Saturday, February 28, 2015

Malia's FAMM Flap Surgery

This past week Malia had surgery to correct the fistula in the roof of her mouth.  We're pretty excited about this surgery because it means Malia will no longer have food and liquids coming through her nose when she eats, and it means no more snot entering her mouth when she cries or has a cold.    Poor girl has had times where she is completely grossed out and disgusted  by what enters her mouth!  If you can imagine food sitting in the nasal passage for a few days and then entering your mouth!  YUCK!! 
This procedure is called a FAMM flap.  It's basically taking tissue from the inside cheek in a rope like fashion, fastening it to cover the fistula (or hole), leaving the tissue attached to the inside cheek.  We've been told it feels like biting on the inside of your cheek if you happen to accidently chomp down on this string like tissue.
Curiosity got the best of me while waiting for Malia's surgery to be done, and I couldn't help but do some research.  I found this video of an actual FAMM flap procedure.  Be warned...only watch if you have a tough gut!
The video made my tummy roll and honestly, I couldn't watch every part of it and had to keep glancing away.  However, I am glad I watched it!  It gave me a much better understanding of the procedure and it is helping us better care for Malia's needs.
Malia HATES surgeries!  Can't say I blame her!  This is her 5th procedure since joining our family and we know she had at least 2 major procedures in China.  The part she dreads the most is the anesthetic.  She despises the smell!  Even if it smells like bubble gum!  She says it makes her feel like vomiting.  So, this time she opted to have no additional smells added and thought it was a bit better.
A few weeks ago, when Malia's surgery was cancelled, one of the nurses mentioned that I would leave the OR once Malia was asleep.  Malia's eyes grew wide with fear.  We've always been able to keep her calm by telling her we will be with her while she falls asleep and we'll be there when she awakens...conveniently not talking about where we are during the surgery. 
This time was different.  Our poor girl cried and was agitated as she fell asleep...even the anesthesiologists' ipad couldn't distract her.  She fell asleep with tears running down her cheeks.  Thankfully, I was able to hold her and talk to her until she fell asleep.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for her to fall asleep. 
The surgery took about 2 hours and then I was able to join her in the recovery room.  She was in a lot of pain at first and it took several doses of morphine to keep the pain at bay. 
It may sound odd, but I'm thankful that Malia is able to express that she is feeling pain.  That hasn't always been the case and she still struggles to tell us when she is in pain.  As some of you may know, a child with lots of trauma, where the basic comfort of a loving parent has been absent, can lead to an unhealthy pain tolerance.  It's a means of survival, a coping mechanism. 
So, long story short...if this little love tells us she's in pain...we KNOW she's in a LOT of pain!
I'm always amazed at how quickly kids heal after surgery.  Malia's face was quite swollen and bruised.  As you can see, she has a bit of a "cut" on her right upper lip.  It's basically a "stitch" to keep the cheek/lip in place so it doesn't move, disrupting the graft. (Keep in mind, I'm not a medical doctor and what I've written is based on my understanding of the procedure)
By the time Malia was moved to her room she was more than ready to eat.  She managed to eat some yogurt and pudding and drink some Boost.  Poor girl had a hard time swallowing.

Falling asleep that night was very frustrating for her.  Malia is used to an 8-8:30ish bedtime.  Well, the little 4 year old next to us thought it was cool to watch cartoons till 11:30pm!  I actually had to chuckle at some of the comments Malia made..."Mom!  Now I know how you feel when Jackson always wakes you up at night!"  Lol!

After spending the night on a 2 ft wide mat placed on the floor with a hard pillow and thin blanket, waking a million times, hearing all the beeps...let's just say...I really feel for all the parents that spend days or weeks on end at their child's bedside!  My hats off to you!  You are incredibly strong!
One of the benefits of being in the hospital...playing on the ipod without a time limit!  :)

In 3 weeks, Malia will have day surgery to sever the string like tissue.  But until then, she is on a soft food diet.  She is not allowed to use utensils, so she is either drinking her food or using this syringe.

Malia is on antibiotics, Tylenol and Advil.  Originally, she was only on Tylenol and antibiotics, but the pain was becoming unmanageable 2 hours after taking meds, so we got the ok to also use Advil, alternating between the 2; so Malia gets pain meds every 2 hours...for now.  Hopefully, we can cut back on that in the next day or so.

Today, the pain is barely kept at bay with meds every 2 hours.  The swelling has gone down a bit, and the bruising is less noticeable and is mostly under her chin. 
Malia is very self conscious and has made it very clear that she doesn't want anyone to see her.  I happen to think she looks amazing!  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Homemade Croutons

I'm always on the look out for ways to save money and reduce our waste.  I recently found a way to do both and the result is super yummy!  Or at least we think so!
We love salad!  Especially when it has stuff like croutons, sunflower seeds, tortilla strips, etc in it. I found I was constantly buying croutons.  Not that croutons are all that expensive, but considering it's mostly bread...well, lets just say I was getting a little annoyed at how much I was spending on croutons each month!
One day while cleaning out my freezer, I realized how many bread crusts I had thrown in the freezer to use for making things like stuffing, meatballs and hamburgers.  It dawned on me that perhaps the bread crusts would make fantastic croutons...and they do!

I googled how to make croutons and was completely overwhelmed with the variety of recipes.  I decided to use what I liked from each recipe and make my own recipe.  Here it is...
Homemade Croutons
20 cups cubed and toasted bread crusts
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp pepper.
Combine oil and spices.  Drizzle over bread cubes.  Place in a roaster and bake for 2 hours at 225F, stirring every 1/2 hour.  Make sure the croutons are completely dry.  This may take more or less baking time, depending on how dry your bread was to begin with.  Store in a sealed container.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Crafts

So we've been crafting up a storm!  It's so very good for my let things be and just have some fun creating some things.
My littlest 3 loved this very simple and inexpensive toilet paper roll heart project.  Simply shape the roll into a heart shape and tape to hold shape. We had a separate roll for each color.


This was a project where the littlest 3 helped, as most of it was for an adult as I wanted it to look neat and tidy. :)

I found inspiration from this post.  As you can see mine is quite different than the one posted.  I really didn't want to buy any more paper and managed to find coordinating colors in my stash.

This was a project just for me!  It was fun and super easy! 

You can find the tutorial here.

I didn't use a tile.  Instead I used a canvas, covered it with paper, including the sides, using Mod Podge.  Then I stamped the "love" and applied another coat of Mod Podge.  Let dry between each coat and then attach buttons with a hot glue gun.
Morgun helped me with this project.  He did all the painting, crackle medium, and second coat.  I made my own rosettes, but wouldn't advise doing that if you don't have to.  They are a pain to make! (Not to mention the many hot glue gun burns I got!)  The benefit of making your own, is you have a greater selection for colors.  I used scrap booking stickers for the letters(again, I didn't want to buy more stuff and used what I had on hand).  The pink ribbon was something I had kicking around.  I think it originally came as the wrapping from a gift box. 

You can find the tutorial for the sign and rosettes here.

We also crafted these cute little toilet paper roll fellows.  They were fun and cost almost nothing!  Once again I used paper I had on hand.

And lastly we made these hanging heart mobiles.  They were too difficult for my youngest 2 to do on their own, but with some help they were able to make some too!

And to top it all off...we decorated a bit with window clingy thingys (lol) and a small treat box for each of my special loves!


Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!..even if you don't have a special someone to share it with!

"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."

St. Augustine

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tough Stuff!

It seems to be the story of my life lately...being tired, overwhelmed, tired, busy, tired.  My motto has become "Keep putting one foot in front of the other and it will all get done!" all the while leaning in to Jesus more and more.

 I knew I had a lot on my plate, but didn't realize exactly how much it was really affecting me....until last week Thursday.
As many of you know, Malia was scheduled for surgery on Thursday and we were expecting a 1-5 day hospital stay.  We were much as we could be.  And then life threw us into a bit of a tail spin!  We waited till 3 pm the day of the surgery, only to be told there wasn't enough time for the surgery to be done.  I reacted.  I was angry.  I couldn't even mutter too many words.  (Thank God for that!  Cause it stopped me from saying things I would have regretted!)

 I felt it was incredibly unfair to Malia who hadn't eaten since supper time the night before.  She was asking for food.   She was begging for water.  She was stressed! 
I was upset because of the stress it places on my other kids.  My littlest 2 find it difficult to have Mommy and Malia gone.  There were tears the night before. 
I was upset at how it disrupted Martin's work.  Lately it seems that if it's not -35 or colder, I'm busy with appointments, funerals, etc, and Martin has to take time off.  When he finally has a day to work it's back to -35.  For those of you that are self employed you know the freedom of being self employed, but you also know the stress of it.  The fear is always about losing work...losing a contract...mostly a large contract.  The ones that make up half our income. 
Unfortunately, in my exhausted mind, those are the things I thought of instantly when I was told surgery was cancelled. 
Thankfully, in my old age, I have learned to hold my tongue (to a point!  Who am I kidding?!? lol!), slowly learning to be thankful for the "little" things, and slowly learning to trust God more and more.
Thankfully, there were a bunch of people on fb praying and reminding me that God is in control.
Thankfully, within minutes I was able to be thankful.  Thankful that the little guy that was wailing cause he was so very hungry, was able to have his surgery.  Thankful that Malia is a trooper and even though she was hungry, she wasn't crying. 
But mostly, I was thankful for God's promises.  He takes care of the birds in the air and the flowers in the fields and we are so much more important to Him!  He holds us in the palm of His hand!  I can rest assured that the plans He has for us are so much better than our own!
I trust there is a reason the surgery was cancelled. and I'm praying that I will know why.  Not because I need that as confirmation of God's promises, but because I love seeing His hand in my life and I love telling others about it!
In spite of being able to be thankful, I was still an emotional wreck!  I was bawling!  It was like the past few weeks of emotion piled up and the tears couldn't be stopped.
See the thing is this...When I'm in the moment of prepping my kids for surgery, waiting for surgery, waiting to see my kids after surgery, caring for my kids as they recover...I am cool and calm.  People observing me during this time often comment and ask how I can be so calm.  I think it is a God given gift!  He knew what we would face...lots and lots of surgeries!  He knew that without His peace I would worry, worry, worry....and cry, cry, cry.  It's not like I don't worry.  I do!  And it's not like I don't cry.  I do!  But I've always been able to put it in God's hands where it belongs.  Having said the time a surgery day is over and I am finally back at home...I process and file things in my brain and heart...and that's when my emotions come to the forefront.  It's when the emotional exhaustion takes over.
In the past few weeks, I've had a lot of emotional stuff to deal with...Grandma passing away, her funeral, kids dealing with me being gone, Martin's Dad being ill and being moved to a nursing home, seeing and feeling the pain my father in law and mother in law are in (it breaks my heart!) as the adjust to this new way of living, and Jackson's surgery...and I think I got behind in processing and filing. 
And I think that's ok!  Cause sometimes people think I just don't feel enough/anything because of how I handle tough stuff.  The thing is I do feel...a lot!  I always hated how I handled stuff and wished I could express my pain, empathy and compassion better.  I now know that although it may not be seen as the best way to handle stuff...God is using it!  It's what keeps me from completely losing it in tough situations and it allows me to be a support to my kids when they need it most! 

The flip side of all this is what is happening to my soul.  God is using it to slowly change me.  He's slowly helping me to hold my tongue, have words of support and encouragement, express my emotions more appropriately, and love more.

So even though I really do not enjoy this kind of "hard", I'll take it!  He really does make all things work for our benefit!

PS:  To some it may seem that I share too much about my personal struggles and victories, and I often hesitate to share what's on my heart.  But I feel it is important to share. Perhaps in some odd way, what I write will be an encouragement to someone?  A reminder of God's goodness?  A reminder of God's promises?

If it is that to even one person, sharing and being vulnerable is well worth it! 

Monday, February 2, 2015


I've been meaning to post some of the crafts we did in January and as usual, I never got around to it.  So today it's craft overload day!  So if you're looking for some ideas, here are a few.  I found most of these on Pinterest or FB.
One of the things I love the most about homeschooling is being able to do more crafts with my kids.  Quite honestly, it is one of the areas that we tend to not get around to.  This winter I vowed we would do more!  And we did!
We made these sweet little snowmen using socks, rice, buttons and leftover fabric.  You can find the tutorial here:

We also made these nifty letters using paint I had on hand and buttons.  It was super easy and fun for all 4 of my "school" kids!

(Argg!  My steps look really me, they're not!  Stupid flash!  lol!)
 This next craft was a little more work for me as I had to do some prep work.  I used some of my old folk art paint and a canvas I had bought ages ago at a super deal.
You can find the tutorial here:
I modified how I did the background because I didn't have any spray paint on hand.  Instead, I made my paint very watery and brushed on only a light coat, being sure to blend the colors.  Then I drew on the outline for the tree and painted it.

Once it was dry the kids did their part...buttons!

I love the finished project so much that it now hangs in our entrance!  The colors are actually more vibrant than the picture shows!

We went to the local thrift store one day and bought this sweater and some buttons.

I used some old stain I had on hand to darken the wooden buttons...

...and within a very short time I had made a pillow!  It's not quite as nice as I had pictured, but still worth the time and effort!
 One of the most challenging things about doing crafts is finding something that a 3 year old can do and that a 13 year old will enjoy.  Well, sometimes that's simply not possible!  This marshmallow project was super easy to prep and super fun for my littlest 3!

We won't mention how many marshmallows vanished into each child's great void of a stomach...some complete with white glue! 

This next project is one of my favourites! We started it last May and finally finished it!
We started with watery paint, blending it as we painted.
Then each child picked a silhouette.  For the easier silhouettes we used a sticky tac paper and traced the outlines onto the sticky paper.  Then we cut it out, pasted it on the canvas and painted the black.

Then the bottom was painted.

All the paints I used were basic water based paints bought at the dollar store or at IKEA.

The print I did for Jackson and myself were too complicated to use the sticky tac, so I traced it onto the canvas and simply hand painted it.  All my kids were impressed with the outcome of their project!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What a Week!

The past week has been a blur of events and last night as I lay in the comfort of my own bed, I thanked God that I don't have to walk this road alone, that He is always there, filling me with a peace that is not my own.
Martin's Dad has been in the hospital for the past 2 1/2 weeks.  We try to visit as often as we can, but this past week has been a complete fail in that department. It's hard to keep the kids occupied if and when they do join us.  Thank God for technology!
Then last week Sunday we got the news that my Grandma passed away.  It was something she spoke about.  She really wanted to go to heaven to see Jesus, her loved ones, and leave this world with all it's aches, pains, and sorrow.  Grandma was 95 and lived a full life, committed to her God.  I will be eternally grateful for the legacy she has left.


It was a tough decision to make, but after much juggling and contemplating, I decided to head the 947,234,275 miles to LaCrete, Alberta for her funeral. Thankfully my sister Kathy flew in from VA and joined me!  It's a beautiful drive, but very long, with literally hours of hardly seeing a living soul.  I literally clapped in joy when we reached Red Earth on our way home!  Odd, I know!  But it was sooo good to finally leave the stretch of trees, trees, and more trees!  (Apparently I'm not as much of a country girl as I thought I was! lol!)

Our time in LaCrete was brief, but well worth it!  I got to connect with cousins I hadn't seen in years.  All but 9 of Grandma's grandkids were at the funeral.  It was neat to reconnect with some of my cousins, and get to know some a bit better. I even had the privilege of meeting sweet Miss S!  She may not know it, but she touched my heart in a very profound way and I do consider her to be my cousin.  I guess that's the neat thing about's not necessarily defined only by blood, but more by connections and love. 
It's an odd feeling to know that I have lost yet another prayer warrior.  It really made me realize the importance of upholding one another in prayer.  So the challenge I am faced with is pray more often and fervently for those that I know, and for those that come into my life for only a brief moment.

Martin took time off of work to stay with our kids and to take them to the many appointments booked for that week.  Of coarse that would be the week where we had 3 appointments in 2 days!
Kathy and I stopped in Edmonton for night and spent a day shopping!  It was a wonderful way to unwind and spend time with my sis!
We arrived home in the late afternoon on Monday....exhausted!!  My anemia seriously kicked me in the backside!!  To those of you who think I should drink coffee...well, you would be very proud of me!!  I actually drank 1/2 a cup on the day of Grandma's funeral so that I could make it through the day.  The first few sips were disgusting!!  But after I added 4 sugar cubes and 2 creams, it was drinkable!  lol!
Tuesday morning arrived WAY too early!  Jackson had his ear surgery and was scheduled to arrive for 8am.  We sat and waited for 5 1/2 hours!  Poor Jackson went into shutdown mode.

I managed to get him to color for a bit, but then he started begging for food and water.  I decided to take him for a bit of a walk and managed to find a quieter room....

...and he promptly zonked out!

Martin had a dentist appointment and stopped by to see us and to visit his Dad, who is in the same hospital.  I'm so thankful that he did stop by.  Jackson visibly relaxed when Martin arrived!  :)

Thanks to our wonderful anesthesiologist, I was able to stay with Jackson until he was asleep.  He dozed off without a struggle and surgery proceeded as planned.  He was discharged around 6pm after sleeping the better part of the 3 1/2 hours following surgery. 
Today Jackson is doing well, all things considered.  He is still on Tylenol to control the pain.  This morning he had a rough patch and sobbed for awhile and eventually fell asleep as I rocked him!  And that rarely happens! 
I'm looking forward to regaining some energy in the next few days; to having Martin less stressed about all the work that is waiting for him (not to mention all the frantic phone calls of customers needing their work done yesterday!), and hopefully I can kick this runny nose/cold creeping up on me!...all before the craziness of next week arrives.
I'm trying not to think about another appointment and Malia's surgery next week...ugh!  Sometimes life is beyond crazy!  Having said that...we knew it would be crazy when we said "YES!" and we wouldn't change it for anything!!  (But that doesn't mean I can't dream of having a nanny!)  :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Medical Update For Malia and Jackson

I've been meaning to give an update on the appointments Malia and Jackson had shortly before Christmas at the Cleft Clinic  They both had their appointments on the same day, which was awesome, but it made for a very long day with lots of information being sent my way.
Our appointment was from 9am till 2pm.  We spent the entire time in this little room...except for a few bathroom breaks and a quick dash to Starbucks.
Thankfully, I already knew what to expect so we were prepared.  I had packed a lunch and brought books, coloring books, markers and a few toys.  Usually we wait in the waiting room for all the various doctors.  The waiting room has toys for the kids to play with.  This time was different.  All the doctors came to see us in this room...and what a relief!  Both Malia and Jackson saw the ENT Specialist, Pediatrician, Dentist, and Speech Pathologist.  Malia also had some X rays done and met with the Plastic Surgeon, and Orthodontist. 

The longest wait time was about half an hour.  The rest of the time we only had a few minutes to eat before another doctor met with us.  In fact the kids ate their lunch while I was chatting with the Pediatrician!
Jackson will be having surgery on his right ear at the end of this month.  This is a day surgery where the ENT will be narrowing the excessively large hole in Jackson's ear.  This damage was caused from having too many untreated ear infections prior to arriving home.  Hopefully this will help his hearing improve, which should help his speech improve.
Malia will have 2 surgeries in February.  The first one will be to do a graft to cover the fistula in the roof of her mouth.  Originally the idea was to do a tongue graft, but our surgeon has decided a cheek graft is a better option.  I'm so thankful for that!  Basically what will happen is the surgeon will take a narrow, rope like graft from the inside of Malia's cheek and use it to cover the hole.  The rope like graft will remain attached to the inside cheek for 3 weeks to ensure a good graft.  At 3 weeks, Malia will have another surgery to simply sever this.  At this point we are being told to expect anywhere from a 1-5 day hospital stay for each surgery.  It depends on how things go.  My guess is that the first surgery will require a longer in hospital stay and the second a day.
At this point neither of our kids are aware that they will be having surgery.  It causes WAY too much stress for them to know too far in advance.  We will likely tell them several days in advance, so please DO NOT talk to them about their upcoming surgeries.  Thanks in advance.