Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Sports

While I'm out on maternity leave, we decided to get Cullen involved in some extracurricular activities. School is a long drive for us, so we decided to pull Cullen out of school and sign him up for sports. My initial hope was to put him in soccer. We ended up signing him up for tee ball, too.
Right now, we have tee ball and soccer twice a week each. Our schedule is full. I never thought I would be taking a three week old to tee ball practice. I shocked myself when I took Harrison out to the fields at five days old.
The good news is that Cullen is enjoying organized sports, and we're enjoying seeing his growth. He's learning to enjoy soccer more and more, and he enjoys yelling, "There's no crying in baseball" during tee ball.
Soccer seems to be good at expending energy. They really don't do much more than run and kick and hope for a goal. I'm enjoying that one and really looking forward to the earlier games we have coming up. I'm holding out hope to bring back naps some days.
Tee ball is attempting to teach Cullen some self discipline. He's learning how to play well with others, and he's succeeding at being a member of a team.
While I'm keeping Cullen home, I'm also doing a little bit of pseudo home schooling. I'm keeping up with his Pre-K 3 lesson plans and working with him at home. It isn't a sport, but it's a rigorous activity that's requiring a lot out of both of us.
I'm going to need a break after my maternity leave.
xoxo ashley

Friday, September 20, 2013

Family of Four Vacation

Earlier this week, James had a meeting in Austin. We decided to make it a family trip to Austin, and we took the opportunity to visit with family and friends.
Of course, we squeezed in a dinner with family first at Moonshine. It was fun to have the cousins together and so crazy when Corie introduced James as her brother (with his wife and two kids). Such a fun reminder that we have two little boys these days.
It was Harrison's first stay in a hotel, and he did great. I think he loved the crisp white sheets and blackout curtains. That might have been me that enjoyed those...
While James was in his meetings, I made a trip to Costco with both of the boys. Cullen spotted these boots from across the store. He has worn them everywhere since Monday. Everywhere. He has been such a great big brother. Harrison started to fuss while we were shopping, so Cullen started singing "Three Little Birds." So sweet. 
One last pit stop before we headed home was Tera's house. It was so fun seeing her with Harrison and watching Alina with Cullen. It made me a little heartsick to head home. We are so lucky to have them in our lives! 
I'm so happy to be on maternity leave right now. It's a great opportunity to spend time with my boys, and we're really embracing our opportunity to have more family time. Such a blessing!
xoxo ashley

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Little Bit Of Catching Up

I usually blog about what we've been up to lately. With all that's been going on, I haven't kept up with the random pictures, so I wanted to add those in.
Between bed rest and time in the hospital, Cullen was introduced to McDonald's. He doesn't understand why you're supposed to get a toy with lunch. That makes me unspeakably proud.
 Some of our first visitors while I was still in recovery were my parents.
Here's Mom getting a look at the new arrival.
 And Dad taking a peek for himself.
And Aunt Peggy showing Harrison to Cullen one more time. 
 Harrison's first Texans game with Daddy
 Papaw, James, Cullen & Harrison
 Our little family with Corie, Will & Elle
 Our precious babysitter meeting Harrison for the first time.
And Cullen being ridiculously cute.
 Charly meeting Harrison
 It's definitely time to say an extra thanks to all the people who helped us during the first couple of weeks home. From the meals brought to the play dates, I can't thank each one of you enough. I know now that I will always bring a meal to a friend right after having a baby. Lifesaver.
I am loving getting to take Cullen on play dates during my maternity leave. Our most recent one was to Monkey Joe's. We bounced. We played. 
 And the kid who doesn't nap anymore? Took a nap when we got home. 
 Planning for Cullen's birthday party is in full swing. And the favors will be hand-made by someone other than me. Thank you Jess!
My favorite post-Harrison purchase is this little gem. I found it on Pinterest before I got pregnant with him, and I can't wait for him to grow into it. Love this.
And now we're mostly up to date. Maybe I can stay caught up again. Thanks for keeping up with us!
xoxo ashley

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We're a Family of Four

 As any family does, we are going through those growing pains of adding a new family member. Except, other than those long nights, it isn't so painful. Harrison is an easy little guy. And Cullen is great with Harrison.
When I first woke up from surgery, I had no idea that Harrison was just a few feet away from me in recovery. James was so focused on helping me, and I was in so much pain, that it didn't even cross my mind to ask. Crazy, I know. This picture is of the first time I got to hold him. It was also Cullen's first glance at Harrison.  
James asked Cullen if he wanted to see Harrison when he walked in. Cullen's response? "Harrison came out? Mommy, I love him!" 
He has since come up with a highly imaginative arrival tale that involves Harrison flying a helicopter and "splatting" out of me. Fantastic.
Cullen is so proud to be a Cullen to a Harrison. He isn't too stoked about the title "big brother."
We are so blessed to have two precious little boys. We're still learning how to be a family of four, but we're getting there. We may not be perfect, but when I see my boys interacting together or sleeping together or just growing and learning, I know we've done something very right.
My boys are my most amazing accomplishment.
xoxo ashley

Monday, September 9, 2013

How Do You Define A Miracle?

I think everyone defines a miracle differently. It is a term that is tossed around with far too much ease, but we all see them as something entirely new. I now see miracles differently than ever before. This baby we have is a miracle. Not in the way that every baby is a miracle, but in a way that makes me think that God has something very special in store for him.
I spent most of the first week of August trying to figure out the best way to care for the end of my pregnancy. One of the doctors in my practice told me I should be on bed rest. My doctor came back from her vacation the following Monday and told me to not be on bed rest. By that point, I was already on leave from work, so I decided to start getting things done around the house. I worked from home. I made sure that the laundry was done everyday. I made dozens of cookies. I did my nails. Again.
What I knew was that something wasn't quite right with my pregnancy. What I didn't know was what was wrong. I had another doctor's appointment on Friday morning, so I made big plans for lots of activity on Thursday to progress my labor. The greatest hope was that I might just check into the hospital on Friday and have a baby.
Ironically, I had been saying for quite a while that I was hoping to have Harrison on the 15th. It would allow James to take just a couple of days off of work before heading back to the office. It would allow me to go back to work after Cullen's birthday. And Thursday is a day of the week that my doctor works at Methodist Hospital. Why not have a baby at the nicer of the two hospitals where my doctor has privileges?
So I got up Thursday morning and decided to take Cullen to the museum to see the dinosaurs. We met up with my parents and walked around for a few hours. We checked out the geology, chemistry and paleontology sections. We stopped and had lunch. While we were there, I noticed a few changes and decided to call the doctor's office to check in. Of course, we finished up a few more exhibits, ate lunch, and got Cullen a "cozy" dinosaur in the gift shop before heading out to the car.
Where I begin to really define our miracle is on the drive from the museum district. When you call my doctor's office, you usually talk to a phone nurse who checks in with the doctor's nurse who checks in with the doctor, and you get a return call within a few hours. After explaining to the phone nurse some of my symptoms, she placed me on hold while she paged my doctor and doctor's nurse. Luckily, my doctor's nurse is the one who recommended that we go in the prior Saturday to have an ultrasound done. She remembered our prior phone call and was none too pleased to hear that the hospital hadn't completed that ultrasound. She asked me to come directly to the doctor's office. If anything was wrong with an immediate nature, she would send us over to the hospital.
I got to the hospital around 3 that afternoon. I toyed with the idea of going home for the bag, but I decided it would be easier to just check in with the doctor. James could always run home for the bag later. First, I was called back for an ultrasound. Nikki has done quite a few ultrasounds for us during this pregnancy, and Cullen knows Nikki (among other ladies in the office) by name. During the ultrasound, I told Nikki that I was probably worrying over nothing. Right?? Instead of responding, she told me to get dressed and meet her in the hall.
I would say that moment really defined my concern. I had previously told James that I would call him if I ended up going to the hospital, but I knew then that he needed to be there. My doctor gave me a very quick pep talk about why I needed an elevated ultrasound.
We went to a maternal fetal medicine office right next to my doctor's office and had an hour long ultrasound completed. During this second ultrasound, James' aunt came to pick up Cullen, and we started to let our guard down. They wouldn't be spending an hour on an ultrasound if something was wrong, right?
At the end of this second ultrasound, we were escorted back to my doctor's office. Considering the ten foot walk, I knew things weren't looking too good. We stepped into my doctor's office a little after 5. There were only a couple of people left in the office, so we were taken immediately back to meet with my doctor and her nurse. My doctor was on the phone with the doctor from the other office, and I can honestly say I've never heard a doctor say "Wow" so many times in one conversation.
She walked into our exam room with a big smile on her face, and said, "We're having a baby today."
I have prayed for this baby for so long, but I was not prepared for this. I broke down, to say the very least. I was diagnosed with vasa previa, and we were going in for an emergency C-section immediately.
James made a couple of phone calls to family while we walked from the medical building to the hospital. It's a short walk that has never felt so long. When we walked into labor and delivery, the nurses were expecting us and took us immediately into triage to begin surgery prep.
While getting changed into my hospital gown, I started losing a lot of blood. We quickly had a collection of nurses pouring into our triage area. James was the most calming influence for me, but that didn't stop me from shaking and crying the entire time.

I can confidently say that the nursing staff at Methodist West Houston Hospital is phenomenal. They quickly got Harrison on a fetal monitor and got me ready for surgery. Most importantly, one of the nurses called my doctor to let her know that the emergency surgery was more of an emergency than we had thought.
My doctor literally came running into triage with her husband in tow. After spending a cumulative number of hours in her office, I know that my doctor's husband is a surgeon. We later found out that he was picking her up for a date when she asked him to come in and scrub in on my surgery.

In hindsight, I am now able to find it humorous that he took a seat on a biohazard bin and put an IV in my wrist. It was the fifth attempt, and it was the only one that didn't leave a bruise. It was also the exact same spot we had trouble with when I was in labor with Cullen.

Our initial expectations were that I would be getting an epidural, and James would be in surgery with me. Holding my hand, telling me what was going on, etc. At the doors of the operating room, we were told that James couldn't come. There wasn't any time.

My last memory prior to the surgery was of my doctor standing next to me with a scalpel saying, "Tell me when to cut." Less than five minutes later, she was standing in the hall taking this picture with Harrison and James.
 It was a while before I woke up. It was the next day before we found out how bad of a situation we were in. All night long, nurses kept coming by the hospital room saying they wanted to see the miracle baby and congratulate us. When my doctor came to check in the next morning she explained to us the rarity of vasa previa. How I should have been on bed rest at 28 weeks. How I should have delivered Harrison via C-section at 35 weeks. Before his life would have been put into such a precarious position.

Your life can change in a moment. If five more minutes had passed, Harrison wouldn't have made it. About ten more minutes, and I wouldn't have. And I thought about going home for the bag.

It has taken quite a bit for me to come to terms with Harrison's arrival. I'm still not there 100%, but I'm making progress. I'm so incredibly thankful for my boys. So thankful for my own life. But, if you know me, you know how I plan things. And I had plans for a natural delivery. I missed my son's arrival. I had no idea he was even in recovery with me for more than an hour. It isn't the way I expected things to go, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Our little family defines a miracle differently these days. In our house, that little miracle is Harrison. And I can't wait to see what God has in store for him.
xoxo Ashley

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why I'm Loving Football

Each fall, I get excited about football season. I miss it a little bit by early summer. But as the end of football winds closer, I find that I don't enjoy it so much.
James and I were talking over dinner last night about my love-hate relationship with football. I think some of my frustration falls into the time consuming nature of watching all the games. I also think my love of football is the requirement to sit still for just a bit.
Yesterday, I took a nap during the Baylor game. The ridiculous lead made it easier to take a nap, but it also made me realize that my love for the game is the family time. The down time. It's the opportunity to just sit and be with my boys.
This year, I don't want to stop enjoying football season. I want to enjoy it the whole way through. And I want to enjoy the reason to spend more time with my boys. This season we are in is fleeting. And I don't want to miss a moment.
xoxo ashley

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Announcing Harrison James

I can't believe our newest baby is almost three weeks old.
Harrison James Shuler arrived on August 15th at 5:30p.m.
Six pounds, six ounces, twenty inches long.
We are so remarkably blessed to have this little boy home with us.
When I can get myself together, I'll finish a post I started two weeks ago telling all about his exciting arrival. Check back soon!
xoxo ashley