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Our IVF Journey: Part 1

I know that this is a teaching blog, but from time to time I like to share other things too! After announcing our pregnancy a few months ago, I have been flooded with questions about the process, our journey, our why and what we went through. As we get closer to meeting our sweet girl, I have really reflected on all that we have been through and I decided to write out our story to share.  I joke about writing a book about it all, but I really could! I have always been open about our journey, but writing it out to share on the internet is terrifying and emotional. I hope that you will read this with an open heart and mind. I have decided to split this post into three parts, so stay tuned for the others! Part One is all about the why. 




My family’s history with Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD for short) began long before I ever existed or knew anything about. I'll spare you the entire family tree, but this disease has been in our family for at least four generations. This sweet little baby would have been my great uncle. 

He was the first known person in our family to die of what we now know to be ALD. He was born in 1925 and inherited the disease from his mother. He died in 1932 at the age of 7. His mother (my great grandmother) kept such detailed journals about her horribly sick child that they were later given to the Kennedy Kreiger Institute at Johns Hopkins University to study as they researched and learned more about this rare disease. The disease continued to be unknowingly passed on, and in 1991 I was born and inherited the gene too. 

ALD is an X-linked disease, so because I am a girl (XX) I inherited an X chromosome from my dad which carried the disease.  Both of my younger sisters inherited the affected X as well.  Since my brother is a boy (XY), he only got the Y chromosome from my dad so he does not have the disease.  A few years after I was born, my dad was diagnosed with AMN (the adult onset of ALD) with cerebral involvement.  With his diagnosis, all of the pieces of the puzzle started to come together. Across the country, my dad’s cousin Denise was experiencing the disease firsthand with her family as well. (Their story was documented in an article that won a Pultizer Prize and can be read HERE.)  


Even though I wasn’t aware of my dad’s diagnosis, I knew something wasn’t right. As a kid, I started to realize that he wasn’t like most other dads. Physically, it was hard for him to walk.  In second grade, my class was learning about rocks. My dad was a geophysicist so my teacher asked him to come and talk to the class. I remember helping him the night before get some rocks ready to give to the kids in my class. I was so excited that he would be visiting my school. After the presentation ended, my sweet teacher let me walk Dad out of the classroom. On the way back to the classroom, I remembered that none of the other kids had ever walked their dads out of the classroom when they gave presentations or visited.  I became instantly self-conscious and aware of the fact that walking was hard for him and other people noticed too.  It started out as just limping, then he started to use a walking stick and eventually he was in a wheelchair full-time. I didn’t really know what was wrong and I didn’t dare ask because I didn’t want him to be more self-conscious about it.  And I didn’t want him to know that it bothered me too. I just silently worried. 


My mom tells a story of our family visiting the beach when I was in elementary school. Sand isn’t a great foundation for people who have problems walking, but my dad was determined to get to the beach. We all watched, holding our breath, as he struggled on the sand to get to the beach. “He’s getting better and better every day!” I said trying to make light of the situation. In reality, it was the total opposite. He was only getting worse. 

In junior high and high school, I noticed that his temperament was changing too. This time period is the hardest for me to talk about because my dad did a lot of things that made it clear that he was no longer the same person. He became obsessed with strange things like collecting aluminum cans which was humiliating. Neighbors, friends and other kids from school would report seeing him all over town in his electric wheelchair digging for aluminum cans in the trash and in alleyways. I grew some tough skin and laughed it off the best I could. He wasn't in his right mind. Against everyone's wishes, he even drove to Arizona to hunt for gold. He really believed that he was going to strike it rich. During the trip, he fell out of his wheelchair and literally burned on the pavement before someone finally found him. It was an absolutely awful time, and it makes me almost physically sick to talk about. 

It also dawned on me that my dad wouldn’t be around forever. I could tell that he was getting worse, but no one wanted to talk about it. Not only was his physical health declining, but so was his mind. I decided that if I wanted him to be around for any of my adult life, including my wedding or me having kids, I would have to hurry. I became really interested in weddings and felt like maybe if I could have it all planned out, then I could meet the right person and my dad would be able to be a part of it. I literally have memories of telling people that I wanted to get married really young so my dad could be there. Praise the Lord that my sweet husband Tyler entered the picture the summer before my junior year of high school. He is the best thing that ever happened to me and has shown me unconditional love since 2007. I couldn't have gotten through any of this without him.  Even though he really only knew my dad during the time he was the sickest, it brings me a lot of comfort knowing that he knew him. He also got to see firsthand how horrible this disease was. 


The summer before my senior year of high school my dad was out in his wheelchair when he was hit by a car. He would never come home again. He spent the next nine months in and out of ICU, rehab facilities, and long-term hospital care. My senior year was spent visiting the hospital almost daily after school and trying to keep it all together. 



As a senior, I didn’t have a first period class so I decided to volunteer at the Early Childhood Center associated with the school district. It changed my life and gave me so much purpose during such a hard time. I was already destined to be a teacher, but this experience really sealed the deal. Spending an hour of my morning singing songs, playing games and loving on four-year-olds from tough situations was so healing for me. I made a plan to study Early Childhood Education, but I had to figure out where. It was really hard for me to think about going off to college and leaving my family behind at a time I was really needed. I chose to go to Texas Tech University because it would be close by (2 hours from home) so I could come home and help on the weekends. But that April my dad took a turn for the worse. On the day Hospice was coming to evaluate him, he died. I knew it was coming. The night before, I was up and unexplainably sick to my stomach. I just laid on the cold tile floor of the bathroom and knew something bad was going to happen. The phone rang early in the morning and I thought it was the hospital calling to tell us that he had died. Instead, it was Dad calling from the hospital to tell us that he was thirsty and needed water...another sign of near death.  I was at a senior graduation party for lunch that day and when I returned to school I heard the overhead announcement ding. I knew that they were going to call me down to the office and my mom would be there to tell me that Dad had died. I was right. I spoke at his funeral a few days later, which I still consider one of my greatest accomplishments. It’s not easy to give a speech at your dad’s funeral ever, especially when you’re 18.  It was so important to me for people to remember who he really was and not the disease. I wanted to share stories about the happy times and how much he loved us. He was so kind, caring, compassionate and brilliant. I was not going to let people remember him at his worst. 


2009 was probably the toughest year of my entire life. I had grown up and experienced so much grief over the past few years and then suddenly I went off to college.  There, everyone was carefree, spending their parents’ money and wanting to drink and party at every opportunity. It was a really hard transition, especially because I knew that this disease would continue to haunt me. Even though my dad's suffering had ended, I would have my own struggles as a carrier of this horrible disease. Thank God I had someone by my side who could handle it. 


Believe it or not, my dad and I never had a conversation about ALD before he died. Not once. He didn’t want anyone knowing about it, especially his children. In his eyes, he was protecting us by not sharing the diagnosis and talking about it. I don’t think anyone, especially him, realized how sick he would get and how quickly. How do you prepare your four young children to watch you lose your mobility, body and life? 

In 2012 I graduated college from Texas Tech and landed my first teaching job in my hometown at the elementary school I attended growing up. I would be teaching Kindergarten, a dream come true! In 2013 Tyler and I got engaged and then married in 2014.  



Shortly after getting married, we met with a genetic counselor to really understand our situation. As a carrier of an X-linked disease, there is a 50/50 chance of passing it on to my children. So there is a 50% chance that any child Tyler and I have will have this fatal and incurable disease, which is a REALLY high percentage in the genetic world. We were basically given three options:

1. Don't have our own children and either look at using donor eggs or adopt. 
2. Try to get pregnant naturally and then test for the disease around 10 weeks and decide what to do then...
3. IVF with PGD/PGS

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We decided to go with the third option...

Pumpkin Day




We have been learning all about properties of matter in science and learning about pumpkins! On Friday we brought it all together and had Pumpkin Day! I send this note home asking each child to bring a pumpkin. I sent a simple note home asking for pumpkins.



We will spent the whole day learning about our pumpkin!







Download this free My Pumpkin printable HERE. 

We will also learn about the pumpkin life cycle! Here are a few of my favorite books to read:
   

My students will also make their own book about the pumpkin life cycle. They will write one sentence to go with each picture of the pumpkin life cycle. 




Check out this book HERE. 

We may even plant a pumpkin seed! They grow super fast! : )


My students can also make a Story Book Pumpkin! Students decorate a pumpkin to look like a storybook character and our librarian displays them in the hallway. I love them so much!


One year I created this Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes Pumpkin! 

To encourage my students to participate, I like to give out homework passes. 



Download this Storybook Pumpkin Homework Pass FREE HERE. 


Pumpkin pie and pumpkin play-doh is always a hit too! What are your favorite pumpkin activities? 

Back to School Basics, Week 8

Y'ALL! This is it! We are down to our final week of Back to School Basics. We have spent 8 weeks doing little tasks to start the year off ahead. I really hope you are feeling a little bit more ready for August and all of the back to school craziness! This post does contain affiliate links.

This week's task is to: Plan your bulletin boards! When I plan bulletin boards, I try to create boards that will last the entire school year...or longer! 


I use this board for a photo backdrop at the beginning of the year. I used this amazing paper and just printed the letters myself ! It's so happy and bright! I will later take the letters off and just use it to display student work!


In the hallway, I always have a Meet the Authors board! I've done it 7 years in a row! It features student biographies and a place for work to be displayed. I get SO many compliments on it. You can read all about it HERE. 



Inside my classroom, I have boards set up for each subject and use them to display anchor charts! I love that they are used by my students and Here is an example of my Reading Board:


The text connections posters can be found HERE.  

Want to know a little secret? I have kept my boards the exact same for three years now. Really! They still look amazing too! My secret is this paper! It is seriously the best and looks just as bright years later! It is SO much easier to use than the butcher paper roll that I can't ever cut straight. It comes in lots of colors too! Way worth it! 

Oh and I'm sure you have heard by now that the BIG Back to School TPT Sale starts tomorrow! My entire store is on SALE! It's a great time to stock up on materials to make your school year easier like these math journal problems, vocabulary cards or Reading Notebook Essentials!

Thanks so much for spending your summer with me! I really hope that has been helpful!  Here is the entire summer series if you are just joining us! 

Back to School Basics, Week 7

Y'ALL! We are getting down to our final few weeks of Back to School Basics. I hope you are feeling a little bit more ready for August and all of the back to school craziness! This post does contain affiliate links.

The first day/week/month of school is always just a blur! The beginning of the year is just crazy and SO exhausting. Let's get a head start on planning! Your challenge this week is to start planning that first day and those first few weeks of school.  Here are a few tips and ideas to help you plan that first day and make it go as smoothly as possible!

Create a photo booth or at least take some pictures! Oh how I LOVE those precious first day of school pictures! It is amazing to see how much the kids grow in just a year and I love including them in my end of the year photo albums.  This is also a fun ice breaker for the kids to be silly and take a few fun pictures together. 

Props make it extra fun for your students! These are the cutest and can be used year after year! Don't forget big sunglasses too! 

I created this back drop on a bulletin board in the hallway with a tablecloth and paper a few years ago. Last year I found this amazing paper and gave the board a little update! It's so happy and bright!


Oh, I also highly recommend printing pictures throughout the school year, especially if you will be putting together a photo album for each student at the end of the year. Don't forget to take a class picture for the End of the Year slide show too!


Make a memory book. I have a big box of my personal school keepsakes in the attic and you better believe I have a precious little memory book I made the first week of first grade. Here are a few pictures of the memory book I use. I love how simple it is and is requires NO prep from you! Just print and go! 





I use this memory book as my writing for the entire first week of school. It's super simple and is a sweet keepsake. This year I want to hold onto each child's memory book and give it to them at the end of the year so they can see how much they have grown. 

It is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for KindergartenFirst and Second Grade. 
  

Make some name tags. The other teachers will thank you! After Meet the Teacher, I usually have all of my students names down, but I only have around 22 to learn. Think about the poor P.E. coach (especially if he or she is new to the school!) who has a lot of names to learn. The teachers with cafeteria and recess duty would probably also appreciate name tags too! You can also put them in a name tag badge and save them for substitute days! I love these bright colors and they come in neon too!




Use a book. This is my new go to book for the first day of school! It's new enough that most of the kids haven't heard it before and it's just PERFECT for younger students. 


It is SO cute and sure to make your kids smile.  We will be using A Tiger Tail the whole first week for different activities. 






My book companion includes a craft and different reading responses to choose from!
One of my favorites is this cute class book inspired by the story. I love class books! They really send the message to students that their work is valuable and worthy of being shared. They love when I read the book aloud and come to the page they created. The books are always a hit in the library for many months to come too!

  
They have the cutest and most creative ideas!




Of course we will be sequencing the story too! 
This story sequencing can be downloaded FREE in the product preview HERE.  There are tons of other printables and response sheets included in the unit too!

I love these books for the first week too! Click on any book to order or check it out!
  


 


  Take a tour. When I taught Kindergarten we chased The Gingerbread Man around the school to learn all of the buildings and the kids loved it! I also created this around the school passport for students to collect stickers or badges as they tour the school. This is a great idea if many of your students have never attended your school before! 



It's also a great idea to take pictures of the places you visit in the school and important people to help students learn important names. You guessed it, I turn this into a class book!


Introduce routines that will be used for the entire year. I try to start class routines from Day 1, although you will be reviewing them for many days after that. : ) One of the most important routines is math journals! 


Everyday, my students solve a problem in their math journals to kick off our math lesson that day. From Day 1, I teach my students where to put the problem in their journal, how write the date on each page, etc. You can read more about math journals HERE!



It's a great time to review previously taught concepts or challenge students. I am SO excited to already have ALL of my math journal problems prepped and ready for the school year! It will save me SO much time for sure! Check it out HERE. 

I also introduce and set up Writing Workshop folders, Reading Notebooks and Science Journals sometime the first week too!



You can grab these labels HERE. 


Read more about the start of Writing Workshop HERE. 



Read more about Reading Notebooks and how essential they are in my classroom HERE


You can grab this free HERE or check out more beginning of the year science!

If you are going to be using technology this year, be sure to check these out too! Computer logging in is a great routine to start on those first few days!

Need more ideas? Be sure to follow my First Day of School Pinterest Board! I will be continuing to add to it throughout the month! : ) Go ahead and start on those first day plans!