Monday, March 23, 2015

7 Things Never to Say to a Pregnant Woman

 --Me at 37 weeks--
 (And yes, I have indeed heard all of these over the course of the last 8+ months):

1. "My daughter's due at the same time as you, and she's already gained THIRTY-TWO pounds this pregnancy!" (said incredulously, as if she's never heard of any woman gaining such a massive amount of weight by the time she hits 8 months)

(To which I awkwardly reply): "Lucky her. I've gained almost 40."


Lesson Learned: Just don't discuss weight (especially concerns about how much weight that the pregnant woman has gained). Unless you can improve the silence by saying that you gained 79.2 pounds with your first baby (not twins) and that you think I look cute as a button (and not just because I'm round), just don't go there.

2. "Oh, I'm just so excited for you guys! You spent quite a long time trying, didn't you?"

(To which I wryly smile and say): "Huh. I didn't know two months was a long time..."

Lesson Learned: Just because someone has been married for awhile and doesn't have kids doesn't mean that they are having problems. Other lesson learned--I don't have many issues with being forthright about issues that other people are usually more private about. So if you don't wanna know, think before you comment.

3.  "I know you SAY you want a natural birth, but let met tell you..."

I've heard this one too many times to count. Unless unforeseeable circumstances (involving medical necessity) come up, I will be having this baby naturally if it kills me.

I'm considering designing t-shirts that say, "Positive birth stories only, please" and wearing it to any gathering of women (large or small), ESPECIALLY baby showers.

Lesson Learned: The birthing process is a personal decision, and you should be supportive of whatever direction the birthing mother is taking. I don't judge women who are having (or have had) epidurals or C-sections, so why should they judge me?

4. Other Person: "Oh, you look so cute pregnant now."
Me (half-joking): "Hey, what do you mean, NOW?"
Other Person: "Well, you're not looking just fat and chunky anymore. You have the cute pregnant belly that's obviously from baby and not from bloat."

*awkward silence*

Lesson Learned: Pregnant women already feel fat and chunky enough without people pointing it out to us (even if it's served up as some kind of backhanded compliment). I think being pregnant has made me like the Queen of Receiving Backhanded Compliments lately--it's both amusing and completely aggravating at the same time.

5. "Well you just look miserable, don't you?"

This is something I've never understood--with sick people or pregnant people or just plain tired/depressed/stressed-out people, what does it help for someone to point it out to you? This particular comment just baffled me particularly because it was said when I truly had been feeling GREAT that week and especially that day (and I'm actually still feeling pretty great on pretty much most days, thankyouverymuch). 

Lesson Learned: Pregnant women like to hear they have "The Glow." Just say that to them, even if they look like they're retaining water, not sleeping at night, and/or acting hormonal in general. I'd take "The Glow" over "miserable and tired" any day.

6. "Whoa--you got like, REALLY pregnant all of a sudden. Guess there's no hiding it anymore, eh? *wink, wink*"

What I want to say to this?

(putting on an innocent voice): "Oh, I thought there was only one degree of pregnant--you either are, or you aren't. Guess I was wrong."

Lesson Learned: Are you getting the picture yet? Anything mentioning the general weight or size of the belly or pregnant women in general is officially off-limits to everyone but the woman's ob/gyn or midwife.

7. "So you're still around, huh? When's that baby coming already?"

True fact: the earlier you get this in the pregnancy, the more depressing it is. And I'm sure that the closer to the due date I get, the more annoying it will be.

Lesson Learned: Maybe you should just stop talking to me about the pregnancy. Or at least ask me about something else for a change. Maybe Matt and I should go forward with our plans to design t-shirts that say "More than just a belly" across the front with "Alternate topics of conversation" written across the back.

Oh, and to answer the Universal Question I seem to get every hour:

No, we don't know what we're naming the baby yet.

***Note: I really am okay with you asking about my pregnancy, especially because I know you mean well. Just preface everything with how great I'm magically still looking, and I'll be perfectly content to spill everything you want to know :-)

Monday, March 9, 2015

I Would Procrastinate My Own Labor & Delivery If I Could

 Each month this year, I've decided to focus on just one area of my life intensely rather than pull my mind in a million different directions with a whole list of goals and expectations having to do with everything from how many books I'll read to how much exercise I plan to do. For January, I focused on finances with my spending freeze. In February, I focused on trying to fit in 10,000 steps a day to work on my activity level.

Now, for March, my big focus is:


Rather ironically, I've been intending to work on my procrastination problem for years now. Way back in high school, I realized the depth of my problem when I pulled a true all-nighter to finish a huge writing project I'd kept putting off for one of my classes, and I ended up finishing it at 6:50 a.m. in the morning--just in time for me to get ready for school and head out.

That was a big wake-up call.

But it wasn't enough, apparently--just a couple years later in college, I was taking a British Authors class and had put off the 8-page paper until the day it was due. The essay had to be submitted by midnight, and I woke up that morning with some kind of flu/fever/congestion nastiness. So, completely hyped up on Mucinex and Advil, I typed up the essay in a frenzy, not even sure if I was making sense or if I was remotely fulfilling the parameters of the assignment.

Both of these scenarios could have turned out badly, and had I failed the assignments/classes (or, let's be honest, gotten anything less than about a 93%), I really probably would have worked on mending my ways. But they didn't---I received accolades for both projects, so my procrastination only seemed to get rewarded, triggering a vicious cycle.

The problem doesn't just extend to homework though--the first year of applying to PT school with Matt, we put it off until I about had a complete stress meltdown when we were waiting on a critical verification that came literally hours before the Oct. 1st deadline. And now, about a month away from my due date, I am no closer to a "nursery" for the baby than I was when we first found out I was pregnant, I still haven't selected a pediatrician, and I haven't even started on any lesson plans for the long-term sub that will be stepping in for me when I'm on maternity leave.

Everyone please say a prayer now that our baby girl comes at least a week late (ideally 10 days late--that would just be really grand with my work schedule and everything).

Basically, I've realized enough is enough though, and now that my procrastination problem will seriously affect someone else who I'm supposed to be in charge of if I don't get a handle on it, I figured I'd better get my butt into gear now before she makes her debut.

My first step in my non-procrastination goal for the month was to buy myself a planner, so I picked myself up a 2015 Moleskine planner from Amazon and have been planning out my weeks using three different colors of pens--red for anything work-related, blue for anything church-related, and black for everything else. Each morning, I think about what I need to get done that day and try to plan accordingly. Each night, I check off what I've accomplished and prepare myself mentally for the next day. If something doesn't get done (which hasn't happened yet but very well might), I will move it to the next most convenient time slot.

The second step is to devote some of my nighttime reading minutes to finally working my way through The Now Habit, a book on overcoming procrastination that I've put off reading for years. (Yeah....) I've discovered that constantly feeding my mind with inspirational words about whatever it is I'm working on is a definite key for my success in that area--I know some people can do stuff without researching it to death, but I'm not one of them.

Third, I've created a master list of "Nagging Tasks" that have been put off for months that keep weighing down my life the longer they don't get done (think setting up dental appointments for us both and taking a load of furniture and other old possessions to charity). This idea was inspired by Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, where she says, "[S]tudies show that one of the best ways to lift your mood is to engineer an easy success, such as tackling a long-delayed chore. I was astounded by the dramatic boost in my mental energy that came from taking care of these neglected tasks." I've done this in the past, and I've found that it is enormously freeing to get these long-procrastinated tasks out of the way so my mind can be clear to focus on other priorities.

I know that one month won't be enough to fix a problem that's been steadily worsening for my whole lifetime, but I figure it's a start. Simply focusing on that more than anything else so far this month has already harvested some positive changes for me.

Wish me luck. (And really---please send up a little prayer that our baby will just stay right where she is until at the very least her due date...)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Iti's True---Money Bought Me a Better Life Last Weekend

After three years of teaching a whole unit on how money doesn't buy happiness (while my classes read A Christmas Carol), you'd think I'd be pretty dead-set sold that no amount of money could improve my life that much.

Last weekend, I discovered how very wrong I'd been.

Apparently, the amount of a tax return to the tune of about a thousand big ones is what it took to significantly improve our quality of life.

The purchase?

A new mattress.

But not just any mattress, friends--after years of back pain due to a too-firm, too-old, too-small bed, Matt and I decided to take the plunge and get ourselves a deluxe king-size, pillow-top Serta mattress.

We're wondering now how we ever did without it.

Of course, our old mattress was pretty bad---Matt's back problems had gotten so uncomfortable that we were considering finding a physical therapist, and I wasn't sleeping much at all (although I had taken to blaming the fact that I'm almost 8 months pregnant). For years, we had thought the problem stemmed from everything else--Matt's hobbies of intense dodgeball and racquetball games, my carrying a heavy purse, both of us maybe having slept in a weird position...

Nope, nope, and nope.

It was the mattress.

We now know this for a fact because we've had the mattress almost a week and magically, all our back problems have flown out the window, and I am actually getting a pretty restful night of sleep, even despite the fact that I still have to get up twice (once around 12:30 A.M. and the other time around 3:30) to use the bathroom. As a hardworking teacher, I've always looked forward to bedtime, but now both Matt and I actually daydream about it during the day--it's been like sleeping in a really nice hotel for the past 6 nights, so we feel like our bedroom has become kind of like a vacation in and of itself.

Who knew, right?

In other news, I cut off almost 8 inches of my hair last month, and hardly anyone noticed. (Except my students---7th graders notice EVERYTHING.) Even though there are times I miss longer hair, it was such a relief to just chop it off---no more split ends, and no more super-long drying, washing, or straight-ironing times.

Oh, and I have the day off today because we just finished up the second trimester at the school. Yesterday, all my colleagues were high-fiving and freaking out that the school year is 2/3 of the way over, but for me, the end is closer still---

I'm due in less than 6 weeks.

And we still don't even have a crib.

So I guess it looks like both us and the baby will have gotten ourselves some new digs to sleep in---

Let's just hope she doesn't come early since we're not planning on buying one until the end of the month...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bucket List: Photographing the Slot Canyon

Something I didn't realize at 16 (when I made my first bucket list) was that life dreams change (sometimes drastically) over time. At 16, one of the first items on my bucket list was to travel to every country in the world. Now, at 28, I realize that that dream is, besides being a bit impractical, not even very desirable to me anymore. I've realized that, while I do love to travel, I don't exactly want to travel in places that are dangerous or where I would have a hard time getting around, either due to a major language barrier or to a lack of stability in the country. Sure, I still would love to travel to many places in the world -- Greece, Ireland, Spain, Eastern Canada, New Zealand -- but I'm totally okay with the idea of not traveling to others.

My dreams have changed even since making a more recent bucket list about 18 months ago. Not only did I take "blogging for profit" off of my list (see the post here), but I've also added several things since getting to experience more of life and realizing what things would truly make me happy to work toward.

One thing that's opened up a lot of new dreams is photography--while I don't know if I'll ever take my photography business to a full-time job, I do know that I love it enough to keep trying to constantly improve my abilities. And one thing I've wanted to do ever since I first laid eyes on photos of such was to photograph a slot canyon.

Lucky for me, our December trip to Kanab opened up a perfect opportunity--after two days of volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, we took off on the third day toward Arizona's famous Antelope Canyon, a mere 70-minute (or so) drive from where we were, to see the sights and take advantage of the incredible opportunity to improve our photography skills.

After doing some research on the slot canyon tours (for those who don't know, you have to go through the canyon with a guide), I decided that the professional photography tour would be the one to go on, even though it meant shelling out quite a bit more (and even though we had to get special permission because we only had one camera between the two of us, when each person on the tour is supposed to have his/her own).

After a bit of a mix-up in which we somehow got placed on the wrong bus heading out to the canyon (which resulted in one of the bumpiest and scariest drives in the back of a truck of my life), we were united with the right group and met our Native American tour guide and the four other people who would be on the tour with us.

At first, I was a bit afraid we wouldn't be treated as well as the others because we only had the one camera between us and we also hadn't brought our tripod (both a major no-no with the tour group). But even though our guide was initially very skeptical of how successful we would be without a tripod, he showered us with plenty of attention and tips, and we were able to get some pretty dang good shots just by stabilizing the camera against a wall and taking pictures that way.

 A couple things to know if you're touring the slot canyons--

* If you just pay for the regular one-hour tour, you will have hardly any time to take pictures. Basically, you will be shuffled through like cattle, and many of your pictures might have other people in them because of the confined space.

* The slot canyons are quite a bit colder inside than the temperature outside (imagine that you're entering a cave--that's the temperature difference). Although I was fine with a light jacket and no gloves outside the caves, I sure wish I would have brought them for when we were inside.

* Even though our tour was listed as being for "professional" photographers, as long as you have a DSLR and a tripod, they'll let you in (and even on the tripod, they're obviously willing to be a little lenient if it's during a slow season). So don't be intimidated--just sign up and try it out!

* The slot canyons are quite dark inside, so if you're trying to get the best-quality pictures you can, you'd probably want to bring a speed light and bounce its flash off the ceiling/walls.

* Even though we went in what was considered a "slower" season (in December), there were still a LOT of people inside the slot canyon. If crowds stress you out, or if you're determined to get the best photos you can, try and book at a non-busy time in the season (aka, not during the summer or over a major holiday break). Not only will you be able to feel a little less rushed, but you're much less likely to get other pedestrians in your photo, like so:

* Even though they let both Matt and I come on the tour (with just the one camera between us), I wish we each could have had our own camera. While it worked fine for us to switch off every few minutes, we would have been a lot less rushed in trying to get the shots we wanted if we'd each had our own. If I were to do this again (and still owned just one DSLR camera), I would totally rent a second camera so we each had one.

* If you do decide to go on the professional photography tour, make sure you at least know the basics of operating your camera in Manual mode and that you know how to quickly adjust your tripod. Basically, you have very little time to get the shots you want (even with the longer tour), so the better you know your equipment, the better your shots will be.

And that's all for the tips! Basically, this experience just confirmed to me that I need to try out landscape photography a lot more than I have.

Now the real question is--which one of these am I going to enlarge and hang up on our empty bedroom walls?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where I'm At On My Road to Simplicity

Although it's been awhile since I blogged about my minimalism/simplicity journey, don't let that fool you--

It's still as much on my mind as it ever was.

Here's the problem with where I'm currently at though---I've realized that when you're about to have a baby, you suddenly acquire a LOT more stuff. Like, a disproportionate amount of stuff compared to the size of the tiny human that will soon be entering your realm.

I remarked to Matt (right as we were going off to register for the baby) that it seemed to me that registering for all this stuff seemed kind of superfluous--I mean, didn't babies just need somewhere to sleep, something to eat (and something to eat it with), clothes to wear (including diapers), a toy or two, and some good picture books? I didn't understand how on earth we were going to be able to create a whole registry just from those things.

Apparently I was wrong.

Apparently nowadays, raising a baby is a lot more complicated than you think---apparently I need nursing pads and Boppy covers and Diaper Genies and tiny hangers. And don't forget the diaper bag, swaddle blankets, carseat cover, infant thermometer, Pack & Play, baby carrier, and car window shade. (And that's not even getting into any of the "cutesy" stuff--coordinated bedsheets, artwork for the nursery, and those impossibly soft little stuffed animals you just want to rub your cheek against all day long.)

Basically, I'm quickly discovering that it "requires" a lot to raise a tiny human in today's modern world. Or at least the marketers and a large majority of the population try to convince you it does.

This accumulation of an enormous amount of stuff in a small amount of time is making my brain panic a bit--here I've spent the last two-plus years trying to pare down our possessions as much as possible, only to be acquiring what seems to be hundreds of new items in the space of a few short months. (Don't get me wrong--I'm incredibly grateful for the generosity of so many that will allow us to provide so well for our baby girl at very little expense to ourselves. It's just a bit overwhelming for the minimalist in me, is all.)

Currently, I'm trying to strip down our apartment to the essentials and most-loved possessions of mine and Matt's, and I'll let the baby stuff rest until I know what's really necessary and what's not.  I'm still not as ruthless with my own possessions as I'd like to be, but I've come a long way over the past 27 months. And, judging by the small-ness of our apartment and the ever-growing mountain of pink things, I will have to learn to get even more ruthless, and pronto.

Guess the next several years will be pretty crucial in answering the question--is it possible to be an aspiring minimalist while raising young children?

Monday, February 9, 2015

February Focus: Step It Up

I never made it official here on the blog, but the way I'm doing new year's resolutions this year is to pick a different thing to focus on each month. That way, I won't be torn into a million different directions like I usually am with resolutions, but at the same time I'll be accountable for some progress in at least one major area of my life.

In January, my focus was all about finances (which is why we completed the spending freeze).

In February, my focus is all about moving more.

Since my first bout of nausea when I was six or seven weeks pregnant, I had basically stopped all exercise of almost any kind. I went from running faithfully three times a week to doing not much of anything at all. At first, I could blame the morning sickness. Then, when I hit the fourth month (and the start of the holidays), I could blame my busy-ness. After about five months, I could easily blame my lack of movement on my ever-increasing size and the fact that any extra movement seemed to make me sore.

But since my gestational diabetes scare, I determined that I needed to start incorporating some movement back into my life, even if it was just light.

Here was my plan:

- obtain a pedometer
- try to clock at least 10,000 steps a day

And that was it. Easy-peasy.

Now that I have said pedometer (thanks to my sister) and am now a week into tracking steps, I am quickly re-thinking my plan.

Before I started tracking steps, I was under the impression that because I'm on my feet almost the entire day at work, I was probably already close to getting 10,000 steps a day anyway (or that I'd only be maybe a couple thousand steps short).


Even on days like today, when I'm walking a TON at work, I still usually clock only 5,000 - 6,000 steps at my job max (and there are lots of days I don't even hit 4,000). Basically, this  has meant that I've started taking 30-40 minute walks every day after I get home to try and make up the difference.

I still have never hit 10,000 steps (and only hit 9,000 steps today actually, as evidenced by the picture above).

So here's my revised plan after having tried this for a week:

*This week, I will hit 8,000 steps at least 6 days.
*Next week (the 3rd week of the month), I will hit 9,000 steps at least 5 of the days.
*The last week, I will hit 10,000 steps at least 5 of the days.

I'm hoping that if I gradually build up my step count, my body will respond more positively and I won't feel so overwhelmed by it all (as I kind of started feeling about two days into the goal).

Have you ever used a pedometer or Fitbit or other step-tracking device? What are your strategies for getting in enough steps each day?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake + Anticipation of the Future

Today my Sunday schedule was totally thrown off (thanks to my calling, or volunteer work, at my church). Instead of attending choir practice in the morning and church for 3 hours in the afternoon, I went to church meetings from 9-12 and spent the afternoon at home while my husband was attending our regular meetings (plus the additional meetings he has for his calling).

Basically, the fact that I had a lot more alone time than normal (and the fact that I took out a friend's puppy for a very long walk in the spring sunshine) meant that I had a LOT of time to think today.

People keep asking me all the time about what our plans are for after the baby comes.

I wish I had an answer for them.

The truth is, we have no idea where we'll be in a year--we're still waiting to hear back from the rest of the PT schools Matt applied to (all of the schools that we have heard back from have been in the negative so far), which means that we can't very well go ahead and make any other definite plans as of yet. As for having a backup plan, it doesn't get much easier--because of the way the retirement works through the Utah public education system, I want to teach one year more for sure before staying at home with our kids (if that will be an option for me at that point), but we don't know if we'll be staying here in the same place (which means that I'll be staying at my same school), or if we'll be moving down to Bountiful and living in the basement of one of our parents' houses for a year while we figure things out and get help with childcare while I teach down there.

Matt will obviously be working wherever we end up, unless he's in PT school somewhere.

So basically, we have those 3 options as of now, and it doesn't seem like we'll know for sure until at least April or May, which is a little scary time-wise, considering that we'll already be adjusting to being new parents then (and probably won't want the added stress of trying to figure out what the heck we're doing for the next 12 months).

So basically, I've been thinking a lot about the future and trying to reassure myself that it will all work out somehow (because it always does).

I've also been thinking about our baby girl--what she'll be like, how I'll react to being a mother for the first time, how hard it will be (and if it will be as hard as everyone says it is).

I wonder how quickly we'll adjust to being a family of 3, and if I'll sometimes miss it just being the two of us. I wonder if the second I become a mother, this deep-down instinct and love will just kick in, and I'll wonder why we waited so long to make this leap into parenthood. I'm terrified that that instinct WON'T kick in, and that, while I absolutely know I'll love our baby girl fiercely (because I already do), I'll wonder why we didn't wait until I felt more "ready."

It's scary putting these thoughts out there because I feel like every other woman I know seems to be much more "dialed in" to the idea of being a parent than I am--every other woman seems to just fall gracefully into that role of being the selfless caregiver, and I hope (and pray) that maybe--just maybe--I might be able to become "one of those women" myself.

And soon.

So I have these worries sometimes about the future, and what kind of mom I'll be.

But then I'll have a quiet afternoon to myself, like today, where I creamed together butter and sugar for a shortcake and sliced strawberries and measured out flour, and I discover that I'm excited to teach these things to our little girl--that I'm excited to teach her to measure out the dry ingredients carefully (like my own mom taught me) and to let the strawberries glaze together with the sugar for at least a good half hour before serving them over the finished shortcake. I'm excited to take her on walks (as so many parents took their kids out on walks today due to the sun) and point out the puppies passing by, as so many parents pointed out the puppy I was walking today to their own daughters.

And as I went to a meeting tonight for the young women as part of my church calling, I got excited to think that someday, I'd be explaining what it means to be a young woman of God to our own little girl, and that she would grow up one day to be as poised and radiant and self-assured as the young women I met tonight were.

And you know what?

It's in the moments like those that all the fear DOES go away, and I am reassured that no matter where we are, I will be prepared for whatever comes next.

And that on days when it seems like I self-reflect until I explode, there will always be strawberry shortcake.

And that things will all be okay.

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