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!!