Friday, June 12, 2015

My HBA3C (Home Birth after 3 Cesareans)

This will be a longer post, if you'd just like to read my birth story, feel free to scroll down :)

I am writing this post because I have found that birth stories involving a vaginal birth after multiple cesareans were pretty hard to come by when I was searching for them.  Each and every one that I found gave me such encouragement, and that is why I've chosen to share mine.  I hope that it will bring confidence and encouragement to other mamas looking for options.
My story doesn't guarantee anyone else's success, but it DOES show that it is worth it to find the support you need from the right provider!

1st C-Section
My story starts with my first pregnancy.  It was free of any complication, and I was diligent about going to my prenatal appointments with my obstetrician.  
When 37 weeks came,  my water broke! Thinking labor was about to happen any second,  we of course went straight to the hospital - this was about 11pm. Labor hadn't started by then and the nurse had me in bed trying to sleep all night and they started pitocin in the morning to induce labor.

There wasn't much conversation about it, it's just what "needed to happen."
So pitocin contractions started and quickly got frequent and strong.  I labored in bed for 5 hours before begging for an epidural.  I was barely 4cm and the anesthesiologist came and became my angel. 

I continued to labor the rest of the day pain free and in bed (this is now over 13 hours in bed without ANY other positions to help labor).  Once I got to 8cm, we thought that we'd be meeting our first baby girl very soon...then after an hour or so of being at 8cm, I started feeling the contractions very VERY low...any mama who has delivered vaginally will understand what I mean ;)
However at the time, I did NOT know what that meant. I told the nurse and she had the dr check me again.  This time he said I was still at 8cm and baby's head was stuck in my pelvis. He said her head would mold through but that her shoulders likely would not fit.  He said it would be safest to deliver via c-section.

I was devastated.
It was the LAST thing I wanted.  But according to the Dr, if we wanted our baby to be safe, that's what we needed to do.
So they started prepping right away, I already had the epidural in,  and our precious Joy Lynn Elizabeth was born within an hour or so weighing 6lbs 14oz (NOT a large baby with a large head).
We were so overwhelmed by His grace as we met her, but I was beyond exhausted - physically and mentally.

I had to come to terms with the fact that my pelvis just wasn't large enough to birth my own baby the natural way God created.

I now had to recover from an unplanned major surgery.

That was my first experience with child birth (and yes, a c-section delivery IS childbirth).  The dr had told me that night that "once a c-section, always a c-section"  making sure I knew a vaginally delivery wouldn't be in my future.

2nd C-Section
18 months later, we were expecting our second baby girl.  In our county there is only one hospital and one office with a delivering ob and midwife.  They made sure I knew the rule,  I'd be a scheduled cesarean.  My mom told me a hundred times how that sounded overly conservative and how God MADE my body to birth a baby. But I trusted my dr and what he told me about how risky it was to have a vaginal delivery after a cesarean  (vbac). I was far more afraid of having my uterus rupture than I was of having another major abdominal surgery.
So it was scheduled and when mild and frequent contractions started a week beforehand, the dr didn't waste any time, he performed the surgery and we met Noelle Kristiana weighing 7lbs 6oz.

My recovery was FAR easier than the first as I knew what to expect - not to be able to move on my own for a couple days and not to be able to do much of ANYTHING for the week following.

3rd C-Section

Another 18 months later I was pregnant again with our son and not much thought at all went into what type of delivery I would have - -nothing had changed in our county so I was seeing the same provider.
35 weeks or so into the pregnancy, he asked if we had considered a vbac. It shocked us both as we assumed it wasn't an option for us.  He went on to explain how this baby is larger than my others and all things considered,  I wasn't a very good candidate anyway.  We walked away puzzled wondering why he even mentioned it.

Anyway, similar to Noelle's birth, contractions started just a few days before my scheduled c-section. These were definitely not labor contractions,  but strong Braxton Hicks (I know that now). The dr kept me in the hospital overnight and hydrated me and checked my cervix in the morning.  I had slightly dilated, so it was confirmed that "labor had started" and they got me in and out of surgery in no time.  We soon met our biggest baby, Jackson Porter weighing 8lbs 6oz.

My recovery from Jackson's birth was far more difficult than the others. The day after delivery we realized I had a spinal headache.  They aren't super common anymore but I got lucky ;)  I had to lay down in order to prevent my head from pounding like I had never experienced.  At the same time, I had chest congestion that kept making me cough....if you've ever had a c-section you know how terrifying a cough is during initial recovery!  It was awful and painful to cough and it didn't clear for several days.

Thankfully my headache did subside a couple days after being home, but put some mild post partum depression, and our oldest daughter getting a stomach bug, and you have my recovery. It was very staining on my body and mind and I knew I could never have another c-section again. I said it a hundred times,  with having this many kids to take care of at home, I could never have another recovery like this.

9 months later, my sister in law was in labor and she knew how badly I wanted to witness a vaginal birth. She allowed me to be in attendance and record it for her.
I left that hospital in complete awe of the strength she possessed and the miracle of her daughter being born onto her chest as God designed. I went home and immediately started researching vbacs. 

I found our local Sacramento  (closest to me) ICAN network and joined.  I Googled my heart out and asked a bunch of questions of the other vbac moms and doulas in the ICAN Facebook group. I found that in the entire surrounding Sacramento area, there was MAYBE one or two obstetricians that would be supportive of a vba3c  (vaginal birth after 3 cesareans). We were trying to avoid pregnancy at the time and weren't planning on trying for another baby for at least a year. So my hope was that there would be more options by that time.

Well....9 months later I was VERY surprised to be pregnant again.  Research started again and I found not much had changed as far as providers being vba3c supportive.  I was told my best bet was to find a supportive homebirth midwife as a completely intervention free labor gave me my best chance at success.
A homebirth was NOT something I had ever considered and I still was very uncomfortable with the idea. I spent many hours making phone calls to different providers and after a few months of trying,  I decided to have a free consultation with Renee at Sacramento Valley Midwifery Care. We went with zero expectations and still didn't know what we wanted for our 4th birth.

We left amazed at how loving and also confidant Renee and her assistant Kim were.  She was 100% confidant that I could deliver my baby vaginally if I wanted to...but also was very clear that in order to have a homebirth I needed to WANT it.  At that point we still weren't sure and had a lot to discuss.  One thing was for sure, the care these ladies provided was completely different than anything we had experienced before.

Our plans changed a few times before realizing there was just nothing better for us than the care we received from Renee and the support she provided. We decided on a homebirth with a midwife.

There were several supplements and natural remedies Renee would prescribe for us as well as a healthy diet and daily walks (she knows how consistent I was with those, hehe )

I couldn't get enough vbac stories throughout my pregnancy...and if they were homebirth or were after multiple cesareans than I would save them and read them again! My confidence continued to build and Renee and Kim were diligent in confirming my decision and their belief in me and my body.

Chris and I prayed for wisdom, strength and safety as the due date got closer. We also decided last minute to also hire Renee's assistant as our doula! And we are so glad we did.  

Our vba3c story

Friday night at 39+4 weeks, I had my first experience with a natural labor contraction.  I had several that night and they started waking me throughout the night,  but tapered off on Saturday.  They returned Saturday night and I could no longer sleep through them.  I finally texted my midwife and doula and told them I couldn't sleep through these contractions that were waking and I didn't think I could go to church with them being this strong.  They assured me this was just very early practice and I needed a bath and sleep!
I obeyed and finally got some rest as they spaced out after my bath.  They also encouraged me to get up, and go to church as normal. I did, but that was the most uncomfortable Sunday I've ever had! I sat through contractions that came every 10 minutes all morning.  That morning I also lost part of my mucous plug.
They didn't stop and I contracted all day though there was no pattern and no increase in intensity or frequency.

Then Sunday night came and they definitely intensified. I took another bath and my doula said to take a Benadryl and a glass of wine before bed. This gave me some rest but not much.  I couldn't sleep through these now very tough contractions that came very 8-15 minutes.  I finally texted my doula at 2am telling her I had to get out of bed to handle the contractions.  My husband was waking to my breathing and/or moaning through them and helping put pressure on my back.  My doula headed over to me and was here observing how I was doing for a while at about 3:15am. She told me I needed to embrace the rough contractions I was having in bed and not run from them. So I did that till morning time as she rested on our couch.

Then Monday morning she came in the bedroom  for a few more contractions and told me that what I was experiencing was just very early labor and since the baby had been sunny side up for several weeks,  my uterus was trying very hard to turn her as it was thinning my cervix.  She said the midwife wanted me to come into the office at 1:00 so we could talk and she could check my cervix.
Well....they both know that at this point I was NOT happy.

How could I not be in active labor????
She left and told us to get as much rest as we could. They never know how long these slow early labor days will last and the most important thing for us was rest.  So Chris took the kids across the street to my brother's house and my mom and sister in law watched them there while we tried to rest until we had to leave for our appointment.
My contractions stayed consistent and my heart and mind wavered much. I doubted how I could possibly handle active labor if I had such a hard time handling this! And Oh my goodness,  if it lasted DAYS longer? Honestly a repeat cesarean did pop up in my mind once or twice.

When I got up to get ready for our appointment at around 11:30 I noticed my contractions had changed. I started feeling them in my bottom and then lost more of my mucous plug. It was time to leave for the hour drive to her office,  which I was completely dreading so I texted the midwife and doula telling them the contractions were now being felt in my bottom.

I didn't hear back from them until we were just down the road. Instructions were to NOT COME to the office,  my doula was on her way to me.

So I literally cried for joy and we headed back to the house. A few contractions in the car made me want to kill someone!

Once we got home I went to the bathroom and lost the rest of my plug and from then on continued to have bloody show.  This was just after noon. I started leaning over my ball and noticed that the end of my contractions felt "pushy." I noticed that my frame of mind was really different by this time.  I was really weepy, crying at everything and not really knowing why!  
My  doula  was now 15 minutes away and I was told the midwife and her assistant were 20 minutes behind her.

I cried again because now I knew I was in REAL ACTIVE LABOR! THE MIDWIFE WAS COMING!
Time got weird after that.

Doula arrived at 1:15
Midwife and assistant about 1:35
Kim (doula) had me labor on the toilet for a little while as they filled the birth tub up.
I got in the tub for somewhere around a half hour and then Renee (midwife) wanted to check me.

I was 9cm with a small lip and baby was very very low.


I cried again.  I was so happy - I never made it past 8cm with my first labor.
She had me walk around the house once to help move the lip....stopping for each contraction...there was a LOT of pressure now and I was really feeling the pushing sensation.

We got back to the room and had to stop in my tracks and just hold onto Chris or Renee while standing/squatting for a few contractions.

Then right there my water broke!

Somehow we moved to the floor because we wanted Chris to be able to catch the baby and that would be hard in the we were out of hot water!

So on the floor we went as I leaned up against my trooper of a doula. Every contraction from then on brought the urge to push and I just listened to my body.

About an hour of pushing later, at 4:52pm my husband layed our beautiful daughter on my chest.
I delivered a baby vaginally - after 3 cesareans...when no doctor I found would allow me to.

She gave a small squeal and then just gazed straight up at precious.

Gracie Mae came out weighing an even 8lbs and was 19.5 inches long.

We were in awe and my husband couldn't contain his tearful joy.
I was on the floor for a while as I had 2  internal of which happened to hit a blood vessel. So I was losing quite a bit of blood as my midwife worked diligently to stop it.

I lost 600-700cc of blood between the blood vessel and my uterus, and later needed pitocin to stop it.
But my baby was in my arms and she came out just the way we had prayed for.
I am still in shock and disbelief at what had happened.  I can't believe how verbal I was during labor and how primal it felt to push her out. I always imagined a quiet, dimly lit, peaceful birth....and while it WAS peaceful, I was far from quiet and made noises I didn't know I could make! Chris said I looked like the Hulk!

The strength The Lord gave me that I didn't know existed amazes both of us. He has given us a precious gift.
And while our little Gracie would be just as much of a gift regardless of HOW she came, my midwife and support team were a gift to me in allowing me and helping me to have the birth I wanted so badly.

My uterus had no issues, the pelvis my old OB told me was too narrow birthed an 8lb baby with almost no forming to her head at all. And while I have some major swelling, and those tiny internal tears, I had no tearing of my skin at all externally.
My recovery has been harder than we anticipated as my stitches didn't want to hold up.  But I'm now on the mend :)
This has become even more lengthy than I had planned. But I know how encouraging positive vbac stories were for me while I was pregnant,  so I wanted to provide that perhaps to someone else.

We HAVE a choice in how we birth our babies. It is not up to another professional to tell us how to do it without telling us the real facts and risks.

A homebirth was NOT my first choice, I never thought I'd want one! But The Lord used our lack of options to show us a very special way to deliver our daughter....with a group of very special ladies supporting and assisting me and my husband.
My husband was such a rock throughout my entire labor.  Not once did he let me waver or allow me to dwell in negativity or think that I couldn't do it.  He never left my side but to test his blood sugar!  I have been so blessed and we are forever grateful to Renee and her team as we feel like they're now family.

I recover now with my Cesarean incision intact, other places are PLENTY sore, but I got my vba3c!!!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Gotta LOVE Facebook....Right?


We're all on it (I guess not ALL).

It's great!

It's helpful!

It keeps us all connected!

But there's something that's been bothering me.

Facebook is becoming a substitute.
I can't speak for everyone else, but I assume some of you have a similar struggle.

A substitute.

I have noticed myself substituting personal relationships with keeping up with someone on Facebook.  Substituting personal conversations with comments on Facebook.

I never intended it to be that way, but after several years of sharing things on Facebook, I really think things have gotten too far.

My husband has been telling me that forever, but I had an "ah-ha" moment the other day.

My brother was preaching one Sunday morning and I was struck with the reality that I am sitting UNDER the Biblical teaching of my LITTLE brother.  And I was extremely convicted by the message he was bringing from The Word.

Here's where it went wrong - I immediately thought of how I could phrase this in a Facebook status.  How I would express my humility while also being proud of my brother and also commend his preaching and how it affected me.

That's when I realized how Facebook had become a substitute.

Instead of having a conversation with my brother, I was going to post it on Facebook for everyone to see.
So I started to really examine my heart in regards to this.  How often do I post things on Facebook in order to communicate to someone specifically?  Or in order to perhaps avoid a conversation with someone?  Or maybe even to express my convictions about Christian living?

I don't think it's wrong to share certain things on Facebook - it can be a great tool to connect people to one another and find out what their interests are, and keep in touch with friends and family from afar.  However, if we've gotten to the point where we'd rather share something on Facebook then share by actual interaction with humans, then I think we've gone too far.

I'm all about texting, emailing, and FB messaging in order to communicate quickly with others while there are loud children running all over, but at least that's a personal conversation right??

I'm starting to think about how my habits will transfer to my children.
We have some pretty strict rules when it comes to the kids and electronics - I mean, the girls are 3 and 5 years old, they don't need the internet to study for reports or keep in contact with their long lost cousins.

We allow them to play on the iPad for 10-30 minutes at a time normally and we try to keep it to their educational games.  Obviously, there are exceptions, but we have seen first-hand the ramifications of allowing too much freedom with electronics.  Perhaps some children don't respond the same way, but we see a definite attitude change when they are allowed unlimited play on a device, so we keep it to a minimum and it's a special treat instead of an everyday norm.

ANYWAY, my point is not about kids and electronics, my point is that if we have certain standards for our kids and electronics, then what will they be learning if they see the opposite in me as they get older?

I don't want my kids to grow up learning how to communicate online better than they learn to communicate with human beings.  Facebook didn't exist when I was younger, so this has been gradual for me.  But our kids are excellent little learners and can navigate our iPad better than their grandparents.

They learn quick and I want them to learn that we don't nurture relationships by posting encouraging statuses on Facebook.  Can that be helpful?  Yes!  But we can't make it a substitute for the real thing.

We also can't find our fulfillment in the praise of others online.
Sharing accomplishments is fact I've been sharing how I made our baby's bedding!  It's been super fun and exciting sharing it with others.  But I've seriously examined my heart in sharing it....trying my best to make sure I'm not posting in order to receive praise from others.

I've definitely been there - feeling compelled to post certain achievements and feeling so accomplished as others praised what I had humble and meek of me (not)!

Should we not find our fulfillment in Christ????
As we stand forgiven by His sacrifice?
And as for our earthly accomplishments - perhaps we shouldn't need such praise?  Not saying it's wrong, but if we need to be praised by others, then what is our motive in the first place?  If I do something at home that I'm proud of - like doing laundry 3 weeks in a row (yes.  YES this is a definite accomplishment for me), the praise of my husband is enough for me!  

Wait.  What if he didn't praise me?  

Well...I'm pretty sure that if my motives were to serve my family as I strive to be the wife and mom that God has called me to be, then I should be content to praise The Lord for granting me ability to get certain goals accomplished!

This all may have come out jumbled, but these are things that have convicted me in recent days and I am resolved to make some serious changes.

  • I feel the need to post things too frequently.
  • I feel the need to share too many things instead of enjoying the moments with family in private.
  • I resort to posting a status instead of having a conversation with someone in personally.
  • I have shared accomplishments in order to receive praise from others.
  • I have spent FAR too much time learning the accomplishments and family life of "friends" on Facebook that I may never even have a normal conversation with!

And it's changing.
It won't be easy, but it has to change.

And I invite you to change with me!

Let's be content and excited to share things with our families without needing the world to know.

Let's seek others out in personal conversations without needing everyone else to know about it.

Let's be excited about what is going on in our family's life and yes, the live's of those that are close to us - yet without wasting precious moments skimming through others' posts that have nothing to do with us.

Let's NOT allow Facebook to become a substitute for real life.

Let's NOT allow our children to grow up thinking they must share things with the world in order for it to matter.

The fact that WE know and the fact that WE commend them should be enough....and it should be enough for US when they say "thanks, mom".  

I don't need to receive praise from others, when I've got little ones thanking me at home....when I have a husband who loves to support me and recognize all that I do at home....and when I have a Savior who has forgiven me and loves to see me worship and praise HIM in all that I do.

This may not be a "goodbye to Facebook," but I do pray that it will be a "see ya way less frequently, Facebook!!!!"  :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DIY Winter Branches with Epsom Salts!

Today, I'm going to share a tutorial that I'm super excited about!

As I shared before, I am not the best at interior decorating...I LOVE it, but I'm not that great at it!  

When I was making my snowy wine bottles, I was trying to figure out what to put IN them. The tutorial I saw had some pretty silver ferns in them, but I didn't feel like purchasing anything new.  So I decided to follow a similar process as I did with the wine bottles, but with branches from my front yard!

So I took the kids outside and we started collecting :)

I really love what the end result was, and here's how you can make them too!

What you'll need:
  • branches from your yard
  • spray paint in white or silver
  • Mod Podge or spray adhesive
  • Epsom salts
  • white or silver glitter
  • acrylic sealer spray

Step 1.
Collect branches of any size and shape - the sturdier, the better!  Avoid the teeny thin branches that bend over when you hold them up.
Let them dry out if they are moist.

Step 2.
Spray paint the branches silver or white. Cheap paint is fine!  Let them dry completely on each side after spraying.

Step 3.
While your branches are drying, mix Epsom salts with glitter.  I used the same ratio that I used with my wine bottles - 1/2 C salts and 1/2 tsp of glitter.

Step 4.
Once they are dry, paint Mod Podge onto the branches (or spray with adhesive if you're using a spray).  Make sure to get every inch covered!

Step 5.
While the Mod Podge is still wet, lay the branches in the salts and pour more salts on top - press the salts onto the branches if you can, it will help them stick better!
Make sure the branches are completely covered with the salts and glitter.

Step 6.
Lay the branches on a flat surface to dry completely.

Step 7.
Once dry, spray each side of each branch with acrylic sealer.  This needs to be done in a well ventilated area - it STINKS!  Let them all dry for at least a day.

Now you're done!  Enjoy your beautiful wintery branches!!!  Arrange them in your snowy wine bottles if you made them, or any other vase, mason jar, or container you like to have out for decorating during Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

DIY "Snowy Wine Bottle" Christmas Decor

 This year I actually put some of my favorite Pinterest crafts to the test!

I LOVE Pinterest...mostly because it is somewhat fulfilling to "pin" something even though I didn't actually MAKE anything!

Well I have seen Epsom salt crafts for a couple years during Christmas time and this year I decided to try a couple!

Let me tell ya...Epsom salts really DO look like snow!  Or frost...they look wintery :)

So I'll share how I made my Snowy Wine Bottles! (Original tutorial here)

What you'll need for this craft:

  • Wine Bottles (or any bottles you'd like) - the labels must be cleaned off.  I like to use lemon essential oil to help get them off.
  • White or silver spray paint
  • Epsom Salts
  • White or silver glitter
  • Mod Podge
  • Acrylic Sealer
Again, for my crafts this year, I didn't take pictures of each sorry!

Step 1. After washing and drying the bottles, spray paint them white or silver.  Apply a few coats and let dry overnight.

Step 2. Mix your Epsom salts and glitter.  You can add as much as you want, I added a 1/2 tsp or so of glitter to about 1/2 cup of salts.  Make sure you have enough salts for the bottles to roll in!

Step 3. Brush Mod Podge onto the area of your bottle you want to be "snowy."

Step 4. While Mod Podge is still wet, roll bottle in Epsom salts, making sure it is covered in salts.  Once all Mod Podge is covered with salts/glitter mixture, set aside to dry overnight (or several hours)

Step 5. Once Mod Podge is completely dry, carefully spray "snowy" area with a few coats of acrylic sealant. Let dry overnight.  If you skip this step, you'll have salts falling off your bottles pretty quick!

Step 6. Once acrylic sealant has dried, they're done!  Now you can decide what to fill them with!  They look awesome on a mantle or as a centerpiece too!

Enjoy your beautiful snowy AND glittery bottles!  I used wine bottles and a few iced coffee bottles and I really like the variety of shapes and sizes.

Stay tuned to see what I filled my bottles with - DIY snowy branches!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

DIY Christmas Advent Activity Calendar

It's that time!!!




Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE the Christmas season!  While the absolute most important thing to remember is our precious gift of our Savior Jesus, I truly love everything else that comes with it (aside from all the materialistic mumbo jumbo).

One thing I'm obsessed with is Christmas husband can attest to the fact that ever since we've been married, I've spent hours decorating our house for Christmas during the week of Thanksgiving.

Another thing he can attest to...I'm not awesome at decorating.  

There are SO many things that I love, but I'm never able to combine all my decorations into a cohesive theme...except...all sorts of Christmas...stuff!

Well this year I was DETERMINED to do better!  And I think I also took me alot longer to put it all together ;)

I won't even consider showing pictures of different parts of our house...because when I say it's "better,"  I mean it's "better" than it WAS.  Nothing close to other mommy blogs!  haha

A few new things I made this year I'm really excited about and I'd like to share how you can make them yourselves!

Today, I'll share our Advent Calendar.

We've made one every year, and put it together in different ways, but this year I finally made one that can be reused next year!

I got my inspiration and basic instructions from this blog.

We love our advent calendars because it's a really cool way for the family to do a bunch of fun stuff together!  Some activities are simple, some are special and a big surprise!  Others are about giving to others and we always have opportunity to share what Christmas is REALLY about!

If you'd like to make a calendar like this, here's what you'll need:

  • Foam Poster Board
  • 6" scrapbook paper in desired pattern (any size will work, but this size is easiest to fold into the 4" pockets!)
  • Tags or labels for countdown numbers on each slot! 
  • Letters for "Days Until Christmas" at the top
  • Activity "tags" tied with ribbon
  • Staples or thumbtacks
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue stick
I apologize for not taking pictures of each step!  It's actually pretty simple though :)

Here it goes.

Step 1. Fold 24 pieces of 6" paper into 4" pockets.  This is done by folding in three sides, gluing them, and leaving the top open.
**You don't have to worry about the pockets being usable.  When you attach the "pockets" to the board, you'll just slide your tags in against the board.  You can glue down those three sides completely to keep it flat.
  • You can also cut regular size scrapbook paper into 4 squares, and proceed with the folding from there.

Step 2.  Attach appropriate numbers to outside of pockets with a glue stick.  I used these labels, and you can fill in the numbers before printing!

Step 3.  Prepare your desired title and letters.  This could EASILY be done with vinyl if you have a cricut machine, I used some cool glitter letters that I've had FOREVER and never used.  I happened to have some cute matching decorative pieces to add as well.  I attached the letters with a glue gun.

Step 4.  Align your pockets on your board, making sure you have enough room for them all!  I like starting at the bottom of the board with #24 and working our way up.  I suggest setting them up tentatively before attaching them.

Step 5.  Attach your pockets.  I used a stapler, the tutorial I saw suggested thumbtacks.  I didn't have any, so a stapler it was!  It actually looks really subtle.

Step 6. Add any embellishments that you'd like!  I had some stickers and used some fun glitter embellishments.

Step 7. Make your activity list!  I make my list of ideas, then get my regular calendar out and schedule each activity.  Keep your list so you can reference it before the kids take their tag out each day!

Step 8. Write out or print activities on tags.  I actually typed them on small labels, then glued them to my tags that I cut out with a tag shaped cutter.  You can easily just write them out as well!

Step 9. Punch a hole in each tag and tie a ribbon, yarn, or twine through each one and put in appropriate pocket!

You'll be left with your own version of this!

Enjoy your calendar that can be used year after year with new activities each year!

If you need ideas for activities, here's what we have planned for this year:
  • Go see Christmas lights
  • Make a Christmas countdown chain
  • Pick some toys to donate
  • Take change to Salvation Army bell ringers
  • Go to the MALL!
  • Surprise movie night - watch Santa Clause 3 (for surprise movie night, we don't tell them it's movie night until they're IN bed.  It's a fun surprise and we only do it a few times each year)
  • Dress up like a princess for dinner
  • Make Christmas cards for relatives
  • Make Christmas cookies
  • Take Christmas cookies to mail lady and trash man
  • Eat dinner by candlelight
  • Help mom with some homemade gifts
  • Open Christmas Jammies on Christmas Eve!
  • Help mom wrap Christmas gifts
  • Google how people celebrate Christmas in other countries
  • Make a bed in the living room at watch Polar Express
  • Make a Christmas card and gift for Daddy
  • Roast marshmallows!
  • Rent Charlie Brown Christmas (they've never seen it!)
  • Fill Daddy's stocking
  • Take a trip to the store to pick out a special treat
  • Read the story of Jesus's birth on Christmas morning
Google "advent activities" and you'll get a lot more options!

Enjoy!  Stay tuned for how I made our "snowy wine bottles" in the next post!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Topical Steroid Withdrawal {ONE YEAR in!}

I seriously can't believe that I'm sitting here blogging about Noelle being off topical steroids for ONE WHOLE YEAR!

I've noticed a trend in our Topical Steroid Withdrawal online community of others tracking their months into TSW like we track our children's age...23 months in, 47 months in, 94 months in, etc.

Well, I'm already losing track of how many months Noelle has been off steroids and I am taking that as a GOOD SIGN!

I'm pretty sure we hit the one year mark in October, and my last update was a month before that and I was able to share how WELL Noelle's skin was looking!  She had a really amazing several weeks of healing....and then another flare ;)

So, many people would just be utterly discouraged with another flare up after such improvement, but I really wasn't.  Noelle has come SO FAR with her healing and I knew from the experience of others, that she'd have another flare - that TSW wouldn't just disappear, never to return that quickly!

So very shortly after my last post, she started flaring, and it lasted at least a good month-maybe a little more.  Right now, she's much better and everything is trying to heal...which, by the way, often times makes it more ITCHY!

It's frustrating, but just as our sores or wounds that heal start to itch, so does hers.

But this flare really wasn't nearly as bothersome as her others, so I'm very encouraged that even though her journey through this isn't OVER yet, she's most definitely better and on her way!

I've also noticed that her asthma has not been acting up hardly at all this past couple months...not sure if that's related or not.

ANYWAY, here's how her skin is!

Her face has been pretty irritated lately. It's been red and she's itched a couple spots until they've become raw.  If she's around an irritant, like dog hair, we find her face seems to react pretty strongly to it.

Her neck was also very red, bumpy and irritated through this flare, but it's drying up now!  Drying for us, means healing - much better than angry, red, bumpy skin!

Noelle's arms and legs were the worst part of this flare.  Right now her arms look almost normal...except for when she scratched her wrist this morning :(

Her tummy got a little red, but for the most part has remained clear for quite a while now.

Her back stays pretty clear as well, except she gets a lot of irritation where her pull-ups hit her.  She only wears them at night, and I really feel like TSW affects her ability to stay dry at night.  I say this because she was doing GREAT staying dry and then all the sudden she couldn't anymore.  She's actually doing much better, but pull-ups are safer than urine stinging her skin if she has an accident.

So her legs were pretty bad, though not NEARLY as bad as they were before, like in this post.  We didn't have much raw skin, just bumps, tough skin, and it was pretty itchy.  Right now, it is more on the dry side which tells me they're healing too!

Her feet used to be the worst part of her body, like in the post I linked to above.  They were just awful...I think I used to say they looked like they were chewed by piranhas.  And I'm so thankful to say that they really don't seem to bother her at all anymore.  We found that they're still sensitive - like she can't wear certain flip flops without getting irritation between her toes.  But other than that, they're great!

As far as her sleep goes, thankfully it continues to IMPROVE!!!  She wakes up once or twice and usually goes right back to sleep if we just stroke her for a minute.  When I got annoyed at that the other night, I just reflected on what life was like a few months ago...very little sleep like I talked about here.  So thankful that The Lord has brought her this far!!!

We have stopped giving her the homeopathic supplements from her doctor...I'm wanting to learn more about how those are made and what they really do...especially since she's now still improving without them!

The supplements she does take:
  • She still takes CALM magnesium powder at least once a day, sometimes twice.
  • She chews 1/2 pill of melatonin at bedtime as well.
  • We continue to give her probiotics at night and enzymes with her meals (when I remember).
  • She also drinks Cod Liver oil with her NingXia Red (drink from Young Living) and the Kombucha that I brew at home.
  • Also, she still is not eating dairy, gluten, corn, oats, and we do our best to stay away from other processed foods (high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, etc)

The best moisturizer for her is still our lotion bars (recipe here).  It really seems to soothe and help her, although we try to avoid doing it right before bed...for some reason that makes her more itchy?

I think that's enough for now...if you're a parent with a child going through TSW, I am so sorry.  This has been such a hard year for our entire family.  I pray that you will find what works best for your child and that perhaps our experience will help in some way.  I couldn't stop reading about other kids in Noelle's situation when we started this, and that's why I decided to blog about it!  I hope that you find what soothes and assists them getting through this awful experience!

If you are wondering if you have TSW, check out - it's a wonderful resource dedicated to getting the word out concerning this condition!

And for those of you who have prayed for Noelle's healing and our family's sanity during this time, we thank you!  If you're close to our family, you know how much Noelle has improved and started becoming more and more like herself :)
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