Monday, September 30, 2013

Rachel: Part 1 - Up With Down Syndrome

I'm posting slightly sooner than normal, as well as a little out of my usual order for October's Momster.  I would normally start by introducing the Momster of the Month, but I first want to share the story of her son Jacoby, who has Down Syndrome, and her reaction to finding out this news.  Thank you, Rachel, for your honesty as you share your raw emotions with us.
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Rachel and her husband Eric went for their 20-week ultrasound, and could not contain their tears as the technician announced they were having a boy! "I felt so much more connected to the little person in my tummy, immediately starting to plan out his life".  Rachel recalls a follow-up appointment the next week:
"...the doctor mentioned there may be something to worry about.  There were 2 minor findings:  hydronephrosis (a dilated kidney) and ecogenic bowels (bowels more firm or harder than normal).  Now, hydronephrosis is the most common abnormality detected on prenatal ultrasonography.  Our doctor stated he'd be watching out for any changes on an additional ultrasound to be done a month later.  He briefly mentioned it could be a marker for Down Syndrome, but the rest of the sonogram looked unremarkable and did not seem too convinced.  We left the appointment a little more than disappointed.  A dark cloud sort of followed us out, and worry began to set in."
They kept this news to themselves, as to not worry friends and family over something that could be nothing.  They tried their best to reassure one another that everything was fine.  "We were young, healthy, newly married, happy.  There was no way something like this could happen to us."  Rachel and Eric return for a follow-up the next month:
"A second ultrasound showed no change, including no other markers consistent  with DS.  To be safe, our OB sent us to Tacoma General for a visit with a genetic counselor and an extensive, 45-mintue ultrasound...After many questions and images, the counselor told us we had a less than 1% chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome, but the only way to truly know was to do an amniocentesis (a test that takes a sample of the amniotic fluid in the womb through a large needle going through the abdominal wall and into the uterus).  The amniotic fluid has the DNA makeup of the child and could be tested for the number of chromosomes.  This test not only sounds scary and painful, but it has been known to cause pre-term labor.  Eric and I knew that even if the test showed positive for Trisomy 21 (3 copies of the 21st chromosome causes DS), nothing would change.  We would still be having a baby and we would love him no matter what.  Why risk pre-term labor when the outcome did not matter?  We held onto the thought of less than 1% chance and played the odds.  To be honest, we sort of pushed the idea out of our minds and figured we were safe.  I mean, 1% chance!"
Rachel recalls the morning their son was born in July 2008.  After 16 hours of labor, an epidural, and a cat nap, it was time to push.
"Moms, stop for just a moment and remember this moment right now.  The intensity of excitement, the pain, the joy, the emotion...childbirth is a world all it's own.  Nothing compares to those moments, the moments leading up to the first time you see this little person who you've known for 9 months, but only imagined their face.  As I gave my final push, I had so many incredible emotions rush over me.  I had never felt so in love with Eric.  We did it, we made a baby and now he was here! Wow! I did it!  I birthed a baby!  What a miracle!  They placed him on my chest and I melted.  His big almond eyes looked up at me and I was beyond in love.  I noticed his face looked a little different, but I had never seen a newly born baby this early before.  They took him from me to clean him off...and we heard whispering, and more whispering.  Finally, the Dr. came to my side and said 'Congratulations!  Everything looks fine, although there are some things that make me think he could have Down Syndrome.' I just looked at her and said 'ok'.  I grabbed for Eric's hand but it was already on my shoulder, gripping me...She was ordering a blood test to be sure, but it could take a few days to get the results.  Eric later told me that he knew, as soon as he looked into his eyes, he knew he had DS.  I was shocked but something took over.  I call it 'Mommy Mode'.  I just wanted to hold him.  I wanted to try nursing him.  I wanted him close.  We had family who wanted to share in the welcoming of our boy.  We allowed everyone in and then made the awkward announcement that he may have DS but we would have to wait to find out for sure."
Rachel remembers the smile on her best friend Angie's face as she held Jacoby.  "She was telling me that everything was going to be ok and that he was precious and beautiful."
"And he was." 
The time came for all of their friends and family to leave, and Rachel was wheeled into a recovery room.  This was the first time she was alone with her husband Eric after realizing their lives had changed, and Rachel shares their emotions:
"As they wheeled me into the next room, I was holding Jacoby, wondering if everyone knew.  Like there would be a sign on my door or a big red flag on my chart.  Jacoby was put in the special care nursery for the night to monitor his oxygen levels.  Children with DS have low muscle tone and can have a hard time taking deep enough breathes.  [Eric] crawled into my hospital bed alongside me and put his head on my chest, holding me tighter than ever before.  There were tears, lots and lots of tears.  We couldn't tell whose were whose.  Reality sank in and we needed each other more than ever.  So many thoughts ran through my head.  I knew our love was deep and strong, but were we strong enough for this? Could we raise a child with special needs?  What if this breaks us?  Could I be a good mommy to him?  Could I love him like I always imagined loving my child?  For a few short moments, doubt filled my head.  I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth and it's real.  And then, that 'Mommy Mode'  kicked in again and I just knew we would be alright.  That love would conquer all doubts and that we would be a family, just like we always wanted...Mommy, Daddy, and our Jacoby."

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mary Kay and Melaleuca *Giveaway*

This month, we have learned about homesteading, homeschooling Megan and her Marine Corps family.  Megan keeps herself happily busy managing her 6 kids, but she also takes some time to sell Mary Kay and Melaleuca products.  She says "these business are great at bringing that little extra spending money to our family without having to take time away from my family and are wonderful, debt-free companies!".
 
We are all familiar with Mary Kay and her signature pink Cadillac.  Megan began selling Mary Kay four years ago because "God only gives us one skin, so we need to be good stewards of it!".  She loved the products, was drawn to what the company represents, and enjoys helping women learn how to take care of their skin.  If you would like to support Megan (because that's what Momster Mash is all about!), and maybe take care of some Christmas shopping, visit Megan's Mary Kay Website or email her at mshytle@marykay.com to be placed on her mailing list for catalogs. Shipping is always FREE with Mary Kay! 
 
Megan started her Melaleuca business about one year ago.  "I was looking for products that go the distance, are not harmful to my family, and are a good price.  Melaleuca cleaning products are high concentrate so you get a lot of product for a little price.  Their vitamins are plant based and with the newly patented Oligo, the whole vitamin is going into your body, unlike other vitamins where you only get a part of the vitamin."  The Melaleuca website explains:
"Oligo works the same way nature works-by binding minerals to organic compounds. Because Melaleuca's Oligo delivers nutrients similar to how they are found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods, your body absorbs more of the essential minerals it needs for health. In fact, the minerals in Oligo are proven by scientific research to be up to 10 times more available for absorption than the minerals in the leading brands."
For more information visit Melaleuca.com or email Megan at heartlandhomestead3@gmail.com if you are interested in becoming a Preferred Customer. 
 
To say "thank you for reading" and to let you sample some of the product she sells, Megan is offering a giveaway!  One lucky winner will receive:

Mary Kay Men's Cologne Travel Set - $35 value
AND
Melaleuca Tough & Tender Wipes (2 pack) - $9 value
These handy, biodegradable wipes are a quick, convenient, and eco-friendly way
to clean up messes on the go, with no caustic chemicals inside.
 
Giveaway ends this Sunday, September 29th, at 8:00 p.m.
To enter, follow the instructions below:
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Megan's Typical Tuesday

"What does your typical Tuesday look like?"
 
It is one of the topics of conversation mothers are likely to talk about when they are together, and this is a question I ask all of my MOMs.  I think it's interesting and helpful to see what a typical day looks like for other mothers.  Whether you are missing your children while you are away all day at a stressful job, or are feeling overwhelmed at home all day with your kids, it is one way we can empathize with one another and find comfort in the fact that you are not alone...whatever your struggle may be.
 
First, would you like to catch up on the Momster of the Month?
 
Megan's Typical Tuesday
Megan says that Tuesday is one of their "least interesting days".  It's all relative, right? :)  She homeschools, and explains that "Tuesday is Science and Social Studies day.  This year we are studying Human Anatomy and Physiology for Science, American History, and Korean geography and culture. These subjects are very hands on." Even though her children range in age from 2-4 years old, they all learn together!
 
Unless it's football season and her son Jacob has practice in the evenings, they don't tend to leave the house.  Other than school, it's chores and hanging out with friends.  "Speaking of chores, Tuesday is the day we clean out the stalls".
Thanks for sharing, Megan! 
 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Megan: Part 3 - Homeschooling and Homesteading

 
Click here to start from the beginning and meet Megan and her "JClan"
 
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The fact that Megan has six children is enough to impress me, but this Momster has some skillzzzz.  Not only is she keeping it together with her very own basketball team, but she is doing so with grace.  I'm am inspired by Meagan, and the many lessons she is teaching her children by homeschooling and homesteading. 
We all know about homeschooling, but what is homesteading?
 
Let's dive into the scholarly website that is Wikipedia:
"Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale."
What does homesteading mean for Megan and her family? 
 "...It's really more than homesteading for us.  For us, it's more of getting back to the way life was 100 years ago.  It's more than raising chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and growing a garden (soon to add goats and hopefully a cow).  We use cloth for everything from diapering to napkins, we make laundry soap, fresh breads, and more.  We've always wanted to do for ourselves."
Megan and her husband are "prayerfully looking for a bigger piece of land" so they can have a full-blown farm one day!  If you are interested in learning more, you can follow Megan and her family along on their homesteading journey on her blog, Heartland Homestead.
 
See why I'm impressed?!  I would love to be able to "live off the land", but considering I can't keep my three vegetable pots alive, I'm not sure how I could manage to keep my family alive :)
 
Since Megan and her family are so involved with homesteading, it sort of makes sense to me that she would also homeschool her children.  It's all about self-sufficiency, right?  But why did Megan choose to homeschool?  She clarifies that her and hubby both have a "legacy of teachers" in their families, but goes on to explain, "When I was in high school and college I nannied for a wonderful Christian family that has 6 children.  They are all home-schooled.  After seeing this first-hand and knowing how the [public] school system was declining, I knew I wanted to homeschool!"
 
As expected, homeschooling is a "fun adventure". 
"We have lots of structured learning, but we also have lots of 'rabbit trails'.  Someone might ask about something or get interested in something and we will devote our learning time to those things.  They all have a love of learning because they get to learn their way.  They are good at self-teaching and teaching each other.  Homeschooling gives you the benefit of learning about your child and helping them learn in more than one way.  "
I know what you're thinking.  Megan goes on to explain her children's social skills.
"...they are well-adjusted, socialized children.  They can go to Marine Corps events and other places and know how to be quiet, and they can speak to adults with ease.  Now, they have their moments, but most of the time they are great anywhere out of our home.  They are not 'stuck' at home; we are involved in sports with the county, AWANA, children's choir, and a co-op of sorts through our church (a very big homeschooling supporter)."
Megan understands that homeschooling is not the route every parents choose to take, but she does "hope that [every parent] will choose to play the biggest role in their child's education!".  Megan goes on to say that a "Children's learning habits are formed by the time they are 3-years-old.  We have six children from infant to 4th grade and they all learn together.  Even if you send your children to public school, please be their #1 teacher."
 
How does Megan keep an accomplished routine between everything she is juggling?
 
"Each 'J' has a buddy.  They stick with them, know where they are, and help them get things done.  We are all about teamwork!  We are all a part of this family and we all have responsibilities to this family.  Our oldest two take care of the animals with the help of the next two under them.  Joanna is in charge of laundry; washing, drying and helping to fold.  Jordan is in charge of dishes; load, unload, put away anything in the bottom cabinets, wipe down kitchen counters.  Joseph is learning to be the "floors man", he vacuums and mops - not always great, but it gets us by between the once a week time it is done by someone older who wants to earn money.  Johnathon is learning to be our "trash man"; he empties all cans into our big one inside and then Jacob takes it to the cans outside.  The JGals share a room and so do the JBoys, so they take turns taking care of their room.  The JClan has 1 bathroom, so the JGals have 3 days a week to clean and the JBoys have 3 days a week to clean (I'm assuming Megan gives it a good cleaning once a week)."
 
Megan also has a very supportive church family and also knows many mothers with large families, and can "pick their brains", but also recommends these resources:
 
Titus2 - Encouraging, exhorting, equipping Christian families in Jesus Christ.
Large Family Logistics - The art and science of raising a large family.
Above Rubies - Encouraging women in their high calling as wives, mothers, and homemakers.
Heart of Wisdom - Publications promoting Bible-focused homeschooling.
Raising Arrows - Bringing blunt-edged babes to finely sharpened arrows.

Do you have questions regarding homeschooling or homesteading?  Megan would love to answer them, and can be contacted at heartlandhomestead3@gmail.com.
 
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Please stay tuned as I share ways in which Megan earns money from home,
how you can support her, and a *giveaway*!
 
 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Freezer Pancakes



Many of you probably already do this, but I wanted to share a time and money-saving breakfast tip I often forget about.  I don't make pancakes or waffles often, but when I do, I make a LOT.  Then, I freeze the rest for a quick and easy breakfast on a busy morning.  It's cheaper than buying frozen waffles, and you can pronounce all of the ingredients that went into them!

 

On the days that I work, I often eat my breakfast on my commute.  I'll pop two of these into the toaster, slather them with peanut or almond butter, and then I can eat with one hand while driving.
Super safe, right...? ;)
 
 
While I'm on the topic of peanut butter, this Earth Balance Coconut Peanut Butter is my FAVORITE!  Seriously, so good...and non-GMO.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Megan: Part 2 - Marine Corps Family


Megan's husband has been a U.S. Marine for 13 years, and I think I can speak for everyone when I thank them both for the hard work and sacrifices they have made in order to help protect our country and our families.  When Meagan and John married, the Marine Corps made them go through spousal counseling and were told "If the Corps meant for a Marine to have a wife they would have issued her at Boot Camp"!  It was meant to be funny, but also to warn them that life in a "Marine family" can be tough.
 
However, Megan says they aren't your typical Military family:
"We aren't like anyone you've seen on 'Army Wives' or anything like that.  We lived on base for a combined 1.5 years of our 10-year marriage.  Weeks after our second [child] was born, we bought a home... and we've been there every since.  Most of the time we use medical from local doctors, attend church 'out-in-town', shop locally and not on base, and we have mostly civilian friends.  We love that John's job, is John's job and we have a life outside of his job.  If it weren't for the DOD (Department of Defense) decals on our vehicles and the IDs we carry, you'd almost never know we were an active duty family."
Although they've been blessed to have John home most of the time, some of the sacrifices they've had to make are 2 tours to Iraq, a UDP (Unit Deployment Program) to Japan, and many 24-hour duty or weekend classes around the country.  In November 2012, John was promoted to SSgt (Staff Sargent), which meant "a series of small deployments all over the country".  Megan explains how they are now facing the largest sacrifice they've had to make so far as a Marine Corps family:
"John was given orders to Permanent Change of Station, unaccompanied (without family), for 1 year in Camp Mujuk, South Korea.  As I write this, he has just days left with is.  We don't know what the next year holds for us.  The JClan will see their Daddy by Skype, get to email him daily and receive letters and packages in the mail...The JClan is too young to understand why he can't stay.  We are very blessed to have a wonderful family that supports us and an awesome church family that is all about being there for us!"
With six children, homeschooling, and a husband who travels often, I asked Megan if she gets any time for herself?  In what ways does she treat herself?
"I love pedicures!  My Beloved (her hubby) is sweet and gets me gift certificates when he's home so I can go and get one at my convenience.  Other times 'me time' is going to homeschooling meetings with other moms, or getting coffee, or sometimes it's just getting a shower with no one coming into the bathroom, other times it's grocery shopping alone.  During the school year, I try to get up before the JClan so I can spend some quiet time with God, sometimes I even get a shower before one wakes."
Megan offers an interesting perspective regarding "mommy-time", I'd like to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed and, honestly, a little selfish:
"My children are my life right now.  They are with me 98% of the time, and we choose to live that way!  We only get a small moment in time to be there shaping them.  I will have many years of 'me time' when they are grown and have their own families."
Please keep Megan and her JClan in your thoughts and prayers throughout the next year as her "Beloved" is stationed in South Korea without them; it will be a huge adjustment for everyone.  Megan, I hope you can steal some moments for yourself to recharge your battery as you tackle so much on your own.  I am inspired by your stamina and positive attitude!

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Megan: Part 1 - Meet Megan and Her 'JClan'

My friendship with Megan is unique; I have known her for 18 years...but she lives in South Carolina and we have never met.  It all started in 4th grade, when our class partnered with a class in Florida to connect each student to a Pen Pal (remember those?!).  Megan and I were assigned to each other, and we began writing letters "the old fashioned way" and exchanging pictures.  The magical world of the internet and email made their way into our lives, yet we still sent pictures from high school dances, Senior pictures, graduation invitations, and wedding invitations.  Fast forward to the Facebook era, and we are more involved in each others' lives than ever before.  We always joked about writing to Oprah or someone similar who might be interested in our story (and would pay for us to meet!)  I've been to the South twice, but it has never worked out for us to meet in person.  One day it WILL happen!  Enough about Megan and I, let's get to know Megan and her family why I selected her as the Momster of the Month for September.
Megan and John grew up in the same church and were best friends for 10 years before they even started dating.  They started dating in 2002, married in 2003.  John is a Marine, and they have been stationed in South Carolina for almost 9 years now.  They have 6 children they like to call 'The JClan';  Jacob, Joanna, Jordan, Joseph, Johnathon, and Jesse.  Megan explains, "People always ask how we decided to go with all the J names.  We decided to name our first Jacob and 3 years later when we found out we were having a girl, we thought we knew [that we] were going to name her Joy, but we found the name Joanna...Jacob picked [the name] Joanna over Joy, so we started the JClan.  Each JClan name comes from the Bible (Genesis 25:19-26; Luke 8:3a, 24:10; Joshua 3:13-17, Matthew 3:6; Genesis 30:22-25; 1 Samuel 13-31; 1 Samuel 16:1-13).

Megan shares what the JClan is like:
"Jacob (9) is very smart and loves playing football.  Joanna (6) has Acute Hypotonia Sensory Integration Disorder, ADHA and mild Aspergers Syndrome.  With a lot of time and therapy, she has been able to not let these things rule her life.  She loves to learn, help in our home, and dance.  Jordan (5) is the little mother hen, she loves to help take care of the little Js and do all the motherly things she can.  Joseph (4) is ALL boy!  He's a daredevil, but he's our 'watchman', he doesn't rest unless we are all home, safe and sound.  Johnathon (2.5) is just coming into his true toddlerhood, if he's quiet or not around, I'd better be looking for him because he's probably doing something like painting himself with nail polish.  Jesse (12mos) is still his mama's boy, he loves to explore, but never too far from Mama.  He's just hitting that sweet age where he likes to be with Daddy almost as much as Mama."
Life is busy for Megan and John and their JClan, but they try for a date night once a month and they have an "awesome babysitter" who helps them out.  A typical date night?  They like walking and carriage tours of historical sites or going to a restaurant they wouldn't be able to with the JClan.  Megan says "Going shopping for clothes or even groceries, watching a movie on the couch together and falling asleep midway in the dark and quiet.  Any moment we can steal just being us, we take!"
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Stay tuned as I take the month of September to share more about life of a Marine family and the upcoming year Megan faces while John will be in South Korea, homeschooling, homesteading, and Megan's business ventures.