Monday, September 28, 2015

So Much Life Going On

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Dangerous, I know. I feel like I've fallen into this bad cycle of my priorities getting out of whack and needing to get back on track. IN an effort to resolve this, I've distanced myself greatly from social media. Sure, I post pictures of Chase, pregnancy updates, and opinions on things or random thoughts of the small day-to-day happenings, but the meat of what's going on in my life, the changes taking place and plans in motion- no. I've kept that all to myself.
Social media encourages us to over share. The problem with oversharing is it makes every little detail subject to other people's opinions. The problem for me with that is I start to care too much about what people think. Then I over think, over worry, and over stress.
It's been refreshing. We've been under contract on selling our house and are set to close in just a couple of days. We've moved into a different house and are in that weird transition phase where we are still back and forth and all our dogs aren't here yet (awaiting fencing) but we are settling in and it's slowly but surely becoming home. We've had a litter of puppies that will be 4 weeks old tomorrow. And all of this, we've done without the opinion of anyone. And it's been delightful!
It has really helped me refocus on the things and people who matter most: family, friends who might as well be family, and personal goals. The rest just kind of falls away. The entire experience actually has me contemplating eliminating my cell phone from my life as well, but that's a subject for another day. We already have absolutely no signal at the new house, and rely on very, very poor internet service to get messages. Usually when we leave home our phones explode with notifications that weren't able to come through at home. This isn't so much an issue for Jon as he leaves the house every day but I can be home for days at a time!
My pregnancy has been anything but smooth. Just when I think I am doing so well something else comes up. Max has measured small the entire time, which isn't a surprise to me; neither Jon or I are very large statured people and Chase was always small as well. He's been proportionate and consistent in his growth, though, until this point. I hadn't gained anything in the last month. In fact, I lost nearly 10lbs. I mentioned it at my appointment Friday and my doctor suggested we just take a closer look at Max and take some measurements. We usually take a peek at him when they check cervical length but nothing in depth. His abdomen and femur measurements hadn't really changed in the last month, though his head is still measuring on track for his growth so far. There's just SO much room for error in these measurements. They can cause concern when there is none, be overlooked when there SHOULD be concern- you just don't know how accurate they may or may not be so the possibilities are endless. Down syndrome or other chromosome disorders have been mentioned. IUGR has been mentioned. I go back to MFM in Provo on Wednesday to maybe start getting some answers. Whatever we are looking at we will deal with, of course, but I don't think I will be at ease until we know a bit more about it. So, until Wednesday- we wait. And wait. And wait.
I'm enjoying life. I'm LIVING my life. I have things to look forward to and be excited about. I'm happy with that. Life never really slows down. Jon has mentioned several times he can't wait to just get "back to normal life" when this period of absolute chaos passes. Me? I'm not sure what "normal life" is because it seems like there's always something big going on. What is normal?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trucking Along

The reality that this is just not going to be smooth-sailing pregnancy that results in a full-term VBAC has sunk in. After more ultrasounds and cervical checks (did I mention yet that those are my FAVORITE and totally not mortifying at all?! *sarcasm*)

After a follow up with the Maternal Fetal Specialists I had lost nearly all of my cervical length and was scheduled for a cerclage the next day, by which time I had even dilated. The procedure didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped but they were satisfied with the end result. And now we wait.
That was three weeks ago today. I am now 24 weeks, 2 days. That means I've passed that magical date of viability where Max would stand a fighting chance outside the womb with a lot of medical intervention, should it happen. Each day is important, and the statistics do move rapidly at this point. I'm just thankful he's staying put for now.
I think what I have the hardest time with is having to decide every day which of my sons I will take care of: Chase, who just wants mama to come play outside, and walk to the park, and go swimming, and do all the cool fun stuff that Summertime and toddlerhood call for.... or Max, who needs me to be still, to be patient, to be quiet.  I struggle each day to bring myself to be social but the truth is, my mind is so busy with all the things that need to get done still before Max arrives I find myself most at ease when I simply recluse. Keep to myself. It's how I cope and how I process, and in general how I handle really crappy situations. The added pressure to socialize and try to pretend everything is OK stresses me out nearly as much as the situation itself. But it makes other people feel bad. And then I feel guilty. And then the issue is compounded with the issue of feeling guilty for not taking care of Chase, or trying to take care of Chase and as a result not taking care of Max. I feel as though I can't really win, and we impose on everyone else around us because I can't do everything for Chase and I like I normally would.
I'm feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place. I feel scared, every minute of every day. I kind of expected that when I realized this was not going to be the make-up-for-last-time pregnancy I was hoping for. What I didn't expect is so much anger. I feel angry.... almost every day. Angry that this is how things are. Angry that Jon is stretched SO very thin and it feels like my fault. Angry that we are imposing on other people so much. Angry that my house is SUCH a mess. Angry that my poor Chase is so lost with what's going on. Why can't mommy go to the park? In the midst of everything.... there's just this ball of anger I can't shake. I'm pissed. This isn't fair.
But I'm also thankful. People have helped us out a lot. My mom has watched Chase a couple of times, Jon's mom and sister made the whole trek from Vegas to help out for a few days, Jeannene actually brought us dinner on a night I was near tears at the thought of take out AGAIN. I'm thankful to even BE pregnant, when so many can not.
So. There it is. I'm scared, angry, and thankful all the time.
Talk about conflicted.
But one thing I know: He's worth it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

No dignity here

We've had a few new developments since Friday. My followup check at Maternal Fetal Medicine on Monday didn't go so well. My cervix had gone back to tunneling pretty severely, leaving only 3mm closed. Just for reference anything under 25mm is considered not good, and when you start considering a cerclage. On Friday I had 24mm at my second check, so really borderline. 3mm, not so good.
A "be cautious and see" approach is no longer safe or reasonable at that point and we decided it's absolutely necessary to go ahead and do he cerclage, that the risks are indeed high, and the success rates this late aren't nearly as impressive as we wish they were, but it's the only thing we could do at this point and the alternative was looking more and more like Max isn't going to stay put on his own until the magical week 24- widely accepted as when a baby is viable outside the womb. So, cerclage it is.
My appointment was made for this morning. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight which sounds like no big deal but at about 12:17am I was pretty convinced I was going to starve or dehydrate to death, or both. Funny how that works considering I don't usually eat that late anyway. Until someone tells me I can't, apparently.
My mom watched Chase for me, and Jon took most of the day off of work to come be at the hospital. I got checked in and taken off to prep for the procedure. I have zero fear of surgery under general anesthesia. Man, knock me the heck out and do whatever needs to be done, nooooo problem. Doesn't stress me out one bit. Being awake for surgery? Oh. Hell. No. I was, admittedly, quite nervous.... not only for the possibility of something going wrong, but just the procedure itself.
Once wheeled into the OR they prepped me for an epidural- which is really the only option for total numbing, as general was not an option for Max's sake. The nurses were all incredibly friendly and really did their best to make me as comfortable as possible. They mentioned several times it really was unfair I had to be aware and alert for all this and validated the fact though I was keeping my cool and refusing to break down, I was so nervous my legs were trembling. They warned me that the first shot would burn- and they weren't lying, but I knew that's what was supposed to stand between me feeling the giant needle headed towards my spine in a few moments, soooooo I will take a little burning. Except it didn't work the way it was supposed to. I felt the weird pressure of the epidural needle and then was caught completely off guard by what I can only explain as an overwhelming searing pain that shot up my spine to my neck, and radiated through my hips. I yelped fairly loudly, having been caught off guard. "You can feel that?!" Um, yes, I felt that. It knocked the breath out of me. They gave me another numbing shot, ow, and went for it again. Same thing. By this time my body was shaking uncontrollably from the searing pain and they couldn't proceed for several moments until I was able to relax. They poked around my lower back asking me if I could feel it, and gave me a third numbing shot- which I didn't feel nearly as much as the first two. Epidural successful, finally! I felt my feet and legs start to feel heavy and numb about the time my OB's partner- who is just a little more experienced in this procedure- came in to assist. He introduced himself to me though we've met once before (he was brought in Friday when the group of specialists were trying to figure out my case) and said he was just there to be an extra set of hands and direct/ assist. I said "Great, I love extra sets of hands on my cervix!" The room of nurses laughed and I was relieved they weren't too uptight to appreciate some comical relief unlike to folks in Provo Friday who seemed offended that I would even make jokes.
Having a  cerclage put in place is a procedure that strips you of any last shred of dignity that you may have woken up with that morning. Skip this paragraph if you'd prefer not to have the description. While awake and aware (but numb) of everything going on, my feet were placed in stirrups set far above me and wide apart. Unlike a normal pelvic exam where you can kind of close your knees in on each other while they aren't actively doing anything, this left no room to have any bit of decency. Then a device is used to hold the vaginal canal open and give the OB access to the cervix, and the bed is tilted to an angle to use gravity to encourage baby and membranes to move away from the cervix. A single long stitch, weaving in and out of the cervix in a circle is put in place, and then pulled shut. Imagine the drawstring on a bag that can be cinched closed. Well, that's how it was SUPPOSED to go. Except, to the surprise of everyone, I was already dilated to 2-3cm. A cerclage is considered much higher risk, and much less effective when the cervix has already began dilating and though that amount is not very much, it's a lot for being 21weeks along, and it's a lot of space to force closed. I was asked to give permission for photos and video to be taken to send to the specialist in provo to see if it was in our best interest to even proceed. After a mortifying 10 minutes of just hanging out in ALLLL my glory, it was explained to me that the risk of pROM, infection, preterm labor, fetal distress, and bleeding were much higher, and that the effectiveness of the procedure were much lower, BUT still our best and really only option to keep Max baking. If we do nothing, he was on his way. It was in my favor that my cervix had not thinned, they were confident they could perform a good stitch, and it is in my favor that I am not experiencing any contractions. (If I were, they couldn't do it) I was overwhelmed with emotions, and didn't know what to think or feel. I started crying, and not just kind of misty-eyed crying.... I'm talking full on, platypus lipped, ugly face, snot nosed crying. (Mind you, I'm still hanging at a solid 45 degree angle completely exposed. I'm sure I was super, super attractive.) We decided to proceed. The alternative was a whole lot scarier, and I am not ready to throw in the towel.
They had to tilt the bed nearly a full 90degrees to get the membranes to fall back into place, as they had hourglassed outside of the now-open cervix, and use a balloon catheter to push and hold them out of the funnel they were stitching closed. Once they got started it didn't take long.
In recovery, I was feeling quite a bit of cramping, which is normal. However, my back pain was intense, when it should have been mild. It was intense enough I had a hard time talking through it. They kept me for a while to make sure it wasn't the onset of labor and determined it was likely from the rough epidural. I had NO contractions while waiting.
I'm on very strict bed rest. The next three weeks are fragile. But all that can be done is done, and now.... we wait. And hopefully we wait for a long time. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A scare

Pregnancy after a preemie is a different experience, especially when we're just not really sure why Chase was early in the first place, it just kind of happened. As much as I love the idea of a natural home birth, our gut instincts told us it wasn't the right path this time, either, and I have been under the care of a competent OB since my first trimester, and a few high risk fetal specialists for equally long. My prenatal appointments are frequent, mostly impersonal, and not enjoyable like they were with my midwife the first time around. But, I still feel like it's what needs to be done to get Max here as safely as possible so it's what we do.
Part of my specialist care has been having cervical length checked every other week. Let me tell you what a boatload of fun THAT process is. The appointments are the same every time. Go in. Pee in a cup. Strip from the waist down, including every last shred of dignity that I have, and hop on the table, feet in the stirrups where I proceed to have an awkward small talk chat with a nurse I've probably never met before about if we know gender or have started thinking about names yet as she probes my crotch. BOATLOADS of fun, guys. Boatloads. Then I get a lovely, burning shot of progesterone in my hip, wait for the actual doctor to come in and tell me everything looks fine. Then I get dressed and go home, to repeat the process in a week or two.
Except this week was a little different. I knew looking at the screen something was off. I've had enough of these checks by now I'm halfway decent at knowing what I'm looking at and it's not all just a mass of black and gray on the screen anymore. I knew my cervix looked way, way off. And when the nurse went silent it was confirmed. This wasn't going to be like every appointment the weeks before. She proceeded to do a couple of checks and measurements on Max- something we don't always do at these appointments- and assured me HE looked great, and the doctor would be in to talk about me.
I like my doctor. He's quiet, humble, kind, and listens to my concerns. He seems to be pretty understanding of the anxieties I (and Jon, too!) has surrounding all of this based on our experience with Chase. He isn't pushy and actually talks to us like we are educated human beings, which is honestly more than I can say about a lot of the specialists we have dealt with.
He pulled out the images from the ultrasound and started going on about dilation and "funneling" and using words like cerclage, preterm labor, viability,  and miscarriage. His deep concern was obvious and I was nervous. I kept asking what all of this mean for Max, and he explained that a cerclage (stitching the cervix closed) may help keep him in longer- at least until viability- but that if I was in preterm labor or contracting that it would be too dangerous to do, and we would lose him. He explained my cervix was funneling, which means in side side was opening but the end closest to the outside of my body was closed- for now- and we needed to know how gradual this was happening.
There I was, alone, (Jon usually goes to be supportive but we decided together that he wouldn't this time because it was juuuuuuuuust like all the other appointments nothing ever happens at and he was better off staying home so Chase could get a much needed nap.) It was about 4:30 on Friday afternoon and my doctor said it couldn't wait until Monday, and he wanted me to leave there and go straight to Provo for the night, to be monitored for 12 hours and make sure it was safe to have a cerclage done first thing in the morning. If I contracted even somewhat regularly they would not be able to perform the procedure.
Not one, two or three but FOUR cervical exams later, another ultrasound, two hours of monitoring, and a team of five doctors later we came to a few very interesting conclusions.
First, we all know what the initial ultrasound showed and there's no mistaking it. But when I had another just a few short hours later, while it was not perfectly normal there was NO funneling to be seen. It is short, it is softer than it should be, and I am slightly dilated. None of these are good things, but none of them are as dire and scary as what the image that sat before us, showing extreme funneling was showing. The specialist herself even said it was one of the "probably the scariest 20 week cervixes she's seen, and she sees a lot of cervixes." We watched, for 5 minutes. Nothing changed. Medically, it makes no sense. She explained how angles, pressure, etc. can change or skew measurements and images slightly, but was baffled, ABSOLUTELY baffled at the difference. Baffled enough to have several other doctors brought in on the case. (yayyyyyy more exams!)
The cerclage is less effective the later it is performed and they stop performing them near 24 weeks. I comes with a lot of risks, and is done as an absolute last resort.
This entire team of doctors, and myself and Jon, decided that because we have things to worry about but the situation has shifted to not AS intense as before, to not have the cerclage done just yet. I am on very, very strict bed rest this weekend and will go back first thing Monday morning again. ANY changes in an unfavorable direction and we will be performing the procedure immediately, and hospital bed rest may be a reality until viability. That is to be determined then.
They recommended we stay the weekend but said it wasn't unreasonable to go home with the commitment to honor the bed rest bit. It's not that we don't take it seriously, we do, but I much preferred to be at home with Chase for now. Expecially as the liklihood of another go in NICU seems to grow day by day, I want to soak my little buddy up as much as I can now.

I am immensely thankful for the medical interventions that help keep these babies baking. I've had a few well-meaning comments about how glad people are we aren't attempting "the whole home birth thing" again, and I do want to make a few things clear:
I am NOT planning a home birth this time for one very simple reason: I'm not a good candidate. I still aaaaaaaaaaabsolutely believe it is a WONDERFUL, dare I say superior, option for low-risk, healthy women without a history of these complications. For reasons I may never know or understand, my body doesn't do this gracefully. But I know this is the EXCEPTION, not the RULE and that birth is USUALLY beautiful, safe, and not complicated. Things can change, and when I went into labor early with Chase, I was not filling up the bath tub and starting the hypnobabies tracks while Jon lit candles and started the tea. No, we went to the hospital. Where early labor belongs. I have so much gratitude for the knowledge of all of the doctors who are on our team. I also have so much respect for the reproductive process, and what it means to me. I'm thankful for the knowledge *I* have so I can make choices for myself and Max with confidence, and not be blindly following doctor's advice.
So we press on. 21 weeks tomorrow. I think I will get to know Netflix a bit better. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Albert

Dear Albert,
I thought of you this morning, just as I still do most every day. I laid there wondering if you're around, or what important task the Lord has you working on right now. I know it's selfish of me, but I just wished you were here. It's hard for me to fathom there's any place more important you could be than here with us on Earth, helping us find the way. I know you're around, I know you still care, I know this is how it's supposed to be right now, but I can't understand. I can't understand how we are supposed to navigate all that's going on without your support, encouragement, and words of wisdom. I'd give anything to just be able to pick up the phone and call again, I have so many questions and so few answers right now.
Grandpa, where do I put each thing in my garden to make it grow best? The water pressure in my sink is so low, how can we fix it? And Grandpa, Jon's truck gives us trouble- the brakes are still loud, what should we do? And while we are at it, Grandpa, who should I call about a quote on our windows, they're drafty and I'd like to move Chase to his bedroom soon but can't until it's fixed. Please Grandpa, we are thinking of moving and need your advice, I just know you know best, and I'm feeling so lost. I miss your guidance and times now are tough.
It's been nearly a year, and some days are good. I find comfort in knowing there's life after death, but sometimes life without you is brutal and I find myself doubting every decision without your input.  I'd give anything for just one more conversation, just a bit more advice. To drive to your house on that hill and know you'd be there, in your big leather chair, with a listening ear and endless advice.
I miss you Grandpa, I miss you so much. I'm trying, I am, to accept what can not be changed, to remember the eternal perspective and keep priorities straight. But it's hard to do, on days I just really need you. 


I participate in a few online groups somewhat regularly and last week a question was asked that has been on my mind a lot this week.

What makes you feel successful? 

I read through the responses, all very valid. A promotion at work. Finishing a project. Buying a house. But it made me think of how differently we all define success, and how only our own personal definitions matter. 
So all week I've thought: what makes me feel successful? 
It's funny, because by the world's standards, Jon and I are wildly successful for our age. 
At 20 & 23, we bought half of a small business. 
Shortly after, we purchased the other half. 
At 21 & 24 we bought our first home. 
At 22 & 25 we purchased our first boat. 
Jon got his degree in Forensics and landed a job working in a lab within a reasonable amount of time. 

I do consider us successful, but not for these reasons. When I think of the successes in my life, it's a different set of reasons.
I don't care about business. Sure, yes, I have a passion for animals and am incredibly blessed to have our doggy daycare in my life. Without it, there is NO WAY that we would be able to support ourselves AND me be a full-time stay at home mom to Chase. Being his mama is the biggest blessing in my life, it gives me purpose, enjoyment, fulfillment, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I am so so glad that Ruff House is a successful business, not because I dream of being a successful businesswoman but because I care to be home and present for Chase and any future babies to come. As much as I wish our economy was such that a family could make ends meet by one adult being the college-educated provider and one being the nurturer and homemaker, it's not that simple. We need supplemental income to Jon's job and business ownership has made that possible without the requirement of me going to work out of our home on a daily basis. 
Being a stay-at-home, present mother makes me feel successful. 

When buying or selling property there's a lot of talk about value, equity, profit, loss, value, etc. I don't care about any of that. I am just thankful to have a safe place to call home and a place I am comfortable raising my babies. Equity doesn't matter. It's our home. The comfort and peace that comes from that is not measurable by dollars. Owning it allows me to explore my passion for ethical dog breeding, something I could not do renting. 
Having a place to call home makes me feel successful. 

Days I feel most successful are when my husband comes home to a clean house, my baby is happy, and I can get healthy, home cooked food on the table. It doesn't always happen, in fact, it hardly ever all happens on the same day, but it's what I aim for. It is important to me to fulfill the role I feel I was put here to do. I feel successful when I fulfill my duties as the homemaker in our family.

I find things get in the way of what's important to me. I get sucked into technology and spend too much time looking at a screen when I should be looking at my sweet little boy who is growing up way too fast. The definition of success and what makes someone feel that way is not universal but I am pleased to have found what does it for me in my life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Disney World

We planned for months and months and our family trip to Disney World has come and gone. Funny how time works. Unfortunately Mitch's family wasn't able to come along due to an unfortunate death in Jeannene's family, but we were able to go and have a fun trip even so.
Can I just say that 5 hours on a plane with a baby isn't the most fun I've ever had? Thankfully Chase was pretty good for the flight there, and he did nap for a small part of it. We took the red eye so I had hoped he would sleep the whole way but no such luck.
I could probably write pages upon pages about the eleven day trip. But I won't. It was nice to be away with family, and we made some good memories. I am happy to have had an opportunity to go once, I think it's something everyone should go do once in a lifetime! I was a little bit afraid that after experiencing Disney World in Florida that Disneyland wouldn't be as neat anymore but thank goodness the opposite is true! I like Disneyland quite a bit better, for a laundry list of reasons. None of which matter. Crowds aren't really my thing- anyone who knows me knows this- but I had a lot of fun watching Chase discover more of the world around him. He won't remember this as he grows up but we took lots of pictures. His age bracket made it easy for Jon and I to still have fun doing things we wanted to because little man didn't care about meeting characters or anything like that. He's one. We did meet Mickey, which is the *only* animated character he's taken any kind of liking to, and he was pretty amused by that. We don't really do TV in our house, not that we are above it by any means, there's just no time and Chase has no interest unless there's music involved. But he likes Mickey, therefore I like Mickey.
It's funny how things change in different chapters of life. I have never been one to attach emotions to items, so I have never been a souviner person. I just don't like stuff for the sake of stuff and prefer to keep life simple and not excessive. I have found clutter in my house tend to equate to clutter in my mind and I don't like that. I didn't care to buy anything for me, but when Chase would light up at the sight of something- that's a different ballgame, so he did indeed come home with a build a bear Dinosaur. When I asked him what he wanted to name it, he said "Albert" which I am refusing to believe has anything to do with the fact that's one of the two words he even knows. So Albert came home with us and is now Chase;s absolute favorite toy in the whole world, and that makes it worth it.
I love my family, and I am thankful that we were able to make this trip happen. I wish so much that Mitch & Jeannene's family could have been there with us, but that just means we need to plan something else in the near future! I am thankful that we have opportunities to make memories like this together and recognize that not everyone is so lucky. Even so, we don't need the flashy trips to have an appreciation for one another, and I think that is what makes it even better. I am so, SO glad my Grandma was able to be there as well. How lucky are we, FOUR generations on one trip! And she was a trooper. Despite a bruised hip she went on just about every single ride those parks had to offer and kept up with everyone. She really is a rockstar in my eyes.
But like all good things do, our trip came to an end. Our flight home didn't go quite as smoothly as our flight there. Chase began cutting molars and not being able to understand the pain and discomfort in his mouth meant an unhappy boy, but we made it home and back to reality.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bone Broth Stew

Few things are as nourishing and healing as bone broth. We go through this stuff like crazy in our house. I cook with it, we drink it, I feed Chase a stew with it almost every single day for breakfast. A couple of people have asked me about how I do my broth, and what I put in Chase's stew, so I figured I'd do a post on it to refer to. Because we go through so much of this stuff, and do so many different things with it, I don't always do everything exactly the same but I will make note of that, too.  Pictures always help. 

This round, I am using my broth to make stew for Chase. (And us!) So, I did buy a bundle of organic carrots and celery to cut up and use. I will go over later why I don't usually have to buy much of anything to make broth. I also have the remains of a roasted chicken as well as the bones from several dinners of wings, an onion, some bay leaves and apple cider vinegar. If I have fresh herbs laying around that need to be used up I often times will toss some in as well but I didn't this time. 
Prepping carrots
prepping celery

The first thing I do is prep my veggies. I take the ends off my carrots and peel them, and trim my celery down. because I'm making a stew and want the veggies in there for Chase to eat, I will use "the good part" to make this round of broth. I will actually reserve the peels and ends of the carrots, as well as the trimmed parts and leaves from my celery in the freezer to make another batch of broth with. These party are typically throw-away items in most households. I make plenty of broth for drinking and cooking with, and these parts are fine for that and it essentially gives me a free batch. I also keep my onion ends as well. I keep a container in my freezer that I throw onion, celery, and carrot parts in. 
Next, I am going to pull all the remaining meat off my chicken frame to reserve to use in my stew. Everything else gets put in the crock pot. Bones, skin, organs all go in. These are also components that are generally throw-away items. I reserve all bones from our meals in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch of broth. I don't generally have to buy bones to make broth because we accumulate enough without buying more. This batch is all chicken, but it's not uncommon to have some pork or beef ribs in the mix as well. Then I rough chop an onion and toss it in, if I don't have any ends in my freezer waiting to be used. 

At this point, if I'm just making broth, I will throw my veggie scraps right in the pot. Because I am making a stew, I put everything that is going to be reserved for it in a fine strainer, and wet it in. This just makes it easier to not have to fish out the little bits (which I've cut down pretty small to be baby-friendly) but still get the flavor and benefits of them in my broth. All the rest is going to be throw away when I'm done with it. Now I fill my pot with RO water until everything is covered. I add a splash of ACV (lemon juice works, too) which helps to draw all the nutrients out of those bones and into the broth where I want them. 
I let this cook on low for about 36 hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually I put it on at night, and then stop it sometime in the first half of the second day. It's not an exact science. I add a couple of bay leaves the last 12 hours or so. Why I don't put them in in the beginning I'm not really sure, probably because that's what the blogger I learned from said to do. I have no reasoning for this. I do check in on it about every 12 hours to make sure i don't need to add more water. Sometimes if I am doing this veggie-strainer method I need to add more because the lid isn't completely on and I love more to evaporation.  
Ready to go for round 2
After 24-48 ish hours, I use a big slotted spoon to pull all the "stuff" out. I set a fine mesh strainer over a pitcher in my sink and drain the broth through it. I enjoy a nice clear broth, so sometimes I even lay a paper towel in my strainer to filter it a little more. Then I put my bones back on for the second round. Yes, I do two rounds for each batch of bones, but I only have the second one go for 12-18 or so hours. Meanwhile, the first batch is in the fridge to set. It will be thick and jiggly and the fat will solidify on top. What you do with the fat is up to you. If I'm making a drinking broth I remove most of it because drinking oily broth is not enjoyable to me. If I'm making food for Chase, I leave a decent amount of it in. The fat is excellent to cook with, so if you skim it, don't trash it! 

soft bones
When the second batch is done, the bones are pretty done for. They are soft enough to easily smash between fingers. I strain this batch just like the first one, and throw away all my bones and veggie scraps. They've done their job. I don't usually have much fat at all in this second round so I don't bother setting and skimming it separately. 
At this point, if you were making just broth, you're done! Combine batch 1 and 2, and store however you choose to. I freeze in freezer-safe jars personally. I recommend tall, skinny jars because you want it to cool and freeze all the way through as quickly as possible. 

I am going to continue on and make a stew. 
I will combine my broth batches in a big stock pot. 
All that chicken I pulled off and reserved I cut up into baby-friendly pieces, and add that to my pot with the veggies. I will let this cook on low, just barely a simmer, for a couple of hours. I lightly salt and pepper mine and also add some fresh garlic, but you don't have to. I also add some pasta- usually home made, but not always. This time I was too lazy to make pasta and had no store bought on hand, so I threw some rice and tortellini in. It was a nice change. Really, you can put whatever the heck you want in it. Chase is messy with soup, so I add enough of whatever to make it thick and easily spoon-able. 
Jon and I both had generous servings of it for dinner, and it was absolutely delicious. I put all the leftovers in jars to be frozen, reserving a bowl for lunch the next day. Chase eats about 6-8 oz of this almost every single morning and he loves it. I feel good about the fact it gets some good digestible veggies in his system, (he will eat plenty of veggies but has no molars yet, so they aren't very digestible for him yet) as well as all the benefits of that super nutritious and gut-healing broth. Sure, there are more healthy options than pasta, rice, and tortellini, but I don't feel bad about those at all and still MUCH rather give my toddler this than "baby cereal" for breakfast.

Annie approves, too!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nasty Old Habit (no more!)

My whole life- for as long as I can remember at least- I've had this dirty little habit. I've been able to quit smoking. I've been able to quit drinking. I've been able to quit a lot of things. But never in 25 years have I been able to quit nail biting. Ever. Years of abuse have left my poor nail beds so damaged, my nails are papery thin and snag and rip wit even the slightest growth... which then leads to more biting.
As a teenager and my early 20's I was a little more self conscious of my ugly snaggly fingers and paid a lot of money to keep acrylics on my fingers. It was the only way to break the habit. But, then we had a baby and financial priorities shifted and it's just not a realistic thing for me to keep up with. I don't have the time, money, energy, or babysitters to accommodate that anymore. So, off they came. Only, the damage they do is just as bad as the damage of biting so within two days of them coming off, my papery nails were once again ripping off at the beds, and I fell into the habit. Again.
*Taken from Shelly Ramsey's Consultant Facebook Page
My sister told me about Jamberry nails. She was selling them, so of *course* she wanted me to buy some, right? I didn't think much of it when she said they might help me kick my habit. I had very little hopes, but I wanted to support a loved one in the new endeavor and placed an order anyway. At the very least, they weren't expensive and I was helping someone I care about out, so either way it wasn't a loss. As I waited for my order to come, I had read some mixed reviews. It seemed people either loved them or hated them.
When they arrived, they sat on my bathroom counter for several days before I had nothing else to do and figured I'd put them on. I didn't own a nail file and had to send hubby to the grocery store to get one. Who needs a nail file when you have no nails, after all?!
My first application took a while. I had hardly any nail to speak of, just little stubby things on my fingertips. Filing was a joke, file what? My fingertips? About 45 minutes later they were on.
Some people say they last several weeks, but with my nails being in such awful shape to begin with, mine were really good for about 8 days, and then I had some really minor lifting. I was afraid they'd tear so I went ahead and took them off and put new ones on.
Here I am, a month and a half later. I have nails. Thanks to Jamberry. What I like about them, is they are kind of like a "brace" for my delicate nails, so they don't rip so easily, allowing them to grow. They also don't damage my nails like acrylics do, so not only are they growing, but they finally have the opportunity to get stronger, less damaged. And it's a confidence booster. They're pretty! I have writer's hands, and my fingers are crooked with writer's bumps. These make them slightly less repulsive looking anyway.
Twenty sheets later, I signed up to be a consultant. I don't think I have any intentions of really trying to sell them, the discount was worth it to me in all honesty. I have gone from being a skeptic who ordered the product simply to support a family member, to a full blown fan wo simply can not say enough good about them! And I can see that a lot of the negative reviews are because of user error. Granted, I'm sure they aren't for everyone, but I can't imagine it really taking more than 45 minutes to apply, start to finish, and when done correctly these suckers STICK!
I'm not about to start flooding everyone's Facebook feed with Jamberry stuff. Well, at least not any more than I normally would raving about how awesome they are. I'm not about to start advertising relentlessly and insisting everyone buy them, but I am more than happy to help anyone interested, because they really are fabulous.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

He's still around.

Jon and I are trying to figure out SO many things right now. Not a second of the day goes y without several big decisions weighing heavily on our minds. It's not a bad thing. Really, it's neither here nor there, we've just reached yet another of life's many forks and we are trying to figure out which path we are going to embark on together. If there's anything I've learned it's that life is so fluid. The things I'm certain of today may be completely different tomorrow, and I'm trying to become OK with this and allow myself to be fluid as well. I am learning to let go of some of the preconceived ideas of what I want our distant future to look like and consider opportunities as they come our way.
As I sit here in my living room, in the house that we have worked tirelessly to make a home, I know that we may not stay here forever. For so many reasons. We have unfinished business in Utah, things that will keep us here through 2015 for sure. But after that we don't know right now.
Historically when I have felt so bogged down with decisions and felt lost, I have taken my concerns to that comfortable safe haven up on the hill. Grandpa's house. Not a single situation seemed to be beyond Grandpa's wisdom and he always, ALWAYS had a listening ear. I didn't always take his advice, but knowing it was there has always been a comfort to me. He really is such a rock in my life. Now, with him gone, and Jon and I facing some of the bigger decisions we've ever had to make I've found myself feeling lost. Even bitter at times. It's been almost a year- the longest I've gone in my entire life without seeing him. Most days I feel pretty OK. I mean, there's a void, but we've slowly learned to pick up the pieces, find comfort in our eternal family, and carry on. But some days I've felt so overwhelmed and consumed with doubt, anger, and frustration and I struggle to navigate my life.
In my right mind, I can actually see how his passing was so necessary. He took such good care of us all, we could not grow with him here. I see it in my own marriage, I've had to rely so much more on Jon, and that's the way it SHOULD be, that's the dynamic that works. I know in my hear this is part of the plan for us, and I am at peace with that.
I had an experience last night, where I was once again feeling doubt, fear, and yes... anger. I have so many questions I need to ask him, and I was  feeling bitter that I can't just go on up the hill and find the peace of mind that's always resided there. I began to question things I know to be true. Is he really still around? Will I ever see him again? What am I even doing here?
And Jon and I got in the car to drive home after attending an Infertility and IVF seminar. I was feeling hopeful but confused. And then through the speakers came an old, familiar song. One that brought me back to our motorhoming days. One that filled my heart and every fiber of my being with a warm comfort and cast out any doubt I had. He's still around. And as I listened, and smiled to myself as memories of motorhoming shuffled through my mind, I had reconfirmation that this is all going to be OK.
I mean, I don't have a damn clue what we are going to do long-term. I don't know when or how we will build our family. I don't know what Jon's career path will look like. I don't know where our little family will call home. I don't know all of these things, but I know what Grandpa would tell me.
So, for now, I'm going to quit my bellyaching. I'm going to quit being dumber than a post. I'm going to get back to living in the now and focusing on things that ARE in my control and let the rest go. I'm going to enjoy my little boy.... because he sure is a handsome dude for having some funny looking parents. And I'm going to live. And along the way, I am going to enjoy the music.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The end of the line?

It's not really a secret that it took years of trying before Jon and I were blessed with our sweet Chase. Because of that, my doctor didn't hesitate to just get right to progesterone and clomid this time around and we started quite hopeful that it wouldn't be as long of a journey.
Unfortunately, we were wrong.
I went in for my day 21 blood work feeling cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately when the results came back they weren't in our favor. Initially I spoke with a receptionist who informed me that it looked like the clomid didn't work and my doctor would be calling me back with a plan. I didn't get too down on that, I mean round one, no big deal. After the brief sting of "not this month" wore off I went about my day.
When my doctor called me back, she said that my progesterone was not just low.... that my panel looked... menopausal. I was informed that my needs are beyond what their clinic can facilitate and we are being sent to the fertility clinic for further testing. We are hopeful that we might be candidates for IVF, though how we might manage to finance that is beyond me, where there's a will there's a way right? If my original doctor is right, however, we may be out of options.
I am trying not to get too ahead of myself. I am trying not to worry too much over things we do not know for certain yet. One blood draw is not enough to completely confirm what my reproductive status might be. But if I'm being honest? I'm scared. To death. The idea of never having another baby absolutely breaks my heart for a laundry list of reasons. I'm not ready for this chapter of my life to close and the thought of it makes me feel so much anger. It's not fair. It's not right. It's not what we want. The idea of not being able to give my son siblings tears me apart. If he doesn't have siblings..... who is going to be there for him when Jon and I are gone? Who is going to be is best friend when he's grown? A life without siblings? No. It's not what I want for him, for anyone.
We know adoption is something we want to do eventually- regardless of the verdict on future biological children, but it is also a long, expensive process and some people wait forever and never get picked.
We are going to a seminar on Tuesday to learn more, and then plan to hopefully pick a clinic here soon and schedule a consultation. A part of me is afraid to start this process because if it is indeed menopause, then it will be the nail in the coffin. That will be it for me. I'm done. And that absolutely positively breaks my heart in a million little pieces. Jon and I have always wanted at least 4 kids, and at this point we are just desperately hoping that we can get one more.
I know other people have gone through this, but I'm feeling pretty alone these days. Partly because... well, I AM alone most of the time, and partly my own doing: I know I've pulled away from basically everyone because quite frankly, I have nothing to say. I'm not fun to be around. I'm not social. I'm not happy. I'm at a place right now where I am questioning absolutely everything and I feel like I'm on the verge of having my only hope and dream that actually means anything ripped from me. Mom is all I've wanted to be. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I love my son with all my heart. I love my husband. And with this, it feels as though I've failed them both.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fear Based Decisions

Every now and then, the media picks something and decides we all need to fear it. A few months ago we were all drying of ebola, remember? This time it's measles. I wonder what will be next?
Let me start this by saying that I am *not* anti vaccine. I am not entirely pro vaccine, but never at any point have I decided to not ever vaccinate my kids, ever. Jon and I have put so much thought, prayer, and research into this topic and we ultimately decided to take an approach we both felt very comfortable with: delay vaccinating until Chase was no longer breastfeeding, and then proceed to do them as we felt comfortable. There are certain vaccines I absolutely will not do (chickenpox, flu, gardasil, among others) and then there were those that I am pretty sure we'd do in time, and some I am on the fence on altogether. We worked with his pediatrician and he felt that given Chase's compromised immune system due to prematurity, this was a very reasonable approach.
Because we were planning to travel, we put some thought into getting Chase an MMR vaccine a little earlier than planned. We considered it for a while and then decided we were pretty comfortable with our original plan to revisit the *idea* of vaccinating him around 18 months or so. As the news continued to report cases of measles which were traced back to exposure at Disneyland, I had doubt fill the back of my mind. Were we making the right choice? I wasn't sure, and I prayed for answers. But none came. It's not the first time I've felt like prayer and study have brought me no answers but in the past when it's happened, it's been met with a feeling and sense of peace that there simply IS not a right or wrong and whatever I decide will work out just fine. This didn't happen, either. I feel like there is a right and wrong path, and the wrong path could very well be extremely detrimental to Chase's health and safety.
I continued to seek answers but none came. We were receiving extreme pressure from family members to vaccinate Chase. A constant slew of calls and texts poured in, most talking about how our decisions were "respected" but the "just love Chase and want what's best for him" and "are concerned." All of which I'm sure came from a place of love. None of which were wanted of received that way and added greatly to our frustration as parents.
I began to question if this unwanted pressure from family WAS my answer. I began to wonder if it was Heavenly Father pushing us in a certain direction. Despite my pleas that the subject be dropped it wasn't and ultimately I did what I swore we'd never do: we let others dictate what we do with our son. Chase received an MMR vaccine months before Jon or I- as his parents- were ready to begin this process with him. Months before we felt his body was ready. Months before his pediatrician had recommended we give it to him. I justified it in my mind: we were open to doing this in a few months, it's no big deal. We planned to do it anyway, what's a few months early? But I knew... we let FEAR and PRESSURE guide our decision making. This time the media won. Mission accomplished.
I knew it the moment Jon text me and told me it was done- this was not us following our "gut." This was us doing what we needed to to please those around us. Chase has spent the last 7 days MISERABLY fussy. I failed him this time. I'm supposed to be his advocate, and I caved.
Despite the fact we were good little sheep and injected our sweet baby with God knows what against our intuition, (because, you know... EVERYTHING the media says is true, true, true!) we are still feeling fearful. Not fearful of measles. No, that's hardly a huge thread to most, but fearful of what the repercussions might be for NOT following our gut, everyone else be damned.
Dear Loved Ones,
We love you, too. We also love our son. We ALSO want what's best for him. We appreciate advice and opinions and ask that you PLEASE, by all means, VOICE THEM! We are open minded individuals, we can handle it. But please, don't voice them eleventy billion times. Because we DO love you, we also hate disappointing you. We hate being failures in your eyes. We hate feeling alienated and judged because we don't always agree. We now you love YOUR kids, though you choose vastly differently than we do, we respect your decisions. We bite our tongues when you make decisions that we feel passionately are wrong, because they're YOUR decisions, not ours. And we know YOU are far more qualified to make decisions regarding YOUR family than we are. Likewise, WE are inspired to parent Chase.
We question if we are where we belong. We wonder now if we can be open and honest. Can we share thoughts and opinions, or does that simple open us up for ridicule even among family? Is this level of closeness healthy for us? These are things we currently do not know. It's not from a place of anger, or resentment that we are pondering these things. We genuinely have to figure out what is going to be best for us. These are the things we are using our "21 day quarantine" to begin figuring out as we at least entertain the idea of what opportunities lie outside of Utah county for our family. Truthfully? The space is probably much needed.

DISCLAIMER: I am *not* anti vax, nor do I discount their role in nearly eliminating certain diseases. You know that group of compromised kids who even medical professionals recommend delaying? My son is one of those. Though my research has fallen parallel, our traditional medicine pediatrician has been 100% on board with delaying vaccines for Chase. In HIS case, it was very, very warranted. 

Magical Weekend

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Jon's family, we were able to take Chase on his first Disneyland vacation this weekend. We had so much fun. I was a little worried about how he would do on the flights since we have never flown with him and road trips so far have not exactly been smooth sailing, but he did surprisingly well. We made it both there and back without wanting to crawl into a dark hole and disappear, so we have dubbed it a success. Really, can you hope for much more than that with a one year old? I think not.
We got to our hotel pretty late Thursday night. By the time we got checked in and settled in our room it was 2am. All three of us were tired, cranky, and so hungry. Chase was absolutely beside himself with the over stimulation of travel and then being greeted by enthusiastic family members. The second he was in our quiet room, he snuggled right down to sleep. Thank goodness.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday we played at both Disneyland parks. Chase was a little tired each day because he never sleeps as well away from home. Considering he was teething as well (One actually cut Saturday. Poor boy.)
He really did have a fun weekend and for the most part liked all the rides- some more than others. He actually really liked the Haunted House, the Little Mermaid, and Pirates of the Caribbean probably the most. He didn't like Toy Story or Dumbo. I think he did pretty darn good. Despite the distance between us, Chase took right to his Aunt Rachel and his Grandma. It was like they'd been around all along. I'm so glad- it's so important to me that he knows *both* sides of his family and how very loved he is. The proximity to my family makes that easy, but it takes a little more effort to know that we are closing the gaps on the other end to make up for the distance. This weekend reassured me just fine he's not forgetting anyone.
I was able to meet up with an old friend for a couple of hours one of the days as well and it was so nice to catch up, It really got me reflecting on friendship, what it means to me, and who matters... but that's a whole different post for a different day. (Perhaps coming soon!)
We were far from ready to come home and get back to reality. Grandpa always said it was best to end a vacation while it's still fun so you can't wait to go back again. We definitely did that. It's funny how living in San Diego my whole life, Disneyland just kind of lost its charm and wasn't all that exciting. Then we moved away and Jon and I have made one trip back (excluding this one) and it was more fun than when I lived there. It's also kind of funny how I really, truly, do *NOT* miss living in San Diego. For real, I will never even consider moving back, no way. But a part of me gets a little excited to take Chase for a visit- just to show him where I grew up. Not that it's all that important but still. He changes everything, and for the better. I love this little boy so much.
Now, experiencing the park with my own little one and watching the magic and wonder in his eyes as he took in all the sights, people, and characters brought a whole new level of magic to the experience. Now we are trying to figure out how we can possibly slip another trip (or two?!) into the budget this year. Probably not a realistic goal but hey, we can dream can't we?!
We are so thankful that this trip was even possible. It would not have happened on our own. Not. At. All. We really do just have the most incredible family.
I feel like I got just a little bit closer with Jon's family this trip. I'm not sure what set it apart than any other trip really, but it was so much more comfortable to me. Perhaps I've let my guard down just a little? I don't know. I tend to not let people in very easily, I suppose a product of feeling rejected by certain people in the past a part of me figures if I never let people in in the first place they can never reject me! But that's not really living. And I feel like now, finally, at 25 years old, I'm starting to let myself be closer to people. Quality people.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Near, New Goals

A new year always brings with it a fresh spark of motivation to focus on personal development and making wanted changes. 2014 brought with it so much unexpected heartache and hurdles, we are optimistic as we look forward to a progressive 2015. But listing resolutions and reaching them are two completely different stories, and we have our eyes set on some pretty ambitious goals this year. I am a little concerned we are aiming too high and may set ourselves up for failure but at the same time when I look at the things we have managed to accomplish together already, I am convinced we can do anything we set our minds to together.
Jon and I sat down yesterday and literally made PAGES of goals for the year. We made a handful of long-term goals and then listed ways we can work towards achieving them, both together and individually. I am excited to work on this. We bought a white board that we are going to hang in the dining room, where we can see it as we sit to dinner every night as a family and keep our goals fresh in the forefront of our minds. We both do pretty well with list-type systems and I'm hoping that this proactive approach to reaching our long-term goals will help keep us on track this year.
I listed the couple of long-term goals we have chosen to focus on first, and then we have a few tasks we can do each week to work towards them. We have always been pretty good at regularly regrouping and having a "family meeting" to discuss what needs to be done but since we don't put it in writing a lot of things get missed. We plan to use this board to prevent that.
This week:

  1. Long Term Goal: Purge
    1. Go through all upstairs bedrooms
    2. Organize "to-sell" piles garage sale style in the basement
    3. Sell 5 items
  2. Long Term Goal: Emergency Preparedness
    1. Inventory food storage with expiration dates 
  3. Long Term Goal: Budget
    1. NO fast food stops
    2. NO unplanned/ impulse spending
    3. $25 grocery budget
    4. Make a list of ALL monthly expenses
The grocery budget may seem extreme for three people for one week, but it's to help us clear some stuff out that's either been in the pantry or freezer too long so we can eliminate food waste. Really, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to go one week spending NOTHING on groceries, but I wanted to leave a little wiggle room to pick up things to complete meals. $15 of the $25 is spent on our produce basket from the co op we participate in. I see stir fry in the future. This goal list is for Saturday through Friday, and then we will keep our same categories, but list new ways to work towards them. 
I also listed on our board the tasks that seem to get forgotten that really need to be done on a more regular basis, such as de-cluttering and vacuuming our vehicles, properly filing all bills, invoices, and other paperwork, and a couple of other basic things that seem to get easily put off longer than they should. 
I think what it comes down to, mostly, is just time management. We are awful at it and both tend to have some lazy habits. I really think if we can be more disciplined in budgeting our time a lot of things will ultimately fall into place as a result. 
Another thing we are working towards, which I never thought I'd do but.... I have decided it's time to get Chase weaned. We desperately want to add to our family, and feel strongly this is a vital part of doing so. He is down to only nursing at night to fall asleep, through the night, and once in the early morning. We are moving him to a mattress on our floor because it has been very frustrating for him to be so close to me all night and not have nursing time. I'm hoping that he takes it not too hard. I have every intention of keeping him close and not pushing him out of our room until he wants to. Truthfully, cosleeping has worked beautifully for us, and I'd have no,problems continuing indefinitely if I felt it was possible to do so AND night wean.  He will continue to get breast milk for several more months thanks to my massive freezer stash. We had a very early pregnancy loss this month, which we confirmed at the doctor this last week and while we are both feeling heartbroken over it, we are being proactive. Thankfully my doctor took one look at our difficulties with conceiving and said she is not going to make us wait the usual 12+ months of actively TTC before doing clomid, and she will write a RX for it as soon as I'm done nursing. My goal is by the end of the month. We'll see.