Z turns FIVE!

Last week was a big one! Not only did Zachary turn five, but we also registered him for Kindergarten! I think if I hadn't been so busy getting home from vacation and starting a new job I would have felt really sad, but I honestly don't feel like it's really processed yet.

Z has learned so much this past year and is really getting to a fun stage. I am not going to lie, 3 and most of 4 were really hard ages and the closer we've gotten to five the easier he's become. I am loving it!

This year Z:
-Has excelled in school. He's learned to read! He's still a beginner, but he is getting better at an alarmingly fast rate. I can't even express how magical it is to hear him read! Z can count to 100 and beyond and loves math and science.

-Has become a really great helper. He'll do all sorts of chores and is getting better at self-starting in the morning. He's always been very independent but is getting more adamant about doing things or going places by himself. I've had to loosen the apron strings a little and have been trying to give him more freedom.

-Decided that he likes showers better than baths (and I do too because he doesn't splash water all over my bathroom!)

-Has really grown in his testimony and loves to share it. He says the most amazing things sometimes and I know that he has a strong and valiant little Spirit. He teaches me so much.

-Has gotten stronger and more physically capable than ever. He can do the monkey bars over and over without stopping, run super fast and longer distances, hit home runs like nobody's business, and has given up his training wheels determined to master the bike-riding (we're still working on that one!)
We kept the celebrating pretty simple. Z went on a date with me and Aunt Whit when we were in AZ. We went to the lego store where he got to pick out his present and then he picked lunch at McDonalds and we went to see Cinderella. He liked the animals but wasn't too thrilled with the rest of the movie. On the day of his birthday he got Frozen cereal he had chosen and got to take the snack to preschool. He picked raspberries and homemade lemonade!   Aunt Laura came to play with an awesome lego cake she made! Z was obsessed with it and kept trying to pick at it all day!

 He was so excited all day and told everyone that we saw that he is now FIVE! It was a fun, mellow day. He was looking forward to the weekend for his birth family to come, but ended up getting a tummy bug so we have to postpone that celebration for next week. Z got lots of birthday wishes and cards in the mail and was stoked about each one. He kept saying, "I'm rich!!!"

Here are his stats and interview questions for this year.

Height: 3'6.5"-41%
Weight: 39 lbs-37%

We sure love this little boy and can't imagine our lives without him! Happy Birthday Zachary!


Arizona Adventures

My little sis lives in Arizona, and has for almost two years but her husband just matched for residency in MICHIGAN and they'll be moving in the summer. Since Arizona is much closer and attainable for us to drive to we decided we'd better get down there.

It was seriously just what I needed. After another failed IUI (totaling four now) it was nice to just get away from life for a while. And Arizona in March is beautiful!! I loved every minute of it, and especially the time with my sis. No one can make me full-on gut laugh like this girl!

We left on a Wednesday and drove all day straight through to get there. We went through Vegas and stopped at Hoover Dam on our way. The boys loved it and although Lance didn't love the idea of going out of the way for a detour he decided it was worth it once we hiked the path to see it.

After a loooong day of driving, lots of snacks and multiple potty stops on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere we finally made it around 9 pm. We pretty much just crashed that first night because we were all exhausted.

The next day we woke up bright and early and went to the Phoenix Zoo. It was huge, with so much to see. The boys loved the multiple play areas and camel ride the best!

We went home and went swimming in the resort-like pool at their apartment. It was seriously huge and so nice! The boys loved jumping back and forth between the pool and hot tubs.
Besides chilling and enjoying time with Whit, Ev and the babies (who are really more toddlers now, aaah!) Lance and I were able to go to the Gilbert Temple. It was much needed, because Lance was just called as the Elder's Quorum President again and I was feeling frustrated about how we're supposed to grow our family when nothing is working. This temple is absolutely beautiful! Seriously, probably the prettiest I have ever seen. We did sealings and the Spirit was so peaceful and calm. Afterwards we spent a long time just sitting in the Celestial Room together. It was lovely and probably one of the highlights of the trip for me!

Being with Whit and Ev was so fun. They made us yummy food and we stayed up WAY too late playing games and laughing our heads off. Me and Whit totally rocked it at rook! Meanwhile the children slept and Z enjoyed Lacy snuggles.
The smells there were incredible! All of the blossoms and citrus. Some ward members brought bags of lemons from their trees to church and I grabbed two huge ones to bring home to Utah. That night we made homemade lemonade that was so yummy!

 We went for a drive after church because I wanted to see orange and lemon trees. I saw a plethora of them, and we ended up at discovery park by the temple. We played baseball with the boys until it got too hot.

 All too soon it was time to leave. We left on a Monday and took a scenic highway through Jerome and Sedona to get to Page where we stayed for the night. Jerome was amazing. I felt like I was in another country driving through that cute little town up on a mountain side. Sedona was gorgeous too.

We stayed in Page for the night and after a yummy continental breakfast continued our trip home. We were all kind of tired and grouchy at this point, but I was not going to miss the opportunity to see new places so we went through Zions. The boys loved the super long tunnel we got to drive through and my only regret was that we didn't have time for the bus tour.

Because we had already purchased a pass through Zions we decided to also check out Kolob Canyon. It was beautiful and had the perfect 1/2 mile hike at the top with some gorgeous scenic views. The boys loved the hike, rock climbing and seeing lots of lizards! Most of all though, they loved that there was snow in the parking lot...we've been rather deprived of it this winter!

Our last stop before home was at Cove Fort. Z loved it and both boys were riveted to the missionary tour guide as he walked us around to each of the rooms. They especially loved that there were lots of gun holes and that we got to go up the stairs to the walkway to look out of them. Since we had been singing Davy Crockett and the Alamo song non-stop on our trip we knew this detour was necessary! :)

I told Lance I want to move to Arizona. And I honestly would if they had a job down there. I would take the 120+ degree summers over our nasty inverted winters any day! It's kind of a bummer to be home and back to real life, but thankfully we had birthday festivities for Z to look forward to! Hopefully Whit and Ev end up back in AZ someday so we can visit again.


Riding the infertility roller coaster

I started writing this post a while ago but never could bring myself to get very far or ever actually finish and publish it. Everything is still way too raw and I don't have the luxury of looking at our situation through hindsight yet, so it still feels hard and awful.

This weekend there was an entire insert in the newspaper dedicated to infertility. The stories in there made me feel better and writing has always been cathartic to me so I thought I would open up and share my recent experiences on the infertility roller coaster.

About seven years ago Lance and I were in a urologists office after some tests for Lance and were told that based on the results we had three options: 1-Don't have kids, 2-Get a sperm donor or 3-Adopt.

We immediately knew that one and two were not the right options for us, and as you all know, we went on to adopt our amazing little boys. (If you haven't already you can read about that by clicking the links over there ----->)

Their adoptions were both amazing and I know that Zachary and Tyson are both supposed to be in my family, and were supposed to get here in the way they did. I wouldn't trade these experiences or my beautiful children for anything. I also know that we are supposed to have their birth families in our lives and I love them. Don't get me wrong, adoption is not at all easy (I still hate when people tell me they will "just adopt") but worth it? Absolutely!

And since their adoptions were both so miraculous, in mid-2013 we started to feel like someone was missing and felt prompted that we should go the adoption route again. Now, Z's adoption was amazingly fast, Ty's was a lot slower (but still fast in the adoption world) so we geared ourself up for another wait. We waited, and waited, and waited. We did all the same networking as before but we never heard even one stitch of news. I checked my email constantly those first few months, but going into summer of 2014 I began to feel worn out with the whole thing. I've never been very patient, and I'm terrible at waiting, I wanted to do something! But unfortunately, adoption is just a whole lot of waiting!

After a random and unexpected conversation with my MIL, I started to consider the idea of getting a sperm donor for the first time. At the beginning of our infertility journey the idea had appalled me and just felt wrong, but after all these years I couldn't figure out why it had bugged me? After all, wasn't it similar to adoption? Sort of like adopting half of a child, but without all of the sadness of placement day... I brought up the subject with Lance and he said, "I always thought that had to be your decision." I was surprised, because I thought just the opposite. At any rate, we decided to pray about it. During that summer I was going to the temple every week and felt some very distinct impressions that this was the route we were supposed to take.

So, we scheduled an appointment with Utah Fertility Center. At the initial consultation we told our stories and I had an ultrasound that showed that all of my parts were there and everything looked good. We went home with loads of information and an appointment to have an HSG test done (basically they put dye in your fallopian tubes to make sure they are clear). That test went well, and we decided to move forward. The doctor said, "Let's have a baby next summer!"

Our first step was to find a donor. We went online to a sperm bank and searched through lots of profiles until we found a donor we liked. Everyone is curious about this part. How do you pick the donor?? It honestly wasn't a big deal to us. I feel like a lot of people were weirded out that we could be so casual about it, but we have adopted two children and we know next to nothing about either of their birth fathers so it didn't feel that different. How we went about it was to put in search parameters as close to Lance as we could get, blue eyes, 6'3", etc.... We picked a really large sperm bank with a great reputation so we actually had several choices. From there we went through and read their essays and medical history to narrow it down to "the one". Honestly I felt like gave me a tiny bit of empathy for birth mothers who have to go through hundreds of adoption profiles to find the right couple, it's overwhelming!

September rolled around and we were ready for our first IUI. We had decided to do natural cycle (which basically just means no fertility drugs) because we didn't want to have multiples and I ovulate with no problems every month so it didn't seem necessary. My hopes were higher than the moon. We had purchased two vials (about $1600 for those babies!) as per their recommendation-in case one of the vials was flawed. I was confident that we wouldn't even need that vial- it was just going to be perfect and work the first time. IUI only has a 15-20% chance of working (humans just aren't that fertile apparently), but I didn't care about the odds, it was going to work!

I had several follicle scans and they showed that I had one follicle growing nice and big. Once it was the right size, they gave me the date to trigger (an HCG shot in the stomach that tells your egg to release so they can time the insemination just right) and then showed me how and let me practice on a little spongey thing. Thankfully, one of my best friends was able to do the shot for me (she has a diabetic daughter so she is really good at tummy shots) since Lance was at work at the time I was supposed to trigger.

We waited 24 hours after the trigger and then did the insemination. Everything went smoothly. I was surprised how fast it was, and honestly I didn't even feel a thing (besides the speculum...dang speculum!) Then came the hard part, the two week wait where you basically convince yourself that every little feeling you have is a "sign" that it worked. And I was convinced that it did....until my period started right on schedule the day of my blood test. I opted not to do the bloodwork since I knew it was a bust. I cried my eyes out that day but told myself, "It's okay, it will work next time and then we won't have to worry about that extra vial."

Except the next time didn't work either, which led to more tears and tons of confusion and doubt! We felt so strongly this was what we were supposed to do, why didn't it work?! We had put these two cycles on a 12-month interest free credit card so that we could spread out that expense and not take such a huge hit to our savings, but we knew we had to pay them off before we could even consider trying again and I was so frustrated. It felt like I had taken $4000 and just flushed it right down the toilet! (It's about $2000/cycle, no small chunk of change!)

Of necessity we decided to work on paying off the first two cycles and saving for more. Randomly at this time my friend called me for a life insurance consultation...long story short we ended up switching from a VUL policy to term life and received a $7000 surrender check. Now I know we're not supposed to look for signs, but this seemed like a pretty good hint at least that we should keep going! We paid off all of our debt (including our fridge we still owed a little bit on) and had enough to try again, so we decided to go for it.

Unfortunately our donor was now out of vials so we had to start that process all over again, but we found a new one without too much trouble. We had talked to our doctor and decided that we would try something to enhance ovulation. I thought maybe it didn't work the first time because we needed to get to the point where the possibility of multiples was okay? So I got on femara, which is basically a drug than stimulates ovulation--a knock off of clomid that is supposed to have less side-effects. After my baseline ultrasound to check my lining (which looked great) I was given a prescription to  to take for five days. On day 12 of my cycle I went in for a follicle scan, and hooray! TWO follicles were growing! I thought for sure this was the time! I triggered the next morning (Lance did it for my while Zachy held my hand...I almost didn't even feel it this time) and then went in the next day for the procedure. My cervix was tricky and it took her several times to get the catheter in, but eventually it worked and after waiting with my hips in the air for twenty minutes we were on our merry old way to another torturous two week wait.

This one was BAD! Everything felt different. I felt nauseous, my nipples were tender (TMI, I know) I was CONVINCED that it worked. I was taking progesterone suppositories every night to help make my lining nice and thick. After a seriously agonizing and emotional two weeks I went in for my blood test (no period, yay!). I was back and forth. I thought I might be pregnant but kept telling myself I wasn't so that my hopes wouldn't be up. I missed the call with my results that evening, and the next morning I had some brown spotting so I started sobbing because I knew it was negative.

The lab called me after I had composed myself and dealt with the reality of another failed cycle and their news was surprising. My bloodwork showed that I was PREGNANT! However, she mentioned that my levels were low so they wanted me back Monday for another blood test. I called Lance sobbing (the second time that day) and told him. He said, "That's great sweetie!" and I said, "no it's not, it's not even for sure!" But then my period never came and the next day I felt so rotten I decided that maybe it was for real. I started to feel excited!

And then during church on Sunday my period came. I ran out of that church building and forgot to even grab my primary bag, I was so upset. How mean! To get my hopes up and then have them dashed! I called the nurse and she said, "It could be nothing, or it could mean that the pregnancy is just not sticking." I spent the whole day sobbing my eyes out. I felt like my heart was shattered.

After a blood test the following Monday and a consultation with our doctor it turns out I was most-likely never pregnant or had a bio-chemical pregnancy (which from what I understand is that your brain psyches your body into thinking it's pregnant when it's not)

Needless to say, that Sunday really sucked. We spent the next day doing some serious retail therapy because I decided I was DONE! I want off the roller coaster!

I'm writing this as a cliff hanger. There is no big "AH HA" moment where I tell you what I learned. Someday there probably will be, but for now I have no idea why we were prompted the way we were and I'm fighting every day not to doubt myself or the promptings we followed. I have this quote hanging on my fridge and draw strength and courage from it every day:

  "With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you." Jeffrey R. Holland, "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence". 

(This entire talk is amazing, read it here)

There are good things ahead! I am excited about the future, even if it's unclear. And if there is never another baby, I know that this experience will teach me things that are vital to my mortal experience. In the meantime, we'd love any extra thoughts and prayers!


first broken bone

In the beginning of November (the night before my brother's wedding) Z and Ty were wrestling when we heard a load smacking sound and Ty started screaming. I was sitting two feet away and didn't think anything happened, but Ty was in agony crying about his leg and refused to walk on it or let anyone touch it. It wasn't swollen at all, nor were there any marks or bruises.  My dad gave him a blessing and assured him he would be fine, but Lance and I decided to take him to the ER just in case.

After a loooong night in the ER and a few x-rays it was determined he was fine. Ty didn't walk on his leg for several days and I kept going back and forth as to whether I should take him to our family doctor, but finally he did walk and it seemed all was well. Several times during that month he would bump his leg and not walk. In fact, I scheduled two appointments and canceled them because he wouldn't walk and then right before I was to take him in he would walk again.

On the 15th we walked Z to preschool and on the way home we were freezing so I put Ty on the top of the stroller (I was babysitting that day so I had the little guy in the stroller) to get us home faster. We got home fine, but as I was reaching to open the garage the stroller tipped. Ty not only fell pretty far but also got twisted in the stroller a bit. He screamed and once again complained about his leg, but once again, no marks or swelling at all. I decided he was fine and I wasn't going to bother taking him in. He refused to walk that whole day and the next morning as well. In the late morning I had a feeling I just needed to take him in. I realized it would probably be a waste of money, but I wanted peace of mind.

So I dropped the kids at a friends and took Ty to the doctor. The day before we had talked about praying for his leg to be healed, so when I told him we were going to the doctor he was so mad and kept crying saying, "Me no want to go to doctor, me want Jesus to heal mine leg!" It was so sad.

We got there and I totally expected nothing to come of it, but of course, the x-ray showed a spiral fracture so we got to come home with a Christmas-y cast. It hasn't been terrible, it can get wet and he can walk (and even run) just fine, but we are so excited to get that thing off tomorrow! We can't wait for him to wear two shoes again and to be able to go ice-skating and swimming, and just not have to carry him around so much (not to mention when that casted leg accidentally kicks us to steps on our toes it hurts!)

We're thankful for that prompting I had to take him in. We are also thankful for modern medicine and sure hope that this expensive adventure doesn't happen again anytime soon (or ever, ha!)


December Festivities

Christmas this year was magical. The boys were my favorite ages yet, and so enthusiastic about everything which made it extra special! We were able to do a lot of fun things, and really enjoyed the entire holidays.

Here are the highlights:

I love having Christmas decorations up and snuggling by the Christmas tree! We always do FHE and scripture study by the Christmas tree during December and it's awesome.
 Sometimes if the boys are really reverent during scriptures we get to play dog pile after!

 Z had lots of fun doing Christmasy activities in preschool and made us a gift. I love it!

 We went to  Temple Square with Lance's family and got to ride front runner again. The boys loved it, even though it was the same day we found out Ty broke his leg.
 It was impossible to get a decent picture of the four of us because the boys are uncooperative!

 We got lots of goodies from the neighbors and even made our own treats and went caroling!

The boys saw Santa several times, but our favorite one was at the library. He was so sweet!

 Z's birth family came to visit!
 We waited and waited for snow, and Z woke up screaming happily when we finally got some! He went straight out to play!

 We drank lots of cocoa--the boys liked it best decked out in Santa hats!

 Made Christmas cookies galore

 We had an awesome Albretsen Christmas party. We played Joseph Smith Jeopardy since it was on the 23rd-his birthday and dad is a church historian... :)

 Lance and the boys went on a Christmas Eve hike with his dad and brothers

 and then we spent the afternoon with my family. We sang carols around the piano right before heading home

 Z wrote his letter for Santa on the window!

 Christmas morning was so much fun! Ty got to go first to see what Santa brought

 Z had to stop at the window because he noticed we had gotten lots of Christmas snow!

 Santa brought a playmobil fort and a kit that they can use to build structures to play in. Z said, "This is the best fort I ever got!"

 Z's haul (most of their gifts this year were joint)

 Ty's favorite gift was hungry hippos--which Z picked out for him

 Ty's haul

 Lance's family came down Christmas day and we all went sledding!
We have played and played. The boys have loved their new toys and play so nicely together. They got to use Christmas money to buy expansions for their fort.

 We celebrated New Years Eve in Bountiful watching movies and visiting with LOTS of treats.

 Aunt Shay came to visit!

 Lance and I were able to sneak away to the temple. Our goal is once a week, even if it's just taking the boys to walk around the grounds.
Me and Shay got manicures!

Jam-packed December, but so much fun! We love having family close and are excited for the new year!