An Eliana Update

May 25, 2016. That’s the last time I recorded that Eliana had a headache or felt like she was moving. That day she said her head hurt and that she felt like she was being flipped over and over like a pancake.  To go over a week without symptoms is a pretty big milestone for us!  We’ll take it!

Every time she gets out and bed and comes back into the living room I am almost sure that she is going to say her head hurts. I stopped giving her the antihistamine medicine that the doctor wanted us to try, because it didn’t seem to be helping and it was making her feel like she was starving all the time.

This is what happened before her symptoms just went away. There is no “fix” for Chiari, but I am confident that God is taking care of His girl.

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My Gum Ball Hero

God knew that I needed a little old lady to stop and talk to me how wonderful she thinks large families are. She told me that she only has three children, but she always admires large families. I confessed that they are some times exhausting, and she agreed before saying, “But just look at them.” Thankfully at the moment they were behaving!

The kids were blocking one lady and as we passed she told me that her daughter has five children but they are all teenagers now. She said something about how hard it is for them to get ready in the morning. These nuggets of truth I can do without knowing . . . I know it will be a different kind of hard when they are all teens!  I’m trying to survive here and now!

Three different strangers asked if all the kids belong to me. I never know how to answer. I usually just say, “Yes they do!” If he hears people ask, Mr. J usually pipes up that there are seven of them. He tells them that there two older boys and five sisters. He goes on about how hard it is to have so many sisters. It’s hilarious.

God also knew that I needed a stranger to buy two extra gum balls at the gum ball machine as we were leaving. Two of the kids started crying when one gum ball fell onto the floor and we were another gum ball short! Some times God gets our attention with huge things but other times he uses the little things! That guy who spent 50 cents on my kids was my gum ball hero!


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An Eliana Update


Eliana’s appointment with the neurologist went very well. She doesn’t think that Eliana’s nightly headaches are related to her Chiari. She was given a prescription to try to help with preventing the headaches before they start. Her MRI measured her Chiari as being smaller than before and it did show some spinal fluid restriction, but she was not concerned about this. Waiting and keeping an eye of things is much preferred over surgery at this point in time! We’re praying that on Friday Eliana’s neurosurgeon will agree with the neurologist’s thoughts. IMG_8181

Eliana took a trio of frogs to her appointment with the neurosurgeon. Our visit was fairly uneventful. The neurosurgeon is not recommending surgery at this time. She does think the headaches may be Chiari related. She wants us to see how things go in the next three months and keep track of any numbness or tingling that Eliana is having because that may be cause for concern. In the meantime we will keep praying that Eliana’s headaches stay away and that her Chiari symptoms resolve. We are so thankful for everyone’s prayers! Just like her name means, God has answered our prayers!

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A Chiari Story, a God Story

Over two years ago we found out that our oldest daughter has Type 1 Chiari Malformation. It’s a neurological disorder where the bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine and causing many symptoms. 


We found out that Eliana has a Chiari after having a CT scan and then an MRI because she was having horrible vertigo spells and headaches. She was 5 years old then and vertigo spells were so bad that she would jump into our arms and hang on for dear life until the room stopped spinning.  There were some times she would get sick. Afterwards she would be completely wiped out and just want to go to sleep. This happened once or twice a month for several months. 

We saw a Riley Hospital neurologist and a neurosurgeon. Eventually the spells stopped and she has had 6 month checkups with her neurologist and her neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon suggested that because symptoms were not severe and would not require surgery. Eventually the spells went away and she was having 6-month check ups with a neurologist and a neurosurgeon.

She did have some vision symptoms like seeing spots and saying things looked blurry so we say a pediatric eye doctor and found out she needed glasses, but after very through eye exams her vision issues seemed unrelated to her Chiari. 

In March,  more than two years since her last vertigo spell, Eliana started complaining that she was getting dizzy again. Every night after she lies down for bed, she complains that her head hurts and that she feels like the room is moving and/or spinning. 

After I called both doctors to report her new symptoms they ordered another brain MRI. The length of the herniation of her Chiari is less than it was 2 years ago from 9mm to 4mm, but the MRI showed that there is decreased spinal fluid flow.   

There are normally two options for treating Chiari. The first option is brain surgery and the second option is to treat symptoms. Next week we have appointments at Riley with both Eliana’s neurologist (on Tuesday) and her neurosurgeon (on Friday) to discuss her symptoms and her latest MRI and find out what our next steps will be. 

We don’t know what the doctors will suggest, but we know that God is with us.  Through all of this we are trusting in Him. Eliana’s name means, “God has answered my prayer.” Not that He will answer some time or we’re waiting on him to answer, but He has already answered.  We are sharing all this to ask you to pray with us. I will keep you posted! 

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I love so many things about this photograph. I love the flat pumpkin that Miss E named Joe last fall. It was the one and only pumpkin that grew on our vine last year and we have had fun watching it decay. I love the baby’s bare feet because she completely hates wearing shoes. I love the purple sweatshirt over lime green t-shirt. I love the one pink sock and one gray and purple sock. I love that one little lock of Mr A’s hair that will not lay down. Mostly I love that these little people belong to me.

You never know what will happen in a days adventure. I had them all sit on the front step of our house because some one locked us out of the house after they went in to use the restroom. The identity of the offender still has yet to be disclosed. We waited on my parents to come and let us back into the house. It was a super nice day and I had left one of the living room windows opened. I’m convinced that I could have gotten one of the kids into the window if my parents had not been available to let us back into the house.

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Cards and Smiles

My crew and I took a field trip to the mall and I would have to say that it was one of the most fun trips ever.

Some years we buy Valentine’s Day cards and other years we make cards. Last year’s cards were thumbprint faces and animals. This year we made potato stamped cards. I carved out some hearts and flowers and some random designs and let the kids stamp away. I knew my two-year-old wouldn’t be want to stamp for very long so I stamped a bunch of cards for her. I guess I got a little carried away, because we ended up with lots of leftover cards.

I kept thinking about what to do with the extra cards. I could have save them, but trying to ensure that I could find them again this time next year was not the best idea. All my “safe places” seem to be forgotten. I could just throw them away, but I spent forever gluing little saying on each card. The sayings were the following: God loves you! Jesus loves you! You are cool! I like you! You are awesome!

For a week I toyed around with the idea of passing them out to strangers at the store or passing them out to people at our church. I even had one of the kids take them with us when we went to the store but we forgot them in the van. The kids only had two parties, one at our Christian Homeschool Co-op and the other at my sister’s church, and there was not really anything about the cards that made them for Valentine’s Day only.

I finally decided to ask the kids what they thought about passing them out at the mall. Everyone wanted to go to the mall, but only my five-year-old wanted to pass out the cards. On the way to the mall, I asked the kids why we should do nice things for others and they all answered that God wants us to be kind.

The five-year-old took the cards and started giving them to people. After she had given 6 or so cards away her sister joined in. I let them choose who they wanted to give cards to and I stood back and watched. The longer we spent giving cards away the more the other kids wanted to join in.

It was fairly early in the morning so there were several people walking the mall. The kids gave cards to people walking by, to shoppers, and to workers.  Mostly people smiled and thanked the kids for the cards. One said, “Thanks, I like you too!” Another said, “Thank you so much! You are awesome too!”

There were a few people who we ran into a second time that stopped to talk to the kids. One lady asked if we made the cards at school and we told her that we made them at home. She told the kids they did a nice job making the cards. She told me that she used to work in the schools. One of the girls handed a card to a lady who was on the phone and she said, “God loves you too, sweetheart.” When she passed us again later and told us, “God loves you!” One guy was given a card and when he read it card he exclaimed, “I believe that!” and when we passed by again he asked if we know Jesus. He smiled when we answered that we do.

There was a man maybe in his 30’s with downs syndrome who was walking with a lady and when the girls gave them cards he was very excited about it and looked at it for a while before putting it in his wallet.  One of the girls gave a card to a man who was paying for his purchases and to the two cashiers in the store and when the man finished paying he stopped to say, “Thank you. You made my day so far!” Only a few people did not accept a card but no one was mean about it.

It was so much fun to share this experience with my kids. They were grinning ear to ear, and giving me a thumbs up while getting smiles and comments from people. They didn’t discriminate in who they gave cards to in the same way that God doesn’t discriminate in how He loves us all. I would call our “field trip” a major success.

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So Many Helpers

I got a glimpse into my former life when I parked at the grocery store the other day. A young mother, with an infant in a baby carrier and a toddler, was trying to get a cart with a car attached to the front of it out of the cart corral. The basket of the car would not open so that she could put the carrier into the cart and so she was forced to head into the store carrying the baby carrier and making her son very unhappy when he had to get out of cart. When I had only two kids I remember struggling with two kids to make a trip to the store. The struggle was definitely real then but it is much more real to me now that I have added 5 more kids!


We don’t have a lot of storage space so we tend to make lots of trips to the grocery store. Trips any where with seven kids are an adventure.  Depending on how much stuff we need I put the baby in the stroller or in the back of the cart. On trips for more groceries the 2-year-old sits in the front seat of the cart and the 9-year-old pushes either the stroller or the cart depending on the mood of the 2-year-old who is very opinionated about who she wants to push her in the cart.  All the others walk with us. The three-year-old is usually the one who likes to run ahead and lag behind us so I usually have to assign her the job of holding the side of the cart or stroller and if that doesn’t work I stick her into the cart with the groceries!

I know my crew is quite a sight to behold! I field questions from strangers almost every time I go any where with all the kids but people are mostly friendly. I enjoy watching the kids interact with the cashiers and other staff at the store. I use trips to teach them about grocery shopping, budgeting, and meal planning.

The other day a gentleman asked me, “Why did you bring so many helpers to the store,” to which I responded, “We do what we have to do sometimes.”


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