So, I’m Officially an Active Duty Army Wife.

How am I doing? I’ve been asked that a lot lately. And I’m actually a lot more sad than I thought I’d be, which was a surprise. Maybe it’s my pregnancy hormones. But I’ve been an active duty wife before (USMC), so I didn’t think it would be that bad. We’ve been together through 2 combat deployments, but I guess I’ve gotten used to having him around the past 6 years. On top of that, it appears we’re looking at 23 weeks of training. 23 weeks training = 23 weeks apart…that’s nearly 6 months, which I was not anticipating (at least not immediately). Oh well, I know how that goes.ByeDaddyByeDaddy2

He was so sweet the day he left. He went to the bank to get a Power of Attorney for me, and made a surprise visit to Target. He came home and surprised McKenzie with Cheer Bear (the pink Care Bear) to comfort her when she gets sad, and me with a body pillow (majorly awesome in his absence). It was so amazingly sweet that it made me cry. Again with these hormones.CheerBear

And it’s been a little hard on McKenzie. It’s only been two days, but she really misses her daddy…in fact, I’ve brought Eddie back for a visit or two to cheer her up. And that’s the part that kills me: I am totally fine/composed until McKenzie starts crying. She’s been pretty great, but we’ve had 3 sad moments so far. Cheer Bear helps her, for sure. =) And I let her bring it to school.

We had a really great time spending time together these last few weeks, though. On Friday we went bowling and had a great dinner out. It was really fun, and I highly recommend bowling for young ones! But only do one round…McKenzie was definitely “over it” after the first game.bowlingBut we’re trying to stay busy. There are a bunch of things I’m looking forward to in the next month, including:

  • A trip to Minnesota to visit my sister and see her new house!
  • My first official doctor’s visit…with a doctor.
  • Getting my hair done.
  • A week-long trip to visit Grandpa Jeff in Laguna, CA (and to get the new stroller!).
  • Sleepover & Girl’s Disney movie night with McKenzie and my friend, Stephanie.
  • FINDING OUT THE SEX OF BABY #2 April 2!

Any guesses?!

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12 Weeks

Since I’m 12 weeks now, I think I’ll start doing this little survey every couple weeks. For reference, here is my 9 week post. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m 12 weeks already!

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12 weeks, Baby #2

How far along are you? 12 weeks…seems like a milestone! I’m definitely bigger, but I still don’t think that the “bump” looks visibly pregnant. Maybe just like I enjoy beer a little too much. ;)
How big is the baby? According to my BabyCenter App, it’s about the size of a lime. 3 inches, ½ ounce.
Weight Gain? 5lbs, same as McKenzie the first trimester.
Maternity clothes? A mixture. Since I’m getting bigger sooner with Baby #2, I’ve already bought a couple things: 1 pair of skinny jeans from Motherhood, and 2 long tunic shirts from there, as well. I figure if I can wear them til September, it’s worth the money to be comfortable. I’m mainly wearing yoga pants/sweatshirts around the house, and leggings with the tunic tops when I venture out.
Stretch marks? No not yet, but I have a feeling I’ll get them. With McKenzie I got them on my hips & inner thighs…but nothing on my stomach, thank goodness. Hopefully it stays that way. My friend who had twins recommended BioOil to me (she said she went through 2 bottles her entire pregnancy), so I’ve been using it every night before bed.
Sleep: Could be better. I wake up to pee at least 2 times, then I have a hard time falling back asleep. Blah. Warm milk helps with that.
Best moment this week? Spending quality time with McKenzie & Jon before he leaves. We’re also pretty close to having names picked out! Which was important to me to have done before Jon leaves. They’re not set in stone, but we like them both a LOT.  [[Hint: for a girl it would start with an “E,” for a boy it would be a “B”…neither are conventional, and both are surnames, but easy to say & spell with good nickname possibilities (meets all our criteria!). Just like McKenzie.]] Guess away!
Movement? None yet, but I hear you can feel it as early as 12 weeks with Baby #2.
Food cravings? Belgian waffles. Orecchiette pasta & calamari from Lombardino’s (best Italian food in Madison, hands down). Cheerio’s with fresh strawberries. Chocolate milk.
Food aversions? Steak or meat of any kind. *gag* When my hubbs makes it for himself, I need to leave the room.
Labor signs? Nope. Stay in there & grow, wee one.
Gender? Too early to tell. =(
Symptoms? Intense food aversions, and I’m moody. I’m also extremely “backed up.” It’s awful. Warm water with honey helps a little, but I’m pretty uncomfortable. If anyone has other suggestions, I’m all ears. =/
Belly button in or out? In. With McKenzie it just went flat…it was never an “outie.”
Wedding rings on or off? On.
Happy or moody? Depends on who I’m talking to. ;) I’m definitely “set off” more easily, and more likely to speak my mind when I’m peeved.
What I miss: Wine night with our friends. =(
What I am looking forward to: Thursday is the 2nd part of our First Trimester Screen, so we get to see the baby again via ultrasound. I bet it’ll be a lot bigger this time! We will also get the results of the blood-work taken by the genetic counselor, so hopefully all’s well with that. And I’m debating a private ultrasound to determine sex at an earlier date…apparently, they guarantee an accurate result at 16 weeks, and it’s relatively reasonable ($65). I just want to know so badly! And perhaps have a bit of control over something. Oh, and I can’t wait to watch the Walking Dead this week. Yep.

Crunch Time

Valentine's 2013 FlowersWe had a great Valentine’s Day! I woke up to not one, but two beautiful flower arrangements & a sweet note from my wonderful husband. Our romantic evening in Milwaukee was so much fun (although, let’s be honest: the February horse-drawn carriage ride in Wisconsin was a little torturous). As expected, the food was amazing, and we had a beautiful river-view from our hotel room. I would say dinner was the highlight…we got to order whatever we wanted off the menu! Whatever. We. Wanted. I didn’t snap any pictures because I wanted to feel “present” in the moment with Jon, so my apologies (or not). We really did have a great time.

On that note, it’s crunch time: Jon leaves for the Army 3 weeks from today. It’s getting so close! I do a really good job of NOT thinking about things until they’re here…I think it’s a protective mechanism for me, but it helps me to enjoy the moments we still have without anxiety about the future. So overall, I think it’s a good thing. It won’t be real until we get back to the empty house without him. =( I figure we won’t see him for about 3 months. While he’s training, I plan on staying busy with McKenzie and going on a few trips.

As I mentioned in this post, my sister and her husband are closing on their first home on March 15th, so we’ll definitely make the trek to Minnesota to visit them and see the new place. I’m super excited for them. Any good housewarming gift ideas? We also plan on visiting my step-dad (Grandpa Jeff) in Laguna Niguel, California. Not a bad place to visit! He loves taking us out on his boat to see dolphins, seals, & whales on the weekends. We were out there for McKenzie’s birthday in August, and we always have a blast.

In other news, I have another doctor’s appointment this week. I’m hoping we’ll get to hear the little peanut’s heartbeat.7wks4days

 

Raising Children: The Power of Positive

I have a confession: we rarely say “no” to McKenzie. Now, that’s not to say we let her do whatever she wants…that would not fly. BUT according to one UCLA study, the average 1-year-old hears “no” more than 400 times a day. That’s a lot! And that really stuck with me. So for us, instead of focusing on what she can’t do, we focus on what is acceptable behavior. We make a concerted effort to be positive, and I think it’s made a huge difference in her life! She has a very positive attitude, and now that she’s more independent she needs less direction. And isn’t that our goal as parents? To raise happy, self-directed children?

FBHeaderSunsetNow, of course kids need tough guidance here and there (especially where their safety is concerned), but it can easily be achieved without saying “no.” When she was younger, we’d simply say, “We don’t do that, let’s do this instead…” (redirect) but now that she’s older we’ll ask, “Do we do that? Is that acceptable behavior?…Why not?” And she answers us every time.

Another example is, “We don’t do that, because we could get really hurt if we play with the stove. It doesn’t feel good to be hurt, does it?” Yes, we actually say that…sometimes harshly. We are still firm, but instead of yelling “No, no, no,” she understands why. ((Adding the “because” also does an excellent job staving off the “why?” stage…because you’ve already answered the question.))Positive-Thinking1

Other times, when she asks for candy, a toy, or something else, instead of saying “no,” we’ll reply, “Oh, of course you can have it! After your nap/After lunch/After you clean your room/Tomorrow after school/etc.” Sometimes she fusses, but she responds very differently than she would to a flat-out “no.” And any ensuing argument is quickly remedied by, “Well would you like ______ after school, or not? We don’t reward this kind of behavior.” By responding to her requests in a positive way, she knows that she will eventually get what she wants, which in turn teaches her the importance of delayed gratification (for a fascinating Stanford Study on children, linking delayed gratification and future life success read this Wiki article).

And you may have noticed we really focus on her behavior. It makes me sad when I hear a parent say, “You’re a bad boy,” or “You’re a naughty girl.” To a degree, children internalize those words, so I think it’s really important for parents to emphasize that it’s the behavior & actions that are “bad” or unacceptable, and that doesn’t make the child “bad.” After all, every child misbehaves. Now, of course there’s something to be said about “Nature & Nurture”…obviously each individual has predispositions. BUT, I firmly believe that the way we interact with McKenzie influences her behavior in a positive way. It’s simple to change small words we use with our children to create a more positive environment.

2013: Full of change.

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The year 2013 is full of exciting uncertainty for me & my family. For those of you who know me, or have been following my blog, you know that my husband just graduated college and is leaving for the Army soon. For some reason, we were thinking, “Oh, it’s 3 months away,” maybe because March is the 3rd month? I don’t know…but two months seems infinitely closer than three. So, for the next two months we’ll be enjoying precious time together as a family, before we’re on the military’s schedule.

Now, if you’ve read our love story, you’ll know that this lifestyle isn’t new to us…I was a military wife before. BUT (and it’s a big but) we didn’t have a child when he was in the Marines, which I think is both good and bad. Good, because now I can keep myself busy in his absence, but bad in the respect that I know it will be harder on McKenzie, and Jon too, for that matter. I’ve been preparing her, telling her that Daddy will be gone for awhile and we’ll be moving to a new home. I told her that she’ll get to go to a new school and make new friends. I think the mental preparation is key, so it’s not a shock. We don’t know exactly when Jon will be done training, so we’re not even sure when we’ll move. Exciting uncertainty, as I said.

And since a lot of people have asked: no, he’s not going to be an Officer, even though he has his Bachelor’s…at least not until he exhausts his other options. His contract is 18X (google if you’re curious), but of course there are a lot of obstacles to overcome…literally…before he would be assigned to a duty station. In order to prepare, he’s training with a personal trainer 4x a week for the next 10 weeks before he leaves (I don’t even want to tell you how much that cost…but we’re considering it an “investment”). We have no illusions about the realities of Army life, so we have no expectations. We’re just keeping an open mind and going with the flow.

On that note, I resolve to make 2013 a great year. Life is primarily about attitude, so I will strive to have a positive attitude, be more patient, and be kinder to myself (I am notoriously hard on myself). Three simple things I think I can easily achieve with a conscious effort. As Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I sincerely hope that 2013 is a wonderful year for everyone, full of happiness, success, and joy. Happy New Year!

What’s in a background?

My photography business has been (understandably) slower in the winter, so it’s wayyyy fun to get out and play around with McKenzie & my camera. I miss it! I posted these photos about making a wall-collage with the same pose for every season, which I think is a ridiculously fun idea. Funny thing is, I took the winter photo on the 2nd floor deck of our condo…who would’ve thought?

Surely if you are an experienced portrait photographer (or a photographer in general) you understand the importance of “framing,” but I’m just posting this to illustrate that backgrounds don’t have to be fancy! I only use natural light, meaning I don’t even have a studio. So be creative! Here’s an example:

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And since I’m missing my photography, here is another pretty winter one that I took on our snow day…this tree actually broke in half from the weight of the snow the night after I took this photo. IMG_0672 copy

Shopping’s all done. Phew!

IMAG0433 copyI posted a link awhile ago to the online children’s boutique, Mommy’s Little Sunshine. They’re always having giveaways, and I just got this “free” (plus shipping) headband in the mail. It was originally for McKenzie, but I commandeered it…I always wear ponytails, so I LOVE headbands in the winter. =)

In other news, I officially finished Christmas shopping! What a chore. But it’s always worth it to see the look on McKenzie’s face! That said, I’m relieved to be done (except for stocking stuffers). It looks sparse under our tree right now, but when Santa comes it’ll be packed under there.

We’re having Christmas morning at home for the first time ever…I’m pretty excited. Then during the day we’re going to my mother-in-law’s. Jon has to be back for work the AM of the 26th, so we’ll just leave the doggies at home.

On that note, Cali’s tail is taking nightmarishly long to heal. Goodness. I have to wrap it at least once a day still, and now we have a large syringe-cover taped to the tip so she doesn’t split it open.

Annnnnnnnnd LESS THAN 3 WEEKS until our Mexico vacation. =) I’m excited. As you can tell, I could definitely use a tan.

Annnnnnnnnd LESS THAN 3 MONTHS until Jon leaves for the Army. =/ I’m definitely nervous about that one. Since he’s graduated now, it’s getting more and more real. The hardest part is that we don’t really know what his job will be yet, or where we’ll be living. It’s just hard to picture the future, and that’s nerve racking.

Anyhow, Happy Holidays everyone. =)

Snow Day!

McKenzie’s school was cancelled today because of the blizzard “Draco.” We made sure to get out and play, and we definitely got some use out of her new snowsuit. I even wrapped Cali’s tail with a plastic bag so she could join us.

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We had fun sledding, making snow angels, and building our first snowman as a family! Logan (our Golden) LOVES the snow. By the end of our time outside, his coat had grown snowballs. IMG_0773

We put her brand new Disney Princess sled to use too, and we built a wicked-awesome snowman named Frosty. =) Overall it was a very fun day, complete with hot cocoa!

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In other news, Jon graduated on Sunday! I’m going through pics now, so I’ll have up some photos in a couple days. It was such a nice ceremony. We’re so proud of him!

a senseless act of violence & 3 small ways you can help

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I don’t know exactly what to say, but I feel like saying nothing would be a disservice to all the victims and families in Connecticut.

It’s in our nature to want to fix things or solve a problem, but I don’t think this tragedy should be used as an opportunity to proselytize or further an agenda. It should not be politicized. It should not be blamed on mental illness or gun control. Fingers should not be pointed. There is no understanding a tragedy of this magnitude. There is no reason. It is senseless. It is horrific. And it makes me sick.

Having a daughter in kindergarten, I can’t help but identify with the parents of the Sandy Hook children. I read this article today, and I started bawling like a baby. Every parent grieves for those parents. Those beautiful little children. No more bedtime stories. Christmas gifts that will never be opened. A gigantic hole in the heart of every family involved, and the country as a whole.

I found myself thinking that surely there is something I can do to help those affected by this horrible tragedy, however small. So I compiled this list of  three small ways YOU can help:

  1. Donate to the Victim’s Relief Fund or United Way of Western Connecticut. Proceeds will directly assist the victim’s families in the form of counseling for survivors, funeral expenses, and the establishment of a scholarship fund supporting the students of Sandy Hook Elementary.
  2. Write a card. You or your children can write a card and send it to the school: Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Newtown, CT   06482. This is a way to help your children contribute as well, even young children. I also found this list of 10 Tips for Parents for helping your children deal with the tragedy.
  3. Sign this petition. I was sickened to learn that the Westboro Baptist Church plans on picketing vigils & funerals of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, the same group that routinely pickets the funerals of US service members killed-in-action. Please take a moment and sign the petition to have them legally recognized as a Hate Group by the US Government. Share and pass it on.

‘Tis the Season to be…Jolly?

Alrighty, I haven’t posted any “life updates” lately, so here’s what’s been going on with me:

  1. I’m super stoked that my tutorial “Elf on the Shelf” Mod in 6-easy Steps has gone viral on Pinterest. I had almost 1000 views here yesterday alone! That’s wayyy exciting for me. So I’ve been thinking of ways to keep that going. Suggestions welcome. ;)

    Add wire, velcro, and magnets to make your Elf more pose-able.

    Add wire, velcro, and magnets to make your Elf more pose-able.

  2. My amazing hubbs is graduating from UW-Madison next weekend! ((GO BADGERS, WOO!!)) We’re obviously excited. Then in March he will become active duty in the Army, and re-training will commence. Who knows where we’ll be in a year?! It’s both exciting, and somewhat stressful. It will be strange, since the Army is very different from the Marines in some ways, but I’m sure the lifestyle is similar overall. Details on this decision here, since I don’t really want to hear any more “How could you let him do that?!” questions.
  3. Since he will be active duty again, thought we could use some “alone time” before things get crazy, so I booked us a vacation to Cancun in January. We’re going to an adults-only all-inclusive for a whole week for some much-needed relaxation. I hope adult-only doesn’t translate to “swingers” because that would be really awkward. Haha. That said, I’m super excited! We’ve always stayed in the Riviera Maya, so I’ve never been to Cancun before. If anyone knows of fun stuff to do there, please share!cancun
  4. We decorated our tree! I have a particular affinity for real trees, specifically Frasier Firs. I think it’s because of the smell…it reminds me of my happy childhood Christmases, which makes sense because smell is the strongest sense linked to memory, so they say. We played Christmas music, and McKenzie had a blast helping us this year. She LOVES Christmastime, which is fun to see. IMG_7131
  5. We are having a family Christmas celebration here on the 15th, because my family will be in town for Jon’s graduation…which translates to: I have to clean the house and wrap all the gifts that are being mailed here. *sigh* I am mostly excited for the meal, which is going to be Beef Wellington (at the request of over 5 people). It’s amazing. If you are not a family of vegetarians, it is a must. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a labor intensive recipe, but easy and delicious. And I don’t dare modify that recipe either…why mess with perfection?TU0602_Beef-Wellington_lg
  6. Cali’s tail has been a PAIN. IN. THE. ASS. Seriously. (If you are not up-to-date with story, click here for details.) The bandaging is practically impossible to keep on, due to her frantic tail-wagging whenever we come home. And then she gets nervous, because she thinks it will hurt and shakes for like 5 minutes. Poor girl. I’ve been trying to keep her cone-head off whenever we’re home, though. She gets her stitches out next Thursday (hopefully), but she has another appointment Monday for some more professional re-bandaging.
  7. I have been running 1 mile a day. This is HUGE for me. Granted, it takes me 10 or 11 minutes, but I run the whole way. Yay me! Gotta get in slightly better shape for this upcoming vacay. ;) I would love to get into running again. I LOVE running when I am into it, but it’s the “getting into it” that’s difficult. It’s so hard. [Insert whiny voice here.] But it’s worth it, right? *sigh*

So that’s pretty much what’s been going on with me. How is your December so far? Do you find the holidays stressful, magical, or a little bit of both?