Tag: Rachel

The Surprise Revealed

On Rachel’s birthday I got an email from a friend who said that they had sent money to my paypal account as a special birthday present for Rachel, being that 13 is such a special birthday. I thought, “Oh, how nice, she will have enough to finish saving for a replacement screen for her Eee PC.” Then I looked in my paypal account and realized that no, she now had enough to buy both the full size midi keyboard she wanted (the “big” thing she was saving for) and the foot pedal for the midi keyboard. After thanking our friends profusely, Shamus and I decided to surprise Rachel by ordering the keyboard instead of giving her the money.

As you can see, it was the right thing to do. The keyboard came this morning (which is funny itself because the pedal shipped first and isn’t here yet, and the keyboard itself shipped yesterday. She is in seventh heaven, even though we could only afford a full size that has to be plugged into a computer with the proper program running (full size keyboards with built in speakers and software are EXPENSIVE.) After we got everything working on a spare computer we moved it to the kitchen where her 66 key keyboard was. Now we have a full size midi keyboard plus computer in the kitchen and all three kids are thrilled (especially Rachel, who spent much of the day practicing.)  So thank you again to Jethro and Roberta– you made for a very happy girl!

Rachel sees the box. She knew a surprise was coming for her birthday but not what or when.
Rachel finds out what is inside the box.

There is a Teenager in the House

Yes, my oldest, my first child, turned 13 yesterday. Shamus managed to get a post up here but I didn’t since I was busy with the birthday party she planned and organized herself. It is amazing to see this tall young lady (5′ 5″–she towers over me) where my little girl was so recently.

The cake that Rachel designed and made herself. (I made the icing and homemade blue dye for the pond.)

It doesn’t really feel like having a teenager since not only is she not really interested in “teenager” things but she, in general, doesn’t do the attitude. In fact we have been blessed to find her getting more kind, thoughtful, and loving as she has gotten older. We have seen her really blossom since she started babysitting (which she adores) and playing piano (which she loves so much that she babysits in exchange for lessons and goes with my mother-in-law to practice at her church while my mother-in-law works.)

13!!! And she managed to blow out all the candles in 1 go.

She is creative, a natural inventor/designer type who loves nothing more than taking impossible things and situations and making them work together. She has an invention in her head that she is working on figuring out how to make it really happen.

She had a sled riding party with friends of the family (worked out great- there was a friend for each of the kids.)

She is excited to be able to have an Etsy shop where she will be selling some of her creations and re-purposing things we have around the house to be sold as craft supplies (she has already photographed and figured out pricing on Altoid tins and plans to sell the beautiful cobalt blue jars the GNC enzymes come in, as well as other things). We haven’t had a chance to set it up yet because she needs a name for it and we have been busy. She dreams of owning a shop someday and wants to run cash register as her first “real” job after babysitting. This is a good thing because she is very good at convincing people to buy things.

Not eating snow, melting it with their breath.

And of course with recent events this post wouldn’t be complete without yet another total God thing. First off, that coconut milk came in handy yet again when I realized that it is pretty hard to make hot cocoa for a sled riding party without milk so coconut milk hot cocoa it was, which, I should add, is pretty good. Later I realized that I was almost completely out of coconut oil because I had used so much in making Rachel’s cake. Of course we have no money to buy more and I wondered what I should do because we are totally out of olive oil and have a tiny bit of butter in the house. Wouldn’t you know my mother-in-law brought a container of it over when she brought Rachel’s birthday present. Apparently the mention of God providing coconut and coconut milk reminder that I had left a container there for her to use in baking some time ago and she had no idea that we were almost completely out!

Finally I have another really awesome God thing to share, but that has to wait because Rach might read this and I want it to be a surprise.

Unschooling Snapshots: Growing up

This is one of the reasons I have cut back on the work I am doing. Tree house
Our oldest is in a place where she needs her mom more and more often.
Tree house
We are spending a great deal of time talking about where she is, where she has been, and where she wants to go.
Tree house
She is growing up quickly. She knows her struggles and is trying to rectify those areas.
Tree house
She is seeking wisdom, learning to be quiet and wait (a hard lesson for this child who was born talking constantly).
Tree house
She is slowly gaining it and constantly struggling with herself, trying to get where she is going, trying to grow closer to God.
Tree house
It is a two steps forward one step back process and it is time consuming and a joy.
Tree house

A Very Special Two Year Anniversary

A very important day snuck passed.  We knew it was coming but no body remembered the exact date.  We knew it was important but not so important that we wanted to find out the date.  Then yesterday I was cleaning out the medicine cabinet.  Rachel’s anti-seizure just in case meds were there and were severely out of date.  Over 2 years out of date.  And the date bought was February 2007–and I picked them up immediately following a short seizure and never needed them again.

A few days after she got home from the hospital after first known major seizure (we now believe she had more previously that we didn't recognize). She doesn't remember this time at all.

Two years and 1 month ago Rachel had her final seizure.  It has been 2 years since we talked to her neurologist that last time and told him we had no intention of trying out more drugs on her because of the Steven’s-Johnson’s syndrome and the severe danger that every medication put her in, despite the fact that he insisted we were putting her at risk for even more severe seizures by taking her off her meds.  It was then that he gave us the script for the medicine I just threw away, one to be given during a seizure, and we never needed it.  He told us then that if we could go 2 years without a seizure then she should be home free.  And here we are.

Still getting the SJS under control. (Tell tale sign--peeled skin around lips.)

Once we realized her triggers (mostly food allergy related) and the trouble with flashes of light and crt tv’s she was finished.  She still gets migraines occasionally but much less often and very seldom even gets an aura with that.  It is such an amazing difference and so wonderful and awesome.  And how I praise the Lord for His protection and help.

Taken a last month in the freaky Nordstrom fitting room--almost exactly 2 years after last seizure.

Rachel Turns 11

Once upon a time,  about 11 years and 5 days ago, I was pregnant and very sick and went to the hospital because I was so sick, even though it was 3 weeks before my due date and one week before our first wedding anniversary.  Twelve hours later I had a new baby and was on some serious meds due to out of control blood pressure that wouldn’t be fixed until a few weeks after I was finally released from the hospital the day before our anniversary.

Rachel waiting to blow out the candles before her siblings beat her to it.
Rachel waiting to blow out the candles before her siblings beat her to it.

And this last week my first born turned 11, 8 days before our 12th wedding anniversary. She got all sorts of surprises, including a visit from our dear friends who live 5 hours away and braved the snow to visit us, a portable  dvd player which God provided through Freecycle so she can watch movies at Grandparents houses and not get sick, a replacement for the Eee pc she got for Christmas and which didn’t work (Best Buy finally made it right but it meant braving a snow storm to get it bu also meant she got to go with grandma and me to Barnes and Noble and buy her new favorite book ever), and ice skates and consistently  cold enough weather to ice skate on the pond.  And so I present my newly 11 year old with the birthday cake she designed and baked herself  from a Cherrybrook cake mix (which other than Trader Joes is the best cake mix EVER).

Sunday Praise Doodles: Waves

Click for larger view

When I painted this I was thinking of this verse:

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

but afterwards this verse felt better suited:

Psalm 42:7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

Books, books, books!

Most of you know that my oldest two struggle with a nice mix of good, old fashioned, learning disabilities–just like their daddy and I. Now Esther’s tends to manifest mostly in dealing with numbers (dyscalculia)–like her mom.  Rach on the other hand has struggled with a solid dose of dyslexia mixed with dysgraphia–meaning that when she reads AND writes the letters get mixed around and words come out scrambled or as entirely different words.

Now Esther loves reading and has for some time. Books are her friend and if you call her and she doesn’t come she is almost definitely to be found caught up in a book. However, Rachel has been a different story. She loves stories and spends lots of time listening to them on cd, her mp3 player or getting someone else to read to her, but up until now she has been too frustrated with her own reading skills to sit down and read for enjoyment.

Last month I did what I do each year–I gave each of the kids a reading test. This is not a typical reading test like you took in elementary school, instead it gives me a clear idea of where they are struggling, at what level they can comfortably read on their own, and at what level they can read with a little help. Both girls were surprised to learn that they now reading at a 10th grade reading level–when they concentrate on reading. Knowing that did the trick. Suddenly Rachel understood what she was capable of when she tried and decided to try.

It started with her rereading a pile of picture books she enjoyed when smaller, moved to her rereading “Meet George Washington” (while they were playing school, because Esther had assigned a book report), then she read through all the “In Grandma’s Attic” series (which was not unusual–she would occasionally find a book she loved and read the series but then it would fizzle out), and suddenly she was off and reading. As a bibliophile myself, this was the moment I was waiting for. One night, at about 11 pm she came downstairs–“Mom, do you have any more books about people in history? I read all the ones I could find upstairs.” May I say that there are ton of books in every room of our house and that this meant she had read at least 10 books that night.

The next day, after she had read all the ones I had on the multiple shelves downstairs, I headed to the library and got out a slew of biographies for her to try.  She read those and perused our shelves for more–she discovered a pile of American Girls books I had put in the Paperbackswap pile because Essie had read them, Issac is just learning to read and prefers “boy” stories, and Rach wasn’t interested.  She read all of them in one night. A week later we headed back to the library and she got out 15 books (I insisted she allow me to use the other 10 allowed for the rest of the family.)  She finished most of them already and wants to go back for more.

She is spreading her interests out now–where before the only thing she would willingly read were how-to and cook books she moved to just biographies and then to include historical novels and fairy tales (I usually read them classic fantasy and fairy tales with a few historical thrown in so she seems to be keeping those for me to read aloud each night.) It is an exciting time, especially since we were afraid we were handling it wrong for some time.

As a former special ed teacher I knew that giving her the basics, reading aloud a lot, and letting her find her own comfort zone was the right way to go–forcing her to read was going to make my stubborn child HATE reading, but my mother’s heart was scared. I longed to have my oldest child love reading as much as I do and enjoy the books I love. I wanted her to LOVE reading and story and love the places it would take her.   She already loved story–that was not a problem, but I was afraid that she would give up and never TRY to read as a means to get at the story she loved. I am so grateful that finally, at age 10, she is LOVING books and all she is finding within them.  And I can’t wait to introduce her to some more of my favorites.  Believe me, I have a list, all she has to do is ask.

In case you’re wondering what she has been reading:

  • All the “in Grandma’s Attic” series
  • All the “Meet some random historical figure in American History” books
  • All the American Girl books in the house and all the Molly books at the library
  • Several chapter books about Anne Frank
  • All the “A Picture Book of______” series from the library
  • Tons of King-Smith books (writer of Babe)
  • A Scholastic Anthology of American History book
  • All the Calvin and Hobbes books in the house–again
  • Several chapter books about Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale,  and Abraham Lincoln
  • Of course the Dangerous Book for Boys, again
  • Other random books about the house including several chapters of Five Children and It by E. Nesbit because I wasn’t reading it fast enough.

Mail time

Today I reluctantly went to the mail box. We had spent several hours at the pond yesterday walking around and I was taking it easy today. I didn’t really want to stop reading my book and go check the mail. Yes, my life is so very hard. 🙂


In my mailbox was some random junk and a package. Now normally packages aren’t a big deal–U do Swapadvd and Paperbackswap so they are pretty regular. However this package was not from either of those–it was from a bloggy friend with whom I occasionally share snail mail and projects. This time it wasn’t a cool craft it was a book. A gift for Rachel. The perfect gift.


The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life: How to Sew a Sampler Quilt & 49 Other Pioneer Projects for the Modern Girl

To start Rachel looked the book over–“Mom, this book is really well made. The paper is really good quality and it has a beautiful cover. ”


She opened it up and ooed and awed as she browsed the pages. She then settled back in her chair and began to read, every once in a while exclaiming over another thing that it explains that she wanted to be able to do.


As most of you know Rachel has a crafty/project streak. She loves making and building things (she has a go cart in the works from The Dangerous Book for Boys) as well as cooking and baking. What you may not know is that she is an outdoors-woman at heart. She longs for me to let her camp out for a week in a tent all buy herself. She wants to build a shelter, live in it, make her own fire, and make her own food. A long time ago she told me she felt called to be an old fashioned missionary–the type that not only goes out and witnesses but also has to make her way in the wilderness. She also wants to fly.