Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Non-toxic, Natural, Homemade TICK REPELLANT// Tick Safety Tips

I don't ever remember ticks being a problem when I was a kid. I don't think I'd ever even saw one until I was a teenager and a grape-sized thing rolled off my cousin's dog...which happened to be a fully engorged tick, and was completely and utterly disgusting, by the way. Nowadays, they seem to be everywhere, at least here in the Northeast they do, so I set out to find a natural, reliable method of keeping my family safeguarded against ticks -- deer ticks specifically -- and the debilitating Lyme's Disease they may carry.

Lyme's Disease takes a lot out of you, and it takes a looong time to recover. It has become one of the greatest things I fear ever happening to my children. That's why I began researching various methods and products to keep my family safe against ticks. I'm not against commercial products, but I'm not all excited about them either; there are still lots of unknowns and risks I think. And they're usually super expensive, too. Turns out, I found a reliable, cost-effective solution for us that is natural and easy as pie; you just have to be diligent about it.

Here's what you need for non-toxic, natural and effective tick repellant: Tea Tree Oil. And a little water. That's it! You can fill a small spray bottle with water and add a few drops of tea tree oil, shake together, and mist over your clothes and exposed skin. Obviously take care when spraying near faces - we spray our hands and then pat on our faces, carefully avoiding eyes and nostrils. OR, simply add a few drops to a washcloth, dampen a bit, and use as a wipe - this works best for our dog, who isn't the biggest fan of having stinky water squirted on him. And believe me, tea tree oil is, umm, fragrant. As in pungent. And just plain putrid smelling. A tick, or anything with the sense of smell for that matter, is sure to steer clear of you when you're sporting that unmistakable, overpowering scent. But that's exactly the point, right? There are other oils too, but I tried this one first and never found the need to experiment with any others. Look online and you'll find several options listed.

Here's a little aside for you, too: tea tree oil is also great for small cuts and even discolored (fungal) toe nails. Who knew?

I have been relying on this for three summers now, and the evidence has been clear. Those times we forget the tea tree oil, we find as many as 10 or 11 ticks (at one time!) crawling on us, the kids and our dog. Jonah holds the all-time high of 13 ticks, just on him! They seem to love him! It makes me nauseous just thinking about it! And the rest of the time? No ticks. Zero. Nada.

We don't do much of the pants-tucked-in-socks stuff because usually we're wearing shorts anyway, but lighter colored shirts do help you spot the nasty things that are heading north on your body. It's such a pain, but we routinely check scalps, behind ears, under waistbands, and ankles and armpits, all which tend to be hot spots for hungry ticks.

When we do discover an embedded tick, it's crucial to remove it as soon as possible, with the head intact. Physicians and experts are now saying that the disease can be transmitted in as little as four hours after you've been bitten, so move swiftly and get that tick out! We bought this tick removal tool years ago and have always been able to remove the entire tick with it. When we lost it, we tried a handful of other items but none of them worked as well. You should be able to purchase Ticked Off at any large pharmacy store, or online (though the shipping costs will give you a stroke.) I think the key to successful removal once the tool has "scooped up" the tick is to gently pull the tool upwards, kind of suspending the tick for several seconds, and then to yank it out sharply and quickly. Don't tug a little bit at a time or be too wimpy about it -- that just makes kids more nervous than they already are, and then it gets harder and harder to get the job done. Be confident and yank it out! We generally insist that our doctor take a look at questionable bites, especially if it's unclear if the entire head has been removed. If we don't know how long a tick has been embedded (usually we discover them within an hour or two) we have taken antibiotics as a precaution.

There are mixed theories regarding applying vaseline, nail polish remover, or even tea tree oil to an embedded tick in the hopes that it will back itself up "to breathe" and therefore un-imbed itself. In the past, I did all of these things out of sheer panic, but nothing has worked as well as the Ticked Off tool. And no, I'm not a paid rep or anything, just so you know. I've read enough recently about how this approach may actually cause the tick to release more spit into your skin and bloodstream, and quicker than normal, to try and find a way to breathe. Which is what you don't want. I'm sticking with the removal tool. Oh, and flush the tick. I made the mistake of letting it soak, I guess you could say, all in the name of conserving water, and each of those times, the little Houdinis escaped. Ew. That's really really gross to think about.

I think everyone knows by now that the telltale sign of trouble is the red bull's eye rash or mark on the skin, but there are other things to be concerned with as well. Tick bites typically itch. Like mad. Like, rip your skin off mad. It's helpful to apply an anti-itch cream after washing the area, and then covering with a band-aid to reduce the temptation to scratch it raw. IMPORTANT NOTE: do not use cortisone products on ethnic skin because it will permanently discolor and lighten the skin. We've learned this the most heartbreaking way, and we want others to be aware, since we'd never heard anything about it before; seek alternatives. Don't be surprised if a tick bite is still itchy and bothersome up to one full year later. It's bad. Ticks are just plain bad. 

My father has been suffering with Lyme's Disease this year, and it's been awful! The symptoms leave you feeling achy and uncomfortable, but my poor Dad says the heavy medication to combat it makes him feel even worse. Pretty bleak prospects in general, but thankfully, he is on the road to recovery and we all just want him to feel like his old, active self again. The old adage fits here as in so many cases: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Protect yourself and your little ones from ticks and the dangers of Lyme's Disease!

As for our beloved doggie, we do not use Advantix or the other commercial repellants, mainly because Ryder gets on our beds, our furniture, and there's something that doesn't sit right with me about a substance guaranteed to kill and repel ticks that's now all over my kid's bedding and pillows. Yuck. He gets a Lyme vaccine annually, but for the day to day stuff, we check him often and the ticks we find usually haven't even embedded themselves yet. The Ticked Off tool works great on him, though now when he sees it, I notice a look of dread and panic in his sad little puppy eyes. Ticks bites aren't fun for doggies either; nor is Lyme's Disease, though dogs have a much better recovery rate than humans do.

It may also be worth noting that I am not a doctor and have no intention of becoming a doctor, but our pediatrician was on board with this natural solution when I discussed it with him.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Five Years Ago...

Today is a special day for our family. It was five years ago today that we relocated to Guatemala to be with our Isabelle after having endured countless delays and trials. We spent her first 18.5 months apart, and I vowed she would never leave my side again. And she hasn't.

The above picture was taken during my very first trip to Guatemala the year before, when Isabelle was 8.5 months old and I got to hold her in my arms for the first time. I never wanted to let go, but I had to. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

We had just celebrated Daddy's birthday before heading south -- we received news that we had finally gotten out of PGN, the last phase of the Guatemalan court!  I was about to be a single Mom of 4, in a foreign country, for however long it took!
Look how little they were! Caleb was only 4!

He had just graduated from preschool, and the next week, we left!

Here we are in Antigua, Guatemala!!

Daddy's little angel from the very beginning.

And my all-time favorite photo of my princess and me, one I'm sure I've shared on this blog about a gazillion and a half times.

Adoption was a very difficult journey for us - it isn't for everyone - and I may never know the reasons why God allowed us to be stretched in the ways we were, but I trust that it was for His ultimate good. No matter the struggles and challenges, adoption has changed our lives for the better, and we just can't imagine our family without our sweet little Isabelle in it.

Happy Gotcha Day, sweetheart! Mama te quiere mucho.  :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy Summer!

Summer is in full swing around here! We still have yet to brave the beach or lake due to Caleb's poor little leg, but the great news is it has healed really well, faster than expected, so he is out of the cast and in a walking boot! Hooray! Summer.Officially.Saved!!!
He says it still hurts, though. It's so hard to watch your child be in pain.

We lovingly refer to the new brace as The Terminator. Or Darth Vader. Depending on the day.  ;)  It is HUGE in person!

Everything I've planted is growing so well! We've never had shade in the front of our house before so I was worried I wasn't growing the right things, but they seem to love it!
It looks like I won't be getting that veggie garden going this year, but I just don't have it in me. I still have to finish the rock planter wall out front and I just can't make myself do it anymore because I am soooooo sick of hauling rocks.

This boy has been gone since early Thursday morning. I really really miss him! He's having a blast up in Maine with my Dad and uncle. (I had gotten annoyed with him the night before but I didn't handle it well, so I ended up bringing him some French Vanilla tea with Hazelnut creamer and we hung out and talked for a long while- this growing up business is SO HARD and I just want to do a good job but there is so much out there is is bad bad bad...anyway, we had a nice chat and he said he'd like some of "that tea" for the road. That, I can do.)

We've been able to play catch and soccer a little out back, with Caleb as goalie, signed up for the summer reading programs at the library, and tapped into our creative sides this week. Jonah and I went out the other night and he found a drawing book at JoAnn's that he liked, so I told him I would give him my coupon for 40% off if he kicked in a couple dollars from mowing the lawn, and he agreed. They've all taken turns using it and have been sharing their masterpieces with me all day! I am very impressed with my little artists (insert French accent there)!

I was on my way to a dentist appointment early Wednesday morning only to discover the driver side tire dead-flat. What a terrible feeling! I was thankful I hadn't gone far, and was able to back up the road and back into the driveway. Of course I totally lost it (this is the 3rd problem with that same stinkin' tire, and they even replaced it with a brand new tire last time!), called Bill, called the dentist to cancel because I didn't want to get charged the $50 missed appointment fee on top of everything else! I think the tears might have helped with that one- she felt so bad for me, and by then I just felt kind of stupid, but in my defense, it was extremely upsetting because I had lots of plans with the kids that day!

Well, that handsome prince of mine called AAA, and the man was here within 30 minutes to take a look. He was super friendly so we chatted for a while, and come to find out there had been a tire slasher going around town last night, and he had already put 12 spare tires on by 8:30 in the morning! I think that's much worse, a deliberate awful thing versus a random accidental inconvenience. The AAA guy found nothing wrong with the tire after inflating it back up and suggested calling the garage to have them look at the rims and seals, so that's what I did.

Our day's itinerary was pretty much shot by this point anyway, so I decided to seize the potential and we turned the trip to the garage into a picnic lunch while we waited- they had said it would take 15 minutes, tops. Famous last words! It was well over an hour and a half, but everyone handled it so well, and I was really proud of my children. Ethan had grabbed some books and a ball out of the trunk when we got there so we played, read one point, Isabelle laid right on Ethan's back while we all crammed together on the picnic blanket and played some game together on his phone. This story is probably boring the daylights out of everyone else, but I will always cherish that memory!

Removing tile isn't much fun, but these guys have made it go a lot faster! We're almost ready for the new floor!!! Jonah was impressed that his tile came up whole, whereas most break off in several chunks. He's got the gift!

And lastly, Bill and I headed downtown to walk around, enjoy the Supermoon above us, and bring home Chinese food and a movie. 
**I can't get Instagram pics to upload here- any advice?**
Our little excursion even involved a fabric store...because I ran out of white thread! What!?! Who ever runs out of basic white thread, in the middle of a project, with not a spare spool in sight? Yup, me. I mailed out 6 or 7 nighties and an eyelet bonnet this week, and I'm finishing up some more orders...well I was until I ran out of white thread, that is. Ha!

Oh, one last last thing -- I wanted to share some end of school pics. It has been a big year! We had literally just moved the weekend before school started, so all of their pictures from the first day are at Bill's parent's house. All except Ethan, actually, who flat out refused to have a First Day of School photo, so I used one from his birthday. He has changed SO much!
I'm just throwing this one in because I love it so much! He is a thoughtful, super smart, funny, all-around great boy, and while it's hard watching him grow up, I love it at the same time!

They have all changed so much, but I see it mostly in Isabelle's sweet little girl face and Ethan's more serious face. I had also forgotten Jonah started the year with braces, and Caleb was on both feet, ha ha! At least we're on the home stretch! I'm so thankful for wonderful doctors and for insurance!

We've got a big BIG day ahead of us so I'd better skedaddle! Happy Saturday!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Our Week in Pictures

Our last full week of school before SUMMER. I'm one of those types that gets all panicky and frets over the stuff I didn't do that I set out to do rather than celebrating all that I did do. Ya know? Trying to overcome that- because it's really no fun and extremely NOT helpful- but it's totally my nature. Anyway, it's been a crazy busy week, and I'm feeling severely a little off kilter and out of balance. I'm grateful for all the new orders coming my way but I honestly don't know how I'm going to keep up now that we'll all be home. And doing fun summery things! Speaking of which, I still need to get that summer calendar all marked up!

We're all quite anxious to kiss this ol' thing goodbye! And believe you me, it is waaaaay dirtier/stinkier/grosser now than it was a week ago here! Plus, he boasts of all his signatures from the older 5th grade girls who make a fuss over him. Smooth kid!

Busted out the sparklers for Daddy's actual birthday.

How can this baby boy of mine be heading off to high school in the fall? I.Cannot.Believe.It.

I've got great recipes to share, and some new tutorials too. Coming soon...I think...

Date night twirling. No, I haven't gotten her out of this new dress yet!
And smooching. She said she wasn't actually touching his skin because she didn't want to "erase" her lip gloss. ha ha

The other day in the store, Isabelle kept stopping me to take my picture. Like, making me pose. What!?! It was hysterical, but by the twelfth time, it was getting old. Sorry, baby girl, I've been doing this to you your whole little life! Now I feel your pain!
Then I hear her mumbling, "Wait, let me just get this shot" for something or other on the store shelf. I think I nearly died when I heard her say she had to "get it from a different angle" and that "the light is terrible in here!" Ha Ha That's my girl, all right!

Our backyard prairie beckons wildlife. So cute! Now there are two!

The kitties get a little loopy when the backyard bunnies pay a visit. Maybe there will be some baby bunnies know what they say! We had a beautiful deer out here one morning, too.

A big highlight this week was Isabelle's Kindergarten Success Night! When she first announced it at the dinner table a few weeks ago, my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as I about choked on my roll. Why? you ask. Isabelle's pronunciation lacked a little, well, precision -- she was actually inviting us all to her S-x (trying to avoid creepy people on the blog by not spelling the word out) Night at school, and she was very proud. Very! We all busted a gut over that one, and of course she realized she was onto something good so then she wouldn't stop saying it. Sigh. It still makes me giggle.  =)

She has made the most wonderful little friends this year. So thankful for friends and amazing teachers!

I can never resist getting the kids something for the end of school. Pitiful, right? Maybe I'm secretly hoping that they will take it easy on me that first full week. You know, the one where everyone is on edge and dealing with their own emotions from saying goodbye to friends and beloved teachers. And totally going out of their way to tease, cajole, and otherwise irritate their siblings. Yeah, that one.
I think I mostly just like to surprise them and get them geared up for a happy summer. We don't splurge on things very often, so this feels like a fun little splurge to me. It's mostly things like flip flops, frisbees, water toys and the like, plus one or two special things. A new fishing pole for the crippled one brought a big smile to his face!

It's a beautiful Saturday morning - we haven't seen the sun for several days now - and all the colors in Jonah's room just looked so pretty. (I was sneaky and placed the things on their beds while they ate breakfast. Which might have included something yummy from an early morning trek to Dunkin Donuts with my Jonah.) It is almost summer after all!

Isabelle was at her best friend's house yesterday, and we didn't get home until 8 o'clock, which may not seem like anything too big until you consider the fact that I left to get her at 4:45. My explanation? Girls just need to talk more than boys do. And they didn't even question me on it! I did apologize for completely ditching them for dinner and such, but Bill is super capable...not to worry!

And one more of the rabbits because they're so darn cute!
He's all, Look Baby, I'm leaping, I can LEAP! And she...well, I guess she's not as easily impressed as I am,  =)

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Overscheduled, and Playing Hooky (just a little bit)

Yesterday morning Ethan had an orthodontist's appointment, which of course I didn't remember when scheduling Caleb's orthopedic appointment...for 15 minutes later. Ouch. Needless to say, it messed everyone me up and became one of those kinds of mornings. I'm so not used to have to get all 4 of them ready and in the car by 7:25!
I had some errands and somehow found myself in a fabric store. It's like an internal GPS or something, just guiding me, and of course I'm helpless to change course. Isabelle was going to a friend's house so I didn't have to rush, which was divine, and I spent an hour flitting from aisle to aisle admiring colors and prints and textures. Even that new cloth smell! I think I see Fabricholics Anonymous in my not-so-distant future, right? HA The high was short-lived. I really needed some particular fabric and they didn't have it. Ugh. Then the rest of my free time was all used up waiting in line for the slowest cutting person ever -- if she had been nicer I wouldn't be mentioning it now, but she wasn't. High-killer #3. Then, oh, then I nearly died. Or punched someone right there in the check-out line. Some lady was smacking and snarfing and slurping her chewing gum SO loudly I thought I was about to have a heart attack! I could literally feel my face and neck turn tomato red as I stood there, forced to listen, and my poor little heart thumping away faster faster faster. ACK! GAG! Thank goodness I was called up before the dry heaves kicked in, because they weren't far behind, let me tell you.
So, yeah.
Well, I returned home, took the poor dog out -in the rain- and proceeded to do absolutely nothing. It was FANTASTIC!! I refused to check email or Etsy mail or anything at all and made myself a nice, hot lunch and sat down and watched TV. I may have even whipped up a ginormous sundae (with frozen yogurt of course) and ate that too, all whilst watching more TV. I felt so irresponsible, and it didn't even bother me! Until about 38 minutes in when I got sick of sitting there and couldn't stop thinking about the gazillion and one things I've got to get done. But those 38 minutes? PURE BLISS.

So, the really great news is that Caleb might be into a walking cast next week! I'm soooo relieved, as the summer list was pretty short, having to take a cast into consideration for everything. And he brought me home a present. Something he made in art class, and I love it!

Gorgeous colors! My boy knows me well!  =)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Daddy's Girl...DATE NIGHT!

There is something infinitely sweet about the bond between a little girl and her daddy, the way the world is set right again -- for both of them -- by a simple smile and a hug.

And Date Nights.  =)

Isabelle Kate has been talking {and talking and talking} about this night for several days now, she is beside herself excited! She wanted me to curl her hair with the curling iron, so after I dusted it off, sad but true, we went to work creating the most gorgeous head of bouncy curls I've ever seen!

She wanted to wear a pink bow to look her "prettiest," and wear her church sweater and fancy sandals. Who am I to say no to that? It is a date after all!

Oh, and princess lip gloss. Of course.

I've been getting texts all night with pictures of her getting her nails done, and at a restaurant with her Daddy-date. Oh how I wish every little girl was as lucky as she is! Aside from the fact that she looks fifteen in this picture, I just love it so much. I am so very blessed!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

5 Minute Grasshopper Ice Cream Cake & a Happy Birthday

Good Saturday morning! It's a cold, rainy one here, but that's not going to stop us from celebrating the man of the house today! Happy Birthday Daddy!

I shared the recipe for No Bake Freezer Peanut Butter Pie earlier this week, and I've got another recipe to share with you! The easiest, fastest, most delicious 3-ingredient dessert ever...5 Minute Grasshopper Ice Cream Cake!

Here's What You Need
18-22 full-size ice cream sandwiches
8 oz tub whipped topping, thawed
your choice of mint filling- I crushed some Grasshoppers cookies and mint-creme Oreos, but you could use Thin Mints or any other minty-chocolate cookie

Here's What You Do
First, crush the cookies -- I simply chopped them with a knife because I wanted "chunkier" crumbs, but you could easily process them or place them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin if you want finer crumbs.

Unwrap ice cream sandwiches (the most time-consuming part of this cake!) and layer them in a 13 x 9 dish to completely cover the bottom- you'll have to cut a few in half to fit them in. Next, spread half the whipped topping over the sandwich layer, and add a layer of cookie crumbs over that. And repeat. It's that easy! This doesn't need to set so it's ready to go as soon as you are. You may want to pop it in the freezer for a few minutes if it's a little too squishy, as was the case with mine- it was a hotty-hot day, and it was divine when we devoured it enjoyed a slice or two.

 I chopped up some Peppermint Patties for the top layer but I didn't care for the gooey texture -- the crunch was much better!
I was also a little worried that the ice cream sandwiches might, well, fall apart and sort of collapse when cut into, but they didn't at all -- they sliced beautifully!

So easy! So good! Go make one today!
Adapted from this terrific recipe.

Lastly, I thought I'd share some fun (or funny-looking, ha) pictures of the Man of Honor.

Have a great Saturday!

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