Saturday, May 30, 2015

Letting go of the other love of my life....

I've known about this day for about 6 months but it doesn't make it any easier-so I'm taking to writing my feelings to avoid the emotional blubbering mess I would become if I said these things in person.  Ashford wrote a love letter of a different kind so most people already have some idea of how we moms feel about our other loves-our nanny.  I never thought I would be one of those people who would have a nanny.  That always seemed like something the "rich" people had.  But when it came time to make decisions regarding our child care, we prayed hard and decided on a nanny.  It worked for our family-and we are not rich!   Our first two were pretty much disasters which almost swayed us from trying one last time.  Until that day in August when your profile popped up on my account.  I knew the minute I saw it that you were sent from God.  Sounds cheesy, but I really felt like you were an angel sent from the great heavens above.  I remember we called a family you previously worked for and they carried on and on about you.  Now I sit here doing the same.

You fit into our family immediately and have been a saving grace.  You have been a calm presence in the madness that is our life.  You tolerate my quirky sense of humor and you have an uncanny knack of knowing just the moment when I'm having a bad day and send me a hilarious text to brighten my day.  My girls adore you.  You have taught them manners, a love of reading and swimming, and you have even shared some of your fear of germs with them which might actually be a good thing.  You have gone above and beyond and never complain, except that one time my girls made you sick and you ended up in the hospital.  I will certainly miss the fact that you put the silverware in the wrong drawer (but we've never told you because we think it's funny).  Or having to tell people in conversation which Andy I am referring to-my "Andy" or "Andi the nanny".   I have loved being able to share in your life and support you in trying to figure out the rest of your life.  One day, I hope you will understand the magnitude of having someone you love and trust care for your children.  And how it makes working full time a little bit easier knowing they are so well loved and cared for. 

I've tried not to be too sappy.  I remember the days almost 20 years ago when I was in high school and said goodbye to my favorite family I baby sat for.  I can still in my head see sweet little Anna waving with tears streaming down her face as I said goodbye before they moved to Oklahoma.  I can remember pulling away in the car praying I could hold the tears in until she couldn't see me, and then falling apart into a snotty, tearful mess.  But somehow that experience makes it easier for me to be a little more comfortable letting you go-and helps me understand both of our emotions.  I know you will forever be a part of our lives, just as I have been with my sweet family all those years ago-in fact, 20 years later I still check with them on facebook and while I wish I could see them more often, I was forever changed by those amazing kids-they helped me be the mom I am today.  In fact, they were all in my wedding!

I'm pretty certain you and I are forever changed by the year you have been with us.  I am just grateful that  we have technology now-we can face time, send text messages, and be present even when we are 14 hours and 957 miles apart (but who's counting).  We will write letters and expect you to visit often! 

So I'm not saying goodbye-I refuse.  Instead, I'm choosing to say "see you soon!"  Thank you for loving my girls like your own, for giving us so much joy, and for making a difference in our lives-all of our lives.  We will love you always and forever! And yes, just like 20 years ago I will fight back the tears until you pull off and then I will cry my tears as you leave-just like you will. 


Friday, May 15, 2015

Milk, Soy, FPIES-OH MY!!

In honor of national food allergy week, I thought it was appropriate to share our story/way of life.  

For anyone who doesn't know, (because I believe anyone in our lives is very aware) our daughters have allergies to milk and soy.  Our oldest was borderline failure to thrive, did 7 days in special care at birth because she stopped breathing, and was extremely sick for the first 2 years of her life as a result of her allergy to cows milk.  We were given every diagnosis one could think of....Cystic Fibrosis, Silent Reflux, Eosinophilic Esophagitis, etc.  It wasn't until our amazing GI did an endoscopy and biopsied SK's esophagus that we got the real answer-she was severely allergic to milk.  We changed our diet and she finally gained weight after 2 years.  Thankfully she is now 5, can occasionally eat a piece of pizza, and is not allergic to soy.  This is the face of a child with milk allergies....

Our youngest was recently diagnosed with FPIES.  Her reactions to milk or soy have always been very severe and a lot harder to deal with than SK's.  FPIES is a non-IgE food allergy that can become life threatening.  FPIES is a rare disease, but one that we are embracing and learning more and more about daily.  Here's some information if you want to read more about FPIES.

The diagnosis has not changed much for us, other than understanding her severe reactions.  We avoid milk and soy already so our hope is that we no longer have any incidents!  It is extremely difficult to eat out and to constantly have to say to people, "no she can't have that".  My own mother in law is often offended that I turn down food for K because I can't guarantee the ingredients.  Most times I feel like she thinks I'm being dramatic and she normally makes some comment that "one bite won't hurt her".  Sadly, one bite is all it takes for her to earn us a trip to the ER.  We have to check EVERY.SINGLE.LABEL.  Just this past weekend we traveled out of town for the weekend.  Imagine your two kids are hungry and screaming on your 4 hour ride.  Most people stop at a fast food place, grab a bite to eat and get on their way.  We have to first spend our time googling restaurant menus, and then we have to be very careful about making sure she gets the right food for her.  I am happy to report Chickfila and Wendy's have safe options for us!  Wendy's even posts the food allergens on the wall so it was super easy to find!

This is the face of FPIES....

I get asked all the time what some of our "standard" things in our home are.  Thankfully now there are so many alternative options available.  These are a few of our staples...
This is our daily great and is now at Walmart and Food Lion.

This is a great margarine I have used (found at Walmart), but it does contain SOY.

This is our favorite pancake mix...just add Water and we are serving up some fluffy carbs!

This is one of our favorite cheeses that we use to make our own pizzas or grilled cheese sandwiches!

Some of our favorite recipes..

 Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Cake/Cupcake Recipe

Some of our favorite snacks....
Veggie Sticks
Cereal (we eat a lot of cheerios-thank goodness for a variety now!)
Peanut Butter
Fresh fruit and vegetables

I can remember when we first were learning about food allergies with SK.  It all felt so overwhelming and defeating. However, I can honestly say that now, 4 years later, it is a way of life.  We check labels on all our food.  We will probably politely turn down a treat for K at a party and we ask that you not be offended. It's honestly not about your food-it's about her health and us avoiding a trip to the ER.  Most of the time we pack our own cupcake or we bring a bag of snacks so you don't have to worry!  We are very blessed to have such awesome friends who try their hardest to make sure that they include my girls and for that I am constantly thankful.  I always encourage anyone to ask us questions and share resources if they need help or ideas living a milk/soy free life!


Monday, May 4, 2015

"I Do"- over

Last night the hubs was helping my daughter fry up some fresh fish that they had just caught together at the lake. We’ll just say that the kitchen is NOT hubby’s forte and they were calling me in for back up. As he was heating the oil in the frying pan he asked how he could tell if it was hot enough. I quickly got a drop of water on my finger and let it fall into the pan. There was a slight sizzle but not the hopping red hot oil sizzle that you wait for before throwing your fish in the pan. In his ignorance he asked me how to tell the difference between the sizzles. Fumbling for a way to translate it into his male brain I blurted out the first analogy that came to mind.

“It’s like the way our relationship used to sound- not what it’s like now!!”

For a moment we both stared at each other in shock at what I had just said and then we burst out laughing. He corrected me that after three children our relationship doesn’t sound like sizzling oil at all. In fact, it sound more like a sad trumpet.

This got me thinking. What would our wedding vows look like now after 8 years and 3 children together? I’m thinking they’d go something like this…

I, Ashford, take you, Hubs, to me my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; till death do us part.

I promise to stay up with you through bouts of food poisoning (which you somehow manage to get at least every three months) and to even drive to the pharmacy at 3 am to get you anti-nausea suppositories despite my “big day” at work the next day.

I promise to watch “Wicked Tuna,” “Gold Rush: Alaska,” and every single season of Motocross races. I will try to feign interest. I will make tailgate food for every televised Clemson football game. And I will make my famous “Ham Sammies” for every poker night. 

I vow to cook you a pot roast every year on your birthday and to cut back on trying to serve you things like kale and quinoa. (Furthermore I apologize for my foray into “Meatless Mondays” with that tofu chili that you so graciously choked down.) I will choke down your biscuits and gravy and will cease to make vomit noises while you cook potato soup.

I promise to resist the urge to smother you with my pillow as you lay snoring next to me when I get up for the fifth time with the crying baby. I promise to clean up all the “poo-tashrophes” if you will in turn promise to always clean up the dog vomit.

I vow to always present a united front to the children even while I am screaming inside my head “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?!” I will always have your back (even though I might talk behind it sometimes).

I promise to remind you of your father’s birthday year after year and to be the one in charge of organizing family get togethers. I will also make sure to send Christmas gifts to your brother and baby gifts to all of your cousins.

I promise to be your sounding board and to always talk you out of the really stupid ideas. I will always be honest with you. (Whether or not you want me to.)

I promise to always make time for you even when I feel like there’s no time for me. 

I promise to love you even when I hate you and I promise to remember why I married you every time I feel like leaving you. 

I promise to hold on to the glimpses I get of the boy I fell in love with and to remember the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. I will always remember what it felt like to hold your hand as I gave birth to our daughter. And our son. And our other son. In the worst times I will remember that I wanted no one but you in those moments. 

But most of all I promise I will be here. In all of these things. In the sickness, the health, the richer (if someday we get there), the poorer, the better and the worse.

All my love.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A woman's place is in the kitchen

This post originally featured on Mrs MuffinTop

I started dating my husband 16 years ago (holy crap is that right?!?!) And I spent the last 7 1/2  years married to him. The most important lesson that I have learned is that, indeed, my place is in the kitchen

Now before you go all “women’s lib” on me let me start by saying that I am all for equality. I am a successful career woman and am the primary breadwinner for my ever growing family of five. This is not an issue of gender roles. This is an issue of self-preservation.

This man, who is wonderful at so many things, once screwed up making Easy Mac. Yes, you read that correctly. Easy Mac. You know the product that is marketed to and designed for 8 year olds to be able to make their own snack without any supervision. My husband, a [mostly] grown man was unable to follow the four simple steps to produce a bowl of chemically enhanced red dye #40 noodles.

Recently he has taken an interest in cooking. Most women would welcome this with open arms. I, however, can not handle it. Can. Not. Handle. It. For one thing we are southerners. What’s the problem you ask? Well, my husband loves to cook southern “soul food” which as we all know [Paula Deen] is less than healthy. I am still trying to lose the last five pounds of baby weight and do not enjoy partaking in said soul food. So this has led to the hubs smuggling in pounds of sausage and cinnamon rolls like a Mexican drug lord and squirreling them away in the back of the fridge so that I can’t find them. But this isn’t the worst of it. 

He has taken to making biscuits and gravy at least once a week for the last month. Now I love biscuits and gravy as much as the next southern fried chick but this is just too much. Despite my protests that “We may as well be eating glue!” He continues to whip up batches- weekly. He is also trying out different recipes. The last recipe (made this past Sunday) had a base of vegetable oil. VEGETABLE OIL!!! Holy disgusting!! It was this weird brownish color that looked like peanut butter had been swirled together with sour milk. And speaking of sour milk a few weeks ago he made a batch of gravy using milk that was clearly more than a few days beyond it’s life cycle. *BLECH*

As if the constantly flowing river of red-eye gravy isn’t enough in my kitchen he has also concocted a recipe for potato soup. What’s wrong with potato soup you ask? Well, let’s start with his ingredients. His base is several cans of cream of mushroom soup. He adds to that about 5 pounds of potatoes and about a dozen sliced hardboiled eggs. To top it off? You guessed it….sausage. It’s not even the good kind of sausage. He literally buys frozen sausage patties, thaws them out, and (using kitchen shears) cuts them into fourths. The finished product look like something that would’ve been served to Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. It. Is. Revolting.

He has even begun to twist my poor, innocent children’s minds into thinking this is real actual food. Once he served the kids steaming hot bowls of pig slop potato soup for breakfast. FOR BREAKFAST!!! I very nearly changed the locks when he went to work that day.

We have finally come to an agreement about the potato soup. He is no longer allowed to cook it while I am in the house. Even just the mere mention of “potato soup” makes my stomach turn- not to mention the pungent aroma that sticks around for days. Thank God I travel for work. He can have his potato soup and eat it too- just so long as the leftovers make it into the fridge at his work before I return home.

So you see it is in my best interest (and the best interest of my children) that the kitchen remains MY domain. He can stay in the damn garage.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

I'm having a moment...

So bear with me while I have this moment.  This has been a really really stressful week professionally for me.  I've been under a lot of stress.  But at the current moment, the only way to sum up how I'm feeling is this.....
It happened...the baby finally weaned herself from nursing.  I know, I know-many people will be shocked that I still nursed my 21 month old.  But before anyone gets out of sorts-I did what seemed like the best thing for my child.  She's got severe food allergies and honestly I couldn't bring myself to totally stop.  We were down to once a day, but she literally woke up this morning and was done.  FINISHED.

I'm actually a little relieved because I have that extra 20 minutes back into my morning routine.  No more having to wake her up to feed her, only to run out the door and try and be at work on time.  But overall,
I'm sad.  I'm sad because it feels like we are ending a huge phase of our life.  Barring any divine intervention, we are most likely done having babies.  That's seems so painful and final to say.  I feel like you spend most of your life planning on getting married and having children.  It becomes something that defines you and becomes part of who you are.  So when you have to finally admit that you might in fact be done, it feels like someone just put a nail in your coffin.  I feel like I'm mourning this season of our life.  We have slowly been getting rid of all of the large baby gear, but I felt like as long as she was still nursing, we still had a little baby.  I'm now forced to admit that she is actually a toddler and she is less dependent on me.  And I'm forced to face the fact that we might really be done with the baby phase of our life.   It seems so sad and definitive.  So while I can celebrate my new found freedom from nursing, if you need to find me I'll be drowning my sorrows in a giant milkshake-especially since I haven't had one in 21 months because she is allergic to milk and soy.   



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Live in Chapin

When I was growing up in a small town in South Carolina I hated it. As many teenagers tend to do. I yearned for the big city, the lights, the action. However, after 10 years of moving from coast to coast I ended up right here in sleepy little Chapin, SC. A whopping 14 miles down the road from where I grew up. And you know what? Those big cities can't hold a candle to what I get from living in a small town. Here's my top 10 reasons why Chapin, SC is absolutely the best place to call home.

1. Breakfast at Hardees
Because everybody who’s anybody is at Hardee’s for breakfast. It’s hard to get a parking space, the drive thru line is 15 cars deep, and it’s even though it’s still Hardee’s it feels more like Cheers because “Everybody knows your name.”

2. Local Law Enforcement
Because last November the Chapin Police Department actually started a “Pay It Forward” campaign. Throughout the holiday season instead of writing tickets for minor offenses they actually gave you a “Pass It On” coupon. How freaking cool is that?

3. Local Politics
Because we actually held a protest of our local Post Office because there were complaints that our post master was “too rude.” Now in most cities this would be preposterous. But in Chapin? The post master actually issued an apology and promised to try and be nicer. I freaking love this!!! LOVE IT!!! You can read more about the No Hugs for Huggins campaign by clicking on the link.

4. Gas station fried chicken
Because if you’re buying fried chicken anywhere else you’re doing it wrong. I kid you not the Kwik Way hands down has the best fried chicken in the South. HANDS DOWN. And if you thought Hardee’s was like the set of Cheers you need to stop by the Kwik Way at ANY meal time.

5. Christmas with the fire station
Because every year at Christmas our local fire department dresses someone up like Santa and puts him on the top of a fire truck. Then they drive around the neighborhood blasting Christmas music and throwing candy out to all the neighborhood kids. I mean can you name something cooler than Santa on a firetruck throwing out candy? I certainly can’t. 

6. Directions
Because in giving my parents directions to my kids’ school I literally said “Take the back road. Not the back back road, just the back road. And then take a right across from the field where they hold the tractor show every year. If you miss that one go on down to the house with the Clemson Tiger Paw in christmas lights on the roof and hang a right there. You know right in front of the old AT&T store.” Sadly, they had no idea what I was talking about. However, any of you reading this who live here know EXACTLY where this is. Clear. As. Mud.

7. We might not be Mayberry but...
        In discussing with several friends what exactly are the best reasons to live in Chapin the mention of Mayberry kept coming up over and over and over. It was about this time that I headed over to the local PD Facebook page to grab the image of their "Pass It On" campaign. And sure enough, this unexpected gem was laid in my lap.
        Because (see #2) our police department has had Barney Fife set as their profile picture for at least the last 4 months. Well, that is until this week when they changed it to a picture of Roscoe P Coltrane. 

8. The Lake
         Do I seriously need to make an argument for why Lake Murray is one of the BEST parts of living in Chapin? With over 500 miles of shoreline and covering a vast 50,000 acres Lake Murray is an integral part of our community. Just stop by the gas station around 2pm on a sunny Friday afternoon and you'll notice that everyone is heading out. There is nothing to compare to lake living.

9. Location, location, location
        We are 30 minutes from "the big city" of Columbia. We have all the amenities that you could ask for just a quick gander down the road. As I mentioned we are on the lake so there's no travel involved for you fresh water fish. If you're more of a salty dog we are only about 2-3 hours from the Atlantic (think Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Savannah). Or if you prefer the mountains that's a 2 hour drive to the North. Not to mention we are only 1 1/2 hours from Charlotte and 3 from Atlanta. So you can really get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time and you don't have to give up the smallness.

10. The community
Because when a local high school student was involved in a freak, tragic lacrosse accident the local support and outpouring has been astonishing. Even driving down the street several of the local businesses have changed their marquis to “Pray for Jack”. #prayforjack
Because when a local family suffered a house fire troves of people responded getting together donations of clothing. People that don’t even know this family gathering items and delivering donations. Just because it’s what you do.
Because at least twice a week I’m getting emails to sign up to take a family in need a meal. Because when we welcomed our third child we had families bring us meals for 30 days straight. I kid you not. We had more food than a Sam’s Club distribution center. 
The love and mindfulness and caring housed in this sleepy little town is awe-inspiring.

So there you have it. Just don't everyone move in here at once....we'd like to keep it small and sleepy just a little while longer.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

A different kind of love letter

It’s been almost four years since you left. I still miss you. I think about you every day. I still yearn to see your smiling face each morning. Sure there have been others. Many others. But all have paled against the memory of you. It always starts out great but little by little their shortcomings are revealed to me. And I realize that you are irreplaceable. 
I don’t think I fully appreciated what I had until you were gone. I have begged and I have pleaded and yet you remain determined to follow your own path. Apart from mine. I wish you the best in your future endeavors. Because that’s all I really ever wanted. You to be happy. You were so young when we met. And I watch you from afar growing, learning, blazing your own trail.
I am grateful for the friendship that we have maintained even if it’s only a few text messages here and there. They still make me laugh. You understand me like few people in the world do. When you were here I never had to worry about anything. I knew I could count on you. You anticipated my every need. And the children loved you. And you loved them. I couldn’t have wished for anything more.
And now you’re gone. And I remain lost after all these years. This desperate need to fill the void that you created the last time you pulled out of my driveway. Both of us were in tears. 
I find myself late at night perusing the internet searching. Searching. Always searching. I read profile after profile and none of them resonate with me. They are all empty.
You have left a void in my life that neither nor could ever hope to fill. And so I end with this.

You are my nanny. My soul. And I miss you gravely.