Monday, February 25, 2013

One Day More...

...cue Les Mis music and the horrible "singing" of Russell Crowe.  (Was his performance last night wretched, or what?!  I love that they muted him toward the end.  The sound technicians deserved their mixing award, because he was a piece of work!)

Anyway, tomorrow is the LAST day to order Thirty-One to help the Ronald McDonald House!  The fundraiser will close at 7 p.m. EST.  Will you help us reach our goal of raising $600 for RMH?!

If you aren't interested in any products for yourself, take a look for gifts.  There are plenty of affordable gifts for family, teachers, therapists and nurses (always thinking of my special needs mommas!)  One of the reasons I did this fundraiser is because Thirty-One products are actually usable and functional, and lots of people like them!

Please take a look at the products by going here.  There's a lot more to Thirty-One than bags.  They also carry a great line of organizational products, including this Hang Up Home Organizer that I ordered for myself:

I'm excited to get our paperwork under control!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have already ordered!  Stacy has been doing little "shout outs" to everybody on Facebook and I've been trying to echo my thank yous as she posts them.

If you haven't ordered yet, you still have one more day!

Orrrrrrr, if you really don't want anything from Thirty-One, then I will always, ALWAYS accept donations on our team's page!    All donations go directly to The Ronald McDonald House of Baltimore!  Thanks so much for your help!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wash Your Clothes for Less...a lot less!

I've been threatening to make my own laundry detergent for quite sometime now.  Matt has been less than thrilled, picturing stained clothes coming out of the dryer, never to be clean again!  My friend Stacy (the same Stacy who is doing the Thirty One fundraiser!) posted the recipe she has been using and shared how much she loves it, so I decided to just go for it.

But then my local stores didn't have any of the ingredients I needed.


My equally frugal sister also decided to make her own laundry detergent, without us even talking!  She went to the Super Walmart and found everything we needed.  Score!

This is SO easy.  I don't know why I waited so long to make it!

Materials:  4 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, Borax, and Lavender oil.

Some people put a little baking soda in too, and some use the baking soda in place of the washing soda.  I didn't put any in mine...just the washing soda.  I think it's kind of up to you, but some have said that washing soda works better than baking soda.

Put a trash bag in a clean bucket so that you can stir your ingredients together.  

Grate the 4 bars of Fels Naptha over the bucket.  This is by far the longest and hardest part.

Then add the whole box of Borax and Washing Soda.  Stir it around with your hands until it is well mixed.  

Then add some drops of lavender.  I didn't measure at all.  I just shook some in, stirred it with my hand, shook more in, stirred, etc.  

The scent is kind of strong in the bucket, but is very pleasant on the clothes.  Matt was worried his clothes were going to reek, but it's a really light fragrance.  I love it!

You only need 2 tablespoons of the mixture per load, and less if you have a small load.  I usually do full loads and 2 tablespoons have been fine.  I've done 5 loads of laundry so far, and some of it has been pretty dirty.  It works really well!!!  

The best part:  these ingredients cost me $10.50, and it yields 288 loads.  That's 4 cents a load, folks!!!!!  (I already had the lavender, so I didn't include that in my cost estimate.  It costs about $10 for a 4 oz bottle, but it will last you forever!)

I buy the big jugs of All Free and Clear from BJs for about $12 a jug (if I'm lucky enough to have a coupon!) and it's for 150 loads.  

Umm....this is almost DOUBLE the amount of detergent!!!

Love it!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thirty One Fundraiser Update

So far, the sales from The Thirty One fundraiser are up to $1459, so we have raised $290 for RMH.  I would love to hit the $500 mark by the time the fundraiser ends!  

To keep the orders coming, Stacy is offering a few incentives:

- For the first three orders placed from now until 9:00 pm that are over $75, you will earn a Keep-It Caddy for FREE!! (excluding personalization or ICON it)

- If we can get to $2300 in sales by 9:00 pm tonight, she will do a raffle for everyone who has ordered for a FREE product of your choice valued up to $31!!! 

***Please note that Stacy is donating 20% of sales to RMH out of her own commission, keeping very little for herself.  This is SO generous of her!  Stacy, running a non-profit of her own, has a heart to help others raise money for organizations that are important to them.  If you are interested in hosting a fundraiser through her, let me know!

If you are new to Thirty One, I'll share some of my favorite bags:

*  The large utility tote is awesome!!  It stays in the back of my car and I use it for everything!!  It has been known to hold dinners for people, groceries, pool gear, and even soda tabs!

*  The organizing utility tote is great for throwing stuff in to take with you to church, school etc.  There are lots of exterior pockets too.  My sister uses this as a diaper bag and it works great!  

*  I got mini utility bins for each of the kids for Easter baskets.  I got their names embroidered on them, but they're not "Eastery," so they can be used throughout the year.  

*  I got Caleb a cinch sack to use as his soccer bag with his name on it. It is a good size to hold a snack, his water bottle, shoes, and a change of clothes.

I know a lot of people love Thirty One.  If you're going to order stuff anyway, please consider also supporting a good cause at the same time!  

Thanks so much for helping us raise money for The Ronald McDonald House!!!  :)

Watch this

...but have your tissues handy.  Oh my goodness.

In a nutshell, this couple was dating when the man got in a car accident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.  His girlfriend was faithful and they got married in 2010.  Wow.  What faith this girl has.  I love this video!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

3 Things

1.  Abby went swimming for the first time on Valentine's Day.  She LOVED it!!  We stayed for almost two hours and she had a great time splashing and playing ball.  She went down the slide with me once, but was content to just dictate which slide Anna should go on from then on out.  Either way, she had a wonderful experience!

2.  Caleb met Batman at a local consignment shop last Friday!  We surprised him and he was ecstatic!!


Abby has taken to giving her animals sips of her juice.  Snowman gets a lot of juice too!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thirty-One-derful Reasons to Support The Ronald McDonald House!

2/20/13 Update:  Ok, the Thirty One website has been having issues.  Use this link to get to my fundraiser page.  So far we've had over $1200 in sales, which means over $240 for RMH!!!  Thank you SO much to all of you who have made purchases so far.  There is still lots of time to purchase something.  If you don't want or need anything for yourself, buy something as a gift for someone else.  Christmas is only 10 months away!!  :)


2/18/13 Update:  I have heard that the link below wasn't working, so I have linked it again and it should take you to the right spot now.  So far, we have raised just about $200 for RMH!  There's still lots of time to order, so please take a look using the link below.  Thanks!


My friend Stacy has graciously offered to host a 31 party to help with our fundraising efforts for RMH.  20% of the sales will go to The Ronald McDonald House of Baltimore!!

I love 31 and have several bags of my own.  My favorite is the large utility tote, which has been known to carry meals to people, pool stuff, groceries, and even soda tabs!  I keep it in the back of my car and use it all of the time!

If you're looking for cute, personalized Easter baskets, or a Mother's Day gift, or even some Christmas gifts (if you're like me, you like to plan ahead!), please consider checking out our 31 fundraiser!

This is the link you will use to shop.  Click the "place an order" tab.  Then find my name/RMH and then click "shop now."  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I will do my best to find an answer.

Thanks so much for your support of The House That Love Built!

Interview Time

These were questions asked by another special needs blogger, but I thought that they were really good ones worth answering as well!  Plus, I accidentally answered these first, instead of the questions I was supposed to answer.  Oops...

1. Think of the day your child received his or her diagnosis. What is the first word that comes to mind? devastation

2. Who is your favorite doctor, specialist, or therapist for your child and why? 
Currently: Abby's Infants and Toddlers therapists (PT and speech) are both wonderful.  They have endured SO many questions, lots of worrying, and even a few tears!  They are both fabulous at their job and aren't afraid to go with the flow if Abby isn't feeling the whole therapy thing that day.  They are Abby's biggest cheerleaders and have been a huge support to me as well.  We also adore her pediatrician, who has been there for us from the very beginning and who has never ever doubted Abby's ability to prove the doctors wrong!  He has calmed many fears and is always thinking in Abby's best interest.  We know he is always just a phone call away.
Past: We have several nurses we love (Megan, Jessica, and Gila!) from Abby's NICU/MWPH days.  They are all so sweet and we are blessed to still be in contact with all three of them.  Megan was such a support during those terrifying early days; Jessica taught us most of what we know about trach care and was celebrating with us the day we brought Abby home; Gila helped me to see that I can use my experience to encourage others. 

3. What symptom of your child's disability breaks your heart the most? This is a tough question, because I'm trying to focus on what IS right now.  Obviously, the idea of losing her is always terrifying.   I also hurt at the thought of the surgeries she may have to endure in the future.  It's only going to get harder as she gets older.  But I guess the "symptom" would be that she can't just sit and enjoy a snack with her brother or take a bite of an apple if she wants it...because she just doesn't want it!!

4. What symptom of your child's disability is actually somewhat endearing? I love every little babble that comes out of her mouth, because we were told that she would never be able to communicate!

5. What is something your child is REALLY good at? Abby loves to sing and dance!  She learns the words to songs really quickly and will sing along.  She also makes up her own songs and often sings them--loudly--when she's supposed to be asleep!

6. In three words, describe how you have changed after becoming a special-needs parent. Compassionate.  Empathetic.  Aware.

7. How has having a special-needs child impacted your spiritual lifeI have realized more fully that God is faithful and that He will never leave me.  I have also become much more aware of how I can do NOTHING without God!  

8. Would you take away your child's disability if you could? Why or why not?  This is a tough question too, because I know that she was fearfully and wonderfully made.  Abby is perfect just the way she is.  But...I would most definitely make that tiny jaw a more typical size so that her airway opened up and didn't cause me so much angst!

9. What is the most disrespectful thing anyone has ever said to you or your childWhen Abby was still on a ventilator 24/7, we were on our local boardwalk trying to embrace a little normalcy.  It was very early on, and I was very nervous about what I might encounter.  One woman walked right up to us with this absolutely disgusted look and asked, "What in the world is the matter with her?"  I was mostly upset because my son was there hearing it as well.  We were all so new at this that it just really upset me.

10. "One thing I wish more people realized about my child is ... Abby's speech, feeding, and gross motor issues do not equal cognitive delays.  Sometimes people see that we are still feeding her purees, or that she walks with her feet turned out, or that they have trouble understanding her, and they automatically assume she has cognitive delays as well.  She doesn't.

11. If you were to articulate all the wishes you have for your child, what would they be?  I wish her a long, happy life filled with love.  I wish that she fulfills the purpose God has for her life and that she is able to see what a special miracle she is.  I wish that she continues to live a life without limitations and that we are able to support her in all of her dreams.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Flyin' High

Some of our favorite planes from our day at The Air and Space Museum...

She really wanted to touch all of the planes we saw.  :)

Caleb and O even climbed in a plane and got to "fly" it.  Pretty cool!  (Abby was exhausted by this time, and she actually chose to stay in her stroller rather than climb in the plane!)

Caleb loved it.  Can you tell?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Greene Turtle Fundraiser for RMH!

If you are local, please join us at The Greene Turtle in PF on Tuesday, February 19th to help raise money for the Ronald McDonald House of Baltimore.  15% of ALL sales the entire day will be donated to our Red Shoe Shuffle Team!!  You can come for lunch and then get some take-out for dinner!!  :)

The Leach family plans to be there around 5:30 for dinner and we would love to see you and say thanks for supporting The House That Love Built!

Friday, February 15, 2013

First Free Friday

A local museum has a program called First Free Fridays where they offer free admission in the evening.  It's a great deal and they always have special entertainment as well. This is the same place that has the wonderful special needs nights a few times a year.  We go a lot, and the kids love it.  

Abby playing on the boat in the kids' room

Up close and personal with a turtle

Caleb really liked this fish!  He told me to take a picture of him blowing kissing to it...

Play lighthouse

This is their favorite part.  It's a WWII video that shows our area's contributions to the war effort.  They will both stand there and watch the entire thing.  Caleb especially loves the Nazi footage in the beginning that shows them goose stepping.  I've got history buffs on my hands!

As much as we have gone, Abby has never shown much interest in the skates and rays.  I don't know if it is that she is a little older or that the skates and rays were especially active, but she LOVED it!  She laughed every time they swam near her.  It was pretty cute!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'm Lovin'...

*  Pirates' Booty Puff Corn
*  My iPhone (what in the world did I ever do without it?!)
*  Being competitive against my husband on Words With Friends (I always win Scrabble when we play, but the lapse between turns makes it difficult for me to focus and I make poor word decisions.)
*  The Wood Camera app on my phone that has way more filters and lenses than Instagram.  You can even straighten an image or add a vignette. 
*  The way Abby calls Caleb "Caleb Boy" and Matt "Daddy Matt."
*  The gratification of seeing students I work with in my position begin to understand material and improve their grades!
*  That I haven't been to Baltimore for a doctor's appointment for Abby since January 4th.  This is most certainly a record.  (Unfortunately, our streak ends next Tuesday!)
*  Manufacturer's coupons for International Delight's Iced Coffee.  I thoroughly enjoyed my iced mocha this morning.
*  Taking Abby to the (indoor) pool for her very first non-trach swim today!!!
*  That Caleb did his homework (a writing activity--sure to produce tears!) with Matt this week and did it without any complaining!  Woo hoo!

On this Valentine's Day, what are you lovin'?  Please share!

What is Love?

I saw this on Chesapeake Family's Facebook page and thought it was cute!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Liebster Award: Special Needs Edition

I was nominated for a Liebster award by This Journey Our Life.  I have never had the pleasure of meeting her in real life, but she is a fellow special needs blogger who found me through the blog I love oh-so-much, Love That Max.

Today in participation with the official Liebster Award rules, I’ll be sharing eleven random facts about Abby, and sharing my answers to Rachel's questions.  

11 Random Facts About Abby:

1.  She absolutely loves "Call Me Maybe."  AND she can sing along.  As soon as those first few strands of music start, the girl is up on her feet and dancing.

2.  Abby recently received a Leap Pad as an early Easter gift.  I know, I know.  Easter is still over a month away.  But I bought it from a friend whose kids had outgrown theirs, and I knew Abby would love it.  So I gave both Abby and Caleb their Easter gifts early.

3.  Abby calls Matt "Daddy Matt."  

4.  We're not sure why, but she can't say her cousin's name correctly.  Instead of saying Anna, it comes out Ahna, thereby making her sound quite British and proper.  I half expect her to follow it with Would you like a spot of tea?

5.  Abby knows the letters of her name, but she spells it A-b-y.  She refuses to even say b-b at all.  It's as if you just shouldn't have the same letter twice in a row.  

6.  Abby had so much hair that the sonographer could see it floating in the fluid on the sonogram.  It was the first time in her 20+ years that she'd ever seen it.

7.  Her original due date (November 29th) could have very well made her a Thanksgiving baby.

8.  When you ask Abby, "Where's your button?"  she points to two--her belly button and her gtube button.

9. I have no idea where she learned this, but she surprised me a few weeks ago by galloping down the road.  I was quite impressed!  She now does it on command.

10.  More often than not, Abby calls Caleb "Caleb Boy."  It makes me smile every time!

11.  She scolds herself when she does something wrong.  "No, no, Abby.  Don't throw your glasses.  That's not nice."

My answers to Rachel's questions:
1.  When did you embark on your special-needs parenting journey? (share your child’s diagnosis story)  We knew that Abby had a small jaw during pregnancy, but didn't learn about her CCMS until her birth day.  You can read the more detailed version of Abby's story here.  

2.  How do you balance spending time with your other (non-special needs) children? It's a lot easier now that Abby is more mobile and can stay with my  mom or sister!  We try to give Caleb one-on-one time and allow him to do the things he wants to do.  We also gave him his own Lego space in the basement so that he could retreat down there. He's the kind of kid who needs his own space, so he loves it.  He has a daily chart where he is usually earning a reward that involves spending time with one or both of us.  I have also made a point of trying my hardest to get to the special events he has at school.  I wasn't able to go on his first field trip to the pumpkin patch because Abby had just been decannulated and we weren't leaving her with people yet, but I'm hoping he will have another field trip this spring that I can attend.  Matt is gone a lot, but he really enjoys reading to Caleb every night that he is able.  They're working through The Lord of the Rings series and have already read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series.

3. Share an act of kindness someone has done for you or your child.  There have been SO many!  I don't think I can narrow it down to one!  When Abby was in the hospital, SO many people sent us gifts, money, and cards.  It was amazing.  People we didn't even know were making Abby blankets and letting us know they were praying for her.

4.  What is one thing you want people to realize about your life as a special needs parent?  It's often lonely.  The ones who relate to you the best are those online whom you've never met!  It's just hard for others to get what you deal with on a daily basis, even when they try.  It's easier now that Abby isn't so isolated, but I still have moments.

5.  In what ways has  raising a child with special needs affected your relationships/friendships? See above!  :)  It has been incredibly eye opening to see who has stood by us through all of this.  I have been both pleasantly surprised and deeply hurt.  Some of my relationships have been strengthened--like my relationship with my sister, for example.  (I could go on and on about how much she has done for our family and how well she loved us during that crazy time.)  Others have hurt us by choosing not to get to know our sweet girl and show her the same unconditional love that she gives to everyone.  But I try not to dwell on the hurt.  I'm human, so I do sometimes.  

6. What brings your child the most joy?  Her brother!!  And "Call Me Maybe."

7. If you could describe your child in three words what would they be?  Joyful.  Sassy.  Miracle.

8. What aspect of your child’s special needs has been the hardest to accept?  Things are always going to be a little harder.  There is always going to be something that is going to be more difficult for Abby than others her age, be it eating, or playing soccer, or being intubated.  Another thing that has been difficult to comes to terms with is the lack of acceptance by others.  It's better now that the trach and vent are gone, but "looking more normal" shouldn't be the reason a person is accepted by others.  Everyone deserves to be loved.

9. If you and your child could take a dream vacation where would you go?  I would love to take her to Disney World to see the princesses.  She would love that!!!  (I would also love to go somewhere, anywhere, and have all of the fellow CCMS families...all 10 of us with their beautiful children!!  Wanna meet up in Disney World, CCMS people?!?!)

10. What’s the most important lesson your child has taught you?  Be joyful in all situations.  Never let someone tell you that you can't do something.

11. What advice would you share with a parent just beginning their journey of parenting a child with special needs?  Always ask questions, and don't just accept whatever the doctors tell you.  They aren't God, so they don't know for sure--even if they tell you they do!  Also, don't get so wrapped up in your child's diagnosis and medical care that you lose sight of the fact that he/she is still your child.

Now it’s my turn to pass out the award to other special needs bloggers!  I nominate Rachel and Debbie!

Rachel is the momma of two adorable boys--one who has a trach and vent, and Debbie soon to be the momma of three--with her middle child having special needs.  Both are amazing, and neither have I met in real life. But like I said, sometimes the ones who get you the most are ones you've only talked to online.  :)

Ladies, here are your questions:

1.  What do you love most about each of your children?
2.  Describe the relationship your special needs child has with his or her siblings.
3.  What has been your biggest life lesson during your special needs journey?
4.  How has your relationship with your husband changed since you've had a special needs child?
5.  Give 3 words to best describe your child.
6.  Are there any aspects of your special needs journey that has been surprising to you?  If so, in what way?
7.  What is something your child is really good at?
8.  What is one milestone that you have especially celebrated with your child?
9.  One thing I wish people understood about my child is...
10.  What are your child's favorite activities?
11.  If given the opportunity, would you take away all or a piece of your child's disability?  Why or why not?

Wordless Wednesday


Monday, February 11, 2013

What Do You Think?

Is it okay to put your kids in shackles if they're smiling?

For the record, they ran to this display and put their arms right on in it...then Caleb told me to take a picture.

Disclaimer:  no children were harmed or held against their will in the taking of this picture.  :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Spacin' Out

We had a rare free Saturday last week, so we took advantage of it and took a day trip to The Air and Space Museum.  Our nephew O went with us; although he wasn't really sure what it was all about before we went, he had an awesome time!

The main thing I wanted to see was the Discovery.  If you remember, it flew on the back of a 747 a year and a half ago.

This was our view when we first walked into the museum.  Amazing!  This monstrosity actually flew into space.  

Look how beat up it is!  Caleb commented on it too, but Matt told him that the scientists weren't worried about beauty--just safety!

I don't think we take enough advantage of all of the museums in our area.  I'm on a quest to remedy that.  This was a good start.  A very good start!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Cure for Winter Hands

2/8/13 Update:  Try this link to see Staci's lotion bar products!  She has some super cute little dinosaurs now!

Update:  I have heard from a few people that the link isn't working.  I don't know why--I can see it fine, but my mom can't. We're both Staci's Facebook friends, so I don't think it is a permissions thing.  I did include the picture of a variety of her lotion bars in the original post, and you can contact Staci if you have a special order.  The cost for the bars is as follows:  2.5 oz. - $6.00 1.5 oz. - $4.00 .4 -.5 oz. - $2.00  I'm sorry for the dead link!

Every year, I get what I call "Winter Hands."  They're really dry, rough, cracked, and even sometimes bleeding.  It's from the dry, cold air and compounded by the frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer.

Until now, I've always been an Aquaphor girl.  It has been the only thing that has worked to keep my Winter Hands under control.  But, if you've ever used Aquaphor, you know how nasty and greasy your hands feel for an hour or more after you use it.  I could only use it before bed to avoid the greasiness.  Not to mention that Aquaphor has a ton of seemingly useless ingredients.  If there's only one active ingredient, why do products require so many inactive ingredients?!

I'd been seeing lotion bars on Pinterest for a while now and have heard that they are very good for eczema.  Then, my mom gave me one that one of our teacher friends, Staci, had made.  I figured it was worth a shot.

I'm. In. Love.

The lotion bars are made with all natural and organic ingredients, so you know exactly what's in them.  In fact, the only ingredients are beeswax, coconut oil, and almond oil!  In a world where I can usually only pronounce four of the 568 ingredients in any given product, this is pretty cool.

After using the lotion bar for a week, I no longer had Winter Hands.  I had smooth, soft, soak-your-hands-an-hour-a-day hands!

My anti-lotion husband was so impressed with how my hands looked that he has been using it too!  Coming from a man who would rather let his hands bleed than use lotion, that's pretty good!  Several of my sister's kids have eczema.  She began using lotion bars with them and they are working really well!

With Valentine's Day being right around the corner, I thought that some of you might be interested in lotion bars.  These would make great gifts for teachers, or babysitters...or therapists and nurses for my special needs mommas!

Check out some of the cute lotion shapes Staci can make!  She is also willing to work with you on special orders if you have a specific theme in mind.

She even has a special Valentine's Day package for $4!

You can visit here for more information about Staci's lotion bars.  If you are interested in ordering some, please email her at  Tell her that Julie sent you!  :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

In Case You're Wondering...

...Abby is still quite in love with her snowman!

She's dancing with him here to "Call Me Maybe!"

I think she's going to be awfully sad when the snow melts and the snowman goes away for another year!  Maybe I should show her Frosty the Snowman to help prepare her...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Disney on Ice

Our family was given the opportunity through The Starlight Foundation to see Disney on Ice tonight!  We are super duper excited!  I think that both kids will absolutely love the characters, music, and scenery.  Princesses and pirates--what's not to love?!

I'm sure there will be many pictures to come!  I'm so thankful for organizations like Starlight!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cousin Fun

This was ages ago (well, over Christmas break) and I totally forgot to post them!  Here are a few pictures from when all of the cousins on Matt's side got together.

Abby and her cousin E

All of the cousins on the Leach you know how hard it is to get a good picture of all of them together?!  Darn near impossible!  This was the best I got...and I took a lot!

A few cousins posing together

This boy is a little ham!  I love his smiles!!