Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big News! (It's NOT what you think!)

** Disclaimer- as this is a public blog, I don't use formal names but instead refer to hubby as The Wiz and to our little guy as The Munchkin. For all of you friends and family reading this blog for the first time, just wanted you to know.)**

No, we're not currently pregnant. (Silly friends! That's a simple FB status post.
This news is going to require a little more info and detail than that, although it would be a wonderful, welcome blessing to have that news again!)

My dear, wonderful, sweet hubby, who works so hard and who always has the big picture in mind, who works for our well-being and for our future, has received a (well-deserved) job promotion. It is truly a wonderful thing, and I am so excited for him. He will be working in a managerial level for his large, international company, doing national training for patient services. He has been really wanting to get into a leadership role (as I'll attest this is one of his strong suits-leading) and this is just such an opportunity.

This opportunity is also located in Chicago, Illinois, where the home office of his company is located. Which means, dear friends and family (drum roll!)...... after 21 years of living in South Carolina, this lil' southern transplant is MOVING.

Now I've had my share of moves throughout my life. We moved from Rhode Island to SC when I was 9 for my dad's job. I spent one ill-advised semester at a rather, ahem, "rural" in-state university until I realized I missed the 'big city' of Columbia and game home to blessed Univ. of S. Carolina, where I earned my bachelor's and master's degrees.

Through college (and after!) I moved lots of times- out of dorm rooms, into different apartments, back home for grad school, back to apartments with roommates, without a roommate, back to a roommate, then finally into our current home when the Wiz and I got married.

I know this entire state (it seems) like the back of my hand. I know the short cuts, the rough parts of town, the bad traffic spots to avoid, and approximately how long it will take to get pretty much anywhere within my beautiful state of South Carolina. I have memories and experiences associated with almost every local neighborhood, shopping center, and area of my suburb.

If you put a map of Columbia, SC and its outlying parts in front of me, I could turn it into a map of my childhood, adolesence and adulthood. It would be scratched through with first date spots, prom dinners, first (and second, and third) speeding tickets, first place I bought a car, first place I was kissed, childhood homes where I spent hours upon hours laughing with girlfriends, talking on the phone, studying for tests and putting together papers for school. I could circle all of the schools I subbed in, was an intern and student teacher, and taught as a professional teacher.
I would draw hearts around those places that hold memories of my courtship with the Wiz, all of those places that hold meaning for us. From the college football stadium, the quiet, romantic restaurant where we ate our first meal, the creaking wooden swing by the ocean where The Wiz proposed, the old mill where we took engagement photos, the sweet, cozy eatery where we hosted friends and family for our rehearsal dinner, the beautiful church where we promised to forsake all others and love only each other. I would draw a star, giant and golden, where our breathtakingly adorable and sweet son was born.

This place, all of these moments- this is the fabric that has stitched together the last 21 years of my life.

But now, with lots of prayer, with home, with pride about my husband's accomplishment, it's time to add another square to the quilt that makes up our life together. Illinois is beckoning.

I would be lying if I said I was ready, but I am honestly willing. I will spend the next few months, as The Wiz commutes from Chicago to SC on the weekends until our house sells or until his company buys it, is fervent prayer. I am going to miss my South Carolina life with a vengeance. I am incredibly close with my family, always have been, and I'm not sure what life looks like without them as a weekly part of it. My prayers will focus on asking God for his peace, trying to increase my trust in his plan for our family, and asking that he keep us on his path by putting us in the right neighborhood, putting the right people in our path, and so on.

We are figuring that the Munchkin and I probably won't make the move until March or April, as his company usually asks that we try to sell our house for 90 days before they will buy it. So until then, I plan to soak up my friends, my family, this beautiful, mild weather, (insert laugh track) and researching my future city. I aim to look at this new step as an adventure. A new place means layer upon layer of discoveries to be made. It means I am getting a fresh, new, unmarked map upon which to make memories. I aim to walk towards this door with excitement and hope for what our new life can be, while keeping a firm hold on who I am, from where I came, and the people I will always love and will always be a part of my life.

So, there it is, our big news. I hope you will all pray for our family as we make this new transition, and prepare yourselves for the biggest, most fun farewell party you've ever seen!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Amazing how time flies...

I know, I know, it's been FOREVER since I've posted. Here's the thing- my baby, my little boy, my Munchkin? Became MOBILE. And my life, "spare" time and energy level haven't been the same since. He's been walking for 4 months now, as well as CLIMBING STAIRS. As much as he can, anyway. I promise I'll update more and work on posting more often (as in, more than once every four months!) from now on, but we recently returned from the beach and I snapped a recent picture with my bug that I'd thought I'd share. We vacationed in Hilton Head with my family, the same beach I vacationed in summer 2010, 2 months before Munchkin was born. Enjoy the pics and I'll update more soon. (From the pics you'll see I haven't come close to my "15 before 30" goal- especially as my big 3-0 is this Thursday! Again, a post for another day!)

In order, from top to bottom:Preggers with the Munchkin in 2010, posing with Munchkin last week, age 14 months, and then my gorgeous little Beach Bum Baby vamping for the camera...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

15 before 30, Part 2!

I DID IT! I actually COMPLETED the first level of Jillian Michaels' 30 day Shred! I can't believe it!

Background- about 5 months ago, I first bought the DVD, determined that since Jillian Michaels is an evil genius, the workouts were only 20 minutes, and since I needed to get busy on getting back into shape, this DVD would be a perfect fit for me.

Wrong, wronger, wrongest.

Each level is 20 minutes, with 3 6-minute circuits, a warm up and cool down. I didn't make it past the first 6 minute circuit back then. And, I was so sore the next day I could barely walk.

I haven't touched the DVD since then, but have been spending time (on and off) walking our neighborhood with the Munchkin in the stroller, trying to build up my strength and endurance after basically being on bed rest (self-imposed, thank you heart condition.) the last 2 months of my pregnancy.

Yesterday I decided that I was bored with the neighborhood walks, and that I would try the 30Day Shred DVD again. I just figured I'd get through whatever I could, and that would be okay. I was determined that whatever my best was, would be good enough, and I plan to keep it up until I can conquer the whole workout.

Well, LAWD Ah-Mercy! I guess those walks helped me get my body back a little bit more than I realized- because I made it through the entire 20 minute workout! This may not seem like much if you're not familiar with Jillian's workouts, but yes, it was a doozy and I'm feeling SO good mentally today for completing it.

Yes, my body is sore today, but after what I accomplished yesterday, I realized that I CAN do this, and I CAN get stronger and stronger with each work out. My body may be sore, but my mind is sharp, but drive even stronger. I can only guess that each time I do the workout, it will be harder at first (thanks to sore muscles) but will eventually get easier so I can move on to the harder levels of 2 and 3.

Another light bulb also went off for me yesterday. I planned on trying the workout during Munchkin's morning nap, figuring that 20 minutes could definitely be spared to help me work towards my goal of a healthier body. But leading up to his nap time, my mind couldn't help starting to notice all of the unfinished household tasks that I needed to tend to. Laundry needed to be moved around and folded. There were dishes in the sink, and as always, the kitchen floor was in desperate need for some sweeping. I could feel the to-do list weighing on me and guilt starting to creep in. Then, suddenly, I got pissed. What's more important, truly, important- folding the laundry right away or tending to my own personal health?

That's when I realized- as a mom, indeed I'd argue as a woman, we are trained/taught/brought up/pressured to put ourselves after so many other things- our families, our husbands, our jobs, our clients, our household tasks, the family pets, and so on. My needs and wants are by no means more important than those of my family and husband, but dang it, doesn't my body and health come before dirty dishes?! The answer, I realized, is YES.

Feeling good and ready for the next work out. Bring it, Jillian.

Linking up with Shell this week for PYHO!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

PYHO: 15 before 30

Time for some truth, people.
1. I have always been known, in my family, as the one (out of three children) who struggles the most with her weight.
2. I have always been known, in my family, as the "good eater," the "sugar addict," and so on.
3. I had a baby 10 months ago. When I got pregnant, I weighed 144 pounds. (I'm 5'3"). I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which turned out to be a blessing, because I only gained 19 pounds by following the mandatory diet.
4. I now weigh 143.5 pounds, and although I know it's *great* (barf) that I'm back to my pre-preggo weight, I am very, very, self-concious about my body.
5. Every time I look in the mirror, I notice my double chin, how my belly sticks out as if I'm still 3 months pregnant, how my arms flap in the wind, how much junk seems to be in my trunk.
6. Every time I eat with others- my family and my friends, I wonder if they are judging me for what I eat and how much I eat, because I am unhappy with the way I look.
7. I really used to like going to the gym after work, beating out stress on the treadmill or elliptical.
8. I am really, really, struggling with finding the time and motivation to exercise.
9. I really, really, want to lose (at least) 15 pounds. I want to feel good in my body, to be proud, physically strong, and confident in my body.
10. My mind is so full of negative self-talk, that I really truly doubt that I can physically accomplish what my mind and heart want to accomplish-strength, muscle, leanness, health.

I turn 30 on October 6th. When that day comes, I know I can look at my life and feel so blessed- I have had an incredible adventure as a teacher (which I hope to continue after our child(ren) get older, I have an amazing, faithful, perfect-for-me husband, a sweet, precious little boy and more loving family and friends than a girl could ask for. But on that day, I also want to reflect on my self, and feel proud. Part of that pride is going to come from losing these 15 pounds, by becoming strong and healthier. I'm praying by putting this into writing, it will help my resolve.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I will do this.

Monday, June 6, 2011

(Old) Preggo picture! Linking up with Shell!

One of the BEST things about having a due date in the middle of August was the fact that I had NO problem hanging out in a bathing suit. I was supposed to have a big belly! Maternity bathing suit + 30 weeks pregnant = care free mama-to-be!

Monday, May 23, 2011

My newest addicition..CVSing!!

I've embarked upon this couponing journey to save as much money as I can for our family. It is a learning process, but I am enjoying learning new tips, finding new coupon sites, and planning for shopping trips. I am by no means an "Extreme Couponer" nor do I wish to be. I see the logic in buying three or four bottles of shampoo if it's on sale and I have a coupon, however, I don't see myself buying 40 bottles of mustard or clearing the shelves of packaged noodles to stick in every nook and cranny in my house.

The latest leg of my journey took place at CVS. I'm trying to learn how to maximize sales, coupons and their "Extra Care Bucks" reward system in order to save big on health and beauty supplies. Basically, I went through the most recent CVS ad, matching their sales to coupons I had and items I needed. ECB are a form of CVS "currency" which print out after a transaction. For example, there might be a sale like "Buy 2 deodorants and get $3 in ECB back." Then you can turn around and use those ECB as currency on your next transation. It does require multiple transactions at the register, which made me a bit flustered. In all, I had NINE transactions. It was a little embarrasing, but the check out lady was very kind. The next time I do this, I'll probably go in the evening after Munchkin is asleep and The Wiz is at home so I can avoid feeling like I'm holding up a line of people behind me.

Here are my best deals this week, using coupons, sales and ECB:
1 Revlon Nail Polish- I paid $1.06, saving $4.50
3 jars spaghetti sauce, 3 jars of pb- I paid $10, saving $9.98
2 boxes Thermacare Heat wraps- I paid $1.69, saving $12.40
2 bottles Listerine- I paid $1.90, saving $8.80
6 bottles Suave Shampoo - I paid $8.56, saving $5.32 (I didn't have any coupons, but spending this much allowed me to get ECB to save on another item.)
2 boxes Arm and Hammer dryer sheets- I paid $2.77, saving $6.59
4 sticks Suave deodorant- I paid .54 cents, saving $4.98

I bought a few other things, but I didn't save as well on those items. It's a learning process for me, but I am really enjoying it. It's almost like a game to play, that in the end saves my family money.

Any tips for me to increase my CVS savings?? Help a girl out!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Inadequate Mommy

The last few days have been a little more rough than we're used to around here. Munchkin is a pretty mellow dude, smiley, content to play independently for long enough for me to load the dishwasher, switch laundry around or just sit down for 10 minutes. I've been spoiled by his sweet disposition, so much so that this week, when he was diagnosed with pink eye and his first ear infection, on top of a second tooth coming in, I have almost lost my mind several times. In addition, I've also been sick, mostly a cough, sore throat and exhaustion from coughing all night. His increased fussiness, clinginess, screaming, crying, have been quite the trial for me. (The Wiz is out of town, too!)

Today I just about lost my shiz over the stupidest thing. With Munchkin's new mobility, going to the bathroom is even more eventful. So, I thought I'd put the pack and play together so I could stick him in that and pee in peace. The pack and play is not my friend. Suffice it to say, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, cursing, and so on. It was one of those every-part-but-one-is-working-and-I-can't-fix-this-one-part-the-baby-is-crying-trying-to-climb-up-my-leg-I-just-need-to-pee-ohmygooooooooooooooooooooooooooosssssssssssssssssssh!!!!!!!!!!!!

At one point I looked up to the heavens and cried out, "I can't do this!! I just can't do it! I wasn't meant to do this!!!" I felt so overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with this poor sick baby while not feeling well myself, then I felt immediately silly and guilty because the reality is- I felt like a wimp. Yes, my husband is out of town. Yes, my baby is fussy, and I don't feel good either. But it can always be worse, and I do have help- my parents are incredible. And I only have ONE baby. How many mothers are there out there with more babies, with more problems, less help, more stress, who COMPLAIN and STRESS OUT less than me?? The fact that I am so selfish and so wimpy makes me question whether I'm truly cut out for this stay at home stuff. I hate cleaning the house, and can always find something else to do during Munchkin's nap than mop the floors or dust. My temper is so short some times, and I worry that Munchkin will turn into some bad tempered maniac because he's seen me freak out on several occasions.

I love my son more than words can describe, and I can't imagine nor do I want to hand him over to someone else to take care of him every day. I can't imagine not being there for his smiles all day, to tickle his belly and make him laugh. I want to be the one he snuggles up against before his naps, to be the one that gets to greet him first when he's all sleepy and smiley after he's woken up from his nap. I just feel so inadequate. He deserves so much. He deserves the best- the best person to teach him, to train him up in the way he should go. He deserves someone who is unendingly patient and compassionate for all of his needs. I don't have the ability to be perfect, kinda perfect, near perfect, nothing. How can I train him in the way he should go when I feel so far off the godly path myself?

I feel so small, so incomplete- like I have a few parts of the good mommy recipe, but that I'm missing some very important, very essential, ingredients and I don't have the currency or smarts to attain those missing pieces.

Lord, help this inadequate mommy overcome the worst parts of herself to be the mommy the Munchkin deserves.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PYHO-I Effin' HATE Cancer.

Today I'm linking up with Shell over at Things I Can't Say to Pour My Heart Out.

Some of you may have read an earlier PYHO I wrote a few weeks ago, about a pain I had in my underarm and the emotional journey I undertook to find out if it was cancerous or not. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Luckily, blessedly for me, my journey had a happy ending, and was not cancer.

Recently a friend of mine had a similar situation- pain in her underarm- and it has not turned out quite as happy for her. Yet.

My dear, dear friend A has breast cancer. When she first told me the news, it felt like all of the air was sucked out of my lungs, sucked out of the entire room I was sitting in.

Lots of people think they are friends with the sweetest person, the person who'd do anything for you, who makes you feel as if you are the most special person in the world. But unless they are friends with A, they don't know what the sweetest person in the world is truly like.

The words I would use to describe A would be: gentle, kind, soft hearted, hilarious, generous, creative (truly creative- when I switched from teaching 5th to 3rd grade, she took my former 5th grade teaching job- and has out-taught, out-planned, and out-created me at every turn. I don't say that in a bitter way- because I realize and accept I'm not even close to being in her league as a teacher. The proof in that pudding? The woman was Reading Teacher of the Year AND Teacher of the Year at our school- in.the.same.year. She rules, and her fifth graders are pretty much obsessed with her. 'Nuff said.)

One of the ways that A and I have grown close is in our respective journeys to conceive babies. A's journey started before mine, but there were many chats, emails, coffee talks, and tears shed together as we tried to achieve our dreams of having babies. I still remember the day she told me she was pregnant- how as soon as she told me, she asked me if I was okay, with love and sincerity in her eyes. She was genuinely worried about telling me because she didn't want me to be discouraged that I wasn't yet pregnant. The woman is pure love.

As it turned out, her amazing twin girls are just 3 months older than the Munchkin, and we have been blessed to experience pregnancy, child birth, and the raising of little ones together. A absolutely adores her girls, as evidenced by her family blog and her FB posts about the adventures and joys of raising them. We all know mommies have rough spots with their little ones- every day, in every situation. Never once have I seen or heard her complain about a rough day with her girls. Not.once. (I myself am guilty of unloading stress on FB about Munchkin's napping habits, fussiness, etc.) And no, she's not one of those Super Mommy Wannabe's, whose sole purpose is to make everyone think she has it all together and that togetherness makes all other struggling feel bad about themselves. My BS radar is honed by years of teaching pubescent children, and A is the real deal. She has rough days like all mommies, but the way I see it, complaining, especially about two gifts for which she is so grateful, just isn't her thing.

And now, I'm pissed. A may not be a complainer, but I'm a world class bitcher. If she won't do it, I'll do it for her. Cancer sucks big ol' hairy monkey balls. Sorry for the imagery, but it's true. Her prognosis and her attitude are positive and promising. But there will still be chemo. There will still be nausea, exhaustion, hospital visits, vomiting, and worry. After all she's been through, working to become a mommy, kicking butt as an outstanding teacher, achieving a dream of starting her own photography business, and finding her groove with all the roles she plays- this happens. Whatever happened to a woman getting a break?! All of those side effects of this situation translate into one thing: that it'll be time spent away from doing the things she loves most, that she does best. I'm pissed off that she is having to endure the nausea and exhaustion that will make it hard for her to play with her girls, or to take her amazing photos. I'm irate that this gift of a human being will spend one second of her life worrying about her health and her future. I've mentally throat punched this cancer, followed by a round house kick, then Bruce Lee'd its ass all over the place for her.

A has the exact right attitude- grateful that she caught it early, with a self-examination, grateful for the wonderful care she is getting and for her support system, determined to remain positive and focused on all of her blessings, refusing to give into worry or fear. I have no doubt that she will come out the other side of this battle triumphant. I hope that as things progress, she will take up my offer to help out in any way that I can. Until then, my mental throat punching of this cancer will continue, taking form as prayer, encouragement, and support for A. If you'd like to follow her journey, and read some AMAZING writing, you can find her blog here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Munchkin, (almost) 8 Months...

I can't believe the Munchkin will be 8 months old next week. It seems that Father Time boarded a supersonic jet- because he really does fly by! I can honestly say I can't go a full week without getting teary because Munchkin is doing something new, growing out of smaller baby clothes, trying to crawl, trying to STAND UP (!!!!), using his little pincher fingers to feed himself, and I am shocked to tears at how much he's grown. I love this age, but I do miss being able to snuggle with my little baby. Most of the time, Munchkin is more interested in wiggling out of my arms than in letting me hold him. It almost has given me baby fever again-except when I realize that I'm just now starting to get some decent sleep. Maybe I'll give my body and my Munchkin a little more time before we make him a big brother!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PYHO: Sisterly love

My sister-older than me by 4 years- and I, are survivors. We have survived the tumultuous stages of sisterhood and life that threatened to break us apart forever. Sounds melodramatic? Maybe, but it's true. Four years doesn't sound like much, except for when you break down the age differences like this:

Erin at 11: puberty, middle school, braces, pimples, figuring out boys, training bras, body image.
Me, then at 7: roller skates, Barbies, chapter books, playing pretend and figuring out multiplication tables.

Erin at 15: high school, a hierarchy of mean girls, figuring out boys, hormones, the rag, car envy, school pressure, pimples, body image.

Me, then at 11: See above list.

Erin at 18: college stress, school pressures, hormones, saying good bye to high school friends, figuring out boys, dealing with a little sister attending the same high school as her and praying I didn't embarrass her, body image.

Me, then at 14: See above list for Erin at 15, and add on: trying to become friends with her big sister, the sadness of losing her big sister to college, trying to figure out not just boys, but older boys in high school, and living up to the legacy my big sister had left in terms of academics.

Our relationship has run the gauntlet. Our path to becoming the besties that were are now was rife with fights. We would beat each other up, face slapping, chair throwing, hair pulling, punching over a variety of triggers. I constantly borrowed her things without asking. I pestered her, wanting time and attention from her. I made fun of her looks,(mostly because she was the slim one with fine, manageable hair while I was the "curvy" one who had hips, boobs, and a belly by the time I hit fifth grade. We won't even detail my lifelong battle with the red, curly/wavy/frizzy hair my father bequethed me. Thanks a heap, Dad.) I used my sense of humor to make her the butt of my jokes, and she used her brilliant mind and razor sharp tongue to slice my self esteem to bits. We knew each other's weaknesses and insecurities and used them against each other.

Then I hit eighth grade, and Erin was then in high school. The world we lived in tumbled down around us: our younger brother was sick, needing a heart transplant at the age of nine. This required our parents to take him to Boston Children's hospital, where the three of them stayed for three months while various family members stayed with Erin and I in South Carolina. Those months didn't automatically change our relationship, but it did begin to shift, to something less bitter, something less adversarial. The revolving door of family members (as blessed as we were to have them there to take care of us) united us. We were partners, and I can't speak for her, but I clung to the fact that at least the two of us were together, even if the rest of our family was torn apart by geography and circumstances.

I started trying to use my sense of humor to make her laugh, instead of make her cry. Out of all of my best friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors who all had sympathy for the fear we were facing over our brother's health, only Erin truly understood, because she was in it with me. Each day that passed by, waiting for news, missing our parents, worrying about our brother, she was in it with me. Wishing for a new heart for our brother meant that someone else's child had to die. What a confusing time for two adolescent girls, wishing for our brother's recovery, yet knowing what it would mean for another family. Feeling guilty if you laughed at a friend's joke, or went to the mall, because our brother was in a hospital bed hooked up to monitors, his body barely able to keep functioning. I don't remember Erin and I talking much about the situation, expressing our feelings outright to each other then; that wasn't really our family's style at the time. What I do remember is drawing comfort from my older sister, seeing the worry etched on her face, in the posture of her shoulders, and feeling more connected to her because of it.

Our family emerged from that health crisis with scarred hearts and spirits, but thankful and triumphant. My brother's scars are visible- one long, red scar where his chest was cracked open and a new heart was placed. I think Erin and I also had "heart" transplants of our own. Our scars were invisible, but we were forced us to crack open our minds and bodies, taking out the old, malfunctioning, ugly hearts and mindsets we had towards each other, and replace them with a sisterly love and appreciation that continues to grow.

Today is my sister's birthday. I am Pouring My Heart Out in honor of her. I am so grateful to have her as my best friend. Since that difficult time in our family's life, we have spent countless hours on the phone, talking, laughing, crying. Erin knows me inside and out, and loves me anyway. She lets me be myself, neurotic, joke telling, foul mouthed, Super Mommy and Super Catholic wannabe, without fear of reproach or judgment. She keeps me sane, keeps me accountable, keeps my feet on the ground while my anxiety meter skyrockets upward. We have grown into adults, into women, into wives and mothers, celebrating the various seasons of life together. I love my sister more than words can say, and will be grateful for her friendship and love for the rest of my days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So You Wanna Save Money? Be a Consignment Shoppin' Diva

Today I bought 60 pieces of clothing for my son, including a swim suit and swim shirt, Easter outfit, two pairs of shoes, five pairs of socks, and enough play outfits and church clothes to last at least the next six or seven months. I paid $150.

Do the math- that's roughly $2.50 an item.

Twice a year my community has several large consignment sales for children's clothing, toys, books, shoes, furniture, strollers, and everything in between that you can possibly imagine. I. am. addicted. Finding bargains and avoiding the pain of paying full price for things is one of my favorite things, and makes shopping fun for me. It gives me a sense of euphoria to be able to find things I need, in good or great condition, for unbelievable prices. Here is a list of the things I've found for Munchkin at various consignment sales and our local consignment shop:

Fisher-Price Bouncy seat: $12
Graco stroller: $20
Baby Einstein Exersaucer: $40
Bumbo seat: $20
Infantino shopping cart cover, still in the box: $10 or $12 (can't remember exactly)
Numerous books and toys: All $10 and under
Baby Einstein DVD's: $5 a piece
Christening gown: $20 (I know someone who paid three times that for her baby's Christening outfit!)
Baby food bowls, spoons, forks and sippy cups: $10 for about 12 pieces
Baby bath tub: $8

This is just a small list, and it just includes the bigger items. Some other big items, like our high chair, I planned to buy at the seasonal consignment sale, but Munchkin needed one before the sale came around and I wasn't able to find one I like at our local consignment store. That is one of the downfalls of consignment shopping-you either have to wait for the large seasonal sale, or take what you can get at the local store. Now, this can mean that you find amazing jewels, like my Baby Einstein Exersaucer that I was thrilled to discover at our local shop. I had eyed the very same one at Babies R' Us the day before I bought it at the consignment store. I believe the original price is twice what I paid, and mine is in excellent condition.

It is really important to me, when I do shop consignment sales, that I buy quality items that aren't broken, have all the parts, are clean, not (too) faded and are at a reasonable price for their condition. Buying on consignment is a great way to save money, especially when you think of how much use, wear and tear children's items get. Also, if you do take good care of your children's clothes, stain treat them, wash them gently so they resist fading, etc., not only can you get use out of them with multiple children (if you are so blessed) but you may even be able to get some money back on them by consigning them yourself. What an amazing blessing to your family that would be, if you are able to find clothes at a consignment sale for a good price, your child(ren) can use them for as long as necessary, and then you make money on them by consigning them when you no longer need them!

There are, of course, quality levels of consignment sales/shops and the items themselves. Some sales/shops are pickier than others when it comes to quality of items, others allow pretty much any ol' stained, severely faded clothing or broken toys to be consigned. You must be very picky about how you spend your time and money when it comes to these sales. There are no returns, no guarantees or warranties with these items, at least that I've found. Making a list of things you need, by order of size, season and priority is a good idea. Also, do some research ahead of time to get an idea of how much certain items go for at retail value- such as double strollers, Exersaucers, Bumbo seats-as well as the retail value of certain brands- Baby Gap, Carter's, Fisher Price, Baby Einstein, Graco, etc. For example, my mom and I went to a large seasonal consignment sale today. It is the second to last day of the sale, which means that most items were 30% off. Tomorrow, most items are 60% off! Anyway, we had finished most of our shopping but I wanted to check out the double strollers. (Don't get any ideas- 8 month old Munchkin is enough for me at the moment!) A friend of mine is due in June, and her firstborn is only 2. She had gone to the sale a few days earlier in search of a double stroller, but hadn't been impressed with the selection or prices on what was left. Fine, that's her perogative. When I checked today, there was a beautiful, high quality PEG PEREGO double stroller for $185. With the extra 30% off, the stroller was $130. Still pretty pricey to be buying something used, yes. Now I know that Peg Perego is a pretty pricey brand. So $130 seemed pretty decent to me, but I wasn't sure how decent. I checked online for the retail price of the stroller. SEVEN.HUNDRED.DOLLARS. Moral of the story- have at least a general idea of the retail value for the big name brands. You may just end up finding a gem, a high quality item that will last through several children. Even if you don't know how much a certain brand usually runs, just whip out your cell phone and do a quick Google search like I did. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

No matter where you live, how many children you have or what ages they night be, the chances are good that you can find a consignment sale or shop to suit your needs. In my area alone, there are 4 seasonal consignment sales (which means they happen twice a year), and one of which is put on by Mothers of Multiples. You only have to have multiples to consign at this sale, but anyone can shop. Think of how many double strollers you'd be able to find at a sale like that!!

Maybe you've got plenty of disposable income or just prefer to buy things new, tags still attached, no other child ever having worn or played with the things you buy your child. That's fine. (Although I have found several clothing items with the tags still attached-some industrious women shop the major clearance sales at popular children's stores, buy cute clothes outrageously marked down and then consign them. To them I say, "You Go, Girl!") But I encourage you, if you're even the slightest bit curious about consignment sales or shops, try it! Try it for fun, for saving, for your family, to be an example of good stewardship, or just to try something new.

My last bit of advice: as I've said before, not all consignment sales and shops are created equal. If you try one and are unimpressed with it, do at least two of the following things: either go later on a sale day, or get there earlier next time to scoop up the best stuff first, OR try another consignment sale or shop altogether.

Happy (consignment!) shopping!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pour Your Heart Out-The Pain that Brings Change

"My arm pit hurts."

Snort. "Really? That's...weird, honey."

I rotated my shoulder and gingerly pressed my fingers into the sore part of my under arm. Huh. Whatever, I thought. It's probably an ingrown hair from shaving. Gross, but no big deal.

A few days later, at my yearly gynocologist appointment...

"So, Emily, everything looks good and looks healthy. We'll have the results of your Pap in a few days. Do you have any questions or concerns?"

"Well, it's kind of weird, Dr. L, but my arm pit has been hurting a bit for the last few days."

"Hmm, well let me just check it out and do another quick breast exam."

Seconds passed as she gently but thoroughly examined me.

"Well, I don't feel any lumps or bumps. There are lymph nodes up there that can get swollen if you've been sick, and actually your mammary glands go up that far, so you may have some milk up there since you're still nursing the Munchkin. If it doesn't go away in a few days, give us a call and we'll check it again."

"Thanks, Dr., sounds good."

About a week later, however, the pain hadn't subsided. In fact, it was more noticeable. I tried checking the area myself. I couldn't feel any lumps or weird things, but then again, I didn't often feel up my arm pits so I wasn't sure what I was looking for.

The suspense, more than the pain, was killing me. I had all kinds of scenarios in my head for what could be causing the pain, but I realized that worrying did nothing. So, I called back Dr. L and made another appointment.

"Well, Emily, again, I don't feel anything. I'm sorry this is still bothering you. I'm going to make an appointment for you at the Breast Center so that they can check you out and so that we can be on the safe side."

I was stunned. The Breast Center? As in, a real mammogram? I'm 29 years old. The Breast Center is for people who are older, or who have--Cancer. Breast Center?! It's just my arm pit, I screamed internally. I don't need the Breast Center!

The Worry Dragon took over.

"Oh, okay. Um, how soon do you think they'll be able to see me?" I wanted this over with as soon as possible.

"Probably the next few days. They'll fax us the results and we'll call you as soon as we get them."

As I drove home, my whole world came crashing down on me. I.Am.Not.Even.Thirty. I have a seven month old little boy who needs me. This is just some pain. In my arm pit, for crying out loud! Sure it's near my breast, but I can't have Cancer. No, no, no. Who's going to take care of Munchkin if I have to go through treatments? The Wiz has to work to keep us afloat! My mom? Super Grammy she surely is, but she works full time too. Stories of family members going through chemo and radiation speed through my brain. There is no way I can handle this. The thought of not being able to pick my son up, feed him, play with him, change his diapers, read to him- I couldn't stand it.

Okay, breathe Emily, I told myself. Dr. L didn't seem too worried. She didn't feel any lumps. It is way up in my arm pit. I'm not even 30 years old. Just breathe.

Then the Worry Dragon started up again: This is how it starts though. A routine doctor's appointment, a seemingly innocuous pain. What if it's Lymphoma? I have lymph nodes up there. And Cancer knows no age limits. My friend's wife just finished treatment for breast cancer and she's not even 35.

It was right then, thinking about my sweet baby's drooly, gummy smile, big blue eyes and chubby cheeks that I made a vow to myself and to him.

That's it, no more, I thought. If I can get through this unscathed, if this pain turns out to be nothing, I'm changing my life. Mind over matter. The Munchkin, the Wiz, they need me. I have to take care of myself better than I have been. I vow to turn my eating habits around to give my body the proper fuel and nutrition it needs to operate at optimum level. I vow to suck it up and actually exercise to reduce my stress and keep my body healthy. I can't take care of anyone else if I don't take care of myself. "Please, please, please, Lord. I just want to be here for my son, to take care of him, to see him grow up. I will be a better steward of the gifts you've given me if you'll just make this pain be a non-issue," I prayed.

My appointment day found me seemingly controlled on the outside, with a pit of worry in my stomach. I pumped as much milk as I could like the nurse had advised me, and took my pump with me. I was dreading the thought of putting my lactating breasts into a mammogram machine, but I'd do what I had to do.

I was the youngest woman in the waiting room, probably by about 15-20 years. The looks of curiosity mixed with sympathy in the other women's eyes unnerved me. I wanted to scream, "I don't have Cancer! I'm fine! Really!" But instead, I kept my mouth shut and sat quietly waiting to be called.

As I sat there, I tried to steel myself for what this appointment could bring, but how do you prepare yourself for the worst? My mind kept going back to the Munchkin, the Wiz, and how much I wanted to be there for both of them. It occurred to me that the strength that it takes for women diagnosed with any kind of cancer is immeasurable, and I felt sure that I did not possess such strength. I started looking around at the women sitting in the waiting room. Some with bald heads, or a slight fuzzy covering of downy hair starting to grow in. I wondered if they worried,"What if it's back? What if it's not gone yet?" Others with no signs that Cancer had touched them yet, waiting for their routine yearly mammogram. I could imagine that tiny voice, that tiny fear in the back of their minds,"What if they find something?"

I said a silent prayer for all of us- all women- that we would have the strength to face whatever we were dealt today.

As I sat in the patient room, irritated by the rustle the paper gown made every time I fidgeted, the worry was replaced by guilt, thinking of all those moments I took for granted with the Munchkin and the Wiz. Every middle of the night nursing moment, I should have said a prayer of thanks. Every pair of The Wiz's shoes I tripped over in the bathroom should have made me shake my head and chuckle, instead of shake my head and stomp my foot in exasperation. Because every moment, every smile, every second of our lives is a gift. I should have said a prayer of thanks that I was alive, that I was blessed with a healthy baby, and with the ability to nurse him. I should have said a prayer of thanks that my husband was healthy, and loved him for his forgetfulness and quirks. Because that's the beauty and gift of life. Being present for these moments is priceless.

As the tech rotated the ultrasound over the tender spot in my under arm, I couldn't bring myself to look at the screen, or at the tech. I knew that with every squint of her eyes or pursing of her lips, I would jump out of my skin. Instead, I closed my eyes and waited.

"Lord, be gentle in Your mercy," I thought.

Silent moment after silent moment passed. She left and brought in another ultra sound tech. They murmured to each other, gently rotating the sonogram wand and pressing into the tender spot in my under arm. I tuned them out, concentrating on the rise and fall of my breath.

Finally, she spoke.

"Well, Emily, it seems that this is just a lymph node that's causing the pain, probably from the cold you've had. I don't see anything worth worrying about, so you're good to go."

"Wha? It's okay then?" I felt my hunched shoulders slowly start to relax and tears pin prick my eyes.

"Yes. If anything changes, like if you start feeling a lump there, or a little b.b. sized marble type feeling, give us a call back. But you go on home now and nurse that sweet baby."

I left the office speechless and grateful. On the way out, I repeated my silent prayer for the women still waiting, and went home to my sweet baby, determined to make good on the vow I had made.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mommy baby doesn't have any friends!!

My Munchkin is the coolest. He is the most laid back, funny, happy baby. He makes the cutest zerbert/raspberry noises while he intensely focuses on playing with his toys. He is friendly towards all people who smile or talk to him in stores. Recently we attended our second play date with several of my former coworkers and their children. The babies ranged from 6 months to almost a year old. It seemed that we all got pregnant right around the same time. The first time we had a play date, Munchkin was cool as a cucumber. He wasn't sitting up yet, so he spent the majority of his time laying on the floor, or bouncing in the bouncer seat. Other babies were a little overwhelmed by all the action and noise. Not my baby. He had a blast.

This last time, not so much.

He was sort of a weepy, fussy mess almost the entire time. Granted, the play date was running into his nap time, and it was almost his nursing time.

But I left that last play date panicking. As I have been reviewing our daily schedule and life, I've realized that although I do plan around Munchkin's nap and meal times, I haven't really been doing a very good job at planning activities for him.

I signed him up for a story time at our local library a few months ago, but we've never been able to make it there. In my defense, the story time for his age group starts at 9:30. Exactly when he is usually snoozing away for his first morning nap.

We've visited the zoo with friends and their kids. But the kids spent the whole time in their strollers. It's not like they were actually interacting.

I've had a standing weekly appointment with a girlfriend of mine to walk. But her little one is now 2 years old and not exactly interested in hanging with a Munchkin who can't keep up and play on the playground with him. Can't say that I blame him, either.

I'm feeling a little selfish, a little foolish, a little clueless. Selfish because I feel like I've been putting my needs before his- carting him all over creation to run hither and yon, instead of enrolling him in some class to meet other babies. Foolish because I feel like all other mommies know to do these kinds of things, and maybe I'm late to the game. Clueless because I am not sure where to start, how it's going to go, and if we can afford to enroll him in anything.

Thankfully, we have an all ready paid up gym membership, which does provide child care. I think I'm going to try and swallow my Mommy Anxiety and try it out next week. I'm not making any promises- the first couple of times may only be for 10 or 20 minutes, but hey, it's a start, right? It'll get us out of the house, mommy gets to exercise, Munchkin gets to learn that when I drop him off somewhere that I am ALWAYS going to come back, and maybe he'll get to play with some other babies close to his age.

Another good thing is that a few of the places I've researched- My Gym and Kindermusik-allow parents to bring their children for a free preview class before enrolling. I am extremely happy about this. This way I can gauge how beneficial and fun these programs will be to the Munchkin's well being.

Lastly, I've joined a local mommy's group. So far I've enjoyed the two "Mommies" nights with these ladies, and I hope I can start bringing Munchkin to some of the play dates and make friends.

There are lots of opportunities out there. One of the biggest things is that all of these opportunities take me well out of my comfort zone. I can be extremely introverted, self-conscious and awkward in new social situations. I am just holding on to the belief that will all of the opportunties around us, that the Munckin and I will find a few that will really fit our needs and help us both grow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Baby Nirvana- 7 Months

The Munchkin is doing so many new things, growing so fast and changing every day. I can't believe he's going to be 7 months old tomorrow. Life with a baby changes on a daily, if not hourly basis. Just when you think you're hitting your stride as a couple, he goes and changes things up on you. But I have to say, I feel like this age right now is pretty great. Each stage that he's been through has had its ups and downs, and the same goes for 7 months. Here's what's new:
-The Munchkin is now sitting very well, unassisted. He's not mobile yet, though, so I can sit him in the center of some blankets, surrounded by toys and he can entertain himself while I get some things done. The beauty of him not yet being mobile is that I don't have to worry about him getting into all sorts of mischief while I'm in the kitchen unloading or loading the dishwasher.
-He is very good at entertaining himself for decent periods of time. The other side of this coin is that he is a lot of fun to play with, too! I've always loved playing with him, but now it's becoming more interactive, he's more engaged and his giggles are to die for!
-He is eating three meals of solid food, in addition to nursing. I've been making the majority of his food, with the exception of prunes. I just buy the already made baby food prunes because I don't want to mess with trying to make them myself. But so far, he eats prunes, pears, rice cereal, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, avocadoes, and nectarines. He does pretty well with the eating, and is starting to form small rolls and creases on his sweet little legs. It was an adjustment, trying to remember to thaw out some baby food every couple of days, or adding in the task of making the baby food to our schedule, but I'm getting used to it. I do have some back up jars of baby food in the pantry, for when we're going to be traveling during lunch time, or if we run out of homemade baby food when I need some.
-I'm less stressed about the napping thing. (This week, at least. :))
-He is less tolerant of long periods of time in the stroller. It's harder for me to run errands, go shopping, etc., because he gets fussier faster. I'm not sure the reason for that. He does, however, enjoy our outdoor walks. For those, I just put him straight in the stroller instead of clicking the car seat into the stroller. I suppose I should just stop using the car seat in the stroller any more, as he's getting bigger and sitting up on his own.
-He seems to be focusing more on stories and the baby signs that I show him.
That's all I can think of for now. I wonder how life will change once he starts actually cutting a tooth, becomes mobile, and starts feeding himself. Saints preserve us! :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Merry St. Patrick's Day

Yep, that's what you think it is. I'm so ashamed. Don't be too hard on me! :)

Pour Your Heart Out: Nap time is...

Nap time is... a delicate dance,

An anxious battle,

Your sweet, warm breath warming my neck as you nuzzle into me,

Your little hands reaching up to stroke my face while your eye lids slide closed,

A roller coaster ride, anticipation building as we approach the 30 minute mark, relief flooding in as you sleep on, 60 minutes, 90 minutes...phew!

Fearing that every tip toe I take around the house is like an elephant's stomp to your quiet, delicate, sleeping ears,

Sometimes a gentle reprieve for a tired mommy after poor night's sleep,

Time to myself to blog, to read, to fold laundry, to lie down, to eat, to breeeeeathe, to miss you,

Gut wrenching anxiety when I hear you sigh, then stretch, then start to yell-a mere 20 minutes after falling asleep,

A necessity for a happy Munchkin,

Questioning myself, my mind flying through all those warnings in all those sleep training books as I allow you to fall asleep in my arms,

Packing you up in the car after over an hour of trying to get you to nap, praying that the motion will lull you,

Rearranging plans, play dates, errands, schedules for the day,

Wondering if you're still breathing after napping for 2 hours strong, an unusual event for my Munchkin,

Fussing at Daddy for talking too loudly on his cell phone,

Wordlessly threatening the dog for barking at a squirrel outside your bedroom window,

Silent fist-shaking at the UPS man who ignored the "Please Knock, Sleeping Baby on Board" sign taped over the door bell...

Mommy's mini-vacation...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Avoiding the Mom Frump-Help!

When Munchkin was first born, I was so overwhelmed, tired, and honestly, stunned by how much the ta-ta's HURT when my milk came in, that I spent the first several weeks relying on my collection of nursing shirts and my robe to get me through the constant feedings.

Then I muddled through months 2-4 post-partum relying mostly on maternity clothes, waiting on my belly puff to go down (still waiting a bit!) and sprinkling in a blousy top here and there.

So, Munchkin is now 6 and a half months old. I can happily say that I'm no longer wearing maternity jeans and haven't for a while. In fact, thanks to nursing, sporadic exercise and small miracles, I'm now into size 8 jeans. Well, in certain brands. But that's another blog post. But I'm still having issues fitting into most of my tops, because my body is different now. I'm still working on it, exercising, trying to eat right, etc. The Girls are definitely different, especially since I'm still currently nursing. However, I have a feeling that due to the fact that I gestated and birthed another human being out of my body, it is forever changed. And I'm truly, truly okay with that. I'm proud of what an awesome miracle and accomplishment this is for my body, especially with the worries we had about my heart condition.

Here is my problem now-I want to avoid Mommy Frump at.all.costs. Well, okay, not all costs- The Wiz would have an issue with me spending all of our money on clothes. Ahem. But I'm 29 years old. I am a stay at home mom. I no longer have a classroom to report to, nor 25 students to teach, lead, whatever. I have NO idea where to start in finding clothes to suit my new life. On a daily basis, I wear the following things: jeans, t-shirt, usually a Univ. of S. Carolina t-shirt or a solid colored crew neck shirt, and running shoes. At some point on any given day, I'll don exercise pants while Munchkin and I do our neighborhood walk, then after I shower the black yoga pants come out for the rest of the evening.

I'm tired of the t-shirts. I'm tired of feeling like I look like a slob. But where do I shop??? What kind of clothes suit my new lifestyle, a new lifestyle complete with spit up, urine, breast milk leakage, baby food scraps and the occasional poopy diaper blow out?? I don't need or want to look like a trendy, prissy, coiffed down to the toes mom. That's not really who I am 24/7. I enjoy dressing up like a hot mama when The Wiz and I go out, or when I have a girl's night, but I wouldn't enjoy it every day nor would it be practical.

I just need some direction, some inspiration for where youngish stay-at-home mamas can get some cute, attractive, non-slobbish yet resilient clothes. I want to look feminine, but not frilly or fussy. I want to look my age, not like I'm channeling my inner college student. I want to look like I give a shiz, not that I pulled today's wrinkled t-shirt out of the dryer before slapping my hair in a pony tail and running out the door. Oh, and I don't want to break the bank. Did I mention I'm a stay-at-home mom? One income, friends. You know how it goes. So I need help, friends. If you have had success finding such treasures, please give me a clue as to where to start.

So, please, please, help a mama-sister out! :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

YBR Mama's Top Ten List for the Wiz

I am completely stealing this idea from my friend Melissa over at All Things Hilton. She made a top 10 list of things she loves about her husband for Valentine's Day. The Wiz and I don't really go overboard for this day, we just like to spend time together. I'm not one of those anti-Valentine's Day people, I think the day should just serve to remind people to stop and spend time with those they love. It's so easy to get caught up in life-laundry, babies, diaper changes, bills, spit up explosions, oil changes, housework, family obligations-that we forget to do something small for their spouse and enjoy his company. So, here is my list of the top 10 things I loooooove about my husband, the Wizard of our Oz. (They're in no particular order.)


1. I love that we can be so silly together. Your ability to make me laugh, and the way I feel so at ease to be as goofy as I naturally am with you is one of the best things we have. Our ability to laugh together has helped us get through rough patches, make memories and make every day life so enjoyable.

2. I love your sweetness and gentleness with the Munchkin. You have no idea how much it warms my heart to see his face break into a giant grin when you come through the door, because he loves his daddy SO much. He has a great man to follow and model himself after.

3. I love that you are a morning person. I am absolutely NOT a morning person, but your cheerful spirit each morning helps me remember how blessed we are to have a new day to live and love each other.

4. As awful as it sounds, I love that you'll sit through The Bachelor and Real Housewives with me- only because hearing you make fun of these shows make them entertaining.

5. I love that I can look at you from across the room and can guess what you're thinking, and you can do the same for me.

6. I love that you're my sounding board when I'm frustrated or stressed. You're empathetic when I need it. You're also not afraid to hold up a mirror and help me see that my feelings or behaviors aren't what they need to be, which I appreciate.

7. I love that you call me on your way home EVERY DAY to ask if I need anything. That means so much, because it shows that you're thinking of me, and trying to make my life easier.

8. I love that although you're not a details person, when we travel, you take the time and effort to sit down and plan our activities. You research the best places to eat, the best places to visit, sights to see, and so on. You work so hard to make sure every time we travel that we have the most memorable, fun time possible.

9. I love your passion for the things you love in life. Me, your son, your family, your writing, you traveling, etc. You have a larger than life, boisterous presence that rubs off on all those around you.

10. I love that you give me time each weekend for me to have me time, even when I feel like I should stay home and work on my to do list. You encourage me to go to Starbucks, run errands, go shopping, or hang out in Barnes and Noble for a while.
You recognize that I need time for myself, and you encourage me to take it.

I love you, honey!!

My mini Valentine. What a love bug!

Need I say more?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

PYHO-You want me to do what? (Long!)

I was a public school teacher for six years. I taught four years at the elementary level, and my last two yeas were spent at the middle school level- sixth grade. For the most part, especially at the elementary school level, I loved it.

Sure, I had parents intimidate me, students challenge my authority, and coworkers question my teaching methods, even after my students' test scores showed I knew what I was doing.

I also had more fun, more laughter, more ah ha's!, more moments of clarity, more moments of courage, moments of determination, and moments where I just knew that I was doing what I was meant to do than I imagined possible.

One thing about teaching that becomes crystal clear before the school year even starts is that a teacher's job is never finished. A good month before school starts (if not earlier) is spent dusting off and improving long range plans, setting up your classroom, making copies, gathering materials and girding your mental "loins" for the big show down-the

The first week of school is make it or break it for a teacher. If you don't present a calm, cool, organized, confident, front-and trust me, it is a front;all teachers I know are seriously nervous before the first week of school-then your school year is potentially screwed. Once you get past a successful first week of school, the work falls into a routine.

On a weekly basis, you'll have the following: papers to grade, parent phone calls and emails to return, parent conferences, tests to write, copies to make, bulletin boards to create, meetings of all kinds-IEPs, 504s, Child Study meetings, class newsletters to write and copy, class websites and blogs to maintain, morning duty, afternoon bus duty, lesson plans to turn in, student folders to stuff with school newsletters, lunch menus, PTO news etc., and oh yeah, lesson plans to prepare just to name a few.

Another thing about teaching is the fact that if you need to be out, you not only need to find a "replacement" for yourself, but you have to do all the work for them ahead of time so that they can get through the day pretending to be you.

None of this stuff really bothered me for the first 5 years I taught. I found my groove and started to thrive on the constant busyness. Everything started to become routine, even the after school activities. I didn't mind being the Beta Club sponsor, spending time lining up speakers for our induction, taking the students after school to Wal-Mart to buy gifts for needy children at Christmas time, or even Family Science Nights, which required my team and I to be at school until 7 pm or later. I actually kind of enjoyed our Spring Carnival, which was a huge undertaking, requiring each grade level to come up with an idea for a booth and work several hours on a Saturday doing set up, participation, and then clean up. It was nice to see my students and their families in a relaxed setting, and I felt like part of a larger family.

Many of my coworkers would often bemoan the extra curriculars we were expected to take part in, complaining about how much time we already put in, both while we were at school and once we went home. Large, overstuffed bags full of papers to be graded were the trademark look for us each Friday as we departed for the weekend. I could understand intellectually why they would dislike having to be at school for so long. I knew they had children to take care of, husbands to spend time with, and entire houses to maintain. I, too, enjoyed my free time- working out, cleaning the apartment, traveling to see my sister and niece. But it really wasn't so bad for me. I enjoyed feeling the sense of connectedness to this larger school community.

Until, that is, I got pregnant.

Then the prospect of being forced to attend my school's "book fair night" at the local book store, to garner money for teachers to spend on classroom books, was simply exhausting to think about. You want me, 6 months pregnant, exhausted, up since 5, to teach all day then head to the book store to schmooze with parents until 6 or 7 pm?

You want me to show my face at "Family Bingo Night" so that I can present a happy front?

Well, I did it. I am, after all, a good girl who (mainly) does what is expected of her. But I was starting to get a clue about why my coworkers had been so averse to such activities.

Then, my precious baby boy was born. My Munchkin, born on a sweltering South Carolina August morning. And my world was turned upside down, inside out, totally and completely filled with my little man, his daddy, and finding our new normal. My heart aches when I'm away from him, so much so that I couldn't imagine going back to work, and we managed a way to work it out.

Recently the Munchkin and I were at the local bookstore, and it happened to be "book fair night" for my former school. I overheard conversations of former coworkers talking to parents, putting on a happy, outgoing, friendly persona while interacting with the kids. And I was surprised by my emotional reaction. I looked down at my little boy in his stroller and was overcome with anger. Anger towards all those extra curricular activities that have taken my friends away from their families. Anger for my fellow teacher, mother of three, who had to juggle how to pick up all three kids, get one to soccer, another to dance, and bring the third to book fair night because 1. her hubby was also a teacher, who spent afterschool time tutoring,
2. she felt guilty asking for a more preferable shift time, and 3. she refused to entertain the idea of asking to be let off the hook for this school event (again, guilt at work here.)

I looked down at my Munchkin and realized how sad, pissed off and disgusted I would be with my workplace if I was forced to leave my little guy at day care, and then miss our evening time together so that I could shmooze with other children and their parents.

I'm the first to recognize the importance of teachers' role in forming good relationships with parents and students. I also recognize that a teacher's job is never finished. But at what cost? As for me- not at the cost, not EVER at the cost of my time and relationship with my family. Call me self-righteous, call me crazy, call me judgmental. Don' I will do whatever it takes in the future to spend time with my family and put them first, as much and as often as possible. Schools need to do the same. Happy teachers =happy students and parents.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More confessions- getting to know YBR Mama...

Every once in a while, I'll ask my husband to tell me something about him that I don't already know. We've been together for 4 years, married for 3 in March, but it's always fun to see what he can come up with. Here are a few of the random things I have thought of to tell him...

1. I can be extremely nosy. For example, on trash day, I like to check out what people have in their recycling bins as I drive by. "Neighbor Allison's been through a case of Diet Coke this week. The Johnson's must've had pizza again last night. Oooooh, the Smiths have a new Plasma screen tv...jerks." However, I draw the line at actually slowing down to see said items, nor do I dumpster dive. That's beneath me. Sniff.

2. My day dream life rivals that of Ralphie from A Christmas Story. Remember how he had all those elaborate day dreams throughout the movie, defeating Ol' Black Bart with his bb gun? Yeah, I would totally whoop his arse with my day dreams. They are incredibly vivid, detailed, and unrealistic. They usually feature a size 6 me (ha!) doing something spectacular like winning American Idol, taking over Oprah's job, or finding myself on an airplane in first class, seated next to Vince Vaughn (don't laugh-funny=hot!) who can't stop himself from flirting with my hotness. "Ohhh, Vince- please! I'm a married woman! I'm just an old frumpy mommy- I can not run away with you! The Wiz and the Munchkin need me!! Silly man."

3. I believe coffee and sugar have magical powers. Evil, addicting magical powers that make it impossible for me to resist them or to function without them.

4. When I was a kid (fifth or sixth grade) I played rec soccer. I had zero endurance, so the coach stuck me in the goal. I was a pretty petite thing who didn't hit puberty until several years later. My nightmares now consist of overdeveloped, buxom girls hurtling towards me at light speed, ready to pulverize my skull with either the soccer ball, or their ginormous recently-developed-just-finished-puberty breasts.

5. When the soccer coach would deign to let me play in the field, I would often run out of breath and pretend to be tying my cleets so as to avoid throwing up from overexertion. True story. My parents actually have pictures of me doing this.

6. When I'm nervous, anxious or bored, I tend to trace things with my eyes and count the edges or corners. For example, waiting in the doctor's office at OB appointments, I would trace the door frames, base boards and service window. I think that points to my smidge of OCD.

7. When I was a kid, numbers had colors associated with them in my mind. As in, when I thought of the number 8, it was always a blue eight. Six always looked red, as did nine. One white, 2 was green, 3 was also blue. So, either I'm really odd, or I spent entirely too much time watching the number segment on Sesame Street. "One car, two cars, ah ha ha!" (My blog impersonation of SS's Count Vampire Dude)

8. In the third grade, one of the options for free time in my class was playing with a Oiija board. It gives a whole new meaning to "No Child Left Behind." Ugh-scary.

9. I will never again question whether my younger brother knows which cables go where in trying to jump start a car battery. When he followed my suggestion for how to put the cables, we set both his car and mine Sparks, smoke, flames.

10. The first person I called as my car was still flaming and smoking? My older sister. Who lived in Colorado. Just goes to show how much stock I put in her advice and opinions. However, her advice turned out to be to call the fire department, which I scoffed. Ew! A firetruck? In my apartment complex? Because of me?! Embarrassing! So I whipped out the old fire extinguisher and let 'er rip.

That's all for now. What weird, funny or silly things could you share about your life or yourself?

Monday, February 7, 2011

8 Week Sugar Detox- WHUCK?!

Sigh. I've got to do something. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I'm not eating like I should. I try to stick to a "healthy" diet, but I'm starting to feel like it's not good enough. I've been reading so much about whole foods, vitamins, and organic living lately and a part of me is wondering if this is a path I should try to take. The Wiz (my new nickname for DH; get it, Yellow Brick Road, Wizard? Oh, never mind) and I have been struggling with keeping and staying healthy for what seems like a long time. He is a meat, potatoes, cheeseburger, wings, pizza lover. Me? We have had some success in the past, only to fall of the wagon again and again. But the stakes are higher now. Now, we have our little Munchkin. Not only do we need to be around for him, but I feel a HUGE sense of responsibility to feed him healthy foods and to teach him how to live a healthy life style. I recently Twittered my way to a new blog, Naturally Knocked Up, and I was fascinated! Because, beyond living healthily every day, I've also struggled a bit with fertility (it took the Wiz and I a year to conceive, I had issues with hormone levels-check out some bits and pieces of our story-). Also, at 29 years old, with my first pregnancy and no family history, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I had a manageable case, but the fact remains that I'm more likely to develop it with future pregnancies, and I'm more at risk for Type 2 Diabetes later in life. The Wizard and I would love, love, love to have (at least) one more precious baby, and if I can find natural ways to improve our collective fertility and avoid diabetes, I'm all for it.
A part of Naturally Knocked Up's blog is an 8 week sugar detox. As in, the end result being *off* sugar. Gulp. Like I said, I love sugar. It tastes soooo good. It makes me happy. I enjoy dessert. I savor my coffee creamer, cookies at Christmas, chocolate.............but something So, here it is. I'm going to attempt Naturally's 8 week Sugar Detox. I am making NO promises about my success, but I'm definitely going to try my best. I plan on chronicling my plight, er, journey to a healthier lifestyle, so check back with me! Wish me luck!

Toddlers, Tiaras and Tyrannical mommies

My hub would testify in court that he thinks I am a reality TV junkie. In my defense, I do enjoy the Office, The Middle, Law and Order, etc. But TLC and Bravo tend to be my go-to stations. I don't watch or follow soap operas, but The Real Housewives are close to the "soap opera" type category. One show that is particularly similar to a nine-car pile up during rush hour traffic is the show Toddlers and Tiaras. If you're unfamiliar, the show chronicles tiny tot beauty pageants. It follows the plight of the stage mommies, as their little girls, from birth (yes, BIRTH) to 10, 11, 12 years of age practice their routines, get spray tans, don veneers, endure the application of fake eyelashes, and cavort around in costumes that resemble lingerie I received at my bachelorette party. TLC had a marathon of the show on yesterday, and I caught some snippets. Now, I realize that many, many, many of these little girls WANT to do these pageants and enjoy it. I am by no means saying that all of these little girls are forced to be a part of this against their will. There are two sides to this coin, but I take issue with both sides. Let's start with the easy one- the poor, tiny little girls who don't truly want to participate or are too young to let their opinion be known. One mother entered her 2 year old in a pageant. This beautiful little girl endured extensive make up application-specifically, bright blue glitter eyeshadow for her "Little Boy Blue" talent performance. Then, her mama walked her on stage, positioned her for her talent performance. Music started, baby girl just sat there. Mom proceeded to holler "encouragement" from the audience, "Get up! Stand up! Come on!" Then, baby girl started to cry. What does mama do? She gets up on stage, talks to her daughter, then leaves her daughter on stage, still crying, in hopes that she'll get it together and start performing. Did I mention this girl is 2??? Finally, the mama took the girl off the stage. It was painful to see, and it hurt my heart to watch. I'm not proud of watching, but like I said, it was like a car wreck- hard to look away. I don't need to say much more about what's wrong with that picture, do I?
Now let's talk about the little girls who want to be a part of the pageants. That is a different story, but one I still find fault with. I have two nieces, one of whom is the ultimate princess lover, the other who is the ultimate shoe lover. Shoe-lover is not even two- and my sister is NOT one to push gender stereotypes on her kids. Her girls are who they are, and they like what they like. I get that. But something seems terribly wrong with 5,6,7 year olds dressed up to look as if they are in their late teens- from how their hair is done, to their make up, their costumes, and don't get me started on their "dances". Something is terribly wrong with these little girls focused on "winning" trophies based.on.their.looks. Something is terribly wrong with the way these little girls are treated like superstars, or mini-goddesses by their parents. Something is terribly wrong with little girls being sexualized. And that is the crux of these little girl pageants. Five year olds aren't supposed to have perfect teeth, even tans, and voluptuously luxurious eyelashes. There are already too many pressures on girls today- we know that. What happened to balance? What happened to letting little girls play dress up, without teaching them that they main thing they have to offer the world is how they look? (after adjusting, squeezing, tweezing, and lacquering over their natural beauty of course.) I could go on and on, but the heart of the matter is this- I wish for a world in which all little girls, teenagers and young women are focused more on how they can work to improve our world and improve their hearts, rather than be preoccupied from the tender preschool age with shaking their recently potty trained tooshies on stage for trophies.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hand made cards

I am not an artsy craftsy person. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Michael's and A.C. Moore. I could spend hours looking at all of the cute scrap booking stickers, papers, embellishments, and pick out all of the most adorable items. But, when it comes to actual execution, sigh. I just don't have "it-" the it factor that many women have when it comes to scrapping or making crafty things. (Nor do I have the patience, steady hand or precision, but that's another story.) This applies to all areas. Case in point- I love, love, love to bake things, one because it's a stress reliever, and two, because I love giving sweet baked treats to loved ones. My sister-in-law also loves to cook and bake. She, however, turns it into an artistic feat. In fact, for Thanksgiving, she made turkey shaped cupcakes. The most adorable little cupcakes you've ever seen; they should've been in the window at some local bakery. My bakery creations, however, taste a LOT better than they tend to look. The sugar cookies I made last Christmas looked like they were decorated by my 3 year old niece, but they sure did taste yummy! Anyway, I recently participated in a hand made craft exchange. Don't ask me WHY I thought this was a good idea, cause I got nothin'. Actually, I think I was more focused on the cool hand made things I was going to get, rather than the fact that I, too, was responsible for making something hand made to exchange! Doh! I don't sew. I don't knit. Crochet? Nope. Needle point? Funny. But I do really love the scrap booking aisles at the craft stores, so I went looking for inspiration. I've had a little "success" at making cards for people. (read: I avoided making them look like my Aunt Mildred spilled her overstuffed-purse-full-of-stuff-only-old-ladies-carry-around on them.) So, I figured, what the heck. Here are a few of the results, pictured. I tried to keep them simple, because I do possess a gaudy, glitter loving gene that doesn't believe that "less is more" so I reeeeallly had to reign myself in. In all, I wasn't embarrassed by the finished products, and I hope the cards will be a blessing to those who received them. I enjoyed the process and it did end up being a healthy distraction and stress reliever. I plan on continuing this little hobby, and hopefully getting better at it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You know you're a mom when...

A few days ago was just one of *those* days for Patrick and me. Not in a bad way, but just one of those days in which several things happen to make you realize just how much your life, and you, have changed since your little one was born. After being peed on while cleaning spit up, the idea for this blog post came to mind. I started making a list of all the things I do now as a mom, and put the question up on Facebook to see what my other mommy friends had to add. Here's my list, followed by their suggestions:
You know you're a mom when...
-After hearing the unmistakeable spit up gurgle, instead of moving out of the way so it doesn't hit your shirt, you hold your hand out to catch it so it doesn't hit the recently cleaned floor.
-When your son pees on you during a diaper change, you laugh and remark how impressive his trajectory is.
-your thumb becomes a chew toy, and thats okay with you.
-when you look down to see two wet stains spreading across your shirt, shrug, and zip up your jacket because you only have so much time to finish grocery shopping before your baby wakes up and starts wailing
-when the thought of 4,5, or 6 hours of sleep in a row, makes you salivate. Not chocolate, not cake, not George clooney. Sleep.

Some of my friends comments:
-You call powdering your nose "me time."....if you actually get to be alone during those what used to be private moments. -Tajia
-when big burps are music to your ears...from your screaming baby, of course! -Melissa
-when you think about your own care and safety more than you ever have in your life because suddenly the well-being of the most important person in the universe depends directly upon YOU. -Andrea
- when your milk lets down in public (in Rite-Aid, as I recall) and forms two huge, wet circles on the front of your shirt because you heard somebody else's baby cry ... that was a defining moment, too! -Andrea
-can't remember the last time you showered! -Colleen
- You gladly stay up all night long holding your sick child (no matter what age) so that they may be able to get some sleep. -Dawn
-when your laundry load doubles and you fall asleep sitting straight up during a meal.....the baby's meal. -Carri
- when the only time you ever look at a clock is to determine when the next feeding time will occur. -Melissa S.
- You know you're a mom when the thought of a tiny booger remaining in your infant's nostril is horrifying and you must...YOU MUST, make every attempt, including considering using a pair of needle nose pliers,to remove it from said location. Forget waterboarding- if we want to interrogate prisoners of war we should send a task force of moms to remove boogers from their noses. They'll be singing like a canary before long. just sayin'. -Kevin (my dad!)
-When you happily change a poopy diaper because the poor baby has been previously constipated. -Erin

Monday, January 10, 2011

Five months old?!

My baby is.five.months.old. It's been five months since that fateful doctor's appointment that uncovered my blood pressure was a wee bit high and the doc suggested induction, given my heart condition. Five months since DH and I spent two nights waiting for my labor to progress, waiting for our sweet, wonderful baby Patrick to arrive. Five months since the nurse handed him to me and I thought, "Mine." Isn't that a weird thing to think? I think that was one of my first thoughts because for so long, I was just the aunt, just the envious friend who admired others' beautiful babies. I was overcome with gratitude and love for this blessing, and overcome with fear at the enormity of my new responsibility. As soon as I looked in his face and held him in my arms, I felt a sense of familiarity. After spending the last nine months praying for him, talking to him, laughing at his antics in my belly, and documenting his growth, his little face just made...sense. I just knew him. And how the last five months have flown. I know that five months isn't a big milestone, but it just seems like Patrick is doing so many new things that I continue to be amazed. Just a few things: he is sitting up better and better in the Bumbo, working on "eating" rice cereal, rolling from back to front and front to back, "scooting" off his playmat on a regular basis by kick, kick, kicking his feet. He loves playing "horsey" with his daddy, can sit comfortably on my hip, and is fascinated by his soccer ball. He thinks it's hilarious when daddy bounces the ball in his house, and he tries his best to "hold" it. I am loving every minute, and I hope that I'm keeping enough of a journal to remember all of these sweet moments farther down the road. I continue to pray that Patrick grows healthy, strong, happy, and that DH and I can give our all to raising him and any other children we may have.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Confessions of a Rookie Mama

Yes, I did just put leftover green cookie frosting all over my 90 calorie granola bar. Sometimes.I.Need.Sugar.

Sometimes when DH is playing with the baby, I'll escape to the bathroom under the guise of pottying, but really it's to read a few pages of my latest book. Ahh, a few minutes to breathe.

If the baby wakes up before 7, as long as he's playing happily, I roll over until one of two things happens: 7 am rolls around, or he starts fussing. Sue me.

Taking my gummy vitamins makes me happy.

I'm convinced my baby is the most beautiful baby ever born, and could possibly be the next Gerber baby. If my DH wouldn't kill me for submitting his picture. Sigh.

The lady at the Chick-Fil-A drive thru knows me. By name.

I've gone out into public with baby spit up dried on my shoulder, and milk dried on the front of my shirt. Although, not at the same time.

I've repeatedly, from pregnancy on into motherhood, left the house wearing my slippers instead of actual shoes. I've gone to work in them, Target, the gas station, and the mall.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Decade's Worth of Reflection in an itty bitty blog post..

I think everyone feels some sense of reflection and renewal around New Year's Day. Of course, I have my list of goals for 2011 (that's for another blog post), but it struck me that this isn't just a new year, but a new decade. Then I started thinking about how much can change in 10 years, and how much living can be done in that amount of time. So here it is, a decade's worth of reflection in this itty bitty blog post.

In the last 10 years I've LIVED:
-graduated college TWICE, with my bachelors and masters degrees.
-lived with my best friend on three different occasions: my sister, my Anna, and my husband.
-lived in 7 different homes
-learned that I am capable of living alone
-made some of the best friends I've ever had
-traveled to Spain, California, Hawaii (twice!), Mexico, NYC, Jamaica, Italy, Ireland, Las Vegas, just to name a few.
-taught hundreds of children
-overcame the fears I had as a first year teacher on the first day of school
-with my students I've wiped away tears, broken up fights, cracked jokes, created, danced, read, read, read, celebrated triumphs, perfected my "hairy eye ball" look, organized bake sales, raised money for the needy, organized Beta Club inductions, had parents yell at me, threaten me, hurt my feelings, enrage me with their lack of caring for their children, and also had parents encourage me, support me, and treat me like a member of their family.
-been honored to be named Reading Teacher of the Year at the elementary school where I worked.
-was maid of honor for my sister
-became an aunt (twice!)
-became a god mother
-worked as a camp counselor, at a zoo, at a restaurant, and as a teacher
-got engaged
-planned a wedding
-got married
-bought my first house
-left a job and a work place that I absolutely loved (twice- for two different reasons!)
-tried for what seemed like forever (a year, total) to get pregnant
-got pregnant!
-became a mommy

In the last decade, I've LOVED:
-I fell in love for the first time
-Had my heart broken for the first time, then the second time, then the third time...;)
-figured out how to play the "dating game"
-realized how absolutely awful I am at breaking up with people
-fell in love with my nieces Hannah and Bridget
-took a chance, trusted a friend, and ended up falling in love with the man who'd become my husband
-fell in love with my precious baby boy, the moment I saw the words "pregnant" on that little white stick
-cried with friends who'd lost loved ones
-grown to appreciate my family as the best friends and best support group I'll ever have

In the last decade, I've LOST:
-My Uncle Joe, also my god father and my mom's brother. He had the biggest smile and laugh. He was the oldest of her five siblings, was a post man, loved dogs, (especially German Shepherds) and has three wonderful children. Lung cancer.
-My Uncle Jimmy, my dad's brother. He was the youngest of his siblings. He was an expert flirt, and passionately pursued all of his dreams as a cheesecake chef, drummer and band member, taking karate. Also lung cancer.
-My Grandma Weakland, my mom's mom. She was petite, and wonderfully soft. She was so sweet to hug- squishy and wonderful, like grandmas should be. She was an amazing cook, my favorite being homemade chicken noodle soup made with egg noodles, piled on top of homemade buttery mashed potatoes. Mmmmm. Without fail, she'd always offer cookies to help me "finish my milk", loved ribbon candy, was a dynamo at Rummikub and kept her dentures in washed out margarine tubs. She raised six children, one of whom is my amazing mother.
-My Grandma Su, my dad's mom. She was theatrical, encouraged my passion for acting and theater, had fiery red hair, a loud, belly laugh that was contagious, and loved sweets. Her New York accent stuck with her to the end, as did her husband, my Papa Jack. She also raised six children, one of whom is my amazing father.
-My Grandpap Weakland, my mom's dad. He was an imposing figure who tended to intimidate me as a little kid, but who had this huge belly laugh. He worked with his hands, doing manual labor, to provide for his family. He loved to take pictures, and had orange trees at his house in Florida. He and my Grandma Weakland took me for ice cream, to the playground, swimming in their above ground pool, and dyed Easter Eggs with me.

This doesn't begin to cover how wonderful, devastating, challenging, and amazing the last ten years of my life has been. I hope and pray that the next ten can even live up to the last ten, and that I can work every day to be my best self and live my best life.

Cheers! Happy New Year!!