Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lake Time

This weekend we headed up to Smith Lake with the Tanners.  The six kids have a ball together, and they have all of the toys needed to keep everyone entertained....a boat, ski toys, a waverunner, fishing rods and indoor toys.  As soon as we got there, we hit the ground running and boarded the boat!  All of the kids took turns tubing, then the parents (minus me) skied and/or wakeboarded.  Before we headed in though, we let the kids try water-skiing.  I was so proud of Bennett for trying multiple times, and finally getting up too!
William, Pres, MaryCase and B
Bennett is finally up!
Pres on skis
Caroline and Bennett floating
Miz taking the boys for a spin
Even Miz got up for his first time on the wakeboard
Later that night, we grilled burgers and relaxed.  After the kids were safely settled in bed, we took a late night boat cruise (don't worry, Brian's father was at the house in case any of the kids woke up).  The moon was huge and the sky was loaded with stars....something we don't get to see that often in Birmingham.
The next day, we awoke to a huge breakfast...thanks to Brian's father.  We had scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, biscuits and fresh fruit.  It was delicious and just what we needed to get the day started!  Thereafter we hit the water again, with more tubing and skiing.  We encouraged the kids to keep trying new things, today it was wakeboarding.  William was the first one to attempt it, and he got up for a minute.  Then Preston gave it a try.  After a few bad falls, he finally got up, but only for a few seconds.  Just long enough for me to snap these:

Bennett also gave it the old college try, but like Preston...had several bad falls.  After a handful of times, she gave up.  The Tanner girls were next, and none of them succeeded either.  All of the kids complained of stomach aches after their falls, so I guess that started scaring them.

She sure looked cute looking the part....
What a fun filled weekend on the water with friends!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Camp Winnataska

We are happy to report that Bennett made it through her first spend the night camp experience!  Back in January, we began talking about the possibility of going to camp away from home for a few nights.  At first she was apprehensive, but as the time got closer, she became more comfortable with the idea.  We have been preparing for months....learning to bath by herself (learning to get all of the shampoo and conditioner out of her hair), shopping for the essentials, having sleepovers, and just talking it up so she wouldn't be worried.
Bennett and Caroline

On Wednesday afternoon, Pres and I drove her out with her gigantic duffel bag and pillow!  We got her all checked in, I made her bed, took a few photos, and then she basically kicked us out.  As my eyes started to well up with tears as I hugged her one last time, she said "you don't have to walk me back, I got it."  My baby girl was growing up....

Samantha, B, Vivian and Caroline

Bennett in front of her cabin

Bennett w/ Adelaide, one of her counselors
For the past few days, Steve and I have checked pictures online, but that was our only way of checking in on her.  Of course, we were so excited to go get her this morning and hear all about it.  She looked happy, and said she had a great time.  When we asked her to tell us about it, she would tell us bits and pieces, as she remembered them.  She is eager to return for a week, and I know she had fun.  She got to drink Pepsi (which she hadn't tasted before camp...yes we are those parents), go canoeing, swim in the lake and pool, go horseback riding, hiking, sing and dance, do crafts, shoot bows and arrows, experience a ropes course, and otherwise just be independent for three days!  We are so happy that her experience was a good one, and hope that the years to follow keep providing her with long lasting memories. 

Telling Preston all about camp
Camp Winnataska is a great little camp, and we are lucky to have it so close to our house (less than 45 minutes away).  This year they celebrated their 95th anniversary, so Bennett participated in some special birthday activities.  The camps run Sunday to Saturday for the older campers, but the younger kids have the option to go for 3 nights or 6 nights.  Each night they have a special theme....cowboys and Indians, glow night, super heroes, etc.  They certainly keep them busy from morning to night, preventing them the opportunity to miss their families.  However, she was excited to see us all, just as we were to see her again.  Love that little girl!
Together Again!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wishes Really Do Come True!

Steve and I are absolutely THRILLED to announce that we have another bun in the oven!


confirming it, over and over
I want to start off by saying that I started writing this post on April 29th, but wanted to wait several weeks until we heard the heartbeat, confirmed that there is in fact a baby in there and that we made it to the "safe zone." When Preston was one, we began trying for our third child. Even though our life was chaotic much of the time with two children under three, we always envisioned our lives with three. Two plus years later, we were still without. It brought us a lot of disappointment and sadness, but we thought maybe it was God's plan.

It wasn't until I began selling baby things on Craig's List or at consignment stores that the real sadness set in for me. After discussing it more, we decided we needed to give it a little longer. But before we kept doing what we were doing (which wasn't working), we had my OB run some tests (Feb 2012). Thankfully, all looked good inside of me, and Steve was in great shape. The first mode of fertility is usually Clomed, which she thought would work for me, so I immediately started that.  After a miscarriage, and bad bedside manner dealing with it, we decided to switch OBs in March.

That doctor continued with the Clomed for several months, slowing increasing the dosage, but nothing positive occurred, except "chemical pregnancies."  Basically that is when you get a positive pregnancy test, but it never goes further than that.  Dr. McKee decided after three months to pull the plug on my fertility, and refer us to a specialist (since time was not on our side).

Dr. Long and the ART Fertility Clinic ended up being a huge blessing.  Dr. Long is a compassionate, funny man who never rushes me out of his office.  He is honest, yet kind...a tough combination for a doctor.  He met with Steve and I and tried to gauge our expectations, and explained the risk-reward ratio of different fertility methods. Since Clomed and I did not get along (I had WILD mood swings), he immediately pulled me from that and tried a different drug, Follistim.  Once again we had several "chemical pregnancies."  By December, I was tired of crying all of the time and finally agreed to the laparoscopic surgery that he wanted me to do months before.  As it turned out, I did have some endometriosis (which he removed).  After waiting the proper amount of time, we finally got back on track with another round of fertility (what we had decided after 3 months off as our FINAL month). 

Since we had somewhat succumbed to the fact that we were just going to be a family of four,  we were shocked to take a pregnancy test and have it be positive.  I took one for several days in a row before I called the clinic for an appointment (trying to verify that it wasn't another chemical one).  So you can imagine our happiness when we went in for the initial ultrasound and saw the sac.  Several days later we went back and actually saw the heart beat!

We remained cautious, but week after week, baby Miz continued to flourish.  The heart rate got stronger, it grew and we watched it develop right before our eyes!  I have had weekly appointments for the past 7 weeks, and have not complained once, as it is such a blessing to be reassured each week.  Last week I saw it wiggle, so Dr. Long said my chances for miscarriage declined significantly.  Today the baby moved all over the place... flipping, kicking and the technician was able to get a wonderful close-up of its legs crossed and of it waving to us.  We loved seeing its little toes and fingers....GOD IS GREAT!
May 10th (5 wk 4 d)

 June 3rd (9 weeks)
June 12th: legs crossed and waving at us (10 wk 2 d)
We still have some hurdles, but we are cautiously optimistic that this was God's plan all along...he must have thought I needed more time between my kiddos.  We go in for genetic testing next week, and our final appointment with Dr. Long is on July 1st before getting discharged back to my regular OB who will see us through the remainder of the pregnancy.  Since I am still in my first trimester for another couple of weeks, I ask for prayers.   I am also weeks away from my 41st birthday, making me "advanced maternal age."  Of course we worry about the health of this little angel in my belly, but we are staying positive and praying for continued good news.  We ask that you do the same.  In the meantime, we promise to keep you posted until early January when he/she is due.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Good-bye Sweet Spencer

This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life....having to come to terms with the fact that we were going to lose Spencer, my beloved weimaraner.  Though I have always referred to him as "my dog," he was very much apart of Steve, Bennett and Preston's lives too.  We all lost a loving companion today.

Spencer, 3 months old
My life with Spencer started on a cold, snowy day in Illinois.  I convinced my mother to drive with me to a small town south of Peoria to pick a sibling for my older weim, Shelby.  I was eyeing a little pup in one litter, but my mom spotted Spencer in the back of a large kennel, buried behind his siblings, just staring at her.  She grabbed him, and before long, we both were enamoured.  I have always called him my "bargain puppy" because the breeders were selling him for only $250 since he was in the older litter of pups and they wanted to get rid of them.  In addition, I talked them down another $50 because I felt they cropped his tail wrong.  (what a wonderful bargain he ended up being)  As most new puppies do, he was stinky, but he was ridiculously cute with his big blue eyes and floppy ears, we couldn't resist snuggling with him the whole way home.

checking each other out on day 1, Spencer was 8 wks old
One of my earliest memories of him as a puppy was not being able to find him in my house in Illinois.  I kept calling for him, but he wouldn't come.  I walked all over, and finally down to the basement, only to find him INSIDE of the 40lb bag of dog food eating away!  It didn't take long for me to realize I needed to keep his food in a Tupperware container.  He has since been obsessed with food, and had an internal clock for 6am and 5pm. 

Over the next couple of years, the two dogs bonded and became very close.  Spencer was super easy to potty train, and never took an obedience class.  He was a pleaser by nature, and learned all of his good habits from Shelby.
learning from Shelby how to grab a quick sip
saying hello from the top of the stairs

Spencer (L) and Shelby (R)
Flash forward a few years, I was packed up and ready to move to Birmingham.  The moving truck had pulled away with all of my possessions, and my car was stuffed full with all of my "valuable stuff" and live plants.  I didn't realize how full it was until the dogs and I got in the car.  Only the front two seats were free, so we did what we had done many times before....Spencer rode shotgun, and Shelby curled up in my lap while I drove.  I know it wasn't safe, but we were well practiced.  Those two dogs were my children, and went everywhere with me.  My car had become their second home, and they were awesome travel partners.

Once we safely arrived in Birmingham, and got settled....we began socializing.  We ran almost daily, and made friends everywhere.  Ten years ago, weims weren't as common as there are now, and since my two were so well behaved, they were rarely on a leash.  When I first met Steve, he was shocked that I had two large dogs that were house dogs (he was raised with outdoor dogs).  I however, learned from my parents that dogs were part of the family, and I spoiled them rotten, just like my parents spoiled their dogs.

Always by my side

As our dating progressed and we started spending more time together, we had to have a talk.  He was always coming over to my house to hang out, but wanted me to spend more time at his house.  I was okay with that, but I clearly explained that Shelby and Spence were not cats (like his pet, Stella), and couldn't be left alone for long periods of time and would need to come with me.  He wasn't quite sure, but eventually warmed to the idea.  Before long, we were married and the dogs and I had pushed Stella out of the house altogether (thanks Mimi and Papa for taking her in for us), and the four of us were snuggling in our queen sized bed....something Steve NEVER liked!
Giving Bennett a kiss

Spencer loved his Poppy!
We quickly welcomed Bennett, and shortly thereafter had to put Shelby down (another horrific day in my life).  Thankfully, I was distracted with the birth of Bennett, and still had Spencer to keep me happy.  But after having Preston a year and a half later, and deciding to stay at home...Spencer started to change.  He became very dependent on me, and would become anxious if we left him.  Unfortunately, it became harder and harder to get away...I would always worry about him.  These last few years have been particularly hard.  He has consistently been losing weight (going from 90lbs to 42lbs).  We have been running bloodwork, doing xrays and ultrasounds, having physicals all along the way, but he has not been a typical case for anything.  With several vets consulting on him, we thought we could get a formal diagnosis, but we never could.  We knew he suffered from separation anxiety, had at least one tumor and most recently either had a stroke or suffered from vestibular syndrome.  All week, he was not himself...his equilibrium has been off, he has been disoriented, and he just had an empty look in his eyes.  We couldn't care for him at home, and took him to the hospital portion of our vet on Tuesday.
Chilling in Eatonton

he always tolerated us dressing him up
learning to swim at Smith Lake
playing doctor with Bennett


We have visited him daily, met with the vets and watched him stay the same.  We have shed so many tears this week, and have been looking for signs of improvement, but never saw it.  He did wag his tail at me today (perhaps because he knew I needed that), the first time he has done that in 4 days, but he was still the same.  So Steve and I snuggled with him, told him what a great dog he has been, and how he has brought us all so much joy.  We told him to find Shelby in heaven, and then we let him go.  I am completely broken right now, and I hope that time will heal my wounds.  All week, the house has been quiet, and I haven't been greeted by my barking pal who slobbers all over my front door.  I hope I will get used to that.

snuggling with Steve
I have a lot of wonderful memories of Shelby and Spencer to keep reminding me why I am such a dog lover, and love the weimaraner breed.  They are so smart and loyal.  They are definitely high energy dogs, but are well suited for my personality since I am always on the go.  They love to snuggle, and Spencer was no different...he loved sleeping underneath the covers with us!  They can be manipulative, for example Spencer always knew he could sneak a snack from Poppy (my father), Mimi (Steve's mother) or Preston, and never let Steve or I sleep past 6am (he wanted his breakfast).  Spencer was so patient with the kids.  I FULLY trusted him, and knew that he would never intentionally hurt my babies.  He was never interested much in other animals, and therefore walked without a leash until this past week.  He was a lover, and will be missed greatly by all who knew him.
I love you buddy!!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Kick-Off!!

School ended on May 23rd, and we decided to head south to the beach on Friday morning, May 24th for eight glorious days.  We rented the same house that we stayed in for spring break and got up early so we could arrive by 1pm.  Everything went smoothly, and we were able to hit the beach by 2pm.  The ocean was very calm, and the kids were in the water almost instantly!  The Jarmons came down with us for the weekend, and the kids had a blast together!  We stayed on the beach until sunset and then enjoyed a delicious shrimp boil for our first meal.

1st Night with Jarmons (look at that huge moon)

Mary Ellis, Pres, B and Carson
Napping on the beach!
Day two, we were slow moving.  When we finally got on our bikes and headed towards the donut truck, they were shockingly sold out by 9am!  What I found so kind though, is that the owner was outside handing out "get 2 free donuts" cards to everyone in line that missed out.  Kids hit the park though, and weren't disappointed.  We snuck in another full day at the beach, and then Brian Jarmon made his infamous crab cakes. 

On our third day, we got up early enough to have luck with donuts, then we continued our morning bike ride, and hit the beach again early.  Both kids napped on the beach (at our suggestion), so they could hang for our nighttime activities...a bonfire on the beach with neighborhood friends.  Memorial Day week is always a busy time, but we had no idea how many of our Homewood friends would be staying in our same neighborhood this week.  We all decided to go in on a bonfire.  It was an absolutely perfect night!  We roasted marshmallows for s'mores, went crabbing, watched the fireworks that Alys Beach put on, and danced on the beach until 11pm.  Everyone had a ball!!
My boys
Pres and William showing us their dance moves
Tanners, us and Jarmons
Sadly the Jarmons had to leave on Monday, but we were able to enjoy a full day of just us (and the Tanners and Bembrys down the street).  We had a wonderful day, and ate at Edward's in Rosemary that night for dinner.  It was another perfect night, so we sat out on their patio.  The kids were awesome, and just enthralled with the man singing and playing guitar. We rewarded them with ice cream from the Sugar Shak! 

Pres, Will, B, Maddie, MC, Sofie, Caroline, Sara Francis & Maddie
The next day, we all rode to the donut truck (again) for Mary Case's birthday.  Then we headed to Alys Beach's park for a little unwinding before the beach. We spent the rest day frolicking on the beach.  Then mid day, Mary Michael and her crew arrived.  Sadly when she arrived, Steve had to return to Birmingham for a meeting, so I was solo with the kids that night.  Fortunately, we had plans, the Tanners organized a pizza party on MC's behalf.  We all dined at the Bembry's place and then rode bikes into Rosemary for their summer kick-off party.  Since we had so many children, we all took a few and started standing in lines for the activities: tattoos, hair painting, silly photos, limbo dancing, etc.  The party only lasted two hours, but we packed it in and then headed home for an early night.

Pres and William laughing about something
My crew before getting anything done!
The girls after their face painting
The boys showing off their air brushed tattoos
The gang before we left
Precious Lucy
By Wednesday, we were in full swing of our routine, so I decided to change it up and pack up the kids and head to Watersound to visit Brian and Shannon and their crew.  The kids were super excited to see their cousins so they happily agreed.  Unfortunately, the winds were picking up, and the beach wasn't very pleasant.  So after an hour or so, we packed up and went back to their pool.  The cousins had a ball hanging out together, and I enjoyed visiting with everyone.  By late afternoon, I made the kids get in the car and go back to our place to shower so we could meet Steve for dinner.  He was almost back in town, so we decided to meet in PCB at one of our favorite oyster restaurants...Dusty's!  The kids fell asleep on the short drive there, but quickly awoke when they saw their daddy!

Dusty's oysters!!
With only two days left, we packed in the bike riding, dining out and beach time!  Thursday night, we took the kids out for Mexican (their favorite), and then to Rosemary to watch a family movie on the green.  We rode our bikes there (with our beach chairs on our backs), wine packed in a cooler and stored safely in our bike basket, and then spread out, got some popcorn and settled in for another wonderful family night!

Pres and Lucy
Our last day, we got up early for another bike ride, hit the donut truck one last time, got some coffee and then went to the park for the kids to play.  Then we were off to the beach for our final day.  We had our heart set on trying George's for lunch, but we ultimately decided to go there for dinner with the Tanners and Bembrys because we didn't want to come off the beach.  A group of 14 for dinner made us wait some, but we agreed to split up so we could be seated sooner.  The guys took all of the boys and we sat with the girls.  The food was divine, and it was the perfect "last supper" for us!  Afterward, we treated the kids to dessert at the new candy store in Seacrest...Cool Candy. Then we all biked home and took some more photos before turning in for the night.
nothing better than morning bike rides

goofing off at the park

Maddie, B and Mary Case patiently waiting for dinner

William and Preston

Cool Candy Store

Biking in our neighborhood

Final Family Photo
What a WONDERFUL vacation!  We absolutely love our time at the beach, and hope to purchase a home there sometime in the not so far future.  Our kids have really grown to like all of the activities and the food is so ridiculous!  So until July.....