Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Two nights ago, I dreamt that Claire spoke her very first word ever. It was not my usual type of dream because I didn't dream she was radically different or more advanced. I dreamt she was exactly as she is in "real life." During the dream, Claire was mad and arching as she sometimes does when she is laying on her tummy in her beanbag and her g-tube is tilted in the stoma or rubbing on her belly in an uncomfortable way. She will almost do what looks like a push-up in her beanbag, arching her upper body wayyyyy off the beanbag to alleviate the pressure on this sensitive area. 

In the dream, she was doing this very thing. And as I always do in reality, I walked over to her in the dream and said, "Here, baby! Let me help flip you over. Does that feel better?" to which she replied with a smile, "Better!" (It actually sounded a little bit like she said "butter!") My eyes widened, and I said, "What did you say?" She grinned and again said, "Better!" I kept asking her to say it again, and every time she would repeat "better," grinning with pride. I tested her to see if she could say any other words, and my sweet girl just wanted to say "better!"

After she had said this word maybe 20-25 times in my dream, in complete disbelief, I grabbed my phone to video it, and she immediately clammed up and gave me her best RBF, just as she does almost every time I try to take her picture now, in true diva fashion. Don't get it twisted, I totally dig her 'tude, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a real nice pic of my girl these days. And if you know me, I like my pictures, so she & I have been butting heads about this very thing lately!   

I was left feeling confused when I woke up, always trying to seek meaning from the things that life throws my way. And I also felt a little bit wistful for the things she is still unable to do. I love her for the way she CAN communicate with the world and for the progress she HAS made in her therapies and so forth. Do I wish she could do more? Absofuckinglutely. But do I value who she is and love where she's at currently? Damn skippy. These highs & lows, you guys... these far extremes... the many polarities in my thoughts and feelings... they're very real, and they hit me hard sometimes, these last few months especially. 

Today Claire turns 16 years old. Sweet 16... holy shit. How is that even possible?! I look at her with such admiration and awe at all she has fought through to stay. My child who wasn't supposed to live to age 1 is SIXTEEN today. I bow to my knees and pray to every God/angel/protector/magician in the whole Universe for wrapping their arms around my precious girl and giving us the gift of time. 

The more I think about my dream, the more I wonder if maybe Claire just needed me to see things from a "better" angle. Perhaps she wanted me to remember the most important thing in life -- that I am in control of my own happiness, and life can be "better" if I so choose. I'm not gonna lie, it has all felt pretty heavy lately... pretty sad... pretty out of my hands. Not just Lola's rash, but nearly every other area of my life as well. 

Leave it up to my best little teachers to help me see things from a different vantage point. That's generally how it works. They give me such perspective and always bring me back to a place of love. 

I wish you the happiest of birthdays, my sweet Mimi. You shook my soul to its core 16 years ago, you showed me what love really is, and you simply made.  me.  BETTER.  I love you with all of my heart, soul and being, my perfect girl. 

Kerby, Cal, Claire, Christina, Lola & Elisabeth

If anyone ever spots these ostrich socks in grown-up ladies sizing,
I'll give you a million bucks if you buy them for me.
Just kidding.  Sort of.  Tee heeeeeeee!  I NEED THESE!


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Nipples galore!

*NOTE:  PLEASE SHARE THIS BLOG POST!!!!!  (Read below to see why!)

Me & Pocket  ~  3.29.17

HEY, GUYS!  You might remember the below picture I posted on my personal Facebook page and my Hartley Hooligans Facebook page back in November of 2016 which was shared over 8,100 times. You may recall my plea for now discontinued Playtex latex fast flow nipples, the ONLY kind of nipple our Lola is able to use and how her dwindling latex nipple supply was in a world of hurt. You may remember my many nipple posts/tweets/memes/inappropriate comments (You're welcome). You may also have noticed that I've not updated you guys in a LONG while about #Nipplegate2016, and so I wanted to give you the 411 (Did I just date myself?!?! Shout out to Mary J!) on what's been goin' down the past 5 months!  

Reeeeeeeeally freakin' hard to find these bad boys in 2016 & beyond, yo...

Mrs. I Can't Do Things Like Everyone Else Because I Am A Creature Of Habit And Also A Real Freakin' G

The most awesome part of this whole nipple fiasco is that not only was my post shared a ton, but my desperate pleas were also ANSWERED.  My daily post office visits resulted in box after box and envelope after envelope filled with nothin' but nipples.  Every single day I would gather my stash in udder utter (tee hee!) delight that people cared so much to take the time to send me unused nipples they found in their basement or got from a friend.  You have NO IDEA what this has meant to us!  I offered to pay for the nipples and/or shipping, and every single time, I was told no.  The final tally of nipples we received was................ <DRUMROLL PLEASE!> .................. 357 nipples!!!!!!!!! 357!!!!!!!!!!!!  FAITH. OFFICIALLY. RESTORED in the human race, you guys.  OMG. Still in shock SO many of you took the time to send these to us.  We have been using them for the past 5 months, and honestly, I don't know what we'd have done if it weren't for all these nipples we were sent. They've been a LIFESAVER for our girl!

And on top of that, I got to hear the funniest man on the planet -- my hubby, Scott! -- drop the best comments EVER about "what better package could one possibly receive than a box full of nipples" or he'd coin a new term (Nipplemania, Nipplefest, NipNipNip, Nipply AF, #nipplesalldayerryday, Nipocalypse, Nipped Out, Mount Nipple, #nipsfordays... you name it!) or he'd sing, "Today was a good day" in his best Ice Cube voice after we'd get like 12 more packages of straight nipples.  He even threatened to have professional pictures taken of him (possibly buck nekked) amidst all the nipples strategically placed (which could or could not be a complete insult to him as a dude!) to cover his special parts.  (I won't mention how many times I've had nightmares of this very image since this threat was made!)   

Oh hot damn!   My daily P.O. run for awhile there looked like this!
What a teat, I mean TREAT!, it was to go pick up so many packages every day to help our girlie!!!

One day's loot!

We also got some extra bottles & bottle liners that people weren't using.  You guys are THE BEST!

Our "Thank You" for everyone who donated nipples/bottles/liners!

If for some reason you didn't receive yours (there were 2-3 that I could NOT find addresses for that were bought off eBay & some that bounced back to me), PLEASE send me your address via email or DM so I can get this out to you right away!  

The other side of things that I wasn't able to discuss until it was finalized was that I was in talks with Playtex Baby since the beginning about possibly helping us out with Lola's nipple dilemma.  They were originally trying to locate any remaining latex inventory not only in North America but also worldwide.  Their search came up empty.  After more consideration, they reached out to me about doing a production run of these latex nipples for Lola.  We discussed her special, unique situation, how we knew latex "expired" in three years' time, how we would hopefully (God willing) need this to be an ongoing thing for Lola, as bottles were the only way she could take her formula/liquids (since putting her under anesthesia to place a g-tube was not possible).  We talked about her needs, her requirements for # of nipples, the kindness of outsiders sending us their unused/used latex nipples, and where to go from here. We were ELATED to hear that Playtex Baby decided to send us 1,095 latex, fast flow nipples (one nipple a day for 3 years' time) for our Lola!

Not only did these nipples arrive a few days ago, but with them came an email from the General Manager of Playtex Baby stating that they would do production runs for 1,095 nipples for Lola at every three year interval after that as well!!! SO GRATEFUL that they still had the equipment available to produce these discontinued nipples for us and that they cared enough to do so.  A HUGE thank you to James MacIntosh and Carolyn Abbass for taking the time to discuss Lola's needs & for making the thoughtful decision to help her.  You will NEVER know what this has meant to us. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Note:  I wanted to clarify one important point, on behalf of Playtex Baby.  This was a VERY special situation with unique circumstances involved.  Playtex Baby receives many requests for specific products or help with discontinued items.  They do their best to always accommodate those in need, but it's not always possible to do so. We are eternally grateful they were able to help us, but I just wanted to make note that this is not always something within their capability to do.    

Our Playtex Baby shipment is here!!!

Zoom in to read the enclosed note... So much love.


Lola is so happy!!!!!!!

Thank you, Playtex Baby Team!!!

As promised... 


My heart (& tub) is full!!!!!!!

For the record, our final nipple tally from everyone who shipped us nipples plus what Playtex donated was 1,452!!!


1452, you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I could NOT resist!!!

And before you all freak out, all the nipples were sealed in plastic bags
and will be boiled before the first use!  No doggy germs or bodily fluids here.

I will spare you the pics of Scott though.  HA!

True story.
Especially up in here!

Thank you ALL so much for your kindness & generosity toward our Lola.
You will NEVER know what this has meant to us that you stepped up in such a HUGE WAY during our time of need.

This.  Sooooo much this.

All I know is this:
  1. My faith in humanity is restored.  Across the freakin' board.
  2. I am a loyal Playtex Baby customer FOR LIFE.
  3. Every chance I get to pay it forward to others in need, I intend to do so.
  4. Playtex Baby deserves soooo many props for how they are helping our Lola for the rest of her life.
  5. Sharing this blog post as much as possible will get Playtex Baby the credit they SO deserve!!!
  6. To my longtime followers & those who helped us by sending nipples to Lola -- You guys are THE BEST!!!  We love you so very much. 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful that Natalie, Chris & Gerald took the time to share our family's story recently.  I have updated my blog's Media page with our most recent interviews, but I wanted to share them here as well.  My hope is that when people are educated about those with differences that they no longer will fear what they do not understand.  I hope that instead they will take the time to understand these differences & realize what importance these individuals have in our world & how much they have to offer.

  • We SO enjoyed meeting Christopher Ulmer from Special Books by Special Kids!  We are so grateful he took the time to fly from Florida to Kansas to come meet our girls & other kiddos in the area who also happen to have superpowers.  Click play below to watch our interview.  Also be sure to check out the SBSK Facebook page to see more amazing interviews!!!  Just so, so proud of Chris & all the important work he is doing. We love you, Chris!

  • I had the best visit with Gerald at Orange Socks!  Being a fellow parent of a child with special needs, he asked amazing questions & our time together on the phone flew by. You can hear the entire interview (I apologize for being a little long-winded... HA!) by visiting Orange Socks' Stories Page & clicking on "Gwen: Microcephaly, Asparagine Synthetase Deficiency or ASNS" link. While you are there, take the time to listen to the other interviews as well.  The strength & dedication of these parents straight up floors me.  I am proud to be in such good company.

Happy Thursday!


Monday, January 09, 2017

I'm at it again...

You're welcome in advance for not sharing every single one of my completely-fucked-up-to-the-point-you-would-be-concerned-for-my-actual-health-and-well-being dreams with you on a daily basis.  I'm not joking when I say that Scott has expressed genuine concern about me at least once in the last week and too many times over the course of our marriage to even count, after hearing what my dreams entail upon waking.  Usually they're just WEIRD, sometimes quite telling about where I am emotionally, but usually they are just worthy of eye rolls upon eye rolls.  For your sake, I won't go into details about my blindfolded, not-so-soft-core, sexy dream from last week which felt very much like a cross between Dexter and 50 Shades, but I will share with you the dream I had last night which definitely got me thinking...

During this dream, I was walking behind many of my family members.  It was almost like an out of body experience.  It was as if I was in another realm, watching life unfold while observing from behind.  It felt like I was seeing our lives from the outside in vs. the inside out.  It was dark outside, and light snow was falling.  Everyone was dressed warmly.  I looked at & studied each person as they interacted with one another, smiling, laughing, enjoying the winter night out.  Everyone was happy and acting silly.  It was then that I noticed Lola... she wasn't being carried, she was walking while holding the hand of a family member. She was the exact size she is now, but she was walking. She wasn't walking "normally;" she was sort of stiff-legged, almost prancing lightly over the ground. Her hair was braided in a Heidi braid over the top of her head.  I instantly knew it was her.  I could recognize that darling little head and those cute little ears from a mile away. Claire was not in the dream. My whole focus was solely on Lola, and I could not take my eyes off of her and the fact that she was mobile. It was both touching and fascinating, all at the same time. To see her upright and moving, to see our family member bending down SO LOW to grab her tiny little hand for support, to see her feel so free... it was incredible.

But I didn't feel sad or teary in the dream as I usually would have.  Instead, I was joyful and ecstatic. It was then in my dream that I saw her fall forward... and the family member kept a tight grasp on her hand, and she was able to regain her footing.  It felt so amazing to see her this way, so unencumbered by her own body. So different than she is in her usual daily life.

I need a live-in dream interpreter STAT!  Singlehandedly, I would keep him/her in business!  I wish I could make sense of this dream -- or maybe the real lesson here is that I don't need to make sense of it at all.

A year or so ago, I dreamt the same thing about Lola.  It was such a different feel, almost as if it is ME who is growing, changing, and evolving now. That makes me so happy.  And just as I typed this, I saw 11:11 on my computer clock. No mistakes... I am right where I need to be.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Self Care (in La Paz, Mexico!)

I remember after we had Claire, feeling very much like I should not ask ANYONE for help.  I wanted people to know that I could handle two kids, and to me, at that time, asking for assistance with day-to-day tasks (beyond asking Scott) felt like I was showing weakness.  I chose to have another baby, and by God, I was gonna take care of that baby on my own no matter what!  Plus, I just wanted to.  And in my warped, postpartum mind, no one was gonna do it as well as I could.  And I was breastfeeding.  And taking care of a 2.5 year old.  Yet still, I rarely asked for help.

Then Lola came along about 5 years later.  She required a little -- wait, who am I kidding?!?!? -- A LOT more of my time.  Not saying she was a diva, but she was toooooootally a diva.  Lola also breastfed, and in order for me to keep this going, I had to use the breast pump after each feeding or my supply would have decreased significantly.  It was a big ordeal & basically meant my boobs were out like 18 hours daily and Scott was not complaining. So, like eleventy seven times a day, I would hook up my Medela SNS feeder, strap it on (get your minds out of the gutters, ya' pervs!), feed Lola, burp Lola, hold/position/keep her upright for 30-45 minutes, pump for 5-10 minutes, save the collected "Liquid Gold" in bags & freeze them, and then I'd have like 26 minutes before I had to start the whole process again. I followed this schedule daily.  For two whole years.  So asking for help during this time was essentially not an option. Aside from a boob transplant, there was really no way to help me except to maybe burp Lola/freeze the breast milk/clean breast pump/hold Lola upright for 45 minutes/take a nap for me/do laundry/change my sheets which probably had been on my bed for a month/vacuum/pour me a glass of non-alcoholic wine/fill the dogs' food bowl/pray for me/possibly shower for me. Nothing major.

So, by the time Lola was maybe 3-4 years, suffice it to say that I felt like I was losing my damn mind.  It truly felt like all I did daily was give-give give.  And I LOVED GIVING (and I STILL DO!), don't get me wrong... but it was too much.  I rarely had time for myself, aside from a random date night here or there.  I LIKED that I was there for my kids.  It felt good to be the one to raise them & stay home with them.  I was grateful beyond belief to Scott for helping make that work.  How on earth would I EVER find a daycare anyway that would provide 1:1 care for BOTH GIRLS as good as I would?!  The answer was simple.  I COULDN'T.  It made more sense for me to be home, and I still look back with gratitude for having those days at home with all three of my kids, no matter how taxing it was on ME.

I remember being terrified to find a babysitter.  Would they EVER be good enough?!  Would they love my yayhoos as much as me?  NO WAY, I thought.  I remember hearing about a few babysitters through my girls' PT -- one was a nurse & one was a teacher in a special education classroom.  I also found a friend of mine who taught Yoga for the Special Child to help me out, each of them providing 3-4 hours a week of babysitting.  I remember thinking 11 hours a week out of the house felt like I was being a horrible mother.  Like, WHY did I need to "GET AWAY" so bad?! What was I running from?  I usually went grocery shopping or ran errands.  On rare occasions, Scott & I would do a date night or go with just Cal to one of his basketball games. It felt SO WEIRD (and still does) being out & about WITHOUT THE GIRLS.  It always makes me feel guilty.  And like part of me -- part of US -- is missing.

But oh how Jan, Patti & Jana loved our girls... like they were their own.  They formed connections with our girls beyond my wildest hopes & dreams.  They also bonded with Cal.  And our kids bonded with THEM.  And I was happy.  Because to me, it felt like there were just more people loving my kids, & how on EARTH could that EVER be a bad thing?!?!?  I got over my guilt pretty quickly.  And I looked forward to those 3 afternoons/evenings a week where I had some "me-time." And then I felt guilty I looked forward to them because did that mean I didn't always want to be with them?  Geez, this mommy guilt is a dirty little bitch!

Those three babysitters stayed with us for many years, and we also had others along the way... Charcie, Jenny, Kristin, Tracey, Rachel, Hannah, Kelsey... not to mention others that weren't able to stay quite as long.  And they all shared one thing in common -- they all became FAMILY.  All of them loved our kids fiercely. And I think the reason that they became family is because they got to experience & feel firsthand what our life is like -- all the intense joy/fear/sadness/hope/love that comes with knowing & loving our unique, perfect girls.  They each were a fill-in Mommy to my 3 kids, and I love them dearly for loving my kids as their own, because that is not the easiest thing to do. On top of that, our lives are laced with so many highs and lows, sometimes I worried (and still do) that it might just be wayyyyyy too much for others to take on.

I think one of the things I have gotten out of welcoming help into my home is that I overlooked that basic human need -- self care -- for way too many years.  I am almost always "on."  Whether I have help at home or not, I'm basically on call, I'm just in the other room, I'm constantly listening & responding to so many different "calls" literally 24/7.  Just since I've been writing this, I have had to reposition Lola in a cushy chair next to Romeo in the office 3 ft. away from me no less than 6 times in the last 13 minutes, I had to get Claire out of her chair & put her on her tummy in the beanbag, I had to change her diaper, and I had to check Lola's diaper, get Lola's hair out of her face twice, locate lost Bok and get him into position, pull the blanket off Lola's face (which happened because she wants to be held & is arching her back & burying her head on purpose so I'll do just that!), go try to stop a seizure with some Clary Sage oil, and Lola is now ready to eat & I wish I could just stay put & bang out my thoughts here real quick, but I know I need to feed her THIS INSTANT, so I'll be right back... (And yes, THIS RIGHT HERE is why I can barely find time to blog these days even though I SOOOOOO want to!!!!!!!! It has taken me 3 weeks just to finish the writing on this post!)

Pretty sure this was Row Pi (π?!) on the plane, right in front of the shitter,
but we didn't care because we were off to MEXICOOOOOO!

Back in 2013, I looked at Scott & said, "This year, we're taking a trip -- just you and me.  We're going somewhere quiet & tropical & off the beaten path & we are going to think about our relationship & focus on the two of us & knock some boots & find ourselves & be "off" for more than a few hours in a row.  It is crucial for us -- for our marriage, for our sanity, for our kids.  We NEED a break.  We are TAKING THAT BREAK this year." We visited the U.S. Virgin Islands/British Virgin Islands that year for 6 nights.  It was glorious.  Our babysitters all chipped in and covered the days, while our night nurses covered the nights (we finally had some by this point, due to Lola's desire to torture us not sleep like freakin' EVER -- Thank you, Lucille & Becca!!!).  It took many months of planning to pull it all together, and it was soooo worth it.  If you look back on my blog, you'll notice that I didn't post a damn thing about it back in November of 2013.  I only posted two lone, vague pics on my Instagram that trip (@gwennieh -- and yes, that was a shameless plug! #instaDAMN!).  It wasn't until our now-annual trip of 2014 that I got the balls to blog about it because I was borderline ashamed & felt guilty AF for even leaving them for 10 whole days. CLICK HERE to read about me bitching about traveling to straight-up paradise in November of 2014 and please don't punch me in the cooter next time you see me after reading what I said. HA!  I also refused to post about our clusterfuck of a trip that we took in 2015 where Lola got so sick she was on oxygen day 4 of our 10 day trip, and I damn near cashed in my trip insurance (which cost hundreds of extra dollars but we felt we HAD to add) to fly home to my baby.  My "team" at home assured me they had it under control, and so we stayed... and cried in beach bars... and questioned if we were the worst parents on the planet... and barely enjoyed that faraway beach the next 6 days since we just wanted to be home & fix our baby.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We contemplated not even taking a trip this year, as last time we did so, it was a complete disaster.  We opted for a shorter trip, and we headed out to a new destination this year -- Baja California Sur, Mexico. We flew in to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, rented a car, and drove 2-3 hours north to the quaint town of La Paz, Mexico.  I found out about the opportunity to swim with whale sharks there somehow on Instagram.  The more I started researching this area, I found out that you could also swim with sea lions there if you ventured out to an island off the coast of La Paz called Isla Espiritu Santo.  This island is connected to another island called Isla Partida.  Off the tip of Isla Partida is a sea lion colony/rookery called Los Islotes. I wanted to stay on Espiritu Santo, but I read online that both islands were uninhabited due to the fact they were part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of the beaches there has been named a top beach in the world, so I knew it would be gorgeous.  I liked the fact that it was quiet & less travelled.  Our daily lives back home are busy enough -- we prefer traveling to "off the beaten path" locations that take us back into nature where we can really just BE. We opted for a different type of trip... instead of our usual VRBO.com homes or a fancy resort on the beach, we decided to circumnavigate part of the islands by kayak & camp out in tents on the beach for 3 nights/4 days (sort of a trip-within-a-trip, if you will!) with BOA (Baja Outdoor Activities).  No permanent structures can be built on these islands, but camping IS permitted. We felt unsure about this excursion for several reasons.  First, we kind of like to relax & be pampered on our yearly vacations.  Second, we knew we'd have little to no cell phone reception while out there.  Lastly, we weren't sure if we'd like being part of a more organized trip vs. just winging it as we usually do. BOA worked out an arrangement so we were able to check in by phone with our family back home daily, and our fears quickly dissipated. The island was BREATHTAKING. Kayaking was such an awesome way to explore this island, and the trip didn't feel rigid or "planned out" at all.  We all worked together to ensure it was exactly what we hoped it would be, and we still had plenty of downtime to explore the island as we all chose. Words cannot express how unbelievable this entire experience was. This isn't a sponsored post, but I have to give a shout out to Chino, our guide with BOA, for helping make this trip so unforgettable.  xo

CostaBaja Resort in La Paz, Mexico ~ Right on the Sea of Cortez 

We ended up kayaking around 3-4 hours daily, floating above the most pristine, clear, turquoise water you can even imagine.  We saw fish & turtles swimming under our kayaks.  We watched unique, regional birds fly above us.  We were able to stop on deserted beaches that looked like they should be on a postcard.  We met people from all over the US/Canada/Mexico who became close friends in a matter of hours. We ate fresh-caught seafood daily, watched the sun rise and set, and stared at the stars until we became sleepy, watching for meteors. We talked & laughed & enjoyed Happy Hour & laughed & snorkeled & swam & laughed & hiked in our "free time." We crowded around an old transistor radio on Election Night, seeking out the only American radio station we could find to listen to the results. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the world but there --  in that moment -- with those exact people -- that night. Unlike the Virgin Islands, it wasn't lush and green on Espiritu Santo -- it was a desert, complete with cacti, jackrabbits, scrub brush, and gorgeous pink mesas & cliffs. The water was turquoise and surreal, almost looking more like a swimming pool than the ocean.  If you've never experienced the Sea of Cortez before, I'd highly recommend it. Surrounding the islands are many coral reefs, and it's even been referred to as "The World's Aquarium" by Jacques Cousteau.  We can definitely vouch for that. The snorkeling was incredible -- definitely an amazing, life-changing experience!

The gang!  WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!!  And when are we doing this again?!?!?

Not only were we able to swim up close & personal with sea lions in their own environment, but we were also able to swim in the wild with dolphins and whale sharks.  I am still in shock about this, as what we saw almost doesn't even feel REAL to this day.  To be 1-2 feet away from whale sharks that are 25+ feet long and as big around as a school bus while they filter feed/gulp water in a vertical position had us in awe. From the side and back, they truly looked like a black shark with white polka dots.  They had the gills and the tail that was very "sharky."  But when you looked at them head-on, they looked like a whale or a really big catfish almost! They were so gentle & surrounded by a little fish posse who must have been mooching off of them for food. We were so grateful to Yosef at Baja Desconocida for taking us out to swim with the whale sharks and also to give us the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins while out in La Paz Bay!  We didn't expect to get to swim with dolphins at all (we simply hoped we would see a few!), but on the way to swim with the whale sharks, we saw many dolphins, and they wanted to interact with us. We slipped into the water, and they would zoom past us, usually in pairs!  They made a very high pitch squeal underwater that was instantly recognizable, so you could tell when they were getting close.  They really had no reason to be near us that day, except that they simply wanted to play. We would dive down & twirl around, and they'd follow. One swam past me about 2 feet away with a smile on its face!  They had such immense power balanced with such gentle grace. We also had the privilege of being just a foot or so away from dozens of sea lions (who we couldn't touch, but they could & did touch us!).  They would mimic our every move & swim up to our masks as if to say "hello!" They played with us like sea dogs!  They were so inquisitive & couldn't figure out what our GoPro camera was, so they just kept swimming up to it and staring directly into it.  This was absolutely one of the coolest experiences OF MY LIFE!!!!!  I simply have no words. It was so much more than I ever could have ever expected or hoped for.  All 3 experiences were definitely Bucket List items for us!
A close-up of one of the dolphins we swam with!

Whale Shark Selfie!

I am so very grateful for this trip to Baja, for meeting new, lifelong friends, for time away with Scott, for people holding down the fort at home like bosses (!), for being able to witness heaven on earth in Mexico, and for finally recognizing the absolute critical importance of self care. I leave you with a few pictures & videos from our trip...

The first beach we were dropped off at... I felt like I was dreaming!

The water here was seriously that ridiculously pretty.  NO FILTER!

We could see coral, fish, sea turtles and more beneath our paddles all day long.  STUNNING!

We snorkeled around those rocks for a few hours and saw two octopuses (octopi?!) up close!  One hid quite a bit, but the other one was literally "running" along the bottom of the ocean a few feet beneath us, changing colors instantaneously.  It was UNREAL.  As he zoomed from one place to another, he was light blue, then would land next to a dark brown rock with white streaks and he would instantly look that same color.  I have never seen anything like it!  We watched him for a good 20 minutes and seriously could have watched even longer.  AMAZING!  

Perv.  HAHA!

Our tent was just steps from the water.  We worried we wouldn't be able to sleep without our white noise, but the waves subbed in quite nicely.  Heaven on earth.

SO hard saying goodbye to our camp, our friends, this water, this entire experience, this island... we can only hope that someday we will be able to return for Round Two!

SO glad to get back home to the kids though!  YOU 3 ARE MY EVERYTHING!!!

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