Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The results

A couple of months ago I shared that I was going through a lot of medical testing. I've been through the ringer over the years, but I finally found a doctor that decided that the 17 brain lesions I have aren't normal (duh) and wanted to do a bunch of tests I've never had. I've been looking for answers for years. A lot of years. I initially started having back problems when I was 16. That was 11 years ago. I've gotta say, worsening chronic pain for a decade doesn't make for a very happy Alexa. So, we were hoping for answers. 

I was given options. It could be TIAs (which are small strokes that I had before my heart surgery), seizures, and Multiple Sclerosis. The last being the most mentioned candidate for the last 7 years. Doctors mentioned it but never tested for it because I was "too young." So, I had blood work. Blood work that showed a low level of antibodies for lupus, and a slightly low vitamin B12. No biggy. I don't have symptoms of lupus and the B12 deficiency wasn't low enough to cause all of my neurological issues. Moving on.
Evoked Potentials...I look crazy.

I had evoked potentials testing and a 72 hour ambulatory EEG. The EEG was unpleasant. I had 25 wires attached to stickers on my head under a bandage for 3 days. I wasn't allowed to shower. And the one time I went out I realized people thought I might be dying based on how I was treated by strangers. I had some abnormal readings from that test, but no seizures. So, that's good! I was super nervous that was going to be an issue. The evoked potentials didn't come with good news. In fact, my body totally failed me there. Evoked potentials test how your brain responds to different stimuli. It's actually the most relaxing of all the medical testing I've had done. They put all the same stickers and wires on your head, which is the worst part, for me anyway. I'm told that most people don't enjoy the electrocution part, but we will get to that. 

First up was just a regular EEG. I got to sleep for 20 minutes, which was lovely. It was for a base reading of my brain. The first test we did was the auditory, which is just listening to some clicks. The sensory test is where they electrocute you. Yay! I actually didn't feel it. Maybe a slight buzz when she had it really high. Apparently my nerves in my legs are not so great. For the visual test you just sit really close to a TV screen that has an annoying graphic on it. All of these tests came back abnormal. The auditory showed problems with my left ear, so apparently there's damage to the left side of my brain stem. I also didn't do well with the visual. What's interesting is I didn't know there were problems with my eyes and ears. Looking back now it's obvious. My vision has been gradually getting worse over the last 5 years, and I always thought the ringing in my ears that I've had since I was like 18 was normal. Apparently it's not? Who knew!

Right before my lumbar puncture
These tests were ultimately inconclusive. Well, not exactly. But since I had the ANA (antibodies) for lupus, the low vitamin B12, and the messed up brain, both through MRI (17 lesions) and evoked potentials, I had to get a spinal tap to rule things out. The spinal tap was a nightmare. Actually, it wasn't so bad. The build up in my head to the spinal tap was the real nightmare. The doctor was actually really good. I had it done under flouroscope in the hospital so there was no guesswork involved on where the needle should go. The worst part, as with an epidural, is the numbing. Oh, the burn. But after I was all numbed up I felt nothing. I didn't even feel the weird pressure I feel with epidurals because they were doing it under x-ray which meant they didn't have to move anything around once they got in there. Unfortunately I screwed up after and didn't lay down flat long enough to allow it to heal. I ended up with a spinal headache from my the fluid leaking. That was no fun. Nothing compared to my worst migraines, but it was constant for a week and made bending, like to pick up my baby, a nightmare. And of course Gabe was out of town which meant that friends had to help me a ton because the only way I got relief was laying flat. I had to have a blood patch to get it fixed a week after the fact. That was a fiasco in and of itself. The doctor was a jerk. He told me I didn't have a spinal headache, that the blood patch probably wouldn't work, and that I most certainly don't have MS. Well, he was wrong. The blood patch worked within minutes because it was a spinal headache. Another doctor that wasn't a bully did the blood patch and contacted me after. The jerk doctor didn't speak to me again after the blood patch was finished and it worked.

Anyway! That was a long winded way of saying that my lumbar puncture came back negative. ALL OF THAT FOR NOTHING. 3 needles in my spine, that gradually got larger and larger, for absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly. It did rule out lupus, which is good. Right now we are just saying that I have an autoimmune disease. But, since my evoked potentials and my MRI are obviously not normal, the doctor is still quite sure I have MS. This is all really frustrating because even though we are all pretty sure that it's MS. What if it isn't? I mean, that's super doubtful. But I've been going through this for a very long time. I've known I had lesions for 7 years. I've been ignored by doctors. And now that I'm not being ignored, I still don't have an official diagnosis. It's not that I want to be sick. I just want answers. So I suppose a mostly sure answer is better than nothing. Turns out pregnancy and nursing can put MS in remission, which would explain why my MRIs haven't shown any new damage in the last year. So basically I'm self treating. Unfortunately, the damage that's done is done. The neurological issues are there because of the lesions I already have. Some things have gotten worse. For example I occasionally lose feeling in one of my legs while I'm walking, and my arms start to go numb as well. That's new and not fun. And of course all of my symptoms are exacerbated by the fact that I only average about 2-3 hours of very broken sleep a night. But sleep deprivation doesn't cause brain lesions.

When I move, my neurologist will be in contact with my next neurologist so they can discuss my situation. I will probably have to go through all of this testing again, which sounds awful. But I need a "second opinion." Which will actually be my 7th opinion in the last 6 years. Maybe 8th. The current plan is to continue nursing. When I'm done nursing I will probably get worse. I'll have some sort of "attack" most likely. So my doctor wants me to go on a mild form of medication for MS. Here's the problem with MS. It's a lot of guess work. There's no one test that says "yes, you're positive for MS!" It's a lot of tests and a lot of educated guesses. In fact, from what I've read and been told by doctors, most people don't for sure know until they are well into it and there's a lot of damage already done. And by that point, medications are useless. So we want to get ahead of it. Hopefully we can slow down the progression. 

I try not to think about it too much. Cause it's kind of scary to think that I need to go on medication to slow down the progression of a neurological degenerative disease that could make me blind, or make me not able to walk, among other things. This wasn't part of my plan, you know? I'm 27 years old! I'm young. I shouldn't be having to think about how I may not be able to do these things. I shouldn't be so exhausted and in so much pain that I can't take care of my own kids. But that's silly. Bad things happen to people no matter how old they are. And really, it could be worse. I try to remind myself of that all the time, but it doesn't make it any easier.

This is a big topic with my psychologist (no shame). I have major depression and anxiety and I can't go on useful meds while I'm nursing. Another side effect of MS is depression and anxiety, so I can pretty much look forward to this being a fight my whole life. But my psychologist is wonderful. We spoke recently about how I need to make goals and plans. This is something I've never been very good at, especially with the depression. I've always had things I want to do, but I don't do them because I don't have the energy or the drive like I did when I was younger. But she pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago that I need to live in the here and now. It's even more true of someone like myself with a neurological degenerative disease. Because the truth is I don't know if I'll be able to do the things I want to do in 10 years. I may lose that ability. But right now I have it. All I have is right now. Today I can still see, though it's a bit blurry. Today I can still walk, though sometimes I have to stop and let feeling come back to my legs. Today the pain in my back is awful, but it's livable. So I wrote down some goals to accomplish now. Or at least soon. And it was a little bit empowering, which was nice because I haven't felt that in ages. I don't have control of a whole lot but that gave me a little bit.

So, I'm planning on starting a lifestyle blog. Like, a nice one. I've been wanting to since Peyton was itty bitty, and she's almost 5. But I've never had the energy. Just self doubt. I see other people doing it that are surely more interesting and much better at it than I am. People that are more positive and upbeat. But, I have convinced myself that it doesn't matter. I've always wanted to write. I love writing. Know what's holding me back? Coming up with a name for the blog. HA! Seriously. That's it. I have a million ideas for what to write about, and almost no ideas for a name.

I'm also hoping to improve my skills with my camera. I've always loved photography. My dad gave me that love. And I need to letter and paint more often. But having the energy for all of this is so hard. I'm working on it.

So, in summary. I probably have Multiple Sclerosis. We're treating me as though I do. I can expect to get worse when I'm done nursing. I'll start treatment then. I've read a ton about MS, and even though there's no cure, I'm hopeful that if we can get ahead of it early, we can slow it down. My husband has been so supportive and helpful and I couldn't do this without him. He's gone to my major appointments with me and for that I'm extremely grateful. I also couldn't do this without the support of my friends locally that have been so kind to help with my kids during the millions of appointments, and when I'm too miserable to function, which is often. Also, if you made it this far, I'm really impressed at your willpower. 

K bye!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My real answer to "are you okay?"

Recently I've been asked the question, "are you okay?" A lot. Three times within an hour this week. For months I've been saying that I'm just tired and that I was doing fine because I felt like that's what I'm supposed to say. For the record, I am tired. I'm exhausted. My kids don't sleep through the night. I'm a mom. I have to be okay, right? But after talking to my husband and my psychologist (no shame here), I've decided that I need to share that I've been lying. I'm not okay.

I'm no stranger to health problems. My heart defect could've killed me had I not gotten extremely lucky and found it 2 years before my first baby was born. And I was very open when going through infertility. It lightened the burden of the miscarriages and gave me the support I needed. Plus I got to hear from so many women that had either had similar experiences in the past, or were going through infertility issues at the same time and appreciated my openness. After the pre-eclampsia was over with my last pregnancy, I thought that had to be it. I've been through the ringer of health. But I knew that wasn't true. I've known for a very long time that something else was wrong and the doctors I was seeing were just skating by it.

I've had back problems since I was 16. They've just gotten worse over the years and escalated terribly after number 2 was born. Sometimes I struggle to walk around, but I do it anyway because I have no choice. My migraines have been out of control. Just a couple of weeks ago I had such a severe one that I almost called 911. The only reason I didn't was because I literally could not see or speak to do so. My poor kids basically had to fend for themselves for 6 hours. My face droops above my eye. It started when I was pregnant with Peyton, as a sort of aura to my migraines. Now it just happens at random. It's not cute. Peyton told me that I look like Quasimodo when it happens. She's not wrong. I also have a hunch thanks to scoliosis so that's a double whammy! My memory isn't very good. Much like when I was going through the heart defect TIAs that were making me fail my classes, I can't remember things like I used to. Entire days and experiences are just gone. I only know because my best friend and my brother have pointed it out. I've slowly become weaker and shakier. I've had to put down my baby a number of times because I'm scared I'm going to drop her. I drop things regularly, and it always seems to be things that contain messy food or liquid. Of course. And for a few months I've been struggling on the drive home from Orlando. There's a disconnect between my eyes and my brain. It's difficult to explain. It's like my eyes are aware I'm driving but my brain just shuts down. It's not normal to say the least!

Multiple Sclerosis was originally mentioned to me when I was 20. Seven years ago, when they found the lesions all over my brain. The neurologist didn't want to "go down the MS path" because I was so young. I ended up having the heart defect that was causing TIAs (mini strokes) and went on my way. I stopped blacking out while driving and eventually my brain healed (as well as it could) and I was able to pass classes again. I've since had MS mentioned to me by at least one doctor a year for probably the last 5 years. But I was "too young" so they ignored the symptoms and told me that the brain lesions I continued to get were normal.

In December I went to my 6th neurologist. After having an MRI, an MRA, and some nerve testing done, she determined that nothing was wrong and that I was just an exhausted mother. She looked at my MRI that literally shows brain damage and told me that it was normal. She also said that my biggest lesion was the size of the head of a ball point pen. The woman was the worst doctor I've ever met, and I've had a LOT of doctors. She told me I should be happy I had no diagnosis. I was crying. I tried to explain to her why but she laughed.

I was crying because I am in pain every single day. I live at a 6/10 on the pain scale every. Single. Day. Not only does the chronic pain disrupt my life and contribute to my depression, but the migraines, and the slurred speech, and all of the other symptoms aren't normal. I don't know any other exhausted moms that are having neurological side effects. Brain damage in particular. It's frustrating to just KNOW there's something wrong with you for years and have doctors cast it aside like you're crazy. They assume that because of my age and my medical history that I couldn't possibly know what I'm talking about or that there couldn't possibly be anything else wrong with me. I had a neurologist tell me that I have nerve damage in my face, and that was it. She didn't give me a reason for it, just stated it and moved on.

I recently moved on to my 7th neurologist. I've heard good things about him so I'm willing to travel the hour to get to him. The nurse spent an hour collecting my history. It's pretty extensive and they wanted every single detail of my health. I always feel pretty good about myself when talking to these nurses because they're always so impressed with my knowledge of technical medical terms. Not to brag, but I've been around the block a few times. HA! Then the doctor came in and looked at it, talked to me for a minute, and pulled up my most recent MRI. He stopped counting my lesions at 17. They were all bigger than the size of a ball point pen head (like the last doctor said). And he told me they're not normal. He said that just looking at my MRI and some of my symptoms he'd say I have MS, but I need additional testing because my symptoms seem to show other things as well.

I basically have three options. I'm either having TIAs again, which are those mini strokes that usually come before a big one, seizures, or I have MS. He said I could have more than one, but it's going to be at least one of those things. I wasn't surprised. I left that appointment happy. Which is weird to most people. I'm not happy to hear that I could have something that could either kill me or really change my life. I'm happy that after YEARS and SO MANY doctors, I've finally found someone that is putting my age aside and looking at the facts. The fact is, brain damage isn't normal. He showed me my MRI, it's everywhere. I could finally get an answer. I can get the help I need. There's hope that I could feel like a halfway normal person. I don't know what it's like to not be in pain. Is it amazing? I feel like it's probably amazing. Don't take it for granted.

I still have a lot more testing to do, but we so far know I have a lot of nerve damage in my feet, and some in my hands. I will be doing a 72 hour EEG next weekend and a lumbar puncture shortly after that. I have to do it in the hospital because I was unconscious for about 2 hours after my last epidural. My doctor is hopeful that we will have a diagnosis quickly, but told me that it could take more time. But I'm so happy I finally have a doctor that's taking me seriously. I absolutely dread moving at the end of the summer and having to find someone new. It's taken me years to find someone who will listen.

At this point, I take it one day at a time. Some days I feel worse, emotionally and/or physically, than others. But I'm a mom every day, and I have to be okay. My girls are growing up with a mom that needs extra help on occasion. I'm definitely insanely exhausted. All the pain and the issues and the lack of sleep make it hard to function. But I'm told that given the circumstances, I'm doing an excellent job. Probably overdoing it for myself. Actually, I know I overdo it, but I don't want my girls to look back on their childhood and just remember that mommy had issues.

It's taken me weeks to write this. I keep doing it and deleting it. I'm nervous to share this information for some reason. I want you to know I'm not whining. I save that for my husband. HA! But I do want people to be aware of what I'm going through. I look miserable because I am. But I try SO HARD to not look miserable. Seriously. But sometimes it's harder to fake it than others. I am significantly happier now than I was a few months ago. I've been seeing a psychologist and getting the help that I need. And I have amazing friends here in Florida that have been so understanding and helpful to me. I try to be more selfish and take breaks so I don't drive myself crazy. As a mom, I find it hard to be selfish. My husband has been trying to get me to do it for years! Which I find funny now that I think about it. So I am a lot happier. But I look like I'm more miserable because I'm more exhausted and physically going through a lot more.

I guess I want support. It's hard and I think that people that have mental and physical problems have a better chance if they have support from friends and family. I know it could be worse. A lot worse. Multiple Sclerosis isn't a death sentence. I'm mad that I wasn't taken seriously before. I probably could've avoided a lot of nerve damage and pain if someone had listened. But I'm just happy that someone is finally listening. It may not be MS, but if it is, I'm okay with that. Over the last 7 years I've come to terms with it, and my husband and I are prepared for that to be what we hear. It makes the most sense. I'll probably get worse, but at least we will know why. And I'm well aware that it could be worse. I have many people on my friends list that I know are struggling with more than I am. I want to be open about it though. It's helpful to me, and I want people to be comfortable sharing this kind of information. Especially when it's something that's effecting everyday function.

Also, this is why I don't do as much lettering and stuff anymore. Sometimes I find it very difficult to grip my pens. Or see. Or concentrate. I would love to start an Etsy shop and be able to do more projects because I have so many things I want to do. But right now I just can't do it. If I'm given a diagnosis next month, I'm hoping we can figure out treatment options. I will likely have to stop nursing, which breaks my mama heart. But I know it's for the best. I just want to be a good mom to my girls. And to the women that have been able to help me lately, I am so grateful. And I hope that in the future that I will be in a position that I can help others. But at the moment, I'm the one in need of the help. Which is really hard to come to terms with for me. I appreciate all of your love and support more than you know.

Okay, I think that's all. I've tried to reread this but I'm going cross eyed. I don't even know if the flow makes sense at this point. I think I caught all of the spelling errors, but it's difficult to say. My new excuse for everything that I use on my husband and my brother is "I have brain damage." So if this makes little sense or there are spelling and grammatical errors, remember, I have brain damage! If you made it this far, you're amazing. Thanks. :)


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Birth Story 2.0

I had another baby!

This is old news obviously. Parker Jane was born on September 15th at 3:18pm at 36 weeks. Everyday I think to myself that I definitely need to write down my labor story before I forget all the details. But this time was so long, not to mention mentally and physically exhausting, that there's no way I'm forgetting any details any time soon! Now that Parker is almost 2 months old, and I'm somewhat out of the newborn fog (yeah right) maybe I can write it out and have it make sense.

Just to recap, getting pregnant was not an easy task. It took 16ish months, if I'm counting right. In that time I had another 2 losses to add to my list, making a total of 4 miscarriages and 6 pregnancies. This pregnancy was sort of a surprise. I peed on the stick "just in case" because I was starting injections 3 days later. Surprise!! No need for those needles I brought home from the fertility office.

From day one I was high risk. 4 miscarriages and a heart condition will do that to you. I had a bazillion ultrasounds in the first 12 weeks just to make sure everything was going well. I decided to use doctors in Orlando so that I could deliver at the women's hospital there. It was a 45 minute drive one way, and by 30 weeks I was making that drive 3-4 times a week for various appointments. But it was worth it. I loved my doctors!

At 28 weeks my blood pressure sky rocketed. It was terrifying. I've heard that most people don't notice, but I definitely did. I knew what was happening, but doctors didn't want to call it pre-eclampsia. I found out recently that if they called it that, then they'd need to deliver me sooner or admit me, because if they sent me home and something happened to me, they'd be liable. I was mad at them at the time for making me feel crazy for thinking it was pre-e, but now I'm grateful that I didn't have to live in the hospital for weeks. 5 days for delivery was more than enough. I had to deal with my symptoms worsening daily. I stopped being able to do simple things like dishes, unless I wanted to suffer and end up on the floor. Grocery shopping was out of the question, and I could only go to the first hour of church. I was never put on bed rest, because they try to avoid that, but I was told to "take it easy." They basically didn't want me doing anything. Unofficial bed rest if you will.

By 36 weeks I felt like a ticking time bomb. Getting out of bed was a chore. Not because my belly was enormous, but because the second I sat up my blood pressure would rise. It gave me horrible headaches, my vision was a mess, and I was sick all the time. Feeling so terrible meant I ate very little, and by the end I had gained 10lbs total. All of it was in the last week and a half when the swelling kicked in! So, I can't complain about that.

Right before Peyton left me in the hospital.
Anyway, I got off subject. I had been going in for non-stress tests twice a week since 31 weeks. Baby was passing with flying colors. My blood pressure was up, but fairly controlled with medication. On Monday the 12th I went to my ob feeling even worse than usual. My blood pressure was higher than it normally was at my appointments and I could barely stand. But, against his better judgement, my ob sent me home. I had Peyton and I had things to do. But I was told to go to labor and delivery that night if I didn't get better. I ignored that advice thinking I was fine. I had stuff to do! My house was a wreck trying to get things ready!

The next morning I had an appointment with my high risk doctor at the hospital. I had my sidekick, Peyton, with me. She loves most of my appointments. My blood pressure was up, but I had been walking so no one was super concerned at that point. We knew I had issues. I laid down for about 30 minutes for my appointment. I was becoming worse as time went on and my doctor noticed how pail I was becoming, so he had my blood pressure checked again. Instead of going down like it should when you lay down, it had gone up significantly. Still, we wanted to hold off. While I was sitting there we decided I would be induced at 37 weeks, that coming Saturday. 37 weeks is considered "early term" and 39 weeks is "full term." That's changed since I had Peyton. Very confusing. Anywho! 37 weeks meant I had time to get things done at home and pack my hospital bag. And then I stood up and grasped the back of the chair. That was it. My doctor looked at me and asked me if I could stand or walk without holding on to something. I couldn't. 99% of the time I had to be holding on to something or else I'd fall in to something. Without hesitating he said "well then we're going to get you up to delivery right now. I don't want you driving home like this." Wait, what? No. I'm just here for an appointment dude! I have my 3 year old! I can't be induced today. I have too much to do. But they weren't letting me drive home. I called Gabe, who thought I was joking when I told him, and he had to leave work and run home to pack my hospital bag. I was put in a wheelchair, Peyton on my lap, and taken straight up to the room where my induction would be started. I got lucky with Peyton. I was able to call a good friend and have her come to the hospital to pick her up. Super grateful for that.

I got to the hospital at 11am for my appointment and was admitted and in a room by 1230. I was started on a magnesium drip immediately in an attempt to lower my blood pressure. Mag is the worst. I hate it. It made me feel like absolute crap for days while on it. They wanted to start my induction as soon as husband got there.

Our hospital board in the delivery room!
Did you know that you can be having too many contractions to be induced? I didn't! I was having regular Braxton Hicks ever 3ish minutes. They didn't hurt, just a bit uncomfortable. I knew they were pretty useless. They wanted to wait for them to stop. So they checked me and I was still high and closed. That meant my induction wasn't going to be easy. I already knew that. I was early, and my labor with Peyton was long and miserable and she came at 39 weeks. Gabe showed up at some point, multiple bags in hand that I had given him instructions on how to pack over the phone. My brother was on his way to take Peyton for the night, hoping that I'd have the baby in the next 24 hours (HA). I was ready to go! But my body just wasn't getting it. Somewhere around dinner time they decided to give me something to stop my contractions. Seems counter productive doesn't it? Stop contractions just to start them? But that's exactly what happened.

The contractions slowed down enough for them to put the first pill in around 9pm. I had been at the hospital for 10 hours at that point. By 11 I was having solid, regular contractions. They weren't terrible, but I wasn't happy about them. I couldn't sleep through them, but I slept in between them. So about 3-4 minutes of sleep at a time if I fell asleep. At the 6 hour mark they came in to check me. I was at a 1. Great! I'm making progress!! Time for the next pill! No. My contractions were too close together again. Can't give another pill on top of contractions that are coming too much. Again. So I had to wait it out. Several hours went by and they finally slowed and I got the next pill. Luckily I was on the floor where I could eat. So I wasn't going days without eating. The floor I was on was just for laboring, not delivery. No epidurals on that floor. I had to get to a 3 to go to the delivery floor. My goal was 3cm. That's it.

Meeting in the hospital.
At 3am on Thursday I was still at an "almost 2." ALMOST TWO. I had been given 3 pills and had been in labor (just counting when I started having painful contractions) for 28 hours. My blood pressure, even on a magnesium drip, which is the worst, was going up and I wasn't allowed to get out of bed. Do you know how much it sucks to labor in bed and not be allowed to get up except to pee? It sucks a lot. It hurt. I was super upset. I hadn't slept in a very long time other than the few minutes I had slept in between contractions on Tuesday night. But now it was early Thursday morning and I was getting desperate. In fact, the morning I went in to the doctor, I was thinking how much it would suck to be induced that day because I'd only had 3 hours of sleep that night. BAH! A midwife came in to check me herself. She felt bad for me. I was clearly in pain and having a lot of contractions, couldn't move, couldn't sleep. I was going crazy. Her plan was to give me an ambien so I could sleep. She decided to check me herself and told me she could do one of two things. She could use a little balloon contraption to dilate me, which would take 12 hours, but I could have an ambien, or she could get me to a 3 herself right then and there, but it would hurt. It had been 28 hours. So you know what I did? I braced myself, with my sleeping husband in the pull out bed next to me, and let her cause me a heck of a lot more pain than I anticipated. I regretted not forcing my husband to wake up to hold my hand. I had a nurse talking me through breathing while this woman manually opened my cervix. Guys, that hurts. It hurts like Hades. But she did it. I made it to 3cm. YAY! I could go to the delivery floor and get an epidural, pitocin, and sleep.

The contractions after that were awful. I had been surviving my contractions on my own the whole
time, but after that I needed Gabe to push on my back during every contraction. I was ready for the epidural and get some sleep before baby came. But it took a while to get down to delivery and get an anesthesiologist. While I was waiting I had to get poked some more. By this point, I had had my IV placed multiple times. But they needed more bloodwork and my IV needed to be moved again. The phlebotomist they sent in struggled, just like the 3 nurses before. I lost count after 15 attempted pokes. I will never forget what he said to me. "Your skin is like poking a football full of fluid." I was really swollen at that point (thanks pre-eclampsia). That morning is a blur of pain and sleep deprivation, but I'm pretty sure it was almost 8am by the time my epidural was placed. It took a while because they had to wait for approval from the head anesthesiologist because of my heart issues, then attach a monitor to me that would be watched constantly. The epidural is when things got interesting.

When I got the epidural with Peyton I sort of passed out. I say sort of because I'm told I passed out, but I think I remember most of what happened. I remember voices becoming distant, but I don't think I ever fully lost consciousness. They laid me down and I was fine. That time, Gabe was there for me to lean on. This time was different. No one was near me when I was hunched over the side of the bed to have the epidural placed. No one to lean on. I breathed through everything. Despite the fact that those needles are gigantic, it doesn't hurt. It DOES feel weird. I was totally fine while it was being placed. She wanted to make sure it was right in the middle since last time it wasn't. It's weird feeling exactly where a needle is in your spine. It wasn't until she got it in the right spot that things went downhill.

The anesthesiologist told me I had a vasovagal response. Apparently it's a drop in blood pressure in response to stress or pain. My blood pressure definitely dropped, but I don't remember being in pain, or being stressed even. I was totally calm until I started passing out. I was sitting there and my hearing started to go out and I heard ringing in my ears. I don't know how fast it happened, but it felt like a long time. I remember saying repeatedly "I'm going to pass out," but no one was doing anything. The doctor and nurse just kept on saying I would be fine, but Gabe was trying to tell them this happened last time and that someone needed to hold me. It's amazing how even though I was definitely losing consciousness, I was very much aware of the fact that there was a needle in my spine. I did my absolute best to stay still until the nurse realized I was going down. I don't remember what happened at this point very well. I remember people trying to tell me I would be fine. I was freaking out. I was shaking uncontrollably (apparently this is normal when they first start an epidural), and I couldn't breathe. They had to put the oxygen mask on me. I don't know how long I was out of it, but I know this fiasco happened more than once. It was almost 2 hours before I have any solid memories again. The anesthesiologist was in there for a while. When I "came to" she told me what she thought was going on and that they were glad I ended up okay because the head anesthesiologist wanted to send me to the ICU. But my nurse while I was in there was awesome and almost constantly with me until I was totally fine so they decided against it. Thank goodness.

After that very dramatic time, things kicked in to gear. The Pitocin was going. The midwife came in at some point to check me to see if my water was ready to be broken. As soon as she went to check, I felt a pop. The amniotic sac had actually slipped through and it was the first thing she touched and it broke with one poke! It was actually pretty funny. Even the midwife was surprised. After that, I was at a 10 in just a few hours. I had fallen asleep and let my epidural become weak. When I woke up I realized I was feeling contractions. Not hard obviously, but my belly was burning and I couldn't sit up and adjust myself to feel better so I pushed that button as much as I could (every 5 minutes) until I could just feel the pressure from the contractions, rather than pain. The midwife came back in and said that she was going to deliver another baby first and that I could just sit there and chill. And not push. Guys, not pushing when you feel like you need to push is really hard. With Peyton I was so numb I never got the urge. This time I felt it. I could literally feel her getting lower and lower. I didn't even have to push to make anything happen. She was just slipping out on her own. The midwife came back after a few minutes and said I would go faster. She was right. Parker was crowning already when she sat down. I pushed twice. Not even hard. It took almost no effort and BAM! There was a baby. I've been super lucky with both of my labors to have really easy pushing experiences. With Peyton I pushed for maybe 20 minutes, and with this one, it was 2 little pushes in 2 contractions. Sure, my labors are forever, but I hear that pushing for a long time is terrible. Also, I donated my cord blood this time. It was very cool being able to have the option to do that. I figured that I'd rather someone benefit from it rather than it just be thrown out.

40 hours. From the first painful contraction to the time she came out was 40 hours. It took 9 hours longer than with Peyton. But you know what? I just might do it again. However, I'd prefer to go into labor naturally. I'm not interested in being bed ridden during an induction again. It much preferred shopping in labor then going to the hospital. But we all survived. Peyton stayed at our house with my brother for one night, and then she spent three nights at a friends house since my mom couldn't make it until the next week. She did awesome and I'm so grateful for our friends!

Parker was technically premature so we had to stay til her 48 hour mark. She was super close to going in to the NICU because she wasn't staying awake long enough to eat. Her blood sugar was super low. But I ended up pumping and got her to take some and it went up. When she was two days old she had to do the car seat challenge (sitting in her car seat for an hour while being monitored). She just barely fit in her car seat. Her little chicken legs were too small so we had to use a wash cloth to pad her. HA!

Parker has blended right in to our family. Peyton loved her from the start. I wish I got more sleep and quiet time, but I will live! I love baby snuggles. All in all I have really good kids. Makes me think we should stop here. I can't possibly get this lucky again!!!

Phew! That was a long story. If you stuck it out, I'm impressed. Thank you. Have a lovely day!

The end.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

29 week bumpdate.

So the last few weeks have been a little rough. I was wearing a cardiac event monitor for a couple of weeks to monitor my tachycardia, and luckily a nurse recommended I buy a blood pressure monitor to see how my it corresponded with the jumps in my heart rate. My heart was already causing me some issues with the pregnancy, same as last time, but just a few days after the monitor came off, things went downhill. I'm extremely happy I listened to her recommendation.

On a random Sunday morning while getting ready for church, I felt my usual tachycardia that comes with brushing my teeth (cause obviously that's a major work out). But this time I didn't make it to the bed to sit down. I collapsed. It was very dramatic. Gabe jumped out of the shower to help me because I suddenly had to vomit and couldn't get to the toilet on my own. My blood pressure 10 minutes after this fiasco was 167/110. Not good. I couldn't stay at church. I was too sick and I couldn't stand on my own. I spent the rest of the day in bed hoping the day was a fluke.

It wasn't. Over the next couple of days my blood pressure just kept creeping higher. It wasn't as high as it was on Sunday, that was a major spike, but my new norm was creeping higher with every passing hour. My OB was concerned, but not enough to put me on meds yet. It wasn't quite to that point yet. I knew it was only a matter of time. I'd had a headache for 5 days, I was throwing up every day again, but it wasn't like my morning sickness. My nausea and headache meds were absolutely useless. And I just felt like crap. Meaning, worse crap than average pregnancy feelings. 

A couple of days later I went for a cardiology check up. The results from my cardiac monitor were fine. There's no reason for the tachycardia. But my blood pressure, after three checks, was way too high. He was super concerned about baby girl and sent me, Peyton in hand, straight to labor and delivery. I was monitored for several hours. Baby was fine, and my labs were normal. There was protein in my urine for the first time in my whole pregnancy, so I was sent home with a giant jug to pee in for 24 hours. Which by the way, is so glamorous.

Monitoring baby
Two days later, I woke up very early while Gabe was getting ready to go deep sea fishing. Other than a mild headache that I'd had for over a week, I was fine. Until 20 minutes after he left. That mild headache became a horrible pulsing pain and constant spots in my vision. I got a horrible pain in my side that felt just like my gallbladder, including going up through my shoulder and back. But I don't have a gallbladder. My blood pressure was 170 something over 113. I knew that was bad, but since it was Saturday I had to call the hospital instead of just my doctor. I was told to come straight in, and was able to contact Gabe right before the boat took off. It was another 2 and a half hours until I was seen, and by then my blood pressure had gone down. But they were talking as if they were so sure I had pre-eclampsia. I was mentally preparing to be admitted at 28 weeks. Maybe be induced. And much to everyone's surprise, my labs were normal. My protein level was high but under the levels they'd diagnose as pre-e. I was told it could be gestational hypertension or that I could be developing pre-e. 

The next several days I gradually felt worse and worse. Three hours of church became nearly impossible. I can't stand for more than about 5 minutes without my blood pressure getting way too high and getting dizzy or feeling sick, so most of my regular activities are off the table, including things like dishes and grocery shopping. Gabe was gradually taking over things that I couldn't do without feeling like death. I went to the MFM (maternal fetal medicine/high risk ob) and my blood pressure was high for them. I had my ultrasound. Baby looks wonderful. She's growing right on track, and she constantly has a hand or foot in front of her face. She's also got a bunch of hair! It's crazy that you can see that in an ultrasound. She dropped around 25 weeks and she's head down, ready to go. Peyton wasn't head down until forced after 31 hours of labor. So it's a new feeling! Very uncomfortable. I never waddled with Peyton, but I'm pretty sure I do now.

Anyway, the doctor was concerned about my blood pressure. I've been meticulously keeping track of it for weeks so I had that ready for him and he immediately decided to put me on something for it. It was regularly going way, way, too high. He said he'd be comfortable with not having me on anything if I weren't having all the other symptoms. The constant headache that doesn't go away with my migraine meds, vision disturbances, the gallbladder like pain, nausea, and general nasty feeling were all concerns to him when combined with high blood pressure. I was able to talk to my regular ob the same day. I now have to do weekly appointments for the rest of my pregnancy, instead of every other week. It's inconvenient since my doctor and hospital are an hour away, but it's necessary. I will also be starting weekly non-stress tests at 32 weeks to see how baby is doing. They are extremely concerned that I'm developing pre-eclampsia. I'm only 29 weeks at this point, and if I ended up with it the only thing they can do to get rid of it is deliver baby. (If you don't know what pre-eclampsia is, full blown eclampsia is what killed Sybil in Downton Abbey.) Right now we are playing things by ear.

Through some miracle, my doctors are letting me make my trip to Ohio this week. He told me if I were other patiient he'd say no, but my planner with my blood pressure list is so impressively organized that he's okay with me going because I know what I'm looking out for. Plus, I am going back to where I delivered Peyton. Now I just need to be cleared by a doctor tomorrow, then I'm off. I don't know how the rest of this pregnancy is going to go. I'm really just planning week by week now. I guess at any point I could go in and be diagnosed with pre-e and need to deliver. At my next appointment with my regular doctor we will be talking about what our goal is, week-wise. My biggest concern is that I'm an hour away from the hospital with the NICU and good doctors. If something bad happened, we'd have to move fast. They can't tell me when/if my blood pressure will mess with baby girl, which is why we have to do weekly NSTs and I have to do regular kick counts.

The good news is I weigh exactly what I did the day I peed on a stick. Yes, I am just that good/I have zero appetite and have been sick. I'll take it! Plus, I could start swelling any day now, and it helps that I haven't already gained weight. Maybe it won't be as obvious. ;) Also, I have so many stretchmarks from Peyton that I won't notice if I get any new ones from this baby girl. Bright side to looking like a tiger after one baby.

Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well! I am far from the only pregnant woman on the planet, let alone friends list or family. But it blows my mind how different this pregnancy is than Peyton's! Peyton's was a breeze next to this. Now I have to go take a nap. Just kidding, I have to go help her clean up a million toys and begin the bedtime fight. Yippy!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

16 weeks. Almost.

I figured it was time to give an update about how this pregnancy is going (and a little about Gabe). We announced over a month ago now, when I was 10w2d. So much has changed since then! Like how far along I am, which is nearly 16 weeks (that's not 4 months just so you know, I'm still 5 and a half months out from my due date.

When I announced, I said I was feeling fine. It was true! I thought for sure I was in the clear for morning sickness since I got morning sickness with Peyton at 7 weeks. Unfortunately the morning sickness kicked in the day after we announced. Luckily I don't throw up every day, but I wouldn't make it through a lot of days without my trusty Zofran (aka one of my current best friends). For a few weeks I only threw up on Tuesdays. Then my migraines started kicking in a bazillion times worse than normal, and worse than my last pregnancy, and I started throwing up whenever those hit, so my Tuesday streak was over. In fact, I tend to throw up on the side of the road right after I've left somewhere in a hurry, like church. At least I haven't thrown up in front of anyone but Gabe...yet! My migraines have been pretty severe, so my doctor gave me Fiorcet with Codeine (my other best friend right now) which takes some of the pressure off for a few hours. Without it I can't walk or talk, so it's necessary. I hate taking all of these meds, but I have a 3 year old and I can only be a lump on the couch for so long before she gets grouchy.

I chose to see a doctor in Orlando, which means an hour drive to the hospital for delivery (but let's get real, labor with Peyton was 31 hours so I'm not hoping for anything lower than 12 at this point). I'm glad someone recommended this doctor because he's properly concerned about my heart. I will be seeing a maternal fetal medicine doctor (high risk ob) as well as my regular doctor for the duration of the pregnancy so they can decide how and when I should deliver. I had heart issues my last pregnancy, but a lot of problems could be traced back to dehydration. This time I'm plenty hydrated, and the issues are more severe and started 9 weeks earlier. My poor husband has had to escort me to couches several times because my limbs go week and I can't hold myself up. He's had to push me into different positions because when I lay down when it acts up, sometimes I can't breathe and it hurts. I almost passed out in front of my junior primary kids while teaching sharing time because my heart rate suddenly escalated and then plummeted for no reason. And of course the frequency of my migraines is a problem because it exacerbates my heart symptoms. The two combined are terrible. The first time it happened Gabe almost took me to the hospital and I thought for sure it was the end for me. Ha!

We don't know why this is happening, but it is and it's happening more often over silly little things. I even have to pull over because I become dizzy and can't catch my breath while quietly singing along to the radio. It's kind of terrifying sometimes. We know I have a heart murmur and irregular heart beat, but everyone has thought that it's just because I had the defect. It took them 20 years to find that, so I'm not confident in any doctor that tells me my heart is fine. Been there done that, almost died. I'm going to be seeing a cardiologist soon. Them combined with the MFM and regular ob make me confident that baby and I will be well taken care of. I'm curious to see how the rest of this pregnancy goes. 

15 weeks
Obviously I popped. I try hard to suck it in, but it just isn't working. It popped at 14 weeks. I'm too small for most maternity pants, but too big for my regular ones, so I'm in the awkward "she's gaining weight" stage. But I lost 11 pounds initially and have only gained 1 pound back, so I don't know why the heck I'm so big already! Obviously this isn't my first pregnancy. I looked like this at like 22 or 23 weeks with Ptown! I'm surviving in Lularoe leggings (seriously the best). I only have 2 pairs, so I need more so I don't have to do laundry every other day. Baby is doing well, still has a good, high heart rate. I started feeling some movements about a week ago. Which doesn't surprise me because I got the flutters at 14 weeks with Peyton as well (confirmed with ultrasound) while laying in a hospital bed. I don't feel it all the time, only when I'm laying flat on my back, but he/she is there! I'm excited for big movements.

Ptown is excited. Of course, she's in for a big surprise when baby actually comes home, but right now she's really happy. She loves to pretend she's playing with the baby. And last night when I told her baby would be able to hear her soon she started talking to my belly. She rubs it a lot already and often comments on how big it is (she's in for a surprise there too since she can still fit on my lap easily at this point).This is my favorite part of the pregnancy right now. She's just so cute about it. She loves to watch the videos about how babies progress in pregnancy and talk about all their little developments. She loves to help the doctor find the heart beat. She's convinced she's getting a baby brother and will not even consider it being a girl. I have a feeling she's right, but we will find out next month. I thought she was a boy too. My whole family did. I'm not telling anyone when we'll find out so we can announce to the grandparents in a fun way. My mom is not thrilled about that of course. She still holds a grudge about me lying to her last time and waiting until she got something in the mail 4 days later. She had a lot of names other than Alexa for me that day. :)

He caught it on fire the day he had to mail it.
Oh! How about something that isn't pregnancy related. Gabe is at Battlebots! (Don't worry, it doesn't look like that picture anymore. He got it all fixed up and it's painted and everything now. This is just the only picture I have that I'm allowed to share.) He ditched me for LA and is having a good (albeit ridiculously busy) week. I got to talk to him for 10 minutes today. I haven't spoken to him for longer than about a minute since he left, and it's always been with a ton of other people in the room, so that was nice! We aren't allowed to share how it goes until the show is over (seriously, Gabe signed a contract and there a million dollar fine), but there's a pre-show episode on May 10th, and then the season airs on Thursday June 23rd at 8|7c on ABC. It will be 10 episodes total. I'm excited for Gabe to get back because we've barely talked since he started working on this a few months ago, so he owes me big time. And such a convenient time because my birthday is a week after he gets home! I deserve all the shrimp from Outback (my biggest craving) I want. And Chipotle if I'm in the mood. And lots of Disney trips! He seriously owes me. 

Anyway, that's all. Sorry this is boring, but I like having this to look back on later. And some people do want to know! If that's not you, I don't know why you wasted your time. ;)

Ciao for now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

I'm pregnant...again.

This is what happens when you're freaking out.
It's weird to be able to say those words. It felt so odd telling Gabe I was pregnant again. It was like I was telling him a joke. This is my 6th pregnancy. It's taken me a while to be happy about this. At first I was thrilled, but within a couple of days fear set in. It took 8+ home tests, 4 rounds of blood work, and 4 ultrasounds, but I finally believe this is actually happening.

It took 18 months to get this positive, after two miscarriages less than a year ago. I have been poked and prodded more times than I can count, and we still don't know why I've lost 4 babies. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and I've had it since I was a teenager (contrary to popular belief, it can happen to anyone with ovaries, not just under or over weight people) which definitely raises miscarriage risk, but mine has been under control for well over a year now. In December I was officially diagnosed with "unexplained infertility." It's an awful diagnosis because it's exactly what it sounds like. We have no idea what is wrong. I've had surgery, I've had all of the invasive ultrasounds (surprisingly, getting something stuffed in to your uterus isn't so bad after having a baby), and after 6 doctors, no one ever found anything. My doctor here told me that my chance of miscarriage was probably more than 50%, which isn't comforting whatsoever.

I did 5 rounds of medications. One femara and the rest were clomid, all with HCG trigger shots. After my last loss back in September, we took a break from meds because we were moving, and because I couldn't handle them anymore. They were quite literally making me insane. It wasn't good. Fortunately, every time I took a couple months off from meds, my ovaries were kickstarted for a few months, even if it was still unpredictable. That's how I got pregnant last April too. So in January, even though my cycles were getting longer and longer, I decided to randomly take a test. I didn't actually think I was pregnant. I took one because 4 days later I was supposed to start injectable medications exclusively. We had the needles, Gabe had practiced at the doctor's office, it was going to happen. Then those pink lines showed up and I was in complete shock.

Like I said, I didn't think I was pregnant, and it took me a very long time to believe it. I had 4 rounds of blood work. My HCG levels were ridiculously high, and quadrupling in 48 hours (they're supposed to double). At that point I was terrified of morning sickness because apparently high HCG can make it worse. I was also mildly afraid of having twins, because they run in my family and sometimes make HCG levels high. But neither of those happened, thank goodness! Just one little nugget in there and my morning sickness is very much manageable (unlike last time).

Once I got a positive test I started progesterone and low dose aspirin to try and stop anything that could be causing my miscarriages. It looks like it worked well! I had my first ultrasound at 5 weeks just to make sure everything looked good so far. Then again at 6 weeks because I had some bleeding. I was told to stop exercising, lifting my kid, and to rest with my feet up, and the bleed that was near the baby disappeared by my 9 week scan. I heard the heart beat for the first time at 6 weeks, but still didn't believe everything was fine. Saw the squirmy little bean again at 9 and still struggled. At that point I graduated from my Reproductive Endocrinologist (fancy wording for fertility doctor) to an OB. I had a scan at almost 11 weeks and finally believe it. There's a baby in there. It flips like crazy and it's heart rate is about 160. So I finally believe the barfing, all the zits, bloating, everything is for a reason. I was just convinced that it was too easy to get here. I got pregnant randomly after trying for so long. Too easy right? Well, I suppose it wasn't that easy.

The second I peed on a stick I knew exactly what my due date was. I tracked my basal body temperature like a champ for more than a year and a half. Every morning at 6 am. So I knew exactly when this happened. And my ultrasounds confirmed it. I had a weird sense of pride knowing that I knew exactly what my due date was before my doctor. Throughout this process I've had countless ultrasounds and blood draws. I'm not sure what more I could've done to make this process faster. It was going to happen when it was going to happen. It wasn't easy I guess, but it could've been harder and I'm thankful it wasn't.

I haven't chosen a doctor yet. I'm trying to decide where I want to deliver. There's a hospital 15 minutes away, but it's small and probably not prepared if something happens to me. Plus I haven't heard good things about it. There were issues with my epidural last time, and my heart is doing weird things again this time. I saw a doctor recently that told me I need to see a cardiologist asap. My heart rate is crazy low for pregnancy. Lower than what is normal for a non-pregnant person (that range is 60-100bpm I believe) I'm not sure what that means for me and baby, but I know that it makes me more tired, weak, and light headed on a regular basis. I don't need that when I'm pregnant. I'm already tired from growing a human! Hopefully this cardiologist will find out what's going on, even though the last one couldn't. It took 20 years to find my heart defect that almost killed me, so you never know!

I still can't believe I'm pregnant. I will probably get more excited when I feel baby and when I have something that looks like a bump rather than like I ate too much pasta. Gabe is happy though. Not to say that I'm not, but he struggled last time. I think all that trying and failing made this more real for him, so I guess there was a benefit to all of this. We didn't want a 4 year age gap, but I have come to realize it isn't the end of the world. It sounds like a good gap. Peyton understands a lot more than she would've even a year ago. She loves to watch the growing baby videos, and she talks about the baby all the time. She thinks it's a girl and she wants to name her Baby. Last week we went to Bath and Body Works and as soon as we walked in she said "are we going to buy a candle for the baby in your belly?" She goes to all of my appointments and gets excited for every ultrasound. She likes to carry the picture out under her shirt on her belly. She also likes to pretend the baby is out on the floor crawling around and playing with her. She's in for a shock when a real baby actually comes home, but she's going to be a good big sister. It's just going to be a big adjustment after being an only child for almost 4 years.

I am so happy we've had so much and support and love. Every pregnancy announcement is special, but there's something extra special about someone who has struggled to get there. I get extra excited for those people. And I really felt that love when I posted the picture of Peyton the other day. I've never seen so many loving words on one of my posts. I know I share a lot of this journey, but I feel like I need to because so few do. I hope that more people realize how common these issues are for couples. I'm not the only one. I personally know at least 15 people who have struggled or are struggling with infertility. It's not easy. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. It stops being fun and exciting and starts being more of a stressful chore. That isn't how it should be. And the beginning of pregnancy shouldn't be such a stress. I envy those that are blissfully unaware of how common miscarriages are. I envy those that get pregnant the second they start trying. But I remind myself that everyone has their own struggles, and this was one of ours. It probably will be again, but hopefully I'll be more mentally prepared for it. But right now, I don't have to struggle with it anymore.

Because I'm pregnant. I just knew 2016 would be good. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

We moved again (4 months ago).

Taken by my extremely talented friend before we left Virginia.
So, in case you somehow missed it, we moved to Florida 4 months ago. I don't know how someone could've missed it with all the pictures of clearly Florida things I post (mostly Disney World and the beach). While Florida isn't quite what we expected, since we were supposed to be going to France, we like it here. Gabe is struggling a bit, but we are a thousand times happier here than we were in DC. Though, I do miss living so close to a few very good friends from England. And I miss Tyson's Corner mall, because the malls on the Space Coast just aren't cutting it.

We have been settling in just fine here. For the first time in our almost 5 years together, we have an actual house instead of an apartment or townhouse! It's pretty cool not sharing walls with other people. The house is also twice as big as our tiny apartment in DC and has a garage, so we can fit everything in our house, which is nice. There were a LOT of issues in getting into this house though. It was a stressful few weeks. We painted the ENTIRE house ourselves (which I don't recommend at all). Gabe had to do a lot of manual labor other than the painting, and we had to wait while dog pee soaked carpet was replaced, which was disgusting. To sum up, we are unimpressed with our landlord. We had found the perfect house that we loved, and still regret not just buying it. Live and learn I guess.

Our first rocket launch.
Before Christmas we got to watch a Space X rocket launch where they actually landed part of it back at a landing pad. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty cool watching a big part of history in the making, and I will probably mention it for years to come. Because when you get to watch a rocket come plummeting back toward the earth 20 something miles away from you, you talk about it.

We have already had a few visitors, and are expecting more. Our best friends from Ohio actually spent Christmas with us, which was awesome. It was like a million degrees, or 90, the entire time they were here. We actually spent Christmas Eve at the beach. Plus, we went to Disney World with them, and we walked out as annual pass holders (which has been awesome by the way)!

I also got to see an old friend, as in a girl I knew when I lived in Florida 18 years ago, right after Christmas. And then one of Gabe's cousins came with her family for New Years. So really, the last 2 weeks of 2015 were pretty great!

My mom came at the end of January. It was nice to have her around. And Peyton LOVED it, which is no surprise. We took grandma to Disney World, and manatee watching (where we only saw a dolphin). Grandma also babysat a couple of times so Gabe and I could go out. We did his birthday date to Disney World with some friends of ours. So fun! 10 rides in less than 5 hours! Gotta be some kind of record at Magic Kingdom. Then we were able to go have a nice dinner the next week. We miss having Grandma around. Me especially, because I'm back to being Peyton's full time entertainment.

2016 is shaping up to be a good year for us so far. Gabe is working on a BIG project for something really awesome that I can't share yet. But it involves a flame thrower. A flame thrower that he TESTED IN MY HOUSE. Never again. I'm still shocked that he thought that was a good idea. He may be smart, but sometimes he doesn't quite think things through. Good thing he's cute, right?

I'm not really looking forward to summer here. It was hot and disgustingly humid in December, so I'm terrified of July and August. I am told it will start getting warm again soon. And I'm not saying it's cold. Florida "winter" is actually very pleasant. It's been ranging from the high 50s to the 70s. We've had a couple days of 80+ degrees, which have been beach days! But those lower temps are very comfortable Disney days. Waiting in lines isn't so bad when it's not a gazillion degrees. So, I don't look forward to the humidity, but I'm excited for weekly beach days with Peyton. She's so easy at the beach. She loves it. She spends 90% of her time building sandcastles, and the other 10% looking for seashells/braving very shallow water.

I hope to someday see these alligators people have been telling me about. I'm told they live in Florida. Gabe (supposedly) has seen a bunch on the base, which I conveniently can't get on.
I don't believe it! I've seen a wild boar, two dolphins, three ginormous cockroaches, a bunch of manatees, a bazillion crabs, countless lizards, I've even seen a shark. No alligators. They don't live here. I've seen the warning signs next to ponds, but I'm convinced it's all a conspiracy. Sorry to ruin it for you. Can't deny facts.

I'm really hopeful for this year. Probably because it's already a million times better than last year, and a big part of that is that we don't live somewhere that it takes 30 minutes to get to the grocery store a mile and a half down the road. While driving in this are of Florida comes with some scares, it's nothing compared to the stress of DC and knowing that the car next to you probably doesn't care about how physics works and they WILL try to occupy the space you are in. Of course, people here do silly things like drive over huge medians, and the snowbirds seem to have a rule that they all go 20 miles under the speed limit. But that's not so bad.

Friends and family, if you come to Florida, let us know. We have room for guests. And Peyton and I are always up for Disney World or the beach. We will even take you to watch a rocket launch if you're here at the right time!

I know this is a boring update, but sometimes boring is all I have time to write. Peyton being an only child keeps me pretty busy. Whenever I sit down to start a project, whether it's for the house, or some lettering, she interrupts me within seconds of sitting down, without fail. By the time she goes to bed I'm too exhausted to function since I don't sleep much as it is. There's a reason projects just don't get done around my house! Someday I'd like to finish projects, and I'd like to write more, because I love to write. But that day is a long way off. But that's okay. Peyton won't be little forever and I love her too much to let it bother me...much. :)

That's all I've got for now!