Thursday, January 31, 2013

maybe some hope

Today, PorkChop had his very important appointment with a pediatric of Infectious Disease to try to pinpoint just what is going on with our little man. And I have to say that I was very impressed. Not only with how wonderfully everything went but with how willing this pediatrician was to work with us to find an answer.

We still might not have any concrete answers on what is going on in PorkChop's body but at least we are one step closer and have a good idea on what avenue to look towards.

big guy at his big appointment
The long and the short of the appointment, Dr F believes that Porker has PFAPA Syndrome or Periodic Fever, Aphthous Stomatitis (mouth ulcers), Pharyngitis (red throat), Adenitis (swollen adenoids). It is catergorized by a sudden high fever that comes in a pattern, usually lasting 3-5 days, ulcers in the mouth that develop around the second day, a red, irritated throat (but not strep) and swollen adenoids. He presented today, after an almost four day long high fever with the ulcers all over his right cheek (which I am surprised that we all missed in the ER since they were very noticeable today), swollen adenoids along his right jaw and a reddened throat.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive blood test for this auto-inflammatory disease. Diagnosis is made by a repeated visit with the same symptoms. And since these symptoms were never "looked for" during his earlier fevers, we  cannot say that they have all ran the same path. Now, it is unusual for a baby to develop this syndrome. Most times, it begins in children between the ages of 2-5 years. So what can I say? Either PorkChop doesn't have this condition or he is an over-achiever. And there are a few other periodic fevers that we can still look into but for the initial visit, this one definitely seems to fit the current bill.

Because of family history though and Porker's penchant for low urine output even on the best of days (and virtually non-existant on high fever days) means that something else could still be going on. So we also have a referral to have an abdominal ultrasound done on the little man in the soonish future. Basically, the doc wants them to take a look at his kidneys, spleen, liver, pancreas and gall bladder to make sure that everything looks ok. He doesn't expect this to change what he thinks is already going on but it will also rule in or out if 1. we are one step closer to a diagnosis of PFAPA and that the fevers are just leaving him quickly dehydrated 2. we find out that there is a kidney issue causing the fevers or 3. we find out that there are two totally separate conditions going on here.

I am not going to lie.... its scary hearing that your baby might have an auto-inflammatory disease. Even scarier knowing that there is a family history of auto-immune disorders. Its hard hearing that your baby might have a condition that has had no long term studies because its a relatively new finding. In most cases, the fevers end during the second decade of life but that doesn't mean that it always happens. PorkChop is lucky that his cycles, right now, appear to be every two months. One sign is a fever that repeats every 3-5 weeks. There is no "cure" for this but having a tonsillectomy "may" end the fevers. Thankfully, our doc is not about removing a healthy organ from a young toddler just to see if it works. He will not consider it unless the fevers become too much of a burden on PorkChop's life. Another option will be putting him on prednisone whenever a fever starts. It will shorten the life of the fever (yay) but can cause them to come closer together (boo).

So that's where we stand right now. No more appointments until another fever starts. Then we are to bring him in on the second or the third day to see if the other symptoms appear. After the ultrasound, if everything appears normal, we won't hear any more about it until the next fever appointment. If something does show up.... well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

calm before the storm

Do you ever feel trapped in between what you know is coming and what you know is already behind you? Like the eye of a hurricane, you wait... knowing that you need to clear this obstacle before life resumes but you want to hold on to that moment of peace and respite anyway. That's pretty much where I stand today. I am looking back over 18 months of questions (ok, 16 months since the first fever hit at 2 months old... or was the first official one at 4 months? Which would make it looking back over the past 14 months... *sigh*) and standing at the doorway of answers. Answers because tomorrow at 230pm, we will be seeing the pediatric infectious disease doctor that will hopefully be able to start us on the road to understanding why our littlest bird "molts" every few months.

If outwardly I am calm, inwardly, I am a nervous wreck. I kept Peanut home from school today just because I was too lazy to get out of bed this morning. Ok, so I wasn't "lazy", I just hadn't slept yet. Poor PorkChop had bad nightmares half the night from his hospital stay. Couple that with not being discharged until midnight, it made for a LONG day turned LONG night turned into the next LONG day.
enjoying our last bit of spring weather
Thankfully, though, keeping Peanut home meant that I could deal a little more with the on-going fever without slighting SweetPea. She had a built in buddy while I waited for the motrin to kick in and lower PorkChop's temperature. It meant that, once he was feeling more like himself, there was plenty of hands to go around to keep him happy and occupied... which gave me more time to do a small bit of research online to familiarize myself with what his results were showing.

It also meant that I could be there for my three youngest when they wanted to go outside before our predicted rain/wind storm hit. Even though the three of them are anything but calm, they were a welcome calm in the storms in my head. Taking them outside, watching the girls ride their bikes and hubby pushing PorkChop around on his tractor gave me some time to focus. Time to rearrange my thoughts, figure out what I wanted to present to the doctor tomorrow, what I could skip, what I felt was important to share and what I felt would just be me rattling along.

I can look back at today and think of all the times that I was preoccupied with the coming whirlwind. Hopefully, my children can look back at today and remember that mom made them pizza for lunch. That she applauded their biking skills. That she stopped to watch the birds fly overhead while holding small hands in hers. I hope that they remember today fondly... as a day when mom gave them the chance to enjoy themselves without the bustle of every day life, even if mom's head was already flooding with information.

Tomorrow will be here before I know it. I will be entering the office of someone who might be able to give us some answers. Tonight, I do not feel ready but at the same time, I know that I am prepared.

I can face this storm and come out stronger. I can be the eye of the hurricane, for my youngest son. For him, I can fly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I would love to go into the full story but I am wiped. Instead, I am going to just copy my update from facebook here in order to not have to run around in circles.

poor little guy :(

Ok.... Long story short, we are home. I won't go into all the details because this would be too long. But the short of it, we left the house for PorkChop's appt and he was at 104.7 in the ear. Got to the doc's office and they weighed him (down a lb since his last check three weeks ago) and checked his temperature.... 105.5 under the arm.  Nurse left to find the doc (not let him know that we were ready but to find him). Dr came in, rechecked his temperature (still 105.5) and told us to just head straight to the ER, that there was nothing that he felt he could do with a presenting fever that high.

Got to the ER and they sent him through admitting pretty quickly. They had me strip him immediately down to just his shirt and diaper, refused to let his "soft" drape over him and then did his temperature under his arm.... back to over 104 but under 105. She took his weight, and then checked heart rate/bp/breathing. Breathing was still within normal at 35 rpm but his heart  rate was 175. The nurse forced motrin into him (literally.... was a really fun experience) and sent us out to the waiting room for a ward room to open.

ER doc was sure that he had the flu between his cough and fever so she did a flu swab, RSV swab, checked his ears and throat and said that once those came back, we would probably be out. About an hour later, she came back in to tell me that we needed a urine sample and a chest x-ray. So they cath'ed him and couldn't pull enough to do a "proper" test (duh.... dehydrated..... just wasn't presenting with any symptom of dehydration) but enough that they thought that they could check for infection. Which, they were now leaning toward a UTI/bladder infection. Xray came down, got their pictures and we were sent back to the room.

Fever was finally coming down at this point to just over 100, so barely a fever, so they brought in a dose of tylenol to piggy back the motrin. At this time, ER doc comes back in and said that she had good news... Flu and RSV swabs came back negative. They were still sending away for the 48hr cultures but she didn't see anything coming from that. But... his urine showed an elevated white blood count (20,800+)  blood (which she wasn't positive couldn't have come from the shitty cath that they did) and bilirubin of 2+. She also said that it looked like the sample had been "contaminated" so they wanted to do a catch bag on him for another sample.

She also decided that they would need to run some blood work because everything was saying that he had an infection but they couldn't find it. And given his history of these mystery fevers, she didn't want to overlook something. Especially since she said that there were markers of things showing up but nothing was connecting for her.

So then they drew blood, hooked PorkChop up to an iv for fluids and did the catch bag. An hour and a half on the iv (and nursing) and he barely had enough for a sample again but enough to re-run the initial tests quickly. No UTI or bladder.

At this point, ER doc came back and let me know that they would be admitting him for further testing. She threw out some possibilities of what this could be (honestly, only one sticking in my head is septic arthritis) and then started asking me what tests they have already run on him (which was none). Told me that they could possibly do a cat scan, MRI, spinal tap, etc..... At that point, I called hubby to come back up there to bring me what I needed for at least a night and to let him know because I did not want to be consenting to anything without someone there to discuss things with.

Blood work came back with the urinalysis and still no obvious cause. ER doc spoke to the on-call pediatrician and they decided NOT to admit PorkChop for the further testing only because its the flu season and they didn't want to expose him to anything else. Instead, she came in and talked to hubby and I about making an appt with pediatric infectious disease. Said that this could all be nothing, he could just be really prone to viruses. Or it could be autoimmune. Or it could be something that she, as an ER doc and not a pediatrician, is just missing.

So that's where we are today. For the first time ever, he has a recurrent fever this morning (before, once the fever has broke with medication, it has stayed broken, this time, it broke and came back during the night). I don't have any answers, I don't know what they are going to put him through. I can't even guarantee that they won't send him back to the hospital. I am very glad that someone is FINALLY going to get to the bottom of these fevers since our only link was at 6 months, his WBC was elevated with one of these fevers too. No other time has much anything been done other than guessing that it must be an ear infection because "no other signs of infection but the fever says something is wrong".

Monday, January 28, 2013

poor little wee one

My poor little buddy is sick. Well, sick like only my buddy gets. He woke up this morning running a temperature of 103 and its wavered between there and 101 all day. Little PorkChop doesn't take medications kindly so I have worn more than my fair share of motrin today. I don't even really think that I got any into him.

Fevers are not a new thing for Porker. Most kids get the sniffles.... he gets scary high fevers that, thankfully, usually only last a day. Burn hot and bright, and then like a star, burns themselves just as quickly right out. So its just a waiting game. I figure by tomorrow that he will be back to his normal rambunctious self. And while there are days when I wish that he would slow down and take a break, this is not how I want him to accomplish that goal.
my poor miserable boy
Thankfully, I have had a bit of help today. Even though our temperatures outside neared 50, the bigs all had a snow day due to the ice storm that hit last night. Its still kind of funny to see the weather gauge and hear the words "snow day" in the same frame since they went to school when the temperatures were in the single digits last week. But then you walk outside (or did this morning anyway, its basically all just slush now) and see a good half inch of ice coating everything and suddenly, it makes more sense.

So for today, I am thankful for odd snow days on warm, spring-like days. One, because it meant that I got an extra day with the family (minus hubby, unfortunately, who worked late) but two, because it meant that I got to give Porker as many snuggles as he wanted without having to tell him no so I could spend equal time with SweetPea. In fact, having Peanut here, I barely saw either of them today.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

about that lemonade.....

I think that I need a little tropical paradise in my life. I miss the sun and warmth. And I think that its starting to show. Three days in a row, I have now bundled up the babies to spend some time in the great outdoors. Today, I baked lemonade cupcakes. Tuesday, I have plans to bake lemon sugar cookies with SweetPea. I am debating adding a second cooking day to attempt to make some coconut lime cookies. Either I need to quit eating baking goodies all the time or I need to suck it up and get used to running through the snow. Not that I run. Prancing would be more like it.

Since hubby worked a full day yet again, I made sure to get up early to bake cupcakes with the littles. I thought that they would get a big kick out of a very light, refreshing cupcake. I should have just made chocolate... they might have been a better "kid" hit. To be more honest, I think that I need to perfect my raspberry buttercream because that might have made the cupcakes better. Or... I could just eat the cupcakes as "muffins" and skip the frosting all together. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.
my very own Backyardigans
I even tried recreating our fun from yesterday. All three of us had a beautiful time outside, playing on the swings, chasing each other around the slide, kicking the soccer ball back and forth. Today, the wind was much more bitter and while the temperature was a bit "warmer", we were all well frosted much sooner. Which resulted in less fresh air, only mama and PorkChop enjoying the lemon-y treat and no real "family time". *sigh*

I know that its a rarity that hubby works the entire weekend unless we are on the road. And that doesn't help either since we were SUPPOSED to be on the road this weekend.... The last one, too. And for some reason, being separated all weekend isn't that big of a deal when you are somewhere new. Or at the very least, somewhere that's not the same old, same old. Hopefully, the super long hours won't last too long. And we will have our family time again. But in the meantime, I need to learn how to suck it up and move on.

Either that or maybe I will just go suck a lemon. Since life handed them to me anyway.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

joys of winter

So what do you do when your entire day of plans gets changed at the last minute due to a project deadline at your husband's work? You make the best of those lemons by adding some snow, sun, and slush and make lemon ice. Mmm... lemon ice. I could go for one of those but instead, I will just drink my hot detox tea with a slice of lemon. And maybe dream about the lemon cupcakes I am making tomorrow. Or maybe I will go find myself a lemonade. Nah... I will just wait until summer when lemonade tastes the best.

But seriously, you do go outside and enjoy the weather. Especially when said weather is in the mid 30s after being miserably cold the entire past week. Not that PorkChop and SweetPea minded a bit being bundled up for the second day in a row so they could run and yell, hoot and holler, swing and slide.... And fly.
He flies through the air with the greatest of ease....
We ended up making it outside for about an hour before we were frozen through and through. But looking at the forecast for the week ahead, it looks like our snowy days might be numbered. For now anyway. Just for now. So for today, we enjoyed the sun and snow. Everyone says that I will miss this when the dog days of summer are here but I think not. I remember quite well the cold all year round. Me? I am like one of those lizards that needs the sun and a warm rock to be happy. Give me the summer heat, lazy breezes and a shady tree to read under and I am content.

Thankfully, SweetPea seems to be happy in the cold months and in the warmer. PorkChop is usually my little boy... he doesn't "do" cold well. But apparently, snow and cold is pretty fun as long as there are swings and slides involved. And balls. And sticks. Rakes. Rocks. Ice. Eh... at least he can make the best of any situation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

a (short) week in review 1-25

We had a short school week this week. Both SweetPea and PorkChop and the older three as well. They had a long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr day so I made sure that the littles did too. Plus, its always nice to get to spend some extra time hanging out with all the siblings together with no expectations of getting "something" done.

Monday, PorkChop turned 18 months. I am still in shock that he is now officially halfway to two. Not that two is "terrible". Its just one more step away from being my baby boy and one step closer to being the little boy that I see coming out more and more each day.
all the boys playing DS together

Tuesday, SweetPea and I worked on learning who Martin Luther King Jr was and what he wanted to see. She has since spent the week reminding us how things need to be "fair and equal". Which means that she also thinks that she should get all the privileges of being a "big kid" without any of the responsibilities. Yes, we need to work some more on being "equal" around here. To help illustrate how all skin colors (races, nationalities, religions, etc) are "equal", we finger painted while discussing "If you had orange skin, could you ride a bus? Could you go to McDonald's if you had purple skin?" I was even pleasantly surprised to see PorkChop enjoying the finger paints for the first time ever.

our equality rainbow
 Wednesday, we worked on reviewing our letters. I took out our flash cards and went over the names of the letters that we have done so far (A-K). Then I laid them all out on the table and SweetPea had a scavenger hunt to find one item that began with each letter. Most we did in order. Others, she was too excited to wait and would jump up and run through the house yelling "D says Duh.... Duh... Duh... Dinosaur!" Others are still tripping her up. Like G. She can remember the soft G sound but has trouble remembering the hard G one. And E. Since her linus has been known to squeal "Eeeeee!" when its lost, she thought that she could use linus as her E sound. Cute try, but not really what I was looking for. PorkChop just wanted to eat the apples and grapes that were being used in this lesson.

What begins with the letter ___ ?
 Thursday, we switched gears and practiced our numbers. Recognizing them, putting them in order and showing how much each stood for by using small Reese's Pieces from the cooking cabinet. For some reason, no matter what tricks I try, SweetPea has a huge mental roadblock over the number 4. She just cannot get that one down. Even with numerous attempts, she still cannot recognize it, although she understands the value of 4, can count and include it and can write it. Weird. Since she isn't as strong on numbers as she is on letters, I broke out the board games to help. Many, many, MANY games of Chutes and Ladders, Hi-o Cherrio and Hungry, Hungry Hippo (yeah, nothing to do with math but how can you resist playing that game?) later.... she still cannot identify 4.

How many is the number ___ ?
 Today, we worked on flashcards again. And we worked with our number blocks. We had grand plans to bake cookies for practical math skills too. Instead? The temperature was double what it had been all week in the morning (we hit 20!) and it was softly snowing outside. Good intentions to stay indoors during our bitter cold days flew out the window! I bundled the three of us up and we spent 25 glorious minutes outside painting the snow, jumping over sticks twigs, and looking for our feline friends. We came in red cheeked and frozen fingered but much happier than we have been all week. Happy enough that when SweetPea asked for the colored rice bin, I consented and allowed them almost an hour of scooping, pouring and digging through our  once brightly colored grains.

snow dying fun
Next week, its back to the normal around here. The bigs all have a full five day school week, so SweetPea will too. I need to go back to teaching her a new letter, a new math skill (well, trying to) and to begin preparing for our Valentine's fun. But for now, I am going to just look back at our review week with some very fond memories and look forward to doing it again.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gone Fishin'

Do remember being a kid and spending hours in your living room jumping from cushion to cushion because they were "safe" and the rest of the floor was boiling lava? Do you remember driving your cardboard box to the movies and eating popcorn while gazing up at the big screen? Do you remember sheet forts and spending hours inside on a cold winter day, marveling over how a thin little sheet could wrap you in such warmth?

catching the big one
I love the days when I can still play that way with the littles. Today, we went fishing, compliments of SweetPea's huge imagination. We fished for some sharks, some swordfish, a little bit of "fish sticks" and even caught a whale. We used pencils that I tied a bit of yarn around and a maracas for bait. We fished off our "couch boat" and off the bridge of the climber. We fished from the lakes, the "o-chen", and a pond. Sometimes, we caught a fish. Sometimes, we caught each other. It didn't have the same thrill as riding dragons through the kitchen... It was calmer, more laid back, relaxing.

Maybe we will fish again tomorrow. Or maybe we will hunt alligators with our bare hands. We could chase snails (like SweetPea did with her dinner tonight) or become barking chinooks. No matter what we do, we will do it together. And I will spend a few minutes remembering what its like to be a child again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

ever have one of those days

I am so over winter. I am over the bitter cold, the snow, the slush, the howling winds, the frost on the inside of the windows.... I want to just lay down and hibernate until the spring thaw. Why couldn't I be born a bear? I like to hang out in trees, eat berries, lay in the sun. I would be a good bear. I wouldn't even raid picnic baskets, mainly because I don't like 90% of what everyone else eats. But still.... I think that I should have been born to hibernate the winter months away.

January always gets to me. In February, I have Valentine's day, SweetPea's birthday, MY birthday, mid-winter break and a short month all to look forward to. But January? After the excitement of New Year's Day, the month just drags on and on for me. I really think that its because the weather always seems to turn bitterly cold and we are home bound, indoors, for days on end. Like this week.... temperatures in the teens for a high is just too cold to bundle up the littles and go outside to play. True, I did get to stir crazy earlier today that I did bundle everyone up to head to our local meat market to get the fixings for an awesome lunch and so SweetPea could practice using her money skills. Instead, it turned into a 20 minute gab fest with the other customers, the deli dept, and the cashiers. Yes, I think that we need to get out and around people a bit more.

But its not only that January is so long and cold. Every winter around this time, I seem to develop insomnia. No matter what I try to do, I just cannot sleep more than a few broken hours a night. To make matters even better, PorkChop hasn't been sleeping much better either. I know that that is partially my fault... I really need to kick it in gear about staying away from the dairy. Its just hard. Eighteen months without it and I got a tiny taste and I am back to craving it all the time. Ugh! I need to just go back to finding alternatives  again until I can get a handle on things. But seeing the little patches of eczema breaking out on PorkChop's skin is enough to make me want to cry because I KNOW that its my fault.

I just need some sunshine. And some warmer temperatures. A soothing breeze versus the icy polar winds. I need a good hour outside, even if its just being outside. I need my vitamin D to come from something other than a capsule. I need spring.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"I had a dream"

A day late maybe but better late than never. Yesterday, with all five kiddos home from school because of the holiday, our tot school just didn't happen. Which is ok.... I honestly didn't think that it was going to. But I didn't want Martin Luther King Jr day to go by unremarked either. Three or not, its important for SweetPea to learn who he was and what he fought for. So we did that today. A short lesson for our first day back of the week but an important one.

SweetPea's "dreams"
We started out with all our regular work. But then I told SweetPea that we were going to change things up today. I told her to sit on one side of the table and put PorkChop on the other. I told her that they couldn't sit together anymore because she was wearing "black" and he was wearing "white". SweetPea looked at me like I had lost my mind. I then gave PorkChop his morning snack and sat back down. This time, SweetPea spoke up, wanting to know where her snack was. I told her that she was on the "wrong side" of the table so she couldn't have one. Her face fell and she hung her head, not arguing, just in shocked silence. I brought over her bowl and sat it down in front of her asking how she felt. "Sad", she told me. I asked her how I could make it all better.... "I just want to sit with Porker and have a snack too. That's fair, right?"

Ah! Fair.... equal.... no favorites, no slights. I knew that this would work.

Without getting into the heavy words like civil rights, segregation, racism.... I explained to her in smaller words who Martin Luther King Jr was and what he wanted while she colored a picture of him. I explained a little how he was treated as a child and why. And I explained to her how some people feared what he wanted so much that the took his life away from him. We discussed how skin color doesn't matter.... that "Gangam style" should be allowed to eat at McDonald's with her. How "Asia" should be allowed to ride the bus with her. How Pochantos should be allowed to walk down the street and hold her hand. 

I read to her from the speech "I had a dream" and while I am sure that most of it sailed over her head, I was shocked at what she did walk away with. I loved hearing her tell me how everyone SHOULD be equal, that everyone SHOULD get to learn at school, that everyone SHOULD have the right to marry anyone that they wanted to. I was speechless when she chose many of those things for her own "dreams".

We finished up today but finger painting. Starting with all our colors separate, we talked about how pretty they looked. Then slowly, one by one, the colors began getting mixed together. And SweetPea, unprompted, told me how they all looked the same "on the inside". That all the colors were pretty apart, but in the end, they were still all the same. What wisdom from a child.

Monday, January 21, 2013

a year and a half ago....

this sweet little face arrived Earth side. I cannot believe that its been 18 months already. Where does the time go? How did I manage to blink my eyes and yet still manage to capture all these small moments?

PorkChop is now 25lbs and just a hair under 34in tall. His little head is 18.25in around. At 12 months, he was just under 23lbs and 32in. Talk about growing bigger and bigger every day.

He now has all four of his molars and all the rest of his teeth are peeking through the gums, if not all the way through.
18 months
Physically, PorkChop is so more advanced than SweetPea was at this age. He can jump with both feet off the ground and has been since around 15 months. Amazing for a little boy who drug his feet about walking. He adores jumping off the speakers onto the couch and off the chair into the kitchen. He can climb anything and everything and spends most of his day doing just that. He loves stacking blocks, flipping through books and making his Little People converse back and forth.

Talking wise.... he seems pretty behind to me. His speech is so garbled that except for family, he can't really be understood. Unless he wants to be. He has an amazing ear for repetition and loves mimicking the sounds of sirens, the bread machine and certain toys. I am starting to worry that his lip and tongue ties are making it difficult for him to speak but I am not positive. PorkChop still falls within the "normal" range and has proved that his hearing is well. I think that I just need to relax and realize that Porker is so much go, go, go that slowing down to talk just might not even be on his radar yet.

I am eager to see where the next six months takes us. I am ready to watch him continue to flourish and grow. I am making more of a  point to enjoy each and every cuddle, every time that he pulls on my shirt and asks for "bub" with a little knowing nod. I relish each night as he falls asleep in my arms, warm and heavy, with his "soft" cuddled to his nose. I know that these moments are just as fleeting as those baby days were and I am not ready to wish them away just yet.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

time to get cookin'

I love our Sunday routine! A good home-cooked meal, dessert, tons of family time.... I love it. I especially had a great time this weekend since we had all five kiddos with us. That's a rarity. The fact that all five kiddos got along all weekend without complaint was even more of a rarity. Since we all had such a nice break (half days Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the boys and half days Thursday and Friday for Peanut) with such low stress levels, I wanted to do something extra special for our Sunday treats. Enter Pickle's favorite cake and one of my favorite treats...

Last weekend, I made hubby's favorite cake, pineapple upside down cake, and it was meh. I used a cake mix to save time (and because I got scared at the last minute that I could do a good enough job) and it just wasn't that great. I only started making cakes from scratch back in August and I am still shaky on my confidence. But lesson learned.... our family does not like cakes from a box anymore.

So this weekend, I scoured the net looking at different carrot cake recipes until I found one that I thought would fly. And did it ever! It was moist and full of flavor and absolutely amazing! PorkChop had two pieces himself and walked around the table begging for scraps after that. For a child that is not a cake fan under normal circumstances, that was HUGE!

carrot cake from scratch

The other big treat of the weekend started yesterday. I had pinned a recipe for fried baked pickles a few months back and finally decided that it was time to try. I am so thankful that I did! All the kiddos enjoyed them, which was another huge shocker. I really expected the older kiddos to complain and drag their feet but getting them involved in the process of making them made them more than eager to try their taste.

first attempt at baked pickles
I do need to remember next time not to add the shredded cheddar. Since PorkChop reacts very badly to dairy (but has been ok with tiny amounts of cheese) I should have known that these would be too much for him. But then again, I never expected him to want to eat a fried baked pickle. SweetPea either. Instead, SweetPea ate the pickles out of the center and PorkChop ate the breading. If it wasn't for the fact that they are both slightly built, I could call them Jack Sprat and his wife.

I am already planning out our dessert for next Sunday. I am thinking either trying my hand at creating a chocolate covered cherry cupcake recipe or going with a pre-wrote one for triple salted caramel cupcakes. Either way, I think that we need a cupcake day around here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"sew" excited

There is such a thrill, a certain energy if you will, from starting a new project. I liken it to a high.... you see all the potential before you but no idea where it will go. You have an end goal in mind, a projected result, but ahead of you, you have miles and miles of potential that you need to shape. Don't get me wrong, I love finishing a project too and seeing all my hard work and time turned into a gorgeous, tangible item. And I love the path to the finish line... its soothing for me to have an outlet for my creativity. But there are some projects that you are just itching to try, some that you drag your heels on, some where motivation will not come and others that keep you up all night with joy. This first sewing project of the year is definitely a much anticipated one......

first sewing project of the year
Yesterday, hubby procured tickets for himself and SweetPea to attend our township's annual daddy/daughter dance. Not only is just the thought of those two having a special "date" enough to give me a tooth ache, but this year, the dance is on Valentine's day. So I just KNEW that I had to do something extra special. I envisioned a dress in SweetPea's favorite color, purple, with lots of lace and ribbons, something elegant but very girlie. 

SweetPea had other ideas......

She insisted on pink. Pink? Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of the color. I was thrilled with Peanut's favorite color turned out to be blue. Even happier when SweetPea turned to all things purple. So the thought of working on this gorgeous dress in pink just wasn't very thrilling. I went along with it though, showing SweetPea all the different pinks that I could find and none of them were right for her. Everything I showed her met with a "That too ugly" and a haughty, nose up in the air, face.

Then I stumbled onto this print....

Elegant and girlie.... pink without being garish.... Something that I could envision lace and ribbons... The perfect fabric for the perfect dress. And best of all, SweetPea approved! She even helped me pick the sash and ruffle colors (and did an amazing job). We picked out the ribbons for her custom bows (although, we still need to find a green to match) and even though I opted out of lace for the pattern that I selected, SweetPea did tell me that she wanted to wear lace socks instead of tights on her special night.

Everything is now cut and prepped for the sewing, which I hope to start tomorrow. Then again, I still have that pesky hat to finish (just all the embellishments), a house to be cleaned, kids to be bathed, a chicken to be roasted and a hubby on the road. So maybe I am being overly optimistic in saying that tomorrow I will start. But in my dreams, its already completed and SweetPea is turning circles in her beautiful princess dress.

Friday, January 18, 2013

a week in review.... K

Woohoo! What a confusing week this has been. Our poor SweetPea spent a good majority of this week confused why her "name" doesn't look like how it sounds. lol Occupational hazard that we predicted long ago when we gave her her moniker but she will get the hang of it. Maybe not this week, but eventually. And if not, she can always change her name.

This week, we focused on working on the letter K and coins and value again. Which meant lots of kiwi and key limes for snacks (yes, PorkChop eats limes like most kids eat oranges.... little nutty buddy). It also meant lots of talks about kites (and why we really need to wait until spring to make/fly kites), kings (which sadly, we are not) and knights (which, thankfully, we could pretend to be quite well).
learning about the letter K

For cooking this week, SweetPea and PorkChop made rice krispie treats with minimal help from me. No, seriously, they really could do these basically on their own, minus pouring the hot, sticky mess from the pot to the baking dish to cool. PorkChop was in charge of adding marshmallows and stirring them with the butter. SweetPea handled adding the krispies and stirring whenever PorkChop got too adventurous with wanting to touch. Even more surprising, this did not turn into a "treat" this week. Neither of the littles liked them, but the older three enjoyed getting their fill.

making rice "Krispie" treats

Our sensory play this week had to take place indoors since our temperatures turned pretty cold and windy most of the week. So I set up a tray of krispies for the littles to practice filling their trucks, cups, and dishes with... and they got to practice their sweeping skills whenever PorkChop, in a burst of over-enthusiasm, would shower the entire kitchen with his portion of krispies. I am thinking that next year, we will just stack kiwis.

sensory play in the "krispies"

Our math lessons really improved by leaps and bounds by today. At the beginning of the week, SweetPea could remember penny and dime. Now, she can identify all four coins. As for values, she knows how much a penny and dime are and knows that the quarter is "the biggest number". She even started getting nickles correct more often than not. Since next week is a letter review week, I think that we are going to stick with one more week of coins before moving on to measurements.

still trucking away at coins and values

For music this week, we worked on "Hickory Dickory Dock" and we started "Today is _______ ". It amazed Peanut to hear SweetPea tell her dolls "I will marry you on Thursday but not today because today is Friday. You have to wait." I waited too long to find any good K preschool songs to play but that's ok. Instead, we pretended to be knights that had to help the dragons (because you don't hurt dragons.... they are very special animals that help us every day). We tried to make PorkChop our official king of Dragon  Land but he wanted to work on last week's lesson instead and just kept jumping from the moving dragons.

nursery rhyme time with clocks and mice
With next week beginning with a holiday and us having a play date at some point in the week, I am calling a review week. For us, it just means a slower paced week where we strengthen the skills that we have instead of plugging ahead at learning new ones. Not that we won't be learning anything. Because its a review week, we will be learning about Martin Luther King Jr, maybe doing a fun science project (maybe ice cream again??) and cooking thumbprint cookies with some of the jam from last week. Mmm.... cookies and ice cream. L week might turn into "we need to skip ahead to Y and do yoga week".

Thursday, January 17, 2013

a little light reading

I love to read. Other than photography and crafting, I think that its my biggest hobby. I have other ones...  I love biking and walking during the warmer months. I adore swimming when I get the chance. Taking the kids to the park, the zoo, the beach.... I think that I might enjoy it as much as they do. But reading, its something that I HAVE to do every day. The same as I cannot imagine not picking up my camera for an entire day, I feel the same way about not having a book close at hand.

We might only be halfway through the first month of the year but I am already on my third book. I finished 11-22-63 by Stephen King last weekend while simultaneously beginning Pet Sematary for probably the fourth or fifth time. While finishing Pet Sematary, I began Into the Wilderness on the Kindle.
my reads for the year.... so far
I have noticed that since becoming a mother, my taste in reading has changed. While Stephen King used to be my favorite author, I just cannot get into his newer books. I blamed it on the accident that he was in, since I am not the only person to notice a great change in his writing style since then. But even books that I enjoyed when I was younger, I have a hard time reading now and finding the same enjoyment. The only exception that I have found so far has been It... which is still my favorite book of all time.

Now, though, I find myself reading historical pieces more and more. And especially historical pieces with a bit of romance thrown in. I do not believe for one minute that my childhood was so horrible that I "identified" with the horror novels more or that I live in a fairy tale fantasy world now so I crave romance more. I think that, where I found enjoyment in the horror books when  was younger, now I find them uncomfortable.

 I didn't see Pet Sematary as being a "scary" book as an adult. Instead, I found it sad and depressing. And what made it all the harder was PorkChop being so close in age to Gage... not to mention that Gage was on our list for him but was taken off because it felt too much like we were tempting fate. 11-22-63 should have been more my "now" style but the book just seemed to drag for me. Like it was being written to make a buck more than because you feel passionately about getting the story out.

Two books are coming out this year (or are slated to at least) that I am looking forward to, immensely. The newest book in the Outlander series (In My Heart's Own Blood.... MOBY to fans) and the newest book in the Song of Fire and Ice series. Vastly different writing styles, greatly varying in subject and content but I am eargerly awaiting both. I have a feeling that I will find crafting falling to the wayside when those arrive.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mama said there would be days like this

If I say it once a day, I say it about fifty times.... Peanut's new room is HER room, not SweetPea's. Which means, SweetPea should NOT enter Peanut's room without permission. Does this mean that she listens? No, mainly because she is three but also because she is used to sharing a room with Peanut. Also, because the room that is now Peanut's used to be the boys' shared room and SweetPea wandered in there whenever she wanted.

Then again, I also say many, many, many times over the course of the day to pick things up... do not keep things in your room that shouldn't be in there... and if its something dangerous (by my terms), please keep it out of the reach of the littles.

But that didn't stop SweetPea from entering Peanut's room while I was cleaning up from lunch. It didn't stop SweetPea from attempting to use wooden shelves (that we have long since thrown out the bookcase that they went to) to create a "fort" for PorkChop. And it didn't stop SweetPea from dropping one of said shelves right on her big toe.....
first boo boo of the year
It was scary at first, for the both of us. Hearing a loud thump, hearing SweetPea start weeping, then sobbing, then screaming and NOT seeing her appear was scary. Running down the hall to see her sitting on her sister's bedroom floor, rocking back and forth and holding her foot was bad. Watching blood seep through her tights and knowing that, because she refused to take off her leotard/tights combo from the night before, that I would have to remove ALL her clothing to see what happened was bad too. 

Thankfully, she missed her toenail by less than an 1/8 of an inch. She did manage to break the skin right under by blunt force but it was minor, all things considered. For quite a bit, we worried that she might have broken her toe. SweetPea just sobbed the entire time "Will I EVER be able to dance again?!" and no amount of soothing words would convince her that yes, she would probably be back on her feet before her next class.

Liquid advil to reduce the pain and swelling, ice and elevation too, and a good  nap (which she sorely needed), did wonders though. The same child that couldn't bend her toe or walk on her foot at all before her nap at 1pm was stomping through the house after being told to help clean her room at 7pm. 

Will this stop her from entering her sister's room? Probably not. Will it give her pause before doing something "fun" that she knows that she probably shouldn't do or at least, ask first? I doubt it. But she's young and in charge of her own person and she got lucky today. Thank you, Guardian Angel, for watching out for my little Grace once again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

first of the year

I have really been slacking this year. Normally, I have projects lined up and have already begun cracking on that list. This year? Yeah.... I have things in mind but no real direction. I mean, I have ordered the perfect pattern for SweetPea's daddy/daughter dance dress. I bought a couple other cute dress patterns too. I even have a new sweater pattern to knit. Just lacking motivation right now. Big time.

But today, I got started on a project that I have a deadline for. Before Christmas, I got asked to make an Angry Bird hat for a little boy near SweetPea's age. Earlier this month, I got asked to make another for this little boy's cousin. So here I am....

first project of the year
I couldn't find a pattern for the black bird without driving up the price of this hat so I am making one up as I go. Fun times! Just taught myself to crochet in November of 2012 and here I am, trying to create a pattern. I do have the hat pattern down (using a basic existing pattern for that) but all the embellishments are coming from me. Hopefully it turns out ok. I am almost to the point where I need to stop until I can find some grey yarn locally. But it's ok... I have until next Friday to complete this.

Wish me luck! But I think that I am going to be fine. I have faith in myself and major confidence this time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"We Bought A Zoo"

Have you ever saw the movie "We Bought a Zoo"? Pretty cute movie about a family that moves to a... you guessed it.... a zoo. Now, we didn't buy a zoo, nor did we go to a zoo today (or even recently, unless you count October being "recent"). But there are definitely days when I feel like we bought into a zoo.

Besides our five children, we have four indoor pets and care for five outdoor ones too. Inside, we have a Great Dane, Bonnie, a miniature daschund, Moose, and two rabbits, Spore and Max. Outside, we have "mama cat", who is just a stray that has adopted our house boat to birth her kittens for the past two years. Two years ago, we didn't realize what had happened until a neighborhood boy had stolen the kittens from our yard. This year, when we realized what was going on, we took steps to ensure that her and her litter were safe. Hence, we were adopted by "Oliver" and company.
morning cuddle session with Spore
In the past, we have also been home to two other dogs (Cookie Monster, the Rottweiler, and Daisy, a Jack Russel mix), three gerbils, and a Indonesian Rat Snake named Drake. But that doesn't mean that we are done. Oh no... SweetPea would like another pet, a shark. And a couple of fish. A bird. Maybe a turtle. PorkChop just loves anything small and furry and constantly "aww's" over every animal we see. Peanut would love a ferret. Punk, another dog. Pickle? Who knows. Some days, he talks about wanting to add another pet and other days, he has no interest at all.

Does that mean that we are even close to adding another member to our zoo? Not at all! Maybe in a year or so, depending on what we decide with the "adding to the family" decision. Right now, though, I think that I am a bit maxed out in our family zoo.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

lazy Sundays

I am pretty sure that I have said it before and I am pretty sure that I will probably say it about 50 more times this year but I love Sundays. I love having a more relaxed, laid back day where I don't have to feel quite so rushed to get everything accomplished. A day devoted to family and rest. Good meals, great company, wonderful laughs... that's our Sundays here.

Today wasn't all laid back and relaxing since yesterday was so crammed full of "events" but we made it work. We got our grocery shopping and banking in, kids still got their naps in, mama got time to read and daddy had time to play his games. House got cleaned, everyone got fed and bathed... can you really ask for more than that?

helping mama to make daddy's favorite dessert
Hubby enjoys getting to help share in the cooking responsibility on the weekends. Tonight, he treated us to homemade fries, venison burgers and, in true hubby style, no vegetable. Thankfully, we always have carrots on hand for snacking and plenty of fruit so we made do. My favorite part of Sundays is that I have the time to focus on a dessert. I try to make snacks or treats a few times a week but there are weeks that get away from me. Sunday is my chance to set aside the time to do just that. SweetPea picked pineapple upside down cake for our dessert this week and was a peach in the kitchen helping me to bake it.

After dinner on Sundays, hubby and I call the living room to ourselves and have a "date night". Its a chance for us to reconnect and enjoy each other's company. While all the older children get ready for bed, SweetPea and PorkChop usually destroy play in the kitchen, and hubby and I snuggle on the couch and talk. Once the big three are showered, changed and in bed, we either pop in a movie or watch some of our favorite shows (currently Glee) on the playstation. It might not be anyone else's idea of a "perfect date" but for us, it is.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Christmas came late this year

Christmas seemed to have arrived a bit late this year. Yes, we celebrated Christmas back in December like everyone else but we were special enough to celebrate again in January. I am hoping not to make this a habit but for this year, it was good to spread out the joy a bit.

First, PorkChop's "big gift" from daddy and I just arrived on Tuesday. Huge debacle and not one that I want to go through again. But its here, he loves it and that's all that really matters. If it had to happen to anyone, I am at least glad that it happened to Porker. He was the only child in the house that wasn't upset in the least about waiting for a gift. Quite possibly because he didn't know any better. But I would rather like to think that its just because he is brimming with patience. (Which he most definitely did not get from his mama!)

Secondly, we got to celebrate our little buddy's first birthday today! D officially turned one on Christmas eve but due to the awful cold season going around this year, coupled with the holidays, his birthday celebration was pushed back a bit. Good thing too because it enabled us with the chance to be there with him and his family.

Happy first birthday, baby D!
Last, but certainly not least, I finally got my long awaited Christmas gift... the chance to see Les Miserables in the show! Now that its over, I can admit that I was a tad bit nervous about going to see the movie. The play is one of my favorites and one that, to me, is quite moving. There was a movie made in the 90s based on Victor Hugo's work that was a total bomb, in my opinion. It lacked the artistry and passion that I knew from the play (and remembered from reading the novel, as well). This time, there was no disappointment! Closest screen adaptation that I have seen since Jesus Christ, Superstar and Rent. I am not sure that there was a dry-eye walking from the theatre tonight.

I was so anxious for the holidays to get here but now, having enjoyed them spread out a bit, I can say that they were totally worth the wait. Is it time to start planning our Christmas holiday again??

Friday, January 11, 2013

a week in review.... J

Instead of posting each and every day about what SweetPea (and occasionally, PorkChop) is doing with her home schooling, I figured that Fridays would be a good opportunity to sum up our week. Less stress on me since it would mean summarizing as I went instead of devoting each and every day to just schooling and would also give me a chance to look back on the weeks and see our positives and strengths instead of just getting mired down in our weaknesses and shortcomings. 

Learning about the letter "J"
 This week, our first week back after a long Christmas break was focused on learning about the letter J. I thought about going ahead and focusing on a new number as well but SweetPea is still struggling a bit with identifying numbers on a whole (even though she can count well and can even do some simple adding), so instead, we are taking a side step and learning about money.... something that she is very interested in right now!

making "jam" together
 I try to incorporate more than just recognizing the letter and the sound. I try to find games that use that letter, activities that go with it, and of course, a cooking assignment each week. This week, we made blackberry jam in the crockpot. Super simple and really tasty! Lunch twice this week turned out to be peanut butter and jam sandwiches so we could all enjoy the spoils!

J is for Jaguar
 Art time this week was used to create J words out of the letter J. On Wednesday, SweetPea made a jaguar from a capital J and today, she made her lowercase J juggle. Unfortunately, I didn't have a special J activity planned but what child doesn't like to jump? So we took turns jumping on the beds, the couches, the floor.... inside, outside.... off the step into the living room, over cracks on the street.... Jumping was huge! And it fit very nicely with our nursery rhyme of the week "Jack Be Nimble". I really should have created a fake candle out of  a toilet paper roll and let SweetPea BE Jack but I guess that I can always save that idea for when PorkChop is ready to set sail on his course.

New math skill.... learning about coins
 Learning about money for math is going to take us a few weeks. Right now, SweetPea can identify correctly the penny and the dime. The nickel and quarter still throw her through a loop. But she is learning the value of each as well (again, the dime and the penny she has down cold). We aren't adding coin values yet, just working on recognition and value. As she works on money, I plan on giving her change to practice the skill in the "real world". Which means I can see a trip to her favorite bakery in our near future where she can purchase her own brownie by counting out the change on her own.

j is for "juggling"
And that was pretty much our first week back in a nutshell.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

new loves

In our house, reading is a huge deal. The older kids all have an allotted 30 minutes of reading time before bed. SweetPea and PorkChop get read to daily before their naps. Hubby and I both spend quite a bit of time on our Kindles, compiling reading lists and cruising straight through them. Its a rarity when someone is not reading something. Reading for fun, reading for school, reading for learning or reading for enjoyment.... all of us love to read in our own ways.

For Christmas, SweetPea got something that she thought that she had to wait a few more years to get.... an American Girl Doll. And with that gift, a new story line to follow. Last year, SweetPea and I went on a very long journey with Jack and Annie (The Magic Tree House series). And while we didn't finish the series, it created some very fond memories. This year, we begin our journey to 1850s New Orleans!
a favorite past-time
I personally love history. I love hearing about daily life from "ago", I love learning about the styles, the nuances of the culture, how people thought and what motivated them. So far, I have yet to produce a history buff in any of the older children. The American Girl series reminds me of the Magic Tree House series. They both bring history to life in a fun and easy way. They are not "textbook" boring, but alive and colorful. They are fun and make you feel like you are part of the story. I am hoping that that also means that it will spark a flame instead SweetPea, one that wants to learn more about following the past instead of just living in the future.

There are so many series that I want to share with her and PorkChop. I hope that I can. For now, I will take it one small step at a time. And enjoy each and every step of those journeys.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

unexpected gifts

Every once in a while, you end up with a special gift. An unexpected pleasure that you didn't even know that you needed or wanted but that was just perfect when given to you. That was today.

Things started off rough... my lap top decided to go on the fritz for about the millionth time in the last few months. Our television's lamp decided to burn out right when we didn't have the money to replace it. PorkChop started getting junky sounding again after having been clearing up for a few days. Peanut returned to school amid protests and refusing to eat. Even SweetPea's lessons took a nose dive after having finally looking up. It was just one of those days.

But the temps were beautiful! Low 40s with some sun and, during the late morning and early afternoon, no winds. In short, the perfect kind of day to bundle everyone up to play in the snow before it melts away. And that's what we did.

the five P's and one frozen buddy
Its a rarity anymore that we can get all five kids involved in the same thing at the same time. And I mean REALLY involved. Sure, once in a great while, we can turn on a movie or a show and everyone will sit together. But its not really the same. And with PorkChop too little for board games (and hubby totally not a fan) and with Pickle and Punk feeling "too old" to "play" with everyone, family fun time is a hard thing to come by lately. But something just clicked today. Everything gelled just perfectly for all of us to come together and enjoy 45 minutes outside.

The older boys took turns first lobbing snowballs at everyone, then taking a bat and hitting said snowballs towards the trees. Peanut and SweetPea worked together to create the balls for the snowman's body. PorkChop ran between both groups, giggling, just happy to be outside and included. The two youngest took turns on the swings and the slide. The boys tried inventing new snow themed sports (snoccer anyone?). Peanut kept working on her snowman, diligently filling in the gaps made by SweetPea's over-excited fingers.

Almost an hour and I had five freezing Ps. But I also had five happy kiddos. And one pretty happy snowman (even if he didn't get the hot chocolate that SweetPea thought would make him smile). I didn't even realize how much I needed that family together time until we had it. And then? The bad from earlier in the day melted away. I didn't worry about the electronics that were giving me fits. Instead, I rejoiced in the warm embrace of our little family. Into the house for hot chocolate and chorizo chili, all of us went. Happy, pink from the cold, and more relaxed than we have been in a long time.

A very unexpected, but very much appreciated, gift.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

slow return to normal

Between Christmas break, illnesses and sheer laziness, we are finally starting to fall back into our normal routine. Not quite there yet, since daddy was here with us again today (migraine... yuck! We need to catch a break around here) and so was Peanut, but other things are falling back into our normal. Home schooling is back on, dinner menu plans are being posted again, school is back in session for the bigs, dance started again for SweetPea.... Just a normalizing of our days that I think that we needed.

Our family is busy. Constantly busy, it sometimes seems. But that's ok... its our family's routine and we are used to it. Its our life. And on the whole, we tend to really enjoy it. Sure, there are days when we just need to be lazy and kick back. We try to balance our busy days with breaks and time off. Like this morning when Peanut was still hurting too much for school. Instead of staying awake (like I knew that I should have) and showering, I got to snuggle back into bed with PorkChop. It was only for another hour but it was nice getting those extra cuddles for no reason.
Enjoying our packing snow... finally!!
Because we got a late start this morning, lunch was late. Thankfully, that meant that we got to spend 40 minutes outside.... which was double the amount that I had planned. A late lunch meant late naps, which is leading to late bedtimes tonight. Tomorrow, our first day of everyone being back to their respective jobs/schooling, I have a feeling that we will be dealing with some major crabbiness. But its cool, I can handle it. I feel like I can handle most anything today.

I really think that I feel that way because our normalizing of our routines also means that I get to catch two hours to myself on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Those are my guilty pleasure television nights, even if I don't sit and watch television. Its my chance to work on projects uninterrupted, surf the net and research without someone closing my windows, a small amount of time to decompress and breath. Some days, I feel that it would be better if I took my "me time" out and did something without the family. But I honestly like knowing that I am right here if someone needs me. I like being available when PorkChop calls for "bub". And I like the fact that once he is tired enough to go to sleep, that I get to feel his warm weight snuggled close. But I also enjoy not having to deal with each small crisis for a bit.

Tonight, I am doing a bit of everything and nothing at the same time. Which is good. Because tomorrow, life totally goes back to normal and I need to be ready to tackle the world. And I will be. Because today, life started going back to normal for us again.