Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Latest and Greatest

There seems to be a million things my boys do or say in one day that make me laugh. I can never remember all of them nor relay them in a way that is quite as funny as when it took place. But, as much as I can, I want to remember some of their antics.

This weekend, we were able to spend time up in PA at my parent's house. It was wonderful to be with them again, some of my sibs seeing Bella for the first time since she was born. The boys haven't slept in pack-n-plays for several months, and I have dragged my feet on transitioning them to big boy beds. Yes, they'll soon be 3 and still in cribs. I'm ambitious with so many things, but when it comes to these motherhood/child milestones, I tend to crawl under a rock and hope I don't ever have to face reality. :)

My first mistake was thinking the boys would sleep only an hour or so after we arrived to grandma's. I should have known that first day would be a wash with how excited they were to be there. Nevertheless, I thought I'd try to put them down for a nap. All my kiddos were down for their nap, so I decided to take a walk with my mom. We were gone for maybe a half hour to 45 minutes. When I came back, Lawrence said the boys were up and had already received some discipline for jumping into each other's pack-n-play, throwing trucks at each other and biting each other! Lawrence asked if he could go out with my dad now that I was back, and I thought, "Well the boys have had several spankings from their papi, I'm sure they'll go to sleep at this point." So, I confidently sent my husband off to enjoy an outing with my dad.

The boys did not go to sleep, but they were being quiet. I walked past their bedroom at one point and heard them talking to each other. I vacillated whether to spank them again for talking (they're not allowed to during naptime at home) or to just be happy they weren't killing each other and let them talk. I decided to let them talk, but then stopped to listen for just a second to hear what they were saying. Tucker: "Judah, you want paper? I'll give you some paper. Here..." I thought, "Ah, how cute. They're playing office."

And, then the more experienced mom part of my brain decided to wake up and told me that I had better take a peek to see if somehow they had gotten into any of my dad's work supplies because they were set up in his office. I opened the door and saw that Tucker had climbed into Judah's pack-n-play AGAIN and somehow managed to open one of my dad's office drawers. Paper clips were everywhere. The stapler was out, my dad's compass, pens, pencils, etc. I turned right around and walked out to laugh. I couldn't keep myself composed. I also invited my mom to witness their little role playing scene and then went back in to verbally correct them. We got it all cleaned up and gave up on the nap. Later on during dinner, I had them apologize to grandpa for getting into his things.

I know this is just a foreshadowing of things to come. Any other moms of multiple kiddos have funny, frightening stories?!

Friday, May 25, 2007

God Speaks

Ever know that God is speaking to you undeniably about something very specific in your life? I had one of those moments this morning. Two friends of mine, separately shared with me what they read in their quiet times this morning. Well, both "happened" to have read the SAME verse: Proverbs 25:28 which says, A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

I actually wept when I read the 2nd email and saw the same verse. I must confess I wept not only because God was kind to speak so specifically to me this morning, but also because of what I knew God was speaking to me about.

Let me explain. Several things have culminated this week to direct my thoughts toward an area where I indulge my flesh and that is in the area of foods, more specifically what I would consider "snacks". I have been growing exasperated with my boys for asking for 'treats' all day long until one day this week God reminded me that I am no different. I want treats all day long, too, and because I'm the mommy, I have the prerogative to indulge that craving more than I allow the boys to do the same. Also, somehow this month, I spent the entire food budget by the 20th of May! SO, it is Mother Hubbard over here, and our cuboards are bare...not a whole lot to choose from in the "treat" category.

Finally, we are planning a trip to my parents this weekend about which I'm very excited. This trip will be a little different, however, as my mom was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. So, where there was always a plethora of yummy, sugary treats to be had at my mom's, there will now be none. I found myself actually contemplating how I would go the entire weekend without a sugary snack. Isn't that pathetic? Perhaps, but certainly signs of a bit of an addiction at worst, preoccupation at best.

At the same time, God was revealing to me my pre-occupation/addiction to sugar, He was also laying before me a few things that I really want more than I want to be immediately gratified. Our church is currently seeking to raise funds to pave our parking lot. It's in desperate need. Lawrence and I really want to give as much as we can to this effort. But, as we don't typically have excess in our budget, we know it will require discipline and sacrifice on our part to be able to give what we, in our hearts, want to give and feel we're being led to give. In addition, we also desire to grow in extending hospitality, in having money to be able to meet the needs of others when they're presented to us. We don't have an endless supply of income (nobody does really), so we know that in order to receive the blessing of giving, we need to sow with discipline and sacrifice when it comes to our own desires to indulge.

For me, for today, it means giving up my "treats" for a little while. :) I also want to grow in conquering this compulsion to snack on sugary treats because I know it will reap benefits in other areas of my life, making room for God to truly be my everything, to be the One who satisfies me like nothing else. I know, however, that I cannot simply resolve to deny my flesh; although resolve certainly does help. I know that I can do nothing good apart from God's Spirit empowering me. So, this morning as I wept like a child who knows he has to give up his toy to his brother and really doesn't want to, I also wept because I know God stands ready and able to give me the power to not only give up what He's asking me to, but also to do so with joy and find that the replacement, God Himself, will be much more satisfying.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Smoky Chicken Corn Cakes

I tried a new recipe recently, and it was a hit! I thought I would share it with you. My husband's family is from Guatemala, and apparently it resembles a dish familiar to their culture. It comes from Real Simple magazine, May 2007 issue.

1-- 3 1/2- 4 lb. rotisserie chicken (I used a 3 lb. chicken, and it was fine)
1 Tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce*
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1/3 c. fresh cilantro leaves (I omitted this b/c I have a white girl's palate)
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 large eggs
1 c. part-skim ricotta
10 oz. frozen corn, thawed
2 tsp. canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream (optional) OR parmesan cheese (our topping of choice)

Using a fork or your fingers, shred chicken meat, discarding the skin and bones. In a medium bowl, combine the meat, chipotle, lime juice, 1/4 tsp. of the salt, the onion, tomatoes, and cilantro; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, pepper, and the remaining salt. Stir in the eggs and ricotta until no lumps remain. Fold in the corn. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. For each corn cake, spoon about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the skillet and cook until golden brown and set on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Using spatula, flip the cakes and cook 1 minute more. Divide the cakes among individual plates and top with the chicken mixture. Serve with sour cream, if desired (or we prefer parmesan cheese).

*You can find these in the mexican food or international food section of your grocery store. Once you open the can, you can store them in a sealed container in the fridge for a very long time without them going bad. Thank you, Lori Chambers for turning me on to chipotle peppers in adobo sauce!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pictures with a Story

Two weekends ago, we had a very busy weekend...a full day at Hopkins, and two birthday parties to attend. The 2nd birthday party of the weekend was on Sunday, right after church and at the same time the boys normally take a nap. It was not a good showing for the Almengor's. We were with old neighbors of ours who we haven't seen in months. We were the only family with three kids, let alone three kids under 3 years old.

Shortly after we arrived, Judah fell and cut his lip open rather badly. At the time, we couldn't decipher what he had cut; we just saw the blood. Any mom knows facial bleeds are the worst, especially the mouth. It seemed to take forever to get it to stop bleeding and even longer to get Judah to stop crying. I'm sure after a half hour, people were wondering why we were even still at the party. But, hey, we don't come by social events that the entire family can attend too often. So, I was determined to stick it out!

Judah did calm down and eventually began to play again with the other kids, but he fell at least 3 or 4 more times that day. Not his day I guess. Tucker was in true 2 yr. old form, saying "no" to me any time I called his name, and Bella refused to sleep making her rather cranky and unable to put down. We really weren't able to participate with any of the planned activities because we were just a bit overwhelmed. My friend who hosted the party said to me at one point during the party, "I'm exhausted just watching you." :) Yeah, just the thing that makes you feel like such a good mommy! :) I just smiled and said, "yeah, I'm not one of those who makes it look easy."

I am the mom I never wanted to be: the frazzle, dazzle queen. But, I've got three kids I love a ton and three kids who, God willing, will learn to be incredibly gracious to others who, like their momma, fumble through life while trying real hard to make it look good.

Here are the pictures of Judah's lip later that day when all the blood stopped flowing and he stopped crying:

And, here's a very tired mommy at the day's end who was attacked by plastic eggs while she slept:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Some New Favorites

I thought I'd post some new favorite photos I recently had developed of the kiddos. Bella is about 2 1/2 months in these photos and the boys are about 4 months shy of turning 3.

She is definitely more than a tax deduction, but given that she has a CPA for a daddy makes that shirt all the more hilarious, doesn't it?!

Can you guess which one's Judah and which is Tucker? :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Perception vs. Reality

Because we have a son with SWS, Lawrence and I have become apart of the Sturge-Weber Foundation . We receive a newsletter from them a couple times a year called, Branching Out. In it's most recent publication, there was an article entitled, "Perception vs. Reality" written by Rhonda Finley, mom of a child with SWS, Ryan. I wanted to post it here as I felt it captures so well how Lawrence and I feel about our lot with Judah.

SWF [Sturge-Weber Foundation] Partners were asked to send us their observations and experiences on the perceptions the general public, friends and acquaintances have revealed to them and how it matches with the lives they are living.

One thing I hear a lot is "Wow...I don't know how you do it. I could never handle a child with so many disabiliites. I couldn't do it. You must be so strong. " My standard answer is something like, "I didn't have this child because I'm strong. I became strong through my child. And guess what---you too would become strong if he were your child. It's not a choice; it's a responsibility driven by a powerful love."

It's amazing how, as a parent of a child with SWS [Sturge Weber Syndrome], KTS [Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome] and PWS [Port Wine Stain], we learn to be very assertive, deal with adversity, almost on a daily basis (every time you take your child to the grocery store for example) and become the advocate you never thought you could. We were forced out of our comfort zones, stepped out of our protective coating and learned how to deal with the world as it comes at us, sometimes it's hard and fast and it hurts.

The decisions we face are no less than surreal--do we increase the medication, change a medication or is it time to cut some of our child's brain out?* Will that help? Will he survive? How will this affect our lives? The funny thing is no one can answer those questions. At the same time, we learn how wonderful life really is. Each step, every word, all the laughter and smiles, the hugs and kisses, the normal challenges of everyday things---these things are special. I believe we have an increased awareness and appreciation for what most people take for granted. This is what I would tell the public.

*a hemispherectomy is the removal of a part of the brain which is done in SWS patients whose seizures are uncontrollable otherwise and for whom the benefits of such a surgery outweigh the risks. Thankfully, we have not had to come close to facing this possibility for Judah as he seems to have no brain involvement to date.

As challenging and exhausting it can be to care for Judah at times in regards to his SWS, we give thanks that it is not as hard as it could be. God has shown us much mercy; nevertheless, what we do face has produced in us a greater appreciation for all we see Judah and our other children learning and accomplishing. We have only to give thanks.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Who's Testing Who?

James 1:2, 3 says, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."

So often when I'm walking through "trials of various kinds", I only feel that I am the one being tested. God is testing me in order to bring about steadfastness and other Christ-like character. While this is true, this morning God provided a different perspective on trials. When we walk through trials, it is not only we who are being tested; it is also God and His Word that are being tested and as I have found, always proven true.

Last week I found myself in the midst of a trial, the trial of caring for sick kids. Tucker woke up one night with diarrhea and vomiting. We were up with him several times throughout the night, did 3 loads of laundry before the night was over, gave several baths, and was even up to greet the sunrise this morning. It wasn't a cheery greeting, mind you. This was all after caring for Judah for the three days who had also had the stomach bug.

One morning as I tried to prepare myself for the long day ahead of me, my husband having a networking event in the evening, I began to think about putting God's Word to the test. I thought of these particular promises found in scripture:

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

...but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary;they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

My prayer that morning went something like this, "God, this is what your Word says, so let me see you come through today. Let me see you be true to Your Word." Now, while this may sound and can be the prayer of a cynic, by the power of the Holy Spirit I was able to offer it as a prayer of faith, knowing that God would be up for the challenge, so to speak.

When we're walking through trials of various kinds, remember we are not the only ones being put to the test. God and His Word is being put to test, and you will find it is an opportunity to see the faithfulness of God and certainty of His Word.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Why One Should Not Bother Cleaning Her Windows with Toddlers in the Home:

Besides the obvious: their fingerprints end up all over the window only seconds to minutes after you've cleaned it making this a very futile endeavor, there's the less than obvious but very real possibility of one child spraying the other child in the face with the Windex that's left on the stairs to be taken upstairs on the next trip. Yes, I had a bad mommy moment today, but don't we all?!

I did leave the Windex within reach of my two near 3 yr. old boys, one of whom (will remain unnamed) sprayed the other in the eyes. For your reference, Windex is seemingly rather harmless when sprayed in the eyes with it per the Windex company people, but if your child has eye issues, you may want to call your eye doctor just to make sure no further action is necessary. (Guess that little bit of information gives away who sprayed who, huh?!) :)

All parties involved in our little incident today seem to be fine, but this momma is going to think twice next time she gets the compulsion to clean her windows. What was I thinking?!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Stomach Bug Strikes Again

Yes, it's true. It seems we've picked up a stomach bug again. Judah had diarrhea all morning and just threw up during his nap. I was really hoping it was just all the sugar he ate this weekend at the birthday parties, but the throwing up part makes me think it's more likely some virus. And, given we were all over Hopkins on Friday (just about the easiest place to pick up viruses/illnesses of all kinds), I'm thinking we got it from there.

The unfortunate thing is that we probably exposed just about as many families as we could this weekend, having attended two birthday parties with the kids and church on Sunday. Of course, there was no way to anticipate that Judah would be sick today, but I still feel really badly for having exposed people to him. If you happen to have seen us this weekend and your kids get sick, I'm really sorry. Don't hate us forever! :)

So, into hiding we go again. Of course, we'd appreciate your prayers for our health, and that by a miracle, the rest of us would remain healthy, especially Bella. Please pray that those who were exposed to my kids this weekend would not get sick either.

Thanks so much.

Friday, May 04, 2007

God's Kindness in the Details

I'm not sure if it's just that I'm getting used to craziness of our life as normal or if God was especially kind to us today (probably a combination of both), but today went so much better than good. At times throughout the day, I almost felt like I was floating, like God was just lifting me above the circumstances and allowing me to float through the day. It's really indescribable, but His presence and providence was so evident to me all day long.

It started by the fact that we got three kids out the door BEFORE I even had planned to be out the door this morning. Three separate diaper bags packed, three kids and two adults fed breakfast, two asthma treatments administered and diapers changed all before 9:30 a.m. I even walked out with makeup on and my hair done!!! In our house, this is nothing short of truly amazing!

We could tell Tucker was picking up on the fact that he was going to be left behind today, and that was seriously tugging at my heart. From the get go, we threw ourselves on God's mercy, petitioning Him for wisdom to help shepherd our son's heart through circumstances that are not common to most 2 1/2 yr. old little boys. We prayed as a family right before we dropped Tucker off and felt confident that God would remain true to His promise to 'go before and come behind us' today, making all kinds of provision where needed.

Tucker ended up doing very well with the sitter, friends of ours, the Kilbanes (thank you, guys!!), who have two little buddies around his age. He obeyed very well, took his nap and seemed rather well adjusted when we picked him up at the end of the day. Thank you, Lord!!

My traffic savvy husband averted a major backup on I-95 and managed to get us in the city with time to spare....so much time that we were even able to stop at a city park (a very nice city park) to give Judah some time to play!

We made Bella's appointment on time and did not have to wait very long before we were seen. All the while, Judah was such a pleasant companion, sitting still in the waiting room, eating his goldfish and reading his book. Our visit with the laryngologist was reassuring in the respect that he saw nothing in his exam of Bella or looking over the notes on her that alarmed him. He feels that as long as we are able to keep the reflux under control and continue to see her grow, we should be fine just waiting on time to make her airway stronger.

The endoscopy was not fun. She screamed like a crazy woman, but it was over very quickly and I did not have to hold her down as a nurse was called in for that. She calmed down soon after I was able to hold her and was an absolute peach the rest of the day. She was such a good girl, sleeping most of the rest of the afternoon, that I forgot to change her diaper ALL day!! This proved to be the only snag in the day as when I pulled her out of her carseat once we were home, I saw that she had a major poop thru, all the way up to her armpit...poor girl. Bad mommy. :(

Bella's appointment went so well and so quick that we were able to take a somewhat leisurely lunch with Judah in the outpatient cafeteria. Judah even got french fries which I'm sure made his day. Prior to lunch, we had to apply the numbing cream which went so much better than it has gone many times in the past. For a while, I had given up outlining the area to be worked on with a highlighter because Judah would just flip out on me. But, today we were able to talk to him, make it fun, and he allowed me to outline the area on his face that was to be lasered. Lawrence and I worked together to get the cream on, and Judah did rather well with that, too.

He probably looked like a burn victim to anyone who saw us, but we just don't seem to notice the stares much anymore. We ate our lunch, found a fun little patio to play on for a little while and even had enough time to walk from the outpatient building to the new children's outpatient clinic a few blocks away where Judah's appointment was. God not only provided a beautiful day so that we could walk, but also the time we needed AND a construction site where a bunch of dump trucks, bulldozers and cranes were working for Judah to enjoy on the way. It was at this point that I was so struck with God's kindness to us in the details of our day that I began to tear up.

I had been dreading these appointments all week, had a restless night's sleep last night and drove down to Hopkins still battling anxiety even after we had prayed as a family. Several times today, in the midst of just doing what is "normal" life to me, I was struck by how not normal our life is. Whether that was the enemy devising to discourage me or my own sinful flesh looking to feel sorry for myself, who knows? But, God met me and encouraged my heart so greatly by showing His kindness to us in the details.

When we arrived at the outpatient clinic for Judah's appointment, he realized that it was his turn to see the doctor. At one point, he looked at Lawrence and me and said, "It's my turn to be brave." Well, as you can imagine, I wanted to lose it. My little man is so consistently a picture to me of God's amazing grace, as I see God providing so much strength and contentment to Judah to walk out the lot God has assigned to him.

And, brave he was. Each time we go for laser treatments, Judah makes it a little further into the appointment before he starts to cry. He used to cry when he saw the doctor. Today, he was giving him high fives. Then, we could make it to the laser room before he'd start to cry; today he was exploring the 'new' room. Today, he made it all the way to laying down on the table before he started to scream. By the time I saw him in the waiting room, he was all smiles with lollipop in hand, being commended by the nurse.

Before I knew it, we were on our way home, another dreaded day behind us. And, all I could say was, "Thank you, Lord".

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Real Doozy

We have a real doozy of a day tomorrow. We will be taking Bella and Judah to Hopkins for dr's appointments. At 11:20 a.m., Bella will see a laryngologist who will take a scope through her nose and down her throat to see if her airway defect (laryngo/tracheomalacia) has improved at all since birth. Needless to say, I'm not so thrilled to be subjecting my little girl to such a procedure, but we feel it's what is best. She had this done while in the NICU at Hopkins, but we weren't there to witness it. Tomorrow, I will remain by her side, praying the entire time. She will not be put under anesthesia which I'm grateful for in one respect and wish otherwise in another. I will comfort myself with the thought that she will not remember any of this.

As for Judah, he has a laser treatment on his face. His appointment is at 2:30. Numbing cream needs to be applied at 12:30, 2 hours ahead of the treatment. If you haven't noticed, it's going to be a little tight tomorrow, but thankfully Lawrence will be coming with me to help ensure we can pull it off.

Laser appointments are never fun; Judah always screams. I'm not sure how he'll do having the cream applied somewhere in transit tomorrow...whether in the car, in the outpatient clinic bathroom or somewhere else. He's been doing so well with his other doctor's appointments, but I think it'll take him much longer to willingly subject himself to the laser treatments.

Please pray that:
  • Our day will be characterized by many evidences of God's grace and mercy.
  • Bella will be well enough to have the scope done (she just started with a cold).
  • Bella will cooperate (as much as a 3 month old can) with the procedure and that her airway will be improved since birth.
  • Judah will allow Lawrence to apply the numbing cream and cooperate with the laser treatment.
  • Judah will have minimal if any bruising/blisters from the treatment.
  • All appointments will run on time and we'll be able to get to Judah's laser appt. on time. His laser Tx is in a different building than Bella's procedure.

God willing, if everything goes well enough, we have a fun weekend for the kids ahead of us. We have a little buddy's 1st birthday party on Saturday to attend and another friend's 4th birthday party to attend on Sunday. Getting birthday cake two days in a row is like dying and going to Heaven for my little buddies. So, I'm hoping we'll be able to swing it!!

Thanks for praying.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Our Morning Excitement

(MOM...Don't read this post; trust me!)

Our friend and neighbor, Rudy, came over to play a little bit this morning, and on his way out the front door, he spotted something in our flower beds that looked interesting to him. His mom was putting her other child, Lucy, in the stroller and turned around to notice Rudy crouching down to "pet" something. That something was a snake! (Mom, I told you not to read this.)

I was puzzled when Heather didn't whisk Rudy away from the thing but instead gently pulled Rudy back to create a little distance and then allowed him to stare at the thing for minutes. She said she didn't want him to be afraid. So, given the fact that I have two boys who do tend to be more timid with such things, I thought I should follow her good example and have the boys go outside to see this bit of nature, too.

We all remained a safe distance from the snake, not knowing what kind it was. After a few minutes we decided our boys had had their little science lesson for the day, and we could all go inside now. When I emailed my husband to tell him about it, he asked me to call my father-in-law over to get the snake out of our bush. So, I called and over he came with a long log, a long pole and an intention to get that snake.

When he saw that it wasn't a simple black snake, he decided he was going to kill it and that he needed my help. "Me, you want ME to help you...to help you kill a .....snake?! Surely, you're joking" is what I thought to myself. But, again to set the example to my boys of bravery, I pitched in and helped my FIL get that snake. He had me hold the log down tightly on its tale while he took the pole to get its head out of the bush. I'll not share any more details but to say the snake is now dead and sitting in a clear trash bag on our deck so that Lawrence can look it up later on the internet to see what kind of snake we had in our bush just in case any of its brothers or sisters decide to show up at our house for vengeance. :0