Thursday, November 20, 2014

Florida Vacation: Photo Recap

Ronnie is in for a tune-up, so Mckenna and I jetted off to Florida to see my Grammy and hit up Disney World. Here is a photo recap of our last week!

She loved this guy!

We both didn't so much like this guy. I am terrified of snakes, but forced myself to hold it as to not let my fears become hers by default...but I think it may just be instilled in her! lol
Life is good as a 3 year old
On the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom...she was eager!!
Toddler 'tude about who knows what...and then she got the memo that...

....she was at the happiest place on earth

What do you get when you stack two short people on top of each other? A semi-effective vantage point...this was exactly as comfortable as it looks.

It was pretty magical at night!

Her beloved light-up Minnie!

A MAJOR highlight!

Makeshift nap

Another favorite

The ultimate meet and greet!! She was in heaven!

It was an amazing trip, but it's nice to be home!!  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Sans Ronnie

It's thankful Thursday time! We all have so much to be thankful for and we love to take this opportunity just to write down each and everything that comes to mind. Please take this time to share with us what you're thankful for as well. If you have a blog expressing your thankfulness, please share the link! Without further ado, here's what we're thankful for:

Mandi's List:

I'm thankful for jam-packed afternoons. Every afternoon we have the same agenda. Lunch, Mckenna nap, Mckenna and I walk to the gym, workout at the gym (Ronnie meets us after he's done working), all together walk from the gym to the park, walk home for dinner, bath and bed. We all love the routine. It's a great way to pass half the day doing fun things together and apart.

I'm thankful for Halloween candy. I don't think this one needs an explanation!

I'm thankful for such a great Papi for Mckenna. My dad was and is an amazing dad. I have always loved and respected him. But I cannot explain how much more I love and respect him since watching him become Papi to Mckenna. He is so fun, so engaged, and so caring. He's always willing to do what she wants to do, while not crossing the line and allowing her to get away with murder. He's always going out of his way to show me he loves me by giving me a break, and he's always going out of his way to show Mckenna he loves her by doing special things with her! A great example is yesterday morning he called and requested to take her to the train park! They both had a blast, and Ronnie and I both got a ton of work done! 

Ronnie's List:

Ronnie's traveling for work today, so he doesn't have a list written out...but I know he's thankful for a lot. And most of all, he will be thankful to get home :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Getting Back At It

Holy cow, is just me or does it totally stink to get back in the exercise saddle after some time off?

As you other IVFers may know, when you are using stim meds (to make egg), after egg retrievals and embryos transfers, you can't exercise. For me, because I make SO many eggs and get mild to moderate OHSS, my ovaries stay huge and full of cysts for awhile. Well it was the same this last go 'round. My ovaries were still big several weeks post retrieval, and I wasn't allowed to exercise beyond walking until they went down. I was cleared for exercise last Thursday (a week ago tomorrow), so from the time I started stim meds (and stopped my normal exercise), til last Thursday, I was off 7 weeks.

And getting back to my normal exercise has been, well, painful! Thankfully, I was in good shape before the break, and had been in good shape for a long while before stopping, so I wasn't a total pile of mush getting back to it, and I've been able to jump back in at a high intensity, but it hasn't been pretty.

Here are my top tips for getting back into an exercise routine:

1) Push through the pain. This is a hard one for most people. Our bodies get to a point that we really want to stop. We are so winded and our muscles burn really badly, and most people stop. My policy? I don't let myself stop. I wear a heart rate monitor and on my run yesterday, I was bound and determined to run 4-miler at a sub 8:30 pace (what I think should be my baseline fitness level), and so I did just that. Well my heart rate was at 80-100% of my max heart rate the entire 30+ minutes. I was panting like a dog and my legs were tired, but I pushed myself because I know that that run is the worst that distance and pace will feel if I push through. If I don't push through, the next run will feel just the same. Progress can only be made when we make our bodies push through discomfort and pain.

2) Do it when you don't want to. When you are out of an exercise routine, it's easy to talk yourself out of a day because your tired and your body is sore. The problem is, 1 day can easily become 7, and progress is never made. So I think the most important time to workout is when you don't want to (those days are more often than the days you do when you're out of shape). The key is to tell yourself you'll just do something small. Usually once you've started, you'll do more. Getting started is the hardest part.

3) Remind yourself of the end goal. Every hard workout gets you where you want to be. Remind yourself of that when you feel like you need to call it quits in the middle of a workout. The other day, in our class, I was tired. I had that feeling where I could feel my stomach in my throat, you know the one. That feeling where you're not throwing up, but you are tasting your last meal. Stopping would have felt nice, but then I would never reach my end goal. So I kept reminding myself over and over again in my head that that workout was a means to an end. I should also add, after that workout I had to sit down before going to get Mckenna in the kids area because my I had a  massive headache and thought I would puke if I kept walking...lovely! But this brings me to my last tip...

4) Remind yourself that pain is temporary. A hard workout is temporary, but the benefits last a lifetime. I know, for me personally, this is key to remember mid-terrible-workout. I tell myself that if I can't tolerate a little bit of pain, I'm a wimp. That sounds ridiculous, but it's true. In our culture, we seek comfort day in and day out. We live in the status quo and avoid anything that may bring a little challenge or pain. So for that chunk of time I tell myself I am capable of pushing through a little bit of struggle, and if I don't push through, I'm simply just being a wimp!

So there you have it. I'm happy to say that week one of being back in the saddle is almost over! Me and my sore muscles made it through and are ready to tackle week two!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fun Photo Recap

Nothing too new or different is happening in our house, so I figured I'd post some pictures of the every day happenings over the last week or so.

Mckenna requested sunglasses from her BFF for her Birthday, well they couldn't find any, but got her some fashion glasses that she LOVES.

They actually are pretty stinkin' cute on her!

This lovely get-up is brought to you by Mckenna. Nothing says "I'm ready to lounge around the house" like a sweatshirt, bloomers, knee high socks and slipper boots.

Mckenna's preschool had the fire department out. Can you spot Mckenna?

Snuggles in bed with daddy are the BEST!

Some friends of ours got Mckenna a kit where you watch caterpillars become butterflies. We sit looking at the caterpillars a lot...although Mckenna is starting to get eager for them to be butterflies.
We went to a Halloween-themed hot air balloon fair over the week. Mckenna didn't come with us, but tinkerbell did ;-)

Daddy and Tinkerbell

Mckenna...I mean Tinkerbell was as excited and happy as she looks in this picture!

Family shot

Family shot with the hot air balloons, and a stranger...or 3.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Batteries & Park Friendships

It's thankful Thursday time! We all have so much to be thankful for and we love to take this opportunity just to write down each and everything that comes to mind. Please take this time to share with us what you're thankful for as well. If you have a blog expressing your thankfulness, please share the link! Without further ado, here's what we're thankful for:

Mandi's List:

I’m thankful for jelly bellies. I think I have been thankful for them before on the blog, buuuut I love them so much I can’t not highlight them again.

I’m thankful for being close to the end of the foster licensing process. We are so excited to have the “hard work” behind us and to finally be holding a license in our hands.

I’m thankful for evenings to recharge our batteries. After Mckenna goes down at night, Ronnie and I recharge our batteries by laying on the couch together and chatting and watching TV. I totally LOVE that time together!!

Ronnie's List:

I'm thankful to be done with our foster care license classes and excited for whatever the future holds. There is a gigantic need for loving families in AZ and I'm so thankful that we're going to be able to be part of the solution. We have plenty of love to give and are eager to share it with children that need a temporary home.

I'm thankful for park friendships. Since the new park open just a hop, skip and jump down the street from us, we have been there about 95% of available days. Many days, we go down more than once. Mckenna is definitely a regular and it's cute to see the little friendships she is forming with both kids and parents. She's not a shy girl, so I'm sure she will continue to form new relationships for quite some time.

I'm thankful for open doors. It's getting to the point of the year that we can have our doors open all night and in the morning. Our house get's filled with a nice fall crispness and the fresh air swirling throughout our home is super awesome. Can't wait until it gets to the point that I have to rock a sweatshirt!!!

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Moving Right Along: A Foster Licensing Update

We mentioned, forever ago, that we would keep you posted on our progress with getting our foster license. And then, we never did. We didn't because, well, not much was happening beyond paperwork, interviews and classes, so we figured we would update all at once.

I'm happy to say that TONIGHT is our last PS-MAPP class (a 10-week class you are required to take that walks you through all you need to know and all you may experience with foster care). It is an informative class, but it is a 3 hour class for 10 weeks, which gets a bit long, boring, and old. That said, we learned a lot and are excited to put what we learned into practice.

It's exciting to be DONE with classes after tonight because once classes are done, they really try to push you through the process as fast as possible. And we are so blessed to have a licensing worker who is determined to get this done quickly.

We have filled out all the necessary paperwork, which if you're curious, is stacks and stacks of paperwork. They ask questions ranging from personal information, to family backgrounds, to criminal history, to finances. I gotta hand it to them, they are very thorough. I think they now know more information about us than we know about ourselves.

We have also had a few interviews (about ourselves and our marriage) with our licensing worker. They conduct the interviews to put together our home study, which we need before we can receive our license.

All we have left is another interview or two, a house inspection (which our house is all ready for, we are just waiting to get to that part of the process), have our references be interviewed, and then, we wait for our license. They are thinking we should be licensed by the end of the year...YIPPEE!

If you are looking to get licensed, I would say that the process is pretty idiot-proof, it just takes a little bit of time (both time doing things required of you, and time waiting patiently for them to do what they need to do). If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mckenna's Birthday Bash

Mckenna turned three on Friday, so Saturday we celebrated with a fall-themed party - complete with chili and bobbing for apples.

We tried to keep it small, but you know how that goes, it can grow quickly. We just invited our small group and their kids (some of Mckenna's best friends), our closest friends and their kids (some of Mckenna's best friends), and my parents and bro and sis-in-law, and Ronnie's parents and bros and future sis.  It was an amazing time! It was so nice to see everyone important to Mckenna all under one roof.

For food we had chili, and things you'd want chili on...like hot dogs and chips. And then we had snacks and desserts: kettle corn, apple pie, caramel apples and, of course, birthday cake.

For fun, we had pumpkin painting, bobbing for apples, lawn games, and side walk chalk.

It was simple, yet we had a blast spending time with our nearest and dearest. We are so thankful for everyone that took their Saturday afternoon with us to celebrate another year for our little lady!

Of course it was so fun that I forgot to take a single picture during the actual party...mom fail!! Thankfully I have 3 pictures a friend sent me! But here is what it looked like set up before the party (minus a few last minute things we set out).

Special shout out to my mom for making the chili, doing tons (and TONS) of work, and making my job WAY easier. And thank you to Ronnie's stepmom, Denise, for helping clean and prep!

Our friend's baby, Piper. Mckenna ADORES her!

It's cake time!

Getting ready to blow out candles is serious business!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Birthdays & NACFC

It's thankful Thursday time! We all have so much to be thankful for and we love to take this opportunity just to write down each and everything that comes to mind. Please take this time to share with us what you're thankful for as well. If you have a blog expressing your thankfulness, please share the link! Without further ado, here's what we're thankful for:

Mandi's List:

I’m thankful for today and for the gift that keeps giving. Today I turn 28. And 3 years ago, on my birthday, I went into labor and received the best birthday gift (44 minutes after my birthday ended) - our daughter Mckenna. I am so thankful that each birthday I am taken back to that day and the memories that were made as we prepared to bring her into the world - the wonderful, relaxing morning at home; laboring through the evening; pushing in the night; and the precious first sights and sounds just after my birthday ended.

I’m thankful for hope. We may have gotten bad news last week, but I’m thankful that this week has been filled with hope and anticipation to get back into the IVF saddle and try again with some beautiful frozen babies!

I’m thankful for friends and family. Our friends and family have come along side us during these last couple weeks, from caring for us and Mckenna when we were both sick and hurting after the retrieval, to walking beside us in love through the waiting and disappointment. God has blessed us with an amazing support system.

Ronnie's List:

I'm thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the births of the two most special girls in my life. Mandi turned 28 today and Mckenna turns 3 tomorrow! I am so blessed by them daily that a simple birthday celebration would never capture how truly special both of them are to me. I hope that I'm able to make them feel "birthday special" every single day of the year.

I'm thankful for my NACFC experience. NACFC is always a good time and I'm always thankful that I'm able to catch up with folks that I talk to throughout the year via email and phone. This year was no different as I sat down with many folks across the CF community and talked about ways that we could serve the community together. Hopefully we see some of those conversations turn into action!

I'm thankful for Pops and Nana D coming into town. My dad and step-mom drove into town two days ago to bee around for the birthdays and birthday party this weekend. Mckenna absolutely loves them and they are always fun to have around.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, October 13, 2014

IVF Update: Back to Zero and Square One

Sorry for the late Mandi Monday, I wanted to wait until we had our blood draw to post.

Unfortunately the draw confirmed what we had thought, my numbers went back to zero, which means we lost the pregnancy. We are sad, but usually numbers that dip and rise again are, most commonly a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy, so being no longer pregnant sure beats that alternative.

We grieved the loss on Thursday and Friday. I felt downright angry, until I decided to trust God and choose to focus my energy over the weekend enjoying the blessing I had already been given (Mckenna) instead of mourning the blessing I was losing. So since we knew how this would likely end, the news today didn't come with the same sting. Instead it came with thankfulness that it was the best of the two likely scenarios and thankfulness that it's happening now and not in weeks to come. If ever there's a time to have a pregnancy end (in my opinion, maybe not for everyone) it's now and not after we've seen them on an ultrasound, assumed we would hold them in our arms, etc. So I am thankful that if we won't get to hold this baby (these babies) at the end of this pregnancy, that it unfolded this way.

We are also moving forward with hopeful hearts. We have frozen embryos from this last retrieval (I will post a whole blog on that in days to come), so we will move forward with another cycle when my body is ready. I will stop meds and "Aunt Flo" will come to visit, and then after that, whenever my ovaries go back to their normal size (one is still quite large from the retrieval), I will start meds for a frozen transfer.

Thank you so much for going on this journey with us and all of your prayers.

Prayer Requests:
- God's love and peace continues to surround us during this time.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

IVF Update: An Unfortunate Turn

This is a blog that is really difficult to write, but we wanted to update. We ended up having our second blood draw today, instead of tomorrow (because I am a nut, and I wanted an update sooner). Unfortunately, we got news that wasn't good.

My second number was 39, down from 42.5.

For those of you who have never been through the process of watching your hcg levels in pregnancy, my levels should be doubling every 48-72 hours. So the numbers should have been doubled, or close to that. Any shift downward is usually a sign that a miscarriage is likely.

They are having me stay on all meds and redrawing it on Monday. We are praying that a miracle will happen, but preparing for the worst.

This is obviously heartbreaking news for our family. I am feeling pretty devastated and confused. And honestly, angry. I wish I knew why we keep going through this. I'm just so tired. And it feels like we not just have another mountain to climb. But through all the confusion, I know one thing, our God is always good, and His plan is perfect. So we truck on.

Coincidently, Mckenna has requested this song on repeat over the last couple days...and it's perfectly fitting for today:

Prayer Requests:
- God works a miracle and the numbers were a fluke...and are back up on Monday and the pregnancy will continue.

But, for also:
- Peace throughout the next couple days as we wait for another draw.
- Thank God for getting us to this point and for blessing us with getting pregnant as well as with frozen embryos for the future.
- Thank God for Mckenna.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

IVF Update: We're Pregnant!!!!


Ahh it feels so wonderful to type those words. So good that I'll type them again: we're pregnant! God is so good!

The clinic called this morning, and for the first time in 1.5 years I got to hear the words, "I have good news...YOU'RE PREGNANT!!"

We had our beta (initial blood draw to test HCG in my level) and it came back at 42.5. Our doctor is happy with that number, although it is on the lower side of normal, so we will go back for another blood test on Friday to make sure things are still growing properly.

We had a little indication that the test would result in good news because I have been cheating and took some pregnancy tests. We had been getting some faint positives, and then last night decided to take a digital so there was no guessing. Here's the video from that test:

We are so, so thankful that this first step is GREAT news! We are very, very excited, but at the same time we are guarding our hearts a bit since we have lost a couple pregnancies very early in the last 1.5 years. We are trusting that God will continue to work this pregnancy together for our good and most importantly, according to His perfect plan.

We cannot thank you for all your prayers!! From your lips to God's ears...there's a baby (or two) in there.

Prayer Request:
- Praise God for his goodness up to this point and giving us a baby or babies in there as of now!
- A happy, healthy, LOOOONG pregnancy!
- Friday's blood work looks AWESOME and the numbers are doubling normally!
- We find the perfect balance between excitement and reservation as we move through the early stages of pregnancy.

Welp, I'm off to do a happy dance...annnnnd then go back to managing my expectations :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

IVF Update: The Non-Update Update

We kind of went dark there. Sorry! I've been trying to relax as much as possible, but Ronnie's been swamped with work, so it's been a balancing act. Anyhoo, it has left very little time for updating. Also, there hasn't been anything to update. We are stuck in the horrible "two week wait," as it's referred to.

Our blood draw (they call it a "beta test") is tomorrow to see if our little beans stuck or not. They draw my blood in the morning and call a few (LONG) hours later with a number. That number in and of itself if kind of worthless...to be honest. As long as it's above a certain value (all clinics are different with the value they like), our clinic just says "see you at 6.5 weeks for an ultrasound." If it's on the low side, they'll have you do another draw or two to make sure it's double at the proper pace. The value just tells you that something implanted. So we won't know how many until a first ultrasound. For us, having a few early losses, having a positive beta will be thrilling, but we will reserve some excitement until we see a heartbeat (or two) at 6.5 weeks..because we know all too well that there are a lot of hurdles after this first beta.

Anyways...soooo in less than 24 hours we should know what it's looking like in there....and I CANNOT WAIT!

Prayer Requests
- The next 24 hours are filled with peace...and fly by.
- Our little beans implanted and our beta comes back POSITIVE!
- Peace for any outcome!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Friends & The New Park

It's thankful Thursday time! We all have so much to be thankful for and we love to take this opportunity just to write down each and everything that comes to mind. Please take this time to share with us what you're thankful for as well. If you have a blog expressing your thankfulness, please share the link! Without further ado, here's what we're thankful for:

Mandi's List:

I’m thankful for good friends and family. Ronnie and I needed extra help this last week when Ronnie, who was supposed to be on Mckenna duty after my retrieval, got sick unexpectedly. My parents were out of town the last week and a half, and they are usually who we call on. Instead we called upon friends and other family. My brother watched Mckenna one night when our sitter canceled and we had to go to our foster care class; our friend took Mckenna for a playdate; our cousins took Mckenna for a playdate; and Ronnie’s mom and brothers watched Mckenna during our transfer. It was a bit of a rough week, but I continually felt overjoyed and so blessed as I watched our friends and families shower us with love and assistance.

I’m thankful for the CF community. We have been gifted a community that is so genuine, caring and always rallies around one another. We have felt so blessed by all the prayers over the last couple of weeks surrounding our IVF cycle. It is just another way we are blessed by CF.

I’m thankful to be waiting again. While the waiting process after a transfer and before a pregnancy test is the most brutal time, I am trying to just remember how thankful I am that we are here. I’m so thankful that for right now, two little babies are inside of me. I’m so thankful that we had the opportunity to try again. And I’m so thankful we have the family we currently have, to wait it out with!!

Ronnie's List:

I'm thankful for a sacrificial wife. Mandi is constantly putting my needs and time in front of her own and I couldn't be more thankful. This week, I've had to work quite a bit, and even though Mandi should be relieved of Mckenna duty more than normal, it seems that she's stepped it up and picked up my slack. She doesn't complain, doesn't make snarky comments, she just supports me. I am so lucky.

I'm thankful for the new park. A new city park was just completed and opened this week about .2 miles from our house. We've been there every day this week and Mckenna absolutely loves it. There is a lot of green space, swings, two playground areas, a basketball court and a sand volleyball court. Mckenna has already met and played with a bunch of new friends!

I'm thankful for friends. I've had two lean on friends this week for advice and help with work stuff that I wasn't familiar with. They were quick to restructure their day and make time for me. Both meetings went well and I was able to complete the task at hand because of them.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, September 29, 2014

IVF Update: A Man's Small Contribution (TESA)

(I've been meaning to get this story down on virtual paper since last week, but things got away from me. I'm here now though, so here we go!)

As many of you can see, when it comes to IVF cycles, the man does very little in terms of bodily sacrifice or contribution. Mandi seemed to have a needle in some part of her body multiple times a day for the last handful of weeks. She looks like a drug addict with tracks up and down her legs, stomach and booty. To say that I married one tough cookie would be a gigantic understatement.

I will say though that my contribution, although small (literally and figuratively), comes with some big pain and trepidation at just the thought of it.

That my friends, is a TESA - Testicular Sperm Aspiration.

So, how does this look? Well, I won't get all science-y on you. They take a large needle to "numb" my testicles and then take a large claw that latches on to testicular tissue and rips it out. They hope that the tissue contains some sperm. And just for those that are wondering - nope, the testicles can never feel truly numb. I'm still looking for the horse that kicked me repeatedly.

How does it feel? (This is from my original one back in 2011)

That's how it feels.

I posted my TESA from 2011 because it was already on YouTube and it gives you a good sense of how it feels. I've had 2 since then (including) last week, and believe me, they do not get any easier.

Recovery has been different for all 3 procedures. For some reason, the one last week was the worse. I wasn't able to drive the car home (a first) and was unable to get into a comfortable position for hours and hours after the aspiration. I put my boys on ice and did my best to stay completely still. One wrong move and it felt like I was on the table all over again.

Want to know the good news however?? They said that last week provided them with the best sample that they've ever had from me. My little swimmers were actually swimming (that has not always been the case) and many of them looked normal (again, not always the case). The embryologist also said that he set aside 8 hours to find sperm from my sample, based on my past history, but it only took him 4 hours to find 30+ usable sperm! Way to go Sharpe baby batter!!!!

So there you have it, my small contribution.

FYI: I'm walking normally now and will attempt to work out today. Still painful to the touch, but nothing that I can't handle.