June 26, 2017

10 Things Not to Do or Say to a Bereaved Parent

After we lost Colby things got interesting in our familial and friend relationships. Some people were very sweet and supportive, while others ignored our loss altogether. I was shocked at some of the things people said and did (or didn't say and do), especially from my family.

So I've decided to make a little guide on what not to say to a bereaved parent.

1. "It wasn't even a baby yet."
This one hurt the most. It was a baby to me as soon as that second pink line showed up on the pregnancy test. This statement is the most grieved in the online support group I am a member of.

2. "It's probably for the best."
How is me not having my child in my arms "for the best?" Don't assume that there was something deathly wrong with the baby, because that is not always the case. Colby was perfect. He was developing on schedule, and all the tests came back normal. So, no, it was not "for the best."

3. "Just get over it already."
Losing a child is not something you "just get over" after a few days. A lot of healing, both physically and mentally, needs to happen. And I don't think any parent gets over not having their child.

4. "Sometimes these things happen."
Yes. We know. We are living it right now. You don't have to tell us.

5. Rushing the parent to "get over it" faster.
Rushing a person through the grieving process is not good for anyone, ever. Each person has their own needs and their own way of coping, so let them. What you may not help them, and vice versa.

6. Ignoring the loss altogether.
It was the ones who said and did nothing that hurt the most for me. I get it, it's an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved and you're not sure what to say. Well, saying nothing at all is worse than saying something that might come out wrong. Because your attempt means that you care.

5. "Are you STILL sad about that?"
Here we go again with the rushing. Guilting a bereaved parent because they aren't "over it" yet is a horrible thing to do.

6. "At least you know you can get pregnant."
For me, this one was ok. I was diagnosed infertile over 2 years ago, and it was a good sign that I can get pregnant. However, many women are hurt by this statement, especially if they have experienced multiple losses. So it's better to just steer clear of this statement unless you have the full story.

9. Not say the baby/child's name.
Many parents decide to name their baby whether they know the sex or not. It's not weird. Referring to their baby as "the baby" or "your baby" or "it" or "them" or any other non-name word can be hurtful. Saying the child's name makes them more real and more important to others and not just the parent.

10. Not acknowledging the baby is real and important.
Because they are. Very much.

If you have said or done any of these things, it's ok. Just keep these things in mind for the future. If the loss was recent, though, perhaps apologizing to the parent could be helpful. That is up to you though. This list might also help to explain why there may be an awkwardness between you and the parent(s) as well.

All of this poses the question of, "what should I say and do instead?" Well here's the bonus, I'm going to get you started on that too.

What you should say/do instead:

1. "I'm so sorry. We are thinking of you/praying for you."

2. "I'm really am here if you want to talk."

3. "It's ok to cry, take all the time you need."

4. Say the baby/child's name when referring to them (unless asked not to).

5. Validate their feelings and emotions.

6. If you are family, recognize the baby/child as your grandchild, niece/nephew, cousin, great-grandchild.

7. If there is a memorial service or a funeral, go if you can go. If you can't go, send flowers, a card, something to acknowledge the event.

8. Don't make the parent feel bad or guilty for honoring their baby/child in their own way, no matter how weird it may seem to you.

9. Reach out and check on the parent.

10. Wish them "Happy Mother's/Father's Day," even if they do not have any other children.

Has anyone said anything insensitive to you in the past?

June 19, 2017

DIY Flowery Front Door Wreath

The other day, our mail lady came to the door to give us our mail so she could ask about the wreath on our front door.

Ms. Sue: Do you make your own wreaths?
Me: Yes, I do.
Ms. Sue: Oh wow! It's so beautiful! You are so creative.
Me: Thank you!

So I was inspired to make a tutorial for this super cheap and super easy wreath.

Where to shop:
Dollar Tree
Craft Store (if needed)

What you need:
10-12 Fake Hawaiian leis in colors of your choice
Wire wreath frame (if the dollar tree doesn't have any, you can get one at any craft store)
**You can also use a skinny pool noodle cut to desired length and taped with duct tape.**
Floral wire
Wired Ribbon (I found this lovely pink burlap ribbon at the Dollar Tree!)

Wrap the leis around the wreath frame and secure with small lengths of floral wire. If you go the pool noodle route you'll want to glue the ends of the leis to the noodle. I recommend E-6000 as it is waterproof. Make a bow, and attach it to the wreath with the floral wire. Voila! beautiful wreath for spring and summer.

You could do blue and pink for a baby shower or white for a bridal shower! Make wreaths in wedding colors for a wedding or your own decor colors for a beautiful wall decor piece.

Do you make your own wreaths?

June 12, 2017

How to Cope with a Long Distance BFF

Many of you know my Llama, Melissa. She's been my best friend for eleven years now. We've been through some amazing times, and some really shitty times. But we were inseparable. Now that I'm living in Missouri, a mere 726.7 miles apart (yes i looked it up), it's not quite the same. However, I think we've become closer and have an even stronger friendship now than we ever dud. And that's really saying something.

Here are some things that we do to help us cope with being so far apart, that keep us close.

Fun Text Tones
You will text A LOT. So make it a tone that you absolutely love and/or associate with your bestie. This goes for ring tones too. You just need that fun and catchy tone to listen to a million times a day.

Give Autocorrect a Name
Ours is Judy. And she's a bitch. Our "smart" phones like to make us look stupid sometimes, or you're fingers just can't seem to hit the right keys. Whatever the reason, someone needs to be blamed, and that's Judy.

Surprise Snail Mail
Whether it'a a small gift or a little card, these keep things special. It's a physical reminder that you have a best friend who cares about you.

Just because you live in totally different places now, doesn't mean the gossip stops. Now, turn off your judgey face and admit that you gossip sometimes too, even though we aren't supposed to. And there are time a little Facebook stalking is in order to familiarize yourself with the gossip victim.

Watch Movies Together
You know you both own a copy of Mama Mia, so pop that sucker in and sync it up. Sing all the songs and text your BFF the whole time. Just because you've seen it a million times doesn't mean you are tired of it. It can actually be therapeutic.

Workout Together
Schedule gym session or walks at times that you both can do it. Call each other or start a step challenge to keep each other accountable when you can't just bust in on the other and snatch the Cheetos away.

Keep up with your Inside Jokes
Seriously. In 2006 "drive by wooting" was totally a thing for us (don't ask). And even now I randomly will send her a snap of this.

Be Honest
No matter what. It's a general friendship rule already, but I feel it's even more important when its and long distance friendship. You can't physically step in anymore, so sometimes brutal honesty is what's needed.

Send Photos, often.
Snapchat is amazing for this purpose. It keeps you connected on a visual level (get your minds out of the gutter). We send photos of ourselves, my pets, her kids, my husband, her boyfriend, e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. But mostly coffee.

Drink Coffee Together
This is the same as the movies. Just get a coffee and the same time and chat on the phone. It's almost like your normal trips to Starbucks.

Basically do all the things you used to do, only most of it through text and phone calls. haha

Do you have a long distance BFF? How do you stay close?

June 8, 2017

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe

Here's a happier post for you. I've been making these muffins for Hubs as a grab-and-go breakfast before he goes to work. If I don't make him something quick and easy, the he won't eat breakfast at all, so this works perfectly.

What you need:
3-4 medium to large ripe bananas (no green)
1 box of Spice Cake Mix
2 eggs
1 bag of milk or dark chocolate chips
Flour baking spray
Muffin tins or loaf pans
Large bowl
Potato Masher or Fork
Mixing spoon

Preheat the over to 350*F.
Prepare your muffin tins (you'll need two), OR you can do two loaf pans, OR a combination of both! I spray mine with a flour baking spray.

First you'll want to mash the bananas up. You can use a potato masher or a fork to do this, and you'll want it to be a slightly chunky baby food texture (does that make sense??). Once that is done, add the eggs and mix well.
Add the cake mix and a little more than half the bag of chocolate chips, mix until evenly blended.
Spoon the mix into the muffin tins or pour into the loaf pans and sprinkle more chocolate chips on the top.
Bake for 25-30 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean(ish).

Voila! Delicious chocolate chip banana bread muffins! You could also do the traditional nuts instead of the chocolate chips and it would be banana nut bread. Dried cranberries would be really good in this too. The options are endless!

This recipe is much easier than my great grandmother's recipe. No one can live up to her baked goods anyways, haha.

Have you every simplified a traditional recipe?

June 5, 2017

Grief and Mental Illness: End the Stigma

I almost started this post with an apology for being absent from this space for so long. Then I realized that I don't owe anyone an apology for taking time for myself and my own mental health while we grieve Colby. We are still grieving, and I have good days and bad days, but we must keep moving forward if we are to honor his little life and give him a little brother or sister.

I have lived with a mental illness for most of my life. Although I went undiagnosed and untreated for at least a decade, looking back, my depression began in my early teens. Nothing I did made it better, at least not in the long term. It wasn't until my early twenties that things escalated to the point it was affecting my relationships with the people in my life, but I didn't want to be "that crazy girl" who has to take medication to be "normal." But, in 2011 on a rainy afternoon I sat in my car crying to my mom on the phone in the Target parking lot, that I finally realized that I cannot do this on my own. I made an appointment with my family doctor, and was diagnosed with major depression and given a prescription for an antidepressant. Those were turbulent times. I wasn't always able to get my medication, and I spent many nights wishing to go to sleep and not wake up.

When I moved to Missouri in 2013, things got better (thanks to my wonderful husband). After we got married I was able to get back on my medication, and I started therapy. I wanted to be better, to be well. After a two medication changes with no improvement, I decided to have a formal psychological assessment done. December of 2016 I discovered what I've been fighting for the past 20 years. PTSD, depression, anxiety, and Bipolar II. So many emotions ranging from shock to relief flooded my mind and body. I immediately began to research these diagnoses and the medication that go along with them.

We found out we were pregnant in November, and at 14 weeks and 2 days gestation we lost our son, Colby, on January 20, 2017. It's been 19 weeks and 3 days (as of Monday) since that awful night and they have been the hardest days of my life. The most important thing I've learned from this is that the grieving process is so different for each person. There is NO set time that you have to "get over it" and "move on." Losing a child is extremely hard no matter what age, and that takes time to heal enough to start being ok again. I've learned to brush off the people who want me to get better at a faster pace, the ones who don't know that their words hurt, and the ones who don't offer any words at all. You really do find out who cares most when you experience a loss like this.

Grief on top of my existing depression and Bipolar II has made things difficult for not only me, but for those around me, most of all my husband. I'm learning to distinguish between grief emotions and reactions, and the "normal" ups and downs I experience with my Bipolar. And hubs is learning how to support and reassure me as we try to heal.I am now on new medications that are geared towards stabilizing my moods and am still in therapy. I also found a support group for miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and infant loss, and that has helped immensely.

I'm not telling you this to gain pity or sympathy, I don't want any of that, thanks. I am telling you this because this is me; this is my "normal." I am not ashamed of my mental illnesses, nor am I embarrassed that I need to take medication to balance the chemicals in my brain. I know my limits: what I can handle in a healthy way and what I cannot. Mental illness does not make me weak or less than, and I don't want to be treated as such. We need to break the negative stigma. It keeps many people from seeking the help they need, and encourages the rampant ignorance of psychological disorders in the general public.

I hope that by being open about my grief and mental illnesses I can shed some light on this side of the story. That I can help even just one person by letting them know they are not alone, and it's ok to get help. If you just need someone to listen, I'll be that person. If not me, reach out to a friend or family member. There are also support groups; find one in your area or even online.

February 8, 2017

Colby Christian Wood

Some of you may already know if we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on Instagram. But, on January 20, 2017 at 2:30am we lost our son, Colby Christian, at just over 14 weeks gestation.

I am not pregnant anymore.

I had a miscarriage.

We lost our son.

Those three statements have been the hardest thing to type, much less say out loud. I cannot express to you the level of emptiness and sadness I feel. I'm not sure I could even try to put it to words. If you've experienced a loss like this, you know what I mean. What's worse is we may never know why. The only thing that keeps me going is that it's not my fault and that Jesus will keep him safe until I can once again hold my precious boy.

I have had a wonderful support system around me, especially that first week afterwards. I'm not sure I'd be as "ok" as I am today if it weren't for my mom driving all the way up here from Georgia for that week. I don't think I could get through this at all without my amazing husband. And my closest friends have done their best to help me stay distracted when I need to be and be a shoulder to cry on when I need it.

I do want to thank everyone for your sweet words and prayers. It means a lot to me and Hubs. Especially those that call our son by his name. It makes him real and important to not just us. Even though you may not know what to say, there's not much anyone can say to make it better. But the simple "I'm so sorry" or "we are thinking about you" messages are perfectly enough for us right now.

A special thanks to all of those that lit a candle for Colby the day we brought him home from the funeral home that did his cremation. It was so amazing to see his light touch more than just our hearts.

Hope. That is what we have for the future. We have hope that we will be able to bring another light into this world that won't be extinguished so soon.


January 18, 2017

How Does Infertility Affect Marriage? A Research Project

Infertility takes a huge toll on a person. I've talked about my own infertility and what I've had to go through to get here. I've asked Hubs to write a little something about my infertility from the perspective of a husband:

Hello all, you all know me as the husband of Knock on Wood. Not too long ago my wife shared our story about the battle with infertility. I'm going to add my perspective on our troubles, and the toll it took on us and our marriage. First of all it was rough seeing all the negative tests. The depressed look on my wife's face cycle after cycle, and there was nothing I could say or do that would help. It made me feel helpless and useless. Our love life became monotonous because sometimes it was scheduled, and to be honest, there were times I didn't enjoy it at all. It was a very stressful time for us and I tried to just go with the flow. She just needed to feel sad, or be mad sometimes, so I let her. I listened and just tried to be there as much as she wanted me to.
Now that my wife is pregnant (YAY!!!!!!) Our relationship has been better, she's been more upbeat, and positive (even thought she's sick right now as I'm writing this). I have been learning how to feed a baby and change diapers with my new nephew around (I've never been around babies). I want to end on this note: despite this hard chapter we've gone through, I love my wife with all my heart, and I think we're going to be great parents.

And all of this leads to the question: How does infertility affect marriage/relationships?

Well, I'm taking a research class this session and I've decided to conduct my own little study. I know some of you, dear readers, have fought or are currently fighting your own war on infertility, so I am asking you to help me out. I've created a survey that is completely anonymous that will hopefully give me a better sense of a possible answer to this question. If you would complete the survey for me, I would greatly appreciate it. If you haven't experienced infertility, but know someone who has, feel free to pass it along those you know who would be interested in participating.

Have you ever participated in an study like this before? 

January 16, 2017

8 Things I Keep On Hand For Blog Photos

Blog Photos. You can buy them, get them from free sites, or take them yourselves (don't steal photos! That is rude). Over the past couple years I have been teaching myself new ways to take, edit, and stage photos for my blog and Instagram all with my iPhone. There are tons of tutorials for smartphone photography out there and you can get inspiration for staging from other peoples photos (especially on Instagram). I've been asked a few times what I keep on hand for my photos, so today I'm going to share my must haves with you!

1. White Foam Board
This is essential for flat lays if you don't already have a desirable surface that can be moved into the natural light. I get mine from the Dollar Tree, so when they start looking shabby, or the cats decide to claw it up, it's easily replaceable.

2. Trifold White Poster Board
Also from the Dollar Tree. These are good for using as a light reflector as well as a backdrop for smaller item photos.

3. Cute Office Supplies
Paperclips, pencils, pens, notepads, etc. I have a couple of different color sets that I got from the Target dollar section. They always have new stuff for each season. Dollar Tree also has some basics too, although they don't always the cute matching colors.

4. Calendar
For 2016 I got a clipboard calendar from Target. And this year I have a spiral one from the Dollar Tree. I use these (usually with seasonal items) for my first of the month photos on Instagram and have used them here on the blog as well for "currently" posts.

5. Fake Flowers/plants
Why spend money on real ones all the time? Especially if you have allergies or a super black thumb. For lots of my photos I have fake flowers and plants in them. The secret is to get ones that look more real than others. You know what I mean, some fake flowers actually look really fake, while others don't. What's great about them is you can store them and use them for several years. I get some from the Dollar Tree (you get lucky when they get in the new shipments) and some from Target, JoAnn's, or other craft supply stores.

6. Candles
Most of you probably have candles around the house already. Pull the ones you already have that match your color palette or season. Or you can get cheap ones at, you guessed it, the Dollar Tree. Walmart also has a nice selection that isn't terrible expensive either.

7. Mugs
We all have mugs because we all can't go without coffee or tea, amiright? These are a staple in blog and Instagram photos. They don't always have to be cute or have a nice saying on them. I have some plain white ones my mom gave me that I use a lot of the time. OR you can always save your Starbucks cup and use it for photos a few more times.

8. White or Light colored fuzzy blanket.
This is a new one for me, but I've been wanting one for a LONG time (I got one for Christmas). They are great for beauty product shots because the bottles won't roll away like they do on hard surfaces. I've seen them used a lot for those sitting-with-a-mug-and-computer/book shots. You know the ones. Check TJMaxx, Ross, and other discount stores for the fake fur rugs and blankets. Walmart and Target have the fleece blankets that have the cream/white fuzzy side like the one I have.

I like to grab little things I have around my house to use in photos as well. Like my elephants figurines, books, eye glasses, jewelry, tchotchkes, etc. Raid your house to find items that go with the theme of the photo you want. Did you buy apples at the grocery store this week? Put some in your photo! Have a giant bag of skittles (just me? ok... #pregnancycravings)? Pop them in a bowl and put it in your photo! Made popcorn for snack? Use it!

I also use my laptop and iPad in photos as well (and sometimes I use my iPhone and take the photo with my iPad). Use what you have already! You don't have to spend a fortune to get good photos.

I always try to use natural lighting when possible. It gives the clearest and brightest images and makes editing easier. And my favorite apps for editing on my phone are Afterlight (it's def worth the $.99) and a free app called Color Story. I use PicMonkey (they now have a phone app!) and Canva to make graphics for my blog. Both are free to use, but have paid upgrades you can purchase.

What do you keep on hand for photos?

January 6, 2017

5 Things I Am Missing During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is such a blessing, and I am so grateful to be finally having this experience. However, there is a long list of things you must not do for those nine months. A lot of those things, like eating sushi, I didn't do to begin with, but there are a few that I am missing particularly more than others.

1. Caffeine.
While we were trying to make this baby, I somehow got myself adjusted to Diet Caffeine Free Dr. Pepper. I have cut down on the amount of tea I drink, as a southern girl you must understand how hard it is to give up sweet tea. The biggest sacrifice has been my Starbucks habit. Granted, I only went on days I had class, which was normally 2 days a week. This session, however, I am going four days a week. The horrors. *insert dramatic faint here*

2. Wine
Oh man do I miss wine. I've taken to drinking juices out of a wine glass and pretending really really hard. But a relaxing bath just isn't the same without a glass of cool white wine to chug sip.

3. Energy
First trimester fatigue is very real. I have absolutely no energy or motivation to do things most days. At least its becoming more acceptable to wear yoga pants and leggings as pants these days, so I can just put on a decent shirt and shoes, throw my hair up in a messy bun and run errands or go to class with minimal effort. #pregnancywin

4. Clear Sinuses
I can't be the only one who has had a near constant overload of mucus stopping up my nostrils, preventing normal breathing. Not only am I limited to sleeping positions that keep me awake, now I have to fight to breathe at night. I saw a post about this the other day on one of the pregnancy groups I joined on Facebook and I don't feel so alone in this now. I think what sucks the most about this, is that you are limited on what medications you can take while pregnant, and you are encouraged to try not to take any at all.

5. Teeth Whitening
All those sodas, wine, and coffee we drink (or have give up for good reasons) can cause stains on your teeth, and we remedy this by whitening them. Before I got my two pink lines, I had partnered with Smile Brilliant to try out their at home whitening kit that features custom fitted whitening trays. Smile Brilliant sends you everything you need to get started. The molds for the custom trays were simple to make, and I got the finished trays fairly quickly after I sent the molds in. It was slow going at first due to my super sensitive teeth (I had no idea! I've never had problems before) even with the nifty desensitizing gel step included with the custom whitening tray kit. My consultant was amazing though, and helped me along with different tips and techniques. I was seeing some great results, even with the few treatments I was able to manage. Then I got my positive test, and had to stop the treatments all together, cutting my whitening experience off before I was done. Therefore I don't have adequate before and after photos (boo). But, you can check out some of the other reviews for Smile Brilliant and THIS video about how the custom whitening trays are made and how the two types of gels work.

Even though I can't whiten right now, doesn't mean you can't (as long as you aren't expecting as well!), so I'll be giving away a custom whitening tray kit. Just enter your information below. Can't wait two weeks for the giveaway results? You can use the code "knockonwoodblog" for $20 off your own set of trays during the duration of the giveaway. Happy Whitening!

What did you miss most during your pregnancy?

  Whitening Teeth At Home

January 3, 2017

Pregnancy After Infertility

Now that the secret is out, I'll probably be around a little more. Well I hope so anyways. I'm telling you what, it's hard not to talk about or reference a pregnancy that is happening to you. Especially one that has be much anticipated by not only my husband and I, but all of our friends and family as well. A lot of people have been following our baby journey, and I hope no one is offended that we didn't spill the beans after those two pink lines popped up (we did tell immediate family and very few close friends).

Why not shout it from the rooftops and toss positive pregnancy tests on social media? Fear. And it is very real. Two of my close friends have recently experienced miscarriages. All I could think about after the initial shock wore off was that I would wake up tomorrow and it would be just a dream, that it wasn't real. I took more tests every few days and analyzed every single sensation or symptom. We had a little scare that it might be ectopic, so an emergency ultrasound was ordered at about 5 weeks. Thank God JellyBean was nestled safe in my uterus, and the pains I was feeling were probably the small cysts on my ovaries bursting (thanks PCOS).

After that reassurance, the fear was still there. Symptoms would come and go, and I was googling statistics as each week. I spotted one day and was scared to death. I was counting the days to our first official appointment at the OB, those three weeks seemed to have lasted years to me. I was so excited and nervous and scared. I knew we should be able to see the heartbeat, but knew there was a possibility that we wouldn't be able to hear it yet.

You can only imagine how in awe I was when she found it. There it was, fluttering away on the screen and then she turned the sound on. I couldn't even take my eyes off the screen to look at Hubs to see his reaction. My baby, there on the screen, extremely real. We didn't even remember to take a video of it!

I felt better after that appointment, until we got home. Then the anxiety and fear came crashing back in. "I'm still not past the first trimester, yet. Anything can happen." I tried to stay positive. And I would get irrationally angry at anyone who said anything like "Well I hope nothing happens" or "Hope it's a sticky bean" or "you should probably wait a while to tell people/buy things, just in case."

I reached the 12 week milestone on New Year's Day. And our next appointment is next week. Another anxious weeks of waiting.

I haven't decided how much of this pregnancy I'm going to share publicly. But I do know that you'll probably never see a "bumpdate" in this space or on social media. I've also decided not to share the names we've picked out either. As far as sharing gender and other details... I just don't know yet. Some things should be kept as a surprise right?

When did you share? How much did you share?