Friday, December 15, 2017

High Five for Friday!

{one} My mom has been in town this week, so we have enjoyed all the Grandma time we could get! Eli and Maddie LOVE Grandma...they think she is the most fun {and the funniest}. And to be honest...she really IS super fun! She has all the best songs, games, and imaginative play. Our house has been full of giggles this week, and it has been the absolute best. We are excited that we will get to see her {and my dad} again for Christmas!

{two} Christmas is in 10 days! How on earth is Christmas in 10 days?? It's hard to believe it's almost here, and it doesn't quite feel Christmasy yet...I mean, it's still 60 degrees outside most afternoons {no complaints here}, so there's that. And we decided to forego the Christmas tree this year, well #becausetwins. We did put up the lights outside {or rather, Mike did}, and a few other decorations. But it feels weird not to have a tree. Maybe next year... But on another note: my major Christmas-related accomplishment this year? All gifts were ordered/purchased by December 2nd and wrapped by December 6th. Boom. 

{three} So I am {obviously} not doing monthly milestone posts for Eli and Maddie anymore. Partly because ain't nobody got time for that, partly because we're not going to the pediatrician as regularly to get their measurements, and partly because I have always thought it was weird to refer to your kids' age in months. Mostly after the 2nd year, but some a little after the 1st. Just say your kid is 2; we don't need to know they are 27 months old {I will still love you if you use months for your kids after 1 year...I just won't use months for my kids haha}. Anyway...with that being said, I thought I would still update a few stats on where they are now!

Twins
  • We successfully weaned from bottles AND formula by December. They both did GREAT with that transition! And they are both loving cow's milk and water.
  • Their nap schedule changed, so both naps are now later and shorter. This was not such a great transition. But I think we're finally getting into a good rhythm again. Though mama is having to adjust to the smaller pockets of time to herself :)
  • They are interacting SO much more now! Lots of giggling and wrestling together. Lots of hitting and making each other cry. Lots of "talking" to each other when they're supposed to be sleeping. But we are loving watching their relationship grow.


Eli
  • Teeth: 5...2 on the bottom, 3 on the top- one of which is an awesome front snaggle tooth :)
  • Steps: This little dude is walking ALL over the place! It's still so weird to catch this tiny person walking across the room.
  • Personality: He is still our sweet, sensitive boy, but his little goofy side is starting to come out. He LOVES his sister and tries to mimic a lot of what she does. He also thinks she is pretty hilarious.


Maddie
  • Teeth: 2...still just the 2 on the bottom
  • Steps: She will stand up tall {and is super proud of herself} and will attempt to make steps. She has made a few here and there, but mostly she just sticks her belly out, or plunges her head forward :)  But she sure does watch her brother when he walks across the room, so we know she's close.
  • Personality: She is our sweet and goofy girl. And she feels hard. Her little will is most definitely being asserted. She struggles the most with "no" and not getting something she clearly wants, and she LETS YOU KNOW she's not happy. But if you can distract her with the right thing quick enough, she is all smiles and laughs again in an instant. 


{four} We have found a new church home! We knew that when we went back to Woodcreek after Redeemer closed, it would be a temporary stay. We love that church family, but we knew that God was going to eventually send us someplace else. And we believe that next place is now The Parkway Church in McKinney {funny that we're back there!} Mike went to seminary with Geoff, the lead pastor, and so he has kept updated on Geoff moving over to Parkway. We decided to go visit a few months ago, and we really loved it! We have now walked through the membership process and are making Parkway our church home. We are so thankful for this group of believers, and we are excited to see how the Lord grows those relationships.

{five} Eli had his LAST chiropractor appointment today- wahoo! We have been going to see the chiropractor since May so that he can work on stretching Eli's neck muscles from his torticollis and help remold his occipital bone from his resultant plagiocephaly. I was super skeptical at first, but we have seen a lot of improvement, and we were able to avoid a helmet for our little guy. We are thankful to Dr. Reif {and his sweet staff who endured the crazy mama of twins!}


Monday, December 4, 2017

{Crohn's Awareness} :: This is #myIBD

This week is Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week. I haven't talked much about my Crohn's Disease recently, mostly because I have had a couple of other things to keep me busy :)  But I have also been in remission and feeling great! That is such a huge blessing, and I am so thankful for how the Lord has taken care of me.

I actually had a routine colonoscopy at the end of September. About 7 years after the onset of symptoms {which for me was around 2010}, my GI likes to do one to gauge how the disease is looking. The prep was no fun, but not terrible...but I am glad I don't have to do it again for another 5-7 years or so. The colonoscopy went well, and my doctor said that there was only trace evidence of my disease in my GI tract. If he had seen this GI tract at the time of my diagnosis, he wouldn't think that I had Crohn's Disease at all. That's the BEST news that someone living with IBD can hear {other than finding a cure, of course}.

This year, the #myIBD awareness campaign allowed me to create my own infographic regarding Crohn's Disease. I thought it was a cool little visual and a helpful way to share my story.
I was diagnosed at the age of 27. I had been having intestinal issues off and on for 2 years. In the fall of 2012, I started having severe pain. I started seeing doctors to try and figure things out. I had an appointment scheduled to see a GI, but never made it to the appointment, as I ended up in the ER a few days before. It was at that time {December 2012} that they diagnosed me with Crohn's Disease.

I feel my symptoms the most in my GI tract. I have Crohn's Ileitis, which means that my disease mostly affects my ileum {the last portion of the small intestines}. Most of my symptoms were related to pain in my intestines. My insides would become incredibly inflamed and irritated, making it almost impossible to eat anything, and sometimes difficult to move and function. I have to watch the foods I eat to keep from triggering symptoms that just make my symptoms worse. I have also experienced a lot of fatigue with my disease, mostly because my body is constantly fighting the pain.

My symptoms affect me the most financially. I take Humira to help keep my Crohn's in remission. While it has been incredibly effective for me, it is very expensive. I always meet my deductible within the first month or two of the plan year, simply with my medication expense. But I am so thankful for insurance, because then it is paid for the rest of the year. 

So far, I've had 0 surgeries. I have had the incredible blessing of not needing any surgeries for my Crohn's Disease. About 70% of people with Crohn's will eventually require surgery. Obviously, my chances go down if I can keep my disease in remission, but there are never any guarantees. But for now, I am thankful that I haven't had the need for surgery.

I get support mostly from family, friends, and online communities. Being diagnosed with an incurable disease is scary. I am so thankful for the family and friends who were {and still are} supportive when I was learning to figure out life with Crohn's. I found a lot of comfort in reading other people's stories, knowing that I wasn't alone in how I was feeling. It's why I share my story publicly, in hopes that others find encouragement and hope.



Friday, December 1, 2017

Advent 2017

I love Advent. And if I am honest, I really need Advent. I feel that with the rush of the holidays, it helps me slow down and focus on what's really important. It helps me "reset" and offers an intentional time to focus on Jesus. In the past, I have often done Advent reading plans or specific Advent studies, and I can remember the Advent celebrations each Sunday at church. All a means to help celebrate the coming of Christ.

Advent: a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

This year, I will personally be reading the Advent guide from John Piper, Good News of Great Joy. It came out a few years ago, but I never got a chance to read through it.

Source

As I thought about how I wanted to incorporate traditions and celebrations into our lives for Eli and Maddie, I knew that Advent had to be part of that. I came across the Jesse Tree and thought it would be a great {visual} way to walk them through the Scripture, specifically leading to the birth of Jesus. {Has anyone done the Jesse Tree?? How did I miss out on this growing up??}

Eli and Maddie are still young this year, and probably won't understand much, but we want to start instilling important Truths early. Which is why I love that others have already put together an Advent/Jesse Tree plan that follows the Jesus Storybook Bible! This is the perfect way to incorporate this tradition, since we are already reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to them. 

And because I love working on DIY projects, I decided to make an Advent calendar to go along with our Jesse Tree ornaments. I found this wooden chest on Amazon {because I looked everywhere for this style and this was the least expensive option, and I got it on sale!} and painted it. 


Each drawer contains the corresponding day's ornament for our Jesse Tree, with the story and Scripture reference on the back. There are specific images that go along with each day, and I just found ones that I liked, had them printed for $2 at Fed Ex, then Mod Podged them onto wooden discs. I'd like to find actual {nicer} ornaments for each day, but time and money prevented that from happening this year. Plus, I know there is wisdom in not pulling out all the nice things for a few years...I fully expect these homemade ornaments to be destroyed at some point :)


So there is our Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree! I am probably way too excited about starting this tradition {since it's still early and the babies are still so young}, but even if it ends up being just for me this year, I am ok with that :)



Thursday, November 30, 2017

{iPhone Rewind} :: November

Before and after...proof that I do sometimes have a clean house. And it lasts about 2 minutes :)

We had so much fun with Grandma and Grandpa in town!

Our calm, peaceful child at his 1 year check up

And our more spirited and opinionated child at her 1st year check up {notice her legs are stretched straight out because she does NOT want to be examined by the doctor}

Play time with Grandma, Grandpa, and the duck

Grandpa was left in charge for a little bit :)

Trying my hand at candied snowflakes...at least they tasted good :)

Eli and Maddie have loved playing with all their fun new toys they got for their birthday!

It seems that Maddie loves guitar players :)

It's Monday...so the lawn crew is here, and these 2 have a front row seat :)

Eli and Daddy...love my boys!

This little one likes to climb up on the window sill...when I told him to get down, he decided to growl instead.

Cute little baby butt :)

Love this cutie patootie :)

We run errands in our pajamas...that's how we roll :)  {also...stores that don't have shopping cart stalls in the parking lot are SUPER inconvenient for twin mamas}

Watching the lawn crew across the street!

Outfits are ready for our little turkeys!

Just a little family photo in the hallway :)

Dannie and Grace came to visit; it was so good to see these sweet friends!

Family selfie in the church parking lot #becausetwins #matching

Yeah. I'm liking the bows :)

Just chillin' with daddy :)

Love these two. They had been "talking" to each other for about a half hour. Love getting to watch their budding relationship.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Embryo Adoption Awareness Day

November is National Adoption Month, so of course I am going to talk about Embryo Adoption! It's near and dear to our hearts, and the way the Lord chose to bring us our Eli and Maddie.


I shared several facts last year, and obviously I share a lot of our story here on this blog. We are huge fans of this amazing option to build a family, and we are forever grateful to our precious donors, for the decision they made to donate their embryos. So today, on Embryo Donation/Adoption Awareness Day, I wanted to specifically highlight the donors that make this option available. 


Our Donors
We have a semi-open relationship with our donors. For us, that means that all communication with our donors goes through our agency. These terms were agreed upon at the time we signed our contract. They are open to more direct contact in the future, but for now, they were most comfortable with our current arrangement. 

Our communication has been limited up to this point, mostly just letting them know about our transfer, our positive pregnancy test, and when Eli and Maddie were born. We haven't really had any need yet for any more contact, as all of the children {Eli and Maddie have 2 genetic siblings} are still very young. As they grow up, and as we share their story with them, we anticipate there might be questions, and so we are thankful we have the opportunity to have contact with the genetic family.

Our donors told us that donating their remaining embryos was the easiest decision they made in the entire fertility treatment process. I absolutely love their hearts to want to help another couple who had walked through the heartaches of infertility. They were so excited for us when we found out we were pregnant with twins, and they even sent a sweet gift basket when Eli and Maddie were born!

But donating embryos is not that easy for everyone; many of the donors that I have spoken to have expressed the struggle over the decision to donate. Donors walk through so much to get their embryos, so to part with them is a difficult decision.


How to Donate
There are a number of ways that a couple can donate their embryos. We were matched with our donors through an agency. Our donors worked with our agency to find the match with which they felt most comfortable, and the agency facilitated the process, along with all legal aspects of the donation. Once contracts were signed, the agency helped us arrange the shipment of the embryos to our clinic. All aspects of the donation were facilitated by the agency.

Many clinics facilitate embryo donation {though not all}. A lot of times, these donations are anonymous, but not always. Some clinics allow outside donations, which means that they accept embryos from another clinic {like ours did}, but some clinics only allow donations within their clinics {so among their own patients}. Some clinics provide the legal aspects of the donation, some require you to find your own lawyers. 

Others choose to find recipients through private donation. There are embryo donation websites that host profiles, but families essentially match on their own. Families walk through the donation process by finding their own match, their own lawyers, their own shipping partner {if necessary}. While there is a lot of personal legwork, it can be an inexpensive option for the recipient.

There should not be any fees involved for the donors. All fees are usually paid by the recipients. Donors have already spent the money for the IVF process, and many have paid storage fees for their remaining embryos, which in some instances can be reimbursed by the recipient family, depending on the agreed upon arrangements. However, donors CANNOT receive payment for the embryos; it is illegal to sell embryos. All fees and costs associated with embryos are related to legal contracts, FDA testing, shipping, etc. 


The Decision to Donate
Many couples who walk through IVF are not even aware that donating their embryos is an option. If they do have remaining embryos after their family is complete, many keep them frozen indefinitely, unsure what to do with them. The other options are to destroy them or donate them to science. 

After so much struggle, heartache, expense to create the embryos, I would imagine that, for some couples, the decision to donate can be a difficult one. There are the concerns and "weirdness" of having your genetic children out there somewhere. What kind of relationship {if any} should we have with the recipient family? What will resultant children think? What will my own children think?

Some donors choose to donate anonymously. They provide a gift to another family, but desire not to have any contact or relationship with them. In this scenario, they can know if any babies were born from the donation, but they don't usually know anything else beyond that. Other donors choose to have a semi-open relationship. This is the scenario that we have with Eli and Maddie's genetic family. Contact is limited, and usually facilitated by another third party {agency or clinic}. Basic information is shared, but personal contact information is not. And still other donors choose a completely open relationship, where all information is shared, and families know each other's children. I have seen beautiful relationships in all of these scenarios.

While I cannot personally relate with the decision to donate {as I am a recipient}, I can say that I think it's a brave and generous decision. To allow your embryos to have a chance at life with another family who understands the heartaches of infertility is an incredibly selfless decision. There are definitely big questions to answer on what relationships could/will look like. But whether a donor chooses anonymous, semi-open, or fully open donation, they provide a beautiful gift to a waiting family. Without donors, there would be no embryo adoption, and we would not have Eli and Maddie. It's a gift for which my family will forever be grateful.