Friday, November 6, 2015

Fireplace Facelift

Let me tell you the things I didn't like about our fireplace.

The stone
The color
The trim
The huge mantel
The huge vertical pieces of the mantel
The gold strip
The jetting out stone on the hearth

What I did like includes:

It was a fireplace

You get the idea. So I am just over the moon about our facelift! All the credit goes to my dad on this one. He found the new stone, demoed the old, and then recovered the fireplace. We purchased the mantel and picked out the stone on top of the hearth. Easiest. Reno. Yet. Thanks Dad!

Now for pictures of the process. Tip for anyone doing something similar: Cover EVERYTHING! I had no idea it would be that dusty.

Before. See. Pretty bad.

Buh bye!

We liked it better just like this.

Progress. Also, highly recommend Mantels Direct if you want a mantel ASAP. It arrived in about 28 hours! 

Finished product :)

I like that the stone ties in with our backsplash tile in the kitchen too. It seems to tie the spaces together a bit. 

So happy with the results. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I shared recently about our saints in heaven. A lot of women will refer to their lost children as angels, but in the Catholic faith we refer to them as saints since we believe they live in perfection in heaven. They each HAVE a guardian angel, a relationship for eternity. And as a Catholic, it is common practice to ask for the intercession/prayers of the saints for those of us still living this gift of life on earth. So I want to share my miracle through the intercession of my two saints with you.

When I found I was pregnant for a fourth time, I was completely overcome with all the emotions that had built up over the last year. I was overjoyed to be carrying life, but obviously also very anxious about another loss. I had some wonderful friends already praying for me, but I also asked my saints to watch over their sibling.

I also got it into my head that I needed to see a rainbow. Women who experience miscarriage call the living children that follow rainbow babies, essentially equating the loss to a storm and the gift of new life to the miraculous rainbow that follows. Anyway, I thought I needed confirmation from God that we'd get to hold this baby, and I had specific instructions for Him on how I wanted this confirmation. (What can I say? I'm still learning.)

At the time, it was perfect rainbow weather. It was that season in Florida when it rains almost every afternoon and is immediately followed by sunshine. I started finding all sorts of reasons to go outside: get the mail, stretch my legs, let the dog chase the squirrel. But no rainbows. I soon grew frustrated with God because I kept seeing other people on social media posting pictures of these amazing rainbows they were seeing in person. Where was MY rainbow?

On one particularly anxiety-ridden day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw seven different people had posted pictures of rainbows. They were all over the country, and I was nearly in tears because I had pretty much convinced myself I HAD to see a rainbow. It was absurd, but I guess that's how I was coping. As I sat there and looked at these rainbows, many of them doubles, I suddenly realized something. Maybe these were MY rainbows! Maybe I had been staring at the answers to my prayer for days.

I think I saw a rainbow almost every day of my first trimester in one way or another, most of them doubles. I like to think there was one from each of my babies.

So thank you to everyone who posted a picture of a rainbow. I think you were a part of an answered prayer, and at the very least, you helped ease my anxiety.

And know that if you have experienced a loss, that I'm praying for you as well, that you might see your rainbow in whatever form it comes in.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: Our Story

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Today is also one of my due dates.

I'm not big on sharing my bad days or the tough times on social media because I don't want my bad day to influence another's. However, sometimes bad things should be shared so we can learn from them and maybe help someone else. I also share because my story of loss is very intimately tied with NFP, and I hope maybe it will benefit others.

When I started charting several months postpartum my cycles weren't the greatest. There were some signs of potential issues that I hoped would work themselves out as my daughter nursed less and less. However, after 6 months the charts didn't change much, and I didn't get a positive pregnancy test like I kept praying for.

I am no medical professional, but I had my suspicions that something was wrong. The nursing hormone prolactin is nature's way of spacing pregnancies. It often remains high until the baby weans or nurses less. This keeps the hormone progesterone low so ovulation does not occur and thus a woman cannot get pregnant. However, sometimes the prolactin isn't high enough to keep ovulation from occurring but just high enough to make progesterone too low to sustain a pregnancy. This was my guess as to what was happening.

So I decided to try and get my levels tested. I asked my OB's office and my family doctor to have my progesterone and/or prolactin level tested. I was assured by both that many nursing women can get pregnant. I told them I understood that, but that I was seeing signs of low progesterone in my charting. My family doctor tested several other things, but never my progesterone after multiple visits. The OB nurse didn't even have me in.

When my daughter turned 18 months old I weaned her fully and became pregnant the same week. I was absolutely elated. I so desired a sibling for my daughter. It was practically all I could think about. However, my elation soon turned to worry when the spotting started. I didn't have that with my first pregnancy, but I tried to assure myself that it was fine, as did all the doctors I called. The spotting continued on and off for a few days and I called my doctors again and practically begged that they test my progesterone. They assured me again that spotting was normal and testing wasn't necessary.

Then one Sunday evening I knew something was very wrong. I can't even describe the feeling that came over me. I knew I was losing my baby. We went to the ER right away where they took my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels and did an ultrasound. I asked if they could check my progesterone levels once again. They said they didn't do that, but would look into it. They took some more blood to run tests. After nearly 4 hours in the ER they came back and couldn't tell me much. I asked about the progesterone levels, and they said they didn't run them. Defeated might be an understatement.

The next day my OB's office called, and I continued my broken-record request to have my progesterone level checked since things seemed to have gotten a little better. She said that was a good sign and to rest. Hope was a cruel thing during those 2 days. At about 2 a.m. I experienced something like a mini labor and lost the baby.

For anyone who has suffered a miscarriage, you can write to the Church of the Holy Innocents, Shrine of the Unborn in New York, and they will write your child's name in a book of intentions, light a perpetual candle, and say mass for the soul ever first Monday of the month. I'd love to visit someday.

The next day in the OB's office surrounded by pregnant women I had my blood drawn once again to test HCG levels, but it wasn't really necessary. I had come so I could talk to my doctor, but she wasn't there so I went home feeling entirely empty.

My doctor called later that day to tell me my HCG levels had dropped significantly. I had assumed as much, and I preface my next question with a "please don't think I'm crazy, but I chart and ...." I asked once again if they could check my progesterone when my body had recovered. Her response, "Oh yeah. We do that all the time." I think I sunk to the floor. I had nothing left to say.

A month later I had my progesterone level checked. It was a 4. The lowest it should be, at the point I had it tested (progesterone has to be tested on a specific cycle day for accurate numbers, about 7 or 8 days after ovulation), is an 8 with a more ideal number of 12 or higher. My progesterone wasn't just low; it was abysmal. My doctor said she'd like to have it tested once again to confirm that we had tested on the right day. Having charted for so long I knew we had, though I agreed. But I got another positive pregnancy test a day later, and by the time I lost that baby the doctor agreed to supplement future pregnancies with progesterone without running further tests. (There haven't been any studies to suggest that too much progesterone during a pregnancy is a bad thing.)

Miscarriage is not uncommon in my family. I actually always expected it, but to experience it was heartwrenching. What made it even more difficult is that perhaps it could have been avoided. Maybe not, as miscarriage is frequently because of genetic abnormalities, but I feel like if one doctor had done as I requested, if one doctor was familiar with NFP, maybe we could have saved that first baby's life with progesterone support. I understand that the medical world has to run a certain way in order to keep up with demand, but it seems like a simple blood draw wouldn't have been much of an inconvenience.

Today I'm exactly 20 weeks pregnant. It's a bit bittersweet grieving the baby due today, and yet to be so elated to be carrying this little girl. I truly believe she's here today because of the progesterone I was finally put on, and I'm so thankful for the knowledge I was given through NFP. I know also that God's plan is for every mama to hold their baby, but with sin comes tragedy, but He can make beauty from any tragedy.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pregnancy Journal

36 weeks

So this week has been more eventful than I wanted. Was hoping for our last ultrasound, but we're set for at least a few more now that we've discovered baby girl's head is in my ribs. Had hoped to do another drug-free natural birth, but if baby doesn't flip, looks like a c-section may be in the cards this time. The closest doctor who will deliver breech babies is 5.5 hours away. In the meantime we have a few tricks to try and encourage her to get into the correct position, including chiropractor, some unique yoga poses, and probably an ECV, where they try to turn baby from the outside. Fingers crossed and prayers said something works! Otherwise, she's doing well at 24% for size and growing hair just like her big sister. We are so excited to meet her sometime soon! 

32 weeks
Getting biggy and biggy as my daughter says. I would guess this little one is a bit bigger than her older sister. And lower, which I didn't think was possible, but my pelvic bone would disagree. Most women seem to talk about discomfort in their ribs, but I guess that's not a sensation I'll experience. She's nowhere near as active as my first either though the Braxton hicks contractions are MUCH more frequent. But we've been having lots of fun working on the nursery this month. Cordelia arrived in less than 6 weeks from this point so getting excited!

28 weeks

The last month went so fast that I'm actually almost 29 weeks. Had a doctor appointment today and we heard the heartbeat on the Doppler. I remember Cordie never let them rest the Doppler for long or she'd kick it, but this baby girl was perfectly fine with them taking a nice, long listen. Funny how you can see different personalities emerge so early.

24 Weeks

24 weeks. Viability! It's a big milestone and she's finally kicking pretty consistently so anxiety is finally going down a bit. 

20 Weeks

Halfway! Maybe even more if this one decides to show up early like her sister. She's gotten so much stronger over the last week. You can see her kicks from the outside, and both Ben and Cordie have felt her kick. Little nervous about the anatomy scan on Thursday, but excited to get another glimpse of my baby. Cordie is still excited. Ben said when they came to pick me up from the airport after my business trip, he asked if she was excited to see me. She said, "Get to see my baby sister!" I think she may have thought I was coming home with the real deal.

16 Weeks

16 weeks and feeling movement. This one likes to roll and flip, twist and turn. Makes me a bit nauseous. Other than that I'm feeling good though sleeping has been less comfortable this time around. And I NEVER have issues sleeping so that's new. Weird dreams all the time. Even Ben has been having them, but I guess that's a thing, for the dad to also have strong/strange dreams. Cordie talks about the baby almost everyday and constantly asks to go see the baby on the TV (i.e. ultrasound). She likes to say, "Little tiny baby growing."

It's a ... GIRL!

Totally shocked. Had completely convinced myself it was a boy. This pregnancy has been so different (hardly nauseous at all was the big one) so I just assumed. I even started using "he" when referring to the baby. We even picked out a boy name and not a full girl name! Cordie is thrilled. Once the tech said what the sex was, she yelled, "Baby sister!" We are thrilled as well, but I feel like I have to adjust all my thinking from the last few weeks. Praying things continue to go smoothly.

12 Weeks

 8 Weeks

I thought I would consolidate all my pregnancy stuff to one spot so as not to inundate social media. I'm so excited about this new baby I don't want to keep it to myself, but perhaps containing my enthusiasm is a good idea.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

We'd like to share ...

Cordie would like to share ...

We're due February 2016! She's super excited!

Upside down, but still cute.

13 weeks :)

Perfect hand.

Sometimes she's not 100% sure about baby brother or sister though. 

Thanks, and we're going to ask for your prayers! There's a bit of a story to this one that I'll share in the coming weeks, but for now, we're celebrating this new life and highly anticipating his or her arrival!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunroom to Playroom

When we purchased our home, our only complaint really was that the bedrooms (besides the master) were a bit small, and there wasn't a playroom for when we had children. Sure enough, our daughter has taken over our living room with her toys, and since I also work from home, it was becoming a bit claustrophobic. Shortly after Christmas we decided we needed a playroom and that the completely useless sunroom would be the ideal spot.

Before we purchased our home, we first toured it in December, so of course we didn't think to try to open the windows. Neither did our home inspector apparently because not one of the 13 windows in the sunroom opened come spring.  No airflow = melting in Florida and the tiny ceiling fan did little but move the hot air around. There was an in-wall air conditioning unit, but no outlet close enough to plug it in ... NICE planning. You get the idea. It was a total gut job. And it was a bit daunting, but I am SO HAPPY with the end result! See what 7 months and a whole lot of patience looks like below.


So then the demo began.
First window out.

Took it to the studs.

Putting lights in. There weren't any before, and we added several outlets.
PT Cruiser to the rescue! Fit all 10 windows. There use to be 13 windows in the sunroom, but they were all different sizes (41 in, 43 in, 39 in, etc.). We decided to remove the two small windows next to the doors and reduced the number on the remaining walls so that each window was the same size. 

We decided to install the windows ourselves due to cost. The company quoted us a price originally and assured it wouldn't change that much, but in order to get the final quote they had to come measure the window openings. However, we had to reframe everything since we were getting all the same size window instead of six different sizes. So Ben removed all the windows and reframed the walls. The company came back to measure, but the second quote was almost a grand more! Apparently the last guy didn't factor in hurricane protection! We about fell over, but we were kind of stuck because we had 10 gapping holes in our house. The final option was install them ourselves. I say us, but Ben and our wonderful neighbor did the job beautifully! They all open!!!

Cordie liked helping.
Buh-bye ugly stone and hello insulation!
Drywall is up. It was finally my turn to help. I did the taping, mudding, and sanding. There was so much to do! Best advice:  Tape, mud, sand. Repeat. Repeat again. This takes more patience than I was blessed with, but it gave us the best results.

We chose Benjamin Moore's Blue Danube. I was a bit unsure of the color once it was up, but you'll see how it turned out.

See why I panicked slightly?
The ceiling was a lot of work, but we wanted something that would make the room feel rich. So we purchased 220 ft of these interlocking wood boards. I painted them all and then we nailed them up. Lots of work, but the end result was so worth it. When we were purchasing the wood, a woman in front of us at the register exclaimed, "You have a big project ahead of you!" We laughed and said it was a small project in the grand scheme of our larger one!
Next up was trimming out the windows. I was most nervous about this phase of the project. It just seemed impossibly hard, but we found the most perfect pieces of trim, and a project I anticipated taking several weekends, only took two! Ben did so amazing.
Finally, it was time for the floor and the rest of the trim around the doors and floor. Basically we replaced EVERY surface (including siding on the outside of the house) in the room. See the finished result below! (Sorry. Longest blog ever!)
Final touches!
I just love the floor!

I think we're going to do something similar to the ceiling in our master now.

I pained the little rocking chair and the table and chairs below. They are bit brighter than I wanted, but Cordie said they are bootiful.

Love being able to display our daughter's artwork.

Kitchen complete with hooks and buckets to store her utensils in.

Repurposed the doors to make them a bit brighter and clean. Someone wants to come play!

Cordie approved!
Thanks for making it to this point. This was by far our largest project, and it still needs some curtains and a few finishing touches, but we are so happy to have a space that we can use once again.