Recent Happenings...

We celebrated Cameron's birthday in between various Christmas activities and friend's parties for both Landon and Austin. We kind of celebrated in stages: Friday night: presents, Saturday afternoon: Key Lime Pie and the Happy Birthday Song, and Saturday night: a trip to Boise with just Cam and I to celebrate.
This poster{s} was from the kids. The kid's are convinced that this is a "year supply" of candy! (maybe it should be a year supply :) )

After a marathon allergy appointment with Austin and {unfortunately} a severe allergic reaction at the office, we barely made it home in time to get to Landon's Christmas concert. Landon was "Country Bob". He did an AWESOME job! After the show, his teacher introduced all the speaking and solo parts. When Landon's name was called his class went crazy, cheering for him!

I love the smile he has on his face. He and his friend are laughing at each other. Landon, really did his best and we were proud of him. I even got a text from his friend's mom during one of the songs.... it looked like Landon was doing a "turtle" dance. She texted me that she was crying because she was laughing so hard at how cute Landon was!

Isaac also had a Christmas concert. He came home from preschool one day and practiced for it. He was excited to sing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer while wearing a red nose! He made the nose himself (along with a blue one for when he wants to be a blue Power Ranger)

This was the best picture I could get of him at his party/concert. There were SO many parents there I couldn't even see him singing. It was crazy! He was sad that he only got to sing two songs and he couldn't see me while he was singing. But the PLATE-FULL of treats afterward cured him.

...and now we wait...sometimes not so patiently for Christmas Day...

Last night I took the kids to do a service project. We try to do one every year (actually, one of our family's goals is to do one once a month). We usually donate food to the homeless shelter or put allowance money together to by "toys for tots". This year, I planned an activity for the Young Women in our ward to sing at a nursing home. Since none of the Mia Maids could make it, I decided to take the kids. Unfortunately, Cameron was working during the time they wanted us there.
I couldn't take a picture because I was singing with the kids. Rest assured, though, that they were well received. Isaac wore his antlers from his preschool party the day before and sang with gusto. Austin played Jingle Bells on the piano and sang Away in a Manger, beautifully. Landon didn't want to go, but I made him. He was nervous he'd have to talk to the residents and try to think of things to say. Once he saw how happy the residents were with our songs, though, his heart melted and he was very happy. Ella did her part by clapping after every song. We had the chance to go into some of the residents' rooms and sing to them, as well. One woman was 99 and another was 103. They were SO happy to see us and hear our songs. I was proud of my kids. Their spirits were shining and their sweet voices were beautiful. They were SO SO happy after. They could tell that they made a tiny difference in the resident's lives. This definitely is a good time of year to give service. (I took this picture when we got home - after we ate dinner... :) )


ClaSsiC santa pics

We went to a Christmas Party for the Med Group on Base. Santa came in on an ambulance. I love the gotta-have Santa pictures, taken against a yellow wall, with bad light, by a point and shoot - they're not good pictures but I love them anyway.
And, just wondering has anyone ever seen a "good" santa picture?! The Coralridge Mall Santa comes to mind (all my Iowa peeps know what I'm talking about :) ha ha ha)

this picture is from last year... Ella's opinion of Santa hasn't changed much....

I promise she really did say she wanted to sit on his lap, but once she did she changed her mind fast... I can't help but laugh, especially comparing the two pictures :)

Isaac asked for a remote control car

Austin asked for a puppy, "even tough my mom and dad said no." After he told Santa about the puppy he noticed the dollar store trinkets in Santa's bag and said, "well actually I'll just have a whoopie cushion."

Landon refused to sit on Santa's lap. I guess it's about time, but still, I was wishing for one more year of Santa bliss for him


September 2011 POTD Catch Up

One of my all-time favorites

We had a bounty in our backyard. I couldn't believe that our "experiment" garden grew so well. I let the kids pick any seeds they wanted and we raked up our own backyard soil and threw in the seeds. Now that I know we can do it, next spring we will "really" plant. It's true what they say about fresh veggies - and just picked from the vine is even better!

We spent a day at the Air Show on base, complete with the famous Thunderbirds show. It was awesome (and very loud!)

I didn't quite get around to doing 18 month photos of Ella, so one day I took these impromptu pictures of Ella at 20 months. She was in the 49% for height and 51% for weight. This month she developed a love with shoes, especially mine. When I'm not sure where she is, I can be on her being in my closet or bathroom surrounded by my shoes, trying each pair on one at a time.

Over Memorial Day weekend Cameron's sister and her family came to visit. We had a great time. We spent a day on the water, a day on motorcycles, and a day of church, games, and good food.


Trying to Catch Up (October POTD Highlights)

Just before the hard drive went out on our computer I was trying to get caught up on my Picture A Day Project for 2011... Thankfully, Oh SO Thankfully, our pictures were saved. So now that we got them back I'm hoping to do a few posts from earlier this year to catch up. SO, since I left off with October in my catch up that's where I'll start... Here's some of my favorite Pictures of the Day for the month of October:

Cameron and I celebrated 11 years together... crazy ehe?!

One day we were at Target and I let Isaac pick something from the dollar section for being good at an Allergy appt. for Austin earlier that day. He chose this mask and has worn it almost daily ever since. In fact he wore it to preschool just this morning! Best dollar I ever spent...

Ella is keeping up with her brothers, no doubt about it. I keep begging her to stop growing up but she just won't! On this day she was able to climb the steps to the slide without the help of an older brother and she was ECSTATIC...

One night we randomly decided to go to an Enduro motocross race. It started at 7 and we decided to go at 5:30. Since it was an hour away we scarfed down our dinner (no concession stand $10 nachos and hot dogs for us :) ) and booked it to the stadium. The boys are still talking about that night. It also inspired Isaac's dream to someday race motorcycles as a career and own at least 21 motorcycles so all of his "children and wives and husbands" can ride motorcycles too...

Landon spent an entire weekend constructing this entirely edible map of Idaho. He was pretty disappointed when he came downstairs and found Isaac munching on the corner of the state, Luckily he stopped Isaac before too much damage was done... He told his teacher ," my dog ate my homework... the curly blond dog that's really my brother."

Austin got a retainer - it's actually a combo appliance but retainer is just a cooler word to use! He loves it. Apparently it's pretty cool to be the only kid in 1st grade with a retainer. An awesome thing about Austin is he can make anything cool!

Landon's last football game was the last weekend of October. He still practices throwing the football almost everyday to stay in shape for next season

Ella is developing that common habit of most 2 year old's - cry and throw a temper tantrum until you get what you want. Every temper tantrum she's thrown up until now have revolved around some kind of treat - the girl loves her snacks! She carries around the step stool and stands up to counter to beg for what she wants, usually fruit snacks. Anything I've made that resembles a cookie in any way, will elicit whining and crying and eventual mini-temper-tantruming until she gets one!

I found a donut maker at Target one day. The look on Landon's face says it all ...the kids loved them and devoured 15 donuts in about 5 minutes! The donut maker is the only way I could figure out how to make gluten-free donuts since the batter doesn't hold together well enough to fry in oil. It's kinda like a waffle iron. The boys LOVE watching me open the lid and ta-da! Donuts!

This month we got a surprise visit from Grandma Perigo! It was a fun couple of days. The kids just happened to have two days off school for Parent Teacher Conferences so they kept her plenty busy - with puzzles and movies and games ALL DAY LONG. It was fun to have her here with us. Come back!!


Gingerbread Family Night

I've never made Gingerbread Cookies before ... ever. SO, I thought I'd give it a try this year and we had a FUN, FUN Family Night last night

When I pulled out the cookie cutters Isaac saw the Christmas tree and decided he wanted to make a family of trees instead of "men". Then, as he decorated them, he dubbed them aliens! He put them all in the gingerbread house, instead of keeping them to eat.

Ella loved her cookies! I gave her a decorated one and she just stared at it for a while saying, "head! eyes! mouth!" such a little cutie. She especially loved putting on the gumdrops and marshmallows

Austin also decided not to make men, instead he used the snow man cookie cutter and made a snow man family. He decorated his cookies like his "future" family. With the dad as a police man, married to a beautiful woman (his words!) with three daughters. The baby was suspiciously dressed like a Star Wars Clone Trooper (I didn't get a picture but it was pretty funny!) He is quite certain that this is the way his family will turn out...I'm okay with it as long as the "beautiful woman" loves me like a second mom and I get to babysit those granddaughters all the time!! Ha!

Cameron's a pretty good cookie decorator too! I was cracking up at the "bite here" cookie. It was nice doing something like this together because so often either I or Cameron are gone in the evenings, thanks to work and church. It's amazing how relaxing decorating a few cookies can be!

As for, Land-o Commando, you can see why he has that nick-name! His little "Gingy" had body armour and a bazooka. Landon was especially excited to take it to school today and show his friends. He is hilarious! He worked so hard on it that he didn't have time to decorate anything else. He just ate the rest of his cookies without frosting (which I think is actually the best way to eat them too!) And I tried out my skills - which are not so great! Landon and Austin were a little dissapointed when they noticed I couldn't fit their whole names on a cookie. I tried, at least! And I'm blaming it on the frosting getting hard by the time I did my cookies - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!


A {wanna be} post.... Happy Thanksgiving

I really really want to post something but my computer is DOWN for the count... and since we can't get a new one until we can make it to Boise, which just isn't gonna happen soon, I have to settle on this post.
It feels pretty lame to post without pictures...

We had a great Thanksgiving full of all the things that are important in life. I'm so thankful for my friends and family, happy we got to spend the weekend together.

carrot stuffing. cousins. movies. special grandma's house sleeping spots and late night stories. new baby. gluten free pumpkin pie with coconut milk. black Friday shopping until 3 AM! the story to tell of getting "assaulted". mom's picure in the star wars movie poster. ice skating. German friends. falling asleep on the couch. haircuts. 3 grandmas and grandpas. new roast recipe. oatmeal pie. angry birds. best drive home of all time.


"It's NOT a tumor"...

Remember that line from "Kindergarten Cop"? After all these years, I'm still quoting it. I smile a little, every time I say that quote in my mind - complete with Arnold Swartzenager's accent; I think it's funny that now it really does make me feel a little better.

So, no, it's not a tumor, and that's a good thing. It is, however, something. It's a Chiari 1 Malformation. (Chiari malformation (kee-AHR-ee mal-for-MAY-shun) is a condition in which brain tissue protrudes into your spinal canal. It occurs when part of your skull is abnormally small, pressing on your brain and forcing it downward. Chiari malformation is uncommon, but improved imaging tests have led to more frequent diagnoses. Read more about it here or here )

I've had symptoms on and off since I was in Jr. High. And in 2005 I had an MRI that diagnosed me with a Chiari Malformation. The symptoms (headache, numbness and tingling in the extremities, muscle weakness, dizziness, light headedness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears) didn't seem to interfere too much with my life and they seemed to come and go with puberty, pregnancies, and breastfeeding, leading me to believe it was something that just "acted up" with my hormones.

In 2005, before I was diagnosed with this I thought I had Multiple Sclorosis - the symptoms of Chiari mimic the symptoms of MS. When my doctor called me at home to tell me my MRI results all I could focus on was that I didn't have MS. The fact I had a Chiari Malformation seemed to be no big deal. It wasn't causing symptoms, except with my babies, so I pretty much forgot I had it. In fact I even forgot the name of what it was.

This past year, though, I've noticed the symptoms returning. I'm not pregnant or breastfeeding so I began to worry a little as the dizziness and leg weakness began to affect me more and more. I've head chronic headaches forever, it seems. I was used to dealing with that. The leg weakness worried me, though. I continued to ignore it until about August. That's when I can pinpoint my headaches becoming bad enough to interfere with my life. After a month or so I saw a chiropractor. He did help some with my muscle tension but the other symptoms have continued to get worse and worse.

When I went to the Urgent Care for my headache the doctor said nothing seemed to be making sense, as to why my head would hurt so bad. He sent me in for an MRI. The MRI showed that the Chiari Malformation is definitely still there and more of my brain (the cerbral tonsils, actually) has descended into my spinal cord.

The only cure is to have surgery, making my skull bigger and cauterizing the brain so that my brain is back in my skull and there is nothing putting pressure on my nerves and arteries within my spinal cord. It's a very complicated, risky surgery. If all goes perfectly my recovery will be between 6 weeks and 6 months with most patients not feeling "100%" for up to a year. It's not something I want to do.

I've seen two doctors and plan on seeing at least one more - maybe two - to discuss the benefits of surgery. I'd rather live with chronic pain than be in a wheelchair...or worse. Only problem is that this condition can continue to get worse and I'd eventually end up in a wheelchair anyway. It's a very slow progressing condition (eventually leading to paralysis and/or hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and/or a cyst on the spinal fluid causing a backup of cerebral spinal fluid), so it's not something I have to fix immediately, unless my symptoms get worse.

I seem to be right on the line of "needing surgery" and "managing symptoms". The headache, I'm used to. It's intensity rises and falls but it's always there. I've learned to accept it and live with it. The shakiness and weakness, though scares me. There are times I'm worried about driving. There's been times that it's hard for me to hold my spoon. Even now as I type, I feel unsure that my fingers are doing what I want them to do. It's a strange, unsettling feeling, almost as if I'm shaking from the inside out.

I've been putting off seeing a surgeon because, well, surgeons cut. I didn't want to be told I need surgery just because that's what a surgeon does. It seems, though that a neurosurgeon is who I need to talk to. Chiari Malformation is a condition that isn't widely understood. There is not a lot of research on it. Because of this, I've had many different opinions from doctors as to what to do. In fact, once, before I was diagnosed, I went to a doctor and said my feet were going numb; he told me to change my shoes and socks more often! Seriously.

According to what Cameron and I have gathered from our doctors, talking to other "chiari patients" and other research, some patients symptoms can subside on their own, while other patients' symptoms continue to increase until they eventually become paralyzed (due to nerve damage). That could happen when I'm 50 or next year, or not at all. I'm hoping a surgeon will help me determine my prognosis a little more clearly.

For now my game plan is to get an appointment with a surgeon specializing in Chiari. There's one in Denver. Also, the University of Utah Hospital does these surgeries about once a week. I'm trying to decide where to go. In the meantime I am praying and using my best "mind over matter" skills to ignore these symptoms and make them go away.

My gut feeling is that I will need surgery. I'm hoping to put it off, though, until the time is right. I will need lots of help with my recovery. It's not going to be easy. But, I try not to think about it. Maybe I won't need it. Maybe it can wait until my kids are older. I hate not knowing.

One thing is certain though. This isn't a death sentence, by any means. The nerve damage can eventually cause death but that is years off. I feel blessed that I can take my time to research my options and choose a time for surgery that is most convenient for my family - my kids and my awesome parents and grandparents and parents-in-law - they will have to take care of me and my kids during the recovery time. I am blessed to have people around me to help me. It is a blessing to know they will take care of things when I can't. It's also, oh so, humbling.

I am learning much. I am appreciating my ups and downs in life. I am appreciating my children. I am appreciating my life so much more than a few weeks ago. This is a scary time for me. But, I am learning much (I know I already said that. I just don't know what else to say, I guess. If there is a reason for everything, I am determined to figure out the reason for this...) And I really am grateful that "it's not a tumor!"

Oh yeah, I just gotta mention, because I know I've come across like a flighty, crazy lady, lately: I'm not sure if it's because of the headache pain or a disturbance in the flow of the cerebral fluid but I've been doing and saying crazy things lately - I wrote 2007 on a paper today at a meeting and Landon's teacher had to correct me. I say dumb things. I've always been a little scattered but lately it's ridiculous. So when I forget your name or I seem to be "less smart" than I used to be, forgive me, okay? It's just because part of my brain is in my neck!


Halloween Weekend {2011}

It started on Friday... with classroom parties. Isaac decided to go as Spiderman - with Dracula teeth. He brought fruit and marshmellows for his party. I made a cake for Austin to take to his class and Landon brought popcorn. We hadn't even trick or treated yet and already our house was overflowing with junk food! (we still have a few pieces of cake, left...seriously, this holiday is not good on the waist line...or the teeth! Cameron's kinda going crazy about kids' brushing good at night. No cavities!)

That night we had our church party. I made Chili for the Chili Cook-Off, Cameron came in second place in the pie-eating contest, the Young Men and Young Women (and their leaders , including me since I'm still the Mia Maid Adviser) put on a little carnival, and the kids went "trunk or treating". This was Ella's first experience with people giving her piles of candy, and she LOVED it! She was so dang cute. Her, "twick oh tweet" was so clear and cute that everyone thought she was adorable. And guess what happens on Halloween when someone thinks your adorable - they give you even more candy! So, she made a haul and every now and then just sat down in the parking lot, grabbed a piece, and said, "open. open. OPEN!"

The boys took off with their friends. They made a haul too - I think Landon went around the parking lot at least twice. We ended up with so much candy that I didn't buy any for the Trick or Treater's on Halloween. I just gave out our Trunk Or Treating candy.

Saturday, we carved our pumpkins. This year ended up a little funny as far as pumpkins go. Landon got his pumpkin a few weeks ago when he went on a hay ride with a friend from school. Issac got his from his preschool pumpkin patch field trip. We just grabbed one from our garden for Ella and we got one for Austin when we went to the pumpkin patch together as a family. First year, ever, that I didn't spend a fortune just on our pumpkins.

Austin didn't want a picture of him with his pumpkin. He carved it all by himself and I LOVE the teeth he gave it. (his is the one on the left) Landon took two days to carve his because he wanted it to be perfect. He said he was waiting for inspiration. And Issac just wanted his to be the "perfect" Jack-O-Lantern, named "Jack-O-Lant".

Halloween night came and we "spookified" our dinner table. Isaac helped me set the table with the silverware set on the plates in cross-bone shape. I told him we were making witch's brew to drink (apple juice and ginger ale) and he wanted to "taste test" it. He said, "ummm, yum, Mom! This is the BEST Witch's Dungeon, EVER!" We had dinner in a pumpkin. I felt quite domestic because the pumpkins I used were from our Garden. They were planted for the purpose of making pie, but I didn't feel up to it (I still have one more pumpkin. I might still try a pie, I guess.) They worked perfect for dinner, though. And, as a note to self: Austin devoured this dinner! He LOVED it. Make it again!

For dessert we had {crock-pot} baked apples. I filled them with granola and cherry pie filling. We called them "Witch's Brains"... ooooh spooky, and seriously GOOD!

I snapped a few pics of the kids before we headed off to Trick or Treat.

Landon was RON Weasly... do not confuse him with Harry Potter, whatever you do! He insisted on the red hair so everyone would know he was Ron. He was bummed that people still thought he was Harry. The picture on the right is him fighting a dark wizard with his "wand".

And here's the ninja boy. After much much debate, Austin finally decided to be this ninja. He told me that 3 kids in his class had the same costume. Good ol' Walmart! (I had him look on three websites for a costume he liked and we found THE ONE at Walmart, ugh!)
Isaac had this AWESOME Buzz Lightyear costume. The wings and goggles light up. But he really wasn't into it. He wore it for our church party but for Halloween Night he was all about his ragedy, holey, old Spiderman costume!

I know I'm biased but seriously, is she not the cutest little kitty, ever?!

I brought Ella home from Trick or Treating a little early. She could have stayed out all night, getting candy. I wasn't feeling great, though so I made her come home with me. I went out to light our pumpkins for the Trick or Treaters and when I came back in she had her candy dumped out around her and she was ripping open everything she could, taking a bite out of each piece. She looked a little sheepish when I caught her, but when I laughed she squealed with excitement. I think it could've been the best night of her life!

Halloween is such a fun holiday. We had a great time with our family this year.
Isaac came into my room yesterday, while I was getting ready. He said, "Mom! I made up this song. Listen: Halloweeen, Halloweeeeen. Everybody dresses up. It's a scary thing! oooohh, oooohhh, ROAR!" I tried to video him singing it, but he didn't want me to. He sang it to us at dinner and we all laughed and laughed. I had one of those moments of, "my life is good!" Thank you, Halloween!


Tow Mater {Today's POTD}

"Mater" is parked in an empty parking lot on the way out to base. Whenever we drive out there Isaac gets excited to see him. Today we drove out to have lunch with Cameron on base. I just happened to have my point and shoot in the car with me so I stopped to take a picture of Isaac with "Tow Mater."
As I was taking the picture with Issac standing on the side that says "Radiator Springs" I had to laugh because this post popped into my mind. See? We really do live in "Hillbillie Hell"!

Gotta say, though, for the record; I still do not love it here. These past couple years have been some of the loneliest of my life, BUT, I've accepted Mountain Home for what it is: the place we lived when Landon got his very first real best friend, where he was baptized, and where he discovered his love of football. It's the place where Austin grew from little boy to big boy and where we finally got the most help for his allergies. It's the place where Isaac went to preschool and where I didn't really worry about him riding his bike in the street in front of our house. It's the place that was Ella's first home. It's a place where my kids discovered how to entertain themselves and find adventures in their own backyard. It's a place that I've learned to find joy in the journey. It's the place where my family is now. And just like Lightening McQueen discovered sometimes "Hillbillie Hell" isn't so bad!


Pumpkin Patch 2011

We made our annual trek to "Quey's Maze" last night. It's a cute little farm 20 min. out of Mountain Home. This is our third year going there. We picked pumpkins, played on the giant hay mountain, Ella LOVED the sandbox filled with corn and wheat, the kids jumped on the "hay trampoline" (a pile of mattresses covered in hay - surprisingly pretty bouncy - I took one jump), and then we got lost in the corn maze for a while (Landon was bummed we didn't get really really lost!).

I had to get a picture of the kids. I love the flowers and pumpkins together. And I love all their little personalities smiling at the camera!

Isaac gives the best faces for pictures. It was either this, or his "Spider Man mean" face and web blaster...

Mountain Home is NOT the prettiest place on Earth. But there is beauty everywhere. It makes me happy when I find some around here!

We played until the nasty mosquitos kicked us out! The kids could've stayed all night.

Ella is definitely keeping up with her brothers these days. She's also in love with her "Da-eee"! She was either running to keep up with everyone or saying, "hand, Da-ee, hand!!" She did hold my hand for a while, but she prefers her dad's hand , for sure.

We went to this pumpkin patch with Isaac's preschool earlier in the week and he wanted to go "through the corn". I wouldn't take him in the maze because it's a little known fact that I am actually afraid of corn mazes...I won't go in without Cameron...and my blood pressure rises, I'm sure, if I loose sight of him while we're in the maze. I blame it on getting caught in a "haunted maze" by myself in Jr High. I had to beg one of the workers to let me out - not a happy memory! Anyway, I told him he'd have to wait until we came back with Cameron. And he loved it! He pretended to be his favorite scary story character (he made him up), called "Silly Silly Gumbo". In his spookiest voice he'd say "I'm the Silly Silly Gumbo who liiiiives in the wooooooooods." and then jump out of the corn at us. So funny.