Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WFMW - Free (if you have a GPS) Family Fun!!

Our family has found a new hobby. It’s fun and gets us off the couch, away from the computer and television and outside to enjoy the great weather. It’s called geocaching.

We have tried letterboxing before, but my husband and I enjoyed it more than the kids and there was a little bit of whining happening while on the hunt.

Geocaching is very similar to letterboxing, except instead of written clues, you start with coordinates. All you need to get started is a GPS system. We don’t own a handheld GPS navigator yet (but are searching for the right a/k/a affordable one) so we use Garmeena, our trusty GPS from the car. (Ours is a Garmin and we named her Garmeena.)

Our GPS has a feature where you can type in longitude/latitude coordinates, as well as location. I’m assuming most of them do, you’ll just have to poke around for it. In order to get your “clue”, there is a website called From there, you just enter in your zip code, and you’ll see the geocaches that have been hidden in your area. I like click on the “search with Google Maps” icon so I can see exactly where I am going. (In order to get the coordinates, you must register, but it’s free. Make up a username that you like because you’ll be using this later to log in your find.)

I would suggest going to an area that you are familiar with starting out. The ones that we have found have all been in parks that are in our area. With just a little bit of time you can find some that may be “easy” to find. I would suggest looking at the hints and information left by people who have found them so you can get a feel of where it is at.

The ones that we have found are typically right off trails. There have been times that the directions take us way off the path, but keep in mind that trails typically twist and turn. Just be patient with it. (You can get a feel for how far off the path you’ll need to search by the difficulty and terrain rating.) Once you get to the location, you need to look for trees, holes, rocks, etc. that a container can be hidden under. We have found various containers, from a coffee can to an ammo box. Different sizes too!

Inside the container is where you will find the prizes. Almost all of the ones we have found have small trinkets and a log book. The trinkets have been coins, bracelets, keychains, small toys – really anything you can think of . You may get a trinket out, but be sure to have some items with you to put back inside. Sign and date the log book, and make sure you hide it back well so no one can see.

We haven’t encountered anyone else on the trails where we have found the caches, but be sure you are inconspicuous. You don’t want anyone to stumble upon it if they aren’t looking for it.I’m still new at this and still learning all the details, but this has definitely worked for us. For other great ideas, head over to We are That Family!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

She Speaks

I am a child of God. I am a wife of a minister. I am stay at home, work at home, homeschooling mom of four children. After a curve ball was thrown my way a few years back, I became a writer.

Not a writer of books, or a writer of a huge blog, but a writer of a CaringBridge website. If you are not familiar, is a wonderful site set up for families of people who are sick. It is a free site that allows you to set up a website where you can update friends and families on the medical developments of your loved ones.

My caringbridge site is for my daughter, Abigail, who was born in September, 2003 with congenital scoliosis. (Congenital means “born with it”. In Abigail’s case, she was born with a section of her spine not having developed properly. She has two vertebrae which look like triangles, and three that are fused together on one side. It basically looks like a puzzle back there.) Congenital scoliosis, if not treated, can be fatal. Typically, children with congenital scoliosis have lung issues. In Abigail’s case, her curve in her spine was causing one of her lungs to not grow like the other.

After waiting and watching to see how she would grow, and to see how her curve would progress, we had a titanium rod installed in Abigail’s back last January. She has had two expansion surgeries since then, and is scheduled for another surgery one week from tomorrow. Our life the past year has definitely not been normal, but it has definitely been a blessing.

I began writing Abigail’s caringbridge updates to inform our friends and family of her medical progress. Then it began to take on a life of its own. I found myself using it to encourage others and making them laugh. I would relay our day to day activities, searching for humorous moments in the midst of hospital stays. Most importantly, I was sharing the love of Christ by showing how He was loving our family through the storms.

I hope to continue encouraging others and to bring laughter to their days. Abigail will be continuing to receive treatment for her “curvy pieces” until she is done growing, so it looks like I have ten more years of writing. Maybe by then, I’ll have enough entries for that book that my friends are encouraging me to write.

There is a great conference coming up this summer in Concord, NC that would definitely benefit my writing and help me reach more people. It is called She Speaks and is hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. It is for speakers, writers and women’s ministry leaders. They are offering a scholarship to one very fortunate winner. Check out all the details on the conference and scholarship opportunity!

WFMW - Family Friendly Happy Hour

My kids love to eat out. I can’t really blame them. If I had to choose between eating in and eating out, I’d definitely choose out. But with a family of six, it just doesn’t happen that often. Well, probably more often than it should during some weeks, but I try to not make it a habit.
I have discovered though, that many times it doesn’t matter what we get, but as long as we get something out of a building that has a drive thru window, they think they are eating out.

One of my bffs has always been Chick-Fil-A and their “kid size”. I’m all about getting kid sized drinks and kid sized ice cream cones because they are much less expensive. Especially if you are eating in, why not get a kid sized drink. Free refills. And the kid sized cones are definitely plenty of ice dream for a snack.

Our newest discovery, which is probably not new to most, is Sonic’s happy hour. Oh my. Just the other day, it was unusually hot while we were out running errands. Everyone was “dying” of thirst, so I thought, “Hey, we’ll just run by Sonic because they have slushes.”

For some reason I always thought Sonic was a little pricey for me. Well not during happy hour, my friend. No, during happy hour, all of their drinks and slushes are half price. So all five of us got the beverage of our choice (no one had to share this time) and it was $3.21. I was thrilled. It was certainly a special treat and I know now I can treat them “out” without it breaking my budget.

Sonic Happy Hour. It definitely Works for Me! Head on over to We are That Family for more great ideas!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Might not survive otherwise

Might not survive otherwise. Those words pierced my heart today.

When my girl was first diagnosed with congenital scoliosis, I spent hours researching on the web. As a parent, I felt like knowledge was vital. I wanted to know all of the possibilities, all of the options, and really, I wanted to know that she was going to be OK and live a full life. I was searching for answers.

It’s been a while since I’ve went searching. Life has been busy and things have gone well. My girl has a VEPTR in her back which seemingly did the trick. She’s had three total surgeries since last January. I had it settled in my mind that we would have expansions every five months, probably install a new VEPTR in a couple of years. Everything was settled.

Until we had our checkup a couple of weeks ago. The short version is that the VEPTR isn’t really working any more. We need another solution. We were informed of the next possible step, which is called a Shilla. It’s relatively new, still considered experimental. I’ve been busy and haven’t really researched it much. Until today. And this is one thing I read.

“the Shilla procedure is being used on patients who might not be able to survive otherwise”.

Wow. Straight to my heart. I’ve never thought of my girl in that way. That she might not survive. Oh I’ve known the reality of her condition. Basically, her lung can be crushed if we did nothing. And I know that life can be a little tough if you have a crushed lung. But I’ve never thought for a moment that we wouldn’t come out on the other side of this, and all would be well.

I’m still working through it. I’m not a worrier. I’m a “let me ponder it, understand it, accept it and let’s move on with life” kind of gal. I have absolute faith in God and stand on our verse that we have claimed for my girl from the beginning. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Meanwhile, I’m off to ponder. And understand. And accept. Then we’re moving on. We’ve got lots of fun to be had. Lots of laughter and funny moments to come our way. And on the other side of our curvy journey, we will be able to say that we survived.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Buma the Cow

Have any of your children ever had a stuffed animal that became part of your family? I’m sure most parents could answer yes.

Our family is no different. We have Buma. Buma the Cow. (Pronounced Bumma – long story on the spelling of his name.)

Buma became part of our family on our first family mission trip to Cleveland. Our church collected stuffed animals to give to the campers (we held an Upward sports camp) and my youngest son was a camper. So he got to pick a stuffed animal. And he picked a cow.

I’m not sure when or how, but Buma has become an integral part of our family. He goes everywhere with us. He has his own blog. (An in-progress blog, but a blog, nonetheless.) He also has his own group on Facebook. It’s called “Friends of Buma the Cow”.

One of our favorite pastimes is taking Buma and have his picture made different places. He has been to Carowinds and had his picture made with Blue from Blues Clues and Diego. He’s visited Washington, DC and Disney World. He had his picture made with a lot of the characters at DW and had a song composed for him by one of our favorites, Gi-Tar Dan at Animal Kingdom. Most recently he went to see the Charlotte Bobcats play and went to Myrtle Beach for some relaxation!

We’re looking to many adventures this spring with Buma the Cow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's Go Tarheels!!

Our family loves basketball. Love to play. Love to watch. And we absolutely love the Carolina Tarheels.

For the second year in a row we were able to go watch the Heels practice for the first round of the NCAA tournament. It is basketball heaven.

What a glorious day to see Ty Lawson, the ACC Player of the Year, walking. I've never prayed for a toe as much as I have the past week. Carolina is a great team, but boy, oh boy, we need Ty Lawson.

It is so cool to go to these practices. Admission is free, parking is free, entertainment is great. The Tarheels definitely did not disappoint their fans today, and had a great slam dunk performance at the end of practice.


A Rotating Spine and a Goat

Our family has lived in a whirlwind over the past couple of months. All the boys played Upward basketball at church, with my girl loving being a cheerleader for the first time. I also coached a girls team this season, so we had five games we HAD to be at every weekend. Upward is a great program, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. But I am so thankful that it is over.

We went to see my girl's specialist last Wednesday and are thinking maybe she enjoyed cheering and jumping just a little too much because her device is pulling through her rib again. (He didn’t actually say what caused it. It’s probably a combination of activity and growing.) It is not completely through the rib, so that’s a good thing. It looks like it’s about halfway through.
We also found out that her spine is still rotating, which has really always been one of our biggest concerns. Well, that and her lung are the biggest issues. The “cut to the chase” version is that the VEPTR device is working to her curve from getting worse, but it doesn’t keep her spine from rotating.

The plan is to go in a couple of weeks and try to extend the device again by another cm. He is hoping to do this without coming all the way through the rib. (Yeah, I’m hoping for the same thing.) His goal is to buy her a little more time with the VEPTR.

The next stage of the plan is to try and stop the rotation of the spine. The curve continuing will smush her lung, and the rotation will do the same. (I know that smush is not a medical term, but it works for me.) The option that he recommended is in the next six months or year, he will need to remove the VEPTR. Right now, the plan is to fuse the vertebrae that are causing the rotation, and install a new device, called a Shilla.

The Shilla is a new thing that he has mentioned for a couple of visits. The inventor (or whatever you call him) is in Arkansas. It is still considered experimental, so there’s not a lot of data on its success rate. It is some type of rod that will be attached on both sides of her spine with screws, and will extend on its own. This would be great to prevent all of the little surgeries between the biggies. This is definitely a plus.

Like every option we have had up to this point, there are always unknowns. With the device being considered experimental, the first unknown is how the insurance company will treat it. We’ll definitely be trusting God to work that one out. I know that the VEPTR was $22,000 and it is only one rod. Hmmm…..I’m thinking that we oughta “ebay” the VEPTR to pay for the Shilla. Surely there’s a market for titanium.

The other unknown is the surgery itself. Our doctor told us that his experience with the Shilla was with a goat as the patient. You can only imagine the amount of self-control that I exhibited after he gave us that little tidbit of information. Do you know the number of jokes I could have made with that one? Bless his heart.

So that’s the update with our little Super Girl who’s walking around with another ½ broken rib. Please pray for wisdom during the upcoming surgery that he is able to extend without completely coming through the rib. Also pray for wisdom for our next step in the process. And that the man puts one in on a human in the meantime.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WFMW - Computer Desk Organization

Cords, cords and more cords. They are everywhere. Sometimes I think that electronic devices are going to over take my house.

We have six people in our family. That equals lots and lots of cords connecting devices to the computer. We have two digital cameras, two cell phones, four mp3 players, one Didj and one Crammer. And they all can plug into the computer. With cords.

In order to keep them all straight, all cords have been labeled. I used a label maker and printed out whose and what the cord goes to. I found a cute little box in the $1 aisle at Target to store them all in.

Labeling our cords works for me.

Check out other WFMW tips over at Rocks in My Dryer!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Hocker

Laughter LivesThis post is part of "Laughter Lives! Tuesday" on the Riggs Family Blog. Check our their blog to read everyone else's "Laughter Lives!" posts.

Disclaimer #1: I have given this entry a title, mainly as a warning. If things gross you out, please don’t read this.

Disclaimer #2: I did get permission from all parties involved prior to sharing this story.

Set up: The timing of this event was great. It had been a stressful week. My daughter had just gotten out of surgery the Sunday before, having been there all week. She was not walking yet and her recovery was going slow. This was my chance to get out of the house for a while.

About a year ago, on a Saturday, 2 of the boys and I were driving home from a basketball game at church. (Both boys will remain unnamed to protect all involved.) We were travelling on the interstate. The older of the 2 had recently celebrated a birthday, which allowed him to ride in the front seat of my van. He had also been battling a cold and drainage.

As we were going approximately 69.5 mph, the child in the front seat cleared his throat. Hard. This produced what I like to call a hocker. He turns to me and looks with a “what do I do with it” kind of look. I quickly look for an empty cup. Nothing.

So I say “just roll down the window, and spit it out. But please don’t let it hit the side of the van.” It was winter and the van was not going to be washed anytime soon.

The window goes down, he spits, rolls the window back up. I’m assuming all is well.

I was mistaken.

A few seconds goes by and he doesn’t turn his head around.

Our conversation goes something like this:
Me: Did it come out?
Child: Yes ma’am.
Me: Did it go down the side of the van?
Child: No ma’am.
Me: I turn around and quickly check the child in the back of the van to see if he was hit by the hocker. He was clean.
Me: So is it all over the window?
Child: No ma’am, it’s not on the window?
Me: Well what’s the matter?

The boy turns around and I almost wet my pants. The hocker, which wasn’t on the side of the van, or on the window, or on the child in the back seat, was on my son’s face.

The whole hocker.

And I died. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t see. As I tried to compose, I could see through my tears that I was now traveling about 53 mph on the interstate. I contemplated pulling over, but we were only a mile from our exit. I couldn’t speak. I could barely breathe. It was hysterical.

Thank goodness this child is not afraid to laugh at himself, and he begins laughing too. When I could finally get words out – I say “Don’t touch it. I have to take a picture of it when we get home.”

We arrive home in just a few minutes and the clean child in the back seat runs in to get my camera. I took this opportunity to explain some of the laws of physics to my son, such as, you can't spit into the wind. Ever. Meanwhile, my husband comes out to see what’s going on. He doesn’t really appreciate it as much as I did.

I guess you had to be there.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WFMW - Coupon Organizer

(I am definitely not the originator of the following idea, however, I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it. If I do, I will certainly add the link later.)

I am attempting to cut our grocery bill this year, just as many others are doing, and I’ve decided to give a more concerted effort towards using coupons. I have tried doing coupons in the past, but I’ve never felt like I’ve utilized them well. I have read article after article about people spending $3.43 on a stash of groceries that would have normally cost $4,532, but that’s just never happened to me. Oh how I hope it will, though!

My first goal in couponing was getting my coupons organized. The best idea that I ran across was storing your coupons in a 3-ring binder, using baseball card sleeves/protectors. I believe I got my sleeves at either Target or Wal-Mart, right alongside the baseball and football cards.

Each page has 9 slots and the majority of the coupons I have fit nicely with only one or two folds. I store coupons for the same product in the same sleeve, with the ones expiring soonest in front.

I thought I’d feel weird taking a notebook into the grocery store with me, but that hasn’t been the case. I have organized like coupons together, meaning all the frozen foods are together, cereals, etc. and I make sure I preview the coupons before going into the store.

With most stores doubling coupons, and sometimes even TRIPLING coupons, my next goal is stockpiling coupons so I can get more items for little or no money. I’ve asked the neighbors if they use their coupons, and they do, so I’m looking into ordering some from here.

Coupon organization works for me. To read other great tips, head over to Rocks in My Dryer!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tales of a Cheetah-leader Mom

Saturday was the beginning of an era for me. My baby girl became a cheerleader. (Cheetah-leader is what she used to say a few months ago. So cute.) Now for my friends that have known me for a while, they are probably giggling at the fact that I am a cheerleader mom. Evil, evil giggles. Like they are “really enjoying this” type of giggles.

Here are a few things that I have learned as I have entered a new phase of my life:
  • Cheerleading squads have very interesting names. My girl’s squad (my word, don’t call it a team like I did the other day. She was very quick to correct me.) is called the Twinkle Stars. OH MY SOUL. The Twinkle Stars. I asked a friend at church when I found out the name if I looked like the mother of a Twinkle Star. I don’t think so.

  • The other names are just as good. The Cheerios and Sprinkles were the other “squads” on stage with the Twinkle Stars. My youngest son, N even thought that one squad was called the Toe Nails. No dude, it’s the Toe Touchers, not Toe Nails. (N’s having some issues with the names too. He just doesn’t get why they are naming them after food. Bless his heart.)

  • Pom poms take 4,568 hours to fluff. No exaggeration here. Pom poms are of Satan. There are even instructions on the Upward website entitled “How to Fluff a Pom”. I’m not kidding.

  • A basketball would have only taken 3 minutes to inflate by hand with a bicycle pump. Or even by mouth.

  • When you are the smallest person on your squad, your uniform is big. Even if you ordered the smallest size. Apparently other 5 yr. old cheerleaders have arms the length of my leg. Needless to say we had to roll the sleeves up on the girl’s turtleneck.

  • Also, when you are the smallest person on your squad, it adds to your cuteness.

  • Fixing hair on Saturday morning at 7:15 a.m. is a difficult process. Especially when you really need to get some type of color coordinated ribbon placed in the hair, somehow, some way, so that said hair can match every other piece of clothing on your body. I should have just ripped out some of the pom pom ribbon and tied it in the girl’s hair. (I’m kidding. I really wouldn’t have done that.)

  • After you get the hair fixed, then you absolutely cannot, under any circumstance let the child touch her hair with her pom poms. There is a lot of static produced by pom poms. (Remember their Satanic factor?) And then you gotta start all over again.

  • A small plastic megaphone can increase your child’s voice by around 53 decibels.

Despite all of my “issues” with cheerleading, my girl had a blast and did everything she was supposed to do, when she was supposed to do it. Little Miss “don’t look at me” was up on that stage having a grand ol’ time.