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The Kids Aren't The Only Ones Going Back to School

I firmly believe that there is a time and a season for everything in our lives. I believe that if we're humble, patient, and listed to the Spirit we can know what we should be doing, and when. One thing that I've wrestled with a lot over the last three and a half years is whether or not I should go back to school and finish my Bachelor's degree. I had finished my Associate's degree during my first trimester with Em, but then when everything became much more serious with her pregnancy, I withdrew from my classes and stopped pursuing my education. 

I'd secretly been hoping that this yearning to finish my degree would go away, but it simply never has. There were a few obstacles in the way though, that over the last few years made it seem pointless to go back. When I was at BYU my major was Public Health with an emphasis in Health Promotion and Education. When I got my Associate's degree through BYU-Idaho online, I'd just done the General Studies option because none of the four-year degree programs looked appealing to me. Then when I thought I'd do my Bachelor's during Em's pregnancy, I just chose the Health Science degree, although it wasn't entirely what I wanted to be pursuing. So when it came time to quite during her pregnancy, I didn't feel that awful about quitting since it was a degree I wasn't too jazzed about anyways. 

The kids are both starting preschool this year. That means for three hours everyday I'll have this block of time that I can dedicate to just me. I've thought a lot about what I would do with this chunk of time over the last several months and a few weeks ago when I volunteered at our church's youth trek, the answer became very clear. I'd met a woman who was getting toward the end of her career as a teacher and she told me she went to get her Master's Degree when she was my age and that parenting and a busy schedule for her husband meant that she'd never passed the last certification to get her degree, and so she simply never got it. Fast forward 30 years, she was now pursuing a new Master's Degree program so that she could get that pay bump the last few years of her career, and get a higher pension pay out when she retires. 

This made me realize that I'm never going to feel at peace with not finishing my undergrad degree, and that unless I want to have this constant wrestle over the matter for the rest of my life, I just need to hunker down and get it done while the kids are gone in school this year. When I came home from trek I looked into what it would take to get my degree, and realized that BYU-Idaho now offers my exact degree program from BYU in their online options and my heart fluttered with excitement. I then spent a few hours on the phone getting several more classes from LDS Business College and BYU to transfer into my degree audit, when it finally turned out that in just three semesters I can have my entire degree done! Classes start in September, and I'll take classes three semesters straight until August 2018, and then I'll be done. I'll be taking a pretty rigorous full time course load, but I'll have 15 uninterrupted hours each week, which is far more than I've ever given to my school work in the past, so I'm confident that I'll have enough time to get it all done while the kids are in school each day. 

My intentions aren't to work full-time outside of the home when this is all over. My hopes and dreams would be to one day run some community based workshops helping and educating other parents of special needs children on where they can go to get the best therapies and support for their kids at a price they can afford, instead of being flat broke after being bullied through large hospital networks. I want to be able to tell parents on a wide scale where they can find free wheelchairs and adaptive equipment for their kids, and tell them where they can pay $200 for the same exact leg braces that the large hospital network charges $1,600 for. I want to facilitate workshops where special needs parents can get together and have group discussions and teach each other what have been some of the best practices and resources for them to help their kids through certain obstacles in their lives, so that other parents currently struggling with the same thing, can get some more insight and hopefully resolve their problem. I truly feel like this is a small portion of what I've been called to do in this life, and I really think that getting my degree finished is the right stepping stone to get me there. 

Walking a Fine Line

A comment that I got last week was, "Why do you spend so much time talking about Jay's education, and not Ems?" Part of the reason is that with Jay, I felt like I had so many choices with him and what his education could look like, but with Em, it mostly feels like I don't have a single choice, and I'm expected to send her down this one single track, and cross my fingers and hope that it all works out. 

Starting on her third birthday, it is the plan that Em will attend the special needs preschool at our local public school. Because she has been receiving early intervention therapy services through the county, it kind of just propels her into the to program at the school the second she turns three. At first I had a really hard time with this because the thought of sending my baby to preschool everyday from 7am-noon seemed so unnecessary. That, and I'd heard some special needs classroom horror stories and thought that she would just be a body in a room sitting in front of the TV all day, that seemed unappealing to me for many reasons. 

But then someone told me that I need to think of what's best for Em when she's 25, and not what's best for her when she's 3, and it made complete since that I need to do for Em whatever will help to make her a more successful adult, and right now, that means the special needs preschool. I was talking to some people from her school and when they told me about the theme based curriculum that they use, and that Em's preschool experience would be a lot like any other preschool, just more geared with aids and such to assist, it made me a lot more comfortable about sending her. That and I realized that she would be getting six hours of therapy at school a week, (divided evenly between speech, pt, and ot), and when you compare that to the one hour a week she's getting right now, it seems like she'll be able to progress in many areas rather quickly. 

There is only one small problem that has me a little on edge right now. You only qualify for the program if you have a speech deficit, and right now, speech is Em's number one thing that she has going for her. We have to keep her speech delayed enough for the evaluation that happens on July 12th, and if they decide that there isn't enough of a delay in speech, then she looses out on the entire preschool, and all the other therapies she would have gotten. So as you can imagine, when she started singing, "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam..." in the car this weekend I was both proud, and simultaneously telling her to stop talking! Her speech still isn't perfect though, and she does use several different grunts to communicate needs to Derek and I, which we both understand and know what she needs, but the preschool says those are issues they're looking to correct. So the fine line right now is making sure that her speech is delayed enough to qualify for other services at the preschool, and hoping that it doesn't take off too much too fast before her evaluation in a few weeks. There is the blessing that she basically hates al strangers, so chances are she'll scream through the entire evaluation and then get a fast pass to preschool. 

Banana Protein Muffin Meal Prep

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias Inc, and it's advertiser, all thoughts and opinions are mine alone. #CreateWithOil #CollectiveBias

Since I started on this new healthier eating kick the last few months, I've been trying to make sure my meals have a good balance of protein, carbs, and fruits or vegetables. It's been really fun to implement that balance in my life, and seeing my kids following suit and wanting what I'm eating too. I firmly believe that parents really do set the example for food for their kids. 

When I started meal prepping, I found myself cooking a lot more than I normally would. I would make food for the kids, and then food for Derek, and then my meal prep meals... and it was just a lot of work to make sure everyone was eating and getting what they wanted. I've since begun simplifying my meal preps to make them more appealing to everyone in the family, and these banana protein muffins were well received by everyone. 

If I'm going to bake something for myself, or the rest of the family, I find that the easiest thing to do is to just switch out the "typical" ingredients for healthier alternatives. Most muffin recipes that I've made in the past call for corn oil, but in these ones I switched it out for LouAna Coconut Oil. I bought the 16oz liquid bottle from Publix, and I love that LouAna sells their oil in the solid and liquid forms. LouAna was born in Opelousas, Louisiana in 1820, a place where the food is an elemental expression of love, flavor and family. With over 14 different types of cooking oil, LouAna has the perfect oil for all of your cooking needs whether its sautéing, deep frying or baking, LouAna helps every type of cook put the best dish on the table each and every time. I find the liquid to be much better for cooking, while I like using the solid for more beauty related things. Right now when you print this coupon, you can get $1 off a LouAna Coconut Oil purchase, making an already great and affordable product even better. 

My favorite part of this meal prep is that it doesn't take long to put together at all! Simply bake the muffins, and then make your eggs while the muffins are baking, toss some fruit into the meal prep containers, and then you're good to go. When I make my eggs, I like to add a little bit of the LouAna Coconut Oil to the pan because it not only prevents the eggs from sticking in the pan but it also gives them a slight coconut aroma and taste. Because you know, LouAna is always the start of something good. 

3 bananas, mashed (about 375g total)
¼ cup coconut oil, (liquid or melted)
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup arrowroot starch/powder
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder 
1 cup almond flour
½ cup old fashioned oats (optional)
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil for greasing the pan

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and then divide batter into a greased, standard muffin pan. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 400ºF. Allow to cool before serving. 

What are your favorite ways to use LouAna Coconut Oil? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Combat Post Workout Soreness

When I first started Crossfit I was really out of shape. After four years of high school track and running several big races after high school, that muscle and endurance lasted me quite a while without having to do much to maintain. Then I had two kids in two years, didn't sleep.... ever... and all of a sudden found myself weighing 110 lbs with 16% body fat. As you can imagine, Crossfit left me feeling very sore after only one workout. I loved the workout though and didn't want my soreness to hinder my ability to continue, so I reached out to some friends and asked about what I could do to combat post workout soreness.

A handful of them suggested that I start taking BCAAS or Branch Chain Amino Acids. They can be easily used during exercise to reduce fatigue, accelerate recovery, and reduce muscle soreness, and improve the use of fat energy. They typically come in a small container, and you mix one scoop with water while working out. Not only do they make your water taste great but you will feel so much better the next day when you can get out of bed and move your legs without crying.

Some of my favorite BCAAS are from IdealFit. Not only do they have a proven 2:1:1 ratio to maximize recovery and endurance, but they also contain a unique fat loss blend to help you stay lean, and a coconut water powder to aid in hydration. My favorite flavor that I've tried so far is the Strawberry Kiwi, although I'm really excited to try the Raspberry Lemonade as well. Also, if you're interested in getting some BCAAS for yourself, you can get them for 43% off when you head on over to their site.

What are some of your favorite workout supplements? I'd love for you to share in the comments below!

DIY Lycra Compression Bed Sheets for Deep Pressure Input

A few weeks ago, someone commented asking if I could do a blog post on our bedtime routine. I kind of half laughed about it because that is a non-existent thing in our house. What works for a week or a month, won't work the next, and it's a constant changing battle in our home. 

Em has always been an awful sleeper, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that she has middle interhemispheric variant holoprosencephaly. Which is the long way of saying that she has several brain malformations and while she is certainly a lot more high functioning than we ever thought she would be, she does have several "problems" one of them being sleep related. She has a lot of sensory issues when she is in bed. Mostly that right when she falls asleep, because she has low muscle tone, she constantly feels like she is falling, and so she needs some extra weight or pressure to help her feel grounded and safe. 

Last year for her birthday I sewed her a weighted blanket to help solve the problem, and it worked really well for a long time, but she's grown quite a bit over the last year, and the old blanket is now too small. She would kick the blanket off of her several times a night, and Derek and I were literally having to go in there every 30 minutes through the night to get the blanket back on her. If you can imagine, this was the worst thing ever. 

I was planning on sewing her a new blanket for her birthday, but then my friends mom told me she was already in the works of making it, so I needed to find a solution to get us through until August. My friend Nikki has a son with autism, and he and Em  have a lot of similar sensory problems, and so she shares brilliant ideas with me every now and then that I really appreciate. Before we'd made Em's first sensory blanket, she told me about Lycra sensory sheets that basically fit over the bed like a spandex sheet, and the child sleeps between the spandex and the mattress, and it kind of straps them in and has the same pressure effect as the blanket. I didn't love the idea last year just because Em was so immobile, and I worried about her feeling stuck, or trapped, and since she wasn't independently moving a lot, I just didn't love the idea. 

But now Em is so much more mobile, and so much stronger, that I thought it could be a good time to try it out.  I was looking into buying them, but they were all about $30-$40 from what I could find, and I didn't want to shell out that much money for something that has the potential to not work, so I went to Hobby Lobby, spent $5 on some stretchy fabric, and then took it home to make the sheet. Good news: Em is fully capable of getting out of it on her own, and she loved it and has slept through the night the last four nights! 

If you have a child, or know of someone who could benefit from this, here is a super easy (really, so easy) tutorial on how to make a compression bed sheet for your child. 

Fabric (enough to fit the bed)
Sewing Machine

Measure the top of your mattress. You'll need just the length and the width. You'll then want to multiply that by two (a piece for the top, and a piece for the bottom). By not measuring the thickness of the mattress, you're ensuring the fabric will be tight enough when stretched over the mattress. 

Head to the fabric store and get your fabric. Lycra is ideal, but Hobby Lobby didn't have any when I went, and so I just went with a thick stretchy blend that they had that felt durable. I did mine on a crib size mattress and 1 1/2 yards was the perfect amount. 

I then laid the fabric out on my table and folded it in half (right sides together). I pinned the long open seam shut, and then pinned the bottom edge shut as well. 

Using a zig-zag stich, I sewed together the two pinned sides, and then I turned the sheet right side out. 

At this point it just looks like a big stretchy sleeping bag. Congratulations, you've succeeded.

Then I simply headed up stairs, placed the new sheet on top of the mattress, and put it back in the bed. 

Have your child try it out to make sure it's not too tight and is comfortable, and then get yourself a full night sleep!

Jay's School Plans for Next Year

I've written very openly for the last several years about what we were going to do with Jay for school when he turns five-years-old. I wrote very openly that red-shirting kids who have late summer birthdays was not for me, and that as long as the state of Georgia allowed Jay to start kindergarten, and that his birthday was before the cutoff, we would be sending Jay to public school in the fall. 

In March the public school registration crept up on me faster than I was expecting, and all of a sudden I was scrambling across town getting all the papers and medical records together that I would need to sign him up the following morning. By the afternoon, I had everything together to sign him up, but I also had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just couldn't do it. 

Derek and I have been praying non-stop for ages now that we would know what the best choice for Jay would be in the fall, and to be honest, I still feel like I haven't gotten my answer. I'm starting to just be at peace with the fact that I may never feel at peace about this situation, but we had to make a decision of some sort, so here's how everything panned out. 

At the last minute I called every church preschool in the area to try and gather what our options were for Jay. Church preschools started registration a month earlier, so our options were limited at this point. Many church preschools in our area offer a 1/2 day kindergarten program and so we found one that was still accepting students and got Jay signed up that day. We felt good about the decision for a few weeks, but then I started to dread that I was going to have to drive 10+ miles each way to get him there everyday. That and his school schedule was 9am-1pm, and Em's school is 7:20am-12pm, so shuttling across town back and forth all day for an entire school year sounded unpleasant. 

A few weeks later a church we'd called to earlier that had been full previously, told me they had an opening in their 4+ class, and wanted to know if I wanted the spot. The class is designed for kids in Jay's situation, where all the kids will turn 5 before December, and will all be the older kids in Kindergarten the following school year. I was excited for Jay to be in a class of kids that are all the same age range as his, and I was also excited that this school was right down the road from where Em would be attending the public school preschool, and only a 5 minute drive from our home. It also cost $50 less per month than the 1/2 day kindergarten which was also a bonus. 

So that is where we're sitting for next school year. Jay will be attending a preschool program at a local church with kids that are all in his age bubble. The pros to this are that Jay has never been in any sort of school setting, and I really think it will be a good stepping stone before kindergarten, which is pretty intense from what I've heard about the school district that we're in. 

There is still such a large part of me though that feels conflicted. At church, Sunday School classes are divided up into birth year, and everyone in Jay's church class will be starting Kindergarten in the fall, and I wonder if he'll be made fun of for not being in Kindergarten. If we lived on the other side of the main road in town, we would be in a completely different congregation where 1/2 of Jay's Sunday School class would be in Kindergarten in the fall, and the other 1/2 in local church preschools. I feel like that would be a lot better spread for the given situation. It's also hard to see all our friends who had babies the same year as us, sending their kids to Kindergarten, and knowing that we're waiting another year. I've also learned though that comparison is the thief of joy, and I can't base decisions on what I do for my kids, based on what others are doing for theirs. One continuing thought that I keep having though is that we're going to get an extra year with Jay before he heads off on a church mission, college, etc... and I know there isn't a single parent who doesn't wish they could have an extra year with their child, and so for now, I'm finding peace that I'll have one more year. 

Grey with Floral Print| LivelyandJo

This is the first time in a while that I've had a closet full of a bunch of pieces that I'm really excited about. I have so many fun pieces, and this floral print top from LivelyandJo certainly is one of them. It's a piece that is versatile enough to be worn with jeans and sneakers on a day where I'm out running errands with the kids, but it can also be worn with a skirt and my favorite clogs for church. I'm also certain that my gold bar necklace that Derek gave me for Christmas also makes ever single outfit look ten times more put together. 

LivelyandJo is an Instagram shop that adds two new pieces of clothing to their shop each day. This shirt was just one of so many other pieces from them that I really love. I find myself constantly eyeing this dress, this bell sleeve top, and this patriotic top too! They also have this shirt that I wore on Memorial Day for anyone who is interested too! Right now you can get 10% off your purchase through their Instagram shop when you use the code "HAPPY" at checkout, so be sure to browse their large selection and pick up something for yourself this summer! 

Shirt: c/o LivelyandJo
Jeans: Target
Shoes: Target