St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Shhh...don't tell anybody..

...but I've been Christmas shopping.....

I have been stashing away gifts as they arrive and am ahead this year, I am pleased to say.  I have also found some really interesting and unique things this year.

One such item is: Bento Box lunches....a simple box and a recipe book to accompany it for my daughter.  She loves to "organize" and eat a healthy lunch.  This will give her a little more inspiration to do so. 

Adult coloring books:  These and these..and this ...they are beautiful, I am so impressed. Throw in some nice colored pencils and it makes a beautiful gift.  

Star Wars Coffee Mugs....well, of course     

Young Living Ceramic Diffuser w/Oil 

Tolkien Treasury Little Gift Book

Keep Calm and Carry On book

Mikasa Gourmet Basics Mug Set

Celebrations by Mikasa Rejoice Angel

A Few of My Favorite Things (flashback)!

Throw-back Thursday flashback to 2006!  What I was blogging about: 

Pears Soap. Ever hear of it? It's been around a very long time. I've enjoyed using it my whole life thus far, and at only .99 cents a bar at my local drugstore, it's a luxury I can afford! To read about its history, just follow the LINK.

Hurrah! Another wonderful holiday tea blend:

Candy Cane Lane Holiday Tea

What could be better than the delectable taste of an old-fashioned candy cane - the memorable flavor of cool luscious peppermint that is such a delight. Now you can have this lip-smacking taste without visiting the candy store. Candy Cane Lane is an irresistible blend of peppermint, creamy vanilla and just a touch of cinnamon and sweet blackberry leaves. Best of all, it's made with antioxidant-rich decaffeinated green tea. So you can enhance your health while you enjoy your treat. The combination is sure to bring a smile to your lips.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hope and a Beautiful Day

It is indeed a beautiful day here -- breezy, warm; the earth smells like spring today.  A little blessing in the midst of November weather.  I'll take it for now! 

And I am hopeful in my remission of my liver ailment.  I am feeling better, learning to eat differently (or, at least clean up my eating act :)  I never really ate badly per se.  But I am "getting there."  I do have good days and bad days.  The worst of the fatigue has lifted, and I have more energy back then I know what to do with.  As you can imagine, I have cleaned, and tossed and cleared and well.....I've needed that energy months ago.  Still, there is an occasional down day, where it's not so much fatigue....but a just a tiresome feeling that overcomes me.  
In the meantime, we press on with our school work which is going so very nicely these days.  It probably helps because Mom feels better :)

And I am looking forward to Thanksgiving so much this year -- maybe because I had been ill and am feeling better -- maybe because I appreciate things (life) so much more at the moment.  All I know is that I am "feeling the season" right now and it's feeling right and good. 

God bless ~

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why Today's Student's Can't Write

Very good article.  I am so glad our home school program (Modg) focuses on areas that produce good writers, especially high quality literature.

The 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today's Student's Can't Write

Home Education and a Small World.....After all..

I am already entering my third educational year of homeschool education consulting and enjoying every minute of it. Working with families, discussing their curriculum and guiding them; using the database for their courses and transcripts; going into web meetings and scheduling appointments.  It's not even about the paycheck, although that is a very nice perk, it is about so much more! ... the unbelievable connections... those wonderful, encouraging connections. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure this is really happening!   To meet families across the US and abroad has been so special and such an amazing blessing after homeschooling all these years.  Who knew that when I was asked if I would take a family from would end up being a family from Ireland, and the mother would share my maiden name, and area of clan in the Emerald Isle?  Is it a small world after all??  I can not tell you how delighted that Irish mother and this part Irish mother was when we could talk about all things Irish, the home education of our children, and the support of Catholic homeschooling all the way....all the way across the ocean. By the way, they do not take homeschooling in Ireland for granted, it is considerably very new and regulated.  There are more protocols in place and check points for them.  

I truly feel if we don't support these wonderful Catholic organization such as Mother of Divine Grace, we will not have them in the future.  I am hopeful to think Modg will be around a nice long time -- they have grown so much, but still I grow concerned that support for authentic homeschooling is waning as cyber public schools seem to attract so many, while others don't seem to really care about quality education, none the less, classical formation. When we started with Modg twenty years ago, I could not imagine their future and how bright it would with all the technology to back them, and opening their own bookstore this last summer...well, they deserve it, they are just the best. 

It has been such a blessing to me to meet with mothers that are doing the same thing I've been doing for the last 20 years.  It has been a support for me when I'm surrounded by other homeschooling families that do things entirely differently.  And that's okay.  It's just nice to talk to those that are doing the same thing and understand the formation and goals and appreciate classical education, and enjoy teaching their children.  They understand and see how perfectly beautiful the Advanced American Gov and Econ, Catholic Doctrine and Health course is at the end of high school years -- how those three courses in unison, beautifully integrated, have a student so immersed in the true teachings of the faith and critical analytic thinking.  I can not even express how beautifully done those courses are - unless you have experienced them through your student yourself.  They are the golden jewels of the Modg program, they are what you have prepared your student for, all those years - this crowning glory where it all culminates with its brilliance. 

My children have received, uninterrupted, the same classical Catholic education across the board with continuity and commitment to each new year.  It has cost money yes, but money so well spent; they are worth every penny of it.  I have learned from my families I consult to,  the cost of private Catholic education across the USA is somewhere around $14,000 and as high as $24,000 in some cases, per child.  Sure, some families say they don't pay quite that much, there are scholarships and financial aid.  Still it's around $9-12,000+ a child on the average. For a smidgen of that cost, and I mean a very small fraction, the whole family can be enrolled in Mother of Divine Grace yearly.  I'm not doing this as an ad, no.  I'm just comparing costs.  And with the wonderful addition of on-line teacher led courses (LS classes), those sometimes tough subjects like Latin and Math, Sciences, could be done in an Adobe classroom setting with a teacher.   There are math labs, for one on one tutorship -- language labs too. There is so much and it's so exciting.  I'm especially excited about the Special Services on line courses for an additional flat semester fee, per semester, that gives the student a block of four core courses, twice a week, in a classroom setting with our varying degrees of special service students and understanding trained instructors.   

As we have already begun our new school a couple months back, I am thoughtful and reflective of how God has led a couple decades of beautiful classical education in our home and enabled me to be able to take a position with this organization; in a way: giving back. Giving back so much that it has given to me and my family.  It brings me joy to do so. 

For more about Mother of Divine Grace, visit:  HERE

To listen to Laura Berquist's recent interview on EWTN'S Home with Jim & Joy Show, click HERE.  

To read the recent Modg Newsletter:  visit HERE, and scroll down to Newsletter, and click the link within the paragraph.   

My New Curriculum Update for 2015-2016

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An Autumn Tale: Battling Back from Inflammatory Disease (part 3)

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 by scrolling down beyond this post if you've come to my homepage; or by going to Here Part 1, or Here Part 2.

As my autoimmune disorder journey continued, eight weeks had passed by the time I met for the second time with the gastroenterologist in his office. During those weeks, the nurse called me with testing and lab work, and finally the liver biopsy had been scheduled.  Another five days passed and the call came to begin medication.  By the time I met with the doctor, I had thirteen days of medication behind me and blood work scheduled for the very next day. 

As I sat down with the doctor it all became rather surreal.  I was hearing things like:  Stage 2 liver damage, and Stage 3 inflammation, a prominent lesion, a little cirrhosis of the biliary ducts, and "chronic."  Chronic.  This wasn't something that had just happened the last six months, or last, this had been slowly happening for a number of years.  Sigh. 

The doctor asked about my autoimmune thyroid disorder.   Fifteen years ago it had been diagnosed.  I only went of medication for it in the last four years.  He felt the liver inflammation may have been going on for quite a number of years also; maybe sometimes I didn't feel good, maybe sometimes I didn't notice.  At times I may have thought I had a virus. 

The course of treatment.....To continue to take the medication and get blood work, and eventually wean off the steroid, but continue the immunosuppressant a while longer.  More blood work all along.  The blood work would tell all.  The trick would be if the disorder will "stay" in remission once the medication/medications are withdrawn.    

I left both hopeful but yet fretful.   Liver damage, that just rang in my ears for the longest time. How an autoimmune response can turn against it's own body tissue destroying it.  At least they knew what was happening, but it seemed so bleak when I really thought about it.  Yet, there was: remission.  For how long?  The doctor said, it is any one's guess, as every one is different, and this actually not as common as your usual liver ailments.  

In the meantime, I had already begun to change my diet based on the recommendations of the Paleo Mom and the autoimmune protocol diet plan.  I could see that many things I had previously eaten in abundance were likely culprits to this kind of disorder.  I studied more about the food plans and was determined I would at least eliminate the foods to be avoided and give it my best try.  After all, I wanted healing and I definitely wanted to feel better and stay in remission once the medicine was withdrawn.   I downloaded the book onto my Nook eReader: The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, by  Sarah Ballantyne, PhD

And so this is where I am.....after 3 weeks, on a different diet plan, and taking the medications daily.  My morning schedule has changed dramatically -- as it started with coffee each morning. My sleep schedule, likely a side effect of the medicines has altered also, 4-5 hours a straight sleep is about all I  can manage - then I'm quite awake!  

Once I got a little energy back, definitely due to the steroids, I was able to pay more attention and detail to actual cooking from scratch. (the fatigue was quite overwhelming!, it was hard to cook, and nap at the same time:)  Now, that I'm at least back in the game, low/no sodium, low/no sugars (most due to the steroids); I keep my plate plain and simple.  I do like the variety of fresh foods I can eat, so that's always a good thing.  I have avoided raw veggies at this point because my digestion is so poor - -so I do need to steam or cook vegetables.  I can do some fresh fruits, like apples and bananas and I can do some canned (no heavy syrup or added sugars) or frozen fruits also. I have added in more fish choices, which I enjoy anyway.  So far, so good.  And herbal teas have become my standby, although I have had a cup of coffee here and there, but certainly not every day, or every week.  

Highlight of the last week:  that blood work I had the very next day after the doctor visit.....well, it came back with much improved liver enzymes levels.  The highest level tipping upwards of 3,000, (the cut-off is 49)  was down into the hundreds.   One level was only 1 pt above the cut-off, (remarkable!), and one level had already gotten into the "normal" range.  Praise God. 

 My journey has by no means ended.  In the weeks ahead I will be returning to this health issue on my blog and sharing with you my progress.  I ask that you keep my in your prayers as I navigate this difficult time of my life.  Thank you for reading, and thank you for thinking of me! 

Blessings ~   

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Autumn Tale: Battling Back from Inflammatory Disease (Part 2)

If you haven't read part 1 of this journey, you can do so HERE.

My journey continued as we awaited results from my liver biopsy.  At the end of a long week I received a phone call from the gastroenterologist office.  The nurse told me that they were calling in prescriptions for steroids and an immunosuppressant.  "Take the meds as indicated on the label; do not forget or skip them.  Come to your regularly scheduled appointment, which I see is next week.  We are sending you a blood work order; once you start the medications have blood work at 2 weeks, 4 weeks and 8 week intervals as the lab of your choice..."  Wait! what did the biopsy say, why the medicines, what's going on?   "Inflammation...your liver is badly inflamed. The doctor will talk to you about the details at your appointment."   

Oh my.  Many words I dreaded to hear, one of which was: steroids, specifically Prednisone. Was I going to puff up like a balloon?  I was trying to not be vain.  I didn't want a lot of starring eyes looking my way, drawing attention. 

I immediately messaged a couple friends who I knew had to take Prednisone for long amounts of time.  They were so gracious and supportive on how to's and don'ts of taking it without many side effects.  "Watch your sodium - low or no -- watch your sugar, in fact avoid it if possible." "Don't eat dessert and drink coffee at the same time equals immediate fat stores."   I was reading stories all over the internet about how people swelled and looked disfigured by day 3 of steroid therapy.   Oh but how I wanted to get better......

I got the medications and read the labels.  Imuran, the immunosuppressant seemed to be without too many ill side-effects, other than eventually it could lower my resistance to catching things. Flu and cold season were setting in.   Predninsone was 30 mg and in 10 mg tabs, eventually to be tapered off of  - take 3 a day.   Okay, I guess I was thinking it would be 50 mg like the Imuran.  I'm going to do this -- I have to do this.   I took my medicines the first day. 

I took my medicines the second day.  I kept looking in the mirror - was I looking rounder?  By day 3,  I was actually starting to feel kind of good, better...more relaxed - my abdomen didn't feel as tight and funny as it had for so long.  By day 7, a whole week, I felt much better; still wasn't sleeping very well, but wasn't swelling either, in fact, I was losing weight ....water weight? I don't know, but the Prednisone, was agreeing with me.  I did, one morning, drink a cup of coffee and felt like I ate a bag of sugar rather than caffeine.  I felt giddy and happy.  Drunk on coffee?  

I still hadn't gained an appetite back, in fact, I had lost my appetite for even coffee, which is a hard thing to believe with me. Since September, the onset of the more severe symptoms, I had only had 2 cups of coffee and this was the end of October going into November.   One of my friends sent a link to some diet suggestions - and autoimmune protocol diet; it spoke about autoimmune diseases such as the liver difficulty I was having which on my diagnostics was starting to show up as:  Autoimmune Hepatitis.   Well, well, I had an autoimmune thyroiditis condition diagnosed 15 years earlier.....hmmmm

So, I began to check out the diets my friend had sent.  This led me to realize that EVERY THING on the NO EAT list for autoimmune protocol was something I completely indulged in full force several months before on a natural diet craze I was doing.   (the Fast Metabolism Diet)  

Wow.  Could I have brought this on myself?  Well, I am set up for autoimmune apparently, and I'm sure my past eating habits were not helping. In hindsight, this metabolism diet may have really helped trigger it.  I was going to look over the lists of foods to avoid and foods to eat at the Paleo Mom site my friend had sent, and see what maybe I could do to help heal myself as well.   My friend had Crohn's disease and it was under control for so long by diet, when she had her last colonoscopy, there was no signs of it  -- as if she had never had it.   That gave me so much hope!  

You can begin to read more about autoimmunity and paleo HERE. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

An Autumn Tale: Battling Back from Inflammatory Disease (part 1)

I have been AWOL on my blog for a while now.  The truth is I just haven't felt well for quite sometime. I was diagnosed in late October this year with Chronic Inflammatory Liver Disorder - autoimmune.  This is my short story of my illness and diagnosis and hopeful remission.  

It began back in September.  I wasn't feeling very well for a while; very fatigued, overly so with terribly itchy eyes all the time..  allergy??  ...I went to my regularly scheduled Endocrinology appointment thinking that maybe it had something to do with my thyroid. Surely my endocrinologist would be able to say, yes, your levels are off, let's fix that.   Not so.  She took one look at me that day, and I'm not sure what she saw but she called for more blood work before I left the building.  My thyroid levels were fine, perfect, that was not the problem.  There was just something else....

Later that day, close to dinner time, the phone rang.  It was my endocrinologist:  "how do you feel?  are you nauseated? ....vomiting? does your abdomen hurt? your ribs?  ...if you start to feel very bad please go to emergency room,"  she pronounced in her broken Russian accent.   What?  "Your liver enzyme levels are ....very high, very high; I'm sending you report through patient portal.  You will need to follow up with specialist; my nurse will be contacting you, soon."

Huh?  Liver enzymes, what's that?   So began my google exploration.  And then my impending doom.  

Wow, I really am sick.   How did this happen?  No wonder I haven't felt good.

That was around the second week in September.  By the next week, the real symptoms began to emerge full force.  Every joint in my body hurt, big time.  My ribs ached, my back ached, I was looking a tinge of yellow; my urine and bowels were dark.   I felt nauseated.  I was sleeping every chance I had.  It was overwhelming.  I couldn't wait to see the specialist.  They had called and scheduled me, but more runs for more blood work first.  The levels were rising higher.  They called for an abdominal ultra-sound.  More blood work.  Then again, a doppler ultra sound with more detail, more blood work.  I saw the gastroenterologist.  "We are going to need to do a liver biopsy.  We are scheduling it as soon as possible."   "Am I going into liver failure? What's going on?"  "No, but something is clearly wrong, impacting your liver function,  because all your blood work comes back negative against any hepatitises or tumors, even celiac and viruses, all clear....So we need to see first hand what your liver tissue is doing."    

Discovering how a liver biopsy was performed brought on more anxiety.  Sure, I had my thyroid biopsied 15 years prior....a needle aspiration, yes.  They deaden it will a local anesthetic and it feels like a bee string temporarily, then it's okay -- just pressure.  My thyroid tissue came back as autoimmune; it was attacking itself, perforating, causing a nodule.  Easily enough taken care of; the thyroid could be removed if troublesome and thyroid replacement given.  It took another 12 years for the condition to have any impact on my thyroid serum, and then, my endocrinologist began to give me thyroid replacement to override the thyroid.  

But the liver, hmmm, a little more difficult to take care of's not like it can just be removed, or a replacement given (other than a liver transplant).

The more I thought about it, the more I dreaded what was happening, but the more I knew in my heart I had to do the liver biopsy.  I prayed and prepared myself mentally.  I reached out to others to pray for me as I knew many prayer warriors that would uplift me.  

When it came time for the biopsy one bright Friday morning, my husband took me to the hospital and got me settled in.  He remained with me throughout the entire procedure.   He stayed in the surgery room with me.  The team that did the procedure were wonderful.  The surgeon that actually did the physical biopsy was amazing and quick.  The only discomfort was the "bee string" into my ribs and then quickly it was numbed. Within minutes it was over.   And the waiting for 5-7 days for the pathology results began. 

(watch for part 2 soon)