Monday, December 23, 2013

When You Just Don't Know

I was sitting in the conference room at work just last week and we were preparing for an ARD meeting.  There was me, a speech therapist and also a physical therapist, both ladies who I've come to love and admire.  I had just gotten off the phone, setting up Addyson's first Occupational Therapy appointment.  The physical therapist I work with just so happens to have a daughter who has struggled similarly to Addyson.  Again--God ordained.  The speech therapist there has a daughter who is expecting who has had a miscarriage before and just telling us how she prays all the time for this baby to be okay and healthy.  I knew what she meant.  All of us want healthy children.  I don't think anyone hopes that they will have a baby who will have developmental delays.  And then she said something that has just stuck with me.  I guess you just "rise to the occasion."

Rise to the occasion.  More like sink to your knees before God.  There is nothing more humbling that not knowing what the future holds for your child.  I mean, I know none of us know what the future holds for our kids.  But most of us know our kids will learn to sit up, walk, talk, play.  It was just last night when someone talked about how Addyson would have to fight the boys off when she gets older, suggesting that she might one day date.  That's nothing out of the ordinary, right?  Why wouldn't she date when she's older?  I don't mean this to be a downer of a post, but it just really got to me last night.

We just had Addyson's 6 month neurology appointment and received great news confirming that the MRI had shown no signs of brain damage!  But the doctor couldn't tell me why Addyson still presents with hypertonia.  Why are her muscles still so stiff?  I know that I should celebrate all of the amazing progress she has made.  And I do, every day I thank God for how far she's come.  For the fact that she's doing things that I was downright told she wouldn't be doing by now.  She's rolling over, she's sitting up, she's starting to eat solid foods.  She's using her little hands to grab toys and chew on them.  It's such a blessing.

But the other part of me is so terrified.  I am so grateful, yet at the same time, so scared because I don't have any answers.  I am left to my faith in God.  And to be honest, sometimes my faith is so small at times.  When the person talked about Addyson dating in the future, it was if the world stopped spinning for a moment.  I just stared at her and tried not to tear up, wondering if we will get to share those special mother-daughter moments.

The neurologist thankfully didn't just send us home, saying, well she doesn't have cerebral palsy, good luck!  Thank goodness because I might have come unglued.  He is committed to finding out what exactly is going on with my sweet girl.  He did offer a hypothesis.  Dopa-Responsive Dystonia.  Dopa-responsive dystonia is a disorder that involves involuntary muscle contractions, tremors, and other uncontrolled movements (dystonia). The features of this condition range from mild to severe. This form of dystonia is called dopa-responsive dystonia because the signs and symptoms typically improve with sustained use of a medication known as L-Dopa.  There's a great video on YouTube you can watch about it, here.  However, I don't feel like this really fits Addyson for many reasons, but mainly because everything the research says tells me that its a progressive condition.  Addyson is improving vastly in her therapies.  However, we will do some testing right before her 1st birthday to see if this might be the answer.  The doctor wasn't pushing for testing now because she is doing so well.  She's my miracle baby.

I guess I just want everyone out there to know I am human; I don't have some super-powerful faith.  I know I should be celebrating her accomplishments, and I am.  I do every day.  In fact, she blew some raspberries for the first time today and of course I thought it was the greatest thing!  I just wish I had more answers.  I wish I knew if she really did have a stroke in-utero and her sweet little infant brain regenerated.  It's crazy, but that does happen.  I wish I knew if me or my husband carried this genetic mutation that causes Dopa-Responsive Dystonia.  We will get an answer on the latter part sooner rather than later.  The fact of the matter is, despite trusting God, sometimes (a lot of times) I yearn for worldly answers, too.

So what do you do when you just don't know?  Rise to the occasion or sink to your knees before God?  I know my answer.  I pray for strength for another day.  I pray for more miracles.  I offer thanksgiving to God for all the things he's already done in my sweet family's life.  And I repeat this scripture to myself when I don't know what else to do.

Do not be anxious about anything, 
but in everything, by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
 will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Laryn-go What?

So it's been a while.  We have been busy with Addyson's therapies, Thanksgiving, preparing for Christmas, and enjoying being a family of four.  Evenings are kind of chaotic around here; attempting to take care of the baby and get the other one fed dinner and bathed and all of those things with the nighttime routine (some nights with more finesse than other nights).  The difficulty level of this is definitely multiplied by 10 when John is at the fire station!  Not to mention the failing efforts to take care of my own health and well-being. Going to the gym has slowly fallen to the wayside lately.  These last 15 pounds of baby weight will just have to wait, or I'll have to find a little more will-power after 8:00pm when the kids are in bed!

We had Addyson's 6 month pediatric check-up as well as her neurology check up in the last week.  More on those in the next post.  But before that, we went to see an ENT in late October and pulmonologist in early November.  We've also started seeing a chiropractor weekly and began using some essential oils.  We've definitely been busy!

I guess it was about at 4 months that I decided that I was still very concerned about Addyson's breathing.  Remember, when she was born, the NICU nurse came to check on her because she had such a weak cry.  Well, ever since she was born she's just sounded "congested."  It just never went away.  Her opthamologist thought it could have been something with narrow nasal passages.  So, I took Addyson in to the pediatrician's office because she was beginning to cough.  I knew that it wasn't just a cold--I explained to the doctor that she always sounded this way and basically demanded a referral to an ENT.  I've learned that if I don't fight for Addyson, no one else is going to.  She's not your average baby and let's face it, that's what pediatricians normally see, average kids.  So I went with my intuition, knowing that her breathing wasn't right.

We met with the ENT and we got a suspected diagnosis of Laryngomalacia.  It was funny, John was with me and he looked at me and said, "don't cry."  But I suppose I am past that--to me it was just something else to add to what makes my little girl who she is.  I knew that something wasn't right and I was happy to have someone tell me I wasn't crazy.  Let's face it--sometimes I feel a little crazy when it comes to Addyson.  I try not to be paranoid, but she's got quite a few little quirks.  He referred us to a pulmonologist and we met with him about a week later.  He confirmed the Laryngomalacia.  Basically it's (literally, "soft larynx") is the most common cause of stridor (or congested-like breathing) in infancy, in which the soft, immature cartilage of the upper larynx collapses inward during inhalation, causing airway obstruction.  He let us know that we could have a bronchoscopy done and potentially have surgery but that she didn't sound severe and that since she was eating well, to just give it time.  He told us that swallowing could make eating solid foods difficult.  But the great news is that most babies outgrow this condition by the time they are 18 months old.  So in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal.  We just have to take extra precautions with food.

Some days I just look at her and marvel that she's mine.  I think about how honored I am to get to fight for her.  I praise God for planning things for her before she was even thought of.  Who would have imagined that I would become a diagnostician working with severe special needs children giving me access and knowledge that would enable me to care for her in just the right way.  I'll be honest, I was terrified when I was told my assigned job.  I had never worked with kids who had high needs before.  At most, I worked with some kids who had high-functioning autism.  My mom worked with adults who had disabilities and lived in group homes.  My sister works with high needs kids through ECI.  But me--I had just been a 6th grade math teacher.  What did I know?  What a crash course it's been for me--getting to learn so much from "my kids" at work and learning from my own daughter.  How can people call that coincidence or not believe in God?  What a wonderful God we serve.  I can not wait to tell her the story of how she was so fearfully and wonderfully made.  What a glorious new insight this scripture

is to me.

Psalm 139: 13-16

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Miracles Do Happen

My husband called me at work the day after the MRI.  I was in meetings all morning at work.  After I got done, I called him back.  He answered, "The doctor called."

We had the MRI done on October 8th.  We were lucky to go to Cook Children's and be the first appointment of the day.  I woke up super early that morning to give Addyson the last bottle she could have at 1:00am since she would be sedated and intubated for the procedure.  I tossed and turned until it was time to get up at 5:00am.  We checked into the hospital at 6:00am.  It was a surreal experience.  You always hope that you will never have to go to a children's hospital.  At least not for anything more than a broken bone or something of that sort.  It's definitely the happiest sad place I've ever been to.  We were called back into a room to prepare for the procedure.  Of course Addyson is screaming because she is hungry.  After about 30 minutes she tired out and fell asleep in my arms.

Again, God has continually worked this out in only the way that He could.  I was very emotional and in desperate need of distraction.  The nurse taking care of us actually ended up being the mom of a little boy in my son's class!  It took my mind off things and made me laugh to realize we had both received the same note home the following week: "Your child was running around the room, wrestling, and climbing on tables.  Please discourage this behavior at home."  Yeah, Caden is 3.  And he is ALL boy.  It's safe to say I discourage a lot of things, but I do adore his adventurous personality.  He's so much fun!

Finally at 7:30am they took her back.  I was able to hold her little hand while they gave her the laughing gas to put her to sleep.  I was comforted knowing she wouldn't feel anything--the IV being placed or having the tube put down her throat.  My in-laws came to the hospital to wait with us, so we went to the cafeteria and got some breakfast while she was having her MRI.  We were paged about an hour later letting us know everything was done. 

My husband and I got to go back to the recovery area.  A nurse was holding my sweet Addyson--she was NOT happy!  Poor baby is so attached to me and my husband.  She has a difficult time letting anyone else hold her.  On top of that she's pretty hungry.  We follow the Babywise schedule, so she eats as soon as she wakes up.  The next hour and a half is a blur.  The nurses keep messing with her pulse oxometer on her toe, then keep messing with her IV, and then we kept having to change her diapers because she was getting so much fluid from the IV.  She was so cranky!  I just wanted to take my baby home.  We finally got to leave after she had a little bit of formula at 10:00am.  She slept most of the day and we kept a close eye on her.

The nurses had told us that our particular neurologist was typically very on top of things and that he would probably have the results the next day.  I figured that he would call to set up an appointment for us to discuss the results, so I was very worried when I answered my husband's call and he said, "The doctor called."  It's one of those things, you never want the actual doctor to call.  That normally means bad news.  So of course I was panicked.  Then my husband began to explain that the doctor said that her MRI did not show any brain damage.  The doctor simply said, "I was wrong."  I just started sobbing.  I could not honestly believe what he was telling me.  I have prayed over my daughter every day, multiple times a day, asking for God's healing.  Some might just say that it's a coincidental mistake.  I find it very hard to believe that her neurologist, an expert in this, would take a look at her and definitively say she had brain damage if he wasn't sure.  Even if he had a little bit of hesitancy, you'd think he'd order the MRI and say, "Let's wait and see."  But that's not what happened here.  I fully believe that God is the Ultimate Healer and He is to thank here.  He should get all the glory for this miracle.  Now I get to rock her and lift up prayers of thanksgiving every day.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Addyson doesn't have challenges.  Obviously she still presents with hypertonia.  The good news is that the MRI doesn't show any damage, which means that if there is any neurological damage there, it's so minimal the MRI couldn't detect it.  This also means that she likely won't have any cognitive delays.  We are still going to receive physical and occupational therapy through ECI.  She is making leaps in bounds already in therapy!  We will be following up with the nuerologist in December and possibly doing another MRI in the future. 

Thank you to everyone who has been praying along with us during this journey.  It's by no means over, and we don't know what God has in store for this sweet miracle of ours!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Be Sorry For Me--I am Blessed

 Click here if you missed Redefining Perfect Part 1 and Part 2.

We sat in neurologist's office and the doctor walked in.  Very nice man, very tall actually; he was to the point and didn't sugar coat a thing.  God bless him for that.  He picked her up, she smiled at him.  She's such a social, happy little thing.  He turned her this way and that, looked her over from head to toe.  He asked some questions while he was holding her, one of those questions being about blood clotting.  At first I said, no, there's no history of blood clotting.  And then it hit me.  I remembered the nurses pushing on my stomach after labor.  It hurt terribly.  I was passing some large blood clots.  Why didn't it seem like a big deal until now?  I guess that minor detail paled in comparison to the NICU nurse coming down to work on Addyson.  I interrupted him and replayed the hour or so after birth, including the blood clotting and her seemingly difficulty breathing at birth.  He handed her back to me and looked at us and just said, "I'm afraid that there has been some brain damage."  The flood gates opened.  I sobbed.  I was waiting for him to tell me that there wasn't anything wrong with her, even though I knew that wasn't true.  But he didn't.  Brain damage. 

He went on to tell us that it was likely that somewhere between 25 and 30 weeks along in my pregnancy, my placenta must have torn.  It caused her to lose oxygen to her brain and caused some damage.  My mind immediately went to that moment at school when I was 30 weeks pregnant.  When I lost vision, my face went numb, when I knew something wasn't right.  No one can confirm what really happened that day.  I guess I could go have an MRI and they could look to see if there is evidence that I had a mini-stroke.  But honestly, it wouldn't change a thing.  In my mind, that will always be the day it happened, no matter what anyone tells me.  Of course my mind started racing, wondering what I could have done to cause my placenta to tear.  I worked out quite a bit during my pregnancy, I drank some soda, I played with my rough and tumble two year old.  I have to admit, this doctor is very good at his job.  He must have seen the look in my eyes, because right then, he looked at me and told me "There's nothing you did or could have done to cause this.  It's not your fault."  I needed to hear that, I mean REALLY NEEDED to hear that.  Hearing the doctor tell me that it wasn't my fault saved has saved me so many unneeded tears.

He point blank said she likely wouldn't learn to sit up at 6 months old, and that she probably wouldn't be walking at 12 months old.  He let us know that the anisocoria is related to the brain damage, but she should have functional vision.  He said he was hopeful that the extent of the brain damage doesn't affect her cognitively. She's already very social and happy. We just don't know yet.  We talked about ECI, about private therapy, about botox, muscle relaxers, insurance, a social worker, pre-authorization, MRI's... it went on and on.  Too much to process. 

Toward the end of our visit, I asked him, "Does this mean she has Cerebral Palsy?" He sort of hemmed and hawed over the question. Yes, but no. He prefers a specific diagnosis where as CP covers such a wide range of disability. Now, for the life of me, do I remember what he called Addyson's medical diagnosis? Of course not--it's some long name that means nothing to me or 98% of the rest of the non-medical community. Now, once we have the MRI and everything is confirmed, then yes, I will commit myself to learn it. But not right now. Right now I know that my daughter is wonderful. She is beautiful. She may not learn to sit up at 6 months old. She may not be walking at 12 months old. She may have some issues with using her hands. She may have learning difficulties. But then again, she may not. We just don't know. We have to take one day at a time. All I am sure of is that she is God's gift to my family, and quite honestly, to anyone else who gets to be in her life.

The part of our appointment that really got me was when he brought up the divorce rate for couples of children with special needs.  He quoted it at about 90%.  He said that the research shows that the most determining factor wasn't a certain faith background, wasn't counseling, or anything like that.  It was attending the appointments together.  He said that when one parent is the primary caregiver, that there's a lot of resentment and burnout.  I have to say, our marriage has been through the fire.  You name it, we've probably gone through it.  But we do have a strong faith base.  And my husband is amazing with Addyson.  He's on top of all the therapy and has such a tender heart for her.  He's happy to help with the appointments and whatever we have to do to get Addyson what she needs.  We are both all-in.  I just want to take this moment to thank God for everything; every trial, every heartache up till now, because it was all worth it to know that nothing is going to break us.  I simply can not imagine walking this road without him by my side.  I know God has some grandeur plan--I just can't wait to see it all in the end.

I have to admit, I get a little feisty when it comes to her.  Defensive even.  I know I am overly-sensitive about her.  So, I apologize for my reactions if you offer me "pity."  I may not react the right way if you say "you're praying for me."  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the prayers, just maybe not in the way you might think.  I guess I just want people to know that we aren't sitting here devastated.  In fact, it makes me a little angry to think that people might think that we are wallowing.  I can't explain it--just don't be sorry for me.  I am blessed.  To quote a beloved song, "It is well with my soul."  I am okay with this.  She's going to be tough, just like me.  She's going to work harder than a lot of kids, she is already at this young age, but I have faith that God is going to do great things in her life.  The prayers I do covet are the ones for the stress it may put on my family.  There's a lot of therapy.  I am so thankful that my husband is a firefighter.  He's home every 48 hours, and gone 24 hours, so he's able to participate in a lot.  I'm jealous of that to be honest.  I love being a working mom, and I get to be there for a majority of things, but it's hard being pulled in different directions.  Pray for peace--we do have to take this one day at a time.  The first time she grabs for a toy, rolling over, first words, sitting up, crawling, walking--these are all things that Addyson will likely have to work harder at.  Pray that I remember to enjoy her infancy, not to rush her, and to cast all my worries on God.  Pray for my sweet son, just 3 years old.  A lot of attention is being put on Addyson right now.  More than what's typical of a new baby sibling.  Pray for Addyson--that she gets to be "just Addyson."  More than anything, I don't want this to define her.  And I don't want it to define my view, or my family's view of her. 

I am so thankful that we had a knowledgeable pediatrician who identified the issues early on.  The neurologist admitted that most the time, he doesn't see kids Addyson's age.  They come in at 9 months old when they aren't sitting up, or at 15 months when they aren't crawling or walking yet.  Since we know so early, we have such greater opportunity to use therapy to help her meet her developmental milestones.  Praise God for how extraordinarily He has orchestrated all of this: the timeframe, my amazing job and the people I work with, my husband's schedule, the family support we have.  Just everything.  Praise God. 

I can't wait to share Addyson's triumphs with you.  She's already making amazing progress with her therapy!  I plan to make this a weekly/bi-weekly journal for my family.  I do not intend to abandon my freezer cooking segments.  Just be patient with me--you can see I've got a lot going on!  My family sincerely appreciates the support of my e-book, Time and Money Saving Freezer Meals.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Redefining Perfect, Part 2

Right away, Addyson had a lot of quirks. 

She's pretty stinking, cute, huh?!?  Anyhow, moving on...

At the hospital, the pediatrician let us know we would need to follow up with a heart murmur that she had.  No big deal there, our son still has one to this day.  It's fairly common from what I understand.  Our pediatrician wasn't able to detect it at our first 2 check ups. However, nothing ever seems to be quite normal with Addyson, so I am still holding my breath there.

The pediatrician at the hospital was also concerned with her eyes.  She said to follow up with our pediatrician.  At first, the pediatrician wasn't concerned with her eyes.  Said they were fine, reacting to the light appropriately.  Then I began noticing some abnormalities.  One of the pupils would differ in size from the other in dim lighting.

Then of course there was the issue of her respiratory system that they were concerned with at birth, when she wasn't crying loud enough.  Her oxygen levels have checked out fine so far and the only thing that we worry about in this area now is that she's a loud breather.  Some days I worry, some days I barely notice it.

And to top all of that off, at our first doctor's visit, Addyson had severe jaundice and had lost 9% of her birth weight and I was told I had to supplement with formula.  Please refrain from comments on this issue.  That's not the focus here.  She's chubby and healthy now!  :)

So, needless to say, we had a lot already going on.  My sister and I have been calling Addyson "bad baby" in a loving way since the very beginning of pregnancy.  My pregnancy with Caden was so smooth and he just didn't really have any big issues, that this one just seemed all sorts of "bad."  Okay, so the people who are offended by this just need to get over it.  There's no such thing as a bad baby, they are all precious gifts.

We were thriving at home.  We had some things to follow up on, but we were doing good.  We were scheduled to have her 2 month check up.  Then came the big stuff--scary words.  Neurologist.  Hypertonia.  Opthamologist.  My world fell apart, crumbled. I was hearing my husband relay that the doctor was saying that my perfect gift was blemished.  There was something significantly wrong with her.  I am not sure how I remained standing, functional. Well, of course I know--this was the point when I entered a semblance denial.  It wasn't complete denial; I was making appointments and doing all the things I knew I needed to do.  But in my mind, I just kept thinking that we'd get to all these appointments and they'd say she was perfect.  Nothing wrong with your daughter, go home and enjoy your precious family.

Thankfully, God has orchestrated everything so perfectly.  I remember remarking to a dear friend of mine, I think that God put me here to prepare me and He gave me Addyson to make me that much better at my job.  Would I expect any less?  Last year, I was teaching in a highly stressful environment.  I was very grateful to accept a new position at a new district this school year.  I am no longer a teacher, but an education diagnostician.  I received my Master's of Special Education last May to enter this field.  I didn't pursue a job at the time really since my mom had just passed away.  It was a crazy time in my life.  So here I am now, a person in the field of working with special needs children.  In fact, I am the diagnostician for the two elementary campuses that have our severe and profound students who often times need speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy.  I have at my finger tips all of the resources in the world!  On top of that, my sister works for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) as a nurse, and formerly an Invervention Specialtist.  So with all of the resources, I knew I needed to call ECI to come out for an evaluation.  We made the appointment and then two others.

The next appointment we made was for the Opthamologist to look at her eyes.  I already knew the diagnosis (thanks google!), and that it was very common.  Addyson has Anisocoria.  It is when one pupil dialates differently than the other.  Not a big deal, in the grand scheme of things.  We would later find out that it was an indicator of a larger problem.

The final appointment made was for the Neurologist.  I knew that we would be having her evaluated for her high tone (hypertonia) and what if any neurological problems it could stem from.  It was at that appointment where my world as I knew it just got knocked off it's little axis of perfection and "the way things are supposed to be."

But in all of this, I can't help but think how blessed we are.  God chose us.  ME.  God trusted me to be the mother to this sweet angel.  He knew that our family has everything in the world to give her.  He's given us this amazing story of his faithfulness and grace.  I am in awe of how blessed we are.

Thank you to everyone for your overwhelming support and prayers! They are definitely felt! God is doing amazing things in our lives right now.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Redefining Perfect, Part 1

A specialist?  The world goes dim when you hear your child's pediatrician refer you to someone else.  It normally means something isn't right, and it requires someone with more knowledge to help.  It's scary.  No, terrifying.  Those were the words we heard at Addyson's 2 month check up.  I guess I've lived in denial for the last month.  I didn't want to see it, I wanted our sweet Addyson to be perfect.  I think that's what every parent thinks and wants.  It's even on her wall in her bedroom: "Every Good and Perfect Gift Comes From Above."  I guess it's time to redefine perfect.

But let me back up.  I think it's important to understand what we went through from the beginning.  We discovered we were expecting--it was a surprise.  We certainly weren't planning on having another child at the time.  We were very happy with our 2 year old little boy who always keeps us on our toes.  Nevertheless we were thrilled; we wanted a bigger family eventually.  The mad dashes to the toilet began early.  Brushing my teeth was dreaded every morning--I still don't know why I didn't just pop in some gum anyway.  Right after brushing, I needed to pop in gum anyhow.  I sure wasn't going to re-brush my teeth after all that.  We heard the heartbeat at our 8 week appointment.  It was high, 176.  I just knew this little blessing would be a girl with as sick as I was and the high heart rate.  Everything was just as it should be.

Then one day at school, I was approximately 10 weeks along, I got extremely dizzy and had the school nurse check my heart rate.  It was high, too high.  I was admitted to the hospital where I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  I was very anxious about taking medication.  The internet didn't help either.  There's all sorts of things that can go wrong with the hyperthyroidism and pregnancy.  It's dangerous for the mom without medication.  It's dangerous for the baby when mom takes medication in the first trimester.  I had to take the medication;  I was holding my breath, praying for this sweet baby.  I went in for my 12 week appointment, relieved to hear my sweet angel's heartbeat.  Then again at 16 weeks and my doctor did a sonogram and let us know that we would be blessed with a little girl.  My sweet Addyson.

Since I had hyperthyroidism, I was referred to a specialist.  At 16 weeks I went into the high risk obstetrics office for a sonogram.  The sonographer seemed to spend a while on her heart.  Nothing was said, but I was worried still.  Something just didn't seem right.  Then at my 20 week sonogram at my regular doctor's appointment, the sonographer requested a follow up sonogram to look at Addyson's heart at 28 weeks.  Terrified doesn't begin to explain how I was feeling.  The weeks came and went.  We arrived at 28 weeks and the sonographer said everything looked fine.  I could breathe a sigh of relief.

My sister and I began planning to take my son to a Thomas the Train event that a local city was having.  We were so excited.  But again, this pregnancy would give me another scare.  It was a Thursday afternoon, right after returning from lunch and PE.  I was sitting at my small group tutoring table with a group of students.  I felt myself becoming very dizzy, my face began to go numb, and then I started to lose vision.  I calmly told the students I was not feeling well.  I walked to the teacher's room next door, asked her to watch my room.  I remember feeling very confused and having a hard time communicating what was going on.  I felt my way down the hallway to the nurse's office.  I sat down and remember saying, "check my blood pressure, something isn't right."  It was alarmingly high.  The nurse took my cell phone and called my husband.  I went to lie down.  John came and picked me up from school and we drove to my doctor's office.  I already had an appointment that day.  By the time I arrived, my blood pressure was back to normal.  Aside from some remaining dizziness, it was as if nothing had happened.  The doctor told me it was likely a migraine, and if it happened again we'd see a neurologist.  I was put on bed rest for the weekend.  There was no Thomas the Train trip for Caden.  At that point, John and I decided that it was time for me to go on maternity leave.

The following 9 weeks went fine, compared to the issues I had already been dealing with.  I enjoyed staying at home, the school year had been extremely stressful on me.  I had a lot of contractions on and off.  My blood pressure went up around 38 weeks and the doctor recommended inducing labor at 39 weeks.  We went in at 6am on June 15, the day before Father's Day.  They started the pitocin and the contractions started coming.  The nurse became concerned about a pattern Addyson's heart rate was showing on the monitors.  Pitocin was stopped until my doctor could come check us out.  The doctor said everything seemed to be fine.  We started pitocin back up and I was at 5cm at noon, and then all of a sudden it was time; Addyson arrived at 1:27pm!  They placed her on my chest for a moment, but then as quickly took her from me.  She wasn't producing a good cry.  They called NICU down and kept working with her for about half an hour.  It was the longest most confusing 30 minutes I have ever experienced.  They finally recomended skin to skin contact to see if that would help.  Eventually they just determined that she was fine, but had a weak cry.

We started nursing, all of that went fine.  You have your normal trial and error with a new baby.  She had a great sucking reflex.  They took her for all the millions of things they have to do for new babies.  We were all doing great and we went home on Father's Day and began our new life as a family of 4.

We just didn't know how much things were going to chage in the coming months...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Happens when Nursing Isn't Easy?

My husband and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our 2nd child, Addyson.  In fact, if I don't go into labor sometime in the next week, I'd be surprised!  I just have that feeling, you know?  She's coming soon, I can just tell. 

This blog post is about to get pretty personal.  I'm hesitant to put some of this out there for the whole world to see, but then again, I want other women to know they aren't alone in their struggle to nurse. 

Even before I was even pregnant with my first, I knew I wanted to nurse, which is kind of strange given my family.  My mom didn't nurse, my sister has always thought it is just strange and kind of weird.  So I am not sure how or why I was born with the feeling like I needed to nurse.  I just knew that's what I wanted for me and my babies.  To each their own! 

Unfortunately, this natural, miraculous wonder of nursing wasn't at all natural to me and definitely not wonderful!  I am anatomically challenged to start.  I didn't know I was though, I mean, how would you?  Let's just say that things that should go out typically, were going more in.  That and things are just big around here.  Like they always say, things are bigger in Texas!  Ha!  So I thought I would have to use shields to be able to nurse from the get go.  We had all sorts of latching issues and my milk didn't come in quite as fast as my little Caden seemed to want it to!  He was a smaller baby too, 6 pounds, 14 ounces.  I know that's not really all that small, but I wonder if it played into the issues or not.  Things hurt.  A lot.  I was hormonal and frustrated and decided that I would just pump.  Well, exclusively pumping is not a walk in the park.  If you aren't pumping, then you are giving the baby the bottle.  And if you aren't doing one of those two things you are washing said pump accessories all the while you are supposed to be drinking a ton of water and eating a healthy diet.  Let's just say that the water and food went by the wayside and I was hardly producing any milk at all, leaving me to resent pumping and trying to nurture my baby this way.  I slipped into a terribly depressed state.  I was so frustrated that, in my mind, I had failed as a woman and mother.  Not to mention I was TIRED and HORMONAL!!!    I continued like this for about 2 and a half months and finally stopped when I returned to work. 

So, that's my story.  I guess I could just go into this second newborn phase accepting that formula is what we will do and that's fine.  However, something in me just says, no, that's not okay for me.  I really want to give this a try again.  Now, I am going in with my eyes, my doctor's eyes, and my poor husband's eyes wide open and know that this may not work.  I just have a hard time believing that.  I mean, if this were centuries ago, I would HAVE to do this.  Otherwise my babies would die.  It's supposed to work, right?  So here is my arsenal of weapons for the fight.

Supple Cups
I did a ton of research about things that go in that should go out.  I found these really neat things that use suction to draw things out.  You can find them HERE

You can use them with shells like THESE.  I started doing this at about 3 or 4 months and I have seen great improvements.


I did get one of THESE again just in case, but I am hoping not to use it since the Supple Cups did such a good job!

Plain Old Nutrition
I have stocked the house with lots of high protein snacks.  I have a special water cup I bought that's nice and pretty that I plan on draining each nursing session.  I realize this is probably the most important part of production.

Lactation Cookies
These are loaded with oats, flaxseed and brewer's yeast.  All things that are supposed to help with milk supply.  I have posted the recipe/tutorial HERE!

Fenugreek Caplets
I have heard great things about these supplements and I will begin taking these now since I am just about a week and a half away from Addyson's arrival.  You can get this at any nutrition store.

Mother's Milk Tea
I used this with Caden and it did seem to help, so it will be on stand by for sure.  I am confident that my cookies and Fenugreek will do the job and I won't need this.  I didn't really care for it.  It's not awful, but it's not exactly great either!

La Leche
There are support groups around and I think it's important to be aware of when they meet before you have problems.  The hospitals also have lactation consultants who can help.  There is help to be had if you are willing to go get it!  I never did seek help with Caden.

The Pump
It's not what I want to do.  I am not even sure I will use it again.  I think about it and it takes me to a really dark place.  I want to be a happy mom for Addyson.  So if that means formula, it means formula.  I think my mental well-being trumps the nutritional benefits of nursing at some point.  I may get yelled at by the Nursing Nazi's out there, and so be it.  I WANT to do the best for my child, but I can't give my child the best if I am suffering from depression!

I hope that this has been helpful to some of you!  I will let you know how my second journey with nursing goes!

Lactation Cookies

Say what!?!?!  That was my first reaction when someone mentioned Lactation Cookies.  But hey, they had me a cookie!  I'm not exactly the poster child for a healthy eater, so this is right up my alley!  I LOVE sweets!

Below you will find the recipe I used and my step-by-step!  Here is a link to the recipe I found.  My husband even tried the cookies and like them!  IMPRESSIVE!!!!  I liked them too, but there's really not ever been a cookie I didn't like.

First preheat the oven to 350*, then combine the flaxseed and water and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Now, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar well.

Next, add eggs.


Now add flaxseed mix and vanilla.

Now sift together flour, brewer's yeast, baking soda, and salt.

Now add in the dry ingredients.



Stir in oats and chocolate chips.



Spoon onto cookie sheet or roll in wax paper and freeze.

Be sure not to put too much batter in the wax paper and don't get too close to the sides otherwise it will just spill out.


I like to freeze my cookie dough in wax paper rolls and then just slightly defrost and then treat it like slice and bake cookies when I am ready to make them!

Delicious!!! Bake at 350* for 12 minutes. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mom's Fruit Salad

Please follow me on FACEBOOK!  Also, you can purchase my Freezer Cooking e-book here!

I am about to share something that will change your life.  And the best part is, it is incredibly easy.  My mom's fruit salad.

For those of you who have been following me for a little while know that my mom passed away in early May last year.  It's been a very reflective past couple weeks.  All within ten days time there was the first anniversary of my mom's death and then Mother's Day shortly after.  Granted it was my second Mother's Day without my mom, it didn't make the time any less painful, no that's not the right word, I'm not sure there is a word for it.  There were a lot of firsts this year--Caden's 2nd birthday celebrated without her, my birthday, her birthday, finding out we were expecting our 2nd child, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then all those little things in life where she would have been my first phone call.  I miss her dearly, but I am so glad I have little things like her fruit salad to remember the good times.  Sorry, I didn't intend for this to be a bummer of a post, but at the same time, I felt like I needed to take a moment to remember her, especially with Addyson's birth coming so soon.  My sister went on the hospital tour with me just yesterday and the sweet nurse kept saying things like, your husband and/or mom will likely be there in the room with you.  It's things like that when I think life just isn't fair--how much I wish she could be here for this.  I know she'll be there watching the whole thing--I am certain I will feel her presence there with me.

Anyhow, sorry for the sappy part!  On to the good part!  My mom always made this fruit salad for every holiday.  I am not certain why she didn't make it at least once a month.  Maybe the high calorie content.  But then again, my mom was one who would skip dinner to eat dessert!  I am very much her daughter!  In fact, in all my years, I never once thought to serve this over ice cream until my sister-in-law recommended it.  Let me tell you, I think that might be the only perfect way to enjoy this dessert!  Yes, I said dessert.  This is not a healthy fruit salad, but it sure is delicious.

There is one magical ingredient that makes this recipe.  I had people guessing all sorts of things.  Pudding, no.  Sugar, no.  Well, kind of sugar!  It's peach pie filling!  You can get canned or make your own pie filling.  Whatever you want to do.  Like I said, definitely not healthy!  Basically you can put anything in this recipe and it is delicious.  Here is the traditional recipe we always used, but feel free to use whatever you want!  I am tempted to put in some blueberries and raspberries next time!  I don't think you can go wrong with any fruit!  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has over the years!

Mom's Fruit Salad Recipe
1 can peach pie filling
1 cup of mandarin oranges (or a can)
1 pound of fresh strawberries quartered (or 1 bag frozen)
1 cup of pineapple chunks (or 1 large can)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Filling My Freezer

Amidst the contractions this morning, I labored away in the kitchen with the help of my sweet husband.  I've been having contractions on and off for a little while now.  Yes, this is normal.  I didn't experience this with my first, but this little girl has been nothing but trouble!  We made 5 different meals to store away.  None of these recipes are my own, and you will be taken to the link for the recipe and directions below each picture.  I browsed Pinterest to find some recipes I thought would freeze well.  By the way, I'd love for you to follow me on Pinterest or Facebook!  Here are the winners for my freezer.  You will also find the grocery list at the end of the post.  For more, you can also get my Freezer Cooking E-Book here!

This first one, Honey Sesame Crockpot Chicken came from Kitchen Meets Girl.  On her blog, she makes it fresh.  I simply put all of the ingredients in my gallon freezer bag.  When I am ready to cook, I will defrost slightly, and then dump the contents into my crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours.  I'll serve it with some brown rice and a salad.
This one looked too good to resist.  This recipe is from The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife, and I believe she adapted it from a magazine she cites on her blog.  I have to admit, I am always looking for something different to do with ground beef.  We tend to eat a lot of chicken around my house.  I split the recipe into two 8x8 pans.  That will easily feed me, my husband, and my 3 year old.  I was quite happy to have 1 recipe put two meals in my freezer!
I love White Chicken Chili, and I've never made my own.  I am hoping this one is a hit at my house. This is adapted from Gimme Some Oven.  She makes it fresh.  I decided to take all the ingredients except the milk and masa harina and put it in the gallon bag.  I will add those ingredients the day of cooking, during the last 10 minutes just to thicken up the mixture like she says.  I plan on cooking mine in the crockpot on low for 4-6 hours after defrosting slightly.  I will serve with chips, avocado, and cheese.

These next two recipes are both from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.  These were already freezer meals ready to go.  For the Stuffed Shells, the only change I made was putting the spinach into the cheese filling mixture.  I feel like I'll have better luck getting everyone in my house, including me to eat the spinach.  Truth be told, my husband is the vegetable eater in our home.  I have to make a large effort to get myself to eat veggies!  This one made a 9x13, and two 8x8's for me.  So I ended up getting 3 meals from this recipe!  Also, I just used seasoned shredded chicken breasts instead of a rotisserie chicken.

 As I previously said, this is also from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.  Now her picture looks a whole lot better than mine!  I used white corn tortillas--and corn tortillas have a tendency to break apart easily.  I followed her directions exactly.  I flash froze them and then put them in a large gallon baggie to be taken out and eaten a few at a time.

Since I know many of you replicate my entire freezer cooking day, I have included the grocery list for you as I normally do.  The only extra step is going to retrieve the recipe from the blogs I've linked to.  Happy cooking!

Grocery List
15-16 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 whole, the rest shredded)
1 rotisserie chickens
2 lbs ground beef, cooked and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 6 Tablespoons water
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
pinch of white pepper
2 Tbsp. masa harina (optional thickener)
3/4 teaspoon chicken bouillion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cups biscuit mix
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
sesame seeds
4 oz. mayo
1 large white onion, diced
1 yellow onion
10 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeno, chopped (you can remove the seeds for less heat)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half a lime)
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chiles
2 cans white beans (I used Great Northern)
12 oz. jumbo shells
1/4 cup green salsa
small flour or corn tortillas
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Italian cheese, shredded
1 cup shredded Mexican flavored cheese
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
2 large eggs
2 pints heavy cream
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 lbs. ricotta cheese, part-skim
4 oz sour cream
10 oz. bag spinach


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