Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: Year in Review

Ahhhh, the last day of 2013! I feel inspired to write something inspirational and deep. But since that's not going to happen, you get to enjoy wherever this post goes, which I have no plan for, so there is no telling!

2013 has been a wild ride for us. We keep talking about how we went to a wedding in NY in April, and it seems like it had to have been the last April. But since April 2012 was our wedding, we know it was this year! This year seems so long, but not in a bad way. It's hard to explain. The beginning of our year should have been an indicator of the wildness we'd have in store. We started out the very beginning of the year discerning whether to start trying to get pregnant. We had to make a pretty clear cut decision one way or another after meeting with our doctor, and we decided at the end of the month that we were going to go for it. So February began loooooots of medical tests and treatments as we began to TTC (try to conceive). In March, we went on a little weekend trip to my college town with my parents, and enjoyed the zoo, the state museum, board games, and playing musical hotel rooms when every room they put us in was gross.

Midnight picture to ring in 2013!

March was another month of TTC/medical stuff, as was April-June BUT the year got really busy because April was a trip to NY to go to a grad school friend's wedding and visit my sister! We also celebrated our first anniversary in May by going to the Ignited by Truth conference together. We got a beautiful wedding cross there which now hangs above our front door.

 It was gross.

 In May we celebrated my birthday by going to a little nearby town for the day, and I began trying my hand at container gardening (only the tomatoes produced enough to be worth it!). In June we went on a whole family cruise to Alaska which was one of the very best parts of the year! It was not only amazing scenery and adventure, but an awesome time to make memories together as it's rare for us to all be in the same place for more than a day or so. 

July was a big, big month. We found out on the 1st that we were going to have a BABY! We drove down to tell my parents on the 4th and told my in laws a few days later. We had a 10 year reunion with my closest high school friends. We also spent the summer trying out our new grill and patio set, which had more downs than ups, but made some funny memories like me biting into raw chicken, the accidental permanent scarring of the brand new grill when I melted a meat thermometer on it, and general sweet memories of sitting with Steven out on the back deck. 


August was much of the same and we went to a few of the outdoor concerts in our neighborhood, plus our friends Dave and Liz came to visit with their little boy which encouraged what I know will be a life long friendship (and we went to the most packed, most miserable Durham Bulls game ever which makes us laugh looking back). The fall was fairly calm, if you consider me frantically preparing for baby calm :). Steven and I spent those few months doing projects around the house, reading lots of books.... similar to what we are doing now! We painted all the furniture in the nursery for days and days and days. We celebrated Steven's birthday in October and broke the tradition of endless shrimp at Red Lobster since they moved their dates after 6 years(!) but started a new tradition at the Applebee's near the house. We did our normal fall festivities of going pumpkin picking at the farm, getting pumpkin ice cream, and making a jackolantern.

 Trouble in sibling paradise?

 In November, we invested in our marriage by going to Marriage Encounter which was such a good experience for both of us. And November and December of course brought the usual fun and busy-ness of the holidays and extra time with family. And our baby shower! 

What am I looking forward to in 2014? Well, of course, the baby! I can't BELIEVE tomorrow starts The Year of the Baby. Not to be dramatic ;). And I haven't talked about this on the blog yet, but we will be having a February baby, not March, so the fact that tomorrow is January and THEN COMES FEBRUARY is mind blowing to me. I'm nervous but beyond excited about becoming a stay at home wife and mom. Beyond that, I'm not setting my sights too far into 2014. I know I'll have many weeks and months of getting accustomed to having a baby, so I'm going to take the year as it comes. We have a beach trip with family in June and hopefully a trip to see baby's godparents and family in the fall, but other than that I am going to play the year by ear! I'm actually really excited about that. Less goals and things to do can only be a good thing when we're incorporating a new member into our family AND learning to live on almost half our income all at once! Flexibility will be my mantra in 2014, which is something I'm generally not good at so I'm looking forward to stretching my mind a little. So here's to a year of baby cuddles, sleepless nights, and some of the best memories we will ever make together :)!

*Yes, I know there are more than 13 pictures but in my defense I can't resist a good link up and I wrote this before I knew about it! :)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Freezer Burritos for Post-Baby Meals

I'm really writing this more for my future-reference-benefit than yours but, hey, they are DELICIOUS so pay attention! I have been searching pinterest for good freezer recipes so I can get some meals going way in advance of baby time to stock the freezer with. I found what sounded super tasty- lunch burritos, with a recipe. But I found it really frustrating because there were no AMOUNTS listed for any of the ingredients. I was so sure that I'd have too much of one and not enough of another, but it looked so tasty (I could sing my love of burritos!) that I decided to go ahead and try it. What do you know, on my first attempt the amounts turned out more perfectly than I could have imagined! So giving credit where credit is due, here is the original link followed by my recipe that is only different because I give amounts and slightly change some ingredients! I call them freezer burritos because it sounds more fun.

Freezer Burritos

1 can of salsa refried beans*
2.5 cups of shredded Mexican style cheese
3 cups of white rice mixed with a cup of salsa**
1 pound of ground beef with 1/2 packet of taco seasoning and 1 can of pinto beans mixed in
10 burrito sized flour tortillas

*I get these from Trader Joe's but I'm not sure how easy they are to find otherwise. You could certainly just mix like a quarter cup of salsa into regular refried beans. The original recipe calls for crockpot refried beans, but I went for convenience (plus TJ's salsa refried beans are the one canned bean that my crockpot version CAN'T top!)
**I googled mexican rice and it was way more effort than I wanted to put into it. So I made white rice and mixed the salsa in while it was still hot. Yum!

I assembled exactly as she said, eyeballing the amounts so they'd fill 10 burritos, with the help of this video for folding:

Spoon a layer of refried beans across the tortilla.
Put the meat/bean mixture on the tortilla.
Add the rice.
Top with cheese and fold.
Wrap in saran wrap and put in a freezer bag with warming instructions as follows:
Take burrito out of freezer the night before.
Put a damp paper towel on the burrito and warm for 30 seconds on each side.

If it sounds time consuming, it's not. It probably took me 40 minutes start to finish and that makes either 10 meals for me, or 5 for Steven and me. I've spent 40 minutes easily one ONE meal so I call it a win. I'm only sad I didn't double the recipe, because I ate one for lunch and it was sooo tasty! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

30 Week Update!

How far along are you? 
30 weeks and 2 days (I just can't seem to get them up right on the day!)

Total weight gain: 
To preserve my sanity, I don't weigh in between appointments. So I'll say 22 until I get weighed again on the 30th. 

How big is baby?:  
  Estimated at 3 lbs! 

Maternity clothes: 
This answer will remain a big, fat yes :). I'm starting to grow out of some of my tshirts and moving into Steven's!

Stretch marks?:  
I have a teeny one IN AN OLD STRETCH MARK. Poor, poor little sliver of skin. I had no doubt I would come out of this pregnancy with tons of them so I'm not even stressing about the first one.

Well, I had one good week! This week my sleep has been worse than ever. I haven't had much trouble going back to sleep, but I'm waking up CONSTANTLY. So far I'm doing ok with less sleep, and I'm on vacation so I can nap/sleep in more, but I figure hopefully that bodes well for the sleep deprivation I'll have when the baby comes.

Best moment this week?:
We were sitting in Mass on Christmas day and Steven got to see his baby kick :). I pointed down, he quickly realized what was happening, and he was so excited. It was kind of an extra special moment because there we were in church where we had to be quiet, sharing an unspoken, super sweet event together.

Lots of movement! I think I'm getting a butt to the ribs most of the time, but occasionally I will feel hands, head, and feet. By what I'm feeling, I think I have a posterior baby (cue panic attack) but I'll ask at the 32 week ultrasound to see if I need to start spinning the baby or not!

Food cravings?:
I have been craving what I call 'real food', ie not snacks but MEALS and meat. I've been sooo hungry these past few days! I think I might have scared my family with my eating on Christmas eve ;).

Food aversions?:
No peanut butter sandwiches.

Labor signs?: 
Thankfully not.

Belly button in or out?: 
Continues to disappear but still in.

What I miss: 
Reading stuff besides baby/birth books. Work has been so crazy that I've gotten really behind and I only have TEN WEEKS LEFT!!! I find the baby/birth/breastfeeding stuff fascinating, but I do miss other genres ;)! 

What I'm looking forward to: 
Seeing the baby in the clothes, carseat/stroller, on blankies/quilts, etc. Every time we get something, I get so excited picturing the baby actually using it.

What I'm not looking forward to: 
Using vacay time on my weekly doctor appts. Our sick time does not carry over, and accrues per paycheck. So even though I'll likely go to the doctor 3-4 times in January, I'll only have about 6 hours to use for January (my doc is an hour away from work). So of my week vacay I carried over, I'll have to use some of that instead of cashing it out when I quit. Boo!

Still unknown! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Wonderful Start to the Christmas Season!

Mark me down for another great Christmas! Steven and I got to my parents' house around noon on Christmas Eve. My brother, SIL, niece, and nephew came over and we had lunch, the kids opened their presents, we talked, played games, watched tv, and of course ate a lot! The bigger our family has gotten, the louder it has gotten, but I love it! It is so different from just 5 or so years ago. 

Christmas morning, we opened our 'couple gifts', so mom and dad opened theirs from each other and Steven and I opened ours from each other. I'm most excited about the water wrap I got! I practiced it on a stuffed animal and it wraps like the Moby, so it was pretty easy to do. It will be perfect for short jaunts into the water at the beach next June! 

 Penny was large and in charge Christmas morning.

 Mom had to pause playing Santa for kitty love.

Maggie custom made Avengers peg dolls that I gave Steven for Christmas!

Because we didn't want to miss out on time with the kids (they were at their dad's Christmas day), we decided to go to Mass on Christmas morning. Do you know I've never gone to Mass on Christmas day!? We have always gone on Christmas eve. I had mixed emotions going into it. I felt like I should go Christmas day (hello!) but it is also so different from our tradition of going from last night's jammies to clean jammies on Christmas day and literally not going anywhere. So I wasn't sure what I'd think.

I walked into the church and as we sat in our pew, I looked at the baby Jesus in the manger on the altar. Throughout my prayers, I was having to conciously will myself to not cry. I was so flooded with emotions; probably all the emotions I was seeking during Advent and sort of missed out on. I was thinking about the blessing of baby Jesus to the world, and then the blessing of our baby to us. I was thinking of Mary's long trek on the back of a donkey at 9 months pregnant, and how 4 hours in the car is rough on me! I thought about the hope brought into the world with the birth of Jesus, and how our Lord humbled himself to become a helpless infant. And then of course, I went back to thinking of the sweet little helpless infant we'll bring into the world in 10 short weeks. Oh man, I was such a mess! I tried to tell Steven that I was emotional, and almost cried just saying it, so I just sat there with my thoughts for a little bit. We had arrived about 20 minutes early, and it was perfect for giving me a little time to absorb my feelings, pray, compose myself, and then join in the Christmas carols they were singing before Mass. That part was awesome, too. The sun was shining, we were singing Christmas carols, and it just felt SO Christmassy. During the consecration we sang "Oh come let us adore him; oh come let us adore Him; Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the King" and that was possibly the most emotional moment I've ever had with the Eucharist (I have some teen adoration experiences that rival it... but it certainly ranks up there!).

Probably needless to say, I walked out of church telling Steven that I would LOVE to always go to church on Christmas day. What better way to help our kids, and us!, focus on the true meaning of the day. Not to mention there was no rat race for parking, seats, etc. The church was mostly full, but nothing like Christmas eve. It also makes sense because Steven will often work Christmas eve and I don't know how late Mass will go with kids, plus his family does a Christmas eve get together which we'd like to be able to go to at some point. So I think we just added a new Cash family tradition!

After Mass, we went home and my brother and sister in law came back over. We opened our Secret Santa presents (I had my brother; my mom had me) and proceeded to hang out, talk, and eat the rest of the day until we all headed home around 6pm. Our baby got supremely spoiled by both his/her grandparents and aunt/uncle... books and clothes and toiletries and crazy awesome thermometer and mattress cover and bumbo OH MY! Steven and I laughed as we talked about how we didn't get our own baby anything, as we figured we'd just wait til next year! Driving back home on Christmas day was a little sad, but it was also nice to have today to unpack (read: get excited all over again about) our gifts and to get settled in for a little bit of time off of work. We're going to work harder this year to celebrate Christmas in the actual Christmas season. Last year we left our lights up til 3 kings day, but this year we're going to do some other things like build our gingerbread house. Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Learning a Fuller Meaning of Being Open to Life

As Catholics, Steven and I are called to be open to life at all times. That often confuses people who think that Catholics are supposed to be like the Duggars. They certainly can, but we are also more than welcome to prayerfully discern our family size and avoid or postpone pregnancy if needed due to many reasons, including mental/emotional issues, serious financial constraints, and health concerns to name a few. Whether we are avoiding/postponing pregnancy or trying to achieve pregnancy, we must still be open to life. Learning all about using natural family planning during our engagement really changed our mindset on things. We went from very secular thinking about needing X money or things in order to provide for our kids, or worrying about what others thought of our family size and what is 'normal', to now being at a very comfortable place of not having a number of children we want. It baffles people when they ask me how many children we'll have and I honestly answer "we're going to play it by ear after each child". Now, the term 'play it by ear' is probably a little lax for what we'll actually be doing (praying, thinking, talking), but it's easily understood by others so that's how I frame it. It's really refreshing to me to NOT have a number, actually. What if I set the number 4 and never could get pregnant after the 2nd child, and we didn't feel called to adopt? What if I set the number 2 and we changed our minds later but felt like it'd be weird to have more kids after we openly professed being 'done'? Not having a number and being open to life is, to me, less stressful. We will constantly re-evaluate our family's needs, health, and finances and go from there.

There's another side to that coin, though. Though I say I don't have a number, and I really don't, I do generally think in terms of "more than 2". I guess I just always pictured having more than 2. But again, we have no clue what will happen! And this experience we've had with getting pregnant and remaining pregnant has really taught me about being open to God's plan for us. I can plan all day and night, all I want- and I do!- but I should know from the hundreds of times my plans have been giggled at that I'm not ultimately in control. It saddens me to think that this baby might be our only one, but maybe it is! And maybe we'll have many more. There is a big factor of trust and loss of control going on that I really struggle with. Those who know me well know that I feel completely, totally lost when I don't have control. I like to organize, plan, and manage things. But being open to life has taught me... IS teaching me!... that I just simply can't control it all. At some point, if I'm being true to what I say and believe, I have to give up at least some of the control.

We've already started discussing our intentions for after this baby is born. I've said it before and I'll say it again, natural family planning may not be easy but it lends itself to some really open, honest, raw, and uniting conversation. We haven't totally decided what our intentions will be yet, simply due to the staggering cost of progesterone throughout pregnancy and the unknown of what life will be like soon, and I feel out of control knowing that it could be a day by day, month by month decision for quite some time as we settle into being new parents, as I work on my health, as we see what our finances are like when I'm not working. But it's also really liberating. I love that I don't feel 'trapped' into a decision and that we can change our minds literally in a second if we want.

As I go through the trials of this pregnancy, progesterone that is always too low, blood pressure that is always too high, I wonder how many times I'll want to do this. I imagine I'll see my baby and forget most of it, but I do wonder what dealing with all of this would be like if I also had a little one to care for. Being open to life for us could possibly mean that I don't get the "more than 2" family size I dreamed of because caring for the life already here is all I can handle. Or it might mean sacrificing and surrendering amidst complicated pregnancies to bring forth life. The thing is we just don't know. And that's scary but it's also ok with me. We still have a lot to learn about being open to life; I don't claim to have it all figured out! But I'm excited that God partnered me with someone who has the same values and willingness to figure it all out. Steven has been my rock this pregnancy and I'm sure he will in possible pregnancies to come. I hope to read back on this in 10 or 15 years and see just where being open to life has taken us!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Just Being Real: Stories from Pregnancy and Motherhood #1

I've tried to be very real throughout this whole pregnancy, and in life in general, because I don't think those blogs where everything is sunshine and rainbows do favors for anyone. I've had a lot of joy, happiness, and blessings that I've shared, and a lot of fear, complications, and disappointments that I've shared, too. I try to be as real as I can in my writing so that people see a fuller picture of my life. I know I'm guilty of reading blogs with only happy stories and thinking "why isn't my life like that!?". I'm pretty certain that people don't read my blog and think that ;), and that's fine with me! I like to share the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly. So here are a couple of real experiences I've had in this pregnancy!

High blood pressure makes pregnancy very interesting. The most interesting experience I've had with it so far was when I went to my 29 week appointment and my blood pressure was up even after doubling my medication at 24 weeks. So, I got switched to a different medicine and my doctor told me I would need to do the 24 hour urine test the next morning. "No biggie," I thought, "pee in 24 hours and bring it in? I've got this!". Ummmm.... no! Collect every drop of urine for 24 entire hours AND keep it cold; that was my task. So I left the doctor's office, picked up my new medication, and drove to the hospital an hour away (nearest my home for dropping the *ahem* specimen back off) for the giant container I needed. Thankfully my nurse told me to ask for a 'hat' for the toilet because they did NOT offer me one! She also gave me the great tip of keeping the container in a bucket of ice near the toilet, lest I need to trek out to the kitchen a million times during the day and night. Not to mention the thought of carrying urine into the kitchen, or carrying the pee jug through the house, made me queasy. So any of you high blood pressure mamas, keep that in mind! Anyway, I got my jug and got my set up going at home. Steven was forbidden from using the master bath so I could leave the hat in the toilet. I started Friday morning when I woke up and decided to just work from home that day to make life super easy.

At least my toes were painted.

Except we had tickets for The Nutcracker that night. It is our last year going to what I call the real Nutcracker (live music! fancy performing arts center!) and I was not missing it for anything. Due to Steven's work schedule, I had to pick him up and then drive us downtown or we might be late. So as I left the house, I packed the only thing I could find that was water tight... a plastic reusable water bottle. Yes, I was worried about ahem...aim... but I had no other choice! I packed it in a lunch box with an ice pack. I went to get Steven and once I picked him up realized we'd be really early. And I had to pee. Already. I had just left the house where I went twice before leaving! And to think I had dreams of not having to go until I got home *snort*. Luckily we had enough time to go home first. Yes, we drove 30 minutes back home to avoid me having to use the water bottle in a public restroom and it was SUCH a smart decision. I just sipped water after that and didn't have to go again until I got back home. Taking it into the hospital was pretty painless unless you consider carrying 2 and 1/4 liters of pee in an orange biohazard medical container embarrassing. But I don't have much dignity left at this point anyway and, hey, I put a lot of work into the last 24 hours, so I carried it proudly to the lab where they took it from me and I could breathe a sigh of relief that I was DONE! One of my friends said she had to do it 3 times in her pregnancy. I totally thought this was once and done, but at least I know the deal if I do have to do it again. Prayers for no protein in my urine please! I would really like to avoid pre-eclampsia at all of course, but at least as long as possible. My very real lesson? There is going to be a LOT of unanticipated stuff these next 10 weeks so I'd better get used to it! 

Kind of a hot mess picture for multiple reasons, but the memory had to be made!

Next is a story about learning my duties in motherhood. So I bought all these various cloth diapers and inserts throughout my pregnancy. Probably too many but cloth things that babies poop in are oddly addicting. I bought some hemp and bamboo inserts which absorb better than microfiber (the standard insert). I threw in all the diapers and inserts with some RLR to strip and prep, rinsed a whole bunch of times, air dried the diapers and dryer-dried the inserts. Done! Back into the baby dresser it all went. I knew I needed to further prep the bamboo/hemp and my MIL got me a stock pot for Christmas. So back out came those so I could prep. And I googled (for the first time... fatal error) where I learned that brand new bamboo and hemp inserts should NEVER be washed with synthetic ones the first time because the natural oils will make the synthetic ones repel water. Or, you know, pee. Oops. So this weekend out came allllllllllllll the diapers and inserts. I boiled the hemp and bamboo, then put them on a couple rinse/spin cycles and dried them. The diapers and microfiber inserts got stripped again, diapers are hanging up to dry, and the inserts were dried. And it only took me a day and a half of constant trips to the stove, washer, dryer, and drying rack. My very real lesson? Always google first. Always. 

Hopefully they can stay put away until baby arrives!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

29 Week Update!

How far along are you? 
29 weeks and 3 days

Total weight gain: 
Found out Thursday... 22 lbs. My doctor hasn't commented on my weight the entire time, but today told me to "slow down". Yikes!

How big is baby?:  
  Estimated at 2.5 lbs and 15 inches right now.

Maternity clothes: 
Oh yes! Got 2 new tops at a consignment store this week... grand total $11!

Stretch marks?:  
Not yet.

Decent this week. I've been falling back to sleep easier for the first time in months.

Best moment this week?:
On Saturday, we had our baby shower and had SO much fun with family and friends! Penny is super spoiled :). On Sunday, we spent most of the day in the car and the baby moved ALL DAY LONG. It was so much fun! Also, both my parents felt their grandbaby kick!

After Sunday, the stinker has gotten so quiet! I'm feeling the head/hands but haven't gotten kicked in 3 days which is so weird. The doctor said that as baby grows, I may feel less kicks and more shifts/pressure since he or she will run out of room. 

Food cravings?:
I've been on a sweets kick, which is bad!

Food aversions?:
No peanut butter sandwiches.

Labor signs?: 
Thankfully not.

Belly button in or out?: 
Continues to disappear but still in.

What I miss: 
Sleeping on my tummy! I finally had to give in.

What I'm looking forward to: 
Seeing the baby again at 32 weeks. Starting the breastfeeding book I got at the library today.

What I'm not looking forward to: 
The 24 hour urine test.... ew. Thanks to my blood pressure being up again this week, I'm on a new med, doing the urine test, and have to go weekly from now on.

Still unknown! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dear Penny: Letters to our Child #19

Check out the "Dear Baby Series" tag for more letters to our baby!

Dear Baby Penny, 11/5/13

Guess who is the biggest wiggle worm ever!? 22 weeks might be my favorite so far. I went from being SO exhausted all the time weeks 18 through the end of 21 to feeling so energetic. And I went from feeling you about once a week, so light that I wondered if I was making it up, to overnight you wiggling and kicking off and on all day! I am finally enjoying this pregnancy and not worrying because I have constant reminders that you are healthy. It is so much fun! I can’t wait for daddy to be able to feel you kick. Twice you have kicked so hard that I’ve jumped, which I’m sure looks crazy to other people, but it makes me laugh. Most of the time you feel like a fish flopping around. I wonder if all that exhaustion was because of a huge growth spurt and that’s why I can feel you now! Whatever it is, I love it and I’m so excited to spend the next 17 weeks feeling you move.

I haven’t had many really intense cravings, but I’m enjoying ice cream and salty snacks, plus still really liking meat! I have a thing for ground beef these days. My belly keeps growing, but what’s funny is that my hormonal self some days feels like I look fat, some days too pregnant, and some days not pregnant at all. Daddy tells me I look pregnant and beautiful :). I’m having a lot of fun with maternity clothes now that I’m bigger! I have found the most amazing work clothes at consignments stores for SO cheap!

Last weekend daddy and I went on Marriage Encounter. It was so special to us and the perfect thing for our marriage right before you join us! As I looked into daddy’s eyes, holding his hands, with happy tears rolling down my face while Fr. Rocky talked about marriage and had us renew our vows, you kicked and squirmed. It was one of the most precious moments ever.

Next week we get to hear your heartbeat again. I live for my monthly appointments! Every week I count down how many more weeks til I get to hear you again. I am so, so blessed to have you and not a day goes by that we don’t thank God for the miracle of you.

We love you more than you’ll ever know!


Dear Penny, 11/07/2013

It’s a double feature! 23 weeks might have already beat out 22 for one simple reason. DADDY FELT YOU KICK! We were sitting on the couch signing up for health insurance for next year (fun!), when you started wiggling pretty hard. I put my hand to my stomach, not really expecting to feel it from the outside, and thump! There you were! So I put daddy’s hand there and had 2 kicks that he didn’t feel. You kicked again and oh, I wish you could have seen his face. He excitedly said “Yes?!”, I guess answering my un-asked question of whether he felt you or not! His mouth dropped open and I was just so excited to share that moment with him! I thought it would be at least a few more weeks, so it was a really fun surprise! Keep kicking, baby!

Love, Mommy

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Report Card

I really, really wanted to get more out of Advent this year than I actually have. I could list the million reasons why I haven't, and I will list a few. The last month or two at work has literally been the CRAZIEST out of the 4.5 I've worked there. Life getting ready for Penny is a hustle and bustle, especially with the various health issues I'm trying my best to stay on top of. Work events and baby showers and wrapping up faith formation and juggling our sometimes conflicting schedules, oh my!

My romantic notions of Advent 2013 included our traditional advent calendar of activities (aimed to bring us closer as a family and, ultimately, closer to the Holy family). It included Advent devotionals (I ended up deciding on one by the saints). It included lighting the wreath each night. It included the Christmas Novena. Last, but not least, our advent plans included me taking time to focus on my relationship with Mary.

So far we have lit the candle and stuck with the novena, but the success ends there. In an attempt to grasp the point of the season (waiting and preparing for Jesus), I cut out the advent calendar this year to simplify life. Because going every second of the day does nothing to improve my relationship with sweet little baby Jesus! And the devotional just kind of fell off after about a week. And I really am working on my relationship with Mary, but I guess 10 minutes once a week to read the chapter in A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy just isn't quite enough. She'd probably appreciate at least a few more of my precious moments each week.

All is not lost, though! The Christmas Novena is challenging, to me anyway, but in a really good way. It's calming and meditative, which are good things to experience in the season of preparation and waiting. And I still have 7 days left. These next 7 days include an early Christmas with my husband's family, delivering gifts to everyone on my caseload at work, finishing up shopping and wrapping for Steven and the member of my family I drew in Secret Santa, and getting ready for a whirlwind trip to SC for Christmas. But it's also 7 more days that I can work on my heart, 7 days that I can work on calming myself and being present, and an entire week to think about what it was like for Mary in these final days of her pregnancy as I'm in the final months of mine. I know it's my choice whether or not I get anything out of this last week of Advent, and I plan to tune out from the world a little more this week as I prepare for the coming of our Lord.

Friday, December 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
Last weekend, our friends Liz and Dave came to visit with their sweet little guy, Charlie. We had SUCH a great weekend, even with some subpar weather! We did a lot of hanging out, eating, and shopping! This amazing couple is our baby's future Godparents, and the next time we see them will be for the baptism :).

Then Wednesday we had David, Mandi, and Lucia over for dinner. We had such a great week spending so much time with friends, although I think Buttercup is glad for some quiet ;).

--- 2 ---
This week at work has been SO crazy! Of course I'd get pregnant and then work would be INSANE. I dealt with a bunch of scary stuff lately that involved police, protection orders, and psychiatric hospital stays, and I am so, so glad that is over! Now on to the madness of our holiday gift drive. It's fun but SO much work. I wrapped/organized presents the entire day yesterday and my body is really aching from it. Then next week I have to deliver them. Add into that all my OB appointments and I am one busy girl. I barely make it through the day without a nap, but there is no nap option!

--- 3 ---
I hit 28 weeks this week and now I'm up to doctor visits every 2 weeks. I had to do the 3 hour glucose test this week because I failed the 1 hour next week. I was convinced I'd fail this, too, because of some new symptoms (that are apparently just pregnancy things!), and I was so sick after the test that I ended up staying out the whole day. But it was all worth it when I got the call the next morning that I PASSED!

--- 4 ---
We gave up our Advent calendar this year. We just took on too many things with various novenas, reflections, readings, etc and the calendar (where we do 1 activity per day together) was too much. I felt bad at first, but then I realized that Jesus probably WANTS us to simplify our lives so we can better focus on Him. Hopefully next year we'll be back to our calendar tradition! 

--- 5 ---
I will share...admit?.... that it took me 6 entire days to eat the candy from my St. Nicholas stocking, which is by far a record. And it only lasted that long because 3 of those days I was convinced I had gestational diabetes and only ate a few pieces :P.

--- 6 ---
This weekend is the baby shower my family is throwing us. It is a couples'/families' shower at Fuddruckers, an awesome burger place. I am so, so excited to see my family and friends! Say a prayer though because I'm all sniffly and sneezy. I really hope this clears up or at least doesn't get worse before all the fun on Saturday. 

 --- 7 ---
We need to begin making our birth plan soon. Any websites that helped you guide making yours? I actually like the idea of calling it "Birth Preferences" better, but same thing! We are going to use some of the books we've read to help us make it, but anything that would help us streamline it would be great. I doubt the nurses will want to read a 7 page birth plan :P

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saving on Baby

I know, I know- our baby isn't even here yet! But did you think for a second that my frugality wouldn't kick in the moment I found out I was pregnant? I have no expertise in the saving money after baby category, but I've spent the last 6 or so months learning a few things about saving on baby during pregnancy. I think the majority of my readers are seasoned moms, but there are a couple who will/might be first timers in the next year or so! If you experienced mamas want to share in the comments how you save after baby, I may make a separate post, giving credit to you all, of course :).

Here are some things I've done to save so far:

  • Thrift and/ or consignment shop. I've had much better luck with maternity and baby clothes in consignment shops, but you can check thrift stores, too. The most I've paid for a used maternity item was $9 and I've gotten some nice, new stuff! I also rack up on baby clothes sales and get sleepers and other things for about .50 to $2 and item. My current 'rule' is that I don't spend more than $4 on a baby clothing item, and I only spend that if it's reallllllly cute! 
  • Join co-ops and buy/sell/trade (b/s/t) groups on facebook. I initially joined a ton, and then whittled it down to 4. I've gotten some really great prices on new and used cloth diapers, along with a few other things.
  • Leave co-ops and b/s/t groups. WHAT!? No really. Once you get what you need, leave! You can always join back up later. Maybe jot down the name of your favorites somewhere; mine were Little Pumkin Noses Co-Op, Cloth Diaper B/S/T, and Fluff and Happiness Co-Op. But after you get what you need, unless you have the self control of a saint, you will probably find one of two things happening. 1) You will purchase things you didn't need/didn't join the group for. Because co-ops usually have SO many different buys running of things you didn't even know existed! And in the b/s/t group, you might end up with a super awesome diaper, but if you weren't going to spend money on it anyway, then it wasn't a savings! (Hello Avengers diaper #2). Or 2) You will get a case of the Joneses. You know, "jonesing" for things you want but don't have, can't afford, shouldn't spend money on, etc. I actually just left those groups last week after realizing I had what I needed, and it was so incredibly liberating, even if I miss scrolling through! Edited to add: I realized that there was one I didn't leave and, since then, I have bought 5 different things. Seriously, LEAVE THE CO-OPS!
  • Think very carefully about registry items. To me, registries can be really tricky because you may or may not get what you register for. If it's an item you really need, especially a big ticket item, and no one gets it for you, then you are left figuring out affording it and trying to find a good deal on it last minute after the shower(s) are over. But if you just buy it in the first place, and someone would have gotten it for you, then you are spending money you didn't have to! I approached it in this way. If I found a deal so good that I knew someone shopping off my registry wouldn't find, I went ahead and bought it. Or if I'm really picky about the detail of something and I'm afraid that, in being ok with used items (I am!), I might not get what I want, then I buy it. But if I have a feeling that someone may buy the item for me and/or may be able to also find a good deal on it, then I leave it alone. And if I know that someone is eyeing an item on my registry and I see a sale on it, I let them know so I can try to pass the savings on to them. If you don't need the item right away (ie a particular crib mattress because we have a co sleeper and rock n sleep thing for the beginning), then you can afford to wait it out for registries and sales. It's definitely been tricky to balance!
  • Ask experienced moms! I'm in a Catholic moms group on facebook and, though they probably weary of my constant questioning, I know they know all about the latest stuff on the market because they have little ones right now! So I ask them often about what they like/don't like, what they wished they had, what they got and never used, etc. That really helps me figure out 'wants' from 'needs'. I still have too much crap (which equals $$$ spent!), but it has been really helpful! 
I know you experienced mamas can help add to this list, so leave it in a comment! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear Penny: Letters to our Child #18

Click the "Dear Baby Series" tag to see the previous letters to our unborn baby!

Dear Penny 10/22/2013

Well babe, the progesterone is looking up! No real issues since the hematoma (I get big lumps and then just avoid that side a few times and it goes away), and our level is in upper zone 2! I never thought I'd cheer for being in zone 2 but here I am cheering on God for hearing our prayers, daddy for faithfully giving me the shots, the pills for having some effect, and you for growing strong with suboptimal levels. What a team we all are, Penny!

Daddy and I went last Thursday for our 20 week ultrasound. You know, THE ULTRASOUND. Except we stayed strong and let the ultrasound lady know that we didn't want to know. Since she needed all kinds of measurements that included the bum area, we had to look away about 5 separate times. Then I made the mistake of asking her if she knows what you are. She said yes and that was torture! THEN I found out that our doctor only does the first trimester ultrasounds and this lady does the 2nd and 3rd trimester ones, so now I have to see her almost every month knowing she knows what you are! I'm still so glad we aren't finding out, and the suspense is fun, but it would be so easy to say "ok nevermind, what is it!?!?!?". For the 3rd ultrasound in a row (12 weeks, 18 weeks, 20 weeks), you were laying there with your one hand above your head most of the time and then sometimes chewing on your hands. Can't wait to see you do that in person! I love that you have your own little habits and personality already. You continue to be a cuddly baby and never want to stretch out on ultrasound. Mommy's not complaining; you know I love cuddles.

About halfway through the ultrasound, she had me use the bathroom. You have always been head down, but when I came back from the bathroom you were head up! I thought it was so bizarre that you flipped around and I didn't even know! It did answer my question of why I barely feel you, though. She said my placenta is at the top, where your feet have been the whole time, so that's what you are kicking. Well after you went feet down, I spent the next 2 days feeling you a LOT! Some movements felt more like flutters and others felt like little punches! Then Saturday I felt a 'swoosh' feeling (which I can't describe other than that) and nothing since then. Your newly non-anxious mother (wait, am I finally going to be less crazy!?) takes that to mean you switched back around to your head down comfy position. I'm probably the only mom who wants her baby to be feet down so I can feel you!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The High Cost of Being Frugal

You all know I love frugality. I love cheap. I love second hand. I LOVE IT! But every now and again, I find something really expensive (at least, in my opinion) that is actually a frugal purchase. Wha!? I know... but hear me out. Sometimes you may find an item on sale that is something you were already planning to buy, at least in some form (that is key!), that is on sale, and that is high quality and therefore worth the price. Let's just cut to the chase with my particular example.

Last Wednesday, I went into Target for some coffee creamer and salsa. And I came out with a Dyson vacuum. Anyone who knows anything about Dyson knows that they are super pricey. But let me tell you my experience with Dyson and why I feel it is a brilliant purchase. Oh, and I should add that this is NOT a sponsored post, though if some Dyson employee comes across this, I'll take one of those fans that blows heat as compensation, mmmkay?

So I was walking into Target, checking the Cartwheel app for salsa sales, when I see 40% off of a Dyson Digital Slim, expiring today, pop up on the screen. My first thought was "well, that'd be nice to have!". See, I'd already been thinking a lot about how our once a week vacuuming won't cut it once baby is here and mobile. It doesn't even cut it now really, but the vacuum is a bit heavy and hurts my pregnant back so I just make it last a week! And I've been thinking about how nice it would be to have a smaller, lighter vacuum to use for every day use in between the weekly vacuuming. So I walked down the vacuum aisle, casually perusing the Dyson section and saw that the Dyson Digital Slim is regularly priced $330. And I thought about how I would probably never see it for 40% off AND the red card (debit! not credit!) savings of 5% off ever again. And even if I did, there's no way we'd have the extra money sitting around after I'm not working. So it was kind of a now or never.

You can even take out the long middle piece and use various attachments on the top part to make it handheld. 

But because I don't like to make decisions on the spot, especially big money ones, I called in reinforcement. First, I negotiated in my own head. My mom gave me her Dyson vacuum when she got a new one. Between the 2 of us, it has vacuumed a minimum of weekly for about a decade now. And since I didn't know until recently that I should be cleaning a filter, 6 (I know, vomit) of those years have been without a clean filter, and that thing STILL picks up better than any other vacuum I've ever used. It attacks cat hair like nobody's business, and my cat has that fur that sticks to EVERYTHING. Reinforcement #1- check. Then I text Steven and told him to call me ASAP, which wasn't the best plan since it was the day before Thanksgiving and he works at a grocery store. Reinforcement #2- fail. Then I called my mom, who is a bit partial since she is diehard Dyson, but who has both an upright and stick version. She said I had to get it. Reinforcement #3- check. 

Then I walked around the store with it in my cart for an hour, hoping Steven would call or text, before deciding that I could always bring it back if I got it home and realized I shouldn't have bought it. So I did it, we crunched numbers the next day, and we're keeping it. And I've already vacuumed twice in between my normal weekly vacuum since getting it. And you know what? This might become my pregnancy vacuum because it is SO much easier on my back than the upright! It picks up well, is light, and it's so nice that there's no cord to drag around. Even better for baby and kitty is that it's a lot quieter than the upright vacuum.

So was spending $188 on a vacuum the best decision ever? I maintain that it was definitely one of them. If I get 10 years out of this thing, we're looking at about $19 a year. I could have bought one of those $40 stick vacuums but a) nothing picks up like a Dyson and I find it maddening to vacuum over the same piece of whatever 17 times hoping the vacuum will pick it up THIS time and b) in my experience, cheaper vacuums die way more often, so I'd probably be replacing it every 2 years or so which automatically puts this as a better price.

So there's a long winded lesson and explanation in why sometimes being frugal means you spend a lot of money. Rarely, but sometimes! 

What's something you spent a lot on but still felt that, in the big picture, it was a frugal purchase? (Although I'm sure my husband is saying, "Don't give her ideas!!!")   :)