Saturday, December 13, 2014

Silly Selfies: Little Bro is Eighteen Months Old

Little bro is finally 18 months old. He is 20 pounds 2 oz (4%) and 32 inches long (33%). He continues to struggle with gaining weight even while calorie packing and g-tubing him several times a week.  To our surprise he still has to sit rear facing in his car seat.  As for feeding him lately, Sadly, he throws up a couple times a week from either burping, coughing, crying too much, feeling full, playing, laughing, or other unknown reasons. It's also frustrating that he refuses to eat sometimes. I think with all the throwing up he has developed another oral aversion. There are days when I just dread feeding him because of the daily battle of him either refusing to eat or drink or throws up. As you can imagine, his eating behaviors causes me a lot of grief. There are days when we both are in tears during meal time.  I've found that it calms us down when we listen to classical music or distract him with toys during meal time. Thankfully, he has a g-tube, which we have been relying on lately. I'm grateful for the support from is dietitian and feeding therapist. They are exploring all kinds of ways to help him such as having him tested him for celiac, which came back negative. Next, we are using some antibiotic medication to help him empty his stomach quicker. We will know in a few weeks if that medication will make a difference. As for other developmental milestones, he is delayed socially and not speaking yet.  Little brother has extreme separation anxiety from his family members and rarely will interact with anybody outside our intermediate family. I'm hopeful that when little bro attends nursery at church on a regular basis he will be able to develop some healthy social interactions.  Additionally, in January he will be doing a music playgroup at Kids on the Move. As far as communication goes, he started signing "more" and grunts while pointing at objects.  I am confident that he is understands us and is very intelligent. For example, he will retrieve an item when we ask him to get something for us and seems to understand us even though he cannot communicate to us. We will be following up with a genetics specialist in March to see if he can determine if Zach has any other syndromes. 

Scattering Service Jars

Service Lesson: Scattering Kindness Jars
A lesson on service is a perfect December achievement day activity.   For my lesson and discussion, I made an interactive visual aid. I taped a Christmas tree similar to an advent calendar using a brown paper bag, white card stock, scrapbook numbers 1-12, and hand written quotes inside.  I basically folded a rectangle into a square, used a glue stick to attach the circle numbers and quotes.  I got the Advent numbers from Pinterest: DIY Advent Calendar I also made a star and glued gold glitter on it. 
First, I had the girls take turns picking a number and reading the quote. Then I asked each of them how they could serve others? After they shared their idea, each girl helped me decorate a small Christmas tree with paper ornaments while my co-leader wrote down the ideas on the chalk board.  I got the Advent Christmas ornaments from Pinterest: Christmas Advent Wreath, which I used a needle and thread to hang them on the tree. These are the following quotes I used for my lesson:
Service Quotes:
1. “Our Savior gave Himself in unselfish service.   He taught that each of us should follow Him by denying ourselves of selfish interests in order to serve others.”  -- Dallin H. Oaks
2. “As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” --Dieter Uchtdorf
3. “The happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others.”-- Gordon B. Hinckley
4. “The greatest service we can provide to others in this life, beginning with those of our own family, is to bring them to Christ.” --Todd Christofferson
5. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” --King Benjamin Mosiah 2:17
6. If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.” – Marvin J. Ashton
7. “As we give, we find that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, and in the end, we learn that it was no sacrifice at all.” -- Spencer W. Kimball
8. “He who gives money gives much. He who gives time gives more. He who gives of himself gives all.”  – Thomas S. Monson
9. “No one has ever become poor from giving” -- Maya Angelou
10. “Fill your life with service to others! As you lose your life in the service of Father in Heaven’s children, Satan’s temptations lose power in your life.”-- Richard G. Scott 
11. Find someone who is having a hard time or is lonely, and do something for him or her.” -- Thomas S. Monson
12. We can give the Savior gifts, by serving others. Fill a jar with slips of papers with ideas. Each morning, close your eyes and pull out your service idea for the day.” – Dieter Uchtdorf
Credits: Designed by me using Shabby Princess' Christmas kits. As for the fonts, I used That's Font Folks and 2 Pea's Heart Delight.
U LOVE WHO U SERVE
I summarized the lesson by sharing some of my favorite memories of serving others and reading the following quote: “Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call. If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.” – Thomas S. Monson  (see above image that I made for this).  Afterwards the girls, decorated their jars with a label my co-leader made "U Love Who U Serve and wrote down several service ideas on folded pieces of hearts from pretty scrapbook card stock paper. We used markers to color them and tied ribbons on the top of the jar. Here are some service examples that the girls and leaders came up with.
Acts of Kindness Slips in a Jar 
Pick up trash
Give flowers
Help make dinner
Say “thank you”
Do an extra chore
Donate toys or clothes 
Write a letter and mail it
Hold the door open
Send a care package
Write to a missionary
Smile at 10 people
Bake cookies for a neighbor
Teach Family Home Evening
Call a relative
Make a card
Give a Hug
Make a new friend
Share a treat
Rake some leaves
Collect food for a shelter
Share your testimony
Read a book to a small child
Babysit for free
Feed the birds
Give a compliment
Send a card to a solider
Leave a surprise on the doorstep
Make a dinner basket
Visit a nursing home
Paint your Mom’s nails
Help an elderly neighbor
Donate hygiene kits to a shelter
Give a treat to your mail carrier
Pray for the sick
Make somebody’s bed
Write a note to your teacher
Make a fleece blanket for a new baby
Make breakfast for Mom and Dad
Clean the windows
Say ”I love you” to all your family members

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Western Theme Daddy Daughter Date

Guess who recently got called to be an Activity Day leader and happily accepted? Yes, I was thrilled to join the Activity Day team for my new ward. During the months of August, September, and October, I helped planned and prepared for the annual daddy daughter date event.  I spent many hours designing paper decorations for picks, game signs, game map, watering hole sign, food cards, menu, etc.  I also designed the invitations, a fun activity place mat, and subway art.  Thankfully, we planned activities for the girls to help us out with cutting, assembling, coloring the backdrop, and putting other decorations together. On the day of the Hoedown, I was in charge of setting up the decorations, food prep, and was the photographer during the evening.  Since I had no cowgirl attire, I went shopping for some boots, hat, jeans, shirt, and belt. As for my belt buckle, I was honored to wear my great grandmother Ruby Coleman's belt buckle that was passed down to me.  It was fun to watch my husband and daughter interact with each other all evening! 
The Invitation
 I designed this invite using digital scrap book supplies, buttons, red thread, needle, glue sticks, and 3d foam adhesive stickers. The girls assembled the invite, stitched together the pockets, and placed the invite inside the pocket. 
Credits: I used The Happy Trails kit and other misc supplies by Shabby Princess and the wood and denim supplies are by Gina Cabrera. For the fonts, I used Hoedown, IFC Los Banitos, Three Dates One Night, Duality, Bergamot Ornaments, and WM Western1. 
The Decorations
Here are some examples of the decorations: food cards, picks, the invites, the DIY cow print cups the girls cut out from their own design using sticky black vinyl, the paper flowers wrapped around the mason jars, lots of raffia tied on things, rope, bandannas, denim and checkered table cloths. The Templates  Credits are the following: Sheriff BadgeCowboy HatBoot TemplateNapkin TemplateWagon Wheel, and Horse Shoe.
Another amazingly creative talented activity leader brought a fence to display other decorations (cow boy hats, rope, signs, boots, etc), she designed the vintage posters, made some picks, wanted posters, name cards, square hay bales center pieces, etc. She also helped the girls hammer a design in a soup can then spray painted them red, which we placed a light in the can, there were mustache and lip cutouts pulled through straws, and she designed the awesome napkin rings.

My Cowboy Subway Art: I downloaded several fonts from all over the internet. I found most of them off Pinterest, which had direct links!
The Photo Booth and Props: First, I took pictures of them while country music was playing in the background. As for the backdrop, cowboy/cowgirl hats, lips, mustaches, signs, sheriff badge, cowboy lingo, and robber eye mask were made by the other talented leader!  She also drew the backdrop which the girls colored with chalk for the photo shoot. I made the shooting booth sign red taped on the table.
The Menu: We tried to keep it simple...  We made BBQ Pulled Pork, bought Rolls, Baked Potatoes, Potato Fixin's, Salad Ranch, Broccoli and Cheese, water, and lemonade. For dessert: Root Beer floats and Smoky S'more Pops. The girls and their Dads enjoyed the cowboy table place mat games!  After they all ate their grub, we had somebody from our ward read a cowboy poem and a "real cowboy" did a demonstration on how to saddle up a horse, etc.
The Games:  Next, they played a few games. We split them in four groups. These are the game signs that I designed, which were hung on the doors. We had wheel barrow races, three legged races around a fake fire, potato sack races with a twist they had to dress up in random cowboy gear, pin the tail on the donkey, and they learned a western line dance.  Lastly, we had them gather together in the gym and do the country line dance that they learned and served root beer floats.  We sent the girls home with their wanted poster, name cards, etc. 
Yee-haw, what a rootin' tootin' night! It was a huge success because of the team work of the incredible activity leaders as well as other volunteers from our ward who helped us!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Free Family Fall Fun

As a family, we strive to savor each season by doing fun activities together.
First, we went on a small family hike near Grovecreek trail.

Next, we played at Hee Haw Farms!   The girls absolutely loved the slides while little brother enjoyed playing in the corn pit.  We all enjoyed the hayride and petting the barnyard animals!
One Sunday afternoon we went for a drive up Alpine Loop, had a picnic, and enjoyed seeing the beautiful colorful leaves.
Lastly, for Halloween 2014, little sis was a Spanish dancer, little brother was Cookie Monster, big sis was "A" from Pretty Little Liars, John was El Macho from Despicable Me II and I was a cowgirl.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Goodbye Stanley

 On September 9, 2014, we were given the instructions from little brother's dietitian to start weaning him from his G-tube since he finally reached 20 pounds!  It will be hard work to calorie pack him and get him to drink Carnation Instant Breakfast, but we are absolutely thrilled that he no longer needs over night feeds and determined to keep it that way!  Our goal is having the doctor officially take the G-tube out next spring!  Stanley is the named we picked for little brother's feeding pole.  Little brother has been using "Stanley"every night since March 30, 2013 (thanks to IHC Home Health Care). We can thank Stanley for helping little brother gain weight and making major milestones, but we also have encountered a lot of unexpected uh ohs too!
1.  It takes a lot of extra time to get him ready for bed (open new feeding bag, calculate fluids, prime his tubing that connects to his feeding bag, change his diaper, put on loose fitting pajamas (absolutely not zipper kind whatsoever), place gauze pad over g-tube site, put on g-tube extension, tape tube extension two times to secure it in place, flush tube, feed him a small bottle, connect tube to his g-tube extension, read a book or listen to music, rock him to sleep, etc! The key is he has to be asleep before we will lie him down otherwise he will play with his tubing, ugh!!!
2.  I have failed to properly close the tube right after flushing the tube! As a result, water or Boost Essentials leaked all over me and baby, yikes!
3.  I didn't attach his tube extension from his g-tube site by turning it properly and within minutes Boost leaked all over his clothes!
4. Due to little brother preferring to sleep on his stomach, occasionally his g-tube extension pops off and leaks Boost all over his clothes, bedding, etc!  What a rude awakening and mess for us to clean up! Now we tape the extension on the top near the g-tube button to keep it in place!
5.  For whatever reason, on a few occasions the iv pump stops pumping boost and says it's done when there is still a lot of fluids in the bag! Huh?!
6. The machine freaks out if we try to prime before it cycles through the rate and dose numbers after turning it on. So then we have to shut it down and try again! The key is patience!
7. While baby brother tosses and turns in his sleep he gets the cord wrapped around his body and a couple times his neck, ack! So scary! I recall his doctor noticed his umbilical cord had a small knot after birth probably from him flipping and moving around in the womb. He moves all over the place while he sleeps!
8. I'm not a huge fan of the chocolate Boost! Not only does it stain his clothes, bedding, etc when his extension tube pops off during a feeding, his bowl movements are shockingly similar to the color of his chocolate Boost the next day! Little brother also seems upset during the night with the chocolate Boost compared to the vanilla or strawberry.
9. Obviously, it's been challenging to get him to self soothe and sleep train him while tube feeding him when we cannot leave the room until she is finally sleeping! Luckily, I've been able to get him to take naps during the days without a hassle. He can go to sleep without me holding or rocking him now!
10. After his tube feed is done, occasionally we wake him up when we disconnect the tube extension from his button and rip the tape off his side. I am surprised that he can sleep through it most of the time!We definitely won't miss Stanley! Goodbye Stanley!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Mini Summer Vacation, Back to School, and 15 Month Checkup

Mini Summer Vacation

On August 13-17, 2014, We drove down to Mesa Arizona to attend a wedding/sealing for our nephew and spent some time with Grandpa and Sharon Free. We drove during the late afternoon and night to make it more comfortable on little brother.  Surprisingly, it was our first time experiencing Arizona during the summer heat. Every time we stepped outside it felt like an oven (dry and very hot).  At this point, we decided we could never survive in Arizona's summers. We love being outside and cannot imagine paying for the AC running non-stop. Thankfully, Grandpa Free had a summing pool to cool off. We went swimming a couple times while there. It was fun being among our Arizona family members celebrating the wedding of Danial and Rebekah. In fact, Rebekah's family did a fun family tradition! They threw Danial a tool party. We had dinner, guests brought tools wrapped in newspaper or paper bags, and had a great time getting to know Rebekah's family better. When the happy couple opened our gift, we got to ask them a question. It was a lot of fun and they got a lot of amazing tools!
First Day Back to School
Summer of 2014 came and went really fast this year. Usually I'm ready for the girls to go back to school due to the non-stop boredom complaints, but this year I was sad they had to go back to school. The first day of school was on August 18th for big sis and little sis started the next day. Big sis is now a sophomore in high school.  Wow, I can hardly believe it! Am I really that old? Didn't I just graduate from high school not too long ago? Also, 2014-2015 is little sister's last year of elementary school. It's crazy how fast kids grow up! Good luck to big sisters and I hope they have a successful school year! Go Vikings and Grizzlies, GRRRRRRRRR! 
Fifteen Month Old Check Up and Shots
Milestones: On August 22, 2014, little brother had his 15 months old check up. He weighs 19 lbs. 4 oz. and is 31.25 inches long. His head circumference was 18.9 inches.  He is slowly making some progress. To our surprise, he is growing in length, but continues to struggle to gain much weight. I'm happy he is at least on the charts! As for his developmental milestones, he isn't talking much or walking yet... I cannot believe he prefers to scoot on his bum all day long. In the past, he has taken a few steps, but for whatever reason, I think he is not confident enough to walk yet. His doctor warned me that he probably wouldn't walk on time... It's frustrating to see many other toddlers younger than him already walking.  Even though he scoots around, he is getting into everything and opening cupboard doors yet. He does occasionally take some kitchen food out from the "lazy Susan" and pull out all the dish towels and bibs out of the drawers. We finally had to install child proof latches under the sinks. Walking brings on more toddler challenges, but I want him to be normal just like any other toddler his age. I have to keep reminding myself that he had three surgeries and I shouldn't compare him to others because of what he has went through. In the meantime, he continues to have monthly early intervention appointments via Kids on the Move (physical therapy and speech). He had occupational therapy discontinued last month due to making most of his feeding goals and his weight seems stable (not losing but slowly gaining)! We are so proud of him! If for whatever reason, he has issues again his occupational therapist will come back as needed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our Summer Staycation Activities

We rarely go on out of state vacations.  So I try to find fun activities near home for the kids to do during the summer.  During the Summer of 2014, we went to the carnival for Strawberry days, ate waffles from the Waffle Love Truck, explored a new children's museum, did a day trip to Salt Lake City to see Wheeler Farm, Liberty Park, and Antelope Island.
Strawberry Days
I keep saying every year we will buy rodeo tickets, but sadly John is always out of town on a business trip during the week of Strawberry Days! Hopefully we have better luck next year! However, we went to the Strawberry Days parade and carnival.
Waffle Love Truck
Most people from Utah should know about the Waffle Love Truck! If you like them on Facebook you can find where the truck is located. It changes every single day. AMAZING WAFFLES!
Museum of Natural Curiosity
We went to the new Children's Museum at Thanksgiving Point.  The Museum of Natural Curiosity was fun for all ages. I cannot wait to take baby brother back and do all the cool toddler activities.
  Wheeler Farm
A cheap activity for all the family and furry friends. There are spots for a picnic, hiking trails, farm animals, pond filled with ducks, shop, wagon rides, a playground, etc. There is a very interesting tree that is perfect for family photograph!
Liberty Park
There are many things to do at Liberty Park, which is a large like Central Park in New York City. We only explored the south end of the park.  We had a picnic there, rode some amusement rides, and went paddle boating. Our dog Jagger met many other furry friends.  We would like to make another trip there to see the Tracy Aviary, check out the playgrounds, swimming pool, splash pad, and gardens.
  Antelope Island (The Great Salt Lake)
For $10.00 a car load, you get to play at the salty and sandy beach of Great Salt Lake, see a visitors center, eat a  picnic, observe wild life such as antelope, buffalo, deer, birds, and explore the Fielding Garr Ranch museum. Additionally, it's a beautiful scenic drive through the Island!
There are many beautiful and fun places to explore in Utah during the summer time!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cooling off from the Summer Heat

Creekside Park, Alpine Utah
During the first week of June, we went to Creekside Park in Alpine Utah to play at the park and splash pad! We look forward to exploring some more of Utah's splash pads this summer!
Summer Haircuts 
There is nothing like a fresh haircut during the summer to keep you cool. On June 29, 2014, my girls went to Great Clips and had several inches of their hair cut off and we got cupcakes at Cravings for dessert afterwards!
Before Haircuts
After Haircuts with Cupcakes

Manila Creek Pond
In July the temperatures were in the upper nineties. So the kids cooled off and made sand castles at the sandy pond that is located just a few minutes away from our house! 
Slip n' Slide
We layered the slip n' slide with a large blue tarp for extra slippery fun! The girls also added dish soap. Little brother was not a huge fan of the slip n' slide, but the girls sure had fun though!
We Love Snow Cones!
In our town, there are several snow cone shacks near downtown!  There are so many yummy flavors!