Thursday, October 27, 2016

Emmett Update (It's a Big One!)

We got a whole lot of big results on Tuesday regarding Emmett, and while I shared a piece of the news on Instagram, I wanted to share the details here as well. I know many of you have been following his story and sending love his way, and I have been waiting for the day when I could (hopefully) share this kind of an update with you. Here it is.

On August 9th, after a couple of days of strange but subtle head nods that for the most part appeared to be normal baby movements, this little man was diagnosed with the most dangerous type of childhood epilepsy - one that is profoundly damaging to the brain and has an incredibly poor prognosis in the majority of cases. After exactly 11 weeks, 2 hospital stays, 4 EEGS, 2 MRIs, 1 lumbar puncture, 8 blood draws/labs, over 60 injections of medication into his legs, and countless other tests/doctor visits/specialist visits, Emmett's final (for now) follow up EEG came back NORMAL. His genetic testing results (which tested for 87 genetic mutations that cause epilepsy) also came back and were NORMAL. His follow up metabolic testing after abnormal levels on 2 labs (low B12/high methlymalonic acid) came back with NORMAL B12 and much improved methymalonic acid. Emmett is also now over 10 weeks seizure free, and almost 3 weeks medication free. In the easiest terms, we could not be in a better place right now in terms of Emmett's Infantile Spasms. We still don't know the cause, but in the case of IS, this is actually a good thing. And there is still a 50% chance of the spasms coming back or other seizures types appearing (after 2 years, the chances will start to slowly decrease). But again, we really couldn't be in a better place. He also appears to be developing normally, but will continue to have a developmental therapist come out to work with him 1-2 times a month, which is fine by us (Early Intervention is an incredible service).

During these past 3 months, Robbie and I have learned the greatest lessons of our lives. (And yes, it sounds dramatic, but that's because it is dramatic.) We have also been reminded of something we already knew - that we are beyond lucky to have a truly wonderful group of friends and family (including here on Bubby and Bean!) who so clearly care about Emmett and our family. We will never be able to thank you enough for the kindness you all have shown through your words and actions - the comments, notes, texts, calls, letters, packages, prayers, and positive energy from all of you is what enabled us to get through the scariest time of our lives without completely crumbling. Emmett may have epilepsy, but he is a brave little bad ass with the most incredible support system of awesome people, and I have no doubt he'll get through it with flying colors and one amazing story to tell.

Finally, through this journey we have realized how important it is to us to help other parents with children who are diagnosed with Infantile Spasms. While it is quite rare (it is estimated that only 1 in 2,500 children are diagnosed with it in the US each year), we have connected and become friends with dozens of other parents with IS kids over the past few months. IS is an enigma, and more research needs to be done in order to obtain more concrete answers about its causes and how it works. It is an incredibly dangerous, potentially debilitating illness that needs to be recognized and treated immediately, but most pediatricians have either only seen 1 or 2 cases in their careers or else haven't seen any at all and are not knowledgable on how to properly treat it. Many neurologists aren't even aware of the best protocol and end up treating with the wrong medications. So in addition to making ourselves available to emotionally help other parents who go through this, we will be working on ways to help fund research and awareness. We'll keep you all posted on that, but in the meantime, if you ever come across a parent of a child recently diagnosed with IS, please put them in touch with us. We will be there for them.

Thank you again, so much. My gratitude right now is truly endless.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Southwestern Style Mac and Cheese

Southwestern Style Mac and Cheese // Bubby and Bean

You guys, Melissa is posting about southwestern inspired food! Shocker! Hey, I know what I like. And I'm pretty freaking confident that you are going to like - no, love - this recipe too. It came about as the result of me playing around with some staple ingredients I always have in the house and the ultimate comfort food - macaroni and cheese. And it ended up being one of my favorite dishes I've ever made. Both my husband and little girl agreed. The best part about this recipe, besides the fact that it is absolutely delicious, it that it is incredibly easy, and takes about ten minutes from start to finish. For real. It's the perfect cozy lunch or dinner for the fall and winter too. Trust me - you're going to love it.

Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Kit
1/2 cup milk
1 cup black beans
small can of green chilis
chili powder
1/2 avocado, cut into cubes (for topping)
salsa (for topping)

In a medium sized pot, bring milk to a low simmer over medium-high heat. Add the fresh shredded cheddar cheese from the Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Kit to the pot, and stir for about 30 seconds, or until cheese is melted. Stir in premium macaroni from the kit. Add black beans and green chilis and stir until heated throughout. Season with chili powder and cumin to taste. Serve topped with salsa and avocado. You can also squeeze some lime juice on top if you have one on hand, and/or top with hot sauce for a little kick. (Serves 2-3.)

I'm not lying when I say I could eat this dish every single day. As a serious lover of southwestern, Tex Mex, and Mexican food, I'm a big fan of all the ingredients incorporated into it - but it's the type of mac and cheese used that really makes it stand out. The brand new Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Kit is the first store-bought mac and cheese that isn't frozen or dry - it's refrigerated. Three Bridges also uses real, clean ingredients, including rBST-free cheeses (goodbye, mystery cheese dust!). And you can tell. It tastes so fresh that it's genuinely hard to believe it even came from a package at all. As much as we're smitten with our southwestern take on it, it's equally delicious on its own. It also takes three minutes (yes, three minutes) to prepare, so basically it's the best food invention ever, on every level. I love Three Bridges' other products too. They have an entire line of fresh, refrigerated pastas and sauces that are easy, super tasty, and, like the Mac & Cheese kit, can be incorporated into familiar recipes for a whole new flavor. Definitely give them a try.

What are your favorite ways to doctor up mac and cheese? Have you tried Three Bridges kits?

This post is in partnership with Three Bridges. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What I'm Wearing Now: October

Casual Fall Wardrobe Essentials
1. Flannel Shirt, H&M  //  2. Abstract Floral Border Scarf, Madewell  //  3. Plaid Shirt Dress, Target (image above is slightly different; see here for exact dress, of which I now own 3 colors)  //  4. Slate Leggings, J.Crew Factory  //  5. High Waist Flare Jeans, Target  //  7. Allie Leather Choker Necklace, Urban Outfitters  //  8. Knit Beanie, Madewell  //  9. Double Fringe Side Zip Boot, Minnetonka  // 10. Fold-Down Combat Boot, Rock & Candy

My summertime dreams have finally gone into hibernation dear friends, because despite quite a few exceptionally warm and sunny days this month, the cool temperatures have finally hit us here in Chicago, and the clothes I've been wearing this month absolutely reflect that. Granted, it's been in the 60s many of the days I consider to be cool, but a low in the 40s, which most of those days hit at night, feels downright freezing to me. Pass the scarf and hat, man. (Can I add that I never realized how much weather truly affects one's wardrobe until I started the What I'm Wearing Now series? Can I also add that in some ways that seems a little silly since so many of us spend the majority of our time indoors working in temperature controlled climates these days? But I digress...)

I'm just going to come right out and say that I now officially own this dress in three colors (Black, Splendid Green, and Moss). I wear them without the tie, and I wear them a lot. I've honestly never owned a dress where I've felt so comfortable and have still been able to look in the mirror, at least on days where I've brushed my hair and thrown on a little makeup), and think "I look sort of stylish today." I've also been rocking the flared jeans pretty hard. I haven't worn skinny jeans once all month now that I think of it. Weird. And while I admittedly love following trends, I'm one of those people who wears the same shoes for years regardless of what's in style. I finally broke down and bought a new pair of boots (the first pair of shoes or boots I've purchased in probably a year) while wandering around DSW a couple weeks ago, and I plan on wearing the sh*t out of them. I like wearing them up, but love than you can fold them down to change the look. I'll also let you know that my sister, a high school teacher, said her kids wear these boots on the regs. So apparently I may or may not dress too young for my age, but I never claimed to be at what is considered an appropriate maturity level for my age anyway, so, like, whatevs.

Summer girl or otherwise, I'd be lying if I said I haven't been enjoying layering this month. The thought of winter being around the corner makes me cry inside but there is definitely something about getting to switch up your favorite pieces as the seasons change. What have you been wearing in October?


Monday, October 24, 2016

DIY Kids Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar

DIY Kids Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar // Bubby and Bean

As you guys know, the last half of my family's summer was pretty intense. Among the general craziness of everyday life with which we all have to deal, my husband was on the road nonstop for work, our daughter Essley was starting preschool for the first time, and biggest of all, our baby Emmett was diagnosed with an illness that resulted in two different hospital stays and endless doctor appointments, specialist appointments, and test appointments all over the city and suburbs. August and September felt like we were running a marathon that veered off in countless directions and never had a finish line. So when fall arrived and we gradually adapted to our new normal, we were able to exhale and be reminded of the grand significance of enjoying simple moments together right now.

One of my greatest parental worries recently (among the 78,346 other worries that float through my head on the regs because, duh, I'm a parent) was how the late summer intensity I described above might have affected Essley, our 2.5 year old. In addition to the massively unstable schedule that so suddenly came about when Emmett got sick, she was also attending school for the first time, had just started her first without-a-parent ballet lessons, was potty training, and there were constant out of town visitors. When things slowed down and the more comfort-focused energy of autumn took over, I vowed to do special things with her that celebrated the season.

And so far, when it comes to crushing fall as a family, I have to say, I think we've done pretty freaking well. We've visited all sorts of pumpkin patches and apple orchards, gone on "leaf hunts," created all sorts of fall crafts, and shopped for fall school clothes and Halloween costumes together. But the fall activity that Essley seemed to enjoy the most, the one that she hasn't stopped talking about, the one I feel like we really crushed, was the DIY hot chocolate bar that we created (and enjoyed) together. And that's what I'm sharing with you guys today.

Putting together a hot chocolate toppings bar is not only one of the most delicious projects you'll ever do, it's also one of the easiest. (Admittedly, it can get a little messy with a toddler, but when you're dealing with kids, any project that doesn't involve paste in hair or self designed marker tattoos on both skin and clothing feels like a glorious DIY dream.) Here is a handy list of what you'll need for your very own:

  • hot chocolate of your choice
  • Dixie® To Go cups
  • whipped cream
  • marshmallows
  • mini cookies
  • sprinkles
  • chocolate chips (butterscotch or caramel work too)
  • chocolate syrup
  • paper straws

You can obviously add or remove toppings to suit your tastes as well. Essley and I picked these out together, which was both fun and ridiculously cute. She was not pleased that I vetoed her first topping selection (I'm just not sure how well a 12 inch tall gummy bear would have paired with a cup of hot cocoa), but that passed in an instant because girlfriend was excited beyond belief to get to fill a shopping cart with so many different kinds of sweets in one trip.

The act of creating the "bar" was probably the most enjoyable part of all (beyond actually drinking the sweet goodness, but that goes without saying). Essley and I took our time filling ramekins with different toppings and arranging them on the dining room table. Then we whipped up a batch of hot chocolate (and yes, it was instant, because I am human, and I have 2 kids under 3, and I am acutely aware of my creative limits), poured them into Dixie® To Go cups, and as soon as we showed off our pretty spread to daddy and little brother, got to topping. My husband got involved too (because treats!), and I'm pretty sure I saw Emmett give us an envious look that seemed to say "when I'm old enough to consume more than breastmilk, mushy finger foods, and infant puffs that taste like cardboard, I will get you people back for excluding me, mark my words."

The cherry (or maybe I should say whipped cream/marshmallows/etc.) on top (get it? get it?) was that because we used Dixie® To Go cups, we were able to head right out the door from our little party, with our hot chocolates in hand, to our favorite pumpkin patch to grab some pumpkins to carve that evening. Talk about crushing fall in one fell swoop! I've talked about Dixie® To Go cups and why I love them before, but I have to give them another shout out today because they really do make life easier. All we had to do before we headed out was toss the leftover toppings in storage bags, put the leak-resistant lids on our cups, and go. There was no effort, no cleaning up of dirty mugs left in the car, no worries. Which left us with more time to focus on things that matter. The cups'  insulated layers kept our hot chocolates hot, which gave us the best on-the-go experience. When we were done drinking them, we threw them in the recycling bin at the pumpkin farm and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon. Full on autumn success you guys. And because reusing disposable items whoever possible is important to me, I love keeping these cups in my car when we're done with them to use as mini "trash cans."

Taking time together as a family to enjoy the season has been genuinely wonderful, and I think the challenges we faced at the end of the summer has allowed me to truly appreciate every moment of it. And hey, when you're a frazzled parent (or just human being in general) who often feels like looking down to see you're wearing two of the same shoes is an accomplishment worthy of a high five in the mirror, it feels pretty great to find ways to crush small moments. I'm looking forward to a lot more of them in the coming weeks as well.

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Magical, Ethereal Maternity Shoot

Back in February, I featured a seriously stunning bridal shoot by a photographer named Rebecca Carroll. They were genuinely some of the most gorgeous bridal photographs I'd ever seen, so when I saw that Rebecca had submitted a maternity shoot to us, I couldn't wait to see it. Let's just say I wasn't disappointed, guys. The level of visual magic she incorporated into these photos is truly epic. What an incredible project this mama to be will be able to show her little one someday!

I asked Rebecca to share a little about her vision for the shoot. "Lacey is a beautiful mother to be from Sooke, BC on the west coast of Canada," Rebecca explained. "We decided to go with a very ethereal style for her maternity session. We shot at Cedar Haven amongst the giant trees and ferns. Franziska Castioni from Charming Decor let me borrow some things to beautify the scene, and made a flower crown for us. Erin Bradley did her makeup and hair all outside in nature. We had a fantastic time playing dress up in the woods with smoke grenades and thrones. Lacey is expecting a baby boy with her partner Thor soon!"

I love everything about that. And I'm excited to share some of my personal favorites from the shoot in this post. Enjoy!

Photography: Rivkah Photography by Rebecca Carroll  //  Model: Lacey Jones  //  Hair and Makeup: Beauty and Style by Erin Bradley  //  Design and Decor, Floral: Franziska Castioni at Charming Decor Event Design  //  Venue: Cedar Haven Weddings

You can view more of Rebecca's stunning work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.