Why is this family picture priceless?

This has been a hard post for me to hit publish. Friends, I continue to cry as I replay this scenario over and over in my head. A week before my husband went unconscious in my arms, our family partnered with Portrait Innovations to have our family’s first professional photo shoot. We had never heard of Portrait Innovations but after the superb photo shoot with them, we will be long-term customers. I would like to get an extended family photo in the near future.

My precious family was actually excited to pick out our color-coordinated outfits. Fall colors are so vibrant so we decided to go with maroon and orange for our main family pictures.

We cannot always be serious right?

Portrait Innovations specializes in giving customers a customized portrait studio experience with creative options for beautiful, professional portraits and personalized gifts and keepsakes.

As soon as we walked in the door to the studio, we were greeted with smiles and taken right to our own personal studio. Also, it should be noted that we were able to take a change of clothes to get sports photos since our family loves college football, immensely! You should know that photographers at each studio have been trained in the newest posing and shooting techniques and work with newborns, children, families, graduates, religious milestones and large groups. Our photographer knew the right angles and poses for our family.

During the past 15 years, Portrait Innovations has reinvented the professional portrait studio experience, understanding how important capturing and sharing cherished family and personal memories, events and milestones are to its customers. Honored to be the one selected to capture those memories, Portrait Innovations has become the largest operator of free standing retail, professional portrait studios with locations throughout the country. The pictures are amazing quality and we were able to take our pictures home within an hour of completing our photo shoot. Immediately after our photo shoot, we sat down with our photographer to view all the pictures. We selected the pictures we would like printed and then the rest of the photos were saved on a CD for us.

With our package, fall cards were included and so we were able to surprise extended family with our beautiful fall picture. Again, family received the cards two days before Scott had his attack. Who would have ever thought? I shiver when I catch myself thinking this could have been our last family photo. I will be forever grateful for Portrait Innovations capturing my family so we will be able to hold these photo memories close. Friends, you never know what tomorrow will bring so I encourage you to not wait and schedule a photo session with Portrait Innovations. You will not be disappointed! Learn more at www.portraitinnovations.com.

Remember to hug your family extra tight!

Disclosure: This post includes a partnership with Portrait Innovations. All thoughts and opinions are of my own.

DIY Disney Costumes

With all the medical issues going on in our family, our girls decided to put their heads together to come up with last-minute DIY Disney costumes! We heart Disney so when I came home last week from work to see my girls dressed up by using their own imagination with clothes in their closet……

the biggest smile stretched across my face. Meet my Disnerd and Animal Kingdom Safari Cast Member. Are they not the cutest? This shows everyone that practical items can be used for dress up. We had a fun night celebrating Halloween, but now we are excited for all things Christmas. Oh wait – yes, we will be thankful for God giving us heartbeats and breaths but I am choosing to thank Him every night before I go to bed.

Stay tuned for lots of holiday posts! 🙂

Where did Jen Go? {Hug your family tight}

20818878_10155508567899336_3974252394756908016_oFriends – I’m going to be blunt. The last month has been hard. I’m so sorry to not update here on the blog.

October 7 started out as a typical day. I went to work even though it was a Saturday to help with a homecoming event. After the event was done, I proceeded to drive home and gather our belongings needed for L to enjoy our homecoming football game on campus. My husband mentioned he was feeling nauseous, but we thought it might be from something he ate the previous night. After discussions, we decided to head on to the game. We spoke with family and friends at the stadium, enjoyed the game, and L wanted a fresh baked sweet potato from the campus dining hall. We thought this would be a good idea since there was so much traffic from people leaving the game. L tried to make a case to get our food to go, but hubby squashed that idea, and we all sat around a table together sharing great laughs. Then, our world turned upside down. My husband stood up to put L’s formula backpack on his back, and he looked at me and said, “JEN.” He went down in the chair. I ran around the table to catch him, and he fell back unconscious in my arms. My husband laid in my arms lifeless. My first reaction was to scream for someone to call 911. A student behind me called 911, and then an ROTC Cadet grabbed my husband from me. I’m not sure what all he did, but finally exclaimed what felt forever, “he has a pulse.” PRAISE GOD! The paramedics arrived on campus fast since they were at the football stadium and wheeled my husband out on the stretcher. All of this was going on, and L was crying so hard thinking she was losing her Daddy and Madi started feeling lightheaded from trying to hold it together for everyone, she had to sit down. Another student kept encouraging the girls that Daddy was going to be okay!

I went to get in our car and get to the hospital as fast as I could. We arrived, and the original thinking was my husband had a heart attack since his cardiac enzyme troponin was elevated. His EKG showed his left-side of his heart enlarged. He was hospitalized for three days. The next day we went to a more prominent city for more answers. We are still in a holding pattern and run daily EKGs on my husband. Next Friday, he goes in for a procedure in hopes to find the underlying cause. The heart team will get together to see what can be done. This has been such a scary time in our lives. His cardiologist in the bigger city thinks my husband went into cardiac shock and there is something electrical going on with his heart. His mom and dad both died from massive heart attacks and stroke. Heart disease runs in his family.

God put us in that dining hall for a reason. Hubby made the decision for us to eat in the dining hall for a reason. I shiver to think if we were at home and not close to the quick action medical care. God is so good!

Please keep him and our family in your prayers. It’s so scary because I am trying to watch his every move. We just got back from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for L late Sunday evening and have renewed hope for our girl. More will be written soon.

Hug your family tighter. Do not go a day without telling them you love them. We are so grateful God allowed Scott to come back to us and now we must get him proper treatment to prevent this from ever happening again.

UPDATE: We have decided to go to Cincinnati, Ohio #blamemom

Will this be a turning point in L’s treatment plan for her eosinophilic esophagitis? As you all know, a rare disease decided to take us by storm in early 2016. My eyes were steadfast on the operating room doors for what seemed like hours. In reality, the time past had only been 55 minutes. When the doctor came through the operating room doors, her eyes caught my eyes, and I knew by her facial expression, the dreaded news was about to be spilled. The diagnosis from the doctor was the worst case scenario, eosinophilic esophagitis. This disease has wreaked havoc on L’s body for over a year and a half now. Many tears have been shed in hospitals, doctor offices and on the sheets of my daughter’s bed. As a parent, all I want to do is take this disease away from my daughter. My cries to the Lord have included to let my body fight this illness and let my daughter enjoy her childhood.

During this past summer, L was going backward with her symptoms instead of making great strides in a positive direction. As a family, we were scratching our heads on what should we do with L’s treatment. After a discouraging weekend at the end of this past July, I recommended to my husband and daughters to go on a very short hike to Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway with me. We could leave the disease world behind for a few hours, and enjoy God’s beautiful mother nature. While researching online the best path to take to Rough Ridge, I found an excellent location we could park our car and start hiking on the trail to Rough Ridge. The website stated this place would only be a 1/5 mile walk up to Rough Ridge. Meanwhile, the location I thought was a correct spot ended up taking us 1.5 hours to get to the Rough Ridge overlook. This trail had us climbing through trees and atop rocks, but we finally made it to the most amazing views. L was not happy with me taking the wrong trail and vented her frustration along with creating her hashtag #blamemom. After spending time enjoying the stunning views, we begin the trek back down the trail to find our car. As we are walking down the rocky path, I hear, someone calling out my name Jennifer. Immediately my eyes focus on this woman on the trail, and I realize it was a friend from my Facebook page! Her precious son has eosinophilic esophagitis and she has been a huge help to L and me through this journey. We have only talked on Facebook and never met in person. Time stood still as we stopped in the middle of the trail to talk with her and she persuaded us to rethink L’s treatment. Her conversation filled with reasoning on why we should take L to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  This clinic is the leading research hospital for all of the eosinophilic diseases. Carol’s credibility in recommending the clinic to us is very high as her son has been battling eosinophilic esophagitis for four years. Carol was such an encouragement to our entire family on the trail that day, and since she lives 7 hours away, it was God’s divine intervention, that she happened to be in on the same trail as us at the same time. My oldest daughter stated, “Mom there is a reason we took the long hike as God wanted us to see Carol.” If we had taken the 1/5 mile trail, chances are our families would not have met.

We are looking forward to hearing new treatment options next month for L and speaking directly with researchers to see how close we are to a cure.

Decorating Your Home for Fall on a Budget + Teal Pumpkin Project

Did you hear that screaming? I confess it was me! It is no secret that my favorite seasons are just around the corner. If I could bottle up the fall and winter season, I would be a happy camper all year-around. The decorations, the holidays, the joyful attitudes, and special family events make days so cheerful and positive.

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to collaborate with At Home Stores and decorate the entrance to our home on a budget. This was our first shopping experience at an At Home Store. At Home provides a full solution of decor for your home, with a massive selection of specialty products for Halloween. You do not need any coupons as the prices are very affordable, especially with us on a strict budget.

We wanted to spruce up our front door entrance for the upcoming Halloween holiday. Halloween has brought a new meaning to us since L was diagnosed with her rare disease, eosinophilic esophagitis in January 2016. We want to have fun celebrating but keep it safe for L so we definitely had to incorporate teal pumpkins into our decorations.

Have you heard of the teal pumpkin project? The Teal Pumpkin Project was inspired by a local awareness activity run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) and launched as a national campaign by FARE in 2014. We hope you will help spread the word about this project and maybe even put out your own teal pumpkin to participate in your neighborhood.

The At Home Store we visited had teal pumpkins starting at the $5.99 price point. We purchased a large one and a small one.

Halloween Doormat

The door mat ($12.99) has all the colors we wanted to use with our decor. Aren’t our witch feet ($16.99) the winner of the night? L was laughing so hard when she saw them lit up. Mr. Jack-O-Lantern ($14.99) helps give a nice glow to our mini teal pumpkin.

Halloween Doorway Entrance

As guests come to visit us, they will have to walk the scary sidewalk ($9.99) and beware of those scarecrows. You never know how they will welcome you to our house.

Halloween Sidewalk

Outside

The whole family got in on the fun with decorating and we were able to not break the bank. Now, we have a festive entrance that is sure to have our neighbors enjoying the holiday cheer with us.

After all the decorating fun outdoors, we headed indoors to unwrap the fall goodness in our living room. At Home had fall and Halloween pillows starting at $12.99. I was able to grab two fall pillows for $14.99 each. I’m so in love. Then my oldest daughter, M, was able to find a light brown fleece blanket for only $9.99. The color combination works perfectly in our living room. We capped off the decor with a welcome “S” burlap sign ($7.99). The sign is even a better deal because I can keep it on the door until Thanksgiving!

Inside

inside door decoration

The smiles are spreading across our faces and we cannot quit looking at our decor. I’m so grateful for At Home Stores for having every day low prices that let you decorate on a budget.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with At Home Stores. As always, all thoughts and opinions are of my own. 

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