A Season of Quiet

The husband and I have an ongoing list of ways I will be able to tell that a brain tumor has begun to form inside of him. For example, clothing choices he may begin to make (tank tops for men and skinny jeans), lifestyle choices (electric blankets cranked on high), and phrases which overtake his everyday speech (“lets unpack that “).

The phrase he will begin using that definitely tells me some foreign mass is growing in his brain is “seasons of life.” Bless that man because he cringes anytime someone tosses out a “season of life” statement.

Which is frequently when one lives with me.

(Disclaimer: The husband is not in any risk of developing a brain malady. Nor am I poking fun at individuals who do suffer brain injuries. However, one must have such conversations with one’s spouse. It keeps the romance alive. At the very least it gives one something to talk about late at night rather than constantly wanting to assess the merits of Joanna Gaines’ hair.)

(But seriously, when is she going to do a YouTube tutorial of how she always has perfect hair, despite demolishing houses in the Texas heat?)

This blog has undergone a season of quiet. There was no intentionality behind the quiet, but rather life has been happening and making the time to pour into this blog has fallen way down on my list of things to-do.

The funny thing is that when I am not actually writing something by hand, I am forever writing something in my head. A running personal narrative seems to follow me wherever I go.

Also, I have been slowly (read: slooooowly) working on another writing endeavor. The thing with writing is that it is very similar to working out. One cannot simply hit the gym once every few weeks and expect to see some lean muscles and fat melting away. Unfortunately one has to hit the gym daily to see a change in body composition.

(Side Note: Santa Claus totally works out at my gym. For real. A legit local Santa is there every morning. It was a bit surreal in December to be on the elliptical next to the jolly ol man sporting Under Armour shorts and tall athletic socks. )

I am committed to working those writing muscles this year, challenging myself to some daily and weekly writing exercises along with reviving this blog.

I hope you will come along for the journey.

Why Mama Needs a Hobby…other than laundry

You know what make social media super great at times?

When people unknowingly fall for things posted by The Onion.

People ranting about social issues, people selling the lasts MLM product(*), people “vaguely” referencing family drama all under the guise of “asking for prayers”…those make social media a beating at times.

Yet nothing makes me feel more giddy than when someone posts a link to an article by The Onion…a notorious SATIRE site…along with a comment about “Can you believe this?”

I can giggle at this because I have TOTALLY been that person before.

Lately, my favorite Onion post on Facebook has been the one about how mom spends beach vacation doing the same household chores in closer proximity to the beach.

Can I get an amen?

Sometimes as moms we loose ourselves in motherhood. We find joy in parenting, in taking care of our homes (thanks, Joanna Gaines!), in tending to our spouse. These are all good things. However we can look up one day and realize past loves…reading, crafting, biking, muesem-hopping…have all taken a backseat to taking care of our families. If faced with a questionnaire in which someone inquires about hobbies, moms suddenly find themselves writing down such options as “Stain Removal from Resaleable Gymboree Clothing” or “Reloading the Dishwasher for the Third Time that Day“.

Readers, if you would answer a questionnaire with similar answers, it is time for you to get a hobby.

This summer, I have set aside a time to work on one of my hobbies. I made it very clear to the kids that I am working on something that is important to me and I would like peace and quiet to finish the task. If they need me for something super important, they are welcome to come and talk to me. Otherwise I am to be left alone.

Some days this hour in the morning comes and goes and the children hardly realize they are leaving me alone.

Then there are days when they simply cannot help themselves and find the need to ask me all sorts of pointless questions.

Perhaps they fear I am lonely. Or doing something uber fun. Or eating secret chocolate chip cookies without them.

Whatever the reason, there are days that this sacred time I have carved out is bombarded by two long-legged kids throwing themselves across my bed tossing out such important questions as “What is the schedule for next Tuesday?” and “Are there any chocolate chips in the freezer?”

Earth-shattering stuff.

I answer their questions and send them on their way, reminding them that mom is working on her hobby and needs some quiet during the designated time. Fortunately I have children who understand the need for peace and space (praise hands for kids that are slightly introverted like their parents) and generally respect the time I have allotted for my hobby.

hobby

Want to carve out time for your own personal hobby? Here are some steps to start down that path.

1. Choose a Hobby.

This is obvious, right? However, as we venture further into this mothering gig sometimes past hobbies become a bit of a blur. Take time to think about what you would like to do/create/visit. Think about available resources. If your hobby includes hiking the mountains and you live in West Texas, it may be time to dream up a different option.

2. Tell the Family

No one will know that mom is wanting to venture out on her own if she never mentions it. Tell you family about your hobby. Explain to them why it is important to you and why you want to pursue this. Remember, your kids have hobbies as well. They “get” wanting to do something you love (unless they are in the under three crowd and their hobby is tearing about the house. In that case, talk to your spouse about your hobby.)

3. Make a Plan

Nothing can happen in regards to your hobby until you make a plan for that hobby. For example, when I decided to specifically devote time to my hobby this summer I allocated a time in which to do this hobby. For me, I work on it from 8-9am in the morning. I keep this time sacred. I do not allow cleaning the bathrooms to take precedence or opt to drag the kids to the grocery store instead. This hour is hobby time.

4. Get started.

I am a big fan of Jon Acuff and especially his book “Do Over”. Good stuff there, readers. Sometimes we can make a plan but we never actually get started on said plan. You know those chore charts taped to your fridge to remind your kids to pick up their dirty clothes and brush their teeth?  That same principal will work for you. Jon Acuff has a whole movement helping adults actually make a plan happen by marking off in 15 minute increments when one actually DOES what they planned to do. Get the printable here.

 

What is your hobby? How are you going to make that hobby happen?

Share with all of us so we can be inspired to step out of the laundry room and embrace some time for ourselves.

 

(* I love me a good 31 bag and some essential oils. In no way am I criticizing my MLM friends.)

Summer Reading Guide 2015: The Kid Edition

Growing up, I remember the brother of a friend of mine was being paid per page of every book he read that summer. I really wanted my parents to pay me per page because I could rack up some serious money by basically lounging around with my nose in a book. Obviously the friend’s brother was in need of some literary encouragement. I also happen to remember that his parents’ did not end up forking over a lot of money once August rolled around that year. Said literary encouragement obviously did not provide the type of motivation he was in need of that year.

At casa de phillips, there is no need (or financial way) to pay kids per page to read.

Both my kids love to read. The boy has been a book fiend since the very beginning. He reads quite quickly and can make his way through a pile of books in no time.

The girl has also loved books from the beginning, but her love grew in different ways. She loved to have books read to her but had some hesitancy for a while when it came to reading on her own. That hesitancy has since diminished and she attacks books with fierce bravado.

The interesting thing about these two is that their tastes in books can be quite different. Part is a gender thing, part is a personality thing, and part is “I don’t want to like that book merely because YOU like that book” thing.

 

So what is on the girl’s list of books for fellow eight year olds to read this summer? First, lots of non-fiction ocean books. If they contain pictures of really disturbing fish, that is a bonus. Below are some of her favorites.

 

The Shark Encyclopedia

Rainbow Fairy Series

Capital Kids Mysteries

A to Z Mysteries

The Critter Club

American Girl Mini Mysteries

 

The boy has his own list of great summer reads. The hard thing about the boy is that on occasion I let him venture over into the teen room to check out their library books. He is rapidly reading through everything in his normal section and he is needing some new inspiration. Obviously we are careful with what he comes back with from said room. His summer reading guide contains some of the following titles.

Science Fair

Gollywhopper Games (he LOVED this series. LOVED. IT.)

Kingdom Keepers (Perfect because we are planning for a trip to Disney in the Fall)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Big Nate series

Anything Marvel comics related

Frindle

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer series

 

One thing they both happen to love is a boxed set of Calvin and Hobbes comics that my husband owns. For the past few weeks both of them have been pulling these large volumes of comics into bed with them to get in a few giggles before lights out.

 

What books have found their way onto your kids’ list of “Must Reads” this summer?

 

 

Summer Reading Guide 2015

Something you need to know about me is that I love a good summer reading program. My kids are signed up at various programs all around our fair suburb. This is not because they need encouragement to read or because I am attempting to keep them entertained (okay…I totally am attempting to keep them entertained.) but because along with summer reading programs come summer reading program incentives. In most cases, this means coupons for free kids meals and activities (and the occasional sticky hand and random temporary tattoo).

summerreading

My kids can totally read for ten hours a week if it means they can dine free at local restaurants. Just last week, I took them to a local trampoline place for FREE with incentive coupons they had earned in a reading program. They burned off excess energy and I got some work done.

That, dear reader, is a win/win situation.

Unfortunately, very few of these reading programs have an adult version. However, our local library does have a separate program for adults that involves a weekly drawing for local gift cards. One of the first summers they did this, I racked up some major prizes.

Including a notepad that said “I like big books.”

I know you are all terribly jealous of that one.

I won so frequently that year probably because I was one out of about 10 book nerds who were actually participating in the program.

These days the adult summer reading program is quite popular and people keep beating me out for those shiny plastic gift cards and notepads alluding to random songs from the 90’s.

As I attempt to read my way through the library this summer, in hopes of having more enteries into the drawing, I thought I would share some great summer reads with all of you in case you were needing some new titles to check out in the upcoming months.

Fiction

The Nightingale. I love me some Kristen Hannah. In fact, the very first book of hers that I read touched me so much I immediately mailed it to one of my dearest friends with the disclaimer of “You must read this!” The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters during World War II. It was excellent and I made my entire family leave me alone for an entire Sunday afternoon while I finished this book.

The Girl on the Train. Everyone says “If you love Gone Girl, you will love The Girl on the Train.” I guess you could make such a statement, but you could also say, “If you love Pepper Jack Cheese, you will also love peanut butter sandwiches.” Both “The Girl on the Train” and “Gone Girl” are books with suspense. The similarities ended there for me. “The Girl on the Train” is good (not Gone Girl good) and has some plot twists that keep you turning the pages. If you like a bit of mystery and intrique, this is your book.

The Rumor. My family loves to joke about my deep love of Nantucket, especially since I have actually never visited this quaint island. Elin Hilderbrand is a favorite author of mine and reading books set on Nantucket scream summertime to me. I happen to have just finished this book last night and greatly enjoyed it. Also, I really wanted a lobster roll to eat after reading this.

And a million dollar house on the east coast.

Whatever.

 

Orphan Train. Sometimes you want a light, fun read for the hot summer months. Orphan Train is not that type of book. Looking into our nation’s history of transporting orphans from the East to the mid-west can be harsh and upsetting at times. This fictionalized depiction of actual orphan trains is a poignant and moving story.

 

The Boston Girl. This book took a few chapters to hook me, but I did really enjoy reading it. It portrays a light on what it was like to be growing up in an immigrant family in the early 1900’s and all that came along with such a title.

 

We Were Liars. I heart a good young adult fiction book and this one did not disappoint. Again, it took a while for me to feel personally involved with the characters but I finally really started to dig it around page 50 (I know this because at page 35 I told myself I was giving up at page 50 if I was still feeling bored with the narration and story line.). The writing style of this book is very unique and there are some plot twists I did not really see coming. If you like a bit of teenage angst, you will enjoy this book. This happens to be a fast read which can make it the perfect vacation book.

Necessary Lies. Often times living in suburbia, I can easily forget how other populations live or have lived in the past in our country. Necessary Lies looks at how sterilization was used on African Americans, poor, disabled, and mentally incompetent people in the 1960’s (and before) by our government…sometimes without the concent of the patient. This is a fictionalized account of a real period of time in our nation’s history.

Non-Fiction

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I bought this book months ago because my home always needs a good tidy as the school year comes to an end. In full disclosure, I have not finished this book but am loving it. I even hear Marie Kondo has YouTube videos of how to fold shirts in her logical way. If one ever peeked into my t-shirt drawers, one would realize why I purchased this book when it came out.

Living Well, Spending Less. I have read Ruth’s blog for years now and really enjoyed her book. The message is simple yet powerful as she calls readers to be content with what they have and where they are in life.

Nobody’s Cuter Than You. Big Mama was one of the first big Mommy blogs I started following ions ago when I entered the blogging world. This is her third book and is centered around her friendship with her best friend. All of her books are laugh out loud funny and leave you feeling just a bit more joyful than before you cracked the cover. If you are in need of a smile, pick up this book.

 

Along with my suggestions here are a few books that happen to be on my “Gotta Read” list for this summer.

Luckiest Girl Alive

800 Grapes

For the Love

In the Unlikely Event (because…Judy Blume!)

My Sunshine Away

Dead Wake

 

What is on your summer reading list this year?

Share with me so maybe I can read it and get ONE more entry into that drawing.

Stay tunned for what is on my kids’ summer reading lists this summer.

 

365 Days

SDR pic365 days ago I began a journey. On a Friday afternoon late last October, I woke from a four hour surgery, thirsty and begging the nurse to bring my husband back to the recovery room. (She gave me two ice chips and said my husband would have to wait to see me. She is not my favorite person ever.) As I lay there in that recovery bed, flittering between the last remnants of drug-induced sleep and consciousness, I contemplated the huge life step I had just made. I looked at the legs laid out before me. Legs that had made up so much of my story up until that point and wondered how as the composition of those legs were changed, how my story may change.

It would take a while for the changes in these legs of mine to be fully realized (and another surgery) but those changes did occur. As I fought to wake up on that Friday afternoon in October, I attempted to process what had just occurred. The road to St. Louis had been quite emotional and tedious, as we gathered the needed materials to be considered for the surgery and as we waited for the call to verify that I was indeed a candidate. When my mother entered the recovery room (and I had eaten two more nourishing ice chips) I asked her if they had actually cut the nerves because I still felt tightness in my left foot. I can remember the look she gave me as she reassured me that yes the doctors had actually done something during the four hours they spent with me in the operating room.

I can be a bit loopy when under heavy sedation and tend to force those around me into random, and slightly panic-induced, conversations.

I can also insisit on eating and drinking large amounts of food after coming out of heavy sedation, which is also never fun for those around me because such indulgences never quite settle well with my stomach.

Obviously, I am loads of fun in such circumstances.

As I have been looking back over this year as my one year SDR anniversary has been approaching, I have been filled with so much emotion. In some ways, the year has passed quickly but in other ways it has been such a long one for me. It feels like our home has revolved around “Lynley’s Recovery” (seems like that because it has. Sigh) and little else. Our calendar has been this perpetual reminder of surgery dates and PT appointments. I have grown a bit sick of myself in all of this.

So where am I now in those journey? I would say a pretty good little place. It has been long. February and March were brutal (If we are being honest, April wasn’t the best either and May was no shinny penny. ). Recovering from PERCS was significantly more challenging than we ever expected and I had to slow way down to tackle that mountain. We tried to find bright spots during those months, such as the joy in navigating the asiles of Target in the motorized cart, but those were long days and not being as mobile as I have been in the past was hard on the psyche.

The emotion that has been felt this week really centers around so many things. Gratefulness for being able to walk this journey. Exhaustion for having to walk this journey. Confusion for why this journey exisits. Learning humility in the journey when various friends and family have worked in ways to make my recovery better (I litereally did not cook one meal the entire month of November for my family.)

Many ask where I am physically at this point, typically followed by the question, “Are you fully recovered?” Honestly, I do not even know how to answer such an inquiry. Am I fully recovered? Possibly, but not really. This road is long and “being recovered” sounds like healing a broken leg and not altering a life-long physical pattern (However, I typically answer “Yes” to this question because the inquirer  is simply being thoughtful and no one appreciates a jerky response.). Physically I am good. The tightness that has been ever-present in my legs, tightness that was getting tighter as the years progressed and rapidly aging my body, is gone. It is just simply gone. There are days when that still blows my mind. People have asked about the tightness (AKA Spasticity) and what it feels like. My best way to explain it is like rubber bands are constantly holding back full range of motion. The tightness is not similar to muscle soreness from a hard workout or sitting for an extended time but rather like bands that refuse to release. As I aged, those bands continued to constrict. When I woke up on October 25, the rubber bands were simply gone.

Amazing.

Rehabing after PERCS is where all progress made at the end of last Fall came to a halt. Although the lovely pink cast (No one ever let me choose cast colors again. Pink?! Why did I not opt for black?)  was removed at the end of Febuary, I was still really struggling with mobility as late as May. There were some gray days during that time but I kept pressing forward (Thanks to the encouragement of my husband) and finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then one day I noticed I was walking faster, with much less pain, and my ankle and foot were not swollen by the end of the day. My physical therapist graduated me from PT at the end of July, a day that was celebrated more by my kids than by myself (Bless their hearts. I do not even dare add up the hours they sat in the lobby of that PT office this past year.). From that point, things continue to improve daily. Limitations that held me back in workouts in the past—whether from tightness or rehabbing my ankle— are fading away. I happily skip right past that motorized cart in Target and grab a regular buggy like everyone else.

(Side note: That motorized cart may look grand, especially on those days when you are tired and you simply want to shop all of Target’s glory in peace without worry of sloshing your Starbucks latte. Here is what one does not realize about those carts: They are big and hard to turn and make this horribly loud noise when one must back up. And despite the fact that the cart was plugged in to charge when you first started your shopping excursion, the battery can die right in the middle of the store leaving you stranded with a basket full of groceries. Also, most employees are not very gracious when you accidentally turn a corner a bit too sharp and knock over a display. )

So this journey…it has been long but it has been good.

My journey actually began before that day in October. It began at that moment when something went a bit wrong in my brain’s wiring and the signals were crossed to those muscles. I have reflected a lot during this year as to why things are they way they are in regards to my diagnosis. For me, the reason behind why I have spastic muscles remains a mystery. We do not know what happened in that delivery room, in those moments before or after birth that slightly scrambled a small part of my brain that spends messages to the muscles in my legs. Although my “condition” (aliment?  \Predicament? Malady?) has always been known to me, it was not something openly discussed in the past with many individuals. For one, it was not a huge deal for my parents and therefore was not a huge point of life drama for me. Second, I just have never felt super comfortable discussing such matters.

I have had many theme songs this year. Songs that have rallied me on (Thank you, Katy Perry, for realeasing “Roar” last fall because I still have a cheesy 14 year old girl living inside of me.). Songs that have inspired me. Songs that have focused my rehabilitation. One of those songs has been “You Make Me Brave” by Amanda Cook. I can be all “I had to be brave because I had surgery” obnoxious here, but that is not how this particular song speaks to me. The lyric “You called me out beyond the shore into the waves” encapsulates my vision of this journey. Because here is the deal. This thing about me…. this thing that I have secretly wished would not be part of who I am for 36 years… is basically fixed (*). These past 365 days I have wanted to channel the eight year version of myself and tell her “It’s okay. It gets better. Things are made better beyond what you ever imagined.” But in the “fixing of these things” I have discovered that it was the very thing about myself that I have always wanted changed who made me the person I am and is the thing that God used to shape my heart.

He did not call me this year beyond the shore. He called me repeatedly over the past 36 years to step off a shore of fear and comfort into those waves. He called me to get on with life and be brave even when “things” made me want to be hidden at times.

These past 365 days, I have wondered more than a few times what life would been like had I had SDR as a teenager. This operation was in its early stages in St. Louis when I was in my teens. In fact, upon meeting Dr. Park (the amazing surgeon in St. Louis who is one of my heros…and a hero to so many others…and really the picture of humility and graciousness), he told me how he knew my childhood orthopedist, which lead me to believe that most likely my childhood orthopedist knew that SDR was happening a mere six hours from my hometown and not once did he provide it as an option for my parents. If you know my parents, you know they would have been all about checking into it and seeing if I was a viable candidate at that time.

Yet if I had experienced the surgery at let’s say 15, rather than another heel cord lengthening procedure like I did that year, and this “thing” about me was made irrelevant, would my journey be completely different? God has redeemed so much of my story, as he has yours. He called me by name, saying that my birth story (born with a disability to an unwed mother) was not an indication of my life story. He has shown me that things which appeared to be flaws and limitations were the very things he was using to set me free.

I paid a lot of money this year to realize all of that.

This journey is only beginning. I am so beyond grateful for the past 365 days, for the countless individuals (friends, family, nurses, doctors, PTs, and my fellow SDR peeps…both adults and children…who understand this journey.) who have rallied beside me, encouraging me along the way. I am grateful that a doctor in St. Louis realizes that spasticity can indeed be splayed and for his phenomenal team. I am grateful for parents who instilled in me what the important things in life are and that the little things simply do not matter. I am grateful for a husband who has been my rock for so long, but especially this past year. He has filled these days with laughter and encouragement and lots of Sonic beverages.

Sometimes we let our greatest fears serve as our biggest hesitations in life. Yet those fears are the very thing that will let us one day fly.

365 days later and I am soaring.

 

“There is freedom waiting for you

on the breezes of the sky.

And you ask, What if I fall?

Oh, but darling,

what if you fly?”

-e.h.

sdrpic

 

 

 

Meet me in St. Louie

Back a few months ago, I asked the husband if he would be interested in taking a vacation to St. Louis. Always one up for an adventure, he replied with a casual “Sure.” I then explained that said vacation might involve a hospital stay and a recovery period. Fearing that I may be planning a vacation based on the Hangover movies, he quickly asked me to explain. Once I did, and he discovered there would be no tigers in the bathroom and disturbing face tattoos, he was on board. (BTW, I have only seen the first Hangover movie and have now referenced it twice. You are welcome.) Allow me to explain to you as well as to why we are vacationing in middle America so that our trip involving hopsitals makes a bit more sense. At some point when I was born (29 years ago…wink, wink), my brain was most likely deprived of oxygen. Because I am adopted, the conditions around my time in utero and my birth are mostly unknown. However, we do know something went a bit wrong. This oxygen deprivation caused me to have Spastic Diplegia. In very (VERY) general terms, Spastic Diplegia is when the brain is sending faulty messages to nerves to always tighten some particular muscles (in my case, in my legs). Some of you reading this may have known me for twenty years and have never heard me mention that term in the course of our friendship. It is not something I speak about often because it is not a huge part of who I am. Growing up, it was something significant I dealt with and had several operations and wore leg braces at different times when I was very young. Because I grew up in a small town, people just knew this about me and no one ever asked. Friends didn’t care about it one way or another and so it never really became too much of a topic of conversation. My parents were awesome in that it was not a big deal around our house. I missed the occasional day of school to go to out-of-town doctor appointments and got to eat at a nice restaurant of my choosing. Fun times in the life of a ten year old. Other than that, it was life as usual. My parents are pretty cool like that, in a very “low drama” kind-of way. Most people with Spastic Diplegia receive treatment as a child and as an adolescent. Once they move into adulthood, it is thought that nothing more can be done. My case is very mild and I was dismissed from the doctor following my case around the age of 16. I remember him saying that I was perfect from the knees up and if I just wore shoes with heels a lot, I was good to go. (Side note to all doctors: Please do not tell a sixteen year old girl that there is a small part of her body that is not perfect. I was a pretty confident kid but that comment stuck with me for quite a while. Again, I was fortunately blessed with parents who stressed such sentiments like “It is not a big deal.”) Fast forward to life now: I am very active. I lead a healthy lifestyle. I have an adoring husband who thinks it is pretty cute when I am a bit more clumsy first thing in the morning or when I am super tired. I wear heels about 90% of the time (Praise the Lord for the wedge coming back in style). I worry more about the fact that my daughter only eats about five foods and my son entered the world of Pokémon obsession than about tight leg muscles. However, my body is aging a bit faster than it probably should be. I have always had aches and pains. My legs can feel like really tight rubber bands, especially in cold weather. Things have always felt like this, so the aches and pains are not alarming but rather just inconvenient at times. What honestly caused me to evaluate these pains and the overall aging of my body was an eye doctor visit last November. (It is always the odd stuff that makes us evaluate life, huh?). Anyway, I went in for my yearly eye exam and the doctor was really concerned about the worsening of my eyes. I have always had bad eyesight and have worn glasses/contacts since around first grade. During that particular exam, the doctor said I would need bifocals within a year and that my eyes were getting significantly worse at a faster speed than what is normal for someone my age. Lovely. I mulled over those thoughts during Christmas last year, wondering if my time spent on the computer was the causing factor to this decrease in eyesight. I pictured myself in huge bifocal glasses and prayed that the thick “Nerd” glasses that are in right now would stay in forever if I had to make such a fashion statement with my eye wear. Then I began to really listen to my body and realized that it was not only my eyes that were aging quickly. It was my knees, my hips and other parts of me. Despite the fact that I work out five+ times a week, eat relatively clean and maintain a good weight, my body was older than its 36 years. So I began Googling. Through the magic of Google I ruled out various terminal diseases (Who doesn’t love a good Web MD checklist late at night that leaves you wondering if you have mere weeks to live from a rare and vicious brain eating amoeba?). I then stumbled upon the aging effects of having spastic diplegia. Despite my active lifestyle and all the interventions my parents made sure I had from a very early age, my body was wearing down. I even discovered that the muscle tightness in my legs can effect my eyes. Now I no longer feared the bifocal glasses or the brain-eating amoeba but instead started to worry that by the age of 50 I could be in a wheelchair. Seriously. Deciding it is probably pretty hard to participate in early morning boot camp at the gym in a wheelchair (That class is one of my loves, by the way. It keeps me sane and makes me a better mommy and wife.), I started to research options. That is when I came across Dr. Park, Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy and the St. Louis Children’s Center for Cerebral Palsy Spasticity. In very basic terms, Dr. Park has developed a way to treat spastic muscles. He does so by cutting some of the nerves in the spine that are sending the faulty message to the muscles, causing them to be spastic. (If interested, read more about it here in which someone has done a much better job of explaining a complicated four hour surgery than I have. Of course, they used more than one sentence to do so as opposed to my super brief explanation.) This surgery is mainly done on children. Dr. Park is the only surgeon in the United States who will perform it on adults and has only done it on 66 adults to date (I will be number 67!) Long story short, this summer we spent a good portion of our time devoted to applying for SDR (what all the cool kids call Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy). I had various doctor appoinments, tons of hip xrays, physical therapy evaluations and two MRIs (One of my brain and one of my spine. Praise the Lord for insurance because the total bill for that would have been around $20,000 without insurance coverage. Also, want to become best friends with your insurance company? Have two MRIs. They will call you right up and ask what is going on.) We finally got the word that I was approved for SDR at the end of July. Scheduling takes a while, especially for adults, and I was given the date of October 25th. In case a calendar is not nearby to where you are at the moment, October 25th is next Friday. So the husband and I are vacationing in St. Louis (while other people are staying at our house…which is just a few doors down from a police office…and is in a neighborhood highly patrolled by the local police. Just FYI.) for eight days. I have two days of pre-op appointments and surgery is on Friday (and takes about 4 hours). I then get to spend three days in bed laying flat on my back to prevent any cerbalspinal fluid from leaking out while the incision heals. For those of you concerned about the fact that I never jumped on the Downton Abby bandwagon, no worries. I plan to catch up during those three days. On Day 4 post-op, physical therapists get me up out of bed and I basically retrain my brain on how to walk again. Day 5 is intense PT and then I am released to go home. Good times. It sounds dramatic but it actually is pretty exciting to walk without tight legs. The process of learning to walk again happens fairly quickly as well. I have amped up my workouts in the past two months, getting my body as strong as possible for that Day 4 when I get out of bed for the first time. Dr. Park advises adult patients to have strong core muscles to help in this process. My abs are actually pretty tight (they just never really see the light of day under my Mommy swimsuits in the summer), so I am thinking those 200+ situps I do a day have not been done in vain. The recovery period is long, even after I return home. I will be in physical therapy five days a week for quite the while and then can eventually switch over to being back in the gym as my physical therapy. I cannot drive for 2-3 weeks and I likely will be using a walker at different times during those first weeks at home (The children are thrilled about this one.) We have so many family members and friends on board to help us with this recovery. This is one of those “It takes a village” kind of times. The kids know what is going on and they understand it is time for them to step up and pitch in (which they do already but it is time to really step it up now). As always, the husband is ready for a challenge and does not even bat an eye dramatically when faced with this challenge for our family. So we are vacationing in St. Louis this fall. Anyone going anywhere a bit more exciting ?     (I will be documenting this journey on the blog. If you want to stay in the loop, you can follow the blog on Facebook or subscribe to it as well. Thanks!)

Surviving Summer: Super Summer Challenge

Thursday night for dinner we dined on Chicken Nugget Kabobs, Sautéed hot dog buns, fruit salad, and cupcakes.

Obviously not the typical meal plan one would find on Pinterest or among the pages of Southern Living magazine.

However, the meal was met with a round of applause from the entire family.

Especially from the chef who was cooking the meal for us.

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The seven year old taking charge of the kitchen is part of our Super Summer Challenge. The Super Summer Challenge is based on the book by the same name and is anidea of how to keep kids busy and productive during the summer months. In years past, we have done various point earning systems during summer months. We have completed learning units and had scheduled days of fun (all the way back to the kids preschool days when we had a set activity for each day of the week…and simply repeated the activities on weekly basis). This year I decided to follow in many of my friends’ footsteps and create a Super Summer Challenge for my kids.

The idea behind the Super Summer Challenge is that kids will be challenged in various areas to promote learning and growth during the summer months and cut down on the whole “I’m bored and must constantly be entertained 24/7″ phenomenon. For our family’s challenge, we decided to create goals in four areas: Spiritual, Physical, Creative, and Academic. There is also a bonus area for random things to be completed in order to earn bonus points (Teb minutes of weed pulling, anyone?)

Each area has a list of goals underneath with each goal earning a set number of points. Some goals are worth quite a bit (for example, planning and cooking dinner for the family is worth 8 points) while others are valued at less points (completing a worksheet out of summer workbooks are worth one point). We have a chart that outlines what is earned at various point totals. Some point values are large while others simple serve as a motivator to keep earning points. The big summer prize is a trip to the local waterpark.

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The system works by the kids looking at their goal sheets (which are large posters taped to our kitchen pantry door) and decide how/when they want to earn points. We have point record sheets taped to the inside of the same pantry door (because they are not as pretty as the goal sheets). The kids are responsible for earning and keeping up with points. There is no nagging from mom to earn points or to mark points. If they want the prizes, they have to earn the points.

I keep it easy because I do not want my summer challenge to be managing my children’s summer challenge. That does not seem like a fun mom task to me. However, both my kids can read and do math which makes them keeping up with their challenges an easy process.

Some prizes are earned individually (for example, choosing from our coupon jar or earning money) while others are group prizes. Group prizes mean that BOTH kids have to reach that point level before that prize is earned. I believe having both individually earned prizes as well as group earned prizes keeps all involved parties interested. Here at casa de Phillips we have one child who is super-motivated to get things done while we have another who is happy to skip through life and not worry about such things as earning points until the last day possible. Our Super Summer Challenge runs for two months, from June 10 – August 10 (we start back to school on August 11th).

 

Here’s the big question: What are your kids goals?

 

Grab a drink, give the kids the ipad and take a minute to check out the things the little people are casa de Phillips are working on this summer.

First…a little glimpse of our Super Summer Challenge posters..

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Spiritual Goals:

Learn the books of the Old Testament

Learn the books of the New Testament

Attend *** Camp

Attend *** Camp

Attend Church Music Camp (Yes, we are doing three church camps. )

Read a biography about a missionary

Memorize Scripture

Complete family study of book of John

Spend time reading from your bible and tell about it

 

Creative Goals

Plan and cook a meal

Learn how to completely clean a bathroom (They have been cleaning bathrooms for years…but we are stepping up the process quite a bit)

Learn three new songs on the piano

Learn how to wash sheets and towels and remake bed

Make a gift for someone

Learn how to vacuum (Again..stepping up the process)

 

Physical Goals

Dribble a ball 50 times without stopping

Extended bike ride

Swam x number of laps of the pool

Attend *** sports class (this is different for both kids since they do different sports)

Stretch twice a day (Evelyn)

Practice various baseball skills (Isaac)

Get to the top of the climbing wall at the pool

 

Academic Goals

Complete a book study (each child has a book and the corresponding study. Isaac is doing Ben and Me and Evelyn is doing Nate the Great)

Daily Spelling Practice with All About Spelling

Complete 10 Day Multiplication challenge

Cursive copywork (I put up daily copywork for them to copy from our white board…right now no one is too motivated to get this accomplished. Going to have to alter point values for this one.)

Journal Entry

Write a proper letter to a friend

Workbook page

Complete a reading program

 

Bonus

Complete weekly chore chart (this has been in place for a long time…just adding motivation to keep on truckin with chores)

Obvious display of kindness or compassion

Tackle extra cleaning assignments

10 minutes of weed pulling

Clean out art closet

 

There you go…the casa de Phillips Super Summer Challenge. Each goal has a set point value (with an overall goal of attempting to achieve 225 points this summer in order to win the Big Prize of a trip to a local waterpark). The point value of goals depends on a variety of factors: the actual goal (goals that can be repeated indefinitely over the course of the summer are often worth one or two points will loftier goals can be 10-15 points), the motivation of the child to achieve said goal (goals that are easier for a child have a lower value than goals that really stretch the child), and the time frame of the goal (if the goal is going to take some practice to achieve…such as learning three new songs on the piano…then that goal has a higher point value). I also have goals that I would like to achieve this summer (although I have yet to craft a cute goal sheet for myself). For my goals, I am going to assign point values for their completion as well. However, my points will go onto the kids’ point sheets. I think this serves as a win-win situation: they earn bonus points and I get to use the phrase of “Mommy needs to get this chore/task/annoying thing done so you can earn bonus points.”

 

Well-played, huh?

 

Four days in and the Super Summer Challenge is going great. I have already had one night off from supper duty (Another well-played goal) and both kids are eager to get summer learning and practice in during our two months off of school. And those cries of “I’m Bored!” have yet to be heard because there is always something to achieve on the Super Summer Challenge board.

 

How are you surviving the summer this year?

Debunking the Myth of Pinterest

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I have just over 3,000 pins on my Pinterest boards.

I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon back in the early days, when you had to get an invite and had to own a website. Since then I have been a pinning fool. I have hair boards and food boards, fashion boards and homeschooling boards. Both of my kids’ have their own boards (and know how to access them) and I even have a few of those super special secret boards.

If I am waiting on the kids somewhere, I jump on Pinterest.

If I cannot sleep (as was the case for all of November 2013 for me), I pull up the Pinterest app to see what I have missed in the world of side swept bangs.

When I can’t quite remember how to make 7-Up biscuits, despite the fact that I made them two weeks prior, I run to Pinterest to find my recipe (By the way, best quick biscuit recipe ever. Please ignore the fact that these fluffy pieces of heaven contain both soda and a large amount of butter.)

The other day as I was flipping through Pins (waiting on some class to let out so I could retrieve my child), I casually glanced at the number of things I had pinned and almost fell out of my chair. As mentioned before, that number is above 3,000. Over the course of a few years, I have come across 3,000 helpful tips/links that I felt would improve the quality of my life someone.

Let it be known that I have maybe executed 200 of those (Which sounds impressive until you realize most of those are recipes, homeschool links for our Classical Conversations community and various ways to style a maxi skirt).

This proclivity towards saving potentially useful ideas is not a new one for me. In fact, I have a section in one of my kitchen cabinets filled with various magazine clippings of tips and ideas I never wanted to forget. Some of those date back to our early years of marriage. Just like most of my 3,000 pins, I rarely glance at those clippings or utilize them in anyway. But they are there should I need to remember that I once wanted to make book slings for the children’s rooms or whip up some baked treat that incorporates pumpkin.

The question that lingers is why?

Why I have I been lured into thinking that there are 3,o00+ glorious things out there just waiting for me to make/do/see/create?

This weekend I am talking to a group of moms about time—what robs us of our time, how to feel like we have more time (despite the fact we all have the same 24 hours) and how to feel comfortable with the time given to us. Our time is often stolen by the race for more. We want to be more, have more, and do more. This need is usually propelled by the idea that MORE keeps us from being left behind. We see glossy images–rather from the pages of magazines or Pinterest or even those annoyingly perfect families on your local soccer field who seem to have it all together (Don’t worry. They don’t.)—and we have a glimmer of hope that we have now found the holy grail of all ideas. We allow that glossy image to lie to us, thinking that if we obtain the perfect weekly menu plan or the exact right way to tie a scarf we will finally reach the state of peace we have been craving. Understanding the lie that more is not going to complete us provides freedom. It breaks the power over these mythical ideas that the perfect life is just around the corner.

Despite my alarm over my 3,000 pins and the reality check that such a realization created, I do not plan on deleting my Pinterest account anytime soon (At least until the Maxi skirt/dress fade has died. Seriously, who knew one skirt could be worn so many ways? And look adorable in the process?). I honestly like being about to share ideas with others and quickly find resources that I need on the Internet. However, as I pin these days I am reminding myself to not become consumed with the idea of that more is going to create better.

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Time Warp Trip to Target

Last night I “ran in” Target for napkins.

Because there were no children with me, I grabbed a Starbucks (because Starbucks is incredibly cheaper sans children. By the way, Starbucks is getting rid of the cake pop. This is crushing news to my off-spring.) and went to the napkin section.

Via the clothing section.

and the book section

and the furniture section.

Because no kids, remember?

I am a fan of Target clothing and have really appreciated their attempt to bring in various designers to create “collections”. Said collections usually end up on the clearance rack for $7.24 (why the bizarre prices, Target?) and find a place in my closet. As I browsed the racks last night, Starbucks in hand, I suddenly felt out of place. In lieu of the typical cute clothing, my local Target had apparently raided the NBC store closets.

I stumbled across this:

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Um…Blossom called. She wants her dress back before she and Six sneak out of the house and get into some sort of shenanigan.

I giggled to myself when I saw this jumper, thought about how the whole hat with a big flower style was actually a little cute, took a sip of my coffee, and kept on with my slow walk towards the napkins.

I almost spit out my coffee when on this slow stroll to the napkins (still via the clothing department) I found these dresses staring at me from the racks.

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I do believe that Kelly Taylor wore every single one of those black dresses during Season 1 of 90210. Also, I am pretty sure I owned the one in the middle in 1993.

Apparently I had stepped through some sort of time warp continuum or entered a Tardis-type device (I teach some kids once a week who are consumed with Dr. Who…thus allowing me to speak Who-speak without actually having ever seen an episode.) and had found myself in the early 90s.

This was made apparent as I continued on to the napkin department (via the Shoe Department) and spied these:

14924282_201401161805Sam and Libby ballet flats with the bow.

I am pretty sure DJ Tanner wore these in every episode.

 

Please tell me the newest fashion trend is not leaning towards the styles of the early 1990s. If it is, this means a few things:

 

1. I am old.

2. I will start purchasing a closet full of babydoll dresses and leggings because I still am a tiny bit in love with that look.

3. I am old.

4. Doc Martens may come back in style. Let us all pause and swear we will not let this happen.

5. The Angela Chase look comes back and everyone begins pairing floral (see dresses above) with large flannel shirts. Even Brian Krakow would have a hard time falling for this look a second time around. (Long live, My-So-Called Life. Best show of the 90s)

 

I finally escaped the time warp that is now the women’s clothing department of Target (barely dodged a pair of Palazzo pants. I loved me some palazzo pants back in the day. Key phrase: ” back in the day“) and made my way to the napkins.

Apparently my Target has had a run on party napkins lately because the pickings were slim.

By “slim” I mean my choices were Avengers or clearance St. Patty’s Day napkins.

Obviously neither will work for the baby shower I am hosting on Sunday.

 

Back to the 1990s fashion debacle…who decided this was a good idea? I verified that the 90s style is indeed coming back by simply scoping out the latest looks on the Forever 21 website.

They have such things as bodysuits, crop tops (goodness help us…although it does mean that high waisted pants are re-emerging and we may no longer be subjected to muffin top sightings) and this:

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That confirms it: The early 1990s are back.

Time to pull out the daisy print dresses and wait it out  until the trend is over.

Then we can all go get the Rachel cut again.

 

 

The Myth of a Fancy Spring Break

Confession: We do not really observe Spring Break in our family.

As I type that, I slightly cringe because it gets under my skin when fellow parents say such things as “We don’t observe secular holidays” or “We don’t observe eating meat.” or “We don’t observe wearing green on March 17th.”

Please know that I annoyed myself with my above declaration that we do not observe Spring Break in our homeschool.

Living in a state that has a declared Spring Break in which every district closes during the same week in March can make our spot of suburbia turn into a frantic madhouse. Moms rush their children from the museum to the zoo to the trampoline park, in hopes of creating the best  Spring Break ever (and in hopes of saving their sanity and their nice furniture from the craziness of children not in school). Chick-fil-A drive thrus are packed with minivans. Parks are over-crowded with screaming children and moms on iphones. We live in the shadow of the word “Staycation”, as the majority of families ditch the elaborate Spring Break trip for something a little more close to home.

(Shout out to those of you who tackle places such as Disney World or DC during Spring Break season. You deserve some sort of special parenting badge for stepping out into such madness.)

Because our area gets really crowded and busy during the week of Spring Break, we opt to continue on with school and let the craziness die down a bit. Also, both kids are studying for Memory Master proofing in our Classical Conversations community during the month of March, which does not allow us to put the books aside for the week. Despite the fact that we keep on schooling during Spring Break, we do enjoy a respite from our weekly extracirrucular activities.

This year we opted to pack up the books and visit Arkansas and my dad (my mom was on vacation) for Spring Break. While there, we did not visit a museum. We did not over-pay at a kiddie-centric amusement park. We did not see a national monument or even go see a movie.

Despite these things, my kids likely will tell you it was the Best. Week. Ever.

We started our day off with some school. At 9:30 am everyday I opened the doors and sent the kids outside.

For the rest of the day.

We are fortunate in that my parents have neighbors whose kids became fast friends with my kids about a year ago. Fortunately their Spring Break aligned with ours and all the kids played outside together everyday ..all day… Without a fuss or a quarrel.

Sometimes we as parents get sucked into the myth of a fancy vacation. We see those commercials on television that tell us certain vacations are magical and a right of childhood. We feel defeated when budgets of schedules or simply life does not allow for such luxuries at the time.

Don’t get me wrong…vacations are wonderful and magical. They bring the family together and create memorized.

However the simple days of time spent outside with friends, void of a costumed character or a schedule can be just as magical.

What non-fancy, un-vacation has your family experienced that will stay forever burned in your child’s memory?

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