Thursday, January 31, 2013

99th day officially

Technically the 100th day of school is tomorrow but Adam was so excited about his 100 project that he took it today. (A lot of kids took them in yesterday so he was feeling behind). Yes that is a pop tart he's having for breakfast.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Organizing the DVD's

I knew something needed to be done. The DVDs were taking over so much shelf space. They were never organized and I never could find the one I wanted. I saw these sleeves online and knew they would do the job.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The kids start diving lessons

I hope they love it! They have improved so much in just one lesson. Adam has the best belly flop video. I'll add it to the post once I get home.

Breakfast by himself

Sometimes being the youngest of five is kind of lonely.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My budding artists

All of my children love art and so we have supplies everywhere-- paper, pencils, crayons, markers, water colors, pastels, acrylics etc. . . We keep all of them put away so that my walls and furniture don't become canvases. So I was surprised to come around the corner and find this little guy working on a masterpiece. I tried to keep my distance so he wouldn't notice me there. He was so cute and serious about what he was doing. And he was doing it all on paper so I was relieved.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Our favorite card game

Over the years we have played this game with so many of our friends.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The bedtime routine

Julianne (wearing new glasses) doing homework. Catherine reinstalling all her apps. Madelyn doing a duck tape craft. Adam reading a book. Owen snuggling on Adam's bed hoping we forget to put him in his crib.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter weather -- over for now!

Our winter here began on Dec 10th -- that was our first really cold day (the day after we ran the half marathon) and it continued until this past weekend (Jan 18th). There were a couple days in the 50's during that time but mostly we were in the 30's and 40's during the day and the 20's at night. But now the gorgeous days are back. Yesterday, while the girls were at swim team, the boys and I sat and read books on a blanket. It was beautiful!

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Here's our forecast for the week.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fabulous News!

This morning we had Catherine's eye ultrasound to differentiate if the raised lesions in her left eye iris were caused from a fluid filled cyst (a benign condition) or from a solid filled tumor (a malignant condition).  I have viewed online images of iris cysts ultrasounds for the past two weeks hoping that I might be able to recognize what we would be looking at during the procedure!

This ultrasound is done just like a baby ultrasound.  They have a wand and the put the goopy gel on it and then they tell you to open your eye!  Catherine was really brave and calm through the whole thing. First they looked again at the whole eye.  Here is her eyeball picture.

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Here is a diagram of what you are seeing.

This just confirmed again that the entire back of her eye was clear and that there were no growths on the retina or near the optic nerve.

Then they switched to the anterior segment ultrasound wand and focused in on her iris. I felt immediately relieved as soon as these little black circles appeared on the screen. I gave Trent an A-OK sign and we waited until the technician said the same thing. Catherine has not 2 but 5 cysts with the 1st and the 5th being larger than the middle three. The first and last ones are the ones that were picked up by her appointment and are not stand alone as they are a part of this cluster of 5 cysts. All five of them were perfectly clear. This is phenomenal news for us. We couldn't be more relieved.

Here is a photo of the ultrasound image showing the 5 cysts.

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Here is my best drawing on top of it to show you what you are looking at.

The roughly drawn red circles are the cysts and they are all clear (black on the inside). The blue line is the surface of her iris so that you can kind of see how the first one and the fifth one were the ones that the optometrist picked up. We did see many different angles and versions of these cysts and a close up on each one to verify that they were completely clear.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Brazos Bend State Park

About an hour outside of Houston is Brazos Bend State Park. This place is kind of like a beautiful swamp. If you hit it at the right time the whole place is crawling with alligators. We were hoping to see a lot of them today as it was the first warm day in a while, but we only saw a few.

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I find all the trees there to be so beautiful. They all have Spanish moss hanging on and completely covering them.

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We wheeled Baba out onto the pier. She walked along the pier and got her exercise while we all walked along the trail to the tower on the far side.

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My girl's love having cameras on their iphones. If you follow them on instagram you are sure to be in for a surprise all the time from them!

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I took this photo hoping that through all the branches you could see the snake. Can you spot it? Here is the same image zoomed in on the snake!

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This was the biggest alligator we saw close to us.

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My dad is standing next to a sign showing the highest the water level had ever been. It is hard to imagine that this swamp has been a complete lake sometimes.

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There were a lot of turtles out. Usually each log was filled with turtles. So that's why I took a photo of this one -- there is only 1 little turtle on it.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quick Road Trip

With the kids having Monday off of school, we took a quick drive down to Houston for the weekend so that we could see Baba -- my dad's mom -- my grandma -- and the kids' great grandma. We are having a great weekend with her. Lots of stories and fun times

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Owen goes to Lowes with Daddy

And pulls the little cart proudly the whole time.


Just Owen and I checked out Lego land. He loved it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Messy Folder

Sometimes you wonder how things get sooooo messy? Like today, when I opened Adam's backpack and took out his folder (which I checked the day before too). Here is a picture of the mess inside one small folder.  photo null-77.jpg

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dentists and Doctors and Stupid People, oh my!

Today started out with me, Julianne and Catherine's dentist appointments (Trent, Madelyn, Adam and Owen had their's yesterday). I was the unlucky one. One new cavity and three very old fillings needed to be replaced and naturally each one was in a different quadrant of my mouth. Wow, that lack of feeling that causes you to talk funny and drool . . . the kids really enjoyed that! By the time we finished I got the girls dropped off at school around 10:30 a.m.

I went home and made Owen lunch and tried to find something I could eat without spilling it out of my mouth (nothing worked) and after suddenly tasting blood and realizing I had bit my cheek I gave up on trying to eat despite being hungry.  (perhaps I have stumbled on a new and very painful dieting plan).

At noon I picked up Catherine from school and headed to her appointment with a pediatric opthamologist.  Trent met us there.  Owen was so excited to see his Daddy there it was really funny to watch.

The past week has been interesting as you try not to worry and try not to think about negative outcomes.  I read everything I could find online about iris lesions the first day and then it was just waiting.  Quickly you realize that you cannot spend all your time thinking and worrying and yet getting your brain to shut off is not always the easiest thing.  So I did what I have always done when I need to shut my brain down.  I played the piano.  Nothing else (not even sleeping) can make me turn off my brain and completely focus on something else.  I probably have played the piano for 20 hours this past week.  Every old song I ever learned and at least 20 or 30 songs I had never played before.  The harder the better because it literally filled my brain with tasks and crowded out the worry.  I could play for an hour or two every night and then when I was exhausted (you don't realize how many back and arm muscles the piano requires until you play a lot) I would head to bed and at least for a while my brain was filled with classical music and not the "what if" game.

I took my chart that I found online and slowly we were able to check off the rows.

Is It Benign or Malignant?
These clinical characteristics differentiate benign from malignant anterior segment tumors.1
Features Associated with Lesions
More Likely BenignMore Likely Malignant
Flat or slightly elevatedNodular
More than oneSolitary
Size< 3mm> 3mm
Ectropion uveaNoYes
Iris infiltrationNoYes
Pupillary distortionNoYes
Sentinel vesselsNoYes

Catherine's lesions are slightly elevated, there is more than one, it only affects one eye, they are about 1mm, as they are small and we just discovered them we don't really know their rate of growth, they are not vascularized (meaning there are no blood vessels attached to them), and they haven't caused any of the problems listed above.  In short, we were able to check off every item (except growth) into the more than likely benign column.  This is great news.  The only caveat was that usually the "more than one" refers to a cluster not to two distinct and individual lesions, so it was this fact and that we have no idea on the growth rate that has us still not quite certain what we are dealing with.

Here is what we do know.  The cysts causing the lesions are growing inside the iris (not behind the iris and pushing up).  This makes them rare and tricky to see.  If they were behind the Iris we could have gotten a pretty good look at them today but with pigmentation on both sides you have to be able to see "inside" them to know if they are filled with clear liquid (meaning a benign cyst) or if they are solid (meaning a tumor) and the only way to figure that out is through a very powerful ultrasound.

The doctor informed us that he was only aware of 2 such ultrasound machines in the greater DFW area and warned us that there would likely be a wait of 1-2 months before we could be seen.  He gave us the number to call and we were on our way.

As soon as I got home I started the phone calls.  First, you talk to the main operator at the Texas Southwest medical center, then to the opthamology, then to the opthamology oncology dept, always having to explain what you need done.  Finally, I think I have reached the right person.  Yes, they do the ultrasounds, yes, that doctor is here.  She asks what is the patients name and date of birth.  I reply. She says, "so this is for a child?"  I answer yes.  She says, "We don't see pediatric cases."  Ummmmmm -- but you are the only one around with the right technology.  "Yes, well we don't do children."  Ummmmmm, but we have been referred to the doctor.  So I start trying to broker a deal.  "How about if I send you her records to look at?"  She replies, no.

"Can I leave a message for the doctor?"  She replies, no.

"So, why is he listed online as a pediatric opthamology oncologist?"  She says, well he will see pediatric cases at one of our extension offices 2 days a month.  You can make an appointment with him by calling the children's hospital not here at his office.

"Ok, but is the ultrasound at the extension office?"  No.

"Alright, so I can see him, and he will do just what I had done today and then refer me to get an ultrasound?"  Yes.

"So he has to refer me to see him even though I have just done this type of appointment and can send you my medical records."    Yes.

"Are you sure, I cannot leave a message for him? or email him?  because this kind of seems ridiculous. I don't want to add in steps, I want to get an ultrasound." Yes, I understand but we don't see pediatric cases here.

This circular conversation continued for a while with her finally (and reluctantly) telling me that she will mention it to him on Monday and I can call her back on Tuesday and then maybe he will consider letting a pediatric case come there.  I ask again if I can send her our medical records so that he can know what kind of case he is dealing with.  She says no, she has it written on a sticky note.  She won't even take my phone number."

I hang up and put that info in a pile and call our doctor.  I explain their response and ask more specifically what type of ultrasound we are looking for so I can start searching for a new place that is more . . .  responsive.

I can't seem to find one in Dallas, so I quit looking there and move on to Houston where I am more familiar with the hospitals anyway.  First I call Texas Childrens.

"Hi, I am needing to make an appointment for my daughter to have an anterior segment ultrasound biomicroscopy to differentiate if the 2 iris lesions in her left eye are solid or cystic." I get transferred up the ranks and finally talk to someone who actually knows what I am talking about.  They inform me that the only place they are aware of that has this machine is Baylor College of Medicine's Eye institute.  I call them.  Yes, they do this ultrasound.  Yes, they see children.   And if  I am fax over all our medical records they will then call me back to make an appointment.

I call back our doctor's office, fill out a medical release, fax it to them, and the secretary there says that  the medical records office person won't be in until Tuesday and then she'll do it.

I have now been on the phone for hours.  I have done the best I can and now must wait.

Then, the phone rings.  It is our doctor's office.  The doctor today had heard about our experience and was distressed by it.  He started making calls.  He found another place with the ultrasound machine.  And he went ahead and scheduled us an appointment there this Tuesday.

Wow.  This is why it is so hard to get anything done-- because you need someone to actually listen to you.  I am so glad my doctor went to bat for us (as I think he should have) but I am saddened that he had to.  I think I will mail this blog post to the first doctor I tried.  This is what I fear so strongly about  socialized medicine -- layer upon layer of people who won't listen to you.  Layer upon layer of paperwork and added referrals and unnecessary appointments.  All to build up the machine.  The layers don't add efficiency, they never have.  They add additional opportunities for redundancy, additional opportunities for billing, and waste time, resources, and early treatment options.  I am for simplicity.  I think everyone should be required to have insurance (just like we are required to have car insurance).  I think it should be bought and sold on the marketplace and not be tied to your employer (like car insurance).  I'm all for deductibles because it makes you think before just going to an appointment.  It makes you ask is this necessary?  It makes you want to be informed because you will pay for each thing until you reach your deductible.  I think the individual should be making the choices.

Sorry for the soapbox, I'll shut up . . . for now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

All the wall photos . . .

There are a few of the 17 years of family photos on my wall that I do not have digital copies of. I am going to get those scanned soon. In the meantime here is the online story of our 17 Christmas photos!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Laundry

I try to do laundry every day-- Except Saturday and Sunday because we are so busy and I want to focus on family things then. So that means Monday is always a little heavy when it comes to the amount of laundry needing to be done. Occasionally I don't get Friday done and sometimes even Thursday doesn't get done and this past week was so busy with birthdays (2 of them), dr appt's, swimming, gymnastics, homework, piano, getting back into the routine, etc. . .

So today, there were 9 extremely large loads of laundry. And it is all I did all day today. Washed, folded, ironed, and watched 5 episodes of Parenthood.

But the Laundry room seems so big now that all the clothes are put away.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Little People

Owen is so into Fisher Price Little People. He is always playing with one of our sets and watching the movies. I was looking back at old photos and found this from Catherine's 2nd birthday -- she too was really into Little People back then.


and so was Julianne -- here they set up our whole collection!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Smoker

For Christmas, we got a smoker. No, not a person with a tobacco addition, but a meat smoker. And today, we tried it out for the first time. It was wonderful. I cooked a whole pork loin. I trimmed it just slightly, patted it down with a "Texas Chili Rub" and placed it in the smoker for 6 hours. Then I removed it and wrapped it tightly with foil and put it in the oven at 215 degrees for 3 more hours. Then I sliced it and served it and there are no photos because we (and some friends we had over for dinner) ate it.

Unbelievably easy and amazingly delicious!

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Recipe for texas chili dry rub (I quadrupled this and then store it in a tupperware)

1/2 cup coarse (kosher) salt
1/3 cup black pepper
1/3 cup paprika
3 TBS chili powder
1 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS dried oregano
1 TBS dried thyme
1 TBS minced dried onion
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Friday, January 11, 2013

Because I really want to learn about eyes . . .

Yesterday (on Catherine's birthday) I took both Catherine and Julianne to get an eye exam to update their prescription and get new contact lenses and new glasses (if their prescription had changed). They both had new prescriptions, got new contacts, and got new glasses.

Catherine however also got something else new in her eye. The doctor noted 2 iris lesions (slightly raised areas on the colored part of her eye). They are wedge shaped and as they were described to me look something like this.


Here is some of the technical letter part. . .


Also her IOP or intraocular pressure was in the normal range.

We really don't know a lot about what any of it means. I have read a lot online in preparation for our next appointment this Wednesday.

Obviously we are kind of a range of emotions. The majority of these things are benign (but they are still something growing in her eye). We are anxious for more information and greater details and will keep everyone updated as we find things out.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Catherine turns 11!

After three days of rain, the sun finally broke through the clouds here in Southlake for a couple of hours which is a fitting analogy for our Catherine.  She is the sunshine and laughter in our home.  We celebrated her day by picking her up from school and taking her (and Julianne) to their annual eye exam  (they go for their annual physicals on Julianne's birthday.)  She and Julianne both got new contacts and new glasses.  (It was one expensive day!)  Then we went for hamburgers and fries and Kinkaid's and then home for cake.  I got creative with the cake and it was sure yummy!

Here we are at dinner

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And then here we are at home enjoying cake!