Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why Didn't I just leave?

"Why didn't you just leave"? 

It's a question I've been asked at least 1,000 times and asked myself even more often. Several weeks ago, I shared my story of the crisis that has been my life. Still, over and over, I've been asked by family, friends, and even police officers "why don't you just leave". "There's so many resources out there to help" is usually the line that follows this incredulous question. As if leaving has never crossed your mind.

My answer: "It's not that simple". 

Did you know that it takes the average woman seven attempts before she leaves a violent relationship for good? 

Four times I have tried to leave. Four times I packed up myself and the kids and tried to leave. Much to my family and friends dismay, I always went back. Why? For a lot of reasons. I could spend hours telling you all of the reasons I've stayed; the dangers that come with leaving; the lack of resources that are really there for women in this situation, how it feels to be a burden for someone else to have to help you. But I'm not going to do that. You see, in my heart, I know that I did what I knew was best for myself and my children at the time.

Instead, I'm going to focus this post on society's viewpoint of domestic violence. When we ask victims of domestic violence "why don't you just leave", I believe that we're once again, placing the blame on the victim. To think that it's as simple as "just leaving" is choosing to remain ignorant in regard to what domestic violence really is. A woman might have 50 or 1,000 reasons why she stays. Until you've walked through what she's walking, experienced the hurt she's felt or dealt with the psychological trauma she's dealt with, no one on the planet can understand her reasoning or the complex dynamics that makes it absolutely impossible to see or think clearly. If a moment does come that we see clearly enough to find a safe time to make an attempt to leave, the resources needed to do so have to be readily available, or it's even harder to stay gone. 

The reality for most abuse survivors is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available. Instead of minimalizing such a complex issue with such a simple "just leave" solution, I believe society should focus on education, awareness, and resources to help prevent abuse in the first place but then to restore, respect, and empower victims of abuse so that "just leaving" isn't such a herculean task.

Until society as a whole makes an effort to not only understand domestic violence and remove the taboos surrounding it for those who've endured it, but to also heal, educate, and restore victims, women will continue to suffer in silence and to me, that's as bad or worse than the original act of violence itself. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My Life In Crisis

Infertility. High-risk pregnancy. Lengthy NICU stays times four.  Your Mother's cancer diagnosis. Multiple moves looking for a support system. Leaving a career you loved. A spouse's struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Your spouse's job loss.  Your Mother's cancer remission. Emotional, physical, and financial abuse.  The return of cancer. Your Mother's death. Your spouse's addiction issues spiraling out of control. You spouse attempts suicide multiple times. Your spouse facing criminal charges. Inability to obtain affordable childcare so that you can work. Adultery. These are just some of the many events crammed into the past four years of my life.

A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. A crisis of life is a highly volatile or dangerous situation/emergency requiring immediate remedial action. A crisis occurs when a stressful life event overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope effectively in the face of a perceived challenge or threat. Typically, individuals respond with an elevated stress reaction; mental confusion and overload and physical symptoms such as a racing heart and high blood pressure. An individual's ability to think and decision making skills are hampered and focus shifts solely to survival. But how long can someone survive living in crisis mode?

For the past four years, my life has been a crisis. Sure, there have been some happy moments along the way. My children's birth and the many, many, many, many blessings that they've brought into my life has been amazing. Honestly, they are the four reasons I get out of bed every single morning and try to put a smile on my face. Still, earlier this year I started seeing a counselor to help me cope with the amount of stress in my life along with grief from my Mom's death. At our first appointment, she asked me what it was that I was coming for help with. I would imagine that most people seeking counseling are dealing with the aftermath of a specific event or two. After summarizing the amount of stress and crises occurring in my life, all at the same time, she was at a loss of words for a little while. She informed me that I was and had been under more stress for an extended period of time than most people (something I had kind of guessed) for a while. She advised me of the long-term effects of stress when we experience it for a longer than normal amount of time and recommended that I seek out a full physical from a medical doctor, which admittedly, I didn't do (who's got time for all that). Also admittedly, I stopped going to see the counselor too because being overwhelmed with life was hard enough, much less trying to find an hour to myself every two weeks. 

When I got married in 2012, almost exactly five years ago, I never in a million years could have pictured my life becoming what it has become or experiencing even half of what I've been through. Just one of any of the events I've been through is enough to cause long-term issues and changes for someone. To experience them all, almost all at the same time, has been devastating. The constant stressors have affected my life in every way: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am tired. My body hurts. My brain hurts. My eyes don't have tears left in them. I now doubt almost everything anyone tells me and I find myself angry  at the world more often than not. My faith has been tested. When I say life has been a roller coaster, it truly has been a roller coaster. I've tried my best to hide it, but I really, really want off this ride, and soon.

For more than four years, I've lived life without a support system. When we found out we were having quadruplets, the first thing I wanted was to be surrounded by the people I love the most and to lean on them for love and support through what I knew was about to be the hardest chapter of my life yet. One thing after another has happened to make this the perfect storm for me and it seems as though Murphy's Law is in full affect. I've relied on the mercy and kindness of strangers far more often that I dreamt I ever would in my life. I've been hurt more by the people I love the most because of my own foolish expectations of them. And now, I've got a house full of kids whom I love dearly, no husband, a tiny long-distance support system, no childcare to work, and thus no income coming in. My life in crisis continues...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My "New" Gig as a Shipt Shopper

I wanted to write a post to share all about my new job as a Shipt Shopper. I say "new", but really, I started "Shipting" in February of this year. Very, very part time. You guys know that "time" is not an area of abundance in my life, but I also have a need to contribute to my family financially. Becoming a mother of quadruplets has certainly well-versed me on all things grocery. Feeding a family of six and toting around four infants, toddlers, and now pre-schoolers through the grocery store has kind of made me a professional in all things shopping, so when I heard there was a company in Corpus Christi that would pay me to shop for others, I said "where do I sign up"? 

The interview process was simple. I submitted an application online. The next day, I had an email invitation for an online interview. After that, I had to pass a background check, submit my car insurance information, take a couple online classes and pass a few tests. Within a week, I received my Shipt Shopper Shirt (pictured below) and my PEX Card (like a credit card) to start working as a professional Shipt Shopper!

So what is Shipt? Shipt is an internet-based grocery delivery service based out of Birmingham, Alabama. There are 100s of cities in the country that currently offer Shipt services and more coming. The concept is pretty simple. Members subscribe to the service on either an annual or monthly basis. With their membership, subscribers get free grocery delivery on all orders over $35. Members select their grocery items using a simple app downloaded on their phone or the website. Once you select your store, you're able to choose from any product the store carries. (Seriously! If you can't find it in the app, a simple special request will yield you a real person who will search for whatever it is you need and usually deliver. As a side note, I think the most unusual special request I've had was for an actual chair.)

Once you place your order, it's dispatched out to all of the shoppers who've put themselves on the schedule in your area for that time frame. Shipt uses an algorythm to determine whom shops are offered to. Factors that contribute to what shops a shopper is offered include: total number of shops completed, customer ratings, percentage of on-time shops, and percentage of shops accepted. Your personal Shipt shopper will take things from there and in as little as an hour (depending on the time frame you select), you'll have groceries delivered into your home fresh from the grocery store!

We drive to the store and hand-select every item on your list. Our shoppers' motto is "be on time, be accurate, be awesome".  This means that every single item we deliver to your door must be perfect. Shoppers are trained in produce selection and have a variety of resources to help us ensure that your produce is perfect. Because we are there so often, we develop relationships with store employees and work as a team with them to make sure you order is perfect. Members are able to choose how they'd like for their Shipt Shopper to handle the unfortunate situation of when an item requested is out of stock. "Contact Me" means we will contact you and offer suggestions for any item the store doesn't have. "Use Best Judgement" means your Shipt shopper will use their shopping experience to determine the best replacement item for your order. Finally, "Do Not Substitute" means any item the store doesn't have will be skipped. You'll be notified at delivery of any items the store didn't have.  Shoppers communicate with you throughout the shopping process and if you ever need to make a change or add an item to your order once it's being shopped, your shopper can take care of that for you.

Once we have everything in your order, we then head to check-out where we pay for and bag all of your groceries. We keep all of your cold items in cooler bags and ensure that your ice cream and meat remain cold when it's delivered to your door. We're also careful of how your items are bagged and handled all the way to your door. Your groceries are then loaded into our vehicle and we let you know when we're on the way.

Once we arrive, we actually carry the items into your home for you or you can accept them at the door if you're more comfortable with that.  Some customers even have us leave them on the doorstep for various reasons: baby sleeping, social-anxiety disorder, illness, surgeries, and more! We're totally flexible and we want to help you!

Once your groceries are delivered, all you have to do is put them away and enjoy. Shipt will ask for your feedback by rating your shopper. If you receive any items that are damaged or produce that isn't perfect, simply note it in the app and Shipt will make it right. It's pretty magical, I tell ya! 

You're probably wondering about pricing. It's actually super simple. The price you see in the Shipt app is the price you pay. Delivery is free for members on orders over $35. Smaller orders are welcome, but a $7 delivery fee will be added to help cover the costs of shopping and delivery.  Shipt prices do vary slightly from in-store prices to help cover the costs of picking, packing and processing. Members can expect to pay about $5 more using Shipt than they would on a $35 order purchased in the store themselves. For example, a loaf of bread might cost $2.29 if you bought it in the store yourself. With Shipt, it would cost you $2.59.  Members are happy to pay the extra 30 cents for the convenience of having the item delivered directly to their home.

I love being a Shipt shopper. I work as an independent contractor which means I do bear some of the costs of working. I pay for my own cooler bags, uniforms, my own gas, mileage on my own vehicle, as well as my cell phone and data plan used to shop for orders and communicate with members. In return, I get the flexibility to set my own hours. I work without someone looking over my shoulder and I'm solely responsible for my customer's satisfaction. I love building relationships with my customers and seeing their faces light up when I knock on their door with their groceries. Some of my regular customers don't have the ability to get out of their homes and as a mom who spent nearly the first two years of my kids' lives on lock down in our home, I can appreciate that and look forward to offering them some company. Shoppers are paid on a per shop basis. We are paid about $5 per order plus around 7% of the order. Tipping is optional for members but we receive 100% of all tips and tips are always appreciated because they do help to offset the costs of working for ourselves.

All in all, Shipt is an amazing company. As a shopper, I get the added benefit of a free Shipt membership so I've tried the service myself just to experience it (also, because sometimes our family gets sick and there's nothing better than having popsicles, gatorade, and chicken soup delivered to your door in this situation).  I wish Shipt had been in our area when the kids were tiny premature babies and I once went two weeks without going to the grocery store and survived on pizza delivery and baby food jars for a few days until I could get there. (I'm not a huge pizza fan to this day as a result but I digress.)  You can use your membership to deliver to your home, office, vacation destination, or even send groceries to your son or daughter in college. It's the perfect answer for busy moms, elderly, sick, or disabled people or just anyone who wants to save themselves some time and not spend it in a crowded grocery store!

If you'd like to try Shipt, I'm happy to tell you that I can offer you a coupon code to save $10 on your first order. On the third screen of the checkout process, enter the code LOTSOBABYLANE and you'll get $10 in groceries for free delivered to your door. And if you're in Corpus, maybe I'll show up at your door with my arms full of groceries to get you started on your Shipt journey!  Hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Part 3 - Taking It All In

We received news that we were pregnant and then the news that we were pregnant with quadruplets within about a week's time. We went from feeling like we were finally going to be a normal family to not really knowing what to do next in a matter of a 30 minute appointment. Life was about to change dramatically for us and we didn't really know the full scope of how nor did we how to prepare.  So, we went on living and tried our best to guess what the future held for us.

Telling people in our lives was not an easy thing to do. I avoided my own Mom's phone calls for the afternoon because I wasn't sure how to tell her I was carrying four babies. The first person I called, was a very dear friend from church who'd been praying for us to conceive. She advised me that God has entrusted four little babies to us and I should feel confident in sharing this news with everyone that loved me. Quickly, we began asking for prayers that our pregnancy would have a successful outcome.

The first thing we knew we had to do was identify a specialist, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or MFM, if you will. This is a doctor who helps take care of women having complicated or high-risk pregnancies. We chose the leader in our area, Texas Children's Hospital. Once that was identified, it took about one phone call to let them know I had just found out I was pregnant with quadruplets and they had me all set up for my first appointment. They seriously took care of everything: ultrasounds, nutritionists, specialists. When it came to prenatal care, I feel like I was very well taken care of. 

And then we had to start making not so easy decisions. Where would we live with quadruplets? What would life with quadruplets really be like? Would we need help? Who would help us? How would we afford quadruplets? What would they do while we worked? What all would we need to care for them? Our life was seriously changing into something unrecognizable and something we never expected in a matter of just a few months. 

We knew we were in a time-crunch to make as many big decisions and make as many large life decisions as we could before I ended up on bedrest, which for many quad moms happens as early as 12 weeks gestation. 

We continued with daily life, while we tried our best to formulate a plan. Life became consumed with doctor visits. We had lots of check-ups to ensure that everyone okay and no risks were taken. It didn't take very long for the reality and the seriousness of what was happening to sink in. I was tired. Growing four babies at once was physically exhausting. It took everything I had to crawl out of bed and get dressed for work in the morning and by lunch, I craved nothing more than a nap. By the time it was time to go home in the afternoon, my eyes wouldn't stay open. Adam was sweet enough to drive me to and from work, so I'd normally sleep on the way home as we sat in traffic. In the meantime, through the exhaustion, we did our best to talk through what life was going to look like.  

When the house we were renting started having some major mold and water well issues, we decided that it would be in our family's best interest to move. We chose to move close to my family because it was still within driving distance to the hospital where we'd deliver and it was also still possible for us to continue working at our current jobs, even though it would mean a longer commute. It also meant that we'd be close to my parents, who would help us with the babies when they arrived and I had extended family and lots of friends in the area who we felt we could count on to help. Our plan was to live in my Uncle and Aunt's farmhouse until we could build a barndominium on the family farm to accommodate our family. Once the babies arrived, my Mom volunteered to watch the babies so that I could continue working. We put our plan in motion, made arrangements with our jobs, and I started packing 10 weeks pregnant with quadruplets. It was exhausted, but the two of us (or should I say six of us) managed to pack up our home and put most of our stuff in storage on our own. 

The first of many decisions had been made and we felt like we were on the path to becoming a quad family. We were excited. Friends were excited. Our church was excited. Everyone we met was excited for us when we shared our news. We felt like life was falling into place and we knew God had a very special plan for us. People started pouring in to love on us and support us and we were blown away by what God had done. 

At this point, we felt safe. We felt like we were going to be okay. And then, things slowly began to crumble.

To Be Continued in Part 4...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Part 2 - Getting Pregnant and SURPRISE!

Now, now, I know when I left you, it was kind of on a cliffhanger. We had gotten the news that I had a 0.5% chance of ever getting pregnant. Obviously, we all know how the story ended up. In this post, I'll take you through how it came that we got pregnant with quadruplets. Don't worry! I won't give you ALL the details. I save those for the nosy ladies in the grocery store.

So right after our doctor told us that basically, we weren't going to have a baby, he offered up a treatment that he said would give us a 40% chance of conceiving. 40%? That's almost 50%, I'll take it (what  can I say, I was desperate).

The next Saturday, we attended a class with three other couples. Here, one of the new skills we acquired was learning how to inject medications into my stomach via needle. Talk about fun! We also got a detailed calendar with our treatment plan that told us what medication and how much we would use on what day. 

Fertility Drugs/Treatment Plan

Then we waited. We waited on my next cycle. Once it was time to begin, we called  our doctor's office and the process began. For nearly three weeks, we injected medication into my stomach. As we got closer to ovulation, I started getting daily ultrasounds looking for an egg that was of the right size and ready to trigger ovulation. Once we found one, we had one more shot to give me, in the hip.

And then came the business of making sure that that egg was made into a baby! I'm leaving this part out, because well, some things are just personal. (If you want to know, you'll have to catch me at one of those perfect times like when I'm out to dinner with my family or trying to buy groceries with four kids in the cart).

About a week after the trigger shot, I suddenly noticed some severe bloating and pain in my pelvic area. The pain became so severe, I could not eat or get comfortable in any position. Eventually, I ended up contacting my doctor and they had me come in. At this point, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).  An ultrasound revealed that my ovaries were each the size of oranges and unfortunately, there was nothing we could do about it but wait it out. Two days in, I couldn't even wear my pants because they would not button. In retrospect, I probably should have Googled and I'd have figured out that my ovaries were in overdrive and were sending eggs all over the place. Who knew? 

A week went on and I continued to suffer and try to hide both my pain and bloating from everyone at the office. Eventually, I couldn't take the waiting anymore. One morning, I woke up and decided it was time to take a home pregnancy test. Low and behold, after probably 5,000 negative pregnancy tests in my lifetime, I saw two pink lines! At first, I couldn't believe my eyes. I told my husband. Later that day, I went for a follow-up regarding the OHSS. I told my doctor that I knew I wasn't supposed to test yet, but I did. He asked me what the result was and when I told him it was positive, he sent me for bloodwork. Two days later, I went back for more bloodwork. On August 2, 2012, my nurse called me to confirm, I was pregnant! (I only remember the date because it's my Dad's birthday).

About a week later, we had another appointment to confirm heartbeat and numbers. I guess maybe that was another clue I should have picked up on in retrospect but when you're living it, you only see your dream, which is to be a normal family and have a baby (although I'd be lying if I said the thought of twins never crossed my mind as being kind of cool). I remember when I told my Mom about the appointment, she picked up on it right away and said "numbers!!!! What do they mean by numbers"? to which I responded, "Mom, it's just a possibility of twins;they said it's a 5% chance" (maybe it's important to note that we already had a set of twin in our family).

That afternoon, she started calling me at the office wanting to know how it went. I avoided her calls the first few times. I just didn't know how on Earth I'd break the news to her that there were four.

Earlier that morning, my husband and I sat in an office waiting to hear our child's heartbeat for the first time. As I lay on the table, my husband sat off to the side and we both attempted to peer at the screen, which was conveniently turned just out of both of our lines of sight. What seemed like an hour passed and this sheer look of panic swept over our doctor's face. My husband and I made eye contact. Fearing the worst, we finally asked what was going on. I can't remember his exact words, because the shock hit me pretty hard, but I know that our doctor told us that there was nothing wrong with the heartbeat, except, there were four of them. And then we proceeded to hear each heartbeat. Each little answer to prayer.

The next clear memory is sitting in the parking lot in my husband's little Honda Civic, staring at the traffic passing on I-10 and wondering what to do next. Once one of us was able to form a sentence, my husband asked "what do we do now"? My answer was "we go to work. We have to work if we're going to afford four babies". And we did.

To be continued...Stay tuned for part three.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Part 1 - Where It All Began (Battling Infertility)

Over a month ago I posted that I have a story to share. A version of our story that's not the watered down version for fear of judgment. I drafted this post over a month ago but out of fear, I've spent weeks thinking and praying on whether or not I should begin this series. Dead end after dead end, and struggle after struggle, have led me to believe this is necessary.  So with that, I give you part one of many posts to come about our story.

I cannot count the number of times when I was pregnant with quadruplets, and when the babies were very small, that someone came up to me and upon finding out I had quadruplets asked me why I didn't have my own television show. Over and over again, complete strangers approached me as they saw me out and about with the quads and the question I heard the most (besides "are they...") was and continues to be "Quadruplets! Wow! I bet you have a lot of help." Usually, I am able to smile and nod and go on about my business. Because honestly, we've had some pretty amazing friends and even perfect strangers pour out so much love on us unexpectedly. Still, the truth of the matter is, I've basically raised quadruplets by myself for much of the past three years.

I promised you a story. So you're definitely getting a story. The truth is, those people that see me in the supermarket have no idea what my story is like, no idea the battles I have faced, and honestly, no idea what it's like to be stared at and asked a million questions about your personal life by perfect strangers as you're trying to buy groceries with a litter of babies (some people get offended by calling babies a litter and I'm sorry if you do but sometimes, I really do feel like a Mama Kitty carrying my babies around.) When they casually ask me "did you do in-vitro?", I'm certain that either they don't know the sting of a battle with infertility or else they're battling infertility themselves and too afraid to say. 

As with any good story, it's probably best to start at the beginning.

Battling Infertility; Where it all began: I can trace my earliest signs of infertility back almost as far as junior high. I was the last girl in my class to get her period and when I did, it was extremely painful and heavy but was never regular. At age 16, I went on birth control pills to help regulate my cycle. They did and I managed to go through the rest of high school, college, and even a few more years living a relatively normal life thanks to my new best friend, the oral birth control pill. However, in 2006/2007, I started having some issues with not having a period even on birth control and later bleeding that wouldn't stop. This eventually turned into some weird cramping pains so I went to see a specialist. It turns out, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Basically, it means that my hormones are crazy. I do not ovulate regularly, thus I don't have regular periods (I also still have a TON of eggs as a result). On top of that, I was also diagnosed with a dermoid cyst (a collection of cells) on my right ovary that had to be surgically removed, along with part of my ovary. So when my husband and I got married in 2012, we knew there would be issues with ever wanting to have a baby. We decided that my life long dream of becoming a mother was important to us both, so we didn't wait long before seeking help. Near my 34th birthday, I made an appointment with my Ob-Gyn. We tried a round of Clomid (an oral fertility drug commonly used to treat infertility) to see if it would help but because of my age, she didn't want to play around with it and risk wasting any eggs and referred me to a specialist off of I-10 in Houston. 

I still clearly remember my first meeting with the fertility doctor. I saw him at a satellite office that was close to home. It was an office that he must have shared with other doctors as there was no decor, no homey feel, and if I'm honest, it felt kind of shady. The doctor was very matter of fact, laid out a million facts to us, and explained the infertility testing process that we'd have to go through before we even knew whether it was something that could be treated or not. I left in tears. I remember feeling defeated. I'd wanted a baby for so long and had watched friend after friend and relative after relative have babies and more babies but my dream, my dream was tied up in some invasive tests that not only I would have to undergo, I'd force my innocent husband to endure as well. Talk about feeling less than feminine. The whole reason behind being designed as a woman and I was failing at it. Let's just say my confidence was more than lacking. 

As we sat in the car following the visit, I told Adam that I gave up. I just wasn't meant to be a mother. And I sobbed. From little on, I doted over my baby dolls and I mother henned my baby brother to death. I wanted nothing more that to be a wife and mommy, but those dreams seemed about as far out of my reach as the moon. Still, my very logical husband questioned me "did you listen to what he said, Misty"? In truth, maybe I hadn't. Maybe I only had in my mind what I wanted to hear "you'll be pregnant by XYZ". But I didn't hear that. Instead, this very smart man who'd helped tons of women get pregnant before me, was explaining my body to me and outlining a very detailed step-by-step process we would go through on that journey. I'd missed the opportunity to see just how smart he was because I was more focused on my feelings. 

The next week, we went to our first appointments for bloodwork. Over the course of the next two weeks, we'd pretty much lose all shreds of dignity with the invasive tests and procedures we'd both endure. They make machines to do things that I'm pretty sure I'd only dream of hearing about in sci-fi novels. 

About three weeks later, with all of the test results in and labwork compiled, Adam and I went for a consult with our doctor.  The news was, all of the issues lied with my and my PCOS. I had a 0.5% chance of ever conceiving on my own. Did you see that ZERO? That's about as hopeless as it gets, friends. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017 - Be Still (No seriously, be still!)

Whew! I tell ya, I am exhausted! Trying to make Valentine's Day special for the four little hearts closest to mine can sure be a lot of work. Although, if I'm honest, it wasn't that much more work than a normal day. Where do they possibly get all of this energy?

I woke up at a quarter of six this morning to two little monkeys snuggled up as close as they could on either side of me. Soon after, the other two monkeys joined us in bed. Once they were all in there, I know it's time to give up. They're not going back to sleep and five people, no matter if four of them are pint-sized, do not fit in a king-sized bed. Soon after, my phone sent off a severe weather alert which prompted me to look outside and see the ominous dark skies. I knew this meant that our Valentine's date for donuts would have to be postponed and breaking the news to four pint-sized dictators would not be an easy task. Fortunately for me, they still didn't really know about Valentine's Day! We spent a few minutes watching the rain and then I told them I had presents for them. I presented each of them with a gift: a small box of chocolate and a toy truck for the boys and a watch for the girls. They were in heaven. 

Then, since donuts were not in store for us, I set about making breakfast. One of their favorite breakfasts, and by favorites I mean the four of them can devour close to an entire pan, is a pretty simple recipe. I use the refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Dough (don't buy the generic, it doesn't taste as good nor does it cover the pan as well). I bake one later on the bottom of an 8X11 pan for about 5-7 minutes. While it's baking, I brown a roll of bulk sausage. Once it's done, I add to it a package of cream cheese. I pour all of that goodness on top of the first layer of crescent rolls and spread it out evenly. Then, I take another can of crescent rolls and put that over the top. Pop it in the oven for about 10-12 minutes and voila! Instant breakfast. This morning was no different. I caught Daniel taking the last piece out of the pan about an hour after we finished!

Eventually, the rain did clear. I loaded everyone up just in time for lunch. We headed to a favorite of ours, McAlister's Deli, where, I learned that kids ate free for Valentine's Day today so it was basically like hitting the lottery for me! The kiddos had their favorite: macaroni and cheese with fruit and I had my favorite, the Savannah Chopped Salad and sweet tea! Mmm! Delicious! 

After our yummy lunch, we had just a couple errands to run. Fortunately, most were the drive around town kind so they got a tiny nap in while I got a few moments of quiet. Then we headed to a park down the street to burn off some energy! A couple hours later, and one bump on the head, they were finished playing and I was ready to put them to bed! We came home, had a simple dinner and then took baths and boy were they needed! Together, the five of us sat on the couch and watched an episode of our favorite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, before readying a book, saying our prayers, and snuggling into our beds! 

All in all, I'd say today was a good Valentine's Day! We didn't go over the top, didn't spend a ton of money, but we had fun and we shared love. After all, isn't love what it's all about? 

Hope you had a great day too! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Happy Third Birthday, Not So Babies Anymore!

Before I continue my story, I just couldn't go on any further without writing a post to acknowledge a huge milestone, one that admittedly, often in this journey I wondered if we'd see. My babies are three years old!! Those teeny, tiny preemie infants are now, fully-thriving, interactive, off-the-walls, question-asking three-year-olds! I am beyond proud of how far we've come on this journey and I am incredibly thankful to God and all of the people who've prayed for us on this journey.

To Daniel, Evelyn, Waylon and Ellie:

On your actual birthday this year, we woke up, got dressed, and Mommy took you to Shipley Donuts for our first donut outing together. You guys were awesome and it tickled my heart watching the four of you run up to that counter and tell the lady "we need donuts". After donuts, we trekked over to Oso Bay Wetlands and played on the playground and went for a walk on some of the nature trails with some friends that we met up with. For dinner, we had chicken, green beans, and macaroni and cheese but you were more interested in the cupcakes we picked up at H-E-B. The Saturday after your birthday, we had a party for you. It ended up being rainy and cold, so we moved it from being outside at our house to the church. (Now, you guys randomly ask to go have a party at church.) You had so many people who love you show up! Mommy was there, Pa, Grammy, Auntie Jennifer, Uncle Wayne, Aunt Laurie, Cousin Aubrey, Abby and Pastor, and some of the bestest friends your Mommy could ever ask for! You each had your own cake, themed tractors and tiaras, and you guessed it, Mommy made everybody sing "Happy Birthday" four times because I feel like you each deserve your own cake and song! 

Turning three is huge! Currently, we're fighting for more independence, which is a good thing, but it's also very stressful on a mommy!

Daniel: My first-born (by sheer determination), you are turning into such a sweet, sweet little boy. You have the softest, sweetest voice and I love to hear you tell me "I love you soooo much, Mommy". You are amazing. You are still fascinated by cars and by this point, I'm fairly certain you always will be. When everyone else is fighting or finding mischief, more often than not, I can find you in the living room playing cars or with your car track toy moved into your bed so you can easily drive through the car wash. You told me the other day that we needed to buy gas. I asked you who would pump it for me and you're response was "I will, Mama". Little boy, you are a dream. I am so thankful for you and your loving heart. I pray you never lose it. 

Evelyn: My sweet, sassy, ring-leader. You held everyone in before you guys were born and you continue to hold everyone accountable. You fight me for your independence regularly and I pray that is a sign that you will always be true to yourself, and that you will one day lead others. You are so smart and you're really amazing at solving problems. You still love your bunnies and you're now a HUGE fan of Frozen. You would sit and watch Frozen a dozen times in one day if I would let you. You also love to be held and tickled. You love to play Giddy-Up with your Abby along with Ring Around the Rosy. Water fascinates you and there's a lot of days that you and I fight because I find you playing in the bathroom sink using up all of the hand-soap. I pray for you to remain true and strong above all else. You are strength, Evelyn. You come from a long-line of strong women. Please don't forget that. 

Waylon: You are my rough and tumble boy but you are amazing and you are love. Your love language is touch. You come up to me throughout the day and randomly ask me for hugs and kisses and I love that about you. You love to be outside and fishing seems to be your passion. You also love to play in the dirt with your tractors and I am amazed as I watch you learn and grow. We read tractor books together and you love to sit on the couch with Mommy while everyone else takes a nap and watch Monster Machines until you fall asleep. You still struggle at nap time to be still so I'm okay with holding you for those few quiet moments we have together to help you relax. You love with your whole heart, Waylon and I love that about you. You feel so much empathy for other people and for such a little boy, I am amazed by your compassion. I pray that you never lose that about you and you always put others first. 

And Ellie, I hate that you always end up being last, but you know, your sweetness is compared to none. You are an absolutely delightful little girl. Your pretty red hair, although we fight because your scalp is sensitive and your bright blue eyes combined with your sweet smile, light up a room instantly but your heart, Ellie, your heart is what is so full. You love people and have a strong desire to make those around you smile. You have a helper spirit. As you get older, you will read stories about looking for the helpers in bad situations. Ellie, in my heart, I know you are going to be one of those helpers. You are going to go on and do amazing things for other people in this world. You love to read books, but you also love to play outside with your brothers. Like Evelyn, you are huge Frozen fan. You and your sister often fight over ballet outfits and dress-up costumes but you also share which is so special for me to watch as your mother. Hopefully soon, I will be able to find a way to put you both in ballet lessons. 

I love all four of you beyond imagination! Like anyone, we have our good days and our bad days. Life is hectic, life is stressful. Your world and my world is changing significantly and at warp-speed lately and we are all grasping for straws trying to succeed. I promise you all, we will and I pray that I make good decisions for you guys. You're my world here on Earth and together, we will cling tight to God and let Him lead our journey. I hope your third year is blessed beyond measure and I can't wait to see where we are a year from now. 

I love you to the moon and back!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I Have A Story

Where will you be when you wake up? Have you ever had a dream that felt more like a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, just running to keep up and never ever feeling like you can get ahead? That has been my life for the last three and a half years. Someone put it best when they compared it to running a sprint, but a marathon of sprints. There's never any rest, and as soon as you put out one fire, another one is popping up. It's exhausting. At some point, you begin to wonder if you'll ever get off or how this all ends. 

I am preparing to tell you a story; a long story, one we can't possibly cover in one blog post. The past few months of my life have by far, been the hardest. On December 10, 2016, my mom went to be with Jesus. Christmas came and went and most people, including my own four children, didn't feel the huge hole in their heart that I did. We rang in the new year, 2017, with cupcakes, party hats and noisemakers and we prayed for a good year, one that would bring our family peace and resolution. Just the past week, the kids celebrated their third birthday (I still have a birthday update post coming), and yesterday, I achieved getting one year closer to the big four-oh. 

As most of us do when we start to near middle-age (geez, who ever thinks of themselves as middle-aged), I've started to step away and look at where I am in my life. How many more struggles must I endure before I enter a period of peace and calm?

When we found out I was having quadruplets, once we moved past the initial shock and panic, I grew ecstatic. From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of nothing more than being a Mommy and having a family of my own. I wanted a husband and babies and lots of animals and a big, pretty house with a kitchen where I'd cook and serve my family amazing meals (hey - it's my dream, don't tell me I can't cook). My kids are the culmination of that dream. I'll admit, I never dreamed I'd have four at once, but after battling infertility and one failed marriage because I wanted nothing more than a family, when my dream came true, my heart was full of excitement. My Mom talked to me over and over again about how excited she was that I would finally have my real-life baby "dials" (I had some trouble saying "doll" as a little girl). Those four have truly brought so much happiness to my life and I am forever grateful for the prayers that got them here and got them here safe. 

What I didn't know is the trade off that I was taking by seeing my dream come true. Even though I'd always secretly kind of hoped to be able to stay at home at least for a few years with my children, I didn't know that I'd end up having no choice but to quit my career and my job that I loved to serve as a full-time, around the clock nurse, nanny, cook, and mommy. When I was told how little moms sleep, I had no idea that it would mean that for close to three years, I'd get by on just 2.5-4 hours of sleep a night on average (not due to their lack of sleep, but due to having to find time to fit my life in somewhere). I didn't know that most of my friendships would start to exist solely online and via text messages. I had no idea that I'd eventually go almost an entire year without even once having an actual date or night away from home without my children. I didn't know the struggles that my marriage would face. Nor did I ever expect that I'd soon lose my Mom. I never expected to have to make some of the toughest decisions in my life under some of the most intense pressure imaginable. Knee-jerk reaction, after knee-jerk reaction has been what's sustained my family for the last few years. And I'm tired.

I have a story to tell. It's not pretty. It's not the kind of story that gets circulated in viral Facebook and YouTube videos. It's not the kind of story that gets GoFundMe pages dedicated to saving a family and it's not the kind of story that gets you on Ellen for a trip to Hawaii. It's the kind of story that gets hidden deep away so nobody will know the real struggles one faces. It's the kind of story that a Christian woman goes to great lengths to hide out of fear of stigmatization due to the very real truths that she keeps inside.It's the kind of story people whisper about but nobody wants to tackle and face head on because someone might judge them. It is the kind of story that you never think you will become a part of. It's the kind of story that you just don't understand, until you're living it. 

In the coming months, I plan to open up. I plan to slowly peel away layers of this facade I've built around myself and my family in order to protect us. The truth is, I'm not really sure what I'm protecting us from. Our world has become so full of chaos, anger, and fighting, that it seems like there can't possibly be much more I would even want to try to protect myself, my husband and my children from. It is said that the truth shall set you free. Well, after three years of feeling like I'm living tied to a rope that's slowly hanging me, I'm ready to be free. I hope you'll stick around to hear it but I'll understand if you don't. We don't like messy. As a culture, we've learned to run from messy. And that's okay too. Messy may not be for you. But somewhere out there, there's a woman just like me, fighting a similar fight who needs to hear she's not alone. And to that woman, sharing my story will have been worth it. Also, if you are that woman, I love you. Don't forget that.