Friday, August 3, 2012

Why I love Dave Ramsey

I am a self-proclaimed Dave Ramsey nut.  Some of you may know this from the post I wrote last year which touched on the subject, and some of you may know it because you know me, and I talk about it a lot.  Some think that Dave and I are completely off of our rockers in terms of our finances, and some think we are too concerned with money, so I wanted to write about my reasons for loving Dave Ramsey, and his babystep plan.

1) Dave Ramsey saved my marriage.  
I tell this to a lot of people but I can't say for sure that my marriage would have crumbled without finding and reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.  I can say though that now we have one less thing to argue about, which is a blessing (because as I am sure most married couples know, there are lots of other things to argue about, and any one that can be crossed off the list is a blessing!).  This isn't to say we never argue about money, but the frequency that it happens has gone down dramatically.

2) I can sleep at night.
While I was in University, I used to lay awake at night, thinking about how I didn't know how I would pay my credit card bill.  Limited income, and seemingly unlimited bills can do that to you.  I can honestly say that since paying off our debt, there have been many nights I haven't gotten a good sleep, but none of them have been because I was worried about if we would have the money to pay tomorrow for our yesterday.

3) I am not counting my change to try to make rent.
At the end of every day, Dave and I take all of our change and split it into two jars - pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters go in our change jar; and loonies and toonies go in our savings jar.  Our savings jar isn't to be touched, and once we get enough loonies or toonies to roll, we roll it, exchange it for cash,  and put it in our savings acccount at the bank.  But the change jar can be used for a coffee here, or muffin there, or something small we may want or need.  The change jar doesn't frequently get used though, because it is too hard to rummage through it to find the change you need.  So, once that jar gets full, I take it and roll it all, and take that cash and put that in our savings account too.

A couple of weeks ago, the change jar was full, and so I went through this process, which had reminded me of the time about two years ago (a month or two after our wedding) that we couldn't make rent.  At that time, I had jars and jars of change (mostly pennies), that I had been saving for years (I had started saving my change in high school).  I wasn't wise enough to have an emergency fund, so these jars were my storehouse (that I had planned on keeping forever).  We had to dump all of those jars out, roll all of the change, just so we could pay rent that month.

I am so glad that now I can count my change to pad our savings, instead of counting my pennies and praying there is enough so that I can keep a roof over my head.

4) When a rainy day comes, we will be ready.

We have a well-funded emergency fund.  Although I am a constant worrier, and still concern myself with tomorrow (Matthew 6:34, Amy!), I am less worried as I know we have a good padding between us and any financial mishaps.

5) Dave Ramsey's steps are simple and easy to follow.

I am not saying that the process will be simple or easy to follow through on.  I cannot tell you how much I am dying to go on a vacation to New Hampshire, and saving the money for our trip is probably going to take forever, and I don't think I will be able to go until I am 75 years old, and I would rather use the money we have in the bank right now to go.  But I can't, because it is not wise, and we have more important savings goals to be focusing on now.

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps though, are simple and easy to follow.  And for those of us who like being able to follow steps, the plan is marvelous.
  1. Have 1000$ in the bank as an emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt, starting with the smallest, and working through to the largest.
  3. Build an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses.
  4. Put 15% of your income towards retirement.
  5. Save for your children's education.
  6. Pay off the house.
  7. Build wealth and give.
6) Dave Ramsey's plan has an emphasis on giving.

Dave and I are able to give now more generously and with a more willing heart than we have ever been able to give before.

7) Financial stewardship is Biblically mandated.

There are a lot of things in the Bible that we Christians don't like to talk about, and we especially don't like to hold ourselves to the biblical standard in these things.  My top three on this list are Money, Sex, and Gluttony.  I am going to avoid those last two for now, and just give a little biblical background on Money (which, by the way, is mentioned in the Bible over 800 times)*.
God believes building up storehouses is wise.  The famous story of Joseph is a great indication of this - God enabled Egypt to have food to last through a drought by saving up while times were good.  Proverbs 21:20 is also a great example of building up storehouses.

The Bible discourages debt. Proverbs 22:7

The Bible encourages saving. Proverbs 13:22, Luke 14.28, and Proverbs 31:16

Jesus, in Luke 16:11, even says "And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?".

Now, don't get me wrong - I also know that Jesus says "you cannot serve both God and money"(Matthew 6:24), but I do not believe that serving God means spending all my money, but that saving, budgeting, and giving are all wise choices that God looks favourably upon.  However, if he calls me to leave everything behind and follow him, I need to be ready (Luke 18:18-30).

So yes, we might be crazy, but I would rather be crazy than normal in this case.  And I know Dave Ramsey's plan may not be for everyone, but it worked phenomenally for Dave and I, and I encourage anyone with any concerns about money to pick up his book, The Total Money Makeover, attend a Financial Peace University class, or at least visit his website.  When we first had the opportunity to take a FPU class, we didn't, because we didn't think we had $100 to spend on it, but had we taken the plunge and spent the money on it then, I am sure we would have more money in the bank now.

"The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don't borrow and put yourself under their power"
-Proverbs 22:7 MSG
Join me next week when I update you on how we are doing following the baby steps, and how I have amended our budgeting and jar system over the past year!

*Statistic found here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Letter to my six month old

A very excited Ella and her aunt Rebecca

 Dear Ella,

A couple of weeks ago you turned six months old.  It is very very hard to believe that you are already six months old, and that you have been in our lives for over a year already!

You continue to astound me with how much you are growing and learning all the time.  You are still my baby girl, but you are no little baby anymore.  Some of your more recent accomplishments include:

  • Sitting up. You do an awfully good job at this by yourself, and only tumble occasionally.  Sitting up by yourself playing with toys is now competing with the Jolly Jumper as your favorite thing to do.
  • Talking. You often say 'mumumumumum',  and we are just working on getting you to say 'dada'!  You are constantly telling us happy (or sad) stories.
  • Walking. You still want to be on your feet, all the time.  You have a gift for 'walking' while holding onto someone's fingers.
  • Your social skills.  You love being with others and making them smile - whether it be your Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Papa, your aunts or uncles, your cousins, or those playing with you in the nursery, you are always very good for them and don't seem to miss your father or I at all.  I even catch you looking at strangers in a store, just waiting for them to turn and look at you so you can smile at them, and brighten their day!
  • Your empathy. Whenever I am sad, you give bigger hugs, more frequent kisses, and are very accommodating to the many kisses and hugs I give you! 
  • You know where your food is.  This is a good thing for you, and a not so good thing for me.  You are constantly trying to find your food and get your mouth to it, which means I have to be constantly watching my shirt!
  • The end of the swaddle.  Recently, we stopped swaddling you.  I used to love to see you all bundled up in bed, but you wouldn't have it anymore and wanted to roll around and be mobile, which is another very indicative sign of how much you have grown!
Sleeping Ella
You love your toys.  Your bunny is by far your favorite, you always reach for it when you see it, and you cannot sleep without it.  You also love playing with hard toys, hitting them on things, or eating them!

You also love your father, and he loves you.  You and him get to spend about three mornings a week alone together while I am at work, and I know he makes you smile like no one else can.  You guys play together, and you laugh and smile all the time for him.  Seeing the bond you two have makes me extremely proud.

You are the light of my life.  I wouldn't give you up for the world - even when I am exhausted, and the house is a disaster, and all I want to do is have some time to myself, I am so glad to have you.  Your smile can dissipate all my stress and worries, and I am so thankful that God has given us the great responsibility of caring for you.

I have already experienced in great vividness the many ways I will fall short as a mother. I am sorry that I won't be able to be the mother you deserve.  I am worried about the day where you will wake up and not want me around any more, but I just pray that no matter what that you will know that God in his infinite wisdom created you just the way you are, and will love you no matter what - and that I will too.  I love you more than you will ever comprehend and I cannot wait to see the beautiful toddler, child, teenager, and women that you turn into!



Mmmm Rocks

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Lately, there has been a lot of controversy about breastfeeding in public thanks to a situation with the city of Moncton and a woman who runs a booth at the farmer's market there*.  I have strong feelings about breastfeeding, so I thought I would share.

I breastfeed Ella.  I have spent countless hours feeding her.  And I need to tell you something - I strongly dislike it.  Here is a snippet of what breastfeeding Ella includes for me:

  • Waking up 1-2-3-4+ times a night, just to feed her.  If I had chosen to formula feed, she may have been sleeping through the night earlier (as I understand it, the formula is heavier and sits in their stomachs longer), plus Dave could be the one to get up to feed her sometimes instead of it always being me.
  • Stopping whatever I am doing to feed her when she is hungry.  She is on a schedule, but changes in our usual routines, growth spurts, and other events frequently mean that I must stop whatever I am doing to feed her instead.
  • Having to cover up while she is eating.  Many people think this is the solution to breastfeeding in public, but there are three main issues:
    • Ella hates it.  She just tries to push the cover away, or eat it instead of what she should be eating.
    • It's hot in the summer!  I feel bad putting it on her.
    • It isn't foolproof and still garners the same amount of attention that feeding without a cover does.
  • Feeding her in annoying places like in a car (which is extremely uncomfortable), in a restaurant when lots of people are around, on toilets in bathroom stalls, and other uncomfortable places.
  • Having to come home from work just so I can feed her.  I work 3 mornings a week, and sometimes I will get a text from Dave that tells me I need to come home early just because she is hungry.
  • Having to leave church so I can go feed her.  I cannot tell you how many sermons I have missed since she was born.
  • Pain - pain at first when my breasts were getting used to it, pain when they are too full, pain when she bites them, pain when she isn't latched properly.  It isn't comfortable.
So why do I feed her?
  • It's healthy for her.  All the literature suggests that it is easier for her to digest, will protect and fight diseases, and will lower her chances of allergies.
  • It's healthy for me.  Breast cancer runs in my family.  I heard a figure on the radio the other day that young mothers who breastfeed are half as likely to get breast cancer than women who never have children or don't breastfeed.
  • It's cheap.  Other than for filling my stomach with an extra 500 calories a day it is free.  Formula isn't.
  • It's ready when she is (as long as I am ready).  No preparing a bottle.
  • I forget everything, I don't have to worry about forgetting my boobs.
  • It's good bonding time for Ella and I.
Here's the thing - I am all for modesty, and I am self-conscious about my body.  Despite the issues with it, I always cover up in public.  But even while covering up, I am sure people have probably accidentally seen too much.  And I really don't judge mothers who don't cover up, because they are feeding their babies, it is unbelievably natural.

I think instead of getting upset at women, let's get upset at business owners who aren't providing adequate spaces for women to breastfeed, or for babies to be changed.  I think that would help a lot (I know it would make me feel more comfortable).  Just to be clear though, even if those spaces were located in all businesses, I do not feel that women should be required to use them.  Take it from me, being relegated somewhere to feed your baby while the rest of your group is enjoying themselves is unfair and will make a woman be all the more bitter about breastfeeding.

As far as I can tell, mine and Dave's nipples have the exact same sexual component**.  Mine just perform another more natural function as well. I am very perplexed as to why people get so upset when women don't cover up while feeding their babies, but men who have the same sized boobs as I do get to mow their lawns with their shirts off and their beer bellies hanging out.

But that's just my opinion.

*Rumours have gone around that this woman would continue to bare her breasts while not feeding her baby.  As far as I can tell these rumours have not been quantified so I am not speaking to that part of the issue at all, but solely breastfeeding in public.

**Please be aware that this will link you to cosmo's website.  I don't like or follow Cosmopolitan at all usually, but I figured since they seem to be the number one source for all sexual information in this culture, their information can be trusted (?) in this matter.

Please Note: I bear no ill will towards mothers who don't BF.  I understand that some mothers can't or don't want to BF their babies, and that is totally their decision, and I support it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Customer 'Service'

Dear Companies,

If you are going to call a department in your company 'Customer Service', you better have a little service.  There is nothing I hate more than bad customer service.  In an age where companies only survive because they are great at something, it surprises me that so many companies with extremely poor customer service are still flourishing.  Here are my four customer service rules, please listen to and try to abide by them:

1) If you have a 'Live Chat' section on your website, it better be live:

There is nothing worse then signing on to chat with a customer service representative and having to wait as long as you would while being on hold on the phone.  Make sure you have adequate staff to handle a live chat if you are going to offer this service.  If you can't handle this, don't offer it.

ING has a great live chat section.  If there are representatives available, you are able to go into live chat, but if not, you aren't.  I tried to talk to someone on the TOMS website today in 'live' chat, and I was all alone in the chat, waiting, and waiting for someone to respond.

2) You better respond to your email inquiries quickly:I can understand a couple day wait, but it better be no more than that.  Again, if you can't handle it.  Don't offer it.  But really, you better be able to handle it.  Because my generation and younger have grown up on email.  And that is what we expect.

I recently emailed TOMS about a quick question regarding an exchange I wanted to make (but couldn't make until my question was answered).  2 emails, and 3.5 weeks later, I still hadn't had any response.

3) Don't put me on hold indefinitely:

Once again, this is a staffing issue.  But it is also an information issue.  Most people who know me know I like to have a plan.  Don't tell me you are going to visit me today, you better tell me at what time you are going to walk through my front door, and how many people are coming, and if you will be staying for a meal, and what you want to do, etc.  I like to know the whole thing.  If I don't, I get stressed.  So when I call a company and hear the dreaded "we are experiencing a higher call volume than normal, but your query is important to us, so please stay on the line until the next available representative can serve you" (on a side note, every company ALWAYS seems to be experiencing a higher call volume than normal - I would like to know when your lower call volume is so I can call then!) I am driven crazy.  How long will I be on hold?  Should I waste my time being on hold, or will I just have to hang up in an hour without having my question answered.  So if you are going to indefinitely put me on hold, at least give me an estimated wait time.  Or tell me what number I am in line.  I am much more likely to stay on hold if I am number 5 in line than if I am number 252.

Service Canada is awful to try to get in touch with (take it from me, I have had to contact them often), but if you need to call them do it first thing in the morning.  Remember, they need to be open 8-8 in everyone's time zones so they are never really just open 8-8!
4) Just because I am your customer doesn't mean I want you calling me to try to sell me something:

BMO does this all the time.  We have gotten rid of almost all of our bank accounts with them, but they are always calling us to try to sell us more of their products.  I will tell you what would have gotten you more of our service, proper customer service in the first place.  We are pulling our accounts from BMO because a rude customer service agent told us we should, and yet instead of improving their customer service, they spend money on getting people in other call centres to call us and waste my time by trying to sell me more products.  I am not interested, BMO.

ING Direct has the best customer service I have experienced in a long time.  I really wish that more organizations would use them as a model.  I have never been on hold for more than 1 minute, I get quick email responses, and direct chatting is simple and almost always available.  And in this culture, I think customer service is just going to become more and more important.

I hope you can adequately adjust to follow my rules.  Because in the end, it is all about me (right? right?)


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Sleep Question

Photo taken April 3, 2012. Two and a half months old.

I remember how exhausted I was when Ella first came home from the hospital.  All she ever wanted to do was sleep.... on someone.  We held her so much in the first day or two that the nurses told us she wouldn't fall asleep in her bed in the nursery, because she just wanted to be in someone's arms.

In some ways, I loved those precious moments with my daughter, but in other ways, I just wanted her to learn to sleep on her own.  And then finally, she did.

For a long time, Ella would get very fussy and tired during the day, screaming without end, and going almost full days without napping.  And then we got on a daytime schedule - eat, play, nap, eat, play, nap. It works well, she naps longer, and she isn't crying as much (because we can tell when she is tired).

That being said, we still haven't mastered the night sleeping.  Ella is just a little over 3 months old and still sleeps in bed with us (I know, I know - we said we would never do it, but it just worked best for us).  Her naps during the day are in her own bed.  We swaddle her during naptime and bedtime because she flails around and wakes herself up if she isn't swaddled.  Our bedtime routine goes something like this and starts somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00pm:

1.  Feeding
2.  Bath
3.  PJ's
4.  Book
5. Prayer
6. Swaddle
7. Put down, lights out.

Dave and I go to bed usually about half an hour to an hour after she does.

She usually wakes up about 2 times in the night to eat.  She eats laying down, and I just wait for her to fall asleep until I go back to sleep.  She usually wakes up for the day around 8:00am.

I have read that babies at 3 months should be able to sleep though the night, and I would like for her to be able to do that.  I would also like for her to sleep in her crib at night.

We have established a bedtime routine, and we have a daily nap schedule - the only thing keeping her up at night is her eating.  I need some ideas on how to proceed though.  Should I wait a little longer until she is slightly older to try to coax her into sleeping through the night?  Has anyone tried any methods for getting their younger (3-6 months) babies to sleep that long? I have looked at the Ferber method and at SleepSense, but don't want to buy something and commit unless I know it works.

We are also okay with moving her to her crib to sleep at night, but I don't want to have to be walking to her room to feed her twice a night for the next two months or so if she isn't really old enough to sleep through the night yet.  We are prepared for some bad nights, if we can feel confident we will see some results in a couple of weeks.

So if you have any advice or can share what worked with your child, it would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Trio of Mess

It is dark, cold, and rainy outside today.  It is just a gloomy day - one of those curl up by the fire, with a blanket and a good book kind of days.  But because I have no fireplace, and am between books, I am instead writing this post while little girl is napping.

The view outside my window.  It's gross out!

I am in the middle of two projects right now, and because I want to show them to you when I am done, I am going to write about three quick things today instead of one big one!

The Blog
My blog used to give me headaches.  Too much pattern and design and I didn't know where to look.  So in an effort to simplify things in my life, I have changed the design to a lot simpler and (I think) sleeker.  Let me know what you think.  But if you don't like it, don't worry!  I'll probably get tired of it and change it again soon.  Also, check out the "About Amy" section at the top of my blog- it's new!

I'm a Gardener

My very useful plant! After about 1 week of growth!

I found this idea on Pinterest.  I am not really sure that it has to do with mess, but it was a great tip, and I wanted to share it with you!  

I tend to a cook a lot of asian dishes.  I really like Thai flavours, so many of our dishes end up with an asian flare (I go through a lot of Hoisin sauce!).  One of the ingredients that is frequently called for in the recipes I use is green onions.  I am not a big onion person, but I like the extra little kick that green onions bring to a dish.  And I am lucky that they are pretty cheap, but I was constantly having to run to the grocery store for a $0.99 item.  So I started growing my own!  This project will take you about 2 minutes, and it will cost you anywhere from $0 and $2.

First, you want to take your green onions and cut them down to the top of the white/light green parts.  I forgot to take a picture of this, so bear with me.  Once you are done, place them in a mason jar and fill the jar with a reasonable amount of water (make sure the roots are covered, but not the whole thing).  In a matter of days you will notice sprouts and you will have reusable green onions.  No more running to the grocery store for them again!  Just make sure they are left in a place with lots of light!  You may also want to switch out your water every once and a while so it doesn't get stale.

The Secret Project

I am working on a top secret project that I can't wait to share with you all.  It is a big project, but I think it will help streamline our life a lot.  Here is a little pictorial hint!  I am hoping to have it done next week so I can share it with you then!

Can you guess what I am working on?

I hope you all have a great week!


P.S. - If you haven't had a chance to vote on what to do with my laundry room area, check out the sidebar and vote now!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Laundry Room Dilemna

I need to be brutally honest with you right now.  My house is far from perfect, and I don't do a very good job at keeping it clean.  But having a messy house stresses me out.  I am constantly in this conundrum between not having a clean house, and really truly desiring for it to be clean.

I tell myself that my house is constantly messy because I have no time.  But let's be honest - mostly my house is in the state it is in because I am lazy.  If I constantly kept up with it, I am sure that my house would look better and I would feel better.  But I put off cleaning until it gets to the stage where it is so messy that I have to clean it, but I never want to.

Don't believe me?  This is what I am looking at right now:
Sorry for the blurriness, I don't know what I was thinking when I took this!

But although my laziness is a major culprit in this issue, I think there is another culprit that is equally to blame.  Ever heard the saying, a place for everything, and everything in its place?  I could live by this motto.  There are some things that have a specific place to go, and I have an exceedingly easy time putting these things away, because I don't have to rummage around and find a place for it, or throw it somewhere only to have to deal with it later.

So I am going to be trying to organize my house piece by piece to ensure everything does have a place.  And I am going to bring you on my journey with me.  I will need your help in order to decide how I should organize and decorate these spaces!  Every Monday (hopefully), I will have a new organizing blog post.  Sometimes it will be projects I have done, and sometimes it will be projects I am thinking of doing and need your help with.  So please, join me and help me organize my life!

There are a couple of other factors that affect these projects as well.  First, as I work on these organizing projects, I will be primarily home with our beautiful daughter, so I rarely have long periods of time to devote to a project, but rather I can only work on things in short intervals (usually while she naps).  Secondly, Dave and I do not own the house we live in, we are renting it.  Our landlords have given us a ton of freedom to do with it as we please, but we definitely do not want to be sinking a lot of money for very little return.  Finally, we are on a tight budget.  I have a limited amount of money set aside every month for 'home improvement', and so anything I do needs to be extremely cost effective!

The Laundry Room

The first area that I have decided to tackle is our laundry room area.  Our washer and dryer are in a dark (hence the awful photos) corner of our basement, slightly out of the way.  The washer and dryer are pretty old, but have worked well for us.   I have also been hanging some of our clothes on the line to dry in order to save electricity.  This works well, but means I need to be even more organized in getting them out to the line, and bringing them in before I forget about them and they are rained on.

There are two shelves above my dryer.  These shelves have been, for the most part, pretty cluttered.  They held my laundry detergent(s), bleach, stain remover, lightbulbs, some cleaners, our iron, our steamer, some dryer balls, dryer sheets, and lots more.  Recently I switched to using soap nuts as our laundry detergent.  This has worked well for us, it means that I am not worrying about what chemicals I am washing our clothes in, and it also means that I can use the same laundry detergent to wash all of our laundry (Ella's diapers, her clothes, our clothes, bedding, towels, etc).  It has decreased the number of bottles I need to have available at all times.

This weekend I cleaned those shelves off.  I forgot to take a before picture, but I hadn't touched the top shelf when I took this picture.  Just take the mess on the top shelf, multiply it exponentially in your mind and you have what the bottom shelf looked like.

I got four glass jars for the bottom shelf, and two small baskets for the top shelf.  I had originally bought the baskets for 7$ a pop at Zelllers, only to find almost the exact same ones at the Dollar store for 2$ - so I returned the ones from Zellers and saved myself 10$.  The glass jars that I got were 2$ each as well (I miss when everything at the Dollar store was actually 1$).

Bottom shelf - Soap Nuts, Baking Soda, Borax, Soap Nuts
I am not done yet though.  Half of the mess from the shelves is still on my dryer.  I need to figure out what to do with the following things:

1) Bleach.  I want to put this in a soap pump container.  Does anyone know if this would destroy the container?  It would be nice to be able to just squirt a couple drops into the washing machine when I need it!
2) Stain Remover.  I am not quite sure how to hide this one - it is a bright pink bottle, so I might just have to live with it!

The blocks in blue are going to appear very soon.  I have some nice frames that I am going to frame these instructions in and hang up!

Your input

This is where I need your help.  If you have any insight about the following things, leave me a comment:

1) What to do with my bleach
2) What to do with my stain remover
3) How to further organize my little bins (note the one on the left isn't really organized), and it will get pretty messy if I leave it like this!

You can also help by voting in one of the polls!

1) Vote on whether I should paint the back wall of my cupboards, leave it bare, or paper it so it will look like this (not necessarily this paper):


2) I want a place to store the laundry that I don't wash all the time, but that I need a place for when they are dirty and I get new ones (like dirty towels, dish clothes, table clothes, hand-wash only clothes, etc).  Should I use a wooden system like this one:

Or a hamper system like this one:
Thanks so much for your help in advance!  I can't wait to hear what you all think!  You can vote in the polls in the right sidebar!


Friday, March 23, 2012

A Letter to my Two Month Old

Photo taken January 27, 2012.  9 days old.

Today, you are 9 weeks and 2 days old.  Nine weeks seems like such a short period of time, and yet I feel like you have been a part of our family forever.

I remember the first time I saw you.  I was so absolutely ecstatic to meet you, but one of the most wonderful things was seeing the look on your daddy's face as he held you.  It was instant love.  That night, they took you to the nursery to sleep, and I remember waking up the morning and not being allowed to get out of bed, but wanting so badly to have you there with me.   Your daddy slept in, and so I couldn't ask him to go fetch you, but I just had this huge desire to have you close to me.  After all, you were mine.

Photo taken February 11, 2012.  3 weeks, 3 days old.
You have done so much growing since you were first born. You weighed in at 11 lb, 4 oz at the doctor's today.  This is a far cry from the 6 lb 10 oz that you were when you were born, or 6 lb 5 oz that you were when you left the hospital.  You have chubbed right out which I am happy about.  I am glad you are healthy.

I now know the answer to many of the questions I had in my last letter to you:

Photo taken February 3, 2012. 2 weeks, 2 days old.

You absolutely love the bath.  You have one every night before going to bed, and you start crying as soon as we take you out.  You haven't learned to splash yet, but I am sure the experience will be all the more enjoyable for you once you figure that out.  After your bath, we get you dressed in your pj's, and read you a Bible story.

You love to look at the pictures of the story when you are not too preoccupied being upset about getting out of the bath or it being bedtime.  After that, we swaddle you up so you are cozy and pray with you.  I think you have yet to not scream through a prayer, but I cherish that time tremendously anyways.  You go to sleep fairly fast after that though, which is nice!

Photo taken March 17, 2012.  8 weeks, 3 days old (1 day shy of 2 months!)

You also love church.  For the most part, you have slept through every service, but whenever you are fussy and we go and listen to your daddy practice with the worship team you always calm down.  You seem to love the music.

I hope you always know how beautiful you are.  Everywhere we go, people tell us how pretty you are.  And they are so right.  Your collection of small features (inherited equally from your father and I) make you absolutely stunning.  And I know you will just become more and more beautiful as you grow.

Photo taken March 9, 2012.  7 weeks, 2 days old.
Her headband is a Posie, they are so cute!

You are kind of sassy.  I never knew that a 2 month-old could have so much personality.  But yours bursts forth from you!

You love the mornings.  Lying beside you and smiling and having fun with you just after you wake up is my favourite part of the day.  I am going to miss this when you move into your own crib for the night.
Photo taken February 3, 2012. 2 weeks, 2 days old.
Before you were born, I wrote about how much your daddy loved you.  But at that time, I really didn't know how much he would love you.  You are the light of his life.  He comes home from work and asks to hold you immediately.  And I know you love him.  You look at him, and smile at him, and have so much fun with him.

Photo taken March 19, 2012. 8 weeks, 5 days old.
Ella, you need to know that I love you more and more every day despite believing that there is no way I could love you one bit more than I already do.  I don't think you will be able to comprehend how much we love you until you have your own little ones, but I hope that someday you do.

Photo taken March 19, 2012. 8 weeks, 5 days old.

I thank God daily that He lent you to us.  We love watching you grow, and cannot wait to see all the things you will accomplish with your life.

Love always,

Your mom.

Some Of My Favourite Pictures From Your First Two Months

Photo taken March 21, 2012. 9 weeks old.

Photo taken January 21, 2012. 3 days old.

Photo taken January 27, 2012. 9 days old.

Photo taken March 14, 2012. 8 weeks old.

Photo taken March 22, 2012. 9 weeks, 2 days old.

Photo taken January 27, 2012. 9 days old.


Friday, February 24, 2012

The 10 Best Things About Being A New Mother

To balance my last post on the 10 Hardest Things about Being a New Mother, I wrote this post.  Again, they are in no particular order.

Ella smiling at us.  Photo taken on February 22, 2012 (1 month, 4 days old)
1.  Having my daughter smile at me. (whether it is intentional or not).

2.  Seeing my husband interact with and love our daughter.

3.  Watching my daughter sleep beside me at night.
Ella trying hard to stay awake.  Photo taken on January 26, 2012 (8 days old)

4.  Kissing her precious little head.

5.  Feeling her breathe on me while she sleeps on my chest.

6.  Watching her learn new things every day.

Dave & Ella. Photo taken February 22, 2012 (1 month, 4 days old)
7.  Being needed by her.

8.  Listening to her make her wonderful little noises.

9.  Watching her grow bigger and bigger and develop more into her looks each day.

Ella & I.  Photo taken January 18, 2012 (1 1/2 hours old)
10.  The way it feels so right, her being a part of our family.  I wonder how we ever felt like our family was complete without her in it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 10 Hardest Things About Being A New Mother

Ella at four weeks old, February 15th, 2011

I have listed the 10 Hardest Things About Being a New Mother in no particular order.  Please know that I wouldn't give her up for anything though.  And you should stay tuned for my next post, the 10 Best Things About Being a New Mother!

1.  Breastfeeding - It hurt more than I thought it would at first, and it is frustrating being constantly tethered to her.

2.  Everything takes longer - There is no easy running to the grocery store anymore!  Everything takes time.  If we want to go out, we usually have to make sure she has eaten first, and then changed, and in her car seat, and then she is probably screaming, and we have to make sure we have everything we need in her diaper bag, and then I have to make sure I am presentable (as usually, I am not).

3.  Using the washroom and taking a shower is much harder - It isn't too bad when Dave is around, but when he isn't around it is ridiculously hard to use the washroom or take a shower!

4.  Being peed and pooped on, especially in the middle of the night - It is the most frustrating thing to be awake in the middle of the night and then be peed and pooped on while trying to change a diaper and have her gett pee and poop all over everything.  It makes me want to cry.

5.  Having Ella spit everything up after I just fed her - This kind of relates to number one.  This is especially frustrating in the middle of the night.  It means we have to start back at square one.

6.  Breastfeeding between 2 and 5 am - I can handle before 2, and after 6.  But between 2 and 5, I am literally exhausted and it is hard to stay awake.  This is obviously also related to #1.

7.  Not being as productive - I love holding my little baby girl.  But sometimes it is hard when I am holding her and all I can see is a room that looks like a tornado went through it, and I can't get up to clean it up.

8.  Feeling useless - I know in my head that taking care of a baby is useful.  But not doing other things for the world makes me feel useless.

9.  Loneliness - Staying at home all day is hard.  Especially with a child who can't talk to me.

10.  The Screaming - It breaks my heart.  And it also gives me headaches.

What about you?  Do you have children?  What did you find hardest about being a new mother or father?  If you don't have children, what do you think will be hardest for you if/when you do have kids?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Daughter's Father

Photo credit to my brother-in-law, Dan O'Rourke!

I married a great man.  I have known this for a long time.  Dave immediately grabbed my attention when I first met him, and it took much longer for me to grab his.  But recently, I have been reminded of how amazing he is, and in a blog that contains all aspects of my life, I would be remiss not to write about one of the most important people in my life.

So today I have decided to list just some of the things that I appreciate about Dave.  This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are so many more things about Dave that I just don't have the space to list.

Dave watches out for me.  To be honest, sometimes this drives me nuts.  If I feel pain somewhere, and I tell Dave, he will automatically suggest we go to the hospital, or insists that I call a doctor.  I, almost always, dismiss his advice.  However, I know that his concern comes from a place of deep concern and care for me, and I appreciate that.

Photo credit to my sister-in-law, Leanne Pike!

Dave is proactive with Ella.  When he is around, he takes the initiative to change her diaper so I don't have to.  Dave bathes her for me, and even when he works first thing in the morning he tries his hardest to wake up and offer me things when I am up with her in the night.  If Ella is fussy at night, he takes her downstairs and sleeps on our spare bed with her so that I can get a good sleep.

Dave loves his daughter.  As we get into bed at night, Dave cuddles with Ella.  He even asked me once if I felt he was hogging her because I didn't get the chance to cuddle with her at night.  But what he didn't understand was that seeing him hold her close every night was the greatest gift that he could possibly give me.

At Ella's 1-week doctor appointment, one of the women commented about how helpful Dave was, and how rare that is.  He is so great, other people notice.

He works hard.  When Dave puts his mind to something, he makes sure it is completed fully and appropriately.  He doesn't cut corner.  Dave works hard to support Ella and I, and doesn't ever complain about having to work.

When Dave has an issue with something, he gets in and tackles it instead of ignoring it.  He confronts issues head on, instead of dancing around them (like I do).

Photo credit to my sister-in-law, Leanne Pike!
Dave makes me laugh.  It's funny how much I took this for granted before Ella was around.  It is harder now, because I am more tired, and more stressed, and laughing and letting loose is harder for me, but I love laughing with Dave.  He is so much fun, and I appreciate that.

I love my daughter's father - my husband.  He is a great man.  And I don't convey that to him enough.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ella's Arrival

Ella Susan Margaret Pike.
Photo taken January 20, 2012.

Before I forget the whole thing, I thought I would write a post about Ella's arrival.  It isn't too detailed or gruesome - but there are some parts that are honest, so I thought I would warn everyone in advance!  This post is also quite lengthy, which I also want to apologize for!

In the afternoon on Monday, January 16th (Dave's 25th birthday), I got a call from our family doctor that she had scheduled me to be induced the next morning at 7:15am at the hospital.  That pretty much killed the rest of the day for us.  I was too nervous to do anything really nice for Dave so he probably had a pretty awful birthday (I hadn't even gotten him a birthday gift at that point!).

The next day, we woke up at 6:00 to get ready to go to the hospital.  Most things were packed, but we just grabbed the last couple of essentials, had some breakfast, got ready, and left.  We left the house at 6:45 (the drive to the hospital takes about 15 minutes), because Dave wanted to stop at McDonald's to get a coffee.  Well, of course we get to McDonald's and something has happened and there is an ambulance there and they are even more slow than they usually are.  Needless to say, I walked into the ward of the hospital I was supposed to be in around 7:16 or 7:17 (oops!).

I thought that they would monitor me for a while before inducing me, but the Doctor was in, and I had been given a dose of the gel by about 7:40.  I started to have contractions at this point, but I wasn't quite sure what I was feeling.  The nurses would ask how bad 'the tightenings' hurt, but given that I had nothing to compare the pain to, they all seemed extremely painful (later in the day I looked back at those early ones and realized how not painful they were).

Dave and I spent most of the morning walking around.  We played cards for a while and just tried to keep ourselves busy!

The doctor came back shortly after 1 to check on me.  In the morning he had thought that he would break my water at this point, but given my lack of progress, he just gave me another dose of the gel.  My mother arrived to be with me around the same time.  My mother was the first person to justify my pain as contractions, which I appreciated.  When the nurses kept calling them 'tightenings', I wasn't sure what pain I was experiencing or if they even were contractions!  My contractions slowly got worse throughout the day.  We tried to make the time pass throughout the afternoon as well - talking, walking around, watching tv, and playing Dutch Blitz (which I whooped Dave and Mom at despite the contractions).

As a side note, I wasn't allowed any meals (only clear fluids) during the day.  But even those did not stay down.  I was sick to my stomach 3 times that day.  Everyone kept telling me I wouldn't want to eat while in labour, and I didn't believe that that would be the case - but it was, I was not hungry once!

At 4:00, the Doctor came back and broke my water, which increased the strength of my contractions even more, but they started me on a Pitocin drip shortly after 7:00.  My contractions got ridiculously bad at this point, and lying in bed was the worst.  By this point in time, I had only dilated to about 3 cm.  The nurses let me sit up in a glider chair where they set up the monitors so I wouldn't have to be monitored in bed.

Here in Miramichi, the nurses can't call in the anesthesiologist after midnight, so at about 11:30 the nurse came in and asked if I wanted an epidural.  By this point in time, I was pretty convinced that I did, and so they called him in, and I received it at about midnight.  He was great, and all my fear about the epidural was in vain!  It did not hurt a bit, and I definitely did not feel like I got a big needle in my spine!  Having the epidural allowed me to finally sleep a bit which was very appreciated.

After the epidural!  I felt much better.

At 1:30, the nurse came back to check how dilated I was.  I had not progressed.  I found out at this point as well that the babies heartbeat had started to vary greatly.  It would speed up and then drop sharply - the baby was obviously in distress.  The nurse stopped the drip, and my contractions stopped altogether.  The nurse called my family doctor in who decided I needed an emergency c-section.  She called in the obstitrican, who agreed with her - and they called in the OR staff (it was a snowy night) to come in so that our little baby could be born.

They were all very efficient, and we were in the operating room by about 2:00.  My mom could not come with us, so she waited for us back in our room, but Dave came down with me.  In order to have the c-section, I had to lie my arms out straight to either side so that they could work close to my side.  This ended up giving me significant pain in my shoulders afterwards which subsided after a couple of days.

I couldn't see anything while having my section.  Dave could though.  At one point, as they were just starting, Dave mentioned to me about how there was a tube that ran near him, and there was nothing in it and then all of sudden there was a large gush of blood through it.  I told him he probably should not tell me anything more like that.

I could not feel anything except pressure during the c-section.  I had no idea what they were doing, or even when the baby was out of me.  At one point, the anesthesiologist said, very calmly, to me "you have a little girl!"  I didn't believe him though as I didn't feel any lighter, and no one else seemed to be saying anything (nor did I hear any crying).  All I wanted was for someone else to confirm this for me but no one did!

Soon enough though, I saw her for the first time.  It turns out that the umbilical chord had been wrapped very tightly around her neck.  As I understand it, this had prevented her from descending, which made me not able to dilate as I was supposed to, so it is a very good thing we had a c-section!

Dave held Ella as they stitched me back up.  She was very good from the very beginning - she didn't cry, but just kept looking back and forth between Dave and I.   I fed Ella a bit and then brought her upstairs.  She stayed in the nursery that night - and my recollection between after the c-section and when I woke up the next day is very limited.  I couldn't get out of bed until the next afternoon so I obviously stayed in bed Wednesday morning!

Dave and I couldn't pick a name for her at first.  We had had three top names already: Ella, Emma, and Lucy, but after she was born, I really wanted to name her Lucy, and Dave really wanted to name her Emma.  Seeing as Ella was the second pick for both of us we settled on that.  Deciding on middle names was no issue for us though.  I knew I wanted to name her Susan after my mother, and Dave wanted Margaret after his (their middle names).

The worst part about the whole ordeal for me was probably when they would check how effaced/dilated I was.  No one told me how bad that would hurt!

The most surprising thing for me was how much I didn't care who saw me half naked.  People told me I wouldn't care, but being the prude I am, I definitely didn't believe them - but they were so right!

I was so happy with the care we received at the hospital though, and I am grateful for all of the Doctors and nurses who helped little Ella arrive!  I am also very grateful for Dave and my mom.  They were both extremely helpful and encouraging to me throughout this ordeal, and through the days that follow.  I will never be able to thank them enough!

Name: Ella Susan Margaret Pike
Weight: 6 lb, 10 oz
Height: 19 inches
Birthdate: January 18th, 2012
Birth time: 2:14 am
Ella's first picture.  With her Daddy.
Taken January 18th - sometime in the early morning.
Ella always looks perplexed!
Photo taken January 18th, 2012.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A letter to my little one

Picture taken on January 12, 2012 - 39 weeks, 5 days.
Note: I have been wanting for a while to put my thoughts together in the form of a letter for my unborn child.  Not that the baby will have any idea that I did this.  But I wanted my child to someday be able to read of the great joy that (s)he brought to mine and Dave's life even before his/her birth.

Dear Little Baby,

Today is your due date.  It comes as no surprise to your daddy or I that you have not arrived yet - we imagined you would be late.  I can imagine it is warm, and comfortable (getting more uncomfortable by the day though, I am sure), and familiar in there for you - so I understand why you want to stay!

You have been part of our lives for 9 months today.  I remember when I first found out I was pregnant with you.  Your daddy was at work, and I was so sure that I wasn't pregnant that I took the risk of taking a test while he was gone.  When the first test (and the second) both came back indicating that I was pregnant, I was so excited and absolutely terrified at the same time.  I picked your daddy up from work that night bawling because I just didn't know how I was ever going to be a mother.

And even though at that point I knew in my head we were going to have a baby, I never imagined we actually would.  It wasn't real to me.  But you are so real to me now.

You formed inside of me, and grew, and we saw you through an ultrasound three times.  I started to feel you kick and move around and that was so exciting for me.  And your daddy was so jealous that he couldn't feel it - until he did.  He loved it.  It still brings such a large smile to your daddy's face when you kick his hand, or you move in such a way that he can see.

You are your father's child though.  You are a little trickster.  You will move for me a lot but as soon as I tell anyone you are moving and they watch or feel, you stop.  But the moment they look away or move their hand, you start kicking up a storm again.  Your daddy and I laugh about this often.

I know how much your daddy loves you.  He talks to you all the time and tells you that.  He is so excited to meet his little son/daughter.  And from the moment I told him I was pregnant, whenever I have been afraid of what the future may hold, or doubtful of our abilities to care for you, he has been reassuring and supportive, and I can tell how much he cannot wait for you to be a full part of our family.

I feel like I know you so well.  I know that you either love or hate when I shower because you always kick lots when the warm water touches my belly.  You either love or hate movies (and or popcorn).  We went to see TinTin last night and you kicked me the entire time - you do this whenever we go to the theatre.  And you either love or hate church - from early on you kicked me constantly whenever we were there for a service.

And yet at the same time I know so little about you.  I don't know if you will have dark hair like me, or blonde hair like your daddy.  I don't know if your eyes will be blue, or green, or hazel, or brown.  I don't know if you will be born with a full head of hair or barely any.  I don't know what your name will be.  I don't even know if you are a girl or a boy.  But I love you.  I love you so much.  You are a part of me, and you have been for the last nine months.

And I know I will be far from a perfect mother.  But know that I loved you even before I knew you.  And I will continue to love you forever.

I promise you that.

Love always,

Your Mommy.
Our 2012 Canadian baby. Photo taken on January 11, 2012. 39 weeks, 6 days.
Photo taken on January 11, 2012. 39 weeks, 6 days.