Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fashion Sensory - GAP

Hey, hey!  I'm back for the third installment of Fashion Sensory.  I'm still not sure about the name but I do like the play on words since I'm talking about fashion sense and Jude's sensory therapy.  :)  Meh, let's consider it a work in progress.

If you missed last week's post, you can CLICK HERE to read what this is all about.  While you're there, check out some great finds from Old Navy or CLICK HERE for great pieces from Nordstrom!

Now let's get to it!  This week I'm featuring...

This is especially exciting because right now they have 40% off almost everything on their site (ends Monday at midnight)! Woohoo!

I think Gap has finally learned they excel with the basics.  You aren't going to find a lot of truly unique pieces but you will find some great staples, which are perfect for building a classic wardrobe.  I walked around the store and found several items I wanted to take home.  What impressed me the most with their current collection is how soft everything feels.  Lots of cotton/linen mixes, which felt amazing.

I have this fitted boyfriend chambray shirt and I wear it with everything.  Skirts, wide-leg pants, shorts, and white jeans.  I also wear it so many different ways... untucked, half-tucked, knotted in the front, you name it.  I still can't bring myself to wear it unbuttoned over a tank because I have flashbacks to sixth grade and I'm just not ready to go there, but you feel free.

Below I've shown three different bottoms to pair with this classic top.  I also own these jeans and they are (by far) my favorite white skinny jeans.  I've tried many that are too thin and others that lose their shape after a few hours. These are perfect!

I love to mix a neutral top with a pop of color bottom so I chose hot pink linen shorts and a neon yellow midi swing skirt for a fun effect.  Either of these would look amazing with this top.  Make sure you roll the sleeves - it is summer, after all!

Fitted Boyfriend Chambray Shirt   |   1969 True Skinny Ankle Jeans  |  Linen Surf Shorts  |  Midi Swing Skirt
(Unfortunately, I don't believe the jeans are on sale...)

For those of you who are always cold (me!) or live in the north where summer lasts two weeks, I included this marled summer sweater.  Pairing a relaxed summer sweater with cuffed shorts and cute sandals or sneakers is my favorite.  Easy and effortless!

The 3/4 sleeve eyelet top is lightweight and so pretty!  Try an all-white look by pairing it with the white jeans above or consider it with the hot pink shorts!  I saw the linen cami dress in the store and fell in love with the color.  It just needs a pendant necklace and some cute sandals.

Baby Gap is one of my favorite places to shop because they are not afraid of color or prints.  And in the summer, I can't get enough of either.  The sleeveless chambray shirt would look adorable with either the plaid bubble shorts or the terry dolphin shorts.  When I was in the store the other day I grabbed the terry shorts immediately - I couldn't help myself!  I begrudgingly put them back but they are the cutest!

These dresses are so easy for summer.   I also love the tie in the front of the second dress - perfect to go with your tied chambray shirt above! ;)

Here are some great tops for your son!  Whether you go with a tee, polo, or button-up, Gap has the best colors!

I also included two different styles of shorts that you can mix and match with the different tops.

I couldn't narrow it down to three so here are FIVE fun items from Nordstrom - all on sale right now (thank you, half-yearly sale)!
Ray-Ban 59mm Aviators  |   Splendid Crossover Back Tank  |  Lush Knit Maxi Dress  |  Tory Burch Sandals  |  Ella Moss Ruffle Cami (just checked and this is no longer on sale! boo!)

Looks like those TB sandals went FAST!  So here's another pair on sale! :)

Disclosure - every outfit above contains an affiliated link(s), which means we are paid a small commission for each purchase made.  This is my personal "fundraiser" to help pay for Jude's therapy, while also sharing my favorite finds with my favorite people!  Thank you so much!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fashion Sensory - Nordstrom

Time for another fashion post for you and the kiddos (I need a catchy name - suggestions welcomed)!

If you missed last week's post, you can CLICK HERE to read what this is all about.  While you're there, check out some great finds from Old Navy!

This week I'm featuring my favorite store...
Fun fact... I worked there for three months when we first moved to Dallas!  I met some great people, made some amazing memories, and grew to really respect Nordstrom as a company.  They take customer service to a whole new level (including free shipping and returns)!

We went to the mall today because I had a Nordstrom gift card burning a hole in my pocket.  A few of the items below came home with me and I'm excited to share them with you!

Free People is one of my favorite brands.  They tend to go for muted neutrals or bold, saturated colors - not too much in between.  Today's find was definitely the latter.  I love hi-lo tops and this one fit perfectly.  It would look amazing with the Topshop distressed skinny jeans.  I decided I'd rather pick up a few items today rather than one top, so I ended up leaving it at the store.  :(  However, if you don't mind a bit of a splurge, GET THIS TOP.  I haven't stopped thinking about it.

I did purchase the Lush short sleeve top.  It also has a hi-lo shape and really flattering v-neck.  It comes in two other colors, I just opted to get black since I knew I could dress it up with some fun jewelry!

I featured the Leith Racerback dress in a previous favorites post, but I wanted to mention it again here because it is THE dress of the summer.  I have it in coral and dark blue and borrowed the green version to wear to my high school reunion last year.  It's very budget-friendly, which is why most of my friends own it in several colors!

Last year I ordered a Nanette Lepore swimsuit and I think I will stick with this brand forever.  The fit and design are incredibly flattering.  It's great for anyone who prefers a one piece but isn't ready to sport a high-neck speedo.

Kimonos are everywhere right now and are super versatile.  Wear one over a sleeveless blouse or use it as a cover-up when you hit the pool.  I loved this one with the fun details!

The BLANKNYC distressed jeans are flattering and so comfortable.  I love them with this sleeveless white top!  I purchased the Steve Madden wedge sandals today - I went in thinking I was going to buy them in cognac but ended up loving them in nude.  They're adorable, affordable, and a great heel height!

For the kiddos!  Sloane has this Peek top and cuffed shorts and we both love them.  The top is lightweight and has adjustable straps so she'll be able to wear it for several years.  It's also on sale! ;)  Mini Boden is another favorite brand of ours and I loved this boho tunic to pair with the shorts!

When the kids were tiny babies, I fell in love with Peek's graphic tees.  They always have fun quotes and I thought this one was fitting for Mr. Jude.  He also has these shorts - they run a little big so consider that when sizing (Jude is typically a 3T or 4T and but these shorts are 2-3T).  It's a little hard to see the Mini Boden top on here but the shark has a crab in its mouth with a sign that says "Help!"  Cracks me up.  

I own these Kut From The Kloth boyfriend jeans and love them (they'll look great with the nude wedges)!  They run a little big so if you're between sizes, consider sizing down.

A pendant necklace goes with everything and the coral is so pretty!

These Tea Collection dresses are some of my favorites for Sloane.  They're so soft and comfortable - effortless for summer!

Disclosure - every outfit above contains an affiliated link(s), which means we are paid a small commission for each purchase made.  This is my personal "fundraiser" to help pay for Jude's therapy, while also sharing my favorite finds with my favorite people!  Thank you so much!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fashion Sensory - Old Navy

One of my favorite Twin Talk series was the spring/fall fashion posts.  Fellow twin moms and I would style head-to-toe outfits and create fashion boards so busy moms could easily shop great looks without leaving the house.  The only catch?  Everything had to be from the same store - because who wants to pay four different shipping fees for one outfit?  (No one!)

As most of you know, Jude started occupational therapy several months ago for sensory processing disorder.  We recently learned our insurance is no longer covering his visits.  We appealed and his therapy center/pediatrician fought his case but they're sticking with their decision.  Because of this, I'm starting a new fashion series on this blog with fun outfits for both women and kids!

Full disclosure - every outfit below contains an affiliated link(s), which means we are paid a small commission for each purchase made.  This is my personal "fundraiser" to help pay for Jude's therapy, while also sharing my favorite finds with my favorite people!  As if you needed another reason to shop, you now know you're shopping for a great cause.  :)

For now, I plan to stick with the rules of Twin Talk - everything below came from the same store!  I'm also going to post my top three favorite finds that are all ON SALE.  These pieces will not necessarily be from the same store but they will ALL be on sale (hooray)!!

Happy shopping!

I chose Old Navy this week for one reason.  These gladiator sandals:

I purchased them last month and wear them constantly.  They're incredibly comfortable and look cute with dresses, shorts, and cuffed jeans (they only come in whole sizes and I sized down).

The boho look is everywhere right now.  Cold shoulder/off-the-shoulder tops, flowy dresses, fringe, and (get ready) the gaucho jeans are back in a big way.  It's a great style for summer because everything is loose and breezy, making it a mom's dream.

For the first three looks, I chose two rompers and an off-the-shoulder top/shorts - all to pair with the sandals above.  Rompers can be tricky - if they're too short or show too much skin, I'm not comfortable.  But if they have the right coverage and aren't too snug, I consider them effortless and perfect for summer!

I'm currently obsessed with flowy dresses.  Gone are the days where I enjoy sucking in my stomach for 3+ hours.  Light chambray/denim is a great piece to add to your wardrobe - I went back and forth between the two dresses below before deciding to feature both.  If you love a swing dress, the one on the left is great.  However, if you love the relaxed look but still want to show off your waist (good for you!), the one on the right is amazing.  Hi-lo dresses are also on trend this season and great for date night or a night out with friends.  Add a pendant necklace, stacked bracelets and you're set!  All three of these looks would pair nicely with the gladiator sandals and since they're all from Old Navy you're looking at fun fashion for amazing prices.  

(Also, please disregard the two ladies completely judging one another.  Can't we all get along?)

If you hear boho and think "oh no," try a preppier look.  I love Old Navy's pixie pants - they're fitted so you can pair them with a loose top like the button-back plaid and it still shows off your shape!  Add a thin knit cardigan if you don't live in Texas.  :)

Can't forget the kids!  If you know me at all, I'm a sucker for coordination so of course I made sure these pieces would look good with one another and with mom above.  :)

Romper   |   Sandals

I hope you found something you love!  If there are any specific stores you'd like me to feature, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ordained Encounter

I'm not one who easily sees God's hand in every situation.  In fact, it typically takes years before I can look back and understand how it all came together.  This story, however, is completely different.  This time I saw it as it happened.

I've always had moderate anxiety.  It's never kept me from doing things I enjoy, but it has a prime spot in my brain and rears its ugly head often.  As a child, I was never scared of monsters.  Always people, specifically kidnappers.  Maybe I watched too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, I'm not sure.  I was anxious about my grades in school.  Worried throughout my pregnancy.  I have scriptures on my phone for when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, I'm also a talker.  I've never kept my anxious feelings to myself, so while you can feel sorry for Michael (and you should), he knew what he was marrying.  Me.  Lovable, anxious me.

This past year has been a great one for our family.  New job for Michael and official diagnosis for Jude both top the list.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been wonderful for dear friends.  I've attended two funerals in the last six months that were especially heartbreaking.  A sweet boy whose family I have grown to love was recently diagnosed with yet another tumor.  One of my best friend's husband's went through several months of chemo.  The list goes on and on.

On March 16, I was looking through Instagram one last time when I read about Brooks's second tumor.  I teared up and then out of nowhere, I had a pretty severe anxiety attack.  It was terrifying, mostly because I didn't know what was happening.  Michael was next to me and asked if I needed to go to the hospital, but I was too focused on trying to breathe to really answer.  After about 20 minutes it subsided and I was completely wiped out.

A good friend of mine put it perfectly.  "Our ability to cope with anxiety is like a scale with a certain tipping point and as we age we hit that point, sometimes for no reason."  I'd hit that point.  My brain was on overload from worrying for my friends on top of my already amazing ability to be anxious over everything.

I wish I could say that was it, but for the next two weeks, I'd think about the anxiety attack and it would lead to another (far less severe) attack.  In the middle of breakfast.  Playing outside with my kids.  At night while everyone was asleep.  My brain was consumed with fear.  Was this my new normal?  When I was "lucid" I was fine.  But those moments when my brain took over were the darkest moments I've ever experienced.  I felt alone and very scared.

I had my annual OB appointment last Wednesday and decided I'd ask to be put on anxiety medication in hopes it would help.  I talked to several friends who are either on medication or were in the past.  I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into.  One friend said something I will never forget: "Anxiety is the devil."  I'm not sure if she meant it literally or she was just using the worst word she could think of, but it stopped me in my tracks.  She was absolutely right.  This was the devil.

So that leads up to one of the most ordinary, incredible moments of my 33 years.  The day before the doctor's appointment, I was at Sloane's ballet class chatting with fellow moms.  We were talking about nothing in particular when one brought up a medication she'd taken that had caused her to lose a lot of weight.  I'm typically not one to pry but for some reason I asked her what medicine she was on.  And for some reason she was completely open and honest.  It was a medicine for depression.  I told her I was going to the doctor the very next day to get on anxiety meds.

Another mom looked up from her phone and said, "I dealt with anxiety for years and then my doctor told me it was due to a gene mutation I have.  I found out about it after I suffered two miscarriages."  She had my full attention.  I asked her if it was MTHFR, the same gene mutation I have that caused two miscarriages and led to taking blood thinners my entire pregnancy.  Same one.  Once the kids were born and all was well, I basically forgot I had it.  She explained that while miscarriages are the prominent issue associated with MTHFR, anxiety is also prevalent due to a lack of folate and B12.  She simply takes folate supplements and hasn't dealt with anxiety in years.

I was stunned.  For over two decades I've dealt with something that could simply be related to a lack of FOLATE.  As soon as I got to my car I researched it and found numerous articles linking MTHFR to anxiety and headaches (which I deal with regularly).  I also read it can alter one's response to anxiety medication.  And then I thought back to the conversation that had just taken place... the day before I asked my doctor to put me on anxiety medication.  How had it come up?  What made my friend so open?  What made my other friend share her rare MTHFR story that happened to mirror my very own?  All in a little ballet studio on a Tuesday afternoon.  I have never felt God's presence more.

I called Michael and told him to pick up some Folate on his way home from work.  The next day I shared this story with my doctor and told her I wanted to give it a try.  She was completely open to it.

From the moment I left that ballet class, the small anxiety attacks disappeared.  It made me realize those attacks were brought on by anxiety over my anxiety (who knew).  My brain was on overdrive and very, very tired.  Once I had a clear plan in place, they went away.  And, thankfully, have stayed away.

I'm a firm believer medication is helpful, useful, and can be absolutely necessary.  I'm not opposed to it, though I'm glad I have more information as I learned it might not be right for me.  I also learned the brain is capable of taking something small and making it into something very big and incredibly ugly.

So there's my heart on paper (err... computer screen).  I figured if I can share my son's diagnosis on my blog, I can (and should) share this as well.  Maybe someone will benefit from it, or maybe it's simply to share that God doesn't always show himself in dramatic ways.  Sometimes it's a tiny ripple that leads to something so much bigger.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Current Favorites!

It's been a long time since I've done a favorites post so I thought it was high time!  I've included some steals as well as some splurges, but I'm only telling you about items that really make me happy.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7

1. Madewell Fleet Jacket  I'm a huge fan of cargo jackets.  I've been looking for a new one as my last one was a Christmas gift from many, many years ago - it's gone in and out of style four times since I received it.  I love army green but I thought the blue would be a nice change (it does, however, come in green).  The website says to order down if you're between sizes.  Maybe that's true for most, but when you've been cursed with long arms, better order up (even though I almost always cuff the sleeves anyway).  I love that it's fitted so I can wear it over a spring dress without feeling bulky up top.

2. Michael Kors Metallic Card Holder & iPhone Case
A few of my friends had a case like this and I thought to myself, "That's ridiculous!  If you lose your phone you're screwed." Then I realized I lose my wallet, I lose my license, and I lose my credit card constantly.  What do I never lose?  My phone.  So I decided to get it and I've never looked back.  As someone who hates carrying handbags (the diaper bag ruined me for life), this has made errands and nights out so easy.

3. Leith Racerback Dress
When we went to Vegas last summer, Ashley wore this dress and we spent the entire trip telling her how much we loved it.  Meri & Lauren ordered it that week and then I borrowed it for my 15-year reunion.  I did not want to give it back.  It comes in six colors and I just ordered the coral.  Now I'm wondering if I need to order at least two more colors...  Did I mention it's only $48?

4. Kiehls Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter
Michael gave me a few goodies for Valentine's Day and this was one of them.  We're both huge fans of Kiehl's face wash and shampoo, so it's no surprise this immediately made it in my favorites list as well.  It is fabulous.

5, Bed Head Styling Wand
When I chopped my hair I asked friends for styling wand suggestions.  I was told to skip the super expensive wands and go for this one.  I did and I love it.  I'm still learning how to use it (if the "I stuck my finger in a wall socket" look ever becomes a thing, I am truly going to be a superstar), but my friends who've mastered it have amazing hair.  The Michael Jackson glove has been used by me exactly once, but Sloane adores it.

6. Express Scuba Leggings
My friend Amy showed up to a birthday party wearing these and I stared at her legs the entire time.  I'm sure she noticed but it didn't stop me.  I finally asked her where she got them and when she told me Express, I realized I hadn't stepped foot in that store since college!  I went the next day and purchased them immediately.  Several friends followed suit.  They are so comfortable and I wear them constantly.

7. BP Booties
I know it's the beginning of March so booties may or may not be the last thing on your mind, but I love wearing these with dresses and bare legs.  Thanks to the light color, they are sticking around a bit longer over here! And for my friends up north, they're basically a year-round staple.  ;)

Honorable Mentions go to...
Pirate's Booty
YL Peppermint Oil
Boyfriend jeans
Blue Apron (it is so much fun!)
Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me?
Rachel McAdams & Naomi Watts's dresses from the Oscars
Anyone who is not voting for Trump

*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and purchase an item I will receive a small commission.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lessons Along The Way

The past few days I've been thinking about some of the best parenting advice I've received as well as good lessons I've learned along the way.  I thought it fitting to share here!  Some are controversial, others you've heard 1,000 times and I'm simply here so you may hear it 1,001 times.  :)

Trust your gut.  I wrote about this with Jude's recent SPD diagnosis but that is not the first time I pushed back on something I felt wasn't right.  "Trust your gut" is one of those expressions you always hear and (if you're like me) often roll your eyes.  It just seems so silly.  But what it really means is you know your child better than anyone else in this world.  A doctor sees them for 15 minutes at a time.  A friend sees them once a week.  You see them every single day.  And from the time they were placed in your arms at the hospital, you have studied their cues so you can best support them and be their biggest advocate.  This doesn't change as they get older.  In fact, it gets easier because they've learned to communicate as well and together you are a pretty amazing team.  

Don't feel pressured to potty train.  This has been one of my biggest parenting struggles.  When the kids turned 2.5, we decided it was time they moved to undies.  Did either one of them show signs they were ready?  Absolutely not.  We decided for them.  And it worked... for Sloane.  It took her exactly one day.  We spent a solid two weeks with Jude and while he would use the potty when we took him, he never asked to go.  I became a nervous wreck to leave the house or be away for more than 30 minutes.  Their pediatrician told me potty training should not be that difficult and to try again later.  We put Jude back in diapers for several months and then tried again.  Same results.  I'd always said my children would be potty trained by three (easy to say when you don't have kids) and their third birthday flew by with my boy still in diapers.  We tried again when he was 3 years, 2 months and it was a completely different story.  Of course he still had accidents at first - I'm not saying potty training will ever be easy (unless you have a potty savant like Sloane - ha) but it just clicked with him after a few days.  He was ready.  More good news: When he's filling out college applications, there isn't a line that asks, "How old were you when you potty trained?"  If your child is like my son, just know it will happen.  One day it will happen.  So many people told me that and I had my doubts but guess what?  It happened. 

You don't have to spend a fortune on Birthday or Christmas presents.  This is something we have stuck to since the beginning.  Regardless, thanks to family & friends there are still so many toys in our playroom that I have a borderline anxiety attack at least once a week.  I felt a little guilty this year at Christmas when there were only a few toys under the tree, but my 3-year-olds were completely ecstatic to see what Santa brought.  Not once did they ask for more or wonder why we'd only gotten them a few gifts.  I think it's a good lesson for all of us that it's just stuff.  And stuff is expensive and takes up a lot of room. 

Television is ok.  It's even good.  I will come clean and admit I was not always a follower of this.  We didn't let our kids watch (or even face) a tv screen for their entire first year.  I became a little more lenient around 15 months and have never looked back.  Obviously there is a balance, but the shows they watch have taught them so much.  They learned how to count and all of their shapes from Mickey Mouse.  They learned the potty song and have some of the best manners I know thanks to Daniel Tiger.  They've learned to be kind to their friends and share their toys.  Could we have taught them all of these things without tv?  Of course.  But being a first time mom, I didn't even think it was possible for 2-year-olds to count to 20.  I probably would've waited until the day before kindergarten and then decided, "Ok, they can probably handle this now."  Another reason I'm so grateful for television is the repetitive nature.  Jude is great at memorizing songs & phrases and it's given him more confidence with speaking.  He will recite an entire speech from Paw Patrol and in my head I'm thinking, "You just said 37 words in a row!"  And you know what?  Sometimes they don't learn a darn thing but it's 30 minutes when you can sit and drink your coffee and completely zone out.  That's ok too.  

Keep a (somewhat) tidy space.  This makes me sound like a 1950s housewife, but I can't tell you how much happier I am when there isn't junk everywhere.  My friend once told me, "If it takes you less than five minutes to do, do it right then."  It's such great advice.  I breathe easier when I look in our living room and can see the floor.  That being said, one of the biggest rules in our house is we clean up our own messes.  Before bedtime the kids help pick up the playroom.  If they spill milk, we give them a paper towel to clean it up.  Sometimes it's excruciating because what would take me 12 seconds to clean up takes a good five minutes from my turtle toddlers, but they're learning an important lesson.  

Your children are your priority... and no one else's.  This is a bit harsh but I think it's something we need to accept.  It doesn't stop me from posting too many pictures and videos of my kids but it also means when my kids are talking loudly in a public place, the rest of the world doesn't find it nearly as cute as I do.  I think it's just something to remember when you may feel slighted by an acquaintance or overly dependent on a friend.  It doesn't mean they don't love your child or have their best interest at heart, it just means they probably don't need to hear the 15-minute version of your child's bowel movement.  

Don't give up everything you love - find what makes you thrive.  I actually wrote a blog post about this once but I think it's worth mentioning again.  In the beginning, you're pretty much forced to give up everything, which is (most likely) just fine because you wouldn't want to be anywhere else.  However, there comes a time when you are not physically and mentally 100% attached to your child and when that time comes, it's healthy for you to remember what you loved before kids.  For me, I missed writing so I started Twin Talk.  For others it's the gym. (You bunch of weirdos.   Just kidding.)  Just don't lose yourself in your kids.

Be the same person outside of your home as you are inside.  I grew up in a very normal family.  We were far from perfect, but there was a lot of love and amazing memories.  I respected my parents and they respected me.  Because of this, I also trusted them completely.  One of the best takeaways from my childhood experience is that what I saw in our home - the way they talked to us and treated each other - was the exact same as what I saw in public.  It made the world far less confusing and is something I try to think about on a daily basis.  Now let's be honest with ourselves.  There are times when my patience is thin and I throw a mini fit inside our home - probably not going to do that in public (you're welcome, world).  But it's so important you aren't throwing mixed signals your kids way. 

Make mom friends and make them a priority.  This seems so obvious, but it is absolutely crucial.  I couldn't do this mom gig alone.  And I'm not slighting Michael in any way, because he hears every story I share with my mom friends.  But there is something about hearing a fellow mom tell you, "My kid does it too."  Or "That sounds like a terrible day, I'm so sorry."  And here's the biggest takeaway from this: Any mom friend can sympathize.  Or empathize.  Find a mom friend who can also celebrate with you.  Find one who is genuinely excited when you or your child does something well.  It seems so easy, but when you find that friend or friends, hold onto them tightly because it truly is a gift when you feel comfortable sharing the bad and the good.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Epilogue

Before I get to Sloane's update, I feel like I need to address a few things regarding yesterday's post...

The amount of comments, emails, and texts we received after I hit "publish" was overwhelming.  As I mentioned in the post, I went back and forth on whether or not to even share it with the world, because the last thing I want is for our child to be labeled.  I never understood why parents cared about that until I was in their shoes and now I get it.  He is our darling boy Jude.  He is still perfect (to us) and neither of us want the sad eyes.  I had a few cringeworthy moments yesterday and I had to tell myself to grow thicker skin because I absolutely knew intentions were good.  But, my goodness, Mama Bear is as real as mama instincts.  

As with everything, there is a wide range of SPD.  I was sent a few blog posts of others whose children have SPD and my eyes grew wider with every sentence.  Obviously I am no doctor, but after reading many stories it sounds like Jude has a rather mild case.  Not that it matters, but I wanted to clarify our situation and acknowledge the severity could be far greater.

And the last bit... The amount of "great job, mama" comments I received was confusing at first, until I reread my post and realized it was very Meredith heavy.  I suppose that's natural as it's my blog and I can only speak for myself, but I am no (for lack of a better word) martyr.  This news was never about me and I apologize it came across that way.  Please know there were so many involved in this process, especially Michael.  He has read every article, listened to every fear (which typically comes around 2 am - poor guy), and never once let me walk this road alone.  The same is true for family and friends (my mom already owns her own copy of The Out-of-Sync Child - ha)!  My friends have wiped tears, sent scriptures, and loved on our son like he was their own.

So what am I saying?  It takes a village.

I'm just so glad our village was built on rock.  :)

Thanks again, friends!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jude the Dude

It's time for an update on these two kiddos of ours!  As always, I shall start with our firstborn, sweet Jude the Dude.

A lot has happened over the last few months.  I started not to say anything, then I wanted to say everything, and finally told myself to take a minute and reflect for a bit.

This story has a very happy ending, so don't fret, friends.

Ever since Jude was 18 months, I've known something was a little off.  I could never put my finger on it and was told by so many I needed to stop comparing him to his sister, stop comparing him to his peers, and just let him be.  At the same time, I've been told the mom instinct is a very powerful tool so I had conflicting feelings.  The only thing you ever hear about little boys is autism.  I've read about it and completed checklists - he never fit the mold.  No one who knows him (especially doctors) thought he was autistic.  Deep down, I knew he wasn't either.

After he didn't qualify for Early Childhood Intervention at 18 months, we had him tested again at 2.5 years and he qualified for speech.  His therapist came to our home once a week and we saw some solid improvements with Jude.  At that time she mentioned he had some sensory issues, which I'd never noticed before.  Let me rephrase that, of course I noticed them but I always attributed them to him being all boy.  He loves to touch everything, crawl in small spaces, stand on his head, and his energy is endless.  She mentioned having an ECI occupational therapist evaluate him so I went along with it.

The therapist asked me a ton of questions and I didn't know the answers.  She kept saying, "Does he like to jump or does he NEED to jump?"  What?  "He likes to jump."

He didn't qualify.

At their 3-year appointment, I'd had a rough few days of family illness and was having surgery the next morning so nerves were high.  Jude was literally (and I mean literally) bouncing off the walls.  And I lost it.  Crying big, ugly tears for 1,001 reasons but at that moment I was looking at an out-of-control child who would not sit still.  She reassured me he was all boy and life would get easier when he turned seven.


Last month, Jude was kissing me passionately (the only way to describe this boy's kisses) and then he pressed his forehead against mine with so much force it hurt.  I pulled back to see him grinning at me as he immediately tried to do it again.  It was a little odd and stuck with me.  That night we put them to bed and I pulled out my computer.  After I made sure Michael wasn't looking, I searched the forehead scenario and the first post was a mom talking about her autistic child.  There it was again.  I clicked on the link and she mentioned her son also had a completely different issue: Sensory Processing Disorder.  The forehead example was what she specifically mentioned.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?  I'd never heard of it.  I started a new search and came upon this website and, more specifically, this symptoms checklist.  As I read the list, I teared up.  I was reading about my sweet Jude.  It was, on one hand, incredibly painful to realize he had this disorder.  It was also incredibly liberating.

The next day I sent Michael the checklist and he was stunned as well.  We ordered the book The Out-of-Sync Child and two days later it arrived.  The second I started reading the book, everything fell into place.  Jude is a sensory craver/seeker, which falls under the Sensory Modulation Disorder umbrella.  Before I made any appointments with an occupational therapist, I wanted to learn as much as I could about SPD so I would know how to answer the questions this time.  So I would fully understand (as best I could) what was going on in Jude's brain.

A week later, we had him evaluated by a speech therapist and an occupational therapist.  He didn't qualify for speech, which surprised me.  She told me he would qualify for occupational therapy and if for some reason he didn't, she would do everything she could to get him the help he needed because she didn't want him falling through the cracks.  I don't hug strangers but it took everything in my power not to hug this woman.  She mentioned he had so much going on inside his little head that speech was the last thing on his mind.  With proper therapy, she felt he would flourish in so many different areas, speech included.  Without therapy, he would continue down this path and become the "troublesome child" in school, all because no one knew any different.

At his occupational therapy evaluation it took the therapist exactly five minutes to let me know he qualified.  She told me about a great book I should read called The Out-of-Sync Child and I pulled it out of my bag.  She saw the ear markings and my scrawled writing all over the pages and smiled.  She recommended therapy twice a week (30 minutes per session) and I skipped out of the room.

Jude has attended twice now and received excellent reports both times.  We purchased a trampoline for our backyard and he jumps until his legs wear out.  When he presses his forehead against mine, I press right back so he can feel the pressure.  When he stands on his head, I ask him what I look like upside down instead of telling him to quit acting silly.  When he's with a lot of kids and starts bouncing off the walls, I take his hand and we leave the room so he can walk around while he has time to reset.

I don't want to tell you too much about SPD because it's so new to me and I'm scared I will say something wrong, but the purpose of this post is to shed some light for others who may not be familiar with it.  I so badly wish I'd known about it a year ago.

In less than a month, there has been a change in our house, especially in me.  Now, when he does something goofy, my head doesn't immediately go to, "Why does he do this?" and instead it's simply, "How can I help him?"  I'm slower to get frustrated and I know he senses that.  Communication (on both sides) has drastically improved.  It doesn't mean he's in charge - we still have rules and he finds himself in timeout regularly - but I now know his silly actions and antics aren't because he's trying to drive me crazy, it's because he NEEDS to get it out. For the first time in over a year, I feel like we have answers and are doing the absolute best for our son.

So we jump.  And we dance.  And we swing.

And we laugh.  And we hug.  And we play.

When I look at him, I no longer worry about him.  I'm excited for him.  And my tears, which come more often than ever, are full of joy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Trip to the Bank

There was nothing unusual about yesterday.  Michael spent the early morning moments with the kids while I grasped a few more minutes of precious sleep.  He poked his head in at 7:15 and told me he had to go so I stumbled out of bed and brushed my teeth.

My day began at 7:17am.  For the next 12 hours, I was solely in charge of two toddlers.  We chased each other around the kitchen island, made artistic drawings that (I feel) could hang in any modern museum, caught up on our favorite shows, built sand castles using kinetic sand, took great naps, and shared our feelings on Jesus's birthday cake (still hanging around), clean floors (too slippery), and bedtime stories (Mama Bear's lumpy bed is funny).  

It was a great day.  It's almost always a great day.  But with every day comes those little not-so-great moments that add up...

The kinetic sand made a huge mess under the dining table... three different times.  The chases inevitably led to tears.  The ink from the artwork ended up all over our clothes and hands (regardless of what the box said, it was NOT washable).  Nothing big.  But I feel like there's a savings account for parents and every time something like this happens, a small deposit is made into that account.  By the end of every day, you're a millionaire.  Even when each new day starts at zero.

Every time I had a negative thought, I quickly reminded myself that a) this was my dream job and b) I was so lucky.  I shouldn't complain and how dare I grumble about cleaning up the 47th mess when the kids had so much fun?  I either pushed my feelings aside or chastised myself for even having them.

I'm no psychologist, but Itook a year of psychology in high school and I think that's called repression.  And I'm pretty sure I remember it being a bad thing.

Staying home with my kids is my dream job.  And I am so lucky.  But there are plenty who have dream jobs outside the home.  They also have bad moments when their employees don't listen or when they have a big "mess" to clean up.  But when they get frustrated they don't immediately feel guilty.  Why is it different here?

I've found the same is true when my kids get sick.  Our first response is, "It's only a cold, we should be grateful."  Or "So many kids have far worse things to deal with, this is nothing."  And both of those statements are probably true.  However, just because someone has it worse than you (and trust me, someone will always have it worse), it doesn't mean you're not allowed to take a minute and realize right now... this very moment... it's just not a good time.  

We need that minute.  That little bit of time where you hide in your closet and cry (or do it in front of your kids - no hiding necessary).  A minute of having a tough time and not immediately feeling guilty for it.

I think we need to allow ourselves to feel the bad and the ugly.  Even if whatever it is we're feeling may seem small and insignificant compared to what a friend is going through.  To stop comparing our sad moments to others and just realize that yeah, this is sad.  This is frustrating.  This is hard.  

The next time I start feeling that tightness in my chest because it's been 12 hours alone with my kids and my daughter starts every single statement or question with, "Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama...." I'm going to the bank and cashing out.  For one minute I'm going to allow myself to wish for bedtime to come quickly and I'm not going to punish myself for it.  Because if I let myself have that moment, I will be better off for it.  The weight on my shoulders will be a little less than it was before.   

My love for my kids, however, will not.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Jude & Sloane | 3 Years

As with every birthday for Jude & Sloane, I spend the weeks leading up to it a sentimental mess.  I look at old pictures, watch old videos, and constantly ask Michael "Remember when...?"  He always smiles and gives me a hug (rolling his eyes as he pats my back, I'm sure).

This year was no exception.  For some reason, three seems ancient.  I mean, they're basically ready for college.  And the changes that have happened this last year... it's truly hard to keep up with it all.

But I shall try.

Jude the Dude
Jude is the sweetest, most exhausting little boy I've ever known.  He is a whole lot of everything in a 3-year-old body.  Jude is incredibly active, especially if he is in a new place or when I really need him to sit still.  When people meet him they always (100% of the time) say, "He's all boy," which I know is polite for, "Oh my gosh that boy never stops."  And he doesn't!

He is very tactile.  He wants to hold things, he wants to throw things, he wants to touch everything in sight, he wants to run down hallways, jump off couches, and crawl into tiny spaces that aren't made for toddlers.  But he always manages to fit.

Do you have a good mental picture of my Tasmanian devil?  Good.  Now let me tell you about the other side of Jude.  He gives the best hugs.  He crawls in your lap, puts his hands on your cheeks, and kisses you straight on the mouth.  Again and again and again.  He says "please" and "thank you" and "bless you" and "your welcome" and "excuse me."  He waits until we leave and then crawls into Sloane's bed every night so he can be close to his sister.  He is the most empathetic toddler I know, truly feeling the emotions of his friends and characters on TV.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard "Poor Elsa" or "How sweet!" or "What's wrong with Sloaney?"

Jude is talking more and more, which is music to our ears.  He did not qualify for the early learning school so he no longer meets with a speech therapist each week.  We were shocked he wasn't accepted but his vocabulary is growing every day so we're not worried about it.  We call him our engineer because he loves to build tall towers and design all sorts of buildings (Jude's school house and Sloane's library are his favorites).  He loves counting everything in site (he's counted to 30 a few times but usually stops at 20) and loves to point out numbers when he sees them on books or posters.  Shapes are also important to him - he constantly points to objects and names all of the shapes he sees on them.  In some areas, he's weirdly smart.  The other day he was trying to pick up his toys to take them to the play room.  He couldn't hold all of them so he went to the kitchen to find a box, put all of his toys in the box, and then carried the box to the playroom.  I was impressed.

He spends a lot of time in timeout.  He is extremely stubborn and only wants to do things his way and on his own time.  He gets frustrated very easily and when that happens, he completely shuts down.  Michael and I are learning how to deal with this behavior but it can be frustrating for everyone involved.

A few other fun favorites...
Song: ABCs
Number: 8
TV Show: PJ Masks & Mickey
Phrase:  "Put me down!!" or "Mama, I have a present for you...."
Toy: Magna Tiles
Person: Sloane
Food: Any fruit

Sloaney Bologna
If someone gave this girl a microphone and put her on stage she'd be set for life.  She is the most extroverted toddler I know.  The other day my friend told me her husband was a little jealous of how much Sloane loved Michael.  I shared this with Michael and he said, "She gave me a hug and saw him smiling at her so she kept giving me dramatic hugs and kissing my face."  Total actress (though she does adore Michael).

Everything with Sloane is a big deal.  When life is good, it is really, really good.  When something goes wrong, leave it to Sloane to make it the biggest deal on earth.  She has perfected her Charlie Brown walk when she is sad and it is HILARIOUS.

Sloane is fiercely independent.  She wants to do everything herself.  She also wants to help you but quickly gets bored and moves on.  She's inquisitive and resourceful.  She loves Jude but loses patience with him quickly.  They are the epitome of an old married couple and we constantly hear her yell in her most exasperated voice, "Ju-uuude."  One day he will be holding her purse.

She loves meeting new people.  I've caught her many times talking to a stranger.  She's always very polite: "Hi, my name is Sloane Elisabeth Haynes.  What's your name?"  Once they answer, she tells them about her day.  Fortunately, they've all been extremely polite strangers and listen intently.

We were advised by Jude's therapist to have Sloane tested for the early learning school as well. She was accepted - Michael and I were more than shocked.  Sloane has a very large vocabulary, but she has some pronunciation issues (leaves letters out of words, etc.).  She now goes to school two days a week (two hours each day) to work on those specific areas.  To be honest, neither of us truly feel this is necessary but we're trusting we made the right decision and she will "graduate" in no time.

Sloane absolutely love her friends.  Her prayers at night go on for days and she constantly asks me what they're up to.  She loves seeing them at ballet and school - my prayer is she'll be a friend to everyone she meets and not just her favorites.

A few other fun favorites...
Song: Jesus Loves Me & Twinkle, Twinkle
Number: 3
TV Show: PJ Masks & Sophia the First
Phrase:  "I want to do it all. by. my. self." "Please, Please, pretty please? (bats eyes)"
Toy: Her microphone and stuffed animals
Person: Whoever is standing closest to her
Food: Pizza & Pancakes

The past year has been amazing.  There have been plenty of rough moments and tears from all of us.  I've spent many nights praying to God to give me wisdom to parent because I have no clue what I'm doing.  Michael and I have perfected the look that says, "We need to get out of here RIGHT NOW."  Sometimes our days are total disasters and I'm counting the minutes until bedtime.


I couldn't love anything more.  I feel so lucky I get to spend my days with these two, learning all of their little intricacies that make them so unique.  I smile knowing they can and will be their worst around me because they're comfortable with me.  I'm honored to be their mom and if Sloane would lend me her microphone, I'd shout it from the rooftops.

Here's to many more tears, fears, and (best of all) years.


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