Wednesday, January 10, 2018

At a Loss

I've never felt more alone and isolated in my life. Before you think this a plea for attention, please know that it is not. I know most will never read these words, and I'm okay with that... I won't even share this on my personal social media accounts because really the only reason for writing it is therapy for myself.

I haven't shared too much about James or his issues with the world -- because I didn't want him to be labeled or thought of differently than any other kid, but the truth is... he is very different from any other child.

At a very early age, he was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 - which if you google it is incredibly frightening. It is a condition that can cause tumors to develop in his body during his growing years, but it also has a strong effect on how his brain functions. We are closely monitored by a pediatric neurologist, and he has annual MRIs to check his brain for tumors. As of last MRI, he had no tumors. The condition is also the reason he is so small... which is a blessing and a curse. NF1 is at it's biggest threat level during the growing years - so it's a battle between is he growing enough or pushing the envelope and potentially causing the fibroids to develop.

What he does have is SEVERE ADHD. It's been explained to us that in his brain, it's like all of his nerves are inside of drinking straws, so information is not processed or even received in the same way as all of the rest of us. He struggles with everything in ways that are hard to describe, but at the same time, he is brilliant. He just can't recall information when asked like others can, for instance, if you ask him questions -- he can't answer them, but sometimes he will spout off information that is incredibly smart.

He hyper-focuses on things, usually one or two things at a time. Those items have been; vacuums, washing machines, cars, dogs, shots/IVs, and more. That means that over the years - we've listened to thousands of hours of vacuum cleaner noise, and had more help with laundry than is actually helpful.. clothes rewashed hundreds of time just so he can watch them spin around. There is so much more than I just can't even type.

Three years ago we started down the path of trying to get him medicated help because he can't function without it. We've gone through so many medicines with so many different reactions. We've been through hallucinations (which with a child is unnerving) and several other issues, but for a while, we were regulated and doing REALLY well. He was able to function, learn, and be on a decent schedule.

When his medications are working - he is the sweetest child. So loving that you wouldn't even believe the defiant whirlwind of untamed energy that his unmedicated self-brings to the party. It's like two totally different kids. Night and Day, if you will.

About a month or two ago, he started having some paranoia issues so we started down the path of changing his medications to see if we could get into another good place. This has been the longest and worst months of our lives. If you can imagine at 7 years old... he is reverting back to things that he did as a toddler... he chews on his clothes, and runs wild in the mornings before his medication getting into everything he can. Trust me, we have put things up high and the whole nine yards -- we fix it and he finds something else to get into or to do.

Which brings me to this morning -- he stole my phone and called no less than 200 different numbers before John and I were awake. This list includes cousins, grandparents, multiple friends, and even 911 (at least twice)! Those that did talk to him, told him to bring the phone to one of his parents... to which they were told we were sleeping. Some find this stuff funny, but as a weary mom who deals with this stuff daily... it's just not. I don't find it funny - it's mortifying.

I am literally at my witts end with this kid. I've changed my code to my phone, but tomorrow it'll be something else entirely that he does. Like the time he made snow angels in the bathroom with powder, or the time he ate blue food coloring, or the time he sprayed essential oils all over his dresser -- its never anything he has ever paid attention to before. There just isn't any planning for it - unless we clear the house of any items at all.

Yesterday, he was great - we had a lovely time at a birthday party. He ran around, played and wore himself out with his friends. I thought we were doing better, but I was wrong. A false sense of things getting back to normal.

Most will never understand what is happening with James, 98% of the time... I don't even understand what is happening with him. We know that he can't help it, but when he is bouncing off the walls at midnight or making phone calls at 6AM... the knowledge that he can't help it just doesn't relieve the frustration. I know he is struggling, and God knows I'm trying everything I can think of to help him... but I just don't see a light at the end of this tunnel, and that right there is the most frightening and helpless feeling of them all.

If I can plead with everyone for a minute -- I know that we've all seen kids out in the world that we immediately think, "oh if he were mine..." -- please the next time you see that happening... don't go there. Inside of that situation, none of us have any idea what is going on behind the scenes... maybe they are bad parents, maybe they are lazy, but maybe... just maybe they are dealing with so much more than you can ever imagine. For moms everywhere that are struggling - I get it and I pray that you and your child come to a place of peace.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Christmas Recap

Whew, we've been so crazy lately -- it's funny how every year I forget that Christmas is basically a two and a half week long sprint. I'd say marathon, but it's really not... it's just GO GO GO for about 18 days!

We started off this year with my mom visiting, and the boys had a ball with her. We celebrated with gifts, and dinner at Benihana. The next day we went to see the movie Coco, and then both kids got super sick... which wasn't fun, but clearly it's going around heavily this season -- and no one has come down with the flu in my house, so I'll take it! We visited Santa the day before Mom came too - so I'm including that with her celebration.

Next up was Christmas Eve; which we made the most of - cooking, baking, making reindeer food, putting out reindeer food, reading our traditional "Twas the Night Before Christmas", and a few pictures under the tree before bed. 

Christmas Day was split into two parts -- but we had our morning at home where Santa came,  we opened gifts from each other, and we had a nice breakfast. We then got cleaned up and went to the Hawkins Family Christmas... where we ate again... and again... and again... We opened more gifts, another round of stockings, played with cousins, and had our Christmas Dinner of prime rib. 

Our last official Christmas Celebration was on December 30th, which is when we celebrated with my Dad's side of our family. All 17 of us in one house... it's always a good time. We had a great lunch, enjoyed more stocking fun, opened gifts, and played games. It's always such a fun day for everyone -- and my niece brought her puppy which was great fun for the 3 little boys... they wore Duke out for the day! 

For New Years, we took a slower approach... with LOTS of resting time. I'll update you on that tomorrow!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Minecraft Cake

We decided to brave the world of making our own birthday cake for Tyler's birthday party because we are gluttons for punishment. It truly became one of those "let's make the cake, they said. how hard can bit be, they said..." 

In the end, the birthday boy was thrilled... and it wasn't a Pinterest Fail of epic proportions. 

We started off researching what we needed to make and collecting supplies. We made a 4 layer cake that started with a 12x12x2 inch cake pan... in reality, we cut about 2 inches off of it so it was 10 inches on each side and 8 inches high when it was all said and done.

To make cakes of this size, each layer required a double batch of cake... so for ours, each layer represents 2 cake mixes. We chose to do 2 layers of white and 2 layers of chocolate cake. 

We started making our cake on the Tuesday before the party (Saturday) -- on that day we only made the cakes. We let the cakes rest the night in our cube-shaped cooler that John layered delicately with cooling racks and cake pans.

On Wednesday, we made our butter-cream icing and built the main structure of the cake. We used the Wilton recipe made with shorting (we did the variation for stiff white butter-cream) because we wanted to make sure that the structure of the cake wouldn't be susceptible to falling over if it got to be room temperature while sitting at the party. It took about 3 double batches of icing to cover the entire cake. I used a pastry bag and a cake frosting tip to make this easier on myself. We also chose to dye the frosting brown so that you wouldn't see white if there were any gaps in our fondant pixels. From here, the cake was placed in our outside refrigerator.

On Thursday, we dyed all of our fondants - we ended up with 3 shades, 3 shades of brown, and gray. To cover this entire cake, we used one 5 pound box of Wilton White Decorator Preferred Fondant. John made a template (yes, we would share if asked) in Excel that told us the total number of squares we would need and then we were able to break it down by how many of each shade we would need.

On Friday, we cut out a billion and one fondant pixels. We used a cookie cutter of sorts that allowed us to cut nine 1 inch squares of fondant each time you cut. We had to use some powdered sugar in place of flour while rolling out our pixels. We placed them on sheet trays and then into the fridge for the night. We were a bit worried about the fondant falling off the cake before the party - so we opted to put them on the cake that morning. By the end of the night Friday:

  1. We printed our templates and put them on our cookie sheets 
  2. We put a layer of wax paper on top (starting with the top layer of the cake)
  3. We filled in our pixels and made sure to stick the fondant squares together - start with the top of the cake as that is the last layer you adhere to the cake
  4. Repeat with a template for the sides and wax paper
  5. As each layer was finished we took the wax paper and layered them all on to one cookie sheet
  6. We let the 5 walls chill overnight in our refrigerator

Saturday morning (at like 10:30 -- the party was at 12), we did the final adhering to the sides of the cake. We put our layers of pixels (one side at a time) on the back of a cookie sheet. We gently brushed it with water, and positioned them onto the cake - then we took a fondant smoother to press the sides into the butter-cream on the cake. When you adhere the top, you don't need to brush it with water - and we used an extra cake board so that we could just flip it over onto the top of the cake.

It didn't end up perfectly, but for our very first attempt at cake decorating -- it went pretty well!

Tyler's Aunt, Susan, made the Creeper, Steve, and pig for the top of the cake... he was thrilled with how it turned out. 

If you decide to make one of these on your own, please let us know and we'd be happy to pay our lessons learned forward and help you as much as we can! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Power Sheets 2018!

2018 PowerSheets Collection
I've always loved planners, y'all. It's a sickness really because I love them so much -- and the process of setting them up and adding things like birthdays just turns me into a special kind of nerd.

Last fall, I was going through a transition of sorts in my life, and I stumbled upon Lara Casey's page on Facebook - she was doing a really vulnerable post about having to start over on her book - which became Cultivate. It is an amazing book about living life intentionally, and I believe everyone should read it... but that's not why I am sharing today.

Lara also created an amazing product called Powersheets, which is an intentional goal setting planner - which walks you through the process of setting goals and then tending to them each month. She has a whole section that is about 60 pages of what we call Prep Work. You fill that out during December - I did it the week between Christmas and New Years last year. For each goal you set, you will create an action plan... which I LOVE!

Then each month you have a small couple of pages to fill out about what you got done the previous month and your goals for the next month. You keep this page open, or you can tear it out of the book (it's perforated to make this easy on you) to tape it into your planner or where ever helps you stay on top of your monthly, weekly, and daily goals. There is also a refresher section for each season (Spring, Summer, and Fall) where you can work through if your goals need and adjustment.

Something new for 2018 is that they have added places for you to add wildcard sheets - which is a sheet you'll print out and tape into your Powersheets. The topics you can choose from are:
  • Monthly Calendar
  • Perpetual Calendar
  • Financial Check-In
  • Monthly Budget
  • Meal Plan
  • Fitness Plan
  • Content Planning
  • Relationship Tending
  • Reading List
  • Cultivating a Life-Giving Home
  • Organization and Decluttering
  • Self Care
  • Goal Progress

For me, this has been a GAME CHANGER! I have never stuck with a planner, EVER... and here I am in October still working through it. Some months, I've been late to the game... but I'm still working with it. Lara is all about imperfect progress, and how every step you take adds up over time toward your bigger goals.

The 2018 PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner from Lara Casey on Vimeo.

Today, I'm here to tell you that as of 10AM Eastern (9AM Central) tomorrow morning -- the 2018 PowerSheets Collection will be available for order!!! SET YOURSELF AN ALARM! This year they have Tending Tape (Washi Tape), pens (only in the accessories bundle, and my personal favorite goal setting stickers! There are 900 or more stickers set and ready to be used in your Powersheets -- if you love stickers and color -- grab 2! You can see some of them on my tending list for this year -- but the 2018 stickers are smaller so they fit on the lines more easily.

They've got the 1 Year Dated set (which is only dated in that it has the months preprinted on the tabs), and 3 different 6 month sets - so you'd need two of them to get through 2018 - they do tend to sell out so you might want to get 2 now if you choose to do that. A great feature is that for 3 days - they will offer free shipping on orders of $100... so get whatever you need and get the free shipping!

2018 PowerSheets Collection
The multi-colored cover is the 1 Year Book, the other 3 (Teal, Gold, and Poppy Pink) are the 6-month versions.

Please hear me say that you don't have to be afraid of using this planner -- make a mess of it -- let it work in your life! Want to learn more? Check out this webinar TODAY about how they work and a look inside!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Church of the Small Things Study

I finished the most amazing book last night y'all! I laughed and I cried. Just a beautiful message with some amazing stories woven in.

Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle... who, let's face it... I couldn't love anymore if I tried. She makes me laugh harder than most other authors, and I've read all 4 of her books now... and can't wait for another to come out in March of 2018.

Her other 3 books: Sparkly Green Earrings (parenting), Antelope in the Living Room (marriage), and Nobody's Cuter Than You (friendship) are also amazing! She also has another book Everyday Holy coming out in March 2018 that you could pre-order now if you want to. 
Now, the reason I wanted to post again today -- I mean 2 in one day, y'all -- who am I? Faith Gateway is hosting a Bible Study based on the Church of the Small Things - for 6 weeks, and it begins on October 23 -- so sign up before then! 
You DO NOT have to read the book to work through the Bible Study Guide -- you can buy it from the Faith Gateway site, but Amazon has a slightly better price... and possibly faster shipping.
Either way, I'd love to have you join me in this study -- so drop me a note and let me know if you decide to sign up for it too! I know you won't regret going through these lessons!