January 30, 2016

Texas Travels, Alabama Homesteading

I wrote this within days of getting back from Texas and really have no excuse as to why it's just being posted...

We just got back from the great state of Texas.  FYI Louisiana is the most boring state EVER!  If you disagree, take a drive down Interstate 20.  So far I must say it is my least favorite state.

Anyhow, we had a good visit with Clayton's orthopedic surgeon...and the dentist.  I think I've mentioned before how much I love the dentist there and why we make a point to see them when we do ortho.  If you don't remember it's because almost ALL of their patients are special needs and not only are they equipped to accommodate any and all of those needs on site, but they know how to work with these kids to get the job done while inflicting minimal trauma.  Love them.  And what I love even more is that we had a GREAT visit with them.  We found a new way to hold Clayton for exams that rocks my socks off because even though it upsets him, it is easier on everyone...including him.  Oh, and we have to hold him in some form or fashion because he has not yet reached a point of cooperation in the dental arena and we have to get stuff done.  The report was awesome one year after his extensive dental surgery from last year.  Remember the snowstorm in Dallas? Yea, me too.  They said his teeth look great!!!  I was slightly concerned curious how the report would go because we aren't perfect with dental care and he only brushes once a day and yes a day slips by every now and then.  Plus I use a special tooth paste.  Clayton does not spit.  What goes in his mouth stays in his mouth and I could not stand the idea of my sweet man swallowing mainstream toothpaste with unknown ingredients every night.  So I searched and searched for a toothpaste to set my mommy woes at ease.  Enter Earthpaste.  Yes, I said Earthpaste.  All you non-organic believing folks can laugh now.  But the joke isn't on us because the dentist was thrilled and surprised by how awesome Clayton's teeth were doing after what they started with last year.  So I am a believer through and through.  I fully contribute his now superb dental health to two things he drinks almost all water and he uses Earthpaste.  So if your wondering about Earthpaste, it's made by Redmond and you can order it online.  It isn't as affordable as mainstream toothpastes, but you can make it yourself for much cheaper than you can by it.  Just search for DIY Earthpaste Toothepaste.  There are lots of variations.  Whether I make it or buy it, it's worth it for me since I feel safe with the ingredients that I am putting in my child's mouth every night.

On to Ortho...that went pretty great too.  Here is the run down:

  • Clayton's curve is about the same as last year which is great because it's not worse.  This could be due to the fact that according to the doctor the spine undergoes rapid growth through year 6 and then it slows down.
  • We will keep doing check ups while we wait for Clayton to get as old as possible before fusing his entire spine.  When we do cancer scans in Pensacola, they include his spine and send a copy to the ortho surgeon in Dallas.  In addition, we will keep visiting TSRHC doing check ups and X-rays and dental every six months to a year.
  • We will be fusing his entire spine, but we need to let him grow as much as possible.  In the doctors words, 12 years would be a home run, but he does not think it will be able to wait that long, so we are thinking this surgery will take place around 10 years old.  Knowing that we have X amount of time is nice for us and allows us to make plans and such.
  • And last, but not least because it is of the utmost importance, the doctor is not concerned at this time with his respiratory status.  If Clayton's curve does not get worse before his future surgery, then hopefully his respiratory function will stay the same and not decline.  However, there is great potential for it to decline if his back gets worse, so we just watch him for changes and report back to the doctor.  If it becomes a problem, we might do the surgery around 9 years old.

As for homesteading, it all came from Clayton.  When my sweet innocent three year old got cancer, it made no sense.  None.  And while different people handle things different ways, I looked for answers.  I could have been angry at God, but my findings led me to be angry at man.  Angry at man for our stupidity in how we live, what we eat and how we are destroying this earth and our bodies and how we will pay a price for that and most of all, how our children will pay a far steeper price.  So I threw myself into this world of organic and natural living; testing the waters in certain areas and diving head first in others.  And it isn't easy.  I don't live in an area of the country where these notions are popular.  I have been laughed at more than I care to say.  Funny thing is though every time someone laughs at me about something it isn't long before a news article comes out in which the science seems to be backing up my beliefs.  When this happens I can't help but smile and laugh to myself a bit.  Obviously I am no pioneer in this natural living movement, I just found it when I needed answers.  There really are a lot of people out there trying to live this way because they have seen the benefits of it and so many wonderful ladies who blog their journeys down this path.  But I digress...
As for me and my boys well, I'm not sure at what point you can call yourself a homesteader, but if we're not there yet, we're striving towards that goal.  What does that mean for us?  Producing as much of our own food as possible, hunting, gathering, reusing and up-cycling, living more energy efficiently, etc. 

So far we are raising chickens organically for eggs and occasionally eating an extra rooster for meat.  We are trying to garden (our soil needs improving right now as it use to be all pines so we've only done so-so in this dept., but this is only our second year)  We've added rabbits...for meat.  No I'm not a monster, rabbits are a healthy, free, sustainable source of meat that if we like rabbit can supply us with lots of organic protein.  They cost us nothing because they eat grass, weeds and kitchen scraps.  If we decide we don't like rabbit then we won't breed them anymore and our parent rabbits can live a long happy life with us.
Additionally, we are implementing rain barrels to provide water for animals and to water the garden.  We got rid of our broken push mower and replaced it with an old school reel mower.  No more gas and oil and broken engines for us!  And instead of buying a weed eater which we never had, we got a scythe.  Bring on the crazy comments.  And other then the small section of our backyard that we use, all the rest is wild and maintenance free.  No cost, no energy use, no nuthin'!  I'm hoping in the next three years we can add a low cost solar system on the roof.  Just enough to run a few things for now and maybe we can grow it later.
Anyhow, these are just some of the things we're doing and we are always trying to add more.  If things are free to do thats awesome, if they cost money, we do it as we can (translation: we get it donevery slowly).  But this is how we are choosing to live and we love it.  Our goal is to live minimally, live healthy and to live as eco friendly as we can.  Unfortunately for anyone who attempts this lifestyle, it isn't easy.  We live in a world that makes if difficult to live eco friendly and to eat healthy.  Not impossible, but either difficult or full of temptation.
I have to give George props, he enjoys much of living this way, but would not have found his way there on his own.  However, he usually lets me drag him along as I experiment with new things here and there.  He's a trooper.
The point to this is I love living this way and am going to start posting about it more and more so heads up that you'll be seeing that...

January 1, 2016

Where We've Been...Where We're Going

While 2011-2013 were some of the toughest years for Clayton, 2013-2015 were the toughest years for me personally.  I found myself reeling from the repercussions of all we had been through.  Something I have openly talked about before.  I have now been on my anti anxiety meds for four months and I am truly feeling much more like myself.  The worries that were consuming my life over the last two years I can once again handle in a normal way.  The physical pain that has consumed my body has eased, but not completely dissipated.  The neurologist expected that though she found the source of some of my pain, that as the anxiety medicine corrected the over utilized chemicals in my brain that most of my pain would subside since the chemical imbalance was responsible for the fact that I could feel so much of the pain I was feeling.  So I am optimistic that life is slowly getting back to normal.

Clayton is doing very well. He turned 7 in November!  Craziest 7 years of my life!!!

We have an upcoming trip to Dallas to see his dentist and orthopedic surgeon.  Over November and December we checked in with his nephrologist, pulmonologist and oncologist and got good reports from everyone.  While we did not do cancer scans, we did lab work and a physical exam and the oncologist said all looks well.  We will do scans in a couple of months.  As far has his kidney goes, we are still stumped.  This time last year we were having weekly checks and being prepped to go on the transplant list and now nothing.  His nephrologist's words at our last visit were "don't kick a skunk".  Translation, this is a blessing, don't question it. He literally said he had no explanation.  So we'll keep doing what we're doing and asking for prayers and hopefully this sweet boy can make it to his teens or beyond before ever needing that transplant.  No way to know...For now we are just greatful.

Pretty sure Clayton had a great Christmas as he was able to further round out his Pixar Cars collection.  His all time favorite thing.  An unexpected thing that happened over the holidays was that he started showing an interest in Star Wars.  I think it all started from Phineas and Ferb's Star Wars episode and the fact that Disney XD has Star Wars Rebels cartoons so he sees the previews.  But he is getting into it for sure.  He even picked out a mini Darth Vader and Luke at Target.  He seems to like Darth Vader best.  And my nephew got a R2-D2 at Christmas that Clayton was really into as well.  This new interests makes me feel like he's growing up and maturing slightly. :((: 

He keeps growing and developing and his list of words is steadily expanding.  It's crazy that for so long I longed to hear him say "mama" and then the way it happened was so gradual that while I noticed, it wasn't the reaction I had always anticipated.  2015 was definitely his year for words though.  He has made huge strides.  He even spent the holidays saying "ho ho ho terry tismas". That's not a typo, that's how he says it. :)
He just started saying "hey" this past week, but has had bye-bye mastered for a while.  He is also starting to string words together making phrases and short sentences.  He doesn't do it all the time, but he does it.  His "go" and "stop" are the freaking cutest thing EVER!
All in all, we are doing pretty well.  We also snuck in a trip to Disney this past October in our camper.  Oh yes, I'm not sure I ever revealed our camper before?  Well last February we used our tax return to get a small 2005 16 ft camper off of Craigslist for $3500.  It needed/needs a little TLC on the exterior like caulking and removing and resealing one window, but there was no major water damage and the inside was in pristine condition from a clean family so we jumped in.  We needed an inexpensive way for our family to get away now and then and have family time.  We have too much stress in our lives not to take breaks from time to time and since hotels, condos, cabins, resorts, etc. aren't in our budget, we had to look for an alternative.  And we found it in our little camper.  I plan on "glamping" it up gradually.  Using fabric I already had, I have already recovered the cushions and my mom sewed new curtains and I'm painting the walls hoping we can one day replace it with beadboard and make a sweet little cottage style camper out of it.  Like everything in our life it's a slow process.  But it's paid for, not a money pit and as long as we take care of it, will be able to provide us with lots of family fun for many years.

Clayton LOVES the camper.  It is definitely HIS camper.  And he loves getting away with us and having us all to himself with no distractions. 

So back to the Disney trip...we had a great time, but admittedly it was a long trip so next time we'll do five days instead of seven.  We were determined not to have a vacation that was a lot of "work" as everyone knows Disney can be, so we had a lot more downtime then we needed.  We used Disney rewards points to pay for our stay and tickets.  Our campsite cost less then $500 for our stay.  Beyond our stay at Disney's Fort Wilderness, we went to the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and had one day of hopper passes (which we only used at Magic Kingdom).  We realized Magic Kingdom had the most for Clayton and it was just a boat ride away, so we didn't stray from there even though we had planned on going to Animal Kingdom too.  Clayton rode the barnstormer like 5 times, Peter Pan twice, thunder mountain once and seven dwarfs mine train two or three times.  The boy likes him some roller coasters.  We had to try and stick to the milder ones for him though and we worked hard to position him and our arms in a way that protected him back.  Totally worth it though!  We also visited the other resorts to take advantage of their fun offerings like Radiator Springs...Clayton's favorite.

Oh and for the Halloween Party I was Mike Wasowski, George was Scott Squibbles aka Squishy and Clayton was Sully.  And the earmuffs you see in the pics were something I have thought about getting for a while and I took the plunge when I read about another mom using them for her autistic child at Disney.  They worked great and made everything more manageable for Clayton.  He would not take them off! They helped eased his anxieties for sure.

Last, but not least, we've also been chipping away at the house.  In the year and a half since we moved in, the only thing we have done to the inside is brick our fireplace and add cabinets in the laundry room.  We've mostly been working on the exterior.  Over the past year and a half, we've managed to finish caulking the exterior of the house, stained the two porches, covered the back porch, as of Thanksgiving, we finally have the whole exterior of the house painted and to my huge relief as of Christmas we have added the lattice around the bottom of the house between the beams.  In between all of that we fenced our back yard, built a permanent chicken coop and run, got our garden area squared away, made a playground for Clayton and are continually working on landscaping our backyard (most of which is necessary because it is on a slope or at the bottom of a hill and so we have to landscape properly to prevent erosion/washing away, etc.  All of this we are doing on a pay as we go basis though so we can only do so much at a time.  I'm pretty excited that this next week or so we are finally going to start covering our front porch!!!  Thank you Jesus!  That has been a long time coming.

But now comes a new year and the opportunity for well organized changes.  Obviously changes can be made whenever, but I think there is something to feeling like changes are organized by the new year and a clean slate.  So we are definitely making changes.  We have gradually made changes in our lives since Clayton's cancer, but this year will be the year of swift and dramatic changes in our lives.  Things from how we eat to how we live.  So I'm excited for change and moving forward!