A walk down the wash (Christmas blog hop)

The weather has been perfect down here in Arizona. The kids and I went for a nice, long walk up a nearby wash to the dry culverts. They have been dubbed “the tunnels”.

The wash also doubles as an alley, so there’s always interesting junk out here to look at.
Here’s the culverts. The only time they have water in them is during a rain. As you can see, it hasn’t rained in a while.
Culverts are huge caves when you’re three feet tall.
Gorgeous clear day with mountains in the background.
A variety of prickly pear cactus with fuzzy spots instead of big spikes. The fuzzy spots are also horrible spikes, so don’t touch.

It’s always such a nice walk, with lots of things to see. In the spring, there’s quail with chicks running around.

The misery of E. Coli

I’ve just come out of two solid weeks of toddlers with E. Coli infections. Misery barely beings to describe it.

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Cute plush diseases from ThinkGeek

On Memorial Day, there was a huge party down at our apartment pool. We avoided it. The next day, I thought we were safe, so we went traipsing down to the pool. Turns out there was a more informal party going on with almost as many people.

Against my better judgment, I let the kids swim anyway. We were already there and ready to go, and I hate going back on a promise I’ve made. So they swam in the pool where a lot of other people had been. The kiddy pool, in particular, smelled funny.

A few days later, E. Coli hit.

It nailed my two-year-old first. Fever, going at both ends, stomach cramps, the works. I thought it was a normal stomach bug, which usually only lasts 24 hours. Boy, was I wrong.

One day turned into two, then three, then four. I had a hard time just getting fluids into her, let alone keeping food down. But slowly she pulled out of it, and the stomach cramps subsided.

Then it hit my four-year-old. I found out later that she had actually drank the nasty pool water.

She got hugely, massively sick. Five days of fever and vomiting. Debilitating stomach cramps that left her crying.

By this time I had tumbled to the fact that this was probably E. Coli. I frantically researched what you do for it.

Turns out, there’s nothing you can do. Zero. Zilch. Because of the way it attaches to the intestinal wall, taking antibiotics only kills the good bacterial keeping it from spreading. Which makes the E. Coli spread faster, injecting more toxins and finally shutting down your kidneys. It’s a nasty beast. Mayoclinic’s website advises rest and fluids. That’s it.

But reading about the way E. Coli attaches to the intestinal wall reminded me of things I’d read about probiotics. When they have E. Coli outbreaks in restaurants or from produce, not everybody gets sick. The reason is because in some people, because of diet and other care, the good bacteria in their gut occupies every square millimeter of space. There’s no place for the E. Coli to attach.

So I started researching probiotics as a treatment for E. Coli. Turns out, a few years ago, there was a huge outbreak in Europe. The doctors there desperately researched probiotics, to the point of engineering a certain strain specifically targeted at blocking E. Coli.

There was no way my four-year-old could choke down a probiotic tablet. But she could drink a little kombucha.

Kombucha is a type of fermented tea. The yeasts and bacteria in it are the good kind that your gut needs to digest food. Our grocery store carries a high quality brand. The kind I’ve found most effective in healing a damaged gut is the kind with blue-green algae in it. It looks horrifying, but it tastes pretty good.

So I got two bottles and spent a whole day giving her sips through a straw. She would drink until the cramps started, then she would go to sleep. When she’d wake up, she’d drink a little more and sleep again. Her vomiting slowed down, but the cramps were so bad that if she moved around, they forced her to vomit again.

It was awful. I was exhausted. But the morning after the kombucha day, she woke up with no cramps, asking for food.

So now we’re all recovering, myself included. This has been such a beating. E. Coli is miserable, miserable stuff. But man, probiotics are a miracle. I hope our awful experience is helpful to other sufferers out there.

Thankful for birthdays

Thanksgiving is this week, and I’m so thankful to be here, now, than last month, packing to move and cleaning like crazy.

The two youngest have their birthdays this week. Of course, cupcakes were in order, and we had them right after dinner.

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After a capital burger dinner, daddy lights up three cupcake candles.

 

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Blowing out the candles!

 

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Fat baby who turns 1 this week!

So many good things have happened that I’m thankful for. We’ve moved to a beautiful city. We have more room. My hubby is getting lots of hours, and he likes his co-workers. (That’s a big one.) I’m just thankful that we can go into the holidays without worrying about where we’re going to live. God has taken such good care of us.

A birthday hotdog roast

We went to California last week for my daughter’s 7th birthday. All of my extended family lives out there, so CA is where we go when it’s time to party. Lots of pictures (and captions) following!

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The long drive through the desert. Such a pretty day! And the desert was so green!

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Grandma making friends with the 2-year-old.

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Everybody roasting hotdogs. There were many, many wiener jokes.

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“Why are these taking so long to cook?”

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The kid table, filled with hungry kiddos.

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Ahh, the typical American family–all sitting with their devices. Note the cunning use of umbrellas in the background.

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Lighting the candles on the ice cream cake.

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Dramatic action shot of birthday candle ownage!

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After dinner, the kids played Detective with an obliging uncle.

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My sis-in-law Makenzie is a professional photographer, and took a lot of these pictures. Like this one.

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Family photo–silly faces edition!

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Driving home was smooth sailing until we entered Arizona. There a giant storm awaited us. This is us driving into it. I didn’t take pictures of the hail and lightning because I was afraid we’d die if I took my eyes off the road.

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The dust was blowing like crazy here. Not sure if the camera captured it.

And that’s a brief photographic summary of our trip. It was so much fun! Big families are the best.

A little dragon birthday

This week, my third daughter turned 5. She’s my dragon lover, and asked for dragons for her birthday.

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She played with friends all day, and ate cake all evening, and mostly just had a great time. Because she got that Lego Elves dragon, all the kids are now enamored of that particular series. If it was a TV show, they’d watch it religiously. They’ve already consumed the one tiny video on Youtube and wish for more. Because dragons.

Our first Ren Faire visit

Easter was the last day of our local Renaissance Faire. We’d planned to go all month, but it’s only on weekends, and my hubby’s schedule was full of lots of weekends to work. But the stars finally aligned on Easter Sunday. I had gotten some free children’s admission tickets (stockpiled, more like), so it didn’t cost all that much to get in, even with the seven of us.

It was a clear, coolish, breezy day. The fairgrounds are waaaaaay out in the desert, up against the feet of the Superstition Mountains. Gorgeous country, but flat, and already hot.

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As you can see, my hubby forgot his hat. As a redhead, this spelled disaster.

One of our first stops was a hat shop. He scored a nice straw hat that saved him from being horribly burned. Next year: sunscreen.

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Wizards! This is the point where I remarked, “This is the BEST fair I’ve ever been to!”

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Here’s Hubby modeling his new hat. Behind him you can see one of the rides, which was a giant rocking horse. No motors–just the attendants rocking it back and forth. It was so low-tech and ingenious!

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Here is the giant slide. Only my son had the nerve to go down, and he said you go down it for a loooooooong time. It would have made a great water slide.

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Here’s a fire-swallowing show we attended after lunch. It was all pirate-themed. They even had a tacky shirt with a pirate chest on the front, and the caption, “Nice chest.” On the back it said, “But the booty is even better!”

I saw several people wearing it. It looked exactly the way you think.

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The kids all bought Harry Potter wands:
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I got this sweet, sweet necklace:

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We have plans to take a lot more cash next year. It’s one of those places with so many awesome things to buy that you could easily empty your whole bank account just going, “OOoh! Shiny!”

We’re definitely going back next year.

A fun birthday weekend

It was my son’s ninth birthday this last week. It worked out really well, because we wound up babysitting one of his friends that day, so he had sort of an all-day party.
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I baked marble cupcakes with chocolate frosting, which were a big hit.
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Look at all those smiling faces!
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And a little fat baby.

We have birthdays in March, April, and May, so spring has been dubbed “birthday season”. As if his birthday wasn’t enough fun, one of the neighbor kids had a birthday this weekend, too. So we sat outside, ate barbecue and a Minecraft cake. The adults talked and talked and the kids played and played. It was very pleasant and fun.

Discombobulation

  
This has been one of those weeks when everything happens at once. Let’s try to put things in order.

  1. My hubby has to work the weekend.
  2. Friday night, a maintenance guy comes to the door. Water was leaking under the wall of the apartment next door, and he wanted to check our living room for moisture.
  3. Saturday morning. Water is coming under our living room wall.
  4. Sunday. Hubby is tired from not getting a break. The maintenance guys of course don’t show up. The wetness is creeping across the living room.
  5. Monday. Fully half of the living room is now squishy and wet. I attempt to do school.
  6. This attempt is thwarted by the arrival of maintenance and carpet cleaning. The pipe in the wall had a pinhole in it that was spurting water. We haul all the furniture to the far side of the room. They pull back the carpet, tear out padding, and bring in a fan and a dehumidifier.  
  7. Dehumidifiers are scary.
  8. They suck every last particle of moisture out of the air, your eyeballs, your mouth, and your nose. You feel like you have a cold, even though you don’t.
  9. Tuesday, we’re a dessicated, thirsty family. The carpet is nearly dry, though.  
  10. Wednesday, one of the kids “accidentally” bumps the dehumidifier and shuts it off. Instant relief. The carpet is dry. Furniture is moved to its old place. Order is restored. A missing gameboy cartridge is discovered under the high chair’s base. There is rejoicing.
  11. Thursday: painters put plastic over our windows as they begin painting our building.

As you can see, it’s been a crazy week. I’m looking forward to the weekend, when maybe we can have a break.

    Minecraft as history – the Pilgrims

    The kids and I have been studying American history. To make sure they understood the events of Jamestown and Plymouth, I couched it in Minecraft terms.

    So, you log in to a new map with some guy. He’s never played before.

    “Okay, you start out by punching trees to get wood blocks,” you say.

    “Nope,” he replies. “I’m a gentleman. Work is beneath me.”

    “But,” you say, “when it gets dark, the zombies come out.”

    “You do it,” he says.

    “I’ll gather my own resources,” you say, starting to feel miffed.

    So you punch trees, get wood, make tools, and start gathering stone and coal. The Gentleman wanders around, looking at the scenery and picking flowers.

    By night, you have a shelter built. He has nothing. The zombies come out.

      
    “You have to let me in!” he yells from outside.

    “No!” you reply. “You should have gathered your own resources!”

    Everything goes quiet. The sun comes up, and the Gentleman has vanished.

    But as the sun is going down, he appears with a sword and a bow and arrow, kills you, and takes your stuff.

    That’s what the gentlemen in Jamestown did to the Indians. 

    The Pilgrims at Plymouth, on the other hand …

    You log into a new map with your Pilgrim friend. They immediately begin punching trees. They chat pleasantly as they gather stone, mine coal and iron, build furnaces and shelters.

    Within a few days, your map looks like this.

      
    And there you are. When it comes to being a pioneer, you want to be a Pilgrim, not a Gentleman.

    Holiday recap

    We had a quiet, simple Christmas this year. No trips, no visitors– just us, presents, and good food.

    We hadn’t planned to have a super-quiet Christmas, but all the excitement happened around Thanksgiving this year. Then, what with having a new baby in the house, and me having to rest, we just didn’t do much. The kids also got a lot of toys related to keeping quiet (notice all the games!).

    At the beginning of the school year, I had planned to take December off, and it turned out to be a very pleasant month. I’m ready to start school up again, though–it adds such nice structure to our days.