Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Week 14 - Ready for the new year...

Here are a few highlights from our week...

Week 14 actually took us 2 weeks to get through, but it felt longer than that :/ We had our church choir/drama production (which took up a lot of time the first 2 weeks of December), a few mild cases of the flu, a few doctor and ER visits, AND the normal holiday craziness...I was ready to go crazy! Too much stuff going on...we ended up splitting the school week up and completed a few days of school one week and a few days of school the next week.

I learned from that though. It was crazy trying to do a little bit of school here and there with so much going on, so around New Year's week, we are going to take the entire week off, regroup, get our school room and supplies in order, and just relax a little.

We finished up Twice Freed. It was a great book. All of the books so far this year have been really good. We are looking forward to the next book :)

We skipped art this week. It was about mosaics and we did a lot of that earlier on in the year so we didn't feel a refresher was needed yet.


We watched a few videos to go along with MFW Week 14. Don't know that the kids learned much from them, but they were somewhat entertaining. Here is one about the Byzantine Empire and another on Theodora.


We completed a really light week in science. We added the lungs and diaphragm to our paper people, the kids played a lung game, and watched a video about lungs and breathing.

I don't know about you guys, but I am ready to begin a new year. I've never really been much of a New Year's resolution type of person, but LOTS of changes are in store. I am bad about overloading my schedule and pushing to get school in on any spare day we may have regardless of doctor visits, illness, or other unexpected things during the week. What I should be doing is slowing down, taking it easy during those times, being selective with the things I put on my plate, and just enjoying everything more.

There's just something about a New Year that gives you that extra motivation to reevaluate everything and try to make things better.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Day and a better 2014 :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

No school and one CrAZy week!!!

Last week was supposed to be our first week back to school after taking a much needed week off.

However, our daughter came down with a very mild case of the flu on Monday and Tuesday. She actually handled that part really well. The only things she experienced from the flu were sleepiness and a fever. Even then, her fever never made it past 102.5. She had no sore throat, no muscle pains, no achiness, etc...  

I debated on giving her Tamiflu. The pediatrician's office really pushed it. I even filled the prescription and everything. They also gave me an earful about getting the flu shot in the future. I gave them an earful myself. My children have not received the flu shot on over 7 years. This was one of my children's first time to ever get the flu (and a mild case of it at that!). I told them the odds against NOT getting it again in the near future seemed to be in my favor.  Anyway, upon doing research when we arrived home, Tamiflu has been known to cause nausea and vomiting, and since our daughter has had her fair share of that in the past already, we decided against it thinking she may be one of the ones to experience these side effects. Plus, Tamiflu only claims to lessen the days of the flu by 24-36 hours. That's it?!? Doesn't really seem worth it to me. AND, there is no research to even back up those claims!!! Anyway, since her flu only lasted 2 days, I was so glad we opted not to give it to her.  

Starting on Monday, her tummy also began to hurt in that same area as always at the same time she had the flu. By Tuesday, she had her full fledged back pain and nausea too...no vomiting this time around though. Wednesday morning, she woke up fever free, just exhausted from her stomach/back pain. She remained fever free through Thursday, but her appetite was still not back to normal. 

I should note, that on Wednesday morning, we received a phone call from her gastrologist letting us know her ultrasound we had done earlier in the month showed she had a UPJ osbtruction. On Friday, her fever came back and so did her sever back pain and nausea. Although her fever was gone again, she was not well by Saturday, and knowing what we knew about UPJ now, we were afraid she had a kidney infection.

We spent all day Saturday in the Texas Children's ER. No kidney infection tho, just another episode of UPJ. She usually doesn't have them this close together. All her blood work and urinalysis came back ok. They said the fever on Friday must have been some little virus she picked up due to her immune system being weak.

Poor gal missed every chance to perform in our church play and she had worked so hard for and had been faithfully attending every practice since we started. Everyone felt so bad for her. Good news is, once all this is taken care of, hopefully, she'll never miss another thing again due to UPJ :)

It's Monday again. Needless to say, we didn't do a lick of school last week. This week won't be much better. Now I don't feel well. I have felt a cold coming on for quite some time, and now that things are calm, it all hit me this morning. We will manage to get in a full day of school today and hopefully another tomorrow. After that though, we plan to take the rest of the week off to visit Granny, finish up Christmas shopping, and go to our daughter's urology appointment. I hope I get to feeling better or I will be missing out on every bit of it :(

So, here's to another CrAZy week!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

UPJ Obstruction - not the best news, but not the worst news either

So, what is a UPJ obstruction?

The technical term for it is Ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstruction. It is a blockage at the point where part of the kidney attaches to one of the tubes to the bladder (ureters). This blocks the flow of urine out of the kidney.

Our daughter has a narrowing of the ureter tube and because her symptoms are intermittent, it most likely kinks up on itself to completely block off the kidney for a period of time. This explains her excruciating back pain and the mass (which is her kidney and tube enlarging) that can be felt when she has an episode.  

She did not have the typical urinary tract infections associated with this. I don't think she's ever had one of those. Every test she has ever had run for urinary tract infection came back clean. She did not have blood in her urine (that we could ever tell). She also didn't have kidney stones. What she did have was severe localized abdominal pain which moved more to the back as it progressed and a palpable mass appeared accompanied by vomiting...LOTS and lots of vomiting. She couldn't keep anything down. She cried all day long and scrunched up into a little ball. She'd drift in and out of sleep and in some of her most severe cases, her lips would turn a blue or purplish color. This typically lasts an entire day and night. Can you imagine an entire day and night of feeling like your kidney was about to burst open?!?! Then, just as quickly as it comes on, it goes away just as fast...as if it was never there. 

The majority of these birth defects are found while the child is still in the womb. Hers was not diagnosed. Even then, some of these require no intervention and correct on their own. Hers got worse. Our daughter is 9 years old now and has been suffering with this noticeably for the past few years.

Anyway, more can be found about it here.

It was diagnosed with a simple ultrasound. A simple ultrasound!!!! I had asked other doctors for ultrasounds of this area before, but most passed us off and told us it was just constipation...including the ER at the hospital. I wish we were more persistent then like we are now. 

So, what's next?

We are researching pediatric urologists today and will make an appointment with one tomorrow. She will have a full UPJ evaluation. Based on all of those tests and findings, we will determine what to do next. With all the research I have done, she will most likely need surgery to correct the problem. We hope there has not been any permanent damage to her kidney so far and we want to get this sorted out asap because, left untreated, most people experience kidney failure as their condition worsens.

UPJ obstruction...that's our answer and it all adds up. It's not the best news, but it's not the worst news either. 

Ok, NOT what we were expecting...cyclic vomiting?

It was just a little over a year that I posted a series about my daughter and cyclic vomiting.

If you would like to get caught up, you can check these posts out.

If anything, writing down my thoughts and keeping detailed journals and blogs have helped me to keep track of what we have done, when we have done it, and relay that info on to the doctors in order to best diagnose a treatment path. 

Keeping detailed journals has been SUCH an asset! If you are going through something and the docs can't figure it out and you have more questions than answers you MUST keep a detailed journal or blog. There is no way I would have ever been able to keep everything straight without writing all of this stuff down!

I left off in part 3 where we were trying different things. One was eliminating gluten from her diet. We did and she did seem to get better. We went the longest we have ever gone without a vomiting episode in quite a while when we did that. 

We did (and continue to) see a wonderful doctor at Texas Children's who encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing if it was helping. Our daughter experienced 2 significant growth spurts during this time and the cyclic vomiting was lessening, so obviously we assumed me were on the right track.

Wrong! Well, sort of. I mean, the gluten was causing some of her stomach issues and with that out of the way, other underlying issues surfaced.

She started to have a few more vomiting episodes. Some were associated with accidental gluten ingestion, but others were unexplained and it was the unexplained ones that were wearing on my mind.

How can this be happening? We are doing everything right!

We started noticing, when she drank a coke or other heavily sugared drink, she would tend to have an episode. So, we took her off of all sodas and sugary drinks. The doc said sugar can slow down a person's digestive process and cause some of her symptoms. So, taking her off seemed to help...for a time anyway :/

Even off the gluten, sodas, and other sugary drinks, she was still having unexplained episodes of vomiting that seemed to be happening more frequently despite our best efforts. One thing more prominent now though was her increasing stomach and back pain....in one certain location. 

She would get so bad sometimes that you could even feel a knot or a mass in that area. We assumed it was inflammation of her intestines from something she ate or drank causing that bulge or gas or constipation as had been thrown at us time and time again from her pediatrician. (I never sat well with the constipation idea tho b/c my daughter had frequent bowel movements and was taking in a lot more fluid than she ever had in the past.)

We had a follow up appointment to discuss this with her gastrologist.  My husband and I were beginning to think it was an obstruction of some sort. About a year prior, the gastrologist had written down something called a UPJ obstruction on the white board as a rare, but possible cause to her problems. It was so far down the list that we really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it. Since we had ruled out a lot of the other causes and the issue was still happening, we started to think more and more about it being some sort of intermittent obstruction.

So, we followed up with an ultrasound of the kidneys just to be sure. 

Turns out, she has a UPJ obstruction :/

(more to come in the next post)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Focus on what you have, not what you 'could' have...

We live on just a little over 2 acres. We've lived here for about 12 years now and we love it here. A little bit of country in the middle of a growing little town it just about how I'd describe it. 

One thing we have always wished and hoped for since the day we moved in was to have more land. When you live where we live with neighborhoods all around you and the price for a tiny lot is sky high, those chances of getting anymore land (let alone acreage!) are pretty slim.

However, there is a 4.5 acre plot directly behind us (mostly wooded) like our 2 acres, which is pretty rare in this town. A few years ago, the lady who owned it passed away. Fast forward to now and that land is up for grabs. This lady's daughter approached us and our neighbor about purchasing the land at a decent price. I know $17,000 an acre is a whole lot of money, but considering acreage around here goes for $20-25,000, it wasn't bad ;)

Wow! A dream come true for both of us!

We were busy looking into land loans, checking out the status of the land (as far as taxes, liens, clear titles, etc), discussing property lines with our neighbor, estimating the costs of hauling off about 100 years of junk the previous owners had collected, as well as the costs for the tear down of a house with asbestos siding as well as some likely asbestos ceiling tiles and wiring. Arg! Lots to be done!

Fast forward another month or 2 and our neighbors decided they would not be able to purchase part of the land. That' ok though. We still wanted to purchase the part directly behind us...about 2.5 acres. We contacted the lady back and brought her up to speed. Problem was, she wanted the land sold all at once AND she already had another buyer. End of discussion. 

I was mad! I felt kind of duped or played. To go though all of this and that's it, end of discussion?!? Lots of crazy thoughts went through my head. Had she had someone in her back pocket the whole time? Were we part of some bidding war we didn't know about? Had we wasted our time even bothering looking into all of this in the first place?

My husband had to bring me back down to reality. We had prayed, since day 1, for God's will to be done in this matter. When our neighbors wanted the other half, we were so SURE about everything. When the neighbors backed out, we were kind of on the fence about the land. We just wanted clarity. If things weren't meant to be, we prayed for God to work things out that way. He did and I overlooked His answer.

I prayed for peace and contentment and God gave it to me.

The whole land thing didn't happen, but it will be ok :)

We started to focus on what we already had. We've lived here for 12 years now and haven't done much with the 2 acres, so why not focus on that? Over this past year, my husband and the kids have made a few trails through the back acre for walking and go-cart riding. We've made some improvements to our garden area.

This should keep those pesky, but cute little rabbits from eating up all out hard work ;)
We built the kids a "fort" that is yet to be named in the woods. It turned out pretty awesome!
If the kids ever actually want to enjoy this fort then mosquito screening is a MUST in these parts!!!
Trees growing through the fort...how cool is that?!?!

View from the top level...

We spent the night in the fort when it was all complete. Not the most comfortable for mom and dad...oh, the sacrifices we make for our kids...lol! They had fun and that was the whole idea :) 
They want to do school out here some days too. I can work with that ;)
We would love to redo our old fence and put up a more aesthetically pleasing one, plant more fruit and nut trees, get better at gardening, and the list goes on.
Sometimes you just need to refocus...not on what could have been, but what already is.

Week 13 - Constantine, the Nicene Creed, and the fall of Rome

Here are a few highlights from our week...

This week was a short schooling week for us...just 3 days. The next was just 2, so together, it was one full week ;) Our church is one of the drop off locations for the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, so we volunteered several hours by collecting the shoe boxes, redoing labels that were faded or missing, 'rubberbanded' shoe boxes so the contents wouldn't fall out, and taped up a ton of large boxes. On Sunday, we prayed over the shoe boxes and a large portion of the congregation stayed behind for about an hour to pack all these shoe boxes into larger boxes to send to the next location. 

More Revelation. I try to explain the simpler things, but this book is hard to understand.

Trial and Triumph is a great book! While it is sad to hear about what these brave early Christians went though, it is amazing to read about their faith and courage for Christ.

The kids started putting the bigger picture together in how riches and greed began to play a part in early Roman church history and how, as beneficial as Constantine was to the early church, played his part in all of that by 'glorifying' church leadership.

We learned about Athanasius and the Nicene Creed and saw how and where the early disputes of the Trinity began. We talked about current religions that are still divided on this topic today and those that still side with the early Arian beliefs to this day.

We learned where the lie of earning your salvation and salvation through works entered into the picture with the Pelagians and how Augustine fought for the truth of salvation through God's grace alone. We also talked about current religions that still believe in the lie of earning one's salvation.

We never did get to that bone experiment from several weeks ago. We forgot that we had left the bone in the vinegar. It was there for at least 2 weeks before we remembered. By that time, it stunk, was gross, and none of us wanted to mess with it.

We are now on to the digestive system. We labeled all the pieces from The Body Book and added those to our skeletons. The kids finally got around to putting their skeleton model together too.

We are taking off the entire 1st week of December. We all need a break. School prep is getting to me and things are piling up at the house. We are gonna try to get away for a few days and just spend some quality time together  having fun :)