Bronchoscopy, CT Scan, and Biopsies, Oh My!

Tomorrow we head to Portland for the next stage of figuring out what’s happening in my poor little Calf #6’s lungs. There she will see another pulmonary doctor for a second opinion. The Anchorage one is scratching his head with my daughter! In January we found evidence that her lungs bled (again, aside from the one that happened when she was just a few hours old.) Recent testing has shown no cause. That testing has included bloodwork, a CT scan, and *shudder* a lung biopsy. (She had a liver biopsy at the same time because of some ongoing liver concerns.) And she’s not been anemic, which is usually the case when a kid’s lungs bleed.

She’s a mystery, my baby.

Blood testing ain’t been fun (last month’s was horrific–took over an HOUR and SIX pokes!) but the worst has been March’s biopsy. She got herself a one-night stay at the hospital for recovery. Aside from being in pain, there were WAY too many times when someone (nurse, x-ray tech) would come and ask, for example, “Can I take your blood pressure?” She invariable replied, “No.” And the person would invariably ignore her and do it anyway. I. Was. Furious. Don’t ask her if it’s not optional!!

So I was not at all surprised when tantrums like crazy started after that. These are not our typical 2 year old tantrums. These are long (15 minutes) and she’s kicking and screaming and flailing and banging her head and having a very, very, very bad time of it. Worse, they are REALLY hard to stop. Pre-biopsy, sure she had times where she got upset for some reason. These? These are hellacious and MUCH worse.

I’ve come to realize that they are happening when she doesn’t feel that I’m listening, truly listening to her. *Sigh* That’s hard to do with four other little ones needing my attention. (And then there’s time for me. . . somehow. . . oh and I’m married, I guess I should spend time with Daddy too?)

Anyway. I’ve learned I can stop these tantrums early by being calm and gentle, giving her extra attention, apologizing for not listening, and asking her to repeat herself. (Except, I’m not a calm, gentle kinda mom. I’d love to be, but after all these years I think I just need to accept that it’s not my style.)

She’s a very verbal little person and fairly easy to understand so having her repeat herself isn’t too hard. Sometimes I can’t give her what she wants–and you know, she’s usually and amazingly OK with it.

Anyway, tonight I decided to give Calf #6 a bath and a massage. A lovely, nice way to connect with this precious little one and give her body some good, calm, pleasant attention. We’ll be leaving ridiculously early Wednesday for the appointment so I wanted to get to bed early. Unfortunately, we got started with the bath a little late. I forced myself to go slowly with the bath, though.

While washing her hair I told her we’d be going on an airplane in a few days, and how fun would that be? She made the sign for “plane” with her hand (we did baby sign when she was younger) and flew it around the tub in front of her. I think I then told her that we’d be going to see a doctor.

Then she shocked me. “Hurt Nahnoo,” she said, pointing to her biopsy scars on the right side of her belly and using the name she calls herself. “Hurt dogter offis.” After I picked my mouth up off the floor, I agreed with her. “Yes, we went to the doctor’s office and you were hurt there.” I asked her if she knew why they hurt her at the doctor’s office; when she said no I explained that we need to find out why she’s been sick.

She then talked about the Tigger bathtub toy. “Tiger hurt belly.” I looked. My jaw dropped again. Sure enough, on the right (and left) side of his belly was a pair of parallel stripes. . .scars, in the eyes of my 2 year old medically special needs daughter.


I was amazed at her insight, how smart she is. “Yes,” I agreed, “Tiger did get hurt. Just like Nahnoo.”


So, About That Rest. . .

I don’t really do “new year’s resolutions.” But I guess you could say that mine this year is to learn to accept life’s happenings as ordained by the LORD. To realize that there’s a time for everything, the good things and the bad, and to not stress when hard times came.

Ha. That’s easy for me to say.

Our littlest Calf, just over two years old, has had various tests over the past few months to find out why she coughed so much last year. We ruled out cystic fibrosis and many other diseases, but found that her lungs had bled–recently and substantially. So then our question changed from “Why is she coughing?” to “Why was she bleeding?”

(Because lung bleeding, I’ve learned, is a reeeeeally serious thing and can damage my poor baby’s lungs or heart. Or cause, you know, a quick death, since you can’t live long if you can’t breathe and lungs filling with blood can seriously impede a child’s ability to breathe. 😛 )

We have not yet found an answer to this question. We got home Friday from yet another trip to the Big City where yet another expensive and serious test shows no solid answers. We have ruled out a lot of diseases and conditions–the less serious and easier to treat ones. Unfortunately, because this leaves the more serious and harder to treat ones.

After the test, the doctor gave us three possible courses of action: a lung biopsy, systemic steroids, or some other unknown treatment. He wanted to talk with yet another specialist before making his decision. We hope to hear this week.


Today I realize that I’m in over my head with this new mindset thingey. Time to call out the big dogs. I think I need to memorize a new Psalm.

I love Psalms, ya know? Chock full of the full range of human emotions, from highs to lows. And we’re kinda low right now.

Inspired by this song that we sang at church two weeks ago,

I bring you Psalm 121. In the Revised Standard Version after RSV, a terrible disease that gave this precious little girl an emergency room visit last year. (Oh, the irony.)

So when I’m anxious about my baby’s health or upcoming medical treatments or procedures, I’m going to be going over these verses.

Interestingly enough, I read a few weeks ago that this verse is often used as a traditional Jewish blessing for women in labor and for children. Cool, huh?

I feel better already. Truly.

Superbowl XLIX (2015)

(Which shall, henceforth and forevermore, be nicknamed “Superbowl Ex-lax” in our family.)

What can we say? We rooted for the losing team. The Seahawks looked really good there for a while, especially that last roll-on-the-ground catch!

But the snacks were good. The Bull asked for this dip, which surprised me as this one is our old standby. But I was happy to oblige. In addition, we had summer sausage, crackers, tortilla chips, and carrot sticks.

Last year’s Superbowl was a venture into unknown territory with figuring out dairy-free snacks for my oldest. This year, he’s cleared to eat dairy 3 days a week. But Calf #6 and I are both on a dairy-free, wheat-free diet, so I made sure that there were non-wheat crackers for us. She’s not into the spicy dip thing, so I made myself a little bit of both dips. For the buffalo chicken dip, I used dairy-free cream cheese, canned chicken, and Frank’s Red Hot sauce. For the jalapeno popper dip, I used dairy-free cream cheese, jalapenos, mayo, and canned diced chili peppers.

(I did NOT use the dairy-free cheese in either dip because, in my opinion, the stuff is like a bad knock-off of Velveeta. I don’t mind it in chili but it does NOT substitute for cheddar, Monterey Jack, or blue cheese!)

I got farther on my knitting project, a heart-designed, triangular knit shawl. I’m using purple wool and I modified the pattern to make the shawl bigger. (Apologies, this links to a Ravelry page and you need to have a free Ravelry account to even see it. But really, if you like knitting or crocheting, you probably either have one or want to anyway!)

The Bull had to work so he missed the first half. But he got home in time to see a little bit of Katie Perry. (Sheesh, really?! Who picks these halftime acts? I would have been fine not seeing that. Feel like I ought to bleach my eyeballs and brain now!)

The two oldest Calves, aged 12 and 10, are now more interested in football and followed much of the game. Calf #5 actually watched a lot of the game, too. Calf #3 spent the first half sulking. And Number 6 napped about half.

So all in all, it was a decent afternoon. I think the only thing that could have made it better would have been a strategically placed touchdown. . . Ah well. Better luck next year, eh guys? 😉

(Edited to add…..Yes I forgot this, not sure how!)

Of course, one of my favorite parts of the Superbowl are the commercials. this was my favorite:

(though all the “dad” commercials were a close second.)

A Time To Rest?

Things have been interesting lately, and not exactly in a fun or easy way. Our littlest, Calf #6, spent months coughing. July thru December, she had a week here, two weeks there, another week and a half another time. . . when she was NOT coughing. Poor girl. And I don’t think she was feeling well those non-coughing weeks, either. And needless to say, overnights were rough for a lot of that time, too.

Visiting with her pediatrician in October, we got the suggestion to visit a pulmonologist in Anchorage. That led to monthly trips to Anchorage and several rounds of testing, which showed that she doesn’t have cystic fibrosis and that her lungs have recently bled–substantially. Now we are trying to find out WHY. Which requires more testing, and more invasive testing; and may lead to a scary diagnosis.

Meanwhile, I’m coming to realize that The Bull’s health, while stable right now, will eventually decline to his needing a kidney transplant. According to these folks, 82% of the 123,000 people who need an organ need a kidney. All of this takes me down a dreadful road of “what if’s.” What if he can’t get a kidney when he’s ready? What if he is determined to be not a good candidate for transplant? What if his body rejects the transplanted kidney? What if there are complications during surgery? Where will we stay for the weeks or months that he will need to stay near the transplant center? How will we be able to afford this financially? We already figure we’ll need to leave good ol’ Alaska for this.

Yesterday I told a friend that we wouldn’t be seeing her today so that I could stay home and fret about Calf #6 and The Bull. I KNOW that this won’t do any good, and I KNOW that both of these situations we are far enough out that anything could change. . . but somehow it seems better in my mind to do the worrying in advance so I know what I’ll do if we get a horrible diagnosis for the baby or The Bull. I know, I know, that doesn’t do anybody any good, least of all myself.

So this morning I took a bath and thought I’d put my magazine subscription to good use. This particular issue has been around the house for a couple of years, and maybe I’ve already read it–at least, parts. It was still in my stash of books “to be read.” The cover seemed interesting. So while I soaked with nice smelling bathwater I read for encouragement in my life as mama and wife.

Now, I read magazines from back to front (I know, I’m weird) so the first article I read was the last one in the book. In reading it, the author referenced the passage in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything. “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (3:4) It’s not an unfamiliar concept, but for some reason today it struck me as incredibly significant. Life is like this, isn’t it? We must be as ready for the hard times as we are for the good times. But for me, happy times are wonderful and hard times are an unpleasant surprise. They shouldn’t be; I know that everyone has them. Why would I be any different?

Furthermore, the article reminds, all times are the LORD’s doing. He is in control of the times and seasons and has set the good times and the hard times in their proper places. It is not for me to insist that “this isn’t what I want,” nor to be surprised when hard things happen, but to acknowledge that the LORD for some reason wants me or my family to go through these experiences.

I’m sure I’ve heard this before. I’m not sure why today this seems to be a new concept for me. Maybe it’s just never hit me this way before.

I ended up re-warming the bath water several times while I finished the magazine. Mainly, I wanted to finish it and put it away with the (few) magazines I’ve already read. Some of the articles sounded very familiar; I’m sure I read parts before sometime but not all of them.

And I’m glad I did continue to read. Another article earlier in the magazine describes a woman’s fight with fear that seemed incredibly familiar to me. Though some of the details were very different, I could relate to what she was explaining: the deep fear that immobilizes a person. Her story told of finding a quiet place of rest in the midst of difficult times, which included a pregnancy and her newborn’s early delivery and week in the NICU because of breathing trouble.

(Now, it just so happens that I know about the NICU, our littlest Calf having spent two months there. I know I haven’t said much about this. Suffice to say, it was not a very restful time or place. Not fun, either; the article did mention this.)

I read the article twice, wondering how I could reach the point that this woman had, this place of rest where she learned to trust, truly trust the LORD. She referenced Psalm 107:27-31. I guess I could start there. “Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”

At the very least, I think it’s significant for me to accept that the happenings in our lives, the fun AND the rough, are set there intentionally by the LORD. That His love is not dependent on whether life is easy or hard. I mean: We will go through hard times and it doesn’t mean that He no longer loves us, nor that we did something wrong.

I left the bathtub with my hair a little bit cleaner and my heart a whole lot more clearer on how Job could still bless the LORD, no matter what happened in his life. Determined to take the first step by realizing that, even if difficult, for some reason the LORD wants us to go through the situations that we are facing.

Minutes later, my phone rang. I groaned when I saw the caller ID: Someone who has hurt me in the past. Not someone I wanted to talk to.

Oh wait: what was I saying about He wants this for us, for me? Oh yeah.

The half-hour call went surprisingly well. Maybe trying to see life as His plan helped.

We’ll see how this idea plays out over the next weeks as we await results from the baby’s testing.

How Laundry Works For Me-Five Years Later

In doing some bloggy clean-up, I found some posts that I forgot (!) to post. Like this one.

But it’s all different now. We’re still in the same house, but now we have one of them newfangled low water washers and a gas dryer. And we now have two more people in the house (7 now), and now we use cloth diapers.

Yee haw.

But you know what? Laundry still isn’t a head ache for me. (Trust me, I do NOT have it all together on the household management scene; I have plenty of other head aches in this arena!) But I’m happy to share with interested folks how we do it.

What I do–and why:

  • Kids clothes (the four older ones together: No longer soaking; just a cold water wash using baking soda, vinegar, and washing soda and a double rinse)
  • Baby’s clothes (a soak in cold water with peroxide to remove stains, then a cold wash with washing soda and a double rinse)
  • My clothes (wash in cold water with washing soda and borax, then soak in liquid fabric softener)
  • Hubby’s clothes (wash in cold water with washing soda, borax, and regular detergent)
  • Whites (including kitchen towels, socks, unders; hot water with lots of bleach, and an overnight soak)
  • Towels (an overnight soak in hot water with lots of vinegar to remove smells; then a hot wash with detergent; then soak in liquid fabric softener)
  • Diapers (a full cold water wash, plain, to rinse out the icky stuff;then an overnight soak in hot water with Rockin Green; then another hot water wash with grapeseed extract; and one more hot water wash cycle; then hang to dry–outside in the summer time if I can, otherwise in the hot laundry room)

So, a few changes. I still don’t separate colors from dark clothes or wash jeans separately, though.

How I do it:

This is the part that has changed the most. I no longer do laundry daily. I’ve found that doing 3 loads of kids’ clothes works better for us right now. The older 4 kids fold their own clothes, kitchen things, and bathroom towels, and it’s easier on them to have laundry to fold only 3 days in a week. The 4 year old often has the job of removing clothes from the dryer. I generally put it into the dryer and pile clean stuff on the couch. (It’s usually only there one evening; we do the chores in the morning.)

The kids’ dressers used to have tags on the drawers to show what clothes go in each, but this has fallen by the way side. They do what they want with their clothes, really, and I’m fine with that. The 7-year-old girl has more concern for her clothes than does my 12-year-old boy. Of course, she also has more dresses than he does. 😉

Honestly, our laundry routine has changed several times over the past few years. But that’s ok, it fluctuates with our family and so long as it gets done, I’m ok with being flexible.

2014: The Year of Loss

And for once, I’m not talking about death.

(Though my heart aches for my aunt and cousins who lost their husband /father just before Christmas.)

No, I’m talking about weight. 2014 for me was a great year on the health side of things!

Unfortunately, I didn’t start out the year intending to lose 34 pounds, so I don’t have really good before-and-after pictures. But these will give you a general idea.






(Oh yes, 2014 was the year that I bleached my hair and dyed it purple after wanting to have purple hair for decades!)

I’m still amazed that I lost so much weight, because I wasn’t really trying to lose it. I wasn’t following a strict diet, or denying myself food, or obnoxious exercise regimen anything of that nature. It wasn’t complicated at all and I don’t feel like it’s been a huge sacrifice like my weight loss after my 2nd child. Then, I spent lots of time feeling hungry and being grumpy–I still lost weight, but it wasn’t pleasant.

To be honest, the weight loss started when I had some nasty cold in December 2013/ January 2014. I was miserable with a horrible cough and had no appetite. I lost about 5 pounds that week. I thought, “wouldn’t it be neat if it didn’t come back!” And I didn’t!

I ate differently. I didn’t over eat; I stopped eating when I was satisfied, not when my stomach was stuffed. I didn’t eat when I wasn’t hungry (like when I was sad or bored.) I stopped eating after 8 pm (sometimes earlier, if it worked into the schedule; sometimes, though, dinner has to be late!) I started eating more veggies than I used to. I now eat WAY less candy than I used to. Candy was one of my big weaknesses. I have come to realize that sometimes I wasn’t even tasting or enjoying it, I was just devouring it, almost like it was a contest to eat as much as I could.

After I had lost a dozen pounds or so, nothing happened for almost a month. That was disappointing. At that point I added a little milk to my diet and the pounds started to go again.

I still ate meat, butter, carbs. Even ice cream, candy, other junk food. But now I’m content to have a smaller amount of the junk–but strangely enough, I think that I enjoy it more.

Now, this massive weight loss could have to do with the fact that I’m still breastfeeding (my littlest just had her 2nd birthday!) but honestly, I never lost weight with breastfeeding in the past. Despite exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and breastfeeding till the baby was about 2 years old.

Of course, in the past, I’ve been pregnant by the time my baby was 2. And I’m not now, hmmm. . . But I’ve been losing weight all year so that has no bearing on it.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve lost so much. I’m wondering if it will continue; I still have about 40+ more pounds to go to be at a good weight for my height and body frame. And I’m sure that if (when?) I get to an ideal weight I’ll still have these stretch marks, and probably the extra flab in the belly too.

But I’m choosing now to celebrate how far I’ve come, rather than how incredibly far I have to go still.


(Edited to add:)

My brain isn’t totally plugged in these days. How could I forget the exercise part of this weight loss???

Aside from chasing kids, jumping to conclusions, and racing against the clock to get the kids to activities on time, I do get some real exercise. Several days a week I take a fast walk around the neighborhood. I can do something like a mile and a quarter in about 20 minutes. In the early fall, I was walking 30 minutes daily, several days a week.

Yes, my time and frequency slow down in the winter. I try to walk before The Bull leaves for work. Winter’s shorter daylight hours make it harder to do this as it’s not light enough to walk till 9 am. And I put ice cleats on my shoes and dress warmly. (And, a bonus trick: I don’t check the temperature before leaving. Otherwise I’ll see the mercury hovering around the zero and decide to skip the walk.)

Potty Training Boot Camp

So incredibly excited here. One more Calf is done with diapers!

I gotta say, the transition from diapers to toilet over the years has been really hard for us. I have never been interested in the parent-led method for a number of reasons, some of which are that it seems to take for-e-ver and makes a lot of messes.

Instead, we’ve opted to wait until the Calf was old enough to understand and be able to do the whole thing him- or herself. Which meant diapers until about 4 years of age.

(No, my mother in law was never thrilled about this. Why do you ask??)

Usually the Calves would have some days where they would be dry but refuse to use the toilet. With Calf #1 I eventually told him that his underpants wanted to be worn. Calf #2 seemed to prefer to not be wet or messy; this made it a little bit easier. Calf #3 spent a lot of time sitting on the portable potty seat (in the living room while watching movies) but she was never really interested. She was, actually, the latest to be done.

This time has been different, of course. Calf Number 4 would usually go Number 2 on the toilet–it was the Number 1 that wouldn’t “take.”

About a week ago, I remembered a technique we’d used with Calf #3. She wore a long-ish dress and nothing on her legs and spent a lot of time in the kitchen so that any messes were easy to clean up. It really didn’t take long after this before she understood that the potty was the place for it. The reward was that she would get to wear the coveted underpants!! after 3 clean, dry days.

So last Monday we started this method with Calf #4.

* Monday, Day 1: One accident.

* Tuesday, Day 2: No accidents when we were at home. We had errands to run and she wet her diaper while we were gone. (I couldn’t give her underpants because she hadn’t had 3 dry days. . . but I guess the diaper away from home won’t work, either.)

* Wednesday, Day 3: No accidents at home. Tried a Pull Up away from home, intending to get her to the toilet every chance we could. Unfortunately, one of the chances was a Porta-Potty and she refused to go in. She would do camp-style in the woods. But still, the Pull Up got wet.

* Thursday, Day 4: Home all day; no accidents–though there was one incident of peeing outside. (Thankfully we don’t live in the city.)

* Friday, Day 5: Home all morning; no accidents. I promised her a treat if she kept the Pull Up dry while we were gone–and she earned it!

* Saturday, Day 6: Gone most of the day. I promised her a BIG treat if her Pull Up stayed dry; it was mostly dry so she got her treat.

* Sunday, Day 7: Home all day with underpants! And–two accidents. 😦

* Monday, Day 8: Dry all day, home and away, in underpants!

Yee hawww!! I cannot believe how excited I am to have only one in diapers again.

And the bonus: She’s my earliest to be done at 3 years 7 months.

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