The Road to Our Twins

Note: This post was originally written in March 2011 as we were expecting our first two babies, boy/girl twins. Since that time, we have been lucky to welcome three more sons. I have re-posted the text as it was originally written because it captures how we were feeling at that time so well.

We could not be more excited to be welcoming our twins this fall, but the journey to these two little ones was bumpy at best. It all started in the fall of 2007. I began having intense pain and knew that something was not right. My doctor recommended physical therapy, which provided no relief after two months. I convinced myself that maybe the pains I felt were normal and tried to ignore it for the next several months. The following fall, however, the pain refused to be ignored any longer. The next doctor I saw informed us that she believed I had endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally grows only inside your uterus begins growing elsewhere. The only way to diagnose this disease is through surgery, so we moved forward. During my surgery the diagnosis was confirmed, and the endometriosis that could be seen was removed.

Being diagnosed with endometriosis was terrifying…Andrew and I had always wanted kids, and one-third to one-half of all women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. Endometriosis often damages a woman’s fallopian tubes, and without working tubes pregnancy is basically impossible. We were hopeful, though, that the surgery would cure the pain issues and give us a good chance of conceiving down the road.

Unfortunately, the pain did not subside. For the next two years, we consulted multiple doctors and tried everything from muscle relaxers to bladder medications and special diets. Nothing worked, most likely because there was additional endometriosis that was not treated in the initial surgery. After more than three years of attempting to cure the pain issues, we decided to toss in the towel and try to have a baby. After all, being pregnant is one of the best treatments for endometriosis.

Having watched friends and family get pregnant instantaneously, I was sure that we would be expecting in a few months. Instead, within just a few months, we learned that I would definitely need medication to help me ovulate in a way that could produce a pregnancy. Basically, after you have a “quality ovulation,” your body should produce progesterone. Without enough progesterone, a pregnancy cannot begin or be sustained. So, we began using Clomid in the hopes that it would help my body create the correct hormones.

During our second month of Clomid, we saw the holy grail for all couples trying to conceive…a little plastic stick with two lines! We were pregnant! Initial testing, however, revealed that something was not right. My hormone levels were extremely low, and though we prayed and prayed that this would be our baby, things only got worse. After having my blood drawn every other day for about two weeks, an ultrasound showed that this pregnancy was most likely in one of my fallopian tubes. The same day, bloodwork revealed that the embryo had stopped developing. On what I will always remember as one of the worst days of my life, we saw three different doctors, had two ultrasounds, and ended up in a chemotherapy ward to get a shot that would increase our chances of not losing one of my tubes.

The drug I had was very strong, so we took a month off from doctors and drugs. Somehow, at the end of that month, we saw two lines again…our second pregnancy. The initial testing was again troubling, and within a few days the little one had stopped developing. My doctor recommended a rather unpleasant test to see if my tubes were open. They appeared to be open, but he still had concerns that they weren’t working. If we had one more loss, we needed to move on to more aggressive options.

The following month we upped our Clomid dosage and crossed our fingers…and again got pregnant. This baby was due the week after our fifth anniversary–this had to be it. A week later, we were facing the same nightmare. The baby had stopped growing. Based on our history, my doctor was fairly convinced that my fallopian tubes did not function properly and that it would be virtually impossible to get pregnant without more aggressive assistance. After much prayer, consideration, and two “second opinion” appointments, we decided to go for it. We officially signed up for IVF. On New Year’s Eve 2010, I gave myself my first set of injections. After 36 shots, a little anesthesia, and a lot of hope, we found out we were expecting our two little miracles!

As I said before, it’s been a bumpy road, full of the deepest heartbreak we have ever known. But this terrible road led us to the most wonderful gift…a double gift more precious than we could have imagined. God’s plan is always good, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

So why are we sharing this? First, pregnancy loss is a taboo subject. After losing our first, I longed for a community of women my age who understood my experience. Unfortunately, this is a part of life that many women experience but few talk about. If sharing our story can make just one couple feel less alone, then it’s worth it. Second, infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and IVF are so misunderstood. IVF is often portrayed as a way for couples to get pregnant when it’s convenient for them. In reality, IVF is a final option for couples who have been through incredible loss and excruciating pain, both physcially and emotionally. It is a last resort when nothing else has worked, when your quest for a biological child has nearly reached its end. It is not glamorous or fun…it is a sacrifice made by men and women who long to be parents, who long to know the love of a parent for a child. Our hope is that as more people open up about their struggles to conceive, the stigma often attached to infertility will change, and people experiencing infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss will feel able to leave the shadows and receive the support they so desperately need.

How to support a small business while taking a trip to Disney World!

Even though the Disney parks are currently closed due to corona virus, I wanted to share a little Disney-related information. I know there are LOTS of families who have had to cancel Disney vacations, and I first want to say how sad that makes me. I know that Disney vacations (like any trips) are things you save for and look forward to for a really long time. Even though these sacrifices are totally necessary and worth it for the health of our world, that doesn’t mean cancelled plans aren’t a little devastating. ⁣

Today’s tip is to use a Disney Vacation Planner if you are staying on property. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World hotel, using a Disney Planner costs you NO additional money. In fact, they’ll often find you a savings that you wouldn’t have known about. Many of these Disney Planners are moms making money to support their families, and all of them are small businesses. One thing this crisis is teaching us is the importance of supporting small businesses whenever we can! Using a Disney planner is a way to support a person without spending any extra money! Talk about a win win!⁣

We’ve had great luck using Audra Owens – Travel Agent, A Time to Treasure Travel as our Disney planner. Planners can help you decide which resort is right for you and well as securing your dining reservations and fast passes. Planners can be as involved or as removed as you want in your trip plans, but I can attest to the fact that a good one can snag reservations that you likely wouldn’t get otherwise! ⁣

Plus, not only does using a planner support them, but if something goes awry with your trip, your planner will be there to work through the issues. Phone waits times with Disney can be super long, and your planner can make those calls for you. ⁣

If you’re going on a Disney Vacation anytime soon, consider supporting a small business and using the services of a Disney planner to make your trip extra magical!

On control and quarantine.

This strange chapter we’re living through is one our kids will remember. When they’re grown, they’ll recall the time their schools and sports and lives were shut down. And while there is so much we can’t control right now, there’s also much we can.⁣

We can control the tone in our home. While we’re all going to get tired and cranky, we can lead our family with positivity and fun.⁣

We can control how much news and information our kids are exposed to. I’m a firm believer in telling kids the truth, but bombarding them with details is unnecessary.⁣

We can control how we frame our quarantine. Instead of approaching this virus only from a place of our own safety, we can use this moment to teach our kids about their responsibility to the greater good. We can explain how our own sacrifices are helping the whole country.⁣

We can focus on the good. We can express gratitude for extra time together, sunny days, music that’s perfect for dance parties, and family members to be quarantined with.⁣

When our kids look back on this chapter, they probably won’t remember how well we kept a schedule or how much screen time they had, but they likely will remember how they felt. Let’s make sure that their memories are ones of security, love, and family fun.

Lulu & Rocky in Nashville

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Do you have kids and love Nashville? If so, you NEED this book! “Lulu & Rocky in Nashville” follows two fox cousins as they explore some of the exciting things our city has to offer.

Written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Renee Graef, this book is a treat for locals and visitors alike. The main characters of course stop by places like Broadway and the Ryman Auditorium, but they also make their way to some lesser known attractions that we locals love. From biscuits at Loveless Cafe to bowling at Pinewood Social to treats at GooGoo Cluster downtown, these little friends see some of my kids’ favorite spots! I was particularly excited to see that the author included Dragon Park and the puppet show at the Nashville Public Library in the book.

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This book is beautifully illustrated and portrays the places it mentions so well! We loved flipping through the pages and finding places we know and love depicted so accurately. My bigger kids enjoyed looking at the illustrated map at the beginning of the book and finding our favorite hangouts. We truly love this book, and it’s already moved into our favorite bedtime stories rotation.

Whether you live in Nashville, have visited Nashville, or just have it on your travel wish list, this book is so fun! I think it would be a perfect baby shower gift, birthday gift, or the sweetest token to give a family visiting our town.

“Lulu & Rocky in Nashville” can be purchased starting Sunday, March 15th on Amazon. For those who enjoy supporting small businesses, it will also be available at Parnassus Books in Nashville.

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Note: this book was gifted to our family by Sleeping Bear Press.

First Haircut at Walt Disney World

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Could there be a more magical place to get a first haircut than Disney World’s Magic Kingdom? I certainly don’t think so, and it’s remarkably easy and affordable to do!

Harmony Barber Shop at the end of Main Street (away from the castle) offers adult and kids’ haircuts, as well as a first haircut package. The kids’ cuts are around $18, and the first cut package is only $25 and includes the cut, a certificate, and Mickey ears that say “My First Haircut.”

We had my youngest son’s first haircut at Harmony Barber Shop and had a great experience! The stylists were kind and great with kids, and they had toys for the kids to play with if they were having trouble sitting still. We got some adorable photos, and my son still loves playing with his special ears!

Reservations can be made online at Walt Disney World’s website 180 days in advance of your visit. Note that the shop is quite small, they do not shampoo hair, and gratuity is not included in prices listed on the website.

Tips for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

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We’ve all seen the pictures of little girls at Walt Disney World with buns and crowns smiling their biggest smile, right? As Disney experiences go, a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover has to be near the top for most little want-to-be-princesses.

On our first trip to Disney World when my daughter was just two, I knew that this was something we HAD to do the next time we visited. Since that trip, she’s gone to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique several times (more than I should probably admit), and each time it’s one of the highlights of our trip for her.

So how do you get your daughter in? What about your son? I’m sharing everything you need to know below:

  • Reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (“BBB”) open 180 days (6 months) in advance and fill quickly, so get online on the 180 day mark to grab one. If your plans change, you can cancel your reservation up to 24 hours beforehand with no penalty.
  • In Florida, there are two BBB locations. One is in Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom, and it’s pretty magical. The other is located in Disney Springs and could be a great option for a non-park day (no ticket required for Disney Springs)! Reservations for either location can be made online, and some of the packages are slightly cheaper at the Disney Springs location.
  • Yes, there is a $200 package, but you DO NOT have to spend this much to have a great experience! My daughter always does the lowest package, which includes hair with small crown, makeup, nails, sash and bag, and then we bring our own princess dress from home. This package costs less than half of the biggest package and still feels amazingly special! Remember, though, to explain to your child beforehand that you will not be purchasing a new dress so that she can set her expectations accordingly.
  • What about the boys? BBB offers a knight package for relatively little money (I think it’s $20), which includes hair gel and glitter, a sword and a shield. You can pay more and get a full costume, but the small package has always been great for my boys when they were young.
  • While you will have a reservation time, be prepared to wait. We have always had to wait at least 20 minutes past our time, so think about bringing a snack or activity.
  • Want to get a great castle shot of your child after their makeover without tons of people in the background? Try getting one from the carousel side or one of the sidewalks on the side!
  • BBB is available to kids aged 3-12, and an adult must stay with them throughout the experience.
  • Can’t get a reservation at BBB? Ivy Trellis Salon in the Grand Floridian also offers three princess packages, which can be a great alternative. But make your reservations well in advance!

We love Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and I’m honestly sad that my daughter is close to aging out of this fun experience. If you take a little prince or princess to Walt Disney World, I highly recommend grabbing a reservation here!

Lessons from Youth Sports

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Can we all agree that youth sports might be a tiny bit out of control at times? Y’all, I hate to burst your bubble, but for about 95% of our kids, their ability to sink a jump shot is going to matter a lot less than their character in twenty years.

This weekend the second grade cheer squad I coached cheered at their final basketball game. Second grade girls cheering for second grade boys. Kids who are impressionable and learning life lessons much bigger than a free throw.

My girls cheered diligently for the first 20-minute half, showing off chants they’ve worked hard to master. Then it was their turn to shine. At half time, they took to center court to perform a 2-minute dance. A dance that they put their hearts into and practiced for weeks. But less than halfway into their dance, the female coach of one of the boys’ teams had her kids go onto the court and begin dribbling and shooting. It was distracting. It was rude. It was incredibly disrespectful. And it was not only allowed by an adult, but led by one.

With this single decision, this coach taught those boys that they mattered more than cheerleaders. That boys can ignore and disrespect a girl in a skirt. That their wants matter more than anyone else’s. Instead of showing them how to respect and applaud gifts that differ from their own, she showed them how to belittle the contributions of others.

So fellow parents, as we continue to spend our Saturdays in gyms and on fields, let’s remind ourselves of the skills that matter long-term. Of course we’ll cheer when they get a great hit, score a goal, play amazing defense. But let’s also notice their character achievements. Let’s tell them that we noticed how they helped a player off the ground. That we appreciated the way they supported their teammates. That we were proud of how they greeted the opposing team after the game. Let’s commend their kindness and sportsmanship as much as we do their athletic prowess. After all, I’m pretty sure that most of them are going to be making a living (and a life) based on their character, not their lay-up.

Pirates League at Walt Disney World

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Our family was so sad to learn that Pirates League at Walt Disney World is closing! They will permanently shut down on July 27th, so you’ve still got a few months to sneak in a pirate adventure, and we highly recommend you do.

Pirates League is located in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom and offers pirate and mermaid makeovers to kids aged three and up. It’s definitely a family favorite for our kids and we’ll miss it when it’s gone!

Why do we love Pirates League? Here’s the scoop:

  • While much of Magic Kingdom features princesses, Pirates League is perfect for little boys! A pirate hideaway, face paint, and a sword are pretty much a boy’s dream! But don’t worry–girls can also be transformed into pirates, or they can opt for a mermaid makeover.
  • The experience is so immersive! From the moment you walk in until the moment you leave, you feel like you’re really with pirates. All the cast members stay in character so well and make the kids feel truly special.
  • For an affordable price, you get an experience and souvenirs. The kids leave with a bandana, eye patch, earring, necklace and sword. (Mermaids get a hairclip, necklace and sash).
  • During the makeover, your kids get a bit of much-needed rest. Disney World involves lots of walking, so sitting in a nice cool space can give kids the little boost they need to get through the rest of the day. We like to reserve an afternoon makeover as a bit of a break.

If you’re heading to Walt Disney World before July 27, 2020, make reservations for Pirates League now. You can make them online, and they can be cancelled if your plans change. If you have multiple kids and are having trouble grabbing a reservation, try making one reservation at a time.

Let me know if you catch this fun experience before it ends!

Budget Friendly Ways to Date Your Spouse

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Every marriage article I read seems to give similar advice: go on dates, get away together, prioritize time without your kids. While that’s all well and good, let’s be realistic–not every family can afford a weekly date night or a couples’ getaway!

With five kids, our baby-sitter bill for a simple night out adds up quickly. When you combine the sitter fees with the cost of whatever activity we’re doing that night, the expense can be more than our budget can bear. So over the last few years, we’ve learned to be more creative and sneak in mom and dad time without breaking the bank.

Here are some budget friendly ideas for ways to connect with your spouse or partner without spending a ton of money:

  • If you have flexible work schedules, go on a lunch date! Moving date time from the evening to lunch saves us from getting a babysitter. Plus, we’re honestly more awake during the day!
  • Enjoy a late dinner without kids. While I’m a huge proponent of family dinner, sometimes it’s nice to let the kids eat early then pop on a movie while you enjoy a date-night dinner at home.
  • Play a game after the kids are in bed. One of our favorite date nights is scrabble and wine after we get the kids tucked in. Watching a movie or catching up on DVR is great, but playing together can be a great way to reconnect.
  • Let your kids watch a movie during a road trip so that you can chat in the front seat. I remember cherishing road trip talks before we had kids, and sneaking one in now feels like a real luxury.
  • Plan a date night when family is visiting. We don’t have family in town, but when someone is visiting for more than one night, that’s a great time to go for a short date. Even one drink, an appetizer, or just a cup of coffee can create a great time to converse without interruptions from the kids.
  • Work in the yard or on a project together. Whether the kids are inside or playing nearby, they’ll probably leave you alone if they think you are “working,” and accomplishing something together can be a blast!

If you can afford a weekly sitter for date night, that’s awesome! If you can’t, don’t be discouraged…get creative and make your own ways to reconnect.

10 Reasons to Get to Disney World for Rope Drop!

10 Reasons Not to Miss Rope Drop at Disney World

When you’re on vacation you might dream of sleeping in, but if you’re at Walt Disney World don’t do it! Getting to the park by rope drop (i.e. the time the park opens) is crucial in having your best possible Disney day!

When we go for several days we might not make rope drop everyday, but we try especially hard to arrive early on Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios days.

Here are the 10 reasons our family tries our best to arrive for rope drop:

  1. You’re at Disney World, so there’s no reason to drag around in your room! Get up and get going!
  2. Kids are in their best moods in the morning! No one is hungry or tired yet, and good attitudes equal good memories.
  3. The lines are so much shorter first thing in the morning! You can hit up a sought after attraction or several less crowded ones before most people even get in the gate.
  4. By the time the crowds start to arrive, we’re ready for our first snack break of the day–perfect timing!
  5. Arriving early allows us to leave for an afternoon break without feeling like we’re missing too much.
  6. The morning temperatures can’t be beat! Florida can be HOT in the afternoon, but mornings on Main Street are almost always pleasant.
  7. Arriving early gives you an excuse to try some of the delicious breakfast options Walt Disney World parks have to offer…hello Gaston’s cinnamon roll!
  8. Seeing the parks with fewer people around is magical! The morning is your best chance to get a castle pic with fewer people in the background.
  9. Arriving for rope drop at Magic Kingdom means you get to see the stage show that only happens when the park opens!
  10. Your kids are not going to be asleep anyway! Sure they’re tired from the day before, but if you think they’ll sleep in when Big Thunder Mountain is waiting you’re crazy. Use that morning energy to your advantage!

While rest is important, arriving at rope drop can truly get your day started in the best way. Try balancing early days with later wake-up times to find the formula that works best for your family to ensure your most magical vacation yet!