Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Learning More ASL

It's so fun when signing with your little one sparks a desire to learn more American Sign Language. I was hooked after learning the alphabet and a few songs from my Kindergarten teacher! One of the reasons I picked Biola for my undergrad was because they offered ASL courses to meet my foreign language requirement. One of my good friends and I had so much fun doing "silent" coffee dates to practice signing together. :)

If you're looking for a way to learn more beyond Baby Signing Time, there are a lot of options...

1) You can check out a local community college. The benefit here is being able to see the signs and practice them in person. If your professor is deaf or teaches with their "voice off," you get more of an "immersion" experience. You're able to see many peoples' signing styles, and can be corrected if you're signing something wrong without meaning to. You can ask questions, get feedback, and even learn more about deaf culture in your area. Plus, you'll likely be challenged with assignments that get you out of your comfort zone by visiting deaf events in your area so you can REALLY practice. :) (Deaf people are incredibly gracious and friendly--and are happy to see hearing people learning their language--so you don't have to worry about striking up a conversation!)

2) Take a course online. Right now I'm taking a course through Signing Online for my Advanced Signing Time Instructor certification. (I'm currently certified to teach 0-5 year olds, but this "upgrade" will allow me to teach all ages, as well as train teachers on how to teach and use ASL in their classrooms.) The lessons are quick, and my 4 1/2 year old daughter daughter even loves doing the quizzes with me. They're $75 per course, and they can count for high school or college credits. I like that I can do these during Ellie's quiet times or after she's in bed, and can learn ASL in my pajamas!

3) Utilize the many resources available to you. One of my favorite websites is LifePrint. It's run by Dr. Bill Vicars, an ASL professor at California State University, and it has a wealth of information and resources on signs, ASL grammar, and deaf culture. You can start with his First 100 Signs, or jump right into his 30 FREE lessons!  

The other resource I of course LOVE for learning to sign on your own is Signing Time! Yes, the episodes and songs are designed for 1-8 year olds, but that just means they're easy to learn from! :) Get that library card if you don't have one already, and search for Signing Time DVDs in your local library's online catalog. That way you can place the different volumes on hold to pick up at your nearest library. (You can also purchase favorite episodes from me, but the library is a great way to "try before you buy.") Note that there are 13 volumes in Series 1, and 13 volumes in Series 2, and they can be watched in any order (though I'd recommend sticking to Series 1 first and then moving to Series 2). Also, some PBS stations are still airing Signing Time (depending on where you live), and Series 2 currently has clips on Netflix!  And don't forget you can get Series 1 Volume 13 for free--just scroll to the bottom of this post for the link!

*Hint: Check out the Signing Time Progress Charts or the Buyer's Guide to find which signs are taught in each volume.

Once you've learned the 1,000+ vocabulary signs taught in the Signing Time episodes, you can learn ASL grammar from their new series, Signing Time Sentences! The first volume teaches you how to introduce yourself in ASL, ask questions, how to fingerspell, use classifiers, and a bunch more. I love how Hopkins the Frog rearranges English sentences on the screen to show what they would be in ASL. Plus I love that it has two play modes--one where Leah's voice is off. And of course it's not Signing Time without some catchy songs written by Rachel and her dad! Rachel, Alex, and Leah are currently filming the second ST Sentences episode, and the third one has started funding. So exciting! View a preview of the first episode here. (Because it's still new, I haven't seen it in libraries yet, but you can email me to order a copy.)

More Resources...
There are many other things out there that can help you learn to sign. It always helps to check a few resources when learning a new sign so you can learn the different variations, or find out which one is most commonly used. More websites I like for looking up signs (other than www.lifeprint.com) are www.signingsavvy.com, www.handspeak.com, and of course... www.signingtime.com/dictionary. Some books are helpful tools for learning ASL grammar as well, but because it's hard to learn a sign just from a picture and description, I'd just use that as a supplement. Make sure to read the reviews, and also double check to make sure it's ASL and not SEE (Signed Exact English). I used "Signing Naturally" in college, and another friend used "A Basic Course American Sign Language" for her college course.


Well there you have it! Hope this helps you along your signing journey, and remember that I love hearing how it's coming along! Shoot me an email or post on the Little Sign of Mine Facebook page. :) Feel free to comment below with your tips on learning to sign, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

You Know You're TTC When...

Well this has been in my draft for ages and I thought it was about time I finished it!  It started off small and then I've just been adding to it as things have come to me...  Have anything to add??

This is for every woman who can relate (whether past or present)--no matter your story. <3

You Know You're Trying to Conceive When...

1) You've become familiar with all the acronyms. (TTC = Trying to Conceive, DPO = Days Past Ovulation, AF = Aunt Flow, BFN = Big Fat Negative, BFP = Big Fat Postive, BBT = Basal Body Temperature, IUI = Intrauterine Insemination, CM = Cervical Mucus, etc.)

2) You've become a pro at all the ways to pinpoint your ovulation.

3) You stock up on pregnancy tests and ovulation kits at the Dollar Tree.

4) You have a thermometer on your nightstand.  (And BBT charts on your phone or paper nearby!)

5) You pop prenatal vitamins daily. (And maybe a few jillion other vitamins recommended by your doc)

6) Your fertility doctor's number is under Favorites on your phone.

7) Half of your month is spent not drinking alcohol or taking meds JUST IN CASE.

8) You have notes and folded over pages in your copy of "What to Expect BEFORE You're Expecting" (or any other TTC book).

9) You follow other #ttcsisters on Instagram. (Or even have your own TTC instagram account.)

10) You've tried things you never thought you would--like acupuncture!  Anything for baby, right??

11) You've learned 10x more than your 5th grade sex-ed class ever taught you on how babies were made.  (Anyone learn the size of a mature follicle before it releases its egg back then??)

12) You notice ANY little symptom that could hint at pregnancy.

13) You count ahead to see what month your baby would be born if you got pregnant this cycle.

14) You know (all too well) the emotional roller coaster that happens each month of hope, waiting, and disappointment (then back to hope and waiting again)!  Oh how important that hope is...

15) Your amount of doctor's appointments, lab tests, etc. have you feeling like TTC is your full time job.

16) Your wallet's HURTING...

17) At least you've scored one (or several) of Target's "5% off entire purchase" coupons from the amount of prescriptions you've filled at their pharmacy.

18) You hear of a friend's morning sickness or other pregnancy hardship and wish you could experience that, too (since it would mean a baby is on the way!)

19) You've learned all the things NOT to say to someone who's TTC (from hearing them yourself from well-meaning acquaintances).

20) You discover just how many others are struggling to get pregnant, and realize--you're not alone. <3

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

1st Day of Pre-K (Plus a FREE volume of Signing Time!!)

"Oh my gosh, it's happening...  Like right now, this is it!" I excitedly whispered to my husband as Ellie held up her "1st Day of Pre-K" sign proudly, unicorn backpack strapped to her back.

We had lived up this past summer.  I especially wanted to make the most of each day together, knowing these days weren't forever, and I kept tucking away little moments in my heart.  We excitedly counted down the days to September 1st (with alphabet cookies and everything), when Ellie would get to start her first official day of "real" school.

We searched high and low for the perfect little backpack (yay for Skip-Hop!).  We hit up Carter's for the first day of school outfit.  I even got a new lunchbox for E, even though she wouldn't be needing it at school just yet. (Can you tell I love this whole school thing??)

We got a postcard from her teacher, and she eagerly wrote a letter back.

Sounding out each letter as she writes.
We went to see the new classroom and meet her teacher (even scoped out the bathroom), and talked all about what school would be like.  I asked if she would want her to teacher to call her Ellie or Elizabeth, and she decided on Elizabeth. :)

We got "first day of school" books from the library, and read her favorite Berenstain Bears one again, too ("The Berenstain Bears Go to School").

I printed out the classic sign for her to hold for pictures, and got her morning routine all ready so she could practice a few times before the big day.

Then last night arrived--we laid out her clothes, made sure her backpack was ready, and went to bed.

When my alarm went off this morning, I smiled thinking, "It's really here... Ellie's first day of school."  I got myself ready before she was up, and David whipped up the pancake batter.  I had some playdough on the table for her to play with when she got up, and spelled out a special note for me "I LUV YOU." :)

She was so surprised when we started singing "Happy 1st Day of School to You," and brought out the special red plate with a candle for her to make a wish.  (She wished we could go to Sky High again--since we'd just closed out our summer break with it yesterday.)

I couldn't resist making "Pre K" pancakes, since my mom got me this fun pancake pen a while back that's been just too fun.  And I really wanted to make this day special for her.  I love family traditions, and I always loooved back to school as a kid (just ask my mom), so this mama has seriously been beyond excited for this big event.

Ellie asked a few times how many more minutes it was till school, so we didn't need to ask twice when it was time for her to put on her shoes and get her backpack.  As David helped her into her backpack, it just became that much more real.  Kind of like when you first find out you're pregnant, but it doesn't really hit you until you see that little gummy bear in the ultrasound and hear their little heartbeat??

So as we handed her the sign and I saw her beaming at me through the camera's viewfinder, my heart just melted.  It was happening.  Her first day of school was here.  And I couldn't be more proud.

Walking to school from our house.
We cracked up that she even drew a little picture of herself above her name. (Right above the second L)

The first thing the students do is get a book from the bookshelf and sit on the rug to look at it quietly.  She asked me where the books were, so I walked her over, helped her pick out an I Spy book, and then she was good to go. :)

David and I walked back to the house together (we're just 3 minutes away--love it!), and it felt so weird being in there without Ellie.  After I kissed him goodbye and he left for work, I sat down on the couch and thought... now what?  It feels so strange not having my chatty little buddy at home with me, asking constantly, "Mommy, would you like to play with me?"

I'm looking forward to the days I'll have where I'm not teaching classes where I'll get to just run errands quickly or get some house cleaning done, or work on Little Sign of Mine stuff, or exercise.  But it's definitely going to take time to adjust!  I always thought I'd have some one-on-one time with our next little one while Ellie was at school, so there's a sad emptiness there...  But I'm grateful for each season God is giving us, and I'm ready to go make the most of it.


I love that Ellie's class will be practicing the alphabet in sing language--that was how I first came across my love for signing (in Kindergarten)!  I absolutely love how signing helps little ones learn and remember so many things.

Signing Time Welcome to School

So I'm excited to share that Signing Time is giving away a FREE episode!!!!  No loopholes or gimmicks, it's just yours!!  "Welcome to School" is Volume 13 from their first Signing Time series, and you can get it for free by entering your name and email here: http://www.signingtime.com/free-video/

One of the best things about this video is it has the ABCs at the end after the credits (which is how Ellie learned her ABCs before she was two!).  And even while Ellie was still one, we used a ton of signs from this video--like CRAYONS, PAPER, CHAIR, TABLE, NAME, PAY ATTENTION (when I would say, "Look at mama's eyes"), QUIET, READ, REST, PAINT, DRAW, and so many more!  Plus I love the song, "Hello Backpack." :)

Hope you'll enjoy it as much as we have!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Babysteps to Losing 30 Pounds in 8 Months

I don't know what was different about this January.  For the past two years I'd wanted to get healthier to work off the 20 pounds I'd unknowingly gained.

It felt slightly New-Year's-resolution-ish, but I think that just seeing more and more pictures of myself and realizing how much I'd gained, I knew I wanted to do SOMETHING.  Either way, I just decided to START.

For me it was all about the babysteps.  If I was going to create a more healthy and lasting lifestyle, I knew it wouldn't happen overnight.
P.S. I pretty much went through my Instagram to remember what my journey was like--if you want to see more food pics, etc. my Insta is @bethanyjanae, and I'm going to go through and add the hashtag #bethanyshealthyliving

I'd somehow come across Blogilates on Instagram, and decided to join in on a simple "30 Day Flat Abs Challenge" (a quick daily workout calendar that I often did just before jumping into bed).  I started doing some other workouts on the Blogilates YouTube channel, and didn't want to ruin that with eating crummy food.

I also read this: "Weight loss is.... 80% what you eat, 10% training, 10% genetics."

I'd never heard that before, and was shocked at how much food had to do with weight loss!!

So I started buying more fruits and veggies at the grocery store and looking up snack and recipe ideas on the Blogilates website and on Pinterest.  I also reached out to friends for their fav healthy snacks, and made another attempt to shop at places like Trader Joe's and Sprouts (fortunately we moved down the street from both of these, which made that much easier to do!!)

I started being more intentional about food in general and making healthier choices, like these -

-Instead of endless potato chips... A few veggie or sweet potato chips.
-Instead of syrup with high fructose corn syrup... 100% Maple syrup.
-Instead of white rice... Quinoa.
-Instead of Goldfish... Snapea Crisps.
-Instead of white bread... Whole wheat (or Ezekiel) bread.
-Instead of white pasta... Quinoa or whole wheat pasta.
-Instead of cereal and milk... Oatmeal.
-Instead of sugar... Stevia in the Raw, Agave, or Raw honey.
-Instead of margarine... Kerrygold butter.
-Instead of sour cream... Plain Greek yogurt.
-Instead of ground beef... Ground turkey.
-Instead of Ranch dressing... Olive oil and vinaigrette.

I also started looking more at ingredients before putting things in my shopping cart.  I especially looked for things without added sugar--like in peanut butter or spaghetti sauce.

It might sound silly too, but it was also super helpful for me to stop following my favorite baking blogs on Instagram (I love making cupcakes and cakes), or other food bloggers with tantalizing things that are only good for the taste buds!  Instead I started following accounts that would inspire me health-wise and keep me on track!

Here are some of my fav Instagram accounts to follow that keep me motivated and give me great ideas for food (first 6 are pictured above and are tagged on my Instagram):
@toneitup (and @karenakatrina), @blogilates, @livylovestorun, @cleaneats_cleantreats, @yogalynzi, @hellodayblog, @simplysadiejane, @caliabycarrie

I came across those first two accounts mentioned when I kept coming across the hashtag #tiuteam or #tiugirl.  So when I looked that up, I found Tone It Up (another fitness and health brand).  I started adding in some of their workouts, would snag more recipes from their website, and would watch their YouTube videos with their nutrition tips and snack ideas.

The other thing that made a huge difference for me was when I joined Tone It Up in April, right when they were kicking off their 8 week Bikini Series (it was a one-time purchase of $150 for the membership and has been completely worth it!!).  Tone It Up was started by two besties, Karena and Katrina, who both have backgrounds in health and fitness.  I learned sooo much from their nutrition plan.  I loved how they "combine exercise with the right nutrients at the right time of the day, to boost energy levels and your metabolism."  (They also have an awesome and informative book out called 28 Days to Fierce, Fit, and Fabulous that you can snag at Target for $17.)

They recommend 5 meals a day (breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, mid afternoon snack, and dinner), and had awesome recipes for each of those meals that helped so much.  Being a member in time for the Bikini Series, I got 8 full weeks of grocery lists, meal plans, recipes, and workout schedules all laid out for me.  It was glorious.  A guy at Trader Joe's asked me where I got my awesome book (I'd printed out all the pages and had hubby bind it for me), and my response was, "Wellllllllll, first you have to become a Tone It Up girl." He said he'd have his wife look into it... ;)

I've also loved the mantra sprinkled all throughout Tone It Up that has guided my grocery shopping and eating for these past 8 months... "Lean, Clean, and Green."  Lean proteins, clean foods and ingredients, and lots of veggies and nutrient-dense foods.  It's made all the difference!!

All in all, the main things I've tried to put into practice since January include...
*Drinking lots of water. (Take your body weight, divide in half, then drink that many ounces per day.)
*Making sleep a priority.
*Writing things down like workouts, water intake, hours of sleep, mealtimes, that day's weight, etc. (I didn't keep this up, but it helped me with getting on track.)
*Taking pictures of my plates (it made me think about what I was putting on it, and gave me ideas of what to eat later).  I even made albums in my phone for Plate Pics and Progress Pics!
*Getting accountability.
*Being intentional about what I was eating, and when--like not eating fruit or starches after 3pm, and trying not to eat past 8pm.

There's also nothing more motivating than getting new workout clothes, a Fitbit, a new kettlebell, or even a fun new water bottle. :)

I've loved my Fitbit Charge HR (it even vibrates when I'm getting a phone call and shows the person's name and number on the tiny screen!), and the Fitbit app that it sincs with is awesome, too.

The other app I highly recommend is My Fitness Pal.  Plugging in the food I ate for a few days helped me realize how many calories I was taking in, and helped me with portion control.  It also shows my weight loss progress, and it has a circle graph that shows my daily breakdown of consumed protein, carbs, fiber, sugar, fat, etc.  So helpful to know what I'm putting in my body so I can be more intentional about it!

In my first two months of making changes, I lost 10 pounds.  It was really encouraging seeing a before and after in pictures, wearing the same clothes.  (I wouldn't have seen the difference as much otherwise!)  I had fun doing daily weigh-ins cause it kept me more accountable and motivated me to keep going as I saw the numbers go down.
Right pic was after I'd lost 20 lbs (After 4 1/2 mos)
Whenever I had a special occasion or went on vacation, I made sure to enjoy food without feeling guilty.  I was still intentional, and still ate healthy in general, but I let myself have treats.

It might sound cliche, but I really feel like I've striven to keep it all about balance, being intentional, and practicing moderation.  I still love my chocolate, and enjoy at least a square of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) each day. I don't feel bad eating half a slice of cake at a birthday party--and I don't feel bad throwing away the other half either.  I might skip out on the side of potatoes at a restaurant, but have 3 slices of French bread. :)  And if I'm having wine I just have one glass.

My goal was to make sure what I was doing was manageable, and that it wasn't so much a diet as it was a lifestyle.  And though I've exercised more often than I ever have before, I'm still not that consistent.  It's mostly been about the food, and I can't believe that in the process I've lost 30 pounds!!  It just keeps coming off, and I'm still not sure when it'll plateau.  (Right now my goal is just maintaining this current weight.)  I hit my pre-Ellie weight and then some (the last time I was this weight was 5 years ago!), and it feels great.  I even fit into my wedding dress again!!
I really didn't know I had it in me, and it's felt really good to see my progress and to see how much I've accomplished.  I feel healthy, I actually like getting dressed now (and shopping for clothes!), and most of all I feel great knowing I'm setting a positive and healthy example for my little Peanut.

Now if only I could get pregnant so I could gain all that weight back... ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Youngest Number One Fan


I still can't believe this happened, and I don't want to forget any of it (especially so we can help Ellie remember it), so I'm writing it all down!  (As in novel status... you've been warned!)

Remember last year when David and I got to go to the huge CMA Fest in Nashville?? (By the way, the 2015 CMA Fest is airing on ABC tonight, Aug. 4 at 8pm.)  Well we had pulled together a playlist of our favorite songs from each of the nights, and Ellie (3 years old at the time) immediately latched on to the song, "Chainsaw," by The Band Perry.  Being at the LP Field in Nashville was the first time David and I had seen them perform, and let me tell you, they killed it!!  Such an energetic, powerful, and fun show--those second row seats were somethin' else...

So anyway, we would always laugh because 9 out of 10 times that we'd get in the car, Ellie would inevitably ask, "Mommy, can you put on 'Chainsaw?'"  Yeah, the girl was obsessed...  And she loves when I sign (yep sign, not sing--lol) along to songs cause it helps her know what words they're saying.  So she started knowing all the words and it was just too darn cute watching her sing and sign along in the rearview mirror.  We'd also turn up "Better Dig Two," (yup, that has led to some interesting conversations, hehe!!), and "Don't Let Me Be Lonely,"

This past Fall, David and I went on a double date to see Blake Shelton and The Band Perry, and Ellie asked us to video, "Chainsaw" for her.  I can't even count how many times she watched that video...  After this show we also added songs like "Gentle on My Mind," "Done," and "All Your Life," to our playlist, cause Ellie couldn't get enough of The Band Perry, and mama needed some new tunes so I didn't go crazy. :)

Needless to say, she has become quite the number 1 fan, and this mama couldn't be prouder. :)  We joke that liking country music is a deal breaker in this family, but let's be real--it ain't no joke.  So it looks like we'll keep her...

Fast forward to this summer, and with the OC Fair coming to town we thought we'd check out which country artists were going to be playing at the Pacific Amphitheater.  As soon as we saw that The Band Perry was coming, we knew that A) we had to go, and B) we had to bring Ellie.

So the week of the concert, we made Ellie a card to surprise her with the tickets, and I posted a 15 second clip from this video of her finding out on my Instagram (around the 45 second mark)...

I had tagged @thebandperry and Kimberly, Neil, and Reid's personal accounts, too...

The next night I'm at my hair salon and all of a sudden I see a notification pop up on my phone that said, "@thekimberlyperry commented on your video."  My jaw just dropped...  I immediately raced to the post and read Ellie's FAVORITE singer's words: "Well this is just the sweetest thing I've ever seen!  Made me all like <3 <3 <3. We'd love to meet you guys!  Do you already have meet and greets??"

Noooooo waaaay..... I couldn't believe it!!!!  I showed my hair dresser and she excitedly helped me write back.

Me: "Oh my goodness @thekimberlyperry!!!!!!!!!  You are AMAZING!!!!!!!  We don't have meet and greets but would LOVE meeting you!!!  Our little Ellie would just be in absolute heaven.  We dance and sing to your songs on repeat all the time ("Chainsaw" is her fav!!)  Eek!!!!

KP: Ellie!  What a cutie!  Ok shoot me a contact email address for you guys and I'll have someone get in touch.  3 meet and greet passes?

I couldn't believe this was happening...  And as if that weren't enough, Neil Perry also commented, "This is probably the cutest thing I've ever seen!" AND THEN THEY REPOSTED THE VIDEO TO THEIR OWN ACCOUNT.  Whaaat?!?!!  Lol... With the caption, "Hip hip hurray," it quickly had 5,000 likes, and over 100 comments (including Reid Perry saying, "This hits me right in the feels."). :)  I just kept laughing and thinking, "Is this for real??"  I mean, things like this just don't happen.  I've pretty much decided that between this and the CMT awards, I can no longer say I never win anything.

The next few days were spent buying poster board, coloring pictures for Kimberly, Neil, and Reid, shopping for a new dress for Ellie, and trying on her pink cowgirl boots we'd bought in Nashville to make sure they still fit.  I asked if she wanted her hair in braids or down underneath her cowgirl hat, and she went with "braids--so I can look like a real cowgirl."  Be still my country heart...

I had found two sweet dresses and let her pick which one she wanted to wear, and she went with the more "twirly" one.  (Can you say all girl?)  So we laid them out, David put the tickets on the fridge (in case we wanted to go ahead of him to hit some rides, and he'd join after work), and we excitedly went to bed.

The morning of the concert, I knew I needed to tire Ellie out--that way she'd take a nap in the afternoon and have an easier time staying up for the show.  I was watching our friend's lil guy, so I strapped him into our stroller, Ellie hopped on her scooter, and we were off to the park.  It was an awesome day, and the park did the trick.  She had a great nap, and was even still asleep when David got home from work.  Not a bad way to wake up to hearing, "You ready to go meet The Band Perry??" :)

"Where are the tickets?" David asked when he checked the fridge. "Oh, I put them straight in my wallet!" I answered.  Didn't want to lose those bad boys.

David started loading up the car with snacks, sunscreen, jackets just in case, water, the poster, Ellie's pictures for the band, etc. while I finished braiding our cowgirl's hair.  Grabbing my makeup bag to finish on the drive, we hopped in the car with plenty of time to get there, park, walk to the amphitheater, get the meet and greet tickets from will call, and find where to go for it all.  Ellie put the finishing touches on her cards (heart-shaped gem stickers that she stuck in each "hand" in her pictures), and we were all beyond excited for the night ahead.

Pulling in to our parking spot, I ask David for my wallet so I could slip on some lipgloss.

"Huh?  I don't have it." he says.

My heart stops.

"Wait, but it wasn't on the counter by the door, so I thought that meant you'd packed it!"

"No, when I asked you where the tickets were, I figured you had your wallet."

This was not happening... Such a classic, right??!  The whole, we-forgot-the-tickets-at-home thing...  But it was totally happening.  So we quickly try to figure out what to do, and the only thing was to turn around and get them.  Ellie starts crying big crocodile tears as we leave the fair as I'm trying to explain we're coming right back and mommy just left something at home, but the tears keep falling.  David is silent.  I feel sick to my stomach.  And I realize where my wallet is--I had tossed it in the basket of the stroller to go to the park earlier, and just hadn't put it back by the door when we got back.  I couldn't believe it...

David--convinced that with traffic we were going to miss the entire meet and greet--suggested shooting an email to the lady we'd been coordinating with who worked with The Band Perry.  Good idea...  She wrote me back immediately, saying they usually started about 15 min late anyway, and that if we weren't back by 7:40 to let her know and we'd "figure something out."  Oh my goodness, how amazing are they.  We wrote saying we hoped to be there by 7:10...

And guys--can you believe that we made it back even 10 minutes sooner than that?  By the time we got to the meet and greet, though we were last in line, we had even made it in time to see Kimberly come out!  (The boys were already ready.) ;)  Whew, we could breathe!  David gave me a kiss (yay, I was out of the dog house, lol), and I didn't win biggest mommy fail of the year (can you imagine if I'd had to tell Ellie I made us miss the meet and greet all together?!  Oh, I'd just feel so awful...)

Once they started, the line went FAST.  A girl had let us go in front of her, and it turned out she had seen Ellie's video on their Instagram.  Ellie had fun talking to everyone in line and waited really patiently for our turn.  She was the only little one there, and when we got up to the front, the woman we'd been coordinating with recognized her.  We thanked her profusely for everything, and she told us about Kimberly calling her from their tour bus and saying, "Oh my gosh you have to see this video, it's the cutest thing." :)

And then suddenly it was our turn!  Kimberly recognized her youngest number one fan as well, and held out her arms for a big hug, saying "Ellie!!" :)  She got hugs from everyone as she handed out her heart-shaped pictures to them all, and Kimberly told her again how much she loved her video.  "You know what we decided??" Kimberly said.  "We decided that whenever we have a bad day, we're just going to watch your video."  (So sweet!!)

They signed a CD for her, and then we took pictures together with our signs that said "Hip" "Hip" "Hurray!" (since that was what Ellie had said when she found out about the concert.) :)

And after more hugs, (and high fives from Neil--who she made sure to wish a Happy Birthday to), Kimberly bent down to Ellie's level and said (with her cute southern accent), "Now I heard your favorite song is Chainsaw.  Well you be sure to sing it real loud with us tonight, okay??"  (My heart was in a puddle watching Ellie holding hands with her and talking together.)

We turned to go after lots of thank yous, and then Ellie realized she was still holding the "Hurray" sign that she'd meant to give them.  One of the staff heard her, so he brought her back over and helped her wait till the last group was done, and helped her go back up to the band one more time. :)  She was a little shy, wondering if what she was doing was okay, so I went with her and we ended up getting another picture--this time of just Ellie and Kimberly together.

The meet and greet wrapped up just as the opener, Annie McQueen, was coming out on stage, and we found our seats.  We took a family selfie, and then the group behind us kindly offered to take a picture as well.

David went to get us some food, and Ellie loved taking everything in and dancing to the music.  "Look, I see the moon!" she exclaimed at one point. So sweet seeing things through your little one's eyes...

David came back and Ellie watched as the stage crew set up for The Band Perry to come out, wondering at each thing they were doing.  Then before we knew it, everyone was up on their feet, and the countdown was starting for the band to come out!  Ellie's eyes glittered with excitement as she counted down, and I just love that she burst into song with them immediately.  That wave, too!

It was an amazing concert, and Ellie stayed locked in to it the entire time.  She sang along with all the songs she knew (they played every one of her favorites), and even enjoyed the ones she was hearing for the first time.  "I'm a Keeper" and "Night Gone Wasted" were some of her new faves from the night--which are now on repeat in our car of course. ;)  We're also loving "Hip to My Heart," "Postcard From Paris," "Pioneer," and of course the classic, "If I Die Young."

One other highlight from the night happened when Neil got a turn with the camera that streamed to the big screen.  He said something about fans making some noise so they could see them, so I held up Ellie's poster. :)  Well what to do you know, he zoomed right in on us first thing, and we just laughed and cheered!  It was so fun seeing Ellie up on the big screen... What a night. :)

I tried to write a thank you on each of their Instagrams as I was winding down before bed, but I have no idea if they got them.  My mama's heart was just bursting that they'd been able to give such an amazing night to our little Ellie Joy, and I knew that no other concert would be able to top it. :)  I told them at the meet and greet that they had a fan for life in our little Ellie (and in us), and man if that ain't the truth...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How Do I Start Signing with my Little One?

This is the second video in a series where I answer key questions to help you start your signing journey.  The first video answered, "When should I start signing?" and in this video I'll tackle the big HOW.

To help get you started, I'll teach over 10 signs that you can start incorporating into baby's day--including MILK, MORE, ALL DONE, EAT, HUNGRY, THIRSTY, SLEEP, TIRED, WATER, DIAPER, DIAPER CHANGE, MOM, and DAD.  Plus, look closely and you may spot these signs as well: OUTSIDE, BALL, CAT, DOG, MUSIC, BATH, BOOK, CLOUD, and BIRD.

But don't get overwhelmed--I suggest starting small with these first four "starter signs"--MILK, MORE, ALL DONE, and EAT.

In the video, you'll also come across numerous signing tips, hear a snippet about Ellie's first signs, and learn what my all-time favorite tool has been for teaching her American Sign Language.  (Countless mamas swear by it!)

I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a summer break off of {Little Sign of Mine} classes with my Peanut, and I'm also glad I was able to pull this together for any mamas who are wanting to start now.  (Classes resume in September, and eek! I even have a couple new class locations!!)

So here we go... here's the run down on how you can get started today!

Help me decide which question I should answer next!  And please share any of your favorite signing tips in the comments below.  What worked for you to help teach your little one signs??

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Secondary Infertility

Not knowing and having to wait for answers has got to be one of the toughest things in life.  Can I get an amen??  I still remember being in the NICU, holding our full-term baby Ellie all hooked up to monitors and an IV, waiting to find out what on earth was going on.  It was heart-wrenching.

Similarly, one of the hardest things for me about navigating this infertility road has been not knowing WHY we couldn't seem to get pregnant.  The first time I'd heard the term "secondary infertility" was in the comment section of a favorite blogger's post about her journey to getting pregnant.  I have to say, it FREAKED me out.  My husband and I had just had a miscarriage and I was still healing before we could try again.  And all of a sudden I was terror-stricken that we weren't going to be able to have another baby.

The Lord gently reminded me that in Him there is no fear, and I'm so glad He pushed that aside so I wasn't daily living in that fear (I swear I think it would've crippled me).

The good that came from that was it corrected something I was mistaken about--that it gets easier to get pregnant each time.  I don't know why I thought that.  Maybe I'd heard so many instances of that after it took us a bit of time to get pregnant with our daughter, Ellie.  I hoped for that ease for sure.  So learning about this thing called "secondary infertility" helped me realize that that wasn't necessarily the case.

For those wondering--secondary infertility is basically where you've successfully had a baby before (without fertility treatment), and now you're either not able to get pregnant again on your own, or you keep miscarrying.

I gave it a year, knowing that it could take a year for even a young, healthy couple to get pregnant.  I even gave it a little more time, thinking it was bound to happen soon.  Right?  It had to happen soon... Okay, any day now... No, still not happening?  My husband had just changed jobs and we hadn't figured out our new insurance yet.  But with each negative pregnancy test I started to feel like something must be up.

My husband and I went through every thought in the book--maybe it was because of a new medication I was taking.  Maybe something had gone wrong from the miscarriage and emergency D&C.  Oh look, this website says to stay away from hot tubs and boxer briefs.  This one says to take these supplements.  Okay so that should help.  Still nothing.  I thought it had to be me.  He thought it must be him.  Maybe my tubes had become blocked.  I even wondered if this was going to be God's way of alerting us to some bigger health scare that was going on.

It was horrible not knowing.  I was finally able to schedule an appointment with a general practitioner who would then refer me to an OB, and I started down the road of physicals and blood tests, etc.  David got good news on his end so we kept wondering what it could be.

My referral for an OB took longer than we thought, and then a mishap with the referral letter and a new insurance number prevented me from being seen.  (Oh the tears of frustration that day!)  The new referral letter came, and I was disappointed to see it was for an entirely different doctor's office. (I'd already filled out paperwork, etc. and had an appointment ready to go at the first one.)

But what do you know, it was for a fertility specialist.  Hey!  That might be even better! I thought, and called to schedule an appointment right away.  (This was in February of this year--2015.)  The cheerful voice that greeted me asked if I'd be available Monday, June 15th at 1:30pm.  Inside my heart sunk, but I quickly picked my jaw up off the floor and said, "Yes, that should be fine."  (Haha, as far as I knew I didn't have any plans for FOUR MONTHS OUT.)  I tried to stay optimistic.  Maybe by June we'll know what problems we're up against and may need the fertility specialist!  "Would you like to be called if anything earlier opens up?" the receptionist asked.  "Sure, that'd be great!" I answered.

Y'all... that very week she called me back with an opening for the following Monday.

I couldn't believe it!  Thank you, Lord!! I laughed and was so excited.  Until I opened my email with the paperwork and saw how much the initial consultation was... $$$  Cue heart sinking again.

Soon I was able to get a hold of our insurance provider to ask what coverage (if any) we might have to see a fertility specialist.  And what do you know--thank you husband's job--the consultation was covered!  Lab work, ultrasounds, appointments, medications--everything for testing and diagnosing had a very reasonable copay, and the only thing we'd be up against was if we needed treatment.  I was so surprised and thankful.

And after that glorious first consultation with our fertility doctor, the best way to describe how I felt, was I could finally breathe. *big exhale.*

I finally saw potential for a light at the end of the tunnel.  I didn't have to keep assertively trying to schedule appointments at different places and press doctors to tell us the next step we should take.  We might actually find out answers soon. (!!)  There was more hope than ever before that a baby could be in our future after all, and we were relieved to be in such good hands.  We're so thankful the Lord led us to this doctor!

It's been a few months now of routine appointments--so much so that Ellie has gotten the drill down pat (where to get her lollipop, where to stamp our parking pass, etc. haha).  With each test we've done, we've anxiously awaited the results, and with relief (mixed with confusion) we've continuously gotten good results.  Which is great and all--but the doctor knew if we found a problem, she could fix it.  We were starting to feel discouraged (or mostly confused) again, until the day we did our post coital test.   (Sounds so scientific huh?!)

Well... it's with great relief that I can FINALLY say we have figured out at least one of the contributing causes for our infertility.  And it's not as scary as I thought!  It's even something that can change over time (which is why we were able to get pregnant before--and who knows, maybe things will go completely normally for future kiddos.)  But for now, it's looking like IUI (intra-uterine insemination) will hopefully be a great treatment for us.  That was a relief for David to hear, too, as it's MUCH more affordable than IVF.  So hopefully this will be what God uses to grow our family!!

So there you have it... our journey to--first realizing we're facing secondary infertility--to then navigating it, and finding our first steps in hopefully beating it.

We know it can take several times doing IUI before it could potentially work for us (and obviously there's no guarantee--there could be something else going on that we haven't come across yet).  But it feels amazing to know we're taking steps forward, and that there's actually a chance that I COULD be pregnant soon!  While I'm teetering between hopeful and realistic, I'm just beyond thankful that things are happening.  I'm incredibly thankful for our doctor.  I'm grateful to be walking this road with such supportive and prayerful friends and family.  And I'm just feeling ready to ride out this roller coaster to see where God leads us.

Hopefully it's to baby town!