Thursday, April 24, 2014

Small Success Thursday Episode #2


What can I say - this week has been like most others.  Full of business and nothingness, sometimes at the very same time!  But despite to random whirlwind that is my life, I did manage to get a few things done:

I made real, organic, all natural sunscreen!  And it was easy, too - you have to try this stuff!  I used it on Fulton's scars today since he is having a Track and Field Day this afternoon.  We shall see how well it works...

We made it to Mass on time and fully dressed.  TBTG.

I managed to get my raspberry plants out to the garden instead of sitting on my pantry floor (my apologies to Thomas - they are almost there, though - I promise!)  Mind you, they are not IN the ground yet, but at least they are outside...

I finally found my manuscript I had been wanting to finish editing.  I am a paper girl at heart and do my best editing with a pen, so losing the printed version with weeks worth of edits scribbled on it was a big deal.

I received 4 of the 5 nightgowns I ordered in an effort to look more feminine, even when I sleep.

"What?!" you say, "Snoring with your mouth wide open and hair all over the place, wearing an old painter's T-shirt and ripped sweat pants is not feminine and pleasant to look at?"

I was shocked - SHOCKED I tell you, to find out that this is not the sort of look a husband appreciates.  I mean, really!  It was his T-shirt and sweatpants - you'd think he'd be kind of like, "Hey, girl, you make this homesteading homeboy's work clothes look pretty appealing!"

After a few chats with Colleen Hammond, she set me straight and we decided to dump the frump and to use a little tax refund money for this splurge.  Mind you, there is nothing "eye popping" about these nightgowns - they are full length and 2 of them even came with beautiful matching robes for proper, modest cover-up.  In order to make this change, though, I first had to get rid of such things as my ratty old Tweety Bird nightgown (much to my husband's delight)  I liked Tweety Bird.... but even the children complimented me on my matching nightgown and robe this morning and I actually felt pretty, even before I brushed my hair (which, I might add, I still haven't done yet...)

I bought a rustic looking 3 drawer nightstand to go beside my bed.  The pile of 'stuff' was getting so bad, Marialina was able to use it to launch herself onto our raised bed with no problem.  Now it is much more organized in our room, and I have to completely wake up and sit up to help my toddler onto the bed to snuggle instead of just drowsily giving her a little help.  I guess this one is kind of a trade off....

#7  Since my new doctor prescribed diet and accidentally losing about 8 pounds, Shannon and I have decided to start a daily walk each morning to continue this positive trend.  Today was the first day.  We walked 2 houses down and jogged back home because of the lightening and the neighbor's loose German Shepherd.  Not very impressive, I know, but it is a start anyway!

And that, my dear readers, is my week.  What have you been up to?  Curious what others have been up to this week?  Go to this link and take a peek!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homemade Organic Sunscreen


Fulton, as you are well aware, has special needs when it comes to his skin.  His skin grafts require vigilant care when it comes to cold weather, but even more so when it comes to the sun.

Most agree these days that your skin needs a certain amount of sunshine to help boost your vitamin D levels, and I have never been one to slather too much sunscreen on my children.  It seems to me that there are more benefits to moderate sun exposure than benefits to exposing your skin to toxic chemicals found in most sunscreens, just to prevent a little sunburn.

Being of Irish descent, I understand the hazards of too much sun, but I have always longed for a happy medium.  Sunshine for its benefits vs harmful chemicals to prevent a burn.  What to do.  What to do.

Since Fulton's burn, I have learned far more about the skin than any non-medical person should need to know.  And one of the most concerning things that I learned has to do with the sun and Fulton's scars.  He is completely missing the dermis - the thicker under-layer of skin.  And because of this, he has lost all natural protection from the sun's rays.  So sun exposure on those scars is an absolute no-no.  However, because the dermis is missing, anything I put onto his skin is also quickly absorbed into his bloodstream and at higher levels than normal skin.  The last thing I wanted to do was put those chemicals on the skin we worked so hard to harvest and nurture.

My solution?  Fulton's Super Special Sunscreen! (as he likes to call it!)

I modified the recipe found HERE to address Fulton's needs, plus I added some tamanu oil and sea buckthorn oil for some extra scar nourishment and therapy.  According to the original recipe, the spf should be about 20.

Interested in the recipe?  Here it is!

Please note:  All ingredients are assumed to be organic - I am just too lazy to type out the word over and over again

1/2 cup almond oil  (use olive oil instead if you are allergic or sensitive to nuts)
1/4 cup beeswax pastilles  (I subtracted about a tablespoon plus a teaspoon less to make sure it will be a soft cream for his scars)
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
1 T shea butter
5 drops tamanu oil
5 drops sea buckthorn oil  (do not use if you are allergic or sensitive to nuts)
3 drops lavender essential oil
2T zinc oxide

Combine all ingredients except the zinc oxide in a canning jar, and slowly melt the shea butter, coconut oil and wax using the double boiler method.

When everything is melted and combined, add the zinc oxide (wear a mask - do not inhale the powder!) and mix thoroughly as it cools.  Fulton only got to mix this when the powder was already well incorporated - much to his disappointment!

Pour into whatever containers you want to store it in, and continue to stir until it is pasty and the zinc oxide no longer tries to settle to the bottom.  I divided this into 2 containers - the large one for home use and a smaller purse sized one for outings.  

BTW:  Remember to reapply every 2 hours as needed, just like any other sunscreen!

Wow!  I love this stuff!  Soft and creamy, so I don't have to rub too hard on his face, easy to see where I missed a spot, and smells pleasant and mild.  I am completely comfortable putting this on his scars, and I am also able to leave the unscarred skin on his legs exposed to the sun for a bit each day to boost his vitamin D. 

The entire family can use this without fear of chemicals or sunburn - a happy, sweet smelling compromise for us all!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Face Your Flaws with Joy


I saw an ad for the Wounded Warrior Project the other day.  As the ad played, they showed soldiers with various injuries dealing with 'real life' after their life changing event.  One soldier, in particular, caught my eye.  He was getting dressed for the day, but because of his severe burn injuries, one of the things he had to 'put on' was his ears.

Fulton's ears (or lack thereof) is kind of a topic we haven't hit head on yet with him.  He knows his hearing is not very good, and that his ears are 'very small'.  Cleaning them is vastly different from the way it used to be, since his scars have created a few deep pockets in the ear area that require regular attention in addition to his regular ear canals.  He has taken this all in stride, and honestly, unless we are washing his hair, we are pretty much at the point where we do not notice that his head is missing a few accessories.  Which was why this commercial caught my attention.

The physical therapists at Shriners had mentioned that as he grows he will be getting some ears.  And sometimes when we are getting him scanned for his face masks, I will see various prosthetic body parts on the counter, awaiting their final fittings.  And I wonder - how will Fulton feel about having fake ears?  Will years of not having them and dealing with the stares break his confidence down?  Should we get them sooner, if possible?  And how on earth do those things stay in place, anyway?

Later that day, I mentioned to Fulton that I saw a soldier on TV who was burned like he was.  "And you will never guess what he had to put on as he was getting dressed for the day!"

"What?" he asked, only half interested.

"He put on," what was I doing bringing this up right now?  "a pair," are you kidding me, Cassandra?  Why are you telling him this?  "of EARS!"

Would we have a detailed conversation about why someone would want prosthetic ears?  Would he suddenly become self conscious about his own ears?  Would he start asking questions to which I did yet know the answers?  As I finished the sentence, panic hit me, and I wondered why I even brought it up in the first place.  I awaited his response...


His entire face contorted as only his face can, laughing.  Laughing so much, in fact, his eyes started to tear up.  And off he ran.  "Hey Shannon!" he called.  "Guess what!  There was a soldier who was burned and he had to put on his ears!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Someday I'm gonna get ears, too, and you can watch me put them on!  HAHAHAHAHA!"  This, of course, was followed by various demonstrations of how the ears probably are attached, and each sibling joined in the creativity of the moment.

Good grief - this child is laughing at himself!

And then I smiled.  Could it be, this is the way Our Lord wants us to look at our own human imperfections?  To not get bogged down with the downside of it all to the point where it paralyzes and prevents God's glory to shine through, but instead focus on what joy can come of it?

To be humble enough to laugh at oneself takes courage.  It leaves you exposed.  Vulnerable.  But when, out of a deep love of God, you embrace the cross with which you have been blessed, a transformation takes place within your heart that allows you to not only accept your flaws and your burdens, but take joy in them and spread that joy to others.  Your struggles are transformed into a source of sanctification and become the vehicle by which you ultimately give God glory in Heaven.

Fulton's journey has only just begun.  I have been warned that at any time, the effects of his injuries and appearance can suddenly take a turn for him emotionally and darker days may be ahead.  But for now, we are building on the joys at hand.  He has accepted what has happened to him as part of God's bigger plan for his life.  He brings joy to others through his cross.  He embraces his role as one who serves as a warning to others to be careful around fire.  He inspires.  He renews people's faith.  And he laughs.  A lot.  Which immediately puts others at ease and helps others laugh, too.

As I pondered this, I noticed the children had redirected the conversation from how to get the ears on to the multitude of ways the ears might come off.  "And maybe," Fulton was giggling, "I can be on a roller coaster and they will fly off my head because I am riding so fast!"

At this point, all of us were laughing so hard, tears were streaming down our faces.  Dear Lord, this child brings us so much joy!

Thank you, Lord, for showing me how to find the joy mingled within our sorrows.  Help me to embrace my own imperfections.  Remind me of the humor found in them.  And give me humility to laugh at myself as I struggle to overcome the things You have given me for the betterment of my soul.  

"Be merry, really merry.  The life of a true Christian should be a perpetual jubilee, a prelude to the festivals of eternity."  - St. Theophane Venard

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (as told by Fulton)


Fulton came home from school the other day just bursting with excitement.  He had learned the story about the Very Hungry Caterpillar and relished the retelling of it to each one of us.  Yes, we all enjoyed our own exclusive performance of this well loved story, and I just couldn't deny all of you the same joy.  (Please forgive the quality of recording - I am working in it!)

So without further ado, here is Fulton telling the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Highway to Heaven


Do you recognize this highway?

Probably not.  Not at first, anyway.  But I think we all have traveled on it - or one like it - in our lives.  It is the path of life.  Our highway to Heaven.  Or to Hell.

I have actually traveled this road - it is the road we live on.  Nothing spectacular about it, really, beyond the fact that last year, at precisely the time I am writing this post today, I was on this road headed home.  I hadn't been on this road for 3 months, and while it may look rather bland and uninteresting to you, it was profoundly beautiful to me.  Heavenbound.

Three months before this photo was taken, on January 8, 2013, I had traveled this road in the opposite direction, not sure whether I was headed towards what felt like the flames of Hell.  Riding shotgun in an ambulance, we headed to a nearby elementary school where a medical helicopter awaited to take my son to the hospital in Tulsa, OK.  I remember nothing of the ride.  Just the prayers.  And the one stop we had to make because they could not keep Fulton stabilized as we bumped along the road.

"Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, help us."  Over and over these prayers rose from my heart and streamed down my face.  "Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, help us."

Finally we arrived at the school, most likely ruining recess, and I anxiously waited while they tried to get my son stable enough for the 28 minute helicopter ride.  "Where are we going?"  Hell.  This has got to be Hell.

"We are taking Fulton to Tulsa.  But you cannot go with.  You will have to find another way and meet him there."  Panic replaced the prayer. How can I get there?  My husband was also burned and was headed in the opposite direction to a local hospital, and I was unable to drive.  "The pilot never takes extras.  We are so sorry."  The EMTs continued their work inside the ambulance while the flight medics went from ambulance to pilot, exchanging information and making plans.


Would he even be alive when I finally got there?  Tulsa was over 2 hours away.  What if he didn't make it?  He would be all alone....


I shivered in the January breeze and prayed.

I had caught a glimpse of the helicopter when we first drove onto the school's field.  To keep myself moving, I walked around the ambulance, wanting to see what my son would be riding in.  At the door, standing sentry, was the pilot.  Dark shades covered his eyes, and he had an expressionless face.  But I was struck by how similar he looked to my father who had passed away from cancer in 2008.  A fit and healthy version of my father - and it left me breathless.  "Dad," I prayed, "If you are somewhere where you can hear my prayer, please help me now.  You know the situation we are in.  I have to be with my son.  Please, Dad, pray for us!  Pray that I may go on this ride!"  I followed this with prayers for the repose of his soul and went back to the other side of the ambulance, to sit on the step.  And wait.

Before long, one of the flight medics came to me and announced in complete amazement, "He says you may go!  He has never let anyone ride along before!"

Praise God!  Our first miracle!  "Thank you, Dad!" I whispered as they began moving my son to the helicopter. I was allowed to go with - invited to follow Fulton on his journey, never once leaving his side.

Indeed the first 2 weeks were a spiritual agony - a hell of sorts - the worst times of our lives.  But soon there were glimmers of hope.  Over the course of the next few months, Fulton and I stayed the course, keeping our eyes on the ultimate prize:  Home.  Every day, every moment was dedicated towards the day we would return home.

There were speed bumps.  There were detours.  And a few times we feared the end was near.  But by completely trusting in Our Lord, I knew that someday, somehow, we would be coming home again.  I did not question.  I did not force my will.  I became like soft clay in the holy hands of Our Lord, and He shaped me, strengthened me and set me on the path I needed to be on to get us Home.  For during that time, I had renewed my faith, grown closer to Our Lord and Our Lady and learned to embrace each cross with which I was blessed.  God had a plan - not just for me, but for Fulton and my entire family.  And I trusted Him completely.  But, with my husband's help, it would be up to me to help guide my children through it.

Then finally, the day for which I both prayed and dreaded had come. The surgeons gathered around Fulton and I and unanimously agreed that it was indeed time to go home.  We were ready.  We were strengthened by their care and armed with what we needed.  Not only the medical supplies and medications, but more importantly the prayers and continued support from all of you.  Without you all, I truly believe we would not have come through as well as we did.  And I am so very grateful.

It was a journey - an adventure of sorts - not knowing where it would lead, but knowing that as long as I stayed faithful to the path that was set before me, it would all be alright in the end.  For strength, I feasted on the fruits that grew alongside the road - the struggles and miracles - the bitter and the sweet - and my eyes opened to the power that comes from completely surrendering to the will of God.  Letting Him lead me where He willed, and slowly becoming the kind of wife, mother and woman I never would have become, had this road not been set before me.  A path to holiness.  A highway to Heaven.

Sure, I stumbled a few times while I was so far from home.  There are many things I wish I had done differently if given the chance.  But even through my failures I have learned how to better respond to the crosses and graces set before me in everyday life, and find ways of giving God the glory He so rightly deserves in all things.  Hindsight is sometimes the best lens through which we try to see how to better respond.  And I pray that I am able to apply what I have learned to whatever future roads Our Lord places before me.

One year later, I look at the picture I took of our road and recall how I felt as we traveled those last few miles.  Excitement.  Apprehension.  Joy.  And I see how, even after returning to our happy home filled with cake, balloons and streamers, and after our new 'real life' has settled in, I am still on a journey.  Firmly set on the pathway to holiness as wife and mother, guiding all my children as they embark on their own journeys, as they stumble along the roads He has set before each of them.  None of us have made it yet.  But by the grace of God, one day, we will finally make it Home.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Fulton at his Welcome Home party April 5, 2013
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6