t h e m a y f i l e s is foremost a family blog, chronicling everyday life. Life including natural, healthy eating (with recipes thrown in at random), home educating (with ideas popping up sporadically), an attempt to homestead on .2 acres (with very meager yields), raising 3 of 4 children with a rare genetic disorder, and lots of highly personal family triumphs and failures. You may also find an eclectic array of musings on politics, exercise, sewing, emergency preparedness, backyard chickens, and religion. This blog isn't a campaign to glorify anyone or anything. Just simply a record.


Helmet for the Little Dude


Emmett just sits in the garage waiting for dad to get home so he can ride the 4 wheeler.  I have expunged myself from all responsibility related to this machine.  

The machine came with a helmet but we got this super cute one, much more appropriate for his head and neck strength from allsportprotection.com.  There are plenty to chose from for your tikes big and small.

Apparently it is quite dangerous for little ones to have a helmet too heavy for their little necks.  We want the protection and not extra danger.  I'm glad Brent knows about these things.  

We also have a governor on the throttle so they can't go to fast.  And a remote kill!  Love that.

Bringing the Ocean Home

A couple weeks ago this little gadget arrived in the mail.  The SinuPulse.   It is a nasal irrigation system.  Our ENT has been recommending we do saline washes in the children's noses for years, and the specialists in Denver reemphasized the importance.  

If only we could just move to Hawaii.  It seems like it would solve so many problems...sigh...

I ordered a probe for everyone in the family (Berekley's is the gentle mister).  I have been very pleased with the results.  I feel I have far less mucus.  We will see about sickness prevention.  Emmett and Ellery both have exacerbations right now.  This is so easy to do.  You just fill the reservoir with salt water and the probe in one nostril.  Turn it on until the water flows out the other nostril.  It is a bit gross, but like so many gross things, it has that hint of satisfaction as well.

The big selling point on the Sinupulse as compared to competitors, is that it pulses the saline solution with the same beat frequency as your cilia.  Well, that sold me.  With three kids with nonfunctioning cilia, this is just the ticket...until we can find a house with a saltwater pool or afford to move to the ocean.

In one of my heartfelt weekly chats with our ENT, Dr. Heidi Heras, who is by far my favorite doctor ever, she agrees if we can get the kids in a warm salty breeze, and knock the junk out of the sinuses and ears it could do them wonders.    Emmett's ears have not stopped draining since we inserted tubes.  Both tubes are clogged.  This Thursday they will try to clean and open his tubes under anesthesia.  Ellery has been in constant pain for almost 4 months with her ears.  It is baffling to the doctors.  Her hearing however has improved by 30 decibels since we replaced her tubes.  

The ears are such a constant drain and worry, I tend to forget about their lungs, a dangerous thing to do.  The lungs just don't give them pain, it is hard not to become swamped by trying to alleviate the pain in the ears.  I am battling for an answer.  I don't have any yet.


The Very Best Things

Not many 2 year olds spontaneously wrap their arm around your neck and keep it there for extended periods, but Papa was the recipient of just that by sweet little Emmett. 
Nothing compares with the treasure of spending time with our loved ones.  

Unfortunately Grandpa severed his thumb this day, so he and Brent were at the hospital getting it sewn together.


Christmas Morning

Remember that little quad and power wheel truck from last year?  Brent sold them about 6 weeks ago certain that Emmett was ready for the real thing.  So Christmas morning the children awoke to find the real deal.

Brent thinks just sitting on it, will be fantastic airway clearance therapy.  The vibrations. Hmmm...maybe that was just an excuse for dad!

 After months of Emmett and Brent sitting on them in store, they awoke to one in the front room.  (It is a knock-off brand so 1/3 the price, I liked that.  We definitely don't need anything heavy duty.)

This was Emmett's "want" and "need."  (Need because of the jiggles for his lungs, I know it is a stretch.)

The big surprise for the girls was a big beautiful doll house.  I agonized over this.  I wasn't sure I wanted to stifle their creativity with an actual house, they make such clever ones, but I decided I wanted one in our home.  It was one of my absolute favorite toys for so many years as a little girl.   This was Callista and Ellery's want from Brent and I and Mimi and Papa.

Merry Christmas to our sweet little kiddos.


Little Gymnasts...Kind of!

 After 3 months of gymnastics the girls had their first little recreational competition. In September, we started at square one.  I am embarrassed to say the kids couldn't even do cartwheels, and barely a forward roll.
While I don't necessarily think they have a lot of talent, they have both really improved.  They spend a lot of time practicing with Brent in the basement at night.  Never having participated in gymnastics myself, I enjoy watching them develop both strength and grace.  They can even pound out some pushups now.

 The shots I tried to capture at the meet didn't turn out, so they showed me their stuff in the basement.

 Both Ellery and Callista were very excited to find out they passed level 1 and get to start level 2 in the New Year.


Keep up the good work and the mucus jiggling!


Dollar Signs in the Distance

Does this mean I should expect really expensive dental work?  Brent loves to tell me how he remembers two things.

1.  He knew if he sucked his thumb long enough the icky stuff his mom painted on it would go away and he wouldn't taste it any longer.

2.  One thumb was always bigger than the other.  Nice and pink and plump from sucking.

It is so sweet now, but I don't know about when she is 5!


Nothing Holds a Candle to Literature

In only seven days I have been privy to 2 powerful and poignant literary masterpieces. Two disparate genres. Two similar experiences.

Firstly, I finished Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I literally sobbed into my pillow at 12:30 am for 45 minutes as I read the closing pages of this book, my heart and spirit heavily invested in the tragic but triumphant life of Jean Valjean. I found myself not just spilling tears but crying out into my pillow (under the covers with my flashlight of course) in anger and frustration to try to spare the characters the painful journey out of the holes I watched them dig.

This is one 1,400 page book worth reading. I read the unabridged version. There were some interjectory parts I skimmed, but some of these historical interludes I devoured.

Secondly, I just came downstairs from reading with the girls seven, I dare say scriptural, pages in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (book 5 in the Chronicles of Narnia). Pages 104 through 111. I struggled to fight back the tears as I felt the raw emotion of this allegory of Christ healing us from our sinful states. The spirit was tangible. Lying in bed, each of my daughters sat up during this chapter, their little bodies not relaxed, their minds absorbed, their mouths silent.

It was Aslan. The girls knew it was Aslan, come to heal Eustace. After a simple prompt, Ellery immediately grasped the illusion. It is Jesus Mom. He is the only one who rid us of our dragon skins. My reply: And sometimes it really hurts. Who hasn't been there? My heart beats faster as I mull over these passages in my mind. We speak of literature that edifies, this is such. I don't know if you could just read this book and have the passage move you, or if the entire series is needed. But this one chapter, in this one book makes the entire Chronicles worth every moment.

Two fantastic presents for anyone. Les Miserables or The Chronicles of Narnia.

I know they have made the movies recently of the Chronicles of Narnia. I haven't seen them. I can't imagine they hold a candle to the books, but I could be wrong. I just don't see how you would pull the majesty and raw emotion of this particular scene in a movie. I could be wrong.


Homeschooling Spelling

Some of the words Callista is mastering (she added "gingerbread men" because we made them today).

One beauty of homeschooling, is I can be certain my children never get "lost." Last Spring we began using the Spalding Method for our reading and spelling. It is also called The Writing Road to Reading.

There are so many things I love about the program.

1. I understand so much about the English language that I didn't before.

2. My articulation and pronunciation are vastly improved.

3. I can purchase everything I need, if I don't have the time to make it.

4. It has wonderful assessment tools to gauge progress.

Last Spring I bought the Kindergarten, First Grade and Second Grade teachers manuals ($70 a piece but they should get some good use over the years). We jumped around until I found the perfect place to begin each of the girls. I actually began Callista in the First Grade, but decided it was moving too quickly for her attention span. I adjusted her to about midway through the Kindergarten. Ellery began right in the Second Grade.

A month ago I was worried about retention. So we decided to take the last 3 or 4 weeks to master our Notebooks. Creating a spelling notebook is an integral part of this program. There are very specific marking and rule systems the children learn.

It feels a bit intense as a parent to learn, but once you get it, it is simple.

Ellery's Notebook

I love the flexibility of stopping for review whenever we want, catering exactly to my children's needs and learning styles. Ellery usually learns 30 new words a week, and Callista 15. However, with such a fast pace, I think the breaks for review are a great breather.

Callista's Notebook

I told the girls we will continue with new words when their entire notebooks are mastered. This is a powerful method to teach reading. In fact, you don't teach to read at all, the children just start reading as they learn to spell. I have been amazed at how Callista has picked it up. She is already where Ellery was this time of year in first grade. I can't wait to start Emmett in this program in a couple years, without confusing him with other less precise phonics programs I have used in the past.

If I had a dollar for every time Ellery wrote an "r" for "er" I would be rich. "R says er." is just one example of the incorrect ways we teach (or at least I taught) our children to spell.

I alter the program to fit our needs. It is far too long and intense for a homeschool setting. I leave out the majority of the grammar I feel is nonessential until they are older. I make my own literature selections. I use the readings in McCall-Crabbs for narration. I read them once and the girls listen carefully. Then they repeat the story with names, orders, and essential details. They are nearly word perfect. Much better than I am.


Whole Grain Kefir Waffles

Emmett, proudly finishing his dinner. This rarely happens.

I love a little breakfast now and again for dinner. And as evidenced in the photo above, so do my children. This unusual recipe I devised with kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product, with many touted health benefits. We try to stay very slim on our dairy, but with our recent PCD diagnosis in the 3 children, we are learning antibiotics will have to factor in more frequently. Clearly antibiotics and I are not chummy. The microbe fighting power of fermented foods is worth incorporating. I like kefir in waffles and in cornbread.

Whole Grain Kefir Waffles

1 3/4 cup whole grain flour (wheat, kamut or spelt)
1 T Rumsford baking powder
1/4 t real salt
2 eggs (of course we like homegrown)
1 3/4 cups plain kefir
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or other natural sweetener (xylitol works well) you can adjust the amount to your preference

Mix dry ingredients and wet separately. Combine gently. Cook in waffle iron. The waffles may have a softer, gentler texture than your family is used to. I like to let them cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.


Sunday Snapshots

I'm amazed at how sometimes I wake up and life just seems overwhelming, other days it doesn't. Sometimes just looking at pictures like these are all it takes to get me out of my funk.


Bouncy, Bounce!

This little girl has a thousand smiles for anyone who looks at her. I was trying to capture a candid of her sucking on her thumb and bouncing a million miles a minute, but the camera brought out the gigantic grins and the siblings.


Losing a Temper

Ellery: Daddy I lost my temper. I just couldn't help it I was so mad.

....But don't worry I got it back now.


More Read-a-Louds

I think I have posted before our Christmas tradition of giving our children

A Want, A Need, and Something to Read

This tradition was shared with me by a fantastic family the Hatches, whom we met 12 years ago when Brent and I first got married. I have been thinking a lot about books lately as I prepare for the holidays. I always have a list of 50 I want to buy, and I am grateful for an excuse to cut a dent. Yesterday I posted about the Old Mother West Wind series. Last year for Christmas the children also received The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

About a month ago the girls and I finished the Little House books. They are a greater endeavor than Burgess' books with more mature plot lines and increased length. The books are each about 250-300 pages with an average chapter length of 8-10 pages. But let me divulge a small example of how the characters gripped my children. It was one of those "Mother's Moments" which happened as we were reading the last few pages in These Happy Golden Years, the final book written by Laura. To briefly set the scene, Laura is marrying Almonzo in the morning, and Pa's fiddling all her favorite melodies from childhood. Suddenly, Callista just starts sobbing and laughing all at once.

"Mommy it is just so sad and happy." she choked out. "Laura is leaving home but she loves Almonzo so much. It will just be so different now."

I was floored at the depth of her understanding and emotion. She knew exactly what was happening in Laura's life. It was real. We watched Laura grow up from the time she was 5 years old in The Little House in the Big Woods.

At one point, while we were reading These Happy Golden Years, I told Brent I better finish this one fast with them, because they literally would follow me around the house, holding the book, begging for me to read to them. They giggled and blushed continually at Almonzo and Laura's sweet, innocent courtship.

The children and I learned lessons about pioneer life, gratitude, familial relationships, finances, wildlife, and love. I often find myself using Laura and Mary as positive examples for my children. I can off-handedly comment "Wow, remember how Laura and Mary would work so hard to make Ma's day just a little bit easier. Even without her asking them!" or "Remember when Laura and Mary had just a handful of wheat left for all of them to eat during The Long Winter. We are so lucky to have so much. They were so grateful for just a small piece of bread." I could go on and on. The girls behavior is immediately altered, at least for the short term, until they need another gentle reminder :)

We read all 8 books. I chose not to read The First Four Years with them. I have read on the internet the reviews, which say it was not written by Laura, only based on her journals. It is supposedly quite sad, lacking the exuberance and humor of the other books. Laura made me smile through my tears in The Long Winter, and we will never forget the panther screaming like a woman in agony in On The Banks of Plum Creek, what a gift she has. I will probably read the final book composed by her daughter and see if it is appropriate.

Callista actually had a literal "page count down" going until we reached this illustration.
She was giddy for the romance. I savored the innocence of it all.

I bought the entire boxed set on Amazon (can you tell I don't get out much). You will love the illustrations by Garth Williams. He actually visited all the sites from her childhood in order to make authentic drawings.

More often than not, "Field Trip Friday" turns into "Read Aloud Friday." Lately, we have been to so many doctors appointments, we just want to stay home and snuggle and read. Usually we head to the basement for Emmett to do handstands, bridges, and somersaults (which by the way are adorable), while the girls and I are engrossed in a book.


Perfect First Read-a-Loud Chapter Books

When I talk to many of my friends they are amazed how my children adore, and beg for chapter books daily. It was a little daunting to me to decide to dive into longer, more complex plots with my children and no pictures. I think our very first book was Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

The children love series (but imho skip the "junk" books and stick with literature). It seems like 200 pages isn't enough, when the author is gifted and the characters so endearing. One of the best recommendations I have for starting to read longer chapter books with your little ones are the Old Mother West Wind books by Thornton W. Burgess.

These darling books are only about 70 pages long, and each chapter is maybe 3 pages. I have found, even Emmett is beginning to sit still and listen to the chapters. Nearly every chapter starts with a charming little poem like the one found in Chapter XII of The Adventures of Old Man Coyote:

Believe all the good that you may hear,
But always doubt the bad.
Pass on the word of kindly cheer;
Forget the tale that's sad.

There are lovely moral lessons as well as natural history information on the little woodland creatures of the Green Forest. There are a few pictures scattered throughout the book. However, be prepared they don't always coincide with the proper text.

Ellery and I trade pages on this book when we read during school. At night, it is just me. I bought a boxed set (be sure to get the unabridged) on Amazon for only $10.


Free Sling

I love slings for my babies! I am horrid at finding bargains, but you don't want to miss this one.

Sevenslings.com you can get a free sling, and pay $12 shipping. Not bad, for a $40 sling. They look cute. I got the green one.

Just click "shop now" and select the sling you want. The promo code is VALPAK. It expires without notice so act fast!

Sisters...Same and Different

I found this photo of Callista today, in the same outfit Berkeley had on and I couldn't resist the photo op.


Daddy Daughter

I think these are the first shots of Brent and Berks. He doesn't bond quickly with the little bitties, but I think she is starting to grow on him. For the record, when he falls, he falls hard. Brent is an amazing father.


Nothing Says...

...Great Grandma like a long strand of pearls.

Nothing says holidays, like an afternoon at the Nutcracker with the girls.

We had a wonderful time with Grandma, sisters and cousins. Everyone was in pearls.


No Wonder

If this was pushing on one side of your ear drum and fluid was pounding on the other, I think we could all agree it would hurt, and we wouldn't be able to hear. Thank goodness it is gone.

Last Monday we scheduled Ellery's tubes for Thursday. The office called on Tuesday to let us know we could avoid a $250 out-of-network charge if we waited until the following Tuesday. It seemed like a no-brainer to wait. However, the decision to wait was greeted with tears and panic from little Ellery. She was petrified she couldn't hear and in pain. Early Thursday morning we called and our fabulous ENT squeezed her in.

Emmett's tubes went in on Tuesday. He was such a brave trooper. His poor ears were full of pussy fluid and mucous. They also removed his adenoids, which makes the procedure a bit more intense and the recovery longer. He is still quite under the weather. After 2 years of fluid silently sitting in his ears, he should be in a new world. We are hopeful his vocabulary will increase exponentially and his articulation improve.

In 7 days I had 2 surgeries and 4 different doctors appointments. Next week we have 3, but thankfully all with the same pulmonologist at the same clinic. If I just don't think about it, I don't get overwhelmed.