Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mailbox Remodel

The mailbox we had at our house when we moved in was cute at first. It had a unique look, and I could see how it worked with the style of our house. Other houses in our neighborhood had the same mailbox, so I didn't think much of it.



After a while, it became evident that the mailbox wasn't very useful, though. The back of it had a keyhole, but the previous owners didn't have a key to it. So, it wouldn't lock. If the mailperson dropped a lot of items into it, the weight of the mail could hit the back and cause it to slightly open on its own (since we couldn't lock it to keep it shut). Because of the flap on the front and the bad seal on the back, rain often got inside. During freezing weather, the back would get ice on it and freeze shut, so I would have to stick my arm through the flap on the front and punch the back, so that it would swing open. A couple weeks ago, a reimbursement check sat in there for a while on a rainy day, before I could get to it, and the check was ruined. We had to call the sender and ask for a replacement. How did the previous owners live with it like this for so long?!?

After the check got ruined, that was the last straw. Over time, many of our neighbors have gotten custom brick or stone mailboxes installed.  I saw one around the corner that I liked, so I approached the neighbor and asked them who they used for the construction. Even though it had been seven years since they bought it, they still had their original invoice. I called the company they used, and much to my surprise, their quote was exactly the same as it had been to my neighbor seven years ago!  That, and the fact that my neighbor's mailbox still looked great after that much time, motivated me to employ their services.

They came out and looked at the brick on our house and determined that they could still find that same style. We got to choose what top we wanted on the mailbox, and also if we wanted numbers and where they would go. The actual mailbox insert would come from us, so we purchased this one from Lowe's.  The first day, they removed the old mailbox and its base, and poured the foundation for the new one. (We used this opportunity to get the new mailbox installed directly over our curb-painted numbers. It had previously been off-center).




The second day, they finished all the construction. It looks awesome!  I was very impressed with their work and happy with the cost. It's SO much nicer to walk out to the mailbox now, knowing my mail is secure and dry in a locked box.






Project Costs:
Mailbox insert: $100
Brick Construction, stone top, numbers plaque: $1,200

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dutch Turns Three


I know every parent says this for each of their child's birthdays, but seriously - I can't believe I have a 3 year old!  He's really growing up and it's hard to process. When I'm dressing him in pants is when it really hits me. I know that sounds weird, but to see just how long his legs are now really reminds me that he's not a baby any more. He was crying recently because he woke up startled from a nap, and Meezy tried to comfort him. He picked him up and tried to hold him in his arms, and Dutch just didn't fit anymore. It made me sad.

To commemorate Dutch's special day, I planned a big party for friends and family. I can admit that I went overboard, but if I'm going to spend time and money on something, why not let it be my kids? They're my life and my legacy, so I'm not going to apologize for the things I do for them!  A couple months ago I decided that the main attraction at the party should be a petting zoo. I figured Dutch and all the other kiddos would enjoy seeing and petting all the cute animals, and maybe some of the adults would too!  I booked a large zoo for a Sunday afternoon, expecting for it to be set up in our side yard next to Dutch's playground. I figured that would be a great way for kids to be able to have two outdoor areas side by side to play in.  As the day of the party grew closer, the weather forecast grew worse. Much to my dismay, I had to reduce the size of the petting zoo (and the number of animals), so that it could fit inside our garage. The rain and cold weather necessitated the move indoors, but it ended up working out just fine.  Big thanks to A One of a Kind Pony Party for being flexible and working with our situation.









As you can see, the kids had a great time!  It was pretty crazy to see my garage transformed into a farm. Luckily the company cleaned up very well and it was spotless when they left. It only smelled like a farm for one day after the party was over. :)

For the theme of the party, we decided to go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dutch is obsessed with them lately, so we figured he would get a kick out of seeing them all throughout his house. Here's what I did:



When guests arrived, they were encouraged to suit up like their favorite ninja turtle! We provided masks, bracelets, and strips of cloth to tie around elbows and knees. On the welcome table, I also placed the artwork I commissioned a friend of mine to create. Dutch's favorite TMNT is Michelangelo, so I had my friend put Dutch's head on Michelangelo's body. The results were incredible! Dutch's mouth dropped when he saw it, and he gets excited every time he looks at it! "I'm a Ninja Turtle!"




The artist is a wonderful illustrator and graphic designer, and he is crazy talented with caricatures! You can contact him here. I highly recommend him for creating custom masterpieces at very affordable prices.

In this area, I also set up a shrine to pay homage to Dutch's hilarious quotes from over the past year. The kid has a knack for making us laugh and sometimes says quite inappropriate things, so I figured it would be fun to share them with the guests!


A couple of my favorites: "I have a cry on my cheek. Cry went in my mouth."  "I'm trying to do this, butthole." "Don't touch him too hard, mom, or he'll break."

To continue with the TMNT theme, I decorated a lot of items with masks.




That was a cute and easy way to make everything TMNT-related, without having to buy the officially licensed TMNT party supplies. Plus, I kinda think my stuff looks cooler! I also prepared a fruit tray and a veggie tray, made to look like ninja turtles.



Besides that, of course we served pizza!  In case not everyone was a pizza lover, we also prepared mini sandwiches, perfect for small hands. For the desserts, I commissioned two different friends who are masters of their domains. First up, custom cake pops! My friend, Rachel, is super talented with her designs, and they taste amazing.



You should definitely check out Cake Balls by Rachel if you're in the DFW area.  I'm amazed at what she can accomplish on such a small canvas!

Not that adults don't love cake pops, but I also wanted to offer a more grown-up option, that could double as a parting gift for parents. I enlisted the help of my friend, Shawn, who operates Live Free or Pie Bakery. She makes awesome mini pies in individual packaging. Some folks enjoyed them at the party and some brought them home to enjoy later.  It was a great addition to the party! I totally spaced out and didn't get a good picture of the setup, but here's a peek:


They are on the bottom of the picture, labeled with their TMNT-themed flavors: April O'Neil's Apple, Bebop's Blueberry, Cowabunga Cherry, and Turtle Power Pecan (my personal favorite). Look her up if you want some pie goodness.

For drink options, we offered beer, water, soda, Leonardo's Lemonade (with dry ice, so it smoked), chocolate milk, and juice boxes. For a special treat for adults, we set up Secret of the Ooze...Booze!



As kids left, we handed out goody bags filled with TMNT swag.


All in all, I think everyone had a great time. Kids enjoyed themselves and the parents got to hang out and catch up. Dutchie loved being surrounded by so many friends, and of course he enjoyed all the sweets and presents!  It was a lot of work to prepare, but I love throwing parties, and I love making my son smile even more!




Happy birthday, precious man. I look forward to many, many more fun birthdays to come.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Be the Match!

If you know me at all, then you know how much I urge people to join the marrow registry at bethematch.org. That simple first step of swabbing inside my mouth eventually led to a lifesaving bone marrow donation for a young boy with leukemia.  If you are already on the registry, bravo! You've done your part.  If you're not on the registry, what are you waiting for?  You could be someone's cure.

In addition to joining the registry, supporting Be the Match financially is also important. Donated funds go toward covering the cost of the donation procedures, helping transplant recipients with costs that their insurance doesn't cover, spreading the word about the registry and helping it to grow, and furthering life-saving research.  If you've got a few dollars to spare this month, please consider donating on behalf of myself or my team for the event in Dallas on March 7th.  With your help, we can save even more lives. I'm so proud to have recruited 30 people to be on my team this year! It should be an awesome day.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How It's Been Lately

I know it's been a minute since I've posted anything, and that's mainly due to being the parent of a newborn!  There's nothing like having a second kid to make you think - wow, having just one was a walk in the park compared to this!  If I had a real maternity leave, I'm sure I'd think things were easier right now. Because I'm self-employed, there's no one to take the place of me and no paychecks coming in, if I'm not physically out there doing the work myself.  I started showing houses within two weeks of having Jude, and I went back to my part-time accounting job by the time he was a month old.  It's a tough balancing act. Thank goodness I have a super committed husband and helpful family nearby.

Jude's strong suit has not been sleep these past two months. I can't think of more than maybe two occasions where he has slept for more than 3 hours at a time. When he's going through a growth spurt (we presume), sometimes he wakes up hourly wanting to eat. It's exhausting. Meezy and I have an overnight system where he takes the "shift" from around 10pm to 2am so that I can get a good 3 to 4 hours of sleep, and then I am in charge of Jude for the rest of the night.  Sometimes that means I can still get 2 to 3 more hours of sleep, if Jude cooperates. Because I'm nursing though, there's no set and easy path each day/night. If I haven't pumped right before going to bed at 10pm, then you can be sure I'll be awoken before 2am with my body telling me it needs relief. Instead of sleeping, I have to pump. Direct breastfeeding doesn't work well for Jude (for a few different reasons), so sometimes I'm having to pump right after giving him a bottle at 2am, which means I don't get back to sleep until after 3am.  If I'm lucky, Jude won't wake up until 5, but that doesn't always happen. Considering every night is like this, I still am amazed that I have any energy throughout the day and get anything done. On the contrary, I actually get a ton of things done each day, which means I don't take any naps. I guess my body has adjusted and decided I can totally function on a few hours of choppy sleep. We'll call it a win!

In other news, big brother Dutch is about to turn 3!  I've just started planning his birthday party and I'm excited about what's in store. He's the cutest freakin' kid around, but he also knows how to push our buttons. I think we avoided the terrible twos but didn't skip the tumultuous threes. He definitely likes to push boundaries and see if we'll follow through on threatened punishments. That means his toys have been seeing a lot of time-out lately. (Yes, we put his toys and beloved items in time-out, as opposed to him, because his toys can't try to leave the area designated for time-out. It works for us). He has an insane amount of energy and never seems to get tired! We are so ready for consistent pleasant weather so that he can spend lots of time outdoors and on his playground. He needs more physical outlets, so we signed him up for Stretch N Grow at his daycare. I'm thinking of enrolling him in a karate class at daycare as well, once he turn three. When he's not being a smart ass to us, he's just plain wicked smart. The kid grasps so many concepts that you would think would be over his head, and he makes us laugh daily with some of the things he says. He recently made great strides in toilet training and wears underwear to school every day now. When he's using the toilet at home, he tends to spend a lot of time on it, and his mouth is like a running faucet.  The kid just talks and talks and talks. After a few instances of me cracking up at the conversations we were having and sharing them with Meezy, I decided to start filming them. You can catch up on his antics by subscribing to his Youtube channel here: Toilet Talks with Dutch  

After having baby Jude, I was so ready to get my old body back. I was definitely over maternity clothes and not being able to to work out. After I lost the initial weight related to the actual delivery, and got the all-clear from my doctor, I decided to start a weight loss challenge among friends and family to see if I could motivate myself to drop the extra weight. I needed an extra push, so I started a game on Dietbet. It is a site where you bet money that you will lose a certain percentage of weight in a certain amount of time, and you invite others to compete with you. After the prescribed amount of time, if you successfully complete the challenge, you split the total amount that was bet with the other successful contenders.  If you didn't lose the weight you were supposed to, you forfeit the amount you bet. I signed up for a $25 challenge, and said I could lose 4% of my body weight, so it's not much at risk, but would be a nice reward. I found 13 other people to do it with me, and our challenge ends on February 9th. I'm pretty close to my goal and feeling confident that I'll succeed. I might sign up for another one after this is done, because I could stand to lose an additional 4% after this!

Much more going on, but that's all I have time to write about. Gonna try to get outside while the weather is still fantastic!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The First Few Days

Shortly after Jude was born, I went to a recovery room.  They brought him in for some skin to skin time, and I got to hold my baby boy for the first time.  Unfortunately, that only lasted for about 5 minutes. The nurses told me his breathing wasn't great and that they'd need to take him to get evaluated.  I was sad to let him go, but knew it must be urgent by the way they were talking. I told Meezy to stay with the baby and for the first time, I was alone. I started to cry.

When a nurse came back in the room, I asked her to get my mom, so that someone would be in there with me. Shortly thereafter, my sisters came back to see me as well. After a few minutes, Meezy stopped by and said they were taking Jude to NICU. My mom and sisters stepped into the hall so they could see him as he was transported there. Since I wasn't going to be able to spend crucial bonding time with Jude right after birth, the nurses gave me a cloth to hold next to my skin so that it would absorb my smell. They would later place it on and around Jude in his warmer, so that he could start learning my scent. While I was very sad to think about him not being able to know his mom, I was thankful for the opportunity for a small part of me to be with him.

After a while in recovery, it was time for me to go to my private room. On the way there, they wheeled my bed to NICU so I could see Jude. This is what I saw:


My poor, sweet boy had an IV, a feeding tube, and had to wear a CPAP mask.  He was also hooked up to an EKG and pulse ox monitor. At a time when I should've been cuddling him close and getting acquainted with all his features, I had to see him from a distance. I could barely even tell what he looked like. Once I went to my room, I wasn't able to see him in person for the rest of that day. I had to rely on pictures from family members who were able to visit him and updates from Meezy on his condition.



Because he was premature, the alveoli (tiny sacs in the lungs that inflate with air when we breathe) weren't working as well as they should.  His oxygen saturation level was dangerously low, so he needed intervention.  The CPAP mask was giving him pressurized oxygen in an attempt to get his alveoli to learn how to function. Because he couldn't breathe well, and therefore wouldn't be able to breast feed, the feeding tube and IV were necessary in order for him to stay hydrated and nourished. The first day was a rough one for me. I just wanted to hold my son and feel confident that he would be alright. The doctors assured me he just needed time, so I had to be patient.

On Day 2, the numbness from the epidural had worn off, so I was allowed to visit Jude in the NICU.


As Meezy rolled my wheelchair up to his bed, I started bawling. There's already so many emotions going on after birth, and having to see my son like that just compounded everything. After I settled down and was able to touch him, the nurse snapped this pic so we could capture the moment. It was not the situation I expected to be in on day 2 of my son's life, but I was so grateful for it, nonetheless.

Back in my room, I worked on pumping every few hours so that Jude would have breastmilk. Besides that, there wasn't much else I could do besides wait. Luckily, the NICU had an awesome setup where they pointed a camera at his bed so that I could login on my phone and check on him whenever I wanted to. I felt a little closer to him at those times, and I stared at that screen for hours on end.


Meezy divided his time between Jude and me, and I sent him home at night so he could at least get a few hours sleep in a comfortable bed. I could see his exhaustion and knew he needed a break from all the stress. If ever there was a time where he showed what an amazing husband and father he is, this was it. He was so strong and supportive and kept me from being a basket case.

On Day 3, when Meezy and I entered NICU for a visit, I was shocked to hear them ask, "Would you like to hold him?" I was so anxious and excited and couldn't believe the time had finally come.


His CPAP mask had been removed, but he still had the feeding tube and IV inserted. I was so happy to feel him against my chest and finally get a good look at him. He still wasn't digesting food as well as he needed to be, but we were making progress!

On Day 4, as Jude's other issues were improving, the doctors addressed his jaundice.  He underwent phototherapy treatment, which basically looked like he was in a tanning bed!



At this point, I had been discharged, so I took up residence in a private room around the corner from the NICU. What a wonderful option for parents! I was able to be just a few steps away from him, but could have privacy for taking short naps and pumping milk. I stayed there overnight while Meezy stayed at our house with Dutch.

Day 5 happened to be Thanksgiving, and since Jude was making great strides, I asked Meezy to bring me home from the hospital for a few hours.  We grabbed some food from Boston Market and had our own version of Thanksgiving at home. It was nice to have a few hours out of the hospital, away from the stress. By the end of that day, Jude had his feeding tube removed. What a relief!  We knew it wouldn't be long before he could get out of NICU and be transferred to the special care nursery.



Once Jude got his IV removed on Day 6, we knew the transfer was imminent. All of his vitals were great and he was digesting food. We made our way over to the special care nursery that afternoon. In this area, he and I would actually be staying in the same room and I would be solely responsible for his feeding.



He was still hooked up to an EKG, but that was it. Because of his prematurity, he had to undergo a car seat test. That involved him having to be strapped in for 90 minutes while his pulse ox was monitored. It felt like an eternity, but he passed with flying colors. That night I didn't get any sleep, because my baby boy was finally staying just a few steps away from me and I was so excited about being able to finally go home the next day.

On Day 7, Jude got the all-clear to be discharged. Meezy and Dutch came and picked us up and we finally got to be a complete family of 4. It was such a long, stressful, draining week, but it was over. We knew it wouldn't be an easy road at home with a newborn and a (nearly) 3 year old, but at least Jude was healthy now and we'd all be together.

Many thanks to all the wonderful NICU nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. We couldn't have asked for better care for our sweet boy. We are forever grateful to you for keeping him safe.

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hey Jude


We're happy to announce the arrival of our second son, Jude, born on November 23rd.  I was scheduled for a C-section tomorrow (12/9) to have him, but he had other plans!  The circumstances of his birth and the week that followed were some of the most stressful days of my life, but we have a beautiful, healthy baby boy today, and that's all that matters!

I woke up around 4am on the morning of 11/23, feeling like I was leaking fluid.  I thought it might be incontinence, which I've heard can be a problem late in pregnancy, but wasn't sure.  I went to the bathroom and then went back to my bed.  A few minutes later, I felt the same sensation.  Hmmm, I wasn't sure what to think about that. I started googling and seeing what the internets thought.  Some people said they experienced the same thing, went to their doctor, and found out it was incontinence and felt dumb.  Other people said it was amniotic fluid leaking and birth was imminent. Eke!  How would I know?  I woke Meezy up and told him about my dilemma.  I told him not to worry, that it was probably nothing, but that I would let him know if I thought it was urgent.  I tried to go back to sleep, but kept experiencing the same thing.  Around 6:30am, I texted my sister and asked for her advice.  She told me to call the on-call doctor at my OBGYN's practice.  After I explained to the doctor what was happening, and that I was just short of 37 weeks pregnant, she told me to go to the hospital.  Honestly, I was shocked.  I just really wasn't expecting it to be anything related to actual labor since I had carried Dutch to the full 40 weeks before we scheduled his C-section.  I figured it would be a similar situation with Jude.

My sister came over to stay at our house while Dutch slept, so that Meezy and I could go to the hospital.  I grabbed my hospital bag (that I had finished packing just a couple days prior), but still didn't really expect to be admitted. I figured I'd get there, they'd run some tests, and then they'd send me home. Once I got checked in and assigned to a bed, a nurse came in and said she was going to test for amniotic fluid.  She said that if she took a swab and it turned blue, that meant it was amniotic fluid and immediate delivery would be necessary.  Even at that point, I was skeptical that labor had started. To my surprise, she held up the swab and proclaimed, "It's blue! You're having this baby today." That's when I went, "Oh, shit."

I was 36 weeks, 6 days pregnant. I thought I still had 2 weeks left before our scheduled delivery date. I told Meezy to call everybody in the family and let them know what was going on. Not being in control of the situation and having it be an emergency C-section made me very anxious. My doctor was out of town, so the delivery would be done by someone I had never met before. This is not what I had planned for and not how I wanted it to happen!

Things moved pretty quickly from there and I got the epidural. That was quite uncomfortable and I very nearly fainted.  I had to ask the nurse to support me, because I would've fallen forward otherwise. I guess my anxiety got the best of me. Before the anesthesiologist was done inserting the epidural, I had to be lain down on my side because I just couldn't sit up anymore. From there, we went into the operating room and the procedure started. I was uncomfortable the whole time. I felt like my throat was restricted and since I was numb from the chest down, I couldn't use my ab muscles to help clear my throat.  I kept asking Meezy how close the doctors were to getting Jude out, because I just wanted it to be over. After what felt like an eternity, he was out, and my discomfort ceased.  It was such a relief.  I could hear Jude crying and that was the best sound in the world. They told me he was 7 lbs, 13 oz, which is pretty hilarious considering he was premature!  While the doctors stitched me up, Meezy got to hold his newborn son and then bring him over to me. We snuggled faces and I let go of the anxiety for the time being.        

    
I wish I could say things were great from that point forward, but the next few days were quite a struggle for us. I had no idea the couple weeks of prematurity would translate to Jude needing to spend five days in NICU.  More to come.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Things I'm Loving This Week

1. Salata - My friend, Kristen, introduced me to this restaurant. I know salads probably aren't very exciting to a lot of people, but since I'm a vegetarian, I love this place.  I can customize a salad or wrap from a ton of fresh ingredients and feel very full afterward.  I also love the fact that I can order online ahead of time and pick up as a to-go order. I'm busy all the time and usually have to get to-go meals during lunch or after evening showings. I hardly eat fast food anymore and there's not a lot of take-out restaurants that appeal to me because of their lack of vegetarian options.  Salata really hits the spot!

2. Crystal Light Liquid Flavors - I try to make the majority of my liquid intake each day be water. Water can be pretty boring, though. When I used to bring a bottle of water with me to my office, I would go through 16.9oz over a couple hours.  Now that I add a Crystal Light flavor to it, I typically go through 2-3 bottles over a couple of hours.  It just tastes so much better.  My favorite flavor of the moment is Strawberry Lemonade.

3. Amazon - I mean, seriously, who doesn't love Amazon?  The more pregnant I get, the more I order things from Amazon.  Making a trip to the store is not very appealing to me at this stage, and if I can get something 1-2 days after ordering, that works just fine. I keep adding more and more things to our Subscribe 'n Save orders too.  It's nice to put things on a schedule that you use consistently (diapers, wipes, dog food, drinks, etc) and get them at a discounted price.  In total, I placed orders for 28 items in October. Lol. Another big benefit of Amazon is how it syncs with our Discover cashback cards, so that we can use our cashback balance towards orders.  It's pretty common for our orders to be "free" because we have enough cashback available to cover it.

4. Light Vanilla Soymilk - Meezy is lactose intolerant, but likes eating cereal, so he started buying soymilk. I was skeptical at first, because for some reason I thought soymilk would be gross.  This flavor is delicious, however. We go through quite a few cartons of this each month. I drink it straight up or in fruit smoothies.  It's a good source of protein and calcium, more so than dairy milk.

5. Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili - I thought becoming a vegetarian would mean giving up chili, but I was wrong.  I love this recipe and can eat it for days in a row.  It wouldn't be hard to add meat to, if you're not a vegetarian. So simple to make in a crockpot and enjoy for multiple meals.