One Big Happy Mother's Day

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mother's Day has looked really different each year in our house. The first year we celebrated I was pregnant with Jay and we had a a low key day of church and naps. The following year Derek got super sick and so I spent the entire day taking care of him, and our nine month old baby. The year after that I was pregnant with Em, and we had just gotten her final diagnosis and all the anxiety that went along with that, so we weren't really in the celebrating mood. Last year, Derek came down with round two of the Mother's Day plauge, and so I was back to waiting on him again, but this time I was taking care of Jay and Em as well. 

This year though, Mother's Day seems so much more special then years previously. I have two amazing kids. Em has been doing amazingly well with her physical therapy. Jay has really let go of a lot of his anxiety over the last few months... and while I don't particularly feel like I have this entire motherhood thing down at all, I just feel so grateful that I get to experience motherhood at all, especially with these two kids by my side. 

This year I'm praying that no one is sick, I hope that our day starts off with a great morning at church, followed by an afternoon where everyone takes a nap, maybe Derek makes his killer Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner, and if Em doesn't take 5 hours to fall asleep that night, all the better. 

One thing I'm really hoping for is that Derek will be on board with everyone wearing coordinating outfits to church. This year I've teamed up with Gymboree for their "One Big Happy Mother's Day" celebration, to share with you some of the pieces from their new spring line, and I crossing my fingers Derek will match the kids and I with no complaint. 

I'm a sucker for all things plaid on Jay, and so when I saw this button down shirt I knew it was a must. And then of course I couldn't resist the little crab printed shorts and the boat shoes. The sunglasses though were all him, he couldn't resist those. Naturally Em had to match so I snagged their eyelet dress for her with these matching hair ribbons, and she just looked so, so cute. I was super impressed with the quality of Gymboree's clothes too, which shouldn't be surprising since they've been making quality clothing for over 30 years now. 

This post was created in partnership with Gymboree. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post was also written before my announcement last week, so please bare with me as I finish up sponsorships and transition to this new phase on the blog.

From Strabismus to Amblyopia

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

As many of you know, Jay had to have eye surgery back in January. When we went for his follow up appointment in the middle of February, they told us that everything was looking great, and that his eyes were fine. A few weeks after that, Derek and I started noticing that his eyes were looking off. 

Originally Jay's diagnosis was strabismus, or crossed eyes. Both of his eyes were turning in towards his nose, and the surgery was to correct it so they no longer would. Because Jay's alignment with his brain was off, the doctor told us then that surgery was his only option, and that for his case, patching wouldn't work. So we went into surgery and were really hopeful. We were even more ecstatic when his eyes looked amazing just a few weeks after. 

Then a few weeks after that, in March sometime, Derek and I noticed his left eye wandering around quite a bit, so I called to make him an appointment to get it looked at. There was nothing available for a month, so we waited it out for a few weeks until we could finally get in. Last week on the 19th, we finally got in to see the doctor and sure enough, both of Jay's eyes have gone from Stabismus to Amblyopia, or lazy, or turning out. However you want to say it. 

As a result, we now have to patch Jay's eyes. He will wear an eye patch for an hour a day, everyday for the next two months. We rotate which eye we will patch each day, and at the end of the two months, we'll go in to see the eye doctor again. If the patching this time does not correct his eyes, we will have to go in for a second surgery to get it fixed, again.

I have to admit, I've been lacking in the faith department a little bit this last month. I feel drained and defeated when it comes to the medical care and bills for both of our children. I find myself thinking, "Ok, I can handle having one child with special needs, but why mess with the healthy kid?!" I've found myself complaining that we have to go through so much more medical junk then what feels like anyone else... but then I'm quickly reminded that there are people who have it much worse. Jay's eyes can be corrected, Em will eventually walk... And in the midst of all of this I feel so blessed to have such a large village out there to help me raise these kids. I'm grateful to other parents who are quick to give advice to me on how I can better care for my children. I'm blown away every time I go through a new struggle with my kids, one of my friends always pops up to say, "Hey! We've been there too, and this is how we fixed it!", it really is such a blessing that we're grateful for.


I'm Done Being a Blogger Now

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This blog has been a major blessing in my life over the last almost five years. It was where we documented our first newlywed moments. It was my grieving outlet during my pregnancy with Em, and it's proven to be a place where I've been able to share her miracles time and time again. On top of all of that, this blog has been our own personal GoFundMe account as I started making money last year and this year, and it's what has been fully funding the medical bills for our kids and keeping us out of debt. 

But you guys, I'm tired. Em doesn't sleep ever. Sure, she naps during the day, and that's when I'm a slave to this blog getting things done, but at night she screams for three hours before she falls asleep, and when she does get to sleep, she still wakes several times in the middle of the night. I find myself constantly being torn between keeping this blog and the money coming, and wanting to just be a better wife and mother. 

I want to step back into civilian life where blogging is a thing that I've heard of, but I don't actually do it. I want to be able to sleep when the baby sleeps. I want to be able to spend time with my family on the weekends instead of driving all over town to get things for the next week's posts and then working like a crazy person to get everything done by Monday morning. It's too much for our life right now. We've gone through and have Konmari purged our entire house, and now it's time that I purge a big part of my life. I need a break and I hope that's understandable. People often comment on how I "do it all", and it's because I'm doing none of it particularly well. 

So moving forward what you'll see over here is an occasional life update, or a fun family outing that we had. I'll continue to post medical updates on everyone, including Em's monthly posts. However, recipe posts, outfit posts, sponsored anything... I'm done. I know that this has been an amazing tool that the Lord has been able to bless our family with over the last year and a half, but I'm convinced that if He wants to bless us, He can do it through another avenue that doesn't jeopardize my sanity, family, and sleep. Thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart for making this blog what it has been. I'll love and appreciate you for this chapter in my life more then words will ever be able to express.

6 Things You Need to Know if You Have a Medically Dependent Child

It's hard to believe that we've been dealing with Em and all the medical trials that come a long with her and her diagnosis for two years now. It started when I was pregnant and we had that twenty week ultrasound, and here we are still learning and navigating our way through the healthcare system. It's hard, expensive, stressful, and draining. I feel like we're at a really good spot with Em now where her health is really stable, and we've been checked out by every specialist on the map, and so we're hoping our lives will become less expensive, and easier from here, but I'm thinking that might be wishful thinking. If you're just starting out on your own medical journey with your child, here are some things I wish I knew from the beginning.

1. You must have a good relationship with your pediatrician. This will be the most important thing ever. We've had a lot of lousy pediatricians in our 3 1/2 years of parenting. Including the one we had when Em was born and he told us to our face that he was going to have to go home and google Em's diagnosis because he didn't know what it was. Our pediatrician that we have here in Atlanta though is nothing short of amazing. She respects everything I say, doesn't belittle me or my opinions, and genuinely wants what's best for Em, and will fight for her to get her into doctors. Your pediatrician is going to be the doctor that is going to get you into specialists, tell you which tests and procedures your child needs, and they'll be the one getting you into the therapies your child may need as well. If you and your pediatrician don't have a good relationship, consider switching. I love this article: 5 Reasons to Switch Pediatricians.

2. University Hospitals vs. City/Community Based Options: When we were in North Carolina all of Em's doctors were through Duke, and while we're grateful for the doctors who helped us, we quickly learned that everyone was interested in her from a research stand point and it was more about what Em could do for them instead of what they could do for Em. We constantly had offers to be a part of various research opportunities for people's Fellowships that we weren't interested in. Some people might be, and that's fine, but if you don't want that option, try looking for doctors at non-university based hospitals. 

3. Do your homework: Most hospital and medical systems are all large networks. All of our doctors are through Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and because of that, all of our doctors are contracted to refer us to doctors within that network. CHOA is such a large and popular name here, and because of that there is a ton of overhead costs for everything. Meaning the organization makes money off of charging you astronomical amounts for medical procedures that wouldn't cost nearly as much else where. We were quoted $4,000 for leg braces for Em through CHOA, and after insurance we would have had to pay $800. While that doesn't seem like a lot, when added into all our other bills, it really is more than we have. When I was discussing this with our therapist she said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this but there is another place down the street that does them significantly cheaper", I got my new quote last Friday and our total amount will be $237. That right there is manageable. Don't be afraid to do your own research for things and if you feel like it's too much money, look elsewhere. Chances are there are other options your medical network doesn't want to tell you about. 

4. Prioritize needs: Em's biggest need is physical therapy, so we don't really mind paying a little bit more money each year to have her go to one of the best physical therapist in our area. However, her needs for speech and occupational therapy aren't as pressing (especially since she communicates pretty well with us), so while we are looking into starting speech therapy, we're fine with going through the public school district and getting those services for free since the need isn't as great. If you can't afford any sort of therapy though, all school districts and counties have community based programs you can tap into, even for infants. 

5. Know your insurance plan: This has been huge for us. We hit our deductible every year, but then we have coinsurance, and out of pocket maximums, per person, and as a family as a whole, knowing how all of this works for your family at the beginning of the year will help you to know what you can expect to pay each year. Also know which doctors are covered in your network, and what procedures your plans will cover. Don't be afraid to fight with insurance and appeal something if you believe it should be covered. 

6. Find support groups: This is another thing that is awesome. On Facebook there are support groups for basically any kind of illness, injury, disease, etc... that your child might have. Those moms in those groups are warriors and have most likely been through everything you're going through. I can't tell you how many times Em did something weird in the middle of the night when she was born and I just hopped online and was able to ask other moms if something was normal or not. Being able to connect with moms who are going through the same thing as you will be so important for you to not feel isolated within your diagnosis. It's hard when you feel like no one knows what you're going through, but those moms will. 

Those are all the tips I have for navigating healthcare with your child and their specific medical needs. Let me know what tips you have and if there is anything I missed in the comments below!

Cheesy Sausage Tortellini

Monday, April 18, 2016

Something that is really hard to admit is how many times I haven't made dinner since Em was born. We've been mostly living on a diet of cereal, pancakes, and precooked meals from our local organic grocery stores. Turns out that has been the one major area of my life that fell through the cracks since Em's arrival. Other areas include, but aren't limited to, cleaning, exercising, being kind, productivity, etc... 

Over the last month and a half though, since reading Better Than Before, I've really started to pick up all of those loose ends in a really positive way. Our house is infinitely cleaner, I'm making a really big effort to remember to eat breakfast so I don't get real hangry at anyone during the day, I've gotten a gym membership, and everyday for the last few weeks, I've actually cooked dinner. As I'm sitting here typing, I can't even remember when the last time we had fast food in the middle of the week, and that right there is a miracle. 

I've been trying to make dinners that are quick, simple, and easy. Lets be honest, Derek is not a Pinterest food husband. He has told me many times that he would love to live on a diet of sloppy joes, hot dogs, and pancakes. Unfortunately that is not my ideal diet and so we've been working hard on finding a happy medium. 

I recently made this Cheesy Sausage Tortellini for dinner a few nights ago and it was a major hit in our house. Derek cleared his entire plate, agreed that it wasn't too pinteresty, and then ate all the leftovers the following day for lunch. We used the Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage that we found in the refrigerated meat section at our local Kroger.  Right now between 3/30-4/19/16 you can pick up 2 Hillshire Farm sausages for only $5 while supplies last.I love the flavor that the sausage gives to the sauce and that it comes fully cooked which means it makes a weeknight meal a total breeze!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb smoked turkey sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce (or your favorite spaghetti sauce)
½ cup regular or heavy cream
9 oz tortellini
salt and pepper to taste


Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke. 

Add sausage and cook until well browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add garlic and stir until golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add broth, tomato sauce, cream, tortellini, and salt and pepper and stir to combine until simmering and bubbly.

Cover and simmer over low heat for 12 minutes until tortellini are tender and heated through.

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group®  and Hillshire Farm, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #nohasslesavorymeal
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