pre-deployment family photos

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Before my husband left for this last deployment, my wonderful sis-in-love gifted us with a very patriotic family shoot! Its now something we’ll have forever and is already so special to us! I’m so proud of my husband’s uniform, and I love how these turned out! This was a great way to solidify our family unit before being separated for many many months. If you’re looking for a way to honor a military family, this is a great idea!!!!

photos done by the talented Jenn Guthrie
Jacksonville, Florida

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what I ate when I lost the baby weight.

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{See my full postpartum weight loss adventure here.}

SMALL. CLEAN. OFTEN.

Here is an example of my diet when I lost the baby weight. I ate like this every day (+ ONE cheat meal a week, 2 if I was feeling naughty) and lost the 50 lbs I gained with my first son in 9 months, and the 35lbs from my second son by the time he was 6 months old. I obviously learned from the first pregnancy- what comes on, must come off! :)

TWO week difference after starting my post-baby diet plan.

TWO week difference after starting my post-baby diet plan. :)

A Day:

7am: 1 FULL glass of water before anything! 1 cup of coffee with truvia.
1/2 cup Oatmeal + 1 cup almond milk + PB2+  blueberries + cinnamon + flax seeds

10am: A small whole grain wrap with 2 chicken slices + baby spinach leaves + hummus + fresh ground pepper + a squeeze of lemon. (the size= picture a wrap from chick-fil-a, now cut it in half. It looks tiny at first, but your body will learn this is what a normal portion is after about 1 week. DONT LET THE SMALL PORTIONS SCARE YOU, JUST GET TO 1PM AND YOU CAN EAT AGAIN!)

1pm: One small (organic if possible) Chicken breast, 1 cup green beans or asparagus

3pm: A “homemade” protein bar (look at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Central Market)

6pm: Ground turkey, crushed garlic tomatoes + 1 cup whole wheat pasta + fresh basal

B Day:

7am: 1 FULL glass of water before anything! Coffee with truvia.
Protein shake made in my magic bullet- 4 ice cubes + 1/2 cup almond milk + 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (look for low sugar, low carb, high protien.) + 1 Tbs PB2

10am: 1 cup egg white omelet + Sautéed spinach, mash 1/2 avocado on top & sprinkle paprika & ground pepper on top

1pm: Tuna fish or chicken on whole wheat wrap + 1/2 Tbs olive oil mayo + walnuts + ground pepper & one twist of ground pink Himalayan salt

3pm: LÄRA Bar (LÄRA bars are very trustworthy, the sweetness comes from dates- no added sugar! I always stock up on these at the store and keep one in my purse at all times) or a banana or apple

6pm: One small chicken breast & half of a baked sweet potato

-Alternate these A & B days- mix stuff around and find what you like. Just remember to keep the portions SMALL. When in doubt, HALF it! You may not feel full after eating… and thats OK y’all!! It is so a “first world problem” to think we have to feel full after every meal. Like the comedian Louie CK says in reference to Cinnabon, “I don’t stop eating when I’m full, I stop eating when I hate myself”. Makes me LOL every time… its funny, but NO that will not be us! We will stop eating BEFORE we feel full. Save the I hate myself moment for your Thanksgiving and Christmas feast. Thats only twice a year yall. ;)
-ONLY drink H2O! A lot of H2O. NO milk, juice, coke, diet coke, (i’m from Texas where Coke means all soda), or alcohol. Unless its with your cheat meal, but I would still steer clear if you can! Cokes and juices are full of sugar and have no nutritional value. And don’t even get me started on diet Coke. Its a lie. Just stay away!
-NOTHING to eat after 6pm meal! Water is fine though.
-PLAN your cheat meals (Fri or Sat night), look forward to them. Don’t just start eating bad and say- oh I guess this is my cheat meal for this week! No, keep to your diet and only cheat according to your plan. YOU are in control.
-MEAL PREP! Get it all ready and organized on Sunday. Get some good containers and adjust  your fridge to very cold, it will stay good all week, I never had a problem eating meals from sun-fri.

MEAL PREP IS KEY!

MEAL PREP IS KEY!

-Heres a tip to help you at the beginning: find a meal prepping service in your area and invest in their service for the first 2-4 weeks so you learn what proper portion size is and can get some recipe ideas. It is worth it! And you’ll learn how convent prepping is- all you do is pull it out of the fridge and heat it up! Was perfect for me and my crazy schedule with work/school/kids! It makes this whole process start sooooo easy! And you’ll actually save money by emptying out your fridge every week (nothing goes to waste) and you have no excuse to say- “I’m too tired to cook tonight, lets just order a costly, fatty pizza. Google search your town + “meal prepping service”
Tampa & Jacksonville areas: Nutrition Solutions
DFW area: Simply Fit Meals 

example of proper portion size for one meal.

example of proper portion size for one meal.

-Also, here is a good grocery list I found thats helpful! Just remember to always check the labels, get organic when possible, eat simple, avoid flavorings and seasonings as they contain MSG and GMOs.

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-Summing it up again:

  • Small: 300 calories or less per meal- a LÄRA bar, a protein shake, small chicken breast with a veggie, a small spinach salad, a small wrap (half the size of a wrap you would get at Chick-Fil-a) with light dressing, egg whites, 1 cup of oatmeal with almond milk, a banana, black bean burger with 1/2 avocado, ect….
  • Clean: ABSOLUTELY NO- fast food, salt, seasoning packets, processed foods (in a package with an expiration date over a month), foods that contain more sugar than fiber or protein (READ THE LABLES), no fried food, no soda- ESPECIALLY “diet” soda. Fast food is not real food. Think of it as un-edible (and it will be after you eat clean for a while). AVOID: breads, dairy, alcohol, juices, more than 1 cup fruit a day. STOCK UP: H2O H2O H2O!!!!!! USDA certified organic meats and veggies, almond milk, some fruit, oatmeal, egg whites, almonds, simple organic spices, thin cut chicken breast, lean flank steaks, lean ground turkey, Truvia, fresh (not instant) coffee, Morning Star and Kashi are trustworthy brands but still ALWAYS read those labels and beware of sugar!!!
  • Often: Every 3-4 hours you get to eat a meal! Well a 300 calorie meal. I like to think of it like eating like your baby: every 3 hours while awake  :) Basically this kicks your metabolism into high gear. If you eat small, youre giving your body just enough to fuel you for about 3 hours. In 3 hours you’ll start feeling hungry and you can eat again! But just enough to keep you going for 3 more hours. This way your body is using what you need and dips into fat stores because it learns that it will only get just enough to last for a few hours. Skipping meals is NOT ok- because then your body goes into starvation mode and holds onto what it has (my thighs) because it doesnt know when it will get food again. Your body has to trust that you will keep fueling it in order to let some of that thigh go. It does take a few days for your body to learn your new diet, it will be hard. But after about 5-7 days it becomes the new normal and I promise you can get there!! Get past those first few hard days, get used to feeling a little hungry (you will not starve to death!) and then it will get so much easier and you will feel amazing. You will get to a place where your mindset has changed from eating every meal for pleasure to eating to fuel your body.
  • Reward Yourself: Weekly and at the end once you reach your goal, let yourself enjoy something! This consists of, drum roll please….. a CHEAT MEAL! Woo! You deserve it! ONE cheat meal a week will not hurt you. In fact it will help you! Its something to look forward to at the end of a long week of dieting, and it lets you give in to your craving without loosing control. When I have a cheat meal I actually appreciate every bite, when I wouldnt if it was something I ate every day. Also, I think you’ll find you’ll feel super stuffed and maybe even feel a little sick after your cheat meal.  You get used eating healthy!  :) Then at the end of your journey, when your goal has been met its time to celebrate! Take a vacation, go on a shopping spree, get your hair done to top it off!

 YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!
SMALL. CLEAN. OFTEN.

And finally, here’s your homework: educate yourself on nutrition by watching this film, Fed Up.  Knowing the truth about what real nutrition is and isn’t will help your mental strength tremendously and guide you from dieting to an actual healthy lifestyle change. FedUpmovie.com

Loosing Those Baby lbs.

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Ok SO.. I am NOT a fitness model or personal trainer. I do NOT have the perfect body (whatever that is) I’m just a mama of two, who has successfully lost the baby weight fairly quickly. So I thought I’d write down what I did. There are probably others who had success in ways completely different than mine. But here is my story, and I’m hoping that what worked for me will work for you too! Here are my reasons, my excuses, how I overcame my excuses, and my tips. My goal is to help other Mommys out there get healthy! :)

My Reason:
I actually have many reasons. First, my kiddos. I want to be a good example of health and discipline. They watch everything we do, whether we know it or not. If they grow up in a family that eats healthy and is active, then that is what will be normal to them. If they grow up eating fast food everyday, they will think that is normal and later it will be much harder for them to learn to be healthy. Also, I am a registered nurse. My livelihood is helping others with their health, so I feel as if I need to practice what I preach. Don’t yall think its kinda weird to see doctors and nurses taking a smoke break after they just lost a patient in respiratory failure due to COPD? Thats what I’m saying. Another reason (and sorry if this is TMI) is for my husband. Sorry, but its true! I’m the only woman he gets to see naked… so you’re welcome babe. And my final reason for getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight: ME. I did it for me. Because I feel better, sexier, more content, more like myself when i’m healthy and active. Eating whatever I craved for 9 months was fun, but it’s time to feel good and back to normal. :)

My Excuses:

  • Its HARD: “Ok yes, nothing good comes easy, blah blah. But it seriously takes work. Hard work. The pounds came on so easy, I don’t even want to think about all the crap I ate when I was pregnant. I just want to be complacent. Just stay how I am. How will I ever get back to where I was?” -Well, what I remembered was that i’ve done it before. I gained (and eventually lost) 5o lbs with my first son. I had to tell myself  “I can do it again!” Think back to a huge challenge that you have overcome. Remember standing at the base of that mountain and how daunting it was. Now remember overcoming the obstacle and how amazing that felt! If you’ve overcome that, then you can do this. This is obtainable. It has already been proven: you are an overcomer! And nothing good comes easy. If it was easy then no one would have problems with it! Hard work ALWAYS pays off!
  • I’m too busy: This was a big one for me because I am in a season right now where I am juggling so much. “When will I ever find the time to fit in a workout? I have a toddler, a newborn, no family close, I work, & I’m going to graduate school full time.” – I had to remember that if I wait for the perfect conditions, I’ll never get anything done. When is it a good time to go back to school? Never- you just have to start! When will the conditions be perfect now that I have a baby? NEVER. You just have to find a slot in your day to fit it in. If you have no slots, you make one. I work around my family’s schedule. I never workout at the same time every day because I only can sqeeze it in when I can… If I work or have clinical, I do it when I get home during C2’s nap and while C1 is still at daycare. If its a school day, I usually take a rest day. And if its a weekend then I do it first thing in the AM before everyone is up and going. Does it always work out that way? Nope! But there are enough windows of time during the week to get 3-4 good workouts in. We all have many hats we wear and things we are juggling, but I promise if I can find a window, you can too!
  • Its too expensive: “I can’t afford anything extra like a gym membership right now.” -This one’s easy: you dont need a gym or personal trainer! I did all my workouts at home. Insanity (a Beachbody DVD program) is what I used because it is what works for me. I got it after my first son was born… getting good use out of it! But it doesnt even have to be that. Find some pilates or bootcamp type DVDs, rent them from the library, or find some on YouTube. Also, look on Pinterest- theres workout routines all over the place. Print 5 of them out and rotate through them. Put a good playlist together to keep you pumped up! And dont forget about a good old fashioned run outside, its great for your mind, heart, and lungs!
  • But I have TWO under 3: “I cant pay extra for the childcare, and if I did join a gym (which I didnt) then I wouldnt take the little baby to the daycare there, yuck. Getting them to nap at the same time is a miracle! And if that happens I need that time to clean or study!” -This is another reason to find your windows of opportunity. Do it when they nap (the dishes will still be there, your window of time to get a workout in might not be), have them go to the park with dad (they need bonding time anyway!), do it before they wake up or after they go to bed. Having kids is no excuse. And what does that teach our kids? ‘Sorry guys, but your life made it too hard for me to accomplish anything, so when stuff gets hard for yall just do what I did and give up.’ Haha, ok maybe thats a little harsh, but I really do believe that children should not be used as an excuse for anything.
  • Genetics: This one wasnt really one of mine, but I know that people’s genetics can be very frustrating because its something that is out of our control. No, we cant pick what are DNA is composed of, but think about it this way- your family genetic history is what you are predisposed to. NOT what you 100% for sure will be. Much of “genetics” arent actually in your genes, but trend because of the ways families live. If your mom cooked unhealthy, you learned to cook/eat that way- it may be more of a nurture vs. nature situation. Which is GOOD news, because you can change that! Genetics may make things harder, but it doesn’t have to make them impossible. Also, you had the same genes now as you did before you got pregnant. So if your goal is to get to your pre-pregnancy weight, then genes can’t possibly hold you back. That’s an awesome concept to remember!

    Post baby #1: 1 month, 9 months, & 12 months.

    post baby #1: 1 month, 9 months, 12 months.

post baby: 2 months, 3, months, 4 months, 6 months.

post baby# 2: 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months.

Ok so here it is, how I lost the baby weight in 10 (not so easy) steps:

1. Accept your “Mommy Body”: I don’t care who you are, or what personal trainer you hired- your body will not be the same after a pregnancy. Ever. Listen- IT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Just take a minute to absorb and accept that right now. Even when you get down to your pre-pregnancy weight, you wont look/feel the same… things have shifted, skin has stretched. Is your life the same now that you have a baby? HECK no. Better? Of course! So with that said, accept the changes and look forward to shaping yourself the way you want. You may never look 20 again, but you could feel even better!!

2. Prepare: Do your research and form a plan. Make sure you start when you are ready. Not when you FEEL ready because that might never happen- but start after you have a plan and support. Ask your husband or sister or friend to do this with you and keep you accountable. Find a work out program and healthy recipes. Empty out your pantry with everything that is processed or loaded with sugar and empty carbs. Get it all out of your house! If its not there, you wont eat it. Get some new running shoes and a cute workout outfit! Reward yourself just for starting this adventure!

3. Stay Disciplined: Remember the hardest challenges you have overcome and think about them every day. Write them on your mirror: “I overcame our first deployment pregnant, in school, with a toddler!” That was mine, write what makes you proud of yourself! Also, I’ve found that when I am disciplined in one area of my life, it is easier to be disciplined in other areas as well. Start with something small, like putting your plate in the dishwasher instead of the sink everytime, taking the grocery cart to the proper spot instead of leaving it by your car in the parking lot (it sounds hard, but its really not, haha!), finish a book you’ve started… Little things to get you in the habit of daily resolve. Use motivators- I am in two weddings later this year and I live in Florida so we go to the beach often. I dont see anything wrong with using big events, a high school reunion, or an upcoming vacation as a motivator to get fit. Whatever is gonna get you started and keep you going! Just always know the difference between motivators and your reasons.

4. Breastfeed: According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, mamas who breastfeed tend to lose pregnancy weight more quickly due to the calorie consumption needed to produce and let down breast milk. On average, a breastfeeding mom will lose 2-4 lbs more per month. The oxytocin that is released in order to promote milk let down brings a calming feeling while it contracts the uterus back to its normal size. Also studies show, that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis. I could write a whole post about the benefits for your baby as well. 6 months is the recommended length of time, but do it as long as you and your little one want/need! If you’re wanting to breastfeed, or know someone who needs good education, get the book “AAPs New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding” by Dr. Joan Younger Meek.

5. Set a Goal: Goal setting is so so important. Be as detailed as you can. Set a start date and an end date. Write on your mirror with dry erase marker: “I WILL lose 35lbs by July 4th”. Get a calendar and write out your menu, your work out times, weigh-in days (I suggest only once a week, in the AM), along with the family’s schedule. This will make it easy to find your windows of opportunity. And ALWAYS schedule in time to rest- you know you deserve a mani/pedi!

6. Forget your Excuses: We all have them. Thinking abut them will only hold you back. Write them out on a piece of paper and then rip it up! Whatever you have to do to totally forget about them. They are no longer a part of you. Do not even give them the chance to enter your thoughts. Only positive thoughts allowed! If you find that one day an excuses finds its way in and you slip up, remember that tomorrow is a new day. Don’t let ANY excuse destroy you. Keep on pushing on! Talk to your accountability partner, think about why it happened and make a plan to combat it next time. The main point: KEEP GOING.

7. Eat Small, Clean, & Often: This is THE MOST important step!!! Losing weight is ALL DIET (think of exercise being more for cardiovascular health + toning up). If you never are able to work out but can eat small, clean, and often.. you WILL lose weight. The first two weeks I ate small/clean/often, I lost 10lbs without working out once during that time. This is such a huge point that I wrote a whole post on it describing my diet and technique in detail, HERE. But for now:

  • Small: 300 calories or less per meal- a LÄRA bar, a protein shake, small chicken breast with a veggie, a small spinach salad, a small wrap (half the size of a wrap you would get at Chick-Fil-a) with light dressing, egg whites, 1 cup of oatmeal with almond milk, a banana, black bean burger with 1/2 avocado, ect….
  • Clean: ABSOLUTELY NO- fast food, salt, seasoning packets, processed foods (in a package with an expiration date over a month), foods that contain more sugar than fiber or protein (READ THE LABLES), no fried food, no soda- ESPECIALLY “diet” soda. Fast food is not real food. Think of it as un-edible (and it will be after you eat clean for a while). AVOID: breads, dairy, alcohol, juices, more than 1 cup fruit a day. STOCK UP: H2O H2O H2O!!!!!! USDA certified organic meats and veggies, almond milk, some fruit, oatmeal, egg whites, almonds, simple organic spices, thin cut chicken breast, lean flank steaks, lean ground turkey, Truvia, fresh (not instant) coffee, Morning Star and Kashi are trustworthy brands but still ALWAYS read those labels!!!
  • Often: Every 3-4 hours you get to eat a meal! Well a 300 calorie meal. I like to think of it like eating like your baby: every 3 hours while awake :) Basically this kicks your metabolism into high gear. If you eat small, youre giving your body just enough to fuel you for about 3 hours. In 3 hours you’ll start feeling hungry and you can eat again! But just enough to keep you going for 3 more hours. This way your body is using what you need and dips into fat stores because it learns that it will only get just enough to last for a few hours. Skipping meals is NOT ok- because then your body goes into starvation mode and holds onto what it has (my thighs) because it doesnt know when it will get food again. Your body has to trust that you will keep fueling it in order to let some of that thigh go. It does take a few days for your body to learn your new diet, it will be hard. But after about 5-7 days it becomes the new normal and I promise you can get there!! Get past those first few hard days, get used to feeling a little hungry (you will not starve to death!) and then it will get so much easier and you will feel amazing.

8. Sweat It Out: Does mowing the yard count as a workout? Well, did you sweat? Heck yes it counts! Take the stairs, park in the last row in the lot, instead of a movie date with your man try a rock climbing gym or kayaking together! Find a way to be active for at least 30 minutes and that can totally count as your workout that day! Dont forget zumba, yoga, sports, and stroller stride mom’s groups! Cant find one? Start one!

9. Track Your Progress: Take progress pictures for yourself and write your weight down. I dont have a scale in my house because I dont want to obsess over the number. I weigh myself once a week at work or the grocery store; I dont measure inches, but you can, just not every day. I just count how many pre-preg clothing items I can fit into again :) It is important to see your progress to inspire yourself that what you are doing is working and is worth it.  If during your progress documentation you see something you didnt expect, you can try to find the reason for the bump in the road and fix it. Which is better than doing something blindly, thinking it is good when its actually detrimental! For example: starbucks “skinny” lattes- I was getting a skinny every time and not understanding why I still was holding onto 5 lbs… once I switched to black coffee with a little stevia in it, it solved the problem! It was the fake sugar in the syrup. Your body reacts to sugar substitutes such as Splenda the same way as sugar with an insulin spike. yikes!

10. Reward Yourself: Weekly and at the end once you reach your goal, let yourself enjoy something! This consists of, drum roll please….. a CHEAT MEAL! Woo! You deserve it! ONE cheat meal a week will not hurt you. In fact it will help you! Its something to look forward to at the end of a long week of dieting, and it lets you give in to your craving without loosing control. When I have a cheat meal I actually appreciate every bite, when I wouldnt if it was something I ate every day. Also, I think you’ll find you’ll feel super stuffed and maybe even a little sick after your cheat meal.  You get used eating healthy! :) Then at the end of your journey, when your goal has been met its time to celebrate! Take a vacation, go on a shopping spree, get your hair done to top it off!

Final thoughts- just things to keep in mind:
According to my midwife instructor (Who is a Captan in the Navy and has been in OB/GYN care for over 30 years) women who don’t loose their baby weight by the baby’s 1st birthday usually never do. If that statistic doesn’t light a fire under you, then I don’t know what will! A collection of data was done by Erica Gunderson, PhD: “Approximately 14% of women are likely to become overweight within 1 year after delivery.” I’ve also read that it is important to get healthy in between babies because it is so much harder to lose the weight of 2 pregnancies. But if that is you, write it down in your excuses page so you can rip it up ;)
If you’re interested in more of the stats take a look at these studies: Loosing Weight Before Pregnancy & Childbearing and Obesity 

Like I said before, I am no fitness expert. But I hope that other mama’s can find inspiration to get determined and see how powerful they can be! If you make the decision to be determined in your goals, then you have already won! We sustained life within us for 9 months, and then gave birth to our children… we can do anything after that! We are Mamas, hear us roar!

Please share any tips, recipes, things that did/didnt work for you… and please share your progress!

Cole is 3!

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Cole turned THREE on July 15th. I can not believe it! He is so full of energy, and so smart it blows my mind sometimes. He seriously could be ready for kindergarten right now, he learns so quickly and LOVES to learn too! :) All other kids he calls his “friends”. He is so sweet with his baby brother, and very athletic- ALWAYS jumping! He brings so much joy to our lives, I feel as if it was MY life started 3 years ago.

Cole brought cupcakes for his class at “school”, then we celebrated by taking him to a trampoline park which he loved of course. The guy that worked there kept having to get him from climbing up the sides. He was impressed that Cole was so strong and fearless! Then we came home and opened presents and ate pizza and Cookie Monster cookie cake, a 3 year old’s dream! His favorite present was the Clifford The Big Red Dog books his Gigi and Pop-pop sent him! And his least favorite present was the big boy underwear I got him! Haha, I thought he would like them because they were Elmo and Cookie Monster, but he did not care about them one bit! :)

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our valentine baby.

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Caden’s birth story starts over a year before he was born. He doesn’t know it yet, but his birth and life healed pain, answered questions, and provided reassurance that God hears me and sees far beyond what I could ever dream of for my life.

I used writing as therapy when recovering from a loss of a pregnancy. [See the 2 previous posts] I held on to my faith knowing that one day the pain, confusion, and hopelessness would be replaced with purpose and joy.

After a molar pregnancy, I was healed through writing, prayer, and time. After recovering from the D&C, I turned my focus to my health and the weekly blood work that I now had to do. Once the Hcg levels in my blood were down to zero, I only had to get my blood drawn monthly to ensure they did not rise again indicating a cancerous mass growing as the molar mass did. I was strictly instructed by my doctor to not get pregnant during the next year;  if that had happened we could no longer look at the Hcg levels to detect a mass.  Even more frightening, a mass can grow regardless of a pregnancy and overtake the baby again.

Another focus of mine was applying to graduate school. Before finding out I was pregnant I had been debating and praying. My prayer was “God what’s the next step in my life. Should I have another baby right now, or…. go back to school?” I took the pregnancy as an obvious answer- baby time! Then after that pregnancy was lost, it only made sense to me that now the answer from God was- school time! So I went through the vigorous application process for a Nurse Practitioner program here in Jacksonville.

In the summer of 2013, about 6 months into the blood work monitoring, I got a phone call from the Nurse Practitioner from my Drs office asking me to come in right away- my serum Hcg level showed a rapid elevation. “Ok”, I said feeling nervous about her stern request, “the only problem is that I am out of state”. (I was back home in Texas working a summer travel job for the first half of my husband’s deployment.)
I found a local Dr and made an appointment, then called my Florida Dr and requested to have my records sent so the Texas Dr could take over my treatment and investigate the elevated levels. As I told her the Texas Dr’s information, she stopped me. “Wait, who is the Dr you’ve made an appointment with!?” She made me repeat the Dr’s name. “Oh my gosh, Lindsey! She is my friend! We went through medical school together at the University of Florida! In fact, my husband and I were just at her house last month!” My jaw dropped. A peace washed over me giving me goosebumps. Of all the Drs I could have made an appointment with… Of all the Drs in the area… Not just an acquaintance, but a good friend of my Florida Dr! Not just in Texas, or just in the DFW area, but in my hometown located FIVE minutes away from me. There are no coincidences. God knew. He set this up long before I even got to Texas. “I’ll just call her real quick and get everything worked out. I’ll tell her all about you for a seamless handover of care, dont worry about a thing!”. After we hung up I felt comforted and its like I could hear God whispering to me, “I’ve got this. I do not exist just in the present, I have already been. I already know. I have you where you’re supposed to be.”

That afternoon I got a letter in the mail, I had been accepted into the Nurse Practitioner graduate program! My excitement was short lived as anxiety creeped in leading up to the appointment the next day. I really had high hopes, I didnt feel like there was anything bad going on with me, but it was still nerve wrecking knowing what the possibilities were. Finally, I had a huge relief when the Dr did the ultrasound and saw a sac, not a mass! Keeping a close eye on it for the next 10 weeks with ultrasounds, it was evident that a mass was not forming, but an embryo was! I didn’t have cancer, I had a baby! A sweet baby with a strong heartbeat!

By the time I got back to Florida to start school I was 16 weeks and the horrible pregnancy symptoms I experienced were subsiding. The morning sickness, or more like “all day sickness,”  had been so horrible I could barley function, thank God I was in Texas during that time and my mom, step-mom, and sister watched my son as I had no other option but to sleep, puke, repeat. My living situation that summer was another blessing God had foreknown.  It had gotten so bad I even debated going back to Florida for school. But my dad, who is one of my biggest supporters, told me, (an adult woman) I HAD to go. He said I had to try or I’d always wonder if I could have done it. He packed my little Honda Civic full and drove me, my son, my cat, and plenty of vomit bags halfway across the country to get me here the day before orientation for school. My dad believed in me more than I did.
My husband was still on deployment and that first semester of school was tough, to say the least.  Alone, pregnant, and with a toddler; God gave me the strength to push through. I did it! My husband finally got home from his deployment when I was 7 months along.

The rest of the pregnancy went smooth, until the last month when the baby was not growing and I had a relentless cough. I had another ultrasound done to make sure a molar was not growing and invading his ‘home’ the placenta which would indicate emergency c-section. The ultrasound showed no molar mass forming, whew! However, the baby was small and not growing anymore. My Dr didnt know why, but since I was so far along and his heartbeat was good they said it was up to me if I wanted to induce or not. I went back and forth on that idea because I did not want to be induced.
A week before the due date I had some contractions and signs of labor. I knew this was it and was so relieved I didn’t have to be induced. I am so so thankful I my mom was visiting that week to help me get ready. I went into labor in the middle of the night, if she had not been there, we would have had no one to stay with our 2 year old. And the last thing I wanted was to wake him up and have him afraid and in the middle of all the commotion at the hospital with us. My husband got me to the hospital very quickly. Its no joke that second babies are super quick, he was ready to be here before we even got to the delivery room! The labor was so intense, way worse than I remember with my first. Or maybe it was just as bad, but you kind of forget how bad it was so you’ll have another. I dont know, but that pain would take over my whole body and I felt as if I had no rest in between contractions this time. My Dr who had delivered my first son and got me through the miscarriage, was on that night. Another God send! On the morning of Valentine’s day 2014, our beautiful son Caden was born. Words can’t express how amazing he is.

 

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During the labor my blood pressure was at a concerning high level and did not return to normal for about a week after the delivery. The Dr determined I had undiagnosed pre-ecplamsea. My blood pressure was always good in the office, and it just got missed. Having high blood pressure when pregnant is dangerous to the baby because the placenta can not give the baby nutrients due to not being perfused by the mama’s cardiovascular system. No wonder he was born so small! Poor baby looked like a premie with skin too big for his little body, because he had stopped growing at 34 weeks so it was like he was born at 34 weeks even though it was actually 39 weeks. Since he was low birth weight, his glucose levels had to be checked every 2 hours for the first day and a half of his life. It broke my heart for him to have his little heal stuck every two hours. I tried to remain calm and focus on mothering him as best as I could. I would breastfeed him, pump, supplement him with my pumped colostrum and formula, then breastfeed him again, then he’d get his glucose checked. That cycle repeated over and over with no time for sleep or rest. I was exhausted, but after 36 hours, all of that work got his glucose levels high enough for me to just feed him then rest, allowing us to bond and finally have some peace.
All the anxiety I felt from the molar pregnancy, the blood work, the second molar scare, the morning sickness, the semester of school alone and pregnant with a 2 year old, the deployment, the pre-eclampsea, the painful labor, the 2 hour glucose checks… all faded away and I felt like I could finally breathe. Such a long road, every day of it worth it for this sweet, blue-eyed baby boy I now held in my arms. I never could have imagined such a perfect sweet baby for our family. He just fit right in, like he was always meant to be ours.

My prayers about either having a baby or going back to school had been answered. I just never in a million years would have thought the answer was to do BOTH! I wouldn’t be that crazy to even consider that as an option. If I had not experienced the miscarriage I would not have applied to school making my chances of being accepted 0%. I would not have the lessons I learned, or gained the strength I had during my husband’s deployment. And most of all, I wouldn’t have my sweet son, Caden.

Summing it up, it all works out. No matter what pain, loss, and trials we go through, there is a reason. There is hope in God’s plan. He knows beyond what we could even think our options are. He has set my path straight ahead of me without me having to anxiously worry.

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

our second pregnancy :: part 2.

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:: Written 11/18/2012 ::

“This isnt looking like a normal pregnancy”, my doctor explained to us as she continued the ultrasound. “This is so rare and unexpected but this is looking like a molar pregnancy”. My husband started to ask questions about what this meant as he had never heard of anything called a molar pregnancy. But I kept silent. I knew exactly what a molar pregnancy was. It was something that I had not given a seconds thought about since I answered a question on a test about it in nursing school. In my 4 years of nursing I had never seen it since learning about it. Until now. With me. In me.
A molar pregnancy, or hydatidiform mole,  is when there is a placenta-like mass that grows instead of a baby. Your body cant tell a difference so acts as if you are pregnant. Sometimes there is a small fetal pole that can be seen where an embryo started to develop before the mass took over. Sympotms include bleeding and extreme nausea along with pregnancy symptoms. It is very rare and the cause is unknown.
First the disappointment and sadness of losing a pregnancy struck me. My body had been lying to me for 8 weeks, I had to wrap my head around the idea that I never was pregnant with a viable baby. There was no life being formed. None of the plans I had made were worth anything now.
“This is not a pregnancy that can be saved, and we need to perform a D & C as soon as possible to get the contents of the mass out before it grows any larger. Then it will be studied in the pathology lab to rule out any type of cancer. Once we are positive it is all out, and your body is not showing the pregnancy hormone, Hcg, we will initiate monthly tests to make sure it does not return due to the increasing risk of cancer. During the 12 months you will be going through these tests, you can not get pregnant.” was the doctors agenda. We went out to eat after leaving the doctor’s, but not in celebration. Disbelief and incomprehension sat at the table with us. The question of ‘how’ was quickly interrupted with the more pressing ‘why’. Why such a random blow to our hearts?

Getting over the emotions of losing the pregnancy would only be healed by God and time. The 4 days leading up to the D & C procedure would be the most challenging for me physically. The bleeding and nausea only got worse, I cant imagine how bad it would have got if I had had to go one more day like that. By the day of the surgery all I could do was lay in bed, sobbing in pain while listening to the worship band “All Sons & Daughters”. I couldn’t eat or sleep, let alone take care of my 1 year old. Thank God my husband is in an awesome squadron that let him have the day of my surgery off. The few days before that were really rough as well. I called my son’s babysitter to come watch him one of the days even though I called in sick to work to rest. The other days I was on the couch and my son would bring me books to read to him. None of my family was able to get out here that week. I do have friend/aquintences here, that I could call in an emergency. But none that I felt close enough with to open up in that vulnerability to. I love taking care of others, but when its me its just so hard to ask for help. Its even hard for me to ask my family to come help, let alone people I rarely see or talk to. So all in all, it was lonely and it was tough to keep it together.
My son’s babysitter was able to watch him during the surgery and my husband was able to be with me. Some good friends of ours from Texas ordered us food for that night and the next day, it was so amazingly sweet and thoughtful. It made it seem like we were not so far away. The procedure went well. I did not end up needing a blood transfusion like the doctor had anticipated. Soreness and restlessness followed. My husband is so good with our son, he watched him all weekend and finished all of my half done chores.

I love my husband. His words always shed light to my questions, we both think in such different ways. His words to me that night as my mind raced keeping rest far away; “I dont know why this has happened right now. But I do know that on the day our second child is born, we will look into his or her eyes and realize why.”

I agree with him. God’s timing is right and only He knows what the future holds. He knows who are children are. Right now was not the time intended for a baby. It was for something else- to make our family even stronger, to emphasize the miracle of conception and life, to instill thankfulness for the little life we have already been blessed with, and to force our eyes upon the Lord. One day I will meet my second child and know, that only that baby could be mine and could only have been created at that time. Not in the fall of 2012. This place in time had a different purpose.

One day this will make since to me. One day I will write part 3.

 

our second pregnancy :: part 1.

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:: Written 11/18/2012 ::

Often times role reversal is necessary. I work in the health care industry. I am a caregiver to the sick and hurting, sometimes to the bored and hungry- but a caregiver none the less. But when it comes to being the patient myself, I am out of my comfort zone.

The past week has been one of the hardest of my life physically and emotionally. Although I’m often emotional, I rarely get sick. All that exposure working in the ER has boosted my immunity! Unfortunately, sometimes things are completely out of our control and a strong immune system can not protect you.
In mid October, my husband and I found out we were expecting our second child. We were happy with the news and we knew it was a wonderful gift. “Well, here we go again!” we said as we realized we would have a 2 year old and a newborn in our home… and the due date would be right in the middle of my husband’s deployment. If you know me at all, you know that I plan. Maybe, like in this case, its a coping mechanism. To feel like I have any sort of control, I have to plan things out. And so I did. In only a few days I mentally geared up. Ok I thought, plenty of military wives before me have delivered babies while they’re husbands were gone fighting for our contry. Of course I can do it too. Its my duty in the silent ranks to sacrifice so that American civilian wives do not have to. Ok, so that’s that. I’ll just have to ask family to come visit to be with my son when this baby is born, and then maybe my mom, mother in law, and step mom can rotate out visits to come help me at the very beginning..? (In a perfect world!) Yeah I’m sure they’ll totally be down for that. I mean, I make cute kids, they cant resist. :) Then I’ll go back to work after a few months, and Ryan will come home from deployment and life will re-adjust. Bam, there was plan A. I was totally confident in it. Meanwhile.. I was having some slight cramping. I noticed this was different than with my first pregnancy, but I pushed it out of my mind knowing that plenty of pregnancies have cramping and even bleeding that go on to be perfectly healthy babies. I’ve read “What to Expect” cover to cover, can you tell? Its a book about planning, ha! Also, I wasnt worried because I was POSITIVE that I was pregnant. Two pee sticks in a row said so! And if that wasnt enough, the morning sickness was on the brink, I was developing a sense of smell like a bloodhound, my tatas were growing (woo!). Plus the exhaustion had hit me like the school bus hits McAdams in Mean Girls. But we still decided to keep this new baby news on the down low- 1: because my new niece was due soon and I wanted her special time to be hers, and 2: I wanted to have my first OB doctor visit and get the 100% confirmation from the ultrasound before blabbing the news. Oops, too late, my best friend already knew- only because I told her I felt pregnant and she was the one who told me to take the test! You know everything about each other when you talk pretty much everyday. <3 Oh and then of course my husband cant keep a secret for long so a few of his work buddies heard; which I didnt care about because I knew he wasnt going to get any sort of enthusiasm from single enlisted dudes.. “cool man” was as far as the conversation went I’m sure. The leaking of the news continued when I went home to Texas for a short visit. My “I’m on a no carb-cycle diet” excuse for not drinking wine with my step-mom on Halloween (its our family tradition) was blown after I was shoving BBQ and rolls down my throat- “cause i’m.. on a carb.. cycle.. I mean, just liquid carbs.. uhh”. My dad and step mom looked at each other and said “I KNEW IT! Why else wouldn’t she be drinking while trick-or-treating?!” Thanks guys. Thank goodness my trip was short or I know my mom and step-dad would have been asking the same questions (I swear i’m not always drinking yall!).  My niece was born early and was a joyous topic of discussion or all the in-laws would have been in the loop as well. Thanks Evy ;) I was planning on telling my sis-in-law alone first anyway, since her and I agreed that she should be the next one pregnant and I was sort of interrupting that idea. The time just wasnt right yet. Whew, time to get back to Florida before I yell it to all my Texans!
Layover from Dallas in Atlanta- I start bleeding. Slightly though, just a tiny bit. My immediate thoughts in the bathroom stall in terminal B of ATL were: “What to Expect” says the majority of cramping and spotting leads to perfectly healthy pregnancies. Ok whew. A little discouraged, I got myself and son successfully on the next flight. Happy to be back in the slower pace of Florida I was greeted by my husband, dog and cat. Its good to let them miss me for a few days every now and then ;)
As the days progressed, so did the bleeding. It was enough to make me anxious for my first doctors appointment, but not enough for me to call the doctor to move my appointment up. I knew it was in a week and nothing would change before then. I saw that my pregnancy symptoms were rapidly taking over, so I knew I was still pregnant. Actually, the tiredness and nausea was way worse than I remembered from baby number 1. I attributed the constant nausea and tiredness to getting off caffeine again for the pregnancy, as well as chasing a monster of a 1 year old boy around. Oh and flip flopping working 12 hour night shifts and day shifts couldnt be helping my energy level. I truly believed all of this was the cause of my unnerving symptoms associated with this pregnancy, and as the days grew closer to our 8 week ultrasound I got more and more excited. Searching Pintrest on creative ways to tell our families, going over baby names that we’d never agree on, planning to get our son a baby doll to teach him how to be gentile and love the new baby, re-arraging furniture and budgets in our minds to allow room for another.. these were all topics in our home. Planning, planning, and re-planning.

The day of our first doctors appointment arrived, it was Veteran’s day 2012. We asked the babysitter stay late so we could go have a dinner alone to celebrate after the appointment. The doctor’s office was running behind, but I knew that would be the case since we were the last appointment of the day. I scheduled it that way to make sure my husband would have a better chance of being off work. The same doctor that delivered my son only 16 months earlier stood in the room with us and listened to me explain the differences between this pregnancy and the last. She agreed with me that these were things to be of note, but not stand alone as major concerns. “Alright lets take a look in there” she said as she started to perform the ultrasound. Finally I would get to have all my anxieties put at ease! I knew in just a few more seconds she would tell me- “there is the baby and everything looks great!”. I listened for a perfect heart rate of 155 bpm. Instead there was silence. I studied my doctor’s face as she studied the ultrasound screen. My heart sank as I saw the lines in between her eyebrows grow deeper and more stern as she squinted to understand what she was seeing on the ultrasound screen.
My husband grabbed my hand.

 

among the silent ranks.

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We are a rare breed. Military spouses and families silently serve their country so that others can enjoy the freedoms we have in America. We go months without contact, thousands of miles separate our family, holidays and celebrations are shadowed by the absence of our husband. Its not easy, but its not without purpose either. We do it because we have to, because we are able, and so our friends and families can have their husbands home. It is a sacrifice that often goes un-noticed, but without missing a beat military wives graciously serve their country every day.
Deployment is hard on everyone. I can not wait for the day when my family will be all together again! But what I have learned so far during this journey is that keeping strong through a deployment is possible. Every wife and every family is different, but I have made a little ‘game plan’ for myself to stay military wife strong! Hopefully, more good can come out of it and others, military and civilian, will be inspired! Stand strong among the silent ranks! Here is my pep talk to myself and anyone else that needs it:

  • Know who you are. Hold tight to what you know you are capable of. Think back to all of the difficult times in your life that you have gotten through. This deployment will be no different. One day it will be a past challenge that you have conquered.
  • Focus on the family. Keep in mind that your husband is the one deployed. Show respect and support him. Sending care packages and encouraging messages are his life line. Keep encouraging and loving him. He needs it more than we know. If you have kids, keeping your focus on helping them transition during this time is a great way to keep your mind off missing your husband. I have placed Daddy pictures everywhere for my son to see, we talk about Daddy every day, and we read his audio book every night. All mamas know how to be strong for their children. My son is also getting spoiled by his grandparents all summer!
  • Fill your days. Staying busy is key for me. When I stop, I start to look at this huge mountain in front of me and self-pity takes over. Taking each day and making the most of it helps me to look down at my feet climbing the mountain one step at a time. Go to the beach/lake, movies, zoo, museum, concerts, baseball games, take friends and family on a trip, finish a project you’ve been meaning to for years! Paint the kitchen, make a photo album, take a class, blog!
  • Allow yourself to be sad. Let’s face it, deployment sucks. There will be tears. So let yourself be sad, just in limited amounts. I have ‘allowed’ myself 7 days to use during this deployment as I need to. I can be depressed and eat chocolate and hide away and cry, but I only get 7 days total. This helps me get my female emotional crisis out of my system while preventing me from getting trapped there. Im happy to say I’ve only used 1 day so far! It could have carried onto 2 days, but I knew that I may need another one later and its too early in the game to use them all up, haha! So the next morning I woke up and forced myself to have a positive attitude and had a great day. Its ok to be sad, allow yourself how ever many days you need, but set the number and then thats it. Make the best of all other days! Maybe you will still have some “cry days” left over at the end! ;)
  • Stay healthy. Women handle stress differently. Some eat a lot, some have no appitite. Some want to lay in bed all day, some would give anything to fall asleep for more than an hour. Your body needs sleep and nutrition to run. I alternate coffee and melatonin to wake up and sleep when my body needs it. Eating well is just as important. Now would be a great time to try some new healthy recipes! Even if I am not hungry, I try to make myself eat and I always feel better after if it was something healthy. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a yummy buttery, fried, succulent meal every now and then- guilt free! I plan on celebrating ice cream later today!
  • Tango. The “Tango app” has been a wonderful way for me and my husband to communicate. When he has wifi access we can text, send videos, send pictures, send voice notes, and we’ve even been able to video call a few times! I keep my husband updated with videos of our son and some mornings we wake up to a video message from him! Remember to keep the time you talk positive. Communication is limited so it shouldn’t be used for arguing. Encourage each other.
  • Lower expectations. This is a hard one, but will save you from hurt. Don’t expect others to really understand what you are going through, especially if they do not have military background. Before my husband joined the military I had no idea what families went through, so I should not expect others to understand now. Don’t be upset when you feel like no one has checked up on you. Everyone is dealing with their own lives, and it doesn’t mean they don’t recognize or care for you. Appreciate those that do show you support and love, and save the venting for other military wives who are going through the same thing as you.
  • Serve others. Another way to stay busy and combat sadness is to serve other people. Volunteering your time with the homeless or poor is a great way to put things into perspective. I am so blessed to live the life I do. Nursing homes, Goodwill, hospitals and churches are always looking for volunteers. Also serve those you know! Celebrate with your friends and family with their accomplishments! Help friends move, take someone out to dinner for their birthday, pray with your friends and family on their struggles.
  • Expect the unexpected. We are all  familiar with “Murphy’s Law”; if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. So just expect it. Be ready. Have documents needed for the house and car, bills organized, phone numbers ready, people in mind who could help you.. so when (not if) the dishwasher breaks, you get a flat tire, and your baby has a fever all in one day, you’re at least prepared. Then be thankful that nothing tragic has happened while your partner is overseas. Pray against it, but if something devastating does happen, know how to get in touch with the American Red Cross who will find and contact your husband, its usually through your ombudsmen. I have both of my ombudsmen’s cards in my purse and have access to them via email and Facebook. Another good person to know how to get in touch with is your husband’s Commanding Officer’s wife. Cling to friends and family for support. Don’t wait for them to call you, call them and tell them what you need.
  • Keep your eyes on the prize. A good thing to meditate on is the homecoming. Think of how amazing it will be! I have the picture I took of my husband and I, after he graduated bootcamp on my dresser next to my bed. I look at it every day and I remember that feeling of running up to him after those long 9 weeks of separation with only letters to communicate. That was one of the greatest moments of my life.The anticipation will have built up much longer than only 9 weeks this time. I am so thankful to get the opportunity again to feel the way it feels to run into his arms in that moment! It’s still far away, but I’m already so excited! And yes, I have already thought about what I’m going to wear and what the sign will say that our son will hold up. Focus on how happy that moment will be! The day will come!
  • Surround yourself with love. This might be one of the most important things to me. I have written out bible verses that encourage me and have them up all over my room, bathroom, closet, and car for easy access when I’m having a bad day. Bad days will happen, so be prepared! Find a good military wife book to inspire you. Right now I am reading “Safe Landings: Memoirs of an Aviator’s Wife” by Fran McGraw and working through the Bible study “Tour of Duty” by Sara Horn. Leaning on God is what hard times are for. Draw near to Him. It wont make the trials go away, but you will never have to go through anything alone.

Some of the LOVE I have posted around my room right now:

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
-Isaiah 42:16

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“For He has said: I will never leave you nor forsake you, So we can confidently say: They Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
-Hebrews 13:6

“Trust in Him at all time, O people; Pour our your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. ”
-Psalm 62:8

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

Embrace the journey! xo

Count Your Blessings.

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Ok so lets think positive! Here are a few benefits of my husband being on deployment:
The remote control is MINE! I get to pick what TV show to watch with no hassle, I’m looking at you, NASHVILLE!
I can eat cereal every night if I want.
We have a huge opportunity to save money during this deployment.
I get to spend the summer in my hometown around all my family and friends! So grateful for this!
I dont have to worry about keeping up with birth control pills!
I can focus on growing and learning within myself.
Trails always bring us closer to our heavenly Father, He will sustain us!
I get the opportunity to miss my husband again, which can make the heart grow fonder and helps me appreciate what he does for us.

In any stressful/difficult time, I have found that I do so much better when I am able to count my blessings and help others. If I can focus on how blessed I really am, it makes hard days seem trivial. My husband and I both have access to wifi so communication, although limited, is possible during this deployment. We have a loving family unit, distance will not separate our bond. Our marriage is healthy and based on mutual respect. We have a beautiful, happy, and healthy baby boy.
Really, isnt this all that matters?

So in the case of last night- When I was putting my son to bed he was screaming and crying for his “Dada”, it broke my heart. I had to push back the tears and stay strong. I had to ignore the thought “this isnt fair”. The only way to not let myself slip into emotional darkness and drown in self-pity is to remind myself (actually say these things out loud to myself) MY FAMILY IS HEALTHY. WE HAVE A LOVING MARRIAGE. I HAVE FAMILY AROUND ME. WE HAVE JESUS ON OUR SIDE. THIS WONT LAST FOREVER.
Then I can get a few tears out, brush it off, and move on making a conscious decision to have a positive attitude. The truth is that God has not overlooked me or forgotten me. I can rest confidently in that through the stormy weather I see coming up ahead. I have prepared as much as I possibly can. I have pictures of my husband out, Bible verses posted around me, I’m working through a military wife/deployment Bible study, and my son even has a “Daddy Doll” to hug on! I am thankful for having to go through this trial because it is already teaching me to be better about controlling my thoughts. Positive thinking does not come naturally to me, but I am learning that if I can harness this, it can be life changing.
Focus on the beauty in the world.
Count your blessings every day through it all.

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Video-Chatting with Daddy!