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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Our Big Announcements... Finally!

Sorry to keep you on the edge of your seats!!  Life has been crazy busy and I just haven't had the time to sit down and start this blog post yet!

I'll start with our first big announcement, and then I'll go back and explain why this announcement has all of a sudden become so important/urgent.

We bought a lot and are starting on plans to build a fully accessible house!

We are SO excited!

It has always been our dream to build a fully accessible house for our girls and it really seems like the time is right.  Our house is up quite a bit from where we bought it at, we have lots of equity in our house, my dad is a general contractor and wants to build the house for us, and David is (well, at least he was.... this last week has been pretty rough on him) doing amazing at work, so it just seems the time is now.

Our date nights have started to look like this....

.... and we have an architect working on our plans as we speak.  We are also working hard to get our house on the market so we can sell it and pull the equity out to help us with building.  Along with everything else we have going on, it feels a little crazy, but we are excited.
I'll jump back now and talk about our next announcement, and why this has become an urgency for us.
Back in May of 2013 I wrote this post about trying to adopt again.  We started our homestudies and started perusing our second India adoption to be able to adopt Ramya's friend, Deena****, from India, who has ostegenisis imperfect., aka brittle bone disease,  Then life fell apart.  David was struggling hugely at work, I was afraid he was going to lose his job (though he wasn't afraid he would), he was struggling emotionally more than I have ever seen him struggle before, and things just felt so yucky.  We were in survival mode.  We started counseling and began working through everything that was going on.  For his sanity, we decided to pause our adoption.  It was a terribly hard decision and I never had peace about it.   That is where a whole different huge story comes in, so bear with me....
In October or November, I honestly don't even remember now because it's such a blur, I broke down in our neighborhood church group and shared how I never had peace about pausing our adoption.  I shared that it just all felt so wrong and I felt we weren't trusting God that we would pull through our storm.  I cried and let it all out, which is something I reallllllly am not fond of doing, especially in public ;).  My friend asked what would need to happen for me to have peace, and I said Deena would need to have another family so it was very clear we were not meant to be her family.  Well, I go home that night, open up my computer, and read that Vathsalya, her orphanage, was closing and ALL of the children had found families.
Wow.  I didn't even know what to think.  I cried even more, thinking I was wrong the whole time and we were never meant to be her family.  I tried to get in touch with our adoption agency and they tried to get in touch with Vathsalya so we could figure out what was going on.  At that time, David and I also talked and prayed, then talked and prayed some more, and then decided that if she had not been adopted to another family yet, it was time to start our homestudies back up and try to adopt her again.  Long story short, about a month goes by and we finally hear back that she had not found a family yet and that we could still adopt her, but because they were closing the way we would have to go about it looked different and it was unclear as to how we could get her in the system so that WACAP could match us with her.  Our adoption counselor at WACAP was actually headed to India in December and said that she would talk to Mary Paul, the director of Vathsalya, herself and try to see what we needed to do to adopt her.  There's more long story, more back and forth, and finally in about February we still didn't have any clear answers.  We finally decided that the best thing we could do was finish our homestudies so that if/when India found out how we could adopt her, we would be ready.  It didn't take us much to finish them as we only had to meet with Oasis, our homestudy agency, one last time.  Then we waited for a bit to get all of our new letters of recommendations and things like that in and we waited as the report was written up.  When everything was finally ready it was submitted to the state of Arizona for approval. 
With of all of the back and forth with the adoption previously, as well as all of the unknowns, we didn't publically share that we were trying to start the adoption process again with very many people.  We just kind of kept it to ourselves, shared with family and close friends, and kept on chugging along to get approved. 
As of right now, our homestudy is still sitting on the desk of a judge somewhere, and we are still not approved.  Though it's hard to go back and announce it all again, especially because things are very unclear as to whether or not we will even be able to adopt Deena, we feel it's time to let people know because the fact is that we need prayer to get our paperwork moving again.  If we don't share, people don't know how to pray for us, and that doesn't do any good.  We know we need your prayers!
So back to the house....
We have a big beautiful house, but it only has 3 bedrooms and an office (but David works from home and needs the office to work from and I homeschool from the living room since I need a nook to homeschool from).  We cannot have bunk beds, since our girls cannot climb up the ladder, so we have to have a room that we can physically fit 3 girls and 3 beds in, as well as wheelchairs.  We also need a bathroom that can be accessible for the girls, but the bathroom in this house is very narrow and will not work well.  We prayed and told God we would step out in faith to adopt Deena, but that He was going to have to help us figure out where she would sleep, since we just physically don't have the room for one more bed (she will sleep in our room for a while, but to adopt you have to have a bed for the child in a room shared only by other siblings of the same gender).  Now that we are working towards adopting again, we were, once again, trying to figure out how to physically fit another bed in our house.  It became clear that it was just time to try and find a new house so that the girls would have the room they needed.  We also really want them to have an accessible bathroom so they have more freedom and independence.  We looked at multiple houses in many different price ranges and found that there was just nothing that was going to work for our unique situation, unless we poured a ton of money in to a house, which would end up costing us more than just building.  Finding a single-story house that can be made to fit 3 girls in wheelchairs is, well, a challenge we discovered.  That's when we decided to try and pursue building. 
So there you have it.... our two big announcements are that we are building and adopting, all at once, because we are just nuts like that.  Oh, and we will be looking for a new car soon too, because my mini van just won't fit 4 kids and 3 wheelchairs.  Life feels a bit crazy right now with all the changes we have coming up, but we do have a lot of peace about the direction we are headed and we know it is what we are meant to do, no matter how crazy it feels.  We would really appreciate your prayers through this whole process and appreciate each and every one of you!  Please also pray for Ramya and our family as we are going through some tough things with her right now and could really use your prayers.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Team Double Trouble is at it Again..... Join Us for The Walk-and-Roll for Spina Bifida with the Arizona Spina Bifida Association

Every year the Spina Bifida Association of Arizona hosts a Walk-and-Roll for spina bifida; it's one of their biggest fundraisers of the year!  The association has always been a big support for us, and we want to say "thank you" by helping them raise the funds they need to be able to support families all across Arizona.

How can you help?

You can sign up to walk with our team, collect donations yourself, and/or donate towards our team if you are unable to join us at the walk.

When and where is the walk?

This year the walk will take place on Saturday, November 8th at 10 am.  Registration begins at 9 am.  It will be held at Steel Indian Park.

How do I sign up?

Please go to our team page at to join or team or donate on our behalf.

THANK YOU!!  We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Our Appointment at the Melmed Center and Our New Eating Strategy

Today I took Ramya for her appointment at the Melmed Center.  We made an appointment at the recommendation of the school district when Ramya underwent her testing there.  My goal was to gain practical strategies for helping her learn, since we homeschool and I take my job pretty seriously ;). 

The developmental pediatrician we saw was a really nice doctor who was born in Pakistan but had extensive knowledge about adoption, orphanages in India, and common practices in India.  I was so glad!  She spent about an hour and a half with us talking about everything Ramya.... behaviors, attachment, history, learning, eating, and anything else we could think of.

We just started a new eating strategy with Ramya that I devised (I'll post more about that below) and I got a chance to talk to the doctor about it.  She said she thought it was perfect and she was really glad to see I was already doing what she would have recommended.  Yeah!  Since attachment issues and eating issues are all new to me, I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants sometimes.  I read a ton of books but the practical day-to-day implementation and hands-on practice of what I read just feels totally new to me.  It was very reassuring to hear that we were doing ok!  She liked our approach to the milk as a daily "extra" for weight gain and didn't think there was anything to add there.  I talked to her about our GI visits and my concerns there and she totally agreed with me that GI is not a good fit for us, as they do not really understand Ramya and her unique background.  Whew!

We discussed Ramya's learning needs and the doctor recommended that we get a psychoeducational evaluation.  The test is not covered by insurance and is very expensive, but I feel it is important and want to go ahead and get it.   The test will give us the specifics of the areas she does well in, the areas she is low in, what ways she learns best, how she processes information, etc...  It's 2 days of testing, at 2 hours per day, then a day to go over the results.  They will give me practical strategies and approaches for teaching her and helping her learn.  Though I cannot say I am looking forward to it, I know that the information we get from the testing will help me to know how to teach her and how to best help her learn and is really important for me to know. 

Another topic we discussed is Ramya's behaviors (things like lying, being controlling, attention-seeking behaviors, eating issues, jealousy, tantrums, etc...) and she felt like they are totally normal for a child with her background, which I totally agree with.  I basically told her it's all stuff we anticipated and nothing I thought was out of the norm.  I told her our strategies at home and she said that we were doing what she would recommend and just to keep it up and be consistent.  She is hopeful, based on what she saw in our interactions, that the behaviors will taper off after about 3-4 years of being home with us.  She said right now she is still trying to figure out if this is forever, and what exactly forever means, which I agree with.  I still feel that she is trying to figure out "family" and her role as "daughter" and "sister". 

The doctor recommended getting a hearing a vision test, but not through the district, which is what we did in the past.  I already had the vision test scheduled with Dr. Glonek next Tuesday so I will schedule the hearing tomorrow so they are both on the calendar.  Other than that, there's not much she recommends.  She said she could diagnose her with ADHD if we wanted, but that she recommended waiting to see if she has attention issues or if it is processing issues that are exhibiting as attention issues.  I told her a diagnosis wouldn't change anything anyhow, and that I wouldn't want medication anyway, and that I'd rather not diagnose her at this time, and she was fine with that.   We will see her again in 4 months to talk about the testing results and see if there is anything further she recommends. 

So back to the eating...

I have been thinking  (and praying) long and hard about our eating struggles.  Ramya has been spiraling since my hospital stay with Madi and things had gotten even worse in so many areas, especially eating.  The control over food and attention-seeking behaviors with food were over-the-top.  I just came to the point where I wanted to break down in tears because every meal was so terrible.  Hours and hours and hours every day.  It was hard to just sit down and have fun after meals because I was so tense and the rest of the day was so rushed.  I smiled, we played, the kids had fun, but felt it was fake and really wasn't feeling happy, that's for sure.  I was just trying to fake it until I could make it real, if that makes sense.  With homeschooling, therapy, and appointments, life can be busy anyway, but add in hours of eating every day and it was terrible.  I knew that something had to give for not just mine and David's sanity, but hers as well.  It's so hard with her because positive feedback or negative feedback for food get us in the same spot... it gives her power over us and power with her food, which leads to control over food and refusal to eat when she feels she needs control.  I decided the best thing we could do is stop giving any attention to food, positive of negative, so it loses it's power.

When meal time comes, we pick out what goes on the plate together and I make sure she has what she needs on the plate (meaning something with protein and healthy fats, fruits or veggies, a grain, etc...).    I set a timer for 30 minutes and I sit by her.  We talk about our day, what we will be doing, funny things that happened, anything and everything, other than food.  I do not ask her to take bites.  I do not tell her good job.  I do not remind her that her body needs food to grow.  I do not give her any feedback on how she is doing.  She doesn't like the lack of attention with food, so when she tells me something like "look mom, I took a bite", I just tell her, "Remember that mommy is not worried about food, so you don't have to tell me, it's ok.", or something to that extent.  When the timer gets to 25 minutes, it automatically gives a warning and turns yellow (it glows green up until 25 minutes).  Then, when time is up, it gives another warning and turns red.  This way the timer is giving the reminders and she is managing food herself, instead of it coming from me (or David, since we are both using this strategy).  At the end, eating time is over and I put the food away.  Of course I still need to make sure she is getting enough calories, so if she hasn't eaten enough, I give her some extra of her high-fat and high-protein milk so that she is still getting what she needs, but without any positive or negative pressure with food.

We have only been using this strategy since the start of the week, and of course I do expect some testing of boundaries with it, but my hope is that staying consistent will mean no more food battles and more quality time together.  I really believe that we need to get to the root of the food issues and try and heal what is causing them.  Hopefully having less time on eating will mean more quality time together to just enjoy each other and work on attaching and bonding.  So far it is working well and she is eating the same amount of food as she ate before, but it takes 30 minutes instead of 1 1/2-2 hours.  Because she would wait for either positive or negative feedback to take a bite (or hold it in her mouth if we weren't looking, because she knew she wouldn't get feedback if we weren't looking), eating took forever.  And when she wanted attention (so constantly ;)) she would not eat to get that attention.  But without that part, eating takes so much less time.  That, of course, leaves us more time for playing, dancing, rocking, homeschooling and just being, which is what we needed.  I am seeing her strong need for control change shape now, which isn't great as it's targeted towards Madi and Conner quite often, but we will get there slowly but surely.  I try to give her lots of appropriate choices throughout the day so that she has some control.  Though it doesn't solve the problem, it does help, and I know it will all just take time.  I also try to give her lots of appropriate attention in other areas which helps.  Ramya is such a sweet and fun girl, so enjoying time with her is easy!

So that is that for now.  I have some big announcements to make, but it's almost 1 a.m. so those will just have to wait.  Please continue to pray for our family as we continue to grow as a family of five.  Even though it has been almost a year and a half since we officially became a family of five this process of learning, growing, and healing will be ongoing for years for all of us.  Please pray for wisdom and guidance as we go continue on this journey together, as well as for lots of peace, healing, and joy.  Thank you!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Our New Whole Foods Supplement... Juice Plus+

I'm always on the lookout for high-quality supplements for my kiddos.  I have tried so many different things but I either have a hard time getting them to take them, or they will take them but the nutrients fall short.  Of course I would love if they would just eat the diet I know they need and didn't need any supplements, but well, we are still working on that one.  Then you add in that our produce now days, even when it is organic, falls very short on nutrients, and it becomes even harder to get your kiddos what they need.

After watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, as well as Food Inc. and Food Matters on Netflix, I have been even more fired up about trying to build up our bodies with micronutrients and nutrient-dense foods.  We eat almost completely organic, buy local grass-fed beef and organic free-range chicken, eat only wild-caught fish, eat organic produce, limit sugars, starches, and refined carbs, and we don't eat many processed foods.  Because I can't get my kiddos to eat many vegetables and Madi won't eat fruits or veggies unless I chop them very, very tiny and hide them in her spaghetti, I always felt my kids were not getting what they needed.   I love juicing, and think that's a great way to get micronutrients, but I honestly hate cleaning the juicer, and don't don't juice as much as I should.  Even when I do, Madi and Ramya won't drink it, so that doesn't help them.

On the spina bifida groups I'm on people kept talking about Juice Plus and how it's helped them to keep UTIs away, stay out of the doctor's office, to be infection-free, etc....  The girls do great with not getting UTIs (thanks to cranberry extract and d-mannose), but I always worry about keeping Madi's immune system up so she doesn't come down with something and have a seizure.  I also try so hard to build up Ramya's  system since I am sure she is so depleted from years of inadequate nutrition.  Conner does pretty well and doesn't get sick often, but he's not a veggie eater for sure.  Poor David gets sick every time anyone around us does, and he always has a hard time kicking it.  I know he could use an immune system boost.  I almost never get sick, but with 3 kiddos, and 2 of those kiddos having disabilities, well, I just don't have time to be sick at all!   I decided to try it for our family and so far we are loving it!  Even Madi, who gags fruits and veggies and won't eat many different textures, will eat them and likes them.  They have a child's study they are conducting and if you participate, and purchase an adult juice plus, your child gets Juice Plus for free (you have to purchase an adult juice plus set, but then one child per adult gets their juice plus covered.  David and I each get the supplements so two kiddos get their supplements free and then we pay for the third child's supplements.  David LOVES that they have chewables for adults and talks about how much he loves them :)).

Just to be clear, I do NOT think Juice Plus should be a substitute for high-quality fruits and vegetables, and I'll keep chopping those veggies and hiding them, but it is a great supplement to help you get to where you should be.  David and I eat a lot of vegetables, but I think it's important for us too, as it helps fill in the gaps. 

If you would like to read the clinical research on Juice Plus you can go to....

Here is a video about how Juice Plus is made...

And a great summary from Dr. Sears, whom I love...

I signed up to sell Juice Plus because I wanted to earn the money back on our own purchases (you do not get a discount if you sign up, but it's $50 a year and we earned that $50 back on our first purchase by signing up to sell it) so that I can use that money back towards our future purchase.  I can see our family using it long-term.  If you would like to try juice plus, please let me know!  Here's a link to our Juice Plus store...       

I'll keep you updated at how we are liking it.  Please let me know if you have any questions :).       


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Green Kid's Craft Back to School Sale

We are really enjoying our Green Kid's Craft monthly craft box.  I thought I would share their upcoming back-to-school coupon code.  If you click on the link below if/when you purchase, we will get credit towards a free box :)....
BACK TO SCHOOL SALE -- $10 OFF ANY SUBSCRIPTION - AUG 10 - AUG 31 Green Kid Crafts is a monthly Creativity and STEM Science Box subscription service that provides all the hands-on materials needed to inspire creative and educational fun. Plus, they also offer tons of single boxes with themes like Kitchen Science, Ocean, Mad Scientist, Nocturnal Animals, Green Energy, and much more. We don't see many coupons for the longer-term subscriptions, so this is a great chance to get a deal on those! Use code “BACK2SCHOOL10" to save $10 off any subscription, plus receive bonus welcome materials and activities. All new subscriptions ship for FREE! New subscribers only. Offer expires 8.31.14.
Visit here to start shopping!



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Seizures Are No Fun!

Wednesday went a little different than we had planned.

We had friends over and we were making fermented pickles (  The kiddos were having a blast playing together.  They played inside quite a while but then went outside to play. 

After our friends left I went outside to bring Madi in.  She wanted to tell me all about a grasshopper she had seen so we chatted a while.  Then she looked at me and threw up.  I thought she may be over-heated, so I took her inside to cool off.  I grabbed her seizure medication, just to be on the safe side, and headed to my room to rock her under the fan.  She was being her normal spunky self and was yelling at me telling me she didn't need her medicine.  While I was rocking her she fell asleep.  She woke up about 15-20 minutes later when Conner came in the room chatting, but threw up again.  After that she proceeded to do her repeated dry-heaving that usually indicates the start of a seizure.  I gave her one of her seizure rescue tabs to try and stop it ASAP.  She was still talkative, though she was becoming a little slower to respond.  She was NOT happy with me for giving her the medicine.  I am sure they taste terrible.  I watched her for a few minutes but the seizure was continuing to develop (she started staring off, not responding much, and her left leg had started rhythmically jerking).  I gave her a second rescue med and watched her again.  The second tab didn't stop the seizure either, and then her right arm started jerking rhythmically.  Our neurologist wants me calling 911 while giving the 3rd rescue med tab so that she can be evaluated by the paramedics and then be brought in to Phoenix Children's Hospital if needed so I called 911 while giving the 3rd tab.  When the fire department got to our house it was like she was trying to talk to me but couldn't, and she kept trying to reach out so I held her hand.  It was hard to see her like that.  They put oxygen on her and she finally fell asleep.  They were able to get an IV in her foot, which is always so nice.  I was so thankful!!  I handed her to David so I could change my shirt (I had lots of throw up on me), and then I grabbed my hospital bag and we headed out to the ambulance.  Madi slept the entire ambulance ride, and continued to sleep about another hour-and-a-half once we got to the hospital.  She woke up for about 30 minutes for testing, then went right back to sleep for almost another 2 hours.  It was a good thing she got to nap because we didn't get in to a room until almost midnight! 

The first thing we did at Phoenix Children's Hospital was check her shunt with an MRI and x-ray series, but everything looked good.  They thought there may have been a very, very, very slight increase in her ventricle size, but they said it was hard to tell because the MRIs cut through in different places.  They weren't worried but wanted to watch us overnight.  The ER doctor did note she had moderate stool back-up.  They said it could have been putting pressure on her shunt, which may be causing a slight increase in fluid.  The neurosurgeon (ours wasn't on call so we saw someone else) didn't seem to think that was the cause, though, as there wasn't too much build-up.  I am cleaning her out just in case, though.

The ER doctor thought that her electrolytes might have been imbalanced since she had been outside, but her levels came back fine.  Her Keppra level was pretty low, which they thought may be from throwing up.  They decided to give her some IV keppra to make sure she kept it down and got her levels up.  They also increased her dosage from 6 mg 2 x a day to 6.5 mg 2 x a day.   

We went home Thursday after Dr. Shafron, our neurosurgeon, got to see Madi.  He didn't want us to go home before he got to evaluate Madi himself.  Though it was hard waiting until his clinic day was over, I do really appreciate that he cares about Madi and wanted to take the time to evaluate her himself.

Thursday  night we relaxed and went to bed early.  We both appreciated the good night's sleep!  Madi is now back to her normal fun and spunky self, and I am so thankful!  I'm praying this change in dosage, as well as the extra keppra she got, will keep her seizures away.  I'm a little freaked out because she has only had one other day-time seizure.  The majority of her seizures are when she is coming in or out of sleep.  It was almost reassuring having them at night or early morning, because I am always there during those times, so I never worried about seizures happening for other people (like on one of our occasional date nights or at Church).  The fact that it happened in the middle of the day has me worried.  Please pray that this trend does not continue!

Thanks for those of you who were praying for my sweet girl and who texted to check in on her.  We really appreciate it!