Tuesday, May 19, 2015


When we met Emily, she was an 8th grade girl who was older than most 8th grade girls we had ever met. She was mature, compassionate, and knew what she was going to be when she grew up.

She was going to go to medical school. She was going to be a doctor.

Over the years as we grew to know Emily and watch her grow into an amazing young woman, we watched as God shaped her heart. She loves her family and is extremely close to her mom and three sisters (and four nephews). She is drawn to children and has babysat the children of many of our friends and was the first person besides us that was able to successfully get our baby Will to go to sleep. She cares for others, never judges, always has compassion.

Emily was one of about 10-15 kids that were in our youth group when we took over in 2008. In 2011 when we had our senior party at our house with, we watched as 6 or 7 of "our kids" went off to the world to college or the military or wherever. Most of them spent some time the way most of us do at 18 years old - trying to figure out where they fit in the world and how they fit into God's story.

The one person who didn't spend time trying to "figure" anything out was Emily. Emily went to MCPHS and began to pursue her medical career, just as she had always said she would do. A couple of weeks ago, she received her Bachelor of Science in Premedical and Health Sciences with hopes of eventually going to medical school and becoming a doctor.

Emily had been on a missions trip to the Bahamas prior to starting college. The pictures and stories we heard from those students when they returned proved that their lives had been changed. But in Emily's case, it was the beginning of a heart stirring; it was the beginning of God's call on her heart.

She went on to spend a couple of summers interning for Next Step Ministries, learning the ins and outs of missions work and also what most of us never quite fully figure out - how to listen to God's words and pull towards His plan. She prayed, she pursued, she listened to His responses. Then in 2014 she took a trip that changed her life - she went to Haiti, and God broke her heart for His people there. After several trips back and many prayers from her, her friends, and her family - it became clear to Emily that Haiti would be her home.

We sat in our living room this past winter and hung out with Em as she told us that as strange as it was to say - this wasn't her home anymore. That her home was in Haiti, that she was looking forward and ahead to being back there after graduation. That God is taking care of her family here and while she will miss them terribly - she knows that He needs her in Haiti.

Next week Emily and her oversized bags of luggage will move home; she will return to Haiti to begin work with Children's Health Ministries, an organization that works to fight malnutrition through clinics and food distribution services. She will spend a year there following God's plan for her life, abandoning the paycheck that most college graduates pursue to make a difference in the lives of who knows how many children and their families.

This amazing young woman has become a part of our family (just ask Will, that's his "Ah-meh-lee") and while we will miss her terribly, we are so proud of her willingness to follow God with minimal question. We are amazed at her boldness to initially step outside her comfort zone and find a new home in a foreign land. We are excited for her as she heads out to immerse herself in a new(ish) culture to show the people in Haiti that they are loved by God.

Would you be willing to walk alongside Emily as she steps out on this new adventure and follows God's call on her heart to Haiti? Would you be willing to pray for her and the team at Children's Health Ministries as they continue their work to fight malnutrition and hunger and the havoc it can wreak on children? Would you be willing to financially support Emily in her endeavors as she will not be paid for her work in monetary measures (but still needs to pay rent, buy food, and take care of herself)?

Would you be willing to let Emily's story be an example in your life of what it means to drop everything to pursue what God's plan for you is? 


For more on Emily's story, please visit her blog at: https://emro93.wordpress.com/

For more about Children's Health Ministries, please visit: http://www.chmhaiti.org/

For how you can help Emily financially (she will need $600-700/month to cover living expenses), please visit her Crowd Funding site at: https://www.crowdrise.com/EmilyinHaiti/fundraiser/EmilyinHaiti

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our Allergy Story

I had always been vaguely aware of the potential fatal factor of food allergies. Growing up I had a cousin who was allergic to peanuts (he was one of the small percentage that outgrow them) and when we ran the youth group at our church I made it a policy that peanuts would not be allowed in the snack pool. I was trained in how to use an Epi-pen when we got our CPR certification and had a rough idea of what to look for in an anaphalactic reaction. 

When I became pregnant with our son, we prayed that he would not be allergic to any foods.
Will turned one and we began to introduce the various allergens that he hadn't been previously exposed to. For the first few months, he didn't seem to have any reactions; he loved eggs, he loved things with almonds in them, seemed to like fish, and never seemed to have any issues with milk, wheat, or soy. 

Whenever we gave him a peanut product of any kind, however, he turned his nose up at it. He didn't have a reaction that we could see, so we kept exposing him to peanut products in the hopes that we would avoid the allergic reaction. 

Will at 16 months - roughly when he was diagnosed with food allergies. 
Early that September, my teething toddler did not want to eat anything for breakfast. I tried all his favorites - eggs, oatmeal, raisin bran - nothing was capturing his interest. In a last-ditch effort, I made him a piece of toast with a very thin layer of peanut butter and jelly on it. 

He took a bite and then rubbed his eyes and face. Within seconds and before swallowing, he had three hives on the side of his face, a runny nose, and his eyes were getting puffy.

I reacted quickly because I knew what could potentially come next. I swept the toast out of his mouth and took the rest of it out of his hands and off the high chair. I wiped his eyes, his tongue, his face, and his hands three times. It was a Saturday, so I placed a call to the pediatrician's paging service and woke up my husband while I waited for the call-back as to what we should do. 

When we got the call, we were advised to give him a half-teaspoon of Benedryl and monitor him closely to make sure there would continue to be no issues breathing. Of course we had no Benedryl in the house because at less than 18 months, I didn't think Will was old enough or big enough to be able to take any yet. I drove as fast as I could to the pharmacy while Steve sat with Will and the phone on stand-by to call 911 if he needed to.

By the time I got back with the Benedryl, the reaction had mostly passed and was limited to just a runny nose. I gave him the dosage and waited with my husband to watch and make sure that our son, our small baby boy, was all right. 

That Monday we brought him in to see our pediatrician who advised that we should wait a couple of weeks and then introduce to peanut butter again in a small amount to see if there was a reaction. At that point, he said, we would pursue an allergist. This was an answer that didn't seem right to us, so we made an appointment with an allergist that came highly recommended to us while we waited and continued to avoid peanut products. 

A prick test showed that our little Will is allergic to peanuts and walnuts. We went home with a prescription for an Epi-pen Junior and an allergy action plan. 

Panera with peanut & treenut allergies? Tough one with a little one...
I'm a lover of peanut butter and walnuts. 

I was sad as I threw away jars of peanut butter and bags of walnuts. I silently mourned at the ice cream stand when I couldn't order maple walnut ice cream and got jealous the first time my husband came home and stripped in the basement to wash his clothes because he'd had a peanut butter cookie at work. I stomped my feet internally when we realized we couldn't go to our favorite sandwich shop anymore because they had maple walnut scones in the wide open on their sample table. That first Christmas when the Reeses peanut butter trees came out and I couldn't have my annual indulgence because Will was always with me. 

Then one day, my heart changed. Because really, when you realize that these seemingly harmless foods could mean potential death to your child - it has to.

I realized that I could become an advocate for my son and for others with potentially fatal food allergies. I could use my influence with our family and friends to raise awareness of what it's like to manage food allergies and how they could help keep my son and others like him safe. 

15 million Americans manage and live with food allergies. I say "manage and live with" and not "suffer" because anyone who knows Will knows he is far from a suffering child. In fact, everyone I've ever met with a food allergy is not exactly someone that I would say is "suffering". They live happy lives, they play, they laugh, they enjoy lots and lots of different and delicious foods. 

It is a scary reality that food allergic people and their caretakers live with, however, that a bite of the wrong food could close their throat, constrict their breathing, and send them to the emergency room in an ambulance - something that happens every 6 minutes in the US. It makes beach outings, dinners out, birthday parties, playgrounds - all things that are normal - a nerve-wracking experience sometimes. 

Growing up and learning how to manage his allergy.
He always reminds me "Mom, no peanuts or treenuts!" when we go out to eat.

I have become the mom that asks the other moms to make sure their kids don't have peanut butter sandwiches at playdates.

I have become the mom that carries an Epi-pen everywhere - even when I have the non-allergic child - just incase. 

I have become the mom that dives at other people's kids at playgrounds when they eat a granola bar and come near my son. 

I have become the mom that prays for treatment that can desensitize people from food allergies. 

I have become the mom that writes blogs to help raise awareness of what it's like to live with food allergies and how others can be a support and a help.

And there are, by the way, simple things that you can do to help those with food allergies.

Does your kid have a peanut butter for snack or lunch at the playground? Make sure they sit still while they eat it. Wipe their hands and face thoroughly before releasing them to play again, and wipe down the table where they were sitting. 

Does your kid go to school or daycare? Help them understand the importance of hand washing. Help them to understand the importance of staying in one spot while they have their lunch to make sure that allergens don't spread. Make sure the teachers are creating an environment that's safe for everyone - even if your child doesn't have food allergies themselves. 

Help to raise awareness by sharing blog posts like this one or other posts about food allergies. Talk to moms of kids with food allergies to learn what it's like and how you can help. 

Learn how to use an Epi-pen incase a friend's child has a reaction while they have stepped away to the bathroom or to care for another child.

Protect your own allergic children by working to educate them, make sure you bring safe foods with you everywhere you go, and become their strongest advocate.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I say it takes a village to protect them as well. Learn what you can about food allergies and become a part of the village.

Other posts I've written about food allergies include...

Will's First Made Up Super-Hero - A story about when Will protected me from peanuts & treenuts

Cookie Recipe - A recipe for "I Can't Believe It's Not Peanut Butter" cookies; they use sunbutter and are delicious!

Food Allergies & Walt Disney World - Our experience at Walt Disney World resort dealing with food allergies. A MUST READ if you or someone you know with allergies are heading to Disney!

Allergy Party Guide for the Non-Allergy Crowd - How you can work to put together a party that will keep those with allergies safe. Includes helpful tips for buffet setting and how to keep little ones safe from potential allergens.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

We Need Her

I had been in labor for several hours when the nurse came in with a concerned face. She looked at the monitors, looked at the printout tape of the contractions, and frowned. "Your son isn't recovering his heartrate as quickly as we would like to see," she said. They slipped an oxygen mask over my face and encouraged me to get some rest, assuring me that the oxygen increase usually helps the baby recover more quickly.

About an hour or so later, the nurse returned and said that it still wasn't recovering as quickly so they were just going to monitor it.

I got nervous with the next contraction as I watched the monitor. Though I had an epidural and didn't need to breathe for the pain, I realized that if I didn't do my "breathing" exercises that I was going to have an anxiety attack. It was late - maybe 1:00 AM - and I didn't want to wake up Steve who was also told by the nurses to get some rest.

So I breathed. And I watched. And I prayed. And it looked to me like his heart rate was recovering more quickly than it had been.

And so even though the nurses thought I was crazy, I went ahead and continued with my "proper breathing" through every contraction in the hopes to get my son more oxygen and help his heartrate recover. If there was something I could do to help him, I wanted to be able to do it.

Besides... stuck inside my womb, I was really the only one who could. So I kept breathing, and Steve and I watched on his monitor as his heartrate recovered a few seconds faster than it did before I had started to breathe.

I stayed up and got little rest the night before my son was born because he needed me.

Me and my mini-posse.
She cried as soon as her head was out. She cried so loud and so hard that I knew she was unhappy about being out of my womb and in the chilly OR.

She kept crying until she was wrapped up in her newborn swaddle. Steve gave the nurses her name - Evangeline Margaret - and they handed her to him, Soon after that they - Steve and the nurses - came over to me and the three of us had our first mother-father-daughter moment.

While we were being all happy and excited, Evie started to cough and sputter a little bit. Because she was born C-Section, she didn't have all the "junk" in her system squeezed out, and though the nurses had suctioned out quite a bit of it - there was still some left in her nasal passages that was dripping down her throat.

"Hey, guys - I think she's trying to tell you something," our OB leaned over and said to the nurses.

They took my baby away from me to give her another good suction, but she still was coughing a bit. The lead nurse took a look at her and paused, "Well," she said, "I think that she just needs some good skin-to-skin contact with Mom, and she'll be good."

"Great, Mom's almost ready to head to recovery," our OB replied. "Sound good, Mom?"

It definitely sounded good to me. If there was something I could do to help my daughter, I wanted to do it. What seemed like moments later I was in the recovery room with my tiny Evie-girl laid against my chest, her chubby little cheek resting snugly against my skin.

The snorting stopped and easy breathing came. When the nurse checked on me, she said "See? She just needed some skin-to-skin with her Mom."

She needed me.

L-R: My mom, Evie, me, Steve, Will
From the time we are conceived, we need our moms. We need them at first for nourishment, comfort, protection. Eventually we add to that disciplinarian, spiritual leader, teacher, coach, counselor, and many, many more roles that are "assigned" as the times happen to arise and depending on the need. Moms adapt, moms improvise, moms plan, moms organize. Moms wipe tears, ice bruises, wrap ankles, band-aid scrapes and cuts. Moms pack lunches, carpool kids, make playdates, and bring to parks. They take calls from schools, calls from friends' moms, make calls to doctors and dentists offices, and if necessary they call 911.

Moms sleep beside to keep monsters away and stay awake to make sure everyone gets home OK.

Moms worry, moms get excited, moms pray harder than probably anyone else.

Sleeping on the airplane... too hyper for Daddy, crashed for Mommy.
As I lay there looking at my husband, my doctor, my son, and a couple of computer monitors knowing that the decision to have my daughter a week ahead of schedule lay ultimately in my hands - I knew it. I knew I needed my husband to make the call to her.

I needed my mom. At almost 34 years old, I needed my mom. I needed to know my son would be spoiled by his Nana and I needed to know that when my husband and I would come home with our new daughter that we'd be taken care of by the one person who had always taken care of me. The person who, when I was 20 years old and suffering from a bad cold in college, showed up at my door on her way to work one morning with chicken soup, orange juice, cold medicine, a puzzle book, and a box of tea. That's the person I needed.

Almost 34 years later, and I still need my mom sometimes. Sometimes for big things, sometimes for small things, but I still have times that I need my mom. I always will.

Today, we celebrate the hardest working women in life business.

Happy Mother's Day.

L-R: My Nana D., baby Me, and my Mom

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I Can't Wait... But I'll Surely Miss...

It was one of those nights last night that left all four members of my family at a lower-level of cope this morning.

The baby woke up at 2:00 AM for a diaper change and looking for a nursing. Then again at 5:00 AM, ready for the day.

The toddler woke up at 2:00 AM-ish, presumably due to a bad dream. He did not go back to sleep until after 4:00 AM.

This meant that Mom & Dad also slept terribly after staying awake until after 11:00 PM just enjoying each other's company. 

Of course the first thing I thought this morning as I made breakfast in a sleepy haze was that I couldn't wait until they were old enough to get through a bad dream by themselves, get themselves to the bathroom and back to sleep, find their own glass of water, and let Mommy sleep. 

Sweet, luscious, delicious, wonderful sleep. I haven't seen a full 8-hours since I got pregnant with our son almost 4 years ago. 

Then it hit me that for every "I can't wait until..." 
there's a "...but I'll surely miss" right behind it. 

I can't wait until Evie has finished nursing... but I'll surely miss those daily moments of bonding with my sweet baby girl. 

I can't wait until Will can sooth himself back to sleep after a scary dream... but I'll surely miss his small, timid voice calling for his Mom and Dad in the middle of the night, looking for comfort. 

I look forward to the day that I can get a full night of solid sleep again... but I'll surely miss those quiet moments of cuddling with my kids while they're still so small. 

I am excited to see them start school so I can have more productive days... but I'll surely miss tickle mornings, silly dancing, and little hands "helping" me with dishes. 

I can't wait to only have to cook one dish for a meal... but I'll surely miss the toddler-speak uttering the words "I don't die dis, peas I have some maca-oh-nee?". 

I can't wait to be able to leave my kids in child care without a meltdown long enough to get in a workout at a gym/sit through a church service... but I'll surely miss the big hugs I get from those little arms when I appear to "rescue" them, reminding me that they need me. 

I can't wait for Evie to walk as her primary mode of transport... but I'll surely miss watching her smile that wide smile as she power-crawls around the room, wiggling her little diaper bum. 

I can't wait for my kids to start to get into reading chapter books so I can share with them some of my all-time favorites... but I'll surely miss their little bodies cuddled on my nap as I read them some of their current ones. 

I will breathe a small sigh of relief when my primary soundtrack isn't loaded with kids' music... but I will miss the excitement my kids get when "We Are the Dinosaurs" or "The Elmo Slide" come on the play list.

It will be so nice to be able to have my kids get themselves in or out of a car and into a store... but I'll miss the containment that having carseats and my double stroller currently provide. 

I will be so glad when I don't have to say "No, don't do that" all the time... but I'll miss the giggles that they have when they dump the box of cereal all over the floor and start playing in the mess together. 

I'm excited as my kids learn more and more words and I'm able to better communicate with them... but I miss Will's adorable pointing, and I know I'll miss Evie's expressions and one-baby-word sentences. 

I can't wait to hear my kids say their nightly prayers without thanking God for a cartoon character... but I'll definitely miss their quiet little voices also thanking Him for Mom, Dad, and each other. 

Someday the robins will fly into the yard and Will won't give them a second glance.

Someday climbing up on the "lego box" to look out the window won't be such an accomplishment that Evie grins and gets excited every time she does it. 

Someday I'll long for the days where they took afternoon naps. 

Someday they're going to take their bikes out of the driveway and go to the corner store for pizza and soda on their own. 

Someday they're going to go to a play-date without me staying there with them.

Someday they're going to drive themselves to school, to work, to their friends' house. 

Someday they're going to grow up and I'll miss so much about now. I know this. I'm already living through it with each passing month.

But as much as there is a list of things that I'll miss, 
I cannot deny that there is so much that I'm also so excited for 
what's coming up for these kids as they grow.

You know what?

I won't miss poop in the tub though.