Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Altered Travel Journal: Beautiful, Unique Gift for Travelers

Hey y'all!  I'm popping in with a vlog review today! My lovely friend Rebecca at Caravan Sonnet sells these Altered Travel Journals in her Etsy shop, December Caravan.  :-)  And there may be a fun little announcement at the end of this video...


Monday, July 18, 2016

Revisiting My 30 by 30 List - I've Made Some Progress!

Do you guys remember when I shared a list of 30 things I wanted to accomplish in the 18 months or so that were left until I turned 30?  Right around six months have passed since I made that list, so I wanted to revisit it and share some of my progress with y'all!
  • I made my first batch of cold process soap about two weeks ago!  I won't know for almost another month how it turned out, but it *looks* right and was a LOT of fun! 
  • Still haven't thrown a dinner "party," but we did have my parents over for dinner I made myself and that was nice :-) Not checking this one off yet though... even though we realized that seating is going to make it really difficult to have more than one other couple over. Lol!
  • I've started purging, but it's not getting crossed off until I've gotten rid of a LOT more.
  • Nope.
  • Heck nope.

  • See my first post as a Huffington Post contributor here!
  • Nah, and I've planned this to be a "closer to 30" item, since the babies are still so young and prone to eating art supplies. :-)
  • Not yet... but I'm practicing my stock photo type photography.  
  • I have a few ideas. :-)
  • Nope.  I was hoping to while Ethan was off work this June, but it was soooo hot. Maybe when the weather breaks a little.
  • Pfft.
  • No... and I think maybe I've built it up in my head to the point I'm almost scared, lol!
  • I've done a few pages, but I have LOTS still to do.
  • When I set this goal, I wasn't thinking about our annual family reunions in West Virginia, I was thinking something a little longer, vacation-y.  But by golly, getting them there, surviving the trip and hotel nights and outdoorsy reunion itself, felt like a victory, so I'm crossin' it off!  We may take another trip with them by the time I turn 30, but yeah.  I'm counting this one :-)
  • No... and I'd kinda forgotten I'd set this goal!  I do need to get back on that :-)
  • Nope.
  • I've sent five... I should be a little further along, but it's not bad!  Hopefully, they've made the recipients smile and know they're loved :-)
  • Yes!!  I get asked all the time about my cookie pie! So fun!
  • You're looking at the new newsletter editor for the West Chester Mothers of Twins and More Club!  Well, starting August 1, technically. 
  • She's awesome :-) 

  • I've made some tiny strides... I finished our canisters.  And I'm honestly not sure what I want to do in there, I just know it's a room I wouldn't have picked the finishes for.  Problem is... it's in great shape and it would be wasteful to change much about it... so I need to figure out a way to work with the counters, cabinets, etc and still make it feel "us."  Maybe a new backsplash? 
  • I've sent out LOTS of pitches, and gotten a couple of collaborations that I'm REALLY excited about!  It still feels awkward and I still have a ways to go and much to learn, but I'm making progress.
  • Fingers crossed!
  • I've seen lists of classes I can take over a weekend that would give me a good chunk of the CEUs I need... I just haven't felt particularly inspired to take them.  But I do NOT want to lose this license!  
  • I've read one :-)  I know five doesn't seem like a lot, but... I don't get a ton of reading done anymore, and I tend to gravitate more toward fiction.  I'd like to read more about mental health, adolescents, career counseling, etc.  Anyone have any good recs?

  • Not yet... but I miss y'all!
  • I can't remember if the batch I finished was 18 or 20, so I'm going to say I have 32 more to go :-)  
  • Not yet, no ideas.  Sorry, you can't nominate yourself... it wouldn't be a surprise ;-)
  • I was thisclose, but went with a knockout rose instead.
  • I think they start back up at our church this fall, so not yet.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

6 Things My Dog Taught Me About Being a Mom



We had our wonderful dog, Charley, for six years before Abbie and Sam showed up, and like many families headed by infertile couples, he became like a child to us.  A lot of "fertiles" shook their heads at me when I would say things like that, telling me it's not the same and I would understand if I ever got to be a mother to a human child.  While I acknowledge that it's not the EXACT same, as a now mother of two human children, I can attest that there most certainly ARE a lot of similarities.  In fact, being Charley's momma prepared me in a lot of ways to be a good momma to Abbie and Sam. :-)

  • He taught us how to protect a vulnerable little one from unnecessary stressors... and to occasionally say NO.  

I can't begin to tell you how many times we made the call to leave Charley at home instead of taking him to a family gathering where there would be too many people for his comfort, or decided not to do something fun we wanted to do because he would be spending too much time alone.  At Christmas time this year, Abbie and Sam got stressed by all of the visiting we did, and toward the end of the season, we had tuned into their thresholds and signs and were able to turn down invitations or modify commitments to spare them the stress.  

  • He taught us about responsibility - especially considering his needs when planning outings or vacations.  

We left Charley in a kennel once, when he was about a year and a half old.  It didn't go well for him (poor baby)... Now, when we travel, we arrange for him to stay with family or we arrange for a pet-friendly hotel so we can take him with us.  If we can't find a hotel, or we can't find a willing babysitter, we don't go. Sometimes that means we stay in a less convenient, less "cushy" place, and sometimes that means we don't get to spend as much time exploring the area as we would like.  With the babies, we have learned where we can and can't take them on local outings. (The Cheesecake Factory is fine, but they hate Red Robin?)  We know we can only be out of the house for as long as we have enough bottles and formula.  And the one time we took them out of state, we factored in frequent stops and those hard-to-explain and impossible to avoid baby delays.  A usually three hour and forty-five minute drive turned into a solid seven hours... thankfully, we had planned to arrive a day early, just in case. So we showed up at the hotel super-late at night with twice as much stuff as we used to bring, and proceeded to have a terrible night of sleep with babies who were upset in an unfamiliar crib.  And we haven't tried to take a trip since!  Like with Charley, we learned that they weren't ready and are giving it some time and learning some strategy lessons from last time so that the next trip will be more fun for everybody. :-)

  • He taught us what it's like to sacrifice sleep and to nurse, pray, and love a sick "baby" back to health.

When Charley was about three, we almost lost him to a severe form of gastroenteritis.  We know he gets separation anxiety, so when he'd already spent the whole day at the vet hospital on fluids, when the vet told us to consider taking him to an overnight vet or to expect to be up all night with him, monitoring and pushing fluids, we said without hesitation that we'd bring him home.  And we sat up with him until after midnight, holding him and loving on him  Then we slept in shifts, so that one of us was always awake and watching him.  We dripped water into his dry little mouth and coaxed him to eat a teaspoon of wet food every couple of hours.  It was a long, long night.  But in the morning, we took him back to the day time vet, who said that he was looking and sounding much better, and took out the IV catheters she'd left in in case he needed readmitted.  It's no secret that new parents don't sleep much, and that sounds really scary to someone who hasn't done it before.  I know before Sam and Abbie were born, that was one of the parts that made us most nervous!  But like with Charley, it was the most natural thing in the world to sacrifice our sleep and our comfort to take care of these tiny babies who couldn't take care of themselves.  

  • He taught us how to handle somebody else's bodily fluids without batting an eye.

Once you've housebroken a stubborn puppy and let him throw up in your hands on many, many occasions... dirty diapers - even explosive ones - really aren't that bad.  Baby spit up on me? Nowhere near as gross as half-digested dog food!

  • He taught us what it's like to take pride in our little ones' accomplishments.

We used to crate Charley in a cage with one of those slide-out plastic trays.  Every morning, after cleaning out the crate from the night before, we would put down a clean pad and a milkbone (to tempt him into the cage that night), all ready for the next night and close the door to it so he couldn't get the treat early.  I will never forget watching him pull on the tray until it slid out and he could get the bone.  I was SO proud and am still completely convinced he's a genius! :-)  It's actually very similar to how I felt watching Sam roll over for the first time... and the time Abbie figured out she could pull on my thumb and pinkie and get the bottle back into her mouth. :-)  

  • He taught us how to love unconditionally (even when it's really, really hard), and how that love compels you to find solutions to potential problems.

Okay.  So, I don't think I've told this story in public yet, but here goes.  When he was a pup, for a couple months in a row, one week out of the month (*ahem*)... Charley would get very interested in garbage I generated, and very aggressive toward me.  He didn't snap or bite me, but he was hostile and "play fought" much too roughly.  Ethan and I were worried that he'd keep escalating, and we tried everything we could think of to correct him.  We were starting to research dog trainers, even though we weren't sure they could train THIS behavior out of him.  (Neutering when he was 6 months old is what made the difference, by the way.)  At no point was getting rid of him and option. At no point did we consider giving up on the little guy we had committed to.  And now, as he learns to be a big brother to the twins, he is doing a great job interacting with them.  He's a little sad sometimes, but we make sure he gets lots of snuggles and treats, and talk to him all day as we're talking to Sam and Abbie.  We also got him some calming collars (infused with mother dog pheromones).  Even though it can be tough to help a dog learn how to cope when his family changes this much, at no point was not trying an option. :-) 



I also have to give a shout-out here to some of our parent friends who so sweetly understood our attachment to Charley while we were otherwise childless.  We have a great group of friends that Ethan went to college with, who have... like... 20 kids among them.  When we get together, conversation always, understandably, turned to the kids.  It was rough on us to hear all the baby talk while we were aching for babies of our own, but these wonderful people always asked about Charley and encouraged us to pitch in dog anecdotes to these parenting conversations.  I will always be so grateful to them for that <3 (Melanie, Mark, Missy, Ed, Amber, Ryan, Kristi, Chris, Kim, Steve... we love you!)

Did you have fur babies before human babies?  How did you help them handle the transition?  What other things have your fur kids taught you about raising the less hairy ones?  :-)

Monday, April 18, 2016

BarBABYdos: Where to Stay (Comparing Rosebank and Courtyard by Marriott)

When people email me to ask me questions about our experience with Barbados Fertility Centre and our time on the island, booking accommodations is almost always one of the topics they ask about.  So I figure, if so many people are asking about it, it must be blog post time :-)


BFC offers packages in which they will book your airfare and accommodations for you, even further reducing your potential stress level.  Of course, there is a reasonable upcharge for the convenience, and if the financial savings is one of the main reasons you are considering pursuing your fertility treatment in Barbados, you may want to avoid that extra money and book your own flights and hotel.  This is the route we took, and truthfully, it didn't add too much stress.  There are relatively few options for flights (only three airlines currently fly from the US to Barbados), and the Centre has a curated list of hotels in the area that they are happy to provide for you.  

While we obviously don't have experience with all of the hotels on the list, I can tell you about our experiences at two different properties - Rosebank and the Courtyard by Marriott - and give you some pros and cons of each to keep in mind as you make your decision. 

Our first trip, we stayed at Rosebank, an old sugar cane plantation house converted into apartments with a cottage on the property as well.  We stayed in the cottage, actually, for 16 nights.  It had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen with oodles of dishes and cookware, a sitting room with TV, and a screened-in porch.  I don't want to mention prices here, because the further away we get from July 2014, the more likely it is that prices have changed.  However, I WILL say that Rosebank was among the lowest (if not THE lowest) price-per-night we found.


Rosebank PROS:
  • Very private.  A housekeeper came once a week to do a quick clean and change the linens, but aside from that, we really didn't see other people on the property a whole lot.  
  • Inexpensive.  And when you're looking to book a stay of more than two weeks, that is important!
  • You get to cook your own food. I was really looking forward to this!  Getting local food and cooking it up, experimenting with new things in new ways... we were anticipating lots of fish and tropical fruit. Little did I know, sugar is pretty much the only thing grown in Barbados.  All other food is imported, and pretty pricey ;-) 
  • Suuuuuper-comfy bed!
  • Fairly close to the clinic.  The info from the clinic makes it sound like it's, like, two doors down, but it's probably closer to a quarter mile.  Still a very reasonable walk, unless you're hauling around grapefruit-sized ovaries or aching from egg retrieval.  However, very reasonable cab ride - about $7 (US) each way. (I need to write a separate post about cabs... stay tuned, lol.) 



Rosebank CONS:
Um, how do I put this nicely?  This is not an American hotel.  If you're accustomed (read: spoiled) to the kind of amenities offered in American hotels, Rosebank may not be the place for you.
  • No glass in windows.  Most of the windows are kind of a brick lattice with screens in them, although I think the porch was glass all the way around. This led to:
  • Inefficient air conditioning.  The bedrooms DID have air conditioning, via window a/c units, but we still had to pull in the two big fans from other places in the cottage to get our bedroom cool enough to escape from Barbados in July. The rest of the cottage had no means of temperature control, and it got HOT. (and:)
  • Noise.  We didn't see other people on property, but we heard some.  Landscapers, mostly, but also lots of car horns... not to mention loud rainstorms, noisy bugs, birds, and a couple of monkeys on occasion. (Okay, so the monkeys were pretty cool.)  With no glass separating us from these sounds, they really did add up to a fairly constant din.
  • Inconsistent shower temperature and low pressure.  It was hard to get a good hot shower to ease my aching body, or a good cold shower to cool off from the oppressive heat in the rest of the cottage. And with the low pressure, I had a hard time rinsing my hair or showering sand off my legs and arms.  I never quite felt clean.
  • Bugs.  All the ones we saw were dead, but they were huge and way too close to the dishes we ate off of.
  • The kitchen is not stocked with ANY food (not even spices, or other basics).  We had to do a grocery run almost immediately and were pretty shocked at the prices of groceries... familiar brands, 4-5x the cost you'd see in the States.  It was actually lots cheaper to eat out. It's certainly not Rosebank's fault that groceries on the island are expensive, but consider the staples in a kitchen that you add to food without thinking about, and think about having to go stock them all.  I almost felt like that big grocery run when you first move into a house and don't have any food.

In general, staying at Rosebank felt like the overnight camps I went to as a kid... not camping in tents, but definitely not comfortable enough to consider a vacation to me.  But I admit to being a bit of a princess about this (I don't see the appeal in camping out at all), so if you're not as spoiled as I am, give it a try. :-)

On our second, shorter trip, we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, and it was much more what we were looking for in a hotel.  The price-per-night was considerably higher than at Rosebank, but in line with average prices in hotels we've stayed in in the States.  


Courtyard PROS:
  • Comfortable temperatures.  Our room had an epic air conditioning system, and we were able to get it nice and cold!  
  • Restaurant in house.  There was a little restaurant area just off the lobby, and they had a really great, varied menu.  We ate breakfast every morning (I believe this *may* have been included in the special BFC rates, but I can't promise.), and dinner most evenings, and while prices were high compared to American food, they were downright reasonable compared to other places to eat in Barbados. Also, SO delish! And convenient.
  • Great Wi-Fi.  Rosebank's wi-fi came and went pretty badly, but Courtyard's was fast and consistent.  And since we turned off all cellular function on our cell phones to avoid astronomical roaming charges, Wi-Fi meant connections to home. 
  • Quiet.  There were obviously other guests that we would run into while out and about in the hotel, but our room was very peaceful.  Perfect for that post-appointment cocoon, when you just want to hunker down and process your day.
  • Close to clinic.  We didn't walk to the clinic from Courtyard, but the cab fare was the same as from Rosebank, about 7 USD.


Courtyard CONS:
  • Maybe the hardest mattress I've ever slept on.
  • Less "local" feel, if that's important to you.
  • Not the least-expensive option, and for longer trips the price would add up.

I think it's probably fairly obvious from the tone of my reviews which property I would recommend of the two, but I also know that different people have different "must-haves" for accommodations.  I always want my hotel to be a comfortable sanctuary of sorts, someplace I can go and unwind, touch base, clean up after a long day exploring a vacation destination, so keep in mind that's the lens through which I'm viewing these places.  If your accommodation priorities are different than mine, you may see these properties differently.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

8 Magic Moves Mommas Master


When you're pregnant - or even thinking about getting pregnant - people are quick to tell you what a magic-filled time of your life pregnancy and parenting will be.  And they're completely correct!  In both super sincere and slightly sarcastic ways, mothers become magicians.  I thought about my daily repertoire of magic, then consulted some of my favorite fellow magicians - the fabulous parents in my twin mom club - and here are just a few of our many tricks:

The Abdominal Amplification  

Let's start at the very beginning... (a very good place to start.  Sorry, I'll stop with the lyrics now.) Our bellies get kind of ginormous.  Especially twin bellies.  As you're watching yours expand almost so quickly you can see it, you can't help but marvel at this super-cool magic trick you didn't even know you could do!


The Sedative Song 

You may have the world's second-worst singing voice (mine's the worst), but something about it still calms your baby.  Their reaction is almost trance-like, and I always picture that scene in The Little Mermaid when Ariel's voice is out of her body, swirling around toward Ursula's seashell necklace... except my voice seems to wrap around those tiny angry people and make their eyes glaze over and get very... very... heavy....


The Gibberish Decoder

When I hear a noise from the nursery, I can always tell you which baby it is, and 99% of the time, I can tell you what they want.  Their voices and needs have changed, but since they were a few days old, I've been able to translate like they are my second and third languages.  I'm much more fluent in Abbie and in Sam than I ever got in French... with eight years of study. And there's no textbook, dictionary, or tutor for these languages. Tell me THAT isn't magic! ;-)


The Medication Obscuration

Only by magic can we convince babies that the syringe of sickly sweet syrup they do NOT want to swallow is really an airplane they should open their mouths to let into the hangar.


The Auxiliary Appendage Acquisition

We can hold a squirming baby (or more), mix bottles, and (for many of us) keep an older child or even a pet from getting into trouble, all at the same time.  Each of those tasks require at least two arms... put a few of them together... magic!


The Perplexing Plaything Prestidigitation

In this trick, a toy that two kids are fighting over (or fighting with) suddenly disappears without a trace. It may or may not reappear at a later date ;-)


The Silent Slink

This is the ability to slip in and out of your sleeping babies' nursery to retrieve the cell phone charger you left there during their morning bottles.


The Tenacity Optimization

After a long day of being pooped on (figuratively and literally), of questioning and striving and loving and advocating... we go to bed exhausted, then wake up (usually too soon) and do it all again. Because we are magical creatures, and we love those little people so stinkin' much <3

What magic tricks did I miss? :-)  If you leave one in a comment, make sure I have a link to your blog if you have one... it may show up in a follow-up post down the road!

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