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Getting the Kids Spring and Summer Ready

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of OshKosh B'Gosh; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Right now the weather in Georgia is in the midst of that awkward transitional phase where it's freezing cold one day, and scorching hot the next. This means we've had to hustle the last couple weeks to make sure the kids were well equipped with clothes for the summertime since we know it's fast approaching. 

When the warm weather ended last year I carefully stowed away the kids clothes in hopes of being able to reuse some of them this summer. There were a few pieces that still fit Jay and Em, but I found myself emptying out most of their drawers, and needing to do a complete overhaul... mostly for Em.

She hasn't really grown much in the last year. She's been wearing size 2T clothes for almost 18 months now. Since she still kept fitting in her clothes, we didn't really buy new ones, and as I was going through her things a couple weeks ago, I realized that most of her clothes were completely trashed. 

It's hard buying things for Em because she is so thin, most pants usually fall right off her. I love that OshKosh's shorts have the adjustable waist bands so that I can customize them to fit her little hips. She loves it because it gives her the freedom to crawl and play in the grass all summer long without her pants falling off. 

Jay didn't need a ton of new clothes, mostly just filling in the gaps with a couple new t-shirts, and some shorts. One area he needed a boost in though was his church clothes. He has gone through quite a growth spurt the last few weeks, and his church shirts were barely covering his belly button. I got him a few new button downs, and really love the pink one that he picked out the most. 

Jay loves wearing button downs all the time, not just at church, and I love that the fabric of these ones are light enough that he can play to his hearts content without getting overly hot and sweaty. He loves dressing like a little southern gentleman, and Oshkosh has a ton of adorable pieces right now to help him out. 

Be sure to head on over to OshKosh's Facebook page between 4/10/17-4/16/17 where they will giving away gift cards for you to snag some of your favorite Easter oufitting for little ones! Right now you can also get 25% off your $40+ purchase when you use code OKBG3270 at checkout or code 036602 in stores. 

An Embarrassing Habit Exposed

Somewhere around fifth grade or so, my mom bought me some deodorant. I don't think I actually really needed it, but it's just kind of one of those rights of passage things that all kids go through at that age. For some reason, I could never get in the habit of applying deodorant everyday, and went most of my life without it.

I was really active in high school. In ninth grade I played varsity tennis, club soccer, freshman cheerleading, and ran indoor and outdoor track in the winter and spring. Being as active as I was, I still never got in the habit of applying deodorant because practices were always after school, and I would go home and shower right after anyways.

Fast forward ten years later, I still never really wore deodorant, but had Derek luckily to confirm to me that I never really had body odor that merited the necessity for deodorant. That's been the major reason why I've never worn it. For whatever reason, my body just doesn't produce an odor that needs covering.

A few weeks ago though I was at Target and saw their large selection of Dove Advanced Care Deodorant and all the amazing scents they had when a large idea dawned on me. I may not have an odor that needs covering, but why not where deodorant enhance myself, and make myself smell like something refreshing, instead of absolutely nothing.

I picked up a couple of the "cool essentials" scent and was amazed by how much of a difference adding a fresh scent each day can make! Derek even came home one day and said, "hmm... you smell nice." Proof to the pudding that there is something to this entire deodorant thing after all.

When I get super excited about a new product, I typically like to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone I know about it. I recently shared a tube to my friend Sarah who is an avid deodorant user, and she said, "Yeah it smells great, but I love how fresh my underarms still feel at the end of the day even more!" She was probably more excited about upgrading her deodorant even more than I was about just adding it to my daily routine.

With summer right around the corner, I'm glad that Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant offers 48 hours of odor and wetness protection plus added skincare benefits with Dove ¼ moisturizers and NutriumMoisture for softer, smoother underarms. With summer right around the corner, I'm glad that I'll smell, and feel fresh all summer long thanks to Dove Advanced Care. 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Why We Needed North Carolina

This last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Myrtle Beach for a girls weekend with some of my friends from North Carolina. It was such a fun, and well needed break, especially since Derek had been late from work every night the previous week, and was leaving for a business trip this week, it was a great refresher to help get my energy up. I loved North Carolina for a lot of reasons, but I mostly fell in love with the people. I had so many friends between the two places we lived there, and every single one of them are spiritual giants in my life. I feel like I've gained so much from the relationships that I formed there, and I feel like each of those women have given me so many parenting gems that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

While I was on my girls trip and talking to these ladies I kept thinking, why did Heavenly Father move us away from these people? And if He was just going to take them all away, why did we even need to be there in the first place? I just mentioned that one reason is that the women were all spiritual giants for me, and have greatly impacted the way I want to raise my children, but I think that there was another, very critical reason as well. 

When we first moved to Durham, NC, Derek had just barely started his undergrad, and had gotten a job working for Netapp, so we moved and worked there while Derek finished his undergrad online. Our entire plan was work for a few years, finish the undergrad, and then get a job and be done with school. 

But then when we were living in Durham, our entire church congregation was full of young families like Derek and I. The only difference is that 90% of them were either Duke or UNC Chapel Hill students, who were pursuing very rigorous degree programs. They ranged from MBA's and various master degrees, all the way up to med school, residencies, and PhD programs. The entire time we were in the ward, Derek and I thought, "good for you, but not for us." We respected and admired what our friends were doing, but since Derek was just barely starting his undergrad, the idea of more school seemed unpleasant. 

Then we moved to Cary, NC and it opened our eyes a lot. Cary is not a college town by any means. In fact, its a town filled with a lot of very wealthy families who are climbing the career ladder in a wide range of professions. Most of the families that we went to church with in Cary were established families who had the houses we one day wanted, the cars we one day wanted, and the family life that we hoped to have at some point. 

Over the year we lived there, we learned that 90% of these families got to where they were because of grad school. Derek and I quickly learned that in order to reach that level of success that we one day hoped to have, we would have to put the time in now, and do graduate school. So when he finished his undergrad degree in December of 2014, we started applying for jobs all over the country, knowing that in about a year, Derek would start an MBA online, while working full time in his new job. 

Here we are, just two years after moving to Georgia, and Derek's MBA is almost done. We never waited the year to start the MBA, and dived in head first shortly after getting here. Derek's MBA has already blessed our lives so much in his current role, and in future opportunities to come. I'm grateful that we were able to witness both sides of the grad school life. The side of being the poor families that are barely getting by, to the product of what happens to families just eight years after making that commitment. I think it's safe to say we'll always be grateful for the lessons of humility and endurance that we learned while living in North Carolina, and they are lessons that will bless our family the rest of our life. 

Why We Discharged Em From PT

As you may know from the title of this post, we made the decision to discharge Em from PT last week. We're only taking a few weeks off while we get signed up for the program from the county, but it feels like a monumental thing in our life that is worth documenting. 

When we started with PT Derek and I agreed that we would go through the local children's hospital for Em's PT services since that was and still is the biggest obstacle in Em's life. I was of the mindset that she deserved to go to the best of the best for her therapist and that no other therapist would compare to the quality that we would get going through CHOA. 

I first met our therapist when Em was about nine months old, I loved her instantly, and I really still do. (Actually that's been the hardest part about leaving is losing her therapist because I love her SO MUCH). She's been a PT for a long time and has worked a lot with children just like Em with similar congenital problems, and spinal cord injuries. She was very quick to tell us that there was no doubt in her mind that Em would walk, and after a few sessions, told us that she would be sitting unsupported by October of 2015, and pulling to stand by January of 2016.

As many of you know, those dates came and went, and those milestones didn't happen. I wasn't upset with our therapist at all because I know she can't play God, and a lot of it is on Em's own timing with everything. We still kept going to therapy each week though because we were convinced that our PT was the only one who could help her. 

Over the summer it was brought to our attention that Em was significantly delayed in her fine motor skills as well, and we decided to give the county's free therapy services a try for OT because the need still wasn't as great as PT and we honestly didn't have the money to shell out for another service. Our OT came to our house a few weeks later and he was not what I would ever have expected our pediatric OT to be. So when this big 58 year scruffy looking man claiming to be the pediatric occupational therapist from the county showed up on my door step one afternoon, I had a raised eyebrow and 50 questions running through my mind, but I let him in. 

He has turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in our lives. He has this magic about him that can get Em to do absolutely anything. When he comes through the door, Em shrieks his name with glee and is anxious to see what he's brought to play with her each week. From the second week he was with us, he got Em to sit unsupported on stool, and has transitioned her to less and less support over the last few months to where she can now sit for up to 90 minutes at a time. 

It quickly became clear to me that our current PT was not the only one who could make a positive impact in Em's life. So over the course of a month or so I started weighing all the pros and cons of our current PT situation and came to a few conclusions. One, the money that we were spending on PT each month was coming at a great sacrifice to our family. The monthly bill was more than our mortgage payment which we could not afford from Derek's salary, which meant that all money I hustled out of this blog was basically going straight to therapy. Which is fine, but we also want to retire one day, so a savings account would be great. Also, I wouldn't mind spending the money if Em was hitting milestones left and right, but to spend that money for 18 months and just barely check sitting off the list, it seemed like switching to the free PT through the county couldn't be any worse. 

Second was the commute. When we moved, it put us about 20 miles from our PT clinic and our appointments are at 9am every Thursday. That meant navigating through the crazy Atlanta rush hour was inevitable. The town that we live in is basically a commuter town. Meaning that all the people who live where we live commute to Atlanta, or the neighboring cities each day and the traffic is intense. Bless my husband who makes that drive every morning without complaint. Bless him. 

The third and last reason we decided to make the switch was because I was just plain burnt out. I was burnt out on Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, burnt out on commuting, burnt out on spending all this money. It also got to the point where we'd missed so many days due to Jay and Em being sick, or Derek's car not working, and random things like that, and I got this taste of what it was like to not drive all the way to therapy each week that when it came time to actually go again last week, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. 

So I called the office and left a voicemail saying that we were switching to the county program, our PT emailed me and said she would mail us our records, and that was it. I went to the store on Monday and bought a bunch of new toys for Em so that we could have new things to interest her with. We're working on lots of things at home while we wait for the new PT to get lined up, and I'm ready to see where the rest of this PT journey takes us. Also looking forward to when preschool starts in August and all of this is done at school and I don't have to worry about it anymore, although I'm sure I still will. 

Making Another Large Family Purchase

This post is sponsored by Kelley Blue Book and the Mom it Forward Influencer Network, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Many of you may know that Derek drives a very old 1992 Geo Prism. That car was a miracle in our lives right when we needed it the most. When we moved from Utah to North Carolina, we sold Derek's car to his dad and only took my 2004 Honda Civic with us. It was an amazing, reliable car, and it will always be my favorite car that I ever owned.

After driving it across the country though, it needed a lot of maintenance. I don't remember specifics anymore, but it needed repairs of upwards of $1,000 and Derek and I decided that our best option would be to look for another car. The dealership gave us $4,000 for the Honda on a trade-in, and we got a year old Ford Escape and financed the remaining balance. 

When I was pregnant for Em, we quickly learned that one car wasn't going to make it for us anymore. We "knew" that she was going to spend a lot of time in the NICU and we didn't know how we were going to juggle getting Derek to and from work, Jay to a babysitter each day, and then me 20 miles over to the hospital to be with Em each day, all with one car. It seemed like the only option was to buy another car, although we knew we simply couldn't afford it. 

Then one day at church, a friend pulled us aside (completely unaware of our situation), and asked Derek, "How much pride do you have?" to which Derek responded, "eh, not much...". Our friend then went on to say that he and his family were moving back to Utah, and that they had this 1992 Geo Prism that they didn't want, and that if we wanted it, it was ours for free. It was seriously the biggest blessing and miracle. A second car, right when we thought we needed it the most.

As many of you know, Em wound up being in the hospital for only 32 hours after she was born, and we were discharged right away, and all these circumstances of needing this car wound up not even being a thing for us, but we've loved having that car the last three years, and not needing to share the Escape on a daily basis. 

For a car that we got for free, is super old, smelly, and has a bunch of dead bees stuck in the back windshield that we can't get with the vacuum, we've spent a whopping $15 fixing it the last three years. One of Derek's tires went flat a year and a half ago, so he put the donut on it, and another tire needed repairs last week (which is where that $15 went), and the donut has been holding up on his 80 minute round trip commute since we moved in June. It seriously is the epitome of "Old Faithful". 

As the saying goes though, "all good things must end". Since we live in the Atlanta area, and it gets incredibly hot here in the summer, Derek claims that he will in fact die if he has to commute to work again this summer in a car without AC. I don't blame him. Since he got a promotion this year, we're in a position where we can afford another car payment (and mine is almost paid off anyways), and we figure now is as good of a time as any to invest in a new car, pass this one along, and let it be a miracle to another family that needs it.

When looking for new cars to purchase, my family growing up always used Kelley Blue Book, the vehicle valuation and information source trusted and relied upon by both consumers and the automotive industry. My dad is a very frugal man, and I remember him sitting at the computer for hours when I was younger estimating car prices and values with Kelley Blue Book when he and my mom were both in the market for new cars one year. And when I turned 16 I spent a majority of my life looking up car values and negotiating with my parents which one I thought they should let me get (which turned out to be nothing, nada, zilch). 

Now that Derek and I are in the market to invest in a new car, we really want to make the most informed decision that we can. That's why we've spent a lot of time on KBB.com looking through Kelley Blue Book's 12 Best Family Cars of 2017 list to see which ones peak our interests the most. One thing that I love about KBB.com is that their editors, and their families, have actually driven these cars and tested them out themselves, so they truly know what it's like to be in each car, and even give you the pros and cons for each vehicle on their list. I also love that they have a car seat guide so you know which cars are better equipped for them than others.

We still don't know which car we're going to spring for. I'm voting that we get another Escape so that Derek and I can be the cheesy couple with matching cars, but he really wants a pick-up, or another sedan. But one thing I do know is that we have KBB.com to help us make the best decision possible for our family.

Let's Talk About Kid's Dressers

The kid's bedrooms are two rooms in the house that I've been dying to get finished for ages, but I haven't struck just the right inspiration yet, and furniture has been hard to come by as well. When Jay finally transitioned from a crib to a bed a year ago (yes at age 3 1/2), I scrambled to get a bed for him last minute, and I have a bit of buyers remorse now if we're being honest.

Over the last year or so I've really adopted a taste for modern decor, especially in the kid's spaces, and the bed we bought for him is big, black, and bulky, which has been hard to fit into this modern design that I was going for. I recently found this bed frame last night though, and I'm pretty sure I can sell his bed for the same price, and make it an even trade. 

Another thing that has been hard to come by are dressers. For one thing, most dressers are way out of our price range, and it felt like if we did find one that we could afford, the style wasn't there for me, and so I never felt good about purchasing it. I originally wanted to get the 1/2 Hermes Dresser from Ikea, but they only make the full size 6-drawer one now, and those are much too large for both of the kid's bedrooms. 

Then the other night I was on Wayfair.com (not sponsored, but I did buy all our master bedroom furniture from them... I also have master bedroom design regret, but that's a post for another time...) and I saw that their selection of dressers has really improved the last few months, so I thought I'd share with you which ones I'm loving and why.

But before we get into that I need to let you know what I was looking for in a dresser. I wanted something that was short and accessible for the children. I realize that as they get older this means that the dressers we get now, likely won't be a permanent solution for them as they grow, but I'd rather have dressers that are smaller and function for them now, than ones that are super tall, and have them not be able to reach their things inside them. So without further ado, lets look at some dressers. 

1. Monarch Hill 3 Drawer Dresser: The pink and black versions of these are both my favorite contenders right now for Jay and Em's rooms. They're fun and modern, and they only have three drawers which means Jay can get into everything with no problem. Their dressers right now are just three drawer Rubbermaid bins that we bought at Walmart, so we know the three drawer system works for us, and these come in at $169, so they're the cheapest of all the options. 

2. Monarch Hill 6 Drawer Dresser: These are obviously the same as the three drawer, just bigger. My only issue with these dressers is that Jay and Em's rooms don't seem to have an available long wall for them to go against. I like that these are bigger, which means we can store more in them as the kids, and their clothes get bigger, but I'm not sure how they'd work in our rooms just yet. These come in at $264.

3. Savannah 4 Drawer Chest: I love birch colored wood lately, and it's very easy to incorporate into modern design. This is the cheapest, and cutest birch dresser I could find, and at $190, it's a pretty great deal. I only worry that with a 4 drawer dresser, Jay won't be able to reach the things on top of it, or in the top drawer, and I always want the things that are in the kid's rooms to be accessible to them. 

4. Payson Studios 3 Drawer Dresser: I love this dresser because it's a pretty good nod to the Hermes one that I wanted to get at Ikea. It's white, has clean lines, and I even love the knobs on it. It's a little more pricey, coming in at $242, and I think that this one would probably only work well in Em's room, and not Jay's... but hey, their rooms don't need matching dressers. 

5. Cookie 4 Drawer Chest: I don't know why this dresser is named "cookie", but it's one of my favorites on the list! I love the grey and white contrast, and how modern it is! The only thing I struggle with is that it doesn't really scream, "kid's bedroom". It's only $185 which certainly makes it one of the cheaper ones on the list, but I'd love to figure out where in our house we'd even put it!

6. Louisa 3 Drawer Dresser: When I was making the collage picture, I couldn't remember why I liked this dresser, and then I clicked on the link and remembered that they make it in grey, which I love for Jay's room. It's similar in shape and structure to #4, but just a little more masculine for a little boy's room! It's priced at $269 though, which makes it the most expensive on this list. 

Walking Isn't Everything

As a blogger and a mother of a special needs child, it should come to no surprise that I spend my leisure time reading other special-needs-parenting blogs. One of my favorites is Love That Max. It's a blog written by a mother of a son with Cerebral Palsy. She writes everyday, and I  read everyday. It's a good relationship. Since her son is about twelve, she's obviously been through the special needs scene a lot longer than I have and she's constantly bringing up thought provoking topics that make me think, "YASS!", and "OMG SO TRUE!" and she also brings up things that I didn't even know were things, but that I now care deeply about.

A couple days ago she wrote about the mishap that happened at the Oscars (I'm so out of mainstream media that I didn't even know there was a mistake in the ceremony until I'd read her blog). She went on to talk about how after the Oscars, all the news would report on was that one mistake, and there wasn't much talk about the actors and actresses that had won awards, and their hard work, and congratulations. 

She then paralleled the conversation to special needs children, and how when the world sees them, they're quick to point out what that child can't do, instead of what they can. Most of you reading this blog know that Em can do quite a bit, and I hope over the last few years I maybe have done a good job normalizing special needs parenting, and have taken the scary out of it for just a few people. 

One thing that has been on my mind lately is how fixated people are with the fact that Em can't walk. It's not even from strangers, but from people that I personally know whether it be friends, family, people from church... family.. I know that everyone means well, but a big pressing question that we get all the time is, "Well when should she start walking?" For now we tell everyone, "Hopefully Christmastime!" Because it's the easy answer, but she was also supposed to be sitting unsupported in October of 2015 and that milestone wasn't checked off until last week, so it's up in the air. 

One comment that I got a week or so ago was, "So are they doing anything in therapy to get her using her legs, and to get her moving?" I was honestly shocked that a question like that could come out of someone I'm related to, who should have a pretty big idea as to what's going on in our lives. I wanted to respond with, "What do you think we've been doing for the last 18 months?!", but instead I went with. "Well, we've decided that her legs are actually pretty useless at this point, so we're in the process of meeting with doctors to get them amputated." I could have been nicer, and the person obviously knew I was joking, but were still serious in their question. So I had to remind them of the leg braces, the standing at the couch and playing with toys, the gait trainer... all these things that we are doing to get her legs "going"... it's a long process. 

But my main point to this post is that walking isn't everything. I'm far more concerned as a parent with what my daughter can and cannot do mentally, then what she can and cannot do physically. I'm concerned if she can tell me whether or not she's hungry, or if she feels pain, or if she's thirsty, or needs help. And for the most part, she can tell me all those things. I'm concerned if she can eat her food, and swallow, without choking. And she's been successfully doing that for months and months now. I'm concerned if she knows that her family and I love her, which I think she surely does by the way she slurs the words "love-ew-too" together. And I know there are people with special needs children who are reading this and are saying. "they have it so easy", because I know comparatively, we have a cake walk if you put Em up to someone else. She's doing far better than we ever thought she would. She's spunky, smart, sassy, cute, rebellious, and most importantly, loved. And if she's five before she ever walks, so be it, because what we have will always be better than walking.