Great American Backyard Campout Photos!

Recently, we pledged to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout organized by the National Wildlife Federation. I set up the tent and our little camping area Friday while my husband was at work. Whenever we have gone “real” camping, I have been limited to what we could fit in our Jeep so I could never get our campsites as pretty as I would like them. At home, that wasn’t an issue so I could make it as fun, glam, and bohemian as I wanted. :)

We actually had so much fun that we ended up camping in the back on two different weekends! We may leave this “campground” set up for the rest of the summer. :) This was Edison’s first experience camping and he loved it! We can’t wait to bring him camping to a real campsite.

We live on a hill and have no privacy from our neighbors above us. To give us a bit of seclusion, I hung curtains around our pergola.

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Hand soap, lotion and lantern.
Old fashioned hand washing station (Edison loved this!).
Mason jar water glasses for each of us.
Drinking water with fresh mint.
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We used Edison’s train table as our picnic table.
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Our dogs joined in on the fun.
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We roasted smores. We came to the decision that I am the smore making master. My husband thought his would win since he has been camping more, but I grew up going to beach bonfires every summer. ;)
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Stella loved sleeping in the tent!
Edison loves his little books, and stashed lots of them in the pockets inside the tent. As soon as he woke up, he started grabbing books for story time. :)

Daily Dose of Edison – Free Train Rides!

Edison and I have been to these free train rides in Torrance before, but this time we brought along my husband and some friends. The train rides take place at Wilson Park in Torrance, CA, and are free on the first Sunday and third Saturday of every month! It is such an adorable little area, with lots of little rustic decorations. Great fun for little ones and parents too!
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Mom! Can’t you see I’m getting ready to enjoy my train ride?! This is no time for pictures!
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Afterward, we had a family picnic in the park. Edison recently outgrew his dairy and wheat allergies, so we were quite excited that we would all be able to eat cheese and crackers. :)
Then some fun play time in the park. :)
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Big sloppy kisses for Daddy!
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Daily Dose of Edison – Summertime Fun

Edison and I have been spending a fair amount of time at the beach in the morning lately. He absolutely loves playing in the sand but so far is absolutely terrified by going near the ocean.

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I brought his bathing suit for him, but he would not cooperate with an outfit change. I had made these pants for him the night before, and he was so excited to get to wear something I made (my husband held him and they watched me as I sewed them). Those pants were pretty much the only thing I could get him to wear for a few days following having made them. I am so touched that my sweet boy treasures the things that I make…it means the world to me. :)
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Yup, sand goatee. Oh, Edison.

Recently, we went to an Instameetup, which was a group of moms who “met” via Instagram, getting together for a playdate. We had a great time and met some amazing moms and their kids. Unfortunately, Edison got a hold of my phone while I was pulling out my big camera. Then it was all over for us. Not my proudest parenting moment. I knew that if I took the phone away from him, it would end up in a fit to end all tantrums. I hated feeling like “that mom” who lets their young child turn into a screen time addict (he really normally is not allowed to hog my phone like this!). I got him all dressed up in one of my favorite vintage outfits, hoping to get some cute photos of him…didn’t happen without the phone anyway.
Edison, look at the cute kids you were ignoring!
Pretty little Luna trying to get his attention.
Oh, Edison…next time, no cell phone!

Butterflies & Ladybugs in the Garden

After we went to the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, I decided I need to up the ante in Edison’s garden to get him even more butterflies coming by. The butterflies already like the current selection of red valerian and red geraniums, but I wanted to attract more with some more options for flowers. When I started creating Edison’s garden, I removed all of the plants in the area that were poisonous (planted by previous owners). Some of the plants that butterflies enjoy are also poisonous, so I wanted to make sure that I only added non-poisonous additions to his garden.

I also recently went through and had our garden certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation (more info here). Our little changes to Edison’s garden helped improve our score. Soon the NWF is going to have an additional advanced certification as a butterfly habitat, which I am hoping to get as well. I can’t wait until our garden signs arrive!
The first thing that I tracked down was a butterfly bush, also known as buddleia. I found this one at Sunflower Farms in Torrance, CA. I also put down some sunflower seeds.
Next, I found a dune buckwheat, native to the Palos Verdes Penninsula. I purchased this from the South Coast Botanic Garden.
I also added in some nice yellow yarrow, which can be found many places.

Butterflies love oregano, so I added in some organic oregano.
At the butterfly exhibit, I noticed that the water trays were filled with pebbles. I started doing some reading and discovered that butterflies like to have a little rock to perch on while drinking their water. I set up this little terracotta saucer of water with some rocks, and put it on a plant stand in the back of Edison’s garden.
I also read that some butterflies like to drink out of slightly muddy sand, so I made another water dish with sand.
We added some more flowers that butterflies and caterpillars love, all of which have edible flowers for humans. I love the seeds from Botanical Interests because they will actually tell you on the packet if the flowers are edible (always a great safety precaution if you have young children or pets).
Edison is always a good helper when planting seeds.
He had started running after the cats earlier that week and had to get glue stitches on a nasty cut on his forehead. He tripped and fell and cut his forehead open on the floor…he can’t quite keep up with the cats yet.

After we finished working on his garden, my garden needed some assistance from some additional ladybugs. My neem oil treatment had gotten rid of most of my aphid infestation, but I wanted to bring in some additional ladybugs as a preventative measure. I purchase my ladybugs from Armstrong Garden Center (I mention this since sometimes they can be difficult to find). Ladybugs are best released at dawn or dusk, and Edison is never awake at dawn, so we released them at dusk that night.
He had a lot of fun with the ladybugs crawling all over him. :)
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Once they started getting all in his hair, he had enough and got a bit upset. Other than that, he had a lot of fun releasing the ladybugs into the garden. :)aliciainwonderlandblog

Daily Dose of Edison – Butterfly Exhibit

Recently, we went to the butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Edison gets quite a few butterflies that come to his garden, and loves “talking” to them, so I figured he would be excited to see a whole exhibit of live butterflies. Sure enough, he chatted away to all of the butterflies in the exhibit. :)

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The visit to the museum inspired a few changes that I implemented in Edison’s own garden, which I will post about soon!

Weekly Dose of Edison – Catching Up

Occasionally, I make a list of goals for myself with social media. My current list includes:
1. Catch up on all of the blog posts I got behind with when I was really busy with planting in our garden remodels.
2. Resume my Weekly Dose of Edison posts.
3. Start using hashtags better on Instagram.

I started creating hashtags for our various gardens on our property, and I started adding a hashtag to all of my photos on Instagram of our son. Since I had been doing the Weekly Dose of Edison on the blog, I decided that #dailydoseofedison would be perfect for Instagram since I tend to post photos of him there almost daily. Seemed like a perfect idea since it appeared no one else was using that hashtag. Then I started getting bothered by some girl out in Texas. Apparently her friend had been using that hashtag, but since her profile was set to private, there was no way I could have known that. Now her profile is no longer private, and the pictures of my son got all mixed up with someone’s kitten. Most ironic since the kitten looks a lot like my cat Fluffy looked when he was little. :) Anyway, I am now trying to get caught up and use #dailydoseofedisonstanley on Instagram.

I have been taking photos of Edison with the big camera, meaning to post them on the blog, but have gotten very behind. So I am going to have a Daily Dose of Edison on the blog for a bit as well until I get caught up. ;) With everything that we have gone through in the past few months, it really makes me want to soak up every possible minute with this little guy. I am so appreciative that despite everything we have been through, we still get to be parents to this amazing little boy. So no one will get too annoyed that the blog is temporarily going to turn into the Edison show for a few days. :)

One morning, I was working in the garden while Edison was sleeping. Normally, that is my time to myself before he wakes up. This particular morning, there was no marine layer, and the morning light was unusually beautiful. I had to wake him up and put him in a cute outfit so I could get a few pictures. He is definitely not a morning person.
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After this point, he realized I was trying to get photos of him, and he got into a better mood. The kid is a big ham.
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Lots more photos coming soon!

R.I.P. Sweet Baby Girl – Dealing with Miscarriage #6

This past weekend, I had my sixth miscarriage. Six miscarriages is kind of a mind boggling thing to wrap your head around. Six of our babies that we did not get to meet (actually, it is more like seven babies we did not get to meet since we believe that our son Edison actually started out as a twin. Thankfully there was no miscarriage involved with that one though). I started thinking about how difficult the first few miscarriages were for me emotionally and physically. They have all been difficult, but it was harder to know what to do with the first few. For some reason, miscarriage seems to still be a slightly taboo topic in our culture. When a woman has a miscarriage, it is generally something she keeps quite quiet, and doesn’t often share with those around her. From my experience, that is the worst way to handle a miscarriage. It is time that people start having an open dialogue about what a woman goes through when she loses a pregnancy.

Let me start from the beginning, with a brief summary of each loss that I have had to endure.

If you have read any of my older posts about my battle with infertility, you know that it has not been an easy road for us to become parents. I have multiple issues that have caused me to be officially diagnosed as “infertile”. The first issue being a hormonal imbalance. My body simply is not capable of producing the same levels of hormones that most women need to ovulate and sustain a pregnancy. From the time I was 12 years old, I was told after numerous studies that I would get periods but I never ovulated. My body was not producing enough of the hormone needed to properly expel an egg from the ovary. As a result, I have battled with problems with my ovaries most of my life. I have had many pre-cancerous tumors growing on my ovaries. I also was born with a deformed, t-shaped uterus, which makes implantation of a fertilized egg difficult, and carrying a pregnancy to term even more difficult. The t-shaped uterus is extremely tiny and made from an unusual type of tissue that is classified as “non-elastic”. No one knows why I have all of these issues with my reproductive system. They are not the result of exposure to any drug or medicine, and they are not genetically inherited. They are just the cross that I have to bear and I have come to accept that.

The first time I got pregnant, I did not realize I was pregnant. Pregnancy hormones are what normally create pregnancy symptoms for most women. Those stories of “I didn’t know I was pregnant” that you see on tv are totally understandable if those women have a hormonal imbalance. The first time, I did not realize I was pregnant until the miscarriage. At first, I thought it was just the world’s worst period. I have had some pretty horrendous periods through the years, so it seemed just a little worse than normal. I did not think anything was wrong until I saw a teeny tiny hand floating in the toilet. I cried for days.

The second time I got pregnant, I started having morning sickness symptoms. My coworkers at the time actually realized I was pregnant before I realized. At the time, I did not know anything was wrong with my uterus. I suspected something may have been wrong (other than my hormone issues) because of the first miscarriage, but my doctor had never mentioned anything specific. My husband and I were still newleyweds at this point, and my job had been extraordinarily stressful, and only getting worse. We knew that I had been advised by numerous doctors to cut back my stress levels. We made the decision that I would quit my full time job and start the photography business that we had been talking about. When my boss asked if I could stay on longer than the standard two week notice, I proudly declined because of my new pregnancy. I worked my butt off during those two weeks, trying to wrap up years worth of work into a tidy little system so the transition would be as seamless as possible once I left. I really regret working so hard during those last two weeks since I am pretty sure it was not appreciated anyway. A few days after I finished working there, I had another miscarriage.

That second loss was devastating. We had gotten so excited. We had names picked out, and we were planning how we were going to rearrange our tiny little cottage that we were renting. That loss was toward the end of the first trimester. We felt so attached to that baby, and it was really difficult to get over for both of us. I was so embarrassed. I did not want to tell anyone that I had lost the pregnancy since it felt like I had failed. I had already told so many people that I was pregnant, and I was just relieved that I did not have to see most of them on a daily basis anymore. I felt like maybe if I just had relaxed while I finished out those last two weeks, maybe I would have been able to keep the baby. I was wracked with guilt for months.

The third and fourth miscarriages are a bit of an emotional blur. I did not tell my husband about pregnancy number three or the miscarriage at first. I felt like I had become a disappointment of a wife. I knew that he was well aware of my fertility problems before we got married. We had discussed it together and with our priest at length during our pre-wedding planning. I knew that he was not counting on us having children. However, when I would see him interact with the children that I had over for photoshoots, I knew that he was meant to be a father. He was so happy around children and so effortless with them. I knew that even though he was not counting on us becoming parents, that it was really hard on him knowing that we kept getting close but it just was not working out.

I eventually told him about the third miscarriage and he was hurt that I had kept such a secret from him in an effort to protect him. The fourth miscarriage felt sadly routine. The pregnancy came and went without much event, just like the third. After four miscarriages, I went to my ob-gyn and basically asked him “what the heck is wrong with me?!” That is when I found out about my deformed uterus. It had been noted in my chart for years but he had never told me. I promptly started trying to find a new ob-gyn.

The fifth miscarriage was when I started to slip into a deep depression. My husband was out of state for a prolonged period of time when it happened, working on getting his rental house in Texas ready for sale. We had just moved into our house here, and I had been working hard on the garden. Trash day came around, and I had a very heavy green bin full of grass that I had removed from the backyard. I could barely move the trash can but rolled it out anyway. The huge strain on my body seemed to trigger the miscarriage. Apparenly, you aren’t supposed to fill up the green bin with sod, so they would not take the darn thing anyway. It was so frustrating…I felt like I had wasted all of that effort and lost my baby as a result. I felt so alone and depressed since my husband was not around to comfort me. I tried to think about military wives and how they must go through things like this all of the time. I assumed that they must get through it by confiding in each other. I tried confiding in a friend, and I got a “what’s the big deal, it’s just a miscarriage right? Just get over it!” kind of response. I realized then that most people simply do not understand what a woman goes through when dealing with a miscarriage.

I told my new doctor what had happened, and she started doing a bunch of blood tests to figure out what was going on with my hormone levels that was preventing me from keeping a pregnancy. She discovered that my body was not producing enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy. When I went back in for a follow up appointment, we discovered that I was pregnant with Edison. I was immediately given an prescription for progesterone supplements. I am convinced that without those (and some other interventions along the way during his pregnancy), he would not be here today.

As Edison started approaching his first birthday, my husband and I started talking about when we would like to try to have another baby. I had not started getting periods yet, but I think I have only had one or two actual periods in the years we have been married. Strangely, I seemed to be ovulating, getting pregnant, miscarrying, and then starting the cycle over again without ever having an actual period. One day in particular, at the end of March, I had a positive home test for ovulation. Afterwards, I started feeling morning sickness within just a few days. I was convinced I was pregnant. I felt it to the core of my soul. At this point, I felt like somewhat of an expert in the early stages of pregnancy and could spot a pregnancy a mile away. I took a few home pregnancy tests and they were all negative. Still not convinced, I went to the doctor and had a urine test which came back negative. I insisted to my doctor that I was pregnant, so they ran a blood test which also came back negative. They assured me that meant I was definitely not pregnant.

I was crushed. I doubted myself and felt a bit silly. I felt almost as if I had lost a baby since I had been so convinced I was pregnant. Then over the next three months, I started to seriously question my own sanity. The morning sickness went away, but the strong sensitivity to smells did not go away. My husband was getting frustrated with me every time I complained that I couldn’t help clean up after the pets or change a poopy diaper. I kept telling him that the smells were making me feel sick. Occasionally, I felt a twitch or movement in my abdomen. I started to worry that I must have a really big cyst growing again on one of my ovaries. I started gaining weight around my midsection only. I figured that was a result of reincorporating dairy and wheat into our diets (and I went a bit crazy for cheese, making up for lost time). I had been unusually tired over the past few months, but I figured that lined up with the fact that Edison had started walking and keeping up with him all day was an exhausting chore.

Then on the 4th of July, I got what we thought was my first postpartum period. I have heard that the first period after you have a baby can be a doozy. My normal periods are pretty bad, so you would expect that the first period in years would be pretty horrendous. The pain was excruciating, not like any period I have ever had. I kept thinking that it felt more like a miscarriage than a period, but that seemed ridiculous since the tests over the past few months had told me over and over that I was not pregnant. I tried to pull myself together for a bit so we could go to a local event to celebrate the 4th (we missed meeting up with our friends because of my pain but I still wanted Edison to see the petting zoo). When we got home, the pain was way worse. It got so bad that after dinner, I was actually trembling and throwing up from the pain and the massive blood loss.

I tried to take it easy for the rest of the weekend. On Sunday, I was standing in the bathroom and all of a sudden a huge bunch of stuff fell out of me, fluid and tissue. I was totally freaked out. I was convinced that I may have finally gotten a massive tumor that took out the rest of one of my ovaries (my right ovary has gone through so much trauma that only half of it remains). There was a lot of clear fluid, blood, and a solid mass of tissue. I picked up the mass to examine it, and see if it looked like a cyst or tumor (or God forbid, an ovary). As I turned it around in my hand, I saw the last possible thing I ever would have expected to see: a teeny tiny face.

I stared in disbelief. I looked closer and noticed that the mass of tissue was actually in the shape of a tiny little fetus, a large head, tiny thin little neck, and a petite little body with what appeared to be two arms, two legs, and an umbilical cord leading to a tiny little lump of placenta. I had already screamed for my husband to come in when I thought I had just lost an ovary on the floor, and suddenly we are both trying to deal with the fact that I am holding a baby in my hand that we did not know existed, and keep our wild little man from running through all of the blood that was everywhere.

We were devastated. Despite all of the miscarriages I have gone through, I have never actually seen any parts of the babies except for that first time. To see the baby in her entirety was more than I would have ever expected to deal with. We buried her in the backyard, under the hibiscus tree. My husband dug a tiny hole and we said some prayers. Edison obviously did not understand what was going on, but seemed to sense our sadness. He cried the whole time we were out there. It was a very sad evening.

On Monday, I scheduled an appointment with my ob-gyn. He assured me that it was probably just a really bad first period, and that large blood clots are common for a first period. I tried to tell him that I saw a face, but he convinced me that the tissue was capable of morphing into all sorts of strange looking things. I started to doubt myself and think that maybe I had imagined the whole thing. I started to think that maybe I was slowly losing my sanity from lack of sleep. He ordered some blood tests and told me they would call me the following day with the results.

For most of Tuesday, I tried to put the whole issue out of my mind. It was not difficult to ignore thinking about the issue since we had a really scary incident come up regarding our extra lot on the side of our property (I will have to blog about that story later). As it got toward the evening, one of my good friends asked me what my test results had been from the doctor. I realized it was almost the end of the business hours and I had not heard anything yet. I called the doctor’s office, and no one wanted to give me the news. Apparently I had miscarried, and my hormone levels had been incredibly low (presumably lower than in previous pregnancies for some reason). My body had not been able to sustain the pregnancy due to the low hormone levels. The assumption was that the baby may have died some time ago, and was just now coming out. I was stunned, depressed, felt guilty and relieved all at the same time. Relieved since at least that meant that I was not losing my mind and my instincts were right all along. I felt guilty because I felt I should have trusted my instincts when I felt I was pregnant, and somehow started getting some hormone supplementation, despite the negative pregnancy test results.

I am trying to find comfort in knowing that God has a plan for our family, and perhaps the timing was just not right at this moment for me to be pregnant again. Perhaps my body needs more time to heal. When we were trying to buy a house, we kept running into a wall with the first couple of houses we put offers on, and then even though we felt like we were “settling” for this house, we saw later that God had to have had His hand on the situation, leading us to the house that would be perfect for us. Who would have ever expected that I would end up needing a 100% handicapped accessible house after I had a baby, especially when we thought I would never have a baby?

If you have gone through a miscarriage, or know someone who has, I would like to share some words of wisdom that hopefully may help deal with the difficult situation. I feel like part of the reason that most women do not tell people when they have had a miscarriage is because of the idea that a miscarriage was caused by something the mother did “wrong” or because the baby was a “reject”. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the little body that I held in my hand was 100% perfect. I know in my heart there was nothing wrong with her. I also know that there was nothing I did that could have caused the miscarriage. Sometimes these things just happen and we do not really know why. I hope that sharing my experiences will help get rid of some of those preconceived ideas that people have about miscarriages.

If you know someone who has a miscarriage, here is my list of the worst things you can say in response to hearing the news:
1. It’s probably for the best; there must have been something wrong with it.
2. What did you do wrong/what did you do that caused it?
3. It’s no big deal; it’s just a miscarriage. It’s not like it’s a real baby.
4. It’s just like a big period, right?
5. Just get over it.

Here are some helpful things that you could say instead:
1. I am so sorry for your loss.
2. How are you feeling?
3. Would you like to talk about it?
4. Do you need anything?
5. Do you need help with anything? (Things like laundry and general housework are especially difficult to keep up with after a miscarriage since the physical pain lingers for a while.)
6. Would you like some company?
7. Do you need a hug/shoulder to cry on?

I am incredibly grateful that I have friends now who have said things on the second list. I no longer speak to the friend who said the things on the first list.

If you have recently gone through a miscarriage, here is my list of advice for you:
1. Acknowledge that your body and spirit have just gone through a major battle. Take time to rest and heal both physically and emotionally.
2. Be sure to take in lots of fluids and rehydrate yourself. Drink some electrolyte enhanced water. In addition to all of the fluid loss from the miscarriage, I often have had hormonal extremes of hot and cold flashes, bringing on hot and cold sweats. All of that sweating leads to additional fluid loss and potential dehydration.
3. Listen to your body and what it is craving. You will need to replenish your iron, so be sure to eat lots of leafy greens and/or lean red meat.
4. Take time to journal your feelings, talk to your spouse, and talk to others in your support network of family and friends. I have found that the more I kept a miscarriage a secret from those around me, the longer it took for me to grieve and heal emotionally from the loss.
5. Accept the idea that you suffered a loss. Have a small memorial service, prayer service, candlelight vigil, or other symbolic act to acknowledge the life that you lost. Sometimes it is even more difficult than dealing with a death of an adult since it feels unfair…like the poor baby never even got a chance to really live life.
6. Spend time resting and do what makes you happy. Watch your favorite movies, catch up on some craft time, etc. Just be sure to let your body rest and heal.
7. Spend time in prayer. Reflect and ask God all the questions you have. You may not find the answers to all of your questions, but it may help you find peace with the situation.
8. Don’t discount or feel ashamed of your feelings of sadness and loss. It is perfectly normal. You lost a child, no matter how short of a time you were carrying that baby. That is something that is difficult for anyone to handle. Give yourself time to grieve.
9. If you have no children yet and have a miscarriage, it can be incredibly discouraging. It may feel like it will be impossible for you to ever become a mother. Do not get discouraged…I still had our son after having had 5 miscarriages.
10. If you already have a child or children, dealing with a miscarriage has a new set of challenges. How do you explain the loss to the child? Will they understand? How do you try to stay happy and positive for the little ones who are too young to understand? How do you keep up with little ones on the move when your body needs time to heal? I wish I had the answers to all of those questions, but in reality the answers to those will vary for each family.

I sincerely hope that our society starts to change the way we handle miscarriages, and start treating them with the care and respect that the mothers going through them need. I am hoping that this is the last miscarriage I will ever have. I do not know how many more I can mentally and physically handle. I pray that we will be able to have another child at some point without having to go through more miscarriages in the meantime.