Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Welcome, Oliver, to our home!
We're sure glad to have you.
You looked so sad and all alone,
When we arrived to meet you.

A tiny cell, a concrete floor,
A lack of proper care...
All living things deserves much more;
We couldn't leave you there!

We love your face, your spirit, too,
You're a true gentleman.
You love the kids and they love you,
And you'll be a forever friend!
From Minivan Moments

We adopted Oliver this afternoon from the local animal shelter. He is a German Shepherd mix (with what, we aren't sure), and he is very lovable! He is great with the kids, and he seems to really want them around. He is a bit depressed, though, and hasn't gotten enough food, exercise and sunlight, so we are hoping that with love and attention, he will THRIVE!

Please pray for our little Oliver (or "Ollie" as Calysta wants to call him!) that he will grow strong and healthy and be a good addition to our family!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rearranging my life....

Lately, there have been a lot of things grabbing for my attention: the laundry, the dishes, the clutter, the bills, the kids, the spouse, the clutter, the calendar, the schooling, the errands, the clutter.... And none of that takes into account the FUN things! But at the beginning of the year, I made a decision to work through some of the things that need to be tended and get some order and structure back to the Varela Household!

So far, it is working! I have been decluttering like a fiend!! Seriously, my downstairs is so tidy, it feels like someone else's house! Plus, I have been convincing the kids to declutter their spaces, too, which they have been very happy to do for some reason (maybe they are sick of all the chaos, too!). On top of that, we are doing a scheduled dinner menu again, I am clipping coupons and buying on sale to save money.

This week, I am rearranging the upstairs to get a sense of "someone else's tidy house" up there, too. We have some furniture to haul away, some toys for the consignment sale, and some junk to go through, but everyday we are a step closer to our goal. Yay!

I can say one thing for certain: I am getting a lot less fun down-time, but I am actually happier at the end of the week for all that I have accomplished.

May your 2009 be a renewal for your life, as well.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Praise God for Halli's Miracle!

Hey y'all, just wanted you to know that I sooo appreciate your prayers & concerns... God really does answer prayers and yours must have helped tremendously because we feel like Halli's turnaround was a direct result of so many folks holding her up in prayer. THANK YOU!!! The email below tells of our miracle and the good news for Halli. My niece Amie sent it out today to let everyone know that Hallie is FINALLY home!
Vickey (great-Aunt)
We were told last Friday that Halli needed open heart surgery. At that time she was losing weight, on oxygen, and a feeding tube. The day before she was transported to Vanderbilt (Sunday via ambulance) she was weaned off the oxygen. Once we arrived at Vanderbilt they discovered two more issues; a distended stomach and abnormal blood cells that could potentially cause Leukemia. They postponed the original surgery date of Tuesday and began to run other tests. They ran a test on Monday to rule out intestinal issues and then a bone marrow on Tuesday which ruled out Leukemia. As frustrated as I was with the idea of more potential complications, those two days were a blessing in disguise. Within those two days she started eating from a bottle and we began to see more improvements than ever before. A team of cardiologist met on Thursday morning to discuss her situation and improvements. Much to our surprise, they decided to postpone her heart surgery and allowed us to bring her home. Unfortunately, she will have to have surgery as some point but the longer she can thrive without having it, the larger her heart will become. The doctors explained it to us like this, they would rather perform open heart surgery on something the size of a lemon rather than a walnut. She has multiple doctors that will continue to monitor her very closely, here in Chattanooga. We are hoping that the surgery can be put off for at least 2-3 more months.

We appreciate everyones prayers more than you will ever know! Halli looks forward to meeting everyone soon.

All our love,
Amie, Daniel, Wil & Halli

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tickles and Giggles

It is amazing that God even had to remind me to appreciate my children, but He did. What is even more amazing is that He didn't condemn me for needing the reminder... He just gently turned my focus where it needed to be. Praise Him! He is so compassionate!

This past week, I have been more focused on my family, enjoying my children and the moments that get away from me. It is upsetting that someone as blessed as me needed to focus on that, but it is a fact of life that the "little things" get in the way of us enjoying our lives. My kids become "things to teach" and my laundry becomes "something to tackle" and the meals become "something to do within XYZ guidelines" and life just gets monotonous.

This week, we have spent more time together - or maybe not more time, maybe just more conscious attention. My youngest child and I no longer fight each other at bedtime; rather, we cuddle, giggle, and tickle together while we get ready for sleep. My middle child, The Defiant One, is trying to find his place in the world, and rather than trying to control him, I am reminded to provide moments of freedom and self-discovery. The oldest child, The Princess, is learning her place in the family and what it means to work together as a team. In return, all of the children are getting more positive interactions with Mommy.

And aren't tickles and giggles the reason we embark on this journey of motherhood? It sure isn't for the endless laundry, back-talking, bottom-wiping, whining, runny-noses, and complaining!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Making History

Today, our country put its first African American President into office. What a day to be an American!! And a parent! And an educator!

Whether or not you voted him in, Barack Obama is now the leader of this great democratic nation. The people have spoken. And the people were heard. What a blessing to live in a place where the people have a voice! Praise God for the blessing, the honor, and the privilege!!

As we watched George W. Bush pass the torch on to Barack Hussein Obama on television, we were reminded of the importance of this event, the symbolism of it all. It signifies not only the changing hands of power, but also the hope of a people, a people who sit in the sidelines of discontent, knowing that, soon enough, their day will come, their voice will be heard. For the Presidency is fairly temporary, and those who oppose the one who is elected have only to wait, to pray, to hope, and to try again.

Today, we crossed from one side to another, one political party to another, one set of beliefs to another, one color to another, and we stand in a new place. A place of joy for some, disappointment for others, but a place of change, for sure.

As a Christian, I will be praying for our new leadership, but personally praying for the President and his family. May God richly bless and fully protect President Obama and his family.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Respect The Cake!

Okay, for all of you home bakers out there, if you have never worked with rolled fondant, you have to trust me on this: Professional Cake Makers do NOT make enough money!

I made a Teepee Cake for our neighbor's birthday, and after the 6 1/2 hours that was a labor of love and determination, I was so depressed to watch them carve away at it!! First of all, the stuff is almost the same consistency as taffy. Add to that, it came in white and I needed brown. (yeah, sounds a LOT easier than it was, let me assure you!) Then, you have to figure in placement of the fondant sheet, which was especially difficult for me seeing as I did not have professional equipment for this task.

All in all, it was a teepee. A teepee that my husband casually unwrapped - then discarded the precious fondant! Then they cut away at the lump of brown that was my beautiful cake!! It was pretty tasty, though, I must say. Depressing, but yummy.

Yup, professional bakers should make more money. Oh, well, at least they do not have to watch people hack away at their creations after they make them. That's worth something....
From Family & Friends 2008

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taking my life for granted....

Do you ever talk to someone who puts your life in perspective?

Have you gotten the chance to see your life through the lens of someone else's personal situation?

Has God ever reminded you how good you have it by showing you the suffering of another?

Sometimes, when I am sitting in my beautiful, heated home, complaining about life, I am ashamed to be so self-absorbed! I listen to other people, especially lately, families who have lost their incomes, parents who are suffering with a terminally ill child, women who are watching their husbands wage war against cancer, soldiers who gladly sacrifice years of comfort and safety to be a part of this great nation's national defense... and I am ashamed to be whining that my backyard needs a fence or my attic isn't large enough.

I have perspective lately. More perspective than, well, maybe ever. People are starving. And we all know that with our minds, but do you know it in your heart? People are suffering. We are aware of suffering worldwide, but does it reflect in your lifestyle?

There are so many ways I could become involved, but another project I do not need (just ask Shelly). However, what I am going to do, at least for today, is live my life with appreciation. I am going to understand and acknowledge my abundant blessings, be they easy or difficult to bear. And I am going to turn to God for the rest, because I am certainly not in charge, and He will know how to help the lost, the hungry, the sick, the broken, the suffering, the dying....

They are all His children, anyway.

Let us pray...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Remember My Vow?

Didn't I just determine to protect my children from overtly sexual images and situations broadcast by network television? Yesterday, my eldest child, The Princess, was dancing with a friend of hers - we were making music videos - and I noticed how smutty she looked! I'm not kidding, people, she was all pouty lips, twitchy hips, and hair flipping! It was DISTURBING! I mean, come on, she's nine. And we do not have cable television, nor do we let her watch many shows that other kids her age watch. We are very careful... and yet, there she was, dancing and prancing like a sexpot! AAK!

What am I going to do?? I tried to explain to her that she was acting too grown-up rock-star-ish, but I can't think of how to convince her that is a bad thing. I asked her to act like a nine-year-old girl, not a teenager, but I do not think she is convinced.

Someone, help!! I am at a loss here. My husband has waved his magical Leader Of the Home wand and put me "in charge" of fixing it (which just means he ain't touchin' it with a ten-foot-pole), so I have to figure out what to do.

Comment away, folks, comment away.....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fed Up!

I am getting about as fed up with the media as I can be! I cannot even let my kids watch the NFL on Sundays with their dad anymore for fear that the network carrying the game will show inappropriate Primetime show snippets!! This weekend, CBS was carrying the games hubby was watching, and both Saturday and Sunday, we saw the commercials for this show that depicted two young adults discussing having sex, then in the next shot, they were in bed together... on DAYTIME television on CBS (I wrote to CBS and the NFL about this issue today) - we don't have cable television for this reason, but it looks like we cannot escape it anymore.

The freedoms of other interests are infringing on my family's freedom from the early sexualization of children. Can we no longer get through the day without discussing and depicting sex? Are we so depraved as a nation that we think nothing of serving up casual sex with our Sunday afternoon football? Is is not enough that our children cannot watch network television after 8pm; now, we need to keep them away from afternoon programming on the weekends? Have we sunk so low?

Here is what I do not understand: our nation is pushing to end the war in Iraq - what about the war on family values? Our country wants pre-kindergarten programs in elementary schools, payed for by the taxpayers - what about family-friendly programming on weekend television? It seems like our nation is confused; we want what feels good, and we fight for it, but who is fighting for what is right? Who will fight for our kids?

I will.

Will you join me?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Prayer Need!!!

I got this email, and this baby needs our prayers. Seemed like a good place to put it!


Hallie was born Dec. 30, 2008. Hallie has Downs Syndrome, which was discovered before her birth, and typical to most Downs babies, has some health complications since birth. At first she was just having trouble breathing while nursing and turned blue and had to be put in NICU in the Chattanooga hospital where she was born. They put a feeding tube in and we thought things were stabilizing. Now the docs have found some problems with heart functions - she is retaining fluid around her heart, in addtion to other symptoms. They have decided to do a heart cath on her to determine the extent of the problems - it is scheduled for 7 am on Friday in Chattanooga. If complications are not extensive, they will do repairs there. If extensive, Hallie will be airlifted to Nashville Vanderbilt hospital for heart surgery. Please send out prayers for Hallie & family - they need your support and I know there are some prayer warriors out there!!

Precious Lord, Healer, Comforter, we come to you right now on behalf of little Hallie. We ask for your healing touch. We are expecting this baby to be a miraculous example, that all who behold her presence for the rest of her very long life will see how powerful and loving her God is. All those whose lives she touches will be changed because of the beauty of her life, which You gave to her with a purpose for it. Heal her body, Father, comfort her and her family, bring them Your peace and Your healing. We pray for these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Endocrinology Labs

Just a quick post to let you all know that, yes, it is that time again! Dania went in for her labs this morning - we pray we will continue to have good results, especially since this may be the last lab they draw to help decide if she can come off the meds!! We'll find out in April if her doctor wants to try it... of course, there will be lab tests to track how her thyroid is doing on its own for awhile, but we are sooooooooo ecstatic that we can even dream of her being healed!

Anyway, we had a busy day because of the trip to Vanderbilt, so I am a bit behind schedule. Don't have much time, so I have to run, but thought you would like to know about our little miracle in the making!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Homeschooling Makeover!

So, I decided at the end of the year that we would restructure and reorganize our homeschool. That plan was put into practice yesterday for the first time, and I can say with confidence now that we have had two days to experience it, we are in for SUCCESS!!

I initially wanted our kids to experience the freedom of homeschooling... we didn't sit at the table and work for 4 hours until we were done. Now, I recognize that for my children, we have to get the bulk of the studies done first thing in the morning - otherwise, bad attitudes appear with the homeschooling materials!

So, starting our new year, we have a new homeschool plan. And it is really working for us so far! Dania is struggling to adjust to the new schedule, and she was the biggest hurdle to completing our studies in one sitting anyway, so we are working on it. Overall, though, we are accomplishing more, finishing sooner in the day, and working at improving our attitudes toward our studies.

With the structural changes in our schedule, I have also reduced the clutter and distractions, and we are thinking more about other changes that can improve our homeschooling. One thing is certain: homeschooling is as much a constant adjustment as parenting.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Vocabulary Building

Around these here parts, we speak to our children... a lot. I realize in times long ago children were "seen and not heard" - and they were dressed like little adults, so we can assume they were expected to behave themselves accordingly. However, being a wee bit more modern, and having a smidgen of education about the developmental needs of children, we decided when we embarked on this journey we call parenthood that we would treat our children in ways that met their needs. One of the basic needs is human interaction: talking, playing, smiling, cooing, touching.

Verbal interactions are meant to shape the infant into an oral communicator, but we always liked to add in baby sign language during the months before Baby could be expected to speak. In our experience, this reduced screaming and pointing to a minimum, and we all knew what Baby was asking for. Ergo, we could better meet Baby's needs. [insert smug smile here]

Eventually, Baby grows into Toddler, and speech develops. Not long after speech appears, Toddler begins stringing words together. Now we're talkin'! Those words increased, and soon Toddler began putting more of them together until she was speaking in precious sentences. We began to have conversations with our 2-year-old. Conversations that, while simplistic in nature at first, morphed into complex communications tools. For example, what started as "wahee" (translation: water) became "want wahtah inna cup" (translation: I want some water in a cup). And what was once "waaaaa waaaaa Mommy waaaa" is now "Me sitta Mommy lap." We are thrilled!

Now, don't get me wrong, there are times when I really want to say, "could you stop talking to me? Just for a few minutes? Or an hour?" But, being a Modern Mother, I realize the long-term, lasting effects on my child were I to react in this manner, so I pride myself on only saying things so nasty when I am at my wits' end. Hmmm... now that I think about it, that may not be a good plan, huh?

Oh, well, the point I am making here is that the vocabulary of a child builds over time and it begins in infancy. If we are really lucky, by the time they are five, they will have found someone else to talk incessantly to. Oh, the joys of parenting young children!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Long-Awaited....

Dania's appointment with the Pediatric Otolaryngologist (E.N.T. to us reg'lar folk) was today, and what a surprise! I actually believed long ago, almost a year ago, in fact, that Dania had obstructive sleep apnea and would need her tonsils removed. Now, I have a specialist to confirm my opinion.

The up-side is that Dania should sleep better after the surgery because she will be able to breathe better. She may even eat better as there will be less discomfort in swallowing (other people have this experience, but since Dania cannot express difficulty or discomfort in swallowing, we are unsure if she suffers this... we do know that her appetite for solids decreased at the same time that the snoring began). Dania may even begin growing at a more rapid rate - she is far below average, though she was right on average at birth, and the dip in her growth also occurred about the time her snoring and appetite loss occurred. Plus, growth hormones are often decreased in children with sleep apnea.

What we didn't know was that the procedure would be so awful! She is expected to be in a lot of pain, with some relief coming from around-the-clock pain medications for a full week. She is expected to run a fever, be cranky, suffer pain even on the meds, and refuse to eat for a week following the surgery. And because she is so little, we will have to stay in the hospital longer than usual - possibly 3-5 days.

And the bonus of all this not-so-great prognosis is this: my determination to search out an answer to all of the snoring, sleeplessness, and decline in growth may have saved my child's life. The doctor informed me that if we opted not to get the tonsillectomy, Dania's obstructive sleep apnea would continue to put a strain on her heart, which would eventually weaken it enough that she would develop heart failure. Are you kidding me?!?!?!

My Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology payed for itself: Psych classes taught me about sleep apnea, and that knowledge rang a bunch of bells over the last year. Those bells and my own "Mother's Intuition" (which I believe to be a gift from God) compelled me to seek answers. And God, in all His wisdom, even told me what was wrong and what we should do before it played itself out. PRAISE GOD!!!

We'll keep you abreast of the surgery schedule and healing.