Saturday, November 30

My Most Embarrassing Moment

It took a lot of work to think of this. I can't just recall this stuff off the top of my head when people ask, so I actually did research and looked up other people stories to remind me of my own. Doing so mainly made me realize that I haven't had that many embarrassing moments.

But, since I'm doing a series (30 things my kids should know about me), I had to come up with an answer.

When I was maybe fifteen, my best friend Sarah begged me to come to our friend from another town's house for a sleepover that weekend. There was a church dance the next day and we were all going to go together. I had eaten a salad with, what I was pretty certain was rancid ranch dressing for lunch, and was not feeling well the rest of the school day. I told Sarah that I didn't want to go multiple times but she insisted that I come with her or she didn't want to go as much. I told my mom that I would go even though I wasn't feeling up to it.

After school, we met up with our friend and her mom about halfway (they lived about an hour away from us) and Sarah and I got in their brand new car so we could head back to their home. On the ride to their house, I started to feel really sick. I knew I shouldn't have come, I thought. "Sarah, I'm going to throw up," I said. We were sitting in the back seat. The next thing I knew, I was throwing up my lunch and Sarah has holding out her hands to catch it. And she did. She caught my vomit, which was so disgusting in itself. I still remember what it looked like, but I'll spare you. We joked about it later saying that that act was the mark of a true friend--when she willingly catches your vomit in her hands. Anyway, someone quickly grabbed a plastic bag for me to throw up in if I still needed to. I don't remember the rest of the trip, but luckily I think we were close to the house. When we got there, Sarah and our friend helped me clean up the car. I felt so bad. It was a new car! And I still felt so sick. I think our friend's mom was pretty mad at me. Understandably. She was nice about it though. I was just wishing I hadn't let Sarah talk me into coming. I felt like our friend's mom never really liked me as much after that experience.

Anyhow, for the rest of the evening while Sarah hung out with our friend playing DDR and making cookies, I lay in bed upstairs, going between sleeping and using the bathroom frequently. It was really miserable and I just wanted my mom there to take care of me. Food poisoning sucks. When I woke up late at night and mostly recovered, I was famished. After taking a shower and getting something to eat, (and then a good night's rest) I felt much better and ended up being able to go to the dance. But I still feel embarrassed when I think about how I stunk up my friend's mom's new car with my throw up.

What was your most embarrassing moment? (Or one of them)
I really want to know!

Monday, November 25

4 Fun Marriage Strengtheners & Traditions

Is this wrapping paper from the BYU bookstore not adorable?? It's a "box of chocolates"!
(Actually, it's an iPad mini that I got for $279:)
I am always looking for fun things to do with Dalin to strengthen our marriage and bring us closer as a couple. He is my very best friend, but sometimes we get so caught up in our responsibilities that we lose sight of maintaining the friendship that made us want to marry each other in the first place. So here are four ways we strengthen our marriage (and you can, too!).

Spouse Gratitude Journals (Daily)
Probably one of the best ideas I've ever had was to suggest to Dalin that we each start keeping a journal to record things about the other person that we're grateful for. Basically, I gave Dalin a blank journal (it was black and manly of course) and I chose one out of my collection (everyone always gives me journals because they know I love them and actually use them) and we decided that each night, as a part of our nighttime scripture study and family prayer routine (and my personal journal-writing), we'd each write one thing that we appreciate about the other (whether it was something we were grateful for in general, or specifically from that day). I'm not going to lie, I was very curious about what Dalin would say about me. And being the little sneak that I am, a few days in, I snuck a peek at what Dalin had written. His words touched me so much and made my entire week. I wanted to live up to the things he had said about me, whether I thought they were accurate or not. Since then, I've sneaked a few more glances at what he's written and doing so has encouraged me to strive to be a better wife, a better mother, and a better follower of Christ each day. One thing I've found is that I'm noticeably happier since we've made this a part of our routine. Start this tradition for with your spouse by Thanksgiving!

Memory & Adventure Album (As needed)
When we were engaged, we were given an album by my roommates for my bridal shower. In the beginning of the book, on each page is a dried rose petal or two that contains something I said that I love about Dalin. It ranges from physical appearance to spirituality to personality to actions, and thanks to my roommates, it's adorable. My best friend Sarah then took the book and did the same thing for me, having Dalin tell her things he loves about me for every rose petal included. She tried to copy the format my roommates used. It makes me so happy when I look back and read what he wrote about me. So anyhow, we had this great gift in our home, but there were still several pages in the back that needed to be filled. Not having a place for small things we collect, I decided to use the rest of the album to keep things from our adventures. Included in it are postcards from our honeymoon across New England; tickets to movies, museums, General Conference, etc.; love notes/cards we've written each other; our annual letters (which I'll tell you about below); and anything else. We even have a page dedicated to keeping all of the fortune cookie fortunes we've collected over the years. They're fun to look at all together! :) We love and cherish this book as it reminds of the love we had before we were married, and the love and adventures we continue to have now that we're together forever. (Tear) It's pretty wonderful. And the album is convenient because we can just stick little slips of paper and ticket stubs in the sleeves.
Love notes from our early marriage ;)
Tickets and our Christmas letters (discussed below)
Postcards from our honeymoon in Boston and tickets to a movie we saw while there
Fortune Cookie fortunes collected over the years (we still have several others in wallets/purse pockets that we have yet to add)
Bucket List Jar (Any time we think of it)
This is one idea that we are just starting. There are a lot of goals we have individually and as a couple. We want to support one another in our individual goals and make them our own. Most of our "bucket list" goals include traveling with our little family. We are just recently figuring out how we can make these goals and plans reality. We also have family goals and personal ones that we are working daily to achieve. How this idea works is we keep little slips of paper available and as a goal occurs to us, we write it down and stick it in the Bucket List Jar. Once a year or every so often, we will empty the jar and tape any that we've accomplished in a place we can see it (such as our Memory Album or our bulletin board or perhaps the fridge) and return the ones we've yet to accomplish back in the jar. That way, we're reminded of the adventures we still have yet to have! A few that will be included in our jar are:
  • Have another baby in/by 2015
  • Travel to Ireland/Scotland
  • Buy a house
  • Get rich (haha jk that won't be in there)
  • Live by a lake or ocean
  • Graduate school!
Christmas Love Letters (Annually)
This tradition is my favorite of all and was one we began our first Christmas together, just four months after we were married. On Christmas Eve, we sit together and write each other a love letter. We include things we love about the other person and favorite memories from the last year together. Then we stick our letter in the other person's stocking (before Santa comes obviously ;) to be read on Christmas morning. Pretty simple. But it is maybe the only time that we actually write a full letter to one another during the year and for that reason, I cherish this tradition. You know it's a good tradition when it makes you so happy that you cry. I am not a fan of crying or even happy crying, but this is one time it doesn't bother me. In fact, I kind of look forward to it. The first Christmas we did this, I was shocked by how similar our letters were. We both spoke about the first time we met and both shared how we felt in that moment when we saw each other in person for the first time. When we finished reading each other's letters, we compared them because they contained so many similar things. It was a lot of fun for me, and I literally look forward to reading my letter more than anything else on Christmas. This is an AWESOME tradition! Start it this year!
What are some awesome and fun traditions you and your spouse have?
Will you be starting any of these traditions?

Tuesday, November 19

10 People Who Have Influenced Me

I decided not to put these in any specific order. I've been influenced by many other wonderful people, but these were the first that came to mind.

1. Tenley. I thought I was perfectly happy before we had her. I had no idea. I wouldn't know the joys of motherhood if it weren't for her. She motivates me to be the best I can be. She deserves to have a mother like that. I want to be her friend, her comforter, her advocate, and her teacher. As I see her perfection, she brings me closer to Christ.

2. Dalin. We're so alike. I love him with all my heart. He teaches by example. He is always quick to forgive me. He encourages me to be my best self. He makes me happy. Every minute I have with him is precious. He has taught me that it's okay to disagree on things. He keeps his feisty wife calm. He supports me always. I know he is on my side. I'm so thankful our marriage is forever.

3. Grandpa French. Losing my grandfather was one of the hardest things I've gone through. I actually cried more when my great grandmother passed away, but I think that's because I still have yet for his death to sink in. I wasn't in New Hampshire when he was rapidly deteriorating from liver cancer. And since I had seen him so little the past three years because of school, it still feels like he is home in New Hampshire. Making breakfast, and fishing, and taking pictures like always. My grandpa is an incredible example of so many things. You'll have to read this if you really want to understand why.

4. Dad. I love my dad. He is generous and caring and so much fun. He loves making his children laugh. He is very loyal and has strong values. He is the very best Home Teacher. I don't know if he's ever missed a month. His example of this tells me that he is obedient and willing to help others. He is an amazing example of service. I love that he cares for the elderly and is always happy to go out of his way to help family, friends, neighbors, and even those he doesn't know. I hope to be like him in many respects but particularly his example of service to others. Read more about my awesome dad here.

5. Mom. My mom does so much for me (huge understatement). She is incredibly giving. Like my dad, she can't help but give all that she has to her children. She is as loving and comforting as a mom can be. She is always the first person I want when I am hurt or sick. She has taught me what a joy being a mother can be and makes me want to be the best at it. Apart from that, she is talented and so creative and she has passed those genes off to me. She has helped me to love cooking. She is the best organizer I know. She sets a great example of obedience to the principles of the gospel. Her happiness and positivity is infectious and rubs off on others. I'm so thankful for her.

6. Nana French. She is so wonderful. She has taught me to love cooking. She is so nurturing and cheerful. She is understanding and always has advice to give. She loves her family. She dedicates so much time to her children and grandchildren. She stands for what she believes in and is not afraid to speak her mind. She is brave and tough and I hope I can always be like that, too.

7. Whitney. I always wanted to be like my cousin Whitney growing up. She is one of the most Christ-like people that I know. She loves serving others. She is kind, sweet, and womanly. She is confident in herself. She is honest and true to her faith. She is the epitome of a righteous woman and is going to make the most amazing and dedicated wife and mother. She is a light to others. She lives her life with patience and humility. I want to be that way.

8. Sarah. Sarah is one of my two very best friends (besides Dalin and Tenley). She is one of the happiest and most positive people I know. She brings so much joy to everyone around her and everyone loves her because of her happiness and sense of humor. She always strives to do the right thing and is courageous in her willingness to stand for truth and righteousness. She is fun to be around and she shares her joy with everyone. I want to spread that same happiness to everyone.

9. Megan. One of the most caring and sensitive people out there. She is extremely intelligent but still so humble. She is the best listener I know. She is thoughtful and kind to everyone. She is creative and talented at many things. She takes care of herself. She has so many friends because she makes a wonderful one. She is understanding and as sweet as can be. I want to have as patient and mild a temperament as she does. She is a true friend to those around her.

10. Jesus Christ. My Savior, Redeemer, Friend, and Advocate. He has done so much for me and is the primary reason I have so my joy in this life. He is real. He lives. He is our Brother and He loves every one of us, even in our imperfection. He died for us and I know we can live with Him again if we try, try, try our best to be like Him. I want to be like Him.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life and why?

Dear Pregnant Ladies: Sharing 15 Facts

For all you pregnant ladies out there, here are some things for you to know about giving birth and post-partum info. I'm certainly no expert, but I read enough stuff to know what information is actually useful. You've all read about the sleepless nights and intensity of labor. But I want to share a more positive (but still realistic) perspective. I go into great detail in some areas, so this is more of a "women only" post. Unless your wife has already given birth, in which case, you'll probably understand.

1. First off, it's wonderful and possibly the best moment of your life. I loved giving birth, as you can read about right here, and would do it again in a heartbeat. It's so totally and completely worth it, no matter what you go through to get there. That first time you hold your little baby after he or she's out, you'll understand. Apart from my wedding day, I didn't know if I'd ever been happier. And it was a close call. So just know that what you go through is worth it. And if you're positive about it like I was, you might even love it.

2. You might just pee, poop, or throw up while giving birth. It stinks, but it can happen. But the good news is, it might not! None of those things happened to me. And like anyone, I had been fearing it tremendously. Throwing up usually happens because the epidural can make you feel pretty nauseous (not enough to scare me away from getting it again though!) but my nausea wasn't any worse than the morning sickness I'd experienced during my first trimester. As you'll hear a thousand times over, if any of these things should happen to you, don't worry--doctors have seen it all, and more good news: you might not even know if you do. I had to ask after because I had no idea what was happening down there, (and honestly, it sure felt like something happened) but apparently nothing did. And even more good news: I can almost 100% guarantee you won't give a crap if it does happen. You might, like me, even want it to happen (weird, I know). During my labor, the pressure on my rectum (sorry, gross word) was so intense that I felt like I was experiencing the worst constipation in my entire life and at the time, I just wanted to feel relieved from that pressure. You just get to the point where you accept that whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and nothing matters but getting that baby out! So, basically, Hakuna Matata, right? No worries.

3. While in labor and for a while after giving birth, you might shake. Like a lot. I kind of looked like I was freezing to death. Or having a mini-seizure. But I felt fine--I just could not control my arms, hands, or my jaw! My teeth chattering was the most annoying thing because it affected my speaking. Everyone kept asking if I was cold, but I wasn't--I just couldn't stop. I think I heard someone call these "labor shakes" (makes sense) and other than being really annoying, they aren't a big deal. I believe they are caused by adrenaline and are really nothing to worry about. Just anticipate it because a lot of women get them.

4. At first, while pushing, you will probably feel like you CAN'T DO IT. That is how my mom felt, that is how I felt, and I'm positive that is how countless other women felt when they began pushing. It seems impossible. It is impossible. It makes no sense to me that an 8lb 3oz baby came out of such a small place. Even now, three months later, I occasionally find myself wondering how our baby came out of me. You'll find yourself, as I have, holding your son or daughter on your belly and wondering how he or she possibly could have fit inside you. It makes no logical sense, but somehow it's possible. It's a miracle. An infinite number of women have had and will continue to have babies. You can do it. When the doctor got a mirror while I was pushing and I saw how little of my daughter's head was visible when I was pushing at my very hardest, I thought, She is never coming out. I might have even said it aloud. After four hours, my doctor thought I might have to go with a C-section, she was so stuck. I didn't give up, and with the help of forceps, she finally came out--very cone-headed, but perfectly fine. When you are in that moment of despair, keep the thought in the back of your head that you can do it. You have to. That baby can't stay in there forever even though it seems like it. And if you end up having a C-section, don't worry and DON'T feel bad. Don't let anyone make you feel like your birth experience was less special or less right because you did it differently. That's what my doctor had to tell me when I was feeling frustrated that I wasn't going to have the natural, epidural-free birth I wanted. But you know what? Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe I'd have asked that we could try the forceps sooner than four hours...

5. Your baby will look like an alien when he or she comes out. So don't be freaked out. Some babies are gray, some are purple, some are pink, some are covered in blood, and ALL are soaking wet and not as sweet as you might have pictured. Tenley had the hugest cone-head from being in the birth canal for four hours. I didn't have time to process it at the time though because they immediately set her down to be measured, washed up, and swaddled. Then, when they did hand her to me, they had put a hat on her head which covered up the worst of it. When I saw her cone-head uncovered later that night, I'll admit I was a tad worried for her, but it went down significantly by the next day and even more so in the days that followed. At three months, Tenley's head looked completely normal to me. You, like me, might not think that most just-born babies are that pretty to look at, but I am certain that nothing will look more beautiful to you than your own baby. Only a mother's love, I tell you.

6. For a while, you will be VERY swollen down there. It is not pretty. In fact, it's really ugly. My swelling lasted maybe four days, which I think is longer than normal, but I also pushed REALLY HARD for four hours. And that isn't normal at all (my doctor told me he's never had anyone push as long as I did) so don't worry. But I'll tell you, the first time I went to the bathroom after giving birth--with the assistance of my nurses because I couldn't walk by myself--I looked down and was like WOAH. I seriously did not recognize myself. But the nurses assured me that swelling was normal, though mine was worse than most. I don't want to go into detail, but basically I was kind of really grossed out about how things looked for a few days. Luckily, I was encouraged to take lots of hot baths while at the hospital (and at home) which really helps. It also feels amazing. I took four or five baths at the hospital and was encouraged to take more while there but I just wanted to be with my husband and baby.

7. Going to the bathroom is different for a while. This I had not known at all! It makes sense, but my mind was in other places when I thought about birth. My experience will surely be unique from your own, but hopefully this will help prepare you. After the epidural wore off, the nurses removed the catheter (which is kind of cool but really weird--in case you don't know, it catches your pee and is like a little straw that they insert you-know-where, then they inflate a tiny bubble when it's in you so it stays there. I could feel when it was in--it didn't really hurt, but it was obvious that something was there. I could also feel it catching my pee. That sounds weird, but I couldn't control it, and it just kind of constantly flowed into a little bag until they removed it) and then escorted me to the bathroom. Note: I could hardly walk, A) because the epidural hadn't worn off 100%, B) I was exhausted, and C) I must have twisted my leg while pushing because one of the joints of my leg was hurting and it was really hard to walk on it, so the nurses basically dragged/carried/completely supported me while I walked limped like a zombie/bowlegged cowboy toward the bathroom. I kept apologizing to them, mostly because I felt bad and was embarrassed because I was dripping blood on the floor and because I felt completely weak and helpless, but they were so nice and understanding because it is of course their job to help you in this situation. The nurse even helps you um...clean yourself, after you use the bathroom. Mostly because it becomes a kind of complicated routine for the next week or two. They give you these horribly un-cute mesh undies to put on, and put the biggest sanitary pad you've ever seen in your life down on them. Then they put a glove filled with ice cubes into a sock and put that thing down on the pad, then they put little circular witch hazel pads down on the sock, then, once you've gone as much as you can (I peed a lot, and though it is scary to go number 2--especially if, like me, you received stitches--try to be brave and go if you can because you'll feel worse if you hold it in--and hopefully they've given you stool softener pills to take--I took some a few days prior to my scheduled induction because a friend wisely advised me to do so), they will fill a little squirt bottle for you with warm to hot water and you use that to clean yourself. I had no idea about this stuff until a few days beforehand, but the hot water feels amazingly soothing. I love that bottle thing. Once you've watered yourself down, you can use toilet paper to very gently pat dry (it's pointless to do so though because you're going to feel wet for a few days anyway) and then they spray you and your witch hazel pads with a numbing spray, (which I did not think numbed me that well, but oh well) and THEN you pull your underwear up with the pad, ice pack, and witch hazel pads in them and waddle (or limp if you're me) back to bed. So you see, using the bathroom becomes quite the process for a couple of weeks, but gradually you eliminate the ice pack and move to smaller pads, then stop using the spray and witch hazel pads until you're just using regular pads and (if you want to) using the spray bottle until your stitches have dissolved. This is not the rest of your life, so don't worry!

8. The bleeding might not be as bad as people say. For me, after the fourth day, my bleeding went down to less than the heaviest day of my period. I was kind of worried at first because everyone said the flow will be heavy for two weeks, but mine wasn't. In fact, it was hardly anything for the next few weeks. It did not go away completely until about five weeks, but it certainly was not what I'd been told to anticipate. A few times, the blood was brown or a chunk (sorry) would come out, but nurses reassured me that was all normal. The solid pieces that fall out are blood clots and small ones are normal. The only thing that is worrisome is if the bleeding increases or turns to gushing, or if you lose a clot the size of your fist (The size of your fist, you ask? Remember a whole baby came out of you). But everything else is pretty normal. It was kind of like having a long but light period for me. Everyone is different, but you might not bleed as much as you think.

9. Your belly will still be much larger than you'd think afterward. It's unfortunate, and I kept hoping that wouldn't be the case for me, but it was. Your belly will feel really weird, too. It weirded me out to push on the flabby thing that it had become because it feels kind of like jello. Or like one of those memory foam mattresses because when you push on it, it slowly fills in again. Thankfully, it's very temporary and the first week or two are by far the worst. Which brings me to my next point--

10. Breastfeeding can be a miraculous weight-loss exercise (for some people). Lots of people say so, but I didn't know how true it was until I was at a month post-partum and (much to my surprise) was feeling close to my normal self without having done virtually ANY other exercises. If you can breastfeed, DO IT. I know it is hard for many women for various reasons, but be persistent for a few weeks and if it gets easier (like it should for most women), keep going! I am definitely not anti-formula, but I am pro-breastfeeding. It's good for your baby and for you and it's free. Also, I am not sure how common it is for nurses to offer this (mine did), but I would not hesitate to ask for a nipple shield. It's a thin, clear plastic thing that protects your sensitive areola skin and it made nursing a bazillion times easier for me (with both babies). I think the shield is only intended to be used for a few weeks until the baby gets used to nursing, but I used mine for four months with Tenley and two months with my second, Declan. With the shield, I never had soreness or dryness or any of those things you read about and I attribute it to this amazing invention, which you can view here (I believe they're $9 at Wal-Mart. Worth it a million times over). And though lanolin cream is amazing, I haven't ever actually needed to use it because of the shield.

Quick update: I will tell you that I have received many comments from people who say that the nipple shield ruined their experience, but I have two other friends who, like me, felt that the shield saved their breastfeeding experience. I think it may depend also on how long you choose to use it. For me personally, and two of my friends, we used the shield quite a bit past the suggested time. I used mine for about 4 months until I decided I wanted to get my baby to adapt without it. The week transitioning was rough--not for Tenley, who thankfully figured it out quickly (and by then, my nipples were not so flat or inverted)--but for me and my nipples. Suddenly I understood the pain people were talking about. It took about a week for my skin to toughen up, and in the meantime, my nipples were more sore than usual, but I persevered and now I hope I can avoid using the shield with future pregnancies. In the end, I am just thankful that I was able to do it because (especially now 11 months later) I truly believe in the benefits of breast milk and nursing!

More about breastfeeding (if you are interested): as you are probably aware if you've read any books, the stuff your baby gets from you the first several days is a fatty substance called colostrum (or first milk). I know for me, I worried my baby wasn't getting enough to eat because the stuff doesn't exactly flow out like milk. But that's normal. Around day four or five post-partum, my milk came in. And then I KNEW it. I had been wondering the days before if the change in colostrum was milk. But when it happened, it was very obvious (and very white). It seriously happened overnight. I woke up and my breasts were HUGE. Like so big, I was disgusted (I do not personally care for big boobs, especially on me). And it wasn't long before the leaking began. Yes, you leak. If you're like me, you'll leak a lot. That was the worst thing for me for a while. I woke up a few nights in a huge puddle of milk. It felt like I'd wet my bra and shirt. But after a couple of weeks, my body regulated itself and things got a lot easier and a lot less wet. Also, in case you didn't know (because I know I didn't), when you nurse on one side, you leak on the other side. That's where these babies come in handy. If you intend to breastfeed, I personally think these breast cups are must-haves for a few reasons. If you're wondering what you do with them, it's pretty simple. While you nurse on one side, you put a cup over your nipple on the other side to catch the leaking milk. During my first two weeks or so, I would fill the other cup (they would actually overflow) with milk, which I decided to save in a sanitized bottle to store for later. I truly don't know how moms even want to breastfeed without these things. They save you from tons of messes and from spending tons of money on nursing pads which get expensive! By the way, if and when you do get nursing pads, I strongly advise getting Johnson's. I hated all of the other types I tried (and I tried like four other types because ladies gave me some). Another useful tool while breastfeeding is a nursing pillow. I've heard great things about the "Boppy" pillow, but I got mine for FREE (other than shipping!) by signing up for a free account at Motherhood Maternity (they sent me home with tons of amazing coupons include a code to get a free nursing pillow!). Here is the link to the site where I got mine (I have the red Starry Night one). I could spend an entire post on breastfeeding but the point is, there are tons of great tools and resources out there to make breastfeeding a lot easier for you. The hospital will likely offer you the chance to visit with a lactation specialist and give you plenty of pamphlets on places you can go to get help with breastfeeding. Plus the people at WIC are really pro-breastfeeding and have lots of free resources to help new moms. You can do it! It can be hard, but it's worth it.

Update: I just want to clarify that I am not anti-formula at all! Formula is truly amazing these days. But it's very expensive. And it doesn't go through babies as easily as breastmilk (which is also FREE!). Regardless, I don't want anyone to feel bad AT ALL if they choose to use formula (I was given formula myself as a baby for about six months)--you do what you can for your baby and yourself. I just personally really love nursing and want to encourage other moms to go for it if they can! (It's also something that is not worth stressing about because in the long-run, it won't matter to you, so don't feel bad either way).

11. The first two weeks are the worst. It gets better. I remember feeling so discouraged about my body and thinking I'd never be the same again. I was swollen and lumpy and did not feel very cute. But like I mentioned, by one month postpartum, I couldn't believe how much better I felt. I was almost back to normal--or at least, feeling normal. Going to the bathroom was less complicated. I began to have hope that I would be able to reach my pre-pregnancy weight sooner than I'd anticipated. My stitches had finally dissolved completely. Just plan for those first two weeks to be hard. Expect it. But remember that they will be over before you know it and you'll feel SO much better. You will be able to wipe again normally! You can get through it! And in the meantime, let people take care of you. This is your chance to ask your husband, family members, friends, ward members, and neighbors for lots of help. Ask for meals to be brought to you. If you need something from the store, let someone do it for you. You need the service and you're providing an opportunity for someone else's life to be blessed by offering their service to you. Win-win.

12. Stretch marks can appear after you've had the baby. It stinks, but it happened to me. I had only a few small stretch marks on my butt and hips before Tenley was born. But after, I got them on the upper part of the back of my thighs, bigger ones on my butt and hips, and even under my breasts, which I was not expecting. When you gain or lose a lot of weight really quickly, that's what happens. It doesn't happen to everyone--my sister-in-law I'm pretty sure only got a few on her butt--and some lucky ladies don't get any, but try to think of them as little marks of proof that you've created a miracle. Fortunately for most LDS women, they're usually in places that no one but your husband will ever see anyway. And they do fade quite a bit within a year. Mine kind of look like tiger claw marks. Even though it may be hard at first (truthfully, it was for me), embrace those purply-pink stripes because if you want more kids, you'll more than likely get them. And to me, if a few marks are the cost of creating a human being, they're totally worth it.

Update: I actually have grown to like the stretch marks on my thighs and sides now (not so much the ones under my bellybutton which came with my second baby because I look kind of wrinkly, but oh well;)! They marks are kind of silvery and faded and I like that they show I am a mother (especially because people rarely think I look my age).

13. You're going to be given a lot of  advice about raising your child. Some good, some awful. For some reason, when people see children, they can't help but speak their opinion--wanted or not--about how they should be raised. I'm sure many of these people mean well, but what was best for their sister's child or their neighbor's or their own child is NOT necessarily the best for yours. I suggest you plan how you will handle the unwanted suggestions before it happens to you otherwise you might be caught off guard by the outrageousness or rudeness. Personally, I think being kind is the best choice, so I just say, "Oh thank you for telling me your opinion," and let them think they gave me some life-changing advice. Motherhood also comes with a lot of judgment. I could speak volumes on this subject, but simply put, do your own thing. Forget what other moms are saying they're doing. You're going to do just fine and you know what is best for your children. Which brings us to this:

14. YOU know your own child best. You and no one else. Even better than your husband. It's true. Moms just spend so much time around their child that they cannot help but learn their signals and even their cries. My husband will often say, "Dear, she's hungry!" about our daughter, and I'll reply, "No honey, she's just tired." You really can tell. Sometimes--possibly more often than you'd like--you will feel overwhelmed by your baby's crying. Tenley hardly cried compares to most babies and I still felt (and feel) overwhelmed at times. Declan's behavior as a baby has been more average, but his crying doesn't stress me out so much. I think maybe I'm just used to it. But sometimes, babies just cry, and no amount of feeding, burping, walking, or rocking will soothe them. Just remember that it will end. They can't cry forever. If they sense that you're upset or frustrated, it only gets worse. So set your baby down in a safe spot for a few minutes, walk away, cry yourself, calm your nerves down so your baby will sense the change in your body language, check on her, pick her up and hold her close, and say a prayer. Remember that God loves that precious daughter of His and he will help you. To give an example, during one such episode of crying, I felt my frustration and dismay increasing to the point where I wanted to cry myself. Suddenly, I thought, She's Heavenly Father's daughter, too, and He cares about her happiness as much as I do. Then, while still walking around, bouncing Tenley in my arms, I prayed aloud: "Heavenly Father, please help Tenley feel happy. Please let her know she is loved and if she is feeling sick, please help me to know what to do so I can help her." As soon as I'd finished my plea, Tenley stopped crying. Like, right away. I couldn't believe it had happened so immediately, but I thanked Heavenly Father for choosing to answer my prayer directly at that time.

15. It really will feel like it flew by when you look back on it. Everyone says that, but I can't even believe how time has passed for me. Seriously, cherish every moment. Take a video at least once a week--you'll miss the newborn sounds and cries when your baby's voice changes. Take a photo every day. I'm serious. No one has ever regretted taking too many pictures of their child. Take baby footprints. And baby handprints. Snuggle your child. Keep a perspective. Think about how much you love those tender moments with your little one and remember that they won't always be as readily available. Memorize her face and the fragrant smell of her hair and skin. Kiss your child until your lips are chapped. There's no such thing as loving your baby too much. And they change SO fast! You won't even believe it.

Because this post has been so popular, I wrote this one on my additional thoughts as a second-time mom! Once again, my experience was wonderful (even better than the first time!) so I hope you'll read this if you are interested.

If you want to read more about pregnancy/giving birth, check out my official birth story, here!

What are some other tips pregnant ladies should know before going into labor? Postpartum?
If you had a different (but still positive) experience than me, please share! 

Saturday, November 16

The Mother Games: 13 Games All Moms Play

 Catchy title, I know. It doesn't rhyme with The Hunger Games as well as I had hoped, but nevertheless, this post is about the crazy stuff that moms get to do. Who says being a stay-at-home mom isn't fun? I promise that if you try these games, you'll realize that motherhood is a blast. 

1. Cry Decoder
Object: Using only instinct, determine what your child needs based off of his or her tone of shrieking.
Commentary: Believe it or not, moms are given the ability to read cries (not quite as cool as reading minds, but better than nothing) and can do so in the face of chaos. Whether it's tired cry, a hungry cry, a tummy-ache cry, or something else, moms by far have the advantage in this game.

2. Avoid the Acid
Object: Dodge your child's projectile vomit/spit-up--even if it means you're sacrificing the floor. Or nearby furniture.
Commentary: This game is unpredictable and therefore requires much agility and skill on your part. Sometimes you don't know it's coming until it's too late, while other times you'll hear a wet sound from your child's mouth seconds before it happens which is your only warning. Best strategy: Keep those burp cloths handy and like a boy scout (or like Scar from Lion King), be prepared. And also prepare to never have totally clean carpets again.

3. Booger Chase
Object: Using whatever means necessary, get as much stuff out of baby's nose as possible before he or she starts crying--or, if you're persistent, before the crying turns into an uncontrollable fit of flailing limbs, making it impossible for you to continue. You're trying to get a stupid booger out of you baby's nostril which is like the size of a dried up pea (the nostril not the booger), and you think it's reachable, when all of a sudden your child breathes (for goodness' sake!) and sucks it back in. It's a battle to the death, I tell you.
Commentary: You know those stupid bulb things for getting snot out of your baby's tiny nose? Those things are ridiculously annoying. You'd think if someone could invent an iPad, someone else could figure out how to make a more efficient snot collector.

4. Mad Dash
Object: Put your baby down for a nap, then get as much done around the house as possible before the alarm goes off.* The alarm is your baby.
Commentary: This game is a fun one that most moms play daily. It's a little bit like Perfection (you know that game where you have to fit all the different-shaped pieces into their spots before the timer goes off suddenly and they all pop out?) because you never know how long you have. It could be ten minutes, it could be thirty minutes, it could be five hours. The best strategy is to plan ahead what tasks you want to do (and which ones you can do quickly) and then, as soon as you get the chance, seize it. *Variation: Some moms like to sneak in naps instead but I don't like to nap unless I'm guaranteed at least an hour's worth of sleep.

5. Run the Red
Object: Get home as quickly as possible with a crying baby in the backseat without losing your patience or breaking the law.
Commentary: How many times have you gotten almost all of your errands done and you're about to do one last thing before heading home when your child alerts you that you actually ARE done and you're going home to feed him/her NOW. In this moment you wonder for a fleeting moment if you can do just one last quick thing before heading home. Then you remember how much of a pain it is to unbuckle and re-buckle your child, especially a crying one, into his or her car seat and decide you're done. Unfortunately for you, baby is the boss. And no amount of soothing words, music, or rattle-shaking is going to help you now. Getting home fast with a crying baby is a kind of paradox. I can assure you, nine times out of ten you will hit every red light and be surrounded by the worst drivers on the road. Or at least it seems that way (darn you, Murphy's law!). Just remember that it's not the end of the world (though your baby may sure be acting like it is) and getting home safely is what's important. If you can't handle the pressure, no worries, just pull over and take care of things before you go any farther.

6. Maximum Load
Object: Test how much your baby's diaper can hold without developing into a blowout.
Commentary: This is kind of a game of chance. Sometimes, changing your baby's diaper right away is the right thing to do. Other times, you can sense that he or she is not quite done, and you'll be changing him or her again in a few minutes if you don't just wait. Then there's the question of changing your child's diaper if it's just a little pee. Sigh, the moral battles we go through daily while caring for our children. Honestly, I usually leave Tenley in a peed-in diaper for a little while because diapers are designed to absorb the liquid so your child can't feel it. Kind of like pads, ladies. But if it's poop, I've learned that waiting is super risky if you don't want to put your child into an entirely new outfit.

7. Catch the Splat
Object: Using a burp cloth (or in some situations, your sleeve, a blanket, whatever you have handy...), wipe your child's spit-up or drool BEFORE it gets all over his or her adorable little outfit and leave the front of the onesie soaking.
Commentary: I cannot stand when Tenley's front gets all wet with spit-up or drool because, first off, it's annoying (who wants to sit in wet things all day) and secondly, she starts to smell. Like yucky old milk. And it's not cute. This game is a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing that can happen anywhere at any time no matter how inconvenient.

8. Stop the Paci
Object: Keep the pacifier from being projected out of your child's mouth onto the germ-ridden floor.
Commentary: This is probably my least favorite game. I feel like I am constantly checking Tenley's pacifier for hairs or bit of floor, or else popping it in my own mouth to clean it off after a fall. It's gross. But I willingly sacrifice my health to keep Tenley healthy. Bonus points awarded if, like me, you have cat-like reflexes and can catch the pacifier in mid-air 50% of the time.

9. Shoe Drop
Object: Keep your baby's socks and shoes on all day.
Commentary: That's it, that's the game. But it actually is a challenge, especially with little babies who do not seem to like either items very much. Bonus points if you get the socks or shoes to stay on by the time you get home. Points taken away if you lose a sock or shoe.

10. One-Handed
Object: Do anything with a baby in one arm. Cook dinner. Take a shower. Get dressed. Use the bathroom. Do laundry. Write a blog post.
Commentary: Seriously, try it. Challenge yourself even more by making that a crying or flailing baby.

11. No-Handed
Object: Do regular tasks with no hands. (Check out this funny article about you can prepare to be a parent if you want some ideas.)
Commentary: Some babies are two-handed babies. They can sense when you aren't giving them your full undivided attention and not only want to be held and bounced but burped or patted, too. When this happens, moms have to get creative. Picking up toys or socks with one's feet is not uncommon. Bonus points to those of you who have had to use your mouth.

12. Hide-and-Seek
Object: Get your child in his or her own crib to sleep, then sneak out of the room without making a sound or being seen.
Commentary: This is a lot harder than regular hide-and-seek. Children seem to have mom radar that alerts them to your presence, whether you're crazy good at being silent or just regular silent.

13. Play Doctor
Object: Using your limited resources (a thermometer, children's tylenol, the internet) figure out if your child is really sick or just upset.
Commentary: From clipping your child's fingernails (which is like trying to thread a needle in 50mph winds) to observing the color, texture, amount, etc. of your child's poop, you now play a minor role as a children's doctor with possibly no training whatsoever. Good thing you at least have your maternal instincts to rely on. And your own mom. And the internet.
Tenley's face when I try some of these games with her.
Now after reading all of these, I ask: Why again, aren't American mothers paid to stay at home with their children? Don't ask me, I wasn't at the meeting. But if I had been, that would have been the sole item on my agenda. (If you like that idea, this post may interest you!) I really do think moms deserve to be paid for staying with their children, because raising the next generation (WELL) truly is the most important thing anyone could do.
I just adore my silly, sweet daughter ;)
What do you think? 
Should moms be paid to stay at home? Why or why not?
Have you ever played (or witnessed someone else playing) any of these games? Which ones?

Thursday, November 14

5 Passions & A State Test

This post is for my series, 30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me.

Probably my favorite activity and how I spend most of my days. Also, the reason I want to become an editor. So I can read all day.
I write a lot. I write in my journal (I'm about to start my 30th any day now), I write on my blog (well, type), I write notes to Dalin, I write letters and thank-you cards, and just recently, Dalin and I each started Gratitude Journals for one another (I'll blog about that later). I love writing and would like to write a book someday--when I have the time (Haha! Like that will happen).
I have always been fairly blessed with a talent in art my whole life, mainly because artistic genes run in my family. I never used to think that being artistic was cool--in fact, I used to think it was a pretty useless talent. I enjoy doing art for fun, but I've always thought a career in art seemed ridiculous (much to my parents' dismay--they have always wanted me to become an artist or illustrator). Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, I think it might be a fun way to make a little extra money. I'll share more on this in another post.
Just recently, my little brother made an art gallery of my work in his bedroom (my old room). I thought it was really sweet of him :)
I love teaching. If I could have picked all the careers I want to do, teaching would definitely be among them. I loved teaching Primary for a year, and now I love having the opportunity to teach my daughter. Right now I am teaching Tenley to speak Spanish, American Sign-Language (neither of which I'm fluent in), to count, colors, shapes, the alphabet, body parts, to sit up, to stand, to listen, to talk, and to have as great a love for reading as I do. Teaching an infant involves a lot of repetition and the progress is slow, but I know that my efforts will be rewarded if I am patient and persistent as a good teacher ought to be.
Reading with my baby like we do every morning.
I love to laugh! (Saying so always reminds me of the song in Mary Poppins with Bert and Uncle Albert). I probably laugh way too much. It used to get me in mild trouble at church and school. I just can't help it though! I laugh my way through life. People probably think I'm weird because I have such a broad sense of humor--I kind of laugh at everything. One of my favorite quotes is by Marjorie Pay Hinckley: "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh." This quote is kind of my motto. That, and honoring the words, "Live, Laugh, Love." Because what things could make one happier? I count my successes as a mother  daily not by how much we did that day, but how much I made my little girl laugh. I really hope I can teach her to love laughter.

I just love these lyrics from Mary Poppins:

We love to laugh! (ha ha ha ha!)
Loud and long and clear
We love to laugh
So ev'rybody can hear!

The more you laugh!
The more you fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more we're a merrier we!

★   ★  
For fun, Dalin and I took this interesting (slightly controversial) state mood test, which, with ten simple questions, determines where you should live. 
Basically, Dalin took it first and got Tennessee. 
Then I took it and got South Carolina. 
Then...Dalin took it for me and got Georgia. 
And I took it for him and got Washington. Random. 
We thought it was funny that three of the states are tucked away into the southeast. I especially thought it was weird because I had been telling Dalin a few days before that we should look into schools in North Carolina because I just have a good feeling about that place (I've only driven through it on family trips to Florida so I don't know much about it other than that the weather is lovely) and all three states are touching North Carolina. Maybe it's just me, but I thought that was weird. Or a sign. Or something.
Anyway, the test was fun to take and so I thought I would provide the link so you can take it! But then you have to comment (pretty please!) and tell me where it said you should live! You can take it for your spouse, too, if you want!
Let me know where it says you should live (and what you think about it) by leaving me a quick comment! 

Monday, November 11

Post-Partum Weirdness: Reflecting on My First Pregnancy

I have a confession. And it will surely weird some people out. But I want to talk about it, so here it is:

Not only did I love being pregnant, but I loved giving birth. 

K, now feel free to call me odd, but even with four hours of pushing a little human person (with a huge head!) out of a place that does not quite seem big enough to do so, in a very weird--possibly sadistic--way, I enjoyed it. I can already hear some of you: What is she smoking? Well, trust me--I'm not smoking anything and I'd like to think I'm quite sound of mind, but it's true. Hear me out--

I had a very easy first pregnancy. I mean, complaints from previous posts aside, I look back and think, "Geez, that was nothing." And really, they weren't. If occasional discomfort is the trade for growing a little person that can make you happier than you ever dreamed, you'd think so too. I never threw up or had anything out-of-the-ordinary happen, and my doctor basically confirmed each visit that my pregnancy was what the medical world would label completely average. I had all the typical worries of a first-time mom, including (but not limited to) fear of miscarriage, fear of labor, and fear of being a crappy mom--but I got to the point where I realized that worrying did me NO good. Finally, I told myself that whatever is supposed to happen, will happen, and as long as I'm doing the best I can, it'll work out. If my child is supposed to live, she will. Take a deep breath and have faith.

Giving birth was hard. Like, the hardest thing I've ever done. But it felt like a kind of challenge--a good one. Having a baby (like actually giving birth) was, in a weird way, a high for me that I've never experienced before (obviously, but you know what I mean). It was invigorating. My feelings about this weren't instant...but it wasn't very long after having Tenley that I felt energized in an unexpected way. And it wasn't just adrenaline (because that does kick in when one is essentially trying to push a bowling ball out of a gum-ball machine). It was more than that--I felt like I had accomplished my potential as a woman. I did something that fewer than half of people alive today can do. I made a person! Not single-handedly, but let's be honest, I did most of the work in that respect.

I am no feminist, but if I were, I can tell you that more than anything else, having a baby helped me feel the measure of my creation. In other words, I'm glad I'm a woman. I'm glad God chose us to carry and deliver and raise his most precious beings.

And I want to do it again. 
See?? Look how happy I look! Of course this was also right after I'd gotten the epidural, but...
True happiness is holding your new baby.
Being a new mom has been amazing. Tenley has been really easy on me so far. She cries and wakes me up and poops a LOT like every baby, but based on the complaints I hear some mothers making, I have it super easy. My body, at three months post-partum, is almost completely back to what it was before I got pregnant, which I certainly never expected (and which I know is NOT the experience for most women--breastfeeding was the key for me if you're wondering! If you can do it, DO!). I've finally established some form of a normal routine again. But most important of all: I'm happy. She's happy. Husband's happy. Life is good--to put it mildly. And this happiness I've never felt is so great that I want to share it. And feed it. By adding more humans to our family.

And while I'm thinking about it--right here, right now, I'm vowing NOT to look at useless advice on the Internet for child #2. Seriously, 92.5% of what I read was--there's no other way to say it--complete CRAP, at least for me. It didn't apply to me or my situation, and nothing that the millions of ladies on the motherhood/pregnancy chats said, happened to me. My personal situation was unique. If you're a woman, your personal situation will be unique. Or your wife's will be. If and when the time comes, trust your instincts and motherly intuition, and more than anything TRUST GOD. He loves you. He cares about you and your worries. Like this pin says:

Does anyone feel the same way? 
In a weird way did you like giving birth?
Anyone disagree?

Chair Up-Cycle

I'm writing this post because several people have asked me what I did to give some old chairs a new look, and it was so easy, I just had to share!

When we got married, Dalin's Grammy gave us some awesome, sturdy antique chairs to go along with our antique kitchen table--which was fantastic--especially because I love antiques. We used the chairs for a year as they were, but then I got a little bit tired of looking at the worn pink velvety fabric mixed with maroon-brown. Pretty, right?

So I decided I would give them a make-over with the help of my mom when she came and visited me last December before Christmas. The first thing we did was choose colors. My favorite colors are aqua blue, green, and mustard yellow, so that was easy. We went to Lowe's and with the help of someone in the paint section, chose a can of primer and had them mix three sample sizes of our chosen colors, which were only $3 each! They looked just like the ones in the picture below.
Once we had our paint samples, we drove the Home Fabrics store and chose three different fabrics that would go well with the colors I'd selected and also look good with each other. We bought a yard or so of each, and then headed home to get to work! (We had also picked up a small, inexpensive staple gun while at Lowe's). 

At home, we took the chairs apart one by one. We flipped the chairs over and removed the screws to release the seat part, then I started priming the base of the chair. I set my mom to work, re-upholstering the seat. We decided to leave the pink fabric on underneath ours for extra padding. 

Here is the before picture of two of the chairs. The seats didn't match which annoyed me a little (especially since they were two different shades of pink)--though of course the covers I chose don't technically match either ;)

I covered the kitchen table with brown paper and started painting the primer on (you can see the chair in the background that I set on the stovetop to dry is fully primed). I'm not gonna lie--just priming kind of took a while, but my mom and I were excited to see them done, so we spent all evening and late into the night priming and painting.  

Here I am, just about ready to start painting the first chair! (Also, I was one month pregnant here btw)

Here is the final product! The aqua chair:

The green chair:

The mustard chair:

We keep two sitting at the table (because that's all we have room for really in our tiny kitchen) and one nearby for when we have someone visiting. Also, notice how nice our newly stained kitchen table looks! My mom did that for me while she was here last December since I was pregnant and the fumes can be dangerous. I think she did a pretty marvelous job! 

What do you think of our project?
Could we have done anything differently?
Do you have any old chairs or furniture to up-cycle/paint/re-upholster?
Let me know if you decide to do it yourself!