31 January 2014

Daughter Dates

Just a quick opening note: One year ago today, I opened my little Etsy shoppe! So exciting! Today is the LAST DAY of our giant sale. This is by far Sheep & Co's biggest sale of the year, so check us out!



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Today I took the car. I had a doctor's appointment (baby is doing good), so I drove Matt to work, and before the appointment, Abigail and I went mall walking. This is the second time we've ever been mall walking and we went to a different mall, which was significantly less walker-friendly. But Abigail didn't mind that some of the mall's wings were lit only by the over-night lights from shop display windows, and other walkers got a kick out of her light-up shoes flashing across the dark consumer metropolis. She was just stoked to be burning some energy. There was a group of Chinese Americans setting up a huge New Year display with these elevator-lift things to hang banners from the ceiling. Abigail swore up and down that those lifts were "choo-choos," no matter how much I assure her they weren't. It's kind of her way that if I can't supply the proper sign, well then, her sign must be the right one. As it stands right now, raccoons and foxes are kitties and deer and cows are horses.

Following the doctor's appointment, I took Abigail out on a mommy-daughter Panera Bread brunch date. She's really too young to get much out of our dates, but they sure do fill my heart up. We used to go out (maybe once a month?) in Florida and Chicago, at first just because getting out of the house helped me deal with my post-partum depression, but as time went on, I really started to enjoy our time together. We usually get something small - maybe just split a large cookie or a medium frozen yogurt (Chicago had the coolest "fro-yo bar" right next door to the craft store and the book store. It was like an oasis of blissful shopping) - so we don't break the bank, but they are still a lot of fun. We don't get out much in Michigan because of the shared car issue, which makes me sad. I love consulting with her about which toppings we should put on our yogurt or if we're in the mood for a blueberry or pumpkin muffin, as if she's actually giving me her opinion. As she gets older, she's picking up on words I'm saying and will sign them if she knows them ("berry" or "milk"). Even though she's just signing because she knows the sign, I like to pretend like we're having a real discussion. When we sit down at the table, I'll talk to her about what our upcoming plans are for the week or ask her how she felt about the past weekend. I noticed today that she really seemed to enjoy the date more than she has in the past. She smiled up at me a lot throughout our treats and marveled at her pint-sized chocolate milk. She was very smily as I packed her up in the car and hugged me a lot when we got back home. And it's different too, being out and about together. We're at home together all the time, or in swim class together, or going grocery shopping together. But when we go out and focus just on each other, it's a deeper connection.

It's really, really important to me to keep up our dates as our family grows. I want to set aside time regularly for one-on-one dates with each of my kids. When they're little, I don't want them to feel like I love the baby more than them. And once they hit the difficult teen years, I want to make time to be available in case they want to talk. I want my kids to always know I hear them. And I want to be sure I'm genuinely listening. There is a country song by Trace Adkins called "Just Fishin" and I think it's actually really good parenting.


It's about a dad who takes his daughter fishing and she thinks they're just fishing, but he's really building memories and their relationship. It is so easy and convenient for me to get bogged down in the to-dos at home. It's easy for me to clean "one more thing," to hand her a toy and try to crank out something on the computer. Cleaning and organizing is my forte. But I don't want my kids to grow up thinking a clean kitchen is more important than they are. Or that I care more about finishing my book than about them. I want to write their names down in my planner and have them hear me tell people, "Oh, I'm busy then, I'm going on a bike ride with Abigail." I want there to be days when I pull them out of school and instead of sitting through math class, we're getting unlimited breadsticks. I want each of my kids to know that there will be a specific day when Mom spends the whole time caring about whatever is going on in their lives. Me listening. One-on-one. I have this dream of being able to take each of my kids out on the day of the month they were born. For example, Abigail's birthday is May 18th, so I'd take her out on the 18th of each month. For something. A late-night smoothie. A morning walk. Maybe on special days a movie or an afternoon kayaking. I don't know what how exactly I'll structure things - if birthdays fall on the same month day, if Matt and I could do the same thing on our anniversary day, what I'll do with the other kids when they're too young to be home alone. Right now I just know that I have a goal for the future. And in the meantime, sometimes on days when I take the car, we'll swing by Panera Bread, I'll buy her her own chocolate milk, we'll split a cookie, and I'll ask her what she thinks of that one episode of Blues Clues.

29 January 2014

Cloth Diapers: A Decision

Just a quick opening note: The last day to score handmade hats for $6-$8 on Sheep & Co's giant end-of-season sale is this Friday. This is by far Sheep & Co's biggest sale of the year.



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I've decided to commit to cloth diapering. The final thing to push me over the edge was a YouTube channel I found called Dirty Diaper Laundry. The videos are boring as hell, but incredibly informative. I learned so much about the different brands and styles of diapers. It turns out I was making things more complicated than they needed to be - no surprises there. I've had gobs of way awesome advice from friends and heard about so many different ways of doing things, from straight pre-folds to half disposable/half cloth. I've been doing gobs of research directly on product websites, blog reviews, and my own BumGenius test run. There is no doubt that cloth diapers are more work than disposable diapers in the same way that paper plates and plastic cups are less work than ceramic and glass dinnerware. But the extra work is not very taxing and cloth diapers seem to me to have a reward that is worth it.

I'm going to take things easy, especially at first. I'm going to do disposable diapers when we're out all day (like trips to the zoo or holiday parties at the in-laws), when someone is babysitting, and when we're sick/moving again/something comes up that would keep me from doing laundry every few days. I'm also going to start with disposable diapers with this new baby. I figure I'll get an econo-sized box of newborn Pampers and start in on the cloth when that runs out. Lots of research has turned up the one-size-fits-all diapers (the kind I'm planning to buy) don't have the best fit on brand new babies. Plus, I have zero desire to add a single extra chore to my plate during those first few weeks back, especially if my VBAC fails and I end up with another c-section. But we'll see how it goes and I'll start phasing cloth in when I feel up to it. I also plan to use disposable wipes, again, at least in the beginning.

For those of you who are super into this kind of thing, I like pocket diapers better than AIOs (AIOs take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to dry), and I really theoretically love the new line of Fuzzibunz brand. I say theoretically, because I've only seen them via YouTube videos, but the elastic-button-leg-hole thing would be ideal for Abigail's unusually thin body. In fact, I already only buy jeans with the elastic-button thing on the waist because of the problems I have with clothing fitting her.

My plan is to build up my stash with a few different brands by keeping an eye on Craigslist and Ebay, hitting up a few local stores, and attending a gigantic Mom 2 Mom sale at the Ingham County Fairgrounds in March. I'm hesitant to have an entire stash of one brand or style since all my kids aren't going to be the same size.

I am sorely tempted to buy the diapers in way-fun pinks, purples, and with girly designs, but I'm pretty sure I'll be regretting that if any future children are boys and I have to sacrifice my cross-kid diaper savings with more gender neutral colors.

27 January 2014

Random Assortment of Kid-Thoughts

Just a quick opening note: Sheep & Co's giant end-of-season sale is going on through Friday. Handmade kids hats for $6 and most adult hats around $8.



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I'm still working on my memoirs. After doing extensive work myself, then having Matt review it, I sent it off to a handful of friends/colleagues to do some peer-like reviewing. I've got people with a bit of editing experience, I've got people who fit my "target reader" description, I've got people with academic experience, I've got people with law school wife experience, I've got moms and people without children, I've got religious and non-religious types. I've even got two nurses and one male reader. I asked everyone to get their thoughts to me by mid-February so I have time to edit before Baby #2 makes an appearance. In the meantime, I've got some research to do about what the publication process takes.


-Make Matt read through it all and discuss changes.
-Find a few friends to read through it and share their perspectives.
-More editing
-Research how publishing works
-Either find an agent, start submitting, or both

* * * * *

It has been cold here. How cold? The other day the sun was shining down beautifully and I thought, Maybe Abigail and I can just take one quick walk around the complex - we're going crazy with cabin fever over here - so I hopped online during the hottest part of the day to check the temps: -5 with windchill. It's so cold I don't even take the trash out - I wait until Matt gets home then either he or I take it out so Abigail doesn't have to face the cold. Our heating bill has been pretty high lately, so I keep the thermostat pretty low. Our super old, junky apartment-issue thermostat is unable to give me an accurate temperature, so I usually just turn it as low as we can stand. We all layer up and bury ourselves under blankets (my absolute favorite thing to crochet). It is so cold around here that I walked in my room the other day to discover this:


You know hell has frozen over when the cats cuddle together. Because we never stay anywhere for long, I try very hard not to think, "I can't wait till this is over!" So I'm trying really hard not to wish it was spring. These are my last few months with Abigail as my only child; this is my last month in the "blissful" second trimester; this could be my last winter without Abigail away at school during the day. And I'm sure there will come a day when I miss being kicked in the colon by one-inch long feet. (Seriously, the colon. Everyday.) I'm trying to enjoy the "right now" even if it's difficult through the cabin fever and the terrible twos. 

* * * * *

Abigail has suddenly made this impressive advancement in development that I can't really put into words. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but she moves easily into a pretty little sidesit by herself now, she tall kneels to play, she walks over blanket piles on the floor, she calls, "Mamamamama" to get my attention, she'll come find me and sign "help" if she thinks the kitties need something, and she thinks about crying when she gets hurt now (she use to never care if she smoked herself against the coffee table, fell and scraped her hands, or the cat scratched her). She will also bring me her mangadoodle and sign "fish," "mouse" or say "butterfly" for me to draw without prompting. It's really exciting to see her sudden spurt of advancements as I was starting to feel really depressed about her seriously abbreviated therapy schedule in Michigan. She gets 50% of the services we got in Chicago and the very day she turns three, all at-home services stop. They honestly want to transition her to public schools for the three weeks between her 3rd birthday and school letting out for the summer. Then she won't receive any services until school starts back up in the fall. Transitioning her to school in May is not an option for us, primarily because my due date is two days after her birthday. The therapists are basically running with the theory that she's so advanced for a kid with Ds that not working over the summer won't set her back. I'm basically running with the theory that I'm not going to stop caring about my kid because she's "good enough." 

Time to add "look into private therapy for the summer" to my to-do list before this baby is born. When we picked out our insurance plan when Matt started his new job, we were sure to get one with generous therapy coverage.

A tall kneel playing session.

Abigail's new random developments are accompanied by a total terrible twos explosion. Everything is a power struggle. How on earth does, "I'm going to stick my fingers in my poopy diaper" or "I'm going to rip your glasses off your face and chuck them across the room" become a power struggle? Telling this kid "no" is like giving a motivational speech to a losing team at halftime. Smacking her hand or spanking her is worthless because she doesn't seem to feel pain. So I'm left with distraction. Hands in the poopy diaper? Tell her "no," then as fast as humanly possible, break into a hearty rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus" or something with hand motions to keep her busy while I finish the diaper change. And for when I'm not in a position to distract her, I keep a stash of "special toys" on the top shelf to give her when I need to take a shower or make dinner to keep her from wandering into trouble. They're exhausting, these here toddlers.

* * * * *

I'm giving cloth diapers a test-run. I hit up a Mom 2 Mom sale on Saturday and snagged two different types of cloth diapers for $23. They are both BumGenius brand (she was actually the only seller of used cloth diapers in the building and it was a fairly large sale), and I kept their tags so I could keep track of what I liked and didn't like.


I tested one diaper overnight (just wet) and one diaper during the day during prime #2 time. I didn't want to try cloth when Abigail was born, but I'm really interested in transitioning her and starting this baby with cloth because:
#1. Disposable diapers are expensive (and Abigail isn't even close to being ready for potty training).
#2. Cloth diapers are known to reduce diaper rash and Abigail can go from totally fine to bleeding in 1-2 diapers. Poor kid has uber-sensitive skin. As both Matt and I have sensitive skin, I figure this might become a family-wide problem for us. 
While researching cloth, I discovered that:
#3. Cloth diapers reduce blowouts. Abigail is big into the blowout scene.

My two big concerns about cloth diapers are:
#1. Poop is gross. I feel like I should be over this by now since I'm a mom and all, but I'm not. I'm good with blood and guts, but poop is gross.
#2. Cloth diaper have a large up-front cost and I'm worried that we'll sink a few hundred dollars into a cloth stash and two or three months in, I'll hate it and feel all overwhelmed and want to quit.

I have many, many friends who all do cloth diapering and I've been in close contact with them as I gave BumGenius a test-run. Plus I found this ridiculously helpful blogpost that I've been relying on heavily. The diapers are in the wash now (having been through one rinse cycle) and they look just as clean as when I bought them. Initial impressions:
#1. While everything feels super daunting right now, I can see how this would easily become a routine and the various steps second nature.
#2. It's best to send them through a rinse cycle and a wash cycle, but washers are way faster than driers and water is included in our rent (hehehe). Everyone extolls the power of the sun to bleach stains and my south-facing apartment gets gobs of sun. While there's no place for me to line-dry the diapers, I could definitely send them through a gentle dry cycle and lay them out in front of a window to experience the bleaching benefits, even in an apartment.
#3. Cloth diapers are way cuter than disposable.

Matt said that he'll support me doing whatever I want (although he is a bit concerned about the gross poop thing too), since I'm the one who does most of the diaper changes and all the laundry. I'm going to give these bad boys another week or so to get a good sense of the process. I'll keep you updated.

* * * * *

Oh, what was that? Where did I get that snazzy changing table, you ask? Well, let me tell you, I got it for free.


My sister-in-law's children are all out of diapers and she had two changing tables she wanted out of her barn. The table came with a changing pad, a few pad covers, and some crib bedding she had lying around.

Our Pack n' Play has a newborn changer attachment that we were planning to use - Abigail didn't outgrow it until my c-section incision healed enough to change her on the floor - but it's getting more difficult as I get bigger now. I was just going to muddle through it, but when she offered me the table, I couldn't say no. I typically try to avoid accumulating furniture as much as possible since we move a lot and have a small apartment, but the benefits of this little number outweighed everything else.

Our once cavernous bathroom is officially maxed out now, but it doesn't feel too crowded when you're standing inside. We will need to get one of those over-the-door towel racks before Baby #2 arrives, but I'm confident that I can squeeze one of those into the budget.

I also may be getting a second crib and mattress for free from a friend-of-a-friend. If we do, I won't have to transition Abigail to a toddler bed just yet. I'm waiting to see what happens before I start the process of getting Abigail's room ready for two girls. I think I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but sometime in these doldrums of late winter, I hope to tackle the (probably) week-long project of rummaging through all the baby stuff stored in my parents' basement, organizing Abigail's closet, and getting things ready for the new baby.

23 January 2014

Sheep & Company's 1st Birthday!

My beloved little Etsy shoppe will be celebrating its first birthday one week from tomorrow! Ah, what an exciting day, that January 31st, 2013 was. We'll be celebrating our big 0-1 and the end of the hat-buying season with a particularly large sale.


We would love it if you would join us! You can find my shoppe by clicking on the banner above or by clicking this link right here!

22 January 2014

Hate-less Discussions

Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And ya'll know that I'm pro-life. I've said before that I'm one of those uber-crazies who doesn't believe in the death penalty, abortion in cases of rape or incest, and doesn't use artificial birth control. But I'm the kind of person who avoids controversy at all costs when she can, so despite my radical stance, I rarely ever get into debates with people.

My confrontation-loving husband has often told me that one of the most important rules about entering a debate is to be clear about your premise. The other rules being, of course, "yell louder than the other guy" and "let your emotions get in the way of facts." (Kidding, Babe!) Scores of debates could have been more productive if we all knew where everyone else was starting.

I started realizing how much of the abortion debate is because so much is based on a difference of premises. We can all agree that murdering people is wrong, correct? So, if we could all agree on when life starts, we'd all agree on the issue of abortion. If doctors/scientists discovered tomorrow with certainty that the life begins when the fetus is this many weeks old, we'd all agree: Okay, no more abortions once the woman is this many weeks pregnant. Problem solved.

At least, that's what I used to think. But now that I live with one foot in the special needs community, I have realized that there is a whole host of people who think that there comes a point when life becomes not worth living. Suffering - on behalf of the individual or society - outweighs everything else. I deal with this idea regularly now, as two of the main arguments for aborting a child with Down syndrome is 1. Her life will be miserable; and 2. She will be a burden on society. But this issue shot to the forefront of everyone's consciousness this winter when Belgium was deciding whether or not to extended their assisted suicide laws to include minors. (In the end, they did). Proponents of the law published scores of heartbreaking, tragic stories about babies who spent a few pain-filled days outside of the womb before suffering a slow, difficult death. I cried reading some of them. There is no getting around the fact that those children did nothing to deserve that suffering, that life is unfair, and that the agony destroyed some families.

Of course there are always anecdotal stories to counter the tragedies. The teenager who is diagnosed with cancer, but uses his pending death to fuel him to live life to the fullest. The severely disabled baby who brings his family together during his short life. For every person whose life is - or predicted to be - filled with pain and suffering and who regrets every day is another person whose life is - or predicted to be - filled with pain and suffering yet still enjoys every day to the fullest.

So it seems to me that the question is: Is there meaning in suffering? Where there is meaning, we can discuss value and purpose. A lot of far smarter people have written a lot of really brilliant, insightful things on this issue, some big-wigs being the Pope, Gandhi, Buddha, and Martin Luther King Jr; Catholics and Buddhists have written very extensively on the issues.

I think beginning our discussion by understanding when everyone thinks life begins and what value they find in suffering will result in a far more productive (and mature!) conversation about the issue of abortion.


20 January 2014

Hormonal Rants

When I was pregnant with Abigail, I did not have the stereotypical "pregnant women mood swings." Matt and I were lulled into the fallacy that I think traps all second-timers: "Well, it didn't happen last time, so it won't happen this time."

It's a very odd thing to feel yourself growing angrier and angrier over what you know is completely ridiculous. My head is all Why the heck are you getting mad about this? This is nothing. Let it go. Meanwhile, my chest is getting tight and my face is getting red. I'm so pissed off at Matt. About whether I drink an average of one or two cups of soda and coffee per week.

So when I'm cussing out the kitchen in my head, ranting to Matt about our apartment only having three windows (we had 15 in Chicago, remember?), and our dining room chairs, "china cabinet," and Abigail's dresser all three literally falling apart, it's hard to tell if we really are outgrowing our grad-school lifestyle or if I'm just being hormonal.

On one hand, Matt and I are both fed up. After so many years of moving and marriage and with a growing family, we want some freakin' stability. We wanna stop storing our out-of-season clothes at my parents' house. We want some control to install child safety locks on the stove, salt our own walkways, and turn away maintenance men when they show up unexpectedly at 8am and we're still in our pajamas.

Which brings me to my next frustration: raising a family in an apartment is really difficult. I can't control it if my upstairs neighbors decide to vacuum right at naptime. And when maintenance doesn't shovel or salt the parking lot and I slip and fall while taking the trash out, there is nothing I can do. I can't rip out this terrible, cheap carpet and put in some hard-surface flooring so that I can just sweep three times a day instead of breaking out the vacuum three times. And my ultimate frustration: the ability of the complex to enter my unit at any time. We recently received a notice that management is having the entire complex re-wired for cable. Residents will get 48 hours notice to have all furniture moved away from all interior walls. I flew into a rage. This is my life! I get that for them, it's just a business, but this small space is my whole world! How can they jerk me around like this?!

I looked around my apartment at all the furniture touching an inside wall. My wall of bookcases - I'm going to have to empty at least the top three shelves of all four cases in order to move them a few feet away from the wall. Where am I going to put all those books? Should I just stack them up on the coffee table and let my two-year-old "read" them to her heart's content?


My dresser, my husband's dresser, my daughter's dresser (the one that is literally falling apart)? At the very least I'm going to need to clear off the entire tops of them, stash all that stuff in my room (on the bed?) and then lock Abigail out of that room all day.



The "china cabinet" will need to be emptied and all that stuff will end up stacked on the kitchen table, which I will then need to patrol ceaselessly to prevent Abigail or the cats from knocking something off of it. Not to mention how many cords and outlets will be exposed and how many baby-proofed items will be temporarily disabled. AND I'm six months pregnant.

If we needed to have something like this done in our own home, I could schedule it. Maybe for a day Matt has off so I have some help moving stuff? Maybe for a time when we can hole up at a friends' house so I don't have to spend the entire day keeping my toddler from helping herself to my perfume and wine glasses? Leave Abigail with the friend and run back home for the timed appointment? Stash her at grandma and grandpa's until Matt and I can get furniture back in place? But to have everything sprung on me with 48 hours notice against my will? So the next residents who live here and pay for a TV package can have a clearer picture? Ugh.

My final frustration is with the car. When we selected the town we currently live in, we had a handful of leads that would leave me with the car. But they all dried up. It's very stressful to get myself showered and ready, get Abigail dressed and ready, get us both fed, and out the door by 7:45am in order to get Matt to work on time so I can use the car. I can't imagine doing it with a newborn.

I know what you're thinking. It's what any logical person would think: Buy a freaking house! Buy a freaking car! Buy a freaking dining room table! Allow me to find reasons to complicate the issue.

Am I just being hormonal, or:
- Are we being honest with ourselves about our housing situation?
- Are we demanding a "luxury level" lifestyle?
- What about our big, Dave Ramsean dreams?

Housing
I just read in The Week, which was quoting WSJ.com that "the typical American living in poverty has a house 'larger than the home of the average non-poor French, German, or English man.'" Now we don't live in poverty, but still, that's says a lot about what Americans expect. Matt chimed in that in the graphic novel Maus, the family is very rich, has a governess, and lives in a two-bedroom apartment. The average home size in the 1950s was around 1200 sq ft, one bathroom was standard, and most families had more children than they do today. (Source). Even though the quality of living nowadays is higher, will my quality of life really suffer in any real amount by sticking around this two bedroom, two bathroom apartment another year or two? Am I being honest that we've outgrown this place or am I just lusting after more?

When we decided to buy a house last year, we knew things could have gone either way and it was really more a matter of which pro/con list was more manageable. But hindsight bias has shown us that not getting the house was the best path for us. Sometimes life throws you curve balls and it's better that we're not tied to real estate right now. Frustratingly vague, I know, but you have to be careful about how much personal information you reveal on the Internet. Sometimes I romanticize that we should have rented a house, but the truth is that the amenities we get in an apartment are cheaper and better than those we'd get in a house on our budget, even sans basement or garage.

Possessions
Next comes the question of "luxury lifestyle," which obviously crosses the line into "keeping-up-with-the-Jones'" pretty quickly. My furniture is cheap in quality and scarce in quantity. None of it matches, most of it is ugly, and almost all of it is falling apart after so many cross-country trips. It's embarrassing and humbling having even therapists over.

"What does your husband do?"
"He's an attorney," I respond from my stained, sagging couch, across stained, ugly carpet in my small apartment with leaky windows.

But is the purpose of my couch to impress people? And do I really want to buy a new couch for an apartment I'll probably be preparing to move out of by this time next year? Non-matching furniture does not diminish my quality of life. We're still getting out feet under us after graduate school. Of all the things I want to say I did when I look back on 2014, "used precious resources to buy new furniture" is not in my top five.

Dave Ramsey
We want to be those people who have no debt outside of their house. And that's really freaking hard when you go to grad school. We were in a good financial position when went to Ave, I worked for the first half of law school, and Matt had a scholarship. But life is still expensive, especially when you have a child with serious medical issues and crappy insurance, your only car completely dies, and you move every eight months on average (every move we've ever made as a married couple has been for school or a job). Sure, we could take out a car loan on a second vehicle. We could definitely stop paying cash for everything and put "car tires," "Christmas presents," and "clothes" on a credit card and make monthly payments. We could definitely do all that and more to ease the frustrations of our current lifestyle. But the thought of more mandatory payments making demands on our income frightens me. It's so frustrating not being able to buy something I view as a necessity (full panel maternity jeans), but at the same time, it's so freeing not having a credit card bill every month.

And I question how much I need to "ease the burden of labor." Sure a hand vacuum would be easier than dragging out the big vacuum, but why is it so important that each of my chores be as easy as possible? It's not like I have to turn Abigail away every day because my list of tasks is that long. It's not like I can't get everything I need to get done on a regular basis because I'm just too overwhelmed. If I can't finish everything I wanted, it's almost always because I spent too much time on Facebook or Abigail had a demanding day or I ran out of energy. And I make the tasks up the next day. We're not in dire straights; I don't need more gadgets and more space for gadgets to make my life livable.

A little bit ago, I closely followed a debt-free lifestyle debate sparked by a friend's blog post and it really changed the way I view money. At first I was totally on the Dave Ramsey fan's side. No debt! Do everything you can to avoid it! But so many people on the opposite side of the fence had so many good points. Points that put words to my hopeless feelings about ever getting a second car and buying a maternity winter coat. Debt free + grad school + family is a nearly impossible task. And we definitely felt called to the grad school part and feel called to the family part. We spent a lot of time praying about Ave and about having Abigail and this baby. And we both felt God's input. And so many other people are living happy, stable lives with a monthly car payment.

So now I find all my thoughts in total flux. Do we still want to stick with our original plan? If we do alter it, what would be the best arrangement for our family? How quickly do we want to pay off debt? When do we want to buy a house? So many ways to solve these problems: which way do we like the best?

And the ultimate question: Should we answer any of these questions while I'm crazy emotional? If I'm bursting into tears over Meijer commercials (did you guys see that one with the old lady and the Christmas decorations they played on Hulu? - got me every freaking time), is that really a good time to decide what to do with our financial future?

I'm really glad I was not this way with Abigail. It gives me hope that I might not be this way with future pregnancies. I realize that this post is just me giving contradictory thoughts about what we should do with no real conclusion. For that, I apologize. Sometimes my blog posts are pretty, eloquent packages, but sometimes they are just chaotic messes. I guess in that way, they mirror reality.

17 January 2014

But seriously, I wanted it *so* bad with Abigail!

Yesterday my poor little girl - who has been unbelievably grouchy for days - woke up from her nap with one heck of a fever. She was clingy, clingy, clingy and sent me digging through her room for my all-time favorite sling. I haven't worn Abigail much since she started walking regularly at the beginning of the summer. I slipped on the gorgeous fabric and inserted my sick child as the snowy clouds parted and choirs of angels began singing.

Okay, that last part was a slight exaggeration, but what is not is that I totally miss wearing my baby! Oh those happy days when I first discovered how much slings are totally my carrier of choice! Then the day a friend recommended the Ergo! After scores of failed recommendations from much-loved mama friends, I was hesitant to give it a try, but the Ergo turned out to be a spectacular carrier. Mine is this super awesome black-with-white-stars pattern:

Photo from Dec 2012

Between the two, I have the most awesome harmony of baby carriers. She's almost weightless, we're so in sync, I get so much time not in pain while she get so much snuggly time.

Photo from Nov 2012

As I carried one on my hip, the thought of the other in my "front carrier" filled me with excitement. I'm not done. I'm not done with the gorgeous green sling or the weightless, starry Ergo. I really miss babywearing.

My sling excitement spilled over into all kinds of newborn excitement. With Abigail asleep and my husband catching up on some work he'd brought home, I pulled up some resources I'd saved about cloth diapers after we lost the baby in the spring and got myself all worked up about how awesome it was going to be. Heck, I made myself a full-on Amazon baby registry, even though I'm not having a baby shower, my two kids will be the same gender, and will only be three years apart. I'm embarrassed to even admit that I even made a registry. I keep telling Matt, "it's just so I can remember what things I liked when I did the research. Pregnancy brain, you know?" Classic symptoms of newborn fever.

"Oh my gosh, Matt, look at how shabby-chic this crib sheet is! With two cribs, we're going to need twice the amount of crib sheets!" Add to registry.

"Matt! My friend so-and-so totally recommends this diaper sprayer when you do cloth diapering!" Add to registry.

"It turns out you need a baby insert when you have a newborn in an Ergo, Matt!" Add to registry.

"Remember how Abigail had all that Burts Bees Baby Bee stuff when she was born! Matt - remember how she smelled?!" Add to registry.

Is says a lot about his skill set that he was able to get his work done with his emotional, pregnant wife saying every five minutes: "Look at the pattern on these waterproof bags - SO CUTE!"

And then. Then, last night, my friends. I found an ultimate dream splurge. So here I am: on this crazy materialistic high, stoked to have a newborn, going research-crazy, emotional, hormonal, tearing up over velour cheetah print changing pad covers when I find this:


A HOODIE YOU CAN WEAR OVER A CARRIER?! Good Lord, save me now! I'm all, "MATT! I have to have this! Why the hell does it cost $70?! It's PERFECT! I LOVE it!" Matt is pretty sure I just Googled some sort of miraculous device that can take care of the baby, cook dinner, keep the cats from waking us up at night, and guarantee we'll win the lottery, and I'm all "BUT BLACK IS SO SLIMMING! Seriously, how many times did I say I wanted something like this with Abigail?! OMG, IT HAS THUMB HOLES!"

Goodness gracious. Pregnant women should not be allowed to shop when they're feeling all hormonal and nostalgic.


15 January 2014

The Pickiest Eater

To say that Abigail is a picky eater is to make a gigantic understatement.

Most moms of picky eaters bemoan, "He only eats chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti!" All I hear is: "my child only eats protein, calcium, whole grains, antioxidants, and, if I use the veggie-based pasta, fiber!" And usually, the list isn't actually that short. Usually the picky little eater will consume almost every kind of pasta, fruit, most breakfast foods (bagels, pancakes, etc), cereal, pizza, quesadillas, mashed potatoes, and every kind of dessert.

If Abigail's list was that long, I'd be in heaven. I'd never be complaining if Abigail got iron and protein from meat; I'd squeeze some spinach into anything with pasta; There'd be chopped-super-tiny peppers sneaking onto that quesadilla; The pizza would be homemade with whole-wheat dough, light on the cheese, and I'd compromise the pepperonis with some mild-tasting veggies hidden under the cheese.

Abigail eats eight foods. Not joking. I can even list them for you.

- Cheerios
- grilled cheese (only with sharp cheddar on store-bought bread without the crusts)
- pancakes/french toast (general speaking, it must have a generous amount of syrup)
- graham-style crackers (straight grahams, graham goldfish, animal crackers)
- granola bars (as long as they are the Quaker Oatmeal style - nothing sugar-free)
- most fruit, most days
- most desserts, most days
- fast-food french fries

Abigail will occasionally eat instant oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs, but she has to be very hungry and it has to have been awhile since she last ate them. And not that I'm complaining about the Cheerios, since of all cereals, that is a good one to favor, but just to demonstrate her pickiness, she doesn't eat sugar-covered kid cereals. Lucky Charms? Nope. Blueberry graham cracker cereal? One bite that was promptly spit out onto the floor.

She doesn't eat chicken nuggets. Dipping them in ketchup or ranch makes them even worse. She's eaten macaroni about three times in her life, each time downing a generous five noodles before signing, "all done." She doesn't eat mashed potatoes, even with butter and cheese and served on a goldfish cracker. I once got her to eat a bite of quesadilla at 2pm when she hadn't eaten since breakfast. The second bite was thrown directly on the floor.

I can add blueberries into the pancakes, but since she eats fruit anyway, I'm not very concerned about the extra fruit. I can sneak tiny bits of spinach onto the grilled cheese. It adds up to about one leaf per day.


I have tried everything. It doesn't matter if she "picks it out" at the grocery store, helps me prepare it, plays in it, feeds herself, or is spoon fed. It doesn't matter who feeds her, if there are kids around her eating without complaint, or if she hasn't snacked between meals. She couldn't care less if her mashed potatoes are smiling up at her from her plate or if the pasta is shaped like Hello Kitty. And she doesn't care how hungry she is. I've tried the "eat this or go hungry" technique. She didn't eat anything for an entire day. And then she didn't eat dinner for four consecutive days. One bowl of Cheerios for breakfast and a grilled cheese for lunch, no snacks and only water. For four days. She refused dinner. By the morning of the last day, she was so lethargic, she could barely get up off the floor. I truly believe she would starve herself rather than eat sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. She's two-and-a-half and weighs 21 lbs - it's not like she was living off fat stores.

I've researched my brains out. I've read the "picky eaters" section of every parenting book I own and a few from the library. I've spoken with all of her therapists, her pediatrician, and several nutritionists. I've tried everything. No matter what we do, we take one step forward and two steps backward. Every few months, I review her diet and it's worse than it was before.

About two weeks ago, I sat down at the computer during nap time and prepared myself for another round of research. She's been trying to phase out the Cheerios and grilled cheese and I was feeling desperate. When we come across a behavioral problem, I usually give the benefit of the doubt to, "she's a two-year-old, which means she's a pain in the ass" before I blame Down syndrome. But still, I thought I'd researched Ds and picky eating before. I would have put money on it.

I decided to do one quick "Ds and picky eating" Google search before I started looking through the typically developing websites and chat boards. Just one real quick, I told myself, annoyed even as I typed the words.

Mega Freakin' Millions Jackpot

I read about kids who make picky eaters look like hosts on those travel shows who eat fried locusts. Just. Like. Abigail. In fact, it turns out that in the world of Ds, Abigail is an advanced eater. I read about plenty of kids her age who are still on pureed food. At least half of the kids I read about had moms who would be just as jealous of that picture of Abigail eating a grilled cheese while holding it herself as I am of the moms whose kids "only" eat a laundry list of foods. Massive relief washed over me - I instantly called Matt to share the good news: we're normal! In our own little subset world of "not normal," we're normal.

The bad news: Ds and picky eating takes years and years of work; it is a one step forward, two steps back process for a really long time; we will have to fight very hard to take that one step forward - each. and. every. time.


But, hey, at least I can console myself with the fact that we're normal! And be thankful that we're not still on pureed foods.

I checked out a book from the library that came up a few times in my research. From a brief skim, I'm pretty sure we've already tried most of the techniques, but I'll give it a read anyway. And I also bought a tray to make my own popsicles - Abigail isn't the biggest popsicle eater, but I'm going to try to make my own veggie-based ones. Of all the nutrients Abigail is lacking, fiber is one of the biggest (as are good fats, but luckily I can get away with dipping crackers in peanut butter a few times a week and she drinks full-fat milk).


My basic understanding of why Abigail's a picky eater is that it's a very complex issue made up of lots of different complications.

- Abigail's life-long reflux probably turned her off to a lot of foods. Re-visiting your food when you vomit it up 12+ times a day will do that.
- She has really complicated sensory issues that I don't fully understand. To a large extent, she doesn't get enough feedback from the food in her mouth. (Generally speaking), she needs crunchier or spicier or sugary foods so that her mouth can accurately gauge how much food is in it and where it is.
- She's got texture issues. I'm not exactly sure what this is or how this works, but I figure it's related to her sensory issues. I do know both the sensory and texture issues are because of the Ds.
- She is a creature of extreme habit, be it because of her personality or the Ds. She does best when we are at home, eating the same foods at the same time in the same place. She does not eat much when we are not at home and she rarely eats when other people feed her.
- All of the above make her an extremely cautions eater. She must be very, very certain that all her foods look exactly like they should. She doesn't eat Cheerios that are broken or too thin. She doesn't eat graham cracker goldfish heads. Back when she used to eat regular goldfish crackers, she wouldn't eat the "fillets," by which I mean, if it broken in half, it went straight to the floor. She is very hesitant to try new foods, even if the closely resemble well-loved foods (I seriously thought the blueberry graham crackers would be a smash hit).
- Lastly, she is a toddler and a fair number of typically-developing toddlers are picky eaters.

I'm not exactly sure where to go from here. Because she is continue to develop physically and cognitively, most of her "medical personnel" are not concerned about her lack of slow weight gain. My main concern is that she is getting all of her nutrients and that we not revert her to a formula-based diet. I'll read this new book, we'll keep trying new techniques as we learn about them. I need to get myself involved in the Ds community up here so that I can learn from other people's experiences. And I'll keep charting out her diet every few months. Figure out what's lacking and do the best I can to fix it. The only thing I do know is that I'm not giving up. I'm never going to give up. We'll keep plugging away until we find success. Even if it takes years.


13 January 2014

Plans

Matt and I went out on a date night last weekend. It was our first in five months, which is kind of frequent for us, but I still don't think we get enough outside-of-the-house us time. Time when we can eat dinner without trying to feed Abigail hers. Time when we're not taking turns crawling on the ground picking up thrown grilled cheese bites or shifting salt and pepper shakers across the table as we swap Abigail back and forth to try to snag a few bites of food before it gets cold. This growing baby is reminding me that we have a ticking clock until adult-only date-nights become impossible again, so I'm already planning to squeeze in a few more before May.



*~*~*~*~*

Over the weekend, I had a lot of turbulent feelings about labor and deliver and I decided to jot them down after Abigail went to bed and Matt barricaded himself behind a stack of papers to get some work done at home. I am going to attempt a VBAC and my OB/GYN seemed supportive of my venture. But I was chalked full of anxiety and my seriously disorganized, tangent-happy writing reflected that fear. After I spilled my guts and re-read what I'd written, I realized how badly I needed more data, more opinions, more options. I commenced a Google research blitz, posted to Facebook about how empowered I felt, and found myself handed a bunch of new resources and stories of VBAC experiences by like-minded friends.

My anxiety is now confidence.

I realize with hindsight bias that my OB/GYN is not very supportive of VBACs, or, at the very least, a person who likes her patients to know very clearly about every single risk possible. She told me about failed VBACs like they were standard and what could happen if my uterus ruptured like she dealt with it on a weekly basis. My morale was crushed by the description of what labor would be like: me laying on my back hooked up to monitors the entire time. I wrote that I was worried another dramatic birth experience would leave me too emotionally scarred to have more kids.

A night and subsequent day of research turned up that a vast majority of VBACs are successful (74-80% was the most common range I found during my research), only .5-1% of uteruses rupture during attempted VBACs, I am an ideal candidate for a VBAC, and the whole "lay on my back hooked up to monitors the entire time" thing is not necessary, not recommended by some organizations, and totally my choice. I honestly didn't know I had that choice.

I'm feeling so much better! I have yet to present my case to my doctor, though, and I have a long history of caving in to medical advice. So I'm arming myself with two supporters. The first is my no-holds-barred, will-debate-anyone-anywhere, lawyer of a husband. He's going to do some research so he is more informed and will go with me to the visit when we talk about my birth plan. The second is (hopefully) going to be a doula to be with me during the birth. I want someone more educated and experienced next to me to help me parse out the doctor's advice when I'm in the throws of labor pain.

It's a fine line to trod, I think, the doctor's advice line. On one hand, she is an educated, experienced professional, and it is in her best interest to do everything she can to keep me and my baby alive. On the other hand, her opinion isn't the only opinion, even among educated, experienced professionals. It's up to me to do get those other opinions, do outside research, and have discussions to figure out what works best for my family.

It can be a lot of work, especially when you already have a child with medical issues that you have to thoroughly research.

But I am going to proceed as best I can.

In the meantime, I'm feeling really good about this whole delivery process.

*~*~*~*~*

I feel so blessed to be pregnant again. I felt wildly disconnected from Abigail while I was pregnant. But when she was born, I fell so quickly into a deep, instinctual love, and I felt like such a selfish fool for wasting nine months of kicks and cravings and ultrasounds. I'm not wasting it this time around. The kicks mean more, the indigestion means more, the back pain means more, the freaky ultrasound skeleton face means more.

20 weeks along:

I also did some research on breastfeeding success and am really looking forward to getting to try again. I hated formula-feeding Abigail and would love to be one of those moms who rarely even pumps. Thankfully the hospital I'll be delivering at is incredibly pro-breastfeeding and has lactation consultants available everyday.

I feel much more confident about bringing home a newborn, mostly just because I know how this baby-stuff works. I know how I want the apartment to be set up for the baby's first few weeks home. I know what carriers I like and how to use them. I know that I can turn down visitors in order to heal. I know what supplies newborns use the most and how handy it is to keep a few receiving blankets in every. single. room. Even though I'm sure the two girls will be different, I know how to change a diaper, that it's okay if baby cries for a minute, and that babies don't break when you pick them up.

In terms of fears, I am worried about how I'll adjust to less me-time. As it stands right now, I usually get 1-2 hours in the afternoon and 2 hours at night. I rarely do chores while Abigail sleeps, partially because she's a light sleeper and partially because my me-time means enough to me to get dishes done and laundry folded while she's awake. I'm going to lose that and I know this. I just don't know how much I'll lose and how to adjust.

I'm super excited to get to re-do the things I fumbled with Abigail. Like the baptism. I had planned to have her baptized at the hospital when she was born (precaution against heart defects), so I didn't have a fancy baptismal gown or a beautiful Rosary or anything. But as I was in labor, the priest changed his mind and decided that we needed to do a baptism at church during Mass (still a bit of a sore spot for me). So we did one when she was 11 days old, but I didn't have enough time to prepare, so I still had nothing. She was baptized naked and dressed in a regular outfit afterward. There was no party afterward, no cake, no celebration. In the Catholic church, baptism is a Big Freakin' Deal and our actions did not reflect it one bit. I feel like I butchered the whole thing.


Lesson learned. This time around, I plan to crochet a gorgeous baptismal gown. I will make a way more awesome blanket to become The Blanket (poor Abigail fell in love with a dinky little thing I whipped up with leftover yarn because her other blankets were too big for her tiny body). I will buy high-quality washcloths and towels because typical baby washcloths and towels are thinner than the things I use for rags to clean the tub. I got a free changing table from my sister-in-law during a garage clean-out, so no more changing babies on the floor once they outgrow the pack n' play attachment. Feeling good about the do-over part.

More positively, I am super-excited to make traditions out of some of the things we did with Abigail. Like a mommy-daughter snow globe with her name etched on it.


The elephants have a special meaning and I'm excited to see what our new little baby's special animal will be.

And newborn photos when she's a few weeks old - I really treasure the ones I have of Abigail. And Big Boy for breakfast our first morning home from the hospital (Big Boy and my family have history - it's a long story). And an engraved Christmas ornament for her first Christmas.

There's a lot to be excited about and sometimes I feel like I can hardly wait. 22 weeks down, about 18 left to go.

09 January 2014

Christmas on a Budget, Part II

Part I can be read here.

I like homemade Christmas gifts because, well, I enjoy making things, but also because I feel like I can give people higher quality things for a cheaper price. For example, a pair of men's washable wool hiking socks can run $15-$20/pair. Homemade men's washable wool hiking socks will save you $3-$8/pair depending on how great the yarn sale or coupons.

A fun perk of homemade gifts is that you can give seemingly odd things without looking weird. For example, if you hand someone a pair of socks, it's all, "Oh, thanks for the socks. Now where's my real gift?" But if you hand them homemade socks, well, that's a different story.


I just realized that the completed sock and the display yarn are two separate colors. The completed sock was part of a set that went to my dad and the display yarn was for as-then unmade socks for my father-in-law. Homemade socks were a big hit as my dad is perpetually cold and my father-in-law loves not getting more junk to clutter up his house. Both spend a fair amount of time working outside, so the socks (which also layer well), should provide ample warmth. And you can totally crochet while watching movies on the couch.

I find kids gifts to be way hard. So I have eight nieces and nephews under eight and they already own pretty much every little animal play set, train set, car set, baby doll set imaginable. They have more clothing and the girls have more hair accessories than they could ever wear. We love books, but not many 4-year-olds get excited when they get a book for Christmas. Plus there's the jealousy issue. Same-gendered, close-in-age kids need similar toys and I'm never sure whose favorite color of the moment is pink and whose is purple. I'm sure I'm putting way to much thought into it at this point, but I'm that kind of person.

Last year, I made all the kids their own crocheted blankets. It took me all year (I honestly started in January), and crocheted through two moves and three states (FL to MI to IL). It was not a very inexpensive year, but I wanted it to happen bad enough to subsidize the Christmas budget with my own spending money (the "allowances" that we budget for ourselves). This year, that wasn't happening. But I needed something that could live up to last year's epic awesomeness. It took a week or so of brainstorming, but I finally came up with the perfect solution.


Super. Hero. Capes. Inexpensive, quick, simple, reversible super hero capes.


At 3/4 of a yard per side, these guys don't take a lot of fabric. (They actually use way less than 3/4 of a yard, but you have to cut them on a fold, so there was a lot of extra fabric. Maybe a better seamstress could have gotten away with less, but I'm not that talented). I got a bunch of sateen when it went on sale and avoided making any emblems to sew on (save labor plus materials!) Plus these capes are incredibly fast to make. It was seriously a weekend project to cut, sew, and iron on a velcro neck closure on EIGHT super hero capes. It would be an excellent beginner's project, as there are no complicated twists in the project. I used a free pattern I found online and just cut the older kids' capes a bit longer.

Maybe I should have ironed before I snapped the picture?

I avoided the jealousy issue with a sneaky little maneuver: all the girls have hot pink on one side and a unique color on the other (even across families), so they can all sport their hot pink to be on the same team or the unique color when they're on opposite sides. The same holds true for the boys with red. Not only does saying that distract them from their jealousy, but with two sides, one of them is bound to be good enough to top a sibling. (Note, I made very sure the "gold" and "silver" capes did not end up in the same family. In the store, there were distinct gold and yellow colors, but when we got home, the yellow sure looked gold next to the silver).


I chopped up a cardboard box that delivered presents from Amazon to fold the capes around, wrapped them in some tissue paper we had lying around, then wrapped them in the brown paper leftover from last year. So I didn't spend a dime on wrapping supplies. I think Matt told me that it came out to under $10 per kid.

The only exception was the five-month-old baby. I made him a crocheted blanket (since he wasn't around for one last year) and I made Abigail a cape so she could join in the fun.

I know next year is going to be much tougher to make gifts with a second baby scooting around, but I do already have an idea floating around in my head for the kids that should be pretty doable. Either way, I've pre-written in my planner on August 1st to start brainstorming/planning the gifts so as to avoid this year's mega crunch, and in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my nieces and nephews flying around the room saving one another, whether or not anyone needed, or wanted, saving.

07 January 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside

As much as I'm a home-body, when I do drag myself out to social events, I almost always end up enjoying myself. I leave feeling fat and ugly, positive I could get more done at home, but I come home feeling connected and confident. But no matter how awesome an event, I need a few days at home to re-charge my batteries. I read somewhere once that introverts find human interaction taxing. It's true for me. Enjoyable, but taxing. Like exercising, I guess.

The last four days were light-hearted, pleasurable, and serious RBA depositing days. But exhausting. Our first play-date with new friends from our new church in our new town. The big ultrasound reveal. A family reunion with relatives we hadn't seen in a year or more. A family Christmas party with the in-laws during a record-breaking blizzard. My in-laws (two adults + five kids under eight) spending the night and following day with us because record-breaking blizzards make for nasty roads and windchill factors of -30 make for vans that don't start. Way fun events. But way exhausting too. Abigail didn't nap for three days straight, didn't go to bed early, and didn't sleep in late. By the time we woke up this morning, my "emotional connection side" was overflowing with love, but my introverted side was screaming: barricade yourself inside and don't look at another person all week! So I love you all, but I plan to not cross the threshold of my front door until Saturday.

Except tomorrow when I have to go grocery shopping. Damn. Maybe I'll use the self-checkout?

At least today went according to plan. The roads today were still too treacherous to travel, so Matt called into work (he got yesterday off, but the courts were back open today) and we turned our last snow day into a mid-winter cleaning day. Abigail was thrilled to be home, playing with her own toys by herself, eating her favorite foods, and sleeping on schedule.


We took down Christmas decorations, cleaned out the fridge, scrubbed the kitchen, washed or vacuumed floors (Matt even moved furniture!), laundered blankets, sheets, towels, winter coats, clothes, caught up on the dishes, cleaned bathrooms, and mapped out meal plans. We sorted through the mountains of papers and mail piling up in the few remaining kid-free spaces and squeezed out a bunch of random little projects, like taping up the binding on Abigail's well-loved board books. To say it was a very productive, and much needed, day would be an understatement.

I love that my second trimester is perfectly lining up with the doldrums of January and February. I couldn't craft a more perfect time to get projects done: we're stuck inside with no major plans and I'm feeling (relatively) good. That list of projects I'd hoped to complete before May? It's looking good.

In the meantime, we're bundled up in layers and rocking hiking socks and slippers. Cause it's so cold outside that our fleece-lined curtains are frozen to our plastic-covered windows.



03 January 2014

Ultrasound results

After a two-hour, level-two ultrasound we have a clean bill of health. As clean as you can get in an ultrasound, anyway, which is pretty decent. The doctor pushed really hard for genetic testing. I don't want to know. I want to know things that could put the baby's life in danger during labor, but I don't wanna know about anything else. "Oh doctor, I learned my lesson! Abigail's two and can't use a spoon on her own yet - let's just abort this one." After having gone through everything with Abigail, I don't know why anyone would want to know. Let me just live out this pregnancy and enjoy every kick. I'm going to have to start walking into appointments and introducing myself, "Hi, I'm Jacqueline, and I'm one of those pro-life freaks who hate abortion even in cases of rape, incest, and Down syndrome."

End rant.

It's a GIRL BABY!!! With 100% certainty. And I got the clean heart pictures : )

02 January 2014

Resolutions

The end of the holidays and the beginning of a new year is one of my favorite times of the year. It's resolution time! We spend the 31st reflecting on how far we've come and what we didn't yet accomplish. Now I'm embarking on this here 28th year of my life (right? Because when you turn an age, you're completing the year you just lived? So if I'm 27, I'm in my 28th year of life? Oh geeze, I majored in English, not math. Anyway), this here year of 2014: what do I want to see on its December 31st? I try to set personal, family, and spiritual goals. I wanna read 24 books this year. I wanna find more weekend adventures like we did in Chicago. I wanna go to daily Mass once per week. I love to-do lists, goal-lists, resolution-lists. I write them down in my planner and refer to them throughout the year.

Because it's easy to loose track of goals I set six months ago, I also like to set short-term goals. I have a list of things I want to do before the baby is born. Namely: I want to drag all the baby clothes, toys, stuff out of our "storage unit" in my parents' basement, sort through, and wash everything. Then I need to clean out Abigail's closet (the only space in my house that is not perpetually organized) so I have room to cram more clothes, toys, stuff in. Lastly, I need to get a toddler bed and re-arrange her room to make space for two kids.

Sometime during the doldrums of February or March, when we're weary of the snow, slush, and ice, feeling claustrophobic and cabin fever-ed, I'll start this project. A nesting project I never got to do with Abigail because we were too busy moving. If all goes well at tomorrow's ultrasound, I'll get to settle down and prepare a room, prepare a big sister, prepare a tangible space in our home for the baby who is half-way done with my womb. And I am so, so, so looking forward to the mundane normalness of the entire event.

*~*~*~*~*

I went to Michigan State University for my undergrad degree. (Do you all know where I'm going with this? ; ) I am proud to say I am an alumna of the Michigan State University College of Arts and Letters. My husband is also a graduate of Michigan State University (James Madison College). We're big Spartan fans. We visit the campus when we're in the area (we just did last weekend, in fact), and my husband rather closely follows football and basketball. I am very proud to say that Michigan State won their bowl game yesterday - the 100th Rose Bowl and the last Rose Bowl before the major rule changes take effect. We're pretty stoke fans over here and we just want to say congratulations to all the players, coaches, and support system that made this year's ultimate victory possible.

*~*~*~*~*

If you can remember tomorrow to say a brief prayer for our baby, I would be very thankful. This time last pregnancy is when the Baby Heart Saga began. I want to log on tomorrow and have the only news I announce be a gender. (Or that we're having twins. I would really like to have twins this time, actually, and even though the early ultrasound already ruled that out, I'd be okay with announcing that news). So, yes. And feel free to cast your votes on a gender in the comments. I've had a two dreams, one in which the baby was a boy, and last night, the baby was a girl. I have a sneaking suspicious that the baby is a boy, but I also thought Abigail was a boy. Matt and I are fine with whatever gender - and will be okay if the baby is unhealthy - but if God was like, "Hey, you guys pick," we'd both pick girl. For the record, most people who've told us their vote have suspected a boy.