28 April 2015

Juice

I love it when blogs I follow regularly share exciting news. It's like this little juicy fruit reward for all the "I crocheted this" posts (I apologize - that last was was pretty long) and "Here is a blurry shot of my kids hugging" pictures (sorry about those). I also get this street cred pride: "I followed you before this exciting event that is attracting a lot of attention!" I like to think that I'm pretty liberal with the juicy tidbits - whether good exciting or bad exciting, I've had two babies, one miscarriage, more cross-country moves than I care to count, a car wreck, some surgeries. In four years. My life feels boring on a day-to-day basis, but when I look back, I realize that my life is actually kind of nuts-o. And today, I'd like to add more juice.


We're pregnant.


I'm going to take a moment to let that sink in. With you and with me. I've known for two weeks now, but I'm still in complete shock. It was very unexpected, unplanned, and I'm a little...how should I say this...totally freaked out and completely not ready on any level.

We've already told immediate family and a few close friends, but I haven't posted it on Facebook yet, so in a way, we haven't really gone public. I'm still processing it and this post is necessarily going to ramble because I need to ramble - I have to get all my thoughts out there before I can make sense of them.

A few quick data points. I'm 10 weeks along. I'm due in November. Eleanor and this baby will be 18 months apart.

We did want to conceive in 2015, but I was hoping to get pregnant in November or December, not deliver. In 2014, I had a baby. In 2015, I'll have a baby. And in between those two babies, I had kidney surgery. Eleanor only started sleeping alone three months ago. She only stopped nursing about two months ago. I was just starting to feel like myself again. I'm totally not ready to get swallowed back up by those crazy, tumultuous newborn days. Matt and I have committed to going on a date once a month until this baby comes. We want to make as many deposits into the "us" relationship bank account as we can before we have to start drawing down on it again.

My pride is taking a big hit too: I was so proud of my NFP prowess. "Two planned babies in seven years," I could confidently tell naysayers and healthcare providers. "Clearly I've got this." Well, guys, I don't got this. Breastfeeding way changes things. And clearly the Postpartum NFP guide that served us so well after Abigail wasn't enough for us this time around. We're going to go see an NFP councilor at the six week mark.

It took us a while to get pregnant with both girls and now, just, bam! What the heck, body? Also, both planned babies were born in May and both this baby and the baby we lost are/were due in November. Nine months before May and nine months before November, Matt and I need to sleep in separate bedrooms.

Of course I am as sick as a freakin' dog. That's actually how this all started. I thought coffee wasn't agreeing with me, so I cut it out of my morning routine, but then I was crazy tired. After a few days of all-day exhaustion, I started adding this caffeinated flavor concentrate to my water that I'd gotten on a good sale + coupon match up. But then I started getting massively nauseous, so I thought maybe it was too much caffeine. I then thought that I might not be getting enough salt in my diet (because that happened to me once in Florida), so I decided that when Matt got home from work, I'd run up to the store and get some Powerades. I announced that I was going to get a pregnancy test too, because while I was 100% certain that I was not pregnant, I just didn't know what else to do. As I grabbed the pregnancy test and headed over to the sports drinks, I started second guessing the need for the test. "I'm sure I'm not pregnant. This is a waste of money. I should just drink Powerade for a week and see how I feel after that." But I bought it anyway, and when a little blue plus sign appeared in the window, the very first thing that crossed my mind was, "Uh oh, my test is broken." It took a good 10 minutes of Googling "False positive pregnancy tests" before I finally let the realization sink in.

Blood work and an ultrasound have since confirmed that little plastic stick.

While I've been totally freaking out, Matt has mysteriously been rather calm-headed about everything. He suspected pregnancy when the nausea hit. All the "Life is about to very drastically change" stuff has me in a near panic. But I think there is this mysterious dance that married couples can pull off that when one person is freaking, the other is calm. When I start to calm down, he'll probably get his own freak out. But right now it's hard to imagine being so okay that I'll be able to calm Matt down.

Two kids fit neatly in the same lifestyle that fits a newly wed couple. Two carseats fit in a sedan. Two baby beds fit in a the second bedroom of a two bedroom apartment. Two booster seats can strap on to the two empty dining room chairs that come with a four person dinner table. But three kids? This is the big leagues. We're gonna have to buy a second vehicle. One with third row seats. We're gonna have to buy or rent a house. We're gonna need to upgrade somebody to a big girl bed. I'm very excited to be launched into "real family life" stuff, but I'm super anxious about the whole "Matt's job is not permanent" stuff. That is the only reason we don't already have a house and second car.

The last thing that keeps me up worrying is the community response part. I already get "you're too young to have kids" and "your hands are full!" comments quiet regularly, and I've even gotten a "your kids are too close in age" comment about the girls (the commenter didn't even ask how far apart they actually are). After all the shit I've dealt with about Abigail, I'm not at all worried about what snarky comment Mrs. Busybody at the grocery store can throw my way. I'm worried about the people closer to me. I felt so much love and support when I was pregnant with Eleanor. Friends from all three states threw love our way, people volunteered in droves to make us postpartum meals. Once I hit the third trimester, if I ever missed our regular Mass time, the next week, old ladies I didn't even know would come up to me: "I've been following your pregnancy and when you weren't here, I thought you had the baby!" I've heard many, many stories from friends who lost that support when they passed the acceptable limit of two kids. If this baby is a boy, I'm sure I'll never stop hearing about what a perfect time it would be to stop.

I know that when I'm totally freaking out about being pregnant, it sounds crazy when I say I want more. But I seriously don't think three is our limit. I just think we'll make sure we really "got" NFP enough to put a little more distance between three and four.

So that is all the shit I feel on my plate right now, in raw, stream-of-consciousness form.

I am excited. How could I look at Eleanor's cute baby chubs and not be excited that soon there will be another? Just because I'm totally freaking out doesn't mean I don't already love the tiny heart beating inside me right now. We're already talking names, Godparents, what kind of SUV we're going to get (we're not minivan people), and if we want to find out the gender. Emotions comes in waves of "How can I possibly be pregnant?!" and "Woo, family life!"

I went to the OB/GYN last week (my doctor told me I was good for business) and got a prescription for anti nausea meds. I didn't get any with Eleanor until the day before she was born because I wanted to be natural about everything. But I can't this time. Sea bands help, but the ginger pills never have. I can't be a mom to a 3-year-old and 11-month-old when I'm puking in the toilet every day. Between the daily supplements, the sea bands, and the meds he gave me for the break-through nausea, I'm down to two nausea spells per day and no vomiting.

The doctor said there is no reason why I shouldn't expect another successful VBAC.

I'm going to spend this summer trying my hardest to get Abigail a little more independent. It'd be great if I could get her out of diapers and if she could get herself dressed. And we'll get serious about the house issue in June (after the wedding). Our apartment lease expires at the end of July. I'm praying Matt gets a permanent job nearby and we buy a house. So much to plan and do. But it feels really good to have gotten it all out there. Thank you for listening.

23 April 2015

Weddings and Anniversaries

There is a great fun in preparing for a wedding when one is a bridesmaid: the buying of accessories without pulling money from my own wallet.

When Matt's sister first got engaged, Matt and I sat down and created an estimated expenses list - dress for me, dresses for the girls, tux for Matt, a wedding gift, the bachelorette party, etc. Then we divided that number by the number of months until the wedding, rounded up, and started saving. I told Matt, "We're going to need to budget money for me for shoes." I assured him through his protests that brides have shoe requirements.

Normally if I wanted to buy, say, a shall for a formal event, I'd have to fork over the money from either my free spending money or my clothing budget. (We budget allowances for ourselves for non-essential purchases). But when the bride orders a shall? The wedding budget pays for it. Matching tights for the girls? The wedding budget. "Matt, I have to get a pedicure. Your sister wants all the bridesmaids to get mani-pedis the day before the wedding." The wedding budget.

Obviously it's not a total free for all; I mean, if we only budget $30 for shoes, I can't sashay around the store pretending I'm Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman. But that pair of $30 shoes feels free to me. 'Cause my personal wallet will be $30 heavier.

Amongst the feelings of delight and freedom I get with a little guilt-free "cha-ching" of a cash register ringing up my purchase, is a wonderful feeling of security and love for my husband. All this "make a budget, stick with a budget" stuff? Totally Matt. He makes serious, detailed budgets, and keeps them constantly up-to-date. Ever since I met him. He had budgets for his car, his entertainment money, his savings. He budgeted Prom, for crying out loud. We had no wedding expenses to cover after we walked down the aisle. Christmas never goes on a credit card. It's almost always a lot of hard work to stay in budget, and it often means making frustrating sacrifices (one car, remember?). We don't have much, but what we do have is carefully tracked. But it has it upsides. It's a wonderful feeling, the security that comes with having a husband who excels at providing.

We're celebrating seven years of marriage on Saturday. Usually we try to do something new and different on our anniversary, and this year we were hoping to go on a for-real hike. A couple of miles, varied terrain, stopping for a picnic. Something we haven't done since we had kids almost four years ago. But dreary weather has closed up all outdoorsy options and there is just so much going on right now that we decided to enjoy something low-key instead. A board game store (we got addicted last year), a movie where we'll spring for *gasp* movie theater popcorn! A romantic dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, picking up the kids and getting them settled in bed, then a night of gaming with our new game.

I'm really, really looking forward to it all. In the comfort of knowing we can afford it.

The Bride Who Is About to Be with the Bride Who Was seven years ago. I made all the girls buy new shalls too. Silver sparkly ones.


17 April 2015

Gettin' Crafty

Today was absolutely gorgeous (think 70 degrees with light breeze), but I was feeling a bit under the weather (I'd like to take this moment to thank post-Spring Break preschool for sending home another wave of illness), so I opted to work through the pile of almost-finished projects that had become a veritable mountain on my crafting table.

I way prefer to work on the "meat" of a project while I find tying up loose ends tedious, so usually when I finish the crocheting part of a project, it gets tossed aside so I can dive head first into the next. But I really needed to clean off my work space for a new project I was excited to start. So, one-by-one, I weaved in ends and threaded ribbons. Easy work to do while sitting on the floor while the girls play.

Project #1: A flouncy skirt (crocheted) for Abigail made with leftovers from this afghan. I made up the pattern as I went, referencing this book for the shell-like ruffles. The waistband is just a ribbon left over from Eleanor's baptismal gown.


Project #2: An uber warm poncho/shall that I started during the winter. It's made with two strands of wool (and one strand of regular acrylic yarn) cabled (knitted) up for extra warmth. I'd envisioned using it over a carrier so neither I nor Eleanor would need a coat. I find coats with carriers to be obnoxiously cumbersome. But it's way too warm now to use (*cough* 70 degrees *cough*), so I guess I'll have to pack it away until the fall. This project was crazy expensive and crazy time consuming, but I seriously hope it lasts me the rest of my life.



Project #3: I put the finishing touches (toggles) on a vest I crocheted Matt shortly after Christmas. He has been wearing it in the meantime.


Okay, so finally my work space was clear and I could move forward with my new project: two maxi skirts.

I hate shorts. I hate the way they look on me. I hate trying to find pairs with an inseam longer than toddler's shorts. I was the girl in high school who wore jeans all summer long. And while I've found a few pairs that aren't the worst thing in the world (I couldn't wear jeans in Florida), they are at the end of their rope and I'd rather go swim suit shopping than shorts shopping at this point. So last fall, as I sorted through which pairs were good enough to be saved for next summer, I decided to try wearing skirts and dresses during the next heat wave.

Through the winter, I've stalked ThredUp, picking up a few pieces here and there, but I wanted to add to my collection with a few flowy skirts - I was thinking light, summer maxi dress material in a skirt. I decided to sew them because I'm crazy like that. I wanted a super easy pattern (elastic and zippers scare me), so I tried Googling DIY foldover waist maxi skirts. These patterns would be like, a dime a dozen, except they're free. I settled on this one because it said: "This skirt can be completed during nap time, it's that quick and easy!" I was like, "During nap time? I can do during nap time." So when Eleanor went down, I locked Abigail, Frozen, and myself up in my room and went to work. (She doesn't have preschool on Fridays.)

You have to be creative when you don't have a TV.

I found the pattern earlier this week, so I ran up to the fabric store one night after the girls went down. I'd planned to just get enough for one test-run skirt, but when I saw the summery striped one, I couldn't resist.


I didn't have a rotary cutter, mat, chalk, or hot pink thread, and I couldn't get any (washable) writing utensil I owned to show up on the fabric, so I just eyeballed everything and used white thread on both skirts.


And truth be told, I did finish both skirts during nap time! I did not hem them, though. The tutorial was all "the hem is hard, make sure you iron!" So I was all like, "jersey knits don't fray, right?" Plus the white thread would have shown on the pink one's hem and that would have been rather tacky. ('Cause no hems isn't tacky). Honestly, I don't know if I will ever get around to hemming them. We'll see.


My ideal skirt mirror was in the room where Eleanor was sleeping, so here I am standing on my bed to model it.

I really like the way the skirts came out - comfortable the way sweat pants are, but super light weight. Plus I finished two of them in the time it took Elsa to discover how to control her powers. I discovered the only downside when Matt got home from work.

"Babe? I have good news for me and bad news for you."
"What?"
"I can see the lettering on your underwear."

Hmmm.

For the striped fabric, I really wanted the stripes to run vertically, but the grain of the fabric demanded to be horizontal. So I compromised with a horizontal waistband and vertical skirt. It worked quiet well. Except for the see-through part. Any ideas?


Last thought. Because these were my test run skirts, I got a little extra fabric (but then I didn't screw up, so now I have enough to make Abigail matching skirts!), but if I got exactly enough, I'd need 1.5 yards. Assuming they are not on sale and I use a 40% off coupon, the pink skirt would be $8 in material and the striped one $11 (not including tax). I think those are good prices, but not mind-blowingly good. I really wanted to whip up a bunch of $5 skirts. I'm going to keep an eye on the flyers and do some searching online to see if I can find some on a better sale.

Because if I can figure out the see-through issue, I totally prefer these comfy, flattering numbers to a pair of shorts.


14 April 2015

Humility

Sorry for the hiatus, my friends. There are three weddings on my husband's side of the family all between last Saturday and June, and in-between those weddings are two birthdays and our anniversary, so my weekends are jam-packed.

Last week was Abigail's first Spring Break. I knew it was going to be difficult for her, as she loves school and doesn't understand what a vacation is. I planned a few activities, including a trip to the zoo and a large park, but it rained almost every day, so not only did we not get to go to the zoo, we couldn't even take a walk outside. I used to vow that I would never become one of those parents who dreaded school breaks and counted down the days to the end of summer vacation, but I totally understand them now. It isn't that they can't handle their children, it's that their schedule undergoes a complete upheaval. Eleanor, Abigail, and I are all used to the days having a certain routine and when that routine is changed in a major way, it affects everyone. When Abigail goes to school, that is our quiet time. Eleanor gets some one-on-one attention for a while and then takes a nap. I get time to finish quiet projects or pure personal time. But when Abigail goes away to school, she gets gobs of physical activity. Her classroom is actually two rather large rooms that are together about the size of our apartment. And one of the rooms is an indoor playground - balance beams, trikes, cozy coupes, and lots and lots of open space to run. It's a toddler's (and physical therapist's) dream. So when she gets yanked out of loud, run, fun time and dropped into quiet baby nap time, it's tough on everyone.

So my book went live last week. When I hit the "approve proof" button that launched me into The Real World, I had no expectations for how the sales would be. I had no idea what was normal or good, so I just didn't expect anything. So I can't really tell you how sales are going, but I can tell you about the reception. It's humbling. And flattering. And humbling.

Just one week after we went live was the first family wedding, and it was a big one. My mother-in-law is one of nine, and every last aunt and uncle (born or married in), are open, loving, and warm. The kind of people who give big, genuine hugs every time they see you. The kind of people who follow your kids on Facebook. The kind of people who are happy for you or sad for you or pray for you, whenever you need it. And they raised or are raising families of friendly, compassionate children who carry on the spirit of the family with every holiday. The kind of family a girl dreams of marrying into. Especially when she does something big, like publishes a book.

The first thing off everyone's lips last Saturday: "Congratulations!" "Your an author!" "Will you sign my copy?!" One uncle even showed me how it's his top most-looked-up book on Amazon and how he wants to buy a half dozen copies and give them out to people.

I am not used to being this loved.

It's humbling.

It was like the first stop on a book tour.

All I could think was that I'm not good enough to produce something people should be spending their hard earned money on. I'm a mediocre writer at best. I feel like I'm putting on a big show and hoping no one sees through the facade: "What?! This girl can't write! Kick her out of the family! Never trust her again!" This is how I felt when I opened Sheep 'n Co. Don't spend your precious money - I'm not good enough!

I think it's so incredible to have this reaction given our society's insistence that we are all beautiful individual snowflakes with something meaningful to contribute. Write your amazing thoughts on a blog! Post photos of your beautiful life on Instagram! Fill Twitter with your witty, insightful mind! Everyone is amazing! But when you rush past the curtains and out onto stage, standing in the spotlight with your arms spread wide and the audience starts clapping, your stomach starts churning. Are they clapping because I'm good? Or because I'm a joke?

Someone handed me a pen: "Will you sign my copy? Make this one out to Auntie Jeanie" What am I suppose to write? I can't just write Auntie Jeanie, Jacqueline. I have to say something. What are you suppose to write in a book? He shook my hand and looked me straight in the eye. She hugged me and whispered in a voice thick with emotion, "Thank you for being brave."

People are taking me seriously and I feel a lot of responsibility. To be eloquent. To say the right thing. To make people feel that they didn't make a mistake in trusting my story. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48). I appreciate that I'm appreciating the gravity of the responsibility. I am appreciating that in the midst of my success, I am feeling humble.

08 April 2015

To Look Back is to Find Peace

Eleanor can stand on her own for a few seconds and is one heck of a furniture cruiser - she'll probably be walking by her first birthday. And once she walks...there won't be much adorable crawling. She started crawling around seven months. To be done by her twelfth? That only gives me five months of the adorable stage that is crawling - pig tails bouncing, chubby thighs scooting.


Sometimes when things are really frustrating, because, say, a certain someone is no longer interested in potty training. Or it's raining during all of spring break and ruining all the get out of this tiny apartment before we all kill each other plans. Sometimes when those things happen, it's beneficial to the soul to look back at all time that has passed and enjoy the good memories you've built up.


And when I'm wildly frustrated that we're still stuck in this ridiculous apartment when I want a house so bad it hurts...that is a good time to reminisce.


We weren't even married yet when that top picture was taken.

I think looking back helps me realize what's important. Helps me refocus. First kitchens, first cars, first pets. What do I miss the most about the Jacqueline who took those photos? What did she have in her life then that I want back? What did she keep or change that I need to appreciate more?





Life is good even when it's hard. And there's always something I can improve upon when it seems like everything is out of my hands, even if all I improve is my attitude.


06 April 2015

Trends

I am prone to helicopter parenting.

We're in this "hate on helicopter parents" trend right now, so now I'm all desperate to keep my helicopter parenting a secret. Except for the part where I blare it on the Internet. Matt and I took a long walk this evening, filling the girls up with fresh air, and we passed a group of boys, somewhere in the 8-10 age range, playing on the railroad tracks, which, of course, run along side a creek. As soon as I catch sight of the boys, I gasp. I'm all Oh my gosh, they are too young to be out here! Would they stand far enough away from the tracks when a train comes by? What if one fell into the creek! That boy didn't even look both ways before he ran that scooter right into this road! I'm honest-to-goodness playing out in my head what would likely occur if someone really did get seriously hurt. Would that nicer looking boy with the striped shirt run home and tell his mom? Would the one with the mohawk peer pressure in the injured kid into keeping it quiet? Please tell me 8-10-year-olds know what to do in case of an emergency!

There are always trends that are easy to buck and trends that draw us in. I am so not tempted by the crop tops and geometric patterns that are currently filling up the display windows at the mall. I don't feel guilty that my three-year-old gets screen time regularly, and I feel no pressure to whip up organic snacks for my kids. In fact, today's thought process went something like this: It's afternoon snack time...Hmmm... Whole wheat crackers? A grapefruit? A bag of M&Ms? By the way, you only need eight teeth to take down an M&M.

But then other trends...like skinny jeans and boots? Shirt dresses? When flares and long, layered shirts started to go out of style, I just about panicked. And then there's helicopter parenting. When our bank opened up a local branch, I came away with a fistful of the free hand sanitizer they were giving out. I do not let Abigail touch a single toy in a doctor's office waiting room. We do not go to parties where there are sick kids. She holds my hand when we walk across the parking lot of our apartment complex to the car. I don't even think it's a special needs thing. I think I'd hover over Abigail no matter what and I think I'll treat Eleanor the same, even though she's not the first born. It just meshes with my personality: perfectionistic, over-achieving, obsessive. I don't think the kids getting sick will help build up their immune systems (if it did, then why do I catch everything Abigail brings home?), I do think it's bad for the kids to eat dirt, and I give my kids medicine when they have upset tummies.

And when they are somewhere in the 8-10 range and want to roam the neighborhood with their friends, assuming my ploy to just stay in our backyard and invent a game with the toys in the garage fails, I have a feeling I'll be trailing along behind them with my binoculars, rocking my so-last-season jeans and Pantone's color-of-the-year nail polish.



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