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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Carter in the Press Again

Once again it was National Food Allergy Awareness Week back in May.  I really feel that it's the duty of parents to speak up for their children and to help educate others.  Whether that's for food allergies, or other diseases or conditions which affect their children.  How can I expect others to properly handle Carter at church/school/sports when I haven't spoken up and tried to help others understand how serious his food allergies are?

Thankfully, I know an awesome reporter who was willing to do a story.  I thought I'd just be a source for her, and to help her find other allergy families and statistics.  However, she decided to focus just on our family.  While it can be vulnerable sharing your story, your kids' pictures and a really scary experience, I know it can be worth it.  If just one person who read the story realizes that food allergies can be deadly and need to be dealt with caution, then I find that a victory.

I really appreciated the thorough coverage the reporter gave the story. She had good, creditable information and I think she did a really good job explaining key facts.

Here's the story, in case you missed it:

Dealing with deadly food allergies: Utah mom shares her story
By Tracie Snowder
SALT LAKE CITY — Megan Lavin’s first child, Carter, was almost one-year-old when she gave him yogurt for the first time.

Carter was sensitive to nine foods at the time and Lavin had waited to give him dairy.

“I remember it well. I gave him key lime Greek yogurt,” Lavin, 29, told KSL.com. “He was inhaling it. He really seemed to like it.”

Lavin thought she had achieved another healthy food victory, but minutes later, Carter went into anaphylactic shock.

“I had no idea how serious it was, but I had this terrible feeling like ‘I need to get in to the E.R. now,’” Lavin said.

She rushed Carter to the hospital as he exhibited more alarming symptoms: itchy eyes, runny nose, vomiting, his body was swelling up and getting red, and his eyes were rolling into the back of his head.

“I was screaming and clapping to try and keep him awake while I sped to the hospital,” she said. “I remember grabbing him and running through the doors and just racing towards the admittance lady saying, ‘Please help my child.’”

Fortunately, doctors were able to stop the allergy attack and Carter survived just fine. Lavin went straight to a board-certified allergist at Primary Children’s Hospital.

Living with severe food allergies.

Up to 15 million people in the United States have food allergies and one in every 13 children has one, according to Food Allergy Research and Education Inc. (FARE). Some eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-related allergic reactions in the U.S., FARE states. They are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

The allergist determined Carter has severe allergies to milk, peanuts, all tree nuts, eggs and oatmeal that can send him into anaphylactic shock.

“Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, potentially fatal, systemic allergic reaction that can involve various areas of the body (such as skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and cardiovascular system),” states utahfoodallergy.com.

Lavin’s life changed almost overnight. Her son is allergic to 39 foods, and that includes almost everything that comes prepackaged in the store. She considers cooking for her family to be a part-time job. “I have to cook from scratch,” Lavin said. “It takes up hours of my day — the planning, prep and clean up.”

And it just doesn’t affect their home life. When they are around other people, Lavin has to be cautious and make sure her son doesn’t touch someone else’s food. “Instead of being thrilled that we’re invited to a social event, I get nervous,” she said. “Barbeques, birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, all of these could potentially have something life-threatening to him.”

Lavin has worked hard to find delectable recipes for cookies and cakes and bread using unusual ingredients. She keeps cupcakes in the freezer to bring to parties where there will be cake.

Her second son, Calvin, also has food allergies, but so far he is only allergic to three types of nuts.

But she doesn’t consider it to be a burden because she says she wants her child to have as normal a life as possible. “I feel like I'm doing what any mother would do,” Lavin says. “Who wouldn't want their child to have a chocolate chip cookie? What mother wouldn't want their child to have a full life, full of yummy things to eat?”

Helping kids with severe food allergies

It’s impossible to avoid being around food that contain allergens, but if you know a child with a severe food allergy, ask the parents what you can do to help. Some would prefer your kids wash their hands with soap and water after coming in contact with the food allergens, others would prefer you to not bring foods like peanut butter, Lavin said.

Anaphylactic shock symptoms: Severe itching of the eyes or face Swallowing and breathing difficulties Abdominal pain Cramps Vomiting Diarrhea Hives Angioedema (swelling similar to hives, but the swelling is beneath the skin instead of on the surface) If you have anaphylaxis, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Source: WebMD.com

“I think there is a way for everyone to feel included and enjoy food, too,” she added. “It just depends on how much people are willing to converse and work together.” 

Is there anything most kids can eat? “Smarties, Dum-dums, Swedish Fish, Skittles and Mike and Ikes are almost always safe for food allergy kids,” Lavin said.

The importance of EpiPens 

Lavin always has an EpiPen (a needle fitted into a tube that looks like a pen, used for putting a drug into someone who is having a severe allergic reaction) on hand, but she says it will not always save someone’s life.

“People still die who have used EpiPens,” she said. “It just ensures reduced symptoms to allow them a greater chance at living through the attack.” She says it would be great if everyone could learn to use an EpiPen.

“With food allergies on the rise, about 50 percent since 1997, it’s pretty certain that you, a loved one, a neighbor, a friend, someone in your church, your kids’ sports team… someone will have a food allergy,” she said.

“Administering an EpiPen correctly in that crucial window of time can save someone’s life.”

Lavin considers it as important as knowing CPR.

The University of Utah School of Medicine has “A Shot to Live” program that helps educate school officials and community members on how to use an EpiPen. For more information, visit medicine.utah.edu/pediatrics/ashottolive.

*Originally posted on KSL.com

Friday, June 5, 2015

Allergy Update

This week was tough and long.

We needed to patch test Carter to wheat and sunflower seeds since he passed those via prick test.  We decided to patch test Calvin too.  Typically you wait until they've been scoped and proven to have EOE before patch testing.  However, he does have several warning signs, and we can't get him scoped until later in the month.  We didn't want to waste any time since it's hard to get an appointment, so we went ahead and did both of them at the same time.

Thankfully, Claudy could come with me two out of the three appointments.  But, let me tell you, even with both of us, there were times both boys were screaming and it was just plain miserable.

Carter was complaining about every five minutes about the patches on his back (keep in mind you have to keep them on for 48 hours).  I feel terrible, because I had him keep it on.  I checked and they seemed fine, and I thought he was just complaining about the restrictiveness of the tape and because it's hot and probably uncomfortable.  But, he had a huge sore/welt where the wheat had been and several other positives, so I feel bad if he had truly been in pain for the past 48 hours.

I counted it up, and we had to go to Primary Children's hospital on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week.  It literally ate up the entire week.  It was 11 hours total if you count commuting too.

We had some good news though!

Carter can now eat sunflower seeds (and subsequently Sunbutter--which is like peanut butter made out of sunflower seeds.  Hooray for Sunbutter and bananas/apples/toast! as well as a trail mix made out of seeds).  Hooray!  That's a huge win.

He also passed chili powder, cinnamon and red bell pepper.  I've actually been giving those to him here and there, since they were such small reactions last time.  It's good to be sure and now not be nervous when I give those to him.  Yay for more variety!  I love bell peppers--it's a great snack as well as something to use in recipes.

Sadly, as I mentioned wheat was a huge fail.  So much so, that we're having to put steroid creams on it to help it heal.  He also failed paprika, cucumber and cilantro for the second time.  I had hoped he had grown out of those.  That's a bummer.  I feel bad the poor kid can't have pickles.

I don't think we'll patch test Carter again until he's older.  He just really hated it.  To put him through that again, we'll need him to understand why because he was miserable through the four day process.

I think what was saddest was Calvin's test.  He was literally screaming his head off the entire hour drive to get his patches taken off.  When they were finally off, the nursed rubbed his back and he immediately fell asleep in Claudy's arms.  It was the saddest, yet sweetest thing.  The poor kid just wanted this stupid test done.  I felt so bad.

Oh, how I hate allergies.  I'm grateful for the progress, but wish it wasn't at the cost of a long, exhausting week, putting my poor kiddos through painful testing, and paired with bad news as well.  I just kept shaking my head when here it is, finally beautiful weather and it's summer and we're stuck either driving to an appointment, or at an appointment.  My kids should be outside enjoying the sunshine and not undergoing procedures at Primary Children's.

Calvin actually had horrible results:

Corn ++
Egg whites +
Milk is doubtful
Potato ++
Rice +
Soy: -
Wheat is doubtful

A plus means a bad reaction, and that you should no longer eat those.  All of those are staples!  Even Carter eats corn, rice and potatoes.  That's all we do for side dishes and grains at our house.  I was literally shocked because Calvin eats all of those, all of the time.  Our Dr. did say to wait until we get the scope back to confirm that Calvin has EOE.  If for some miracle he doesn't, then we can ignore the test.  But, if he does have it, not only will we have the low blow of him having the disease, but we'll have to completely rework and think outside the box to feed Calvin.

Even from day 1, when Carter only had like ten foods, he could always eat potato and rice.  Calvin loves potato and rice and I literally want to rock back and forth while crying if I have to take those two away.

I'm going to prolong my mourning until we know for sure.  I'm going to try and shelf it in some obscure place in my mind and not think about it. I'm going to be on pins and needles until Calvin has his scope in a few weeks.

Please Lord, let Calvin not have this ridiculous disease.  If he does, please give me strength to accept it.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Capturing Calvin: A Whole Year Old!

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Holy guacamole!  My baby is no longer a baby.  He is an entire year old.  No more will his age be counted in just months.  Time with Calvin has gone even faster than it did with Carter.  I think I've tried to savour it more, knowing how fast it goes, but that sure didn't help time slow down.

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What fun you had destroying your birthday cake.  At first you were really unsure.  You acted like we might have placed an alien in front of you.  But then, after Daddy showed you, you put your finger in and licked the frosting.  Instead of lifting up a piece of cake to your mouth, you decided it'd be easier to just dunk your face in the cake.  Pretty soon you were devouring it and throwing it ALL OVER THE KITCHEN.  You had such a big chunk of it in your hair that it looked like you had a dread.  I'm so glad you liked your cake.  Big brother was a vulture and liked it too--even scampering across the kitchen to pick up any big chunks that would fall. (Hence why we dressed him down to his underwear too.)  You had pretty good aim and managed to get your Aunt Molly and Uncle Travis with a few pieces of cake too from across the room!

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I say this every month, but you are truly evolving.  You're this wonderful present that has just keeps giving.  Just when I think you have come so far out of your shell and are so fun, you open up even more and show us even more sparkling personality.  I'm not sure if there is any correlation, but after we switched you from soy formula to cow's formula you seemed even happier.  Perhaps it wasn't agreeing with you?

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You love to laugh at brother and it just eggs him on further.  

You love to scream high pitched.

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You find it absolutely hilarious to drop food from your tray.  You do it just to get a reaction.  You wait with expectant eyes for me to say something.  

You love to say "ought oh!".  It also sometimes seems like you're saying "no" and "ball".

You have mastered picking up a ball and rolling it to me.  You squeal with delight when I roll it back to you . It's as if you're thrilled that we can finally play a game together.

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You like to walk while holding our hands, and can even do it with just the support of one of our hands.

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You've figured out how to climb up onto big brother's bed and seem pretty darn proud of that accomplishment.

You love to crawl in the dirt and in the grass.

You love our little kiddie pool and like to sit and lean over it and splash.  (Although, you will cry if big brother splashes you too much.)

You don't like to sleep with your stuffed sea horse and promptly throw him out of the crib if we try to put him in there to settle you down.  

You're getting much happier and easier about putting down for naps or bedtime.  You'll still sometimes cry, but sometimes you'll smile at me when I'm placing you down--which is a far cry from you desperately clinging to me when I'd put you in your crib.  THANK YOU.

You are still taking two naps a day, and sleeping around 12 hours at night.  You are a rock star!

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With strawberries in season, you seem to really love those.  You really like my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins too (and of course chocolate cake now).  I make a vegan, naturally sweetened homemade chocolate ice cream which you could eat and eat all day too.  You still like yogurt in the mornings and will try most things, although you often won't give things a second bite.  You like noodles too.  You get so upset that you can't feed yourself.  I try to let you, but some things like applesauce or soup require a spoon and skill above your level and it freaks you out.  You often have to have a bowl or spoon to hold too, just to feel like the cool kids.  You like craisins too.  You like to try and help hold your bottle.  

You love to walk along the furniture and your favorite place in the house is in front of our big living room window.  You're like a cat and just love to stand and watch the outside world.  You'll pound on the window and gawk at everything and everyone.

You love to jump.  Your legs have 0% fat on them and are pure muscle.  In fact, when you were getting your one year vaccinations you tightened your legs because you were frightened.  The nurse literally said, "I can't get the needle in, his muscles are so large and tight!"  I felt bad for you, because it took longer and you didn't realize that you tensing up was making it worse.  Poor guy!

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You STILL (seriously????) have just four teeth.  I can see two other top teeth, but they just cannot seem to break through.  You poor thing!

The other day you let Stacey and Molly hold you.  Let's hope you're getting more out of the stranger danger phase.

You love to put things in and out of containers.  You still like to play in the kitchen cabinets.

You don't like to be left alone in a room.

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You still like to climb the stairs, but seem content to just go up 3-4 of them, which is fine with me.

You love to poke daddy in the eye and grab onto his lips.  I'm surprised you haven't ripped them off yet, you yank so hard!

You love to clap!

You are starting to wrestle with brother.  Or, more likely, he wrestles with you and you allow it a bit until he smashes you too much.  You're such a patient little brother.  Carter is really lucky you put up with so many of his antics!

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You are fascinated by the computer and would pound on the keyboard if we let you.  You would also play in your brother's little potty if we let you.  YUCK!

You love to drive cars on the carpet and will crawl and push them at the same time.

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You seem to like singing.  During church you'll try and sing along, and when I rock you at night, I sing to you and you make sounds as if you're trying to join in harmony.  It's adorable!

You still let me snuggle you, and I hope that will never end.

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While there are moments when both you and brother are screaming and it seems tough, for the most part, having two has been way easier than I imagined.  Looking back over your last year, I just think we would have been crazy to stop at Carter.  We thought we were so happy and fulfilled with Carter.  But, being a family of four has been immensely fun and rewarding.  Your laughter, your silliness, your sweetness and patience have rounded out our family.  We needed you, and we're so glad you joined us.  I know there is nothing but good times ahead as we continue to see your personality blossom.

We love you Calvin.  Happy birthday my sweet Cal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When Mom Leaves Town...

I'm packing for a four day trip to California, and I can't help but chuckle when I think of the differences between a mom leaving and a dad leaving.

Over the last two days I've:

--planned easy crock pot dinners for every day--including buying all of the ingredients for them, and emailing Claudy the directions (to two email accounts...just in case he accidentally loses/deletes it in one account)
--stocked the fridge, freezer, pantry
--put a list of safe snacks on the fridge
--made a big batch of quinoa for the boys to have for lunches
--made a big batch of smoothies for Carter
--made rice krispie treats so they have a snack
--did three loads of laundry, so that there is no laundry left and there are plenty of clothes to dirty
--cleaned, picked up, and left everything in order
...on top of you know, keeping the kids alive, feeding them, making dinner, doing dishes and the thousand other things moms have to do on a daily basis + mutual + a Young Women's meeting + writing, designing and sending a newsletter for UFAN

I feel like most men, if they're going out of town pack for themselves, give a kiss goodbye and leave, knowing that everything will be taken care of.

Oh, the differences!

It's not that I don't think Claudy couldn't do any of those things.  They would totally be just fine if I didn't, but I can't help but mother everything.  It's half for them, and honestly half for me so I feel better.  I've never been away from my kids this long so it makes my heart feel more at ease.

I'm excited for some "me" time, girls time, educational time and just plain getting out of Utah County time.  California...here I come!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Graduation: A Victorious End to One Long Struggle

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Oh, how often I've dreamed of penning this post.  Now that it's here, I'm really not sure where to start or what to say.  There have been so many vent posts, written in my head that I wanted to write so bad they almost exploded from my fingers.  But, as the years have dragged on, I have grown.  So, now that it's finally over, I hope to cover this delicate area of our life with some grace.  I don't want to conceal the hardships, but I also don't want to say anything that would hurt or embarrass my husband. But, I do want to convey the honest-to-goodness-struggle we had, mostly because I print this blog and it's sadly our only real family journal.  I want our kids to see how hard we fought for Claudy to get an education, so that they'll appreciate it.

So, I guess I'll just start from the beginning.

When Claudy and I started spending time together, I was a sophomore in college (fall 2005).  He told me he was a junior in college at BYU.  His plan was to double major in sociology and business and then do dental school.  I thought that sounded like an absolutely wonderful plan.  I grew up in humble circumstances.  We never struggled to eat or anything like that, but there were things I wanted to do growing up that we just didn't have the money for.  I had always hoped that I would be able to do more for my kids than I had.  I certainly knew being a dentist would provide the financial security that I had longed for.  I didn't get involved with Claudy for this reason, but it definitely was a cherry on the top.  I crave stability, and so this seemed to be a good plan to fit that need of mine.

I seriously pitied other girls who were dating freshmen and boys just off their missions.  I thought "UG.  I would NEVER do that.  I would hate to put someone through school.  I am so lucky that I found someone that only has two years left.  I couldn't STAND to be with someone through that much schooling."  I have never eaten my words so much and never have they tasted so bad.

Fast forward to when we decided to get married over Thanksgiving break 2007 (mid-semester). He decided that he wanted to take a break from school, as he was nervous getting married, and all the crazy/stressful planning it involved, would be too much.  I wasn't thrilled about it, but that's what he did.  In contrast, I still took 17 credits (well above full time) and worked part-time.  That was just the difference in our personalities.  I still managed to get great grades.  Unfortunately, Claudy didn't understand that you had to defer (i.e. let the school officially know that you were taking a break and not just not sign up for classes) because of this, they dropped him as a student.  He couldn't just go back the following semester and had to re-apply and wait a semester to go back.  I thought at the time how frustrating and what a waste of time.  I was always in a hurry to get up and get done with it.  I'm usually in a hurry for everything in my life.  Little did I know this was only the beginning of a very hard, long road.

He was great and worked two jobs (a super early bakery job and worked at the Boys and Girls Club) which helped as I was still only able to work part-time due to taking my capstone classes and doing an internship with KUTV.  I graduated that following August (married 10 months) and thought...OK...only two more years of this and we can be done being poor, married students.  I had no idea it'd be more like 7 years into our marriage.  College came very easy for me.  Not that I'm a genius, but I get how to study, I get how to play the games with the professors (because--let's be honest, school has a lot of hoops to jump through) and I am a very efficient time planner.  I never had to do all the reading and could pump out papers and studying without too much stress.  I knew what I wanted to do since high school.  I never varied from that path.  I got in and got out in four years.  I graduated with my bachelors at age 21.  I got into my program the first time and took a straight course to graduation.  That's just my personality.  Which looking back, I think is why I struggled so much, because I didn't realize how different Claudy and I would handle college.

About a year after Claudy had been going back to BYU he decided to transfer to UVU.  I was quite upset about it, to be honest.  We felt like that was our only option at the time, but it wasn't a pleasant or welcome option for me.  I had a love of BYU.  It was where we met.  They are very structured.  They have a great reputation.  And, most importantly, Claudy was going to lose a ton of credits transferring.  I of course expected he'd lose his religion credits, as those only count at BYU, but he went from being a junior to barely a sophomore.  That was tacking on about another two years.  Two years!  It felt like an eternity to me.  By this point, I had started a full-time career in corporate America.  I was working and had allowed him to quit working so he could focus solely on school, so to feel  like this was going to extend any longer was really disheartening.  I felt like I existed in one world, and he in another.  I came home at 5 p.m. and he was having to go to campus to study.  It wasn't that I wanted kids, but I felt ready to move on, and had a hard time accepting the shift.

After being married for over three years, and thinking that Claudy would only have about a year left before applying to dental school, we decided it was OK to get pregnant.  One of the only reasons I felt OK about getting pregnant was because I thought Claudy would be getting done a few months after having the baby.  I loathed the idea of having a baby while still in your undergrad.  The thought of being a school widow and being super poor just did not suite me.  I would look at people in that situation and think they were stupid for getting themselves into such a vulnerable position.

Are you sensing a pattern here?  Everything I didn't want to happen to us during this process,  happened.

Claudy ended up having way more classes than we thought.  I was starting to see some serious signs of Claudy being overly tired and fatigued.  He was falling asleep mid-sentence as we talked in bed at night.  He couldn't keep his eyes open anytime he sat down.  While I was pregnant, and working full-time and had good insurance I finally convinced him to go see a doctor.  I've already written about it here, but basically after seeing a sleep specialist and having sleep studies done it was determined that Claudy had severe narcolepsy.  His doctor basically told him dental school was out of the question.  She said she had people with his severity hardly holding down jobs, let alone pursuing advanced education.  I honestly don't think it would have worked out anyways, but it was the final step in Claudy realizing he needed to find something else.  It was a big blow to both of us.

He had always had a passion for sociology.  He had been studying it since his single, BYU days.  He decided to stick with that but tweak it to social work.  He felt that was more applicable for working directly with people which he really enjoyed.

Unfortunately, and very sadly for both of us, I hadn't realized how badly Claudy's narcolepsy had been affecting his studies.  Can you imagine?  School is basically sitting down ALL. THE. TIME.  Sitting in class; sitting to study.  He, trying to just plug along and not worry me, hadn't told me how he was having to retake classes because he couldn't stay awake enough to learn or remember the material.  So, here I was, pregnant...thinking we were almost done, when we in fact had a lot more to go.  It was heartbreaking for both of us.  Claudy, struggling, wanting to be done and trying so hard, but not seeing results.  Me, type A, always just looking for results and not always giving credit for the trying and effort that went into it.  I think we were just frustrating to each other.

Once we got Claudy on some medication things got a lot better, but we still had so many classes to go.  Claudy never took a summer off, always going through school year round.  It was seemingly endless.

It was super difficult for me.  I think anyone who compares their strengths to some one's tough spots always has a hard time.  Comparison is the thief of joy--or some saying like that.  School came easy for me.  School was not coming easy for Claudy.  Don't get me wrong--he is very bright, but with narcolepsy, trying to be a dad, and trying to work as well was really tough on him.  It's a lot!

Add to that, that we always lived in student wards, apartments and areas.  I felt like we were the ONLY ones still in school.  We had friend after friends moving on with their lives.  I dreaded April.  Every April we would see happy pictures of couples graduating, finding "real" jobs, and getting out of Provo.  I felt like we were permanently stuck.  Always trying to dig our way out of school, but with a spoon, while everyone else had a backhoe.

It was hard at church.  People were always asking (and not that there was anything wrong with it...but I was beginning to have a chip on my shoulder) questions like "When is Claudy going to be done?"  and I was getting sick of giving dates.  Because, those dates would come and go.  I was getting embarrassed.  I was getting to the point where I didn't even want to be asked.

We were legit having people ten years younger graduate than him.  We were having people who we went to school with get their masters, doctorates, graduate from medical school, dental school.  It felt like we were putting in the time, but not having the results.

I'm a VERY competitive person.  It was crushing to feel like we were falling behind in the game of life.  I absolutely like to be in control, and to feel like all I could do was sit back and watch my poor husband try and try and there was nothing I could do to help or move things along.  I legit would have taken the classes or done his papers for him, had he let me.  And yes, I asked.

I would hear (well meaning, I'm sure) things like "Oh, it's hard to have a husband in school for XX years," and I would agree.  Except, they were complaining when their husbands had been in school for eight years and would at least come out with a medical degree.  My husband was going on 12 years of school, and was just getting his bachelors with no promise of a large salary and long term security.  So, I didn't feel I had anyone to truly empathize with, even though we had the same time logged, I felt they had such a brighter future.

(Side note: I hate to say "just bachelors" because that is still a huge accomplishment.  It's all the education I have, but remember I wasn't in a good head space and comparison was suffocating me.)

Claudy, so worn from school, decided to take a break for winter and summer semester.  I was quite furious about it.  Like, I-don't-know-if-I-can-continue-furious.  Like, I'm so upset I don't see an end of light in this forever long tunnel.  Upset because I felt once again we were putting everything on hold for this darn degree, and now we were purposefully prolonging it.

Looking back, I can see with some degree of empathy that Claudy was worn out and exhausted.  He had graduated high school in 2000.  Other than his two years of mission service for the LDS church, he had been going to school.  It was 2013 and he was burned out.  I wish I could have reacted more gracefully, but I didn't if we're being brutally honest.  Things weren't pretty in the Lavin household.

Add to this that I got pregnant with Calvin that fall and I was weary and downtrodden.  I was frustrated because Claudy was unemployed.  And, while he was doing everything he could to find a job, it's almost impossible to find a decent job in an overly saturated college town.  He couldn't find a decent paying job because he didn't have a degree.  We finally decided begrudgingly to both of us, that I would go back to work part-time because I could literally make twice as much as he could since I had a degree.  I was bitter that I had to step in and work and that he hadn't gotten his degree by this point. We had to work hard on our marriage.  Really hard.  Who knew that school--a good thing, could be such a thorn in our marriage?  It seemed to be this rain cloud that followed us through every step of our marriage.  It affected where we lived, how much we made, our free time, schedules.  Everything.

I legit had someone at my work (when I had gone back and was pregnant with Calvin) ask me "Don't you think you might be better suited for someone else?  Someone who you would be more equally yoked with?"  I'm not mad at this person for asking.  I'm sure at this low time in our marriage it showed and things probably did seem off balance.  If I had worked full time and stayed in my career track, I know we would have been making good money.  We would have had a house and a stable lifestyle.  If I were the male, we would have been done with school forever ago.  But, I was not.  I was the wife.  I had chosen to stay at home for my children's sake, but it was hard knowing that I could have that lifestyle if I would just go back and that the person I was depending on to take care of me and my children was unable to get a good job because of that darn degree thing, AGAIN.

To make matters worse, UVU is a joke.  At least from my perspective.  They do not have things together like I experienced them at BYU.  Claudy went into his guidance counselor time after time and they would tell him different things each time.  We were trying so hard to plan when he'd be done and they were zero help.  I could go on and tell you specific, horror stories of times they would tell us "You'll only need XX classes and will be done XX date" only to have that not be true.

Since I was working, our plan was to have Claudy be done with school around the time Clavin was born.  If you're noticing the graduation pictures, Calvin is 11 months old.

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I was so seething last November, when once again we had planned to be done in December and we learned he had more classes that I demanded (not very nicely) to go into his guidance counselor with him.  We sat down and she said things like, "Oops, it seems as if one of your classes from BYU never counted,"...mind you he'd been going to UVU for four years and no one had caught this.  When she said he had until the following August I said that was not OK and that she needed to find a way to make it work for April (in a nice way--I do realize you get more bees with honey, but inside I was screaming profanities).  I could not bear another summer of going through school.  After prodding she finally figured out a way.  You know, did her job after us going in.  UG.

There was one point I literally asked Claudy to stop going to school.  I felt it wasn't worth it.  I felt we were getting into more debt (taking out school loans) then it was ever going to pay off.  I told him I couldn't do it.  I couldn't handle the kids not seeing him.  I couldn't handle him being gone from 9am until 9pm (and often later).  I couldn't do him working on the weekends because he couldn't get enough hours during the school days.  I admit I wasn't as supportive as I could and should have been.  I was spent.  I thought I was going to snap.

I have to give Claudy credit.  This guy has more fortitude and determination than anyone I know.  He has had bad luck after bad luck his entire life.  If you know his hard childhood and his life story, you would be saying "amen" to me.  Then, the poor guy goes and marries someone who for a long time couldn't see the forest through the trees.  I couldn't see past "school" and fixated on all of the awfulness that went with it.

There were a lot of happy times during school too.  Please don't forget that.  I hope I've managed to document many good times we've had in this blog.  I've tried to not write about the negative, but now that he's graduated I wanted to let it all out.  All of the hard, long days we had too.  Whenever we found out another "nope, not graduating yet" I would have to tell myself "Graduation will come eventually, and I can either be miserable until then, or find a way to be happy."  I am proud to say many times I was happy.  But, I'd be lying and not having this be a true blog and account of our time during school if I didn't tell this side too.

It's still upsetting because sometimes when we tell people he has a bachelors in Behavioral Health with an emphasis in Psychology we always get told "Oh, he's going on then, right?  You can't do anything with a bachelors in that.  You have to get a master's."  It really lets the wind out of the long-time-coming accomplishment.  It's 2015.  Claudy has been pursuing his bachelors, mostly full time, since 2000 (other than a two year mission).  So, he's just not wanting to go on at the moment.  Can you blame him?  Sure, I worry.  I worry we won't be able to find adequate employment (especially with our medically expensive son and his disease) with "just" a bachelors.  But, at the same time, I'm glad for him to be done too.

I'm excited.  I do feel hope.  I know that we won't be rich, but I look forward to having Claudy home more.  I look forward to no more homework.  I will miss spring break, though!  And, the two weeks off at Christmas never hurt either!  Oh, and the good health insurance and student discounts.  See...it wasn't all bad. :)

Through it all, I think we've both learned and grown, and clearly not just in the academic sense.  It tested my patience, WELL beyond what I ever could have thought.  I truly think, the old me--if you would have told me that Claudy wouldn't be graduating until we'd been married for seven years--I might not have married him.  I put far too much emphasis on school and worldly accomplishments back in the day.  I was comparing my strength of school, against his weakness for school.  Which wasn't fair at all.  Did he compare his ability to be non-judgmental, his patience, his loving, his strength in the Gospel, his steadfastness against all of my negative characteristics?  No.  He just kept pushing ahead.

If it seems like we're beaming in these photos, it's because we were.  I literally teared up when they called his name.  In the sea of graduation caps, I wondered if anyone had fought as hard as he had.  I don't know everyone elses's stories, but at the moment, it sure didn't feel like it.

I am so proud of us.  I am so proud of him.  He bore his trials and set backs so well.  He never let what anyone thought bother him or halt him pursuing his dream.  He is the American dream: Haitian parents who came to America when they were pregnant with him.  He was put in foster care, adopted, and was the first to attend college.  And now, he is the proud recipient of a bachelors.  Was it easy having two kids (one with a rare disease who had many hospitalizations and sicknesses--often during finals week) and a hormonal wife who had difficult pregnancies during school easy?  No.  But, he never complained.  He just kept at it.

I love you Claudy. I'm proud of you.  I can't believe this time has finally come.  I can't believe we're putting an end to this chapter.  He would often warn me, to not perfection-ize the future after school.  I realize that troubles and trials will follow us no matter if you're in school or not.  I realize that things won't be 100% better now that school is over.  But, for so long I've just wanted at least a "new" trial.  I'm sure part of why school didn't come the way we wanted it was because of the growth I needed to earn.  If he would have graduated sooner, I know I wouldn't have learned some of the important life lessons I know I needed.  I hope by sharing this, as raw as it is, it might help someone else thinking they're the "only ones" stuck in some life situation.  You're not.  Things will eventually get better, and don't act now, how you'll regret later.  I have moments I'm proud of, and moments I wish I had been stronger for Claudy.  But, we both rode it out and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Time will pass regardless, but will you be where you want to be when it has?  

We came out victorious on the other side, and most importantly, together.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Capturing Calvin: 11 Months

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I feel bad this post is so late.  You're really 11.5 months old--but thank goodness you hardly grow, so I'm pretty sure you look the same as you did two weeks ago.  It's been an INSANE month between me being sick, you having to quit nursing, and your dad having finals and then graduation with family in town...needless to say it has been a whirlwind!

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Your 11th month started off incredibly rough for you, poor guy!  I found out I had to stop nursing you cold turkey and boy did you hate life.  You really had a miserable few days.  You were crying or upset pretty consistently.  You were so incredibly stubborn.  I knew you'd hate the bottle, but I almost thought of taking you to the hospital because you really went on strike.  In 24 hours sometimes you'd only drink 2 ounces.  Your diapers were dry and you were making it more than obvious that you were not OK with the switch.  We both shed some tears and I felt awful.  If I hadn't been sick I would have loved to nurse you a bit longer and then gradually wean you.  After ten long days you seem OK with the bottle.  Not that you love it, but you definitely understand and take it now.  I still try and cuddle you while you nurse and now I just let you snuggle your head on my shoulder while I rock you before bedtimes.  I have to give it to you, although you fought a good fight, I'm very grateful you're resilient and that you have allowed yourself to be fed another way.  PHEW!  I also have to give a shout out to the fact that you'll take your bottle warm or cold, which is nice if we're in a rush.  We've also decided to give you the formula with vanilla rice milk, instead of water.  You need the extra calories (dietitian approved) and you hate the soy formula flavor so much that it's the only way you'll take it.  It's our fault because we gave you rice milk first when trying to have you adjust to the bottle and you took to that flavor first.  I was sick, and it was the weekend so we didn't get you soy formula until about five days in and by then you had certainly dug your chubby heels in.  I feel it's an OK compromise--just an expensive one!

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The only saving grace to this entire bottle adjustment thing is that you like solid foods, so you pretty much survived off those since you weren't getting any liquids.  You still adore yogurt, you like the apple blueberry baby food mixed with sweet potato baby food, you like quinoa, mandarin oranges, you're OK with scrambled eggs, you love baked potatoes, you like pasta and noodles, chocolate pudding, jello, you still really don't like meat, and you like black beans.  You like to snack on toast, honey graham crackers, rice chex, rice cakes and craisins.  You try just about all things I make for dinner, but you are QUICK to spit them out if you don't like them (you seem to not like fish or lemon things) and refuse to let them go near your mouth again.  You'll turn away as far as possible and even lay your head down if you're trying to avoid the spoon.  It's odd, since I never force you, but you act as if the spoon is going to jump you.  You're quite dramatic!

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You are getting incredibly hard to feed, even if you like the food.  You desperately want to feed yourself.  This is fine, if it's a finger food.  But, things like applesauce, soups and other liquids aren't quite to your skill level yet.  You get so fiercely mad if I feed you for too long and you want your own spoon.  That used to suffice and you'd be happy to hold and bang it...but now you insist on having the bowl in front of you too and trying to dip your spoon in it.  It's cute--but also incredibly messy.  I have to sweep multiple times a day.  Add on top of that that you like to drop food off your chair to show that you are done and it's quite a tornado ally once you're through eating.  If we don't give into your desires to participate in eating you jump up and down and throw yourself all over your high chair.  You've even hit your head on your tray because you're throwing yourself so hard--which only makes you cry harder.  Sometimes you don't even want to sit in your high chair.  You protest to be set down and stick your legs straight to try to avoid being put in it.  You already seem quite independent and very particular and fixed on what you want.  Please let this serve you well later in your life, for the right choices.

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You're getting much better at sleeping.  I guess all I had to do was write about how terrible you were at being put down for you to improve (see several blog posts back).  You seem to have gravitated to pulling the blanket close to your face.  It's the same blanket you've had since you were born.  I'm glad something other than me is starting to bring you comfort.  You will still cry somewhat often, but it's only for a minute or two.  I'm so glad my persistence paid off and that the habits are kicking in!  HOORAY!  I didn't live through awful screaming for nothing!!  Sometimes, if I play peek-a-boo while leaving you'll smile instead of break down.  You're still taking two naps a day and you sleep all the way through the night from 7:30ish p.m. to 7 a.m.  This was also a huge silver lining--you were waking to nurse every few nights right up until you took a bottle.  It was as if you realized I couldn't nurse you anymore and it wasn't worth waking.  I was truly terrified to try to give you a bottle in the middle of the night when you were half awake and cranky, so I'm glad you have let us both sleep through the night and not encounter that!

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You still love to sit on my lap and snuggle.  You don't wiggle to be set down too much.  You still love to be held and like to pull on my hair when I'm holding you.  I can't wear necklaces or you chew on them.

You love to scrunch your nose and breathe really heavily.  It's soo cute.  You are smiling more and more--but you still are VERY serious and somber.  Most people can't get you to smile and I have to work realllllly hard at it.  The photo below this paragraph is how you look most of the time.  I just usually only post the smiling ones.  But there's usually one smiling photo to every ten serious ones.  Sometimes when you are so serious, I wonder if you're truly happy.  I know not everyone has to giggle every second of every day to show they're content, but it's hard because your brother shows so much emotion.  I figure you'll be like your dad and be more reserved and quiet, but I can't help but wonder what's going on in your brain and if you feel satisfied or if there is more I can do.  I have a feeling it will be like that between us.  I pray that I can understand you and your unique needs and always feel you with love even if I don't always understand you.  You still love to stare blankly at people and will cry if a stranger ever tries to hold you.  You still cry if you feel I set you down too much, and you are ESPECIALLY fussy when teething.  I swear you've been teething for weeks now (still just four teeth--two top and two bottom), and they just won't pop through.  I've resorted to even wearing you in the baby carrier sometimes--it's a good thing you're still light.

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With the nice weather lately you really seem to enjoy being outside.  You'll crawl through anything--dirt, grass or over cement.  We have a little kiddie pool you love putting sticks, spoons or your fingers in.  Sometimes I'll let big brother run around on the back patio while I make dinner.  You have quite a fit if I don't let you outside too, but I don't dare leave you out there without me close by. Sorry!  I can tell you feel it's very unfair and you'll cry at the gate.  You also seem to really like boy time and if big brother and Daddy go somewhere without you, you'll crawl over to the door and cry after they've gone.

You've been loving playing with magnets lately and like to stick and unstick them to the oven.  You also love to bang loudly on the oven and love the loud "BOOM" it makes.

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You have been liking to scream very high pitched lately.  My poor ears can attest.

You seem interested in looking at books and like to turn the pages.

You haven't tried walking yet, unless you're cruising on the edge of the couch.  I'm fine with that and hope you'll take your time.  You don't even try to get your balance and stand on your own.  NO RUSH!

Your cousin Esias came out for Daddy's graduation and you thought he was quite funny!  One of the few people you'll laugh at, but probably because he'd get in your face until you were forced to become comfortable with it.

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You seem interested in whatever big brother is doing and will try to play along--whether that's with crayons, cars, balls...you name it.  Sometimes I feel like you don't really play with baby stuff since you're always chasing after your brother and his toys.

You still love to put things in your mouth and have gotten quite good at clamping down so that I can't fish out whatever has found itself in your mouth.

You still are such a champ wherever I bring you.  Running errands with you is quite easy.  Sometimes you'll cry in your car seat--but not very often and even then Carter can usually get your attention.  You sit so good in the shopping cart and seem to find it fun to ride in.  You're quiet and just go wherever I need you to...which is so appreciated since I'm usually chasing after your brother.

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Your skin is getting drier and itchier...which worries me since it's getting hot and I have to put you in less and less clothing.  You'll sit and dig at any exposed skin.  Winter was great for having you be in long sleeved shirts and pants.  I hope you'll grow out of it like your brother did.  In the mean time, I lotion you up every single night.  You hate sitting still for diapers, let alone a lotion session.  You cry and buck and try to roll every single time for every single second.  Give your mom a break and just enjoy the baby massage!

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You find it so fun to tear books off your shelves and pull DVDs off the entertainment center and pull clothes out of drawers.  I've given up having your book shelf be organized.

And your crowning achievement this month: figuring out that your finger fits inside that nifty little hole in the middle of your face (your nose).  Just kidding.

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You have grown so much this month in accepting some hard things (like no more nursing) and I am truly proud of you.  That was an unexpected, hard, abrupt change and you are doing so much better.  Life will continue to throw you curve balls and I hope you can always be resilient like you were with this.  I can't believe we're coming up on one year.  I love you so much Cali Cal.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Welp, That Was Short

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Carter is soo hard on his toys!  I planned on some extent of roughness because he's a boy, but he is intense!

You would think that he would at least be gentler to his favorite toys, but since he was little he loves to chuck his toys as hard as he can across the room...whether that's into a wall, or anything else in it's way.

Carter asked and asked for a Bumblee Transformer toy for Christmas.  We got him it, and almost exactly 4 months later, he's broken his arm, shoulder and now his back/hood of the car.  He's also lost his Optimus Prime toy he got for Christmas.  We've turned our house upside down and have no idea where it is.  His two main Christmas toys didn't even make it until the next Christmas.

It's frustrating to see him take such bad care of his stuff.  We've tried putting things up, or in time out. But, that is truly the way he likes to play with things.  I hope when he gets a bit older and can comprehend more that he can learn to value and take care of his stuff.  He's not off to the best start. After he broke Bumblee tonight he said to some extent "Grandma and Papa get me one?"  Nope. Sorry bud.  That's not the way it works!  Stinker!

I guess the silver lining is that Calvin will get all new toys since there are seriously precious few left. If Fisher Price ever needs someone to test out a toy's durability...send them our way! :)