Mommy Makeover Part 3: Post Op and Beyond

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Be Sure to Read the Journey from the Start!

It has been 10 months since my surgery and I'm happy to report that I am fully recovered aside from a bit of abdominal muscle tightness. Now that it's all behind me I get asked all the time if I'd recommend having a tummy tuck or breast lift to someone else. I am not going to sugar coat it...it was one of the toughest things I've EVER done from start to finish. And I've birthed 4 babies...just saying. BUT, with that said, I can say without a sliver of doubt that I am so happy I went through with it. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  1. Body Confidence -- I want to preface this by saying that I am all about loving your body the way it is. I have a child born with physical differences so wanting to change my body while simultaneously telling Aiden (and all my kiddos) that he is perfect the way God made him...you better believe I struggled with feeling like a hypocrite. However I will also always advocate for and support my children doing things that could have a positive impact on their self esteem and confidence should that be something they struggle with. For example, Aiden has an area where the skin grafts on his surgically separated toes have fused back together between his big toe and the one next to it. It prevents him from wearing flip-flops - something most kids don't think twice about being able to do. If he comes to me one day and says he wants to elect to have surgery to address that I would 100% support him.

    Having babies destroyed my body. Not just on the outside, but on the inside too. I suffered from repeated umbilical hernias, a severe abdominal muscle separation (that was called "impressive" by more than one surgeon I consulted with!) and the typical loss of elasticity and "perkiness" of breasts that fed 4 babies. Add in there surface things like stretch marks so deep and plenty they looked like an iridescent road map across my midsection and nipples that grew as dark and big as pepperonis and yeah, to say my body was not my most favorite thing would be an understatement.

    I mentioned this in Part 1 of this Mommy Makeover journey, but I'll say it again. I really tried to make peace with my body. I did. I prayed about it. I worked out. I changed my diet. I took care of myself. I read all the beautiful quotes and articles from women who embrace their post-baby bodies, who fully accepted the scars left behind after pregnancy as a sacred remembrance of the amazing ability for a woman's body to carry life. And yet, I struggled. Every. Damn. Day. The decision to have surgery was not one made hastily. Nor was it one made out of vanity. I did not choose to do it for anyone else. I couldn't make peace with my body - even though I so desperately wanted to - so instead I learned to make peace with my decision to have this done. For me.

    I worried about the results not satisfying that desire to feel confident in my own skin. Going through this whole difficult process brought about an entirely new attitude toward my body that I didn't expect though. That confidence I was looking for? It didn't come as a result of having a tummy tuck or breast lift. I still have dimply thighs, I could stand to lose a few pounds and I hate working out just as much as I did before. The tummy tuck didn't erase every stretch mark from my stomach and even added new scars.  And yet I wear a swimsuit and don't think twice about it. I undress in front of my husband without rushing to pull on a robe. I walk around in my room without clothes on - something I NEVER did before, even alone. My confidence comes from being proud of taking such a gigantic leap for myself. Do I still have moments where I think "I'm still not [skinny, toned, pretty] enough?" Sure, I think every woman does. But my confidence wins most of the time. And I call that a huge victory.

  2. The War with Clothing -- This goes hand in hand with body confidence because not only was I unhappy naked, I was unhappy clothed! I could never find pants that fit me well. I would always have to go up a size so that they would fit in the waist where my "mommy flap" was. They would either be too baggy in the butt or too long or too high waisted. And on top, I NEVER wore a single layer. After 2 umbilical hernia repairs I had what could be compared to a bagel for a belly button. If I attempted to wear a single top you could literally see that bagel through the fabric. Instead, even in sweltering heat, I would wear a cami under every shirt. As an alternative I would purposely look for flowy tops in only certain fabrics so as you can imagine that narrowed down the selection and styles of shirts I could wear. It sucked.

    And can we talk for a second about how much money I spent on the many varieties of slimming undergarments? I had an entire basket in my closet dedicated to tank tops, high waisted underwear, butt toning leggings and more ridiculousness that promised to suck in and smooth every lump and bump I was trying to hide. Trying to wiggle and worm my way in to (or out of) any of those in front of my husband was definitely something I avoided at all costs. 😉 I'm happy to say I have not touched that basket since surgery.

  3. The Physical Impact and the Argument for Medical Necessity -- While a tummy tuck and breast lift are almost always considered cosmetic and elective procedures, most women who have been pregnant who choose to have a tummy tuck are usually wanting to address a physical problem called diastasis recti. I talk more about that in Part 1 and Part 2, but basically the abdominal wall weakens with the pressure of growing a baby causing the muscles on either side to literally separate. Although it sounds painful it usually isn't, but it does complicate things. Without a strong core, one can have constant back pain and poor posture which can cause a host of other consequences as a result. Because those muscles are spread apart, the tissue surrounding the belly button underneath is prone to becoming herniated (and even more susceptible if you have had an umbilical hernia already).

    You might think this all makes a pretty good case for having a small portion of this surgery covered by insurance. Especially since recurrent hernias would mean multiple costly surgeries to repair them anyway. Unfortunately that argument is pretty hard to impress upon the mighty insurance companies. If you are considering having a mommy makeover, it definitely wouldn't hurt to look at your coverage and see if there isn't some way to work it out.

Finally, I'm excited to share some "Before and After" pics as well as a close up of the tummy tuck scar. I've been waiting to do this so I could see how the scars end up healing and I think after 10 months it looks about as good as it will look. I got some amazing scar cream from my plastic surgeon, Dr. Mizuguchi, but I think how a scar will ultimately look has many factors -- genetics, skin elasticity, post-op care and probably the most important is...excellent surgical technique and lots of experience. 





If you are considering a Mommy Makeover and would like to chat, feel free to message me on Instagram (@moreskeesplease). I have a lot more information in my highlights there including lots of Q&A from throughout the entire process. 

Mommy Makeover Part 2: Surgery Day and Recovery

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[Read Part 1: Making the Decision and Planning Ahead - if you haven't already.]

On the day of my surgery, the nerves were in high gear. I had prepared as much as I possibly could so all that was left was to do was to get it over with.

Ricky took the day off work to bring me to the hospital and my mom held down the fort at home making sure the kids got to and from where they needed to be. I arrived on time and everything went smooth. First, Dr. Mizuguchi came into the pre-op room to make his surgical markings - he literally drew all over my chest and abdomen with a permanent marker while standing up. This helps determine where to make incisions so that things are proportionate and in the right area which can be difficult to do while laying down.

They gave me a small dose of medicine to help me begin to relax before wheeling me to the OR. I remember getting situated on the table and them putting the mask on. Then, lights out.

When I woke up I do not recall being in a lot of pain. While in the OR, they put a compression garment on to help reduce swelling, along with an ace bandage type thing wrapped around my chest. They also put the sports bra on that I brought with me the day of surgery and a lovely pair of white compression stockings. I am not quite sure how long I was in recovery before I was sent home as I was in and out of sleep. I think I had to drink a certain amount of fluids before they would discharge us. We had already picked up my prescriptions beforehand so we could go straight home. I remember that they had just started repaving one of the main roads we take to get home which made for a pretty uncomfortable ride back!

Once home, I went straight to my recliner in our bedroom where I dozed in and out of sleep for several hours. I don't remember much from the rest of that afternoon/evening, although I didn't really "sleep" well due to a combination of having to stay on top of pain medications, being in a chair rather than a bed and having to pee more often as the anesthesia wore off. 

Post-Surgery Necessities
Day 2 was bad. No sugar coating here. I had to go to the surgeon's office that morning for my first post-op appointment and I think I may have cried the whole way from my recliner to the appointment. My lower back hurt like hell from being hunched over when walking. The pain medicine took the edge off but I was still extremely uncomfortable. I remember thinking "WHAT DID I DO???"

I was terrified to have the nurse remove the steristrips from my incisions. It hurt to move and I wanted to throw up every time I had to stand, so while I wanted to look in the mirror I didn't have enough energy. Instead, I had Ricky take a few pictures so I could see it from every angle. I remember thinking I looked like Frankenstein but I was excited at the same time -- a flat stomach! lifted breasts!

Days 3 - 5 were rough. Ricky was preparing to leave for a work trip, my mom (who had been there since surgery day) was also getting ready to head home and my cousin Angie flew in from Chicago to take over. I don't think she knew what she was in for, bless her heart. I was attempting to ween off the pain medicine as I was going to have to be more awake and aware to help her figure out the kids busy schedules. Everything continued to hurt, and there were lots of tears, but she did a kick-ass job. The true test of a relationship is when you can trust someone enough to strip you naked and get you into the shower for the first time in a week and then afterwards get you back into a compression garment with about a bazillion hook-and-eye closures all while I cried like a baby. I am certain she went straight downstairs and made herself a cocktail as soon as I got settled back in my chair.

By my 2-week post-op appointment I was finally starting to feel human again. I had some of my sutures removed and was standing a bit more upright. Things were healing beautifully. I continued to wear my compression garment around the clock as instructed and also wore a white stomach binder several hours a day to help hold things in and reduce swelling. 

A few things about the compression...whenever I took it off to shower I would get extremely nauseous and even lightheaded almost to the point where I felt like I was going to black out. I had one pretty scary episode where I actually did black out. I had just stepped into the shower when my vision started to blur then went totally black despite being totally conscious. That sent me into a full on panic attack and I could hardly breathe. Ricky was thisclose to calling 911. The whole episode lasted probably 2 minutes but it felt like forever. We immediately called my surgeons office and they explained that the combination of removing the garment, standing upright too long and being in the hot shower water with too little ventilation was likely what caused me to feel that way. It was extremely scary. This is why I STRONGLY recommend using a shower bench or seat for at least the first month and to also make sure the water is warm (not hot) and you shower with the curtain or door open a bit to allow extra ventilation. 

By the end of the second week, my cousin had to head back to Chicago and Ricky was back to work in the office everyday after his business trip. I was on my own. I had completely stopped the pain medicine so I could begin to drive the kids to school and to their activities. I had to make sure to get a LOT of rest during the day so I didn't get too worn out. 

By week 3 I would say I felt about 75%. For several more weeks I needed to allow myself lots of extra time to get simple tasks done around the house and still required numerous breaks/naps in order to function. It took 8-10 weeks for me to really feel 100% back to normal.

I did not have any major complications during surgery or recovery and for that I am so so grateful. That was one thing I worried about the most. We have lots of surgery experience with all that my son Aiden has been through and infection during recovery was always one of the major risks we were aware of. I am confident that selecting an experienced surgeon who is VERY careful in his technique to prevent infection and promote healthy healing is of the UTMOST importance when having any kind of procedure. Not only that, but someone who is responsive afterwards and will answer your questions to ensure you feel confident during the entire recovery process should also be high on your list. 

I am currently 9-months post-op and I can confidently say that I am so happy I went through with this. My results have without a doubt exceeded my expectations. I can't wait to share another update with more pictures of how things currently look very soon!

*If you are in the Louisville, KY area (or beyond!) and are interested, the surgeon I chose was Dr. Nana Mizuguchi. You can read more about his practice, Mizuguchi Plastic Surgery, via his website: https://nanamd.com/. Follow him on Instagram @goldscalpel to see more about the services he provides. I highly recommend him and his entire team!

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Time Spent Looking at Your Phone

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Raise your hand if you are guilty of spending entirely too much time on your smartphone...

With technology putting everything at our finger tips - from news to Solitaire, grocery shopping to checking the weather - it makes our smart phone usage almost impossible to avoid. We mindlessly scroll social media and Pinterest making mental lists of things we are going to start doing - eat better, become more organized, save money - and then have the hardest time actually doing anything.

I set my phone down to throw a load of laundry in and from across the room hear the ding of a new text message. I stop what I'm doing, respond to the text (because not responding to texts is a huge pet peeve of mine) and then get sucked in to the black hole of Instagram, Instagram stories and Facebook just to keep the little red notifications off my screen. And then, that laundry? Well it is still sitting there, unwashed, and I begin to feel frazzled about how much I have to do and its a big ugly spin cycle of my very own making.

If you can relate, then like me, you have also probably deleted social media apps from your phone but not before announcing "I'm taking a social media break" across all platforms (insert eyeroll here). I'm eyerolling not only for the annoying, cliche declaration but also because the social media fast rarely lasts longer than a hot minute. It's just SO hard!

I wouldn't take it so far as to call it an addiction, but for many it teeters close to the edge. So how can we address it? I've tried many things to limit my own time on my phone. Here are a few simple ways that have significantly helped keep my screen time in check:

  1. Turn off notifications -- Those small red dots on every app seem to scream "Look at me! Pay attention! Check this out!" It drives me crazy to have them there and even if I don't necessarily pay attention to the content it is flagging, it still takes time to clear them. Turning them off has definitely impacted my phone usage. On iPhones, go to Settings then Notifications and toggle "Allow Notifications" to the off position. If there are certain apps that you simply need to receive notifications from (like email for instance), you can manage the settings by each individual app as well.
  2. Move social media apps into a folder or off your home screen -- It seems kind of silly, but by simply grouping Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest into a folder on the 2nd page of my phone, it makes the accessibility a little less convenient. Kind of goes with the out of sight out of mind theory. If they aren't staring at you from the home screen each time you pick up your phone then perhaps you won't be so inclined to open the apps.
  3. Set screen time limits -- Apple recently introduced it's own monitoring capabilities on iPhones. Under Settings, Screen Time, you can see just how much you are on your phone. It breaks it down into categories and you can also see it by app. Just checking in here daily helps put things into perspective, but if you need to take it a step further you can even set limits for yourself.  "Downtime" allows you to set a specific time frame for not using your phone or you can set limits for specific apps. Bonus: this can be done for each iPhone/iPad user connected through Family Sharing which makes setting limits for kids super easy! If you don't have an iPhone, there are many apps that will monitor screen time and allow you to set limits as well.
  4. Be intentional with your time -- Try making a schedule for yourself every day. Build specific tech/phone time into your schedule. For instance, set a goal that you will allow yourself a leisurely social media scroll while drinking your morning coffee but then not again until later in the day. If the evening hours are tougher for you then commit to doing something like a workout, a bath or reading a new book for at least an hour.
  5. Leave your phone at home -- When all else fails, just leave your phone where you can't use it. I can't tell you how many times I have left home to run errands only to realize I accidentally forgot my phone. After that initial panic wears off ("how will I know the best way to Target without Waze?", "what if someone important calls me?", "I'll have to actually use my debit card instead of my Apple Pay?!?!") I remember there once was a time these tiny computers didn't exist and we made it just fine. I bet you will even enjoy being without it after a while. 

Technology is a way of life these days. I use my phone for more than just browsing social media -- important things like being accessible if the kids are sick at school, answering emails and paying bills on the go. I do not think it is realistic to think adults (and even kids at this point) should not be using smartphones, but when overusing them becomes an unhealthy habit, we need to make sure we are capable of addressing that habit just as we would anything else. 

Anyone brave enough to check your iPhone for you current usage time and share in the comments? No judgement here I promise!

When It Comes to Friends, Here is What My Son with Physical Differences Needs

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When kids are little, and learning to navigate the big world full of all kinds of people, they depend on us to guide them. To show them that things like our skin color, our size, our disabilities, are not things we use to determine if we can play with a person at the park or speak to at the store. We do this by exposing them to all kinds of people and modeling behavior that does not put a barrier between us and those who are different. 

As kids get older and begin to develop their own likes, dislikes, and personalities - when they can exercise an ability to choose with whom they connect and want to be around - we hope that we have done our job so that they are naturally drawn to people based on their character and not their physicality. That their friend group is diverse and interesting. But sometimes, at no fault of their own, they simply aren’t ever exposed to individuals who are much different from them. The desire to reach out beyond the small group of friends they have from soccer or their neighborhood crew slows down. And while it may not be intentional, they begin to let go of friends who aren’t into the same things or part of the same crowd...or those who are different. 

What does this mean for a child with special needs? Unfortunately it means that friendships for our kids often fizzle out in upper elementary and early middle school. Kids who once cast a much wider net while building friendships, one that may have included the kid with autism or a hearing aid or a birth defect, now feel pressure to “fit in” rather than stand out. So befriending those that do (stand out) does not come easy. 

I get it. I remember being there. I also remember my parents always telling me to be kind to everyone no matter what. I sat with the kid on the school bus who was being made fun of for his speech impediment and told those kids to buzz off. I helped the quiet girl who dropped her books in the rain. I didn’t always do the right thing, but those times I didn’t stick with me to this day. There was a girl in middle school who used a walker. I am not sure exactly why but from what I could tell it seemed she had limited use of her lower limbs. One day in chorus she had a small accident. She sat behind me and I vividly remember her motioning for the teacher so she could tell her what happened. She started to cry and soon others began to notice the wet spot on her pants and chair. Kids laughed and shouted and pointed and although I didn’t, I also didn’t help or try to get the others to stop. Sure, I knew to be kind and how NOT to be unkind, but what that girl really needed was a friend. 

Now, with children of my own I worry once again about the upcoming middle school years, particularly for Aiden, my 5th grader who has a rare craniofacial condition. If you don’t know about Apert syndrome (and you likely won’t if you don’t know us personally), it includes marked physical differences in his face, hands and feet. He’s had more than a dozen medically necessary surgeries to improve breathing, address vision and hearing issues and more major ones that have changed his appearance in a drastic way. 

Friendships don’t always come easy for Aiden. When he was younger, kids were usually scared of his appearance initially and it wasn’t until someone forced the interaction that he would be included. My husband and I have always had friends who encourage their kids to get to know Aiden and treat him like any other kid and we are forever grateful for those relationships. Those have taken the sting out many times over the years. 

Once Aiden got older and began attending school, he needed to navigate it on his own. In the early years it only took a visit from mom to the classroom and an opportunity to ask questions for kids to no longer think of Aiden as different. Later on, though, there was a distinct shift in the friendship department. The kids who were kind at school were establishing friendships beyond the classroom and for the most part, they didn’t include Aiden. There were the occasional party invites and play dates initiated by a kind mom wanting to encourage her child to be inclusive. But those often became painfully awkward like one instance where the kid complained “I didn’t want to be here but my mom made me” when Aiden had him over to hang out. 

Are kids kind to Aiden? Most of the time, yes! And I’m very appreciative for the time spent by caring parents reminding their kids to be kind to the kids who are “different.” Do I want more than surface friendships for my son? Absolutely. 

Kids with differences do not need to be included for the sake of being included. If you think you are doing the “right thing” by inviting my child to a party when your child does not actually want him there, you’re not. Your intentions, while good, can make things worse. He can tell when he’s not wanted somewhere or when his invite was an afterthought. He knows. 

What he needs is genuine friendships with kids who truly see beyond his differences. He needs parents who encourage their kids to do just that. He needs just a friend or two - not even a whole group - who want him to hang out after school playing video games or go to the movies on the weekend. He needs kids who accept him as he is - as we all are - fearfully and wonderfully made. He needs kids who enjoy being with him for his silly personality and ability to name (and do)  every Fortnite dance. 

My child with physical differences does not need pity. He does not need friends who are forced to invite him to social functions by well-meaning parents. I cannot always tell a genuine friendship at first and thus doing so is even more difficult for him. But I promise I would rather him have no friends at all than fake ones. The thought of either breaks my heart in two, but it is a reality I think about more and more. Each night I pray my sweet boy will be lucky enough to make a few genuine and lasting friendships. He deserves that connection. After all, isn’t that what we all want for our children?

So yes, I encourage parents to continue the conversations on kindness. Keep discussing differences and acceptance and inclusion. But also take it a step further. Remind them that kids with differences want the same things they do. Ask them to truly make an effort to get to know others who may be a bit different. They might find those kids have more to offer than they realize. As my favorite book Wonder says, “it’s not enough to be friendly, you have to be a friend.” 


Disney's Disability Access Services Pass: A Review

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This past winter break, we visited my parents at their condo in Sand Key, FL near Clearwater Beach. We surprised the boys with a package of goodies a few days before we were planning to leave to break the news. Inside were fleece Mickey Mouse pajamas, Special Edition Mickey Oreos and Goldfish crackers (that I just happened to stumble upon on a Clearance rack at Target...score!), our Disney Magic Bands and customized water bottles sent to us from our Disney travel guru Susan Patel of Off to Neverland Travel.

We had been to Disney World when Ethan and Aiden were little - 3 and 4 I believe - and this would be Hudson and Nolan's first time, so it was sure to be an exciting trip for everyone. Our plan was to stay in Sand Key for several days, then drive to Disney World for a day trip and back to their condo 2 hours away for a couple days before making the drive back to Kentucky. With only 1 day in the park and having a few park hopper passes we knew we needed help to make the most of our time at Disney which is why we were so thankful for Susan's help! She took care of everything from attaching our ticket information to our Magic Bands to scheduling our Fast Passes in advance. It was great!

A few months in advance, I contacted Disney to learn more about their Disability Access Services Pass. Aiden has pretty severe ADHD and that coupled with the unique structure of his surgically separated toes makes waiting in lines almost unbearable for him (and for anyone having to wait with him). I was not sure if having Apert syndrome and ADHD would qualify him for the DAS pass, but after reading the guidelines provided on Disney's site, I felt comfortable seeking this assistance to make our trip more enjoyable. Besides, Aiden is stared at enough as it is, so the thought of subjecting him to long lines of people constantly gawking for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours helped justify the need as well.
On the Monorail heading in to Magic Kingdom!
When we arrived at the park, we were instructed to head to a Guest Relations window to discuss getting the DAS pass. We already had Fast Pass selections - you can schedule your first 3 Fast Pass times up to 30 days in advance of your day at the park and this was done for us by Susan Patel as well. We weren't sure if we could utilize both the DAS pass and the Fast Pass system and if that provided any additional benefit. Oh boy it did!

After a quick conversation and introducing Aiden to the Guest Relations Personnel, they added the DAS designation to each of our Magic Bands. This allowed us to access and make changes to our DAS and Fast Pass selections on the app on my phone, which automatically loaded to our Magic Bands for scanning at each ride.

She explained that just like a Fast Pass, you would have to visit the attraction you wanted to ride and receive a return time. However, the DAS could be used in conjunction with a Fast Pass meaning we could get both a DAS return time AND a Fast Pass return time for the same OR different rides concurrently. For example, we were able to schedule a Fast Pass return time of 8:30 for one ride, and a DAS return time of 9:00 for the same ride if we knew we would want to ride something more than once. One extra feature of the DAS pass is that you are able to return and ride once at the time assigned or anytime thereafter for the rest of the day, whereas with a Fast Pass you must ride between the designated return time frame given (8-9am, for instance) or entrance is forfeited. Like the Fast Pass, you are still only allowed to schedule the next one once the current admittance is used, but if you plan well, you can look at wait times and park location of attractions ahead of time and decide pretty quickly which one you'd like to try to snag next. Finally, the person with the DAS pass needs to be the one securing the DAS return time and must ride the ride.

We made it!
When we entered the park, we made our way to our first two Fast Pass destinations, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Space Mountain. These are two of Magic Kingdom's main attractions so our travel agent knew to secure these first as part of the 3 we got to schedule ahead of time. The boys LOVED both and after riding Space Mountain, they wanted to ride again. So...we visited the cast member near the ride entrance and scheduled a DAS return time which was in just 20 minutes! What a time saver considering the line was already over 60 minutes long! We squeezed in a ride with a short wait time - Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland - then got right back on Space Mountain for a second time. It was great!

Astro Orbiter
Afterwards, we still had plenty of time to make it across the park to our final Fast Pass ride, Splash Mountain. We stopped and grabbed popcorn to snack on as we took in one of the character shows taking place in front of the castle. Everything was going great until...

I told the boys we needed to head to Space Mountain to make our time slot and didn't see a low curb surrounding the area in front of the castle due to the amount of people stopped taking in the show. My ankle rolled, I heard a 'POP' and down I went. Ugh. We had only been in the park for a little over an hour at that point. The boys were so worried about me and I knew they were afraid this would put a huge damper on our only day at Disney. A cast member quickly came to my side and asked if I was okay and if I wanted him to call an ambulance. I already had hundreds of people staring at me since I was facing the direction of everyone watching the show so I said "no thank you!" to the ambulance. An EMS guy asked me some questions and even though I knew it was injured pretty bad - either a bad sprain or possibly broken - I was NOT going to ruin our Disney adventure.  They wrapped my ankle with ice and an ace bandage, got me some Ibuprofen a wheel chair and off we went! We could still make it to the Fast Pass time for Splash Mountain! I of course wasn't going to ride, but no sense in the boys not making it on!
Back to the spot where I broke my ankle :( Stupid curb!
Unfortunately, the wheel chair was not the kind that I could elevate my foot and after an hour or so I decided it was probably best to head to the First Aid building to raise it up for a bit to prevent further swelling. I got a fresh ice pack there as well and as I was changing it out, one of the workers took a look and said I probably should get an x-ray. They arranged transportation to a local walk-in emergency clinic. Nolan and my mom came with me while the other 3 boys and Ricky stayed behind to continue having fun. In fact, while we waited at the doctors office, he called to tell me that the DAS pass got them on the Avatar ride - one that typically has a 4-6 hour wait - in 15 minutes! I call that a HUGE win.

Six hours later...an x-ray confirmed...broken fibula at the ankle. :( It was getting late but we were able to make it back to Magic Kingdom a few minutes before the firework display started. Ricky and the boys met back up with us and although the rides were still open for a few more hours, we decided we should probably get on the road back to Sand Key. My foot was throbbing and I was so over being pushed around in a wheel chair in the crowds of people (which was no easy task for whoever had to do the pushing either).
This was before the swelling was even at its worst!
While our day at Disney didn't go quite as expected, the cast members were very eager to help and have made sure that we can come back to have a do-over at some point ;) When we come back to Disney, we will definitely be getting the DAS pass again. I truly feel that children with Apert syndrome deserve this extra convenience to make their time at Disney less stressful and extra special. I am grateful that Disney recognizes the need for a service like this and provides accommodations for individuals with varying needs.
Even leaving earlier than expected, everyone was worn out!
If you or a family member would like to learn more about the services available for individuals with disabilities or special needs, visit the Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card Fact Sheet.

If you would like to reach out to Susan Patel for help planning your Disney experience, you can email her at susan.patel@offtoneverland.com. Susan is a friend of mine - our kids go to the same school - so if you do, tell her Taryn @ More Skees Please sent you!

Mommy Makeover Part 1: Making the Decision and Planning Ahead

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PART 1: Making the Decision and Planning

I am sharing one of my Instagram posts below from before my surgery as I think I covered most of the main "answers" to the "why are you doing this" question. I also have A LOT more photos documenting the whole process on my Instagram story called "MomMakeover", so I definitely encourage you to hop on over there and check it out. In the meantime, I will elaborate on the journey from start to finish here on the blog as well. Feel free to comment, ask questions or email me privately. Go to my Contact page for all the ways to reach me.



This body has carried 4 babies. This body has been a competitive gymnast, diver, swimmer, and a professional carrier of things (kids, groceries, shopping bags, laundry baskets...). It has been thin. It has been big. Healthy and strong. Ill and weak. This body is mine and I am proud of it.

With that said, this body is one I would like to improve. After 4 babies, not only did my thyroid crap out (hello Hashimotos and hypothyroidism!) but my skin and muscles suffered damage as well. I was blessed with deep stretch marks that pulled so tight they remain thin purple streaks across my entire stomach. My abdominal muscles were quite literally ripped apart with each pregnancy (diastasis recti). My belly button diminished into itself leaving behind a hole where I had 2 hernias that needed repaired. Child bearing is no joke! While I wouldn’t take any of it back for a minute - and I know just how lucky I am to have been able to experience the incredible miracle that is pregnancy and childbirth - it doesn’t change the fact that my confidence has suffered.

I’m at a point in my life where I have the time and energy to prioritize my health. My body. I’ve decided to revisit cosmetic surgery. A “mommy makeover” if you will. And before you start thinking that this choice is selfish, unnecessary or just plain stupid, I ask that you keep that to yourself. Believe me, I’ve already had and considered the very same negative thoughts.

I haven’t come to this decision lightly. In fact I had this exact surgery scheduled 4 years ago but chickened out and cancelled. I tried hard to make peace with my body as is. I did. But this is where I am. I’m okay with it. My husband is okay with it. And honestly, that is all that matters.

After a few consults with 2 of the best plastic surgeons in our area, I am excited to have come to a decision. I will be booking surgery next week to take place in the fall. I will be sharing each part of this journey. Whether you are considering a mommy makeover, have had it done, or just simply want to see the transformation, I hope you will follow along!
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Deciding to share this journey publicly was also one I did not come to lightly. Before I posted anything on social media about it, I thought long and hard about who I wanted to reach and why. I immediately thought of the numerous Google searches I did in preparation to make the decision to have this surgery. I probably watched hundreds of YouTube videos of others who had had it done. I was soaking up the information from every place I could - both online and by talking with those who were not ashamed to say they too had a "mommy makeover". 

All of those were so valuable in helping me make my decision and knowing where to go once I started to move forward with it. I knew that by sharing, I would eventually be able to help someone else who like me, struggled with whether or not this was the right choice for them. 

With that said, my older two boys are on Instagram (read about our Family Technology Guidelines here). Some of their 10 and 11 year old friends follow me on that platform so I am always very aware of what I share. 

I remember snapping the photos below in the mirror with the intention of sharing them as my "before" pictures on Instagram. Of course it was something I was nervous about - simply because who likes to showcase their imperfections online in that way. But I then started thinking less about myself and more about the people who would see it. My husband works at a large local professional business. My kids would see it and may die of embarrassment. What would they think? I thought it was important to get their input. 



I texted the photo to my husband at work. "Would you be embarrassed if I shared these photos on Instagram?" His immediate response, to my surprise, "not at all. you are beautiful babe and have nothing to be ashamed of". Okay, so I moved on to my oldest son. I went into his bedroom and showed him the pictures. "If I shared these on Instagram, would you be okay with it?" Again, a surprising response, "No. I mean it's your page. Do what you want." I felt like I had to at least tell him why I was asking, reminding him that some of his friends follow me and would see it. "Who cares," he shrugged. I was both shocked and proud. Next, I talked it over with Aiden. He just giggled and said "why do you want to post that?" I explained that I wanted to share my mommy makeover journey and part of that would be showing what my stomach looked like before vs. after. He giggled again and had just one small request. "Can you not show your top part, like, in your sports bra?" 

So I cropped my chest out of it and said "is this okay?" He said yes and that was that. I honestly thought one of them would urge me not to...so getting all of their blessings made it a little bit easier to push post. I mean why should I be embarrassed? It's my body and for all the reasons I listed above I should embrace it as part of this process. 

At that point I had already come to my decision to have the surgery. In fact, I had already consulted with 2 local surgeons as part of my research. Here is how that all went:

-- Scheduled initial consult appointments - had to wait a couple weeks to get in as both are busy plastic surgery practices.

-- Day of appointment - I was SOO nervous. It's pretty vulnerable to be wearing nothing under a gown knowing that when the doctor comes in, you will have to open it up and bare all. They have to feel, push on, move things around and get a look from multiple angles. Talk about uncomfortable. But then you have to remember that they do this multiple times a day every day of the week so it's not like it's nothing they've never seen before. I had done some research and had a few questions for each doctor (see "DO YOUR RESEARCH" below for my suggestions).

-- After consults - I met with 2 surgeons and while they were very different in terms of bedside manner and personality, both were great. I knew from their reputations that both were also very good at what they do. I laid out the pros and cons for each doctor and weighed that list in my decision making process. 

-- Scheduling surgery - Once I came to my decision on which doctor I would go with, I contacted the office and let them know. I was able to schedule my surgery for about 6 weeks later. Writing the date down on my calendar (and putting it in my phone) was surreal. I mentioned above that I had already scheduled this very procedure once before 4 years earlier, but then cancelled it when my nerves got the best of me. This time I felt much different. I was in a better place for sure. My kids were all a bit older and I was pretty much past the carrying a baby around on my hip stage.

-- As surgery day approached - I was excited for sure. It was hard for me to picture my body any different than it had been for almost 11 years, but I was no longer second guessing my decision like the first time around. With that said, I was EXTREMELY nervous and often had to put it out of my head as thinking about it would almost make me want to throw up. People would ask about it and I'd literally say "I can't talk about it" and move on to another subject. Even so, I knew the fear was natural.

-- Surgery day - The big day was finally here! I had childcare lined up and coordinated all the logistics of managing a busy household of 4 kids. I bought a HUGE weekly calendar and basically wrote down their schedules hour by hour - what time to wake them up for school, what they eat for breakfast, what time the bus comes for pick up and drop off, what activity they had after-school and thus what time each needed to eat dinner - the whole 9 yards. Not because I doubted whomever would be doing it in my absence, but rather because it made me feel like I was doing my part as a mom. After all, I was told that I would be down with little to no activity for at least 2 weeks. Ricky was taking the first few days off work to be home with me and manage the kids, then he was leaving for a scheduled work trip the following week so my cousin was flying down from Chicago to juggle it all. The morning of surgery my mom was there so Ricky could be with me at the hospital. I kissed my babies and sent them out the door for school, then headed on my way!

I will share more from surgery day and beyond in my next couple posts! Until then...here are some of my tips and recommendations for up to this point in the process:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH - There are many ways to do this. Scour the internet (but carefully consider sources). Read all you can on the subject to learn best practices. There are scholarly journals (that may be too much medical jargon), YouTube videos, hashtags on Instagram that can point you in the right direction. Talk to others who you know have had the same procedure. You'll also want to read reviews from others who have experience with the particular doctors you are considering. 

2. MAKE A LIST OF QUESTIONS - Start compiling a list of questions you have so that when you meet with the various surgeons (and I recommend meeting with AT LEAST 2, but probably 3 or 4 would be best) you will not forget any of the important ones. I wanted a tummy tuck and a breast lift without implants. Here were some of mine:
  • How many years have you been doing this? 
  • What are your complication rates?
  • Can you explain exactly what is done during the procedure? 
  • Do you use drains? 
  • Do you operate in a surgery center or at a hospital?
  • What can I expect for recovery?
  • How long before I can work out?
  • Will my bra size change with just a lift?
  • When can I drive?
  • How much does it cost? 
  • Do you offer financing?
  • Do you offer any discounts for paying upfront?

3. PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE WELL IN ADVANCE - Managing a household or working outside the home take a TON of effort. When one parent is down (or the only parent in a single-parent household), straying from the schedule and relying on others can be daunting. Making sure you have the appropriate amount of time off work and enough help to handle the logistics of your family will prove to be SUPER important. Having a written calendar to lay out schedules is helpful. Communication is key. When deciding on your surgery date, look at your kiddos school calendar to determine any big projects that might be due or special activities that you may not want to miss.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DIET AND EXERCISE ROUTINE PRIOR TO SURGERY - Most surgeons will recommend that you be at your "ideal weight" by surgery day. For many, that is just tough to do. The main reason behind this however is so that you don't come in overweight, expect to have surgery for weight-loss reasons, then be unhappy with your results if you a) don't come out looking thin and trim or b) lose a bunch of weight after surgery which would affect your results. It is a good idea to start and/or continue making healthy diet choices so you at the very least don't gain weight prior to surgery. Having healthy habits will make your recovery easier as well as give you results you are happier with.

5. PURCHASE RECOVERY ITEMS AND SET UP A RECOVERY SPOT - (See my Instagram story "MomMakeover" for photos that show my recovery spot and supplies.) I purchased a soft fabric recliner on a local buy/sell page for $100 months before my surgery. I knew from my research that I would likely not be able to sleep in bed for several weeks post-op. I also bought a small table that was easily accessible next to the recliner that included a USB plug-in attached to the top so I would have to fish for cords that fell next to me. You will want to pre-fill your prescriptions and have those close to your recovery spot too (you'll get the rX's at your final pre-op appointment). Below are links to products similar to those I bought ahead of time. (Please note, these are affiliate links through Amazon. Any purchases made through these links allows me to earn a very small commission.)


6. FIGURE OUT YOUR PAYMENT OPTIONS - This procedure is not cheap. It is an investment you are making in yourself however, and I feel it is worth every penny. Discuss the cost upfront with your chosen surgeon. They should have an assistant who can walk you through your payment options. Most do not accept insurance (as these are typically elective procedures), but there are a few financing companies that plastic surgeons offices usually recommend. We financed my surgery through CareCredit which offers specific terms of repayment for a pre-determined period of time (usually 24-48 months).

7. DON'T HESITATE TO CONTACT YOUR SURGEONS OFFICE ANYTIME - If you've chosen a good surgeon with a good team, it will not be a problem at all to reach out with questions anytime prior to (or after) your surgery. I thought I had everything covered during the consults, but then thought of a hundred more questions afterwards. I was able to email with a nurse as often as I needed to discuss things as they came to mind. Good communication is very important, so make sure you pay close attention to this during the initial selection process.

*If you are in the Louisville, KY area (or beyond!) and are interested, the surgeon I chose was Dr. Nana Mizuguchi. You can read more about his practice, Mizuguchi Plastic Surgery, via his website: https://nanamd.com/. I highly recommend him and his entire team!

The Challenges of ADHD: What I Want Others to Know

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One might think that in the land of medical diagnoses, Apert syndrome may be more challenging than ADHD. One would be wrong. (In some ways, anyway.)

Sometimes we go days without giving Apert syndrome another thought. When surgeries aren’t looming and social interactions are positive, I may even go as far as to say we “forget” Aiden even has a rare craniofacial condition. But ADHD? It’s a giant struggle each and every day.

I don’t often talk about the challenges we face with it because it seems so commonplace. Everyone either has a child with ADHD or knows someone who does. However when I think back to before we got the “formal” diagnosis and how I was at my wits end thinking “what am I doing wrong???” I decided that sharing some of the characteristics might help someone else who may be where I was 4 years ago.

Just the other day, while sitting in the waiting room of my child's psychologist, I thumbed through the book "Smart But Scattered"[1] that I pulled from the resource library. After reading the first few pages it was as if they had written about Aiden himself! The authors describe a familiar scene - telling your child to clean their room - and how that plays out for someone with ADHD. Not only is the room a disaster to begin with (because it's ALWAYS a mess), but the amount of time spent in there is minimal before they become completely overwhelmed and beg to do it later.

Okay so you may be thinking “what kid enjoys cleaning their room and does it without a fight?” True, it’s not an uncommon family struggle. But the key difference is that it is not limited to just the task of cleaning his room. It could be something as simple as telling him to brush his teeth or hang up his coat that would elicit a full-fledged foot stomping, throw-himself-to-the-ground meltdown. The more complex the task, the bigger the response.

Dealing with behavior like this is exhausting - for both parties! I would try to reason, reward or redirect each time to no avail. And I would always end up thinking “how can I be raising such a brat?” or “what am I doing wrong???” My other kids were able to regulate their emotions and follow simple commands with far less push-back so it did not make sense. I would seek feedback at school in the early years, sure that his teachers would recognize the same behavior problems we dealt with at home but they would always say he is a good kid who listens well. Good news for most, but so frustrating for me as it was proof that he COULD behave for others and yet was CHOOSING to misbehave for me.

Something had to give.

When Aiden was in 2nd grade, his teacher and I discussed the possibility that we could be looking at ADHD. I was never one for jumping into medication as a solution and still wasn’t educated enough about ADHD to know if that’s what we were dealing with definitively. At one point, however, his teacher suggested it may be a good idea to have him formally evaluated. I scheduled an appointment with a child psychologist who specialized in ADHD.

The testing consisted of a few questionnaires - one to be completed by his teacher and one by a parent - as well as a full day of evaluation in the psychologists office. There were online assessments, IQ tests, and observations of emotional and social reasoning skills. A couple weeks later the results were calculated and a follow-up appointment was set to discuss. I remember walking in and asking “well, does he have ADHD?” I’ll never forget her response. The psychologist said “Not only does he have it, the severity is pretty significant”. I burst into tears and she put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me. “It’s okay,” she said, “we will
figure it all out.” However I wasn’t crying out of fear or disappointment. I was crying in relief. All this time I wondered why he couldn’t just behave! And now I knew it wasn’t his fault or mine. The diagnosis meant there would be a course of treatment to improve things. Amen!

Right after the relief, I immediately wondered "where do we go from here?" Still hesitant to medicate, I began researching ADHD a little more. By the time 3rd grade rolled around, we had  updated his IEP to include the diagnosis, implemented fidgets in the classroom, and put a clear plan in place as to how the teacher would help redirect Aiden when he would get off task. It worked for a while, but it became clear that those measures simply wouldn't be enough. His grades were being negatively impacted due to attention and focus issues and he was becoming a distraction to his peers. We collectively agreed that perhaps medication was the next step. 

I started to research again and came across information about a genetic test that would help determine which ADHD medication would be best suited to Aiden's particular genetic makeup. Unfortunately, most of those tests were not covered by insurance and the out of pocket cost was more than $1000! One of the labs I spoke with directly told me to look into an over the counter version that was offered at some local drug stores. I called around and found that Rite Aid had the test! It was a simple swab, done right there in the store, that was then sent off for the genetic results. So I hurried to Rite Aid and had it done immediately for just $75. (Which was a good thing because I heard shortly after it was discontinued there and wouldn't be offered anywhere).

A few weeks later the results were received! It clearly labeled each type of ADHD medication and color coded them according to which ones were recommended for Aiden. This gave us a perfect starting point on which medication to start with. I say starting point because as I would learn very quickly, even with this extra information, ADHD medication is highly individually sensitive. What works for one child will definitely not work for every child. And furthermore, what works for one child may not work for that SAME child several months later. Getting the type and dosage right would prove to be quite an ongoing challenge. 

Aiden is currently on Vyvanse daily and a small dose of Adderal Monday through Friday at school. We recently added a new "medical food" supplement called Vayarin as well. We have to monitor the potential side effects - trouble sleeping, weight-loss (he cannot afford to lose any at all as he is currently on the very low end of the growth chart), moodiness, etc. and with frequent communication with his teachers, we are doing our best to manage ADHD in a way that will help him succeed both at school and at home.

I share all of this so that others are aware of and able to recognize some of the characteristics of ADHD in their own children or in others and to help people understand that:
1) ADHD is a neurological deficit - it isn't "made up", it isn't meant to excuse poor behavior and while some may say it is "overdiagnosed" that doesn't mean it isn't a very real condition for many.
2) Medication isn't a cure-all for ADHD, but it certainly can help. Don't be afraid to try it! I was hesitant for YEARS...and then once I saw how having the proper medication helped Aiden reach his potential in the classroom I felt guilty that I waited so long. 

3) Treating ADHD requires a LOT of patience and isn't an exact science. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It will take a combination of doctor visits, therapy, interventions at school, medication and diet changes and the amount of each needed will constantly change.

I continue to research ADHD so that I can learn how to best help my child. One day he will spread his wings to fly and building the foundation now to give him the skills he needs down the road is the least I can do. Most importantly, Aiden will always be more than his diagnoses. Apert syndrome has never defined him, and ADHD will not either. No matter how frustrated I get every time I tell him to clean his room...

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[1] Peg Dawson, EdD, Richard Guare, PhD. “Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential.” New York, NY: The Guildord Press, 2009.

Click here to purchase "Smart but Scattered" on Amazon using my affiliate link. By doing so I will get a small commission which helps me to keep this blog up and running. Thank you!