Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bluebird Gap Farm

About 25 minutes from our home, in Hampton, VA, there lies a hidden treasure called Bluebird Gap Farm.  Today I took the boys over there, even though we didn't get there until 45 minutes before closing and it was overcast & drizzly today. They had a blast!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent 2015

This will be my home-base post for our Advent 2015 Season! :)

Nov. 29-Put Up & Decorate the Tree
Nov. 30- Vinnie sick, family t.v. time
1- Small Craft
2- Bluebird Gap Farm & Awanas
3-Lucas nuerology appt. & Daddy 1/2 day!
4-D.C. trip with the Putnams
5-Decorating at Gram's House
6-Church & Christmastowne with the Putnams!
11-Lucas 6 Yr Old Check-Up (Game Night with Nuemeyer Family?)
12-Mom to Cookie Swap-Guys night!
13- Church & Drive Through Nativity 
14-Co-Op Christmas Party 
24- Christmas Eve at Gram's & Church
25-Christmas at our house
27- Church 
31- Happy New Years! Happy 301th Birthday Uncle Mandy!

Activities to Add:

Cookies for Fire Dept.
Christmas Movies w/ Hot Chocolate & Cookies
Look at Christmas Lights
Send Donation to NJH
Oriental Trading Co Crafts
Handprint Ornaments

Triple R Ranch Dec. 10-19 Christmas in the Country:
(757) 421-4177 Triple R Ranch invites you to Christmas in the Country to celebrate the Holiday Season! A tradition since 1987, Christmas in the Country is a FREE community event where you can enjoy the ranch atmosphere, numerous activities, and the fellowship of your friends and family. In addition, we work well over a month in advance to cover our buildings in Christmas lights to give you a spectacular view! 

Avalon Church Train Show
Avalon Church of Christ 12/4-12/12 many different times available like 12/4 6-8:30 pm, Saturday 10 am-8:30 pm

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why we don't do "The 4 Things" at Christmas in our House

So, I've been seeing this type of image go around on Facebook for the last few years and I got inspired to respond tonight.

We don't do the 3 or 4 thing rule at our house at Christmastime and that's OKAY. Its also okay if you do it!

I do the best I can not to give the boys frivolous gifts throughout the year, and they don't get many "treats" that are worth more than a couple dollars either.  That doesn't mean they aren't completely spoiled, but I don't buy them $20 toys for no reason, ya know?

Throughout the year the boys get "spoiled" with gifts at certain times.

Valentines- a small gift
Easter--a few smalls gifts+ candy
Summer- Passes to Busch Gardens/Water Country USA
August-Vinnie's birthday--5-7 gifts that they really want
October- Lucas' birthday--5-7 gifts that they really want
Christmas- About $350 total between the boys, with a pretty even split & a close number of gifts for each kid to open

All year long, as a parent, it is my responsibility to make sure they have clothing.  I buy clothes for all the members of our family as they NEED them.  Both kids got a couple special fun things as gifts during their birthdays. (Minecraft shirts for Lucas & Jurassic Park shirts for Vin)  It is also our job to make sure they have towels and other normal things for living a healthy life.  While a fun electric toothbrush is a good stocking stuffer, I wouldn't put their normal $1.25 for 2 brushes pack of tooth brushes in their stocking.  Its my JOB to make sure they have clean toothbrushes available.  (an electric brush is a luxury though)  I don't think that #2 or #3 on this list are "fair" to have as Christmas gifts.

We don't *DO* Santa Claus, but my children both believe in Santa & will assume that some of their gifts came from Santa.  They also know that Mama has been making a Christmas list all year long and that many of their gifts come from their parents.  They can have the fun of Santa without Santa getting the credit for all the gifts under the tree.  In the past I have had some gifts unwrapped (usually stuff I got second hand) and then others wrapped...and the unwrapped stuff was from Santa.  This year I don't have any secondhand gifts but we'll probably unwrap some of their stuff.

We always let the boys WANTS lead us in what we purchase for Christmas gifts. This year they are all about toys-to-life video games.  So, that's what they are getting.  LOTS of video game stuff.

It has been our tradition since Lucas' first Christmas, when he was 2 months old, for Tim to pick out a collection of books for the boys.  They've got quite a library of classics and he actually reads them to them!

So, we actually DO, do the #1 & 4 things on the list above, but not because we feel the need to LIMIT what the kids get for Christmas.  Those are just personal choices we made.  As they get older we'll probably even cater the books to things they've asked for or that we know they'll enjoy.  For now, Tim picks the books.

This year I'm a bit bummed/let down by the Christmas stash, since I don't think a big pile of video game stuff makes for a very exciting Christmas morning, but I know the boys will be beyond themselves with excitement over their new games & accessories.

As an adult the fun part of Christmas is GIVING gifts. I don't expect anything in return & I'll be okay if the only present I unwrap is from my kid sister. (Mom gave me a new artificial tree as a combo. birthday+Christmas gift)  I LOVE to see my boys spoiled rotten on Christmas. They may think that Santa gets the credit now, but someday they'll learn the truth, and they'll appreciate all that we put into making Christmas magical and amazing for them. :) Their joy brings me happiness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

December's Attempt at an Advent Calendar

This year's advent season was a flop.  We had so much going on that we didn't really do a whole lot to make Christmas special or keep the "season" alive. Hopefully 2015 will be a better year for us!

Dec. 1
Dec. 2--decorated the tree at Grandma & Pap's with Mandy
Dec. 3--decorated our tree
Dec. 4--Sleepover with Grammy & Grandpa (Pap in hospital & Mom went to be with them)
Dec. 5--Go to Emporia for weekend
Dec. 6-7--Emporia
Dec. 8--No school Croup :(
Dec. 9--Family Movie Night
Dec. 10--Waiting on Jesus Craft & new toys from Grandma & Pap
Dec. 11--Program at school
Dec. 12--Bake cookies
Dec. 13-14--Mommy sick
Dec. 15--Babysit Lia, Lucas got to go to James & Missy's
Dec. 16--Grocery Shopping
Dec. 17--Cubbies Party & Mom & Vinnie dinner date
Dec. 18-19
Dec. 20-- Lucas spent day with Grammy & Grandpa
Dec. 21--Church
Dec. 22-23
Dec. 24-Christmas in Emporia
Dec. 25--Christmas at home, Dinner in Emporia

I don't have any amazing pictures or even details.  Dad was in the hospital from the 4th-20th and it was a very hectic time.  Vinnie was sick, I was sick, we were just way run down.

Friday, May 1, 2015

What a Doozy

Wow! I could never have anticipated how long and tiring our trip to Colorado would be!  I did take detailed notes almost every day so I have every intention of getting our story up here on the blog.  Unfortunately, Vinnie is *VERY* sick right now.  He's running high fevers, coughing and struggling to maintain an O2 reading over 93%.  I am still recovering from our 24 hour long day of travel home & no full-nights of sleep following.

Please continue to pray for us & look forward to hearing about our amazing journey to National Jewish Health!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shopping List for Denver

These are the items that I need to shop for and purchase before we fly out...some of the items are things we can BORROW and return when we get home.

2 Full Size Suitcases (borrow)
3 Carry On Size Suitcases (borrow)
3 Heavy Duty book bags (like Jansport--for carry on toys/food, etc.) (borrow)

TINY tube socks--like XXS for 3 year olds to play soccer x 12 pair (preferably in colors since they will show)
SMALL tube socks--approx size for a 4-5 year old to play t-ball x 8 pairs

Sheets-from Mom

CeraVe lotion x3

Vanicream lotion x3

Reclining Stroller (suitable for a 27 lb child to nap in) w/ cargo area -- From James & Missy

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A "heart attack"

Amanda, my sister, treated Vinnie & I to dinner tonight at Outback Steakhouse. Unfortunately, before we'd even gotten food at our table, Vinnie found a tiny shred of cheese in the booth and picked it up. My sister grabbed it from him and I rushed him to the bathroom to wash his hands, but it appears the damage was done. By the time I got his hands washed (there was an issue there because they only had heavily scented soap in the ladies room), and back to the table his eyes were swelling, his face was hivey and itchy and he had hives on his stomach. I gave him a dose of benadryl and took him outside and he got some relief from the symptoms. I'll have to re-dose him with medicine at the four hour mark. I'll be watching for a more serious reaction as we near the two hour point (now). *THIS* is why National Jewish is important for Vinnie. His skin is so broken that even casual contact with his allergens can cause a serious (possibly life threatening) reaction.

This is his face almost 2 hours after it happened.  You can see his eyes are still swollen/puffy & the scratches on his forehead and the redness from the hives. (the scratches around his mouth are old)

He'll get 24 hours of benadryl following a reaction like this. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wet Wrap Therapy

At National Jewish Health, the therapy program relies heavily on wet wrap therapy.

This involves a 20 minute "soak" in the bath tub followed by a "smear" of a thick layer of ointment/creme/medicines/steroids on the child's ENTIRE body, which is then covered with a layer of WET clothing, including tube socks over the hands & feet.  The final layer is warm pjs and dry socks on the hands/feet.

Vinnie wears exclusively 100% wool or wool/silk blends that have been lanolized for his normal clothing.  Anything else we have tried has irritated his skin.

The wet-wrap therapy is done with 100% COTTON clothing.

Obviously this poses a problem for us.  So, I went out & bought a set of cotton pjs and a fleece sleeper for Vinnie to do a trial run to see if maybe the "barrier layer" of cremes would be sufficient to protect his skin from irritation.

We did our first trial run this morning.  Vinnie did NOT like soaking in the tub.  He did NOT like getting the lotions smeared on him.  We did triamcinilone steroid creme on his eczema spots and CeraVe lotion on his clear skin.

When we finished dressing him, it only took a few minutes for Tim to calm him down and he was happy.  He was a little embarrassed about leaving the house all wrapped up but we made him comfortable & he was able to enjoy Chic Fil A for lunch while shopping at Target. (he had to eat with a fork, instead of his fingers)

He took a nap on the car ride home and it was right around time to take off the wrap (he wore it for 2 hours) when we got home.  His skin showed NO signs of irritation, which is wonderful.

We kept him dressed in long sleeves and socks/shoes all day, so he wouldn't be able to scratch & undo any healing that took place.  At dinner time his skin still felt moist/soft.

After dinner we did another soak/smear/wet wrap routine.  Vinnie did okay with the bath, he was pretty upset at first but eventually calmed down and didn't want to get out.  He cried pretty badly during the smearing and dressing in wet clothing though.  Tim was able to calm him down and get him to bed pretty quickly though, so we'll see how his skin is tomorrow.

UPDATE: 3/15/15 AM--Vinnie slept well during the night & woke up with no irritation.  The pjs that had been wet were mostly dry but cool.  We tried to leave them on him but he was quickly scratching under them, so we switched him back into his regular wool clothing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Preparing for Denver- Part 3

 I apologize in advance that these early posts are so scatter-brained. There is just so much going through my head at one time that I need to keep it all in one place.

Yesterday and today I went shopping for the cotton & fleece jammies that NJH requires for their wet wrap techniques.  I found a few cute things on clearance (trying to buy warm winter pjs in March is not easy!)  and today I even got the boys matching Transformers pjs. I had to buy a size 4 for Vinnie, which means they will need taken in, but that's not big deal.

I've also put a call out to my friends to see if anybody has anything that will work for Vinnie.  We'll be trialing a wet-wrap tonight or tomorrow morning.

Keep up with the whole series of posts through these links!

Read my first post about Denver here! 
Post 2--thoughts & questions is here. 
Part 3--More prep work
Compilation of Questions to Ask Before/In Denver
Plans for Things to Do

Things to Ask the Coordinator or Doctor about Denver!

I need to ask about filaggrin mutations when we go, its possible that Vinnie has this & if he does it changes his treatment options.

Keep up with the whole series of posts through these links!

Food Challenges I'd like to do:


Read my first post about Denver here! 
Post 2--thoughts & questions is here. 
Part 3--More prep work
Compilation of Questions to Ask Before/In Denver
Plans for Things to Do

Things to Do In Denver!

Things to Do In Denver:

Denver Zoo/Ronald McDonald House Pass--call & find out if this still exists. :)


Heritage Amusement Park weekends only

Heritage Square Alpine Slide (opens while we are there!)

Red Rock/Garden of the Gods

Train Ride

Keep up with the whole series of posts through these links!

Read my first post about Denver here! 
Post 2--thoughts & questions is here. 
Part 3--More prep work
Compilation of Questions to Ask Before/In Denver
Plans for Things to Do

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Planning For Denver (Part 2)

So, I'm working my way through reading other people's journeys.

Today we found out Vinnie has to be off of his Doxepin for 1 week prior to the program.  Which means he won't be on it for our flight or visiting family.  This gives me a lot of anxiety & I plan on talking to his doctor's tomorrow.

I'm also going to attempt to do a wet-wrap routine at home with Tim's help this weekend.  I want to try it with cotton clothing & see how his skin does.  He doesn't do well with cotton long term--but the wraps apparently only stay on for 2 hours at a time.  I want to see if he can tolerate the cotton clothes, because if he can, that changes how we pack/shop for the trip.

I got a lot of paperwork done today.  I also got a discount towards t-ball, so Lucas will still be able to play, even though he'll miss a whole month.

I need to make a bath toys bag.  Something we can carry back & forth to the hospital to keep all his toys in.

I also need to buy new jars of CeraVe and Vanicream.  And refill his Elidel.  And Triamcinilone.

I need to ask Sarah (our coordinator) about these "nasal rinses" that I am reading about on the blog.  I think its probably something similar to a neti-pot and if so that's scary. I have no idea how Vin will do with that.

Basically, learning more about the program is just SCARING the CRAP out of me. :(

While the parents are in classes/meetings/therapy where are the kids? Do they have a day-care type play room? I'll be alone with Vin at the hospital.

Do we get to use the same hospital room each day? Or do we have a different room? Do we have to carry everything back & forth?

Read my first post about Denver here! 
Post 2--thoughts & questions is here. 
Part 3--More prep work
Compilation of Questions to Ask Before/In Denver
Plans for Things to Do

Monday, March 9, 2015

We're Going to Denver! (Part 1)

In December of 2014, we went to Vinnie's allergist, desperate for help.  His skin was out of control. He appeared to have developed several new allergies through the Thanksgiving holidays.  He was getting sick constantly.  Unfortunately, his allergist, the Head of the Department of Allergy/Immunology at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, was just as baffled as we were.  She said at this point she isn't sure what else to do for Vinnie or how to help him, but she did have a little glimmer of hope.  She told me about a program in Denver, at National Jewish Health Center, where they treat kids with severe atopic dermatitis (the fancy name for eczema) and allergies.
That's where we began our journey to Denver.  It took the doctor about a month to get the referral in, due to holidays, weather, and other set-backs.  But, after she did, the process moved pretty quickly.
Within 2 weeks we got the call going over the details and doing the initial "intake" over the phone.
While Vinnie was in the hospital for a stomach virus, at Valentine's we did the processing paperwork and officially decided to go to Denver.
A few days later we got the call to finalize the financial aspects of the trip.  We had to assure them that we understood the costs associated with their program.  We will max out Vinnie's deductibles on this trip and come close to meeting our family deductibles as well.  We will be responsible for paying all of that, via a payment plan over an 18 month period when we get home.
A couple days later we got the "scheduling call".  We took a couple days to go over things and choose the best time for us to go and then called our coordinator up to make things official.  I booked our flights while I was on the phone with her.
Now I have lots of paperwork to take care of, I've been making lists of questions and goals, and rallying support.
Today I got links to blogs/facebook pages of other families who have been to the program.

April 2012:

May 2012:

August 2013:

September 2013:

October 2013:

February 2014:
(This child's AD was labeled as "moderate/severe" and he got to go home a day early!)

February 2014:
(This child's skin responded well to the therapy but she was only able to do ONE food challenge in all 10 days.  The doctor's did offer to keep her longer.)

I'll be reading their stories and adding to my list of questions/goals/concerns. Vinnie starts the program on April 13, and hopefully I'll be diligent in blogging our way through it.


1. Get his skin healed.
2. Confirm/deny his allergens and plan a good diet
3. Answers about his immunology & why he's always sick
4. Answers about his size/slow growth


1. What should we bring?
2. Are there meds/lotions we can buy before we go?
3. Bathing distractions?
4. Medicines to take/not take?

This is the original post in this series.
Post 2--thoughts & questions is here. 
Part 3--More prep work
Compilation of Questions to Ask Before/In Denver
Plans for Things to Do

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Aquarium Drama

The boys and I have been keeping a small 10 gallon aquarium with various fish in it since March 16, 2013, when Lucas got his first beta fish, "Spider man Peter Parker".

We haven't really had any issues with the tank maintenance in all of that time, but apparently we were just lucky.

On Monday, Jan. 26 I noticed that one of my our neon tetras was ill and dying. We had just bought new zebra danios on Friday night so it was possible that an illness was introduced to the tank, so I treated it with Lifeguard.

To do the Lifeguard treatment I had to remove our Yo-Yo Loach and 3 snails from the aquarium.  On Tuesday the 27th, the crazy yo-yo loach managed to jump from the 8 cup measuring cup on TOP of the aquarium and into the big tank!  The holes he had to make it into are less than 3" square!

On Wednesday the 28th, I took a water sample to PetSmart to get it checked out. The ammonia was dangerously high, the nitrates were low and the waste in the tank was high.

I bought "bottled bacteria" and a marimo moss ball to add to the tank.

I also noticed that morning that the female Mickey Mouse platys we have had given birth & there were still 2 fry alive in the tank!

I moved them to a "medicine tent" in the tank to keep them safe from Mr. Yo Yo.

On the 30th I had another water check done & although most of the levels in the tank were safe, the ammonia was still too high.

I bought more bottled bacteria & added the whole bottle & a new bottle of dechlorinator too.

I also bought an artifical sea sponge & added that to my filtration system.

On Feb. 3 I had the water tested again and the nitrates were at 20ppm (which is good) and the ammonia was lower!  Yay!

That evening I dumped the rest of the stability brand bottled bacteria in the tank.

On Feb. 6 I had the water tested again and the nitrates were around 30ppm and the ammonia was still measuring a little high.  But now the clerk said the ph and alkalinity were low.

I also pulled the carbon filter out of the tank.

Its now Feb. 7 and I'm itching to expand to a bigger tank. I'm convinced we need more room to make the water stabilize.  Its just too touchy with such a small tank. 

Our current "family" includes:

3 Neon Tetras
4 Zebra Danios
2 Female Mickey Mouse Platy
1 Male Mickey Mouse Platy
2 Male Fancy Guppies
2 Mickey Mouse Platy fry (about 1/4" long & starting to look orange!)
1 Yo Yo Loach
2 Ramshorn Snails
1 Mystery Snail
a handful of feeder snails

UPDATE: Feb. 18, I haven't had the water checked in a couple of weeks now.  The filter has some obvious growth in it, which is good.  Also my little baby fry are getting larger! :) They are 3 weeks old now!

I did a 3 gallon water change today & cleaned the gravel pretty well. 

On Friday Feb 27th I bought my new 29 gallon fish tank!  I got the Tetra brand kit fromWal-Mart for $99 because I had $40 in Savings Catcher bucks and a $10 gift-card from e-bates. :) I got it set up on Saturday morning.  Some of the feeder snails made it over in the initial move & I added one of our Ramshorns later in the day.
Just before bed time we added the baby platy fish, (they are now a month old and are about 1" long) and the other 2 big snails to the tank, 
This morning we woke up and everything was still good in the tank so we began the process of bringing over a little more water, the filter sponges, and the rest of the fish.  Yo Yo Loach took a while to catch but its better that he was the last one to acclimate to the new tank anyway, so the others had time to settle in.
I went out to Petsmart later in the day and got a water sample tested and compared with tap water.  The only issue was slightly hard pH, which I will monitor and then treat as needed. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Merry Christmas!

For the 2 weeks before Christmas, we babysat Lia part-time during the day.  I managed to snap a few cute "Christmas-y" pictures of the little sweetie while we were at it! 

On Christmas Eve morning we let the boys open their gifts from Uncle Loren & Auntie Heather, Auntie Laura & her new man Cody, and Auntie Melanie & the Odette family. :)

Lucas got Syndrome & Mrs. Incredible for the Disney Infinity 1.0!

Vinnie got 4 new super hero action figures & 2 comic books!

Lucas got Skylanders Mega Bloks!

And Vinnie got a "How to Train Your Dragon" bath toy!  He wanted to get RIGHT into the bath tub to play with it!  

Lucas got a Grow With Me Skateboard!!

And Vinnie got the Playschool Ninja Turtle play-set! He loved it! I love his little toes in that last picture!!

That evening we headed over to Amanda's house for Christmas Eve Covato style. :) 

They got the story of Rudolph in a Hallmark Read-Aloud book, read by Pap & Gram-mama. 

Lucas got a Batman Apptivity game!

Vinnie got some Skylander Mega-Bloks of his own!

Lucas got Skylanders Trap Team from Auntie Mandy! He said, "I was wanting to get this for CHRISTMAS!"  :) 

Then it was Christmas morning at our house!

Mandy got me the "Peace on Earth" figure for my nativity.  She's the brown doll holding a sheep. 

Lucas was as happy as could be playing Trap Team!

Vinnie was happy playing Ninja Turtles!