Friday, August 11, 2017

New Milestones

This year, as school is getting ready to start back up, I realize it's somewhat a year of monumental milestones for our family.

One thing about having children is all the cool turning points that go along with them.

This year it seems we have quite a few new ones.

Or at least, somewhat new to us and of course new to each kiddo.

Induction to Honor's Society at UW.
Our oldest is starting his senior year of college - yep, that's definitely a first all around - and for the first time in his life has a 'girlfriend'.  (Another completely novel first for us all!)  A sweet young lady with which he has entered a 'courting/dating' relationship after having been friends close to 4 years.

Talk about milestones.  That's two major ones to start us off.  Wow!

He's also moving into an apartment rather than the dorms (yet another unique landmark for our brew) with a friend from college for his last 2 years.  Yes, even though he's going into his senior year, due to his triple major he'll be around for that 'dreaded' 5th year to complete his degrees.  (I'll admit, it's not so dreaded to me.  It means I get to keep him a bit closer a bit longer. Those days are numbered and I know it.  So.... I'll relish in that 5th year.)

The next 2 kids in line are entering their senior year of high school.  How did THAT happen?  It just doesn't seem possible that in about 12 more months both of them will be heading off to college.


Doing devotions at church camp.
Bethany is getting close to being ready to take her driving test to get her actual license.  Not to mention she'll turn 18 this year.  She's already planning some road trips with her friends from high school that are going to be at UW this coming year.  Am I ready for that?  A somewhat big first for this mama as Jacob never did that until he was out of the house and on his own, so to speak.

Decorating Christmas cookies.
Then there's Elijah - he just turned 16 and may actually agree to get his temporary license. Yeah, the driving thing is a bit late on both, but.... it's how we roll.  I'm ok all our kids have driven later -- it gives their brains more time to mature and hopefully prevents some silly adolescent risks.

He's been working this summer helping neighbors with construction, landscaping, electronics work - many new and first experiences.

Playing in the mud pit at camp.

Next up is Miss Trinity - she's entering 6th grade.  That's quite a milestone.  As I unpacked her schoolbooks for the year I was a bit taken aback as I pulled out her math 'Fundamentals of Algebra and Geometry'.

How can my sweet little girl - only 11 years old - be learning algebra and geometry?  ARG!

One more reminder of just how fast the time is whisking away.

Not to mention she's entering that pre-pubescent phase and all the changes THAT brings about.  I'm sure she'll love to know I shared that as she gets a little older.  ;-)

Yes, my little girl is turning into a young woman right before my eyes.

Less muddy,
but still having fun in the mud pit

Miss Charity is entering 5th grade and is so exited to be able to take part in the Iditarod program our virtual school offers for language arts.  I remember last year how thrilled Trinity was to take part and now... Charity is following in her footsteps.  Again- how can this be?

Both girls went to church camp for the first time this summer - as did I - THAT was really a first for our family.  LOL!

Charity is maturing in her own rights and becoming quite the young lady.  Her shyness - although still present - is often pushed back as she takes the lead to make new friends, take part in activities, or lead the way to help her little sister approach new experiences.

It just seems like yesterday she was starting kindergarten with that sweet little face and her infectious smile and giggle that knows no bounds.

Drawing on a kids' menu while out to eat.
Finally is the youngest, Miss Selah. She has already started her 3rd grade year as she finished off her 2nd grade curriculum early last spring.  She is reading independently and working at her own pace with her school lessons now.

She's even beginning to write in cursive.

How and when did THAT happen?

She too has grown and changed so much.  I still remember her as a little preschooler wanting to be like all the big kids and 'do school'.

My how the tables have turned.  Even though she does well with school, now that she's in 3rd grade she realizes how much time it takes and how much it impedes play time and fun.  Ha.

Welcome to the real world, sweetie.

Milestones abound.

I wouldn't change it for the world, but it does cause one to pause and reflect and remember times gone by.

So many changes.

So many firsts.

It's somewhat unreal to realize some of these firsts are the last of their kind.

As our summer ends, I'll try to revel in these upcoming firsts.  Breath them in.  Enjoy them.  Lament them.

Family vacation this summer at the Redwood Forest - Jacob generally no longer tags along due to other commitments...
Realizing photos capturing 5 of our kiddos having fun on a summer vacation are coming to a close is another 'milestone'.
I didn't really expect that when Jacob left for college -- I thought he'd still come home for summer break.
Boy, was I wrong.  So.... I'll take advantage of these opportunities as often as I can.
Milestones are yet more blessings in which to be thankful.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Darn Skunks

Each year it appears as though skunks like to move in under our porches, our house, our shed, even our backyard, and bunny hutch.

This year was no exception.

I believe the dogs had managed to avoid getting sprayed for the most part this year, but alas, that couldn't last.

This morning, snuggling in bed with little Miss Selah, talking about the eclipse we are planning to see on the 21st, we both noted the sudden onset of 'skunk smell'.

We knew skunks were around -- the smell was here when we arrived back from fair.  Having Titus with us for the week at fair allowed them more freedom to explore the backyard and the trash bin of recycling we keep there.

So... I didn't think much of it. The skunk must have come in contact with another critter that spooked it enough to spray in it's defense.

A short time later, the bedroom door opened and Trinity stuck her head in announcing Titus had been sprayed in the face and was frothing at the mouth. In fact BOTH dogs had been sprayed. One in the face... the other in the tush.

They were quickly quarantined to the garage until baths could be given.

Poor dogs.

Titus chased the skunk, but never made contact.  Apollos is too old to see or smell for the hunt anymore.

The crazy little skunk ran and found a hidey hole tucked up against the house beside the dog shelter.  Right behind the propane lines so no chance of shooting him at that point in time.

I can't deny, he's pretty cute, but...... still.

Every time Elijah went near the shelter to try to put the trap down, the little black and white striped nuisance would stamp and stomp his little front feet, raising his back end up the wall of the house.  I think he was too nervous to turn to spray or Elijah would have had a face full of bad.

Finally, the traps were set and we waited.

As expected, that little stinker (quite literally), did his own waiting and once we stopped watching he slipped off - avoiding the traps and disappearing to wherever he calls home at this current time.

The traps are set and we'll hope he goes for the peanut butter we put in them.  He seems to like peanut butter and Nutella so hopefully he'll be hungry tonight and crawl right in to have a snack.

Then, sorry to say, his days are numbered.

Cute or not - skunks have no place in our mini-mountain-menagerie.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Diabetes -- Decisions and Consequences of

It's been almost 2 1/2 years since the girls were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Living and dealing with this chronic disease has become our new way of life.  Our new way of thinking.

Not a day goes by - not even an hour most days - that we aren't thinking about T1D in one way or another.

Checking blood sugars; counting carbohydrates; calculating insulin ratios; monitoring continuous glucose meters throughout the day and night; changing pump sites; pokes to insert the CGM; making decisions on basal rates based on illness, exercise, and moods; all this and more, fills our days.

As parents of a child or in our case children with type 1 diabetes, it falls on our shoulders to make decisions.

Simple ones......

Not so simple ones.

As we make such decisions we're thinking about their blood sugars RIGHT NOW; what they'll be in a couple hours; how certain foods and activities may impact those blood sugars; what long term effects the blood glucose levels we are seeing will have on them.

It's a lot to deal with day in and day out.

Physically and emotionally.

One such decision is how to handle the desire for snacks and the pangs of hunger when blood sugars are already high.

My general rule has been.... if BG is high, limit carbs and focus on protein.  Or... alternatively, give a correction, drink water, and wait a time before snacks are given.

It made sense to me.

Carbs raise blood sugar....  If blood sugars are already high, more carbs would be a bad thing.  Right?

Just recently I caught little Miss Selah trying to 'sneak' a bit of frosting from a brownie cake I had made for our 4H meeting.
Decorating cakes - knowing she can't just
'lick her fingers' as she goes along.

Not such a big deal.  A normal behavior for a kid.  What kid (or adult) doesn't like to 'nab a little frosting' as they walk by the cake plate?  I know my older kids do it when cake is in the house.  I myself will seize a bit of frosting or a crumb of cake as I pass the island where the cake is sitting.

In the average child it would be...... NO. BIGGIE!

However, for Selah or Trinity..... it could quickly become a VERY. BIG. DEAL!

If she eats -- especially straight sugar like that -- without taking insulin (particularly if her blood glucose levels are already elevated) it could become quite serious, quite fast.

What to do?

We don't limit carbs - even treats - for this very reason.

Adding a border - drooling a bit over
the frosting she can't just 'taste' as she goes.
Yes, our girls with type 1 diabetes eat cake, ice cream, candy, even the occasional slushy -- just like every other kid.  We just have to dose the appropriate amount of insulin -- which can be a lot -- and monitor their overall blood glucose levels after the fact.  (Granted, this is not the 'norm' for their diet.  As with all our children, we try to limit the treats to keep a healthy balance.)

We didn't want to get into a situation where the girls felt their disease was a punishment and hence push them toward 'sneaking' food to get that which they felt they were missing out.

Yet, here we are.

That simple decision I had made to limit carbs during snack time based on blood glucose levels was back firing.

It's made me revisit what our approach should be.  It's also caused in depth discussions regarding the importance of ALWAYS dosing for ANY food.  Conversations were had about how sometimes none of us are allowed to have the 'treats'; healthy food is always better.  I also acknowledged how it's got to be difficult for an 8 yr old to see her 9 yr old sister partake in carb heavy foods while she's stuck having a slice of turkey or cheese.  Such practices may also need to be altered - one way or the other. Maybe differently on different days.  Some days everyone has carbs, other times everyone has protein.

I know she needs to realize this is her life.  It may not be fair; it may be hard; yet... this is the lot she's been given.

However, I watched as she fought the tears that were threatening to well up in her eyes.

She just wants to be a kid.

She just wants to be able to eat a little frosting without all the fuss.

She just wants crackers instead of cheese or nuts.

I wish it were so.  I wish I could take it all away.

So, as we round the corner of the third year living with type 1 diabetes - I'd like to write that it's gotten so much easier; we have our routines and life is 'normal', but.....


I don't think living with type 1 diabetes will ever truly be EASY.

..... or NORMAL for that matter.  At least not in the sense of what most consider 'normal', what most live as 'normal'.

What's normal about having to poke your finger to check blood sugar levels before you even think of putting any morsel of food in your mouth?

What's easy about having to have a 2 inch needle injected into your body every three days to insert a new canula just so the life saving insulin can be administered EVERY time you eat?  Or jabbing yourself with a syringe ANY time you choose to ingest a food that converts to glucose in the body. Plus the additional times if you misjudge how many carbs were in the last meal you ate and your blood sugar continues to rise despite the insulin you've taken to combat that scenario.

What's typical about being awakened in the middle of the night to drink a Capri Sun juice box because your blood sugar is plummeting and you're in danger of having a seizure due to too much insulin for whatever reason or your body reacting to said insulin more quickly or effectively that other times.

What's fair regarding having to think about whether or not a snack of crackers is ok or if it will spike your blood sugar too high so you should really opt for the less coveted piece of cheese, deli meat, or handful of nuts?

No, it's not any easier today than it was 2 1/2 years ago, but... it is less raw.  It's not typical compared to what the average family goes through each day, but it is our new way of life.  It's not something we  would have chosen, yet it's not something we can ignore or neglect either.... hence,we do what needs to be done.

Day after day.  Hour upon hour.  Minute by minute.

Plus...... we know how strong our girls are and we know they WILL persevere; thrive; live full and active lives.

Finished product from Showcase Showdown team cake decorating competition.

Even through the tears and unfairness of it all.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Homeschooling via On-line charter School

Our journey with homeschooling has been an interesting one.  In the VERY beginning I attempted to 'do my own thing' and quickly learned I'd burn out in days if I continued on THAT path.  We quickly moved to a 'packaged' curriculum - Calvert - that we had heard good things about from acquaintances who'd used it and loved it.

So, our first year, after a mere couple weeks of trying to 'wing it' utilizing Five in a Row (which I think is fabulous if it fits your personality) we purchased the Calvert Curriculum for Jacob - our first born - and so began our homeschooling adventure.

Midway through the year, we learned of an on-line charter school that offered the Calvert Curriculum for FREE if you enrolled in their 'school'.  I would still be the home 'teacher', but would receive our books and supplies free of charge - which was a blessing for a single income family - and have a support system to help guide us.

Plus -- accountability.

It wasn't a tough decision.

The next summer we enrolled.  It was a smooth transition since we were already using their offered curriculum.  All that changed was some interactions with their 'teachers', sending in some papers to be graded, and taking part in the public school standardized testing plus additional testing required throughout the year due to the fact it was a virtual school.

I discovered early on that my personality NEEDED accountability.  It would be all too easy at times to just say, "eh, I don't feel like doing school today. I have this or that project I'd like to do; the toy room needs organized; the kitchen needs deep cleaned; we need groceries; it's a pretty day for the park; etc; etc; etc!" that would pull my attention away from the important task of actually teaching and completing schoolwork.

So.... the on-line charter school had appeal.

Granted, I get frustrated by the multitude of standardized testing we have to accomplish; the hoops we have to jump through; the busywork we have to complete sometimes; but.... overall.... it's been a great match for our family.

Our children have learned that school is school -- it has to be done.  Granted, since they are at home we have more flexibility.  We can work ahead to take a day off for a family field trip;  for doctor's appointments.  Or... we can catch up when we take an impromptu day off because it's just too nice out to stay cooped up inside; an emergency arises; sickness hits.   All three of the older kids have been able to be volunteer librarians by doubling up on their assignments each day to get a 'mostly free day' off once a week.   The kids can sleep in to some degree; we have a more laid back morning schedule for tending to our mini mountain menagerie.  However, we can't just continually fall behind and work at a snails pace because we are on someone else's schedule.  I honestly believe my children's education would have suffered if I lacked the accountability and time frames the virtual schools provided.  Hence, their education benefited from the on-line charter schools.

To me, that's a good thing.  No, a great thing.

I know me.

I have a tendency to get lazy.  To not 'feel' like doing the teaching that homeschooling requires.  To get distracted by projects and chores around the house.  To get engulfed in a good book.  To allow the kids to get so engulfed and rationalize that such reading 'counts' as their school for that day.  :-)

I'm willing to admit my faults and acknowledge where I would have fallen short.

Since we are bound to the schools timing, I can't be so laid back.  I can't allow myself to get quite so sidetracked.

Hence, we get stuff done.

Through the years we've discovered how all the kids learn.  We've learned the aspects of the on-line schooling that work well for us and those that we can reassess to use a method that fits better for our family, yet still completing all the work required.

Another huge benefit I've found in using virtual schooling is the independence our children developed early on in their school years.  Navigating the computer; keeping track of assignments; working at their own pace; not requiring me or another 'teacher' to hold their hand to accomplish the lessons and work necessary to succeed.

I'm thrilled we discovered on-line schooling those 15 or so years ago.  It's been a blessing to our family.

All 6 of our children have gone through these programs.  One is entering his senior year of college with honors.  Two are entering their senior years of high school - again top of their class.  Another is starting 6th grade - Jr high as it were; the fifth one is going into 5th grade and the baby is in her 3rd grade year.

We've changed which on-line school we've used over the years, but through it all we've continued to stick with virtual programs.

Many dislike them, but they work well for us.

It does take dedication on the families part; the parents; the children; the whole unit.

It does require being flexible when technology falters.

It does mean being confined to someone else's schedule and agenda to a large degree - but.... in all reality ANY schooling has an element of that.  The only difference is to what degree and to whom.

It does demand following a set curriculum, but since we are home with our children we can add to that however we choose.

For us, it's been a win win scenario.

The kids get a solid curriculum that prepares them for college; I get to be with them, molding their character; they automatically receive an acknowledged transcript to aid them in college admission; I have accountability and support to keep us on the right track and give a boost in areas I'm not strong -- ie. math and some sciences.  The children progress through all the major subjects - and then some - in a logical sequence that ensures they have no gaps in their education.

So, as we prepare for yet another year of homeschooling - or as some may say 'schooling at home' - I'm glad we have this virtual option to catapult us through our school years.  Which are sadly coming to a close for a couple more kiddos.