Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The year in review

It's been quite the year. It's really hard to believe all that's happened in the last twelve months!

In January, we moved from Georgia to Iowa, and Michael moved to Korea. McKaleigh was sick starting on the 1st and was hospitalized by the end of the month. Michael came back on emergency leave in February for McKaleigh's liver surgery. In March, I continued classes for my associates degree. I had two internships in the spring and summer, so between that and being pregnant, I didn't have much time for anything else.

In July, Michael came home on leave, so that he could be present for our third daughter's birth. On August 6th Matilda was born and a few days later Michael returned to Korea. Later that month McKaleigh started preschool. Adelaide's 2nd birthday was in September, followed by McKaleigh's 4th birthday in October. I finished my last class in October and that was followed by all of the typical holiday celebrations.

This year we started some new Winter Solstice/Yule traditions. I started the morning at sunrise, reflecting on all of the regrets and negative things from the past year and "letting go" of it all into the darkness as the sun rose. The girls each opened a present, they also played in the snow and fed the birds. We made a Yule log, a Yule log cake, and a special meal. After supper we took our Wassail (a hot beverage) and went outside to burn the Yule log, with our wishes for the year written down and slipped under the ribbon of the log. We came back in and warmed up, while looking at a photo album full of pictures from this year.

It was a year full of lots of ups and downs, definitely a memorable one!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Starting a New Chapter

Things didn't work out with getting Michael's orders changed, so we are staying put. I'm sad that we won't be living with Michael for awhile, but at the same time I'm excited about settling down here and I do think we'll be better off in the long run. I've started the hunt for houses and am hoping we can close on a house while Michael is home on leave in January.

The thing that I am most excited about is starting my own business! I've decided to start a home organizing business! I've registered the trade name Fort Dodge Home Organizing and already began setting up my website. It's almost ready, but I still need to add some pictures. Once it's ready I will share it here.
I had my first consultation today with a relative of one of my friends. I'm really excited for my first project! I'll definitely be documenting the growth of my business here, struggles and successes. I got started through the training program Profitable Organizer which I found on the blog iHeart Organizing!

I don't have much else to say. Just wanted to give that little update:).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Organizing makes me SO happy!

I have to start taking more before pictures! I've done two small little projects over the last week, and every time I see those spaces it makes me smile a little:). Last week I cleaned the laundry room, and that included totally reorganizing the closet in there, since it sort of doubles as a mudroom that leads out to the garage. Time and time again I've seen an over-the-door shoe organizer suggested for organizing anything and everything. Well winter is right around the corner, so I bought one and hung it up in the laundry room closet to keep hats and mittens easy to find:). I also hung up the girls' snowsuits. I'm so excited for winter!


The other little project was just a little moving of shelves in the refrigerator. From the work I did in my bedroom closet, I really learned firsthand how much adjusting shelves can maximize the usefulness of your space. So I lowered a shelf to take advantage of  the space above our jugs of milk and juice. This made space for bottled water, which had previously been laying on it's side stacked on the top shelf. I raised the shelf next to it, with the drawer underneath, so that our milk and juice would have more room horizontally.



Some other minor things...

I moved my hospital grade breast pump, (that has been sitting on my kitchen table,) into my bedroom closet.

Took one of my boxes upstairs, and brought another box to my closet. The dining room is almost completely done! Only a few boxes left, and I mostly just have to put them somewhere, don't really have to go through anymore.

I think I'm going to tackle all of the paper out on the kitchen counter! That is my weakness, lol, I have to get better about keeping it under control.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Closet Overhaul: Getting Started

My closet has not been functioning well for me. There was stuff everywhere. Stuff that didn't belong in there, and the space just wasn't being used optimally. I am by no means done, but I just thought I would show the progress I've made so far.

The pictures below are of the right closet before and after some organizing. 

Before
After
Before
After


You can see on the floor I had two comforters that barely fit. Now I have a space saver bag with both of those comforters, the sheets that go with them that were in a box and on one of the side shelves in this closet, plus two pillows and a few decorative pillows! And I was able to lower the shelf down a bit to make more room for my box of wraps. I don't know if that file box will stay next to the wraps, but it fit there nicely and I couldn't think of anything else I needed to put in there. My yoga shelf stayed as it was, because I really like how things are there and it's the perfect size. 

On the next shelf up I had so much random stuff! I moved the picture frames over to the right of the closet where there's space for shoes. The beach towels were put in a beach bag I found in one of my previously unpacked boxes, and I put it on the top shelf along with the bunny basket. Now on the shelf is a bag of yarn I need to sort through and a pair of shoes I'm going to sell on a FB garage sale page. I think I'm going to use that shelf for things I'm going to sell. Left untouched is the medicine/first aid box and a few small things that need homes. I also moved some of my girls' dresses that were folded up over to the right side on the closet. I'm going to buy hangers for them and then move them to the closet in the girls' room.

Now for the second to top shelf. That diaper box had been full of electronics that need to be recycled, but now it's full of random cords and things we need to keep and the recycling was moved to a bigger diaper box which is now on the top shelf and now also holds the broken xbox. The stack of magazines were moved over to the right and now I have my big bins full of yarn there. I'm planning on going through everything, and only keeping what will fit in those two bins! My very top shelf was stuff that belonged to my mom, so those were moved over to the left closet, and I've already gone over what's up there now:).


Now for the left side!

Before
After
Before
After

A bunch of my mom's stuff got moved from the right closet over to this closet, to the top shelf that had previously been empty, and also on the floor where Rock Band instruments had been, which I moved to the girls' closet. I moved all of the formal dresses to the girls' closet because it has room for them to hang without hitting the shelf and now I can use that shelf to store my laundry baskets that are normally just on the floor of my bedroom. I moved the yarn bins over to the other side, and the diaper box that is there now is full of office supplies and was previously on the top of my desk.The box on the floor is full of movies and got shifted to the center of the closets, the stack of books is now pushed up against the center wall between the two closets' doors.


I'm really happy with how things are going so far. I think I'm going to bring some of the stuff that's sitting out in the dining room into the closet now. I really want to find a new storage solution for the movies as well, because I hate just having a big box full; they never stay orderly. And I'm going to buy some adorable paper to wrap up those diaper boxes:). There's definitely more I need to do, but I feel like I'm halfway there!

Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm making great progress:).

I need to start taking before and after pictures! I did some major work in my bedroom today and earlier this week. I totally decluttered the top of my dresser and my desk. There are still a few things around my room that need to find a home, but I think the next time I work on my room I'll be reorganizing my closet and I'll probably find places for the last few random items then. I'm really tempted to work on it right now, but I've done so much today, I really have to stop myself, haha. I read tips on organization and staying motivated and one of the tips was to stop when you feel like you could do a little more, to make it easier to get started the next time.

I've also been making progress in the dining room where all of my boxes are sitting, lol. I'm hoping to get done with it by the time my mom gets here next week. Once again, there are just some things that I really don't know where to put, so it's just a matter of finding a home for those last few things. There's also a ton of stuff that I have to run by Michael to see if he even needs it. I really want to get rid of things that we don't need. No sense in having boxes full of things that we never use and never look at.

Earlier this week there was a post on iHeart Organizing about DIY storage containers, and I've decided that I'm totally going to embrace that! I'm going to buy some wrapping paper to wrap up some diaper boxes and use  them instead of buying cheap storage that I don't like, or spending a lot on things that I do like. I figure this is better, because I'll save money, but can still make it cute. I've already wrapped up one box that is holding my baby carriers on a shelf in my closet! After I've redone the whole closet I will post a picture of it:).

Here are some recent pics of my room. That diaper box on the top shelf of my desk is full of office supplies and will soon be covered with pretty paper!



Check out my new pillow on the bed! And I love having that other pillow on my chair. It contrasts so nicely with the blanket.



Hopefully, I'll have a closet update soon!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our plans are forever changing

Things are potentially changing again. Last week my grandmother died. My mother's side of the family is pretty big and almost everyone made it back for the funeral. Being with family and celebrating my grandma's life really made me reflect on what's important. So I told Michael that if he can get his orders changed to somewhere stateside, then we would move to live with him, no matter where it is. If he still has to go to Germany, then we'll go through with our plan to buy a house and settle down here in my hometown. He's going through the process of trying to get things changed, and I really hope he can because the girls need their dad and I need my husband. 

I think part of what has made me change my mind is that I feel really stable on my anti-depressants and I think that I'll better be able to handle the move than I was before meds. I'm still thinking about all of the major concerns I had about moving, because I still think a lot of those things will be an issue. Hopefully if I can make a plan to lessen those things, then it won't be as bad as I imagine it will be. 

Finances is a big worry of mine. I started trying to get us out of debt in the fall of 2008. Here we are four years later and we've merely managed to tread water! We've gotten rid of some debts and added others, so we're pretty much in the same exact spot we were four years ago. I thought that settling here would be the change and motivation we need to really get out of debt so that Michael can get out of the Army. I'm still worried that us moving to live with Michael will lead us back to the same ol' same ol' and that when it's time for his next ETS date, we won't be in the financial position for him to get out of the Army. With my anti-depressants I've felt much more stable, so maybe it will also help me resist spending and take this all more seriously. Part of me feels that I have spent money in the past to deal with my depression, although I'm definitely only one half of the problem, because Michael is about as far away from frugal as can be, haha.

Another of my concerns was stability for the girls. If we move this should be the last time before Michael's next ETS date. Michael will get out of the Army when McKaleigh is going into 2nd grade and Adelaide is starting Kindergarten. So I don't think that will be the worst. Hopefully we can get them into dance classes where ever we move, if we end up moving.

Overall things are still going really well. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 26, 2012

I've never felt so good

Well maybe not never, things could be better, like for instance having my husband here would be preferable. What I mean though is that my medication is working wonderfully. For the last couple of years I have coped with my depression without medication, and I've always been unstable and just bouncing between being motivated and being completely unmotivated. It wasn't just a lazy day here and there, I always had far more lazy days than productive days, and I really think that was due to my depression.

Since I've started on this medication I have slowly been picking up good habits, and I'm really not scared of regressing. Normally I do too much or not enough, and now I feel like I'm doing just the right amount of work everyday. I'm taking things slowly and set my expectations low, and everyday I feel so proud of myself, and it seems that I almost always do more than I plan on doing. I think one of the important things is that I know when to stop and just sit down, relax, and cuddle with my baby girl. Also, when I have anything planned for the day, such as an appointment or McKaleigh's dance class, I don't put anything too time intensive on my to do lists on those days. Honestly, just getting the girls in and out of the car more than twice a day can be pretty exhausting, so on the days that we are doing more than usual, I set my expectations pretty low in the housework arena.

I honestly wish I would've gotten on medication earlier on. I don't think I really realized how bad off I was until I was able to see how good I feel now.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A plan for my financial goals

I think I will start by laying out where we are right now. Then I'll talk about what our goals are for the next year. And then I'll probably talk about some of the things I'm thinking about doing to get us there.

Right now we have $1,000 in savings, $11,500 in credit card debt, ~$10,000 in unsecured debt, $8,600 in a car loan, and ~$18,000 in student loans. Ay yi yi.

So our biggest goal for the next year is to buy a house. I know, it sounds crazy right? But we want to get out of the house we're currently in, there aren't many nice rentals in this town, and housing prices here are really low so we'd probably pay less in a mortgage than we would in rent (especially considering how hard it is to find a place that takes dogs.) With Michael being in the Army we'll be able to get a VA loan, which means we'll only need a few thousand dollars for the VA funding fee and a few miscellaneous expenses. Thanks to refundable credits, we'll be getting about $4,000-$5,000 in our tax refund early next year. That should be enough for us to buy a house and throw a little in to pad our savings.

If we own a house, I'm not comfortable having only $1,000 in our savings account, so right now I'm shifting focus from tackling our debt to building up our savings. Our biggest area that can be improved is food. I've been making an effort to eat out much less, and have actually been pretty successful. One big thing I need to work on is meal planning, I still haven't really gotten into it. I'm going to sign up for WIC soon, because we definitely qualify. That should definitely help our grocery bill. I also recently learned about the SHARE program, where this group buys food in bulk and sells packages of it at the discounted rate, and all they ask you to do is volunteer two hours of your time anywhere, doing anything! Another thing I'm contemplating is couponing. I did some reading about it last night, and being a stay at home mom, I really do think I have the time to coupon. I'm thinking of getting rid of cable, or at least downgrading to basic cable. I've already cut our Christmas budget almost in half. I've also start cloth diapering Matilda with diapers I had bought when McKaleigh and Adelaide were younger. I'm thinking we'll be able to double our savings by the time our tax refund gets here.

I'm going to be going through every area of our lives, trying to figure out how to pinch those pennies! I think home ownership is the motivation I've been needing to really get serious about our finances.

One of those rambly posts

This is one of those posts where I just have an urge to write, but am having trouble narrowing things down to focus on just one topic. So I think I'll just start writing and we'll see where I end up.

I think I should start by saying that I've been on anti-depressants for more than a month and they are working wonders. I've been doing a better job of maintaining a reasonable level of productivity lately. Normally when I get motivated I do too much, and get burnt out. Then when I'm relaxing or being lazy I let it go on for far too long and neglect even the most basic tasks. For me to be able to feel balanced is a pretty big deal, and I've been feeling great overall.

Now that I really feel like the medicine has taken full effect and I've been much more stable and happy, I want to take on those areas of my life that I've always felt needed some improvement. The main things I want to work on are my finances, housework, and organization. What I'm having trouble with is that all three of these things feel really important and I've been thinking of what steps I want to take in each area. I know that I will be able to work best if I really focus on one thing at a time, so that I don't stretch myself too thin. But I also know that I do want to be working on each of these things constantly because of how important each thing is.

I guess the best thing to do will be to make lists! Lots and lots of lists, lol. And then choose which tasks seem manageable each week. Maybe I can pick one thing to primarily focus on each week, so that a majority of my tasks will be from that topic.

I did sign up to do the Simplify 101 workshop. Perhaps if I actually go through with the whole thing, everything will fall into place nicely. Over the next week or two I'll probably write posts on the different areas, especially finances, because that has been on my mind a ton and I have so many things that I want to get out in words!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Husband is Amazing

I've written from time to time about our future plans and reasons I don't want to continue living the Army life. Well all of that has been totally confirmed by living in my hometown, again. The plan was for us to just live here for the year while Michael is in Korea. We have decided instead to make this our permanent home.

Unfortunately it isn't feasible financially for Michael to get out of the Army right now, and he already reenlisted through 2016, for Germany. If we moved to Germany with him we'd be there for three years and chances are that one of those years would be spent with him in the field all of the time preparing for a deployment and another of those years would be spent deployed. With that in mind it seems much preferable for him to just go by himself for two years. Plus it will be easier for us to save money with him overseas where they will pay for his living quarters and our BAH, rather than having to pay for two separate households just with BAH like we will when he comes back stateside. So the two years of him in Germany will give us a chance to save up money and get rid of debt, making it easier to sustain two households for the last year and a half of his enlistment in the states.

One reason I want to stay here is that if I don't stay here now I don't think Michael will ever get out of the Army. Not because he wouldn't want to, but because we'd keep putting off getting out of debt and saving up, and then when each ETS date comes up he would have no choice but to re-enlist yet again. And before we know it, 20 years will have passed by! Living here forces us to take things seriously and really will motivate me to get things under control, because I don't want to have to move!

We're already comfortable here with McKaleigh in preschool and dance class. I really like the idea of the girls going to the same schools and having the same friends their whole life. Something about knowing for sure what will generally be happening in the future is really reassuring for me. Obviously there are still a lot of unknowns, but nowhere near the extent of Army life where we have no idea where we will be 3, 6, 10 years from now. One thing that makes this all possible is that I will finish my bachelors in human services before he gets out of the Army and human services is a field that is always growing, so finding a job to support us should not be a problem. The plan is for Michael to use his G.I. Bill once he gets out, which will also give us a housing allowance and make the transition easier.

The reason this is titled "My Husband is Amazing" is because it makes me sad that he is going to miss so much. He is sacrificing a lot to let us stay here and start feeling stable, and I love him for it so much. I couldn't imagine doing what he will be doing, but he is completely in agreement that this is what's best for our family and he's willing to make those sacrifices for us. I'm just really glad that he's totally okay with living in Iowa forever, haha! I think it helps that he hates the heat and loves the fall, which I think makes Iowa perfect for us:). We're just getting into fall now, and it is just beautiful out. I'm excited to have many more autumns here:).

Friday, September 14, 2012

To medicate or not to medicate

l've dealt with depression since high school. After a very traumatic experience caused by my depression and some outside factors, I was prescribed anti-depressants. They helped me tremendously, I felt like I had more energy and and overall was just happier. After about a year I discontinued taking them, because I didn't have the same stresses in my life anymore, also I planned to enlist in the Army Reserves, and I wanted to skip the waiver process.

Ever since I've been up and down. My depression isn't constant, but when I'm in a bout it is pretty bad and it can take me awhile to get out of it. Unless you have depression you might not really get what I mean. It's not just being sad, everyone is sad sometimes, it's the overwhelming hopeless feeling, like things will never get better. Logically I know things can get better, but that's not how it feels. And the worst part about it is that I don't even know why I feel that way most of the time. It's not like there are specific events that make me sad, and I always try to talk myself out of it. Usually I don't snap out of it until I hit a breaking point. It's like things will get so bad that eventually something inside of me says "enough!" and I start to feel better. Even though I try to tell myself to snap out of it right at the outset of a depression bout, it doesn't really work. I think that's one of the worst things about depression, is that you know what it is you need to do to make yourself happy, but you just can't get yourself to do those things.

So that is why I am considering getting back on anti-depressants. I have my 6 week postpartum checkup on Monday, so I may see if he will prescribe me something. I'll let you know how things go.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I've written in the past about how I am currently in an online program to get my associates degree. (I'm more than halfway through my very last class, by the way, yay!) Either next spring or next fall I plan on starting a program to finish up and get my bachelors degree in either human services or psychology. My intention was to become a licensed therapist eventually, after completing the necessary postgraduate work, or working at some sort of human services agency.

I was recently looking at an article about the best and worst jobs in America. Clinical psychologist was in the top 25 and right next to it was psychiatrist. I'll be honest, the first thing that popped into my head was "wow a psychiatrist makes twice as much as a psychologist." Then I started thinking back to when I was in college in Lincoln and switched my major to psychology. Back then I had originally wanted to be a psychiatrist, then upon realizing I would have to go to medical school, I changed my mind and decided to go the therapist/psychologist route instead. At the time I was pretty convinced that I was not interested in science, I didn't enjoy it and didn't think I could handle taking so many science classes. Now things are a little different. Last year I became an atheist and since then I have had a new found interest in science. I also took a sociology class about minority groups and in the gender section it talked about how girls are often made to feel as though they are not good at science, and eventually lose interest in the subject because of gender biases in our society. This has also made me rethink my feelings toward science.

So now I am seriously contemplating medical school. I still have to finish my bachelors, and still intend to major in psychology. I figure that if I have a change of heart I will be able to go forward with my original plan, but psychology knowledge will definitely benefit me as a psychiatrist as well. I will also likely have to take a year of pre-med classes, but at this point I'm thinking I will take them outside of a degree program. The online program I am planning on doing doesn't offer much in the way of math and science classes, so it has me thinking that maybe I should look into other programs, but I'm nervous that other programs won't accept my associates degree in full. I will need to take my pre-med classes in an actual classroom setting anyways, so it makes sense to me to just go forward with my bachelors online, and then find a nearby school where I can do my pre-reqs when Matilda is slightly older.

I don't want to go to medical school until Matilda begins kindergarten or at least preschool, because I want to be able to be a stay at home mom with all three girls until they are school-aged. In 2016 Adelaide will be starting kindergarten, Matilda will be starting preschool, and Michael will be able to get out of the Army. So it would make sense for me to apply to medical schools and try to start that year. I know it could be a struggle, but I can't imagine getting through medical school without being able to totally count on Michael, and there's just no way that's possible as long as he's in the Army. Also, being a non-traditional student I'm likely going to have to go to whatever school I can get into, which means we'll have to relocate. The Army won't care that I want to go to medical school, so that would mean that Michael and I would have to live separately for possibly eight years and there's no way that's happening.

Oh yeah, did I mention? After medical school is a four year residency, so going this route is a huge commitment. I will be in my mid to late thirties by the time I can begin practicing as a board certified psychiatrist, which will be around the time McKaleigh starts high school. I will essentially be spending a majority of their school aged years in medical school and residency. Part of me feels like I shouldn't do this, just because I want to be there for them more. But at the same time, what kind of example would I be setting for them by not going after my dreams? I know that I can do this and still make time for the girls, it's just a matter of using my time efficiently.

This is getting super long, but it's really just one of those posts where I have to write out everything that's going through my head in regards to this idea. The more I think about it, the more I want to do this and the more confident I become. And to get into medical school you really have to prepare, so it's definitely something I need to be thinking about now. Hopefully this will give me the motivation I need to finish this last class of my associates!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Just gotta get it all out

Ugh! So I'm just in one of those "I need to complain and whine about everything" moods! I'm going to try and keep each thing short and to the point so it doesn't just turn into me rambling on and on and on.

For starters, I have an awful cold, I hope it's not the start of the flu, but my head just feels blech and I can't stop sneezing and blowing my nose!

The girls have been overwhelming lately.
  • Matilda has been extra fussy and has been spitting up a lot and is super gassy lately. I obviously don't fault her for the stress she has been causing me, but it's really frustrating when I'm trying to quickly get something done and have to go to her every minute or two to calm her down again. Babywearing has been a great help, but sometimes it's easier to get certain things done without wearing her.
  • Adelaide is being a typical 2 year old and is getting into everything and destroying things. I expect this and know her behavior is normal for her age, but it just feels like it's nonstop right now! I got the BHG Storage magazine today, which I have been looking for for awhile, and she's already ripped a page out of it! That's just one of many, many, many things.
  • McKaleigh has turned into a big bully since starting preschool. She plays much rougher with Adelaide than she ever did before, including pushing and hitting... a lot. And in general she just does really mean things that she never did before. I know it's just a phase but it's really hard to know what exactly to do in this situation. It seems like Adelaide is crying about something every 10 or 15 minutes and it's exhausting playing referee all day long. I find myself actually looking forward to her going to preschool tomorrow just so I can get a break from her picking on Adelaide. They do still play nicely together between all the fighting, so it's not all bad, but very tiresome.

I do not want to move overseas.
  • It's going to be a pain in the butt getting all the things done that we have to do before going, since Michael is in Korea and we are not near an Army post.
  • I really want to focus on paying off our debt but I'm going to feel pressure to spend money on traveling while we're in Europe, which is going to dramatically delay getting out of debt.
  • The girls won't even remember the time we spend in Europe because they're so young, so that makes it feel like a really big waste of money to take any trips.
  • I'm really close to my mom, she lived in Italy for two years and I just hate the thought of spending three more years with hardly ever getting to see each other.

And I'm so tired of school!
  • I just cannot get motivated to do my schoolwork, every week it is a huge struggle to get everything done.
  • I usually end up turning everything in late. My teacher doesn't mark any points off, but it adds stress to me trying to hurry and get it done before I have to start working on the next week's stuff. I have two assignment that I still need to do and at this point I think I'm just going to forget about them. I always say I'll work on them, but I think I'm just going to move forward.
  • It's a one credit hour class with the same amount of work as a three credit hour class. I don't understand how that works!

Those are the biggest things that have been bothering me and getting me down. I have to put the girls to bed soon and then hopefully I can force myself to do some school work. I am so dreading the school work part though:(.

To end this on a positive note, I dyed my hair this weekend and I love how it turned out:). You can check it out in this youtube video. I talk about the hair color at the beginning of the video and then the rest of the video is a baby carrier haul, where I show and talk about all of my wraps and other carriers.

http://youtu.be/lFODmgnaCiY

Friday, September 7, 2012

Need to Redirect My Motivation! (New Hair-do)

I am having trouble with being motivated in certain areas. I keep letting the dishes and tidying fall behind before I take care of it. I have an assignment that I still haven't done and I've already come around to the day where I have to start working on this week's assignments, too. The girls' room is a mess. And there are probably some other things that I need to get going on that I just don't want to do for some reason.

Instead what I have been spending all of my extra time on is my hair. I combed out my dreads recently and have a new obsession with learning about haircare and styling. I feel like I've never been happy with my hair, because I've never taken the time to learn how to really do it. I've been watching tons of videos on YouTube, and have seriously learned so much. Already I have done things to my hair that I never really thought I would be able to do successfully. I grossly underestimated my abilities before!

So I am very motivated to learn... just not about anything school related! Eek!

Check out my YouTube channel if you want to see what my hair looks like now: http://www.youtube.com/tjkoch88

I'll probably be making some videos in the future about the things I've been learning... but maybe I should get some homework done first:P.

Right after getting it cut.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cleaning my room (Part 1)

I have been busy today! As you may know, I had a baby about three weeks ago. Well about a week before that I moved into a new bedroom, because my mother moved away for a job, leaving the master suite available for me. I pretty much just moved all of my stuff in here, and haven't organized and arranged things at all. Which means that the surfaces in my room are overflowing with stuff. Not to mention packaging from random stuff is accumulating all over. And then there's all of the paper clutter and advertisement stuff the hospital sends home with you that I need to go through and get rid of.

I'm done for today, but nowhere near being done, so this will be the first in a two or three part series. Maybe more, but not totally sure how I'll break it all down.

First I'll start with some before pictures. Everyone loves to see how messy other people's houses get, right?





The first thing I usually do when I clean my room is to make my bed. It gives me a nice clean work space, which is really nice in smaller bedrooms when you don't have much floor space to use for sorting. Thankfully I don't have that issue in this room, but it's just habit now from having smaller rooms in the past.

Still trying to decide how exactly to set up my pillows. I think I like this alright.

Next I folded up all of my laundry, and sorted it all out on my freshly made bed;).



It's also nice for holding cute babies, hehe.


Next I decided to clean up this little corner.


Ta da!


Since I had a few wraps on the ottoman, I decided to find a home for all of my baby carriers.
Here are 4 woven wraps, a homemade stretchy wrap, plus two mei tais.
There's another woven and a soft structured carrier in the car:).


Bed didn't stay made for long:P


Next I cleared off the whole floor, putting away what I could and sorting everything else. Here we have the packaging for the new printer I just bought, (that I want to keep to pack in when we move,) a basket full of cardboard, my new black woven basket I just bought to keep all of my paper recycling in, a garbage bag, and then a basket with stuff that doesn't belong in my room. 


And now to tackle the desk, eek!




Cleared things off and this was the pile of stuff to sort through and find a home for.


Already looking a lot better.


In this little organizer I have my camera cord and charger, Scentsy bars, a little section full of random odds and ends, and in the medium sized section I have my journal, some loan booklets, and little manuals for my iMac, camera, and printer.



I went through all of the stuff the hospital sent home, putting most of it in the recycling bin (what a waste of paper, seriously!) But they did send me one useful thing. They gave me this little organizer which has ready made formula bottles in it, along with a little cooler thing and some empty bottles. The formula, bottles, and cooler will all go to the women's shelter I interned at this year, but the organizer is being put to use.


Matilda and I bedshare, so I made a little night time kit. It has a container with wipes and eight diapers, and then in the left hand compartment I have an extra blanket, onesie, and underpad in case of a diaper leak or really bad spit up. I sleep with an underpad under Matilda and I to catch any milk that dribbles down or smaller bits of spit up. It's nice for bigger messes, too.


I've been working on this for most of the day, little by little. Had to take a lot of breaks to take care of my daughters, and of course lots of nursing breaks, too:).



Left to do is clean off my dresser, organize my closet, organize the movies in the closet, and find pictures and hang them up along with this clock. Oh and I have tons of boxes to sort through, one of which is sitting in my bedroom, but I don't know if I should count that toward organizing my room or another project altogether.



So that's what I've done so far! Hopefully I'll get more done tomorrow:).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week 1, Task 2: Think about the next year

Week 1: Organizae Your Mind & Life Vision

Regular text is from the book "Organize Now! by Jennifer Ford Berry. My responses are italicized.

Think about what you want to accomplish within the next fifty-six weeks.

When you look back on this time in your life, what will you remember?

I hope I will remember feelings of accomplishment every time I complete a project. I also want to remember how creative I was in coming up with my own organization solutions.

What will you be proud of?

I will be proud of how much I let go of my perfectionism, and learned to develop systems that work for me, even if they aren't perfect.

List these goals.

Find ways to cut clutter.

Purge unnecessary items!
-sell
-donate
-throw away

Give everything that sticks around its own designated place

Make better use of my time.
-spend less time on the computer
-spend more time being active

Friday, August 17, 2012

A week and a half later

It has been a little over a week and a half since Matilda's birth. Only three days later Michael had to return to Korea, so I've been dealing with regular postpartum stress, adjusting to having three girls under four years of age, and having to say goodbye to my husband all at the same time.

At the park with all three girls
Thankfully one of my friends from high school and her sister drove up and spent a few days with me. That was a nice distraction after Michael left, and they really helped out with meals and playing with the two older girls. I also have my sister to help out, but she's a busy teenager and I definitely don't expect her to put her life on hold just to help me. She does help a lot when she does help though, so it's nice having her here with me. Then of course I'm in my hometown right now, so I have tons of family willing to help out. Just last night my aunt came over to watch McKaleigh and Adelaide, while Matilda and I made a trip to Target. It was nice not to have to get all three girls in and out of their car seats and through the store; I haven't been daring enough to do that on my own yet, haha.

Day of discharge from the hospital
There have been a lot of good things going on, in between feeling overwhelmed and missing Michael. I managed to complete all of my homework for class last week, so although I still have some stuff to catch up on, I'm not falling further behind. The house got super messy, pretty quickly, but I think I cleaned up pretty well yesterday, at least the kitchen and living room. I need to get around to cleaning my room, but I'm not stressing out about it, and I'll get to it when I get to it.

Another thing that has made me really happy has been my weight loss. I gained 30 pounds this pregnancy and started out with about 10 extra pounds, which means I'm hoping to lose 40 pounds overall. I've already lost 20! And I haven't even started working out yet, other than some easy yoga sequences, which I really do more for my mind than for my body. My mom (who is now living in a different state) has fall break in October and has already signed up for a 5k here in town. I'll be about 2 months postpartum, so I doubt I'll be able to run it, but I still think I'm going to sign up and walk it, maybe running every now and then. I really cannot wait to start running again. I'm tempted to start around 4 weeks postpartum, but I know I should wait for my doctor to give the okay at my six week checkup.

Daddy and baby
And an update with Matilda, she is doing great! She had her first check up two days ago and was already 10 ounces past her birth weight! So needless to say, breastfeeding has been going great! My milk came in on about day three, and we have had no problems at all. She does have really sleepy periods in the evenings where she's difficult to wake up and I get a little engorged, but usually by bedtime she's ready to empty me out, haha. Also, I totally forgot how many diapers a newborn goes through! It seems like with each baby it has been a big surprise to me.

Pretty girl, at home:)
Big sisters, McKaleigh and Adelaide, have been doing okay. Both have had their moments, Adelaide throws tantrums pretty frequently, and McKaleigh has developed quite the little attitude, but they both absolutely love their new sister. They love to help out and McKaleigh holds Matilda every chance she gets, which is really nice when Matilda isn't hungry and just needs to be held, since it gives me a chance to get a few things done.

I'm hoping to make a YouTube video soon to "introduce" Matilda, but we'll see when I get around to it. That's not really high on my to do list priority-wise, but hopefully I'll get it done. I can't believe how much older she already looks. These early months always go by so quickly!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Matilda is here!

We'll start with the stats before I get into the details:).
Her full name is Matilda Elizabeth Lynn Koch.
She weighed 8 pounds and 1 3/4 ounce and was 19 inches long.
She arrived at 12:23 PM today, August 6th, 2012.

I came in to the hospital this morning at 7:00 AM for a scheduled induction. I had been having lots of contractions over the last week or two, so I started out this morning at 5cm, although the baby wasn't down as far as she had been last week. Because of the dates Michael was allowed to take for his leave from Korea, he has to return in a few days. That was why I elected to be induced, so that Michael wouldn't miss the birth. It's definitely a long way away from the unmedicated homebirth I had originally hoped for, but it really did go well, overall.

I was started on a very low dosage of pitocin about half an hour after being admitted. It was slowly increased and my body responded very quickly. The first few hours were very manageable. I totally expected to use pain medication because of how much more severe pitocin contractions can be, so when things started to get difficult I went ahead and asked for morphine. I had morphine with McKaleigh, so I felt comfortable using it again. The nurse checked me to report to the OB in order to get orders and I had progressed to 7cm. He ordered a very low dose of morphine for me, so low that it hardly even took the edge off. It helped me relax between contractions a little more, but the actual contractions were not any more tolerable. I started going through transition and finally experienced what most women describe transition as when going without pain medication. I really felt like I wasn't going to be able to handle it for awhile and told the nurse I was going to need something stronger for the pain. I even asked for an epidural! The nurse checked me again and I was fully dilated. She told me at that point an epidural probably wouldn't do a whole lot for me, but she would call the OB and see what they could do.

He walked in a few minutes later and said "the nurse told me you were either going to get an epidural or push this baby out, so I think it's time to push the baby out." As much as I hated to hear this because I felt like I couldn't handle anymore, I am really glad that he followed my initial wishes of not getting an epidural. I do have to say that I did not like the position I pushed in. I was flat on my back and it was way more difficult than I think it had to be, but at that point I was really emotionally fragile and in no mood to fight about it. Thankfully it didn't take long, in spite of the poor positioning and in about 5 or 6 sets of contractions she was here.

I'm still having trouble believing that I had a pitocin induced birth, practically without pain meds. It was extremely intense, but I am really happy with how things went, and am so glad that Michael has gotten to meet his newest daughter before returning to Korea.

Nursing has been going really well. She latched right away and nurses well with each feeding. We'll hopefully get out of here at the 24 hour mark. It doesn't sound like they are going to try to keep us any longer than that. I think that about covers it. We're happily resting now:).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Week 1, Task 1: Write out your life vision

Week 1: Organize Your Mind & Life Vision

Regular text is from the book "Organize Now!" by Jennifer Ford Berry. My responses are italicized, and set in the future tense, when the girls are all school-aged.

Write out your vision for your life. Answer these questions to help you find inspiration. If you could do anything...

Where would you live?

If I could live anywhere, it would probably be near a big city on one of the coasts. I want to live in a decent sized town/city where I have everything nearby and can spend as little time as possible in a car! I want to be able to walk or take a quick bus or bike ride everywhere.  I'm guessing this would probably be a college town.

How would you earn an income?

I would be a family/marriage therapist in a practice where I would mostly be my own boss.

What would your days look like?

I would get up at sunrise and do yoga every morning, followed by a morning run. Then I would come home and get ready for the day, and have breakfast with my family. After taking everyone to school I would head to work to start seeing clients. I would meet my husband for lunch on most days. I would finish up at work in time to get home and prep a family meal for after the girls have finished with any extra-curriculars. Then we would clean up after the meal, do some quick chores and spend the rest of the night finishing up homework and just spending time together.

What would you do for fun?

For fun I would participate in races and other running events on the weekends. As a family we would go on little trips to local places, like state parks to go hiking or swimming.

What would you do more of?

I would spend more time outside, more playing with my daughters, more reading and writing, more yoga and exercise.

What would you do less of?

I would spend less time watching TV, less playing on the internet, less procrastinating!

"Organize Now!"

I just bought the book "Organize Now! A week-by-week guide to simplify your space and your life!" by Jennifer Ford Berry.

I looked at a couple different books on this topic, and for some reason this one stuck out to me the most, so I decided to go ahead and get it.

From the reviews I've read you can either go straight through the book, or you can skip around to the areas that you need the most help in and it won't make a difference. I think that was one thing I liked about it, being able to make it really fit into what I need it to be. I'm going to start in order at first, but then if I come to a section that doesn't feel all that applicable to me, I'll probably start skipping around to the areas I want to work on.

The reason I'm blogging about this book is that each week has goals and questions for you to answer. I was considering buying a journal to do all of the entries in, but then I though, why not blog all of my entries? This first post is pretty much so that I can link all of my future posts here, so if someone comes across my blog and this book interests them, they'll easily be able to get to my other posts about it.

I want this blog to serve as a sort of self help place for me, where I write about the things I'm doing to help keep my depression under control. Clutter and chaos contribute to my depression a lot. When things start to get out of control it almost instantly throws me into a deeper depression. When I organize a room or even just part of a room, I feel so much better, almost rejuvenated. I feel that if I can really get into organizing and staying on top of it, then I can drastically decrease the times I spend being deeply depressed.

Over the next year I'm sure I will have weeks or even whole months where I don't update about this, because we have so many changes coming up. My hope is that I can still come back to this little project when all of the dust settles each time we have a change, because I do think organizing and simplifying will help me a lot.

Week 1, Task 1: Write out your life vision

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Things Have Improved

*Sigh* just reading my last post totally stressed me out! Things are getting much, much better. There are still some things causing me some stress, but I'm handling it much better and it's not quite so overwhelming. I started my second internship on time and it has been great. I really feel like I am learning so much. I've been doing really well in the class part of my internship, as well as the counseling class I am taking. I absolutely love my counseling class... love it! It's funny because through my internship I feel like I could really see myself working in gerontology, but then through my counseling class I'm drawn even more to the position of family and marriage therapist.

Therapy was my original goal when starting this degree program. Of course this would just be the first stepping stone to that career, or really any career, since I'm definitely going to need my bachelors and for many jobs, including therapy, will need a masters. So I have a lot of schooling ahead of me! In my last post I said I would be taking a long break from school, but this semester has been going so well that I think I will start up classes again as soon as we're settled at our new duty station.

Speaking of new duty stations, Michael has re-enlisted and we will be moving to Europe at the beginning of next year! Most likely Germany, but he was only able to specify "Europe" in his re-enlistment contract. His new ETS date is past his halfway to retirement point, so I guess we are in this for the long haul! Also, he will *hopefully* be here for Matilda's birth. He has submitted his leave packet and so far everything looks good, it just has to be made official. There has been a lot of stress surrounding that whole situation, but I'm just trying to relax and not stress out about it and we will just take action as it all unfolds.

I'm going to be 35 weeks pregnant tomorrow. So only another month of being pregnant, give or take a week or two. If Matilda comes as early as Adelaide did, then I will have a baby this month! I'm hoping she hangs on until August though because I think it'd be fun for their birthdays to be the first weeks of August, September, and October, lol.

Alright, this post is sort of all over and just a random update post, so I'll wrap it up here before I go on about too many more topics;).

Friday, May 25, 2012

I feel like I'm falling apart

School just kills me. I seriously don't know what's wrong with me! When I first started I was fully participating, getting nearly 100% on everything, always turning everything in on time. Now I consistently turn things in late, barely eke out the minimum required participation, and even skip over some assignments entirely. For my government class we are supposed to do an essay every other week. I have yet to do a single one of them. I will honestly be lucky if I even pass this class at all. I will be happy with a D! When I do turn things in I get A's, so it's not like the work is too hard for me. I'm just awful at prioritizing my time and making the most of the time I have. I put everything off until the last minute and then am completely overwhelmed by everything I have to do.

Once again I'm coming up on needing to start another internship. I'm supposed to start in less than two weeks and I don't even have a meeting set up with anyone about establishing something! I have to do this internship next term, because if I don't then I will have to do it after the baby is here and I really don't want to do that, so that means I'll probably put off completing my internship for another year or so until I'm ready to put my youngest in any sort of regular daycare.

This past week I have legitimately been busy, with appointments and putting in a lot of extra hours with my internship to make up for not doing as much earlier on. So then when I get home I want to relax and not do anything, but there is so much I NEED to do! And I keep putting it all off.

I'm ready to be done with this year. It's nice to think about when this will all be over. In August I'll be done with my pregnancy and with my internships. I'll have one class left after that and then in October I will be completely done with my associates. Then no more school for a long time! And a few months after that Michael will come back from Korea and we will move to where ever we are going to next. I miss living with my husband so much. There is nothing that can take the place of the support he gives me, it makes this year really hard. After a rough day there's nothing I want more than to cuddle up with my husband. I love the girls' cuddles, but it's just not the same, lol.

I don't know how to make things better. It doesn't feel like anything I try really works.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Exercising My Way to Happiness

A few weeks ago I started a membership at the local rec center and I'm loving it so far! I've been going anywhere from three to five times a week, even with having an awful cold. I'm really proud of myself, but also really enjoying myself with the time spent there. Daycare is offered free with membership, so I only go during the daycare hours and the girls love it! McKaleigh actually hides when I come because she doesn't want to leave, lol. It's not so bad now that we've gone regularly for the last 2-3 weeks, so she realizes that we are going to come back and doesn't get as mad about leaving.

I've been going to a class on Monday and Wednesday, Monday is an aerobic interval class and Wednesday is a step class. They're with the same instructor and I really enjoy her classes. She doesn't care if I have to modify something because of being pregnant, and she also doesn't care if I show up late, which is big for me since I never know when the girls will throw a wrench in our getting ready routine! Then on Tuesday, Thursday, and/or  Friday I go work out in the nautilus room, usually spending most of my time on the recumbent bike or the elliptical, and then doing a little bit of work on the core and oblique machines and some exercises with (very light) hand weights.

It's so nice to be able to do my cardio at the rec. I was running on the treadmill here at the house, but it just kills my hips, so the low impact machines are awesome. Plus getting the girls out of the house a few days a week is good for them and for me.

Also, I've found that when I can't make it to the gym, I'm more likely to do a workout at home. It's like I feel guilty that I can't get to the gym, so I make sure to do something. I have an awesome pre-natal pilates workout that I like to do when I don't make it to the gym. I've also been practicing yoga pretty much daily! Working out so much gets my whole body pretty tight so it makes me just sort of crave a good yoga sequence. I use videos off of yogajournal.com, usually something by Jason Crandell, I love his sequences. I do an evening relaxation sequence almost every night before bed, and then a few mornings a week I'll do another sequence. I try to vary it up, which is why I love using yogajournal.com, because there are so many options!

I do have to say that I really really miss running. I can't wait to get back into running as soon as I've recovered post partum. The other day it was all crappy and rainy out and I still saw so many people out running, and I was jealous! I was thinking "I wish I was so dedicated to running that I would go out no matter the weather conditions." And the truth is, I think I am that dedicated, I crave a good run some days. I just am not physically able to run right now without being in severe pain afterwards. That makes me really sad, because there's something about running that I just don't get from all of the other workouts I'm doing. There's something about running a mile a little faster this week than you did last week. And then there's the feeling you get when you run a little farther than you've ever ran before.

Sometimes I wonder if I just did too much, too fast, and that's why it hurt my hips so badly. I'm tempted to go get some new running shoes and start Couch to 5k all over again. Perhaps the slower start will help reduce all the soreness I was feeling. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I will keep you updated :).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thinking About Our Futures

Every so often I write a blog post, just to get stuff written down and get some ideas out in words. This is going to be one of those posts, so you may find it boring to read, but I find it therapeutic. Hope someone enjoys reading it though:).

Last year I started an associates degree in Human Services. I already had quite a few credits, so I was almost done with my first year when I started. I took a break around the time we moved, and with all of McKaleigh's medical problems, so that was about 2-3 months off. I've finished my first course since starting back and have started my first of two internships, along with another class. After this term I'll do my second internship and another class, and then after that 8 week term I will have one final class! So about 6 months from now I will be totally done with my associates degree (and I will have a 2 month old baby!)

After I finish, I will be taking a break to enjoy my new baby:). Michael will be done with his year in Korea a few months later, and I honestly have no clue what we will be doing then. We will have less than one year from that point until he can get out of the Army, but hopefully they will still move us to his next duty station. If not maybe he can just extend for a few months so that we can experience the Northeast for the year.

The bachelor's program I'm interested in is a direct continuation of the associates I'm doing right now, and they offer the whole program online. I'll be able to start pretty quickly after my break, probably after we get settled into a house in the new town.

One of our options involves Michael getting out of the Army, fall of next year. He would start school, using his G.I. bill. We would probably both have to work, alternating shifts as much as possible to try and avoid daycare costs. This would mean I'd have to start working, along with still working on my bachelor's degree, when baby Matilda is about one year old.

That's where option two comes in. I haven't worked since having McKaleigh, and really hardly worked since I've been married. I've enjoyed staying home with my girls and it's hard for me to imagine not staying home with Matilda. Thankfully Michael being in the military has provided us an income that has been steady enough to allow me to stay home. Part of me would really like for him to re-enlist for one more term, just long enough for me to finish my bachelor's degree and at least stay home until Matilda is ready for kindergarten.

The upside to this is that Michael would be able to do some of his school while on active duty and could use the Army's tuition assistance program. This is different than the G.I. Bill, so he could try to do as much as possible and then would have the G.I. Bill left to pursue more advanced degrees, since he will likely need a masters or doctorate for most of the careers he's interested in.

Part of me wants him to get out ASAP, just because I want to feel semi-settled somewhere for awhile. Also, if he re-enlists, by the time he's about to get out again he will likely be at his "halfway to retirement" point, and it will be hard to see him get out after investing so much time into a military career. He talks about getting out of the Army a lot though, so I don't want him to be unhappy with his job for the next 14 years, just for the sake of a retirement check. I also really like the idea of us settling down somewhere while the girls are still young. If we get past that "halfway to retirement" point and he ends up staying in the Army for the full 20 years, we won't settle down until the girls are teenagers. The year he could retire would likely be right before McKaleigh graduates from high school.

I guess that's really not so bad, if we can get our last duty station to be where we want to be settled, then McKaleigh could likely go to one high school for all 4 years, and all three girls would go to that same high school.

So much to think about. Writing this out really does help:). You'll get to see our decision making as it goes on!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I think I fell in...

...the hole/rut that I've been trying to avoid.

Ugh, I've been trying so hard to keep everything together and it just isn't working this week!

I still haven't done two assignments that were due on Monday night. I keep looking at them and feel stuck, like I don't even know how to start. I really need to finish them as soon as possible, I was hoping to get them done today, but I hardly even tried.

I also need to get things in order to start an internship next month. If I don't do it next month I'm not sure when I'll be able to do it, and that will keep me from finishing my degree program! So it's REALLY important that I get that in order.

I didn't do much today at all. I picked up the Navigator from the shop and then did a bunch of stuff with the budget to figure out how we can pay to get the other things fixed on it. That could've waited a day or two, but I knew it would weigh on my mind if I didn't get it done. Plus, to be honest, I enjoy budgeting, so that's probably why I made that my priority when I shouldn't have.

I should be trying to do the assignments right now, but instead I'm writing on here because it will make me feel a little bit better. Perhaps announcing to the couple of people who read this what a failure I am this week will give me the kick in the pants I need to get stuff done;).

Tomorrow WILL be a better day! I will get things done, and I will feel accomplished by the end of the day!

Thanks for reading:).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Living Life: My Three Girls

Today I am 20 weeks pregnant! There's not much to update on the pregnancy. I'm getting bigger, starting to really show now. Also, baby girl has been kicking a lot more regularly! In the next week or two I think it will be easy for others to feel her kick when they touch my belly. Right now it's only strong enough that I can really feel it, although her kicks are getting stronger everyday! I'm about 95% sure on our baby name, although I have only announced it on Twitter. I'm scared that if I announce it on Facebook and get too much negative feedback that I'll start to dislike the name and have to pick another. When I announced McKaleigh and Adelaide's names I was more like 99.9% sure, so I'm going to give it another week or two before I tell others what we've picked. I will say that this baby's middle names will be Elizabeth Lynn, to go along with the other girls' middle names, Elizabeth Anne and Elizabeth Jane.

There's really not much else to say on the pregnancy or new baby so I thought I would bring up a random topic that came into my head a few days ago.

Have you ever thought about what your children will be when they grow up? I was randomly thinking about how I want to encourage my girls to be interested in science, because it's something that I never liked growing up, but now as an adult have a new found appreciation for science. Then I thought to myself, "it would be neat if one of my girls grows up to be a scientist." I just think it would be so cool to raise someone so closely involved with the latest discoveries.

This led me to begin thinking about what other occupations I would love to see them pursue. So I came to the conclusion that (if I were a puppet-master rather than a mother) my daughters would grow up to be a scientist, a humanitarian, and a teacher. Obviously because this is my wish, none of this will happen and they'll all be business people or something else I find equally boring. I honestly will approve of whatever they do as long as they can make a living doing it, even if it's a struggle at times, it's ethical, and it makes them happy.

I would love for one of my girls to be a humanitarian, mostly because I wish I could be a humanitarian. Once my children are grown I do intend to do some humanitarian work, perhaps we'll even go on some trips as a family when the girls are teenagers. I think I mostly want to instill in my girls the passion to help others, so that's why I would be so thrilled if one of them made it their life's work.

And lastly, I feel that educating the next generation is one of the most important things anyone can do. It's sort of hypocritical of me, because I do intend to home school my girls, for our own personal reasons as a family. But I still believe very strongly that everyone should have access to education and would love if one of my girls would go into that field. I would especially love it if they participated in Teach For America, a corps of teachers who dedicate part of their careers to teaching in low-income areas, to help ensure that those children also receive quality educations.

I don't want to control what they do by any means, these were just random thoughts that popped into my head. Do you ever think about what your children might grow up to be? I haven't even figured out what I want to be! Although I think I'm quite a ways a way from entering the workforce, so I haven't been stressing about it, by any means. It's fun to contemplate about the future:).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beating the Blues: Avoiding the Rut

Now that I'm more aware of my depression, I try to avoid getting into a rut in the first place. My depressed periods are almost always triggered by stress or a specific event. I think the best way to deal with my depression is to take preventative measures. If I know what causes me to get so bad, then I can take action to minimize that. It's a lot easier to walk around a large hole than it is to fall in and climb back out!

One of these trigger events happened today. After a month of emergency leave, we took my husband to the airport and sent him back to Korea. Normally I would use this as an excuse to feel sorry for myself and say it's okay to be lazy for awhile. A day or two would turn into a week or two and it's just not fun to get into these periods. I'm not doing that this time! I'm already starting to think up all of the things I will do to distract myself and keep busy.

I conveniently have a lot that I need to get done, so I won't have any trouble keeping busy;). We have a few different appointments that need to be made for this month. I also have a ton of little errands that need to be done, that I've put off because of all that's gone on. I also want to get McKaleigh started with a few things like ballet and speech therapy, but I've been putting it off because of not knowing what the schedule would be like with surgery and recovery. Then the biggest thing of all, we still are not completely settled in here! I have boxes that still need to be sorted through and tons of things that can be taken to the storage unit.

Here's the car!
Just a little fun update: we bought a new (to us) car! It's a Lincoln Navigator... a much older Lincoln Navigator, haha, a newer one would never fit into our military/stay at home budget:P. I absolutely love it! It's just what we need for our family and lifestyle. We're about to have our third baby and we have two decent sized dogs. We really need that extra room in the back if we want to be able to move all of us cross country in one vehicle. It's even more perfect because it has a luggage rack and a hitch so we'll be able to tow our beater/work car, rather than attempting to drive it cross country again. Plus we are going to have a fairly young baby when we make this next move so going in the two separate cars would be so difficult. It will be nice to ride all together.

I went a bit off topic there, but it came to mind because I was thinking of how nice and easy it will be to put the back seats down and load the navigator with all of the things I need to take to the storage unit! Anyways... if you've read all the way through, thanks for checking out my blog! Also, other bloggers, any tips on finding fun pictures to add to your posts to make them more interesting? I'm not big on taking pictures, but posts that are mostly text are so boring! If you have any tips I would LOVE to hear them! I've been looking on flickr, but have had awful luck finding anything relevant!

Can you tell this post was thrown together last minute? It's better than nothing right? I hope you've enjoyed my rambling:).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Living life: McKaleigh's Hospital Adventure

It all started on New Year's Day. McKaleigh was running a fever and did not want to get up and play at all. She didn't even want to get up to do little things, she just wanted to stay in bed. We figured it was just a virus so we watched and waited for the first two days. At this time we were also packing up and getting ready to move to my hometown, since Michael is going to Korea for a year. Since we were going to be travelling cross country I decided to take her to the doctor to make sure she didn't have something more serious that would need medicine. She had randomly been complaining of pain, which was my indicator that it wasn't just a virus.

Getting extra rest in the hotel room during our move
We arrived at the hospital and the experience was horrendous. They did every possible thing they could have done, and they were not gentle about it. McKaleigh had blood drawn, an in and out catheter to get a urine sample, nose swab to check for flu, plus suppositories to bring down her fever. Like I said, it was absolutely horrendous. A few hours later we got the preliminary results and everything was normal! They told us it was probably just a virus and we would have to wait it out.

Fast forward a week, we have moved to Iowa, McKaleigh is still sick. Over the first three weeks of the month she showed improvements, like regaining her appetite and having fewer fevers. Over all she was still sick, having fevers and not wanting to move, not even to walk a short distance. So at week three, I made an appointment with a pediatrician. (Part of the reason I waited that long was because I knew they would do all of the lab work again and I didn't want to put McKaleigh through all of the discomfort again, if she was getting better.)

Sure enough when we went in her physical exam was normal, and then they did the blood work and got a urine sample. We didn't get results until the next day, and when the pediatrician called she said the results were mostly normal, but there was an elevated level that indicated inflammation somewhere in the body. There wasn't really anything they could do, so we had to go to the children's hospital in the nearest city. We were admitted to the hospital and they basically said we would stay until they figured out what was going on.

I'm going to fast forward again, because we were there for five days, and I'm mostly going to skip over the million times she had to have labwork done. The labwork kept coming back normal, except for the inflammation, but the first day in the hospital there was one other thing. She was anemic when they took her blood, but the labwork from our pediatrician had her at normal numbers one day prior, which meant she had bleeding somewhere and since it wasn't visible the doctor ordered an abdominal ultrasound to see if she had internal bleeding.

Passing by the time while
we waited for answers.
This is where it starts to get scary. They came back with the scans and they had found a mass on McKaleigh's liver. The ultrasound didn't show a very good picture, but you could definitely see the mass. Next step was to get a CT scan, which McKaleigh did not like at all. After getting a better look they came to the conclusion that it was a hepatoblastoma, which essentially was telling me she had cancer. That was a really rough day, I cried pretty much anytime I was alone, and just had this horrible pit in my gut.

Then came the sigh of relief. The surgeon came to consult with the oncologist, he did not think it was a hepatoblastoma. He wasn't exactly sure of what it was, but he said it didn't look like any hepatoblastoma he had seen before, so he wanted to do a biopsy first. We got to go home for the weekend, because all they were doing was giving her fluids, and she appeared to be doing better, hadn't had a single fever. Then we came back on Monday morning for the biopsy. They sedated her for it and afterwards we spent one night in the hospital and then went back home.

The hospital's pathology got back to us before we left and they said it was a hemangioma. Another huge sigh of relief! This would not be cancerous and probably wouldn't require surgery! So we went home thinking all was well and we would just need check ups to keep an eye on it. But thankfully, they also sent the biopsy sample to Mayo for further testing.

It had been a week without any updates when we finally got a call. Our doctor apologized that it had taken so long, but Mayo was taking a really long time to confirm. They said it was not a hemangioma. Instead it was an extremely rare tumor, called an inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor (IMT.) It's not just rare in children, it's rare period, and very very rare in children. In the literature, one review will be about 20 cases a hospital had over a 20 year period. There isn't much known for sure because they don't come up often, but they usually present much like it did with McKaleigh. It starts with the fevers of unknown origin followed up by a scan where they find a tumor on a random part of the body.

Getting ready to go into surgery
It's a benign tumor, technically, in that it isn't cancerous. But it's a benign tumor that can behave malignantly. If we had never done anything, there is a chance it would have grown and taken over her insides. Because of the risk, the advice was to have it completely removed. An MRI was done first to get an even better look. Then we started the process of getting Michael here for the surgery, since he's stationed in Korea now.

Michael arrived with plenty of time to spare before the operation. Then two Thursdays ago we went in for the operation. She was in such good spirits and while we had been at home she had started walking again. The surgery was a complete success, they removed about half of her liver. There was some trouble with bleeding and they did have to do a transfusion, but it wasn't anything completely unexpected or out of the ordinary. Then we had a week long stay in the hospital for her recovery.

Checking out her incision
Now we've been home for a little over a week, she's doing so much better, although still crankier than usual. We had an appointment this week and the surgeon said that medically speaking she has made a full recovery and that the worst is behind us. I heard back from our oncologist yesterday with the results from pathology. The findings were consistent with what they thought it would be, but they could not find a cause for the inflammation. We were told there would be a good chance of never knowing what caused it, so that's not a surprise. She shouldn't need any further special medical treatment. I will have to take her in for ultrasounds and blood work every 3 months for the next year, because of the chance that the tumor might grow back, though.

There is our whirlwind of a story. It was a very crazy time for all of us, but I'm so glad that we had the children's hospital available to us. They really have taken such great care of McKaleigh. It's good to be home and to have this mostly behind us. Now we just have to make the most of these last couple of days we have with her daddy:). 

Adelaide giving her sister hugs while she heals:)

Note: Please forgive the poor quality of the pictures, they were taken with my phone. I haven't been able to find my camera since the move!