Adenoids, Anxiety & Advocating

I feel like the past year and a half have passed in a blur. I had good intentions of getting back in a routine of maintaining my personal blog after our second son was born, but I was too caught up with my own health problems for a bit. Several ER trips and several surgeries later and I am thankfully doing much better these days. Our baby is now 1.5 and doing well. 🙂

Our older son however has been sick constantly. It’s been a nonstop battle, especially since he started preschool last year. The pediatrician kept telling me, oh kids just get sick a lot when they first start school since they aren’t used to being around so many germs. I get that, and I had heard that from so many people, but something in my gut kept telling me there was more to it than that. Prior to starting preschool, I had kept him quite active in various activities, taken him to drop in daycare when I was working, etc. It wasn’t like it was the first time he had been around other kids and their germs, yet the increasing frequency of his coughs, colds, sore throats, etc. was extremely concerning for me.

He also has always had trouble breathing even when he’s not sick, but it had been dismissed as just allergies or possibly enlarged adenoids. I was told that kids often have this problem and they usually outgrow it by the time they are 5 and not to worry. My husband had pretty severe sleep apnea in the past, and I recognized the sounds of the struggle to breathe when I would hear our son sleeping (my husband’s sleep apnea resolved after loosing a significant amount of weight). Our older son was a big chunky baby (over 9 pounds at birth, and actually big enough to literally dislocate my pelvis!), but as he got older, he’s gotten skinnier and skinnier. Now that he’s 4.5, I feel like his growth has slowed to a barely noticeable level over the past year, and he has even been losing weight over the past few months. People have started asking me if his brother and he are twins since they are getting pretty close in size. His brother is only 1.5 year old. His breathing problems have gotten worse and worse, and his appetite has diminished. His mood and his energy levels have tanked. He’s been grumpy and complaining about not feeling good all the time. He kept telling me, “Mommy my throat is sick” or “I have coughs” even when the pediatrician assured me there was nothing wrong (in those rare moments between all his constant viral infections). I have been filled with anxiety about not being able to get him to eat much, knowing he’s not sleeping well, and watching him get thinner and sick even more often. It got to the point where I could barely bring him anywhere since he was sick almost the entire summer. I knew that this had gotten out of control and this was not something he seemed to be outgrowing.

When we are new parents, we live with the anxiety for the baby’s first year, living in fear of SIDS. When they turn one, we breathe a sigh of relief, we can relax a bit at night now. With our older son though, even though I knew we technically shouldn’t have to worry about SIDS after he turned one, my worry about him stopping breathing in his sleep got increasingly more severe. I remember the first time we noticed him foaming at the mouth….he had fallen asleep in the car seat after a day in the sun (I think we had gone swimming? I remember him wearing a little baby sun hat). His chubby little cheeks swelled up as he struggled to breathe, and white foamy froth came bubbling out of his mouth. It looked like the top of a creamy latte spilling out of his little lips. I screamed at my husband to stop the car when I saw the foam in the mirror over his car seat. It never really got less scary but sadly that became the norm. I would try to wake him up if I saw the foaming get really bad, and we would try to comfort him when we would wake up in terror because he couldn’t breathe. He started having reoccurring nightmares about someone trying to hurt him when he was struggling to breathe.

We took him to a therapist for a while in large part because of the nightmares (and also because the prolonged lack of sleep was starting to contribute to some frustrating problems with attitude and lack of focus). The therapist tried to give me a guilt trip for having to cancel our appointments a few times because he kept getting sick (and also because I had to take some time off of our sessions to have three surgeries over the period of a couple of months!). She even went so far as to try to say that perhaps he was causing himself to get sick in order to get my attention. I was pretty livid at that point and we obviously did not return for any more appointments with her. I knew at that point that I had to start advocating for him, and get his breathing problems fixed, whatever was the cause, no matter what anyone said.

His nighttime breathing has been the worst. He struggles all night long, stopping completely often and foaming at the mouth a lot. We took videos of his breathing problems while he was asleep in various positions (it was worst when he fell asleep in the car seat…leaving me filled with anxiety, afraid to go on long drives). We met with the ENT/allergist who helped me significantly with my collapsed sinuses, deviated septum, and cartilage reconstruction of my nose. I had met with several ENT’s prior to finding him, and he was the only one who could actually identify what had gone wrong with my nose (some of the others had incorrectly told me it looked as though I had nose cancer). Our ENT was just as concerned as I was, and started a series of tests on the little guy to make sure that we really narrowed down the cause of his breathing problems. We took him for allergy testing, an overnight sleep study, and a brain study (the doctor wanted to make sure the head injury from his birth hadn’t triggered any neurological problems that were triggering his breathing problems). It felt like all of my free time this summer was spent driving him to appointments and tests, but it was all worth it since I finally felt like someone was taking his problems seriously and working to help us get this all resolved.

His sleep study confirmed what I’ve known all along…he has been suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. The test showed that he was stopping breathing completely every 10 minutes on average, and his oxygen levels hovered around 80% range for the entire night. He even slept “well” that night in comparison to most nights! I knew that there was no way I was going to tolerate a “wait and see if he outgrows this” approach any longer. We just had to wait a few more weeks for insurance approval and surgery center scheduling.

My anxiety reached a breaking point the other night when I realized I hadn’t heard his little struggling breathing sound for a while. His room is right next to ours and I have gotten used to listening for him at night. I didn’t hear him breathing at all and I panicked. He often sneaks into our bedroom in the middle of the night to cuddle with my husband, but he was out of town at the time. I looked around and didn’t see my son. Then I found him under the comforter in my bed, cuddled up near where I had my feet, like a little puppy dog cuddling my feet. Unfortunately I had been sleeping with pillows under my feet to take the pressure off my problems with my spinal cord (my nerves were especially raw since my husband had been gone for work a lot and I didn’t have him around to help me with the boys). I found our son’s face covered by one of the pillows, not breathing at all. I previously thought the worst feeling of my life was when they whisked him away after birth and brought him to the NICU to be evaluated by a neonatologist and a neurologist. The memory of those hours of fear and anxiety haunt me. But then when I saw his little face lying there not breathing, it was worse beyond measure. Thankfully he started breathing again quickly and I didn’t even have to do CPR or anything. My maternal instinct must have kicked in as soon as he hit a round of bad sleep apnea, or maybe his guardian angel forced me out of my exhausted sleep. Either way, I am incredibly thankful that I woke up and noticed something was wrong.

Today was finally his surgery day to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. It felt incredibly vindicating, like I’ve been waiting for this day for almost 4 years now. His throat was so swollen on the way in this morning that he couldn’t even fit his tongue in his mouth. It just hung out of his mouth like a little dog for about half an hour after he woke up. He’s in pain now and not feeling well, but we are all optimistic because the hardest part is finally behind us. He was so excited to go into his surgery because he knew how much that doctor helped me with my breathing problems, and he is excited to be able to breathe too. He woke up from surgery quite upset because he thought he would come out of surgery and right away feel better and able to breathe better. Poor sweet little guy. 🙂 At the hospital they told us they were all surprised by exactly how large his adenoids were once they removed them, and they were super nasty and filled with pus.

The doctor advised that we need to closely monitor him over the next week, especially when he is asleep, so I will be dropping offline for most of the week. I am just so happy that hopefully soon my baby will be able to breathe, sleep, and eat like a normal kid again. 🙂

A couple of cell phone pictures from the big day….excited to get prepped for surgery. In such good spirits! My brave little man. ❤

And his nasty adenoids/tonsils! So glad those nasty things are gone!

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Happy New Year!

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One of my top New Year’s resolutions is to start blogging here on my lifestyle blog more regularly again. I used to be better about it when I only had one little guy, but since becoming a mom of two energetic little boys, this blog has definitely been one of the things that has gotten pushed to the back burner. Which is sad since it is something I really enjoy, and my favorite way to document the changes in our family, our home and our garden!

So I am back with a new plan, and determined to stick to it this year. 🙂 Here are some of my other resolutions this year….

1. Take more selfies and more self-portraits with me and my boys! I used to do a ton of self-portraits with our older son and me, and then in the past year I started to have some changes in my appearance that made me self-conscious and I pretty much stopped taking photos of myself. As a professional photographer who emphasizes the beauty of capturing motherhood, it’s actually been highly embarrassing! So what happened exactly?

I’ve been having problems with my sinuses and severe allergies ever since we moved into this house and started our endless list of construction and remodeling projects. A large bump started growing inside my nose around the time my husband opened up our kitchen, and then had to leave it open for several months while he went out of town to deal with other issues. So in the meantime, I was home with attic dust streaming in for several months and my dust allergies were out of control (I was also pregnant at the time which didn’t help). I had seen several ENT’s about the bump and none were able to help me with it.

Then this past year it started getting even worse, to the point where my nose was constantly painful and started completely visibly deforming. Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt like I was looking at a stranger. I have barely been able to sleep for the past year since I was getting so little air through my nose. I finally went to see a more specialized surgeon, who had a better idea of what was going wrong. He told me that my sinuses had collapsed shut, 0% air on one side and less than 30% on the other side. As a result of the collapse, they had pushed down around the cartilage, causing the bumps and deformation. So we scheduled surgery for just after Christmas this year.

I am currently recovering from the surgery and in a lot of pain, but I am so happy that I was able to find a doctor who knew how to handle the situation. I am looking forward to being able to sleep without waking up grasping for air. I am also really excited that my nose should hopefully be looking a lot better, more like normal again. 🙂

My older son LOVES snapchat. He made me install it on my phone (he’s played with it with my sister and his babysitter). He said it makes him so happy when we do snaps together. So, I have been getting started on my resolution already about getting in more photos with my boys. 🙂 With my bandages, bruising and all…here we are! Having fun cuddling with my sweet boys while I recover!

2. I’m going to do more work that makes me happy, and less of the work that stresses me out. 🙂 I’m not going to go into all of the details here, but I will be making some changes for my photography business this year and I am excited about it. 🙂

3. Get on a regular system and schedule with our garden maintenance, and actually schedule it into my work calendar! My garden is such an important aspect of my business, and I often try to cram in gardening tasks whenever I have a bit of free time, and that leads to a very stressed out mom. We are going to be making some serious changes with that routine going forward!

4. Get more of our projects finished on our house! Certain projects have been dragging on forever around here, mostly because we never have any free time to get them completed. With my husband working outside the home Monday through Friday, and I have spent the majority of my weekend time working this past year with photo sessions, it hasn’t led to enough family time and not enough time for us to finish the personal projects we want to complete. I’ve been saying it for years but this time I mean it…I’m going to seriously start cutting down on weekend photo sessions! We also seriously need some fun time as a family all together! 🙂

5. Most importantly…be more mentally and emotionally present for my family. 🙂 I feel like I have been spreading myself too thin for a while and it just leaves me zapped of energy all the time. I have been working on finding ways to delegate certain tasks for my business so I am not so wiped out all of the time, and that has been helping already.

I am excited about the changes I have planned for the new year! 🙂 Thanks for reading and joining me on my journey to a better year!

A Thousand Words a Picture Does NOT Tell ;)

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I thought it would be hilarious to dress up as Chip & Joanna Gaines for Halloween. I wanted to get a picture of us in front of our shiplap covered fireplace and floating shelf mantle that we worked very hard to create, very Fixer Upper style. 🙂 From an outside perspective, it looked like everything was picture perfect. In reality, I just did a really good job of framing the photo to exclude all of the chaos surrounding us. 🙂 Want to know the real behind the scenes story? It has been so crazy here lately that even my mom called after she saw the photo and asked how we pulled that photo off (since really only very few people know the reality around here lol).

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For most of October, our boys traded off being sick, reaching a peak in late October when Baby F came down with an ear infection in both ears, and roseola…fever spiking at nearly 105 degrees. It was beyond stressful. The boys were getting stir crazy and the house was a chaotic mess from them being stuck inside for so long. Of course it all played out when I am in the midst of the busiest time of year for photographers, when I am already stressed to the max.

We “finished” up our renovation projects on my home based studio/office during my maternity leave a few months ago (I say finished in quotes because I always seem to come up with some new crazy project idea for my poor husband). Now we are trying to focus on finishing up our crazy projects on our actual house with the little free time that we have. Things have been a chaotic mess as a result. Walls have come down, flooring is temporarily filled in with patches of awful concrete, etc. We keep trying to make plans with friends, family and neighbors but things keep coming up in the chaos and we feel like we’ve had several months of antisocial behavior as a result lol.

Previously, we had a bed in our master bedroom that we made. My husband made the bed frame, and I made the padded headboard. It seemed great in theory, until slimy toddler hands kept jumping up onto our bed and destroying my pretty satin headboard. So that looked nice for literally about a day! My husband asked me to visualize my dream bedroom and tell him what that included. I said that I have always wanted an antique white armoire and a pretty black antique style wrought iron bed frame. Literally since junior high, that is what I have been hoping to have some day. So I started searching online to find those two items. I found an amazing white armoire that I love (and happens to look really cute with the vanity I already had!), and found an adorable bed frame on sale from Target, and a beautiful white quilt from Overstock.com. I was so excited…my dream bedroom should be arriving any day via UPS! 🙂 Then reality hit…..

The bed frame arrived severely banged up and damaged. The bedspread arrived in a defective size, definitely not proper king size bed measurements. I spent over four hours on the phone trying to resolve both of the issues. We ended up with a damaged bed frame in a box sitting in the middle of our living room for a few weeks while we sorted out all of the details of the mess. The big huge box was in front of our fireplace, and was driving me nuts. My mom saw the picture of us in front of the fireplace and was so confused…she immediate called and asked what happened to the big huge box and all of the mess around it lol. We literally shoved it out of the way just for the picture!

While the baby’s fever broke by Halloween, the boys were still feeling a bit under the weather and not up for a whole lot. They were being particularly crazy while I had my tripod set up for the photo above. 🙂 I realized I had been working so much lately that I forgot to do laundry, and our 3 year old son E was out of clean clothes, particularly clean underwear lol. He was running around in circles while I had the tripod set up, yelling “no underwear today, woo hoo!!” Baby F is my little gardening helper (I call him Mr Green Thumb because he jumps out of bed every day, excited to come garden with me in the morning, and loves pinching/harassing all of my plants). 🙂 Since F had been sick and it had been a bit cool and rainy, he hadn’t been allowed to come outside and garden for a bit. He was trying to escape out the door into the garden while we had the tripod set up lol.

Later that day, E fell asleep for a rare but much needed nap, and I finally caved and let F play with my little herb garden planter outside our front door. While he was happily pinching my basil, my husband came up with a funny idea to take a cell phone pic of him as a “sweaty” Chip Gaines. So hilarious if you know how often this poor guy is actually this sweaty on his “days off work” while he’s working on our house lol. This time it was just water though. 🙂 I am thankful that I have this great man to keep me sane in the chaos of our lives. 🙂 He keeps me laughing when things get challenging!

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I can’t even believe it but our sweet little Baby F is nine months old today! It is bittersweet for me as he is getting older. More of his nature loving personality is coming out, and I see more and more of myself in his personality (even though he is the spitting image of my husband!). My husband and E groan when I say it’s time for everyone to help work on the garden, but when Baby F hears me say that, he crawls as fast as he can to get outside, with a big smile on his face. 🙂 I am sad because I know he will be our last baby, and after spending so much time pregnant over the course of 5 years, it is hard to believe the baby portion of our lives is nearing an end. I am looking forward to having quite an enthusiastic little partner by my side in the garden though! 🙂

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Lots of updates!

I have been awful about posting on this blog and I apologize! I am going to try to get back into a regular habit of blogging each week, here and on my photography blog. Things seems like they were running at such a crazy pace for a while, working too much, too many projects with our yard, etc. I realized that months have gone by and I haven’t blogged over here at all. So here’s a recap of some highlights! I apologize they are all cell phone photos, but sometimes life gets busy and the best camera is the one you have with you. 😉

In April, we took our son to Disneyland for the first time for his birthday. He had so much fun! He actually got tears in his eyes when he got to meet Mickey in person. 🙂 He doesn’t look happy in the photo below, but it was the end of a very long day. 🙂 I can’t wait to bring him back again!
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My husband and I went on a very long-overdue date night to the Magic Castle in Hollywood! When I lived in Hollywood, I always wanted to go but never got an invite. I was pretty excited. 🙂 I know I don’t look excited below but were stuck in traffic for a while on the way there so I was a bit car-sick in the photo. 🙂
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I had two gallery shows recently for my photography, and my little man helped me prepare for the shows. Here we were in downtown L.A., picking up my fine art photo prints. 🙂 Such a little tough guy!
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He also helped me out at a recent convention, passing out my business cards to any ladies with babies lol. The kid is amazingly perceptive about what I do and who my target clients would be!

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Little man also started soccer recently!
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I think E has grown tired of our co-sleeping way of life. He has started building his own little fort of pillows between the wall and our bed lol. We have been discussing transitioning him to sleeping in his own room at night soon.
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We went for a movie night at the pier, and our little man astounded me when he grabbed my hand and started leading me elsewhere. When I asked where we were going, he pointed at a sign above a closed door that said “Fun Factory”, and said “fun!” He had never been to that arcade before but apparently recognized the word fun!

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Biggest news of all…we are expecting baby #2 in February! My pregnancies are never easy, and each has had their own set of unique challenges. This one has been no exception so far. I have been blogging about it on my separate pregnancy blog, so if you would like to follow along with more of the details, you can find that here.FullSizeRender

I’ll be posting some garden updates soon since I know it has been a while since I’ve shown any updates in that department, and I will have some special maternity fashion posts coming soon too! 🙂

Making Some Changes!

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Hello there! I decided that I need to make some changes to the way I manage my blogging and social media. Here’s what’s new around here:

1. I created a new blog all on it’s own with all of my posts regarding our journey with becoming parents, dealing with infertility and loss, and trying to give our son a sibling. I know some of these posts may be a bit more than some people want to read, so I wanted a dedicated space to house these very personal posts. That new blog is called Building Our Little Family, and can be found here and followed on Facebook here. If you follow me on Twitter, or are friends with me on Facebook, and want to stay informed of our journey, you will need to follow the new blog either via Facebook or WordPress. These posts will not be published via Twitter or my personal Facebook wall. I would also recommend setting the Facebook page to give you notifications when there is a new post if you are really interested, since posts probably won’t be very frequent, and Facebook has all of their awful algorithms that make it difficult for people to actually see things in their news feed.
2. Previously, when I changed the name of the photography business to be more similar to the name of this blog, I merged the two Facebook pages together. I have since come to the conclusion that some people only want to see my professional photography, and prefer the gardening and lifestyle posts. So, I have created a separate Facebook page again for this blog (found here). I apologize to anyone who may have been frustrated by the merger!
3. I have lots of posts that I have been meaning to post here on the lifestyle blog (lots of fun projects around here!), but I have been busy working on the photography business a lot lately. I have won a couple of really cool awards lately though for some of my photos, so be sure to check it out if you are interested!

Thanks so much! Hopefully this new system will work out much better!

DIY All-Natural Sensory Play Dough

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Play dough is such a great learning activity for toddlers. Unfortunately, I am allergic to a lot of artificial dyes, and it appears that little E is allergic to some as well. I wanted to make him some homemade play dough with natural coloring so that he could play with it without any problems with allergic reactions. I used to buy natural food colors at Sur La Table (for cupcake frosting, etc.), but they have not restocked them in a really long time. Every time I asked about them, they just suggested that I order them online. I felt silly paying for shipping for something so small. Then I realized that the same natural food colors are available on Amazon.com, and they come with free shipping with our Prime membership (I cannot say enough good things about how much I absolutely love having that Amazon Prime membership…I use it for so many things)!

I was quite excited to get started with making some homemade play dough! I thought it would be even more fun to make a bunch of different scents with the dough, enhancing the sensory experience.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups flower
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sea salt

1. Mix all of the ingredients above into a pot on the stove, over medium-low heat.
2. Cook while stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
3. Let mixture cool, then divide into 6 equal sized chunks.
4. Each chunk of dough got a different color and scent for a fun, sensory experience. I kneaded 3-5 drops of food coloring and 3 drops of essential oil into each chunk of dough.

Here are the color/scent combos that I used:
1. purple – doTERRA lavender essential oil
2. yellow – doTERRA lemon essential oil
3. pink – rose essential oil (purchased at Sprouts since doTERRA does not currently sell rose oil)
4. greenish blue – peppermint doTERRA essential oil
5. green – oregano doTERRA essential oil
6. orange – 1 pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, to smell like pumpkin pie

Between uses, each ball of dough is stored in its own ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.

*Important safety warning: Since this recipe contains a significant amount of salt, do not let your child play with the play dough around dogs. Salt is toxic to dogs, and most dogs love to eat anything they can get their paws on. Our dogs are especially good at making sad puppy dog eyes at our son, manipulating him into giving them whatever they want, even when they are locked out of the room behind a baby gate. When our son is having sensory dough time, I lock our dogs outside or in one of our bedrooms. One of our dogs has tried a few times now to get E to give him the dough.

E’s favorite scents are the three that he is most familiar with from our garden: lavender, lemon, and rose. The oregano and pumpkin pie scented doughs are not his favorite…sometimes he is in the mood for those, other times those two get pushed away. Here is a funny video of him having so much fun smelling his dough. 🙂

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*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Our Little Minion on Halloween

On Halloween, we took E trick or treating in our neighborhood for the first time. My parents came over too to join in on the fun. E caught on pretty quickly about going up to the door and getting candy, which was pretty funny since he has only had candy on a very few occasions (we generally reserve anything with sugar for holidays or birthdays only now that we have this little guy around).

Below, E had a fun time getting candy with his Daddy and Grandpa. 🙂

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After E got scared by one of our neighbors in a mask making a scary voice, we decided to check out the harvest festival at one of the churches down the street from our house. We all had so much fun there, and we are definitely planning to go back there next year (and skipping the door-to-door trick-or-treating until E is a bit older and less likely to get so scared).
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There was a country music cover band, and E had SO MUCH FUN dancing to the live music.
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Then he played a few games to get a bit more candy.
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Chipmunk face full of candy.
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He caught on that the more efficient he was with completing these games quickly, the more candy he would get, lol. So he was placing the bean bags in the holes repeatedly. Such a silly little guy.aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Just in case you were wondering, E picked out his costume himself. 🙂 I had plans originally to make the three of us costumes as Family Guy…who could resist a cute little guy with a big noggin? However when E and I were at the mall one day waiting for my cell phone screen to be replaced, he saw the minion costume and I knew my plans were trashed. As long as he was excited and had fun, that’s the important thing. 🙂