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.


Didgeridooing in the New Year and 2011 Summary

Who knew Callista would have a natural flare for the Didgeridoo?  Grandpa received this gem from a work colleague for Christmas.  We had a "blast"  New Year's Eve trying our lungs on this creation from down under. It was a rare moment in the spotlight for Callista, who happened to be significantly better than Ellery.  When does that ever happen as the second child?  We were cheering her on with fervor.

No holiday season would be complete without "snowballs."  We used rice milk ice cream this year, and they were as yummy as ever.  Emmett was too afraid to eat his ice cream while the candle was lit, so he opted to be first out.  

 It was so fun to spend time with Brock and Amy, Daegy and Pierce.  We had some intense games of Settlers of Catan, during which my father became very offended at Brent's bargaining techniques.  It was just too much for him when we made a deal with Brock and Amy to keep the robber off their land for the remainder of the game.  BTW: Dad and Mom won.

2011 Year in Summary

We started this year about as low as we have ever been as a family.  We were dealing with a new, official diagnosis of PCD and bronchiectasis.

Ellery was completely non-functional with ear pain and emotional anxiety issues from all the doctors appointments and new regimes.

Callista was feeling abandoned and neglected.

Emmett was a gooey mess, but sweet nonetheless.

Berkeley's ears were a mess, but thankfully she remained out of the hospital through the winter.

Brent's busiest time of year, happens to be January, and with Ellery and I only sleeping a few hours each night, and crying the majority of a 24 hour period, I wasn't certain I would make it.

There were small miracles.  One that stands out is when Christy came back to my door after leaving, Brent was out of town, and said, "What am I doing leaving you here alone.  What can I do to help?"  Another was when Jill showed up at my door at 5:50 am so I could go run.  The countless hours my running friends spent listening to me cry and hash through my frustrations and fears as we ran.

In February we jumped ship for Hawaii, to try and pick the family up.  We were sick the entire trip but it seemed to turn the corner for us.  Ellery started walking again, as her stomach pain subsided.  I got control of myself.  Brent and I reconnected. Emmett was in heaven in his bathing suit for 11 days.

Unfortunately, at the same time Papa turned the corner.  He was hospitalized and never came home, finally passing away in March after some excruciating final months.  It was extremely difficult for Mimi, and all of the children who flew back and forth to California again and again to help during these months.

Spring and Summer were busy as the children began to excel in gymnastics.  My running intensity picked back up again.  Thankfully life was very uneventful.

The end of Summer brought a few illnesses but nothing we couldn't handle.  Homeschooling with 4 children is both exhilarating and exhausting.  It is a constant battle for me to temper my intensity, which my daughters all seem to have inherited.  Callista being the most like me.  Maybe because we both fell second girl, second child.  Math whizzes, love reading...but love our independence too.  I believe the children are thriving but not without a mental and emotional cost on my part.  There are lots of rewards but each day is filled with challenges as well.

The year closes and we are in such a peaceful place.  Not everything has certainty.  Of course we wish there were more snow.  But each little speed bump we seem to be handling.  The course has been moving us forward.

Didgeridoo in the New Year!  Let it begin.


Trouble in the Pink Furry Boots

Honey has a serious knack for finding permanent markers, and taking the caps off.   Her favorite decorating surface:  her face.


Something to Read...Perfect additions to your Children's Library

We continued our family Christmas tradition of:

A Want...A Need...And Something to Read

I am always looking for excuses to buy books for my children and our library.  Christmas is just such the occasion. Additionally, my mom started a great tradition for an annual "Cousins Book Exchange."  More books.  Hooray!  I love not being inundated with junk from the "Under $5 Limit" present exchange.   I'm going to try to transfer this tradition to the other side of the family as well!

To win my heart give my children your favorite book.  At birthday parties, we always bring books.  My friend Amy always gives the most fabulous books.  Oh how I love her!

So....Which children's books did we add this year?  

Here is the sampling:

A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L 'Engle for Ellery.  She's read the first book and has been dying for the next.  This is her first foray into the Science Fiction genre.  

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein for Callista.  I can't believe we didn't have any of his books in our library.  Already and expectedly, "Sick" is the favorite poem.  Callista also loves "The Acrobats."

The Eensy-weensy Spider by Mary Ann Hoberman for Emmett and Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Iza Trapani for Berkeley.  I love books which add clever verses and illustrations to familiar nursery  rhymes and songs.  Hoberman, Trapani and Nadine Bernard Westcott  are the best at this.

Favorites Children's Books We Gave:

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt (6 year old boy)  If you are looking for a book with excellent "boy appeal" this is the one.  The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi are fabulous.  All my children love it, but it was a perfect fit for Mark and his 10 year old brother Bruce.  The message is classic and timeless.  All I have to say is "Will you walk into my parlor..." and the girls are hooked.  Ellery even has this one memorized.

Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Scott Gustafson (2 year old)  This will forever remind me of bed rest and reading to Emmett.  It has the most beautiful illustrations of Nursery Rhymes I have found.  I keep 5 or 6 on hand for baby shower gifts.

King Bidgoods in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood (3 year old girl)  Again captivating illustrations and witty prose.  

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola  (5 year old girl)  I grew up with my mom reading me her favorite story from when she was a little girl "The Little Pot that Wouldn't Stop."  This old Italian folktale is timeless.

Favorite Children's Books we Received:

Iza Trapani of I'm a Little Teapot  we also have Baa, Baa Black Sheep.  I would recommend any and all of them.

he best book we received was a short, unexpectedly clever book about a giant turnip.  It looks like there are myriad versions of this story.  The Tale of the Turnip by Brian Alderson is the one we received.  


My Late Night Obsession

Brent says it is like some sick video game for me, I just can't stop playing.  I'm addicted to redesigning a home.  Specifically my neighbors home, 4 doors in on the cul de sac.  It sounds psychotic.  It is.  A little.  We are in the process of purchasing it actually, so it isn't that weird.  Things are still unofficial...there are some kinks to work through but it looks like it will happen in the next several months.

So...out comes my obsessive side.  I've always loved architect and author Sarah Susanka of The Not So Big House series.  In fact, I think I own all of her books.  Now, I love the website Houzz.com.  You can look at my ideabooks there, I think my name is savvymay.  My favorite app that keeps me warm at night: Home Design 3D for my ipad.  At 12:30 am you can often find me wandering through my virtual world in my 3D house.

I should have included a tape measure in this photo, because really, I carry one every where with me now.
I think I have measured my kitchen cabinets 10 times at least.

Most difficult will be leaving our small but gorgeous and endearing yard.  We are trading for a bigger house and 1/3 acre lot, which stares directly at another house (and the gorgeous Mt. Timpanogos right above).   I have quite a bit of vision for the house and yard.

With some TLC and of course the mighty greenbacks, I think we can create something beautiful and very functional for our family.


Christmas 2011

We spent a wonderful Christmas up at the Ranch.  The children had a great time playing with cousins, I  loved the late night chats with my siblings and their spouses and we all enjoyed spending time with Stacey Jo.  We are on pins and needles awaiting an announcement for she and Derald to seal the deal.  Hopefully sometime in the coming year!

Note the musical and dancing talent in this video compilation.  I especially love the ultra high key we sang "Silent Night" in around the fire on Christmas Eve.  
Although it is brutal for babies and super complicated with so many children and such frigid
temperatures, I am so grateful we can walk under the gorgeous Northern Utah night sky.
No light pollution.  Guided by a luminary and bundled in our costumes we head to the day barn
to sing of the birth of Jesus. 

Little Robert, as peaceful as can be, is dressed in swaddling clothes.    Later on "Santa's Helper" paid a visit to the house.

Take note of the look in Emmett's eyes.  He wanted nothing to do with this "helper" even though the "helper" looked and sounded just like grandpa!

It wouldn't be Christmas Eve without pajama's from Santa.

This year we stayed with my sister in her home, just down the hill from The Full Circle Ranch.  It was a welcome change with tons of room to spread out, but we missed seeing Grandma and Grandpa as much.


"Watch My Finger!"

Emmett and my Dad were doing a little last minute Christmas shopping last week.  The girls were getting ready for their first gymnastics meet.  Grandpa and Emmett decided to meet us at the gym.  Grandpa wandered around for 10 minutes or so, at a loss of how to find the gym.  It is tucked in an industrial park visible only after about 6 turns.

Emmett kept piping in from the back:

"Grandpa, you can't find the gym because you are going to wrong way."

He was quite persistent, and finally my Dad decided to humor him.  "Okay Emmett, you show me how to get to the gym."

"Grandpa!  Just watch my finger!  Watch where my finger is pointing!"  That little 3 year old then led my Dad directly to the gym.  After several turns...

"Can't you see it Grandpa.  Just turn here."  Sure enough they ran straight into the gym!  Way to go Emmett.

Believe me the sense of direction was not inherited from my side of the family.


First Gymnastics Meet

People are always curious as to my reasons for homeschooling the children.  The reasons are myriad but include my desire for the children to be excellent and not overwhelmed.  I want them to excel and develop talents.  I don't think anyone came with any natural talent except maybe determination and persistence.  The girls could barely do cartwheels last year at this time.  We wondered if their recreation teachers would pass them out of level 1.  Now here we are, and although they were definitely in the middle to bottom tiers of their teams, not too bad.

Gymnastics adds a wonderful balance to our homeschooling.  It gives the girls large blocks of time which they spend with a peer group and other adults.  It is a situation which requires discipline and performance.  Brent and I have no desire to train them for a future in gymnastics, most likely by the time they are 12 we will have reaped all the benefits of the sport.  The rigorous time demands can be very difficult for teammates who spend 7 hours at school.  It is a drain on the child and the family.  This has become very clear from my conversations with the mothers of their peers.  For now, gymnastics is serving an excellent purpose in the health and well being of the girls.  And I do have to say, the yogi in me is getting very jealous of their continually improving handstands and flexibility.  I can still beat them hands down though in any head stand contest!


The Best Christmas Gift: A Lung Function Test

It's easy to lose sight of the best gifts.  

Sometimes I forget 3 of my beautiful 4 children are running around happy and glowing, as persistent bacterias slowly eat away at their lungs.

I forget to talk louder and even sometimes to clean out their ears.

I think the drainage stops, only to find their ears are blocked solid with hardened fluid.

I let Emmett skip his vest because it hurts his tummy.  Ellery gets days off on her vest on Sunday and Saturday.

I forget how little I know of what the future holds.

It's hard to go back and remember what I've shelved from that painful winter last year.

I guess it can be okay to bring everything back again and remind me of things even more important than practicing the piano and cooking without refined sugar and processed, gunk filled foods.

Waking Up Again

The day before Thanksgiving the children had appointments with their pulmonologist at Primary Children's Hospital in SLC.  We were happy and confident that the changes we implemented the last 6 months would show remarkable improvement in the children.  Everyone seemed relatively healthy.  Gymnastics and flute were building lung strength and capacity...

The doctor nodded along smiling, as we explained how well everyone was doing.  Yes we have had 3 courses of antibiotics in 3 months for those nasty exacerbations that just don't seem to go away, but...

Then came the PFT's (pulmonary function tests).  We were in a hurry to get out of the office and back to Mimi's for Cousin's Camp, so I pushed to nurses and respiratory therapists to hurry.  I took note of the all the red on Ellery's PFT's.  I knew it wasn't looking good.  I wasn't prepared for the phone call from the doctor 30 minutes later.

Ellery's lung function had dropped 35% in her large airways and over 70% in her small airways.  This was precipitous and unacceptable.  She would need to start a vigorous course of antibiotics, increased airway clearance therapy to 14x per week, and a new nebulized medication.  In 2 weeks if her PFT's were not at baseline, we could expect to be in the hospital for IV antibiotics.  You can't drop 35% too many times before you get to zero.

The Interim

You can probably imagine what the ensuing 2 -1/2 weeks held.  Raw emotions in large doses.  We tried to shield Ellery from this information, but one night she happened to be sitting just out of sight at the top of the stairs while Brent and I were expressing our fears.  With Ellery in on the news, our anxiety just kept growing.  Often times I would find her just crying.  Scared.  I think eventually we helped allay most of her fears and even got her a little peaked about the attention and excitement we would provide with a Christmas hospital stay...  We put on a lot of brave faces.

It was easy to think...no way.  This isn't real.  She is fine.  I was ready to fight the doctors.  But then...what if I am wrong.  We waited.  We all ate cloves of crushed garlic.  Missing vest treatments was no longer an option.

The Best Gift

And then came the best gift.  On December 13th Ellery passed her PFT's with flying colors.  No further permanent lung damage, no psuedomonis, no hospitalizations.

The only thing we wanted for Christmas this year...we got.


First Flute Recital

Ellery "decorated" and insisted on ringlets framing her face.
Ellery designed this program.  Font choice was
particularly important to her :)

Ellery our "born performer" had a great spotlight moment for her first flute recital.  We had a conflict with her teacher's studio recital, so we decided to have our own.  Ellery made up a program and invited her friends, cousins and neighbors.

Amber, Ellery's fantastic flute teacher.
On the fly, she added an extra piece she sightread the day before.  (She didn't mention that to me until an hour or two before the recital.)

The flute has been an interesting progression for Ellery.  While I vigilantly practice the piano daily with the girls, I drew a limit at one instrument.  She practices the flute alone. I know this is not even remotely as effective, but I just couldn't add another thing to my plate.  Piano is so exhausting emotionally.  So we set the kitchen timer for 45 minutes and she "practices."  This usually happens while I am piano practicing with Callista.

Marilyn our babysitter, neighbor, and amazing musical prodigy
and example to my children.  She accompanied Ellery.
There are quite a few bathroom breaks and a lot of "Disney" sight reading, but at least she is playing and as you will see, in a year she has made quite a bit of progress.  If we had a little more time to practice with her accompanist we could have worked out some of the kinks but when all was said and done, Ellery is a performer and she pulls out all the stops come show time.


 Ellery's teacher Amber, is working on her Masters Degree in Flute Performance at BYU.  She is first chair in the chamber orchestra.  I have been so pleased at the time and attention she gives Ellery.  I found her by contacting the head of the BYU flute department.  I interviewed about 6 potential teachers, and had them play for us.  Ellery and I both felt Amber would be a perfect fit and we haven't been disappointed.


"O Christmas Tree"  Unfortunately sometimes I forget I have to keep my iphone a certain direction or my video's are cockeyed.  Oops.  This is the piece she learned in a day.  I love the jazzy version!

Marilyn, our weekly babysitter, is another blessing in our life.  She is brimming with personality and talent.  Each week when Brent and I return we coax her into a recital.  It usually includes a little Debussy or Chopin, top notch!  I love having my children exposed to such a darling, talented girl.

She really saved the day during "Jesu" by following Ellery, who seemed to miss every entrance.  But with just 3 run throughs, I'm not sure what else to expect.  Again, I don't give the flute the same attention as the piano.  The recital seemed to creep up on us without warning.  But, here it is the final number...

"Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"

This is quite a bit of beginner flute footage.  In the future I will be better about creating a video collage of sorts with excerpts.  It will be easier listening :)


It's All in the Details

I love that Emmett hangs his underwear.