We Finally Have Answers!

IMG_1062This is such an exciting post for me to write! I posted a little bit about this on Facebook, but haven’t felt up to blogging about it until today (you know…being huge pregnant and all, I’m kind of tired).

About a month ago, we had a blood allergy test done on Em. My last post about the Magical Cream actually left off with that…we were waiting to have the test done. That was a whole crazy experience that involved having to go twice because they couldn’t find a vein to stick the first time. We finally got answers though.

They tested her for all the top allergens, plus tomatoes because we suspected she had an allergy to those. Well. She reacted to everything. EVERYTHING. It’s kind of humorous because I’ve always joked that she’s allergic to everything. Little did I know, she actually was! Egg yolk, egg whites, wheat, corn, peanut, soy, and tomato…all positive. And this was in addition to the dairy, cinnamon, and cumin that we already knew about. Sheesh. She had “class I” reactions to everything except for soy, that was a “class II”.

I read so many mixed reviews on what to do with that information. From cut out everything to cut out nothing because it could just be a false positive. The middle ground advice was to just cut out soy since she reacted highest to that. With the way Em’s skin has been though (FOR TWO YEARS), I decided to take it to the extreme. I just kept thinking…she has been itching for her entire life…like seriously…she probably doesn’t even know what it feels like to just be normal. She was constantly ripping and tearing at her skin, and man…that broke my heart. So we decided to be extreme and remove all of that stuff from her diet.

Honestly, I was not thrilled about it and I was very skeptical that it would even work. I kept thinking that we were going to do this major dietary overhaul for her, and nothing would come of it (hi, I’m Negative Nancy). I even went into a mild state of depression over it because I felt so overwhelmed. I kept trucking along that first week though, and realized it wasn’t so hard after all. Soy, gluten, corn, and eggs are in just about everything, so we’ve mainly just stuck to fruits, veggies, and protein for her. That hasn’t been a huge deal because she’s always been into those things anyways. The biggest issue was finding snacky items she could munch on while at playdates and around others. Thank god there seem to be a lot of allergy-friendly food brands out there, so I was able to find a few things that she could have! I’ve also gotten my bake on a few times to make her some special little treats.

I’ve had a few people ask if our whole family has gone on this diet with her, and the answer is sometimes. We’re still doing breakfast and lunch the same way we’ve always done them – everyone has whatever they want. Generally, fruit and yogurt for breakfast for the kids. Lunch is usually protein, cheese, veggies, fruit. Em can have yogurt, sheep and goat cheese just fine, by the way. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that before. There are snacks throughout the day, of course. Em has hers and Harp has his. Sometimes he eats hers, but she can’t have his (for the most part). Dinner is sometimes a 100% allergen-free meal for all of us, and other times I’ll make something like spaghetti for the whole family, and just serve hers with gluten free pasta and no tomato sauce.

I’m doing it this way for two reasons: #1) The new Em diet is way is expensive. No…like really. I spent $100 on one week’s worth of food for JUST EM. Holy cow. And more importantly #2) I’m doing it this way because she will be in school next year, and if these allergies stick around, she needs to go ahead and settle into being around other people who can eat normally without whining about it or trying to steal their food. Does that make me mean? Maybe. But this may be her life for a while. We have no way of knowing if she’ll outgrow this or not, so I’d rather her be prepared for being different when around other people.

So far, she has adjusted amazingly well! The first week was the hardest. She cried at church when she couldn’t have animal crackers like all the other kids :( Since then, I’ve been better about planning ahead. If we go anywhere that will have food, I try to know in advance what that food will be and take her something similar that she can have. We’ve since successfully gone out to eat, gone on picnics, attended playdates, and we even attended a birthday party with YUMMY cake without her shedding a tear over not being able to have what the others were having. Even tonight, I offered to make mac & cheese for dinner and she told me “I don’t like that. I’m allergic.”  I’m just super impressed by her. She is such a strong and resilient little jewel.

So now is the truly exciting part. We’re a month out from all the dietary changes and we’ve seen major improvement! Her skin looks almost completely normal. Hallelujah!

Day 1

This is her skin at it’s worst. This is when we were just treating her occasionally with steroids. She had patches like this all over – behind both legs, in the folds of both arms, behind her ears, torso, etc. It was horrible. This is right before we started using the magical cream from my last post, which helped tremendously! We started applying that 2-3 times a day, and saw a huge difference in her skin. However, she was still having flare ups because the underlying issue hadn’t been resolved yet.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of her skin when we started the dietary changes – I told you…I was overwhelmed. The first picture I took was on July 13th, and I took it because I was discouraged with her progress:

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Duh. It’s still better than the first picture. And this was also without the help of cream or steroids (I decided to take her completely off of any outside help just to see if the diet was truly helping). However, I was discouraged because with all the extreme changes, I honestly expected all flare ups to stop immediately. That is NOT what happened though, and looking back it was kind of unrealistic for me to expect that. I think her body needed time to heal and get rid of all the stuff that she had been exposed to for months on end. It should also be noted that we discovered the she is also allergic to avocado on this week, so it could’ve been a flare up to that as well.

Here’s when I really started to get excited. July 26th:

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Again, no medicine or cream. This is just her skin being her skin. And this is an absolute miracle because we’ve been fighting her rashes for TWO years. She’s never looked like this without the help of some type of medicine or cream. Unbelievable!

And then we have today’s picture: 

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#BOOM. Can y’all believe this? Because I can’t. Again…this is no medicine or cream. This is just her skin healing naturally after having all of the allergens removed! I am amazed and over the moon excited! This is the first time in two years that we’ve had nearly clear skin without the help of anything! I suspect that maybe in another month or so her skin will be completely normal – here’s to hoping! <3

So that’s the update for now. I have similar pictures of her arms and upper torso as well. It’s all healing and looks amazing! Praise be to God!

Magical Cream

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Okay. Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate the word cream…so the fact that I’m even typing it here should tell you that this is some special stuff. And it is, so listen up! We have found a magical cream that works on Emrist’s eczema.

Em has been dealing with eczema for almost her entire life. About a year ago, we finally had her tested and received confirmation of what we had suspected for a while – that she was allergic to dogs and cats (we owned a cat at the time). You can read about that journey here and here if you need to catch up.

Even though we removed our cat from the home, and kept Em’s pet dander exposure to a minimum, we continued to struggle with her eczema. In the very beginning, she would have flare-ups whenever exposed to the allergen. Her skin would turn red, itch, and sometimes bleed. We had steroids for whenever it did that, and we just did other things to manage the in-between stages. At some point, though, the flare-ups stopped going away altogether and became her natural state. I’m not really sure when that started…maybe last summer? Regardless, we’ve been dealing with chronic eczema and inflamed skin for a while now.

I’ve always HATED using the steroids, but it seemed like we had no other options. We possibly could have cleared up her eczema patches completely by using the steroids every day, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to put that stuff on her skin every day (you can see all the nasty reasons why by clicking here). We decided to use the steroids on an “as needed” type basis. Basically, anytime her flare-ups would get bad, we’d use it to heal it up, then we’d stop. It would return immediately. This is actually pretty common with steroid usage for eczema – your body becomes dependent on the meds, and you also have to keep being bumped up to a higher strength the more you use them, because your body builds up a tolerance to them.

So…I eventually resigned myself to the fact that my daughter was going to be itchy, scratchy, and completely miserable and that there was nothing I could do about it. That’s a pretty depressing feeling.

Fortunately, winter wasn’t so bad for us because we were able to keep her covered and prevent scratching for most of the season. But then summer came, and it was just too hot to keep her in long sleeves and pants all the time, so she started scratching and tearing at her skin again. Thanks to that, she now looks like she has poison ivy all over her tiny little legs. I’ve gotten so many questions about her skin since summer started that I’ve started to worry that she may hear or pick up on everyone’s comments, and start to feel self-conscious about her skin.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned a local product to me that had worked on her son’s skin when he had an allergic reaction to a dog. I’m not going to lie…I was WAY skeptical because we’ve tried so many things and haven’t had success, but I decided to try the product anyways.

I prayed that God would bring us some relief through this product before we even started using it. I’ve been so desperate for something that is natural and safe to use on her skin that actually works, so I got real with Jesus and prayed for some relief for my sweet baby. It appears that he answered my prayer. Check it out.

Day1 vs Day6

Amazing, right?! It’s a simple whip made of organic Shea butter (white) and organic coconut oil. That’s it. They do have some with essential oils in them, but we went with fragrance free for Emrist. The whip is made by a company called Cottage Industry Soap Company (you can click on that for a link to their Facebook page) and is available at the Farmer’s Market at Eastchase in Montgomery, as well as some local shops, like PepperTree. I also have it on good authority that you can message the company on Facebook (if you don’t live locally) and have them mail you some with dry ice (since it’s a whip, it’s fragile during these hot summer months).

So there’s that. The magical cream. I am so over the moon excited about it! Every time I put it on Emrist, she says it feels better and doesn’t itch. I’m so impressed and SO thankful for my friend (hey Bekah!) that told me about it!! I just wanted to share about it here too because I know I have several friends who deal with eczema in their children and don’t feel comfortable using steroids. This may be something you should try!

Also on the allergy front, we are taking Emrist to have a blood allergy test done tomorrow or Monday. Since she has been struggling with eczema so much, in spite of the removal of our cat, we want to be sure she isn’t consuming anything that is causing these flare-ups! We should have more answers soon, and hopefully I’ll find the time to update about them when we get them.

23 Weeks & An Update

Hey there!

Well…it has been a while! Five weeks to be exact. You know how it is though – the struggle is real, y’all.

First things first. As (sort of) predicted in my last post (My Super Honest Thoughts…), Benji and I totally caved at our anatomy ultrasound and found out the gender of Blobert.

IT’S A GIRL!!!!

Most of you already knew that, but I hadn’t officially blogged about the fact that we were goobers and couldn’t make it through our appointment without finding out. So…there you have it. It was actually decided that we would find out the gender after I made that post saying we were going Team Green.

You see…with Harp and Em, Benji had joked (but I thought he was serious) about not finding out the sex and I was always like NO WAY!!! So when we got pregnant this time, since I had one of each, I figured I would be patient for Benji and let this baby be a surprise. After I made that post though, we talked further about it and realized that neither of us actually wanted to wait! Haha. We’re so dumb!

We decided the night before the ultrasound to find out. We wanted to do something special though, so we decided to find out alone, and to somehow involve the kids. We ended up asking the ultrasound tech to put it in an envelope for us and when we got back to the exam room, we let Harper open it and tell us whether he saw a “B” or a “G” on the picture. We filmed the whole thing, and both kids celebrated getting a new baby sister. It’s something I’ll always cherish. I won’t even admit how many times I’ve watched that video!

I’m really glad we stayed true to ourselves and ruined the surprise. It was lovely having the kids involved, and not just sharing it between the two of us on the delivery date. I just really don’t think it would have been THAT special if we had waited to find out…and I don’t think I would’ve gotten a video either – you know how crazy birth days are!

Anyways…her name will be Mabel Ivy and we’re planning on calling her Mae, although I am trying to convince Benji to let me hyphenate her name and just call her Mabel-Ivy. You know…like a true southern lady. I just absolutely love the meaning of those names. Mabel means beautiful, loving, lovable. And Ivy means faithfulness. Mae is pretty darn cute too though, so I guess I’ll be okay with calling her by either name.

I’m currently 23 weeks and I’m feeling…pregnant. My typical back pain is starting to flare up, which SUCKS because I know I’ll be almost crippled by the time I reach the end. But whatevs. I’m hoping a visit to the chiropractor this summer will help – I’ve never tried that route before. One can dream, right? Other than that, things are pretty great!

Here’s what I spend most of my time doing:

IMG_2895Here’s how I feel on most days:

IMG_2647And here’s my most recent belly shot – this was 21 weeks and some days

FullSizeRender(2)Life is good. I’m tired. Truthfully…I just want to sleep…a lot. But work and Thing 1 and Thing 2 keep me busy constantly.

Actually…that’s another thing I can update about here. The shenanigans of Thing 2. Emrist has decided to potty train herself. Yes. You read that right. After all my postings about waiting until she was three (just like I did with Harper), she got tired of my laziness and just decided to do it herself. I know I should be super pumped about that…and part of me is (hello, less $$$ on diapers!)…but there’s another part of me that’s like WHY NOW?!?!

I don’t know. I just really wanted to wait until after Mae was born because #1 I’m tired and potty training is just one more thing to deal with. And #2 Harper’s pediatrician really drilled it into my head that you don’t potty train children before big life changing events because they will almost always regress.

With that in mind, I’ve had a really hard time committing to this…but Em has remained persistent. She randomly went #2 in the potty the Sunday before last. That’s when it all started. The next day we were at Target buying wipes, and she insisted on buying a princess potty. So we did. I continued to keep her in diapers though because like I said before…I didn’t want to commit. But she kept them dry and would tell me whenever she needed to go.

The big test came this weekend. We went to my mom’s house, and she still continued with potty training even though we were out of our routine and out of town.

I’ve literally done nothing to make this happen. If anything I’ve stood in the way of her progress because I’m an awesome mom. But yesterday, she went in and went #2 without even telling me she was doing it. So I decided that maybe this was the real deal after all, and went ahead and put her in undies today. So far, so good.

Lord have mercy though…do y’all know how messy potty training is when your independent daughter wants to do everything herself and will not let you help? It’s awful!!

IMG_2894She won’t let me do anything! She goes on her own. She empties the potty on her own – yeah…and one time the contents ended up in the floor and I stepped in it when I later walked into the bathroom. Awesome. She wants to wipe herself. And tear the toilet paper by herself. Butttttttttttt….she doesn’t have the skills to do this quite yet, so I half the time, I end up walking into the bathroom to find long streams of toilet paper all over the place. It’s MESSY. But oh well. Maybe in a week or so, she’ll really have it down, and then, if we’re really lucky, she won’t regress when Mae comes. PLEASE JESUS.

So that’s that. Life as we know it. It’s good :)

My Super Honest Thoughts At The Halfway Point

Okay. So technically, I’m not halfway there yet. I’m only 18 weeks. But…we’re just going to pretend that I’m already at the halfway point. I’m tired and I have to blog when I feel like it, not when it’s the right time.

So, here I am today…at 18 weeks. Our anatomy scan is tomorrow. We’re going Team Green with this pregnancy, and won’t be finding out the gender. So far, I haven’t been anxious to know AT ALL. I have a son and a daughter, so I have all I need. There’s just not really any pressure for me to know. However, I think I will struggle at the ultrasound tomorrow simply because the information will be at my fingertips. Benji and I aren’t really great with surprises. In the 11 years that we’ve been together, we’ve never made it to Christmas with Christmas gifts to open for ourselves. As soon as we get the gifts, we cave and let each other open them because we get so excited! So imagine the temptation we will feel tomorrow! If we can make it past the appointment without finding out, I think it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out! Fingers crossed!

This pregnancy has been unbelievably easy on me. Definitely the easiest one I’ve had so far. I’m tired, but that’s about it. I had some mild nausea and aversions in the beginning, but those have all passed now and I feel relatively normal. I’m glad to be eating my favorite veggies again, now that they don’t make me sick! I’m just blown away by how good I’ve felt for the past 18 weeks! I feel blessed for sure.

Hmmm. Cravings? None really. I mean…there’s definitely food that I want, but it changes every day. Bacon. Cake. Veggie soup. Glass bottle cokes. etc. etc. etc. I don’t have anything that I just constantly want every single day.

The most noticeable difference between this pregnancy and my last two has been my hunger level. I am starving about every two hours…no matter what I eat! It drives me insane, and I feel like I always have to have food with me because if I get hungry and nothing is there, I get super sick! Another difference is that I started showing a lot sooner this time. I’ve always heard that the more babies you have, the sooner you “pop”. Well…that has been true for me.

FullSizeRenderThe difference between 10 weeks and 14 weeks. I mean…whoa.

and then 16 weeks:

FullSizeRender(1)I was 23 weeks pregnant with Harper before I had a bump like that. Geez.

Honest moment here. I’ve really been struggling with body image and the idea of gaining weight with this pregnancy. With Harper and Emrist I didn’t really worry about what I gained, but for some reason, it’s always at the forefront of my mind with this pregnancy. I think it’s because I’m so hungry and I’m eating A LOT. I think it also may be because I lost it with ease after Harper came (like literally…40 pounds was gone three days after his birth, and I had only gained 30 lbs!), and then with Emrist it took me FOREVER to lose it. Like, a year and a half. And I had to work a lot harder than I did the first time.

I just keep thinking…how much harder will it be to lose the baby weight after #3 gets here? It seems that with each pregnancy I have, the weight is harder to get off. Maybe it has to do with my thyroid issues, or maybe it’s just my aging body. I don’t know, but I’d be lying if I told any of you it doesn’t bother me. I know it doesn’t really matter in the scope of eternity. A number doesn’t define who I am as a person. I know that stuff in my head, and I know that’s how I should feel…but I’m still struggling with “the number” in this season. That’s just where I’m at right now. Trying to keep it real :)

Sorry for that downer moment.

Let’s see what else. How about my feelings on becoming a mom of three? Well…I have been mostly unphased by the thought of having three children. I keep thinking “Meh…I’ve had two babies…I think I’ve got this mom thing down. I can do it. We’ll just go with the flow, pray, and get through it. It’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.”

^^^^THAT right there scares me though. The fact that I’m not panicking and the fact that I think I can handle three children. Isn’t that generally when one gets kicked in the face by reality….when they least expect it?

That was my experience with Harper anyways. I had heard so many stories about how hard parenthood was, about moms who dealt with PPD, etc. And every single time I heard one of those stories I thought to myself “That won’t happen to me.” I even secretly thought a newborn wouldn’t change our lives very much (LOL!!!!). I was the oldest of four and I had been a babysitter for years. I knew children. How hard could it be?

Oh poor, poor 2010 Ashley. I want to go back in time and slap that silly girl in the head. I think motherhood was especially hard on me after Harper came because I thought I knew everything and was begging to be humbled. Well, I got a large dose of humility in the form of my son. He really shook up our world and I struggled a lot. A LOT. I’m just a little afraid that I’m going to struggle again because I feel so…comfortable in my motherhood now. Does that make sense? I definitely wouldn’t say I’m a know-it-all this time…I just feel at ease, I guess. I’ve been living in Babyland for four years now, so it’s my home and I feel comfortable. Hopefully that fact won’t buy me a good shakin’ from reality ;-)

Okay. So that’s about it for now. See you in another month or so!

Baby, Baby, Baby, Ohhhh!

Everyone loves a good Justin Bieber reference, right? Jk. I know he’s annoying, but I just(in) couldn’t help myself. I needed an awesome baby related title because well…you know…I’m pregnant…with #3. Let’s pause and let that sink in for a minute. Number three. THREE. As in Benji and I will be outnumbered when this one gets here. That’s hella scary. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re rolling your eyes and saying to yourself “Ashley, you do know what causes this, right?!”  And yes…yes, I do know what causes it. BEARDS. Specifically beards worn by hot librarian husbands. Just sayin’!

In all seriousness though, this was unplanned. Again. Not that we didn’t want baby #3. We definitely did. But having just suffered a miscarriage in September, I didn’t think my heart could handle the roller coaster of emotions that come with trying to conceive a baby. With that being the case, Benji and I talked and decided that we would wait for a year before trying again.

And then BOOM! Pregnant. I found out three days after Christmas. I wasn’t even late, but I had this headache that I ONLY get when I’m a few days pregnant. After suffering from this hellish headache for 24 hours, I knew what was wrong. There was a fetus a growin’ in my uterus (said in a really redneck tone). I took a test even though it was way too early for a positive result…but sure enough two lines showed up. I hadn’t even told Benji I was going to test. He walked into the bathroom to find me laughing hysterically, like an insane person. He asked what I was laughing at and smiled when I told him I was pregnant. “Are you happy?” he asked. I think he was afraid that I had finally gone insane. I mean…I *was* in the bathroom completely alone, laughing to myself…and admittedly that’s kind of weird, but I WAS happy. Extremely happy and totally surprised. It was the perfect way to cap off the Christmas holidays.

I spent the next few weeks being really afraid of losing the baby. I’ve had two miscarriages now, and that puts me at a higher risk to have another one in the future. So while I was over the moon excited about our new little life, my excitement was dampered by my fear. It was a constant struggle. By about week seven though, I was tired it. I made a mental choice to start celebrating this baby. Even though I might lose it at some point, I decided to love and celebrate him or her while they were with me. I made my pregnancy public at that point so that people could pray for us, and hold me accountable.

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Surprisingly, it worked. Since making my pregnancy public, it has been much easier not to give into the fear. I definitely still have moments, just like any mother, but the moments are much smaller than they were. Now I’m more excited and joyful and I’m rejoicing over this new life! Whoop whoop!!

I had my first appointment on February 12th and everything looked perfect. The heart rate was 170 and measurements were exactly where they should be. We’re calling our baby Blobert for now :)

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Say hi!

So far, I’ve felt pretty great. I’ve had some mild nausea, and some very strong aversions, but other than that, I cannot complain. With Harper, I was sick all day, every day, until 20 weeks. It was terrible. With Emrist, I was only really sick for about three weeks, but it was still torture. I seem to remember it going away by week 10 though. With this pregnancy, I haven’t even thrown up! I’m not sure what to think about that. Maybe my body has just built up a tolerance to being pregnant? Who knows, but I am SO grateful. Especially considering that I have two children and I work six days a week. Maybe this is just God’s grace to me <3

Harper and Emrist are both pretty stoked. Harper gets it more than Emrist does, of course, but she seems to understand a bit too. She is really into babies, and told us this weekend that she wanted a little sister. Harper goes back and forth between saying he wants a brother and then saying he wants a sister. Honestly, I think he’ll be happy either way. He just wants a baby!

We won’t know what we’re having until September, as we are going Team Green this time. That’s right. We aren’t finding out the sex until the birthday! At this point, I don’t feel too anxious to know, but I’m wondering if I might be tempted to take a peak during the anatomy scan. I guess we’ll see. It should be in about 5 weeks.

Everyone asks if I have a preference, and truth be told, I do…but it’s not for the reasons you might think. Harper and Emrist have both been wonderful, so I would no doubt be 100% thrilled to have a boy or a girl. I really and truly would! But a part of me kind of hopes for another girl only because this is our last baby, and I think Emrist needs a close sister relationship. Harper has the type of personality that would do just fine without having a brother to be BFFs with – he’s sort of a loner anyways. But sweet Em…she is so relational. She needs that sister bond and when I picture our family a few years down the road, I just see that for her. A little sister to hold hands with and to share secrets with. I guess we will find out in September :)

Okay…that’s it for now. I really can’t believe I finally blogged. It only took 13 weeks! I guess I’ll see you guys again in about 2-3 months. Peace.

The Pensieve, 2014 Edition

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I can’t believe it’s already time to do this again. Sheesh. This post will be pretty short. I’m tired (aren’t we all?) and don’t feel like being overly chatty, but I do want to keep my yearly tradition going :) So, I’ll simply post my favorite memories pulled from the jar, and won’t bore you by saying anything further! If you want to see a recap of our 2012 and 2013 memory jars, you can view those here, The Pensieve, and here, The Memory Keeper.

Below is a picture of the ones I chose, and I’ve typed them out as well…you know, so you can actually read them! :)

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This was the first year that Harper really understood the memory jar, so he was actually able to add a few memories himself (I’ve been waiting for this moment for forever!). A couple of these are his. Since different people are now contributing, I’ll be putting the contributor’s name after each memory, along with the date.

Okay, here we go!

#1 We were all four in bed together early in the morning. Em wasn’t feeling well, and I was running my fingers through her hair. Harper started rubbing her back, and said “I love you.” Then he looked up at me and said “I love her mom. I love her!” Ashley, 08/16/2014

#2 Harper came into the kitchen at 05:45 AM. He hugged Benji, as he always does, and then told us he had had a bad dream. He said he dreamed he was a giant, and kept trying to cross a bridge, but it would always break under his weight. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard him tell us one of his dreams. Ashley, 11/19/2014

#3 We took Harp & Em to the beach for the first time. We went to Pensacola with the Huggins. The kids LOVED the beach! It was a beautiful day and the water was crystal clear. Harper kept saying “Mom, I love this!” Emrist stayed at the water’s edge for most of the time, playing in the sand. Harper kept trying to hear the ocean in the shells. He also informed me that the water tasted like corn. It was such an incredible day! Ashley, 10/26/2014

#4 Emrist took her first steps today. Daddy didn’t have to work because of the snow, so we were all home. She was pushing Harper’s tricycle and then walked to Mommy. Benji, 01/29/2014

#5 Harper’s first program. Oh my gosh! He was adorable! He was so excited and loved the spotlight! He scanned the crowd for us, and when he finally found us, his eyes did not leave us. He jumped and sang, while staring and waving at us. Emrist shouted “Hey Harper!” at one point. It was so adorable! Ashley, 12/18/2014

#6 Harper and Daddy went to the movie theater in Montgomery to see Harper’s very first movie. It was Despicable Me 2. Harper sat through the whole movie, sometimes in Daddy’s lap, sometimes in his seat. It was a fun time. Benji, 06/13/2014

#7 A firetruck visited my school. I took a picture on it. They taught me how to drive it. I went inside of it. It was so cool! Harper, 10/01/2014

#8 After a long day of flying, we had our soul friend reunion on August 8th. We spent the entire week at Jenn’s. The kids enjoyed each other’s company. We cooked, drank wine, and had good conversation. It was such a wonderful week. I was sad to see it go! Ashley, 08/08/2014 – 08/15/2014

#9 (TMI warning, but it’s just too funny not to share!). Em pooped in the potty for the first time! She came to me and told me she needed to go the bathroom. She said she wanted to use the potty, so we did. She tried really hard, but to no avail. I decided to let her walk around naked. She was playing with a toy Ferris Wheel, and looked adorable, so I decided to snap a picture. Right as the shutter snapped, I realized she wasn’t just standing there to play! I quickly scooped her up an placed her on the potter and she did it. I was so proud! But the best thing is that I got a picture of her almost pooping on the floor.  Ashley, 12/10/2014

^^^^See…I told you. TMI…but this was just three weeks ago, and I still crack up over it on a regular basis! The picture is hilarious, but unfortunately, I’m not one of those moms who can post nakey pictures of her babies on the interwebz…so unless you’re a good friend of mine, you’ll probably never get to see it. Relieved? Or sad?

#10 “It said whooooo!” Harper, in reference to an owl we heard in the woods behind our house, while it was snowing. 01/28/2014

Okay, I lied about not saying anything else. I just wanted to write and say that for me, 2014 will be most remembered as the year Montgomery finally became home to us. We’ve been here for two years, and I finally feel like we have a solid foundation beneath us. This place is home now, which is weird because I never planned on it becoming home. We’ve been blessed with lifelong friends, and a wonderful church family. We’ve made some wonderful memories, especially over the past year, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t mind staying here forever. Who knows if we actually will – that’s up to God! But I’d be happy if we did. So yeah…that’s what 2014 was about for me. Home. I can’t wait to see what 2015 holds for our family.

And lastly, here’s a picture of Harp with the jar.

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He was really into it this year! I can’t wait until Emrist is too!

 

Little Snowflake

I’m nearly a week overdue…but it’s that time again. The time when one of my babies adds another year to their life, I spend hours reliving my favorite moments gone by through pictures and videos, and then lament about the passage of time. Sigh. It’s so bittersweet! But really y’all…how does it go by so fast? I feel like it went by even quicker with Em than it did with Harp. How have two years passed?

Somehow my girl has gone from this:

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To this:

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Sweet, sweet thing.

I have so many things that I could write about her, but I really want to focus on the temporary things that she is doing right now. The things that will be completely different a year from now. Kids change so quickly!

This will probably be a bit choppy, since I’m just going to write as it comes to me, so forgive me! :)

The first thing I will write about is her pouty lip. Yeah…I know. You can’t really picture her glaring and pouting away while that shiny smiley picture sits up above, but trust me…the girl gives a mean pout pout face. Any time she is told not to do something she gives us THE look. It’s hilarious, because she is trying to look all sad and cute, but she actually comes off as mean muggin’ us whenever she does it. Do y’all even know what that means? Hit up urban dictionary, if not.

Hmmm…next we’ll talk about food. She’s a dipper. Dude…she will eat ANYTHING if she can dip into something. Give her some brussel sprouts with a side of caramel, and she will clear the plate! We don’t really feed her that, but you get the point…and you’re probably gagging now, right? Me too. The only thing she is weird about is bread and meat. She loves chicken…but that’s about it on the meat front. And bread? 90% of the time, she won’t eat it. Like, if she has a PB&J, she will lick all the PB&J off and leave the bread. But then sometimes she will eat it. She’s just an unpredictable weirdo, who eats ketchup by the spoonful.

She’s still allergic to dairy. And Benji and I are still learning how to keep that stuff away from her. I am completely serious about that statement, unfortunately. We don’t have it all figured out just yet. Dairy is in everything and it’s hard to avoid sometimes! Before having her, anytime I heard that someone had a dairy allergy, I always envisioned them just having to avoid milk and cheese. I didn’t realize that meant no goldfish, or Annie’s cheddar bunnies. No Pirate’s booty. No cake. No ice cream. Etc. And yes…I realize that those are all junk food items, but that seems to be the only time we run into this problem of stupidity on our part. “Oh, you’d like to share your goldfish with her? Sure…that’s okay!” WAIT!

I am just so dumb about this stuff. This is the first time I’ve ever dealt with someone who has food allergies. Even her birthday THIS YEAR…I ordered a regular cake. I didn’t even think about it! Then when she had a flare up, I realized…DUH…cakes are made with milk. Geez. Thank God it’s not a life threatening allergy because I am an idiot y’all. When we’re at home and in our own environment, it’s pretty easy to avoid it, but when we’re out and about or doing something different or having a special snack…that’s when it gets tricky. Hopefully this will be one of those things that does change over time! I’d hate for her to deal with this for the rest of her life.

And continuing with allergies, she is still majorly allergic to cats and dogs…and we think other animals too? She loves animals so we take her and Harp to the zoo a good bit. Any time we go though, she has a reaction…just from being around the animals. About a month ago, we took her to Pet Smart just so she could look at the animals. She had a reaction from that as well. I don’t know why she is so sensitive to animals. Her allergist said her immune system is just in overdrive. Hopefully it’ll settle down over the years.

What else? Hmm…homegirl is hilarious. She is super silly, but also very shy. This means that usually we (and a few close friends/family) are the only ones that get to see her be crazy! She’s too busy clinging to me whenever we’re around strangers, to be a goofball for everyone else. It’s a special kind of feeling…knowing that she reserves her craziness for us.

Let’s see. She is Pops’ baby. She tells us that all the time! “No…I’m not your baby…I’m Pops’ baby!” Pops is my stepdad. She loves love loves him! She loves Gran too, but I think even Gran will agree that Pops holds the keys to her heart. It’s kind of adorable.

She is also The Boss Baby. That’s what Harper calls her because she runs the freaking show around here. Harper doesn’t even put up a fight most of the time. I love their relationship. I’ve labeled them as frienemies. They fight and they cuddle…not at the same time, of course! But they do love each other fiercely! While I don’t like to see them fight, I’m not really bothered by it either. I guess it’s because I’m the oldest of four and I can remember some pretty hardcore fights between me and my siblings. We’re all BFFs now and are very protective of one another…so I guess you could say we turned out alright! I think Harp and Em are going to be the best of friends one day.  I hope so anyways.

Other than that, development wise she is 32 inches (12th percentile) and 28 lbs (69th percentile). I do believe she is going to be short like my mother…and I love it!

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

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That she is. And I love every bit of her!

The Wiener Book

Moms. Do you ever have days where you just have no idea what you’re doing? I have them often. Well…every day, really, because seriously…I don’t know what I am doing. Help me, Jesus!

I am indecisive about everything. The smallest of decisions can give me problems, so when it comes to decisions that affect my children….well, you can imagine. It might take DAYS before I decide on how I should handle something. Every possible scenario and consequence will pop into my head. My brain is like one of those choose your own adventure books.  Like…is giving my son a chick-fil-a french fry today somehow going to lead him down the path of becoming a serial killer tomorrow? You know…those types of things. Or maybe you don’t know because you’re not a freak like me. Whatevs.

But I am like this EVERY. DAY. So imagine my level of confusion (on how to handle things) when my son handed me The Wiener Book. Yeah…you read that right. THE WIENER BOOK. What in the world, right? My thoughts exactly.

Read on.

Harper told me this morning that he wanted to make a book. I handed him a folded blank notecard and told him to have at it. He came back and handed me his creation. He had it folded closed, and was calling it My Name Book. I opened it to find the letter H written inside. I smiled and told him what a great job he had done. He immediately asked for it back saying that he wanted to draw a picture of himself inside. I handed it back and he ran off. A few minutes later he returned and excitedly told me that he had drawn his wiener. I opened it up to find a self portrait that indeed included his “wiener” and I was speechless. IS THIS REAL LIFE?

He also informed me that it was no longer called My Name Book, but instead was now called The Wiener Book.

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I sat frozen, not really sure of what to do. On the one hand, I was really impressed that he had put it in the right location. That’s what she said? Sorry, I had to. But seriously, y’all…he just started really drawing about a month ago and has already made so much progress. I think it’s awesome!

On the other hand, though, what if he starts drawing pictures of his junk at school? Or worse…AT CHURCH? Holy Moses, that would be embarrassing.

Though I was frozen in my indecisiveness, my insides were BURNING with laughter. Phew. I held it in, and put on a shaky smile. I kept quiet, aside from a quick thank you, and acted like his wiener picture was the most normal drawing I had ever received. I just didn’t want to decide what to do right then and there. Instead, I texted Benji to see if maybe he knew where our family stood on wiener drawings. He thought it was funny.

So now I feel like I need to decide on what kind of mother I want to be.

Here are my options:

A). The Hippie Mom: The human body is a work of art and should be valued and appreciated as such, even by the littlest of souls. Wieners are no laughing matter. They are beautiful. Any time one is drawn, it will be proudly displayed upon our family fridge, full of organic non-GMO food.

B). The Conservative Mom. No wiener pictures allowed. Ever. No ifs, ands, or butts (none of those either!) about it.

C). The Hipervative Mom. A mixture of A & B. The kids are allowed to draw any and all artsy fartsy pictures so long as we are at home. When in public, no wieners or butts allowed. But where do I draw the line? Can they draw boogers? Farts? Etc. I need to go ahead and write the laws on this because these scenarios WILL COME UP.

So…these are the mom choices that are before me. I’ve got my #2 pencil sharpened and ready to go, but I have no idea what I’ll pick. Stayed tuned for my decision. I’ll let you know in about a week. Not really, but it’s fun to hope.

Four Years

IMG_6971Harp will be four tomorrow. FOUR! What? That just seems so old to me. Sigh. Each birthday that comes and goes absolutely blows my mind. I imagine it will always be like that though.

Admittedly, I am a little sad that my baby is growing up, but at the same time, I am SO excited about age four. We are leaving the “terrible” threes behind, y’all! As each day passes, Harp is acting less and less like a wild animal, and more like a civilized human being. LOL…I’m somewhat exaggerating how he has acted over the past year – three really wasn’t so bad for him – but he definitely had his days ;-) Even though three was mild for us, I’ve still noticed a drastic difference in how he handles himself here lately – he is a lot calmer these days!

Since little ones change so often, I figured I’d write a little bit about who he is and what he likes in this current season of life. So here goes nothing:

Although he has changed in many ways, one thing has remained the same – he still loves things that spin. This obsession started when he was right at a year old, and has stayed with him.  He loves motors, propellors, box fans, air conditioning units, gears, windmills, etc. ANYTHING that spins.

He loves music. His favorite songs right now are All About That Bass, Shake It Off, Oceans, Problem, Thrift Shop (the clean version lol) and oddly enough, the Anfield Rap by the Liverpool FC, thanks to his daddy. He seems to gravitate towards songs with a sick beat. He’s a lot like his mama in that way.

He is a cautious individual when it comes to the physical world. He is a rule follower and doesn’t usually test the boundaries that are given to him. His memory is KILLER sharp. If he gets hurt doing something, he will generally stay away from whatever it was that hurt him for like…forever. And it only takes one time! He is not someone to stand back up, dust himself off, and then forget about it. For example, when he was a year old, he got hurt after going down a slide. This caused him to have a fear of slides, which he only just now overcame this year. I’m serious, y’all. He holds onto and remembers everything. This can be a good and bad thing.

He loves people. One of my favorite things to do is to just sit back and watch him at the park. He will walk up to random people and excitedly say “Hi, I’m Harper!” and then just start up a conversation with them. I really admire his bravery in this area. I often pray that this part of him doesn’t change as he ages. It’s just so amazing to watch him greet new people without a single ounce of fear in his body. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it inspires me to do the same.

His interest in drawing recently peaked about a month or so ago. I’m not sure if it’s because of preschool, or what, but he has just taken off in this area. Up until recently, he didn’t really care to draw all that much, but now he wants to often. And he draws with purpose versus the scribbling he would do a few months ago. He enjoys drawing letters, numbers, logos, flowers, fans, people, etc. He recently told me that when he grows up, he wants to be able to draw as good as his daddy. Holy moly heart melt. <3

Now. Take his love of drawing, and multiply it by about 75, and you’ll have his love of building things. Boxes, cups, legos, blocks, books, etc. Whatever is available, really. He enjoys using anything around him to build towers and structures that his sister destroys within 3.7 seconds of seeing. The cycle is pretty cute to watch. That girl always has her eye out for his creations.

And then there’s food. Harp loves to eat. We sometimes refer to him as a garbage disposal – should I be writing that here where he might someday read it? LOL. He eats and eats and eats, and yet his waist never grows. It’s so unfair!

Food has always been a pretty easy area for us, and I’ve never considered Harp a picky eater. Once he tries something, he almost always likes it. It’s the getting him to actually try new things part that is hard. Like I said above, he is very cautious, and unfortunately that flows over into his eating habits sometimes.

Luckily, we introduced him to several fruits and veggies before he reached the point of not wanting to try new things, so we have a pretty solid foundation of good foods to pull from for his meals. We try to add one new item to his plate a day, and it’s a 50/50 chance on whether or not he will actually stick it in his mouth. I just keep offering and introducing new things in hopes that he will get over his fear.

The foods that he already knows and loves though? He could eat those all day without stopping. Seriously! His favorite meal is scrambled eggs, a piece of toast, with a side of raw spinach. We call it the Harper special round these parts.

One of the weirdest things about his tastes is that he doesn’t like chocolate. I’d really like to know where this trait came from and how can I inherit it? lol.

So that pretty much sums him up at the moment. He is such a sweet, joyful, loving little boy. I often think that he must mirror Benji as a child because he is just so sweet. I know he didn’t get that from me. I was a terror child :-P

I sure do enjoy being this little boy’s mama <3

I’m Praying To Have A Disease

Earlier this year, I started to suspect something might be wrong with my thyroid. It all started around March. I had recently stopped using birth control because it was giving me a lot of problems. Benji and I weren’t quite ready to add Martin Baby #3 to the family yet, so I started tracking my basal body temperature in order to prevent pregnancy. On several occasions, I had a temperature in the 96 degree range. One morning it was even close to 95 degrees. On most mornings though, it was right around 97.0-97.1 degrees. After a few days of seeing what I thought to be incredibly low temperatures, I decided to Google it (as I do EVERYTHING) to see if it was normal. It wasn’t. It was an indication of hypothyroidism. No shocker there. I have a huge family history of thyroid dysfunction. 

My interests really peaked when I read about two symptoms linked to hypothyroidism: inability to dilate during labor and low to no breast milk supply. Check and check. 

After reading that, and a few other things, I was absolutely convinced that I was suffering from hypothyroidism and possibly had been for years. I had SO many of the symptoms. I quickly set up an appointment to discuss it with my midwife. I just knew my life was about to change for the better. I devoured everything I could on thyroid disorders in preparation for that appointment. When I finally went in, I had a full page typed up of symptoms that I had that lined up with hypothyroidism. My midwife examined me and said my thyroid *was* enlarged, and she also did blood work. Since I actually had a thyroid goiter, I was hopeful that this meant I was right and that the problem would show up in my labs, and would therefore get fixed. Wrong! So so so wrong.

My labs came back completely normal. Sigh. I can’t even begin to tell you how deflated I felt after that phone call. I knew something was wrong with my thyroid…but what? If everything was supposedly okay, why was my thyroid enlarged? My midwife told me that it was probably just “my normal”. I got the feeling from her that I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill, so I dropped it. Except…not really. I didn’t mention it to her anymore, but I did Google the crap out of thyroid disorders that can go undetected on your labs. To my surprise, there were several. I was most suspicious of Hashimoto’s disease. The internet was full of folks talking about how hard it was to have their Hashimoto’s diagnosed and how hard they had to fight for it. Blah. I mean…who wants to fight with doctors? Not me. So I basically gave up. I just didn’t feel up to it. I put my suspicions away. I changed my diet, and tried to “heal myself naturally” in the meantime.

I lived a few months like that, and some of my symptoms *did* get better. But…I still felt off for the most part. 

Then I got pregnant (Yes…on purpose).

And then I miscarried. Sigh.

I know, I know…this is awkward. I can’t believe I’m even writing about it here because I’m still kind of in the thick of it. It just happened last Monday. But it happened, and it’s part of this story…so…yeah. I miscarried, and once again I could not stop thinking about my thyroid. To make matters worse, I was having some swelling, pain, and pressure in my neck. Any time I turned my head, I could feel extra…neck? What in the world. I don’t even know how to describe it. I didn’t think it was visibly noticeable..I just felt like something was off. Thinking I was being a psychotic hypochondriac, I took a picture of my neck and compared it to one I had from June. My plan was to prove myself crazy, so that I could DROP IT. But I wasn’t crazy: 

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I weigh MORE in the picture on the left than I do on the right. But…check the neck on the right. 

So I called my midwife to tell her about the miscarriage and to talk about my thyroid concerns. She sounded totally annoyed that I called. I mean…it *was* a holiday, but still. Really? She was very dismissive of my thyroid concerns: “Your labs are probably still normal” and “that pain and pressure in your neck is probably not because of your thyroid.” Etc. There was no sympathy in her voice, only a tone that was suggestive of wanting to get the eff off the phone with me. I was completely shocked. Although she had seemed to think I was overreacting about the thyroid stuff back in April…I never got the sense that she didn’t care or wouldn’t do anything to help me. This time was completely different though. I knew I couldn’t trust her to help me, so I decided to switch practices. Exactly what you want to do when you’re having a miscarriage. Ugh.  

So I had an appointment with a brand spankin’ new OB on Thursday and she was freaking incredible. I cried during my appointment. CRIED, y’all. She didn’t make me feel like a crazy head for thinking something was wrong. Instead, she ordered a thyroid ultrasound and more blood work to make sure everything was okay. I didn’t even have to ask her to do it! 

The ultrasound was on Friday. Being the awesomely nosy person that I am, I got a copy of the report before my OB even had a chance to see it. 

Big ole’ fatty fat mistake.

I mean…I had prepared myself for what I saw, but when it was actually there…staring me in the face…well, I freaked the freak out. No…for real…I cried off and on for almost a solid 24 hours. 

Basically, my thyroid is full of nodules. Most of them are 1-2 cm in size, but there is one that is over 4 cm and requires a biopsy to make sure it isn’t cancerous. Ugh. Why, why, why did I look?! So now, because of my impatience, I am stuck with this scary news, and have no other option other than to just wait until my OB calls me!  

I’m praying my butt off that she calls tomorrow. But more than that, now that I’ve calmed down, and returned to being a semi rational individual, I am praying that I was right all along and just have Hashimoto’s disease. Yes…I am PRAYING to have a disease. I’d rather have that over cancer :-) 

So…will you join me in this? Thyroid cancer wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s one of the easier ones to cure, in fact…but still. I just really don’t want cancer in my body. AT ALL. All I can think about is how I would manage to care for my littles while going through surgery and treatment, etc. It’d just be so much easier if all of this was Hashimoto’s and I could just take meds. Will you pray with me? :-)

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