what it’s like: to be a DIYer and home style blogger.

I am thrilled today to share with you my friend, Lindsay Dean, or in our house, we just call her Frills and Drills. Lindsay is an INCREDIBLE home style blogger and is my go to for all the decoration questions I have! She patiently helped me design the kiddos nursery and sent me mock up room designs until we picked the perfect items for the room. Her heart is big and her incredible style is drool worthy. I am thrilled she’s sharing her world with us today!

Enjoy reading about what it’s like to be a “Do It Yourself” gal and home style blogger!


 

lindsayheadshotBesides the famous “What paint color are your walls?”, the most asked question I get is, “How did you become so handy?”.  Most assume that maybe my dad is handy and taught me or that my husband does the handiwork around here.  The answer is actually neither!  I’m 100% self-taught and have never taken any type of shop or woodworking class.  And to be honest with you, I never intentionally set out to become handy, or a builder, or anything like that.  It all sort of just happened out of necessity.  Because when the budget doesn’t match the wish list, well…ya figure it out!

Let me take you back to 2011 where it all started.  My husband and I had just purchased our first home together and were just a couple young kids fresh out of college with our first jobs.  We had a 4 bedroom home and not nearly enough funds to furnish the entire thing.  We brought all of the furniture we had from our previous 2 apartments and made it work as best as we could.  But like most new homeowners, I was scouring Pinterest seeing lots of great inspiration and gathering grand ideas all of which weren’t exactly cheap.

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This.  This is the picture on Pinterest that started it all.  Some of you that know my neutral loving heart may be shocked by this photo, but this is a true story.  It was the inspiration I fell in love with for our guest room.  But the budget for the guest bedroom was basically nonexistent as far as furniture goes.  So this is where I had to get creative.  I reallllly wanted a white headboard and the cheapest thing I could find was at least a couple hundred dollars.  So I decided to make one.  Out of baseboards.  Fourteen dollars worth of baseboard molding later and here’s what I had.

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Not bad right?  And yes, only $14!  I used my dad’s mitre saw to cut the baseboard and good ol’ fashioned hammer and nails to attach it to the wall.  Slapped some white paint up to fill it in and wah-lah!  A white headboard!  I had never used any type of saw prior to this, but to save a couple hundred dollars I wasn’t afraid to figure it out!

And then came the dresser.  Here’s what I had:

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Again, I wanted a white dresser and had no budget for that.  So I bought a gallon of white furniture paint and got to work!  Never in my life had I painted furniture prior to this.  I bought cute new knobs and here was the result:

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After each project I conquered I gained so much confidence.  I also learned a lot.  Did I make mistakes?  Of course.  Did things EVER turn out perfect?  Absolutely not.  But I was adding to my skill set, gaining lots of confidence, having FUN and saving TONS of money along the way.

Fast forward just 2 short years and life had taken us to another city.  We sold our first beloved home and built a new one.  I couldn’t wait to start adding my own personal touches to our otherwise boring, builder grade home.  Just like before, there was no room in the budget to hire out any professional trades to do the upgrades I longed for.  So one of the first projects in our new home that I attacked was this DIY Wainscoting in our front foyer and dining room.

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It was a huge hit and thus my blog, www.frillsanddrills.com, was born.  This project looks impressive right?  But it’s exactly the same concept as the headboard.  Just a whole bunch of headboards.  A mitre saw and a nail gun (I upgraded from the hammer ;)) was all it took to achieve this show-stopping look to my home.  My wainscoting tutorial remains my most popular post to this day, having been pinned thousands of time on Pinterest and I couldn’t be more proud.

I continued to try my hand at new projects around our house and documented them along the way.  I installed my own subway tile backsplash in our kitchen, shiplapped my son’s nursery, and even built my own custom, glam closet from scratch just to name a few.  I didn’t have any experience on any of these projects before I jumped head first into them.  I read tutorials online, watched videos on youtube, and asked plenty of questions along the way.  Oh, and caulk.  Caulk hides LOTS of imperfections.  Trust me.

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The more I blogged about my projects the more I learned that there is SO much that goes into blogging as well.  You almost have to be a semi-professional photographer, pretty skilled at computers and all the “behind the scenes” parts, and very organized with your time.  It was a lot harder than just hitting ‘share’ on the iPhone photos I snapped along the way.  My hubby bought me a nice camera one year for Christmas and bettering my photography skills has been something I’ve worked on ever since.  I’ve come a long way and learned a lot about blogging, and still have so much more to learn.

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My best advice for anyone interested in blogging is to do it because you are passionate about whatever it is you are sharing.  Not because you want to make money or because it’s easy.  It is without a doubt a full time job and the return is very small for a long, long time.  Finding the time to continue tackling projects AND blog them while balancing life and 2 small babies has been a difficult juggling act.  But one I am very thankful to be juggling in the first place.

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I’m now 8 years into my accidental DIY hobby, and we are now in our 3rd home together.  My $14 dollar headboard project unveiled a passion inside me I never knew existed.  In our current home I have built our family dining table, our ever so popular TV sideboard and most recently completed this stunning DIY mirror wall in our dining room.  I have plans to add a faux brick accent wall, more tile to our master bathroom, and an update to our master bedroom, and hope you’ll join me for the ride!

Lindsay is a full time wife and mom to 2 baby boys by day, and a part time handy-woman and home decor enthusiast by night.  She love tools, design, accent walls, and all things DIY.  Lindsay shares all her projects, tips and tutorials over at frillsanddrills.com to show that if she can do it, you can too! You connect with Lindsay on her Instagram page @frills_and_drills as well! 


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

what it’s like to: use an egg donor.

As we continue on our What’s It’s Like series, I am honored to introduce you to my friend Elena today as she opens up and shares her experience with using an egg donor. Elena and I connected on social media ages ago and since then, have been thrilled to cheer one another on through many ups and downs, ultimately celebrating the families we now have. I am excited and thankful for Elena’s willingness to share her story with us today!

Without further ado, here’s what it’s like to use an egg donor!


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The short answer for what it’s like to use an egg donor, simply put is, it’s incredible.  But let me rewind a bit and give you a little backstory about our journey and explain why that word describes what egg donation has been like for us.

I was introduced to the word “Infertility” in 2013.  I had of course heard it before, and it had even crossed my mind for the 2 years prior as my husband and I were trying to have a child since 2011 with no luck.  It was word I never knew would have such an impact on my adult life.  A word I never used in my vocabulary before we started TTC [trying to conceive].  A word; a diagnosis, which changed my life forever in ways I never thought possible, even to this day as we continue to build our family.  It brought pain, sadness, jealousy, anger and stress into my life and my marriage.  It robbed me of something that I envied women for, the ability to get pregnant naturally.  It stopped me from being able to advance my career for insurance reasons, it impacted relationships with friends, it cost me time and money—I, like most people, related that word most often to something negative.

But there is one thing that infertility brought into my life that truly outshines all of the negativism associated with it, one thing I never really expected to find, but found in absolute abundance and that is a wonderful community.  Because of this community, a connection was made in my life that at the time, I did not know would turn out to be one of the most valuable relationships I have in my life today.  When this connection first presented itself to me Joe and I were already veterans when it came to fertility treatments.  Not only did we try for 2 years naturally before moving forward with assisted reproduction in late October 2013 we had already been through 2 failed IUI’s, [(one ending in miscarriage), we were in the midst of our 3rd failed fresh, and 3 failed frozen cycles of IVF, and we were at crossroads.  We needed to either stop what we were doing, or try something else.

One day in late December 2015 I got a message on Facebook from a girl named Amy who had been following my story for a while.  She had gone through a few minor fertility treatments herself and was part of our community where she found me.  We had been friends on Instagram and Facebook for several months before she finally reached out to me.  She offered up herself as a surrogate.  I couldn’t believe this total stranger was offering up such a beautiful gift, however we were really hoping to try egg donation so that I could carry the pregnancy myself.  Amy did not hesitate for a second and instantly said she would gladly gift her eggs to us to help us build our family. 

I was in such shock and awe at this gift being offered to us by someone I had never met.  I told Joe and he was equally impressed with her generosity.  Neither of us were ready to give up on having a family and Joe was ready to do whatever I felt was right for us to move forward.  After so much heartache, after seeing 9 embryos be transferred and not one ever successfully stick, after all the time and energy we put into our journey so far, I knew that egg donation was the right path for us.  In March of 2016 we flew from Illinois to Georgia to meet Amy and her family and meet our RE.  We instantly connected with her, her husband Allen, and her two children Stella and Max.  By June we began our cycle and Amy provided us with 10 perfect eggs to be fertilized.  We found out the next day that 8 had fertilized and by transfer day on June 16th, we had 1 perfect 4AA [a highly graded embryo] to transfer and 5 more to be frozen.  I found out I was pregnant and on February 22nd 2017 we welcomed our sweet Georgia June into the world.

Using a donor, whether it be an egg or sperm donor, or even a donated embryo is a very unique situation.  There are anonymous programs, there are open programs, shared programs, there are many instances when friends and family will donate, and there are other infertile couples who have more embryos than they know what to do with so they donate them to other couples, there really is no defined relationship that comes with donation.  I can only speak for our situation using a known donor and I think both Joe and I and our donor can gladly say we really appreciate the open aspect of our relationship.

One question I get asked a lot & one thing that is discussed often in the world of donors is when you tell a child, if ever.  The general consensus around this topic is, yes, you absolutely tell your child and you begin to do so at a young age so that it becomes second nature to them.  What I love about our open donor relationship is the ability for Georgia to really know her roots and her history, to know that she has biological half siblings and a mother that she can one day meet.   The process for everyone will differ slightly depending on what route you choose to go.  With donated eggs we did not have to pay our donor anything for her pain & suffering (as it’s often referred to), but there can be costs in the upwards of $5-$10,000 just for the donor to put in their pocket.  We did pay out of pocket for her monitoring appointments, retrieval, and all medications.  We were very lucky to have all of our donors medications donated to us by the amazing people in this community along with some donated from our local clinic where I did my monitoring.  We also had to pay a lawyer $700 to draw up our donor agreement and file it.  I used one I had found who specializes in reproductive law from Marietta, Georgia.  We did everything via email and the process was very easy.  We had to provide this information to our clinic as proof that we had a legal contract in place before our cycle started.

A couple other big questions I get often are do I feel a connection to my baby, and did I feel it during pregnancy?  If you don’t have a child yet, this one is hard to understand because once your earth side baby and you finally meet, you will realize that your love for them far exceeds any kind of love you have ever experienced before, a kind of love you didn’t really know existed.  When it comes to pregnancy, I think it might be like this even with people who carry their own biological child, it sometimes takes time to feel a connection with a baby that’s still growing inside of you, you’ve never met them, you know that you love them unconditionally, but you may have some uncertainties about how you will feel once you become a parent.  Everyone’s experience is different.

And lastly, how did we know it was time to move forward with egg donation?  After all we had been through, I  just knew it was time to close the door on my eggs.  I was already beginning the process of accepting that I would more than likely never have a biological child of my own in the midst of our two week wait of our last cycle.  I listened to my intuition and followed my heart and it was the best decision we could have made for ourselves because it gave us our baby.  Family is not defined by DNA and biology, it’s defined by love and I knew that we would have more love for our baby than we could ever imagine.  For us, using an egg donor was simple, it was what made sense and our decision was solidified once we had our baby in our arms.  I will never regret or have any reservations about using an egg donor.  Doing so brought us the greatest joy we have ever known and I think I can speak for the many couples who have also used a donor to conceive their child, it was the best decision we made on our years-long journey.

If you are struggling with thoughts about using a donor of any kind, please feel free to contact me at babyridleybump@gmail.com I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Elena is a small-town Illinois girl with a passion for writing.  Elena and her husband Joe have been married since 2011.  She began blogging in 2012, and what began as a place to document her pregnancy quickly evolved into a space where she openly shared a raw narrative about her struggles with infertility.  After 5 years of both natural and assisted attempts at reproduction, Elena and Joe welcomed their daughter Georgia into the world in February 2017. 


Connect with Elena more, and follow her along on her journey at her blog Baby Ridley Bump and on Instagram at @lenaridley. 


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

mom life: traveling with infants.

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We made it through our first vacation trip – international nonetheless! – with the babies! Hooray! Earlier this month, Josh and I went to Puerto Vallarta with Kirsten and Logan, and my in-laws for our family’s traditional spring break. Since then, my inbox has been flooded with people asking for tips we learned and what to bring / not bring, and so I thought it would be helpful to put it all down here for you! If you are glazing over already at the thought, feel free to skip it and move on with your day. :)

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First of all, let’s talk travel days. Oofda. We went into the day knowing this would be the hardest day since our very scheduled kids would be entirely off schedule. I feel like having the mentality that it wasn’t going to be typical made it easier to stay flexible with all of the twists and turns headed our way. Over all, despite the fact that we woke them up nearly 2 hours before their regular wake-up time, and the fact that instead of napping 5 hours during the day, they took a short 20 minute airplane nap, it went as good as it could have! Here’s my tips for making travel days as smooth as possible, including some things we did, didn’t do and wish we had, and could have skipped.

The only proof I have that they actually did sleep a few short minutes. :) 

  • Stay organized. Josh had all of our passports, tickets, and paperwork in this handy family pouch with built in traveling security and it made it a breeze to quickly hand over items throughout all the check-ins, security checks, and gate stops. IMG_5714
  • Bring a stroller that is comfy. We loved using our Joovy double stroller because the seats individually recline so one baby could lay back with a bottle and the other could sit up and people watch. It also has a gigantic storage bin underneath that made it easy to toss things in, as well as zippered pouches in the shade cover so we could stuff Lysol and hand wipes in one, and snacks in the other.IMG_5485
  • Plan ahead for food. I wish I had thought out their day a little better. I didn’t quite have as many clean bottles and nipples as I should have to keep them quiet on the plane. I loaded up on snacks for them and got a giant pill box from the Dollar Store and put snacks in each day so it would entertain them. I taped it shut with wasi tape because they pop open easily and the tape also acted as a fun “toy” for them to play with, leaving no residue behind. Cheerios, puffs, ritz crackers and yogurt bites were very popular! I also had a little cooler packed with my breastmilk that had some cheesesticks, yogurts and applesauce in it, however, the yogurt and applesauce with two babies was incredibly impractical and messy. Next time I will pack something they can easily eat on a tray, like some chopped cheese, lunchmeat, olives, steamed green beans, etc. They were hungry because let’s be honest, snacks don’t fill you like they should. I wish I was more prepared with food for them and also, wish I would have brought their (empty) water sippy cups so I didn’t feel like I always needed to give them milk when they were thirsty.
  • Check the airport for a lactation room. Our MSP airport had a perfect lactation suite (single-family) that had a chair and a table with an outlet so I could pump before boarding. It fit our double stroller and Josh could come in as well. There was a clean, non-bathroom changing table for them, a full sink area for washing pump parts and plenty of space for them to hang out. We gave them their bottles in there, changed them before boarding, and fed them breakfast. It was perfect and took away a lot of stress of having to pump in an airport bathroom.
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    Okay so Josh didn’t know I was taking a picture of him and Kirsten mid-smooch in the lactation room, but let’s be honest, HER SMILE is all we care about! :)

  • Keep your carryon simple. I had four Ziplocs in my carry on, one with toys, one with snacks, one with meds and one with cleaning items. My toy bag had a new teething toy, a tray table activity center, a stuffed rattle hanger, and a book. That was it and it was more than enough. My snack bag had the snack pill box, a few teething biscuits (messy), and some ritz crackers. My cleaning bag had travel Lysol wipes, a norwex cloth, hand and face wipes, pacifier and toy wipes, and hand sanitizer. My medicine Ziploc had Tylenol in there with two syringes just in case, Benadryl because I am paranoid about allergic reactions, their teething oil, and saline spray. A nurse friend suggested squirting saline spray pre and post flight to wash away all the germy mucus from their nose. I love my Lo & Sons bag because the zippered bottom part is where I packed my personal snacks, headphones, a book, and misc items for momma. Wallet and phone zippered on the outside and the bag slid on top of my wheeling suitcase which made it easy to handle.IMG_5477
  • Bring an extra set of clothes for them and you. I totally forgot this and Logan was a disaster by the time we got to the resort. His onesie could have used a changing. Also, when I was spit up on, if I had a clean shirt, I could have easily made a switch and avoided smelling like puke.
  • Other things learned: Ask the airport if there is a family line for security. Some places have them and you can avoid the long lines. MSP doesn’t, but we were shooed into the first class line and it took only a handful of minutes. Plan to take all snacks out of your carry-ons. Again, this is why the Ziploc packing was helpful! Bring a blanket with and if your child gets fussy while waiting, play a quick game of parachute over the stroller. This created lots of giggles and I was thankful! If you are traveling with a pump and breast milk, read up on the TSA’s website. We had no issues whatsoever. Don’t forget if you are pumping and traveling, it’s so important for momma to stay fed and hydrated. I spaced on this in the chaos and my supply took a travel day hit for sure. Pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill up at the airport, or grab a liter bottle from a shop. Bottles at take- off and landing help with the ear changes for them. Snag an extra blanket from the flight attendant when you board to tuck under your arm for support in case your child falls asleep, so much more comfortable. Take out your phone and headphones and have them close by if they do fall asleep, you aren’t stuck.

Now, once we got to the resort, we tried hard to keep our schedules the same as they would have been back home. I knew this would help them know what to expect and also, would help us too! Our days looked like this:

  • 7:30-8:00: wake-up, bottles, dressed
  • 8:00 – 9:00: breakfast with the family, morning walk, Starbucks run
  • 9:00 – 9:30: playtime in the room, snuggles, get ready for naps
  • 9:30-11:30: morning nap
  • 11:30 – 1:30: bottles, sunscreen, changed into suits, pool time, beach time, lunch
  • 1:30 -2:00: baths, unwind time in the room
  • 2:00 – 4:00: afternoon naps
  • 4:00-6:00: bottles, dinner, a walk, playtime
  • 6:00-6:30: bedtime bottles, pajamas, bedtime

Josh and I would take turns on who would stay in the room for naps so we each got a “free” period each day. This also meant we needed about 4 outifts a day for the kids. A morning outfit since AM’s are generally chillier (we did onesies with jogging suits and then they could sleep in the onesie and pants for AM naps), their beach attire, their post-bath nap and hangout outfit, and their dinner outfit. Oh and also pajamas for bedtime.

Tips for the hotel stay:

  • Bring everything from home that makes your child comfortable for bedtime. We had their sound machine, susher, video monitor, sleepsuits, and pacifiers. We brought down two pack’n’plays, although it is worth asking the hotel what they would provide. If you bring down your own pack’n’play, don’t forget the sheets!
  • Create a play area. We put down 2 folded blankets from the hotel, and then our Lessy Messy playmat over it and set up their toys there. We surrounded the area with pillows because the floor was HARD. We tossed down their toys.IMG_5781
  • Bring toys that are small yet versatile. We packed a lot of things that were condensed, but could come apart, like stacking cups, blocks, this sesame street stacking toy which was a huge hit, their beloved eggs, and a few books. A lot of the toys we brought were “new” so they hadn’t seen them before which kept them entertained longer with only the few.
  • Know your area. If you are traveling somewhere you can Amazon prime wipes and diapers to the hotel, do that instead of packing them. We knew we didn’t want to travel to Walmart in town, so we packed what we needed. We knew we could get some of their snacks at the grocery store and what they wouldn’t carry for a reasonable price.
  • Have a medicine bag handy. We brought it all. Tylenol, ibuprofen, cough medicine, chest rub, Benadryl, gripe water, gas drops, teething rub, and their vitamin D drops. We didn’t want to be caught without something, especially in another country, and we ended up using all of it except the chest rub!
  • Think through what the hotel will provide and what of theirs your actually need. We knew they had towels so we left theirs at home. We like their norwex baby washrags for their soft faces, so we brought our own. (PS – I am a Norwex consultant so if you ever need to order anything, just holler. I will give you a 10% off blog-reader discount!)
  • Bring travel items you can leave behind. We brought a few things that we could simply use and leave behind without creating much waste. For example, a cheap bottle brush to use down there, dollar store loofahs (my sister in law suggested this one!), travel size bath products, and sterilizer bags. I loved having sterilizer bags down there so at the end of the night, I could toss in things that needed a good cleaning from a busy day in a variety of places. We also LOVED having disposable bibs and placemats with us. It made it so easy to leave behind and also, made me feel more comfortable to put their food on the table with this under it.
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    a wild and crazy friday night of room service + sanitizing … and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

And finally, for the beach. Don’t forget a beach bag! We did and had to borrow my mother-in-laws extra bag.

  • Beach bag: We made sure we have a pacifier for them in there, pacifier wipes, a few toys, extra sunscreen, some snacks, hand wipes, beach towels, their cups of water and sunhats. Also, its so worth it for mom and dad to grab a waterproof phone case! We used this one for all of our pool pictures and the quality came out awesome! We also liked this pop up pit for the beach. We threw a towel down and the kids could hang out there without getting sandy. It folds up super small and is very light weight too.

All in all, traveling with infants is a lot of work, haha, but creates some very fun family memories. Take lead on what your baby is needing. Some evenings we just needing to stay in and play as a family and keep the chaos to a minimum. Some days they needed a longer nap or an earlier bedtime. I hear it only gets easier as they get older …. One can only hope, hehe!

What did I miss? Do you have any questions for me about specifics? I’d love to answer them! Leave them below or feel free to contact me via email through my contact page!

And of course, I can’t leave you without a few fun pictures of the highlights of our trip! (No, the highlights don’t include the 24 hours Josh and I had food poisoning … and special thank you to my mother and father in law for saving the day with extra TLC for the kiddos!)

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Baby K checking out the birds squawking on the balcony


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Nana, Papa, and four of their grandchildren!


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Logan loved to be tossed up in the air! :)


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Papa, Logan and Dad … I feel like Logan looks about 3 here! GASP!

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Sissy had to have a pineapple swimsuit … I mean, with pineapples being the symbol of infertility, it is just a beautiful reminder of His faithfulness!


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Beach bums


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My little sweeties!


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The joy he had experiencing the pool and water was abundant!


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Kirsten was much happier in her personal grotto.


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A morning stroll

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This precious face of Logan’s the first day he got in the pool and felt the water + sunshine. It doesn’t get much cuter, does it!?


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While we were down there, the babies turned 10 months!


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Getting them to sit still for a picture now is TOUGH.


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Twinning with dad!


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The Ritchie men on the trip.


This post contains some affiliate links of some of our favorite go-to products. 

what it’s like to: raise a child with special needs.

Next up in our What’s It’s Like series, I am giddy to introduce you to one of my dearest friends and fellow twin-mom, Charity Bish. Charity and I met on social media years ago and I will never forget her kindness in 2013 when I opened my front door to find a package from her containing her freshly baked and famous chocolate chip cookies to enjoy, sent from her then-home in New York City. Her heart is huge and her encouragement over the years has been priceless. Now she’s rocking the mom life and I was utterly delighted to meet her and her family in 2016. She’s as good as it gets!

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Without further ado, here’s what it’s like to raise a child with special needs.


The morning of my anatomy scan, I got dressed quickly because I was so excited to see my babies again. I loved visiting the perinatologist because their ultrasounds were so much more in depth and they took longer so you really could enjoy watching the babies interact with each other. My mom and I drove to my appointment and I sat waiting in the room with several other pregnant women. I was so happy to be there.

When they called my name I walked towards the room and it was then that I saw another woman storming out with tears streaming down her face. I wondered what happened, then I started to pray. Please God, make sure my babies are okay. I sat on the table and joyfully lifted my shirt for the ultrasound and the technician started her measurements. All was moving well until she started measurements on the second baby. She measured over and over again in the same spot and suddenly I knew something was wrong. I sat up and asked her if everything was okay, she told me she would send the doctor in shortly.

Those ten minutes felt like days, and then the doctor walked in. No introduction just a matter of fact response “Your baby is missing a part of his brain, I am pretty sure its Dandy Walker Malformation, come back in two weeks so we can check again but I don’t think it’ll grow in.” I was stunned and couldn’t muster up a single question. With that, they wiped the goop off my belly and I left.

I returned for another appointment two weeks later and again I was met with poor bedside manner and told that my baby’s brain had not developed anymore from the weeks before. So I was then given the options to terminate the pregnancy or to face the death of my baby at his birth. I was so frustrated and hurt by the lack of empathy I received from this office so I switched doctors when they continued to pressure me about terminating these two precious lives. I just wouldn’t do it, I loved them both before I even conceived them.

For the duration of my pregnancy I held my breath as I went to appointments, had MRI’s, blood testing and ultrasounds. Finally at 38 weeks and 2 days I was officially in labor and preparing to meet my babies. While I was pregnant I savored every single moments because I was afraid it would be snatched away when they were born.

On December 12th, God heard my prayers. I delivered two healthy boys. Doctors were very confused as they expected one to be sick. But he actually scored higher than his brother did on his Apgar score. Still confused as to which baby had the brain anomaly they performed a head ultrasound on both babies to confirm which one had Dandy Walker Malformation. The doctors were completely stunned by the results. The one they thought was the healthiest was indeed the baby with Dandy Walker. My sweet baby stayed in NICU for 6 days to fight jaundice and to have an MRI to be sure he didn’t have hydrocephalus (water on the brain). I was so excited when they finally told me I could bring him home.

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The doctors released him and told me which signs to look for to be sure he didn’t collect fluid on his brain. They also gave me followups for multiple test because they couldn’t understand how he was thriving. Around 6 months of age I decided against all the testing because he was growing up healthy and strong. I started to feel that the test were excessive and intrusive to his little life.

From birth until his first year I did not spot a single difference between him and other babies his age, his twin brother included. Then at 13 months his brother began to walk and we waited and waited for him to catch up. Finally at 16 months, my sweet baby took his first steps. It was then that I realized that he was going to need more help than I could provide at home. We met with his neurologist who was pleasantly surprised in all that he could do without his vermis. She did think it was a great idea to have him evaluated by therapist to see what help he would need. Getting the evaluation requisition form brought out a ton of emotions in me, all the while I treated my sweet baby like he was perfect and in my eyes he is. But the day I sought help for therapy it was like an admission that he was less than perfect, broken in fact, and I wanted him fixed.

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Those were the lies that I told myself over and over again. “You should love him how he is, why change what God made him to be.” Then suddenly I heard a different voice, a wiser voice tell me “ You’re his mother, mothers want the best for their children, and he deserves a fair shot at meeting his full potential.” That day I took him to his evaluations all alone, only his father and I knew what was going on that day. After he was evaluated I spoke to a social worker that talked to me about him being a special needs child, and about me needed support.

As I drove home those words played over and over again in my head. “Special needs, Disability, Special Needs” I wanted to scream. After all the suffering to conceive and all the worry during my pregnancy now we would have this to deal with. My poor baby wouldn’t be seen as normal instead he would be seen as the kids with Dandy Walker. I didn’t want that for him but denying him services he needed wasn’t going to fix anything. He started occupational and physical therapy on May 22, a week later he was making major progress and we were all surprised. It was then that I realized help is good and this was exactly what he needed to thrive. Seeing his growth made me realized that I had grown too. I was excited to see my child feeling proud of his achievements and seeing how with my support he was meeting so many milestones. It was then that I realized that raising a child with special needs was not a curse, it was in fact a gift.

When its hard you don’t see it that way but when you look back on all that you have overcome there is a huge blessing in that hindsight. My sweet baby is three years old now, when he was a baby I used to think he would die at any moment because of what doctors told me. But here he is today thriving and growing in his own time.

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Raising a child with special needs is exhausting, rewarding, challenging and very surprising. It completely changes all your expectations for your child and your dead set ways of parenting. And if you have another child you work even harder to make sure that your typical child doesn’t feel less loved or undervalued especially when their sibling requires so much of your time and energy. With my twins therapy is a family thing, both boys go to therapy and I work with one while the therapist works with the other. This way the older twin always feels included and it acts as a group therapy so the younger one does feel alone.

Now that my boys are a little older we talk often about meeting each others’ needs so that each one will understand that some days we will have to work a little hard at making sure everyone’s needs are met. This works really well on hard days when the younger one is overstimulated and having a hard day. My sweet baby boys are so good at communicating as twins that often its the older twin that tells me when his brother needs something. So we are also so in-tune with each other, just like when I carried them in my womb.

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Raising my child with special needs has made me more open and a lot tougher. I don’t rest on anything that sends up red flags, recently a red flag popped up about his speech and he will be evaluated for that soon. My goal as his mother is to always put aside my pride and do what my child needs. No longer am I embarrassed or ashamed that people would think that his disability is a result of conceiving through IVF. I have since joined support groups and shared his condition with a few members in my family. Now I am not on this journey alone. I have also found myself in a position to share hope with others when they were given poor prognosis on the health of their unborn babies. I can use my sweet baby as proof that those test are not always right and even if they are – there is still joy to be found in each precious moment you spend with your child.

As I move forward in raising my little guy we have decided to homeschool him so that we are sure that he is getting the help he needs daily. Never did I think I would be the homeschooling mom, nor did I think I would be the special needs mom. If this journey has taught me anything its that flexibility is your best tool in motherhood because you never know what you’re going to get. Being flexible has helped me to appreciate exactly where we are in life and I look forward to the years ahead of us!

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Charity is a bibliophile recently transplanted to Atlanta, Georgia. In her “ample” free time she blogs about faith, family, and food. She loves and promotes Jesus, natural holistic living, and taking care of the Earth. She has been married to a guy she meet at Publix for nearly 13 years, together they thrived through infertility and birthed twin miracles, Chauncey and Oliver. Charity is passionate about helping women learn to breastfeed whether via pump or at the breast. She also enjoys studying God’s word, a good hike with her boys and watching Bollywood movies!

Connect with Charity more, and follow her life along at her blog Milkie Mama and on Instagram at @milkiemama.


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

what it’s like to: experience multiple failed IVF cycles.

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I am SO excited to kick off ourWhat It’s Like series today with my amazing friend, Lauren Citro. Lauren and I connected through Instagram ages ago and since then have formed a genuine friendship, rooted in Christ and laughter more than our commonality of  infertility. She’s the real deal, as genuine and kind as they come. Now, we not only get the chance to work together as colleagues at FertilityIQ, but we daydream about the day we can meet in person. I am honored to feature Lauren’s story today and ask you to lift her and her husband Andrew up in prayer as they continue their journey to start their family.

Now without further ado, here’s what it’s like to experience multiple failed IVF cycles. 


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“It’s almost too bad we’ll never have to do this again, we’ve gotten so good at it!” I looked up at my husband with a little sparkle in my eye, light-heartedly joking as he gave me my very last injection before my IVF egg retrieval.

It was January of 2016 and we had just hit the two year mark of trying to grow our family. When we first started trying a little over two years before, we had been nothing but optimistic, figuring that (like so many of my friends) we would get pregnant quickly and easily. When it didn’t happen quite as fast as I had initially hoped, I began to get discouraged. What if we can’t get pregnant? What if there is something wrong? What if we have to do IVF?

Even as I voiced my fear of needing medical intervention, I truly never believed it would come to something as invasive as IVF. When I asked “What if we have to do IVF?” it was basically the same as me asking “What if the sky falls?” – a very scary question, but something that obviously wasn’t a true threat. “We’re not going to have to do IVF,” my husband would say, “and if we did, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

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I mostly trusted the reassurance of my husband, I didn’t think we’d have to do IVF, however, I did think that if we did do IVF, it would most certainly be the end of the world. And yet here we were, a bruised stomach, needle in hand, pumped full of hormones, with the finish line of IVF finally within reach. So yes, we did have to do IVF (sorry hubs, you can’t be right about everything), but no, it wasn’t the end of the world. And after a few rough days on that horrific Lupron, we finally had gotten into a rhythm with my daily shots and monitoring appointments. IVF hadn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, so much so that I was willing to make a joke that it was too bad we’d only have to do it once… because certainly, we’d only have to do it once, right?

We were entirely optimistic throughout the IVF process, so it was beyond disappointing when that cycle ended with a positive pregnancy test, but without a baby. Little did we know this would be the first of many heartaches we would face as IVF patients.

Sometimes when people ask about my journey, I flashback to a memory from childhood. I was playing with my BFF at her house when we all of a sudden heard a loud thud against the window. A few minutes later we heard it again, and then again. It was a bird…trying to fly into the house…through the solid window pane. It was failing over and over, but that didn’t stop it from trying- again and again and again. This went on for weeks, by the way. Every time I went to her house, there was that bird, not quite learning its lesson and as determined as ever to fly through that window. There are times in this journey that I’ve thought to myself, “am I that bird? … am I a stupid bird that can’t see I’m hurling myself at a seemingly impossible circumstance?”

IVF isn’t something anyone wants to go through once, and it’s certainly not anything anyone wants to go through multiple times. The past two years I’ve managed to rack up 6 IVF retrieval cycles and 4 total transfers. Of those 4 transfers I’ve faced two completely failed cycles and 2 chemical pregnancies- along with the heartache that comes with IVF in general (embryos that didn’t survive, disappointing PGS results etc.)  Recounting those experiences isn’t fun, in fact (for lack of a better word) it really sucks.

The emotions that go into an IVF cycle are truly all consuming. The start of every cycle, feels optimistic and hopeful. The middle can feel tumultuous and emotional. And the end- after you’ve gotten bad news- it’s heart wrenching. You feel gutted with grief in a way that very few people who haven’t walked through this as their lived reality could possibly relate. The pain of heartache is intense, and at times, it really does feel like it’s the end of the world.

But it’s not. Really.

Is it hard and stupid and rage-inducing? Yes. Is it painful and heartbreaking? Yes. Will you cry harder than you’ve ever cried before? I would count on it. But, no, it’s not the end of the world.

And somehow, my husband and I are proof of it.

You really can survive the mess of it all, especially if you have some good survival strategies in place. I never go into a cycle with anything less than high hopes for a great outcome, and at the same time, I understand that unfortunately any number of things can cause a cycle to end poorly, which is why it’s so so important to make your own self-care a priority during infertility treatment. Surround yourself with compassionate people who will support you, care for you, pray for you, and encourage you. Treat your body well- eat healthy foods, go on walks and participate in physical activity as allowed by your doc. Take care of your head and your heart- pour out your thoughts in a journal, talk with a friend, find a solid therapist, and don’t be afraid to give yourself some space to process through emotions.

Facing heartaches in life has the potential to break you down, but it also has the potential to build you into a stronger person than you ever thought possible. When we first started this journey, I didn’t think I could survive 1 IVF cycle, but I’ve proved myself wrong and found strength that I didn’t even know I had. It’s a strength to endure hard days and to be willing to risk more heartache for the reward of trying again.

There are times in this process that I’ve related to that bird at my friends house in a way that makes me feel embarrassed that I haven’t “seen the signs” and moved on by now. But there are other days that I feel a solidarity with that bird. I see her determination and her resilience.  I see her willingness to keep fighting. I think of her and I am reminded of a verse from Proverbs 24:16 which says (in my own paraphrase)- a Godly person falls 7 times, but they will rise again.

I truly believe that God is our source to get through the disappointments that so easily could push us past our breaking point. He is the one who sustains us and comforts us. He is the one who has brought so much peace in the midst of turmoil and He is the one who will give us the strength- when the time is right- for us to try again.

LaurenLauren and her husband Andrew live in San Diego, California and have been married for 6 years. She feels a deep connection to other couples walking through a diagnosis of infertility and is passionate about sharing her story in hopes of encouraging others in their journey. Lauren loves traveling and exploring just as much as she loves staying home with a good book, but her ideal day would always be spent at Disneyland. Lauren takes pride in her closest relationships and deeply cherishes her role as a wife, daughter, sister, and friend.


Connect with Lauren more, and follow her along on her journey at her blog Grow My Family and on Instagram at @growmyfamily. (Ps – her last post on her blog on grief is absolutely beautiful. Click here to read.)


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

winner winner! the perfect gift for the guy in your life.

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

You know who are hard to buy for? Men. Seriously, can I get an amen? I feel like whenever it’s time to buy something special for Josh, my mind goes blank. New socks? Pajama pants? How about some hair styling taffy? That’s about all I’ve got.

Well, my friends, I found a winner. Cue the sirens. I have the perfect answer to the age old question of “what do I buy him!?” (Fill in your blank, because I know you have one! Dad, grandpa, father-in-law, boyfriend, spouse, boss … that impossible-to-buy-for man in your life!)

Let me back up.

When the babies were born, Josh got me this beautiful necklace with their names on it. I love my necklace so much and wanted to get him something equally as thoughtful to mark this special time. But I had nothing. He doesn’t wear cufflinks, or necklaces, and doesn’t carry a set of keys around, so even a keychain wasn’t an option. (Although let’s be honest, are key chains still a thing?)

Enter my gift-buying solution: a unique, wooden watch.

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Yes, you heard me right – a custom designed wooden watch!

You should have seen Josh’s face when I gave it to him! HE LOVES IT. I feel like I struck wife gold. My dad quickly noticed too and couldn’t stop gushing over how nice it is either (which means I know what he’s getting for Christmas, ha!) But seriously, you guys, let me introduce you to JORD Watches (pronounced like toad but with a Y). I am so thankful to have found them because it’s going to make gift buying so much easier, for men AND women!

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They have two gorgeous lines of both men’s and women’s watches, both custom designed by artists and designers and are unlike any others I have ever seen. I love how some of the designs are quite minimalistic, like the one I got for Josh, which is the ebony and iron series, while others offer more vibrant colors of wood and designs. JORD even offers watch engraving services, which makes it perfect for adding a little extra something to such a timeless piece. (I added his life verse to the back of his watch, which he loves.)

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Here’s the thing – socks get old. But watches, well, they are classic. I know Josh will be wearing this for years to come. So, if you’re looking for an awesome gift to give the man in your life – whether it’s your boyfriend or husband, or your dad or in-law, this is it. You can’t go wrong with a unique wooden watch that’s bound to start a conversation.

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Funny enough, the thing that both he and my dad can’t stop talking about, is the cedar watch box it comes in! It has a pull out drawer, which I have now seen a million times, and a polishing cloth and a finishing oil pen. Its little details like these that have made a big impression on him and everyone else he has shown it to.

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Now, I don’t want to be selfish and keep this fun to myself! Let’s give away $100 dollars to be used towards a watch – either a men’s or women’s watch!

Hop over to this link to enter to win a $100 gift card to JORD!

And if you enter and aren’t the lucky winner, you will get the runner up prize of a coupon worth 10% off your purchase, which is awesome! A win-win! ANYONE can enter, as they will ship for FREE world-wide! YAY!

Good luck! The giveaway will close on April 22nd at 11:59pm. Enter! Grab your significant other and enter them too! I can’t wait to see who wins! It will make the perfect gift!

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PS – Stay tuned! Tomorrow we kick off our What’s It Like series!!!!

PPS – I received this product in exchange for my honest review. And our review is WE LOVE JORD WATCHES!!! :)


Watch Gift Ideas

what it’s like to.

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A few months ago I was lying in bed when an idea hit me. I wanted to read people’s stories, hear their voices, invite others into their world. I wanted to dive into words written by people just like you and me, sharing their passions, their journeys, and their lives.

Fast forward a handful of weeks later and here we are. My dream became a reality and I am excited to share that over the next 7 months, twice a week, we’ll have the chance to do just that – read other people’s stories here. Some of them are fun things – exciting life experiences or creative careers. Others are deep and heavy, challenging to read yet important to gain empathy and perspective on.

All of these posts will be written by real people, not necessarily writers, but people who are brave enough to open themselves up and give us an inside peek at a unique part of their lives. To those contributing, we thank you in advance for sharing! You are my hero!

I have always been passionate about people sharing their stories. Story telling welcomes transparency, vulnerability, and allows people the chance to say “me too”. And while there will be many you don’t or can’t relate to, I think reading others stories gives us a unique idea on how to support those in our lives who are walking in their shoes.

Every story matters. And I hope you are as excited about these next several months as I am. Help me cheer on these brave story-tellers, letting them know they aren’t alone if you understand their world, or congratulating them on the story they are living. Each of these pieces makes up a beautiful puzzle of real life. Piece we often don’t see posted on social media, stories that aren’t flashy or fancy or going viral, but that are real, genuine, heartfelt, painful, sacred, messy, and a triumph. These story-tellers are all warriors in their own way, undertaking either a passion or a burden with grace and perseverance, and letting us inside their walls. Let these stories remind you that no life is perfect and assumptions rarely tell the whole part of the story. I hope these stories inspire conversations and spark something in you to look at the story you are leading and find value in its ups and downs.

To get you excited, I wanted to share with you the topics that are ahead in this “What It’s Like to…” series. The diversity is abundant and I’d love to hear some of the topics you are most excited to read about!

Of course, laced throughout this series will still be me – writing as usual and sharing my world and heart, both about the messiness of infertility, motherhood, and the extraordinary amount of grace I need daily. So don’t go anywhere, 2018 is going to be a good blog year.

Just so you don’t miss a single post, be sure to be following me over on Facebook, Instagram, and click on the right hand side (desktop) or at the bottom (mobile) to sign up to receive emails with blog posts as they go live! We will kick things off on THIS Friday and I can’t wait!

Here are the stories we are going to get to tell and read about!

What it’s like to ….

  • experience Multiple Failed IVFs
  • raise a child with special needs
  • use an egg donor
  • to be a DIY-er and home style blogger
  • work in a NICU
  • Live Fully in Singleness While Still Hoping for Marriage
  • have endometriosis
  • experience depression
  • start a company
  • be a parent of a micro preemie
  • lose a parent
  • be childless not by choice
  • have a pregnancy with severe hyperemesis
  • have a spouse with a chronic illness
  • work and live in another country
  • navigate through infertility treatment while being a minority
  • have a traumatic birth
  • take a natural route to infertility
  • be on a reality show
  • go through the adoption process
  • raise a twinless twin
  • have male factor infertility
  • be a stay at home mom
  • be an entertainer
  • be given a Down Syndrome diagnosis
  • experience multiple miscarriages
  • be a dietitian
  • use a surrogate
  • experience a fullterm stillbirth.
  • be a police officer’s wife
  • be a fitness mogul
  • be a breastfeeding mother
  • have PPD after infertility
  • being a working mom
  • adopt an embryo Pt 1
  • donate an embryo. Pt 2
  • be on a reality show
  • go through the fostering process
  • throw a themed dinner party
  • have PCOS
  • be the husband in an infertile couple
  • have a cancer diagnosis
  • have an addiction
  • love someone who’s experiencing infertility
  • be a new mom when all your friends are new grandmothers.
  • be a military mom and step mom
  • experience secondary infertility
  • go through post pardum anxiet
  • experience a traumatic loss
  • be a single parent
  • be a high school teacher in 2018
  • be pregnant with a rainbow baby
  • be a military wife
  • experience a failed adoption
  • have a pre-viability stillbirth
  • beat infertility

Y’all ready for this!? I AM! Let the sharing begin!

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