April 19, 2016

Life Lately

I am so sorry for the radio silence from me this week. In an effort not to make excuses, I decided instead to write my first post of this sort that I have been intending to begin for some time now. Insightful posts with focused topics are wonderful, and I have one in the works right now that is going to be worth the wait. But every now and then I enjoy just reading what some of my favorite bloggers have been up to lately. Hence, "Life Lately".

Unfortunately, our latest happenings have not been the brightest. If you pray or believe in the power of positivity, please send a few thoughts our way.

Eloise had her 15-month vaccinations last Wednesday. That evening, she lost total function of both of her legs and was inconsolable. The best we have been able to deduce is that she may have flexed the new, strong, walking muscles of her legs after the first poke and therefore experienced extreme pain and soreness at the injection site of the next two. The pain sent her body into shock, and she passed out on the changing table that night after all four limbs tremored and monster tears rolled down her cheeks between sobs. I have never felt so helpless or scared in my life seeing her little body in such a panic and then go limp like it did. I spent the majority of the night watching her breathe and checking her temperature. Over the next few days she spiked fevers as high as 104.4 degrees and refused to eat. I did take her in on Saturday to be examined, but the only thing they noted were swollen tonsils without any definitive cause (strep test was negative). She has been fever free for about 48 hours now and is surviving on applesauce and yogurt, but her sweet, easy going personality has yet to reappear.

Those of you who know Eloise know she is always happy and eats anything you put in front of her. Her only illness to date was two brief incidences of a runny nose and cough, but her spirits remained high. She has been the definition of healthy. Poor girl has cried and spit food out more in the past six days than she has in her entire life. Fussy baby and picky eater parents out there, I feel your pain and kudos to you. I am exhausted and so beyond ready to have my sunshine back.

On top of all this, my Grandpa Emery's health is rapidly declining. He is 92-years-old and has lived a long and very happy life, but nothing prepares you for this. I am so fortunate to have had all four of my grandparents attend our wedding in good health and to introduce their first great-grandchild to each and every one of them. I think the worst part of this for me is seeing my Dad hurting. Just as I have never experienced the loss of a grandparent, my parents have never lost any of their own parents. The days or weeks to come will be new for us all. I am thankful we have each other to lean on.

In high school, my Grandpa would approach anyone wearing a Lakeshore sweatshirt and ask if they knew my sister or me. It would totally mortify us, especially if said person happened to be someone from the popular crowd, but that is just the kind of guy he is. He loves his community, he is proud of his family, and he has one of the kindest hearts I know. I admire his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and make a new friend anywhere. Every time I get a craving for a slice of cheddar cheese or a donut on a Sunday morning, I will smile and think of my Grandpa Emery.

As the icing on the cake, I have been the recipient of dreaded radio silence myself from my husband. He is at training at Fort Polk for a month, but we are in the midst of a few weeks of zero communication. It is never easy, but the combination of Eloise's emergency and my Grandpa's fragile state makes me long to hear his voice even more. The absence of his comfort during this time has renewed my appreciation for the way he loves me. I am the luckiest. Even though times may still be tough, there will be a huge weight lifted when a call comes in from Louisiana this weekend.

On a few positive notes, my mom came down to Tennessee in the middle of all of this mess to help me spring clean and pack up for a visit to Michigan. She graciously tended to our girl while I snuck off for a little fun.

A group of Army wife friends and I attended All for the Hall, a concert hosted by Keith Urban and Vince Gill benefitting the Country Music Hall of Fame. The star studded lineup included Luke Bryan, Peter Frampton, Florida Georgia Line, Emmylou Harris, Sam Hunt, Jason Isbell, Maddie & Tae, and Maren Morris. They each sang two songs, one of their own and one cover of another country legend, with Keith and Vince on guitar behind them. We all left on a Nashville high feeling so lucky the Army has brought us to this amazing city. We all vowed to take better advantage of the abundance of live music opportunities right in our backyard before we are off to our next post.

A few days later I got to visit my friend Caitlin, her husband Chris, and their new baby Halle in the hospital. I never take a trip to the mother-baby unit for granted; it is very special to me to be invited to share those brand new moments with dear friends. This particular newborn snuggle fest was made even more memorable when Caitlin noted I was Halle's first ever visitor! Not to mention it is baby fever central over here after holding that precious girl.

One more bright spot in my gloomy week was successfully reuniting a lost dog with his owner. A sweet boxer boy with a collar on but no tags ran right up to me in my driveway and refused to leave my side. I have to admit, I did a big internal groan considering everything I was already juggling, but my animal loving heart could never just walk away. I spent all day working to solve the mystery and finally found his picture on a local animal shelter's Facebook page stating he had been adopted in March. The shelter was able to track down the owners. Social media can seem frivolous sometimes, but it really was the key to helping Teddy find his way back home. You can bet I did not let him out of my arms without giving his mom a less-than-gentle nudge to get him some tags made. One more tally added to my always growing list of rescued fur friends! 

They say when it rains, it pours, and it feels like a monsoon for our family right now. I debated documenting this difficult time, but they also say without the rain there would never be rainbows. I am sure there is plenty of happiness just around the corner that I will appreciate even more looking back on this week.

May your own spring rainstorms be brief and your rainbows be bright!

April 8, 2016

Top 10 Baby Products No One Told Me I Needed

When I first found out I was pregnant, I became addicted to reading "Must-Have Baby Products for New Moms" blog posts. New parenthood is a tough transition, and there are so many fabulous products out there that make the journey a little smoother. I encourage all new mama and papa bears out there to read on until your heart is content. I sure did! But these next ten items are special.

These are the products that no one told me I needed. I didn't read about them anywhere. I stumbled upon each and every one by trial and error along a desperate search for a solution to one of many new mom struggles. Baby's socks won't stay on? I have the answer. Ultra sensitive baby skin? Got you covered, mama.

Here's another beautiful thing about this particular list. I find authenticity in our generation of social media mongers to be a rare treasure. It can be frustrating to determine if a blogger loves the product because they genuinely do, or because they are sponsored to say so. Ya'll know my tiny little corner of web world is certainly not sponsored, so rest assured that these products are things our family loves because they actually work! Plain and simple. 

  1. Carter's Roll Cuff Socks | The only socks that ever have stayed on Eloise's feet. Warm piggies are of the utmost importance for January babies, so believe me when I say I have tried all of the sock brands. 
  2. Dreft Stain Remover | I didn't realize how much stain treating I'd be doing as a new mom. It was important to me to keep her things nice rather than just letting spit up, blow out, or food stains become permanent. I did a ton of sink scrubbing at the end of almost every day before anything even hit the washing machine. This is the best stain remover for the job. Just the other day I used it to get a gnarly strawberry stain out of white leggings. Let me know if you buy it so I can send you my detailed scrub process.
  3. Safety 1st Magnetic Locking System | Call me lazy or call me a realist, but teaching "no" as my only defense mechanism against cabinet opening was not going to happen. These are incredible and don't leave your kitchen looking like a prison unit with locking devices on every knob. They are hidden, and you can switch them to unlock mode when baby isn't around. We keep the magnetic key right on the fridge door for easy access. Installation is a weekend afternoon project, but I promise it is worth it. No more pinched fingers or sharp grill skewers all over the kitchen floor (yes, that happened). 
  4. Pampers Baby Dry Diapers | These blue diapers that are extra absorbant. I believe they are one of a few key elements as to why Eloise began to sleep 12+ hours straight through the night at 7 weeks old and still does now. A well fed baby with a dry booty (who could sleep through a natural disaster just like her Daddy) has no reason to stay up partying all night.
  5. Mom's On Call Book | This book was written by two hospital nursery nurses who are both moms themselves. There is no one better to trust than a nurse! They wrote it to serve as the manual we all wish we were given when leaving the hospital with a brand new baby to keep alive. It's straight forward advice on just about everything was my reference guide through so many scary firsts. I bought the Kindle version so I always had it handy on my iPhone, which I highly recommend. The book also makes a great gift for mom-to-be friends. 
  6. Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra | The only nursing bra I'll ever wear and buy. I paid a disgusting amount for one that was so uncomfortable I could not even wear for a full day. And then I found this game changer. Breastfeeding mamas, look no further.
  7. Zipadeezip | I panicked the first night Eloise was strong enough to bust out of her swaddle. I had grown accustomed to a full night of sleep and was not willing to give it up. So I ordered her first Zipadeezip and crossed my fingers. It was a seamless transition! A few weeks ago I tried to put her down for a nap without her zippy. Nope. At this rate, she will be heading off to college with her zippy packed and ready, and I'm totally okay with that. 
  8. Cetaphil Baby Wash and Shampoo | I have super sensitive skin, so it was no surprise when newborn Eloise broke out in rashes using even the purest, most gentle baby wash I could find. Then one day, Cetaphil, the brand of face wash and lotion I have used for years, came out with a line of baby products. Bingo! No rashes ever since, and I am obsessed with the way it smells. 
  9. EZPZ Happy Mat | These are the best for dining out with kiddos. The mats truly anchor so well on a smooth surface and keep you from cringing at snacks on a restaurant table full of germs too. When the thrill of flinging plates or placemats is eliminated, babes focus more on eating food from the cute smiley dividers and less on making you want to pull your hair out. Plus they're dishwasher safe. Everyone wins! 
  10. Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine | I searched high and low for a sound machine with Eloise's favorite sleep sound. She does not snooze for crashing ocean waves or relaxing rainforest. She is a simple white noise gal. I also wanted to be able to manually switch off the timer function. We tried the sleep sheep recommended to me by practically every mom out there, but Eloise would start to squirm awake as soon as it shut off. I am convinced my husband and I are even addicted and sleep more soundly listening to the white noise through Eloise's baby monitor. 
Now obviously all babies are crazy different. These things may or may not be as successful for your family as they are for us, but they are definitely worth a shot if any of these issues have you on the brink of a breakdown. I think we all can agree that we will try just about anything to get over the hurdles of raising tiny humans and the tough phases that feel like they will last forever. Remember, this too shall pass...

...but until it does, go buy every possible solution recommended to you from every mom you know! One of them is bound to work, and here are ten that have earned my whole-hearted seal of approval! 

April 3, 2016

A Letter for Later: Your Future

Eloise Mae,

Today you are 15-months-old. You can walk steadily and kick a ball. You are ticklish on your neck and under your arms. You can say a handful of words like dada, mama, hi, play, uh oh, that, ball, Ollie, meow, and woof. Meow sometimes comes out as wow or ow, but those work just as well! You like to organize and sort from one basket to another. Books are your favorite toys. You love to eat anything except asparagus. You are cautious but very independent. On command you will give high fives and slobbery kisses, identify your belly and other peoples' noses, stick out your tongue, and brush your hair. You amaze us with all of the new things you can do every day.

This morning, a quiet Sunday with the sun shining in through our front window, a Disney commercial caught my attention. I was glued to the screen. When I finally looked away, I realized I wasn't the only one completely captivated. Your baby blues were wide and more beautiful than ever. You were soaking up every image too. And then you broke into a total dance party. Girlfriend, you've got some serious groove.

As silly as it sounds, the commercial really made me think. It made me think about the big personality your tiny heart has already shown us. We have made it our ultimate goal to raise you to be a kind, educated, and confident girl. The rest is up to you. I get goosebumps when I imagine the possibilities for your life. It might be the coolest part, and there are many, about being your Mommy.

You can literally do anything you want to do. I know that is an often overused expression, but it is true. You are a blank canvas. Bits of color are beginning to emerge as your personality develops, but the final masterpiece is still a mystery.

Maybe you will teach the next generation. Maybe you will be an artist. Maybe you will help others feel healthy again. Maybe you will run your own restaurant or business. Maybe you will serve and protect your country. I am so proud that these are all of the important things our family contributes to the world. You've got incredible positive examples and people to look up to.

But maybe you will choose your own way. Maybe you will explore outer space (Daddy would be jealous). Or cure a rare disease. Or nurture our delicate planet. Or become an influential politician. Or act on broadway. Or be a mom. Or design big buildings. Or take care of wild animals. Or raise awareness for something you believe in. Or maybe you will do something valuable we have never even thought of before.

Whatever unique path you forge for yourself, know that it will be full of uncertainty and sometimes you will be scared. Daddy and I will always be there along the journey and at the finish line with confetti and big smiles. We will probably bring cake to celebrate too, because you know where that big sweet tooth of yours comes from. And if you ever decide to start from scratch and begin again, we will be there too.

We will support whatever you choose to do, whoever you choose to love, and whoever you choose to be, as long as it makes you the best and happiest Eloise you can be. 

I have never been more excited to see how a story unfolds than yours. I am scared, though, that I will spend too much time dreaming of what you will be that I will forget to appreciate what you already are. I spent more days than I am proud to admit wishing your infant days away. I could not wait for Daddy to get home safe, and I was looking forward to seeing you become more active. I am vowing now to appreciate each step towards finding out what kind of masterpiece you will be.

In this very moment, you are the little girl giggling and bouncing to the beat in the sunshine of our happy home. And that is more than I could have ever dreamed for this day.

Dream big, princess.

I love you,