly after the weekend opener of that show, I'm hearing about all of these families naming their new baby girls Emma. It was weird. I was like, "No. Don't do that. They won't like having such an odd-ball name." But just like that, Emma became an instant popular name, an old-fashioned name made hip again.

We saw the same thing happen with names such as Isabella/Isabelle, Olivia, Mary (thanks to Mary-Kate), and Jasmine (thanks to Aladdin). Old-fashioned boys' names were also making a comeback. Names like George and Harry, thanks to the princes by the same names, and now we have Henry and Hank too. Biblical names have resurfaced and we now have lots of Isaacs and Noahs, among others.

I'm still waiting for what I call the "Frozen effect". How many baby girls have been or will be named Elsa, because of that movie?

When I first heard some of the name choices these new parents picked, I cringed and thought, "What were they thinking?" Now I think it's pretty cool.

My friend, Legend, once told me he believes that a person can make the name, and it doesn't always have to be the other way around. I've considered that several times since and whole-heartedly agree. The name Sherwin doesn't HAVE to mean the boy will grow up to be a wimp.

We each have the power to change what our name means to others. Case in point: While Alice might make some think "old maid from the Brady Bunch", it makes others think, "young, beautiful girl from Alice in Wonderland." So, it's up to the girl to own her name.

After all three of my children were born, I began to really get into my family history. I came upon lots of names I loved and I wished I had stumbled upon them sooner. I would have definitely figured out a way to incorporate some of these family names into the naming of my children.

Names such as Eli, Christian, Magdelena, Anna, Susanna, Jesse, Elizabeth, Hannah, Sarah Jane, Phebe, Hans, and so on. I, myself, was named after a great aunt & great uncle (my middle name is a derivative of his), and whenever someone asks if I was named after anyone, I answer that with pride. Knowing that I have a family name makes me feel part of something... special, something bigger.

My cousin named her son Leo, after an uncle. At first I thought, "Wow. That's brave, but also cool." And he's owned it. He is a cool kid and has made that a cool name. Of course Leo DiCaprio has a healthy influence on the coolness factor too, I'm sure. But, I'm proud of the fact my cousin gave her son that name. I only wish I had thought of it first.

My children were not named after anyone. My boys were given their names because, honestly, those were the only names their father and I could agree on. My daughter was given a name I made up, and her middle name is the same as a Italian city, because I love it. I truly love my children's names and I cannot imagine them with any other name. They pretty much rock their names and definitely "own" them. But I still wish I would have found a way to incorporate a family name in there somewhere. Somehow it feels like I would have been passing down more of a legacy to them.

So, now whenever I see the "What shall we name the baby?" post, I almost always respond with, "A name of one of your ancestors."

**If you've never searched your ancestral lineage, you can sign up for a free account here: {{FamilySearch}}

Monday, March 2, 2015

Our Decision to Move

Why are you selling your house? I love your house. Don't you love your house anymore? Isn't your house big enough? Wait, you're building a smaller house, on a much smaller lot? Can't you afford your house anymore?

When we listed our current home about a month ago, these were the questions I started getting. My answer to these questions starts with, "It's part of the plan."

My husband and I have this plan. Our plan is to own lots of land, build our dream ranch house, own horses (and other animals), and enjoy life! But that plan isn't in within imminent reach.

This is where the current house situation comes into play.

We are both firm believers of budgeting and we follow the Dave Ramsay envelope budgeting system.  We budget every penny and then we do our best to stick to that budget. So when we tell the kids "we can't afford that" what we really mean is, "we haven't budgeted for that." We budget every penny. Sometimes doing this makes me FEEL poor. Then I have to remind myself , no. I know what "poor" is.

Poor is when I was a single mom raising three kids working full time and still not earning enough to make ends meet. Poor is when I couldn't sleep at night because I tossed and turned wondering where the extra $87 would come from to pay my suddenly higher heating bill by 48 hour deadline so they wouldn't shut me off. Poor is figuring out creative ways to turn the last $5 in the checking account into groceries for another week. Poor is having to tell your kids you have to pull them from their extra-curricular activities because you can no longer afford gymnastics, soccer, swimming, etc. Poor is the tears, the stress, the physical pain that sits in the pit of your stomach because you cannot afford anything ever. That is poor. Maybe not the poorest of poor. But it's still poor.

{Anyway - back to the plan.}
We sat down and calculated the following scenarios: If our income and expenses do not change for the next ten years, how much money will we have in savings? How much closer will we get to The Plan? The answer was not as close as we'd like. Then we asked ourselves what we could cut. The hard truth was, we didn't want to cut anything from our budget. We felt like we have already done a great job cutting excess from our budget, that the items left are important to us, even if they are not dire necessities.

So, we're downsizing our mortgage in order to increase our savings at a faster rate. With the new build, we are sacrificing will be our bonus room, the size of our rec room and the size of out lot. Our new lawn is going to be oh so teeny tiny. BUT-- I am giddy we will get a walk-in pantry, a 3rd car garage, bigger bedrooms (every child still gets their own), and we will still have 2 family rooms, plus a formal front room. Honestly, the sacrifice doesn't feel so harsh at this point.

We also just learned the school our youngest will be attending is way cool. They have technology in every classroom, instead of a central computer lab. "Computer" will no longer be a place the kids "go" once a week, but rather something they engage in regularly. They also have rolling chairs and rolling desks with white boards in the classrooms. The district is using this school as the "beta" for future schools. They've done extensive studies with the way kids learn and they are finding, especially with the ever increasing numbers of ADHD, Autism, etc., that mobility is a huge part of learning. This will be interesting to see how well he does in this environment. Of course, he is most excited that the outside looks "pixelated" like a minecraft building. haha.

We will be closer to the older kids' friends, Eric's parents (not that we were really far), and closer to many of the friends I moved from a few years ago.

All in all, it just feels right. This new house is a stepping stone on the way to the big dream, to The Plan. Now, we just need to find a buyer for our current house!

Pic of the new "cool" school:

{{Click here for our listing}}

Saturday, February 21, 2015


All of the medical shows on TV are proof some people just love knowing the nitty-gritty about medical procedures. I usually shy away from them, especially the gruesome pictures.

However, many friends and family have inquired about my ankle surgery, wanting to know what happened, what type of surgery, how long I'll be down, etc. The biggest question was "Did you get hurt? Is that why you have to have surgery?" Well, the short answer is no, but yes. Here is the slightly longer answer, for those who really want to know. I promise no gruesome photos, and I'll even try to throw in some humor.

Apparently, some people are prone to "ankle instability", otherwise known as "weak ankles". Apparently, I am one of these people.

Medical History/Causes
When my doctor asked if I had twisted my ankle a lot as a kid, I honestly couldn't remember, although I confessed to being a clumsy child. He inquired about sports or dance injuries. I was in softball, intramural soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, and track -- but most of those not since the 8th or 9th grade and I could only recall one volleyball injury involving my shoulder. I was in colorguard and show choir in high school, both involving dance, and recalled one minor ankle injury.

As an adult, I've slipped on the ice a few winters and twisted my ankle. But I also had 2 very bad sprains...

Sprain #1
My youngest daughter was a newborn and after rocking her to sleep in the middle of the night, I groggily climbed the stairs to take her to her crib. When I got to the top, I mistakenly thought I had one step to go. I stepped down harder than need and in an attempt not to drop the baby, I rolled my right ankle pretty bad. I thought I broke it. Instant tears. Instant swelling. Instant bruising. A trip to the insta-care a few hours later revealed the bad sprain which took nearly 7 weeks to recover. I've had issues with ankle pain and swelling ever since; my baby girl is now 15.

Sprain #2
Three years following the right sprain, moving furniture, walking backwards, and misjudging the corner of a step - ouch! I rolled my left ankle pretty bad.

Since then, anytime I am on my feet a ton, both ankles swell and cause severe pain, I sought help from my primary care physician. She told me it was all tendinitis and to take anti-inflammatories as needed. This has been my regimen for over a decade.

This past summer while on vacation my ankles would swell and then I'd get this shooting pain in the tops of my feet. If I didn't take the anti-inflammatories, my feet and ankles felt like they were on fire. I'd rest them a bit, ice them, take the pills, and take it easy a few days, and soon all better.

The past two months however the pain increased. Resting did not help much. The pills and ice only helped a little. My ankles and feet just bore a constant pain.  I went to the foot & ankle clinic 3 weeks ago.

Proper Diagnosis
The specialist determined the CF ligament (of both ankles) was weak (probably started as a kid) and eventually damaged (during the bad sprains) and is no longer protecting the ankle. He also sensed some scar tissue from the previous injuries. Since the ligament isn't giving proper support, arthrosis started to develop in the ankle ligaments and joints. Additionally, the tendons that start from the ankle and spread up into the foot and up to the toes are not receiving proper protection, hence the reason I was feeling shooting pain symmetrically (tendons of the extensor digitorum). It was time for surgery.

Because the right ankle was far worse, that is the one he chose to do first. The left ankle will be done later this year. (Which is nice because I will have met my annual deductible by then = Free!)

Surgical Procedure
The surgery was done via Ankle Arthroscopy, a "scope" which allows tiny incisions to be made allowing a thin fiber-optic camera to be inserted and then transmit the images to a monitor.  Once inside, he can then determine how much scar tissue there is, where the ligament needs to be cut, repaired and sutured, and if anything else needs to be done. (There is a wonderful video simulation here: {Ankle Ligament Reconstruction}) The method my surgeon used was the Brostrom Procedure. It's really quite fascinating if you're into that sort of thing. (I'm not.)

In essence he went in, scraped out old scar tissue and the arthrosis, cut, repaired and tacked down the ligament where it should be, and then - here's the coolest part - he implanted a synthetic ligament as well (since mine was fairly worn out). He wanted to give my ankle the best possible chance at a full recovery and the best stabilization as possible.  He said the synthetic ligament is stretchy, sort of like medical tape, but obviously much more durable.

The Big Day
Surgery was yesterday, and there were a few minor hiccups. I was at the surgical center a little longer than anticipated. The initial problem was it took nearly 30 minutes to get a good poke so they could start the I.V. My veins just weren't cooperating. After 2 pokes, the first nurse called in another. (She said she has a 2-poke per patient limit.) The 2nd nurse came in and tapped up and down my arms and wrists while I pumped my fist and breathed through the tourniquet pain. They even pulled out their vein finder (think stud finder, only cooler), and still nothing. A 3rd nurse stopped by to see what the delay was and together they decided to try a wrist vein that was sort of playing nice. The 3rd nurse came to my other side, placed one hand on my shoulder, told me to grip her hand and that she was going to start praying. She prayed, I gripped, they poked, I winced several times, and they finally got it in. I've gotta say, the Lamaze breathing technique I learned over 20 years ago, still comes in handy!

The surgery went great, as far as I was told. Coming out of it, however, I was in dire pain. I remember dreaming a lovely dream, then hearing voices, then hearing myself cry out, "Ow, ow, ow,..." over and over and realizing I was crying lots and lots of tears. They gave me 3 hits of Demerol 5 minutes apart, to which I didn't feel any relief. Next they whipped out the Toradol and gave me a dose. That took the edge off. But I was still in quite a bit of pain. 

I heard one nurse tell the other, "This isn't common. She shouldn't be in this much pain." The other nurse came to my side, rubbed my shoulder and said, "Okay, just try to relax so this Toradol will start to work." Then she went back over to the first nurse and whispered, "Sometimes you just have to mention the drug again, so they think they're getting another dose. Sometimes it's just psychological." 

Part of me wanted to laugh really hard and say, "I can hear you." But I was honestly in so much pain. Instead, I managed to say, "It feels like someone has my ankle in a torture device and is twisting my ankle all the way to the right and it is causing a shooting pain all the way down to my toes and up my leg to my knee." 

The 2nd nurse stopped whispering and told the 1st nurse, "Get the surgeon in here now." Both the Dr. and his residency Dr. came in, and when the nurses relayed what I had said, they both nodded and said, "Well, the sensation is pretty accurate, since that's basically what we had to do to stretch everything and put it in place." So, they gave me 3 local pain shots in my leg and within about 2 minutes all was well. 

Poor Eric had already visited with my surgeon and was told I'd be wheeled to recovery in a few minutes. After about 20 he hadn't seen me, and inquired and they said, "Well, she's still in a lot of pain." I'm sure that wasn't exactly relieving. 

Expected Recovery Process
The best part of the process is that while it's still a 6 week post-surgery "rest and recuperate" protocol, I asked how soon I could go back to school. I hate missing class. He told me after 5 days of constant rest, he would allow me to go back IF I promised to elevate my foot during classes, walk on it as little as possible, ice it regularly, and then call it a day as soon as I return home in the afternoons. (He also gave me permission to skip class as needed.) Woohoo! That also translates to no housework, right???

This is of course all best case scenario. He did say a "full" recovery can still take 3-6 months. But a lot of that depends on how closely I follow his orders during the first 6 weeks. 

So there you have it. Oh, and the other best part is this is the first surgery I've ever had in which I can eat solids. Definite Win.