Monday, January 27, 2014

Tiny Blessings Update 1/2014

Tiny Blessings has been busy! We are putting the finishing touches on our drop off for this week which includes a lot of Valentine's and heart themed hats for those little NICU warriors. I will post pictures after we take everything up to the hospital.

The upcoming months will be busy. We are partnering with our church, Cypress Bible Church, for our upcoming  missions month and we are so grateful for being one of their many featured outreach projects. Who would have thought that a hobby would turn into a business which turned into a ministry approaching it's first anniversary!!!

We were asked to summarize Tiny Blessings onto one page and this is what we were able to (quickly) come up with-

Tiny Blessings

“And He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not
hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
                        -Matthew 19:14

Tiny Blessings began as fellowship between Moms and has grown as an outreach to the families in our community. What began as a hobby and income source in crocheting hats, blankets, clothing, and other gifts, has now turned into committed prayer and the literal covering of the tiniest of God’s children. We at Tiny Blessings, work with the Nurses and Medical Staff at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in two ways. First, we make blankets, gowns, and hats for the sweet angles who either don’t make it through childbirth or who pass away shortly after. Our task is to prayerfully make these items to cover these babies as their families cherish their time together. Second, we make hats and blankets, along with the occasional extra gift for babies in the NICU who are fighting to grow strong enough to go home with their families. We pray for these little warriors and their families who are willing their next milestone and hoping for progress each day.

Our prayers-

That every item we make is ordained and used by God to cover the exact need that He deems it to be used in, that He is glorified in each step of the way, and that our hands complete His work in our small tasks.

That the families of all of these babies are comforted and strengthened by His presence along their journey and that they may come to know Him or to know Him even fuller than before.

That the nurses, doctors, and medical staff that care for these families and children feel our prayers, that they are strengthen by our support, and that God can be found in every moment of their day.

That we are able to continue filling every one of their needs at the hospital and that as we grow and expand that we remember to glorify God and we remain focused on the work He has ordained for us.

We feel so encouraged by the support and have such excitement to see where Tiny Blessings is headed from here. This is added into by the fact that we are helping to support a second branch of Tiny Blessings in the Sugarland area and a third branch of Tiny Blessings is looking to get going in the Dallas area. None of us ever thought it would go beyond a couple of trips up to the hospital.

As we work to prepare for the spring, here are some ideas for anyone wanting to get into crocheting the hats. I found all of these pictures on etsy and in no way do I claim them as my own.

Here are some St. Patrick's Day ideas-

There are also several cute leprechaun hats out there.

And here are some wonderful Easter ideas-

I was trying to avoid pictures of kids I didn't know,
but this one was too cute not to put on there...sorry to that baby!

And some general spring ideas-

Of course, traditional hats are always welcomed, these were just a few that caught my eye!

Thank you to all of you for being committed partners, followers, supporters, and contributors to a great ministry. We have all sorts of ideas for the coming year, but hope to have a few updates before then!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baby Sky

Just over 5 months ago, I was honored to be at the birthday of precious Sky. It's long, it's got pictures, it's a birth story. Enjoy.

I was just a backup. Another friend, Karlin, was assigned to labor help and while Karlin was out of town, I was Kristyn’s backup until she could get back here.  That being said, I was not surprised to get a text not long after that saying the big day had arrived. Actually, I got a text asking if I was ready to do dishes, which we had joked about frequently, then confirmation that it was time to “hatch a bird”, bird being her little nickname for the baby so lovingly grown in her belly for the prior months.  And although Karlin was back and ready to support, an additional request was made for me to be there as well.

I played basketball for 12 years, yet before every single game, my hands would shake, my heart would race, my palms would sweat, and I would have to work to keep my anxiety down. I knew it was a sign of something I loved, feeling the raw adrenaline in the moments leading up to this amazing moment, the start of a game, would fuel me like a drug.

It’s the same for babies. Whether it’s mine or someone else’s, whether I’m there or receiving a text notification, if I know that someone I love is preparing to meet their little one for the first time, that same rush comes back to me. It probably means that I am a birth junkie, but it’s completely out of the love and adoration that occurs in that one, perfect moment. It’s the anticipation, the building, the anxiety, the almost loss of control, and then that perfect release, when a new one comes into the world and is held by hands that have craved to hold this perfect body for the first time.

So when I got that text message, the sweaty palms, the labored breathing, and the racing heart immediately began. I worked to still my nerves, knowing that important work was at hand.

When I arrived at her house, Kristyn was calmly laboring in their living room and flashed a huge smile in my direction as she saw me. Still being slightly nervous and unsure of what my role was, I took to the only thing we had actually talked about, and I began washing dishes. When Kristyn realized what I was doing, she laughed and exclaimed that she hadn’t been serious, but I stayed busy, trying to calm my nerves. She was well attended to, with a midwife, an assistant, her husband, and Karlin, all meeting her needs. I checked in on them and was again greeted by a gorgeous smile and an invitation to spend some time with them as Kristyn labored in the tub.

I would say that I helped, but that’s such a lie. Kristyn was the model of perfection in labor. The whole experience was slightly ethereal, with sunlight streaming into the bathroom through frosted glass, casting a soft focus light over the scene. The water of the birthing tub was calm and still, and inside, was this beautiful woman, working slowly with her body and contractions in periods of pure rest and periods of focused relaxation to move this sweet girl down and out, and occasionally, we would hear lyrics and song in a whispered tone coming from Kristyn. At one point, I commented on how sick this all was, how gorgeous and perfect her belly was, the ease with which she was handling each contraction, all the while praise music was playing in the background. We laughed and joked between contractions early on and prayed and encouraged during contractions as things moved along. We hurriedly turned down the music when commercials would come on as to not distract her. We scrambled for buckets and rags for a stomach that was simply not wanting to hold anything down and even then, we received smiles and grins, along with the unnecessary apologies.

(This is my favorite picture)

There were yellow and black painted nails, gripping handles, outreached hands, and the sides of the tub. There were murmurs of how grateful this little one should be for all of mama’s hard work. There were prayers for strength, prayers for health, prayers for comfort, and prayers for God’s hand to be on this amazing work Kristyn was doing. There was mention of Kristyn wanting to do her hair and deciding not to do it as labor progressed. There were pineapple smoothies, Sprite, and lots and lots of crushed ice from Sonic. There were Kristyn’s hands, sometimes drifting in the water between contractions and sometimes naturally drifting to her belly that would soon be empty, with a Mommy’s heart who was probably so excited to meet this sweet one, but a little tender and sad at the thought of those movements deep in her womb being gone. There were moments between patient and midwife, carefully checking on Mommy’s progress and Baby’s heart. There were moments between friends, assurances that things were going perfectly. And most importantly, there were moments between husband and wife, almost Mommy and Daddy again, both anxious to meet their new little girl, both leaning into one another in this special time.

Kristyn listened to her body instinctively the whole time. She moved through different positions, got in and out of the tub, and eventually moved out of the tub to the bed. That special dance, with Kristyn taking her time, Andrew supporting her, and the midwives helping her along, made for amazing progress. A few contractions passed along in the bed and it became clear that it was time to meet this sweet baby. Kristyn’s vocalizing became more insistent and the midwives confirmed that it was indeed time to push. A more hurried walk found Kristyn back in the tub as she desired and she took Andrew’s hands into hers as she prepared for the last moments of this labor. With a couple of insistent pushes and one very large push that propelled a good portion of Mommy out of the water, Baby Skylar was born, briefly supported by Midwife Cathy before being fully passed onto Mommy to hold and love. There were sobs of gladness and relief from Kristyn to match the small little wails from Sky as she blinked and took in the sweet faces looking adoringly down at her. Tear soaked kissed covered her and Andrew as Kristyn’s new Mommy emotions took over. Then, as if instinctual and pressed into all of our brains by necessity or culture or both, the “check” began. Kristyn stroked her fingers over her new baby, checking each part, counting fingers and toes, looking for the first clasp of that sweet baby hand or the curling of those little baby toes, and, hilariously, making sure that Sky, was in fact, a girl as shown by ultrasound. With a little help from the midwife, Sky was ready for her first meal and the two took to nursing like old pros. Kristyn would occasionally look up, big eyes full of new mommy worry, making sure the newest love of her life was ok, with complete assurances from everyone present that things were perfect.

In turn, we each had our chance to meet Sky, holding her and whispering soft “I love yous” into her little ear. She was measured and all of the little details were carefully recorded, before being handed back to Mommy, warm and dry in bed, and ready for skin time, nursing, and snuggles with her daughter. After assurances that Kristyn had everything she needed, I walked away, shaking my head at the wonder of such a special day.

Sky, your Mommy gave me such an honor and privilege in asking me to be a part of her labor team. Each birth I get to be a part of is magical and amazing, including yours. If anyone doubts God’s presence in our world, they need to be there and they will see Him in all of those moments that occur in bringing new life to this world. I pray that you know, for all of your life, how much your Mommy and Daddy love you, and I pray that God is present in all the moments of your life. Skylar means shelter or protection, I pray that you find such protection in God and shelter in the ones who love you, including those that helped usher you here. With love, always.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thyroid Scan

Today I took Johnny in for his thyroid scan. Our endocrinologist asked us to set up an appointment to make sure that his looked healthy in an attempt to check all the reasons why his TSH was elevated. We tried out the Katy Texas Children's and were very impressed by the friendliness of everyone and ease to get there. I love the medical branch location, but they are so busy and it sometimes feels like you get lost in the shuffle. At the Katy location, every single person we passed smiled, said hello, and  asked how we were doing. Amazing. 

For the actual scan, they had a bed set up for Johnny to lay on with sparkly lights on the ceiling and wall behind his head to help him be motivated to extend his neck out for better views. This only worked so much and we had to get a flashlight toy that was shaped like a lion and roared to help distract him as well. I tried to pair enough force to keep his arms out of the way with the perfect amount of gentleness so he wouldn't freak out while the tech got her pictures. It didn't necessarily work because Johnny hates being restrained (probably our fault for never swaddling him) and he slowly got more and more worked up. 

You know you are a good mom with a kid with special needs (or even an occassional special need) when you sing for them in public. At least that's the case for me. I hate singing in public. I am so self concious about it, I even mouth the words to praise songs in church. But in order to calm him down I sang. In front of the tech. Repeatedly. Johnny loves the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" so I alternated between that and the roaring flashlight. I do what I can. 

The tech had to get several shots from different angles and she was good about giving Johnny a break at one point to get her last few pictures. One of the hardest parts about the thyroid is because of the location in the throat, they can't get very good pictures when they are talking or eating or crying. We finally gave him a bit of his bottle, extended it and thus stretched his neck, and she was able to get the last few pictures in between gulps of milk. 

All in all, I think he did great. We got the pictures we needed and the information was sent along to the doctors for them to look over. For now, we wait and see. 

I obviously got zero pics during the procedure (leaning over that table was a workout), but her is Johnny, calm as can be and chillin' out after he was done. I love his crossed feet!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shred- Level 1

Woohoo! I just completed the first ten days, level 1, of the 30 Day Shred. I'm hopefully hooked!

I love it and forgot how quickly my body changes and responds to this workout. On day one I couldn't do three push-ups without stopping, now I can do 17 in 30 seconds. Granted they are girlie push-ups, but progress is progress. On Day one I was barely able to complete a single exercise without stopping several times and today I only modified my cardio due to walking the zoo for several (5-6) hours with the kids. I have already noticed more tone in my arms, shoulders, legs, and waist. And, just like last time, although there has been no measurable difference in my weight, my clothes are already fitting better. 

I am leery of starting Level 2 tomorrow, but change helps to challenge the body throughout the workout program. I am trying to only weigh and measure myself on Mondays and I am ticking off the days as well to keep track of it better. I have been working out in our bathroom which has two mirrors to check form and easy access to the shower after! Plus it's harder to look yourself in the eye when you want to cheat!!! As part of working out in the bathroom, I discovered that at least Level one is on YouTube, which makes excuses almost impossible!

 There is no time for gym selfies in the Shred, but there are my tick marks!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Request and Prayers

As a Christian, I struggle. That's a loaded statement, there is much for us to struggle over. But specifically, I struggle with the desires of my heart and the will of God's. Growing up Catholic, it seemed very basic and somewhat impersonal. This is probably due to my own perceptions and not the official stance of the church, but that is what I saw the purpose of the saints was. You appeal to the saints for the desires of "worldly" matters and God will take care of the big picture.

In my new understanding of non-Catholic Christianity (and this isn't a debate about Catholicism vs other Christian beliefs), we appeal to God for everything.

But this is hard for me to do and I think other people struggle with it as well. We are told to bend to God's will for us, we are told that He has a plan, and we are encouraged to find His path for us. But we are also told that God loves us as a father and that He very much wants us to appeal to him for our hearts desires. This doesn't mean He will grant us that, just that we should pray to Him for our wants and for His will.

Understanding all of this in my head, I still find myself to be conflicted. It is hard to find that balance between wanting what you think is good and recognizing God's sovereignty in your life. I wondered if it was ok for me to pray certain things. I felt conflicted in saying "God I want ____, but we know Your will is best." It felt a little helpless. I didn't know if I was praying correctly, but still, I continued. "God, please let Matt find a new job, but we know Your plan is infinitely better than ours." "God, please help this person heal, but we know that Your will be done." "God, please let this need be taken care of, but we know that You provide all that we actually need." And four sets of times now, "God, please grant us with a child, but we know that You have something in mind for us." For someone so definite and communicative, it feels/felt a little back and forth, and I just wasn't sure if I should be praying this way.

Clarity came this Sunday.

We read Luke 22:39-44

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Verse 42 called out to me. Jesus appealed to God for the desires of His heart, but also bent to God's will. It is ok for us to ask God for what we want, He wants us to speak to Him about our dreams and hopes and wants, as long as we understand that it may or may not be the time or place, or to have it given to us at all. I find it so comforting to know that both aspects can exist in my prayers and to have it modeled for me! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Yesterday, Johnny and I met with our new doctor, an endocrinologist. At his one year appointment, they tested his thyroid as a part of extra screening tests they do for those with Ds and one of his numbers, the TSH, came back elevated. 

As far as I can assess, in simple words, the pituitary gland in the brain is sending extra TSH (a hormone) to the thyroid to help it work harder at making and releasing hormones to the body. The endocrinologist said it's like a boss shouting at his workers to make them catch up with their work. This could be occurring for one of four reasons. First, it could be a fluke reading on a test, his numbers could be wacky because of illness or growth. Second, it could be because of an actual thyroid condition. Third, it could be because his thyroid is just lazy and it will fluctuate. Fourth, it could be because of abnormal placement or formation causing it to have to work differently. 

She recommended two things. First, we had another blood draw to assess where he is at now. This will help see whether it was a fluke measurement or not and if it isn't, where he stands in comparison to before. Second, we will be scheduling an ultrasound of Johnny's thyroid so they can see where it is and how it looks. 

I shouldn't be surprised that the doctor needed us to "wait and see", it's a place we are getting comfortable with!

I am, once again, so grateful that all of his doctors are in the Texas Children's system. It was so easy for her to pull up all of his blood tests from when he was two weeks old, to look at his growth patterns, to see when he had been sick around the time of his one year blood test, and to get a quick assessment of any other issues that could be into play. I think it has been increasingly important to have it all there in the system for the doctors as we move along. 

In the event that he has a thyroid issue, she said it can be controlled with medication. The only hiccups that brings is when to give him his medicine and there may be a couple of things we have to limit in his diet so it won't counteract the medication. I will be asking more questions about other issues with starting medication early on if we need to, but I'm glad that for now, an answer could present itself if need be. 

On an unrelated note, I have done three days of shredding and haven't had to fall on the toilet yet! Good progress!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Phoning It In

This isn't so much a resolution post as a "I need to work on this post". 

I have been making exuses for a year now about working out. And while I grapple with the term "losing weight", the fact of the matter is, I need to work out. 

Because I want to be comfortable and confident with myself and because I want to assure myself and other women that it is ok for it to take more than a couple months to lose baby weight, I say that the extra pounds I carry don't matter. And truth be told, I AM ok with it taking more time to lose the pounds. But I'm not ok with how I feel, my lack of energy, and the strength I feel myself losing each day. 

I gave myself a pass when pumping and I feel comfortable in that decision. Every time I would make the steps to workout, even a light workout, my milk supply would suffer for it. I felt supremely justifiable in carrying the extra weight in order to provide the best source of nutrition for Johnny that I could. Then I stopped pumping and more excuses and delays came forth. The biggest excuse was that I convinced myself that a huge change in working out or weight loss could adversely effect my fertility. And it could. We would very much like a fourth and have wanted one for some time. I told myself to wait on the "getting into shape" until I knew what was happening with my body and then it wouldn't really matter anyways because of weight fluctuations in pregnancy. Well, lo and behold, carrying this extra weight and not working out hasn't necessarily had a positive impact on fertility either. 

We'd still like a fourth, but in the mean time, I need to take better care of myself. I deserve it and my kids (the three I have and the theoretical, non existent #4) deserve it too. I have worked on what "getting into shape" means for me. I want to regain strength, build stamina, and work on feeling better in my clothes. That probably means losing weight, which will be fantastic, but it's not my driving force. I want to work on eating healthier and cutting back on treats and working on better portions, but I'll tell you, I'm not interested in a hard core diet. I want to set a better routine for being active and to spend more time with my kids being deliberately active instead of secondarily so (a purposeful walk or game in the yard vs. walking the mall because that's the only way to see all the shops). 

I did Day 1 of the dreaded 30 Day Shred today. I loved it. Despite my inability to fully do some of the exercises, it just felt good. And in my weakness, I felt strong. Maybe it was the extra oxygen, maybe the blood flow, maybe the high of the 22 minute workout being over, but I immediately felt "it" return to me. My girls did their own version of the workout next to me, Mac was gangly and angular, with knees and elbows jabbing everywhere and Keegan hammed it up, repeating much of what Jillian said on the video, thank goodness she didn't hear a couple of the words! I want to be a good example of fitness to them. I want to show them how to build physical strength and to work with your body to feel good. We talked about exercising making you strong and making you feel good. To them, I'm one of the strongest people they know and I want to live up to that. 

I may get discouraged, but some is better than none. I may get that elusive fourth baby and have to rework my exercise regiment, but working out in pregnancy has always been a source of pride for me, I have been very consistent throughout the three. I want to challenge myself to work hard, but I need to remember an Internet meme I saw the other day, "Even at your slowest, you are lapping the people still on the couch." 

Because I refuse to make this into a resolution, I focus on tomorrow only. My goals- Day 2 of the shred and trying not to cry as I walk down the stairs. That workout is tough!

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Yesterday I made a dark chocolate raspberry truffle cake that is my version of one of Matt's favorites from our days in College Station. While I am still working on the truffle filling to cake ratio, the cake itself is easy and delicious. I rarely keep track of the ganache recipe which is used for both the truffle filling and the frosting on the outside of the cake. While searching for a sutable recipe yesterday, I came across this website that gave some good information and ratios for making ganache. I improved on this from memory of my old recipe which boiled (I used the microwave) the cream and pouring it over the chocolate (I used chocolate chips) and letting it stand for ten minutes or so before stirring. This makes for easy and smooth ganache. I thought it set up well on the cake and the outside was perfect today with a slight resistance and thin layer of chew on the top where air had been in contact, but staying soft and fudgy underneath. It's a nice method to have on hand.

P.S. Fudgy automatically corrects to fishy...that would not have been tasty on my truffle cake!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Johnny's First Speech Therapy

Today Johnny had his first official speech therapy session and it went great. Our ST is really kind and excited to work with our sweet boy and I loved her passion for working. 

One thing I was very concerned about getting government services was that it would be very stereotypical in it's laborers. I was worried that the people coming into our home would be doing it just for the paycheck or as a holding pattern until something better came along. I haven't gotten that sense from any of the women charged with helping our sweet boy and for that I am thankful. 

We have some fantastic new methods to work on with Johnny. Within an hour of her being here, Johnny was mimicking the sign for food and pointing more than he ever has before. She is pleased with his accomplishments thus far and seemed to be very excited with what she thinks we can achieve with him. We want to take some videos of some of our work with him, but the little guy was zonked today from a long target trip with his sisters!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year

It's done. A full year of blogging. A handful of days were skipped, but always made up for. A couple of days were loosely translated to a.m., but they still count. If you look on the side of the blog, by 2013, it says each day was accounted for. Actually is says 366 posts were published and I'm not exactly sure how that is, but it'll all even out somehow. 

I started writing every day for many reasons. I wanted to create a habit and the only way I knew how to do that was to make myself publicly accountable for it on a rigorous schedule. I wanted to improve my writing and it felt natural to practice it in a variety of mediums here. And originally I thought about building my readership and contemplated monetizing. I think I have built more readers and I hope that insight is gathered, memories are shared, and resources are filed away. I hope we bring smiles to faces with what is, for us, normal and day to day. I'm not sure about monetizing though. I wouldn't be opposed to it, but I think I would want to be picky about it and I'm less interested in perusing it now. I have another writing outlet that is forthcomig that may help with that. 

I am so happy to have shared so much of our lives over the past year. I take great care to be honest, raw, open, and descriptive to give the best sense of who we are and what we do. It has given me great pleasure to record our lives over the past year and I hope first and formost that our kids will one day enjoy looking back on our journey and also (almost as important) that someone else can be helped by what is documented here. I'm an open book...or blog!!!

As for how frequent I hope to write this year? I'm still not sure. I have one day down when I hit the publish button in a few moments, but I am still mulling over where to go from here. The thought of not writing every day makes me worried and panicky at the moment, fearful of losing the rythym of what has been created. At other times it makes me feel liberated that I am not held to a 24 hour time period in which to produce. 

While I decide, Happy New Year to all!