A Party From Three Years Ago

Three years ago tonight, I wrote this blog post about a broken, little boy who would soon embark on the trip that would change his life forever. 

Join us as we continue to pray for his past, his trauma, and how it continues to affect his future. Nasko has come so far, but still has so much healing to do. 

We, his parents and forever family, are thankful that we’ve been given the front row seat to watch him spread his wings and develop into a sweet, charming, and (still) very busy young man. 

https://momentsdefined.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/party-animals/

Rend Collective Concert

Last fall, Nasko expressed quite a bit of interest in the band, Rend Collective. He watches their music videos on YouTube, and loves to dance to their songs.

Chance and I looked into attending one of their concerts, and were pleased when we saw they were coming to our area in February.

Then, we received Edward’s surgery date. We weren’t sure how he’d recover, so we did not buy tickets ahead of time. We kept the date on our calendar, but we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it.

Honestly, we debated on attending until the afternoon of the concert – last Saturday. We heard of two different people giving away a total of three tickets (the littles didn’t require tickets) for free. Considering how well Edward was doing, and the fact that the concert would no longer cost us anything to attend, we knew we had to go! It ended up being sold-out.

We told Nasko what was up right before we left to head to Lincoln Christian University for the concert. My cousin Lauren met us there (and actually worked some magic to get our random tickets all together in one section).

IMG_7789

Before the music began, Chance and Nasko ended up in the right place at the right time, and got their picture taken with the lead singer, Chris Llewellyn. (Chris was still getting ready for the concert… as you can see, he wasn’t wearing any shoes!)

IMG_7791

We brought sound-blocking headphones for the boys, but of course Louis refused to wear his!

IMG_7785

At 7:00, it was concert time!

IMG_7798

I am SO glad we ended up going. Nasko smiled through the whole thing. He sang along to all the songs he knew. He danced and clapped and cheered! He had such a great time.

IMG_7801

IMG_7816

Edward was tired, but he enjoyed his time as well. His favorite part was the moving spotlights that would shine on the ceiling.

IMG_7792

IMG_7814

IMG_7793

Louis is our introvert, so he spent much of the evening snuggled into me, but he bounced and clapped through the songs that he knew. It was obvious that he recognized them!

IMG_7815

We had a great night, and were so thankful for the gifts of the free tickets. After such a hard few months, it was a blessing to see Nasko so happy during the concert! We hit the Steak N Shake drive through on the way home for some french fries. Those made EVERYONE happy. What a fun night!

[P.S. Only two more kids need sponsored!]

Surgery and a Hospital Stay

This week, Edward had his surgery for removing his tonsils/adenoids and having tubes placed in his ears. We briefly debated on this surgery (I’m not a big fan of elective procedures) but considering the child could not ever breathe through his nose, this seemed pretty necessary!

Overall, he has done wonderfully.

We had great staff as he was being prepared for the surgery and as he went through his early stages of recovery. Of course he had every nurse wrapped around his little finger as well!

IMG_7721

IMG_7723

He was pretty crabby while coming off the anesthesia, but the staff said he wasn’t doing anything abnormal.

FullSizeRender

IMG_7725 IMG_7726
We only had two issues during our hospital stay (we had to stay overnight because of his medical needs) – the first occurred shortly after we were given an actual room for our stay. As soon as we arrived, the nurse (who was filling-in on the pediatric floor due to the high volume of patients) gave him a six-hour dose of both Tylenol and Motrin simultaneously. I have since learned that standard procedure is to give one, then after three hours, give the other. With this method, the patient is never without pain meds.

Apparently around five hours after being given the Tylenol and Motrin, Edward started feeling pain again. He wasn’t able to clearly communicate the pain, but he saw a balloon that he wanted in the hallway, and he completely lost it. He screamed for an hour straight – until shortly after the next dose of medicine was administered. It’s slightly irritating that this mistake was made, but we survived. Our friends Mike and Jeni brought us dinner, and that seemed to help calm our boy down!

The other issue during our stay was the thermostat. One nurse came in the room and asked if we were cold. She then showed us our personal thermostat and turned it up a couple degrees. By 10:30 PM, our room was 82 degrees. I had been in the room the whole time the temperature was slowly climbing, so I didn’t even really notice the change. A nurse came in because I had requested she take Edward’s vitals; he was sweating and felt like he had a fever.

IMG_7743

When she came in the room, she mentioned it being warm. I didn’t think much of it until she checked him and he had no fever!

The nurse then called a repairman, but Edward was ready to sleep (finally), so I told them that we’d just tough it out. I’m sure I sweat out that omelette I ate at 11:00 pm! (Breastfeeding mothers get free room service at St. John’s!)

Because of the heat, and because it’s the hospital, we didn’t sleep too terribly well.

IMG_7727

When the nurse came at 4:00 AM to check Edward’s vitals, he woke up and said “Morning? Go home. Taty, Allen. Home.” He bound out of his bed and tried to walk right out of his sauna/room in his slippers!

The nurse and I laughed, but Edward was determined. When the attending physician showed up at 5:00 AM, Edward gave him the same speech and dramatic exit about going home, so he immediately completed our paperwork and we were in the car headed home by 6:30 AM!

IMG_7744

Edward really has been a trooper. Chance’s parents and sister came to see him last night, so that helped us keep him awake until a reasonable hour (he and I slept from 8:30-12:30 in the morning!).

IMG_7755

He was happy to sleep all night in his bed last night!

He’s resisting fluids, but the surgery has not slowed down his eating much at all! He’s already requiring less pain meds. I can tell he is hearing and breathing better too. Hopefully as the swelling goes down, he’ll do even better!

(In this picture, he’s sleeping on his belly – which he couldn’t do before – and has his mouth covered while only breathing through his nose!)

IMG_7729
Thanks for all your prayers and offers of assistance during the surgery and overnight stay. God has big stuff planned for Edward (He has to. Why else would He give a little guy such a big personality?!) and this was just a slight set-back.

Also, if you’ve never heard of Baskets of Hope, be sure to check them out. Edward received a basket from the organization and it was literally filled with hundreds of dollars of toys and books.

IMG_7740

These toys helped bring him out of hour of crying in pain. What a blessing!

Big Transition

A big transition is happening in the Newingham house today; Nasko is returning to public school!

Recent behavioral issues have caused us to stop and reevaluate every area of Nasko’s life. I believe that homeschooling him for the past year and a half has been THE BEST thing for him. He knows 20+ capital letters, he cuts and glues independently. He writes his name and counts to nine. He will sit to listen for 2-3 books. He follows two-step directions (as long as he doesn’t get distracted) and he has a basic understanding of our calendar.

As we reevaluated things this month, we realized that Nasko had met many of the goals we had set for him when we decided to homeschool – sitting and attending to a task, listening to books, learning the alphabet, answering basic questions, etc. I did not ever want to homeschool, and I certainly hoped I wouldn’t have to do it forever, so when we realized Nasko had met these goals, we decided it might be time to try sending him back to school.

I researched a few different options (including Montessori) but the best place for him seemed to be with the special education district in Springfield. We had a meeting last Friday at the SASED Central school building. Here is what I typed after the meeting – mostly for my mom. (But then I decided to share it with all of you!)

The meeting went well. It was a full room – SASED principal, Athens-area SASED coordinator, psychologist, Athens social worker, SASED social worker, Athens principal, classroom teacher, and speech therapist. Everyone liked Nasko and mentioned that he’d probably be the new social favorite at school. He didn’t hardly interact with the male social worker or principal, but he had lots of flirting to do with the middle-aged women in the room. A few of the people in the room (and the halls – including a former summer school teacher) remembered Nasko. Multiple people commented on his height and his (much-improved) behavior! He was very good during the 45-minute meeting, especially since all I brought for him to do was a snack!

He’ll start school Monday. Bus will be here at 7:45 and will take him to school (which starts at 9:00). We determined that there’s an adult monitor on the bus, so we’ll try to go without a harness (with the threat of “You cannot stand up on the school bus like you can on the city bus. They will give you a buckle if you cannot obey.”)

Nasko will arrive at the school by 9:00. He will leave at 2:30 and be home sometime after 3:30. (7:45-3:30. What am I going to do with all that peace and quiet?!)

Nasko asked his very important questions during the meeting, including can he bring True [his giant stuffed dog/security “blanket”]? (Yes) is there a nurse? (No. Mrs. Twist [our friend] is in charge of owies) and do they allow chocolate milk? (Yes. Mama can send chocolate almond milk for snack and lunch).

There is a microwave available for heating his lunch (hallelujah!) so that was the answer to my very important question!

I signed some paperwork and shared a little bit about Nasko’s academic progress since he was last enrolled. He’ll start by receiving 30 minutes of speech per week, but that amount can increased, depending on what the speech therapist recommends. The occupational therapist will do an evaluation as well. He’ll either decide to do weekly services or a regular consultation with the classroom teacher (and she can implement activities into his daily schedule).

The days are VERY structured there. There’s classroom time, PE, snack and lunch daily. There must be regular field trips, as today, his classroom was going roller skating.

After the meeting, Nasko asked to see his classroom.

The classroom is set up to where each of the eight children have a “desk space”. The desk is surrounded on three sides. This space is used for their individual work. One girl was grunting at a slinky in her seat, and another kiddo was doing a worksheet. There’s a small play area with toys and a rug. A boy was playing there. He asked me (and Nasko) a few questions and briefly played with N. There are 3-4 aides (mostly men) in the classroom in addition to the teacher.

A majority of the day is spent completing tasks one-on-one with an adult, so he’ll honestly get the best part about homeschool, but not at home (with me)! I know there’ll be a bit of an adjustment period to begin with (I’m picturing an over-tired, over-stimulated Nasko) but in the long run, I’m praying this goes smoothly!

I asked his teacher, Miss L, if I could volunteer one day, every other week. She’d never had another parent offer to do that, but seemed excited by the idea! I think it will help me learn more about the classroom/students so I’ll have some idea of what Nasko is talking about when he tells me about his day!

Nasko (and True) bravely climbed onto the bus this morning. He’s excited but very nervous about school. He was actually really interested in the idea that he would be eating lunch at the school (he’s only ever gone for half-days previously). Now I’m sitting in a too-quiet house anxiously worrying about his day! The little guys and I have a play date this morning (so I don’t go TOTALLY crazy).

We’re all praying this transition goes smoothly and might help Nasko with some of his recent behavioral issues. And, as always, we are so proud of how far he has come!

IMG_7684

Letting It GOOOOOO with Edward

So, the last couple posts have been a bit heavy.

Just to remind everyone that things are usually pretty lively here, I thought I’d share this video of Edward letting it all go!

(Any doubt that he’s truly an American now?!)

P.S. Half of the kids from yesterday now have full-time sponsors. You all are amazing. Please, please continue to answer the cry of the orphans.

I wish I had not seen her face…

[We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to hear a message from one of our sponsors: Lifegate Ministries]

[Just kidding. I have no sponsors. Just a husband who says, “Ginger, Lifegate needs help” and I say, “You may use my blog.” So, please read. Please be humbled and broken. Please help. Please listen to what the Reverend has to say.]

I have traveled all over the world, and I have met precious children in each each region.

But Africa was different and Matha was different.

Matha

She was only nine years old at the time this picture was taken, yet she was mature enough to lead the worship and singing every week for her local church.

This girl was all smiles and full of life.

On this trip, my missions team and I presented a Vacation Bible School to Matha and fifty of her friends and schoolmates.

When we finished our program, she begged me to go on a walk with her; for some reason, this little lady had taken a liking to me! As we hiked, she held my hand, and she showed me each part of her settlement, Totkeloh.

Holding Hands

She concluded the tour at her home so that she could introduce me to her family. Her shanty was small and dark, but it provided necessary protection for Matha, her parents, and her many siblings.

I savored every moment of this intimate experience with this friendly, young child, but I knew that it was about to end. The team and I would soon be heading back to our camp for the night, and I knew that I had to tell this sweet girl goodbye. We hugged. I told her that God loved her, and we parted ways.

Matha

Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever see her again.

We live half a world apart. There are many children in her village – even on my short-term trips there, it was unlikely that she would be a child I’d encounter again. I’ve thought of her village often, but I never expected to see her again.

This past week, I did see Matha again though. I saw those familiar eyes, and this time, instead of making me smile, they pierced my soul.

I saw her again, but now, I wish it had not happened.

I wish I had not seen her face…

I did not see Matha in her village or near her home. I did not see her leading a crowd of believers in worship to our King. I did not see her running, or playing, or laughing, or smiling. I did not see her chasing her siblings or attending a Vacation Bible School.

I saw her in a list of orphans.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 1.40.41 PM

I saw her photo and it accompanied a cry for help. Matha’s mother, Kadie, and father, Joseph, are gone. Her foster parents, Papa and Fatmata, have been taking care of her since she lost her parents, but they cannot continue.

Matha is in need of dresses, rice, schoolbooks, and bedding. Matha needs appropriate care, and someone to continue teaching her the Gospel.

Not only has Matha lost her parents, she’s lost basic necessities.

She’s lost hope, and she’s lost her smile.

Sadly Matha was not the only child on the list. There are others. Each child has a story. Each child has lost their parents, and each child deserves hope and a future.

We currently have nine orphans who are waiting to get in the doors of Lifegate Children’s Home. We want to help them, but we cannot responsibly let them in until they have sponsors.

Matha’s photo pierced my soul. Maybe one of these children will affect you:

Alpha Smith
Alpha+Smith+in+JPEG

Alpha was born in 2003. Even though he’s not smiling here, it’s easy to imagine that when he does smile, it will light up a room!

Daniel Smith
Daniel+Smith.png

Daniel is seven years old and suffers from epilepsy. Daniel looks mischievous, ornery, and fun. We cannot wait to give him the freedom to be a typical seven-year-old boy.

Fatmata Kamara
Fatmata Kamara

Fatmata was born in 2010 in a small settlement called Brigette Village. Her eyes suggest that she’s probably gentle and shy. Can you imagine the heartache this sweet baby has already witnessed with those eyes?

Hassan Kamara
Hassan Kamara

Hassan is eleven years old and also lives in Brigette Village. Hassan looks like he’s a hard worker. His spirit must be determined to have made it this far, and we hope to be given the opportunity to develop that spirit as he matures.

Isha Kabia
ISHA

Isha was born in 2003 in Brigette Village. It appears that Isha has style. Who else could pull of blue earrings, a pink head wrap, and a pink necklace? What a sweetheart!

John Kamara
John Kamara

John is ten years old and he’s from a village near Brigette called Kissi Town. While John may look somber, with the right care, I’m sure his true personality will shine through!

Julina Kamara
Julina Kamara

Julina Kamara was born in Waterloo and is five years old. Julina appears independent and strong.

Kona Kamara
Kona Kamara

Kona is eleven years old and was born Kissi Town Peninsula. She looks like she’d have a sweet and gentle nature.

Lahai Mesie
Lahai Mesie

Lahai was born in a village called Hango. He is 11 years old and he looks like he’s ready for whatever life throws at him.

At Lifegate, any orphan that comes through our doors gets the food, clothing, medicine and education that he/she needs. We would love to bring all of these children (and more!) in to take care of them, but we need your help. A full sponsorship for one child is $60 a month, and a partial sponsorship is $30 a month.

That’s not a lot, really. It’s barely anything when we realize that it will completely change the world for each of these children.

Let us not love with words and thoughts, but also with our hands and feet as well.

If you would like to change the future for one of these little boys or girls, please click here.

The Ugly

There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly in life.

It’s easy to write about the “good”.

I love to share videos and pictures of my children’s accomplishments. I am most passionate when I tell triumphant battle stories in the war on poverty, neglect, abandonment, and abuse.

More people engage, read, discuss, and share when they can walk away with happy tears and warm feelings.

Sometimes, even the “bad” isn’t so hard to tell.

Everyone is interested when a person flubs or makes a brief misstep; it reminds us all that we are equally imperfect.

The fact that there is bad mixed with the good seems like reality. We can be embarrassed with the storyteller, because we’ve probably been in their shoes previously.

But what about the “ugly”?

That’s when the sharing gets tough. These are the stories that are uncomfortable.

They’re told without making eye contact for shame and embarrassment.

Many times, the ugly seems worse than reality; these experiences are obviously ONLY happening to us. No one else can understand.

It’s easier to just keep the ugly inside.

For the past month, I’ve been dealing with the ugly. It’s not been good here. It has not even just been bad. It’s been downright ugly.

Nasko has regressed in his behavior. He’s back to exhibiting many behaviors I thought we would never, ever have to deal with again.

It’s been so ugly.

We’re not sure what’s triggering the behavioral changes (and we’re not sure we’ll ever know), but we’re trying a multitude of things to help correct the issues.

Yes, Nasko’s behavior has been bad (purposely burning his younger brother or sneaking out of the house – past four locks – and waking the neighbors at 5 am come to mind), but what’s been really ugly in our house is my reaction to this regression.

I’m beginning to see how conditional my love for Nasko really is.

When he’s doing well and accomplishing lots, I love him SO much. But when his behavior is embarrassing or unsafe, I withhold my love from him.

Like I said, it’s been ugly.

I overreact when he says he’s going to clean up a toy outside, but instead leaves our property to go inside someone else’s fence.

I explode physically when he lies to me about maliciously hurting his brother.

I hide in my room and cry – not because I’m frustrated by his shortcomings, but because of the realization that he may never become independent and we’ll be taking care of him forever.

In this season, as I’ve admitted to those closest to me, I honestly don’t like Nasko. His obsessive personality, his blatant disobedience, and his disinterest in typical childhood activities is exhausting, frustrating, and uncharming.

I wish I could neatly tie this post up in a bow with the typical “But here’s the life lesson I’ve learned from this challenging time…”, but I’m not there yet. I’m actually still waist-deep in the ugly. All I know is that it is most important that I work on MY heart before I can expect any changes from Nasko. We may have a new diet, education plan, discipline chart, and schedule for him, but none of that matters if I am not loving him unselfishly. Truly loving him.

I recently read this quote in a book, “I’m not ashamed that everyone from my kids’ teachers to my friends to the children themselves knows how smitten I am with them.”

I want this to be true in our house. I want that sweet boy with dark brown eyes and gorgeous eyelashes to know that I am smitten with him. I want to be his first love, so he knows how others should love him. I want to exemplify Christ to him on a daily basis. I want the world to see us together and know that I am an imperfect mother who is head-over-heels in love with her very imperfect boy.

I want to spend this season learning to love.

I want to make the ugly beautiful.

Most Recent Developments

We’ve had a few developments with Edward and his medical care, so I thought I’d take the time to write an update.

Since I knew how busy December tends to get, we held off on all doctors’ appointments until January. In hind sight, I’m not so sure that was a great idea, as now we’ve had six appointments in 16 days!

Last week, Edward and I traveled by ourselves to St. Louis for an appointment at the children’s hospital. Edward is scheduled to have a tethered cord (on his spine) repaired sometime this spring, but the surgeon had a few other doctors he requested we see before that big day.

Last week was the first of these appointments; we saw a neurologist.

Edward was his charming self, and the doctor actually had a good grasp on everything in his file, so honestly, the appointment was very short. Based on a few quick cognition tests and my reports, the doctor agreed that he does not demonstrate any neurological concerns. In fact, she used a block to test the communication between his brain and his fine motor coordination, and Edward identified the T for Taty on the block. Considering he is still very new to the English language, and only three, the doctor was impressed.

That same day, Edward required some blood tests, so we went to the dreaded lab and endured those. Unfortunately, Edward has grown accustom to this routine, and has started getting anxious as soon as we enter that part of the hospital!

IMG_7500

Earlier this week, we paid our pediatrician a visit. We really don’t see her very often for Edward, because despite how his diagnosis makes him sound, he’s an extremely healthy kid. He really hasn’t been sick at all yet (love that orphanage immune system) and he has never really complained of any aches or pains!

This pediatrician visit was scheduled because we are preparing for a more immediate surgery – the removal of his tonsils and adenoids. This surgery is scheduled for February 5 at St. John’s in Springfield, and they will keep Edward overnight for monitoring.

After some basic questions and tests from the pediatrician, Edward has been cleared for the operation! We believe this surgery will allow him to sleep, eat, hear, and speak better, so we’re anxious to have it done!

Then, on Thursday, Edward and I made the long trek to St. Louis again (praise the Lord for the twelve podcast episodes of Serial and for Edward being such a good napper/traveler!). This time, we had a follow-up appointment with his Infectious Disease doctor; we discussed his blood work from the previous week. His levels are wonderful and it seems as though his daily medications are working beautifully. They did order a routine urine test and began a second TB test (apparently standard procedure), but then sent us packing.

After lunch and killing a bit of time, we moved on to the urologist. He had something in his notes about Edward having constant, recurring UTIs, so he began to discuss treatment options. After a few moments of his plan, and some extremely confused expressions on my face, we realized we were not on the same page at all! Edward hasn’t had a single UTI! The neurologist made an incorrect report, and threw the urologist totally off-course.

After we aligned our facts, the urologist pretty much said he had no concerns about the tethered cord affecting Edward’s bladder. His risks were low. I was thankful that we had briefly attempted potty training a couple weeks ago (he’s not yet staying dry, but can successfully urinate on command). This information seemed to confirm what the neurologist believed, we were good to go ahead with the surgery, but from his standpoint, it isn’t an urgent matter.

At this point, we were twenty minutes late for our next appointment. One of our other doctors made these appointments though, so apparently, in that case, being late isn’t as big of a deal! This appointment was with an orthopedic surgeon.

As soon as we arrived back in the exam room, the nurse whisked us away to X-ray.

IMG_7497

They took a couple quick shots of Edward’s spine and then the doctor and his assistants came right into the room. They pointed out the biggest problem area – two-thirds of the way down his back – and said that if at least one hemi-vertebrae is removed, his other vertebrae can be fused together to help straighten that portion of his spine. This surgery will potentially stunt his growth slightly. I’m not sure he’ll ever clear four foot tall, as his small size is also associated VACteRL association, but as a friend pointed out last night, his personality stands at least seven feet high and will make up for his small size.

IMG_7498

IMG_7499

The removal of this hemi-vertebrae can most likely be done at the same time as the tethered cord surgery. A few of the doctors will meet together to discuss this possibility, and then we’ll be able to schedule the surgery for this spring.

Our final stop of the day was back at the dreaded lab. This time though, they only required a urine sample (again, so glad for our brief potty training stint!) We collected the sample and were done with our long, exhausting day!

I think we’re done with appointments until the day of Edward’s tonsil, adenoid, and tubal surgery on February 5. We’re praying this surgery is as helpful as we anticipate, and that he makes a quick recovery!

One final update on the E-man though: In December, his physical therapist said that he had DOUBLED his range of motion in his left hip. Sporadic therapy (telling it like it is…) and exposure to typical childhood activities have given his hip a range of motion it did not have before. In December, Edward was not yet able to sit “criss-cross applesauce.” Today, however, he climbed onto one of our dining chairs, and I realized he had independently folded his legs and was sitting comfortably.

So, of course, I took a picture!

IMG_7509

This little man is a fighter. He has come so far, and will continue to progress in the days to come. I guarantee it!

Christmas Decorations and Lights from 2014

Here at the Newingham house, we LOVE Christmas!

IMG_6845

 

I thought I would share some of our Christmas decorations in this post!

 

 

As you remember from my last post, we had a real tree in our living room that was supposed to have my nicer decorations on it. In addition though, I wanted a place to hang our more personal and homemade ornaments, so we put a tree in the dining room/homeschool space.

All of the boys really enjoyed decorating “their” tree this year.

IMG_7242

 

Nasko has a much better attention span this year, so he did well with wanting to hang all the ornaments until the task was done. I let the boys decorate the tree with freedom, and did not move any of the ornaments when they finished. They were so proud of their tree! (And the chaos actually did not kill me. Victory for Mama.)

IMG_7240

IMG_7254

IMG_7253

 

Because of my deep hatred for winter, I get very into decorating at Christmastime. (Because, if it’s going to be cold, it may as well feel all warm and twinkly inside!)

Here are the other decorations around our house:

IMG_3172

 

This was the artificial tree we bought used. We loved it! It did not give anyone facial rashes. Reason #348 to love an artificial tree…

After having such a large, obtrusive tree that caused Mama to shriek, “Don’t touch that poisonous thing!!!!”, the toddlers mostly left the artificial tree alone.

IMG_3182

 

The kitchen.

IMG_7210

Our new chalkboard wall outside the kitchen.

IMG_3175

 

The bookshelf in the living room and two smaller trees. The smallest tree contained the ornaments Chance and I bought together our first Christmas. The larger one had an entire set of nativity ornaments that were cross-stitched by my grandmother.

IMG_3180

 

On instagram, a very talented friend from church was doing a giveaway of some of her Christmas artwork. I actually won! So I enjoyed filling picture frames with her beautiful work. (Her Etsy page is here.)

IMG_3179

IMG_3178

 

IMG_3177

My aunt made this silly, little tree a few years back. It is the only decoration in my house with glitter on it. That is how much I love my aunt (and the tree).

IMG_3173

Since our family has grown so much, I had to buy new stockings this year. These chevron pretties were made by men and women in India being trained in the profession of sewing.

(Please ignore the drywall repairs. Those were painted over before we hosted our families!)

IMG_3176

 

My Willow Tree nativity set made its appearance on the very top of our bookshelf.

 

I did mention all the toddlers living here, yes?!

I love Christmas. It’s not only wonderful because of the insane amount of lights I use to decorate our living room and kitchen (this year, over 460 feet. Yeah, that happened.), but I also love it because it’s such a great time to focus on the humanity of our God. This year, our children were able to grasp the idea of a baby being born, so we really enjoyed focusing on the Christmas story.

My mom needlepointed this nativity for our kids last year. She even had to make us a second manger when that piece went missing this year (I found it later).

IMG_3181

 

I kept this nativity set at child-height and encouraged the boys to play with it throughout the season.

IMG_6962

Despite my love of the twinkling physical lights (like, extreme love), this season was so important in reminding us about the light of Christ who lives within us!

Oh Christmas Bush, Oh Christmas Bush, How Costly Are Your Branches?

December was crazy busy, so I didn’t get a single blog post published, but I wanted to share what we’ve been up to! I’ll try to use these next couple posts to get caught up.

A Real Tree

We decided to try getting a live Christmas tree this year. Chance and I both grew up with real trees, but had only had artificial since getting married. We’d heard that toddlers are more likely to leave a real (pokey) tree alone, and thought that sounded beneficial for a home with two toddlers!

This decision ended up costing us a fortune!

Let me explain…

We bought our tree from a local family that had a few for sale. Our first problem was when I picked out the tree. As I mentioned, I’d never done this before as an adult, and I did not actually realize how FAT the tree I chose was. When we got it home, the trunk was much too wide for our tree stand.

IMG_6946

Our new tree spent quite a few hours in the garage before we were able to find a neighbor who had a stand that was wide enough. That neighbor was kind enough to help Chance move the tree to our living room.

IMG_7272.JPG

The tree was SO wide. My friends joked that it was actually a Christmas bush, rather than a tree.

And then, the problems began…

I started having some itchy spots appear behind my ears. I actually got hives back there when I was in college (it was finals week), so I assumed the spots were stress-related.

IMG_6990

(Day 1)

Then the spots progressively got worse. In fact, a few appeared on my face.

At this same time, my neighbor’s wife mentioned dealing with some sort of allergic reaction. Her face was very swollen.

IMG_7004 IMG_7005

(Day 2)

About this time, my friend went to the doctor and was told that she was having a reaction to some poison ivy. I’m a bit more stubborn and held out on visiting the doctor.

IMG_7017 IMG_7019

(Day 3)

I eventually did see the doctor. I declined any medications, but he suggested that maybe I had poison oak from my Christmas tree. He thought the tree had probably been drug through some, and I had a reaction to the oils after putting the lights on the tree.

When I shared this information with my neighbor, she realized that she probably broke out after washing her husband’s clothes when he helped us move the tree. Her swelling was still very bad, so she did get some meds from her doctor.

IMG_7022 IMG_7023

(Day 4)

Mystery solved!

IMG_7028

(Day 5)

At this point, the itching was out of control, and I called the doctor for the medicine prescription. The meds gave me night sweats, rapid heartbeat, and super weird dreams. I stopped taking the meds.

IMG_7045

(Day 6)

IMG_7051

(Day 7)

IMG_7054

(Day 8)

Here I called the doctor again. The redness was slightly less, but the swelling began to increase. Obviously.

I bought a second kind of medication.

Also, I had the tree removed from our home. It had been sitting in our house with only the lights on it because I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I knew I wasn’t touching it again!

We hired a family friend to come haul it away.

I, of course, took photos of such a monumental event!

IMG_7059 IMG_7060

I didn’t even want to touch the tree to remove the lights.

IMG_7061

(It’s like the tree was holding onto the door handle for dear life. It knew its fate was the burn pile!)

IMG_7062

Good riddance, tree!

The man who hauled it away actually showed me a vine growing around the tree trunk. He said the vine was poison oak. We had not only been watering the tree, but we’d also been keeping the poison oak alive!

IMG_7067

(Day 9)

IMG_7098

(Day 10)

IMG_7154

(Day 11)

We eventually replaced this tree with an artificial tree from the Menard County Resale page.

For my friend and I, this one tree/bush cost us three doctor’s appointments, three medications, two tree stands, six strands of lights, and one artificial tree.