Powered by Blogger.

Patriot Day

Patriot Day occurs on September 11 of each year. It is a day that we remember those who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It is also a great day to show love and appreciation to police officers, firefighters and other first responders. I created these letter pages for my students to draw or write a message to our community heroes. I hope that you will be able to use them in your classroom to honor your own local heroes too. 

You can download them for free HERE. This book is also a really good one to read with your students. I love the book, September 12 too. 

Since October is Fire Safety month. I usually save most of my firefighter crafts and activities, but this is a favorite just in case you are teaching about firefighters and fire safety now! 

Swim Teacher Tag Freebie

We have absolutely loved the Bathtime Babies Swim Class that we have taken at Emler Swim School this summer! It's actually FREE for babies under 6 months and we have had so much fun! You can learn more about it HERE!

We are SO sad that this session is coming to a close, but I wanted to do a little something for her sweet swim teacher! I just made this little gift tag and attached it to a box of Swedish Fish candy. You could also attach it to a bag of goldfish crackers or even a fun fish book like Rainbow Fish. You can grab this tag and attach it to any fish themed gift HERE. 

Baby's First Easter Basket

I had so much fun putting together E’s first Easter basket! I ordered her PRECIOUS Easter basket from Pottery Barn Kids. I ordered it when they were having a sale! They have lots of cute baskets to choose from. What do you put in a basket for a newborn baby you ask? Let me show you!

1. The Baby Bum Brush: We have the full size already, but of course I needed the mini too for her diaper bag! You can get them together HERE and save some $$$! 
2. Jesus Loves Me Always Book: I came across this precious book at Hallmark! Yes, Hallmark the greeting card store! You can get it HERE from Amazon too! It is such a sweet book!
3. A stuffed pink bunny: Because duh! If you are looking for a more interactive (and not pink) bunny, E also has this one and she LOVES it! It sings and moves. SO cute!
4. Baby Animals Bath Book: It will be a while before E can really handle her board books. I love bath books because they are squishy and water proof. I know she will love putting this in her mouth and playing with it in the bath when she gets a little older. This whole set is a perfect gift too!
5. A bunny rattle: This rattle is so soft and sweet for even the tiniest baby! It comes in other colors too! 
6. A fun toy: Do y'all remember the bumble ball? I remember loving that thing as a kid! Well apparently, they don't have those exact ones anymore, but this is the replacement. It's in the bottom of E's basket! I think she will enjoy watching it move! 
7. Oogie Bear: So this was suppose to be in the basket, but I already had to bust it out and use it! Why didn't I think of inventing this? 

Here are a few other fun ideas for newborns too:

Looking for an Easter craft to do with a little one? Check out this adorable footprint craft! What about elementary kids? Check out this fun writing and craft.

HOPpy Easter Footprint Craft

I’m not going to lie. I’ve waited my entire life to do handprint and footprint crafts with my own baby. I’ve spent years in the classroom making sweet crafts with my students for their parents and it was so special to finally have one of my own. Here is how to make your own!

I used these canvases that can also be found at Hobby Lobby!  I did the footprints one at a time with pink acrylic paint and added bunny ears! I used a green acrylic paint to add grass. Then I added the words with Modge Podge in this finish. Lettering isn't my strong suite and stresses me out, so I just printed the words! You can grab them for free HERE. 

Once the Modge Podge was nice and dry, I used this to draw on a mouth and whiskers. Then I used a small hot glue gun to add these tiny eyes and a tiny pom pom nose! SO easy and SO cute! We gave them as gift to E's grandparents and of course I kept one for myself! 

HOPpy Easter!

Hospital Bag

Oh, the hospital bag! It's probably a Type A teacher thing, but I was SO excited to pack the hospital bag! I have had it packed for at least a month...just in case! There are tons of lists and suggestions of what you should bring to the hospital. I wanted to keep it simple because the reality is we will be gone probably 1-3 nights and we really don't need that much stuff! Plus, with family around anyone can bring us anything and let's not forget that the hospital has the necessities! 

I packed one big bag with things for my husband and I and one bag for the baby!

 I used these clear bags for packing each of our items! They were just the bags that baby's bedding came in, but they were super handy for packing and you can see through them! 

Here is what is inside our bag:

For Us:

  • A Gallon Sized Ziploc Bag with Toiletries: I just grabbed travel sized items that we would need like toothpaste, face wash, deodorant, etc. Don't forget these or these
  • Snacks: We just grabbed some of our favorites 
  • Phone Chargers: I got these super long cords since I have no idea how far the plug will be from my bed!
  • A Diffuser and Essential Oil: This is totally not a necessity, but since we already had it I decided to go ahead and bring it with us! 
  • Bluetooth Speaker: I have been perfecting my labor playlist for weeks! I have to have music! This is the speaker we have. It's super portable and the charge lasts a looooong time!

For Daddy:

  • A hoodie: While I am not expecting to have a C section, it's always a possibility. The OR rooms are kept super cold, so better safe that sorry! You never know what the temperature of any hospital room might me!
  • A button down shirt for skin to skin
  • A change of clothes or two
  • Comfy clothes for sleeping
  • Wireless Headphones and iPad: This might end up being for me too! 

For Mommy:

  • A nursing robe: I bought a Mommy Robe from Posh Peanut that will match baby's swaddle! It is super soft and stretchy!
  • A nursing bra: I bought this set of three. I liked the V neck cut, it felt less uni-boobie than most nursing bras. 
  • Nursing Pads: No explanation needed here. Some hospitals may have these, but they were specifically mentioned in the child birth class we took at the hospital as a must bring item so I am bringing them! I ordered a box, but just grabbed a few to bring!
  • A Button Up Sleep Shirt: It may be easier to just wear the hospital gown, but I am bringing a comfy sleep shirt just in case I want it! The one I got is from Target, but no longer available. 
  • Socks with Grips: One of my sisters gave me a Bump Box that came with a super cute pair to wear! 
  • Going Home Clothes: I packed some joggers and a maternity shirt to wear home! I should probably throw in a ball cap too! 
  • Other toiletries just for me: Chapstick, lotion, hairbrush...
  • Breastfeeding Pillow: So I actually have two! This one and this one! I am going to bring the My Breast Friend pillow into the hospital and leave the Boppy in the car! 

For Baby Girl:

Mitten, Socks and Hats: All of these things are SO teeny, tiny that I stored them in one of these small bags mesh bags.

I actually bought this set of mesh bags to wash her socks and mittens in so they don't get lost in the washer. It has worked SO well! 
Baby Nail File: One of my besties is a Mother and Baby Nurse and she said this is one of the most asked for items that they don't have! I'm obsessed with everything this brand makes, so I know I will love this nail set too. 
Swaddles: I
Clothes: I brought Newborn and 0-3 month sized clothes! I didn't 
Headband Bows: I got this set and this set. They are perfect newborn head size! You can't beat the price either! Now that I look at the picture, I am apparently bringing five bows to the hospital. I have waited a long time for a little bow head! 
Car Seat Cover/ Nursing Cover: I love the ones from Cooper Pearl! 
Baby Book: I LOVE our baby book! I carry it in my store, Gingerbread Home and Holiday. 
First Photo Props: There are so many cute ideas out there for baby's first picture! I am using a little "Hello! My Name Is:" tag!

Here are a few other items that are in the "take to the hospital" pile:

  • Infant Car Seat: Duh! After a long search, we finally settled on this one.  We already have the protector and base in the car!

  • A Wreath for the Hospital Door: I received this adorable wreath as a gift at one of my showers and I absolutely LOVE it. It has a place for me to write all of baby's stats too! I packed these to write with! It will hang on her nursery door once we get home! 

  • A Snack Basket for the Nurses: I bought the bucket at Dollar Tree and just filled it with snacks!
After I have Baby Girl, I will be sure and update with any thing I missed! : ) 

Our IVF Journey: Part 3

After announcing our pregnancy, I have been flooded with questions about our journey with IVF. I have decided to blog about it in three parts. This is Part 3. Please check out Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. 

Finally, it was go time! In March 2018 we met with our doctor again to figure out medicine and get a game plan going for our Frozen Embryo Transfer. Of course, it had to be planned around my body, but we wanted to try and get the ball rolling as soon as we could that summer so I wouldn’t be having to do shots when school started back in August. At the beginning of June, I started estrogen pills that would increase over the next few weeks. Two weeks in, I had a lining check and they found fluid in my uterus which could be a reason to call off the whole thing. We went ahead and started the progesterone shots and prayed that the fluid would go away. The progesterone shots were tough. They were huge, thick, and had to go in the top part of my booty, meaning that I couldn’t easily give them to myself. Tyler quickly became a shot-giving pro! I got these shots every morning so that I would move that muscle all day which would help with the soreness and knots. Thank goodness that I was out for summer break because I was exhausted and super sore!

A week later, we went back for another lining check. I was a nervous wreck, but thankfully, the fluid had cleared up and we were good to go! The frozen embryo transfer was planned for the next day. It was finally happening! We had decided to transfer only one embryo, and to just go in the numerical order that had been assigned to each one. So embryo #1 was taken out of the freezer and thawed. We had to be at the clinic at a very specific time, and I had to drink a very specific amount of water at a specific time. Did you know that a full bladder gives you the best picture of the uterus? Just a little fun fact for you!

I wasn't really wearing bunny ears, just the Snapchat filter! 

It’s hard to put this day (June 22) into words. It was a day filled with excitement and hope, but I was also scared to death. So many things had to go perfectly, and so many of these things were totally out of my control. Tyler and I put on our gear and waited for the doctor. I wrote a special prayer for this day and we just prayed it over and over and over. 

It was an exciting time. I captioned this picture in my memory book, “The happiest parents-to-be that there ever was.” And it’s so true! 

The FET process was so incredible! To put it simply, the embryologist put our embryo in a catheter tube, and the doctor transferred it into the pre-determined perfect spot in my uterus. We were able to watch our baby be placed into my uterus on the screen. We even have a video of the procedure!  It was so cool to see this tiny clump of cells (about 1/12 the size of a 12-point period) that would hopefully attach to my uterus and grow into our child.  How amazing is that? 

Here is the first picture of our baby!

After the FET, I was sent home for almost two grueling weeks until I could do blood work to find out if I was pregnant. I would continue to take estrogen pills three times a day and progesterone shots every morning. In the infertility world, you are considered PUPO: Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise. We tried to stay as positive as possible and I tried to rest as much as I could. 

On July 1, the day before my next doctor’s appointment, I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. I gave in and took a home pregnancy test. I just wanted the “normal” thrill of peeing on a stick from the grocery store, something everyone else gets to do. Plus, I wanted to prepare myself emotionally for the news I might receive the next day at my doctor’s appointment. Even though we had been warned that taking a home pregnancy test too early could result in a false positive, we were overjoyed to see “Yes +” in the results window of the test!

The next day, July 2, was the big day to find out the official results. I had never been so excited to have blood work done! Bless everybody who kept me company and talked to me while waiting for the phone to ring that day.  Finally, the doctor’s office called that afternoon with my first Beta number. At 9dp5dt (9 days post 5 day transfer) my Beta #1 was 435. This number indicates pregnancy and should double about every 48 hours. We went back again on July 5 and Beta #2 was 1,553! Praise the Lord! We were officially pregnant! After two great Beta numbers, our first ultrasound was scheduled. In the meantime, I was supposed to continue to take it easy, continue my daily shot and pills, and enjoy finally being pregnant. I felt like I could finally breathe! It was the BEST feeling, but it didn’t last long. 

On July 12, I woke up around 4:30 in the morning and could feel that I was soaking wet. I immediately went to the bathroom and discovered that I was bleeding bright red blood. I screamed to wake Tyler up and called the doctor’s office sobbing. They called me back right away, but there wasn’t anything that anyone could do. I was to go in for blood work as soon as the office opened.  I was absolutely overcome with grief and feared the worse. I did the only thing I knew to do, I called my mom and lost it on the phone with her.  I sat in the bathroom bleeding, weeping, and begging God to let our baby be okay. I cried in bed and wrote in my prayer journal until the doctor’s office opened.  Once home after blood work, I basically forced Tyler out the door to go to work. The only thing worse than being out of my mind, sad and sick with worry was watching my husband feel the same way. I couldn’t stand it. Friends came over to stay with me and we anxiously waited for the phone to ring. When the doctor’s office finally called that afternoon, we had a good Beta number (9,194), but we wouldn’t have any definitive answers until they retested on Monday, 4 days later. It was the longest weekend of my life. Finally, Monday came around and I went first thing that morning for more blood work. I waited all day for the phone to ring and eventually ended up calling myself.  Of course the LabCorp telephones were down and they hadn’t gotten any results back yet. They said this had never happened before. I literally lost it with the poor nurse on the phone. I was desperate to know if my sweet baby was okay, and I had already waited in absolutely misery for days. After what felt like forever, they finally called me back and said that I had a Beta # of 18,652. That was a great sign! They scheduled us for an ultrasound on Wednesday, two days later, so we could see what was going on and see if there was a heartbeat. 

Our little miracle!

Finally, on July 18, we got to see our sweet angel and hear the most precious sound…a tiny baby heartbeat. It was such a happy moment. From there, we were passed off to my normal OBGYN, but would continue progesterone shots and estrogen pills until about week 12 of pregnancy. After that, I would be just a normal pregnant person! By September, we were finished with shots and pills and ready to announce our pregnancy to the world. It was so fun to let everyone know that we were going to have a baby girl!

This was an exciting day! It's not a lot of fun to start everyday with a big, thick shot in the booty!

I have been very lucky to have a relatively easy and normal pregnancy. 

It’s hard to believe that now we are almost 38 weeks pregnant with our sweet girl and counting down the days until she finally joins our family. It has been such a special time. 

Throughout this whole experience, I have done a lot of deep spiritual digging and have really thought about what I believe. I’ve encountered so many opinions about IVF with PGD/PGS and some of them have been extremely hurtful.  I’ve talked with a lot of people including our church pastor, a Christian counselor, trusted friends and family to process and work through my feelings on it all. 

I think we throw out a lot of “Christian one-liners” in an attempt to make people feel better or to explain suffering in the world, but these can be very hurtful and push us further away from God. It was very hurtful for me when people would tell me that this (ALD) was God’s plan for my life. I don’t for a second believe that it was God’s plan to hurt and devastate my family with this disease. He didn’t choose for me to spend my childhood watching my dad lose his mind and mobility. He didn’t choose for me to lose my dad at such a young age. He didn’t choose for me to continue passing on a fatal disease to my children. I also don’t believe that He chooses children to die of cancer, or people to be raped and murdered, or families to suffer in poverty. God doesn’t want terrible things to happen to any of His beloved children. What kind of God would He be if he deliberately planned these horrible things? Unfortunately, we are humans. We have human bodies and they just suck sometimes. We have human minds and free choice. We aren’t puppets and I think we turn so many people away from God when we paint this picture of Him being an all-controlling power who has planned everything good and bad that is going to happen to us forever. God is love and letting go of the idea that He planned all of these terrible things has allowed me to have peace.

I believe that God sometimes heals hurt through medicine and technology. If someone you love were to have a terrible disease would you say, “Well I guess this cancer is just God’s plan for you. Sorry!” Of course not! You would encourage them to seek treatment, follow the doctor’s recommendations and pray for healing. We see the same thing in the Bible.  We see Jesus help and heal humans time and time again. There is no instance where Jesus meets someone who is suffering and says, “Sorry man, I can’t help you. God’s plan was for you to suffer from this forever.” We repeatedly see Jesus show compassion on human suffering and offer healing. We are so grateful for the doors that God has opened through medicine and technology.  We know that no human life is without suffering, but we are so grateful to know that our baby will never experience the fatal disease of ALD. 

Thank you so much for reading our story. 

Our IVF Journey: Part 2

After announcing our pregnancy, I have been flooded with questions about our journey. I have decided to blog about it in three parts. This is Part 2. Please check out Part 1 HERE. 

The first step in starting the IVF with PGD/PGS process during the summer of 2014 was blood work to prove that I was indeed a carrier of ALD. This would establish “medical necessity,” which is imperative for insurance coverage. Easy, right? HA! Before completing the blood work, our genetic counselor preauthorized everything with insurance. We were told everything would be covered so proceeded. 

The first of probably 300 needles. 

Months later, I received a bill for close to $3,000 for the blood work. This would be my first battle with insurance. I learned a lot from that experience that would prepare me for the next several years. I started keeping detailed notes of everyone I talked to, asking for their employee number and writing down every detail of our conversations. I eventually won this battle, and with the confirmation of being a carrier, we proceeded to the next step. 

In 2015 we moved to the DFW area and decided to get the ball rolling.  We found a fertility doctor and scheduled an appointment. We quickly found out that there are SO many things that are required and must be done before starting IVF. It’s crazy! As a teacher, y’all know that it’s really hard to miss work. We get 7 days off a school year which includes sickness, vacation (HA!), doctor’s appointments, everything. We decided that it would be easiest to plan to do IVF in the summer when I could rest and make it to the millions of appointments without writing sub plans or stressing over missing days of work. We planned to do our first round of IVF in the summer of 2016 and did everything on our part to be ready to go. Unfortunately, our doctor didn’t do the same. After talking to the genetic testing company, they determined that we would need a probe to complete the process. No one had told us anything about this. When I set up a phone call with the genetic counselor from the company, she told me that they weren’t even sure that creating a probe would be possible in our situation. Talk about crushing! If it was even possible, it would take 8-12 weeks to complete and we couldn’t start IVF until then. So basically there was no way that we would be able to do it that summer like we had planned. Of course, we were really disappointed, but we had no other choice than to wait.

Since Tyler and I had no children together, the geneticists would have to look at our DNA and create a probe of what a healthy child between us would look like. This would provide something to compare our real embryos to. Ideally, they needed DNA samples from me, Tyler, my mom and my dad. We did the best we could without having DNA from my dad. Tyler and I sent in more blood work, and my mom mailed in a spit sample. Then we waited to hear if they could make it happen…

Finally, at the beginning of that August I received an email letting me know that they were able to create the DNA probe that was needed. We could start the IVF process, but they would have to have at least 5 embryos. Whew! But school would be starting back in a few weeks so it wasn’t the right time to start IVF. 

I was so upset about the situation that we decided it was time to change doctors and find someone more experienced with our particular situation. After asking around, some friends of ours recommended an IVF clinic that they had used and were successful with. We scheduled a consult with the new clinic and doctor. It felt perfect and it was.  From there we made a game plan. 

Between March and May of 2017, we did everything necessary to be ready to start IVF that June. It felt like a full-time job! There was blood work, sonograms, phone calls to insurance, medicine trainings, ordering medicines, etc. We also met with the Financial Coordinator at the clinic and got hit with the huge financial costs associated with it all. Insurance wouldn’t touch it, so we would pretty much be paying for everything out of pocket. I made it my mission to fight insurance. These two two-inch binders document every phone call made and correspondence received. 

I actually had to create a form to keep track of who I talked to about what. It was very eye-opening. I spent hours and hours a week waiting on hold to talk to someone, anyone, that might possibly be able to help me or even have a clue of what I was talking about. I would often just burst into tears on the phone with whatever random insurance person I was explaining my story to for the thousandth time. A few times I was shown compassion and they would try to help, but in the end no one was able to make anything happen for me. 

The stress of this time was absolutely awful.  It felt like I was constantly defending the fact that we should get the chance to have a healthy baby like most everyone else. Every denial letter I received in the mail was like a kick in the stomach. It made me sick to think that an insurance company would rather me knowingly have a child with ALD that would be destined for death and cost them thousands and thousands of dollars, than to do the right thing and prevent the disease in the first place. I had letters of medically necessity from my doctors, letters from The ALD Foundation that explained in detail the gruesome fate of ALD, but no one seemed to care. 

We carried on with the plan and I continued to fight insurance behind the scenes. On June 4, 2017 we started the shots for our first IVF cycle. My nurse friend Kate came over to help. The two shots had to be given in my stomach between 6 and 8 p.m. at night. I would have to go to the doctor’s office at least every other day to monitor levels and have a sonogram to check follicles. To put it simply, they were trying to get my body to produce a lot of eggs for an egg retrieval.  The plan was originally for Tyler to give the injections to me, but I liked the control of giving them to myself. 

The whole experience was an emotional roller coaster. Every time I went to the doctor, my follicle count and maturity would change, plus hormone levels would change. I never really felt good about everything because it could be different at the next appointment! We eventually added in a third shot too. 

After about two weeks, my body was ready for the egg retrieval. Usually the doctor’s office will help mix this big shot that triggers your body to release the eggs at the right time, but after looking at my levels, they decided I needed to be triggered that night, before I would be back at the office. Thankfully Kate came to the rescue again! She mixed and gave me the shot at 7:30 on the dot that night. I cried and had a lot of anxiety that had been building up to that moment, but I made it through. 

The next day was a rest day, but it was hard to rest because I was so uncomfortable. It felt like there was an alien living in my stomach and the cramping was just miserable. 

The egg retrieval was scheduled for June 15 at 7:30 a.m.  It was the most nerve-wracking day of my life. We had thousands and thousands of dollars invested into this, my body had been preparing for weeks, I had endured multiple needles and painful sonograms, and it all came down to this one procedure. It felt like my only chance to be a mom. I had nightmares of there being no eggs to retrieve, or my body releasing the eggs at the wrong time. I woke up at 4:30 that morning and felt like my ovaries were going to explode. I cried most of the morning and felt like I was going to throw up from the anxiety. After getting checked in at the surgery center and getting called back, they struggled to get the IV in, which only upset me more. Finally, it was go time. I was knocked out and taken back for the egg retrieval. 

Before I knew it, I woke up crying (of course) and in a lot of pain. I cheered up, though, when the doctor came in and let us know that they had retrieved 24 eggs.  This was an amazing start! The eggs would be fertilized and watched carefully by an embryologist over the next five days.  We were given a chart showing when to expect phone call updates and I was sent home to rest. In traditional IVF, the embryos would be transferred back into your body pretty quickly. However in our case, the embryos would first have to be tested for ALD which could take weeks. So my body would come off of all the medicine and then we would do FET or Frozen Embryo Transfer later. We received calls on the given days and watched our numbers drop (which is to be expected) every day. The recovery from the procedure was pretty miserable. I was very swollen, sore, bruised and trying to drink tons of liquids to prevent OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome).  

Finally, we got the final number: 8. We had 8 embryos to be biopsied and tested for ALD. Praise the Lord! The waiting game would begin all over again as we waited to hear if we had any healthy babies of those 8. We were given a pretty broad window of waiting time, so I was shocked when we received a phone call with results less than 2 weeks later. We decided to keep our results private, but were overjoyed to know that our first round of IVF had been successful! Our clinic actually decided to feature us in a story on their website. 

It felt amazing to know that ALD would end with us. I crossed a few more things off the to-do list that year, including a mock transfer and a hysteroscopy that would need to be done before the frozen embryo transfer. What we looked forward to the most was the day that we could transfer one of our babies back into my body and hopefully become parents! 

Read Part 3 HERE.