Almost 40 Weeks and Feeling ALL the Feelings

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I’ve been pregnant for more than 39 weeks, but the reality of it just hit me, and it hit me hard.

Tyson took Qwynn to school early yesterday morning so I could have some extra time alone at home since I worked a later shift. I took my time getting ready and even had the chance to work a little on another painting project. On my way out the door, I was sure to grab my headphones since I am rarely alone to listen to music on my commute to work. I of course turned on the Lumineers (Tyson, mine and Qwynn’s obsession lately). My phone was pretty low on batteries, so instead of browsing Facebook and Instagram like I normally would, I just sat there listening to the music and thinking about how at any moment our lives were going to change forever…

I pictured holding our little baby boy and instantly had to hold back tears. For the first time I could actually picture him being here and what it would be like to have another little baby. But I still had so many fears and questions. Could I really do this again? How would this delivery be? Am I strong enough? Can I survive the infant stage again? It’s been so long. What is he going to be like? Is he going to be as easy as Qwynn? Will I have the patience if he isn’t?

And then my thoughts were instantly consumed by Qwynn. How is she going to adjust to having a baby brother? She is so excited and talks about him all the time. “He’s so cute” and “He loves me,” she will say to my belly. But does she really grasp just how things are going to change? The attention he’s going to get and the sharing of Mommy and Daddy. Did I spend enough time with her these last few months? Could I have done more?

And then I started thinking about my pregnancy with Qwynn. How I was so excited to become a mom. How it was something I had always wanted and she made that dream come true. I reminisced about listening to Amy Grant’s “All I Want for Christmas” weeks before she was born and always thinking about her when I heard it. I thought about how much joy she has brought us for so long. I can’t believe that was close to 4 years ago. What amazing years they have been!

I am sad to be ending this part of our story. It’s been just the three of us for so long. But in my heart I know that Qwynn will be fine. I know that we will be fine. And I know that being a family of four will only make our story better.

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We can’t wait to meet you Alwyn Murphy!

Valerie Anne

Be Bold Go Gold 2016 at the Astoria Street Fair

I am 36 weeks pregnant, our apartment is in a state of chaos, and I haven’t written a blog post in months, but I will always make time to spread awareness for Childhood Cancer! This afternoon Tyson, Qwynn and I headed over to the Astoria Street Fair to dance and talk about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and The Ronan Foundation.

Last year my coworker and friend, Emily changed my life by sharing Ronan’s story with me. As a mother, the stories of parents losing their children to this horrible disease absolutely breaks my heart.

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In May, Tyson found out an old friend he worked with in high school lost her little boy, Carson to leukemia. He had been sick for 2 weeks with what they thought was bad strep throat, but when the antibiotics weren’t working, further testing found that he actually had leukemia. While they were waiting for a heart arrhythmia to correct itself, her little boy died just days after finding out.

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In just a week they went from thinking their child had strep to finding out he had leukemia to saying goodbye to him. When Tyson told me about what happened, it was all I could think about for weeks. I just couldn’t even imagine going through something like that. I held Qwynn so close in those weeks.

This is the reason I care so much about this cause. Because childhood cancer does not discriminate. It could tear your world upside down without any warning. We all need to be a voice for these children and their families. It’s not a fun thing to talk about, but it needs to be done.

“For families who have lost a child to cancer, they’re aware of cancer every minute of every, single day. The lack of funds shatters their hearts, because it means less chances for a cure. The lack of awareness crushes their spirits, because they need support. Their children need a voice. All year long, but especially this month, WE can be that voice: We can be kinder, braver, and spicer because of these kids…but it’s also time to make sure they get to lead long, happy, healthy lives. What’s a better mission than that?” (The Ronan Foundation)

So #BeBoldGoGold and make the world a little brighter on behalf of kids like Ronan and Carson. Turn your social media GOLD. Donate what you can, even if it’s $1. Make sure people know about childhood cancer. More awareness = More funding. More funding = more research. More research = a cure.

SOME FACTS ABOUT CHILDHOOD CANCER:

• Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in children overall, after automobile accidents.

• All 12 major pediatric cancers are getting less than 4% of the United States’ federal funding for cancer research.

• Americans spend 20x more on potato chips than on childhood cancer research.

• The Empire State Building lights up for numerous sporting events, holidays, many other cancers and illnesses and even for filming movies and such, BUT it refuses to light up gold in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Valerie Anne

A Much Needed Trip To My “Soul City”

When I visited Colorado for the first time with my family in 1994, I was only 10 years old. It was on this trip that I told my mom, “One day I am going to live here.” It is very fitting that the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with just happened to grow up in Colorado, and I am so happy that we get to visit this beautiful state as often as we do. I absolutely love living in NYC, but the fast paced lifestyle can be quite draining sometimes, and our visits to Colorado are so refreshing lately that I have been referring to Denver as my “soul city.”

We often talk about moving to Denver, and someday I hope an opportunity presents itself to make that possible, but for now I will take advantage of any visit I can. When Tyson told me his work was sending him to the NHL conferences in Denver, I told him he wasn’t going to Colorado without Qwynn and I. So we booked our flights and prepared for our long weekend in Denver. And boy, has it been the most perfect trip ever!

I have many fears about having a second child, but my absolute biggest fear is how my relationship with Qwynn is going to change after baby number two arrives. She has been our one and only for so long and it’s hard to imagine loving another child as much as I love her. I know I will, and I now she is going to thrive as a big sister, but I also know things will change.

Well, this trip has definitely eased some of my fears and I have been soaking up every bit of my one-on-one time with Qwynn while in Denver. I have been trying my best to be carefree and letting her take the lead, and it has provided us with some pretty awesome memories…

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Our visit to the zoo was so wonderful, I had to hold back tears on the carousel just thinking about how much this trip has meant to me. I know life with two is only going to be better and I cannot wait to see Qwynn with her baby brother, but this trip was exactly what I needed before baby boy Christensen arrives and our lives change forever…again.

 

Valerie Anne

Deciding To Have Baby #2

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As Qwynn’s 3rd birthday came closer and closer, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how fast time had gone. She couldn’t really be turning three already?! This realization was especially discouraging because we didn’t seem any closer to being ready to expand our family, something I still really wanted. I never considered only having one and being done. My mom would always say four kids was a good number. “One for each arm,” she would tell me. That seemed like a lot to me. A family I babysat for in college had two boys and their mom told me once that she always liked having two kids because then they can always have one on one attention. I thought this was a good point.

I always pictured us having at least 2 children, maybe even 3, and I wanted them pretty close together, about 2 years apart. This is what I had imagined before we moved back to New York City. A city where even with a discount, we pay more for Qwynn’s childcare than most people spend on a mortgage. A city where rent in a good school zone is at least four times more than most people pay towards rent elsewhere.

For awhile, whenever the topic came up about having another child, Tyson and I were both teeter-tottering on the same fence, but I was leaning more towards having a second little one and Tyson was leaning more towards the not. Not only did having more children mean more financial stress, but he is so smitten with Qwynn, he didn’t want to take away any attention/love from her. I, on the other hand, saw daily how good Qwynn is with the babies in my classroom, and I absolutely knew she would not only be okay, but would make the best big sister ever.

Not being completely on the same page made this decision so much harder because it felt unfair to make this big step of expanding our family if we both weren’t completely sure it was what we wanted. I just kept coming back to the same question though…

Would we ever truly be 100% sure or ready?

Right now, we might think giving up that morning Starbucks coffee or evening bottle of wine would be torturous. Could we do it because we know we have to buy diapers instead?

Right now, we might think giving up cable would be too hard. Would we even care when more of our time will be taken up by another little bundle of joy?

Right now, the thought of not having a car might seem like a huge inconvenience. Could we manage to be able to put more towards rent in the city?

Right now, it might seem like a one bedroom apartment with two kids would be impossible. Would we make it work to have the city at our fingertips?

Right now, it might seem like we cannot manage another child, but I knew we would likely not make any changes in our lifestyle choices until we absolutely needed to…until we had a baby on the way.

Our move to Arizona and then back to NYC taught me an important life lesson. Sometimes what you think you always wanted, turns out not to be what you really want after all. At the same time, sometimes you don’t really know how much you want something until you decide to go for it. Sometimes you don’t really know how much you are willing and able to sacrifice until you have to. Sometimes you don’t know how much you want another baby until you see the little peanut on the monitor and hear that little heartbeat for the first time.

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Valerie Anne

DIY Horsey Cupcake with Stars

The very first time I asked Qwynn what she wanted to be for Halloween she excitedly said “A cupcake!” I instantly googled “homemade toddler cupcake costume” and was thrilled with all of the ideas I was seeing. I couldn’t wait to put this together!

Then the inevitable happened. A couple weeks later, Qwynn changed her mind. Toddlers! She wanted to be a pumpkin. BummerI was really looking forward to making a cupcake. Luckily, I was able to convince her to be a pumpkin cupcake. Easy enough, right? But the next week Qwynn changed her mind again. Really? She wanted to be a horse. Really??? So, I suggested a horse cupcake, and the last week before Halloween she added the stars.

And this is how the Horsey Cupcake with Stars was born! 

I originally wanted to use a lamp shade for the cupcake liner, but it was harder to find one than I had originally anticipated (especially since I didn’t want to spend a lot of money). Eventually I found this idea, and with a few tweaks here and there, I was able to make an amazing cupcake costume!

A round laundry basket would’ve been way too big for a toddler, but I was able to find a good sized bucket at DEALS for just $1. I grabbed two of them in case I messed up on the first one. I also found the modern patterned contact paper there for just $2 and thought it would be a sturdier option than wrapping paper (Qwynn falls down a lot!).

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I cut the bottom of the tub out using a utility knife and scissors. Then I covered the rough edges with strips of the contact paper and reinforced it with strong packing tape.

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I used my Cricut cutting machine to make horse stickers for the cupcake liner. I didn’t want to make a special trip to Michaels to buy sticker paper, so I used large shipping labels instead. Our printer has been out of commission for awhile, so I used brightly colored markers to color the horses.

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I covered poster board in the contact paper to add a little more support, then I attached the horse stickers and folded it accordion-style.

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I bought two pairs of white women’s opaque tights at Target for about $5 each to use for the frosting. Since Tyson hates that we have so many throw pillows on our couches, I decided we could spare one for the stuffing inside. It was the perfect amount! I used hot glue (and a lot of it) to attach the frosting to the top edge of the bucket and the cupcake liner around the bucket.

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For the star sprinkles, I used my Cricut again to cut different sized stars from colored card stock and then hot glued them to the frosting.

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I couldn’t believe how easy this cupcake was to make and how perfect it came together!

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The hat was another story! I had an extra stuffed tight leg, so I turned it into a dollop of frosting and made a candle out of a foam art brush.

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I originally attached the frosting dollop to a headband, but it was too top heavy and wouldn’t stay on Qwynn’s head. I remembered Qwynn had a sun hat that was too floppy for her, so I cut the brim off and hot glued the dollop of frosting to the hat.

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It wasn’t perfect, but with the help of a few clips, it stayed on her head long enough to snap a few pictures.

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That’s one cute cupcake if you ask me!

Valerie Anne

3 Reasons I Decided to “Go Gold” AGAIN…In Public

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When I decided to make my first Be Bold, Go Gold video it was to support a good friend and her passion for The Ronan Thompson Foundation and childhood cancer awareness. My outlook has always been, if we can’t count on our closest friends and family to support us, then how can we expect to count on anyone else. As I began researching more about childhood cancer statistics and facts, my own passion for the cause began to grow. This, and these three other reasons are why I decided to “Go Gold” again, and this time in public.

1. It is changing my outlook on life.

If this experience has taught me one thing, it is to let go of the little things, while at the same time holding on to the simple moments in life.

I wish I could have recorded my husband’s face when he first saw all the gold glitter that covered our hardwood floor and area rug as I was making our gold tutus. I know he was biting his tongue from protesting too much. I used to hate glitter too. It’s annoying as all f***. But it didn’t matter this time. Because kids are dying of cancer. Mothers and fathers are being taken away from their children. The ones we love are leaving us too soon. When I thought about it this way, the glitter all over was a minuscule problem, and I even started to welcome it. There are still remnants all around our apartment, as well as my parent’s house. I love that it is a constant reminder to stop sweating the small stuff.

And it’s working! The other night Tyson was working late at the Ranger’s game, which meant it was just Qwynn and I for dinner. I made her mac n’ cheese, one of my favorite meals as a kid. We had a great conversation about her day at school, and I relished in the fact that she is at the age now that we can actually have these dinner talks. As I started cleaning up my plate, I noticed Qwynn was putting the last few noodles on each prong of her fork. As I looked at her messy, cheese covered hands, my first instinct was to tell her to stop playing with her food and finish eating her dinner. But I resisted.

I held back because my own memory of doing the same exact thing when I was little came flooding to the front of my mind. I thought, what’s the big deal? So she’s playing with her food and getting a little messy. At least she is here. She is alive and able to explore this wonderful world around her. That is what is important. It was then she noticed me watching her and she held her fork up and said “Look Mommy!” She was so proud of herself, and in that moment I felt proud and blessed to be her mom.

2. I had the opportunity to attend the Bloomingdales Runway Heroes Fashion Show.

The Bloomingdales Runway Heroes Fashion Show was only about 15 minutes long, but it was one of the most emotional 15 minutes I have had in my life. As I watched all these brave kids strutting their stuff on the runway, the feeling of compassion was so strong inside me. The hardest part was watching the first few kids come out being held by their parents. It instantly brought tears to my eyes. On the outside, they looked like completely normal moms and dads with their children. But I knew they weren’t. I knew that they were dealing with something no parent or child should have to endure and it was honestly heartbreaking.

I just couldn’t help but think…that child could be one of my many nieces or nephews. That child could be any one of the children I take care of everyday at work. That child could be one of the countless kids I see walking through the streets of New York City. And the saddest realization of all, that child could be my precious and beautiful Qwynn Jolee.

Halfway through the fashion show Tyson texted me this picture and message and I just lost it inside.

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This horrible thing, childhood cancer, could become any one of our realities at any moment, without any warning. When I began to think about it this way, I just couldn’t stand back and watch. I HAD to do something else.

3. I wanted and felt the need to do more.

I was really proud of my first video and felt truly blessed that I got to share the experience with my sister, nieces and daughter. But even after getting so much positive feedback for it, I still felt like I could’ve done more. I felt that I could’ve tried harder to reach more people. I started brainstorming ideas and began building the courage to go out in public and talk to people about childhood cancer awareness.

At first, I didn’t even consider doing it by myself. I wanted my friend Emily to help me with my idea, but the timing just wasn’t working out. I wanted to do something now! But how could I do it by myself? It couldn’t be possible.

But it was.

It was very possible. It was possible because I have the most supportive husband and most fun-loving and courageous daughter. It was possible because I couldn’t stop thinking about all those kids whose lives were cut short. All those moms who don’t get to dance and be silly and laugh with their little ones anymore. It is possible because I would want people to do the same for me if it were my daughter.

It is possible because if we don’t speak up and do something for each others’ kids, then the horrible reality of childhood cancer is never going to change. It needs to change and we can all do something to help.

Be Bold and Stay Gold!

Valerie Anne

The Minimalist Approach to 3 Common Baby Items

In college, I didn’t pay much attention to what I put in or on my body, but becoming a mom has made me look at many things a lot differently. The last year I have been paying a lot more attention to the food we eat and the brands we use. I am continuing my quest to live as naturally as possible, while still understanding that moderation is okay. I have adjusted my beauty routine, changed my lunch habits, and become more aware of the products I buy.

Having so much information at our fingertips is as much a blessing as it is a curse. These days it is incredibly hard to know which products are good, which ones are dangerous and which ones are an absolute necessity or not. With all that is out there, how do we know what is opinion and what is fact? Do we trust our doctors because it is their profession or do we trust our mothers, sisters and friends who share the same experiences and stories as us?

I understand that every child is different and not everything is going to work the same way for everyone, but in both my experience as an infant/toddler teacher and my personal experiences with my own toddler, I have come to the realization that most infants and toddlers don’t need these three items every time or all the time. Instead of reaching for these popular products right away (many of which have controversial ingredients), I have learned to try more natural approaches first.


1. Sunscreen

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What a debated product these days!

I am not a lotion person and never really have been. I don’t like how it feels on my hands afterwards and I always end up washing it off.  My least favorite part of working with infants and toddlers during the summer is slathering sunscreen on them every single time we go outside.

I’ve never been a daily sunscreen user. Even growing up I remember my parents only putting it on when we were camping and outside all day, or by the pool or on the beach for hours. It was never something we put on everyday or every time we went outside.

My opinion about sunscreen continued to change after reading this article about a year ago or so. Yes, sunscreen protects us from harmful UV Rays and that is extremely important, but it also blocks out many nutrients that our bodies need, especially vitamin D. My doctor even told me to give Qwynn vitamin D supplements while I was breastfeeding her because there is such a deficiency. Last week I read another article that further supported my decision to use sunscreen in moderation.  It had a lot of good information about how our bodies use the sun and alternative ways to protect your skin.

I am fortunate that I don’t burn easily, but I understand everyone’s skin is different and young children definitely have more sensitive skin. If we are spending the day at the beach or hours by the pool during the sunniest time of the day, I am of course going to protect my daughter’s skin. But when she’s just getting 20-30 minutes of sun here and there, why miss out on all those important nutrients!

This means, Qwynn doesn’t get sunscreen at school. And she is one of the few kids in school that doesn’t. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about this. Am I wrong in my opinion if I’m the only one not doing it? I’d prefer to think that, like most parents, I am just trying to do the best that I can do for my family with the information that I have at hand.

My reasoning for not having Qwynn’s teachers lather her up in sunscreen everyday is as follows—First of all, when Qwynn goes outside at school it is often before noon or after 3:30pm, so she is not normally outside durning those peak sun hours. Plus, her class is rarely outside for longer than 30-45 minutes at a time and the kids are usually moving in and out of the shade. I also make sure to send a hat to school and a bathing suit with sleeves. Sure, I would love to buy her cute little tankini swim suits (who wouldn’t?), but I figure that Qwynn has her whole adolescence to wear cute little bathing suits. For now, I’ll take the guaranteed-to-be-safe sleeves, over the controversial sunscreen.

 

2. Infant/Children’s Motrin and Tylenol

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I rarely take any medicine when I’m sick. Maybe an Ibprofen here or there if I have a really bad headache or cramps. I never really hesitated giving Qwynn Motrin or Tylenol when she was really young, but I always tried to buy the one’s that didn’t have artificial flavoring, dyes or other fillers.

When she was getting her first set of molars, I felt like she had a fever every other week and they would last for days. Her doctor even suggested that I piggyback Motrin and Tylenol (which I reluctantly did for a couple days), but the fever always seemed to come back and I got nervous about giving Qwynn so much medicine in what seemed like such a short amount of time.

I started researching teething, fevers, and natural remedies, and my perception of fevers started to change after I read this article. I learned that fevers aren’t always a bad thing and it is actually just your body’s natural way of fighting something off. When Qwynn was about 17 months old, I experienced just what this article was talking about.

We were in California for the Stanley Cup Finals last June and Qwynn woke up from a nap with a 104 fever.  I couldn’t believe that the fever was back! We were definitely worried, but I didn’t want to pull out the Motrin just yet. We had spent a couple hours on the beach that morning and had lunch in the sun on the pier, so I thought those things might be contributing factors to the high number.

We decided to forgo the medicine for the time being and instead walked to dinner (getting Qwynn some cool fresh air), and grabbed a yogurt and smoothie on the way to the restaurant. Qwynn started to perk up halfway through the smoothie and when we took her temp back at the hotel a few hours later, her fever had gone down to 101. The next morning her fever was gone!

This experience completely changed my perception of fevers. I just couldn’t believe that Qwynn’s temperature had gone down a whole 3 degrees in just a few short hours just by cooling down the inside and outside of her body. From then on, I have chosen to try natural methods (i.e. cold washcloths, teethers, popsicles, etc.) before reaching into the medicine cabinet. I’m not saying that I don’t keep a bottle of Children’s Motrin around “just in case,” or that I will never give it to Qwynn again, but as long as she is healthy enough and comfortable enough to fight off any fevers or pain naturally, I will leave the medicine where it is.

 

3. Diaper Cream:

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I bought diaper cream when Qwynn was first born because I thought I was supposed to. I did pay attention to the brand I bought, choosing a more “natural’ one, but I never used it with her on a daily basis and only applied it a few times when she was really young. Even then I always hesitated because the best way to prevent or heal a diaper rash is to keep it dry. So applying a moist cream just never made sense to me.

The last two diaper rashes Qwynn had were healed in two days without using any diaper cream or ointment. First, I made sure the area was completely clean. I know it is absolute torture listening to a baby or toddler scream as you wipe their raw bottom, but if you don’t remove absolutely everything, then the area will take so much longer to heal and may even get worse. This is another reason I avoid using diaper cream for a rash. It takes twice as long to get the area completely clean when there is a thick layer of cream that you have to wipe off too.

I also made sure to keep the area as dry as possible at all times. I changed Qwynn’s diaper more often and constantly check for BM’s. I let her bottom air out as much as possible by letting her go diaper-less for 10-15 minutes here and there. I would put a towel on her chair while she ate or on the hardwood floor while she was playing with her toys to prevent too much of a mess.

I know it seems so much easier to just throw on some cream and go, but I feel like it’s better in the long run for your body to learn to heal on its own rather than always relying on creams, ointments and medicines. I have seen a lot of bad diaper rashes in my years and I get that all babies are different, so if they are completely uncomfortable and in pain, you use whatever will make them feel better. For now though, as long as my daughter isn’t absolutely miserable, I choose air over cream.


Valerie Anne