Monday, December 30, 2013

December Recap

Whoa, I am way behind in my blogging. What a busy month this has been!

First off, we attended an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party...

Caleb had a mini music concert...

Jansen sang in a 3rd grade program at Christmas in the Park...

Caleb actually talked to Santa...

We rang the bell for the Salvation Army...

I made class candy bars for Jansen's school party, which I downloaded from Hello Cuteness's Facebook page....

Josh and I spent some time together in Kemah....

We had Christmas with my in-laws...

We spent Christmas on a cruise (to be posted later)...

The day we got back from the cruise, we had Christmas with my parents (pictures posted later).

And I am so tired that I honestly don't even want to anything for the rest of the year, even though there are only two days left. Oh rest and relaxation, I welcome you.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

End of the semester

Grades are in.... and I have a 4.0 baby! 

I am so thankful and I really feel like I worked hard for those grades. 

This week, I made a visit to one of my professors this semester and had a really great heart-to-heart. This semester was a struggle. A REAL struggle. This last course was something that I just couldn't figure out how to study for, and although my professor was very jovial and fun, I thought things were very disorganized and and was thrown off by lab and the lack of guidance she provided. 

About six weeks in, I had enough. I had a world class meltdown, actually cried in lab, and cursed the day that I signed up for the class. I met with her, and after speaking to her, I really changed my whole attitude. It seemed like the way to go would be to expect the unexpected, and instead of complaining and getting bogged down on how unfair I thought things were, I decided to just suck it up buttercup and change my outlook. 

I threw myself into that class full force. I prepped, and prayed, and did my best to keep my emotions in check. Some days that worked better than others but for the most part, I felt personal growth. 

Thursday, I checked my grades and found I got an A in that class. I literally cried for a moment. Then I emailed my professor. 

I met with her, and she listened to me, explained a lot, and really made her teaching style make sense. While I went in thinking one way, I came out of her office thinking another. She emphasized the hands-off nature of the class as a strategy. One that I initially fought against, but learned to appreciate. She explained that she observed us all semester, giving us the opportunity to think critically and develop problem solving skills. She emphasized that these are skills that people either have or they do not have. She needed to see that in her students. She saw that in me. She noticed all the things that I had been working so hard on and that was very validating for me.

It's one thing to hear encouraging words from your friends and family, but it is another to hear it from someone who really has no stake in your success other than to teach you a semester. She said that she saw me as a leader in the class and that it seemed like I set the tone. When I was positive about something, the class seemed more positive and when I showed signs of stress, the class did as well. It was interesting to hear her say that because I had about 5 classmates texting, emailing, and calling me through the semester for support and for help. I enjoy helping others. If I am able to do it, I want to help. So it was gratifying to hear her say she noticed. 

She gave me some great advice and even suggested that I continue going on to get my Masters. Having spoken with her at the end of the semester really put the whole 16 weeks in perspective. I understood her methods. They made a lot of sense. I am so glad it is over though! Moving on to the holiday season! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Update on the season of giving...

I took my last final yesterday and am finished with all of my prereqs for nursing school. Next step is to apply and take the entrance exam in January, then wait to see if I get in. Praying and hoping. 

Anyway, in the midst of all the school ending chaos, I am working with the kids on thinking of others and wanted to update what we did this week. 

The boys and I delivered the food/meals we purchased.

We were lucky enough to be able to donate some money toward a fund for cancer treatment for a friend's father. (and if you have a few extra bucks that you are looking to donate toward a good cause, here is the link to the fund.....

I provided snacks to my class before finals to show support and hopefully get everyone in a good mood. 

We pooled our money to give our tutor a gift card for the holidays.

The boys and I rang the Salvation Army bell in 45 degree, misty rain. We bundled up and the kids had a really great time. And thanks to the manager of Food King (the store where we were ringing) for bringing us some hot chocolate when we began, and to my mother for bringing us some more hot chocolate midway through our 2 hour shift.)

We shared the adoption of a child from the Salvation Army Christmas tree with my mother. She purchased the toys and items the little boy wanted and I purchased the clothes. Jansen helped pick out a jacket, 2 shirts, and 2 pairs of jeans. 

So far so good. I am going to be buying some toys for the drive at my husband's work in the next couple of days, and we are still working on a few other things. But now, I must clean my house as the Autism Specialist from the school district will be making a home visit this afternoon to help us out a bit. The last thing I want is for my house to be a total wreck when she gets here. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thinking of others...

My little family is abundantly blessed. I am enormously grateful for the life that I have and hope that I can teach my children about how charmed their life is, and what a even greater blessing it is to help others. 

Giving. It is probably my favorite part of the Christmas season. I wish that we were able to do more during the remainder of the year, but it is easier to do it at this time. I am really working on teaching my children about the beauty of giving to others in need, and just thinking outside of themselves. It will be a much bigger lesson and more of a struggle for Caleb to internalize because of his Autism. But I refuse to let that just be an excuse for him to not do anything. 

In an effort to share the love and teach my children about the beauty of doing for others, we are making a list of things to do before Christmas. My hope is that we can do many of these things throughout the year as well. 

  • Pay for lunch for the person behind us in the drive-thru line. We did this at Taco Bell the other day and I think that is so fun! The person behind us has no idea who we are and hopefully that helped brighten their day. 
  • Ring the bell for the Salvation Army. We have this scheduled for Monday night. It's going to be freezing and we have a 2 hour shift. But on the up side, what an amazing way to show my kids that there are people out there that may not have homes and warm clothing and what an awesome way for them to see that first hand. And, they are doing service by ringing the bell and encouraging others to donate their loose change to a very worthy cause!
  • Pack some shoe boxes for needy kids around the world. Every year we do this and I love it. My kids are slowly learning that we are buying small gifts for others. It's a difficult lesson. We picked two little boys and filled the boxes with stickers, race cars, candy, and other little toys and turned them in to our church for delivery. 
  • We have "adopted" a little boy from the Salvation Army Christmas tree along with my mother. This little boy needs clothes, a jacket, underwear, and socks. It breaks my heart to see children who are asking for practical things...things that I feel are basically necessities. He is going to get clothing from us, but he is also going to get some goodies as well. I want him be happy this season. My kids need to help provide this and share in the blessings. 
  • The boys are creating Christmas cards to deliver to a local nursing homes. Some of these people don't have family members to share the holidays with, and hopefully my kids' faces and cards will give them a bit of happiness this season. 
  • My mother's high school principal is now living in an assisted living. My mom occasionally takes him to some of his medical appointments and he is a big lover of sugar free candy. We are going to buy him a couple bags of his favorite candy and deliver them next week. 
  • My husband told us that his block at work does a toy drive much like Toys for Tots. He said that the box is empty. Oh heck no! He gave me the go ahead to just buy several toys for a boy and a girl to deliver to that dang empty box. 
  • Jansen and I gathered food to deliver tomorrow to our local food pantry. I talked to him about not just picking a can of food, but to think about a family of 4. Think about a mom, dad, and two kids, not unlike our own family. Think about what this family would need to eat in one day...and provide that plus a few goody snacks. So Jansen picked a box of variety oatmeal packets and a big box of Pop Tarts for breakfast. He chose packages of macaroni and cheese, cans of tuna and chicken, and cans of soup for some quick lunches. For dinner he chose a package of spaghetti and a can of meat sauce with a couple of cans of veggies. For a snacks he picked a box of microwave popcorn bags and a box of hot chocolate mixes with mini marshmallows. Love that boy!
My hope would be that we can fill a shoe box each month, so that by the time Christmas rolls around again, we can provide for 12 children. I also want to provide a day's worth of meals to our food pantry each month. It's the very least we can do. I hope that both of my boys can learn that it means more in life to provide for others, in big or small ways, than to only think of themselves. Just think of others. Hold the door open for people. Help out the elderly lady trying to load heavy groceries into the car. We never know what others are going through at any given moment and it is an honor to be able to bless someone with a hand, kind words, a meal, clothing, or gifts at Christmas. 

Merry Christmas everyone! It is right around the corner!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A bit of Christmas decor...

School is almost over! I gave my final presentation this afternoon on Bacterial Endocarditis, complete with power point slides, photos, etc and it turned out well. I am hoping that I got an A on it. My voice didn't shake, I spoke slowly and confidently, and didn't pee my pants. Success!!!

The weather here has been in the 30's this week and drizzly rainy, which in South Texas means Christmas is right around the corner!

Christmas decorations are going up...

We had to buy a new tree this year, and my husband found a train he really wanted on sale at Toys R Us that he just had to get. I think it looks pretty cute. 

Our mantle is decorated with our cute stockings, and we are ready for a fire. 

It's beginning to look like Christmas at our house. We will be out of town for Christmas this year, so I am really glad to get the decorations up early. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Microbiology "unknown" project

Blessed. I am so blessed. I am blessed that I have a super supportive...although mostly absent husband who encouraged me to go back to school and pays for it. I am blessed that I have two children who are older and require less hands-on child-rearing every minute of the day. I am blessed that Caleb has Autism because every bit of progress he makes is cause for great celebration. I am blessed that Jansen has a sweet and helpful spirit and is developing a wonderful, independent, and responsible nature. I am blessed to have parents who are always willing to help watch the children for me after school and/or on weekends while I study and do school work. I am blessed to have a part-time job that gives me just enough of what I need. 

I am feeling so relieved this evening as I am looking at the end of this semester square in the face. In lab semester my group has struggled. I struggled so much that several days, I sat at my table and cried. The material is really difficult and we were frequently left with little supervision. It took me quite a while to get used to this style and just accept it. I have yet to embrace it, but having gone through it, it has made me even more self sufficient. 

All semester, we have been told about this big "unknown" project. We have been working toward it the whole time. Each week, we "learned" new biochemical tests, different bacteria, and so on, and had no idea how it was all going to come together. I learned that the "unknowns" in life make me very anxious. For this particular unknown, I spent three days creating a detailed chart for a 14 Gram Positive bacteria and 16 Gram Negative bacteria. I spent two more days creating a flow chart full of tests to isolate each one, still not knowing how this is all going to play out. But having a plan on paper made me more comfortable. 

Last Thursday, we were told to choose a numbered test tube. I chose #48 because that is my favorite number. Each tube had both an unknown gram positive and unknown gram negative bacteria in it. We had 9 days to complete all tests and come up with results. 

I noted the color in the tube, it's cloudiness, and began testing and taking pictures. 

I gram stained once and got beautiful results. Purple gram positive rods and pink gram negative rods. We could have had rods or cocci, gram positive or gram negative or any combination of them. 

Next, I had to isolate both bacteria. So before I left, I did 4 streak plates on 4 agars (TSA, BHI, NA, and PEA) and put them in the incubator.

On Friday morning, I came in to analyze the growth. The best growth came out on BHI and I had two separate colonies of bacteria, visually quite different. After comparing that growth to the one on PEA, I knew that the large, flat, irregular colonies were my gram positives, and the small, orange, pin point colonies were my gram positives. 

I took a sample from each colony and did another gram stain on each...and although it took me four times, I finally got a pure sample of each. I transferred a bit from each plate to put on a slant for incubation over the weekend.

I also took my gram negative and did a streak plate on MacConkey's agar to incubate over the weekend. Those results would put me a bit ahead of the game on Monday.

Monday morning, I took out my gram negative and noted that it grew, but didn't turn red showing fermentation, so I noted that it was a negative result. 

So then I took a sample from my slant and did and Oxidase test, which turned blue in 4 seconds, yielding a positive result. 

Thankful, I moved on to prepare the next test that would give me differentiation between the two gram negative bacteria that met all the above requirements. It was a 48 hour test, so I wanted to get that one going quickly. I did the Methyl Red-Voges Proskaur test and got it in the incubator, hoping that in two days, I would have an answer. 

Knowing that I needed a confirmation test, and notating that the two gram negatives had different colored colonies, I thought that I had Aeromonas hydrophilus. So I went ahead and did a catalase test, hoping it would turn out positive, indicating a positive result and confirming AH. Bubbles appeared under oil in the microscope and I felt so thankful. 

So then I turned to my gram positive. I had a pure sample so I started with an Acid fast test, which turned purple indicating a negative result. 

That narrowed down my options. Then, instead of doing wet mount test for motility (which would give me a result the same day but is super, super difficult), I set up a SIM motility test, which takes 24-48 hours. That went into the incubator and I moved on. The nest test was a nitrate reduction test, so I set that one up, and got it in the incubator to check along with the motility test the next day. 

I did a catalase test for that one to record the results and got bubbling immediately, so it was positive. 

Tuesday morning, I came in to check my SIM motility and it was positive for growth and movement. 

I checked the nitrate reduction, and added the reagents, praying for a change to the color red, which meant I was on the right track. Red, it was!!

I was so close to the answer. When I checked the chart, I was down to Bacillus cereus, and needed a confirmation test. So I did an endospore test. That I was able to view immediately, within 20 minutes, and it was positive for endospores, confirming BC. 

Wednesday morning, I was able to take my 48 hour MR-VP test out and add the reagents. I waited an hour for results, and it turned out red for positive. I compared that to the chart and confirmed it to be AH. 

Now I had taken all my pictures and left the school itching to get home to put it all together and be finished with it. 

I created a neater version of my testing chart for each, my flow chart for each, and then added a Word document with the photos of my tests as I worked toward my result. Tomorrow, I will be heading to school in the morning to turn it all in and it only took 5 days. Oh, how I hope it is correct. 

This class has taken over my life. All that is left is a 10 minute presentation next week and a final after Thanksgiving. We took our 4th test, and turned in a lab quiz, and a lab report that we are waiting to be graded. 

Almost done!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New family member!

Our family has grown by another 1...and is now complete. We have three boys and three girls to complete this family of 6. 

Last weekend we adopted a new female poodle. She was found in September as a stray, was matted and gross, and had rotten teeth and mammary tumors. We patiently waited while the rescue agency took care of all of her needs and got her healthy, and then started jumping the hoops of adoption. Finally, last Sunday, we were cleared and she was healthy. 

We drove to La Porte to the foster mom's home and visited for a while. When everyone was comfortable, we brought her home. 

Please welcome, Vivian Rosette Powell (aka Vivi-Rose). 

This is our little family and we are super happy. This week has been an adventure, getting her used to her new home and family, letting Tatum get used to her new sister, trying to figure out how to keep them separate while I am in school just in case. Tatum is occasionally prissy with Vivian, but for the most part, they just ignore each other. This is fine with me for the most part. 

She is so chill, she makes Tatum look hyper, and I have always described Tatum as the laziest dog on earth. Vivian is just a little angel. I wish I weren't in school so I could spend more time at home with them, but I only have 4 weeks left...thank you sweet Baby Jesus...and then I can get a break. 

Welcome home sweet Vivian!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

This mom is so glad Halloween is over!

The kids had fun, but oh I am so glad it is over. 

It poured down raining all day before Halloween and the day of and finally quit about two hours before trick or treating started. As usual, we had our friends over, took the kids out, and then came back for 50 cent Sonic corn dogs. The kids were so hyper!

This year, even my friend and I got in on the "costume" action.

Here are the obligatory Halloween pictures...

Trick or Treat!!!!