Thursday, August 30, 2018

Amazon Clothes For Kids - - Dear AZ

Be it my stage in life (full time stay-at-home-mom with 3 small kids), my general desire to not leave my house unless it's less than 80 degrees outside, my hope to not spend a lot of money, or my total distain for taking my kids shopping, I've spent a lot of time trying to find clothes for my kids online that meet my three criteria. What is that criteria, you might ask?

1. Only spend $20+ on an item of kids clothes IF it's unisex, and IF I love it enough to pass down to my other kids. This means it has to be comfortable, washable, durable, and timeless so that I don't spend loads of money on something and then later decide against putting it on my next kid because it's out of fashion or hasn't stood the test of time.

2. If a clothing item isn't something I plan on passing down from kid to kid, spend as little money as possible (I'm usually somewhere around $5-$10 per item), and then don't sweat it when something rips, tears, stains, or gets lost.

3. Buy clothes both my kids and I like. If one of us likes it and the other doesn't, there will almost always be a fight on a rushed morning when we don't have time to work through it. This means finding vintage super-hero shirts that don't TOTALLY make me want to puke, and it means finding more classic clothes that I love that are comfortable enough that my kids love it too, even without their favorite tv character plastered all over it.

You might be interested to know that I do almost all of the shopping for my oldest (7 year old boy) at HM. They have a huge selection of things we both agree on and while the clothes wear out quickly compared to more expensive brands, they are inexpensive enough that I'm not constantly following him around making sure he doesn't rip something, jump in any mud puddles, or have any fun.
But I will say, I'm constantly seeking sources and inspiration for other options for him. SO if you see any cute 7 year old boys, ask them where they shop! :)

With my younger two, (3 year old girl and a 1 year old boy) I am building both wardrobes essentially from scratch. Obviously my daughter doesn't have anyone to pass down clothes to her, and my boys were born in different seasons and are wildly different in size, so he hasn't had a lot of hand-me-downs, either. I have no interest in breaking the bank, and loads of interest in cute clothes, so here we are.

Now that you know generally what I am working with and looking for when shopping, let's get to it.

#1. Black Romper
Price: $10.99
Buy Again: MAYBE
Comments: Super soft and cute,  but seems to be made cheaply and there's not an easy way to change a diaper without taking the whole outfit off.

#2. Long Sleeve Dress With Floral Collar
Price: $15.90
Buy Again: YES
Comments: So soft, fits nicely, pairs with any color of tights, and just so adorable! My little girl says it's very comfortable. I washed it, but laid it out to dry in stead of putting it in the dryer, was still soft!

#3. Linen Long Sleeve Dress
Price: $14.90
Buy Again: YES
Comments: The linen leads me to believe I'll be able to pass this one down, and this dress alone may be the biggest motivation to have another girl. Such a sweet dress! Bought it in blue and pink.

#4. Unisex Long Sleeve Playsuit in Dark Green
Price: $6.98
Buy Again: YES
Comments: So soft, washed and dried without any shrinking, inexpensive but will likely be able to be passed down.

#5. Gray Romper
Price: $10.99
Buy Again: MAYBE
Comments: Super soft and cute,  but seems to be made cheaply and there's not an easy way to change a diaper without taking the whole outfit off. (Same romper as #1)

#6. Unisex Romper Sleeveless Orange
Price: $5.97
Buy Again: MAYBE
Comments: I ordered this one on August 24th and it's set to arrive sometime between September 20th and October 12. I'm guessing this is shipping from some overstock yard across the ocean. This is inexpensive enough that I might love it for that reason alone, but I'll have to let you know more when it arrives.

#7. Unisex Romper Sleeveless Navy Blue
Price: $5.97
Buy Again: MAYBE
Comments: Same as #5 just in a different color. I'll keep you posted.

#8. Linen Strap Romper In Gray, Unisex
Price: $6.39
Buy Again: YES
Comments: I was so worried that the straps would break during playtime or in the washing machine but they've held strong! This is so adorable with or without an undershirt and it's inexpensive enough that if it breaks I'll just buy another one. There's not fast access to a diaper change but I just tie the straps in a bow for a quick release which is way better than buttons.

#9. Sleeveless Cotton Romper In White
Price: $7.79
Buy Again: YES
Comments: This ran quite small, especially after washing so I re-ordered the next size up and will use the smaller one on *hopefully* future children. I also tried this one which was almost the exact same thing, and not worth paying the extra $4.

#10. Unisex Cactus Romper
Price: $1.59
Buy Again: YES
Comments: I was skeptical about this one due to the price but if you like this one even a little bit, BUY IT NOW! It's soft, easy, washes well, and totally cute.

#11. Unisex Linen Romper In Blue
Price: $8.50
Buy Again: YES
Comments: This ran small and did shrink a bit in the dryer but the quality seems great, and though it didn't fit my little one for as long as I'd have liked (see the wedgie picture above), I'll absolutely save it for the next babe.

#12. Unisex Linen Romper In Biege 
Price: $8.50
Buy Again: YES
Comments: Same as #11, just a different color. We loved this one for church!

#13. Toddler Mary Janes
Price: $9.99
Buy Again: YES
Comments: These might be my favorite find! The product photo doesn't do them justice, they're much cuter in person and we even easily removed the bow for a look we both were more comfortable with. These have held up nicely and match everything!

#14. Peter Pan Collar Shirt
Price: $14.99
Buy Again: YES
Comments: I should never try to pick favorites because this one is also my favorite! This paired with some tights is so adorable. It's pricier than I'd like for a shirt, but it washes well, wears well, is comfortable, stylish, goes with any bottom, and I bought it in 2 colors because of it!

#15. Short Sleeve Blouse
Price: $7.99
Buy Again: NO
Comments: This was actually my first attempt at buying clothes on Amazon and it wasn't a big success. The shirt ended up being super frumpy and more school-uniform-like than Peter-Pan-Collar-Whimsical like I was hoping. We'll probably see if we can layer it in the fall but will likely end up donating it.

#16. Unisex Lace Knee-High Stockings
Price: $13.99
Buy Again: YES
Comments: These came with 6 colors and I wish they came in my size! We all love these as they are the perfect colors for any outfit. They can be tall enough to wear as tights, or bunches loosely to wear as boot socks or knee-highs. They can be dressed up or dressed down and at roughly $2 a pair, I'm a huge fan!

I literally couldn't think of any other way to share this information, without greatly complicating my thanks for humoring me! Dear AZ is the joint venture of my husband and me, but this little piece of the internet is where I spent years and years documenting things from my point of view. I like that today those two worlds are colliding. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Like Riding A Bike

Collin's traveling for work and after getting the kids in bed, I've sat down on our old yellow couch with our laptop perched on Grandpa Tom's timeless mid-century table to book flights for a girls trip with some high school friends. To me, all of that makes me sound way older than I feel. Furniture that I've owned for more than 5 years, furniture we inherited from people I wish were still here, a business-trip husband, more than one kid, a weekend away from normal life...I guess I really am 30. As I sat down and opened the computer, the muscle memory in my finger tips took over and immediately opened several tabs at once. That's how it was in the olden days of blogging glory. I'd open one tab for my e-mail, typically one tab for my bank account, a tab for Facebook, my own blog, and then I'd check in on my favorite bloggers. I'd always visit the same 5 or so first, and then 3 hours later I'd visited more like 20-30 blogs and by the time I'd finally come up for air I felt both depleted and inspired. Oh those early days of social networking and thoughtful content that was difficult to achieve and maintain (instagram spoils us) but so fabulously entertaining and connecting, were good days. Anyway, tonight I opened the computer, and without consciously deciding to, I pulled up this blog, something I don't think I've done in nearly a year and a half. I've probably already talked about it but this blog sort of died when my dad did. Maybe the more accurate sentiment is that a part of me sort of died when my dad did, only not sort of, it did. But if there's anything I've learned in my life, it's that death is not the end, death is not final nor permanent, and regrowth, resurrection, second chances and trying again are real things that happen to real people and what once was dead doesn't always have to be. To be clear, I don't think this is a come back. It might be. I might make this a habit, this whole blogging thing, but I'm not committing. I'm here writing again, because as I read the last thing I posted on here, it sparked so many emotions. And my overwhelming feelings weren't necessarily caused by what I was reading, but rather by how I felt when I tried to remember why I used to write. I love writing. I love sharing (on my own terms). I love expressing, releasing, and putting things in their place. I REALLY love putting things in their place. And I think I may have been spending these last few years wondering where the place is for all of my thoughts, feelings, and words, and I think this is the place for them. I think I really liked the idea of my blog gaining attention and recognition and whatnot in years gone by. And I don't think that's bad, maybe it's something I would strive for again in the future. But right now, probably for the first time ever in regards to blogging, that couldn't matter less. I feel like I just want a place for my feelings to land. Maybe I'll never show up here again, but tonight, being here, writing here, feels like coming home.

I suppose future me will want some details, and current me liked the way past me outlined the essentials in my last post, so I think I'll do that again. So here comes a year and a half's worth of life experience condensed into however many bullet points worth of things I can remember.

Collin took a job at Boon.
He has also been teaching 1 class at ASU each semester and loves it.
In January 2017 I had a baby boy. We named him Martin Jack.
Martin for obvious reasons, Jack after Uncle Jack Eagar (who wasn't actually my uncle at all), after several Jacks on the Wright side of the family, and after Hulen Jack who taught me some good life lessons.
Mellee grew up. She's only 3 now (as of last week) but she's every ounce of human perfection in a 3 year old body.
Nolan. Well, I typed his name and then sat in silence with my eyes full of tears and getting all choked up and I can't really even put my finger on exactly why. Nolan is a walking miracle. He's strong, loyal, fierce, he's just full of life. He challenges me. But he loves me, and boy do I love him.
Me...well, I am a full-time mom. I take very little time for anything else and that has begun to show in my stature, my self-confidence, my wardrobe, my intelligence, and my energy. And though it's cliche to say it, I wouldn't change it. I mean, I'd change some of it (my stature and a few other things) but I wouldn't change it if it meant I had to pick a different job or spend my days with different people. I love my people, I love my job. It's hard and it has (and will continue to) left its mark, but I love it.
We are still active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This, to some, would seem obvious and not worth noting but to me it is something to celebrate and saying it makes me feel triumphant. I've battled trails of faith, I've battled testimony break downs, I've battled watching dear friends leave the church which impacted me way more than I thought it should, so I took some time to do some serious searching and some sincere questioning. And after it all, we are still here. It is still true. Jesus is still The Christ. Are there things I don't understand? YES! There are things I don't understand, things I don't agree with, people who have truly been hurt and wrongs have been done. I don't ever want to discount that, or the experiences of others. But I can say with full confidence that for me, for my family, we will serve The Lord. We are here, we will be here. As I once heard a dear sister say, "I've been out and I've been in, and in is better". Oh how I agree.
We still live in Arizona. A few months ago we took inventory of our belongings and realized we really owned very little that we absolutely NEEDED and/or LOVED. So we got rid of loads and loads and loads of stuff and moved into the "casita" attached to Dustin and Kylee's new build. We live on Fairview Street with Troy and Crystal, Ed and Linda, and Dustin and Kylee. We are about a 15 minute drive to Bryan and Karen's and we see Mom often. Arizona is hot and an architectural drag, but being near family makes up for it.
Sherrod and Sarah moved to Eagar. I was surprised at how much relief that brought me. Sherrod worked down here a lot so we see him often, too.
I miss my oldest brothers but have hopes that summer or autumn will bring us together.
As we've moved nearly 20 times in our 10 years of marriage, it has fascinated me to see which of my relationships last the test of time and distance. I don't fault anyone for the ones who don't, and I don't feel any less grateful for them. But in each place we've lived, we've come away with a handful of people I can't imagine my life without, even though most of them are people we never see, and frankly rarely talk to. But some how that bond still holds, the connection isn't lost, and they still bring value to my life. I couldn't possibly name everybody, but to list a few, Laura from Racine, Nikki and Lo and Myriah and Skyler and Brandon from Chicago, Amy and Lindsay and Uncle Charlie from Kansas, and going back even further, John and Lara from Tempe, Markee and Tami and Kim and Hilary and Jayde from Eagar. It's just remarkable to think about the last time I've seen these people (most of them it's been years) and somehow I still thrive off of their friendship and the lessons they've taught me.

Sheesh. Those bullet points turned into essays. But this was good. For me, anyway, this was good.

I just clicked back to finish buying tickets for my girls trip and my session had expired. Something about that is satisfying. I pushed pause on the to-do list and did something else, and that feels therapeutic. So maybe I'll save myself the $85 and change the name of my blog to Ashlee's Therapy Sessions and see you back here next week. And by "you", I think I just mean me...and that feels good, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Summer 2016

It's been a while since I've written over here, and I'd probably be fooling myself if I thought that it wouldn't be a while before I write again. But, here I am, nonetheless. Mostly because too many wonderful and crazy things have happened to go undocumented, and to document our summer in a facebook post would have to go down as the most obnoxious use of the limitless characters rules ever. So, here I am, back to the blog I haven't seen in over a year, and here with a lame attempt to update just the last few months because heaven knows I can't remember an entire year's worth of stuff.

Summer 2016 started off with us leaving Kansas City and heading back to our roots in Arizona. The move was less than expected, though we were grateful for the amount of time we did have to prepare to leave what are surely some of the dearest friends and family of our lives. Living in KC taught me about mommy friends, and friend friends, and church friends, and the unwavering and outrageously spoiled love of an Uncle Charlie and an Aunt Annie. So to say leaving was hard would be an understatement. Perhaps the only thing that made it okay was knowing that on the other side of that 18 hour drive were our parents, lots of our siblings, and a plethora of cousins for our littles. The emotions attached to the events that happened leading up to, and following our departure from KC are many, so in effort to keep this readable by future me, I'll just quickly give a run down of the chain of events. Let it be known that with each nutty and seemingly impossible thing that happened, there was ALWAYS a miracle attached. Here goes.

Two days before we left, Mellee came down with Hand Foot Mouth.
The day before we left, we realized tons of our stuff wouldn't fit in our shipping container.
We quickly sold as much as we could and left what was left with friends, (thank you Harmons!!)
On moving day we put what hadn't sold on the curb for free, and drove away.
We stopped at a fertility clinic and transferred an embryo (with instructions not to sit, lift, or stress).
Got about 4 hours out of town and Collin got violently sick.
We quickly stopped and got a hotel, Collin got worse, not better.
The next morning I got in the driver's seat, we said a prayer, and took off.
Collin was rapidly, and visibly deteriorating, and we didn't know why.
We stopped in Albuquerque and put him on a plane to Phoenix to have his parents get him to the ER.
I proceeded to do a lot of stressing, lifting, and sitting.
I drove the kids the rest of the way by myself to my mom's house in AZ.
Collin made it to the hospital and after several days found out he was bleeding internally.
He had lost half of his blood supply and was admitted to the ICU.
I left the kids with my mom and drove to Phoenix to be with Collin.
While in the hospital I took a pregnancy test to see if the IVF had worked.
Do to the stress, sitting, and lifting, I'll admit I had low hopes.
The test was positive. I was pregnant.
The hole in Collin's esophagus healed, he received a blood transfusion, and over time recovered.
We got the kids, moved in with Collin's parents and Collin started looking for a job in AZ.
Instead, he was offered a wonderful opportunity for a summer gig in Chicago.
A week later we packed up and drove the 24 hours back to the midwest. 
I started getting sick, very, very sick. Pregnant, indeed.
We spent the next 2 months moving from one AIRBNB to another. 
We got to see Jaron and Shelly in Wisconsin and old friends from Racine. Amazing.
We got to drive to South Dakota for a Martin family reunion.
It was time for Nolan to start kindergarten, so we packed up and headed back west.
We stopped in KC and picked up the stuff we'd left earlier that summer and got to see old friends.
We got in one last squeeze with Uncle Charlie and Aunt Annie.
We drove back to AZ. 
We arrived in AZ just in time to get a lunchbox, backpack, and a few school supplies.
Nolan started school with 7 of his first cousins at the same school.
I started experiencing brutal pain and was certain I was miscarrying. 
We rushed to the ER only to find out I had kidney stones. What a relief!
We moved into Coll's sister's back house and Nolan plays every day with cousins. 
I get to go to lunch with my brothers any time I want!
We get to make the short 3.5 hour drive to see my mom, vs. the 15 hour drive it used to be. 
Collin teaches design at ASU.
After being pretty sure I was pregnant for 16 week, we finally decided I should see an OB.
The ultrasound confirmed my pregnancy and told us that it's a boy. We are thrilled!

Life has now slowed down for us substantially, and looking back on the crazy summer of 2016, the events above certainly remain with me, but what stands out even more are the miracles we saw over and over again, the prayers we felt every step up the way, and how obvious it was that The Lord's hand was in every bit of our journey. Collin knocked on death's door, I kept a pregnancy that was a miracle in the first place and then should have easily not lasted given our circumstances, the kids have overall been healthy and have adjusted well, and life is just really, really good. 

We are so looking forward to continuing to settle down here, make more memories, and to make Arizona our home again. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Mellee Smith was born on March 19, 2015 a little before 8pm and though she was but little, she was fierce...just as Shakespeare put it.

Before I go into a little more detail about this little girl and her somewhat dramatic entrance into this beautiful world, I have to express some of the bitter feelings I felt, during what were surely some of the sweetest of my life. I am surrounded by people that I love that were expecting babies, or were at least expecting to be pregnant during the same time our Mellee was due, and my heart ached for those who weren't holding their babies, as I was holding mine. Mellee is a miracle from heaven and I will never take her for granted, because I know how many people hope and pray and wish for their own babies. Infertility is so real, so hard, so painful, and I wish and pray with all my heart that those who are praying for their own miracles will receive them. I never thought I'd have one baby, much less two, and our own experiences with infertility have helped me see my children for the blessings that they are, but our experiences have also made me so keenly aware of those of you who are in the midst of the dark times of infertility. I pray the light finds you soon.

I also can't go on without mentioning the feelings I have for Nolan's birth mom, Makenzie. We loved her from the moment we met her, but I never loved her more than the moment after I held my Mellee and then suddenly imagined myself handing her over to somebody else. All birth moms, but ours in particular, deserve the utmost respect and love. What they do and have done, and the selflessness they live by, has never felt more real to me and I love Makenzie more today than I ever have before! 

And one more brief interjection that has little to do with all the "good stuff"... for anybody who was wondering, her name is pronounced precisely how it is spelled: Mel-lee, or if you prefer: Mell-ee. Rhymes with jelly.

So our little Mellee girl...she is a product of a successful round of in vetro fertilization. Everything about my pregnancy was right on track, things were looking normal and fine, with the only minor concern being that I threw up (with a few glorious exceptions) every single day of my pregnancy, and therefore lost a lot of weight. This was never a huge concern, but at about 32 weeks, Mellee suddenly stopped growing. The doctor was relatively unconcerned at first, but as the weeks passed and growth didn't happen, he grew more and more worried, and became extremely proactive. I had ultrasound after ultrasound, test after test, and finally at just shy of 39 weeks, my doctor said "if we can't fatten her up on the inside, let's get her out here and fatten her up on the outside". I called my mom, who wasn't scheduled to fly in for another week, and we rearranged her flight schedule. She came the next day, and we had a couple of days to nest together before I went in to be induced.

My induction went, I'm assuming, as most do. There was a lot of discomfort, a lot of watching the clock, praying for time to pass and progress to happen, and then (though it was nearly 24 hours later) it seemed like in the blink of an eye we were right in the middle of having a baby. Because the doctor was worried that she would be so small (he predicted around 4-5 pounds) there was a plethora of staff at the ready to do whatever needed to be done. That brought so much comfort. As Mellee finally entered this life, the cord was wrapped around her neck, and they whisked her away without me even getting to catch a glimpse of her. I remember crying and asking over and over again if she was okay, and then I heard her cry, followed by the miraculous announcement that she weighed over 6 pounds! I will never be able to describe the relief that both of those things brought. My doctor quickly joked "I'm glad I didn't make you carry for 40 weeks". After what seemed like a life-time, they brought me my baby and every single worry, fear, concern, heartache, and pain was washed away in that very instance. I knew she was okay, I knew she'd be okay, and I knew, for absolutely certain that every bit of her life, from the first fertility treatment until that moment was a blessing from God, and direct answer to prayers. My testimony of Heavenly Father grew in that moment in a way I'd never experienced before. I was holding an answer to a prayer.

We took our time, actually we took until pretty much the last second, to decide on her name. But in the end, we knew she was Mellee. The truth is that even thought we explored other names, she had always been Mellee. Each part, every letter of her name has meaning to us. Mel comes from Collin's grandma Melba who he loved and spent precious time with as a teenager, some of my favorite stories are about her and I loved to hear Collin talk about her. She was strong, and brave, and creative, and adventurous, and she thought out of the box and was independent and those are all qualities we hope our Mellee will have, too. The lee part of her name comes from my dad, who was Robert Lee. It's his 'lee' that gives me the 'lee' in Ashlee and I wanted my Mellee to have it, too. My dad was kind, and non-judgmental, and quick to forgive and even quicker with a joke, and he was compassionate and loyal and respectful and a true believer in Christ, and these, too, are things we wish for our girl. The double 'L' matches Collin's name and if there's anything I truly hope for my daughter, it's that she'll take after her daddy in every way. He is pure and wise and loving and humble and if she's anything like him, she will soar.

These last 2 weeks have been reminiscent of the last few weeks before she was born. She is still having trouble growing, and we have seen more doctors in her short life than Nolan has seen in his almost 4 years of life! She will grow, I know she will, but it will be a slow process. However, if there's one thing I've learned in this process, it's that prayers are answered.

Some of the highlights of these past few weeks that I never want to forget have been:
Aunt Annie and Uncle Charlie flying my best friend/cousin, Markee, in to meet Mellee
My mom coming for 3 weeks and the peace it brought to have her here
My baby shower being rescheduled because of sister's early arrival
The prayers and fasting of our dear ones, some of whom I've never even met (Mrs. Patty!)
Experiencing labor, giving birth, and nursing a baby ... all things I never thought I'd do
Watching Nolan beautifully fill his role as big brother
A box of love from my sweet friends in Wisconsin
Feeling my heart grow big enough to love another child as much as I love Nolan
Watching Collin hold his daughter
Seeing my dad in my daughter ... she has his chin, his coloring, and his dark hair
The outpouring of love from family, friends, and neighbors
Collin counting me through my contractions (except for that one time;) )

I know I'm forgetting so much. The sleep deprivation is real! But so is the magic. I feel blessed beyond measure. 

She's here. She's here. She's here!!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On Being Pregnant

I feel like before I share a bit of our story, I need to preface it with a couple of things, things that I don't really know how to say, and I know I'll publish this post and later on wish I would have said it differently or better, but here it is from my heart. First of all, there's a part of me that will always feel like a betrayer for having Nolan and being pregnant. I know that sounds weird, but some of my dearest friends are those women who have stood by me and who I have stood with as we have looked infertility in the eyes and faced it head on together. And some of those women are still looking at infertility head on, with no babies in sight, and here I am with not just one, but two babies. This doesn't mean I'm not grateful, I could never be grateful enough, but this also doesn't mean that I've forgotten you or what it feels like to deal with infertility. You are brave and strong, and I will continue to stand by your side as you wish for babies that I know will come, but haven't yet. Secondly, I know that some people go through fertility treatments time and time again and are never successful. I pray for you and won't ever forget you, and will continue to stand by your side, too. My greatest treasure in life is being a mom, but my dearest friends and those who were my greatest supporters were my fellow infertiles and you were my first bits of hope and strength. You're not alone, and I still got yo back.

In 2011 when we had the absolute perfect experience being placed with Nolan, and when everything from falling in love with his birth mom, Makenzie to holding him for the first time and bringing him home, went so impeccably well, we were so satisfied, so fulfilled and so certain that if we never had another baby, it wouldn't matter. Nolan was all we needed and we couldn't have ever, ever been happier! Fast forward to 2014 and we still felt the exact same way, Nolan fulfilled every single hope and dream and idea that we had about being parents and having the most beautiful life, but something told us that maybe we weren't all Nolan needed. There's just something about a little boy needing a brother or a sister that got us thinking about the possibility of adding another baby to our family.

We were terrified, because Nolan's adoption was so seamless that we were just certain that nothing could ever go that smoothly again, and so starting the whole process all over again was a little daunting, to say the least. But after much fasting and praying and after a bunch of random (or not so random) questions from Nolan about babies and brothers and sisters, we decided to try again for a baby. Our path lead us to adoption, which just felt so natural and familiar and incredibly exciting. I mentioned a little bit about this story before here but in a nut shell, we thought we had a baby and the birth mother changed her mind, and though there was a moment of "well that stinks" we knew without question that this was the right thing and that her sweet baby wasn't our sweet baby. So next, in a pretty crazy chain of events that, frankly, felt really scary and unfamiliar and surprised us both, we found ourselves pursuing fertility options, something we hadn't done in 6 years. Six years ago we closed that door, and it was a bit strange to open it again, but we knew it was right, we knew it was what our Heavenly Father wanted us to do, and so we went for it.

We went through the entire process, from start to finish, all over again. Testing, retesting, uncomfortable conversations with genetic counselors and informative conversations with amazing doctors, and finally, again, the diagnosis, which was not easier to hear the second time around, but fortunately, not as big of a blow the second time around, either. We learned a lot of new details but the bottom line was still the same, you will never have babies on your own, and the only way you will ever get pregnant is through In Vetro Fertilization, and not the normal kind, the most precise, expensive, delicate, and tricky kind (it's called ICSI, if you're interested in Googling it).

We went home, processed a bit, called our insurance (which covered a whole bunch of our process which can only be noted as Miracle 3,548), did some more fasting and praying, and knew that this was the right step for us.

The road through In Vetro is incredible. The fact that there is such an unbelievable process and procedure that works, still blows my mind. But to be completely honest, the road isn't that pretty. It involved giving myself lots of injections, and Collin giving me lots of injections, and plenty of weight gain, and feeling exhausted, and then there was the time when I was allergic to some of the medication I took and I passed out and woke up  with several doctors hovering over me, and yada yada yada, like I say, not a particularly pretty road. And then there were the mood changes. Oh the blessed mood changes, which left me with only one things to say: bless my dear sweet angel of a husband. However, despite all of the ugly parts of the journey, there was a light, and a pretty bright one, at the end of that tunnel.

We had no idea what to expect after trying In Vetro, we certainly had no idea if we should anticipate pregnancy, so we tried to go in with high hopes but low expectations.

I'll never forget the moment I got the phone call from the nurse (Bridget) with the news that I was pregnant. I was at Jaron and Shelly's house, I saw that the nurse was calling, I ran outside, got the news, came back in, and lied through my teeth so that I could tell Collin before anybody else. :) Bridget was so nice. When she said, "you're pregnant" I immediately started questioning her and she laughed and said, "Ashlee, you are pregnant" to which I replied "I've just never heard those words before". It was surreal, exciting, and I couldn't wait to tell Collin.

The rest is sort of history. Our family has said endless amounts of prayers of gratitude and thanks, we've done plenty of belly patting and name discussing and all of the things that I dreamed we would be able to do some day. And aside from being terribly sick (ER visits, throwing up all day every day, losing 16 pounds (what!!!)) these last 12 weeks have been some of the most wonderful of my life.

I will never take pregnancy for granted. I will never forget what it feels like not to be pregnant. I'm also pretty sure I will never forget what it feels like to be pregnant, and for that, I could truly, never be grateful enough.

We are excited, feeling blessed beyond measure, and I have high hopes that as I start feeling a little less sick, maybe my blogging frequency will increase. Don't hold your breath. :)

***I'm not a huge fan of public thanksgiving because I'm notorious for forgetting somebody or leaving something out, but I can't not say what I'm about to say, so please know, if I leave somebody or something out, it's not because I'm not grateful, it's because I'm an idiot. :) There have been sick days these last several weeks where I literally could not stand up, much-less feed my family, and in those times of need my freezer has been filled with breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for my family, with magical smoothies for me that kept me from withering away, my fridge was always full of something from somebody, neighbors have watched and/or offered to watch Nolan, people have had Collin over for dinner, friends and family have called/texted/emailed/messaged or dropped by. Friends have mowed, the youth have weeded and tended to our yard. I've had my own, personal, on-call Meals on Wheels driver, who also happens to be the leader of our congregation here in Racine, and undoubtedly had 1,000 other things to do. I've had my dear dear friend literally feed my family every day for weeks, make belly bands so I don't have to wear uncomfortable clothes, send over anti-nausia food, and check on me every single day without fail. People have offered to clean, or cook, or just be here with me, and though the list could go on, I'll stop there because my hormones make me cry when I talk about stuff like this. But before I completely finish, I HAVE to say thank you to my boys. Nolan has been so patient and so loving, and Collin has taken over my roles and never complained once. I am so blessed and SO THANKFUL FOR YOU!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014


Collin spent 2 weeks over seas and when he got back he took the week off so we could spend time as a little family. We decided to go camping, partly because a whole entire year ago Mama and Papa Smith gave Collin camping gear for his graduation, and a year later we still hadn't used it, and partly because a few days with no cell service, no people, and no computers sounded like heaven especially after not having seen each other for 2 weeks. So...we went camping. And while we were there, our little 2 year old decided to turn himself into a 3 year old. We spent the day doing what I think every little boy should do on his 3rd birthday, fishing from a row boat, throwing rocks in the lake, running on the beach, eating cake straight from the pan, and running in the woods getting really, really dirty. I hope that being 3 is awesome for him, because being mommy to that 3 year old is the best thing in the world. 

**It should be known that I was approximately 90% opposed to camping before we went, and a full-fledged 100%  fan by the time we drove home. I think this means we'll go camping again, I hope soon! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ride On

We have this really amazing hill right out our front door and we have this low to the ground bike/car toy that can handle adults and kids alike, and really, I can't think of a better combo. So, I give to you…Ride On. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thoughts on trying to have a baby

I have a pretty amazing life, really I do. It's the kind of life where I wake up in the morning, open up my Gospel Library app on my phone, read a few versus of the good word, roll over on to the floor and say a heart-felt, generally not particularly rushed, good morning prayer. After that stuff I look at my calendar, see what the day has in store, and then as long as I show up to the right place at the right time, or call the person who needs to be called, or make what needs to be made, all the while giving as much possible attention to the two boys who make my world go round, I deem it a pretty perfect day. Nothing too incredibly pressing, never anything too dramatic, always lots of fort-building type activities and always a lot a lot a lot of apples and peanut butter. I drop Collin off at work with a kiss and a hug, and if ever he's too rushed or heaven forbid I'm not in the mood, Nolan yells "HUG" and "TISS" at the top of his lungs until the three of us have sufficiently squozen and smooched each other, which I know is essential to Nolan being able to call his day a success. We greet our daddy at the end of the day with everything the song was made of, always including but never limited to a hug around the neck, a kiss on the cheek, and some definite knee-climbing. Dinner is usually simple, delicious, and full of "today this happened" and "let's please don't spit our food out" and plenty of toddler burps (maybe my favorite and least favorite thing at the exact same time). Then it's bath time with daddy and kitchen clean up time for this girl, and then we usually top our day off with some sort of screen time before we sing a stirring rendition of 'Book of Mormon Stories' which naturally leads to reading said stories, and then it's prayers, a book, sometimes a song, and goodnight. It wouldn't be for everybody, but for me it's a pretty perfect life. 
And believe it or not, that entire paragraph up there ^^ was a precursor to a whole horrific account of how despite my perfectly happy life I still long for what I can't have…which is a tale as old as time and generally includes bigger houses or skinner thighs or all expenses paid vacations or maybe shopping sprees. But for me, all the bedrooms in the world, all the legs for days and sandy beaches and every stitch of clothing in the world is not what I long for. For me….it's babies. Plain and simple. A house full of children to chase and tickle and kiss and love. That's what I want. And that's what I can't have. Or at least, not yet. And you know what, it's not because we haven't tried, because dear sweet heavens have we ever tried. 
There was this one time, earlier this year, when we thought we had been chosen by a birth mother so I called up our local theater and told them "I can not thank you enough for offering me a role in the upcoming show Les Mis (my favorite, and a dream come true!) but I can not accept, because a birth mom has chosen to place her baby with us during the time the show is running". The director was SO thrilled for us, and so understanding and it was all lovely. Then, a short while later, we found out the birth mother picked a different family instead. 
***THIS IS IMPORTANT*** I feel 100% confident that that baby boy was not ours and that the sweet birth mother made the right choice and that baby boy will go to the perfect family for him. I am not devastated, heartbroken, angry, resentful, hurt, nor do I feel betrayed, letdown or lied to. 

But we did get to add one more event to our list that we call 'Ways We've Tried To Have A Baby That Have Failed'. Then there are fertility treatments, those money sucking, body mutilating, marriage testing treatments, in which I turn into somebody I'm not, all the while Collin wonders where his wife has gone, Nolan thinks Mommy has lost her mind, and I can see all of it unfolding right before my eyes with limited to no ability to stop. the. crying. And all of these treatments are dependent on so many things that are out of our control, the least of which is a demanding work schedule, the most of which is, well, our bodies. It's a lot, this whole wanting to have a baby and not being able to thing. A really lot. 
And on the days when I see a newborn baby, or (and especially) on the days when it's so blasted obvious that Nolan could SOOOO benefit from a sibling (we're talking only-child spoils, and limited ability based on limited necessity to share, and most of all this thing I've never seen in a child his age where he sees a baby and can't help but gravitate towards it, this kid LOVES babies) it hurts my heart beyond belief that I can't just ask Collin to come home early from work one day and then walllahhh, 9 months later gift Nolan with the sibling of his dreams. And then, beyond (and way less important) than all that, is the fact that we went a little overboard when we moved out of the city and purchased a home for 3 that was intended for 10 and all day long I'm walking past empty bedrooms and lonely cribs and little tiny baby blankets that are just sitting there…waiting. I think it was yesterday that I said to my love, in a moment of frustration and slight rage, "why do we even waste the money to live in this house if we only need 2 bedrooms? Let's just move!"…which was clearly a rational thought because in the middle of a mini-breakdown that is mostly hormone induced and doesn't have a clear end in sight, moving is definitely the answer, the perfect answer. 

Anyways, despite all this negative rambling and (as I'm sure I'll discover when I read this in a week) ample over-sharing, there is a point to this…story? Is this a story? I don't know…but the point, the point is this….we are trying, my goodness are we ever trying. We are trying to do things right, not just baby stuff but all this life stuff…we're just, trying to get it right. We're trying to make the best decisions. We're trying to teach Nolan the best stuff. We're trying to be thankful for what we have and not sad for what we don't have. And by George, we are trying to have a baby. I think we'll have one, though I'm not 100% certain, and I think it will be a girl, though I'm way less than 100% certain, and I think Nolan and she won't be 10 years apart, though right now that wouldn't surprise me. 

BUT, with all of this trying and failing and this overwhelming uncertainty, a few things have become increasingly clear to me. If we never have another child, (particularly a tiny little girl in the next year or so, like I'm dreaming of) we will be okay. We will make it out of this roller coaster called life, okay. If Nolan Smith is the only child I ever have, I will never feel cheated or robbed or like my life as a mother was wasted because being a mom to this miracle boy of mine IS ENOUGH. It is more than enough. This little almost 3 year old was the last piece to my puzzle, the one who made me "Mommy", the one who taught me more in 2 years than anything I learned in college. And if he's the only child we ever get to do life with, that is okay. More than okay, really. Because when I think about his story, and Makenzie, and the people that love him, and the way he holds my hand, and the way he dances when a record comes on, and the way he runs to me after a nap, and the mischievous smile in his eyes, it's okay, it's all okay, every single thing…is okay. 

But….we're still going to keep trying. 
^^^Photos from a family fishing trip we took a few weekends back. I thought documenting the day my heart exploded from the cuteness that is a little boy + a homemade fishing pole was a decent idea. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Larry E. grandpa

It's sort of mind-blowing that just a little over a month ago I posted this about our grandpas and less than two weeks later one of those good men was gone from this earth. My Grandpa, Larry Elton Sherwood, passed away March 22, 2014. (You can read his obituary here). Grandpa Sherwood was something different to everyone, but he was something to everyone. I've loved, so much, hearing all of the things that he was to so many people; patriarch, cow-hand, bishop, boss, employee, friend, etc. and I am so grateful for what he was and is to me. 

Grandpa is a flood of memories for me, starting from a very young age, all the way until 2 weeks before he passed when I got to hang out with him for a couple weeks. That's 26 years of inspiration, motivation, example, and love I got to have from that man. What a blessing. I've learned from the passing of my dad that writing down memories and referring back to them often is a crucial part of healing and moving forward, so that's what I'm going to do now, share some of my sweetest memories of my grandpa. 
I don't ever want to forget:
Lying in bed on a Saturday morning and hearing the doorbell ring followed by a loud "Are you gonna sleep all day?" which was generally preceded by some form of cuss word, most often the "h" word. :)

Sitting between gramps and Uncle Rolf on our way to who knows where, stealing a sip of Diet Coke from Uncle Rolf's giant Maverick mug and then a sip of Grandpa's DP from his giant Maverick mug. 

Running out to open the big white gate at the farm and it being too heavy, so I'd wait on the bottom pipe of the gate until Gramps would lift it open and then push that gate out nice and hard so I could get a good swinging ride on it before I had to jump off and get back in the pick up. 
My first time butchering with Grandpa. I can still remember being absolutely blown away by the whole thing, from realizing what a chore this really was, to recognizing that this was a labor of love that was going to feed an entire family for a long time. 
Watching Gramps shoot a hog not long before he "retired" from butchering and being so incredibly impressed and proud to call the man that just nailed a hog dancing around in the back of a horse trailer directly between the eyes from what had to be 50 yards away, my grandpa...and my 85 year old grandpa, at that. (I think it was about 8 years ago)
Trying on a dress that only had one sleeve and while Mom was pinning and tucking, Grandpa walked in, with blood all over his hands (from butchering) and asked for a plastic bag, which I thought was going to be for some butchering purpose, he then proceeded to wrap the bag around the arm without a sleeve and said, "that's better". Needless to say I did not ever wear that dress, nor did I ever wear anything sleeveless ever again. 

Watching Grandpa hurt and cry for us when my dad passed away. He would have traded places with my dad in a second but that wasn't the plan and he picked himself and us up by the bootstraps and kept on keeping on. 

Sitting on top of the chute looking over with over-sized anticipation, waiting for that dead silent, yet deafening head nod which meant "pull", and then watching him rope a steer in nothing flat! Pulling chutes for Grandpa and Uncle Floyd at The Martin Place made me feel like a queen, I seriously felt so honored!
And speaking of an honor, I remember the first time I was handed a hot shot and asked to go move some cows. I felt like I had finally made it in life! (I was probably 8)

Sitting 3 or 4 cousins high on that old pink and tan flowery couch in the living room waiting for our Fast Sunday FHE to start and trying to look away pretending that I wasn't completely thrilled at the prospect of being asked to play the piano for our opening song while Markee led, but I was completely thrilled, and he asked every time and it made my day every time. 

Grandpa asking Markee and me to play and lead at our private family viewing for Grandma, I felt so grateful for the opportunity. Grandpa was ALWAYS giving me opportunities to shine and experience honor and responsibility. 

The advice he gave Collin when he was trying to decided which job to take a few months back. He said, "if getting up to go to work is a chore, you'll get stuck, but if you like getting up and going to a job you enjoy, you'll do better at it, you'll be better at it, and you'll be able to move ahead." Grandpa always worked, and he always enjoyed it, even the less-enjoyable stuff. 
When I wrote a song for Grandma after she died, Grandpa came in and said, "well where's mine?" I spent about a month writing a song for him that was in the same key as Grandma's and then I spent about another month joining the two songs together into one piece that I thought musically represented the love my grandparents' shared and the way they complemented and completed each other. I played it for Grandpa a few months later and he said, "you'll play that at my funeral". (Thank the HEAVENS I didn't have to, and thank the HEAVENS he was kidding. Also, thank the heavens my sweet Aunt Tina played at his funeral because it was truthfully the most beautiful piano solo I've ever heard. In fact, I hadn't shed a tear until her solo).  He didn't die for over 10 more years! I play it often when I miss my grandma and now my grandpa. 

Grandpa coming to my mom's house declaring that he'd left his glasses somewhere and we needed to go find them, so naturally I headed toward the driver's seat, given that the 92 year old didn't have his glasses, but he insisted on driving and I don't remember ever having more fun! 

Watching him handle a dutch-oven like it was his baby, and coming out with perfect biscuits every single time, because even if they were a little burnt, since Grandpa made them, they were perfect. 

Seeing him manage and maintain the reunion place to make sure it was always ready for the family.
When he took me on a DQ date once while Mom was doing paperwork and Nolan was sleeping. It was just Grandpa and me. I tried to pay, and he nipped that in the bud right away. He bought us lunch and a treat and we just sat in DQ visiting. To be honest, we didn't talk much, Grandpa didn't talk just to talk, I remember him keeping quiet until something profound needed to be said, but that lunch is one of my sweetest memories. 
The summer my dad was sick, and the summer after, and for several weeks this year, I got to spend uninterrupted time in Eagar, as an adult with a different perspective on life, and I got to be around grandpa for months at a time knowing that he wouldn't be around forever and wanting to learn every possible thing I could from him. I kept a notebook all summer long of the things he taught me. Everything from how old his oldest cow was to where he bought his bull. He knew how many cows and calves he had and he taught me when to sell them and what is a good price. I look at the notebook and remember riding in the Kubota with Nolan between us, and Nolan doing the cattle call and Grandpa cracking up. I remember Grandpa not even being able to step out of the truck because his cows were so close he couldn't move. They'd reach right up and lick him and eat out of his hands. They loved him just as much as he loved them. 
I want to remember the way Grandpa knew everybody and something about them. I want to remember the way he treated my mom and his kids. I want to remember Christmas shopping with Grandpa around town. I want to remember doing corn, and shelling peas, and fishing in the pond, the smell of branding, his determined and pointed walk that got slower overtime but NEVER lost purpose. I want to remember the way he looked after a fresh hair cut. I want to remember sitting next to him during church and him letting me play with his watch. I want to remember his hands, his worn, strong, hard-working, never-idle, sun-spotted, wrinkled, serving hands. I want to remember that he called me Matilda and sis and Ash, and I want to remember that he called Collin 'Collins'. I want to remember that he never called Nolan by his name but always by some other heart-felt yet slightly spicey (and always situationally appropriate) name. I want to remember how tightly he hugged my mom when she brought my dad home from the hospital, they hadn't seen each other in about a month and I think that might have been the longest in their whole lives. I want to remember his funeral and the horse-drawn wagon lead by 3 of his best cowboy friends. I want to remember the wonderful people who showed up to support and show love. I want to remember the honor it was to carry Grandpa's casket and the tribute it was to watch my cousins lower his casket into the ground with roping ropes. I want to remember his hat and his spurs, his horse Annie, and all the horses that came before her. 
I want to remember so many things about my grandpa but if I only get to remember one thing, I hope it's this:

My Grandpa was all of the things I talked about above, a dad, a brother, a son, an uncle, and grandpa, a friend, a bishop, a patriarch, a cowboy, a team roper, a butcher, a teacher, a peace-maker and a leader, but FIRST AND FOREMOST my grandpa was follower of Christ and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That always came first. ALWAYS. And if I never get to live on a ranch and use the notebook full of cattle-herding knowledge he gave me, and if I never get to grow a garden or sip water from a rusty old ladle again, and if I never get to do one other thing that my grandpa taught me to do, that will be okay with me, as long as I follow his example and never let my faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ waver. He was perfect in his testimony and I want that to be what I carry with me in this life.

I will forever be grateful to have had Larry Sherwood as my grandpa.