Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dancing Queen


She must get her good moves from her mommy! Too bad you can't check out Coop's new moves. Boy can he shake it!! He is like a little black boy (that was a compliment) with his good rhythm. Again, like his mommy!

If the shoe fits...

...then Cooper will be wearing it! Yes, these are just about the ugliest shoes I have ever seen. When the orthopedic shoes arrived and I went to go pick them up I just about bursted into tears. How could such an ugly combination (open toed, frayed tongue, lace ups plus buckles--and not to mention them being one inch longer then his feet) be what Cooper was going to have to wear for the next several months?
Metatarsus adductus

Cooper, like his brother Nate, has Metatarus Adductus (or hook feet). His feet curve inward about half way down his feet. Nate was blessed with only one foot being this way but Coop was a bit more lucky and has two crooked feet. When Nate was about this age he wore a little AFO (velcro brace) to try and correct his foot but within only a few weeks he learned to undo the velcro. His foot is still crooked but it hasn't really caused him any trouble.

Cooper on the other hand (or foot, I should say) has two crooked feet which are both pretty rigid. They can be flexed into the right position though it takes quite a bit of effort. So we are trying these cute shoes called Reverse Last shoes to see if they will help him. If not the next step is either leaving them alone or to do serial casting. This would mean weekly trips to Seattle Children's Hospital to cast his feet for five or six weeks. Certainly not what I would like to do each week!! So we will give these darling shoes a try! Birch has encouraged me to not talk badly about them so the kids don't follow suit. I think I know have all the bad talk about the shoes out of me. Oh wait, one more thing, did I mention that they are ugly and EXPENSIVE!

Coop doesn't particurally enjoy wearing the shoes either, especially when he is sleeping. He should be wearing them 24 hours a day but we are going on more like 12 hours a day. He kicks and kicks (and cries) until he is free of them. Good thing Coop is so dang cute and deters peoples eyes to his infectious smile not his clodhopper shoes!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

And he....HEARS

Alex getting his hearing tested this past Monday at Seattle Children's Hospital.














The audiogram on the LEFT was taken PRIOR (October 30, 2006) to the internal reconstruction of his ear. Basically the top X's show the range of sound in his "good" ear and the bottom triangles show the hearing (or lack of) in his newly created ear.

The audiogram on the RIGHT was taken this past Monday (February 12, 2007). Again the X's on the top show the range of hearing in his "good" ear and the bottom circles show the HEARING in his newly created ear. Yes, ALEX HAS HEARING!!!! From what I understand the smaller the number dB the better the hearing. Also, normal conversational hearing happens in the middle 750-3000 Hz (frequency) so the smaller the dB hearing is in those ranges the better.

As you can see PRIOR to Alex's reconstruction of his inner ear parts and drilling of the ear canal his normal conversation hearing was in the 60-70 db range. Now POST-SURGERY Alex's conversational hearing is in the 25-40 db range.--a significant improvement! His doctor even feels that this will improve as Alex has more healing time.

At Alex's last surgery on November 10, 2006 Dr. Sie from Seattle Children's Hospital not only drilled Alex a new ear canal but also worked on creating Alex's middle ear bones so they would be functioning for hearing. Upon drilling the ear canal Dr. Sie found that Alex's malleus and incus were fused. So she removed the fused malleus and incus and then reshaped them and put them back into his ear to overtime scar into the ear drum (which she created out of Alex's tympanic membrane) and the stapes. Following that procedure Dr. Sie removed skin from Alex's groin area and lined his ear canal with the new skin and then stitched him all back up. Birch and I also found it very interesting that Dr. Sie drilling the ear canal from BEHIND Alex's ear so that way she could make a larger opening and position the ear canal in just the right place to meet up with his middle ear bones. When she was all done with the drilling she stitched up the backside of his ear and then made a new opening behind his tragus (the little flap on the front of your ear) that now became the opening to his ear canal.
The above photo was taken from inside Alex's ear during the last surgery.






Waiting for the Vercede (silly medicine) to kick in and for Alex to be taken back for surgery.













This picture was taken just as Alex was taken into the recovery room. He had a really hard time coming out of anesthesia with this surgery. Could it be because he played Nintendo at his uncle's house until 12:00 am the night before?

As with each prior surgery Alex was able to pick out something special when the surgery was completed. Once we went to a movie at the theatre but the other times Alex got a new toy. It is amazing that right after surgery the first thing Alex always asks about is if he can open his post-surgery present.




This is Dr. Sie showing us how to do Alex's post-surgery care, which was really quite minimal with this surgery.





This picture was taken of Alex in mid December. As you can see he still has crusty stuff in his ear canal. It took until just recently that his ear canal was clean of nasty stuff. Alex ended up actually getting a bad ear infection in his ear canal likely from getting bath water in his ear canal. I guess we weren't cautious enough when he was showering. Within just days of being treated for the infection his ear looked so much better. He had been dripping nasty stuff for several weeks and we thought that it was just part of the healing process. Alex had had no pain or fever so it didn't seem like an ear infection. Anyway, we are super thankful that the infection is gone now!!


Here is a close up shot of Alex's ear today. As you can see he is still healing from his five surgeries. We have been told that they coloring and swelling can take up to a couple years to normalize. The small red raised area was caused by a pressure wound. It actually turned into a keloid scar (like a growing bump) and so when we were in Utah over Christmas Alex's plastic surgeon, Dr. Fairbanks injected the scar with a steroid. Within just a few days we were already noticing that the scar was shrinking. We will continue to watch this area but I am pretty sure that time is all it needs now to heal completely.

In a matter of two years, Alex went from being born with microtia (or little ear) and having severe hearing loss in that ear to an AWESOME looking HEARING ear!!! We are sure grateful for all the medical staff that have been apart of our lives these past few years. Not to mention, our gratitude that we have for having a job with good insurance. I don't know what we would have done without those things plus the support that we have had from our family and friends!!!

Alex is famous! If you are interested in seeing his photo shoot done at Dr. Grant Fairbanks' (Alex's plastic surgeon) office, feel free to check out this website:

http://www.fairbanksplasticsurgery.com/ear.html

Love is for All

Happy Valentines Day!! This past week we have carried on a tradition that we started as a family about five years ago. At that time I read the Family Fun magazine and the following idea I thought would be really fun to do in our family. The Monday prior to Valentines Day (this year we actually started last Monday) we have a family lesson about something to do with love. This year I focused the lesson around God's desire for each of us to love everyone. I brought out our globe and talked about how it doesn't matter where we live in the world or what we look like or what job we have; God loves us all the same. I shared how when astronauts are orbiting the earth they see no boundary lines like those we see on maps and how several astronauts have commented that we are all brothers and sisters sharing the same home, the earth.

Then I presented the empty ice cream sundae glass and the container of glass rocks. The following week until Valentines Day we all have the opportunity to fill up the ice cream glass with the beads when we do a loving act for someone (it doesn't have to be just toward our family members). If our jar is full by Valentines Day then we will all go out for ice cream that night. The above picture was taken a few days ago and since that time everyone has been really blessing the lives of others!! Alysee has been busy making pictures and sending them to people; Nathan has been giving Cooper lots of hugs and playing with him; Alex and Tyler have done all sorts of things from cleaning the basement without being told, making Valentines and hiding them around the house, doing a kind deed for a school friend, etc...

So it looks like we will be heading to Dairy Queen tonight after we eat our homemade heart pizza. I love this tradition because it helps us all (especially the kids) remember how important it is to "love one another" as Christ would have us do. Also, after just celebrating Christmas it reminds the kids that every holiday does not need to include presents to make it a special day!

I must mention though that Birch has really outdone himself this year in making me feel special. I have been sent on a scavenger hunt throughout the day and have been challenged to not cheat. Here is the first clue I received via email (boy does he know me):

The first of the clues is a gift for you,
You'll find it in one of the bathrooms.
In the great big drawer under a towel or two,
Is one of your favorite tunes.
Now there is a catch, which you will find hard,
If you cheat you'll turn into a raccoon...
The instructions given on this card
Must not be executed until noon.

I was so excited when I opened up a new Norah Jones cd for me to listen to today. I LOVE her peaceful music and have literally worn out my old cd's. The next clue has instructed me to lay on my tummy in the living room and look under the chair where we like to read to receive something yummy...but NOT until 2:00 pm. I better hurry and post this because it is almost 2:00 pm. Until later...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the plate with the hearts around it also is a new tradition that we have just started. It is our SPECIAL PERSON PLATE. I have wanted to do this for quite sometime but until now I haven't done anything about it. Each week on a random day I pick someone that will get the SPECIAL PERSON plate at dinner. Before we start eating we all get a turn to say something that we love about that person. The person receiving the compliments needs to say "thank you" or acknowledge the compliment in some way. We have only done it one week so far but each day before dinner the kids are always anxious to see if I have taken the plate out of the plate holder and put it in their place setting. I think it is really going to be wonderful tradition to have over the years.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Alysee's Days of the Week Audio clip







I'm in shock

Just last week I was telling a friend how we DON'T do pets!!

Guess I have to eat my words. This past Saturday night Birch and I went to a fun church couples dinner and game night. The table centerpieces were so creative and colorful. They were tall vases with blue rocks on the bottom, four goldfish, and a handful of glow in the dark light sticks. They looked AWESOME (and were really cheap to make)!!!

Anyway, at the end of the evening we were told that we could take home some fishes if we wanted. Our family has had several fish over the past four years and we have always managed to successfully kill them. Sharkbait and Nemo did last for several months. Though one day Sharkbait bit the dust and Alex was so sad because that was his fish and he didn't think it was fair that Nemo was still swimming. We were just leaving on a trip and so to solve the fish babysitting dilemma and the jealously problem--Nemo joined Sharkbait in the land of the sewer system.

Our main problem is that no one seems to enjoy cleaning the fish bowl or feeding the fish on a regular basis--me included. I don't like pets. I despise cats and hate crotch sniffing dogs. I seem to be a pet magnet--somehow my hatred leaks from my pores and all animals gravitate to me (my bed, my crotch, my legs, sitting on me on the couch).

So why would I suggest to Birch that we should bring home four little fishes? SCOUTING!!! It has over taken our lives. One of the electives that Alex can do is take care of a pet (no time frame is required). Being a supportive scouting mom, I of course want Alex to earn as many arrow points as possible. So why not inherit a few more fishes? At least you always know they are going to die. Yes, two of the four were dead in less than one day. For now the kids enjoy "caring" for their pet and mom is happy to know that our pet-free days will soon be here again.

Who's the man...Alex!!

Last week Alex was presented his Wolf award in Cub Scouts. He really worked hard on receiving this award and did so in only six months. He is on his way to fill up his scout shirt with lots of arrow points now. Notice my cute yellow shirt that I am wearing; I am Alex's Assistant Den Leader. Yeah, I look weird in the picture but it was the only one I had to share of Alex accomplishing this awesome achievement!! Alex loves cub scouts and loves the one-on-one time with me each week. I am adjusting to an intense hour of ten eight and nine year old boys. Oh my, do they have energy!! It is nice to know what is going on with Alex and be able to help him along.

Watch Out!!

Friday night we were having a family pizza/movie night in the basement. Nate was happily enjoying his licorice when out from no where Cooper grabbed his treat in one swift movement. Coop had his death grip on the licorice and wasn't about to give it back. So much for keep to a diet of milk and veggies.

A Family That Eats Together...Stays Together

For several months I have been shopping (looking at craigslist and the classifieds) for a new dining room table. Last week I found one that seems like it is going to work out great for us. It is oak and even already has a scratch in it so I won't be so paranoid with the kids. We can finally all sit around the table and have a little wiggle room.
Table at its full size -- ten feet long. We should be able to handle a crowd!! I love that the two extra leaves can be stored inside the table!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Attitude is Everything


(My friend just sent me this poem. Maybe I like it so much because I have had my fair share of bad hair days. Side note: I thought this picture taken of Alysee in June 2005 was perfect for this poem.)

There once was a woman who woke up one morning,
looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.

Well," she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today?"
So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up,
looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.

"H-M-M," she said,
"I think I'll part my hair down the middle today?"
So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up,
looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.

"Well," she said,
"today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail."
So she did and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day she woke up,
looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head.

"YEA!" she exclaimed,
"I don't have to fix my hair today!"

Attitude is everything.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Éclair Bar

(Okay, so it won't end up looking quite like this since it is a bar recipe but it still tastes like you are at one of my favorite bakeries in Corvallis, New Morning Bakery.--I must apologize for not giving the rightful originator credit for this recipe. I was first introduced to this yumminess from my sister Leah who I believe got the recipe from her mother-in-law. You will not be disappointed!!)

Pastry:

1 1/2 sticks of butter

1 1/2C water

1 ½ cup flour

6 eggs beat slightly

Topping:

8oz cream cheese, softened

3T milk

2 pkg vanilla instant pudding (the smaller size)

3C milk

8oz cool whip

Directions:

Melt butter in water, bring to a boil. Remove, add flour, stir till it

forms a ball, add beaten eggs a little at a time. Stir until smooth.

Spray cookie sheet and spread dough evenly. Bake 400 for 25 minutes.

Cool.

Whip together cream cheese and milk (3T) till smooth. In a different

bowl, combine milk and pudding. Add to the cream cheese mixture and

blend thoroughly. Fold in cool whip.

Heat hot fudge chocolate topping (Mrs. Richards). Spread one jar of chocolate sauce on top.

Pursuit of Happyness

Two weeks ago Birch and I spent Friday evening doing something that only occurs every few years to us. We went to a REAL movie theatre and watched a movie before it actually hit the Albertson's video rental isle. Of course, I had bought certain groceries several months ago that rewarded us with two free movie passes. We had a hard time selecting the appropriate movie to indulge ourselves with; after several positive recommendations we choose the following:
Will Smith starred as Gardner in the 2006 Hollywood movie The Pursuit of Happyness.

"Pursuit of Happyness"

Academy Award Nomination-Will Smith for Best Actor. Inspired by a true story, a down-on-his-luck salesman finds himself evicted from his apartment just as he gains custody of his young son (played by real-life son Jaden Smith). Also starring Thandie Newton, David Pearl, Brian Howe, Kurt Fuller & Scott Klace. (rated PG-13 for some language)

Birch and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, though I wish we could have dubbed out the language. We left the theatre feeling very grateful for all that we have been blessed with. This movie gets two thumbs up!!

If you get a chance to watch the movie be sure to read what Wikipedia has to say about Chris Gardner (who the story the movie is based on). Don't read it first though or it will ruin the movie.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Gardner



Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Kids at Aunti Emi and Uncle Ryan's Wedding

This picture was taken in the downstairs lobby of the Bountiful Temple in SLC, Utah at my sister's wedding on December 27th, 2006.

What's cookin' at the Ditto's Diner

Tonight I was having a hard time coming up with another dinner to serve at the Ditto's Diner. My choices of what the kids enjoy is limited to about five different things (top ramen, pizza, mac and cheese, tacos, or pancakes). Naturally, one can only handle those types of foods periodically. The following dish I altered from something I found online. Oh my, was it YUMMO!! The only draw back would be that it couldn't be filed in my healthy eating file. I am still in awe that I actually had all of the following ingredients in my kitchen.


Lemon-Pesto Cream Pasta with Chicken

INGREDIENTS:
2 boneless chicken breast halves sliced thinly
1 whole lemon
Dash of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (8 ounce) package pasta (I used bow tie noodles)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Pesto
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Steamed broccoli

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Squeeze lemon on chicken breasts and add, garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Let sit for 1/2 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, season the chicken broth with the remaining garlic and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and add pasta. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Add more water if the noodles are not done and you run out of liquid.
  3. In another pan, heat oil and quickly cook chicken. Add cream, pesto, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 minutes. Add cooked noodles and steamed broccoli. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly before serving.

My Salary

This past week Birch and I did our taxes for 2006. I thought you all might be interested on my personal total income amount. This is based on us living in Yakima so if we were to move to Seattle or some other city my earnings might be altered.

Earning Statement Our Family
For the year ending: February 2007
Job title Hourly Rate Hours worked
Housekeeper $9.69 1,149
Day Care Center Teacher $13.44 816
Cook $15.58 707
Computer Operator I $15.33 473
Laundry Machine Operator $9.12 348
Janitor $11.49 328
Facilities Manager $38.70 302
Chief Executive Officer $167.04 218
Van Driver $15.48 218
Psychologist $35.89 203
Total Value
Regular Hourly Rate $22.28 2,080 $46,344
Over Time Rate $33.42 2,683 $89,676
$136,020

This year the job title "nurse" was pulled out of the top ten jobs that a mother does. I would actually have kept that job title in and lessened my hours as a laundry operator. Although I do spend time each week doing laundry, I feel that my job as the family doctor is more valuable. Now that I think about it I am also a drug distrubuter and administrator (legal drugs).

You too can figure out your income (even customized by using your zip code).
http://swz.salary.com/momsalarywizard/htmls/mswl_momcenter.html

So what amount did Uncle Sam return to me this year? Too much to even deposit in our bank
account! A prominent religious leader in 1954 stated that, "No success can compensate for failure in the home." I am about the business of parenting my children--which will have an eternal reward.

Who else but a mom would want the pleasure of cleaning up such a precious boy covered in thick Eucerin?