Friday, November 8, 2013

RHS Band Marches at UCM Homecoming

Just remembered that I had done nothing with the one and only parade we got to watch this year!  The Ruskin High School Golden Eagle Marching Band marched well in Warrensburg.  We thoroughly enjoyed the parade.  This was Ainsley's first time out as our primary photographer and videographer and she did a fabulous job.  She took more than 200 photos of the parade!  That's far too many to share, so I will only share a few.
We loved the bands.  There were SO many from surrounding school districts.  I was especially impressed at the bands who marched along, some with fewer than 20 members and with drums/sousaphones that were clearly aged and infirm.  But they were great! 
I especially loved the bands in black and gold uniforms.  Plus, this band had capes.  Everybody loves a good cape when they are marching.
And look at this twirler!  I thought Ainsley did a great job of catching her demeanor.  She was doing an amazing job of twirling and tossing and catching that baton without looking the least bit stressed out.  She was just marching along, la-di-da, not a care in the world, and never dropped it!
After a VERY long wait, we finally got to see Ruskin.  The first pass by, we realized we were on the wrong side of the street.  You can barely see Jarom in this first video.
We cut across an alley so we could watch the band go by again.  This time, we did a better job of positioning ourselves so we could see Jarom.  In the process, I came close to knocking over an innocent bystander.  Fortunately, he was a good sport.  You can hear him cheering the band on.
In the last video, we are mostly behind the band.  We knew we had to quit following them at this time, but they were starting up my favorite cadence and it is pretty fun to watch them go!

Ruskin High School Orchestra Concert, November 7, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013 was the first orchestra concert of the year for Ruskin High School and our Ainsley's first concert with the full high school orchestra.  They played six songs. We did not catch everything on videotape, but here is what we have!

A snippet of Perseus by Newbold:

A snippet of Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov/Alshin:

Ugh.  I can only get two snippets to load.  I will try separating into multiple posts or I may try uploading to facebook. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's that time of year again: November

Once November arrives, the social networking sites come alive with those who want to express gratitude for something new every day.  It's a lovely thought, and a great reminder to count our blessings, be they big or small.  I'm not much for posting anything daily, but today I have been feeling the love and the gratitude for where we live.  This is a crazy world we live in.  There is so much to be disappointed in, and so much to be fixed or changed.  But today, as I was driving through my neighborhood, instead of seeing the problems, I saw the things I love.  I don't live in one of those neighborhoods that is considered desirable.  I live in a neighborhood that is reasonably priced with schools that have a bad reputation in many ways.  I have lived in this part of Kansas City for more than fifteen years.  And after fifteen years here, in spite of its quirks, there is a lot to love here.  Like this tree:
The trees in Kansas City are always beautiful, but especially in the fall.  This particular tree is hanging over my driveway.  It is one of the trees that is not only colorful, but also very healthy so as not to pose an immediate threat to my care or home.  I love this tree, and the colorful ones that peak over the roof of my house when I pull into the drive.  
While I am thinking of it, I love this house.  Like the neighborhood, it has its quirks.  Some of them came with the house and some we have inflicted on it, but I still love this house.  It isn't big and it needs more fixes than I can list, but this is the home where I have raised my children.  Our oldest two children may vaguely remember apartments before this house, but this is the home that has taken care of our family for so many years. In spite of its problems, I love it.  This is also the home where we lived when all of our children headed off to school for the first time.  Speaking of which:
I love this school.  It has its ups and downs, but all of my children have attended this school for grades K-5.  It may not meet the standards when we compare to other schools in nicer neighborhoods, and yet, my children have learned a lot here.  And I love that we are part of the community formed by our schools.  When I need to stop by the elementary school for PTA something-or-other and happen to have a teenager with me, I love that they get to see some of their old teachers and that they can't keep from poking around to see how things have changed since they moved up.  I like that as my younger children move up through the schools, their teachers can easily connect them to a family since they know my older children.   I love that I have friends (and my children have friends) who we have known since Kindergarten.  And I love the teachers and staff who continue to stay in our district, in spite of its problems, and who keep working to make a difference. 

Today, I am just grateful to be where I am.  I am grateful for the familiarity that comes from living in the same place for a long time.  I may hope for a bigger house with two bathrooms or a nicer neighborhood or better schools, but until that happens, there is a lot to love here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Update on the Hate

Just a quick post:  In spite of my general dislike of the smell and taste of many essential oils, I am adjusting.  Gradually, I am coming to depend on the most detestable (in smell and flavor) of all oil blends:  DigestZen.  If I have a bout of nausea, it helps quickly.  In my last post, I had taken DigestZen internally in a capsule because I find the taste so offensive.  Since then, I have been using it quite often and have found that it works more quickly if I just take a drop of it without the capsule.  It is strong, but it is not any worse than your standard cough medicine.  When I take it this way, it also works quickly and clears my sinuses at the same time. 

In addition, on the very rare occasion that I have heartburn, DigestZen calms it very quickly.  I am hoping that using it regularly will also help to calm the reflux that has damaged my vocal chords.  This type of reflux (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux or LPR) normally does not cause pain or burning, so there is no warning that it is causing damage.  At this point, it is just hope and speculation, but I feel confident that I won't do any additional damage by trying.

Another oil that I am using frequently:  melaleuca.  No joke!  I use it on cuts or scrapes, which happen frequently around here.  It is supposed to help all manner of skin ailments, so I am also hoping it may help to conquer the dandruff that is running rampant in our household!

More to come later. ;)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Essentil Oils, Part Three: I Hate You Then I Love You

Why do I hate the things that are good for me?  It is sad but true.  Most things that are good for me are also disgusting to me.  Case in point:  90% of the alternatives to traditional medicine, including essential oils.  No joke!  I have tried various alternatives to traditional medicine over the years and have always been discouraged by their grossness.  I tried medicinal herbal teas.  Guess what?  Any tea related to a condition I have is guaranteed to taste foul.  Throat Coat? Tastes distinctly of black licorice.  Everyday Detox (to improve liver function)?  A vile combination of flavors I cannot even describe.  Breathe Easy?  More licorice combined with other gross things.   Ditto for the smell of most essential oils.  I like the smell of citrus based oils and little else.

So, here I am, trying alternatives again.  I am sorry to tell you that I still hate them.  Really.  I am not an easy sell on these essential oils because I really don't like the smell or the taste of nearly all of them.  The more beneficial they are, the more I despise them.  That might be a tiny exaggeration, but not much. Unfortunately for me, they seem to work.  Sigh.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. Frankincense.  A famous and highly valuable essential oil.  It smells and tastes absolutely foul.  Most people find the smell exotic, but I am not most people.  Unfortunately, it has helped to reduce the severity of a migraine when a drop or two is rubbed on the roof of the mouth. I have heard anecdotes from other people that it can lessen the severity and length of seizures and many other ailments.

2. Lemongrass:  Helpful in treating migraines and in lowering cholesterol.  It has such a STRONG smell of both lemon and grass that it is overwhelming to my senses.  My husband loves it.  So do many other people, just not me.

3.  Oregano:  Ok, this one is not totally vile, it just kind of smells a little like italian food which is a weird smell to have on your body or to taste (if taken internally) sans food.  Unfortunately, it is anti-everything:  anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic.  Of all the luck.  My creepy toenail has never looked so good as it has since I started using oregano oil!

4. OnGuard:  This is a blend made only by DoTerra.  It is also an anti-everything to prevent and treat colds and flus and whatever.  It kills germs, pathogens, mold, fungi and I am sure the list goes on.  99% of the world loves the smell of this stuff. I am the 1%.   I have found that the smell improves greatly when blended with a drop or two of citrus.  I have no idea if it has prevented anyone in our house from getting sick (since you can't measure an absence of something) but I have noticed that some places in my house full of plumbing problems are easier to clean and do not get scummy build up as quickly.  We use this regularly in the diffuser.

5.  DeepBlue: Another DoTerra Blend.  It smells mostly of wintergreen and the smell is VERY strong.  I don't despise wintergreen, but it's a little much for me at times.  I don't really want to use it for a perfume, but this blend has become one of my favorites.  I have a few spots - my wrists and one hip -- that get cranky and painful pretty easily.  Massaging the area with DeepBlue has been surprisingly soothing.  It helped my hip so much!  I actually ran out and am waiting for my next bottle to arrive.

6. DigestZen:  A DoTerra Blend of some of the nastiest flavors known to man, including ginger, anise, fennel and coriander.  What I hate and love the most about this is that it really works well on nausea.  I had a whopper of a migraine last night and a nasty round of vomiting.  Did the migraine cause the vomiting or did the vomiting cause the migraine?  I have no idea but it was awful and I was miserable for a very long time.  I couldn't sleep or even rest, just moan and squirm around trying to find a way to lay that hurt less whenever I wasn't hanging out in the bathroom,.  When I had a moment of clear brain, I remembered that I could try the oils.  I could not bear the thought of swallowing anything, but I read up on vomiting.  There were many recommendations, but the easiest to follow was to put oregano and DigestZen in a capsule.  I managed to get it down (and it stayed down) and my nausea began to ease up.  I followed up by rubbing the DigestZen on my abdomen, and then repeating the regimen any time the nausea returned.  I have also used it to calm heartburn and general stomach cramping after eating something I shouldn't.

Enough for now - I could go on, especially with the DoTerra blends.  They work surprisingly well, but that doesn't mean I am enjoying their smell or taste.  I still hate them less than the alternatives.  And, just like I have found ways to make vegetables more palatable (except for cooked spinach-that's never happening), I will find ways, hopefully, to adjust to the smells and tastes of essential oils.  We'll see.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Essential Oils, Part Two

So, I've been trying to figure out using essential oils. A few weeks ago, I was filling up my vitamin box, trying to get in the habit of taking my vitamins, again.  I started pawing the shelf of medicine in our cupboard and ending up throwing away at least half of it. There were loads of expired prescriptions and just a bunch of stuff that the doctor has prescribed that I don't want. I found the old bottles of ADD medicine that two of my children used to take as well as the multiple medications my doctor had prescribed for my migraines. I used to take a blood pressure pill that was supposed to lessen the frequency of migraines, as well as a monster pill that I would take when my migraines got to the point that I was severely nauseated and seeing floaters and not able to function.

I haven't refilled any of my medications since October and I told my husband a while back that I thought it had been about two weeks (since that time of month) since I had had a monster headache. I used to get them 4-5 days/week.  Using the preventative medication, I'd still get at least two per week. Even with medication, I often got headaches that would last for several days at a time. The last really bad migraine I got was during my menstrual cycle, which I think is probably just something I will live with forever.

I really feel like getting that medicine totally out of my system and beginning to use the essential oils is making the difference. When I get a headache, I can often head it off with the pasttense (a blend by DoTerra which includes peppermint, wintergreen, frankincense and ?) before it gets too bad. And I do not wake up fuzzy in the morning (as I would have with medicine) or with the headache still raging. If the essential oils only do this one thing for me, that is still $108 per month in medicines I am no longer refilling and a lot of peace of mind from not worrying about what those heavy medications are doing to me and my cranky liver.

One of the websites that has been hugely helpful in educating me is

It is a treasure trove of information!  I am still learning, and hoping that I can use the oils to heal  my throat, that is still prone to laryngitis, my liver that is always cranky, and the allergies that plague our whole family!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Journey with Essential Oils, part one

If that's not a title that will send you running for the hills, what will?  It has all the harbingers of doom, beginning with 'my journey'and ending with something that clearly points to the whackos who trust bizarre medical treatments over their trusted physicians.  Nonetheless, here I go.  My apologies in advance if you continue reading.

I used to be a big supporter of traditional medicine.  My mother and grandmother are nurses.  Medical advances are wonderful and we are so blessed to live in  a time where these advances are readily available to most who live in our country.  If you get sick, the easiest road to recovery is clearly medicine!  If I suffered from a headache or a stuffy nose or a fever or whatever, I took medicine.  Most of the time, it worked.  I took my kids for their  yearly checkups and saw my doctor regularly for my own checkups.  I have always been very well behaved.

Gradually, however, over the past 3-4 years, I became dissatisfied with traditional medicine for my children and myself.  One of my children was taking medicine for attention deficit disorder.  It had been a long battle.  She didn't respond to medicines the way most people do and so it took some work to find one that was effective for her.  We went through several medications, including one that caused scary hallucinations, and eventually found one that helped  Once we found that medicine that would help her to keep it together in school, so she could think well enough to finish her sentences and do her work, she also had the side effects.

First and foremost, she didn't want to eat.  Ever.  So she became painfully thin, we worried about her weight, and we had to teach her that she had to eat regardless of whether or not she wanted to eat.  She could not pay attention to hunger cues to let her know when to eat because she didn't get them.  Can you see the danger sign flashing in red above our heads?  We did not.

Second, she couldn't sleep.  She wasn't misbehaving.  She sincerely could not sleep.  She was often up until midnight or later, with all of us frustrated because she couldn't sleep and she was miserable laying in the bed not sleeping.  My husband and I were frustrated too.  The solution our doctor offered was to give her another medicine that would help her to sleep.  It worked for a while.  Then as she got older, it was less effective and I was more frustrated that she still wasn't sleeping.  The solution?  More of the "make you sleep" medicine, which was actually a blood pressure pill.  So, my adolescent daughter was on blood pressure pills to make her sleep because her ADD medication made it impossible for her to sleep.   After more than four years of this battle, I had enough.  I talked to the doctor about switching medication, and she suggested we try just the blood pressure pill without the "you-won't-want-to-eat-or-sleep pill."  Enough.  We stopped.

I remembered when we first started battling ADD.  Our daughter was in second grade.  We insisted on some extra testing for allergies and other disorders.  When we finally determined the main culprit really was ADD-Inattentive type, the doctor told me that she would support us in whatever type of treatment we chose.  She also assured me that she had no objection to alternative treatments, but that in her experience, parents tried all the alternatives, saw no results and then came back to the doctor for medication.  I trusted her, so I skipped the alternatives at that point.  So, several years later when we decided to stop the medication, I didn't tell the doctor.

Believe it or not, now that she is older, she has learned to manage it herself.  I am learning to accept that she will always move at her own speed.  She still struggles to finish her sentences and collect her thoughts.  She also has very high grades, has been accepted into the gifted program and was elected to Student Council this year.  And, she sleeps.  We still have work to do in helping her learn to follow hunger cues, instead of ignore them but overall, she is better.  She still struggles with allergies and we are still learning how to deal with those.  More on that later.

Now, for myself, I also gradually became dissatisfied with my doctor.  I love my doctor.  She is smart and kind and practical.   I stayed with her for quite a while.  She cared for me through a couple of surgeries, a bout of laryngitis that left me voiceless for two weeks, and several other minor bumps and bruises.  She also kept a close eye on my blood sugar, always a concern since I had gestational diabetes when  I was pregnant.  She was sympathetic with my pitiful attempts at weight loss, which were mostly unsuccessful.  She gave me some borderline diabetes medications to try and hold it off a few more years.  She never suggested I meet with a nutritionist and she never discussed my diet with me, other than to suggest I stay away from concentrated sugars.  I appreciated that she was not overbearing.  Except, she did really like to prescribe medicines, especially new ones that cost more than the standard $8 co-pay.  She kept an eye on my blood work and kept tabs on the medications I took for migraines and to attempt to keep my allergies and reflux under control so I wouldn't lose my voice again.

Last summer, I went to see my doctor for a long overdue check up.  I explained that I had been working all night and had not fasted the recommended eight or more hours.  I also explained that I had not been taking any of my medication at all so I didn't know if blood tests would be meaningful since they clearly would not tell us if the medications she had recommended were effective.  She reassured me that it would be good to have the information. She gave me a blood glucose monitor and promised to call and let me know how often to test my blood sugar based on my test results.  The results came in:  my blood sugar was too high, as expected.  She did not say anything about the promised recommendation to begin tracking my blood sugar or to adjust my diet or exercise.  Her recommendation?  Immediately begin injections of a medication I had never heard of before.   That was the limit of my tolerance and trust of her recommendations.  I decided I would have to figure it out on my own.

Not too long after that, I heard a friend talking about essential oils.  She had been using them with great success, and she was very persuasive.  I was extremely skeptical about trying alternative treatments.  I had tried (and disliked) all sorts of homeopathic remedies and all natural cleaners before.  Most of them tasted like black licorice and/or smelled like really strong incense.  No thank you!  I read more of my friend's experiences and some other sources as well and decided it was worth trying.

At the beginning of November, I went to a class on using DoTerra essential oils.  DoTerra oils were said to be stronger, safer and more therapeutic than similar products.  My friend's personal experiences using the oils were compelling.  The company seemed reputable.  I decided to give it a try.  I ordered a kit that included a modest assortment of basic oils that could be used in a variety of ways.  I was specifically interested in using oils to treat allergy and sinus issues, ADD, migraines and any other minor ailments that cropped up.  This is just the beginning - more coming soon!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Now that it is officially 2013, it seems appropriate to drop any pretense that I will be sending out the rest of our Christmas cards.  Here is our Christmas letter for this year:

Poll:  How do you feel about family letters included with a Christmas card?
a.  They are obnoxious.  It's just one more way to brag about your family's miniscule accomplishments.
b.  Yawn.  They make me sleepy.  I read them on Christmas Eve when I can't get to sleep.
c.  I can take them or leave them. 
d.  I prefer pictures.
e.  I like the to hear the news from my friends and family.  Bring it on!

If your answer was "a": We apologize and suggest you toss this in the trash and move on with your life. We promise not to be offended.  

If your answer was "b": Just add this to the stack you are saving for your next bout of insomnia, especially if it doesn't arrive before Christmas Eve!

If your answer was "c": Hmmm, we have no advice.  Do as you wish.

If your answer was "d":  We are low on pictures at the moment.  Try to imagine what we looked like last year and add more hair (except for Michael) and wrinkles on everyone.  We'll do better next year. 

If your answer was "e":  Here's our news!
--> We are all older!  Michael hit the big 4-0, Jenn will reach there soon, Jarom hit 16, Ainsley is 14, Rebekah turned 12, and Holly will complete her first decade at the end of the month. 

--> For those who have not seen or heard, our church opened a temple in Kansas City this year.  This was definitely a memorable and important time for our family.  Before the dedication, we toured the temple with our kids.  Michael and I each had an opportunity to help as volunteers during the temple open house.  Even more thrilling, Jarom and Ainsley (and 3000 other teenagers from our area) were part of the Cultural Celebration at Municipal Auditorium in honor of the temple dedication.  It was an amazing show!  

-->This year, for the first and only time, our kids are all attending school in different buildings.  This has added a new kind of crazy to our lives! 
*Jarom attends Ruskin High School and survived his first year in the high school drumline.  We had no idea the kind of time commitment this required, but it was *so* much fun to watch him march with the band!  He plays  Bass Drum #3.  Now that concert band has resumed, he is back to spending his time mostly on the marimba.

*Ainsley attends Hickman Mills Junior High.  She is an excellent student and was recently accepted into   our district's gifted program.  She also continues to play violin in the orchestra and she was elected to the Student Council!  She has been a little disappointed that they have not had a meeting since the elections, but I am sure she will have them falling into line soon.

*Rebekah attends Smith Hale Middle School.  She is also an excellent student and she plays the cello in    the orchestra.  She is the first chair in the cello section for the whole sixth grade!   Since she turned 12 in September, she now gets to participate in the youth programs at church.  She is also becoming a social butterfly, being the first of our kids to burn up the phone lines & invite friends over!

*Holly is our last child still at Burke Elementary in fourth grade.  She recently starred as Goliath in a video production of "David and Goliath," performed by the Activity Day girls at church.  She gave a moving and dramatic performance.  She also participated in the Twelfth Night Feast for school (as an ox horn dancer) and, we are told, had her picture in the Kansas City Star.  She will be available for autographs during Christmas vacation.  You can check our family website for her schedule of appearances.

-->One other major event this year: Michael graduated summa cum laude from Columbia College with a B.A. in history.  We are *so* proud of his accomplishment!  He took a (very short) break and is now working on his master's degree in public administration. 
--> Jenn is still here, doing the same things, praying for a clone or a little more brain power to keep up with everyone else!

Enough of that!  From our family to yours, with *much* affection, we wish you a beautiful holiday season, celebrating with those you love most.

The Ort Family