Monday, June 29, 2015

How To Tie A Tie: A Gentleman's Guide To Getting Dressed - Book Review

I grew up blissfully unaware about the rules to suit wearing. I had no idea there were guidelines regarding how to button a suit jacket, or that you were supposed to snip visible tags off the jacket before wearing it. Now that I have become a mom to three boys, I feel like I should have a better grasp on the dos and don'ts of suit wearing.

My favorite thing about this book is actually the cover. The covers feels just like a fabulous textured striped tie. I actually had a little trouble getting a chance to read this book, because the boys all wanted a little quality time with it. Luke loved the texture and would carry it around... Not unlike his favorite toy. Spain loved all the pictures... And there are a lot of pictures in this book. Alex enjoyed studying the instructions for the various knots.

As you would expect from the title, the majority of the book is dedicated to learning how to tie various knots. There are over 70 pages filled with step-by-step instructions (and accompanying pictures), to help you master the art of tie wearing. There are instructions for three different pocket square folds and very quick introduction to color wheels and seasonally appropriate fabric.
Unfortunately I felt like this book fell flat for anything other than tie tying instructionals. Jackets, pants and vests get hardly more than a passing mention. Sadly, the button rule is not mentioned anywhere in the book. 
On the bright side, if you can pull off the Trinity knot, maybe the intricate design will pull attention away from the bottom button on your suit jacket. 

More info on this book can be found at How To Tie A Tie by Potter Style.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Luke's birth

Alex was born prematurely and spent twenty three agonizing days in the NICU.
Spain was born prematurely and spent one exhausting week in the NICU.

I spent a lot of time praying that Luke would be full term. I was blessed to have people praying with me, not only for a full term baby, but also for my peace of mind. This was on ongoing test. I spent the first half of my pregnancy wondering if my teeth would survive the morning sickness that was plaguing me. I was  in and out of the ER multiple times for IV fluid, because nothing stayed down. Then just as morning sickness was tolerable, I started to have contractions. My midwife put me on pelvic rest, and my OB gave me a check list of when to come in to the labor & delivery ward. My birth team was amazing. I had a wonderful OB at the hospital with the NICU I wanted to use, and a midwifery team for the hope of a planned homebirth.
My mom arranged to come out when we reached 36 weeks. The goal was to reach at least 37 weeks- officially full term and Texas-legal for homebirth. I was ecstatic to watch as I got closer and closer to my "due date".  While I was thrilled to grow bigger and spend another day pregnant, I was surprised by how many times I had tell people that I was thrilled to STILL be pregnant. I certainly wasn't prepared for the onslaught of pressure to have a baby once I hit 40 weeks. I spent a lot of time praying about our next step. My midwife, who had assured me wasn't concerned about "overdue" babies, began pressuring me to try natural induction techniques. My OB scheduled my induction.
At 42 weeks gestation, I had a biophysical done, and was given the green light to continue being pregnant by my midwife.

I spent the last day of April, cranky and irritable. As soon as Sweet Husband got home from work my mom sent us on a date. It was her very nice way of saying I was driving everyone else crazy. I knew I was being irrational and emotional, but I couldn't help myself. I felt destined to be pregnant forever. Because of Luke's position, my left leg was in a state of constant swelling and occasional numbness. Everyone was keeping an eye on me for Pre-e. Funnily enough, I remember the agony of the low-carb diet another midwife recommended I follow during the last few weeks, more than the joint pain. All I wanted was a sandwich.

I woke up the next morning at 4 a.m weirdly energized. I did the only sane thing I could think of. I read random articles online. My back was a little achy, but after months of prodominal labor, I didn't want to get excited. After about an hour, the back pain was getting more intense. I decide to stand in a hot shower and see if the contractions would stop before waking Sweet Husband up. I stood in the shower through several contractions. I was focused on breathing through each contraction while the rest of the household slept. Finally I shut off the water and dragged myself out of the bathroom to wake Sweet Husband up.
Sweet Husband jumped into action. He woke up my mom, and inflated the swimming pool, we bought to use as a birthing tub. My mom applied counter pressure to my aching back as I tried to get a hold of the midwife. After getting the midwife's voicemail message three times, and leaving one passive-aggressive message that went along the lines of "I'm having a baby today,  I don't know what your plans are" I called the student midwife. The student midwife gave me some words of encouragement as I vocalized through a contraction, before promising to get a hold of the midwife for me. The midwife called a few minutes later, and promised to head right over.

I desperately wanted to sink into a hot pool of water. But the inflated swimming pool was dry. I did a half-growl half-whine plea for Sweet Husband to fill up the swimming pool, while I draped myself over my exercise ball and rocked through a few more contractions.

As soon as there was enough water to cover my thighs, I got into the swimming pool. Sweet Husband mistook this as a signal to turn the water off. I rocked through another contraction and made a mental note to ask for more water when he came back into the room. I rocked through contractions and tried to to angle myself in the pool so the water covered the parts on my lower back that ached for hydo-help. Before long I felt a subtle shift, and knew it was time to push. I draped myself over the edge of the pool and moaned for Sweet Husband. I could see him working in the kitchen, but he didn't acknowledge me, so I called him again. I was swept up into a another contraction and managed to yell his name a little more forcefully.

"Just a minute. I'm making breakfast." he answered.

At this point, I lost whatever semblance of zen I may have possessed.

"I am pushing this baby out now." I growled "If you want to catch get over here, because I. AM. NOT. WAITING!" Sweet Husband hurried into the room and crouched next to the tub.
"I need more water." I moaned. My mom held up a glass of water and forced a straw between my lips. I took a sip, then clarified "In the pool. I need more water in the pool." Another contraction took over, then another, then another. I could feel his head slowly start to crown. Sweet Husband climbed into the pool next to me, assuming his catching position behind me. I breathed through another contraction. I couldn't believe how long the birth was taking. The other two had practically flown out. His head finally slid out. I took another drink from the glass my mom held.
This is where the inner dialogue took over.

I quit. I'll finish pushing this baby out later. I just need a break. I can't quit. I have a head outside my body. I won't be able to sit down... Or use the bathroom. Please don't let me poop during labor. Please don't let me poop during labor. I'm okay. I'm okay. Let's finish this.

Another contraction and I felt his one of his shoulders slip out. Almost done. We're almost done. The next contraction hit and I felt, my water break as his other shoulder slid out. Then it was over.
He was out.

Safely cradled in Sweet Husband's arms.

My mom directed Sweet Husband in taking the caul sac off of baby Luke while I took a few moments to catch my breath. Being cautious of the cord Sweet Husband and my mom helped me into a seated position, where I could recline against the edge of the swimming pool, then handed me baby Luke.
The sweet boy who waited until there was no doubt that he was full term.

One month after my estimated due date, baby Luke was born.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Bitersweet Milestone

Dear May,
There's no hurry for you to get here. I need to snuggle with my baby just a little bit longer. His infancy slipped away while I was distracted. I know I'm living on borrowed time. Soon he'll be popping locks, denouncing crazy mathematical ideas like multiplication, trying to hone his secret super hero powers, and making me blush as I try to explain basic human biological functions in a way that he can understand without laughing. The majority of this will happen while I'm doing something trivial, like making dinner.

I know I'm going to make lots of alcoholic references in his honor over the next four decades. I'm going to wish him back to infancy more times than I'll be able to count. I know I'll wish him to adulthood a few times too. I'll spend a lot of time second guessing decisions about his care. I'll pray that he doesn't feel lost in the shadows of his brothers.
I know even when I'm bursting with pride and happiness with his accomplishments, I'll still feel a pang of wistfulness for his babyhood.

So May, feel free to take the scenic route. Stop by the beach. Take the Hollywood tour. I hear Legoland is beautiful this time of year. Just please, take your time coming to our house. I'll be cuddling this baby and savoring the last few hours we have left together, before he turns one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Never Leave Home Without Food

We were thrilled to find out that there is a very active homeschooling community at our new duty station. Every month there are new activities and events to try out, and some regular events. Like P.E. Every other week, our homeschool group gets together at a large park for P.E. The first time we went, it was a soccer-themed event. Both Alex and Spain stayed involved and active the entire time, learning new drills and games. Afterwards we spent spent half an hour at the playground, riding the high of getting to interact with other people in our age groups.
What can I say? I like hanging out with adults sometimes.

After bouts of the plague and a slightly traumatizing car accident, we finally made it back to P.E.
I woke up early. Made sure the boys ate breakfast, had water bottles and hats. I even managed to grab a travel cup of coffee to bring along. Everything was seamless. I was a rockstar. At one point I thought I heard a heavenly chorus harmonizing in the background. We were golden.

This week's class seemed to be geared more towards older children, with dodge ball and tug-of-war as main events. But, separate activities had been planned for the younger crowd. Alex took off with the older class, and I shadowed Spain. Spain's group was everyone younger than nine, the older ones weren't thrilled to be playing with the little ones, and the little ones… They just wanted to run in circles. Everyone powered through until the halfway mark. The groups were restructured again, and Spain's new group activity was "tea party".

This is where the ominous music started playing.

I hadn't thought to bring a snack. Last time we had been so busy playing that snacks never came up. Spain sat on the communal picnic blanket as the children around him started snacking on cookies and pumpkin bread, looking at me with big sad eyes. "Mama. I'm hungry. I want a snack" he said in his sweet little voice. My heart shattered.
"I'm sorry Sweetie, I didn't bring any snacks." He shook his head, slowly turned so that his back was to the other kids and sat, looking sadly at his lap.

Mommy guilt consumed me.

As the other children finished their snacks and started leaving the communal picnic blanket, Spain perked up as an idea occurred to him. He ran to the diaper bag I had left under and tree and started rummaging through it. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Getting a snack." he responded cheerfully.
Cue more Mommy Guilt. Normally I do have snacks in the diaper bag AND in the van, but I had forgotten to replenish the stash, and Spain eaten the last snack bar the previous week. As the ugly truth became apparent, Spain needed to vent his frustration. He clenched his little fists together and growled at the tree we were sitting next to.
I bent down to face him "I'm sorry I didn't bring any snacks sweetie. When we're all done here we can go find something okay?" He looked at me with the bitter betrayal only a tortured three year old could truly understand. Just as I thought all was lost, a WONDERFUL woman, feeding her son dried mangos, held out the bag and asked Spain "would you like a mango?"
Spain sided up to Angel Mother and helped himself to some mangos. I thanked her. Profusely.

Sweet, sweet angel mama.

I'm just taking a moment to appreciate her.

Yeah, the second we let the park, we hit Costco up. I told the boys to pick car snacks, and I grabbed a giant box of ice cream bars for them. For home. Not the car. Mommy guilt is a powerful powerful force.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Yeah, it's easy as 1, 2, 3…..

Since my birthday is a week after Christmas, it just made sense that I would marry someone with a birthday a week before Christmas. The only downside is that I'm usually stumped on what kinds of Christmas trinket I should give him, since he just  had a birthday and all. This year I had a brilliant idea. We each come up with a list of three things we wouldn't mind getting. At least there would be a starting point, and hopefully our household would not be graced with a gadget that never gets used.

This morning Sweet Husband tells me "Oh, I thought of the third item for my wish list. Another pair of ACUs."

I stared at him with a mixture of disbelief and horror.

Sweet Husband noticed my facial expression and rushed to reassure me, "It's easy," he said "just go into Clothing and Sales…." he trailed off as I started laughing uncontrollably.

"What?" He asked, visibly confused by my reaction.

After a few moments, I caught my breath and started to explain.

"Let me paint you a picture, of how "easy" it is to go into Clothing and Sales. 
It starts out with me trying to convince Spain, that he should take his pajamas off and put real clothes on. After a few minutes of negotiations, I'll remember that arguing with a three year old is futile, and fold. Instead, I'll wrestle him into his shoes and bribe him into the van. 

With any luck, Alex will already be in the van waiting for me to turn the DVD back on. As soon as Spain and Alex are buckled, Luke will decide he is hungry. We'll sit in the van for a few minutes while Luke nurses and the older boys watch their DVD. I'll finally get Luke strapped into his carseat. I'll pull up the directions for Clothing and Sales, and we will finally be on our way. 

We'll arrive at Clothing and Sales. After parking I'll slowly count to ten and then turn off the vehicle. Alex and Spain will start the "Hey! Chorus". Luke will be sleeping in his carseat. I'll transfer him into the baby carrier, and wrestle Spain out of the vehicle. Alex may or may not decide that this would be the best time to play/hug/annoy Luke and/or Spain. 

The entourage and I will walk into Clothing and Sales. Spain will immediately try to hide in the racks of clothing, because it's embarrassing to be seen with your mom in public. Alex will start reading some inappropriate military related joke, that is, of course, posted for all to see. Yay for reading. Luke will be hungry again. 
Luckily that won't be a problem because he's in the carrier. I'll start scanning the ACU uniforms for the ones marked "medium-regular". Someone will tap me on the shoulder and say "Excuse me ma'am, could you ask your son to remove the bag on his head?"
Spain will have managed to find the ONLY empty bag in the store, and put it over his head, because he. Is. A. Robot. I'll yank the bag off his head, and remind him that we do NOT put bags over our heads. 

Powered on by the adrenaline flooding now my system, I'll grab the first set of "medium-regulars" I think I see. I'll rush the entourage to the cash register, where Spain and Alex will start fighting over who get to sign the credit card machine. I will obliging laugh at the "You've got your hands full" comment and retort with my baby wearing comeback "Thank God for my hands-free baby wearing device!".

We'll walk out to the parking lot. Spain will be complaining loudly. Possibly about not getting his own credit card, or maybe about how he misses his blue house*. I will remind the entourage that the DVD is still in the van and once they buckle in, I will turn it on. 

We will, FINALLY, return home. I'll corral the boys out of the car and into the end zone**
I'll grab the bag with the uniform in it, and rush to wrap it before you get home. I'll pull the uniform out of the bag and with a sick feeling I'll realize that I grabbed MATERNITY ACUs."

I paused for effect, "And that is how "easy it will be."

Sweet Husband stopped laughing long enough to ask "would it be easier if I told you Clothing and Sales is walking distance from here."

No. It would not be any easier.

*He's never lived in a blue house.

**Backyard, living room.. Whatever it's a "safe" place.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Skipping Halloween

Since becoming a parent, I've looked forward to Halloween with unabashed glee. I love planning out and creating costumes for the family. I love making costumes! So when we decided not to "do" Halloween this year, I was torn.

Growing up Halloween night was spent either at a church function dressed as a bible character or having a junk food and movie night at home. To be completely honest, all I wanted to do was dress up and pretend that I was a character in my favorite book. A resourceful medieval princess. A quick-witted gypsy, a daring detective.... I wanted the freedom to try out different qualities that my literary heroines had.

When Alex was born, I enthusiastically greeted Halloween. Making costumes was something I could spend months on. Working on the details to get everything just so. I know I sound like a snob, but I wanted costumes as close to authentic as I could make them. Admittedly some years were better than others.

I know this sounds naive, but while I looked at Halloween as a way to explore and pretend I was someone else, I've discovered that many people see it as a free pass to terrify and scare other people. 
The last few years, it's getting harder and harder to ignore the fake blood pouring out of people, the weapons sticking out of people, depictions of torture and murder. 
For some people it's just fantasy play, but for us it hits too close to home. We've had neighbors that were burn victims, we've had friends that were purposefully murdered by people they knew. We've known heroes that sacrificed their lives for someone else. We've spent countless hours praying for the lives and safety of family members.

There's enough to fear right now. I don't need a night of recreational fear.

I want my children to stay in a bubble of innocence as long as possible. So this year will be our first non-Halloween.

Even though I didn't make any costumes this year, I am making brownies, so it's a win-win situation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mourning happens

I've been struggling with writing this post for a few weeks now.
My grandfather is dying.

In the last few years he has battled different cancers. At first it was prostate cancer. He would get sick, and then start to do better. Get sick and then start to do better. And then it was bone cancer.

When sweet husband and I found out we would be leaving Texas, we made plans. We would take a month of leave, and road trip to Idaho to visit our grandparents and show off the new baby.
But, plans change. Our baby stayed inside a little longer than we expected, and instead of a eight-ish week old, we had a four week old. I managed to come down with mastitis the week after his birth, and then struggled to stay healthy enough to move. We spent four weeks visiting my parents, where I battled exhaustion, sinus problems, and general malaise.
We never made it to Idaho.

This is the type of crisis where you lean on your friends and family that are nearby. I had just left all of mine.

The first time my mom called to let me know what was going on, I spent the day on the floor. I had cried all I could. I didn't have the energy to get up. I just laid on the carpet in my messy messy room and nursed the baby.

I'm not going to lie. Some days are just hard. It's hard for me to be so far away. To think of how I could have driven up so easily just a few months ago, and now it's just not an option.
I find myself crying for my boys. They will never get to go finishing on grandpa's boat again, or drive in the truck with him. My heart aches for all the things that they will never be able to share with him.

I don't have the same circle of friends that I had in Texas. I don't have a support system here yet. We're still looking for a church. We're still learning the area. We're still coming out of transition.  It's a lot to handle all at once.

I'm mourning. I'm mourning for me. I'm mourning for my family.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guidelines for a Great Tutorial

As a self proclaimed DIY addict, I look up a lot of tutorials.

In the last week my tutorial searching has included:
How to use a spiralizer.
How to diy Chalk paint.
How to replace baby swing battery.
How to make carrot rice.
How to paint an area rug.
How to build a bench.
How to build a sofa.
How to build shelves.
How to install shelves.
How to deal with metal studs*.

As you can see, I average more than one tutorial per day. While it may be crazy, it does put me in the perfect place to judge a good tutorial from a bad tutorial.

1. Music.
If you're making a video tutorial please DO NOT add music. If you absolutely positively must have music, make it instrumental. Nothing makes me turn off a tutorial faster than having music come blaring from my speakers. I don't care how great the song is. It ruins both the song and the tutorial for me.

This is kind of along the same lines as those irritating blogs that used to have music play in the background whenever you went to their page. Please let me pick my own mood music.

2. Blabbering.
I understand you feel funny talk to a camera. It can be a little uncomfortable, I get it.
But I didn't not tune in to hear you spend 3 minutes talking about why you chose the shorts you're wearing, to paint your picture frames. Unless the outfit directly affects the project, it doesn't matter.
Reminding people to wear close toed shoes while mowing = GOOD.
Reminding me to put my favorite comfy shorts on before I glue rocks to something = BAD.

On that same note, I don't need to know what you ate for dinner or how many hours you slept last week, unless of course, that is the subject of the tutorial.

3. Experience.
Experience is ALWAYS important. Do NOT make a tutorial for something you've never done before. Please, wait until the second time.
If you absolutely, positively must make a tutorial for something you've never attempted before, mention that at the beginning, AND do not edit the final results. Let your viewers decide whether or not they need your guidance.

4. Know your tools.
This goes hand in hand with experience. When you're explaining the tools, make sure you know what they do and how they work. This may seem like a given, but I've found several tutorials of people who have never used the tool they are showcasing.

5. Vocabulary
Don't be afraid to use the common layman's terms. There is a very high probability your audience isn't completely versed in the technical terms. Break it down for us. We'll appreciate greatly!

6. Don't Skip Steps.
If you're doing a photo tutorial, this is big. If you skip a step, your audience is going to be lost and/or confused.

7. Revisit.
Don't be afraid to revisit your tutorial and tweak things a little. Whether you found a misspelled word. Or discovered a better way of doing something.
Trust me, it won't be unappreciated!

*The studs in our walls are metal, not wood. I found this out while installing curtain rods.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Playing Catch Up

I have been rather negligent in my blog keeping over the last few months.

First thing first, my last post was about reaching the 40 week mark in pregnancy, Baby Luke (AKA Star Wars) was born four weeks later, in our living room. Following in the fashion of his brothers, Luke did not to wait for a birthing professional to join us. Our midwife arrived in time to help with the clean up though!

To celebrate his first week of life, the army gave us official orders when Luke was eight days old. Three weeks later, our house was empty, we had all been screened for overseas travel, and we said "goodbye" to Texas. We were able to spend a few weeks recovering and visiting family before flying out to our new duty station.

We're making progress getting settled into our new place. The "box decor" is still predominant in our downstairs living area. The fact is, we have too many books. I know. I know. I too, once thought that there could never be "too many books". Now that I face the task of finding homes for these books, I realize the truth. I won't tell you exactly how many boxes of books we have still waiting to be unpacked, but I will say if each box was a year, our boxes would have no problem visiting a bar… On the plus side,  they wouldn't qualify for social security yet.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

40 Weeks... Oh My!!

I love beating the odds.

Yesterday was a day I never expected to see. 
Oh, wait, let me rephrase that. Yesterday was a day I never expected to be pregnant for.

Yesterday was my "due date".

This is a HUGE deal. Both Alex and Spain were preemies. With no full term pregnancies in my history, my chances of carrying to term were pretty slim. I was classified as "high risk" as soon as I took the official pregnancy test.

When I started having strong contractions at 28 weeks, I started to prepare myself for the possibility of yet another NICU stay. 

Making it to 37 weeks, felt like a miracle.

Making it to 38 weeks was surreal.

Making it to 39 weeks, was mind boggling.

Now that I've made it to 40 weeks, I'm in awe.

Sure, there is some uncomfortableness, it's not all sunshine and roses.
I'm so excited to still be pregnant. I love knowing that each day my baby is growing stronger, and our chances of ending up in the NICU are growing weaker and weaker.

40 weeks is a big deal for me.

40 weeks is a miracle.