You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2008.

“No Winter lasts forever, no Spring skips its turn. April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it.”
(Hal Borland)

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Well, actually there’s only ONE billy goat in our story.  And he’s not gruff — just stinky!  🙂

We’ve been buying raw goat’s milk locally from a man who lives up the road since Jo was about six months old.  Peter and I have a strong aversion to the taste of goat’s milk (due to baaaaad experiences with really goaty-tasting milk in the past) so we just give it to the kids.  The man we buy it from is super-picky about what he feeds his goats, so as far as goat milk goes, it’s the best — we just can’t get over our past experiences… ugh!

I was thrilled when I found Eric’s goat milk three years ago — it enables me to feed my kids wholesome raw milk without having to keep and milk a goat myself! 🙂  Both my kids love it.  Henry kind of turned his little nose up at it when he first got home, but now he drinks it enthusiastically.

Eric has been affectionately dubbed the “goat man” in our household.  Not really very flattering, I suppose, but he gets a kick out of it.  We always love going to visit the baby goats that are born each spring.  Eric also takes in bummer lambs (baby sheep that are rejected by their mothers for whatever reason…)  and this year he has NINE little lambs running around in addition to all the mama goats and baby goats.  It’s shades of my childhood whenever we visit — we had quite the menagerie when I was a kid.  My parents were the greatest.  They let us get almost any animal we ever asked for as long as we took good care of it (well, within reason… I never did get that monkey that I begged for…)  I am so thankful for the memories I have and feel like I am kind of cheating by VISITING the goats and lambs instead of raising them with my kids.  It sure is a lot less work this way, though!!  🙂

About a month ago I took the kids up and we got to help feed the lambs their bottles.  Henry was so funny when Eric handed us the first one… he knew exactly what was in that bottle and wasn’t too pleased that the lamb was getting the milk instead of him!  Ha! 

I didn’t get any pictures that time, but I snapped a few of the kids playing out in the pasture last week while we there picking up milk.  They had so much fun — it was hard getting them back into the truck when it was time to leave!

 

 

I love this look on Henry’s face… “um, Mom — is it SAFE???” 

This little lamb was particulary friendly and SO cute — he looked just like a stuffed animal.

And here’s another shot of that sweet, patient mama goat letting her twins climb all over her!

You already saw the picture of “Mr. Stinky” at the top of the page.  Mr. Stinky, the billy goat, comes calling on the ladies twice a year, and boy, does he smell!  As we were walking over to his pen, Joanna and I were talking about how he is the daddy goat and how he smells kind of funny… and as we got closer she plugged her nose and said, “Ohhhh, he does STINK!  Just like Henry!!!”  Oh my… she is settling in to her role as the sister quite well!  (for the record, Henry doesn’t actually stink! 🙂 )

… it’s official. 

We have a walker! 

Henry now walks more than he scoots.  I am amazed by how fast he took off after he finally decided it was time.  He is the CUTEST little thing you’ve ever seen.  He’s still wearing 6-12 month clothes and is just a peanut — so when he starts walking, you really don’t expect it.  The “look what I can do!” expression on his face is absoluely priceless!  He knows he is BIG stuff!!  🙂 

Ah, finally — it’s taken a while to be able to write that title!  Those of you that have been following along since the beginning of our journey to Henry are probably very ready for this post.  Enough of the diagnostic roller coaster! 

It’s been over a week since our meeting with the pediatric neurologist to review Henry’s MRIs.  We’ve just been processing and felt like we needed to take some time to talk and figure out where to go now with the information we were given.  Of course, as I have said many, many times before it’s JUST a diagnosis.  It doesn’t change WHO Henry is, or how much we love him, or how we treat him or think of him.  Our pursuit of a conclusive diagnosis was primarily so we could effectively treat the roots of his symptoms (if possible.)

I realized yesterday that it has been almost a year since we first felt drawn to Henry and began researching possible medical scenarios for his symptoms.  A whole year!  Unbelievable.  The last twelve months have been filled with conflicting diagnostic reports –so it’s a blessing to finally have the official word on what is really going on inside our little boy’s body.  In one way I am relieved to finally KNOW; in another way, I am processing the emotions that come with finally knowing. 

The MRIs that Henry had six weeks ago revealed a lot going on inside his brain and spine; and it’s nothing we had researched or considered.  We aren’t completely settled with part of the diagnosis and plan to get a second opinion from a pediatric neurosurgeon in Seattle; we also aren’t sure how everything will affect him in the future, but for now at least we know what we’re looking at. 

 Okay, so here are the facts in a nutshell (there are other things, but these are the primary findings of the MRIs):

We found out that Henry was born with a rare brain disorder.  He has both pachygyria and polymicrogyria which are neuronal migration disorders.  At some point during Henry’s second trimester of development in utero, his mother suffered some kind of trauma.  This trauma caused the brain cells that were migrating out from the stem of his brain to grow abnormally.  The brain is normally full of creases and folds (gyri) but Henry’s brain (primarily the right side) grew without the normal amount of creases. In some places the gyri are smaller and more plentiful than normal (polymicrogyria) and in other places the gyri are larger and more shallow than normal (pachygyria).  This is obviously simplified greatly, but it gives you the basic idea of what this disorder looks like.

The primary effects of Pachygyria and PMG are developmental delays, motor dysfunction, respiratory problems and seizures.  Obviously the symptoms vary from child to child.  Most children with these disorders are affected in a more obvious way than Henry seems to be.  But on the other hand, most children that have had the MRIs to diagnose these conditions have substantial enough symptoms to warrant a thorough evaluation.  There may be many other children who are affected to the extent that Henry is but have never been diagnosed because of the lack of presenting symptoms.  We would not have discovered this brain disorder if we had not pursued the MRIs because of his left arm being non-functioning (which turned out to be from a different cause all together.)  

Pachygyria and polymicrogyria are obviously permanent — but thankfully not degenerative.  However, we really can’t know now how they may affect Henry down the road.  For now, it appears that Henry has no difficulty with learning or language (he’s actually way beyond his age in his language skills) but he may have a problem in a few years when he starts learning math, or he may run into a block when it’s time to ride a bike… any thing at any time could be difficult for him to learn as a result of the abnormality in his brain — and there is just no way for anyone to predict it now. The weakness in Henry’s left leg and his difficulty balancing are a couple of symptoms — but the neurologist was actually really impressed with Henry over all and said that it’s amazing (based on what he saw in the MRI’s) that Henry has such a lack of the common symptoms associated with this condition.

He did want us to be fully prepared for the possibility of seizures in the future. He said that just because Henry has not had any seizures so far isn’t a sign that he will never have any; they are very common with both disorders and he wanted to be sure that we understood that.  He also wanted us to understand that repetitive seizures can bring about more serious complications in the brain.  He didn’t want to alarm us — but we needed to know, and we appreciated his frankness.  I am trying to balance being aware of the possibility of seizures without being too paranoid, you know??  I don’t want to be the mom that duct-tapes pillows on my son every time he goes outside — I mean, he’s a BOY for Pete’s sake… and we live on a FARM… surrounded by forests full of trees to be climbed and forts to be made.  But, on the other hand, I want to live in the reality that my son has a much greater chance at having an unexpected seizure in the middle of an activity than the average child does. I need to protect him from the possibilities.  I don’t want to hold him back from living life as fully as possible — but I am responsible for his safety.

Okay, enough rambling there…

So that was the first part of the diagnosis.  We also found out that Henry has a couple of arachnoid cysts at the base of his brain, and a pineal gland cyst in the center of his brain.  The medical community is split as to the treatment of arachnoid cysts.  Some doctors feel that they are best left alone unless they are causing symptoms; while others feel that they should be removed to avoid any future issues.  The pineal gland cyst is actually already beyond the “safe” size range, so we are going to have another MRI taken in six months to see if has continued to grow — we will cross that treatment bridge then. 

Henry also has a large cyst in his cervical spine that appears to be compressing the spinal cord.  This seems to be the root cause of his non-functioning arm.  At first we were encouraged by this diagnosis because it seemed to us that by removing the cyst and the pressure on his nerves, there would be a good chance that some function could be restored in his arm. However, the neurologist said that the cyst was most likely there while the nerves were developing, so they never got the chance to develop properly — it acted as a road block preventing the nerves from doing their job from the very beginning.  If this is the case, then surgery wouldn’t do anything to restore the nerve function because they grew abnormally.  It is also a risky area of the body to do any kind of surgery because of the complexity of the nerves. 

Like I said before, we are going to be following up with a different neurosurgeon about second part of the diagnosis.  We’ve spoken with someone from Seattle who is suspicious of another condition causing the series of cysts.  It may be that Henry COULD regain some use of his arm through surgery, and we really feel like we need to get a second opinion about it.  We feel settled about the first part of the diagnosis, but there are still enough questions about the cysts to warrant some follow-up research.

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Okay, so those are the medical facts.  I’m just continuing to hold Henry and this diagnosis out to the Lord.  I KNOW that God is big enough to heal Henry and I’m certainly praying for healing –especially of his arm.  But on the other hand I am really aware right now of how finite my perspective is.  So often I think in terms of “good” news or “bad” news (as far as a diagnosis) and what I’m not factoring in is that it is ALL God’s news — whether it is “good” or “bad” in my eyes.  He is completely sovereign and knows the beginning from the end — and the things that seem to be the most difficult in my perspective are sometimes the things that he uses to bring about the greatest changes and the greatest good.  He truly works in mysterious ways.  I wouldn’t choose something like this for my child if I were given the option, but I want to raise Henry with the perspective that he is whole RIGHT NOW.  He is not flawed or imperfect.  He has some physical handicaps that may make things harder for him, but his story — the story of his life from conception to death — is known and has been orchestrated by a loving heavenly father… every single piece of it.  It’s hard for me as a mom to think about the things my son may face, just as it’s hard for me right now to watch him struggle so much with things that come easily for children with two working arms… BUT, I see such sparkle in his eyes and such tenacity in his heart and I pray above all that he will keep that sparkle and that he will stay soft and not get bitter about his handicaps.  I pray that he will always try his hardest and throw his heart into life, accepting the things he can’t do with grace while vigorously pursing the things that he CAN do.  I pray that he will be a glass-half-full type of person. 

It’s actually been harder for me to process this diagnosis than I was prepared for.. and I finally realized it’s because I am his MOM now.  I was fully and completely prepared for this sort of diagnosis a whole year ago, and I stayed “prepared” through all of the initial meetings with doctors and the referrals from one medical specialist to another. But somewhere in the midst of all those appointments and tests, this little boy became my SON in every sense of the word.  When I sat in that room with the neurologist reviewing the MRIs last week, we were talking about MY son.  Aahhhh.  The transformation that happens to our hearts when we become mothers is remarkable.  I have been going through all of the emotions of processing this diagnosis as if I were hearing for the first time that my son has a neurological disorder; I’m hearing it and processing it as a mommy, not as a prospective adopting parent.  It’s so personal now.  I’m glad I finally realized my need to process it as such because then I felt released to grieve for what I needed to — just as I would have if Joanna had been diagnosed with a rare brain disorder at twenty months.   

Before I close this very long post, I just have so say again what an AWESOME kid Henry is!!  I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to have been blessed with the amazing privilege of just knowing him… much less the indescribable joy of raising him!!  I realize more every day how amazing God was to lead us down the twisty road to a little country on the west coast of Africa and to this little peanut of a kid with an unknown medical condition at the time.  He brings such life to our family!! 

Thank you, God, for my beautiful son.

 

Spring has descended in all it’s confusing glory — rainy one minute and then gorgeously sunny the next.  Seriously,  it rained four separate times today — and then after about an hour of drenching spring rain, the clouds began to roll back and the sun came out and the day was incredibly warm until the next little weather cycle.  So fickle.  So difficult to work outside!  But amazingly beautiful just the same.

My kids have been practically living outside this past week.  They come inside in the afternoon long enough to get cleaned up and take a nap and then they are out again.  They get so very dirty and so very tired — but gosh they have fun! 

I too, have been spending a great deal of time outside.  I feel like I have finally found the surface.  I was drowning there for a while in the bleakness of a long hard winter that wouldn’t let go.  But I have broken through to the surface at last.  I’ve worked in the soil again and have been on long evening walks as the sun casts a long shadow over the mountains.  I’ve been awakened by the sweet melody of birds singing and have stood out in the spring rain with my face turned upward. I’ve opened my doors wide to let in the wind.  I’ve breathed deeply and layed on my back in the grass, letting the sun shine on my face and the ants crawl on my arms.  Heck, even the ANTS make me happy these days.  I feel free.  I feel released.  I survived the winter and am standing at the threshold of a new year. 

It’s been a bit of a nostalgic week for me.  Joanna has been right beside me, wanting to help with whatever project I am working on.  She wasn’t quite at this stage last spring — all she wanted to do then was play in the sandbox, but this year it’s different. She seems so much older to me all of a sudden.  And as she stands there in her faded work jeans and heavy canvas farm jacket, hands covered in dirt, hair blowing wildly in the wind… my throat catches.  I have the strangest flashback to a day twenty-four years ago very much like this one where I was the three-year-old — tired, but happy — eagerly helping my mom work outside.  It is the STRANGEST feeling.  I am at once connected to my past, present and future.  I am a giver and receiver of life — just as my daughter is and her children will be after her.  Do you other moms experience these moments as well?  Maybe I’m just weird.

Well, weird or not,  I am grateful for this season of my life.  I don’t know if we will always be here, but for now I am grateful that my kids are growing up with their hands in the soil as I did.  I am grateful that they are connected to the earth.  This land goes deep into my soul and is being worked into theirs.  My daughter is learning to plant seeds and will watch them grow.  I love that.

Spring is inevitably a busy time for us.  As winter fades it leaves behind four months of neglect that we have to catch up on.  There are garden beds to be tilled, soil to be prepared, mulching to be removed and lots of clean-up.  And of course we’re never content to not have a big project going! — we ripped out our existing kitchen and laundry room cabinets over the weekend to make room for the new ones that Peter is building.  This is one of the last things on our remodeling list and once it’s finished, we will be close to being done (minus a few pieces of trim here and there and the rest of the carpet upstairs. )  Those of you that have done it know the indescribable joy of building or remodeling a house while trying to live there at the same time!  (in case you’re wondering, that last sentence should be read dripping with sarcasm!) 

Yet, in the middle of the busyness of this season, I am striving to find the rhythm in my own life to mirror that which is all around in nature.  Spring is a season of simplifying, rebuilding and returning to the rhythms of sowing and reaping.  I’ve been feeling the need lately to take some time to unplug from my computer and focus on balancing my life — being still and listening; spending more quality time with my family; tending to some neglected friendships; gaining a renewed perspective for the rest of the year.  There are a lot of desires and passions heavy on my heart and things I want to get more involved in, but I sense God prompting me to take a little season to step back and evaluate the what and whys.  Hence the sporadic posts lately. 

Balance really is the key to so much, isn’t it?  

Anyway, here are a couple more pictures from the last few weeks outside (please excuse the messy faces, snotty noses and dirty clothes — it wouldn’t have been fair to clean them up just for a few pictures! 🙂 )

Catchy title, isn’t it?  I’m going to lure the readers in with this one for sure! 🙂  But be forewarned, it’s long!

Actually this post is a couple of weeks late… I wrote it once about a week ago — but somehow I deleted it before I published it (not completely sure what happened — but it was a bummer!)  I didn’t really want to write it all over again, so I’ve been putting it off until now.  I’ve also been trying to figure out the best way to share since I don’t want to come across like a snob.  Obviously we all have our opinions about health and lifestyle and I am certainly not critical about anyone else’s decisions.  Living and eating healthily is something that has become increasingly more important to me over the last year especially and I want to figure out how to share about my experiences and perspective without turning anyone off.  I hope I can accomplish that… In this particular case, I felt like I should follow up on our raw week since I blogged about it a few weeks ago (*And also because a couple of readers were worried that my blogging silence lately has been the result of a vegetable-induced coma — HA! I got a good laugh out of that one!) 

We decided to go raw primarily because of my sister’s influence.  She has been raw for almost a year and has seen some drastic improvements in her health as a result.  I have always agreed that raw, living foods are incredibly good for a person (does anyone really want to argue that fruits and vegetables aren’t nutritious?) but I didn’t necessarily think that a person could thrive on salads alone.  However, as I came to find out, there are SO many raw food options! It isn’t just about leafy greens (although they are HUGELY important!…)  Raw nuts and seeds add protein, and can be dehydrated into crackers (at low temperatures, thereby preserving optimal nutrients) or ground into nut butters, or soaked and blended into delicious smoothies or nut milks… Raw honey, agave or dates are used as sweeteners… Countless varieties of exotic fruits are available for tropical flavors.  Raw chocolate and raw vanilla flavors are available from raw cocoa powder and whole dried vanilla beans… and the list goes on and on.  And since we’re not vegans, we also have the option of raw milk and raw cheese — full of living enzymes that are destroyed during the pasteurizing process.  It’s just a completely different way of experiencing food.  Raw flavors are incredibly intense.  And so satisfying.  They are literally alive with nutrients and enzymes and actually contribute to the digestive process, aiding the body in assimilating nutrients easily.  They are full of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals designed to be absorbed easily by our bodies.  Here is a good article on the benefits of enzymes in living foods.  And here is a GREAT article on the benefits of raw food, tempered with the perspective that cooked foods have their value as well. 

It actually ended up being a lot easier than anticipated.  I think the idea of eliminating food is usually harder than actually doing it — we found that it was surprisingly feasible and as I said before, very satisfying as well (Hmmm… I think Peter would agree that it was satisfying! 🙂 ) We both had a lot more energy during the week and just felt great over all.  We definitely noticed that our senses of taste were heightened — we really enjoyed the flavors in the meals I prepared.  It was harder to prepare meals in the sense that I often added waaayyy too much of a fresh herb or flavor — I wasn’t accustomed to the intensity of raw flavors.  A little raw garlic goes a loooonnnnggg way!! (Hee hee)  But it was easier in the sense that there was little mess and it was super fast and easy to make a meal.  I certainly liked that part!  (The kids did not go all raw with us.  I don’t agree that it is the best diet for growing bodies — but they did eat a lot more raw food right alongside us and they loved it.  They are adventurous souls.)

It was in many ways almost addicting to feel such lightness and energy.  It was confirmation of our desire to eat as simply and healthily as possible.  We are definitely going to continue with the green smoothies every day and are going to try to stay about 60% raw over all. 

Another positive thing that came from the week is that we finally stopped drinking coffee (switched to green smoothies first thing in the morning.)  We’ve always loved our coffee around here, but we’ve known for a while that we needed to let it go… at least for the most part.  Going raw was a good kick-in-the-pants motivator.  And, you know, I haven’t really missed it like I thought I would.  I credit the green smoothies for that.  Actually, I think that the green smoothies every day are making more of a notable difference in our energy levels and health than almost anything else.  I need to devote a whole post just to green smoothies because I am such a believer!

I do have to say that I still have mixed thoughts about going 100% raw long-term.  I think that everyone could benefit from eating more raw food… and I think that going completely raw for a season is beneficial — especially for cleansing purposes.  But I think that it is also important to have a healthy balance and personally, I believe that there are great nutritional benefits to healthy cooked foods.  So while I see the benefits of a raw lifestyle, and can understand why people go raw all the way, at this point I’m not advocating it completely.  There is just too much good in nourishing, nutritious cooked foods to throw them out completely.  Balance is the key to everything in life…  

Whew! That got long!!  If you’re still reading after all that, you MUST be interested!  (Either that, or you just love me, and I’ll take that too!  🙂 ) Here are a couple of the best resources that I’ve found for raw recipes:

 Gone Raw is a community forum/recipe exchange with a HUGE selection of tried and true raw recipes —  everything from chilled soups and asian wraps to chocolate mousse (which I haven’t tried yet, but am planning to!!)

 Raw Gourmet isn’t as extensive as Gone Raw, but has some yummy-looking recipes. 

 And here is a link to the “community” health/nutrition blog that my friend, Missy, started recently.  I am really excited about the resource it is for sharing ideas and recipes and inspiration.  You can check it out here.  (And don’t worry, it’s not a bunch of health nuts and radicals… just a few ordinary people striving to live healthier…)

Just for fun, here are a few of the raw recipes I tried that got the thumbs up.  There were several that DID NOT go over so well.  In fact, after one such bomb, Peter said to me, “You know, I wouldn’t MIND eating salads all week…”  🙂 How’s that for encouraging?!?   Actually, he’s been such a trooper. I know he agrees that it’s healthy to eat more raw food, but he definitely wouldn’t be doing this on his own!  He is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  I told him that I don’t want to put any pressure on him, so we’ve struck a bargain. He can cook whatever he wants to eat on his own…. and he is actually enjoying the green smoothies and many of the raw meals I’ve made. I really appreciate his flexibility.

California rolls (raw nori and sans rice):

Spicy Thai lettuce wraps w/ a peanut/cabbage base (these were SO yummy!)

A version of lasagna (with sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and zucchini “noodles”)  Peter didn’t like this one so much, but it’s because he was comparing it to regular lasagna…

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(What a difference a few sunny days can make… all the snow is gone now and it finally feels like full-on spring.  Can you tell how happy we are??)

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

Photography Website:

Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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