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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Most Important Things

At the time that this post goes up, I will be in Springfield (Illinois) preparing to attend a funeral service for my great-grandmother, who passed away last week. She was just shy of celebrating her 89th birthday and while my heart absolutely breaks over this loss for our family, it helps a little knowing that not only did she live a long and full life, but she is also reunited with her husband, who we lost several years ago.

It's losses like this that remind me to stop and look around at all that I have in my life. 

I'm blessed with an incredible family that loves each other unconditionally. I've known plenty of people who aren't that lucky and who struggle to get along with their families and that only makes me appreciate mine more. And in addition to the family that I was born with, I have also married into a family that is full of the same love and support and they have welcomed me fully. I know undoubtedly that this little baby growing in my belly is already so adored and will never be lacking when it comes to love.

I'm not rich and I certainly don't work at my job because it pays so great, but what it lacks in financial benefit, it makes up for a million times over with the joy it brings to my life. Don't get me wrong, it has it's days. I don't think anyone could work with kids and not have moments where they go home feeling mentally, emotionally and physically drained. But then something happens. You witness the exact moment that one of those kids that has been exhausting you suddenly understands something for the first time. The moment they light up because they did something they didn't know they could do. From my personal experience, this year I got to watch a little boy go from hating books because he struggled to read, to falling in love with a series and getting stronger and stronger everyday because he and I were practicing his reading for a short period almost every afternoon. Things like that make my job worth every bad day and every paycheck that seems way too small because I could swear that I worked 3,000 hours last week, not 30.

I'm healthy. Before getting pregnant, I had developed habits that helped me be in the best shape of my life, both with fitness and with eating habits. And throughout my pregnancy, even though I haven't been working out nearly as hard or as often as I was before, I have still maintained a decently active and well balanced lifestyle and I think that shows pretty clearly in how well this pregnancy has gone. I've felt great, I've gained only what I should and not any extra and most important of all, this baby has been healthy and strong and growing perfectly. I'm not perfect. I spend days lounging on the couch with my dog and only getting up to eat or use the bathroom (aka every 20 minutes or so). I eat junk food and occasionally eat way more than I should. But I also spend days walking and doing yoga and stretching and lifting (light) weights. The majority of my "cravings" have been for salads and watermelon and apples and other fruits and veggies. And even when I eat something unhealthy, I always do my best to balance it out with something good.

I have a home. I may complain about my neighbors and the fact that my roof vent occasionally allows water to leak into our roof. I may want to move onto a different place at some point in the future. But I still appreciate every single day that I get to wake up in a nice warm bed, snuggled up with the best dog in the world (and sometimes the best husband, but he leaves for work so early). I know that at the end of a long, difficult day, I have my home and my little family waiting for me. Too many people don't get to have that feeling and I am thankful to be someone who does.

It's times like these that remind me of all that I am blessed with in my life. It helps me to remember not to focus on what I don't have and to be grateful for what I do have. My life isn't perfect or without it's challenges, but it's a wonderful life and one that I wouldn't trade. I can only hope that I will be lucky enough to live it for as long as my great-grandma got to live hers.

Monday, June 27, 2016

28 Weeks; Pregnancy Favorites

As of Thursday, I'm officially 28 weeks along in my pregnancy and have entered my third trimester. I have also entered the denial phase because how is it possible that I am reaching the tail end of this pregnancy thing. Which is exciting and terrifying all at once because it means I'm oh so close to meeting this baby of ours, but it also means I'm oh so close to no longer getting to feel baby kicks and hiccups. And having the excuse to show off my growing belly without a trace of self consciousness because no, I'm not fat, I'm growing a human and it's glorious! And since I don't have much to report in terms of newness, because I'm feeling as great as I have been for several months now, I thought I'd reflect on the things that I have been absolutely loving during this whole pregnancy thing.

1. Baby kicks, flips and hiccups; Seriously, I can't fathom how anyone could not love feeling their baby move. Every kick, even the less than comfortable bladder, rib and hipbone kicks, are the greatest things in the world. On more than one occasion, I have stopped whatever I'm doing when the baby starts wiggling around in there so I can sit down and enjoy watching and feeling the moves. Best. Feeling. Ever.

2. Healing powers of baby; I might be insane and making this all up in my head. It could be a coincidence or just the fact that I am so busy feeling grateful and excited that it has diminished my normal amounts of stress and, by extension, things that normally come from that stress. But throughout this entire pregnancy, two things that are normally regular occurrences in my world have been strangely and blissfully missing. My dear friend, anxiety, is the first. When planning this pregnancy, I actually worried the most about my anxiety and expected to battle it more than ever since, you know, huge life change. And yet other than the expected hormonal mood swings and emotional melt downs because my dog stopped cuddling me and I wasn't ready for her to leave me, I haven't had an actual anxiety attack since before the plus sign appeared on that little stick back in January.

The second thing that has somehow disappeared is my acid reflux. I've had stomach problems for the majority of my life. Ulcers at the age of 10 and in their wake, acidic stomach aches whenever my stress levels are high or I eat the wrong thing too close to bedtime. Typically, depending on what's going on in my life and how well my diet is at that time, I tend to have these stomach aches at least one night a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less. And since it's a common pregnancy symptom, I just knew that they were going to be more frequent. And yet here we are, 12 weeks away from my due date, and I've had exactly one stomach ache. And I fully blame myself because I know that Cocoa Pebbles before bed is a bad idea, but I wanted the baby to move around so the husband could feel it. Other than that... nothing.

3. Cold and crunchy things; Fruits. Veggies. Pickles. Popsicles. Ice cubes. Whatever. I haven't had much in terms of cravings and that is pretty disappointing, but this is the one thing I have had. There was a day that I sat down and ate half a bag of lettuce like it was a bag of potato chips. And for a couple of weeks, I thought I was going to turn into a watermelon because I couldn't stop eating it. Lately, I've been a big fan of putting ice and maybe a little lemonade in the blender and making a slushy of sorts. Sometimes it's just blended ice. Sometimes it has a little flavor, but not much because I really just want all of the slushy ice. I couldn't say for sure, but if it was Winter I think I'd just go eat handfuls of snow.

4. Maternity pants; Just a heads up to any woman who has never been pregnant. If and when the day comes that you are pregnant, if you're anything like me, you'll try to make your normal clothes fit for as long as possible. Because maternity pants are weird, right? And expensive. Except they're not weird at all, they're glorious. Still expensive, but I strongly suggest stalking Old Navy and Zulily - the pair of jeans I wear the most often are adorable, comfortable as hell and only cost me $15 on Zulily. I'm not saying go out and buy maternity pants the second you find out you're preggers. But once you start your normal jeans getting tight and difficult to button up, get you some maternity jeans. And leggings. And whatever other type of pants/shorts you need for your life. Because the moment you pull them on, you will wonder why anyone wears regular pants.

5. All the pillows; Another heads up to anyone who plans on becoming pregnant. The second that you find out you've got a baby on board, get yourself a body pillow or pregnancy pillow. Don't put this one off because one night you will be fine and then the next night, you'll try to go to sleep and your legs and hips will suddenly be your worst enemies. I tried to make due with a regular pillow between my knees for a few weeks, but it just wasn't cutting it. My body pillow is my best friend at night and the extra pillows that I have close by are the rest of our posse. Without them, my legs start throbbing and my hips ache and it's the only thing that has messed with my sleep up to this point. The pillows even saved me from a sleepless night during that one night with acid reflux. Seriously... pillows are the best. Your significant other and pets might not love all of the pillows since they provide a fortress around you that is impossible to break through... but they will have to deal because the alternative is you waking them up a million times telling them to move because they're touching you and you hurt! Speaking from experience here. So just trust me on this one and get yourself the body/pregnancy pillow and create your own pillow fortress.
6. Izzy snuggles; Admittedly, these are my favorite things all of the time. She's the best snuggle buddy in the world. But more and more lately, she chooses to cuddle up next to my belly because she knows something is happening in there. While she used to sleep every night nestled up against my legs, often nudging them into the perfect position to create a nest for herself, she now heads straight for the belly and curls up against it. She does the same thing when we're cuddling on the couch, laying her head on top of me whenever she can. It's sweet as can be and I know she's going to be the best four-legged big sister ever.

Monday, June 20, 2016

why we're not finding out

I have to be honest. After six months of pregnancy and, especially, three months of being publicly pregnant, I have started to cringe whenever the question of "do you know what you're having?" comes up in a conversation. Of all things pregnancy related, I never could have guessed that this would be the most controversial subject. And yet it has been.

We don't know whether this little one is a boy or a girl. We have no intentions of knowing before the make their debut into the world and the doctor announces that we're the parents of a (insert gender here). I do have to give credit to my incredibly supportive husband - he wants to know. He's only accepting not knowing because it means so much to me.

Other people? They have very vocal opinions. There is no middle ground that I've noticed when it comes to this subject. My answer to that question is always met with either shock and disbelief or complete excitement. No more, no less. I guess what truly gets to me is the fact that I never imagined that I would have to justify my choice. But that's exactly what I've had to do time and time again, to family members, friends and even strangers, I always have to explain how on Earth I could possible want to wait.

Let me begin by telling you a little about me. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of becoming a mom. When other little girls were dreaming of their fairy tale weddings or how they'd make their big career goals come true, I was daydreaming of my life as a wife and mommy. I've always felt that I was born to have children, to love and care for my family. And in all of those daydreams, it was just a given that I'd find out whether my little miracle was a boy or a girl in the same moment that I met them for the first time. There's never been a question of "if" in my mind.

Now let me answer some of the questions/comments that inevitably come up when I'm met with the shock and disbelief of those who can't understand my choice.
How? You're crazy! I'd never be able too wait!;  It probably helps that, as I mentioned, it's never been a question for me whether or not I'd find out. I've always wanted to wait. I haven't had so much as a moment of reconsidering. It's no more difficult for me waiting to find out their gender as it has been waiting for him/her to be born - which is to say, of course, that I am counting down the days. But not knowing isn't driving me crazy - if anything, it's just one more reason to be excited for the day when I finally get to meet this baby.

How will you know what to buy/how to decorate?; My husband and I often joke that we'll make our decision about whether or not we want more than one baby after we see if this first one is a terror. But truthfully, our intentions are to have at least one more. So rather than having a room full of gender specific clothes and decorations that we may not be able to use if/when we have another baby of a different gender than our first, we'll have plenty of neutral items that can be reused. I'm 96% sure that our baby isn't going to come home, look around their room and scoff that it isn't decorated with pink flowers or sports stuff.

And along those same lines...

How is anyone else going to buy you anything?; I get it. You're at a store and you see an adorable, gender specific outfit that you'd love to get for us as a gift... but you have no idea what we're having. All I can really say to that is you'll know in a few months and can buy all the cute outfits you want. But until then, you'd be amazed at how many gender neutral items are available and completely adorable. I would know... I have registries on Amazon & Babies-R-US that are stuffed full of everything you could dream of getting for us if you want to help/spoil our little one.
In the end, what you really need to know and understand is that not finding out is the decision that I have made and while you certainly don't have to understand or agree with it, it's not going to change and I would greatly appreciate if you at least respected it. Because thanks to the well intended "teasing" questions of "why are you doing this to me?" and "what is wrong with you?", I have grown to absolutely dread being asked about gender. I internally cringe and prepare myself for having to defend my choice and I don't think that any pregnant woman should have to defend something like that. It's a personal decision and it's the one that we have made and that is all that anyone truly needs to know.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

This year, Father's Day has a whole new level of meaning here in my world. This year, in addition to celebrating my own dad and my father-in-law, I get to celebrate the man that this little person in my belly will call "Daddy". The man that, for the last several months, I have watched fall in love with someone that he hasn't even met yet. This year, I get to celebrate my incredible husband, the father of our soon to arrive child (and of course, the father of our four-legged child).

When we got married, it was difficult to imagine that I could ever love him more than I did in that moment. And then he walked through the door on the night I told him that he was going to be a dad and the moment I saw him, my love grew. I could already picture him in a million memories that we haven't even begun to make yet. I could picture him with our baby in his arms. I could see him running around and making our child giggle. Teaching them things that I never could. And since that day, my love has continued to grow more and more and once again, I can't imagine how I could ever love him more. But I know that I will. I know that the moment we bring our precious miracle into the world, the moment I see him holding him/her for the first time, it will happen again.

So Happy Father's Day, my husband, my best friend, my partner in all that life brings. I love you more than words could possible express and I cannot wait to see the amazing dad that you're going to be to our baby.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

27 weeks of pregnancy

It's safe to say that lately, my favorite day of the week has become Thursday's. It's the day that I get to wake up and check the baby apps on my phone to see how big our little one is this week and all the new ways he/she is growing and developing. Today is no exception - we're currently the size of a head of cauliflower. Or a Fennec Fox, since one of the apps I use shows us adorable animals when comparing sizes. That's my favorite.

Since today happens to be Thursday and I am 27 weeks and entering into my third trimester (seriously... where has the time gone?!), I thought it would be a great time to catch you up on what my pregnancy has been like so far.

Getting here; My husband and I started trying to conceive last year around July/August. It was my big hope that it would happen right away so that I'd be due when Summer began so that I wouldn't have to worry about missing work for maternity leave. Of course, it didn't work like that. I spent month after month tracking, trying, hoping and praying and month after month, I felt the disappointment when I felt the telltale signs that we were not successful. Around Thanksgiving, I decided to shut off notifications on the apps that were tracking my fertility so that I could focus on the holiday season without stressing constantly. Apparently, that's the magic touch needed because sometime in the few days surrounding Christmas, we got an extra gift that we wouldn't know about for a couple more weeks.

I found out that I was pregnant on January 12, 2016. I was denying it and trying to ignore signs for days. For months, I'd gotten myself worked up and created symptoms out of nothing. The same thing had to have been happening now. Even the delay in the period seemed to happen every month because I was stressing too much about it. But because I am who I am, I just decided to buy a test and take one so that I could see the negative and stop the wondering. When that plus sign appeared, I can't even explain the feeling. Shock and relief and excitement and words that don't even exist to describe the level of happiness I felt. I very literally started skipping around my house and telling our dog, Izzy, that she was going to be a big sister and I was going to be a mommy to a human baby. I fought the overwhelming urge to call my husband and my mom immediately because from the beginning, I had a plan of how I was going to tell my husband. I had to wait three long hours and act normal during a phone call when he was on his way home. It was almost impossible. But when he walked through the door, Izzy was wearing a t-shirt saying "I'm going to be a big sister" and I had the positive test behind my back. It took him a minute to realize what her shirt said, but when he did, he was so excited. We're going to be parents. This is really happening.

Pregnancy itself; I honestly feel like thus far, I have been incredibly blessed. The worst of my symptoms happened in the first few weeks after finding out that we were expecting and even those were mild. I spent about two months feeling like I could fall asleep standing up, my boobs were sore and I couldn't eat anything that was super greasy or flavorful. I got sick here and there, but it wasn't an all day or even an everyday thing. And all of that disappeared like magic when I crossed into the second trimester. I've felt fantastic. Actually, I have said that I think pregnancy has made me feel better than I did before. Most women suffer from heartburn - I am typically prone to acid reflux and figured I'd be one of those women. I've had it exactly once during my pregnancy and I blame myself for eating super chocolaty cereal right before bed. I also tend to be a very anxious person and yet, I've been free of anxiety attacks. I'm not immune to bursts of hormonal emotional break downs. Those mood swings are regulars around here. But actual anxiety induced freak outs? None.

I keep wondering when all of these awful symptoms are going to appear. Part of me thinks they're waiting until the end and then they're jut going to pile on. But as of 27 weeks, pregnancy has been amazing. I feel good and beautiful and amazed at the things my body is capable of doing. I am in awe every single time I feel a kick or a wiggle in my belly, confirming again and again that there is a human life growing inside of me. And if you're someone who struggled and had a difficult time during your own pregnancy, I promise you that I don't take mine for granted. I thank God every day for how lucky I have been. I would face every symptom I had to in order to get to the day when I get to hold my precious little one in my arms, but it doesn't mean that I am not incredibly glad that I haven't had to face much so far. I hope I continue to be this lucky, but if not, it will be worth it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Return to Blogging

Well hello there! I have to admit, it feels odd sitting down in front of a computer and typing out a blog post. It's been over a year since I last did that. I used to blog over at The Growing Up Diaries, a blog that I started when my husband and I were first engaged and looking for a house to buy. Writing has always been a source of relief from anxiety for me. I was pretty consistent over there for about two years, but then our wedding happened and I was working two jobs and, well, life happens. Writing started to feel too much like a chore to me and I just disappeared from the blogging world. 

Several times since then, I've sat here staring at a blank computer screen and tried to find the desire to write. It just didn't seem to exist in me anymore. I think that sometimes, we just need to walk away from something for a while to remember why you loved it in the first place. 

So how did we get here, today, to me creating a new writing space? I'd say that my biggest motivation behind my decision is the major life changes that my husband and I are about to face. As I type this out, I am one day shy of being 27 weeks pregnant with our first child. He or she (we're not finding out gender) is due to arrive and change our world in September and I have never been so excited for anything in my entire life. I'm going to be someone's mommy. My husband is going to be a daddy. And with big changes comes a never ending stream of thoughts and emotions that I desperately need to talk about. And since I'm fairly certain that even my loving hubby is getting sick of me talking about all of the emotions all of the time, I needed an outlet. 

Plus, I truly did miss writing. 

Since this is a brand spanking new writing space for me, I thought I'd introduce myself by using one of those lovely Facebook ABC's of Me posts. So let's get started!

Addictions: Pizza. And coffee. I cannot live without either. 

Bed size: King - anything else feels tiny now!

Chore you hate:  Cleaning the bathtub! 

Dogs or cats: Dogs! I'm terribly allergic to cats, unfortunately. But my dog, Izzy, is my world!

Essential start of your day: COFFEE! Cutting back during my pregnancy has been the. hardest. thing.

Favorite color: Typically, I say pink and purple, though it does change depending on my mood. Teal/aqua has been my obsession lately, especially since that's the accent color we're using in Baby's room. 

Gold or silver: Silver or white gold

Height: 5'6"

Instruments you play (or have played): None! I wish I could play guitar or something, but I have just never had the patience to learn.

Jobs titles you've had: Food service worker, cashier, cosmetics sales manager, elementary library assistant and elementary teacher assistant. 
Kids: I have my furry child, Izzy - she'll be 4 in August. And then little one is on the way in September!

Live in: Northern Illinois. No, not Chicago. 

Mom’s name: Mary

Nickname: Nothing that I go by regularly, although if my husband had it his way, it would be Jam-Jam... but probably only because it drives me crazy when he calls me that. 

Overnight hospital stays: Aside from when I was born, I stayed twice when I was 10 thanks to stomach ulcers. 

Pet peeve: Rudeness and judgmental people. I just don't understand the reason people treat others negatively. We're all humans. 

Quote from a movie: "Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow to be butchers, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jell-O salad. One way or another, though, every human being is unique, for better or for worse." - Matilda

Right or left handed: Righty

Siblings: One brother and one sister, but I have gained multiple brothers-and-sisters-in-law who are absolutely wonderful. 

Time you wake up: It varies right now since I'm off work for the Summer (perks of working at a school) but usually around 6:00am. During the school year, it's usually around 5:00am.

Underwear:At this point, whatever is comfortable. 

Vegetables you dislike: Onions. I like their flavor when cooked into things, but hate the texture so I never eat the actual onion!

What makes you run late: My husband. My anxiety causes me to be insanely early for everything. 

X-rays you’ve had done: Aside from dental x-rays, I had them done when I broke my finger when I was little and when I was in the hospital when I was 10. 

Yummy food you make: Italian beef. Or basically any of the meals I make in my crock pot... I love that thing. 

Zoo animal: Penguins and monkeys are my absolutely favorites. 

And with that, I must bid you farewell. Until next time...