Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

  Source: via Meredith on Pinterest

From the back of the book: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jolie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

I know that when it comes to Stephen King, many people immediately associate his name with gruesome thrillers like Carrie, and may be hesitant to pick up any of his more recent offerings if 'gory-thriller' isn't their genre of choice. Yes, Stephen King is the master of horror fiction, but in my humble opinion, he's also one of the most talented authors of our time, and 11/22/63 is one of the best novels I've read this year. It was just perfectly crafted, down to every last little detail. That's not to say that 11/22/63 is completely without gore or violence--it's not--but it absolutely contains much less gore than most of King's past works, and when the gore and violence does appear, it's absolutely crucial to the plot, and I can totally appreciate that. 

But basically, 11/22/63 boils down to the age old time-travel conundrum--if you change one thing in the past, do you really change everything? And even if it does change everything, is it worth it?  Jake Epping travels through the wormhole-of-sorts back to 1963 to grapple with that very issue, and we have the privilege of going along for the ride....what a ride it is! King seamlessly combines our nostalgic perspective of 1963 with the realities of that time, and then somehow manages to make them fit perfectly with a 2011 world as well, crafting a world quite unlike any other, and it' a word...awesome. I couldn't imagine how this story could have been better crafted. And be still my soul, there is even an appropriate and well-crafted conclusion!

Overall? I loved it. It was one of my favorite books I've read this year by far! Not convinced? Take a look at this excerpt and decide for yourself! But my verdict is as follows:

Disclosure Statement: I checked out 11/22/63 from the library, read it, and am now writing my review. I was not compensated for my review in any way. Regardless, I don't think I could lie about a book even if I wanted to!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pregnancy #2: 20 Weeks

20 Weeks
{The bottom part of Lizzy's sign says HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! 
Justin's birthday is today--happy birthday babe!}

Compared to 20 weeks with Lizzy:

How far along: 20 weeks (well, technically 19 weeks, 6 days).

Size of baby:Both The Bump & Baby Center agree that she's now about the size of a banana--about 10 ounces, and 6.5 pounds!

Weight Gain: -5 by my scale, back at pre-pregnancy weight by my doctor's scale.

Boy or Girl: Well, about the ONLY thing this pregnancy has in common with Lizzy's pregnancy is that almost everyone was certain it was a boy, but in all actuality, it's a girl! I had prepared myself for a girl going into the ultrasound, because everyone had been telling us they were certain it was a boy for weeks. Similar to Lizzy, she was largely uncooperative with the ultrasound in general, but we finally got a good look, and Lizzy was so excited! She keeps talking about how the new baby can wear her clothes :) I'm now certain Justin is excited too, although I totally didn't think he was at first--he just kept making sarcastic comments during the ultrasound and then was totally silent the whole car ride leaving the doctor's office. It just was not at all how I pictured the afternoon of the BIG ultrasound to go, and because it didn't go as I thought/planned/hoped, it kind of ruined the afternoon for me! But, we talked and are good now.  And it's totally possible that I was being way, way oversensitive anyway. Pregnancy hormones can do that to a girl. Overall cool to know that this little one is a GIRL!

Symptoms: Heartburn & Braxton Hicks. My OB said I should be "letting" Lizzy go on more truck rides with her dad (what she told my OB she loves to do with dad) during the evenings to try and help keep the BH contractions at bay. I almost laughed out loud in the doctor's office--I have no problem "letting" Lizzy go anywhere with Justin, he's just not home during the evenings very often, so it's kind of a moot point.

Exercise: Not really. I need to get on that.

Clothes: Mostly maternity now. 

Cravings/Aversions: Not really. I mean, I'd love some pizza and a hot fudge sundae, but that's probably true most days of my life ;)

Movement:Yep, I'm feeling her quite a bit now! I just have to remember that at this point, if there's a day where she's quiet movement-wise, that's totally normal!

Worries: No worries, just a little overwhelmed and busy!

Milestones:This little girl is half-way cooked! Yesterday at the ultrasound, we were able to see both hemispheres of her brain, all four chambers of her heart, and that her kidneys and bladder are working!

Best moment of the week:


Yesterday's ultrasound! As I mentioned,she wasn't super cooperative, and her head was way way way low, so we didn't really get too many of the "fun" shots, but we did get this one profile shot. Her hand was up by her mouth almost every time we saw her face--the tech kept commenting that she looked like she was it sounds like she'll fit right in on Justin's side of the family!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Today, I am...

{SO STINKING EXCITED} for our "big" ultrasound appointment tomorrow afternoon. Seriously. Kait offered to do a gender reveal photo shoot for us, which would have been fun, but I just didn't want to wait one more second longer than 2pm tomorrow afternoon! Sorry Kait, lol!

{totally exhausted} after a mostly great, but really busy weekend. The big children's event that Justin and I have been planning for church was on Saturday, and it's nice to be done! About half the people who signed up to run carnival game stations for us just didn't show up the day that was interesting. And stressful. But, there was a giant inflatable obstacle course there, so I'm not sure that the kids even really noticed the craziness behind the scenes, or even that there were no snow-cones this year. Okay, so they probably noticed the lack of snow-cones, but hopefully had fun anyway!

{bummed} that in the midst of the crazy day on Saturday, our anniversary got lost in the shuffle. I don't think Justin or I ever even said "Happy Anniversary!" to each other. If it weren't for some awesome and thoughtful cards from family, I think it probably would have gone completely unmentioned! I hope we get to take some time to have a date soon, though I'm not sure when that will be, because we are booked every single night for the next week!

{hopeful} that I'll make a big dent in our laundry pile today. 

{loving} this Pinterest tip to use hot vinegar and Dawn dish-soap as a tub/shower cleaner. It totally works. Our shower was so dirty that I didn't even realize how dirty it was anymore...and this? Awesome. In fact, now that I know what sparkly-white looks like, I just may need to clean it again to get it 100% there.

{giddy} that the library finally has Insurgent waiting for me to pick it up today!

{stumped} about what to make for dinner!

{marginally irritated} that Justin got summoned for jury duty again. He seriously gets summoned more than anyone I know. I know it's his civic duty and all, but for us it basically just means three days of him not getting paid, and for people on a budget like ours, that SUCKS. And considering the fact that he has been summoned every single year and I *never* have, it's a little irritating! I wish I could go in his place!   

{loving} snuggling with Lizzy watching Dora on this cloudy, rainy morning.

{excited} for Justin, and the early birthday present (his birthday is Wednesday) that he got from my parents. I don't think they knew this, but the toolbox that they got for him was exactly what I was hoping to get for him, but just couldn't swing this month.

Also, I'm pretty sure Lizzy was just as excited about the box it came in!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pregnancy #2: 19 weeks

19 weeks

{Okay, Lizzy totally cracks me up in this photo--the hands on her belly? Too funny. And those shorts. Lord, I think we may have a future volleyball player on our hands because she ALWAYS hikes up her little bike shorts like that!}

Compared to Lizzy at 19 weeks:

How far along: 19 weeks.

Size of baby: A mango (The Bump) or a heirloom tomato (BabyCenter). This translates to about 6 inches long and 8.5 ounces.

Weight Gain: -5.But I think I'm roughly the same weight I was when I was pregnant with Lizzy at this point!

Boy or Girl: I definitely feel like I'm carrying differently this time around, and I'll be interested to see whether or not this baby is a boy because of that, but other than that, I don't really have a strong feeling either way. I should also mention that I was 100% convinced that Lizzy was a boy, so obviously, my picker is broken in that way. I think Justin thinks it's a boy because of Lizzy's whole "pink hat, blue hat" thing with Renee, and also because we cannot figure out a girl name for the life of us...we find out on TUESDAY! Place your bets below, y'all!

Symptoms: Heartburn, some Braxton Hicks, and a few days of just feeling crummy by evening if I've been particularly busy that day.

Exercise: Not really. I need to get on that.

Clothes: In the above photo, both the pants and shirt are maternity. I still go back and forth a little bit.

Cravings/Aversions: Not really.

Movement: I'm feeling him or her pretty predictably now, and that's awesome. Every once in awhile, I'll realize that I haven't felt the kiddo in some time, but thankfully, a huge glass of water usually wakes the kiddo right up. That said, the kicks still aren't strong, so I'm betting on an anterior placenta, like last time. 

Worries: No worries, just a little overwhelmed and busy!

Milestones:The little guy/gal is developing vernix, the white "coating" that you sometimes see on babies just after they're born. The kiddo is also developing his or her five sense rapidly, with all kinds of brain development going on this week!

Best moment of the week: This has nothing to do with the baby at all, but Justin and I had a garage sale this weekend. We made $86! Then, we realized that we had totally forgotten about our car registration, which is due this month. Our budget is tight this month, so I immediately started to stress when I remembered it. Then I pulled out the registration info, and do you know how much registration is? $86. It was a total God-thing, and I'm so thankful for it, and for the reminder that He knows our needs, always.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Nights.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the baseball fields. I played softball, but when I was in middle school and the beginning of high school, they started paying us like $10 a game to run the snack bar, man the scoreboard, and sometimes, even umpire. So, I was there a lot. And then in high school, I played softball, so I was already at the fields a lot...and even more often to watch the boys baseball team play, since I think almost every one of us on the softball team had a crush on someone on the corresponding baseball team. For the last two years, Justin and I played on a co-ed softball team with some friends and family, which pretty much took over every Sunday afternoon for the entire summer. Then last year, Justin also played on a men's softball team, so we were at the fields a lot. Anyway, all this to say, I like baseball/softball a lot.

This year,Justin got asked to play on a hardball baseball team, which he's wanted to do for years. He hasn't been able to because our friends are all on a 35 years and older team, which he doesn't qualify for. But because of their standings last year, they got some age exceptions this year, and he was asked to play.


So, baseball started a couple weeks ago, and has pretty much comprised two evenings of our week ever since. Thus far, Lizzy and I have gone to every game, because we like baseball, and also because we're home together all day long, and sometimes I want/need to get out of the house or else I'll get jealous that Justin is out having fun while I'm always home doing the not fun stuff. So, we go. And mostly, it's been fun. 

Justin hadn't been able to play men's softball this year because they play the same evening as his night class for plumbing. But now, class is on summer break...and as I expected, he's basically jumped onto the men's softball team too for their last few weeks of games, promising that he will be so helpful around the house that I won't mind a bit. And mostly, I don't. Except that sometimes, it's a lot. Three games a week is a lot. Coming home at 9 or 10pm three nights a week with a toddler is a lot (especially since staying up late does NOT mean she'll sleep in the next day). Not having Justin there three nights a week to help with Lizzy/help clean the house/just spend time with is a lot. It's a lot for anyone, let alone someone who is pregnant and has a toddler. I'm tired. Our house is a disaster. And I don't even know WHEN in the next few weeks we'll have a break. And I just keep thinking, 'OH MY GOD...what is it going to be like this fall when we have all this AND add co-ed softball to the mix?'...because that would add at least ONE more game a week to the mix (I am super jealous that I won't be able to play co-ed softball this fall by the way). Justin's not the only one who does least two of the other people on the team play hardball, men's softball, and co-ed softball at the same time. And their wives/girlfriends often call themselves "baseball widows", and I think I'm beginning to understand why. These guys just really love baseball.


And so do I, but man, sometimes it is exhausting. Right now is feeling like one of those times for me. And we've only just begun.  Basically, this is our summer. And our fall. The last of it, co-ed fall softball, wraps up sometime in mid-November, which is right around the time baby #2 is due (something that I just now realized, and am not thrilled about). So, it's a bit of a love/hate relationship between baseball/softball and I right now...but for Justin, I'm pretty sure it's just a love-love relationship, and I get that. That's okay too. 


I will say though, that if I ever meet the guy who thought white baseball pants were a good idea, I'd probably punch him in the face right about now.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Today I am.....

{good-tired} from a fun-filled weekend of garage sale hosting, pool partying, good food eating, and baseball watching.

{blessed} by my sister, who paid off one of our debts as an anniversary present (you know you're a grown-up when that gift is as good as a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant).

{hoping} we remember to take time some other day to actually celebrate our 5-year anniversary since this Saturday and the weekend in general are pretty slam-packed with stuff.

{overwhelmed} by everything on my to-do list for the next two weeks.

{frustrated} by how messy my house is, and the fact that it probably won't get cleaned in the near future due to the aforementioned to-do list. And guys, I don't even know when the last time our bathrooms were cleaned.

{excited} to finally read Insurgent--I have been number one on the wait-list at the library for some time, and I'm getting quite anxious for the person whose book was due back on June 4th to return their copy!

{unsure} why my N key keeps popping off my keyboard.

{glad} that Justin woke me up at 5-something am to help him find his keys. I couldn't fall back asleep, but that means I've had a quiet start to the morning before Lizzy gets up.

{so, so, SO thankful} that yesterday during church, Lizzy whispered "I love you always. You are smart, you are funny, you are kind, you are beautiful." I just about cried right there. I am so happy she's hearing and internalizing all of those things.

{hoping} this Monday is kind to you all!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Carnivals + Bumps

I've had a fun month photo-shoot wise! First, we kicked things off with Madison's 3rd Birthday party-Hollie did such an amazing job with the carnival theme, and the little details just blew me away!



Then, I got to try my hand at a maternity session for the first time with my SIL Renee. We had a heck of a time getting our schedules together, and then when they DID converge, the weather just wasn't cooperating. Oh, and also, the city totally mowed down the field of flowers we were planning to shoot we improvised again, and stole away from an end-of-the-year BBQ at church for a super fast maternity session.

Renee (5)

Renee (4)

Renee (12)

Renee (15)

Renee (23)

Renee (25)

Love these summer sessions!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Artist's Way Toolkit {A Review}

As part of BlogHer Book Club, which I have participated in often, I was recently given the opportunity to review a new online tool called "The Artist's Way Toolkit". BlogHer described the Artist's Way Toolkit as follows:

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron has motivated millions of aspiring and professional artists around the world to discover and recover their creative selves. Now some of the most powerful practices from The Artist's Way have been adapted to create MyArtist's Way Toolkit, an interactive experience that will allow you to:
  • UNBLOCK yourself with powerful Artist's Way exercises
  • TRACE your creative process in your own personal Artist's Way Creativity Notebook
  • RECEIVE Daily Inspirations, Affirmations, and Artist's Date ideas from Julia
I'll be honest and say upfront that while I knew The Artist's Way was originally a book, I didn't really know anything about the book other than I imagined that the intent was to help creative people get out of creative slumps. I'd been feeling in a bit of a photography slump, and had great visions of re-kindling my passion for the craft and getting my creative juices flowing, so I signed up as a reviewer, and when my password landed in my email box, I was excited to get started.

But then I logged in, and I'll admit I was left feeling a little bit let-down. The Toolkit is billed as being an interactive experience, but it really seemed to be targeted more to individuals who had already read the book--from Artist Dates to Creative Pages to Creative Notes to Morning's a lot for a "newbie" of sorts to take in, especially considering the fact that there's very little guidance from the toolkit itself other than a very brief and largely unhelpful guide and FAQ section. There's also a 20 minute YouTube video from the author of The Artist's Way, which was actually kind of a turn-off for me--if I have 20 minutes of silence without a toddler running about, I'd rather watch 20 minutes of Design Star than a YouTube video about the Toolkit, which could have easily been summarized more succinctly in a text guide.

Now, moving on to the Toolkit itself...the idea of spending time writing and attempting to facilitate creativity each day is a good one, I think. Even the idea of "morning pages", in which the "artist" writes 3 pages each day without spending too much time thinking about what he or she is writing, is a good theory. However, it didn't take me long to discover that I think the creators of The Artist's Way toolkit and I operate on a fundamentally difficult wavelength and in a fundamentally different world--first, the "artist" is sternly cautioned that he or she may NOT (under any circumstances) type their "morning pages." For some reason, "morning pages" must always be handwritten, but "creativity pages"  (in which the "artist" essentially adds photos, poems, and whatever else happens to inspire them) are allowed to be done via the Toolkit on the computer. To me, this made no sense...I wanted to reverse things and do the "morning pages" online and the "creativity pages" by hand, in a book.

Overall, I just wasn't that impressed with The Artist's Way toolkit. It didn't make sense to me, and I wished that the suggestions would have been more targeted to specific types of art (i.e. different suggestions for photography compared to painting or writing). Unfortunately, though I faithfully checked in and thought about "morning pages" nearly every day, it just wasn't a tool that I found myself eager to use all that frequently even when I had free access to it, so I really can't picture myself actually paying for it at this time in my life.

If you're interested in reading more about The Artist's Way toolkit, pop on over to BlogHer Book Club and see what others had to say!

Disclosure: This was a paid review via BlogHer Book Club, as always, all opinions are completely my own, and receiving payment for the time spent reviewing the product does not influence my comments in any way.

Pregnancy #2: 18 weeks

18 weeks

And compared to Lizzy at 18 weeks:

How far along: 18 weeks.

Size of baby: A sweet potato (The Bump) or a bell pepper (BabyCenter). Either way, they both agree the little guy (or gal) is  about 5.6 inches long and about 6.7 ounces.

Weight Gain: I'm still about -6.

Symptoms: Nothing too terrible! I have noticed what I think are painless Braxton Hicks contractions or two (usually at the end of the day, if I haven't had enough water or have been on my feet a lot). I have no idea whether or not that's normal at this point or not!

Exercise: Nope. I wish,

Clothes: In the above photo, the shorts are maternity, the shirt isn't. I feel like I'm now at that point where maternity shorts are much more comfortable than non-maternity. Unfortunately, I think I only have two or three pairs that fit! 

Cravings/Aversions: The other day, I really really wanted some chocolate and ice cream, but I knew we shouldn't spend the money, and so I got super grumpy and whined a ton. Justin told me that I could have his last hidden mini-sized Snickers which point I then had to tell him that I'd already eaten it, LOL!

Movement: I'd say most days I'm feeling baby kicks, which is awesome. They're still not all that strong, but often occur at the end of the day when we're reading or watching TV, and I love it.

Worries: We've got a busy couple of weeks ahead, and I'm feeling a little stressed out about it all.

Milestones: Mostly, baby is moving and growing this week!

Best moment of the week: It's been a good week overall, so I don't know if this is the TOP moment, but it's a funny one nevertheless.Yesterday, Lizzy was walking around talking on her play phone. I asked her who she was talking to, and she said, "The doctor said your baby is a boy. I'm having a little sister!!" So, we're still a bit cloudy in that arena, lol!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Willing Summer

Two weeks ago, it felt like summer. It was warm, beautiful, and gorgeous. We spent time at the parks, soaking up the sun. However, ever since then, it's basically looked like this around my neck of the woods:

The sun has largely hidden away, and it just doesn't feel like summer, not to mention the fact that it's seriously interfering with some photo shoots I've got planned that require sun, not a sky full of overcast clouds! Needless to say, I'm basically willing summer back into existence with the posting of these photos from two weeks ago.

A lot of our local parks have little mini water parks attached. Last year, most of the time at the park looked a lot like this:

It started out the same this summer, but it wasn't long before I heard her whisper "Be brave!" to herself (which is hilariously the exact same thing I used to say to myself before I ran into the ocean), and then she was off.








When did you get so big and so brave sweet girl?! 

PS- Summer, please come back! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Something new...

This past year, we watched Lizzy's cousin Logan two mornings a week before he went to afternoon Pre-K. Now, the two of them often act just like siblings--loving on each other one minute, and pestering the heck out of each other the next. But I think it was probably a really good thing for both of them, since Logan is the youngest, and Lizzy is thus far an only child, and both are about to have their worlds rocked when new little babies arrive later this year :)  Plus, it was kind of a nice break for me too for two reasons--first, they generally played pretty well together, which gave me at least a few minutes at a time to do a load of dishes, fold some laundry, read a blog or two, or (most often) pay bills/balance the checkbook in peace. Second, we generally took mornings pretty slow and easy so that we wouldn't totally tucker Logan out before he went to school all afternoon--which meant lots of lounging around watching movies, playing play dough, coloring, reading books, going to the library for story time, etc.  It was only two days a week, but those two days served as a nice reminder to slow things down a bit sometimes and not to always have so much going, planning, running, and doing every day.


But now, it's summer...and Logan will be home with his mama. I know he will love that time. And I am sure that we will still see lots and lots of them, because I'm looking forward to some major lounging around with Renee this summer. But mostly, it's just going to be me & Lizzy now. It's something a little bit new. Heck, in some ways, it's her first taste of summer break :) One of my goals this summer is to do my best to strike a balance between taking things slow and easy like we had the awesome reminder to do this past year, while also cramming in a whole lot of fun...because to me, that's what summer is all about. So tomorrow, to celebrate summer (which has always been my favorite season), we are going to a movie for the first time ever--one of the local theaters has a calendar of kids movie showings for $1, and we're going. I'm not sure whether it will be awesome or a disaster (I can't imagine her sitting still for almost two hours), but it will be something new, for sure, and it's always fun to try a little something new every once in awhile.

{contrary to how it may appear, my daughter is not tragically hurt, but rather is pretending to sleep right in the middle of a giant bounce house...because that's how she rolls}

Friday, June 8, 2012

What I Ate This Week

So, on this post last week, I showed you how we grocery shopped on (less than) a food stamps budget this month. I also promised to come back today with photos of what I ate for the past week, and I'm here to deliver!


Friday- Homemade (freezer) breakfast burrito with hash browns, sausage, bacon, and cheese (top left)/ Lizzy and I split some pasta salad, peppers, carrots, Yumm sauce, apple, and crackers with PB (top middle)/ brown rice, beans, Caribbean Jerk Beef Shish-ka-bobs, and fresh fruit salad (top right)

Saturday-Toast with peanut butter, banana, & honey. Fruit Salad, and coffee (bottom left) / Leftovers from dinner Friday night (bottom middle)/ BBQ Chicken and Salads at my parent's house (no photo).

Sunday- wheat toast with PB and jam/ brown rice, black beans, Yumm sauce, cheese, tomato, pepper, (homemade Yumm cup) and a peach/ crock pot beef roast, baked potato, steamed veggies with some cheese, strawberries.

Monday- yogurt with strawberries plus coffee, homemade Yumm cup, apple, some cheese (no cheese in Yumm cup)/ beef enchilada (leftover from Sunday's roast) with green sauce, milk, strawberries

Tuesday- breakfast burrito and a peach/leftover roast, steamed veggies, banana, and lemonade/leftover enchilada and an apple.

Wednesday- wheat toast with banana, peanut butter, and honey plus coffee/ split a 6inch turkey subway with Lizzy and cheddar Sunchips/ homemade pistachio pesto over wheat pasta and chicken, blueberries.

On Tuesday, I also was getting a hankering for something sweet, so I made these flour-less fudge cookies, which I really really liked. 


And then today, things looked like this:

Thursday: potluck at Mom's group--I tried eggs, a scone, and monkey bread/ grilled chicken with Yumm sauce, spinach salad, and strawberries (I also ate a breakfast burrito at about 3pm because I was still really hungry)/ homemade blackberry cobbler using applesauce instead of butter.

So here's what I have to say about shopping on a super tight grocery budget like ours:
  • It often includes eating the same or similar things several days in a row, which can be boring at times, but helps from wasting food. My lunches are usually leftovers from dinner (Justin usually packs a sandwich for his lunch, and about half the time Lizzy has what I'm having and half the time she has a sandwich of some kind along with fruit and veggies). 
  • It doesn't include a lot of convenience food or snacks. Sometimes, choosing to snack on an apple and cheese means that we have less cheese for dinner that night...which is generally fine, but just makes you think about what you're eating differently (am I really hungry, or do I just want something to munch on?) Most treats are homemade. We don't usually drink anything other than water, milk, and coffee, though I do love to splurge on good lemonade when we can. I've gotta meal plan in advance (and stick with it no matter how tired I am) since there's not really a last minute option like macaroni and cheese or frozen lasagna/pizza. I'm not gonna lie, sometimes it sucks, and all I want to do is grab a pizza and a soda (oh goodness, that sounds so good right now!). 
  • I think we do a pretty decent job of eating fairly non-processed foods, but I could (and have at times) gone even more "scratch" than you saw this particular week--making bread, stock from scratch instead of canned, soaking beans instead of canned beans, etc. It helps save money, but is also a significant amount of additional work. 
  • Justin likes to have meat every night at dinner. I'm not quite so attached to meat, so I often do the rice and beans thing for lunch because it's less expensive while still being filling.
  • We usually eat a LOT more spinach salads since they're filling and inexpensive. But salads have been my one pregnancy aversion this time around, so you didn't see as much of it this particular week.  
  • It's not possible to eat this much fruit on this budget during the winter.  
  • I think it would be VERY HARD to shop on this type of a budget with food allergies. 
That's all for now! Any questions? Anybody else out there on a similar grocery budget have any tips you want to toss into the ring? 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pregnancy #2- 17 weeks


Oh was rainy and COLD today here in Southern Oregon! 

And compared to 17 weeks with Lizzy:

How far along: 17 weeks.

Size of baby: An onion (The Bump) or a turnip (BabyCenter)

Weight Gain:Last week, I said I was -1 pounds, but I realized after posting that I was calculating by the wrong starting number (yay pregnancy brain!), and I was actually -6 pounds by the doctor's scale and -8 by my own. This week, I'm still at -10 by my own. It's interesting to look at photos--I think the bump is roughly the same size this time around, but I may be carrying a bit higher?

Symptoms:  I've been really tired this week--I'd go to bed at 5pm if I could!

Exercise: Not this week. I did really well last week, BUT after exercising for 20 or 30 minutes, I'd often find myself falling asleep paying bills, writing a blog post, etc. I felt like after working out for 20 minutes, I needed a 2 hour nap. I backed off for the last week, and I'll probably try again this week and see how I feel.

Clothes: In the above photo, the shirt is maternity, the pants aren't.

Cravings/Aversions:Not really (well, at least not really that I can acknowledge due to our crazy tight grocery budget!). I don't love meat or salads this time around, but still try to eat them both on occasion. 

Movement: I'm definitely feeling little kicks here and there, but still not with much consistency, and definitely not anything that Justin could feel.

Worries: This week, I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Between Justin's baseball, VBS at church this month, another big church even that Justin and I are running, trying to work with hospitals (who are still calling me on the regular saying that we're not paying enough each month for the skin cancer thing), just trying to juggle things to make our budget work this month, feeling like I cannot stay on top of keeping our house clean (not to mention needing to clean out the whole bedroom that will be the nursery), and sitting down to plug dates in on our calendar and realizing that every Saturday from now until July 21st is booked SOLID (with some amazing and fun stuff!)...I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.

Milestones: Baby's cartilage is now beginning to turn to bone! He or she is about 5 inches long, and weighs about 5 ounces. 

Best moment of the week: I told Lizzy over the weekend that the baby can start to hear us, and that Lizzy can talk to it if she wants. It's been pretty sweet to hear her say "Hi baby! I'm Lizzy!" or put stickers on my stomach 'for the baby'. I still keep asking her whether it's a girl baby or a boy baby in my belly, but lately she just gives me silly answers like "It's a cat." 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Breastfeeding + God-Sized Dreams

When I got pregnant with Lizzy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for the first year. I had no illusions that it would be easy, but I figured that it would definitely be do-able. Just to be clear here, I don't actually think that breastfeeding is best for every family and every situation, but I had read a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding, and it was something that I wanted desperately for us and for our family.

As it turned out, breastfeeding was much harder than I expected. I can honestly say that I didn't ever enjoy a single nursing session like I've heard a lot of other moms talk about. Lizzy was a super active baby (she was walking around 9 months), and it was hard to keep her focused for a whole nursing session. Every single session was a battle, and I ended up in tears more often than not. She was very small, and I'm so thankful that we had a pediatrician who never pressured me to supplement with formula--I have no doubt that many others would have recommended just that for a baby who was in the 5th percentile. It seems crazy to say that through it all, as much as I hated it, I still wanted desperately to breastfeed.

When Lizzy was around 9 months old, she just stopped nursing. If it was a nursing strike, it was sure as heck the longest one I ever heard of, because I never actually got her to start again. We had introduced solids and she was eating quite a bit of them at that point, but we did end up having to supplement with formula...which was something that I never really imagined we'd have to do. And I was super irritated because I had set a goal of breastfeeding until Lizzy was 12 months old, I didn't accomplish that goal, and there was nothing that I could do about it. And consequently, I had a pretty hard time mentally and emotionally--being upset that I wasn't breastfeeding, being disappointed in myself for not being able to do it longer, being irritated with Lizzy that she couldn't just nurse like a "normal" kid, and being mad at myself for being somewhat relieved when we finally made the decision to switch to formula.

(Edited to note: Reading info like the above sign from Pinterest were both the reason that I wanted to breastfeed so badly AND the reason that I felt so terrible about not making it to the goal that I had set to exclusively BF for 12 months based on the recommendations of the AAP and WHO. I feel conflicted about the sign now, because while I think it gives some great statistics about breastfeeding and its benefits, I also feel like it unnecessarily bashes moms who choose to formula feed, and I think there's a better approach, which I'll get to later on in this post.)

During the whole breastfeeding experience with Lizzy, I never had a "nice" pump. I had a crappy one-sided electric that took FOREVER to pump with, and it was terrible. In retrospect, I think having a Medela or Ameda quality pump would have made a huge difference for me--heck, I think I probably would have been able to give her pumped milk instead of formula once she started refusing to nurse. But at the time, for our family, spending $200 or $300 on a breast pump was about as feasible as going to the moon.

I did some research then, and I've done some more this time around since I hope to be able to breastfeed #2 as well, and what I've found is that most advocates of breastfeeding will tell you that many moms need more support in order to breastfeed exclusively. I've been told that in Oregon, 91% of mothers initially breastfeed. But by 6 months, only 62% have continued (source). I've heard stories from many friends who said that they breastfed until they returned to work, and after that point, they just didn't have a pump that made it possible to pump enough milk in the time they were allowed.

The problem is that if you can't afford a $200 or $300 pump, you're often out of luck. Some insurances cover pumps, though at least mine doesn't actually reimburse you for a pump, just applies whatever you've spent towards your deductible (and since our deductible is $5,000, that's kind of worthless to us). Our local hospital doesn't offer rentals--the WIC office does, but they only have a couple, and priority goes to moms who are on WIC and working full-time. So what I see locally is that moms who can't afford to buy a pump often use a second-hand one from a friend or relative, which is not recommended at all and comes with its own set of risks and dangers.

I keep hearing from state health departments, the AAP, WHO, and the CDC that they want to promote breastfeeding...but if that's really the case, then it seems to me that instead of spending time and money trying to convince moms who decide to formula feed that they're making a bad decision, maybe a better place to start would be in offering better support to those women who do wish to breastfeed. One of the many ways to do that would be by offering all women better access to breast pumps at a more affordable price point.

I've done a lot of Googling--I figured there HAD to be a non-profit out there somewhere that provided women with breast pumps or grants for women to purchase pumps...but I can't really find one. So some day, I think I'd like to start one. Though, after some initial-research into what it takes to start a non-profit, funding sources required, etc-- that would be a God-sized dream for sure.

But that's not to say it's not possible :)

Monday, June 4, 2012


You may have noticed the "About Meredith" section on the right hand side of your screen. You may have also noticed that I mention that I'm a Lutheran. Over the course of the time that I've had this blog, I've had lots of people email me questions about that little statement--things like:

Are Lutherans Christians?
Hey, why do Lutherans baptize infants?
Aren't Lutherans super traditional and conservative?
Do you think that everyone who isn't Lutheran is going to hell?
Why are you Lutheran instead of something else?

I'm always happy to answer these questions for two reasons--first, it's been a long time since I went through confirmation class, and it's always good for me to dig in and refresh myself on what the church body that I identify as being a member of believes on any given topic. Second, and probably most importantly, it promotes open discussion and dialogue, which in turn facilitates unity in Christ.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. -Ephesians 4:3-5

For me, that's the key. We're called to unity in Christ, period. I think it's okay for us to have differences in practice and denomination, but that it's also important to remember that baptism, communion, and whether or not it's considered okay to sing the 'sloppy wet kiss' version of How He Loves at your church are not the big issues.What really matters is that everyone who claims that label of being Christian for themselves has one common belief:

If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.- Romans 10:9

And beyond that, I think it's okay and healthy to respectfully talk about differences in practice, belief, and interpretation because it helps dispel myths and misunderstanding, which again facilitates unity. But it's crucial to do so in the proper frame of reference, which is that we all share the same core value of our faith!

So, in that vein, I thought I'd also open things up to all of you--do you have any questions about what it means to be Lutheran? Do you have any questions (including any of the ones I mentioned above) about our beliefs and practices? What we believe and what we don't? I'm happy to take a stab at anything you (respectfully) throw my way!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Food Stamp Budget Grocery Shopping

As I mentioned in this post about the 2012 Farm Bill, one of the most important (and most hotly debated) part of the whole bill is the section that funds the SNAP (Food Stamps) program. I challenged my readers to live on the "food stamps budget", which is about $31 per person per week ($496 per month for a family of four) before making a decision about whether they think the program should be cut or extended. As a side note, the actual subsidy that a person receives on food stamps varies by their income, but for these purposes, the $31/week seems to be the generally accepted amount.

In the above linked post, I also mentioned that our family grocery budget is often right about $200 per month. And honestly, it didn't get down to that level until it was a necessity rather than an ideal. Some months, when we have more discretionary income, that number creeps back up to $300 or so. But the past few months have been tight money-wise. Honestly, in the past few months, we're sometimes scrambling to sell things on Craigslist or have a garage sale to make ends meet, so nearly every category of our budget has been slashed. It isn't always be totally honest, after Justin called me and told me the amount of his paycheck yesterday, I stomped my feet and cried and yelled at God that I was tired of all this trusting in Him for provision business, and that I just wanted to be able to go buy a baby outfit after our gender ultrasound this month, or go out to dinner for our anniversary...or build our farmhouse table, or just to be able to buy some darn cookies at the grocery store. It sucks not to have discretionary money in the budget. But then I came across this on Pinterest again:

I don't care whether all the statistics are accurate--it was the reality check that I needed. It might suck to feel like we're poor, but even so, we are richer and more blessed than most. And those things I stomped my feet and yelled at God about? None of them are necessities, really. And the things that are necessities? Have been provided for in miraculous ways. So, I got myself together, and did what I always do on the last day of the month--a meal plan. And then I went grocery shopping, with our $200 budget in mind--which I know is just reality for lots of families, on food stamps or not. I try to shop once every two weeks, buying the bigger items such as cheese and meat at the beginning of the month. I buy produce and milk as needed. If all goes according to plan, I intend to take photos of what all we're eating this week and post them next Friday, so I won't go into the whole meal plan. Anyway, here's what I got:

{Please excuse my dirty floors}

Here's the run-down....keep in mind that we have meat in the freezer from our cow purchase.
5 dozen eggs- $5.98
16 oz frozen corn- $0.95
String cheese- $2.98
32oz Raspberry yogurt- $1.98
10 individual yogurts- $.44 each
2 eight ounce blocks of neufatchel cream cheese- $1.18 each
Shredded mozzarella cheese- $5.98
2lb block of cheddar cheese- $4.88
Two packages of Bar-S Bacon- $1.99 each
Large Jimmy Dean sausage- $5.89
2 packs frozen hash browns- $1.18 each
Frozen blackberries- $2.38
Frozen raspberries- $2.68
Original Yumm Sauce- $5.34
Sliced mushrooms- $1.49
Baby carrots- $0.79
Red Delicious apples- 2.83 pounds @ $0.89/lb
Jarred Applesauce- $1.88
Two 16 count flour tortilla- $4.68 each
10 pounds unbleached flour- $3.66
2 cans tomato sauce- two for $0.99 total
2 packets Italian dressing mix- $0.55 each
Three pack of fast-rising yeast- $0.88
Whole-wheat Ritz-$2.98
2 large cans of spaghetti sauce- $0.88 each
Folgers Coffee (small container)- $3.88
Jar of crushed garlic- $1.69
Red bell peppers- 0.64 pounds @ $1.98/lb
Bananas- 4.41 pounds @ $0.54/lb
5 pounds of potatoes- $1.49
Yellow Squash- 0.98 pounds @ $0.79/lb
Fuji apples- 3.29 pounds @$0.89/lb
Jar of medium black olives- $0.98
Green onions- $0.59
Two large cans baked beans- $1.78 each
Two loaves wheat bread- $2.18 each
Two containers strawberries- $1.48 each
6 oz blueberries- $1.89
Peaches-2.01 pounds @ $1.49/lb
Calico Cheese- $2.13

Total: $125.21, leaving $74.79 for the rest of the month. I'll keep y'all posted :)

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