2012: A Life Changing Year

It’s hard to believe that almost exactly a year ago we found out that Sammy would be joining our world. Looking back, 2012 had some fun pre-Sammy highlights: ringing in the New Year with my family in Seattle, a tour of Dave Ramsey’s headquarters during an awesome trip to Nashville, a beautiful excursion in Ireland that included two nights in a Ritz Carlton suite, and months of preparation for the arrival of our little man. But my favorite part of 2012 were the final 17 weeks, starting with this moment:

Baby's First Photo

Baby’s First Photo

The day after Sam was born doctors told us there were some things wrong with him. As his mom, I cried quite a bit those first couple of weeks because I just wanted him to be healthy. I spent more time in doctors’ offices since Sam’s arrival than my entire 33 years. He had just about every part of his body scanned and poked, but thankfully he’s growing and developing perfectly. Every Friday at 10:07 am my iPhone beeps letting me know that my son is another week older. I spend a few minutes reflecting on this wonderful and perfect gift I’ve been given.

week 1

Every week we take a photo of Sammy in his crib with a clipboard declaring his age. It’s amazing to see how much he’s grown.

week 5For the first six weeks of his life he wore a Pavlik Harness, which you can see in his week 5 photo. He had to wear it 24 hours a day so correct his hip, which wasn’t securely in socket. This meant no baths, no pants and no kissing his sweet little toes. I remember how glorious it felt when they took his harness off for a few minutes at Shriner’s hospital and I was able to hold him without any straps or Velcro in the way.

week 10By week 10 doctors switched him to a Rhino Cruiser which he only wears at night. Doesn’t he look good in pants?

week 15It’s been amazing to watch him learn and change. He loves to smile and see other people smile. He’s figuring out how his hands work and seems to have a growing interest in his feet. He really only fusses when he’s sleepy or tired. Otherwise he’s a happy baby who has brought so much joy to our lives. I’m not really sure how I lived so many years without him but I’m incredibly thankful to start 2013 with little Sam in my life.

 

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Nesting Like It’s My Job

Sammy's NurseryOn top of my duties as a writer I’ve taken on another job: nesting. I started way back in March when my baby was just the size of a plum and now on the eve of his arrival I can say that I think my to-do list is down to just a few items. (The main one being pack my bag for the hospital.) I hear that not everyone gets the urge to nest, but I definitely did. Back in the spring I started cleaning out closets, one-by-one, sorting, purging, organizing, scrubbing. And perhaps my favorite part, labeling.

Once the closets were done I hit every other space in my house. We even removed everything from our kitchen cabinets, scrubbed them, put down shelf paper and carefully put everything back. To which my sister says, “who does that?”

Then I started working on the nursery, researching, planning, assembling, styling, rearranging. I put my coupon skills to work to become an expert on diapers and wipes. (My threshold for diapers is 10-15 cents and for wipes it’s a penny.) I now have 791 diapers in various sizes and 1,336 wipes ready to go.

My nesting didn’t stop there. Starting in late July I began a freezer meal plan. Once or twice a week I doubled a recipe and put the extra in the freezer– labeled of course– with specific instructions on defrosting and heating. We installed our car seat bases and had them inspected by EMS workers. We interviewed pediatricians. I even have about 50 jars of baby food in my pantry, which were about a nickel each thanks to coupons. I’ve put anything that isn’t nailed down through the washing machine and even cleaned the inside of my dishwasher. Even that one has me wondering, “who does that?”

Sam's LettersIn terms of work, I’ve been adding extra to my plate for three months so that I could actually take a maternity leave. Since I’m self-employed my boss (yes, that’s me) isn’t required to give me one. But, thanks to my kind editors, perhaps the biggest weight off my shoulders is knowing that I can take time off and I will still get paid because the work has already been completed.

I partly blame Pinterest for my onset of pregnancy OCD and partly my excitement. I just want to be able to give little Sammy my complete devotion. I want to soak up every moment without worrying about running to CVS for toothpaste (I’ve got ten tubes in my stockpile) or to the grocery store for paper towels (there are 22 rolls in the basement.) I would never be so bold as to say I’ve got it all together. I know enough to know that there’s plenty I don’t know. And that’s OK too.

I’ve heard a million times that once my baby arrives I won’t even have time to shower. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be an exception. Because of my enthusiastic prep work, perhaps I’ll be able to enjoy my new baby and an occasional shower. But I guess if I have to give up the shower I will survive.

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Tim’s $250 Office Makeover

What do you do when you’ve organized every closet in your own home, cleaning it inch-by-inch inside and out? You head to your husband’s office and get to work! More than seven years ago my husband moved to the US from Ireland, sat down at an empty desk and started working as the COO of publishing company Ambassador International. He didn’t change anything in the office. He didn’t even open most of his desk drawers to see what was inside. The book border, the fake plants– it was horrible! Take a look:

Here’s a tour of the transformation:

Tim's Office MakeoverFor starters we got rid of the book wallpaper border. Yay! Tim painted one accent wall black and the others dark gray.

Tim's Office Makeover

Tim’s desk ended up being our favorite feature in the makeover. He really liked the size of it and we didn’t have room in the budget for a new one so we painted the sides off-white using paint we found in our basement at home and stained the top in a very dark stain. The total cost of the project was $10. The chairs were pulled from another room in his office and I think they go so well with the new space!

Tim's Office MakeoverThis is the view if you are sitting at Tim’s desk. We finished the ugly filing cabinet in the exact same way as the desk. The verse is Romans 12:12 and we used paint we already had, a 40% off canvas from Michael’s and a tube of blue paint we got for $1.

Tim's Office MakeoverHere’s a closer shot of the filing cabinet. Tim literally had never opened some of these drawers in the seven years he’s had the job! The two lamps came from Ikea, $20 a pop. The little silhouette is our dog Milo done by a local artist.

Tim's Office MakeoverWe also hung some white floating shelves, another Ikea find, and styled them with old books and framed photos of New York City from an old calendar. We also painted some bookends he had with that same $1 blue paint.

Tim's Office MakeoverWe left his ugly bookshelves pretty much the same. We did put black and white contact paper on the back of them in a chevron pattern. Then we styled them with accessories like these cool West Elm plates we got on clearance for $2.97 each. These shelves hold every book ever published by Ambassador International over the last 30+ years.

Tim's Office MakeoverThis was our biggest “splurge” for the room. I found this cute little cream couch on Craigslist. She was asking $75 but we talked her down to $50. It fit perfectly in the back of our car! I made the pillows using leftover fabric from Sam’s nursery. The rug was only $20 at Ikea and covers a big stain on the carpet very well!

Tim's Office MakeoverOn either side of the window we hung two of these “book” shelves. We got the idea from the Charlotte West Elm store and since we have no problem getting our hands on free books this project only cost as much as the brackets which were a couple of bucks at Home Depot. The little letter plates were also on clearance at West Elm for $2.97 each.

Tim's Office MakeoverTim absolutely loves his new office. And sometimes I even work from there too, sitting on the couch. In all we spent about $250 which included paint, the couch, a rug, three vases, two lamps, two floating shelves, a pencil cup, about a dozen fun plates, a canvas, wall brackets and renting a carpet cleaner. We had a blast doing it and I feel great knowing my husband has an inviting, stylish setting to spend his work hours.

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PUPPPS: It’s Not Cute or Cuddly

Have you heard of PUPPPS? I hadn’t either until they started showing up on my arms. It’s the most common pregnancy rash and one lucky woman out of about 150 gets to experience it. According to my online research 70% of the women that get it end up giving birth to boys so the belief is that it has something to do with your body trying to get rid of male fetal hormones.

I won’t scare you with photos of my PUPPPS, but if you’re brave you can Google it. But let me warn you, it’s not pretty. Mine first started showing up last week. It was an innocent cluster of blisters on my forearm. I showed it to my doctor and she said casually, “oh, it’s PUPPPS. Not much you can do. Just get some Benadryl to help with the itch.” I didn’t think much of it until the PUPPPS started expanding, spreading and intensifying. It spread on both arms and then to my thighs.

Have you ever had the chicken pox? Yeah, this is a million times worse. I’ve been allergic to bug bites my whole life (I once returned from summer camp with 200 bites on my back.) So I’m no stranger to intense itchiness. I think that has helped me mentally overcome this, but there have been moments of weakness, sobbing sessions and lots of prayer. After two days of the rash getting worse I called my doctor’s office and they told me to get Zyrtec allergy medicine. I think the worst part about PUPPPS is that the common medical belief is that there is nothing you can do– it will just magically disappear once you have the baby. But when your adorable baby isn’t likely to show up for another six weeks the thought of that leaves you feeling utterly hopeless. Six weeks of laying awake in the middle of the night covered in ice packs? Six weeks of not being able to focus on anything but the itch? Six weeks of looking like someone threw boiling water over your body? That just wasn’t good enough for me. So I started researching it.

Here’s what I have tried so far:

  • Drinking decaf green tea once a day which is supposed to help liver function. (Your liver is responsible for getting rid of toxins from your body.)
  • Drinking V8 juice once a day. (Again to help the liver.)
  • Grandpa’s Tar Pine soap. (Something other women recommended. You can buy it at a natural market for about $4. It smells like a campfire and I scrubbed several times a day with it.)
  • Various creams and anti-itch remedies. (Benadryl and Neosporin seem to work the best for me.)
  • Covering my body in baking soda paste. (This was often my mom’s remedy of choice when I had a bad bug bite as a child. It does offer temporary relief.)
  • Ice packs. (These are my saving grace in the middle of the night to dull the itch.)
  • Zyrtec. (Taken once a day at my doctor’s recommendation. I didn’t think it was working, but then when I didn’t take it one day I realized that it had in fact been working!)
  • Silver spray. (I got this at the natural health market and it naturally kills germs, reduces redness and stops itch. It really works, but I used up the $15 bottle in two days.)
  • Aloe vera gel. (I think this works, too to stop itch, soothe skin and kill bacteria.)
  • Dandelion root pills. (This supposedly is a miracle worker for many women. You take two pills 2-4 times a day and it helps your liver.)
  • Upping my water intake. (I figure this can never hurt and will help rid my body of toxins.)
  • Prayer. (I literally feel too weak to deal with this on my own so I had to give the burden to God which helped me feel much better emotionally.)

I’m happy to say that my PUPPPS appears to have stopped spreading. And some areas are actually healing! My shoulders are almost completely healed and other areas of my arms are showing improvement. My left leg is the worst and yesterday walking was painful because of how inflamed and swollen it is. Today it is not as bad. I think the most important thing is that I have hope and believe that this will go away in a few days.

One woman on one of the forums I read said she would rather give birth without pain medication 100 times than to go through PUPPPS again. That makes me wonder if this will end up having a positive impact on delivering my baby. After all, pain and discomfort has a lot to do with perspective. If you’ve never gone through adversity, tough situations can seem worse. It’s also reaffirmed once again that I have the most amazing, supportive husband and when he tells me he would take this for me in a heartbeat if he could I truly believe him.

I truly hope you never have to go through PUPPPS. But if you do, don’t lose hope. Try everything you can to get those toxins out of your body and be encouraged by the one good thing about PUPPPS– it almost never appears on your face.

 

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Pinterest Strikes Again! Foggy Headlights Disappear

Don’t you just love Pinterest? Last year we paid someone $40 to try to clean up our 1998 Audi’s headlights. Anyone that drives an older car knows this can happen. It’s not a huge deal, just makes the car look dingy. So when I saw on Pinterest that you can clean them with toothpaste and a rag I was skeptical. But then I tried it. Here are the headlights before:

Audi headlight before

I put toothpaste on a rag and polished them in a circular motion for a few minutes,  then wiped it off. I did this about 3 times on each headlight. Here’s the after shot:

Audi headlight after

My husband was so impressed with the change. But then again, he’s a car guy and he gets impressed by these sorts of things. I will probably have to do it once a month or so, but it’s way better than paying someone $40 for a similar result! What awesome tips have you learned from Pinterest lately?

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Handmade Travel Art for the Nursery

In just over nine weeks our little bundle of joy should be arriving! I think we have the important stuff ready to go. In fact, all you really need to bring your baby home from the hospital is a car seat. Beyond that, it’s all just icing on the cake, but I love frosting so I’ve been pulling together lots of little details in the nursery. The “theme” for Sam’s nursery is travel, a passion of my husband’s and mine. A while ago I came across this adorable embroidery art by Etsy artist Jennifer Allevato.

embroidery art

She also does these lovely state art pieces that I fell in love with!

state art

Using this as my inspiration I decided to try making a few of my own. I made one of Iowa (where I’m from), one of Ireland (where Tim is from) and one of South Carolina (where Sammy will be from!). I used fabric scraps from my collection. Vintage buttons from a huge stash that my mom gave me last summer mark the exact location of home (Sioux City, Belfast and Greenville).

nursery embroidery art

They’re definitely not as good as Jennifer’s but I think they turned out pretty cute. I think I paid less than a dollar for each embroidery hoop and everything else was free which makes my total investment in this art project about $3 and a couple of hours. Plus they are handmade by me which makes them even more special, right?

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The $50 Chevron Nursery Rug

I’ve been on the lookout for a rug for the nursery. The room isn’t very big so I just wanted a 5×7 or 5×8 in some sort of bold pattern. I thought about getting this one from Dwell Studio. It sells for $275 but over Memorial Day weekend they were having a 20% off sale so I could have purchased it for about $225.

nursery rug idea

I also thought about this cheaper one from Urban Outfitters. The Zig Zag rug is only $79 for a 5×7.

nursery rugBut then I came across another option while shopping at Home Goods. It’s a golden yellow and off-white chevron rug. I thought the color may have been a little off, but I knew I could have returned it if necessary and the price couldn’t be beat: $50! When I got it home I was pleasantly surprised. It’s perfect!

Nursery Rug

I think the color looks great with the crib sheet and the wood floors. It would also work in other rooms of our home which is always a selling point for me since I seem to constantly be shaking things up and moving stuff around.

Nursery Rug 2

And you just can’t beat the price– $50! I did spend $16 on a rug pad to add some extra cushion and help the rug stay in place. I’m so glad I didn’t spend $225 on the Dwell Studio rug a few weeks ago. I have plenty of other ways I can use the $175 I saved.

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