Sunday, December 28, 2014

My New Normal

Before Hazel's diagnosis, my life was relatively normal. I am married to the love of my life, raising two young girls, just under 2.5 years apart. I stay at home with the girls in our town home in the middle of Suburbia, while he works a manual labor job for 50+ hours a week. We attend church on a weekly basis (sometimes more!), where we are active in ministry, both serving and being served.
Then my world was rocked with the word "achondroplasia".
My youngest is now considered a special needs child.
Specialists, x-rays, adaptations, therapy, and her future were being discussed in a serious matter.
I reached out to other parents through social media. I never thought I'd be so thankful for Facebook and Instagram. The other moms I talked to seemed to be so casual about their children's diagnoses. It seemed so normal for them. I went through the "this is the stuff that happens to other people" feeling over and over again. It didn't feel real. It didn't feel normal.
It felt strange. I wondered if her x-rays got mixed up with another child's. Maybe she's just really short. Like, really, really short. I knew though, that those thoughts were untrue. Hazel has achondroplasia. Just like she has red hair. It's a part of her.
In the end, Hazel is still Hazel. Nothing has changed about her. We just got to know her a little better.
And she is little and loving it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why We "Do Santa"

Growing up, my Christmas traditions consisted of Christmas Eve service, an angel on the tree, and Santa. I remember waiting in line at the mall to sit on his knee, and whisper my wishes into his ear. Light up shoes and Pow-pow-power Wheels. While Santa always had other gifts in mind, I never stopped believing in him because he failed to bring me those two items. We always left out a few cookies (sometimes homemade, other times packaged) along with a glass of milk for him, and a few carrots for his reindeer. I remember bouncing down the stairs, hair uncombed, still in my jammies, making sure the jolly old man enjoyed his treats. cookie crumbs, half-eaten carrots, and an empty milk glass sat on the kitchen table. He was here! Stockings were dumped, and wrapping paper was torn. Soon, the morning tradition was over, but not without me shouting, "Thank you Santa!" out the window. My poor parents!
My husband had a slightly different experience. His parents chose to skip the Santa traditions completely. They still gave and received gifts, but none of them were from Santa. There was no talk of reindeer or the North Pole. No cookies and milk were left out.
So when we started our own family, we were faced with the question of which traditions we would keep, and which ones would fall by the wayside. It wasn't an easy decision. We wanted to honor our faith, and keep Christmas about CHRIST. I admit, at first, I wasn't too keen on the idea of "lying" to my kids, conning them into good behavior, lest an old man in a red suit fills their stocking with coal. But by the time Annabelle's first Christmas rolled around, I began to soften up to Santa again. Her second Christmas, she was 17 months old, and starting to understand a little more, and I became mush. I just couldn't make it through December without Santa and his reindeer.
I realized that Santa is more than that though. He is more than just a sleigh-flying cookie-eating, reindeer-feeding old guy.
I enjoy giving my girls gifts, and receiving no credit for it.
Santa is when we don't let the right hand know what the left hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).
When you hear stories of people paying for a family's meal at a restaurant, or leaving notes of encouragement on someone's windshield, or paying off layaways at the department stores, that is Santa.
So, I encourage you reader, be more Santa this year. It doesn't have to be as big as paying off someone's layaway purchases. It can be as small as helping a stranger load groceries into their car, or buying a stranger a coffee.
We do Santa because it adds an extra level of joy and love to this season.
 (By the way, I still want a pair of light-up shoes).

Monday, December 1, 2014


And just like that, she's one.
So here's a little bit about our joyful little girl.

And of course, Hazel is little & loving it!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hazel Update

For those of you asking how Hazel's appointments went last week:
1. Thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement. It is easy to feel alone as a "special needs" mom. It means so much to me to know that so many people care about and love my girls so much.
2. Annabelle's behavior and patience through the morning was amazing! After a long car ride, late dinner, early morning, unfamiliar meals, and being away from home, we were prepared for the worst. But she gave us her best. We were in appointments from 8:30-11:30. Not once did she whine or complain. In fact, she was very curious, and excited to see Hazel's x-rays. Maybe we have a future x-ray technician on our hands?
3. I cannot say enough about the Ronald McDonald House! There was a moment when we thought they wouldn't have a room available for us, but they offered a room voucher for a nearby hotel since we had booked our room ahead of time. (Because they never know for sure how long a family will need a room, they cannot guarantee room availability). However, they called us back a few hours later, and reconfirmed that we would indeed have a room in the House. While there, the girls were able to enjoy the play rooms, and we were able to enjoy having hot meals provided for us.
4. Hazel's doctors are very happy with what they saw. Hazel's spine looks wonderful, and she is showing no signs of hydrocephalus or other complications related to her Achondroplasia. Yay! They want to see her again in 6 months for another followup.
5. She slept enough during her sleep study to get sufficient data. After screaming, and pulling at the nasal cannula  (used for monitoring oxygen flow) for a full 2 hours, she finally exhausted herself, and slept until 5am, only waking 2 or 3 times when she lost her pacifier. This time around, I personally slept better than her last sleep study, as I knew more of what to expect.

All that being said, we had a very wonderful trip to Delaware. We even got to meet with another LP family for a playground play-date.
Used with permission from

Friday, November 7, 2014

8 Reasons To Garden

When I go grocery shopping, I rarely buy produce. I might buy a bunch or two of bananas each week, but I pass by the shining bell peppers, and glowing carrots. I skip right to the cereals, pastas, and canned goodness.  But my family eats plenty of fresh produce everyday. In fact, I recently made a carrot-top pesto along with fresh green beans in a homemade tomato sauce for dinner. It was divine.
No, I don't like paying for fruits and vegetables that have been doused in poisonous chemicals, irradiated, and covered in a shiny wax, just so it looks good and doesn't go bad in the week-long trek to the store. No thank you.
This Summer, our family joined two other families on a new and exciting adventure of gardening. It's a lot of work, and is a major time commitment. But it is worth it. Here are a few reasons we choose to garden, and will continue to do so in future years.
1. It's better than going to the grocery store.
I dread going to the grocery store with the kids in tow each week. We walk in, and immediately I forget what I came for. My coupons are a mess, and already Annabelle is asking for a snack, a drink, and a potty break all while Hazel is attempting to Houdini her way out of the Mei Tai wrap. I reach for my list, just to realize I left it in the car. Do I hike all the way back through the parking lot, wasting precious minutes of patience from the girls, or do I just wing it? I'm not going back out. I wrote the list. I studied the list. I know what's on the list. Wait. Were Cheerios on sale here, or at the other store?
After navigating the aisles for what feels like an eternity, I realize I forgot to get the chicken breasts for tonight's dinner. Backtrack. Past the ice cream. Past the donuts. Past the candy aisle. Again.
Finally, we are done shopping. And then there are the lines. Twenty checkout stations, and only two are open. Seriously? Annabelle squirms in the cart, eye level with the chocolate bars and $1 impulse items, as the shopper in front of us empties her purse in search for that 15 cent coupon that expired last month anyway.
2. Save money
Our grocery bill this Summer has been well below budget most weeks. Unfortunately toilet bowl cleaner and fruit snacks don't grow in a garden. We have still purchased some produce from the store: bananas, avocados, bagged salad. But that has been minimal. With that being said, we have been frequenting the grocery store less. It's easier to stock up on non-perishables on a semi-weekly basis.
3. Kids are interested in eating something they helped grow
Allowing children to help in the kitchen has been a tactic against picky eating for years. When a child helps with dinner, she is likely to be proud of her work, and eat whatever she made. This rings true for the garden as well. We have had a few dinners this Summer that were almost entirely from the garden. One in particular, was Italian seasoned zucchini cakes with homemade tomato sauce. One little reminder to Annabelle that our dinner came from the garden, and she dug right in.
4. You control the use of pesticides
I have a problem with eating "USDA certified organic". Yes, organic does have its advantages of lacking harmful pesticides. But, that label comes at a hefty cost. Companies pay big bucks to have their facilities inspected by government workers to ensure pesticides were not used.
It's much easier (and cheaper) to maintain pest control yourself. I would be amiss to say that we have not used any pesticides at all in the garden. We had to use a very mild pesticide on one type of plant to avoid losing the entire crop to bugs. The way I see it, is that pesticides do not need to be an all-or-nothing deal. We chose not to spray the entire garden and surrounding area with toxins, but we also chose to save our crop when necessary.
Are we USDA certified organic? No.
But we are doing our best.
5. Educate children
One evening, as we were harvesting tomatoes as a family, I had to chuckle to myself. Annabelle was picking tomatoes in red, orange, and purple.Yes. Purple. We also have purple basil. What's going to happen when Annabelle is in school, and is given a coloring page of a tomato, and reaches for a purple crayon? Children are taught that tomatoes are red, and leaves are green. While that is not false, it's also not entirely true. Annabelle and Hazel will hopefully have a better understanding about how plants grow, and that tomatoes, peppers, and onions come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.
6. A true appreciation and thanksgiving at the table
One Saturday afternoon, after a long morning of gardening, we loaded up the van with our harvest. We worked hard for that food. The lettuce, and tomatoes were still warm from the morning sun. And as we gathered to pray before eating, our words carried so much more weight: "Thank You, Lord for this bounty. Thank You for allowing this to grow from seed. Thank you for protecting our crop from excessive heat, drought, or animals"
That was a big moment for me. We planted the seed. But He allowed it to grow. And protected it. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:7 "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
7. Family bonding
Gardening is not a one man job. It takes a lot of teamwork and man-hours (woman-hours? child-hours?). Evenings when we get to go to the garden are magical. Annabelle prances through the field, begging Tad to cut her some pretty flowers; Hazel crawls on a blanket laid across the grass; Tad finds the perfect eggplants, cucumbers, and lettuces for the week's meals; all while I take it all in. We talk, laugh, and enjoy the uninterrupted company of one another. There is no television beckoning at us, no computers vying for our attention. Just us and the garden.
8. Pay it forward
God has been so good to us. This has been one of the mildest Summers I remember in my life. Evenings have been cool, no higher than 70F, accompanied by weekly rainshowers. This has allowed our garden to thrive, and multiply fruitfully. We can't keep up with it all. Eating all of it has been nearly impossible for the three families.
We are commanded throughout the Bible to give our first-fruits to the Lord. We have been encouraged by these passages to bless a local ministry with boxes upon boxes of produce. I do not say this to pat ourselves on the back, but to give glory back to God. Because He made our garden plentiful, that He may provide for us, as well as others.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Apple Sauce

The wonderful part of starting our own family, is starting our own family traditions. With Autumn being my favorite time of year, my favorite new tradition takes place during these crisp, cozy months.
It all begins when Tad comes home with a beautiful arrangement of flowers a decadent box of chocolates a bushel of apples.

Yes, I said apples.

But not just any apples.
Empire apples.
Mahogany red, crunchy, sweet, aromatic Empire apples.
I eagerly rinse each piece of fruit, and lay them all out on a towel to dry. A few apples always seem to go missing before being quartered and sliced.

It takes me three pots to keep the apples simmering until soft. In the end, I have just two pots of the soft, pink perfume.

Tad then sets up the strainer, as I call Annabelle into the kitchen to help. Her golden locks bounce behind her, as she sings and skips into the kitchen.
It's apple sauce time.
Apple soup goes in the plastic white funnel to be turned and pressed through the mesh holes, and down the aluminum slide.
Apple sauce.
Bright pink, and still warm from the stove-top, the sauce is now scooped into individual bowls for each of us to enjoy the sweet goodness that is homemade apple sauce.

We have plenty to freeze for later, but it never lasts very long before being consumed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

11 Months

10 months, 3 weeks, 2 days to be exact.
That's how long it took for strangers to notice Hazel's small stature.
When we first began sharing her diagnosis with loved ones, we were often asked, "When will it become noticeable?"
I never really knew how to handle the question. I noticed it. Specialists noticed it. Other people in the LP community noticed it.
But now strangers are noticing it. And commenting on it. And asking questions.
We were at our favorite place for lunch, Chick-fil-A as a special mid-week treat. After finishing our meal (rather, after Annabelle ate all her food, as well as half of my nuggets, and most of my fries!), it was time to run, climb, and slide. Annabelle took off ahead of me, ready to play.
I sat on a small bench next to a friend, and put Hazel down to crawl around the floor for a bit.
She scooted and commando-crawled all over the place, as fast as she could. She squealed and giggled the whole time, watching the bigger kids climb and slide. I flashed back to Annabelle at that age. By a year, she was climbing along with the bigger kids, cruising all over the place.
Some of the other Moms who were watching their kids play, commented on Hazel.
"Look at her go!"
"She's quick!"
"So strong!"
"Is she just a peanut? Or just really strong for her age?"
There it was.
The height of a 4-month-old, moving around like an 8-month-old.
But nearing her 1st birthday.
"Well, she's almost 11 months."
Suddenly the comments regarding her strength and speed seemed to fall from the air and shatter into a million little pieces. She isn't quick or strong for a typical 11-month-old.
While my eyes never left Hazel, careful that she didn't get stepped on or tripped over by the gaggle of preschoolers around her, I could feel the awkwardness in the air.
11 months old? She should be practically walking by now. She's so small.
"She has a form of dwarfism, so she's very short for her age."
I didn't go into detail about her low tone, or delayed physical development.
I just didn't know what to say.
Yes, she's  peanut. But there's so much more to it than just that.
There is so much to HER than just that.
Hazel is a little comedian. Hazel doesn't let anything stand in her way. Hazel is a very happy little girl.
Hazel is little and loving it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Messy Monday: Pumpkin Playdoh

Autumn has arrived. And I couldn't be happier.
Last Tuesday was the first full day of my favorite season. The air was perfectly crisp, as I dressed the girls in long sleeves, and put a hat on Hazel to venture out for our daily walk around the neighborhood. They looked precious, all bundled up and warm. Trees were beginning to become dotted with bursts of yellow and orange.
But one of the best parts of Autumn is pumpkin spice everything.
So when I found this recipe for pumpkin spice playdough, I just had to share my love with Annabelle.
After our walk, Hazel was ready for a nap. Perfect time for some Mommy and Annabelle bonding and learning.
While this recipe was simple, it still took a great deal of parental supervision and assistance, as you need to use a stove.
I measured out the ingredients, and placed them in individual containers, so she could enjoy dumping each item into the pot before mixing it together. (I added a little vanilla extract to the water, to give it a little yummier smell.)
I was surprised that she mixed it for as long as she did before needing my help.
I'll admit, by the time the mixture came together, my arm was feeling a little sore.
Start to finish, I'd say it took about 10 or 15 minutes.
We waited a few more minutes before the dough was cool enough to touch, and I added a few drops of orange food coloring, and kneaded it to distribute the color.
I love that the cinnamon and nutmeg left flecks of brown in the dough to give it a more natural look to it.
Annabelle liked that the dough was still warm when I gave it to her. She had a great time making a family of little pumpkins.
It was so perfectly soft, and so much nicer than store-bought play-doh, It even cleaned up more easily.
When we were done playing (about an hour later), I placed the ball into a Ziploc bag, squeezed all the air out, and zipped it shut. We pulled it out again a few days later, and it was still very soft and pliable.

This recipe is a great base recipe, and I plan on making peppermint playdoh in December with red dye.
Try different scents and colors.
You can also add glitter for an extra shimmer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dollar Store Fun: Sponge Ball

Ever since I first entered the world of Pinterest -- you know, back when you had to be "invited" to join because it was some crazy elitist internet sensation -- I have been seeing this on my feed:
Sponge balls.
They looked way too good to be true. It really can't be that easy to create something so cute and fun. And for only one dollar? No way!
I pushed it off, and pushed it off.
Finally, at my most recent dollar store trip, I bought a few sponges. They came in packs of two brightly colored sponges for -- you guessed it -- one dollar.
I picked up three packs, each with one green and one orange sponge. Not everything has to be pink, okay?
I cut each sponge into 4 long strips, trying to make them uniform in size. Then, I stacked them together to create a checkerboard pattern: 4 across, and 2 high.
I secured each stack in the middle with a hair tie, and voila! I was done.
Annabelle headed out to her water table, ready to play with her new toys.
She had a blast.
She loved squeezing the water onto the sidewalk.
And just throwing the sponges into the water.
After about an hour of play, one of the sponges tore. It was only $1, so no big loss there.
I'm sure more expensive, sturdier sponges would hold up to more abuse, and would be more appropriate in a larger group setting.
But it served its purpose for us.

If (when) I do this again, I may do a few things differently:
1. Involve Annabelle in the stacking and patterning of the sponge strips. Allow her to build sponge structures, and learn about patterns in math.
2. Use an actual rubber band, rather than hair tie for better elasticity and tighter hold around the sponges.
3. Stack together 3 sponges for a fuller look.
4. Maybe add scraps of pretty ribbon or fabric for additional flair.

Hazel also enjoyed the activity, since I let her ride in the Moby wrap while we played.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On The Move

I haven't made time for writing these past few weeks, so I thought I would give a little Hazel update.
She's crawling!

Sort of. It's more like an Army crawl, bear crawl combo. I honestly didn't believe it when I first saw it. I thought it was a fluke. There's no way my baby is crawling already at 8 months!
Sure enough, as the days passed, it became more evident that my little Hazelnut is indeed mobile. I love watching her get up on hands and feet, rocking herself back and forth, finally pushing her little body forward for the toy that is just out of reach. She squirms the right side of her body forward, the the left, and right again. Nothing is safe anymore. Once she reaches her desired toy, she grabs hold of it, and effortlessly flips to her back, bringing the treasure in for a taste.

Just three months ago, she was barely holding her head up. She would only roll over when her neck became wearie, and her head flopped over to one side.
Just one month ago, she was laying on her tummy, bringing one arm out from under her (being supported only by her other arm) to reach for toys.
And now this.
Hazel is a very determined little girl, and I am so proud of her hard work.
Sunday night, she spied a standing toy that she wanted to play with at church. My heart broke a little as I thought she wouldn't be able to play with it.
But she didn't know that.
She wriggled her little self across the room to the toy. There was a spinning rattle piece with colorful beads that was so inviting to her.
She moved closer and closer, until she was almost under the toy.
She reached one arm up, then the switched to the other.
Stretching as much as her elbows would allow, she finally got it!
She laid there, spinning the rattle, watching the colorful beads dance around.
Never underestimate your children.
Never doubt what they are able to do.
Sometimes, it's best to sit back and watch. Let them figure it out.
Hazel is very determined to do whatever she wants.
And Hazel is little and loving it!
P.S. Be sure to check out the Facebook Page for more photos and videos!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I Write

When I was in first grade, I misspelled my first word on a spelling test. Dinosaur. I had never misspelled a word on a test before, and rarely have I misspelled a word on a test since that moment.
When I was in third grade, I was given a free-writing assignment. I chose to write about a recent dream I had. I remember becoming so engrossed in the assignment, that the time allotted was not sufficient for me to finish my story.
In tenth grade, I loved vocabulary assignments. I loved learning new words, and writing elaborate, poetic sentences on the white board.
Writing has always been a passion of mine.
But as I got older - and busier - I stopped making time to write. I also felt like I had nothing to write about. I read other blogs and thought, "I'm not an expert at anything. Nobody will want to read my blog."
Because, let's face it, I actually want people to read what I write.
Any other blog I've read is written by experts. Expert photographers. Expert designers. Expert chefs. Expert home organizers. I'm not an expert in any of those areas.
I was facing major writer's block.
Then we were blessed with Hazel.
I realized that my area of expertise is my own home. My own children.
Raising a child with a developmental difference can be stressful at times. Hazel came with her own bag of parental concerns. Is she holding her head up steadily enough? Should she be as physically active as she is? Is her back okay? When was the last time I checked her soft spot? When is her next checkup? Can this concern wait until we see the doctor next? Is that a concern for her pediatrician? Geneticist? Orthopedist? And the list goes on.
In this whirlwind of confusion, I have been blessed by other Mom bloggers who have been where I am now. I have become part of a wonderful community of parents who are going through the same struggles (and joys!).
Social media has been a helpful tool for myself and my family through these past months.
Writing has become an outlet for myself, as well as an educational tool for others (I hope!).
I don't have all the answers. I don't know everything there is to know about raising a child with achondroplasia. But I am learning.
God blessed me with a special little girl for a special purpose. And I'm not about to sit back, and let my gift go to waste.
Through this blog, I hope to educate, bless, and connect.
I am not an expert photographer, designer, chef, or home organizer. (That last one makes me laugh!)
But I am an expert at being Mommy to Annabelle and Hazel.
And that is a good enough reason to write.
Thank you all for joining my journey, and I hope you always leave blessed.
Here's just a fun little picture of me with my girls on Cow Appreciation Day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Equal Restroom Access For Little People

At nearly 3 years old, Annabelle has become quite the independent little girl. When she needs to use a public restroom, she waves her hand, and tells me, "Just don't watch. I can do it." I stand off to the side, peeking at her so I can help if she falls, or starts taking too much toilet paper. She wriggles herself up onto the toilet, and I take a deep breath, ignoring all the germs she is touching.
That's what soap is for, right?
She steadies herself on the toilet, and does her business. Now for the hard part. One hand on the toilet seat, she leans over to reach the toilet paper, and pull it towards herself. She's almost there.
A wipe, hop, and flush later, and she's done. She did it all by herself!
I hoist her 27-pound frame to reach the sink. She squirms uncomfortably, as I need to do this with one arm around her waist, while I balance Hazel on my hip, mindful of her head, which could flop back at any moment.
Bubbles foam, water splashes, and we are done.
I can't wait til she is tall enough to do this all independently.
For the LP community (people with dwarfism), this is an everyday struggle. It's not just preschoolers.
I spoke with one Mom, Chrissy Bernal about this.
Her daughter, Sienna, has a form of dwarfism, called primordial dwarfism. When Sienna was 13, they took a trip to the movies. When they needed to use the restroom, Chrissy was faced with a decision. Did she lift her teenager up to the sink, so she can wash her hands? Nope.
"Normally I would lift her up to help her wash her hands in the restroom, but I wanted to see how she would do on her own,"Chrissy recalls. "Without hesitation she climbed up on the counter and washed her hands."
Sounds legit, right?
Young teenage girl, hopping onto a counter to wash her hands.
Chrissy coninues, "Two ladies were near her and didn't see me. I saw them snicker about her ."
Not only can this be humiliating, it can also be dangerous.
Chrissy saw a need for change, and was not going to sit back.
She started asking local businesses to place stools, or lower sinks in their public restrooms.
What can you do to help?
First, I ask that you consider joining this movement. The next time you use a public restroom, take an extra minute to speak with the manager of the establishment, and ask about placing a step-stool at the sinks.
Second, please take a moment to sign and share this petition for change.
Third, follow the facebook page for updates on the changes that are occurring across the country, and hopefully around the world..
This change is not only for the LP community, but also for young children.

These images were provided to me by Chrissy Bernal, to illustrate a few of the many options available for equal access.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Messy Monday: Slime With A Twist

Having a child with eczema makes sensory play a bit of a challenge. But when that child loves sensory play, you make it happen.
Having made slime (corn starch and water) a few times already, I wanted to give it a little twist this time. After a quick search for "eczema friendly sensory play", I found Interaction Imagination. Her method used lotion and corn starch, but suggested trying coconut oil.
Coconut oil? We love coconut oil!
Here is what you will need:
I melted small Dixie cups of coconut oil, and added a few drops of green food coloring. I wish I had thought ahead, and had Annabelle help with this step. Being water-based, the food coloring did not mix with the oil. Instead, it bubbled, as it sank to the bottom of the cup. A quick stir with a chopstick broke up the bubbles into several tiny specks of green, floating in the oil. What fun that would have been with multiple colors in a clear cup and a flashlight.
I then placed the cups in the refrigerator to quickly solidify the oil. I was hoping this would enhance the sensory experience. While we waited, an impromptu game of balloon baseball with a hair brush broke out in the living room.
Annabelle especially loved trying to catch the balloon, while I kept whacking it with the hairbrush, out of her reach. She did correct me at one point, however. Apparently, you are only supposed to hit the balloon with the bristles.
Hazel enjoyed the show, too. She got excited whenever the balloon floated close to her.
Before long, the coconut oil was solidified, and ready.
Just like the baking soda experiment, I started by giving Annabelle one component of the activity at a time. She played with the corn starch like it was snow, scooping, scraping, and sculpting to the best of her ability.
After about 10 minutes, I added the oil. If I were to do this activity again, I would have left the oil at room temperature, so that it would be a solid state, but not so hard. She struggled to get the oil out of the cup and melt it with her hands. This caused her to lose some interest in the block of oil, until I helped her by squeezing it between my fingers.
Once that was done, though, her mess was under way. The highlight of the activity, was when she discovered she could make farting noises by squeezing the mixture between her palms. She giggled as the goop oozed between her fingers, and the fart noises abounded.

She played for about an hour, covering her arms and face in corn starch and coconut oil. Clean-up took about 10 minutes (not including getting herself cleaned up, which wound up being a quick bath).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Power Of A Smile

Summer is my busiest time of the year. Since Annabelle was a baby, I have babysat through the Summer months. Having children in the home who are in different age groups can be a challenge. This Summer has been no exception. This week has been no exception. This is the first year that I have three different age groups in my home: Hazel, being a very needy infant; Annabelle, being an independent pre-schooler; and this year, Gretchen (name has been changed for protection, since she is not my child). Gretchen is 6 years old, so that gives me my third age-group. School-aged.
So we have three very different sets of needs, schedules, and interests.
We have managed so far with walks, visits to parks, and reading books from the library.
This week, Gretchen has been at day camp!
Great. I will be loaded up, and out of the house by 9am every day, ready to run my errands. Then I can come home for swimming, lunch, and naps.
Who was I kidding? It's been more like: running out to the van, racing against the clock, breakfast half-eaten and shoved in my bag, jamming more into my morning than I accomplish in an average week, late lunch, and fighting an over-tired pre-schooler down for her afternoon nap, praying she doesn't wake the sleeping infant in the next room.
Three days in, and three out of four of us simultaneously ran out of steam.
I struggled to get out of bed by 7:15, Annabelle struggled to follow simple directions, and Gretchen struggled to get excited for camp.
We talked in the van about how much fun she would have with all of her friends, but I wasn't getting anywhere with either of the two girls.
If I didn't figure something out fast, we were in for a long, grumpy day.
So I did what any Mom would do in this situation.
I cranked up the radio, and danced like a fool at a stoplight. I I think I embarrassed the girls, as they begged me to stop.
"I'm not stopping until you both give me a great big smile!"
Finally, they cracked. Big, bright smiles crossed their faces, as they started to giggle.
Then Annabelle said something insightful.
"Smiling makes me happy."
So simple, and so true.
Smiling makes me happy.
If we would all wake up, and greet the sun with a smile, our mornings would go much more smoothly.
I held onto those words for the rest of our day, as we smiled through a near-empty gas tank, late lunch, and rough nap routine.
We all need to smile more.
Because smiling makes you happy.
Children can be out best philosophers, as they have the freshest, most innocent view of their world. They don't add caveats to their thoughts, or complicate them in feeble attempts to be poetic. They are just straight-forward and simple.
Smiling makes me happy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Update & First Times

I shared in a previous post that I have a Summer to-do list that I created with Annabelle in mind. I felt like I hadn't completed anything on my list. I felt like I has already failed, and I would never complete all of the tasks. So, I read it over. And guess what!? We did more than I realized. We have caught fireflies, read several books, made s'mores, met with friends with a picnic.
And today, Annabelle got her first haircut!
I was excited for it until this morning. My baby girl isn't a baby anymore. She is really going to do this. She is going to get her hair trimmed.
I opened the door to the small purple building, and guided Annabelle up the step, and into the salon. We were greeted right away with a friendly, "What can we do for you today?"
Before I could even open my mouth to answer, a small voice answered for me, "I need my haircut. But just leave it on my shoulders." Annabelle flipped her hair back, as she answered her hairdresser so kindly. I chuckled at my miniature teenager.
Our hairdresser was amused as well, and made small talk about what a talker Annabelle is.
When it was her turn, Annabelle waltzed right up to the chair, and hopped onto the booster seat.
Has she done this before?
I bright yellow cape, adorned with colorful monsters was draped around her, and fastened on the tightest snap.
Annabelle smiled through the whole process, barely moving a muscle. She loved the special attention, and compliments on how pretty she looked. I couldn't be more proud of her.
And her haircut was perfect.
She didn't lose too much length: just cleaned up the ends, and added the slightest little bit of layering.
At the end, Annabelle was presented with a certificate, which I will keep forever. I'm not usually attached to things like that, but this was a special moment.
I want to thank Jenn from Drangonflies Salon for Annabelle's wonderful haircut, and such a friendly experience. They offer haircuts for children at $1 per their age. So, Annabelle's haircut was only $2. You can't beat those prices. But more important than price, is the atmosphere.
Stay tuned for more Summer updates coming soon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sleep Study

Once Hazel was diagnosed, our first order of business was to schedule a sleep study. Sleep study? She's the better sleeper between her and Annabelle. She has slept through the night since birth. There's nothing wrong with her sleep. Or is there?
The questions and doubt flooded my heart. She sometimes snores, especially when she's in her car seat. And she does that funny thing with her head to open her airways. Maybe she's sleeping too soundly. Maybe I'm sleeping too soundly. Maybe, maybe, maybe....
Deep breaths.
Count back from ten...
I can do this.
One day at a time.
One step at a time.
Okay. I can do this. We can do this. We will do this.
I had no idea what to expect as the day approached. I Googled, Facebooked, and did my research. I read blogs about other experiences with sleep studies. I saw pictures of other babies hooked up to all the sensors and wires. In doing so, I mentally placed Hazel in those hospital cribs, with the scratchy sheets and gauze wrapped around her face, wires surrounding her tiny body My heart broke. I was still at a loss.
The weeks passed, and the day quickly arrived for us to load up, and travel back to Delaware. Annabelle was so excited, as her and Daddy were going to sleep in a "princess bed " at the Ronald McDonald House. I was to stay with Hazel through her sleep study.
We had an appointment with the pulmonologist in the afternoon, which set my heart and mind at ease. The team at Nemours was friendly and welcoming once again. I cannot say enough for the staff there. Every person in that building greeted us with smiles, answering any questions, and extinguishing any concerns we had.
After we finished up with the pulmonologist, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and the playground. Annabelle was getting antsy, after being stuck in the car all morning, then playing quietly through Hazel's appointment. She was excited to have a chance to run, climb, slide, and swing her energy out.
Before long, we had dinner, and headed back to the hospital. Hazel took a catnap as we navigated the halls towards the sleep center. I got myself turned around at one point, and was helped by a kind maintenance worker, who pointed me in the right direction.
The room was plain. Nothing special about it. A couch on one side, a bed on the other, and a crib in the middle. It was all set up, waiting for Hazel.
This is it.
She was rather tolerant of the wires as they were glued to her hair and face. The technician wrapped a roll of gauze around her head and face to hold all the sensors in place, and wrapped more sensors around her torso. She looked a little silly, with her face all scrunched, peeping out of the gauze wrap. She didn't seem to mind at all.
She nursed.
And fell asleep.
And just like that, the study began.
She only woke a few times, and was settled back down without needing to be held, or nursed again. She really was a champ through the whole procedure.
6:30am came around, and the study was over, just as quickly as it began.
She was cleaned up and sent on her way.
That's it? We're done?
"We will have your results in about two weeks," we were told.
Two weeks? I  have to wait another two weeks to find out if my baby is breathing in her sleep?
When we received the results of the study, we were told that she showed no signs of central sleep apnea. In other words, she's not holding her breath in her sleep. This can be common in achondroplastic children, and can signify bigger proplems. Whew! However, she did experience some obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring. Her airways are so tiny, that any slight inflammation, irritation, or even a little boogery nose, can affect her breathing more than an average child. It wasn't bad enough to cause a need for a CPAP machine, but she was prescribed a few medications to help clear up her airways. She will also have a follow-up study in November, to see she is doing.
Yup. We get to go through it again.
But this time, I know more of what to expect.
Yes, she will be older. Yes, she will probably put up a fight next time. No, it will not be fun.
But it's in November.
Today, I am dealing with today.
Today, she is learning to roll, and reach for toys.
Today, she is starting to babble, and blow raspberries.
Today, she is smiling all the time.
Today, I am choosing to live in the present.
One day at a time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let's Get Messy!

This morning, the weather was indecisive. One second, the clouds began to form an ominous cover over the sun; and the next second, the sun prevailed, and brightened up the whole sky. I decided not to risk it, and skip the pool today. I have been watching a friend's kid this week, so it's been 3 against 1 since Monday (with a sleepover last night). Getting all three girls fed, pottied (or diapered), sunscreened, and suited up for swimming takes nearly 30 minutes from start to finish. I was not about to risk a full-out melt-down from Annabelle over not being able to go swimming because the weather decided to rear its ugly head, and rain on our parade at the last minute.
Instead of swimming, we spent time in the air conditioning, making a huge mess of the dining room. And it was FUN! I recently bought a huge bag of baking soda for $3 at BJ's, so I knew that I had plenty of that on hand. I searched for activities to do with baking soda, and found some very fun ideas. Armed with my supplies, I got to work setting up for Annabelle and her friend, Bella. Set-up was a breeze, and I was ready for them within five minutes.

For each kid you will need:
Jelly roll pan for your work area
Desired amount of baking soda (if I had to guess, I'd say I used about 1/2 cup for each girl)
Plastic utensils
Food coloring (optional, but extra fun)
Dixie cups for each color desired
Pipette, straw, or eye dropper
An art smock (I used my old t-shirts)

I started off by letting the girls explore with the baking soda in the pan. They used a fork to draw patterns and designs, and tried to ball the fine powder up like snow balls. When they started showing signs of losing interest, I introduced the next part of the activity.

I gave them each three Dixie cups with a few drops of food coloring, and filled half-way with vinegar. In hindsight, I used way too much food coloring. Annabelle is currently sporting bright purple hands. Oops! Next, I demonstrated how to use a straw to drip the vinegar over the baking soda.

Then Annabelle got creative. Instead of dripping the vinegar onto the baking soda, she took a fistful of baking soda, and dumped it into a cup of vinegar. She was thrilled with her discovery.
The next hour was spent stirring, pouring, and smearing the mixtures. While the jelly roll pans contained most of the mess, I still had my work cut out for me.
But it was worth it.

I loved allowing Annabelle to be a little scientist, and make her own discoveries and observations. When we do activities like this, I give her ideas and suggestions, but allow her to control the situation. What if I had stopped her from dumping the fistful of baking soda into the vinegar because that's just not what we're doing right now? What if I had decided that food coloring was too messy? What if I had decided the whole activity was too messy? She would have missed out on so much fun and discovery.

Don't be afraid to get messy. Kids are washable. Clothes are replaceable. You only get one chance at today, so make memories of fun and exploration.
Oh, and it never rained.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Though she be but little...

She is fierce!
When friends hear about Hazel's achondroplasia, I get a variety of reactions - from curiosity, to sorrow, and everything in between. I know it's only natural to  feel sorry. But you don't have to. In fact, I implore you not to feel sorry. To feel sorry for her, is to suggest that something is wrong with her. I want to tell you this: nothing is wrong with Hazel. Her bones just grow differently than yours or mine. She is not sick. She is not in pain. She will do wonderful things. And guess what? She will also fail in life. Because she is human.
When we got the official word of Hazel's diagnosis, we were not in shock. We were not in denial. We had already done our research, and come to the conclusion on our own, that she probably had a form of dwarfism, and it was most likely achondroplasia. But that's not to say that we never felt the emotions any parent goes through when hearing such news. We were lucky enough to go through the emotions in the weeks leading up to her diagnosis.
The most prominent stage I went through was denial. I had the "this kind of stuff only happens to other people" thoughts. I even felt crazy for thinking my child had achondroplasia. I tried convincing myself that she was just short, and would eventually even out. When I looked at pictures of her big sister, Annabelle as a newborn, I thought Annabelle looked different. Not Hazel. Annabelle was long and thin, with skinny little arms and legs, and long fingers. But Annabelle looked more like other babies. Hazel has always been more plump, with short limbs.
But I never felt soul-crushing sorrow, because I know these two truths: God made Hazel; and God doesn't make mistakes. Psalm 139:13-18 tells us this:
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
Wow! That passage is filled with such beautiful truths. I pray that both of my girls cling to these truths, and hold onto the promises of God.
I know that when God created Hazel, and chose to make her different, he did so for a purpose. I am so excited to see what that purpose will be.
But for now, I just know that Hazel it little and loving it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


After the brutally cold Winter we endured, I refuse to allow myself to be a couch potato this Summer. It has been way too cold, for way too long, to waste time watching PBS Kids all day.
So I made a list for my oldest. With the help of some suggestions from friends, I came up with a long list of fun activities to do before Summer is over. Having a preschooler can be a challenge, but the busier she is, the less trouble she gets into. Annabelle is excited to check off each task on our list: from learning to swim, to writing to missionaries, we will never be bored.
After making my list, I wrote down the things we can do inside (build a book fort, bake a treat and deliver it to a friend) on index cards, and put them into a bucket. I then wrote the words "It's raining, it's pouring, but today won't be boring". This is our Rainy Day Bucket. We can use the ideas when the weather is too rainy or just plain miserable to go outside.
My list also includes activities that can be accomplished in an afternoon: "make lunch for a friend", and "make homemade ice cream", as well as activities that will take much of the Summer to accomplish: "learn to pedal a bike", and "count to 30".
Some of the activities involve meeting with friends: "try a dish from another country", and "play date at Jumpin' Jacks", while others allow for one-on-one time between us: "build a book fort", and "learn to write my name".
Some of our activities are educational, and others are just plain fun.
No matter what activity we choose to check off the list in a given day, I'm sure this Summer will be one to remember.
Added bonus: most of the activities are free, or almost free.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the Summer? What do you hope to accomplish this Summer?
I encourage you all to make Summer Fun Lists (even if you don't have kids). Feel free to share them below.
As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

Friday, June 6, 2014


The most common question I am asked is this: "How did you find out about Hazel's condition?"
In retrospect, there were several occasions that pointed to achondroplasia. As mentioned in my first post, her large head size was noted at my 20-week ultrasound, and we noticed at birth that her arms and legs were short. But we thought it was "just Hazel". We figured she hadn't grown into her body yet; babies spend 9 months all scrunched up in the womb, so maybe her arms and legs hadn't fully stretched out yet.
As time went on, Hazel fell lower and lower on the growth charts. When Hazel was three months, we started doing some research. One of my image searches directed me to Chelly's blog: A Is For Adelaide. When I first scrolled by the image of little Adelaide, I had to do a double-take. I thought it was Hazel!
This was too weird. How could Hazel look more like this little girl, whom we have never met, than like her own big sister? The nose. The forehead. The arms and legs. And that belly! All of these characteristic of achondroplastic children.
I loved reading Chelly's blog.
I contacted her, and she immediately responded back. She was so reassuring and sweet.
Weeks went by, and it was finally time for Hazel's 4-month checkup. We entered the pediatrician's office armed with a manila folder, containing growth charts. The appointment was the most nerve-wracking appointment I had ever been to. I began to have second thoughts
What if I'm wrong?
What if I look like a crazy person, who thinks something is wrong with my child, when she's perfectly fine?
What if the doctor doesn't think anything is wrong, but there is something wrong, and...?
What if?
The nurse called us back, and took Hazel's vitals before weighing and measuring her. When she left the examining room, we whipped out the charts, and mentally plotted her growth on both the average height chart, and the achondroplasia chart.
When the doctor came in, she was cheery as usual. That's what I like about her. She has an "it's all good" vibe about her. A very good trait for a pediatrician, dealing with nervous parents all day.
Wait. I'm one of those nervous parents.
She sat at the computer, and pulled up Hazel's charts, along with her newest stats. She mentioned things like blood work and hormonal imbalances.
Blood work?! They want to take my baby's blood? They will have to get through me first.
When she paused to take a breath, Tad jumped right in.
"Will these tests include testing for achondroplasia?"
By the end of the appointment, we were given a stack of papers. Blood work orders, and a list of both local blood-draw locations and orthopedists.
After a few weeks of going back and forth, we finally decided to take Hazel to AI DuPont Hospital. Her appointment felt like it was ages away. In the meantime, she got her blood drawn, and all blood work came back normal.
Sigh of relief.
Then we wait. Wait for the day to come when we would enter the doors of DuPont, and meet with the geneticist regarding our precious baby's condition.
The day finally came. Loading up the car, I felt like I was in a dream. Is this really my life? Is this really my kid? Achondroplasia? Really?
Then the what-ifs returned.
A quick stop for coffee, and we were on the road.
As I entered the building, my nerves eased up. The hospital was so open and bright. "Welcome" was sprawled across the wall in several languages. And there was even a coffee shop right in the entrance. The building was abuzz with parents pulling wagons full of happy children, and a joyful staff that was more than happy to help.
We were directed back to radiology, so Hazel could get x-rays taken. I sat with our oldest, Annabelle in the waiting room, while Tad took Hazel into the room. When they emerged, Hazel was happy and oblivious to what had just happened.
Another walk down a hallway to wait for our appointment with Dr. Boeber.
We were about to meet with a world-renowned geneticist.
He greeted us in the waiting room, and lead us to a meeting room. A long table, surrounded by four office chairs sat in the middle of the room. It wasn't the cold doctor's office I had envisioned. There was no examining table, with a roll of crinkly paper sprawled across it. Instead, just the meeting table and chairs. it was so much more welcoming than I expected.
Dr. Bober immediately gave us the news of Hazel's diagnosis. Achondroplasia.
We spent the next 90 minutes talking about the condition, and what to expect over the next few years. We discussed risks and complications, and how to care for her. We discussed what her future might look like.
In the midst of the whirlwind of information being thrown at us, Dr. Bober gave us a sense of normalcy. She, like any other person, will have her share of struggles. She will have her victories. She will get sick, and get better. She will have dreams and goals.
Hazel is just like any other person. She's just little.
Hazel is little and loving it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hazel Autumn

November 29th. 3am. I did not wet the bed. My water broke. My world is about to change in ways I would never imagine. The day before was an unusual Thanksgiving Day. I was hoping to have given birth already, so I had enjoyed my Thanksgiving feast in the weeks prior. Tad and I enjoyed a turkey chicken dinner at home, along with our oldest, Annabelle. Later that evening, we ventured out to people-watch, and kick off the Christmas shopping season. I was hoping against all hope that I would somehow magically induce labor by walking all over Wal-Mart and Target. All I got was hungry. We pulled into the hospital parking lot shortly after 6am, after enjoying a small breakfast. It was too early, I was too anxious, to eat. Twelve hours later, Hazel was still cozied up inside, not wanting to make her grand entrance until she was good and ready. Her grand entrance finally arrived around 8pm. After a few pushes, the doctor instructed me to stop pushing. Stop pushing? Are you kidding me? I have waited too long to stop pushing. I want to meet my baby girl. The cord was wrapped around her neck. I was paralyzed with fear. Don't cough. Don't sneeze. Don't tense up. Don't breathe! I was afraid that any wrong move would tighten the cord. I prayed. The cord was clamped, cut, and loosened from her neck. My sweet baby was placed on my chest, and I was flooded with emotions. She was perfect in every way. 7 pounds, 15 ounces. 18 inches long. Beautiful. A full head of reddish hair. She was silent. No screams. No cries. Nothing. My heart raced. A lump the size of a basketball formed in my throat. Why isn't she screaming? Why is she purplish? Why are they taking her away? After what felt like an eternity of back-thumping, suctioning, and oxygen, tiny gurgle sounds came from her. Hazel Autumn. I was heartbroken when they had to take her back to the nursery immediately, rather than being bundled up to cozy up to my chest. Hours later into the evening, my squeaky clean, chubby, perfect bundle was delivered to my room. Hazel Autumn. I looked at her. Her button nose. Her chubby thighs. Her chubby arms. Her large head. "I forget how short babies' arms and legs can be," I remember commenting to Tad. Also, "She's a full pound heavier than her sister was. And a few inches shorter." We would later find out just why she was so short. Why her limbs were so disproportionate compared to the rest of her body. Why her head was large. We would later find out that Hazel has Achondroplasia. Dwarfism. Hazel is little and loving it.