Monday, January 30, 2012

A Day in the Life of.... Stacy

Welcome to the "A Day in the Life" series. I'll be kicking it off this week with today's post. This series is meant to give us a glimpse into a side we might not normally see of the bloggers we so often read!

So, a day in the life of Stacy on a Monday.

Monday always begins with a little internal grumbling. I'm not a late sleeper, and 7:15 used to be more than sufficient, but these days my body seems to be craving a wake up time closer to 7:45. This particular Monday began with LOTS of internal grumbling because I had to get up at 6:45 for an early appointment for work. I had to be at the hospital two cities over (30 minutes away) at 8:45, and normally I roll into the office around 9. I'm the type who wakes up actually very easily, but needs some 'me time' before beginning the day. This plays out, for me, in 30 minutes each morning where I eat breakfast, have the Today show on, and check blogs/email/facebook. After I got going for the morning, I realized that leaving 45 minutes for the appointment to allow for parking garage and walking the loooong walk the hospital madness  just wasn't enough. So I scurried, which is sure to put me in a funky mood since I was missing out on some 'me time', and hopped in the car at 7:45. The morning radio show always perks my spirits a bit, and luckily I had an hour of that, as I didn't get out of my car in the parking garage until 8:45... when the appointment was supposed to start.

I rushed into the hospital, and my protege (what we call our 'clients' or 'consumers') was already in a room, which I was glad about because that hospital is known for making us wait forever. The doctor came in and I thought my day was really turning around! 8:50 and already in the room with the doctor!? It all came crashing down on me when the doctor said she wasn't sure why we were there, had been sent no records, and didn't feel like the presenting problem was one she could address. She told us to sit out in the waiting room until they could get records from the hospital whose ER my protege was in a week ago (who had recommended that she come back to this hospital). That began 2.5 hours of waiting... and waiting... and waiting. With someone who is really loud on the cell phone which she must have used 10 times, asked me to check her pee bag multiple times, has a cough that makes you think you're sure to catch it and die, and prefers cussing as her general mode of communication. She kept threatening to leave and I managed to hold her off for quite a while, but she finally called her transportation and told them to come. Of course 10 minutes after she did that, the doctor came back out and said she got the records and had a specific test she wanted to do. My protege would have absolutely none of it, and sped off in her jazzy chair with us in her dust. I apologized to the doctor, told her to reschedule it and call me, and started the trek back to my car, realizing what a waste of time the past few hours had been and man, what I wouldn't have given for a nap.

I headed to the office after that and got there at noon, just in time for lunch, which is another spirit perker for me. I had what I like to call a grown up pb&j. It's my standard work lunch because it's quick and I can eat it wherever I'm at (car or office). It's whole wheat bread with natural pb and superfruit spread (a mix of 'super fruits' like blueberries and cherries, instead of grape jelly but just as, if not more, delicious). I also had an apple and Trader Joe's equivalent of Sun  Chips, and two small chunks of granola. I got some office work done and then at 2 headed down to a local shelter to see if I could locate one of my proteges who has been sort of missing since November. I say sort of because I've had indirect contact with her (so at least I know she's alive) but we generally like to see them face to face at least every other month. I spoke with the case worker there for a while, but it seems there had been no sign of her so I headed home. This is one of my favorite parts about my job. We have a work from home option because we have remote access log in on our computer. So generally, I try to schedule office time in the morning (since there are bound to be voicemails from overnight and emails waiting), visits right after lunch, and then I work from home for the afternoon depending on when my visits are over. It's become a very low stress way to end the work day, as my cell phone goes off at 5 and I'm already home. I'd work from home more often, but I think day time tv might get the better of me if I did. Late afternoon tv is much less enticing to me.

Steven was off of work all day, so there was no antsy-ness waiting for him to get home. I like when he's already here and our evening can start. We cleaned the apartment, as is our normal Monday routine. He cleans upstairs and I clean downstairs so we can usually knock it out in about an hour. Well, we might have if I hadn't vacuumed up a stray Christmas ornament hook. By the looks of the beater bar (is that even what it's called?), it was perfect timing. It was so gross that I wasn't sure how it was still turning. The mix of my semi-long hair and Buttercup's ever shedding fur was not pretty. I have a hand-me-down Dyson and I was glad to service it- dust, hair, and all, because I know I can never go back to a regular vacuum and certainly can't afford to replace it either! After I de-dusted, we decided to make enchiladas that I saw on Kendra's website a few weeks ago. I tweaked them a tiny bit (used whole grain flax tortillas, grilled then shredded our chicken to avoid canned, only made two servings, and didn't use an onion because I didn't have one on hand). They. Were. Delicious!!!!!!! Steven raved about them, and I've decided they will become a regular in our dinner rotation. YUM. The best part? I was full all the way until I went to bed, which I didn't expect would happen (I also had corn and applesauce with it).

After dinner, we had a little computer time. At 8, we did our Catholic Workout DVD, which I missed because we hadn't done in 3-4 days because of Steven's work schedule and just being generally busy I guess. I know, tsk, tsk. I'm still not sure how some people do a rosary every night, and I wonder if we'll ever attempt that. Every other night is proving challenging (if you're confused about how a work out turned into the rosary, it's because you say the rosary while doing the workout) thus far but it's a good challenge that we're enjoying. Then we sat down and talked about some wedding stuff, as we're trying to do a little at a time, here and there, and not leave all the small details for the last second.

My favorite part of the evening was when Steven read his book that I got him for Christmas, and I practiced my knitting. Eventually we turned on Immaculate Heart Radio through the AppleTV and listened to that for a while. There was something really calm and comforting about him reading, me knitting, and the background Catholic radio show being on. I might have gotten a little sentimental. I told Steven that I am so excited for things like that to be an every day part of our future hypothetical children's lives. I'm excited for church/God to not just be a dinner time prayer/bed time prayer/Church on Sunday thing, but an every day, every aspect of our life type thing. We still have room to grow (but won't we always?) but the more we incorporate our faith into every day life, the better we feel. Many nights, we spend entirely too much time on the computer, or entirely too much time doing things that need to be done. It seems like we are always busy. But we need much more time like that, where we are both enjoying a hobby/interest of ours, and we are also bringing our faith into a time where normally we might not be thinking about it.

We headed to bed before 10 o clock. How's that for geriatric? We do the daily readings before we go to bed each night, which can take us up to 30 minutes probably depending on how much discussion we have, and I already knew I was tired. Our normal routine is to chart for the day (I share, he charts), then do the first reading, responsorial, Gospel, reflection, and Saint of the Day. The daily readings were Steven's idea (converts have such beautiful faith) and we enjoy the Catholic One app for that and Saint of the Day widget. We were going to read afterwards because I have a book that I need to review really soon, and I'm only half way through, but I was SO exhausted by that point (a little before 10:30) so I closed my eyes and was asleep just like that.

And that folks, is a day in the life of Stacy on a Monday!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

TMI Part 2

Wow, lots of TMI this week. I guess that's what being excited over a period will do to a girl.

I have officially earned my 'crunchy' title as far as menstruating goes. After much consideration (and badgering ehm, encouragement from my loving sister), and after reading the rave reviews in the facebook Natural Family Planning group, I have decided to convert to the Diva Cup. I'm a bit hesitant, but I have read SO many good things about it, and I can't deny the environmental impact. The website says they sell them at Whole Foods here, so I will head there this weekend to pick it up.

I had to add another layer of crunch, though. With the Creighton model, you aren't supposed to use anything internal on light days, because you need to make observations. I had the same thought about pantyliners that I do about regular tampons... chemicals... there? Granted it makes me a bit less queasy since pantyliners are external, but not enough for me to want to keep using them. My first thought was to find an alternative like I did with the organic cotton tampons. And then I thought, well that's still kind of wasteful when you add up another 25-30 years of using them. I have read a lot about "Mama Cloth" in the past few months, so I googled to see if they exist in pantyliners. And, indeed they do! I totally appreciate this Etsy seller for letting my crazy cat lady tendencies manifest in my cycle. Anyway, I couldn't pass up the buy 3 get one free (kitties, scottie dogs, hearts, and a black one). I did find them slightly cheaper at one other place, but you could tell they were more mass produced and I love, love, love supporting hand made when I can. Now... how to break this to Steven since he does the laundry.. hmm.

My frugal side is also happy because I will obviously spend a LOT less in sanitary products since I'm going reusable. I could totally learn to make my own "mama cloth" and save a lot of money, so hopefully I will have learned by the time those wear out (not for a few years, I'm sure). If you think all this is a bit extreme, that's ok :) .We all have our own ways of being earth friendly and frugal, and I can accept that. My ways may not be yours, and your ways may not be mine. Hey, it took me like 4 years to get on the Diva Cup bandwagon!

Friday, January 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---

I lied about starting my "A Day in the Life" series this week. I'm going to post mine on Monday, followed by the first guest post the following Sunday. I'm excited to read them!

--- 2 ---

I go on call tonight. I really, really dislike being on call. It doesn't consist of going anywhere, which is good, but just knowing that I'm attached to the phone from 5pm to 8:30am makes me anxious. I also really don't like it while I'm in church because I absolutely HAVE to answer it which means I have to see it ring, but putting it on vibrate goes against everything that feels right. I end up leaving it on top of my purse and staring at it every 3.28 seconds. Usually we go on call once every 9 or so weeks. Recently, I got lucky and didn't go on for 4 months. This time, not so much because I was just on call three weeks ago! I'm not complaining though because I think I was put on this week so I wouldn't have to worry about it during last minute wedding planning, showers, etc. I don't go on again until the last week of April/first week of May which will be nice. Steven pointed out that the next time I'm on call (after this coming week), I'll be married!

--- 3 ---
I really need to get my hair trimmed more often. I went Wednesday and the last time I had been was July. I swear it didn't feel that long. My hair gets split ends pretty badly, so waiting that long means tons of tangles for me every single day. I just got an inch cut off since I don't want to do anything to it until after the wedding, but an inch makes a difference! I love $9.99 haircuts. I don't think I'd trust a cheapie place for a 'real' haircut, but I do for a trim.

--- 4 ---

What's your guilty tv pleasure? Come on, tell me! We all have one. I feel the need to confess that mine is Teen Mom (and Teen Mom 2). I can't explain why and frankly, if I could, it might only make it worse lol. But I don't keep up with ANY shows... except Teen Mom.

--- 5 ---

I have anxiety about mingling with our guests at the reception. First of all, I'm a bit socially awkward, so mingling with people who aren't my really, really good friends or my family won't come naturally. I was even thinking this morning in the shower about mingling with coworkers and my heart started racing. I keep my work relationships as work centered as I can (it's a small office and for reasons I won't discuss here it's been a smart decision), so it will be weird to mingle with them about something so not work related. Time won't be on our side, so at least I won't have to mingle at each table very long.

--- 6 ---

Last night was the 2nd part of my knitting class. I spent 30 minutes that morning talking myself out of going. "There are tutorials online. Jessica will help. You can relax at home!". Then I had to get mean. "You quit everything. Don't you want to finish just one thing? Stop being lazy." Yes, it's true. I have a life long history of quitting hobbies. I don't know what it is... maybe I get bored easily? The only two things I ever stuck with for a considerable amount of time was chorus (3 years) and piano (maybe 4 years)... but both of which I eventually ditched. Everything else I tried (tap, baton, gymnastics, brownies, academic clubs, etc) I quit within a year. So I decided that even though I was totally not in the mood for the class, I was going regardless. I quit quitting.

--- 7 ---

Engagiversary flowers from last week! There is nothing like having fresh flowers on the table. I am SO ready for Trader Joe's to bring back their $1.99 daffodil bunches. I break frugal rules and get a bunch at least every other week. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Warning: TMI Ahead

Subtitled: YAY!

Further subtitled: HIGH FIVE THE OVARIES!

Ok, last chance to hit that 'x'. This post will include things related to periods, female-ness, NFP, and the like. You have been warned.

Today, ladies and gentleman-fiance (because I sort of hope no other gentleman is reading my blog, at least none I know in 'real life'), I started my period. Yes, you read correctly. The last time I went off the pill it took me 7 months to get a true period (not just the withdrawal one). This time? Approximately 2 months. That, my friends, is what I like to call improvement.

I'm trying not to get super excited for a few reasons:
1) I'm not totally sure I ovulated. I certainly hope I did, but I want to be sure as it could technically have been anovulatory. 50 ovulation strips are on their way to me as I type. Next time around, there won't be any doubt.
2) Who knows if my 'long cycle' is actually a cycle. I am well aware that I could not get another period for many months. But I'm hoping that I get it in about the same amount of days as this time (or less would be nice but I won't be greedy) and, even being long, I will at least know that's my cycle.

I was pretty sure I had ovulated- I was really hoping anyway!- but didn't want to write anything until it was confirmed. It's funny how things happen. At my previous follow up, my practitioner added the essential sameness question (was today essentially the same as the other days on my chart?) but held off on the yellow stickers so we could get used to that. I kept asking her, if my body is already producing peak type mucus, how will I know if something is essentially different? She just kept telling me I'd know. I walked out of there with serious doubts of this essential sameness business working. However, the very. next. day. I noticed that my observations were definitely NOT essentially the same. And then for 5 more days after that. She was right. I just knew. I tried not to get my hopes up, since I had before many times after marking the peak day. When we went to her last Saturday, she said she really, really thought I had ovulated. I kept resisting the idea and telling her I didn't want to get my hopes up and she said we'd see if I got a period before my next follow up. Then, shock of all shocks, we actually got to use a few green stickers! This is big for us... we had only used ONE green sticker (infertile) the entire time so we were excited. Anyway, 7 days after my peak day, and I started my period today. I actually had mild cramps all morning and kept telling Steven I didn't want to get excited, that it could just be nothing, so I was really glad when my body proved me wrong! I felt like a little girl getting her period for the first time. I didn't have it because I took hormones away from my body for a week out of the month, I had it because my body is functioning (well mostly) as it is supposed to. That feels SO good!

Does the whole foods, less processed, more natural lifestyle I'm living have anything to do with it? I'll probably never know for sure, but you better believe that shaving 5 months off the amount of time it took for me to have a period is encouragement enough to keep it up! My luteal phase is a bit short, but I know that's a fairly easy fix with progesterone supplements. Who knows if it will stay that way. I know my practitioner said we should see three complete cycles before knowing if something is typical for me, but I do know that progesterone deficiencies are common in women with PCOS. I just have to be sure that I'm on a supplement before I ever get pregnant and it should be of little concern. Thank God for charting, seriously. I never would have known that if not for the chart.

I am one happy girl.

Side bar comment: I promptly went out and bought some organic cotton tampons. I'd been wanting to quit using the regular brands after reading about the chemicals used in them. Who wants chemicals there? Not me. But I hadn't yet purchased any other kind since it didn't seem there was an immediate need. I ended up with a Trader Joe's brand, but they are pricey so I will have to see if I can find something better online or at Whole Foods. I figure my body is doing it's best work correctly, I should do the best I can to use things that I know won't have a negative effect. If you use organic, unbleached, chlorine free tampons and get them for a decent price (better than $4 for 16) let me know! If you want to know more about my decision, but don't want me to ramble on longer, read this. Here's an excerpt for those of you who, like me, are sometimes too lazy to click a link:

Some college courses on women’s health conduct a simple class demonstration: Place a new tampon in a glass of water. After it absorbs water, remove it, and watch all the remaining fibers floating in the water. These fibers remain inside a woman’s uterus.
In the U.S., more than one billion tons of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on cotton crops every year; and residues may taint tampons. Many of these pesticides can damage the nervous system, lead to cancer or function as hormone disruptors.
Although the effects of hormone disruptors on women’s health are poorly understood, it is known that estrogen itself can cause problems at certain levels. Dr. Susan Lark, author of Fibroid Tumors and Endometriosis, notes that women “are at higher risk of developing fibroids or endometriosis…if they have high levels of estrogen…or use estrogen-contaminating medication [such as Hormone Replacement Therapy].” A 1996 report in the journal Science concluded that when estrogen-like chemicals are combined, they often become more damaging. Jan Stout of Physicians for Social Responsibility argues, “We’re creating a threat to an entire generation.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Curious about Creighton?

I'm in a really awesome NFP group on facebook, and someone posted this video today. I really like it, which makes sense since I already am a huge Creighton fan after about 50 days of using it. This is just part one, but you can find part 2 on Youtube if you want. Check it out!

(Disclaimer: I'm not totally sure why the one woman says they got pregnant each time they tried another type of NFP because I don't think the others,  that I'm aware of, have failure rates much different than Creighton.)

I take it back... I liked the second part so much I'm posting it here as well!

One thing we were taught would happen with the use of NFP, and I have already noticed in our use of charting, is an increased amount of communication between Steven and me. We have had SO many conversations about it in the past two months. We've learned more about each other and it's really helped us to define and live our values. Reproductive health and fertility/infertility are no longer something that one of us just silently 'takes care of'. It's an active conversation, and I'm sure will be even more so after we get married in April. I love that we do it together- I observe, he charts because, like the one woman says in the video, it's nice not feeling like it's all on my shoulders, or feeling like my fertility is a 'problem' that needs to be stifled. We have gotten farther in the past two months with PCOS than I had in the past two years. And I'm no longer doing it alone. PCOS is no longer 'my problem'. It's now our hurdle and we're on the path to learning my body and helping it to function properly. Charting is giving us such valuable information on how PCOS is affecting me that I don't think I could have gotten otherwise. And as I've mentioned before, NFP has something like a 3% divorce rate. It's no wonder it is so low with all the extra communicating NFP couples are doing! I am trying to reduce my use of the word "love" and use the more appropriate term "like", but I love, love, love NFP!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Knitting Update

So if you remember, one of my goals for this year was to learn the basics of knitting, crocheting, and sewing. I am just now realizing how lofty those goals are and, since my goals are rarely ever met anyways, I reserve the right to change them. After a week and a half of disaster slow learning, I am thinking I should 'master' one each year instead of learning the basics of all three in one year. And by master, I mean be able to make something that at least sort of  resembles whatever it is I'm trying to make.

Enter exhibit A:

Don't even ask me what happened on that one really pathetic row.

If you know anything about knitting, and even if you don't, you can see I've had a rough go of it. Now, admittedly, I got some bad news the day after my first class which made me an emotional wreck on and off last weekend, but I did find myself fighting back tears at least twice during my first few days of knitting. I don't like not getting things! I even drove the 30+ minute round trip to the store once to have the lady fix a mistake, except she wouldn't teach me, and I got home and promptly made the same mistake within minutes. Talk about wanting to cry!

Enter my super awesome, crafty beyond belief friend Jessica. She saved the day on many occasions and, get this, by phone! She had me send her pictures of my mistakes or questions, and would then walk me through it by phone. Do you know how hard it is to teach someone to knit by phone? No, I don't either, but I sure wouldn't ever want to try. She found me knitting videos that fit my personality and knitting style (versus the one the teacher recommended which may have exacerbated tears on one occasion), gave me encouragement when I was two seconds from tossing the needles off the balcony, and gave me exactly the instructions I needed to keep me calm. She told me to knit for a while, and then purl for a while. Going back and forth, when I wasn't good at either yet, was really toying with my emotions. So I knitted for quite a few days, and then purled for quite a few days. As of today, I've begun doing both back and forth, and it is going a million times better than it was when I first started. Luckily, this is just a practice swatch and isn't supposed to look like anything. The real test will come this Thursday at the second and last class when we knit a cotton wash cloth!

So after 1.5 weeks of knitting, I have declared 2012 the year of knitting. Crocheting and sewing, I'll see you another time. I've got some knitting butt to kick.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Guest Series Update

Wow, I've had a great response to my request for guest posters for my "A Day in the Life" series... so much so that I actually ended up with 7 guest posters instead of 6! The guest posts will start on Sunday February 5th and will post each week with the last one being Saturday March 24th. That means that all of the original posts, Sunday through Saturday, will be guest posts. I will be kicking it off this week with my own "A Day in the Life". Stay tuned!

Our Engagement Story

For our "engage-iversary", I was really tempted to get copy/paste my engagement story that I wrote on my old blog last year. Then I thought it would be sort of fun to write it out here and then go read the old blog to see how they compare. I wonder what details I will remember a year out that I didn't remember days after, and what details I have forgotten now that made it into the original story.

So anyway, without further ado: Our Engagement Story

It all started in May of 2010 when I went to Asheville for a yearly conference for work. The conference was at the Doubletree Hotel (my fave because they give our warm chocolate chip cookies when you check in... and I couldn't be more thrilled that the Holiday Inn we booked for our wedding guests recently changed over to a Doubletree!). At the very end of the conference, they gave out 'door prizes'. Most of them were things like coolers, small gift cards, framed art, etc. Then they gave out the grand prize which was a two night stay at the hotel. I was, of course, on my phone during this part because guardianship emergencies stop for no one. Then I noticed people looking at me and someone told me I had won. I was thrilled because I'm just not one of those people who wins things. Like, ever.

So towards the end of 2010 we decided to use the two free nights to go to Asheville for a combined one year anniversary (1/4) and Valentine's Day. We went sort of in the middle- the weekend of the 21st. We decided to go to Biltmore because I am so, so in love with it, Steven had never been, and tickets are really cheap after Christmas. So a few weeks before this, towards the beginning of January, I went to visit my friend Jennifer. I remember telling her that weekend that I wondered if Steven was buying a ring that weekend. I didn't really have a reason to suspect, and then I immediately felt silly for even thinking it. I put it out of my head, and then later on the phone with Steven he said something about being in the mall parking garage with his friend and my radar went off again. Mall? Jewelry store? But he told me they had gone to Game Stop so then, again, I felt silly. Leading up to our trip, a few people told me they thought I would get engaged that weekend. I sort of thought we might, but I also kept telling myself that it didn't matter, that I didn't want to expect it, and that I was going to ruin the weekend if I was waiting for an engagement all weekend (especially if it didn't end up happening). The morning we left, I became completely convinced he wasn't going to do it that weekend because he was acting SO normal. I just knew he'd be jittery and on edge if he was going to propose! So, somehow, I put it out of my head and was prepared to just enjoy the weekend. I still don't know how I did it. I guess self talk is even more effective than I imagined it could be!

When we got to Biltmore, we had to go in to the gate house thing to get our tickets and we used the bathroom. Then we parked and opted to walk up to the house instead of taking the shuttle. It was really breathtaking and I'm glad we did that (I've always taken the shuttle) because you come up on the lawn from the far end when you walk, and the house and lawn are just stunning. We went up the steps and took pictures of the house from across the lawn and, besides the frigid cold, it was really romantic and beautiful. We made our way slowly up the lawn, pausing at my request (it's always my request!) for pictures. We did some in the middle of the lawn with the house behind us, and at the side of the lawn, against the rock/stone walls with the mountains behind us. So by the time we got up to the front of the house, I was soooo cold and ready to be inside. So I said something like "are you ready?" and turned to go up the few steps into the front doors. Steven grabbed my jacket sleeve and, before I turned around, I heard him say "Wait, I want to ask you something." That little scene is fresh in my mind because as soon as the question came out my heart immediately started to pitter patter. By the time I turned fully around, he was down on one knee. The box was sort of bulky, so it took him a second to get it out of his pocket. That second felt like forever! My mind was racing with "OH MY GOD HE'S GOING TO PROPOSE!!!! IS THIS FOR REAL??? I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!!!". You get the idea. He got the box out, opened it, and asked if I would marry him. It's funny, because I had to ask him later if he had said anything. It was like in a movie when the person is looking at something, but the sound stops. That totally happened. I saw what he was doing, but I didn't hear him, the people around us, birds chirping, nothing! I pulled him up to kiss me and then he put the ring on me. I believe I began talking in a really high pitch, annoying voice at that point. I didn't realize it until this couple walked up to us, and then I was really embarrassed because I hadn't even recognized that other people were around since I was so focused on what was happening. I think I had a high pitch screech of "When did you get it? Oh my gosh I can't believe we're engaged!".

So this older couple came up to us and the lady said she didn't want to interrupt but that she thought the proposal was so sweet and was so glad they saw it. The lady hugged me and the man shook Steven's hand. That is still one of my favorite moments. It was really exciting to share it with someone else- even someone we didn't know! They offered to take our picture, and I am SO glad because I love that picture. We are in front of the lion statue (which is where he kneeled) and I'm sort of teary, and we are both obviously very happy. They left us alone then and we went inside the house to a bench since it was so cold and we talked for a few minutes after we called our parents. (I called friends later on after Biltmore and a dinner together.) They have this thing inside where they force you to get your picture taken and then try to sell it to you on the way out. Those things usually annoy me to death, but I bought it and love it! It has the date on it which I love, too. We went through the house (how we were able to focus on the house, I'm not sure!) and randomly people who I guess had seen us get engaged would come by and say congratulations, giving us goosebumps all over again. I think we spent half of the walk through the house testing out the word 'fiance'. 

So after I got more details from Steven, it made the story even better. He did go ring shopping the weekend I was gone. It's so cute because he went to three different stores and learned the entire diamond system of the C's. The part I find the most endearing is that he purchased the diamond and ring separately, which I love because that means no one has ever tried my band on. But he wanted to make sure the diamond sparkled enough, so he had the security guard escort him out to the parking lot so he could see it sparkle in the sunlight! He hid the ring in his sock drawer (I think) and had decided over Christmas, while he was home talking with his mom, that he wanted to propose. The day of, he had the ring in his inside jacket pocket. He put a glasses case in the outside jacket pocket so if I bumped/brushed him and suspected something, he could pull out the glasses case. I also specifically remember being in McDonald's that morning before we drove to Asheville and he wouldn't stand beside me as we waited for our food. I remember asking him "You know I don't bite, right?" and he told me later that I kept going on the side of him where the ring box was, so he finally just stood back a little bit. How he was normal the whole ride to Biltmore (4 hours) I have no clue, and I don't think he does either, but that definitely contributed to it being a total surprise, which I love.

It's been a great year being Steven's fiance, but I am more than ready to become his wife!!!! (In 2 months and 3 weeks, but who's counting?)

Friday, January 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes- PCOS Edition

--- 1 ---

Ok, so the first take on my PCOS edition quick takes is not PCOS related. But I wanted to mention my post yesterday because I am looking for guest posters! Check out the subject matter (A Day in the Life) and let me know by emailing me at if you'd like to post. Speaking of email, I made a address a while back but I feel like it's more work switching back and forth between them (especially for commenting, etc) than I want to deal with. Ah, laziness.

--- 2 ---

One of the things that sometimes makes me angry about PCOS is the healthy foods I'm not supposed to eat. The bad foods? Yeah, I get that. But when I start really liking something that's healthy, and then find out my body doesn't, that's a bummer. Enter my 4 year love affair with edamame. And then I found out within the last year that my body reads soy as estrogen... no bueno. So out went the edamame. Not to mention hormone laden milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese, all of which I drool over and miss. I have them often enough to keep my cravings at bay, but not nearly as often as I'd like (and do purchase rBST free).

--- 3 ---

It's frustrating that with PCOS it's of utmost important to be a healthy weight, but it also makes it next to impossible to lose weight. I also am bothered by the fact that I lost a ton of weight quickly (70 lbs in about a year) with Weight Watchers, but did it in an unhealthy way. Everything I ate was either fat free, sugar free, low fat, etc. which meant super processed foods alllll the time. Now that I'm exercising generally 6 days a week and eating whole, fresh, less processed foods, I'm sort of at a stand still. I guess I need to combine the two (count points but on my current foods, which are generally higher because things like nuts that are awesome for me have a lot of good fat, which WW doesn't recognize) but I've lost all love for point counting. I used to thrive on it. Now it makes me angry. Le sigh....

--- 4 ---

I think I'm going to go gluten free next Lent (not this Lent). I've read multiple places that, though there's not a lot of official research, women with PCOS who go gluten free generally get their cycles back within a few months. Why not this Lent you ask? Because I think going gluten free and then going back to 'regular' foods the week of the wedding and on the honeymoon would be a recipe for disaster for my sensitive GI system! And I'm not NOT eating the food at the resort or our reception, that's for sure. Me not eat wedding cake? You must be crazy. I've already requested one slice of each flavor. Plus it will give me another year to see if this diet (lifestyle, rather) and exercise I'm doing now, along with charting, will help me figure my body out or not. If not, then gluten free next Lent it is, and I will have had plenty of time to prepare. Man, I love wheat.

--- 5 ---

For anyone who supplements with natural progesterone, do you know if it gives you a true cycle or an anovulatory cycle? I have heard many people swear by it, but I don't know if it just gives you a chance to shed the uterine lining or if it actually helps you ovulate. I'm going to be bringing it up to my doctor next month, but I know I have a few PCOS readers so I am throwing the question out there.

--- 6 ---

Though my short lived, post pill acne has left (for the time being, but hopefully for good), another hallmark symptom of PCOS has reared its ugly head this past week. Ready for it? Hirsutism. You know what that is? Hair in places that you don't want hair (no ladies, that doesn't include your bikini line, leg, or armpits). I know the ones I've gotten have been invisible to other people, but that doesn't make me less self conscious about them. I've noticed some small hairs on my chin that I've immediately plucked out. Luckily they appear as blonde on my face (but not the normal peach fuzz so that's how I know what it is) but when I pull them out they look dark! I'm so glad they aren't showing as dark on my face. I've only had 4 so far, and not at all the same time, so I'm hoping it doesn't get any worse than that. I know many post menopausal women wax their chins for this reason, but I may have to start 30 years early if it doesn't stop! I don't remember more than 3 stray hairs from my last venture off the pill (7 months) so hopefully this will come and go like the acne did.

--- 7 ---

To wrap it up on a positive note, do you know why I'm actually thankful for PCOS? I highly doubt that I ever would have started caring this much about my body, about what I put in it, and about exercising had it not been for this diagnosis. Sure, I cared about my weight before but, again, I was eating horrible things and thought I was doing well because I was losing weight. It was really more about vanity than it was health. I have learned so much more about how my body works, namely my reproductive system, which now seems like a shame to me that all women don't know it. Another thing? PCOS pretty much led me to decide to use NFP in the future (before we decided to actually use it now and to live according to our values) because I knew artificial hormones were wreaking havoc on me. So thanks PCOS, for leading me to an entirely new way of life.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Upcoming Guest Post Series!

I want to host my very first guest post series. I've been thinking about it for a few weeks, and I haven't quit liking the idea yet so I might as well go for it! I would like to do a series called "A Day In the Life". I will take a day and hopefully 6 other people will take another day (so we will each have a specific day of the week). Each week, I will post one guest post (1st week Sunday, 2nd week Monday, etc) so we can get a glimpse into the lives of our fellow bloggers. This will show us a picture of each other that we may not typically see.

For example, I might seem like I have it all together... I've got wedding details so figured out that I barely mention it on my blog, I've got my future written out in pencil (not pen since I know God likes to make me use white-out when I do that), and I manage an awful lot of blogging per week to also keep up with the household duties and hold down a full time job. But guess what? I freak out very often about future financials (we are talking like once or twice a week), I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the computer somewhat obsessively researching things that won't happen for many months and sometimes many years instead of just living life, and my non-work life is only so awesomely maintained because I have the best fiance ever who doesn't believe in traditional gender roles when we are both working full time jobs (ie he kicks butt around the house because he knows it keeps my stress down). So what we see in someone's blog isn't always the full picture. We sometimes only see a more glamorized version of real life, because who wants to come to a blog with tons of whining? But this can sometimes lead to us pining for someone else's life or circumstances or talents or family or blog or... I could go on! While it's not a bad thing to appreciate what someone else has going on in their lives, I think not "really" knowing someone and only seeing one or a a few sides of their life can sometimes leave us idolizing them, which isn't good.

This is two fold though! Another reason why I want to do this series is because we might get ideas from each other that we normally wouldn't see from a typical blog post. For example, you might see a routine that someone does that makes total sense but you never would have thought of. Even better, you might read about something a fellow blogger does to incorporate their faith into their lives daily and end up adding that to your day as well. That's actually a part I'm most interested to learn about from fellow bloggers. Sometimes life gets busy and it can be easy to push the most important things aside, so I'm interested to see how people include things like novenas/rosaries/family prayer time/daily mass/etc into their day. Other people might be interested to learn how some of us fit housework into our day, or cooking every night, or what things we decide to push until another day in favor of something else. I think it'll be a great learning experience for everyone.

Interested? If so, let me know by way of emailing me at I'll assign you a day of the week, and you will actually write about that day. If there is a certain day you really want, let me know and I will try to accommodate you. The first week I will post Sunday (mine) actually on Sunday, then the next week Monday's post will get posted on Monday, and so on. So whoever gets the days toward the end of the week will have well over a month to get it done. Make sure to send a short bio and link to your blog so I can link back to it.

Write about your whole day from waking up to going to bed. Try to make it more narrative versus "7:00 am woke up, 7:10 used bathroom, 7:14 brushed teeth"... that would get old fast! You can include or exclude whatever you want, but give us a good idea of what "a day in the life" is like for you.

And because I want to make this extra fun, I'll be tying my very first giveaway to the guest post series. Whoever's guest post gets the most unique comments (meaning if a poster comments twice, it only counts once)  here at my blog will get A Catholic Woman's Book of Days by Amy Welborn. It's a year long book of devotionals that I thoroughly enjoyed last year!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I have a confession to make...

You know how sometimes you read a certain blogger for a while and you start thinking, "Wow, they've really got it all together!". For me, it's usually followed by chiding myself for not doing x, y, z. For those of you who get that mentality, you may enjoy an upcoming series I'll be doing, especially because I'll be wanting 6 guest posters! So stay tuned....

But I thought I'd share with you how my budget can come crashing down just as easily as anyone else's. While I do pride myself on running a tight ship as far as budgeting goes, we inevitably have a week here or there where our budget seems to be pointing at us and laughing. This week, the line item taunting us is our grocery budget. I'm really sad when we blow the grocery budget, because it's the one that is the most fun/challenging to me to try to beat, let alone simply stay within budget. So without further ado, my receipt from my weekly grocery store trip on Friday...

Yeah, um, we nearly doubled our weekly budget. And since we stopped by the farmer's market for a half peck of Fuji apples which cost $5, we actually more then doubled it. In my not-needed-since-it's-our-budget defense, I stocked up on a few things this week. We usually don't run out of everything at once, but we ran out of cheese, frozen veggies, chicken, and beef this week! While buying more than one pack of chicken and beef doesn't save us anything, I for some reason decided to buy two of each. I'm hoping this means we will come under budget in a few weeks when we'd normally need to buy meat and don't have to, but knowing me I'll find something to buy! 

So I got two packs of beef (divided to make 5 meals), 2 packs of chicken (divided to make 5-6 meals), and peas, corn, and green beans since we had next to nothing in the freezer. I normally eat lots of veggies, but hardly ever have salad. This week though, I decided to get some romaine because I know my body loves salad- so that was a purchase I don't normally make (but for the quality, might do more often. I'm an iceberg girl and know that iceberg has next to no nutritional content so I made myself get the romaine... it's delicious and so fresh!). The enchilada sauce was a bit of a splurge, but I'm excited to use it because an employee saw it in my cart and got really flustered talking about how good it was! The milk chocolate pretzels were also a splurge, as I took them to my hang out with The Nerdy Wife (aka Kendra) and the Catholic Newlywed (aka Mandi) on Saturday. They were delicious, but won't be making a reappearance into my cart any time soon because I'm sure I could devour the bag by myself in two a sitting. The pizza dough was the real budget breaker... it went up an entire cent in the last week! I'm kidding.... sort of. If they raise it a penny every week, I won't have to wonder if it's cheaper to buy or make. I shouldn't be having pizza again so soon, but Steven was at work when I made it for my parents and was a wee bit pouty about missing out. 

So you're thinking my confession is over, right? Nope, not even close. After I put my groceries in the car, I proceeded to walk over to Jersey Mike's for a $8 sub sandwich to take home. I felt guilty and ridiculous while I was doing it, but I had also planned to treat Steven to Chickfila that night, but he got over time at the last minute, so I figured I was still spending $4 less than I would have if we had both eaten at Chickfila. No, rationalizing it didn't make me feel any better about it but, man! is Jersey Mike's delicious! 

Ok, surely I'm done now right? An entire evening of spending must have shamed me back to my frugal roots! Well, they sort of did. Until I realized yesterday that I didn't pick up any mozz for the pizza. So back into Trader Joe's I went. But um, I didn't come out with just cheese. See, I've been wanting to make this homemade granola bar recipe for the longest time and just haven't gotten around to it. My friend Jessica made it and posted a picture of it, which had me salivating. So as I went down the nut aisle to head over to dairy, I may or may not have picked up cashews, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and steel cut oats. Another $14.... FOR SHAME!!!!! So there you have it, this frugal lady does not have it together all the time. 

I think this week I might challenge us to see if we can shop on half of our budget. Since we have all that meat and veggies, plus Steven's mom gave us a big jar of homemade spaghetti sauce and a box of whole wheat pasta, we might just rise up to that challenge! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Working Out & Praying... Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter (ok... not quite, but almost!)

Steven got me the best Christmas present ever. Well, National Catholic Register actually gets most of the credit because they put out that really awesome holiday gift guide on facebook (did you see it? I wanted SO many things!). One of the things I saw on there was The Catholic Workout. I was immediately intrigued and put it on my wish list. He got it for me and I have done it probably 5-6 times so far. We are planning to do it every other night, with walking on the 'off' night (as opposed to our previous routine which was walking every night but no weights or anything). I. LOVE. IT. Seriously. I was kind of iffy about the whole idea, honestly, but thought it looked pretty cool and figured I wanted to at least try it. I wasn't really sure how you could blend a workout with the rosary, but Michael Carrera did just that! Oh, and can I also say that he is really awesome? Because Steven accidentally had it sent to an address he hasn't lived at in like 4 years. After he went to the door (no answer) and to the post office (they didn't have it), he emailed Michael who sent it out again without charging him a second time. Now that is customer service to the extreme!

But back to the video. It is so well done! It takes 32 minutes from warm up to cool down and you do the rosary interspersed with the workout. While you are praying the Hail Marys, you aren't doing the workout. It gives you the chance to really focus on what you're saying. I know I can sometimes day dream when I say the Hail Mary because I know it by heart, but he has religious and nature images on the screen during that time, which really works beautifully with the prayers. He asks you to meditate on certain scenes of Jesus' crucifixion throughout the actual exercise portion, and they are really very powerful. You have to focus hard to put yourself in that mindset, but when you do it helps the exercise feel less like exercise. The first exercise is my favorite because I feel like it "goes" with the meditation the most, and almost makes me feel like I'm right there in it.

Maybe the concept of praying while you work out is not new to you, but it was totally new to me. I've got to say, I really like it! Generally when I do workout videos, I am dreading starting it, don't enjoy doing it, and I'm so relieved when it's over. That is, if I even make it all the way through. I just really don't like them! They seem to drag on forever. But this one has really sped by and I would have done it for even longer if it was more than 30 minutes. That says a lot coming from me. I feel like I've had a good workout, but also feel really refreshed and renewed, too. It just feels good to the soul to pray the rosary, and I've long let laziness get the better of any plans to do it. I love that I can make exercise AND praying a routine and all at the same time. The exercise portion makes the praying portion feel more purposeful, which I didn't expect would happen. There is also a book that comes along with it, which I haven't read yet because I'm in the middle of a really intense book for a review, but I can't wait to read eventually!

With PCOS, I really need to be doing cardio and weights. Well yeah, everyone does, but I really need to do both and not one or the other, so this has been the perfect addition not just to my prayer life, but also to my exercise routine for my health. For what it's worth, I was not asked to review this nor given any free product for reviewing it. I just like it that much!

Friday, January 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes- Favorite Things

I thought it'd be fun to do some 'favorite things' quick takes sometimes. Each with their own theme, of course! This week it will be some of my favorite Trader Joe's items. We all know I'm head over heels for Trader Joe's, and if you have one near you, you should check out some of these products! They do have a few non Trader Joe brands, but all the things I love (or my top 7) all happen to be actual TJ brand. (In no particular order...)

--- 1 ---

Trader Joe's Organic Hummus: They have a few yummy looking options, but I like this one because of it's price (I believe $1.99), taste, and I do like that it's organic. I like it's flavor and usually I don't prefer "plain" hummus so you know it's good. It does have kind of a strong garlic smell though. We don't mind it, but one day I took it to work and my boss sprayed the office with Lysol after lunch. Oops. This is a bittersweet product for me, because we are going to quit buying it and start making our own, which will be even healthier and cheaper, and will use minimal packaging.

--- 2 ---

Trader Joe's Organic Pink Lady Apples: We generally love and support our farmer's market, but there are some weeks where we just don't have the time (or it's pouring rain) so we just pick up our apples from the store. Not only are these super economical ($2.49 for a bag of about 8), but they are sooo good if you like sort of tart apples (I do!).

--- 3 ---

Trader Joe's shredded cheese: This is technically more than one product since we have tried two kinds and loved both. We've tried the 3 cheese blend and mozzarella. They are both SO delicious and I didn't realize what a difference there could be from regular grocery store shredded cheese until I had this. They both melt really well. I used the mozz on my next favorite item this past weekend for my dad's early birthday celebration.

--- 4 ---

Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Pizza Dough: YUM YUM YUM!!!!! I saw it last week and it is, get this, $1.08. I am going to put it to the frugal test sometime soon by making my own, but you almost can't beat $1.08! I bought a $4 bag of mozz and used half, and used half a jar of pizza sauce (probably $2 or so for the jar). If you are counting, that makes about a $4 pizza. Yes, you can get one cheaper at a regular grocery store, but it won't taste nearly as delicious or be fresh. I served 3 people but should probably actually serve 4 which would drive down the cost per serving. The dough comes in a ball so all you have to do is roll it out and put it in the pan with your toppings. It makes for a really delicious and fun, not to mention quick, treat dinner!

--- 5 ---

Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk: So I'm not supposed to drink cow's milk OR soy milk with PCOS. This left me scratching my head, staring at a bunch of scary fake milks. I tried a few things here or there but wasn't really happy with any of them. Then I went totally off cereal for a while, but it's something I do like to have once or twice a week, so the search was on again. Then I found this product. YUM. It's really affordable compared to other non-milks, and has a nice flavor and texture to it. I do wish it had a bit more protein since it's made from nuts, but it's a winner by a long shot.

--- 6 ---

Trader Joe's Face Wash with Tea Trea Oil: As you may or may not know, acne around the jaw line and chin is a hallmark issue with PCOS. This week, knock on wood, my face has looked normal (normal for me being the many years on the pill with flawless skin). But from November when I went off the pill until about a week ago, you could have played connect the dot around my face. Not comforting to a soon-to-be bride! I switched from my Olay face wash to this and, once I got past the strong smell, I am in love. My skin looks better and I've noticed I'm less oily. Credit is probably owed partially elsewhere, because PCOS acne can't be treated topically, but I do notice a difference for the worse in my skin when I go back to my Olay, which I was doing so as not to waste what I have left, but since stopped since I can tell my skin is a bit less pretty when I use it. (Speaking of personal care products, I can't wait to try their natural shampoo and conditioner which are super affordable! But first I have to use up my giant Suave naturals which should not be allowed to have the word natural on it.)

--- 7 ---
Trader Joe's all natural free range thin cut chicken breasts: So I'm pretty sure that's not what these are actually called, but close enough. I love their fresh chicken because it's all natural, so no added hormones or antibiotics, and free range, which makes me happy for the chickens (though I know sometimes that term can be used and the area is crazy small so it's not much better than cages). I also like them because they are cut thin so you get way more servings for the same amount of money which appeals to my frugal side, and meat isn't the main part of the meal (or is equal to the other things you are eating in that meal) which I like since we try to limit our meat consumption.

Do you have any favorite items that are a must try? 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Movin' Up in the Blogosphere

Notice that fancy new header up there? No, those are not my awesome blog design skills (which, for the record, consist of me googling for 20 minutes just to figure out how to center my header. Not to mention I still don't know what the difference is between a two panel layout and a three panel layout). Those are the super awesome skills of Beth Anne from The Catholic Couponer ! I told her she should charge and make blog stuff for people in the CathSorority and other groups we are a part of because the people out there who charge and do it professionally charge more than a little ole blogger like me would want to pay! You should totally stop by her blog and encourage her because after my wedding in April I will be wanting a new header with our wedding picture in it, and then I could come back from the honeymoon and place my order! :P

Financing Our Dreams

So I touched on finances somewhat already, but it is a huge, scary thing for us to think about right now. We aren't totally sure how we will do this whole me staying home thing, though we have a rough idea. We know that we won't be able to afford dinners out (except the rare occasion), fancy vacations or even some non-fancy vacations, or really any luxuries. We probably won't be able to help much with our children's college education or even weddings to the extent my parents have. But we are becoming ok with that as we realize the things we will gain in spite of what we are sacrificing. We were talking about it the other day and realized that whether or not I'm working, we would never be rolling in dough. We would never be at a point where we weren't having to watch our money and be careful. So granted giving up one income will be difficult, but it's not like we are going from easy street to the school of hard knocks, because we have never known easy street. We will just have to improve upon the skills we are using now. Here are some things we have thought about to help make me staying home doable:

  • We will drive our cars until it doesn't make sense to fix them anymore. This isn't a new concept to us, so thankfully we don't feel like it's an area where we are sacrificing (because there are many that give us that feeling). Steven bought a used car about a year ago after his super old car needed it's 3rd or 4th major repair in like a year.... and the repair was required for inspection so it wasn't something we could put off. He has a very manageable car payment as he bought very smartly. Originally, we talked about getting me a newer car after we got married. Now, we recognize that we are so blessed to not have two car payments and we are going to make a good thing last! My car just turned 10 (I've had her since she was 4 miles old and she is now 131,000!) in December and I am hoping to at least get 3 more years out of her, which is how much longer Steven owes on his car. Ideally we will be done with his payments and then get me something newer, or have a gap in between where we can save that money until I really do need a newer one. 
  • I will probably take a child into my home when I have my first baby. When I quit working, it will obviously be really tough at the beginning until we get used to it, so making a little money by watching someone else's child will be really helpful. Of course we can't count on that money since the family could find a different childcare option at any time, or I might not find a child to watch for months after I have a baby, but it will certainly be helpful to have that money coming in. I'm thinking I might watch just one child all the way until it's time for me to homeschool. By then Steven will have had a few raises so hopefully I can give it up. I really hope to find a family who wants their child raised in the same way but the mom is going back to work. Childcares around here cost between $700 and about $1000 a month, with home day cares being much cheaper at $350-700 per month. I would probably charge on the higher side of the home day care range and hope that someone finds value in what I'm offering (plus, the people who advertise for $90/100 per week make me cringe usually.... tons of misspellings, no yard for the kids to play in, picture used to advertise is children corralled in front of a tv, etc. Hopefully since I would be offering much more structure and activity people would expect that I wouldn't be the cheapest one out there). Hopefully knowing the types of toys, food, and environment that I'm providing will make it worth the cost.Better start collecting baby coupons for all the supplies I'll need.
  • I'm going to be learning to crochet, knit, and sew at some point over this next year. I'm hoping that one of those skills will help me to make something I could sell. For example, say I made little girls' dresses. I don't ever really want to have a 'business' because that would probably mean I'm really busy and not able to give as much time to my kids, but if I could sell custom orders every now and again for a bit of extra money, that would certainly help our family. Or maybe I can make baby blankets or something like that. I have no clue because I have no skills currently, but the idea is that I could make a little extra money here or there, and every little bit helps!  Once I stop watching a baby for income (which will be when I begin to homeschool because I don't want to be overloaded since I'm sure I'll have more little ones by that point as well), I want to still be able to supplement our income, even if it's a very small contribution, and this is the only way right now that I can think of that I like. Steven wants me to get certified to teach the Creighton Model one day... we'll see! 
  • We will buy a house in areas that previously were somewhat undesirable to us. I admit... I am kind of a snob when it comes to real estate. I want to be in the more expensive areas- not the big fancy mcmansion neighborhoods, but the older, close to the city center neighborhoods. Those come with a really high price tag. I absolutely love the area we are renting in now, but we could never afford to purchase here. We could probably afford a tiny house in a similar neighborhood, but homeschooling multiple kids in a tiny house might not be a great idea. We can get an average (actually, what we want is smaller than average for our area but feels plenty spacious to me- maybe 1500 to 1800 square feet depending on layout) house about a 20-25 minute drive from the city center for the same price. So I will eat my words and my preferences because there is no 'starter' house for us. Whatever we buy is probably where we will be long term. 
  • We are going to practice living on one paycheck before we actually have to. At some point after the wedding, we will really discuss the nitty gritty of future finances and what we can trim versus what we can't. Our goal is to live on his paycheck and maybe a small portion of mine (since I'm hoping to bring in a very small amount of income) just so we know we can do it. My income would then go straight into savings, which would put us in a really awesome place financially by the time I did quit working. I wouldn't feel comfortable quitting my job without substantial 'just in case' savings, so I'm actually pretty excited about this plan. 
  • We'll thrift most everything we can, ESPECIALLY children's clothing and toys! 
  • I was going to buy some book son going to one income, frugal living, etc. And then it hit me... how unfrugal is it to BUY books on being frugal? So I now have a list prepared for a library trip! 
  • We will take small trips versus big, expensive ones. We'll also tie lessons/field trips into vacations. Part of me is sad when I think of the trips we most likely won't be able to go on, but I know when we go for a short trip to the beach, I will be happy to be vacationing with my family- not wishing I was somewhere else! 
Any tips? Am I missing anything huge? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Two months old and already changing things!

Do I get a free pass for making a semi major change on my blog since I've only been here two months? I've been debating if Finding My Fertility and My Faith should continue to be the title or if the actual address of my blog, Catholic and Crunchy, should be the title. I named it FMF&MF (that's a mouthful) in the beginning because obviously that's the main focus of the blog. But in two short months it's evolved a bit to include health, which yes is related to fertility, and frugality, which will never not be important to me... unless, as Steven says, we win the lottery, which would require us to play the lottery, which we won't, so... Anyway, I guess you can tell I've made my decision! I feel like Catholic and Crunchy is allows a broader scope. And plus, I don't want to have FMF&MF for years, and then I have 3 kids and it's like whaaaa??? I'm pretty sure she found her fertility! Whereas C&C will always apply. Make sense? Still like me even though I'm a fickle blog titler? :P

Monday, January 9, 2012

Revamping Our Prayer Life

Shiny Happy Catholics gets full credit for inspiring this blog post. It's an 'increasing the faith' topic that I never would have even thought to write about until I read her New Year's resolution post (you should check it out). For a long time, Steven and I prayed with regularity and felt like we were doing a really good job. But something sort of felt like it was missing. It took me a while to figure it out, but when I finally did, it was a lightbulb moment. Like God was up there saying "Finally!". We were being selfish pray-ers! The concept might sound kind of weird... what can be bad about praying!? Well, it's not that our praying was bad, but we were praying mostly for ourselves. We would offer up thanksgiving, but then state what we needed/wanted. I realized that we were really lacking by not praying for anyone else (besides my usual routine on Sunday). But then I felt overwhelmed when I thought of ALL the people/groups I wanted to pray for! How can you pray for ALL of them? And it felt like a cop out to say "God, you know the needs of everyone on earth. Please bless them." which I will admit I do sometimes do, but I like to have a little more direction and intent in my prayers. Our solution? Pick one person/group/cause to pray for at dinner every night. We can do the same at any other point in the day, but we know that we will be praying for someone besides just ourselves, or close family/friends who generally get our prayers, at least during that time of the day. It has really made a world of difference. My prayers feel more complete, less one sided, and I feel like I'm 'giving back'.

Another thing I have just recently grasped the concept of, but don't have down pat in practice, is praying not for my will, but for me to accept and live out God's will for me. That is a toughie and not something I can write about yet because I haven't even reached the tip of that iceberg!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book Review: Becoming: The Woman God Made You to Be

I was really excited to become a part of The Catholic Company's book reviewer program. First of all, free stuff rocks. Secondly, I need an excuse to read (and having a soft deadline is a good excuse). Third, I love Catholic products! My eyes were very big as I drooled over the list of products to review. I ended up choosing this book for two reasons: 1) Steven told me that  choosing the book about death probably wasn't the best choice for my first review and 2) I felt, from the description, like this book encompasses why I started this blog in the first place. Tammy Evevard's writings did not disappoint!

I really enjoyed the book's layout because it is easy to either read all in one sitting if you have a few hours free, or to just read a chapter or section at a time, put down, and pick it back up again later. For someone who is pretty busy, it means that the book is readable (versus something that bogs you down and ends up getting shelved for months!). There are lots of anecdotal stories and personal reflections mixed in with bible verses, excerpts from the Catechism, research, and quotes from famous or noteworthy Catholics. This format keeps it very interesting and, I think, makes it appealing to a wide audience of women. I found it really refreshing to read something specific to Catholic Christian women! The author, Tammy Evevard, is not only very real, but also has a good sense of humor, which is important to me in this type of book.

I was trying to think of one 'favorite point' of the book, but I have entirely too many to settle on one! The part that really spoke to me is how she addresses feminism from the point of a Catholic woman. She points out that we, as women, play a vitally essential role and we can't let ourselves get caught up in imitating men or we lose our feminism. Society sometimes suggests that we should be like men, do things like men- but where is the femininity in being masculine? I read the section a few times over and it was eye opening to me in the point I'm at in life- deciding whether to give up my career that I got a master's degree for in order to stay home with future children. Society says that I'm 'oppressed' and that a feminist would get educated and be in the working world... why would someone with my education be 'barefoot and in the kitchen'? But if that is the way I choose to live out my feminism, it is no less valid than someone choosing to live theirs out by working in the corporate world (and vice versa of course). Her explanation really solidified that for me. Evervard points out that we are equal to men, but we lose our femininity if we don't recognize that we have different gifts to offer. She uses some great examples from the Bible to drive home her thoughts on feminism and celebrating womanhood, as well as quotes from both John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

She also touches on self confidence, which is something that most women could probably use a little encouragement on! She talks about how the world always tells us that we aren't good enough, that we should change, that we should lose weight, or have whiter teeth, or a better job. She points out how this mindset leaves us unempowered and goes on to explain how we can begin accepting and loving ourselves just how we are. I know that, for me, this is a major work in progress, and her words are very helpful to me along that path.

Perhaps my favorite quote is from page 54 where she writes, "Living your faith means being immersed in faith, finding that your very identity, your purpose, and your dreams are all born out of faith.".She explores that further by delving into prayer and tradition. It was so powerful for me to read about because I have spent most of my life as a "Sunday Catholic" or "Cafeteria Catholic". I have just begun very recently to live this way, or attempt to live this way, and finding concrete ways to do this was really helpful in my spiritual development.

The last part I'll mention is her section on friends. She talks about how important friends are, and that they should share your same values but also challenge us to become better- that it's ok to be different in certain ways because that's how we learn and grow, but we also need support in being the women we are called to be. As I have begun to center my life around God, I have had to re-evaluate my friendships to know which ones support who I am becoming. For the most part, everyone has embraced the changes I've made and these are the people that I know will be around for the long haul; we may be very different, but they accept and encourage me and that's what we need. As I continue to lay down roots in my current city, I will keep her words in the back of my head- that I don't have to find women identical to me, but they should share my basic values so that we can reciprocate support and encouragement.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It obviously had many things that stood out and spoke to me, and was a perfect read for where I'm at in my life and spiritual development. I think that it could be beneficial for any woman to read, but specifically young adults or those who feel like they need some guidance in developing their spirituality and faith.

*This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Becoming: The Woman God Made You to Be. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Friday, January 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes- Wedding Edition

--- 1 ---

Now that it's the actual year of our wedding, I'm starting to feel like a frazzled bride. Up until now, I've been calm, cool, and collected. Coworkers routinely ask me why I'm not stressed out, as if it's a bad thing, and I laugh and say it's because I have planned everything in the most low stress way I could. Well the laugh is on me because I knew it would get chaotic when 2012 hit and here I am, and yes it is!! I actually feel like a bride now, instead of "oh yeah, I'm getting married at some point... in the future". So there is stress, but there is also jittery, fluttery excitement!

--- 2 ---

I never knew labels could be so stressful. I'm trying to have all the pieces of my invitations ready for assembly this weekend so I can put my visiting parents to work. Steven had the clear inkjet labels (to print pretty font on- stress reducer tip 1 is just print your labels, no one cares!) ready to bring, but the way our printer is, it messes them up. So he went and bought laserjet and took them to Kinkos to have them finished, brought them home, and they were white instead of clear. He went back out today for clear laserjet, which is apparently way more expensive, and he could only find in a ridiculous pack of 500 for almost $50. We need 100! We finally ordered them online from the same store he was in for $25. So we'll just have to do everything but that part this weekend, and add those later.

--- 3 ---

Alterations are this weekend. It bothers me a bit that they are so far from the wedding, but they said I needed to do it that way since I'm doing bridal portraits, which makes sense. I don't think I need anything done besides the hem, bustle added, and this part at the very top of where it closes, so I guess it doesn't matter as much as if I were getting the waist or something altered. My dress doesn't come with a bustle, so I have to choose an 'over' or 'under' bustle. I'm stressed about that! I know she can't show me exactly what it will look like and it's hard for me to picture things like that. My mom and future MIL will be there so hopefully between us we come to a consensus.

--- 4 ---

I have very purple wedding shoes. I ordered them months ago and hoped I wouldn't change my mind because they were slightly over budget (though my original budget was admittedly low for a nice pair of shoes). They still make me giddy!

Please focus on the shoes and not my legs/feet which I feel look exceptionally unattractive in this picture lol. The color is slightly off from 'real life'. To me they look more blue-ish purple here and they are actually very purple purple.

--- 5 ---

Centerpieces were also stressful. We couldn't afford to have the florist do our reception, so we tossed around ideas for MONTHS. Or, should I say, I tossed around ideas. It's difficult because we have almost 30 tables of varying sizes, versus the standard 10-12 massive round tables. I like that as far as looks go, but not as far as planning centerpieces! Here's what we ended up with. White table cloths, dark purple napkins, and white china (provided by the place), then we are using 20 x 20 satin clover green napkins unfolded into a big square as 'overlays' which obviously won't cover the table but will fill up the space in the middle- we did this because getting overlays for various shaped tables would be a nightmare. There will be a hurricane globe (provided by the place) in the middle with an ivory candle in it (maybe embellished, that's the only part I have yet to figure out), with a spring mix of eco friendly (yay!) freeze dried rose petals (pink- just a tad, ivory, purple, white) scattered around it. I found awesome coupon codes for everything online. I did each table for about $18, and the florists prices started at $40 a table just for flowers in a vase. So it was still a decent chunk of money, but way cheaper than if someone else did it. Thank God for our day of coorindator who will decorate the tables so I don't have to!

--- 6 ---

Our name has been sent to the couple we are going over our FOCCUS with, but they haven't contacted us yet which is making me antsy. It will be a busy month though- we have to meet with them, the priest, the organist, and the cantor all this month! I think most people have done their FOCCUS couple meeting before this point, but we did our retreat in November, after it got cancelled in July, but had completed our FOCCUS in August, so we totally forgot to remind the church to set us up with a couple once we finally did go to our retreat. If that made sense.

--- 7 ---

Sometimes I feel silly for the amount we are spending on our wedding. It's not ridiculous or extravagant, just a lot for us super-saving frugal types. But I try to remind myself that I will never have another wedding again and that we picked things that were really special and important to us. My bride side and my frugal side will have to learn to get along.

Bonus take: Is there such thing as 'wedding brain' like pregnancy brain where you become super forgetful? If so, I have it!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two Years

Since I'm pretty new, and January holds two very special dates for Steven and me, I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you a little more insight into 'us' by sharing some stories. Today is our 2 year anniversary! We are big ol' nerds about dates. For example, we still recognize the date of the first time we communicated, and we still celebrate the first time we met, not to mention our actual anniversary and, this year, our engage-i-versary. Then in 2013 we'll add our wedding anniversary to the mix! There is just something about remembering those really special days that get us all sentimental. I'm sure we'll drop some of them at some point, but I hope we always verbally recognize them. Having said that, we had just finished watching Wall-e on New Years day when it hit me that our anniversary was 3 days away and neither of us had even thought of it! Usually we are planning our 'versaries' days or even weeks in advance. I think we both just have wedding and future planning on the brain, so it escaped us. We are going to use a gift card my mom gave Steven a while back and go out to Outback tonight. We rarely go places with servers, so it will be a treat! We tried to come up with a together activity afterwards, because we like to do that in lieu of gifts for special dates, but couldn't come up with anything that was weather appropriate, affordable, and we both liked. Oh well, we can just linger over dinner.

Anyway, since I didn't blog about the November and December 'versaries', I'll start at the beginning and then lead up to our dating anniversary which is today, January 4th. Steven and I met on It's a free dating website, since I guess neither of us was at the point where we wanted to pay for something. He hadn't met anyone off of there yet, and I had 3-4 dead end dates. I had one second date, but I knew it wasn't going anywhere- I think I just was hoping I'd change my mind. Nothing was wrong with the guys; no jerks, no major misrepresentations, but there was just nothing there. I had also joined the young adults group at my church before joining okcupid but that didn't pan out since the 'young adults' were about 35-40 years old. (I did meet a married couple a bit younger than me and the wife and I ended up teaching 3rd grade faith formation together that year so it wasn't a total loss.) So by the time Steven messaged me on November 13, I was really jaded. I was thinking that if the next date didn't work out, I was going to have to figure something else out. I don't like dating and I don't like 'firsts'. Meeting people from the internet was easier than trying to approach someone in public, but was getting old fast. I'm a relationship girl so all those first dates were really wearing on me. He messaged me with some awesomely nerdy line about people who like ice cream, since I had ice cream in my profile picture. We talked for a few weeks by email before we met. I refused to talk on the phone because I was in a new city and didn't know anyone... I was super cautious. We set a date to meet, December 1st, I believe and I ended up having to cancel the morning of because my cat was wheezing and Tuesdays my vet is open late for appointments. I later found out that Steven thought I was blowing him off (can you blame him? "Hey, I can't get together tonight. My cat is breathing funny.") and actually googled to see if there was a vet in Raleigh open late on Tuesdays! I have kept the receipt, jokingly as proof, ever since I found that out because it makes me laugh.

Anyway, we rescheduled for December 3rd and decided to meet at Coldstone. I don't remember a ton about that first date. My memory sort of sucks. But I remember that I got there really early because I didn't want to have to find him. So I waited at an outdoor table for him, but I did recognize him when he got there. The line was insanely long for a winter night, which gave us lots of awkward talk time. It was probably a nice way to break the ice, looking back. I refused to let him pay for my ice cream because I didn't know if it would go anywhere, and just had a hang up about that. We sat and talked for probably 30-45 minutes. He mostly talked about work, I guess so there wouldn't be any dead space. I do remember thinking "Gosh, he talks a lot", which I also thought after our second date and still like to pick on him about (I got a 30 minute description of his grandma). But left to me, it probably would have been weirdly silent, so I'm glad he talked my ear off. After the first date, I had a feeling about him, but I wasn't really sure what. I knew I was interested in seeing where it would go. I thought that if I didn't hear anything from him in a day or two, I'd message him. About an hour after I got home, he emailed me telling me that he really enjoyed the date and would love to see me again. I swooned, because I was used to dating guys who didn't really show their feelings, who felt like they were less of a man if they were excited, and who sort of played games. It was refreshing to me that he was so open about his excitement, so of course I got even more excited.

We dated more and more for the next few weeks and I remember on our date on January 1, 2010 hoping we would make it official. We went out to Applebee's and then back to his apartment where we talked for a few hours straight. It was like we couldn't run out of things to say. He didn't end up asking me that night, so I just hoped it was coming soon. I didn't want to feel like we were dating with no purpose. We were hanging out a few nights later at my apartment and he asked me something along the lines of "So, are we together?". And I replied, "I would like to be!". He got all excited, said he wanted to as well, and that was that! I immediately thought in my head that I couldn't wait to put it on facebook (I know, I know) but I didn't want to seem over eager. A few seconds later he asked if we were going to put it on facebook that night, and he ended up doing it before I could get to it! That made my heart pitter patter even more. Again, I just wasn't used to a guy who was so proud and excited to be with me. I knew he was different right away and he has proven me right for two years now <3.

Stay tuned for our proposal story in a few weeks!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Homeschool vs Public School

A lot went into our discussions that led us to choose homeschooling over public schooling. First of all, if we could afford Catholic school, I don't know that I would have decided to homeschool. I think I probably would have decided to stay home with the kids until they were school aged, and then worked while they were in school. But it isn't now and most likely will never be a financial option for us, and the more I learned about homeschool, the more I fell in love with it. Thankfully there are tons of mommy homeschooling blogs on the internet and that was how I got introduced. Then I began researching curriculums, forums, articles... you name it! I wanted to know everything I could. Now let me preface this with the disclaimer that I don't judge people who don't homeschool, and I won't in the future either. Heck, until very recently I was going to put my kids in public school. I don't look at public school as this horrible thing, just something that isn't right for us. I am a product of public school. I think everyone has to make a decision on what's best for their family regardless of what anyone else says, so this is just an exploration of how we got to that place... not reasons why I think you should homeschool!

Reasons we want to homeschool:

  • Probably the biggest one is that we want their faith to be an everyday part of their lives, not just a Sunday or Sunday and Wednesday type thing. Yes, we could do a bit in the evenings, but I really want it to be even more than that. I want it to be a major part of who they are, and not just an 'add on'. So if I homeschool, and I am making/tweaking the curriculum, I can do just that. I can actually use a Catholic homeschool curriculum or I can use whatever I want and add it in myself. Right now I'm in love with the Catholic Heritage Curricula. Homeschooling can actually be really expensive if you let it, but we can't let it, so I will probably use a ton of free resources, but the CHC looks pretty affordable compared to many, and I like the way it is set up. 
  • I want to teach our kids with our values in mind, not the values of anyone else. If I'm creating the lessons and structuring the day, I can do this. If not, I have a very small window of time when I'm with them in the evenings and weekends to try and do this. 
  • The idea of a flexible schedule appeals to me. I love routine, and children crave it to, so there will still be some routine, but it will be flexible. We can travel any time we want, and work school into or around that. I was drawn to year round schooling at first (when we didn't feel like staying home was an option) because of that reasoning. Also, there is research that the summer break is actually not helpful at all as far as learning goes. With homeschooling, we can 'do school' whenever it suits us best as a family. My NFP practitioner made a really awesome point- she said that in the fall and spring they do less school and play outside almost all day since the weather is nice. In the summer they do school during the day when it's too hot to play, and then play outside in the evenings. In the winter, her kids find it too cold to play outside at any point of the day and they do day and some evening school then. As long as they get the 180 days in, it doesn't matter when they do it. I love the flexibility in that.
  • I like the challenge. I can be kind of lazy sometimes and I need a challenge to show my best side. I'm really excited for the future when I get to begin piecing together the things I want to teach and the ways I want to teach. Knowing I am completely responsible for my children's education actually really excites me and is a challenge I think I will enjoy.
  •  I do love my job, and I think I could be very happy being a social worker for the rest of my life, but it doesn't fulfill every part of me. I think that's part of how I began to figure out my vocation. I see people totally in love with their jobs, and I do really like mine a lot, but I find myself enjoying things like baking to stock the freezer and organizing the home way more. I think doing that, being with my babies, and homeschooling with my children will reach that area that my current career just isn't quite fulfilling. I know I will miss it, but homeschooling will bring me a new type of happy.
  • I want my children to have a hand in what they are learning. The unschooling movement doesn't appeal to me in the least, but I want my kids to have a choice in their schooling to an extent. For example, if I have a 3rd grader who needs to learn 2 different events in US History, I want them to choose which one they want to learn about first and then if I find two historical fiction novels for unit studies on that one event, I want them to choose which one appeals to them. I think this will keep them really interested and pumped about learning, versus always being handed the next thing to learn without any choice involved. It will keep them well rounded but with them and me getting to tailor each subject to the child a bit. 
  • Each child can move at their own pace. If one kid is struggling, maybe we will learn for 200 days instead of 180 to help that child grasp the concepts. If another kid finishes all the work in 150 days, then that child can choose some other areas to explore or skills to strengthen to fulfill the state requirements. No one is stuck being bored because they are ahead of the class, or struggling to catch up because the class has moved on.

Reactions/concerns I've gotten from others:
  • My brother is super concerned for the social well being of my kids. I explained to him that homeschooling doesn't have to produce socially awkward kids. I will need a little mental stimulation myself so I'm excited about joining co-ops and things like that where the kids can socialize, moms can socialize, and we can all find support and ideas in each other. I would imagine us doing something like that maybe one day a week. I will also have my kids in various lessons for extra curriculars (because they are sooo affordable here through Parks & Rec) and they will socialize that way. Even though I will be catechizing them at home, I'll probably still put them in Sunday school/CCD/Faith formation (we call it faith formation here) as another way to socialize. So you see, socializing isn't really a drawback, and I've read many places that kids who socialize with all different age groups, including adults, do better than just socializing in their age groups all day. He does have a point with some things though. He pointed out that he loved pep rallies and football games, and my kids wouldn't go to those. I don't fully agree because if they have friends through church who is to say they won't want to join them for some social events like that? I would fully support it. Also, my kids will have opportunities that someone in public school might not have, so to me it seems to balance out. 
  • My brother also worried that my kids will be horribly sheltered. I think his perception is that I want to homeschool to protect my kids, and therefore they will be totally unaware of any of the evils in the world. I explained to him that yes, homeschooling does have something to do with that, but I don't plan on sheltering my kids. I don't want them exposed to some things as early as they would be in public school (ie my kindergartener only needs a kindergarten understanding of sex; working in daycares I could not believe what those kids knew!), but I don't want to shelter them. What's important to me is teaching them about various things in the perspective of our values. If they are learning it at school from friends, or even from teachers (because let's face it, your morals and values affect how you teach social lessons, which our kids learn in school) then they aren't learning it from our family's perspective. And yes, I know a child can go to public school and still learn the family's viewpoint and values at home, but I believe it's increasingly hard to do that in the world we are in today. When I find it appropriate to teach my kids about drugs, they will learn it from the perspective of our value system, not on the back of the bus where they then have to come home and ask me about it. I want my kids to know the imperfections and even evils of the world, so that we can then talk about ways we as Christians and moral people can help. 
  • I've heard concerns that I will lose myself in my kids, and what happens when they move out? This was actually one of my biggest concerns too, but I sort of addressed in the last post that I will find ways to have my own social/intellectual outlets. It won't be something I do often or invest a ton of time in, but enough that when the kids move out I don't feel absolute despair and worthlessness. What actually sort of excites me is that, when they move out, I can take the social work jobs I drool over that are sooo low paying because any paycheck will be more than not getting one. Right now, I can't take those jobs (mainly working with people are homeless is what I'm referring to and they usually pay very, very low) since we have to make ends meet, but after not getting a paycheck for 20 some years, it won't need to be a big one. I keep thinking that my kids are the most important thing I'll ever "do" and I don't want look back with regrets. So if I have to work a little harder to make sure I'm investing in me, that's fine. But having a job and not feeling like I'm making the right decision for my family isn't the answer.
  • My parents actually didn't say much. My mom asked a few questions but really, they have been sort of mum on the topic. I'm not sure what this means, but it was easier then the million questions (or rather, negative observations) that my brother put me through lol. 
Next up, finances!