1,825 days

That is how long you have been mine. 

Every February just before Valentine's Day I get to think back on the day my heart grew just a little bit more.  1,825 days of worry, falling in love, getting to know you.

Today you are 5. 

You continue to amaze us with your determination. Your spunk. You make us wonder how we ever doubted that life would be anything but normal with you in it.

I might not have believed it - when we held your tiny mitten hand through the hard plastic shell in the NICU - that we would be this happy. This content. For back then, I feared what life had in store for us. Right or wrong I prayed that God would fix you, make you different. Partly for selfish reasons - to make our lives easier - and partly because it hurt me so badly to think of what having Apert syndrome would mean for you.

But you have guided us.

With each passing year I wonder who I was before you. Knowing you has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be accepting of others. I certainly wasn't as compassionate or aware as I am now. You have taught me those things. Advocating for you has sparked something inside of me that gives me purpose.

I never knew the answer to the question "what do you want to be when you grow up" when people asked. But then again, how could I have possibly known the answer would be "Aiden's mom"?

People have said that you are lucky to have parents like us. That always makes me laugh. We are the ones who get to witness you capture hearts with your smile, fearlessly take on the world despite your differences and overcome challenges that some said would be impossible for you to accomplish. 

Never doubt for a minute, little boy, that it is your daddy and I that are the lucky ones.

Happy birthday Aiden.

I Wouldn't Have You

I often find myself thinking back on the path that led me to where I am today - married to my best friend, with three of the most amazing, lovable, perfect little human beings I could ever dream of. Lucky does not even begin to cover it. I truly believe I am living the life I was destined for - one where not all my prayers were answered - but for good reason...

~ Ricky ~

I'm 15. My tears fall hot on the August pavement as my high school love breaks my heart. After almost 2 years of dating, he attempts to let me down easy by twisting words from my all-time favorite movie: "You are someone I could spend the rest of my life with...but I don't want the rest of my life to start right now". {When Harry Met Sally} Ouch. I spent the rest of my high school career trying to get over him while pretending I already was. 

I'm 17 and starting out fresh -- leaving my broken heart far behind me as I begin college with a renewed spirit. I meet a cute soccer player at a party and quickly let myself fall in love again. It was a dramatic relationship. Ups and downs, breaking up and making up. Exhausting really, but I was certain that I was supposed to make it work. Love is work after all, right? I spent 3 years with this boy. Two was probably enough. When we finally realized we weren't meant to be I was relieved, but worried that I would never meet Mr. Right.

I'm 21. I spend a year working on myself and just being me. And that is when I meet you. Coincidence? I doubt it. All in the greater plan. Had my high school love not let me go, had I forced a college relationship to work 'just because', I never would have known the happiness I know today. I might have known love, but, I wouldn't have YOU.

~ Ethan ~

Your daddy and I are married a year and talking about starting a family. We both know it is something we want, we just aren't sure we are ready. Our friends are still single and care free. How would we relate to anyone anymore? Then, it happens. Two pink lines and you became real. For 9 months you grew inside of me and we prepared as best as we could. We try to balance being new parents with maintaining some kind of social life. It's hard, some friendships fade away. And that's okay. Because if we waited, if we had decided that being young and free of responsibility was more important than knowing the love of a child, then sure, we might have had a few more months or years of frivolous fun before getting pregnant. But...I wouldn't have YOU.

~ Aiden ~

We wanted more kids, but had no idea it could happen so fast. I placed your brother Ethan, then just 3 months old, into his crib and tip-toed into the bathroom. Two pink lines. Wow. Some people told us we were crazy for having two babies so close together. That we would need lots of help over the next couple years. And boy were they right. Everything about you was a surprise to us - your quick pregnancy, your early labor and delivery, your syndrome. The shock we felt when you were born dug a hole deep into our hearts. This couldn't have happened. The whole time you were growing inside me I prayed you were healthy. Was God not listening to me? Was I being punished? Although it didn't take any time at all to love you, it did take some time to let go of expectations. And to trust that God knew what he was doing. Because if he had given me a perfectly healthy little baby, our lives would be different, maybe easier even. But...I wouldn't have YOU.

~ Hudson ~ 

It took us a while to feel ready to have another baby, your daddy and I. There was so much to do with Aiden's medical care after he was born and the simple task of caring for two boys 11 months apart was a challenge as well. But then, we were finally in a good place. Things with Aiden settled down and we made some big decisions for our family (moved from Indiana to Texas!) Things felt right. It was time. We had no doubt that we would get pregnant quickly. A few months went by - but I didn't worry. I was actually still not 100% sure we could handle three kids so I figured God was giving me time. A few more months passed and I started to get anxious. By that time I wanted another baby SO badly and feared it would never happen. We stressed, we saw doctors, we carefully timed each month. And finally, our hard work had paid off. It was really early on when we told the boys I was pregnant. They were excited and talked about it each day. But then, I got a call that changed everything. I had lost the baby. This happened twice. I went through every emotion -- angry at God for getting my hopes up, sadness for losing babies that we'd never know, jealousy for the friends and family members who became pregnant and were happily sharing the news. It was hard. So hard. 

We had all but given up when a few months later, two pink lines. Could it be? I cautiously became more hopeful as each blood test showed good numbers. Once I made it to 12 weeks I allowed myself to relax. It was happening. We would in fact be a family of 5. Then, in the middle of the hot Texas summer, you were born. Our third boy, Hudson William. I'd be lying if I said I never thought about the babies that I lost so early on. But in that moment, when I heard your cry, it became clear. If I had successfully carried either of those pregnancies, I would have a different little being bouncing around at home. I wouldn't know your smile. Your kissable cheeks. Your chubby legs. I wouldn't have YOU.

Worrying and Stress quote

In the moment it is almost impossible not to fear the unknown. But without all the heartache, the unanswered prayers, the doubt, I wouldn't have Ricky, Ethan, Aiden and Hudson.

And if I didn't have THEM, I wouldn't be ME.

I survived the Dr. Oz detox!

Dr. Oz 3 day detox reviewThat's right folks, this self-proclaimed carboholic and sweet-tooth queen made it through the Dr. Oz 3-day detox! I ran across it on my Pinterest feed and decided then and there that I was going to try it. Not because I was looking to lose weight, but rather because I just felt...ick.

After over-indulging during the holidays (I gained back 8 pounds, y'all) I needed to jump start my system. I truly felt like I needed to cleanse my body and rid it of all the processed junk I loaded up on.

I've seen those lemon juice, honey and cayenne pepper detox plans. And I have heard of a few others that last 7-10 days. So why the Dr. Oz detox?

It's pretty simple really. I wanted to set a realistic goal. I figured 3 days was do-able, and with nutrient-packed ingredients like spinach, raspberries and almond butter it was much more appealing than a nutrient-starved plan like the honey/lemon/pepper drink. Plus, there is a different shake for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you don't feel like you are forcing down the same thing meal after meal.

Source: Click here to print

Here are answers to some of the questions I got:

Q. Was it hard?
A. Surprisingly, even for a diet drop out like myself, I found this quite easy. Perhaps it was the short timeline, or maybe it was that the drinks were actually tasty. Either way, I found this plan pretty simple.

Q. Was it difficult to find the ingredients? 
A. I have slowly been trying to be more conscious about my grocery habits, focusing on purchasing more from the "outer aisles" and less from the "middle aisles" (the process stuff). With that said I've never been one of those holistic naturopaths so I have only ventured down those 2 aisles with the cage-free, animal by-product free, health-nut products as a cut-through from the back of the store to the front. That is until I had to buy the stuff for this detox. I tried to look as natural as possible (pun intended) as I shopped for Coconut Oil and Flax Seed. And, I actually found it quite fun to explore all these health-related products. Did you know my local grocery store has a machine where you can grind your own almond or peanut butter? How cool!

But anyway, I was able to find everything at my regular old local HEB grocery store. If you live in an area where your regular grocer may not be as robust as this, I am sure everything can be purchased at a health food store or "natural" grocery chain like Sprouts or Whole Foods.

Q. How much was it?
A. I'll be honest, it wasn't cheap. I saved my receipt to add up what I purchased for the detox and the grand total was $92.43. I'll break it out for you below so you can see exactly what is needed. By the way, I buy organic for most of my produce...at the very least, the ones on this list. Oh, and I already had a few things like the green tea and the epsom salt...so you'll want to add a few more bucks to this...

  • Kale - {two containers @ 2.97ea} - $5.94
  • Spinach - {1 container} - $3.98
  • Bananas - {3 lbs} - $1.57
  • Raspberries - {three 6oz containers @ 3.98ea} - $11.94
  • Mango - {I purchased a bag of frozen chunks as I thought it would be easier} - $1.95
  • Cucumbers - {3 small} - $1.86
  • Coconut Oil - {Nature's Way, 16oz} - $9.99 on sale!
  • Ground Flax Seed - {16 oz} - $3.49
  • Almond Butter - {16 oz} - $8.47
  • Stevia - {I bought the little packets...you need 1 tsp/day which ended being 9 total packets} - $2.52
  • Coconut Water - {Zico, two liters @ 3.99ea} - $7.98 (only needed 1 liter!)
  • Almond Milk - {Blue Diamond, Unsweetened Vanilla, 1 qt} - $2.00
  • Cayenne Pepper {smallest spice shaker} - $1.99
  • Blueberries - {2 pints @ 3.77ea} - $7.54
  • Limes - {2ct} - $.40
  • Granny Smith apples - {4ct} - $1.77
  • Pineapple chunks - {I bought the pre-cut chunks from the produce dept, 20 oz} - $4.68
  • Lavender Oil - {for the baths} - $6.39
  • Probiotic Water - {I drank this in place of taking a multi-vitamin and probiotic pill} - $4.49
  • Celery - $1.20
GRAND TOTAL = $92.43...Yowzers...

But when you think of it as the cost of all meals and snacks that you'll consume for 3 whole days, it doesn't seem too far fetched. That'd be $30/day or $10/meal.

Q. Were they easy to make?
A. Yes! I splurged a bit and bought a $30 Oster My Blend personal blender which ended up being the perfect complement to this detox. It blended even the large chunks (that I was afraid my ancient blender would not) and did it all in a to-go type container that you simply flip over, unscrew the blender blade and screw on a sipper top. It was worth every penny!

Q. Were you hungry throughout the day?
A. I can honestly say I was not. Like, at all. The shakes were completely satisfying and kept me going until it was time for my next one. I doubted those who said the same when I read reviews online prior to starting. But it was true!

Q. How did they taste?
A. Surprisingly, I liked all of them. The breakfast one was definitely the best. And the lunch a close 2nd even though most of the reviews I read said it was horrible and hard to choke down. I did not find that to be the case. The dinner one was the most...how shall I say it...interesting in flavor. But even so, it was not bad. I was pleasantly surprised.

Q. How did they make you feel?
A. After day 1 I felt great. I had energy, I was still gung-ho. Day 2 was a little more difficult, I'll admit. I so badly wanted to just chew something. So I'd pop a piece of gum and be good. I did cheat a little that afternoon with a nibble of my son's nutri-grain bar (like, the smallest nibble ever), but then I felt extremely guilty and just plain disappointed in myself so it was easy to get back on track. Oh yeah, and I ate some broccoli that night, but it is a green veggie so I let that slide. By day 3, like any test of will-power, I was just ready for it to be over with. However I always woke up looking forward to the breakfast shake so that helped a little. After it was all said and done I seriously felt SO good. My mind seemed clear, my belly pooch seemed flatter and I just felt refreshed.

Q. Did it "clean you out"?
A. Not like I was expecting. If you are wondering if I spent hours on the john throughout the detox, I didn't. And when I did it was due to the fact that I was peeing more than usual. So, I guess that's how the "toxins" were making their way out of my system.

Q. Did you lose weight?
A. That was by far the biggest perk. I lost 5 pounds by the end of day 3! And, I'm happy to say that even going back to a "regular" diet (albeit one on the lighter side), I've kept it off!

Q. What was the biggest challenge?
A. While I expected it to be giving up food in its "regular" form, it was actually the time it took to prep the shakes. As a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids, I was pulled away from the kitchen every now and then. Uninterrupted it would only probably take 5-10 minutes. However sometimes it took me 20-25.

Q. Would you do it again?
A. Absolutely! My goal is to do it once/month. And the best part is that some of the higher priced items like the almond butter, coconut oil and lavender do not have to be purchased again for a while - there is enough left over. In fact, I have incorporated the breakfast and lunch shakes in to my everyday diet, replacing one meal a day since I've been back from Chicago.

So there you have it! 
I hope you've found this useful. 
For those of you who are thinking of trying it, 
I say GO FOR IT! Trust me, 
if I can do it, anyone can!
And of course I'd love to hear how it goes for you :)

{Disclaimer #1: This is not a sponsored post. I was not compensated in any way to write this review. I chose to do the detox on my own and these are my honest thoughts}

{Disclaimer #2: Always check with your doctor before beginning any kind of diet or detox program. This review is not intended to provide medical advice of any kind.}

Check out my Tips for Success post after I completed the Dr. Oz Detox for the 2nd time.