Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

2014 was definitely a slower blogging year around here but that doesn't mean that we didn't have a lot going on...I'm afraid it was just the opposite!! I apologize for not keeping up on here as much as I need to, but I certainly hope to post more than 123 blogs in 2015 (we posted 356 in 2009!!). Thank you all for your continued support. 

Here's the best that I can remember from 2015 with links to many of the highlights...

January- Being hospitalized right up to December 23rd of 2013 combined with the holiday celebrations, I found myself struggling with maintaining consistency with my workouts. Entering the new year, I was focused on getting back into my routine and eager for what 2014 would bring. We were also doing a TON of experimenting with the Vitamix blender we got for Christmas and Mandi was preparing for her first ever full-marathon, which she of course NAILED!!

CysticLife: We were awarded a contract by PCORI to establish a patient-centered research community for cystic fibrosis which drove much of what we did in 2014. We also started working with a new development team that allowed us to push forward at a faster pace!

February- I celebrated my 34 birthday in a very quite way as usual (birthdays have never been a big deal to me). Meanwhile, Mandi wrote about what a large impact strangers can have on our lives and the impact we can make for them. We also moved forward with a completed a "kitchen remodel" of sorts after we decided that we needed a new refrigerator. I took a retrospective look on how much time I devote to taking care of cystic fibrosis.

CysticLife: The contract period for PCORI began and we were off to the races! A big part of the job began as we started to move to a different framework to keep up with the demands of our growing community.

March- Taking full advantage of classes offered at the local community center, we enrolled Mckenna in her first dance class. On a not so bright note, I lost a friend from the CF community who I spent many weeks with in the hospital down in Tucson. And in possibly the strangest story of 2014, I actually managed to get an earwig stuck in my actual ear!

CysticLife: We were knee-deep in getting an advisory board established to help guide us on the PCORI contract.

April- April started off with some disappointment as we learned that the last two embryos we had did not implant after transfer, but we also reflected on the gift we have already been given. I started attending Man Church as my softball games were scheduled during one of my usual bible study times. We also enrolled Mckenna into some ISR safety swimming classes as we are around many pools during the summer.

CysticLife: Due to the overwhelming response by the CL community to serve on the CL research advisory board, we also established a research ambassador program to take advantage of the passion around research in the CF community!

May- I spent half of May in the hospital and a torn pleural adhesion could have been one of the contributing factors. I missed a family vacation as a result, but as I noted, life often comes down to the choices we make. Mandi and I also celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary!

CysticLife: Work continued on the CL site to capture member experiences that could be turned into research. A governance structure was also established to help guide the CL Research Advisory Board.

June- We took our annual family trip to Rocky Point, Mexico and had a blast as usual. I also started a new weight lifting routine. Vertex also revealed the results of its big DDF508 study which resulted in some enlightening conversations as I encouraged the community to "proceed with caution".  

CysticLife: A ton of work was being done behind the scenes on CL 2.0 which will update the look and features of the CysticLife site. It's a big job!

July- We spent the July 4th weekend camping, so I had to figure out a way to get my treatments done without electricity - enter the power inverter! Mckenna took a big step in her life as we converted her crib to a big girl bed! Mandi reflected on a sermon that really resonated with her and decided I was not defective ;)

CysticLife: We launched Snap Polls on as a better way to provide feedback more quickly.

August- In what may have been the most widely read and shared post of 2014, I pleaded with Vertex to provide Kalydeco to a couple of girls in Arkansas who were in desperate need of it. I also shared that my lungs aren't big fans of strong scents, an thought shared by many. We also had a family trip to Hawaii!

CysticLife: August was full of tightening up loose ends on various small projects that we had been working on.

September- We decided to pursue another IVF cycle after another failed attempt with donated embryos that were gifted to us and asked for prayers from the community. There were many posts during this time updating all of you on the progress of the cycle as well as specific prayer requests. One Republic featured a CF patient in a music video that reminded me of who was really responsible for me being the man I am today

CysticLife: A lot of talk around Patient Powered Registries and how CL could support one on the site for the benefit of each individual member and the research community at large.

October- We found out that we were pregnant a week into October, but very soon after had an unfortunate turn of events when we lost that pregnancy. That experience only strengthened our desire to become foster parents and we were thrilled to be able to complete the classes necessary in the third week of October. We also had a great Halloween!

CysticLife: The CysticLife Research Advisory Board was busy examining the over 40 research questions submitted by the CL community and choosing the top 5 that could be turned into exciting research.

November- I went into the Hole and Mandi and Mckenna took off for Florida to hang out with Grammy! Mandi was "single-mommying" it for much of the month. We continued to take the necessary steps to become licensed foster parents and little did we know that our very first placement would be born this month.

CysticLife: We opened up research question scoring on CysticLife and the response was fantastic. The CL community really got behind a couple of key questions!

December- We got our foster care license and felt like we were at the top of a roller coaster about to take the plunge. Within 48 hours we had our first placement, Baby N, and she has been such a blessing to have around. The biggest blessing of all however has been witnessing Mckenna's heart throughout this process.

CysticLife: After the CL community scored an exercise vs. traditional airway clearance technique the highest, we immediately put together an Exercise Research Committee to help guide us as we move forward with the research.

Most viewed blogs this year: 

I want to take this time to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules and checking in on us from time to time. This year, we saw RSBR reach almost 1.5 million views. It's still mind blowing to me that we have even had 1! I'm so humbled by how many of you continually leave comments of encouragement and support. You've seen our family change in big ways and are always there to lend a few tips and tricks when we need them. 

Again, thank you, thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart. Have a safe and happy New Year and I'll see you guys in 2014.

Love from my family to yours,

Monday, December 22, 2014

An Unforeseen Blessing

Ronnie and I started down the path to become a foster family because we felt the call on our hearts. We knew it was right for us. We knew God was calling us to it. We knew that by following His call that there would be hard times and abundant blessings.

One of the biggest unforeseen blessings has been seeing Mckenna's heart through this process. We knew that God gifted Mckenna uniquely. We knew that God made Mckenna a compassionate, loving, kind-spirited heart. We knew that he made her incredibly social. We knew that she was given a heart for people, big and small. But to see that all used to care for a tiny, precious baby over the last week and a half has been one of the biggest blessings. I have been so proud of her. There is no doubt that it has to be hard to share your parents after 3+ years of having them to yourself. It can't be easy to be woken up by cries. It must be frustrating to have to wait for your normal morning snuggles because Baby N needs to finish her feeding. But you would never know it. Cries are responded to with compassion; loving rubs, sweet words, and a binky in her mouth. Waiting time is filled with baby talk and hand holding, just to be close to her. To watch Mckenna lay next to Baby N, sweetly stroke her tiny head and tell her how much she loves her is nothing short of heart melting. To hear her ask her if she misses her mommy and daddy when she cries makes it ever apparent that she is always thinking about her needs, deeper than the physical.

I am so thankful that over the last week we have seen that caring for babies isn't only a call on our hearts, but placed on Mckenna's heart as well!!

Praise God! He sure creates family perfectly fit for each other!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sharpe: Family of 4...for now!

We officially got our foster license on Tuesday, and within 48 hours had a call about our first placement. We were so excited to jump in the car and pick up little baby N at the hospital. When I say little, I mean little. She came home with us at a whopping 4lbs 4oz. That's right. 4lbs 4oz. She is the smallest baby I have ever held, and has the sweetest little face.

The only person who adores baby N more than me and Ronnie is Mckenna. God provided all of us with the best first placement! N is so small that Mckenna can hold her very comfortably. It's a good thing God makes babies durable because Mckenna doesn't leave her alone. It is so heartwarming to watch Mckenna love on N. My heart bursts watching her hold and speak to her. When she's crying, you hear Mckenna saying, "I know, I know, sweet pea. I know, sugar. It's ok. It's ok." I love it!

She is a typical newborn. Loves to sleep during the day and party at night. Sleeps best when getting snuggled. And has the most adorable faces she doesn't even know she's making while she sleeps.

We transitioned pretty seamlessly to adding a new little love to our family for the time being. We have no idea how long she will stay, but we will love on her as long as we need to!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Foster License & Passionate Professionals

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 that we are officially licensed as foster parents. It was a long road (mores full of waiting than actual hard work), but we did it. We are now sitting and eagerly waiting for our first placement. I am so thankful that we are in the position to help kiddos and their families.

I’m thankful for morning snuggles. In the mornings, Mckenna and I sit on the couch and watch a show while I drink coffee and she eats cereal. I love this time together. It’s quiet, cozy, and a really special time to sit and chat while her voice still sounds tired and her eyes still looks sleepy. She’s slow moving, but cheery; snuggly, but animated. I may be tired, but I think it’s some of my favorite times together.

I’m thankful for a hard working hubby. Poor Ronnie has been swamped with work lately, but he never lets it show that he has so much on his plate, and somehow doesn’t drop any balls even with more balls to be juggling.

Ronnie's List:

I'm thankful for checking off another box on the way to helping put a family back together. We received word a couple of days ago that we were approved for our Foster License in the state of Arizona. It's something we've been working toward since the summer, and we're thankful that we're now available to children and families who need us in their most desperate of times.

I'm thankful for passionate professionals in the CF community. I'm working on putting together an Exercise Research Committee to explore a research question picked by and the response to join has been fantastic. We've received almost nothing but yeses (SP?) and are so excited to continue pushing and supporting patient-driven research. If you're at all interested in getting involved, please let me know.

I'm thankful morning PJs. We leave windows and doors open while we sleep, so in the morning, it's pretty chilly. Not Syracuse chilly, but chilly enough that a warm set of PJs feels quite nice just before that hot cup of espresso. As I type this, I'm getting eager to put them on ;)

What are you thankful for today?  

Monday, December 8, 2014

From the Top of the Rollercoaster

As you have probably seen scattered here and there in posts, we are getting licensed to be foster parents. I'm not sure what we shared about this, so I'll lay it all out there...

Ronnie and I have both always felt called to fostering. We talked about it while dating and continued discussions all throughout our relationship. I have family friends who have fostered and adopted a huge family, Ronnie's cousins have fostered and adopted several kids, and we have friends who foster. We always discussed fostering "when our family is complete." Even after getting pregnant and having Mckenna, it was always "when our family is complete." Even through the first year and a half of our IVF journey to baby number two, it was "when our family is complete."

Well after our failed cycle this summer, we both felt God was saying we shouldn't put off getting licensed any longer. We had a set expectation of what our "complete" family was going to look like. And this summer I really started to think that maybe my version of our "complete" family, wasn't God's version. Perhaps our family wasn't going to be completed the way I thought. We both felt God was saying not to push off the call on our hearts for some self-imposed milestone. We aren't done trying to have biological kids, but we decided that our vision of when we would foster should be reworked. So we started the process.

We have friends and family in the area that have fostered, so we asked around and found a wonderful agency. From there it was lots of paperwork, 10 weeks of classes, lots more paperwork, a homestudy (just lots of interviews that our licensing worker writes up about us), and a home inspection by the state. It's been a long road, but I'm happy to say that as of last Thursday, our application for a license was submitted to the state, and we should hear any minute that we have our license.


That means this is really happening. I have to tell you...when we started this in June, it seemed like an eternity away. And when we submitted our application last week, I kind of felt like I was going to have a panic attack. You know that feeling when you are really excited to ride a roller coaster, and then when it's slowly climbing up to the peak at the beginning, your heart starts racing. With each eery "click", you can feel your stomach rise higher into your throat. And then, you're at the top, looking down at the ground, and you have that moment of "oh crap..." right before you're hurled down for the most fear-filled yet thrilling ride of your life? That's pretty much exactly how it feels. This is a journey that we are stepping into knowing it will be the ride of our lives.

One of the first things people say when they know you're going to foster is that they never could do it. That it has to be so hard to take a child in, bond with them, and then say goodbye. And I totally get it. I don't think I can do it either. I love kids. I love babies. You could hand me a baby tomorrow and say, "it's yours." I wouldn't think twice and love him/her like I had carried him/her for 9 months. I honestly don't know how you say goodbye to a little one that you've loved and cared for. But, I know that while I can't, I know that He can. God has placed this call on our hearts. And I know that He can walk us through the hard parts. I know that He has created each of us, Mckenna included, to be able to navigate through and flourish while carrying out this call. So while I stare from the top, panicked and scared for the plunge, I am feeling at peace knowing that God will walk us through this.

So please pray for our family as we step out in faith to carry out the most challenging, yet rewarding, journey we may ever do together. We are so excited...and scared...but more excited!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Stories & Routines

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 hot chocolate. This time of year is the time of year I crave warm, cozy drinks. Hot chocolate always fits the bill. I could drink hot chocolate all day, throw some marshmallows in there and boom, perfection.

I’m thankful for Ronnie being home. After 2.5 weeks in the hole, there is nothing more awesome than having my hubby back. Mckenna and I both missed him!

I’m thankful for sweet stories. Mckenna has become quite the storyteller, and it is adorable. The way she tells stories, the stories she tells, her sweet little giggles in the middle and at the end…they make my heart so full!!

Ronnie's List:

I'm thankful for a non-traditional Thanksgiving Day celebration. I was still inpatient on Thanksgiving and I'm so thankful to my wife and daughter for making the drive down to the Hole to bring me a fantastic meal prepared by Nana. Mandi also brought a table cloth and candles to try and hide the fact we were eating on a metal picnic table outside of the hospital. It was a very special time for my family and the food was deelish!

I'm thankful for routines. I got out of the hospital the day after Thanksgiving day and spent the weekend loving up on my family and spending time with them. Come Monday, it's been all about getting back into the Sharpe routine. Whether that's work, gym, park, meals, bedtime or quality time with Mandi, I'm just so thankful to be back with my family and back into our routines.

I'm thankful that we're almost at the finish line. We started the process to become a licensed foster family many months ago, and I'm so thankful that that process will be coming to an end very soon. I believe that we learned a lot through the classes and grew as individuals and as a family.

What are you thankful for today?  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Life Lately...It's December?

Woah baby, it's already December? How did that even happen? November was a complete blur. Ronnie was in the hospital for 2.5 weeks of it. Thanksgiving came and went. And now, Christmas is roaring down the tracks. Here's what's been happening lately:

Keni and I enjoyed a trip to visit my Grammy and Disney...This is how we spent most of our day at Disney, her on my shoulder so she could see...

We visited Daddy in the Hospital a lot...and played with all his fun toys. (Don't worry, it's just Hypertonic in there when she was breathing it in)

We played doctor at home since we has medicines, hospitals, and Daddy on the brain.

We spent a lot of time outside enjoying the beautiful (Arizona) fall weather. Check out that outfit...guess who dressed herself for the bike ride.

We had our first major head bleed...which almost went unnoticed because Keni is such a tough cookie...until I found blood all over.

But don't worry, we just put her hair back into a pony tail to cover up the dried blood and went to the store...I understand that may rule me out for mom of the year!

We celebrated Thanksgiving in the hospital with Ronnie...Thanks to the hard work of my mom who prepared all the food!!

Daddy came home...with new medical toys to play with

Dr. Tinklebell made sure he was healthy as an ox

We spent lots of time with our besties

And we relished in all the beauty that was around us.

December will prove to be just as awesome...and just as much of a blur, I'm sure. I will write a longer blog on this sometime this week, but we are ALMOST at the end of the foster licensing process. Our house passed inspection on Friday and our homestudy is done and being edited. All our paperwork will be submitted to the state next week, and then we wait!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pushing to the Max

If you're anything like me, this video will give you goosebumps and a lump in your throat. Rarely do we push our bodies to their absolute max and truly see what they can do. This sweet, determined teen is doing just that.

Simply amazing!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Single-Momming It

As you maybe saw in a previous blog, on Facebook, or could tell by the radio silence, Ronnie is in for a tune-up, and I'm single-momming it while he's gone.

I am proud (and thrilled) to report that I think I finally have it down...or at least it's not such a train wreck. Don't get my wrong, it stinks going it alone for a few weeks, but I'm doing it better this stay than I have in the past. I think I have figured out a few things that make it easier. In case you're single-parenting it, maybe these will help.

1. Do something special. For us, it's a trip. This helps kill quite a bit of time and is a nice distraction for both Mckenna and myself, but more than that, it helps shape hospital stays in Mckenna's brain. She knows we do something special when Daddy goes in. In fact, we talk about our upcoming trip a lot and usually with a, "girl's trip!" (said in girly screams) thrown in somewhere in the conversation. It takes the sting out of Ronnie leaving and gives us both something to look forward to and enjoy for part of the separation.

2. Keep days packed but relaxed. I have stuff planned for each day, even if it's just a trip to the gym and the park. I fill our days to make them go fast, but I learned early to leave wiggle room. This takes the stress out of it for me and makes days a little more controlled by her. If I plan a morning walk, I leave room for 14 stops to pet dogs and look for bugs. It limits fits when she's getting to hear "yes" to many of her requests, and days go quickly because we have stuff to do.

3. Go to the gym. This is my sanity saver!! Every day (or most days) I take full advantage of gym childcare, and I get my endorphins flowing! This is a great time out each day to give Mckenna time away from me, and me time away from her. Time that we both enjoy and love!

4. Have a support system. This is probably the biggest key to success. We are so incredibly blessed to have friends and family that chip in. We have friends that constantly ask how they can help (they even sometimes insist). They will take Mckenna for chunks of time, meet us for playdates, you name it. We also have family that is nothing short of amazing. They watch Mckenna overnight so I can spend time with Ronnie. They let us hang out, so we have to get out of the house and enjoy the company of others. And, maybe the most amazing of all, Ronnie's mom takes full care of Ronnie. Not only is it nice for Ronnie, it is huge peace of mind for me. It means I can focus on being mom, and not worry for one second about Ronnie being taken care of. She brings his meals, keeps him company, and is the overall caretaker for the most part. It is such a help, and nice for all of us!

I'm sure there's more, but it's after 8pm, and therefore it is bedtime for me...yup - 8PM!

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 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 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 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.