Bean In Love With Baby Stuff

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I have a love/hate relationship with “must-have” lists and I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that I’ve though “Wow!  I need everything on that list!”.  Different strokes for different folks; what works in one fam might not work in the next.  So, in saying all that, allow me to add to the masses and stick my foot in my oral cavity all in one foul swoop by posting one of my very own.   I won’t tell you that you need these things but I definitely will attest to the fact that they are all awesome products that have made our ride through parenting toddlers (or part-way through) a little less bumpy.

baby stuff

Dis to the claim to the er:  Some of the links below are affiliate links which means I’ll get a few cents if you buy through them.  Thank you if you do!  :)
 
1.  Medela Pump In Style Electric Breast Pump
  A friend gave us this after she had used it to pump for her sweet little girl who was in nicu for quite some time.  I loved it and the fact that she used it multiple times a day for several months and then gave it to me and I used it a bunch and it still works incredibly well is a true testament to the quality of this thing.  If you’re not in the market for an electric pump but maybe just have a need for a manual, I bought this Medela … to get some milk for Sebastian’s first solids and it worked great too.

2.  Nuby Tear-Free Rinse Pail
I recently became a Nuby Parent Blogger and as a part of that team, we got a box of goodies delivered to our doorstep.  In return, I was asked to review some of those goodies.  They didn’t ask me to review the rinse pail on the blog but I have to tell you…this thing is awesome and something I wish we’d known about long, long ago.  Let’s back up a minute before we pour out the deets though.  Do you remember this?
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[Having the time of his/her life, I’m sure.  Image via amazon.com]
Well, for one thing, they’re still on the market.  For another thing, I remember them and I remember them well.  My sisters and I had long hair growing up and when these came out, my mom ditched the head-under-faucet rinse technique for the cool blue ring quick-like.  There was nothing like getting that thing squeezed over your head and face onto your neck, getting your long hair pulled over the top of it, and getting it squeezed back up over your face, stuck under your nose for a few, and then tightly wound around your hairline so as to get your hair scrubbed and rinsed in a seemingly tear-free manner.  Rub a dub dub, right?  But, it’s 2015 now and no kid needs to be subjected to that anymore thanks to Nuby.  All you have to do is hold the back of your kid’s neck and press the front of the pail against their forehead.  Pour and you get the shampoo out without the squeezing and without any soap or water in the face.
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[I know it kind of looks like he’s braced himself for the face downpour but it’s only because this was his first time under the tear-free rinse pail and he was just expecting more of the same water in the face via the cup we used to use.  But, if you look closely, you can see the flow of water right above and going behind his ears, not in his face.  And, in case you were wondering, pink bath poufs are the only color we own at the moment.  Girls rule the roost here so the boys use pink.  ;) ]
  It’s seriously awesome and I wish I would’ve invented it.  Our go-to baby shower gift is #4 and now this too.
Along with the rinse pail, we were also sent a Sea Scooper and an Octopus Bath Time Toss
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We give them both ten thumbs up.  The Octopus toss is a hit as far as Sebastian is concerned.  It floats around him while he works on that great Tobin hand-eye coordination by sliding the rings on and off.  I’m sure the girls would love to toss the rings to the Octopus but they haven’t been able to try yet because somebody’s been hogging it.  ;) It’s just an all-around cute toy.  It’d make a cute gift!
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The whale though.  This is so shallow, I know, but I’ve been struggling with where to put the kids bath toys.  I bought a plastic basket at the Dollar Tree last year and stored the toys in that under the sink but Sebastian Seeker-and Destroyer-of-all-things-organized kept finding and scattering.  So atop the bathroom counter this little basket has sat for months and it’s (almost) driven me crazy.
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I’m a sucker for wide-open expanses of countertop and for kids bathrooms that don’t actually look like kids bathrooms (especially when ours is also our guest bathroom) so this was seriously cramping my style.  Enter the whale.  Not only does it make a great toy but it now harbors all of the kids bath toys after they’ve scooped them straight up out of the water and hangs on an included hook on the bathtub wall.
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It was ingeniously designed to allow bath toys to dry easily as all the excess water drains out the bottom/tail; it doesn’t sit and stagnate like it was probably doing in that dang basket.  We seriously love it…and so does our countertop.  P.S.  You can also find them both online at Buy Buy Baby, Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Baby Direct, and Walmart among other retailers.  Go forth and make bath time fun and clean up easy.  :)
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[Jonahette and the whale?]

3.  First Look and Find Books
My mom has purchased a bunch of these for our kids.  She gets them for like $5 at Marshall’s and TJMaxx and our kids love them.  You can tell by how worn the first ones we received are.  It is from reading these books with the girls when they were between 12 – 18 months that they learned their first animals and basic things around the house and in nature.  They’re pretty big too so they make great lap books.  Oh, and their board books so they’re more definitely more on the in destructive side than all those paperbacks we have stored away for more mature ages…half that it’s apparent have already had twins hands all over them.

4.  NoseFrida: The Snotsucker Nasal Aspirator
If we were all stranded on a desert island and could only bring three things, the SnotSucker would be one of them.  My aunt bought this for us before we had the girls and I’ll be honest, I took one look at the package and threw it in the back of the bathroom drawer, thinking I’d rather eat moldy cheese than use it…okay, exaggerating a tad but the idea looks disgusting.  But, but, this thing is incredible.  It works and it works good.  I was never a fan of those blue rubber bulb suckers (especially after I read and saw this) because you can’t really tell how much or what color you’re getting out of the kid’s nose.  I’m not saying our kid’s love when they have to get their snot sucked out with it, because they hate it (even though, if you act like it’s a game with Sebastian, he’ll go right along with you and laugh after every suck).  We usually have to pin them down but you gotta do what you gotta do and I consider this tough love.  We love it so much that it’s now our go-to shower gift for expecting friends. 

5.  Contours Options Double Stroller
We registered for this stroller for the twins and LOVED it.  It’s just the coolest and not as pricey as many similar double strollers (the newer model shown in the top graphic is a little more than the $199 our Aunts paid but still affordable when you’re talking good double strollers).  The seats can be faced frontwards, backwards, or towards each other, which was always a big hit with the girls.
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Instead of the seats, we used the car seat adapter (the stroller comes with one and we purchased a second) when both girls were infants and it made all those trips to Target a breeze…mostly.  The maneuvering ability was just amazing too.  Tight corners and 180’s are no issue with this beast.  Unfortunately, we don’t use it anymore since I need a place for three but while we did, it was awesome and we highly recommend it if you’re in the market for a double shot of wheels.

6.  Elizabeth Mitchell Pandora Station
If you don’t want to drive yourself crazy with cheesy kids’ music allllll the day long, switch on this Pandora station.  It’s chill and won’t drive you batty.  Trust me.  We have it on almost all day.  It’s for kids but not by kids, which is usually a good thing when it comes to music.  ;)

7.  Joovy Nook Highchair
We had little to no clue what we wanted in a high chair when we were registering for a couple for the girls.  We did know that we didn’t want or need bulky though.  Somehow I stumbled across the Nook and read about how it folded and I was sold.  My aunt bought two for us and we haven’t looked back.  We did get them in the white leatherette which, surprisingly, is amazing (they also come in black faux leather and a couple of colored fabric covers).  I liked the idea of being able to simply wipe the chair down vs. having to wash the fabric to get out food messes. I read that the white didn’t stain like you’d think it would by a reviewer and I trusted her words.  And it doesn’t and believe me, the kids have had their fair share of tomato sauce and raspberries and all that staining stuff but there are zero stains on the faux leather.  Our covers are a tad worn though; the faux leather has started to crack in some places but they’ve been used at least three times a day now for over two and a half years so I’d say they’re doing pretty dang good.  Eventually we’ll get the girls eating at the big kid table (yes, they’re still in high chairs because it’s less mess and with three under three, that is critical!) but for now, we love our Joovy Nooks.  Before the girls were born I thought I’d fold them up and stow them away after every meal but, HA!, who was I kidding?  But even though I don’t fold them up at home, their incredible folding ability has allowed us to easily take them everywhere we go that the kids have to eat - vacation, dinner at friend’s houses, to the beach, etc…
joovy nook

8.  Neat Solutions Bibs
Best bibs ever.  Ever, ever, ever, ever…  Lots of people talk about how they don’t like bibs with pockets because they’re gross.  Food gets in them and they’re the worst to clean out and blah, blah, blah.  Maybe they’re right but then they haven’t tried these bibs.  My mom bought these for the girls at Target but they’re online too.  The thing about them is that, unlike other pocket bibs, the pockets on these are velcroed up in the back so that, when the kid is done eating, you unvelcro the pocket so that the entire bib lays flat and you clean it off.  It’s a little hard to explain but just trust me.  If you want the best of both worlds – a bib with a pocket that catches food and one that easily wipes clean (and dries super fast after cleaning!), then this one is your winner.  My only complaint is that, after using the same two bibs on the girls for the past year now (I have yet to go grab some for the boy), the velcro is really starting to get worn out.  I recently bought some metal snaps though that I’m going to replace the worn velcro with (and then I’m going to email Neat Solutions and tell them they should make that upgrade) so they’ll be as good as new.  Seriously, the best.

9.  Potette Plus Travel Potty Seat
I mentioned this little portable potty seat in our potty-training post and now I’m back to tell you that it is the best portable potty seat out there.  Now, I haven’t tried any other ones but I don’t have to because this thing had me at first potty and still has me.  My sister highly recommended we get it and so we bought it off amazon.com and are so happy we did.  You can also buy liners to go with it but we just use plastic bags with about four or five sheets of paper towels at the bottom to soak up the liquid and that words great (just make sure your plastic bags don’t have any holes in them!)  The picture doesn’t really do the best job of explaining how this thing really works (once again, see our potty training post for a better play-by-play) but, it folds out to fit over any public toilet seat (we have yet to find one it doesn’t fit over) and also utilizes the same folding technique in a different way to form a little standing potty.  It’s a genius product and I hope somewhere, the person who invented it is sitting pretty because they totally deserve it.

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There, that wasn’t too bad, was it?  Hopefully not.  I’ve had this post drafted for a long, long time so it feels good to finally get it out there to pass along some great products that we really and truly use and love!  I wouldn’t say we’re pros at this whole parenting thing but these things help us feel a little smarter than beginners.  :)

What “must-haves” am I missing that you love!  Share the goods!   

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Have a blessed Holy Week everyone!  The blog will be quiet for the rest of the week and then next week we’re jetting off to Denver so 1) pray for an easy flight and 2) share your tips on flying with toddlers because we’ll probably need all the help we can get!

A Story of Four Souls

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*** There is talk of human reproduction and such in this little post here so if you get scared by laying your eyes on TMI, you might want to just use your back button.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.  ;) ***

And…in case you missed them, read about our friendship, our best friendship, and our wedding & honeymoon.  :)

We wanted to wait a few months to have kids after we got married (December ‘07).  Anthony was in school full-time and I was working full-time so throwing a baby into the mix might’ve been a tad stressful.  He’d be done the upcoming May though and so we thought maybe right after that would be a good time for an addition.  He could get a job and I could maybe stay home with our kid(s).  That was the plan.  At the time, we were charting my cycles using my body temperature and other signs (like cervical mucus consistency and the position and feel of the cervix) a woman’s body exhibits to determine where I was in my cycle and whether or not I was fertile at any given time.  It’s called Natural Family Planning…you might’ve heard of it.  Since we were trying to avoid getting pregnant, we simply didn’t *you know* during the times I was fertile.  Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  Right.  And it was, only we were a little reckless three months in (and by reckless I mean we disregarded my chart thinking we’d just see what happened if we, *you know* during my fertile cycle).  Well, guess what?  There were two lines on that little stick a couple of weeks later.  :)  We were so excited!  It was a tad earlier than we had planned but I guess we thought we’d worry about that nine months down the road.  With the help of our Maker, we had made this tiny little human being that was equal parts Anthony and Sheena.  What could be more amazing (probably a tiny little human being that was 75% Anthony and 25% Sheena but…)??  I called the nearest Ob/Gyn office, told them I was pregnant, and asked for a lady doctor because I’m squeamish like that.  At seven weeks pregnant, Anthony and I walked into that office knowing that we were about to see our tiny baby in our first ultrasound and our hearts were pumped.   

Once everything was situated and what looked like static started to glow on the screen in front of us, the doctor (who was filling in for my real doc who was on maternity leave at the time) didn’t say anything but “Hmmm…” and it seemed like it was taking him an awfully long time to show us our baby.  Finally he stopped moving the wand and on the screen was a bunch of gray stuff with a small black hole in the midst of it.  It was an “empty sac or blighted ovum” as he called it.  He told us the gestational sac had started to develop but not the embryo and that I’d eventually miscarry the sac.  He told us he was so sorry and left the room.  Anthony and I cried.  We held each other close in that dark room and just cried.    

I didn’t want to go the D&C route (Dilation & Curettage – a surgery performed after miscarriages) and so it wasn’t until two weeks later that I started miscarrying on my own.  Two weeks after that I was still bleeding and woke up one midnight to very heavy bleeding and huge blood clots.  Anthony and I rushed to the Emergency Room where we sat for several hours, waiting for the bleeding to wane; me hooked up to an IV.  It did and we were sent home, tired and reliving the fact that our baby hadn’t made it past its first few hours/days.  It wasn’t until another week and a half later that I actually passed the leftover tissue and stopped bleeding a few days after it had.

My doctor told us we should wait a month to try conceiving again.  We did and after a month, we started carefully watching my charts to know when our highest chances of conceiving were.  It was August ‘08.  Six months later I went in for a regularly scheduled pap smear and told my doctor that we had been trying to conceive again with no luck.  She told me to start taking cough syrup around the time I’m fertile and that should do the trick (it loosens cervical mucus).  Alrighty then.  Will do.

No results though.  In June ‘08 we packed up our lives and moved ourselves down to Alabama.  We continued watching my charts, trying and trying and trying, but every month my now-dreaded period came and every month we got more and more discouraged.  Would we ever create another baby to call our own?  Would we ever get to see what Anthony + Sheena looked like?  Would I ever get to experience a live human being dancing within my womb?  Those were almost daily questions.

As hard as it was to suffer through the infertility though, we knew God had a plan.  There are so many babies and children out there in need of a good home with loving parents and maybe we were called to open our arms to them and call them as our own.  Adoption, as great of a thing as it is, is a tough pill to swallow though when you’re longing for your own.  We were open to it and we loved the prospect but the cloud of infertility did not disappear.

Then a life-changing encounter happened.  It happened in November ‘09 while we were attending weekly meetings of a book study group at our church.  It was a fairly small group of people we’d meet with and one of them was an Ob/Gyn, we’ll refer to him as Dr. P.  As of yet, I hadn’t met with any other Ob’s down here and I wasn’t too keen on calling up a male for the job but something made me talk to him.  One night after book study, Anthony and I pulled him aside and told him a little about our troubles.  He listened and told us to come see him as soon as we could and we’d check things out.  So we did. 

We started out with Dr. P by getting monthly ultrasounds during my fertile period to determine whether or not I was ovulating.  My charts were showing regular cycles so his assumption was that maybe I wasn’t ovulating.  These happened December 2009 - March 2010.  My very first ultrasound showed a ruptured follicle, which was good!  I had ovulated on my own!  The next few months we did the same thing and every ultrasound showed a well-maturing egg.  After the ultrasounds at which a mature egg was spotted, I was given an hCG injection, which helps trigger egg release.  Even though my first ultrasound showed I had ovulated on my own, we just wanted to be absolutely certain so the hCG made sure the egg would be released.  The next 24 hours after the injection were critical in making sure that *you know* happened.  We did this for months though without a pregnancy.  During this time we also had a semen analysis done – we *you know* with a perforated condom which we emptied into a hospital-given plastic container and high-tailed to the lab directly after to be analyzed.  The analysis showed everything was perfectly normal there.  I think I already knew it was me and not Anthony but the realization was a little hard to swallow.  But, man, do I have an incredible husband.  It wasn’t my battle.  It was ours and his love so evidently made sure I knew that. 

Four months after we had started the monthly ultrasounds, Dr. P did a post-coital test.  Basically Anthony and I had to *you know* and directly after we did, I had to head straight for Dr. P’s office where he pulled some of Anthony’s sperm out of my vaginal canal and looked at it under a microscope to see how it was interacting with my mucus.  The results were bad.  It seemed that I had an auto-immune issue.  Basically, my body was sending antibodies to kill Anthony’s sperm the minute they entered my system, seeing them as bad foreign objects.  Not great if you’re trying to get pregnant.  To treat this issue, we abstained from sex for six months – March-August, 2010.  Yeah.  Tough.  The hope was that, by not subjecting my body to Anthony’s sperm for a long period of time, the antibodies would just disappear as they would no longer be “needed”.  I don’t remember a lot about that six month period…must have blocked it out.  :)  After our six month hiatus, we had another post-coital test done that showed normal results!  A great thing to hear after such a sacrifice! 

We thought for sure we’d get pregnant the next month now that the “problem” was solved but we didn’t, nor did we the next month or the next after that.  At this point, I was labeled with “unexplainable infertility”.  All systems were go as far as the eye could see yet there was no pregnancy.

At what seemed like a dead end, we once again brought up the topic of adoption and I also started charting my cycle using the Creighton Model.  We had read and heard testimonies of people who had used the Creighton Model and it’s sidekick, NaProTechnology, to get pregnant with incredible results.  You can learn more about it here.  We had to go to an inital class to learn to chart using this model and then I met with a Creighton Model Practioner who looked at my charts with me and helped me (Felricia is the best!).  After a few months of charting my cycle using this method, we learned that I had signs of a few reproductive issues.  (For one, I had brown bleeding at the end of my cycle/beginning of my next cycle that signaled possible endometriosis.  It’s amazing what you can learn from just watching the signs your body shows you, isn’t it…God wasn’t kidding around when He created these masterpieces we call our bodies.)  In order to look into and hopefully treat whatever was going on with my body, we needed to have a hormone analysis and possible laparoscopic surgery done.  But, we ran into another hurdle.  We found out that NaProTechnology in Omaha, Nebraska (where we’d go to have the surgery) didn’t have a contract with our current insurance and there was no way we could pay for it right away (it was something like $8,000+).  We decided to start saving and praying whether maybe this was just God’s way of telling us to let go and then a light bulb went off a couple of months later.  Why didn’t we ask Dr. P if he could perform the surgery?  Well, guess what folks, we asked him and he said of course because, as it turns out, laparoscopic surgeries are done by Ob/Gyn’s everywhere.  I guess we were just naive in thinking that it was a surgery only done by NaPro doctors.  (Side note:  We found out right after the twins were born that NaPro contracted with our insurance which is great for those in similar situations as we were!  Also, just so I don’t make it sound like NaPro isn’t needed just because any doc can perform a laparoscopic surgery, the work of Dr. Hilger’s and his NaProTechnology is incredible and a HUGE blessing to couples trying to conceive and he deserves all the admiration and recommendation in the world.  And did I also mention how coincidental it was that not only did our Dr. P agree to the surgery but he was also very familiar with the work of Dr. Hilger’s as he had read his entire medical book on NaPro!!)  So, not only did the clouds part and sunshine beam down upon us but also, our insurance would cover the surgery.  Once again, that familiar feeling of rising hopes came over us and we scheduled a surgery.

A few months before the surgery I had a hormone analysis done by our doctor.  I had to get my blood drawn every couple of days during my cycle and that blood was analyzed to check my hormone levels at any given time during my cycle.  The end results were fairly normal.  My hormones were just as they were supposed to be with the exception of progesterone which was a little low, but not alarmingly so.  Just to be on the safe side though, I was given a prescription of progesterone that I used after ovulation/during the last half of each cycle.  

Next up was the surgery.  I had it done August 25, 2011.  My “unexplainable infertility” label was ripped off that day when my doctor found I had endometriosis, and pretty severe at that!  It had spread to the outside of my uterus and to my ovaries and was probably blocking my released eggs from getting to the fallopian tubes, or so we hoped.  During the surgery, my doctor removed most if not all of the endometriosis and also checked my tubes to make sure they weren’t blocked.  They weren’t.  We had the highest hopes of all that month, thinking that finally, we’d definitely be holding our own baby nine-ten months later.  The endometriosis was gone, we already knew I was ovulating on my own, I’d had another hCG shot just in case, and I was taking progesterone.  Everything was working for us this time.  But the cycle after the surgery didn’t bring a baby but only much of the same and more discouragement and confusion. 

The next month my doctor gave me the shot, I took the progesterone, and we added Clomid to the mix.  Clomid is a med that stimulates ovulation.  It has a reputation of causing a woman to create more than one mature follicle/release more than one egg which was why I was so nervous when he told me we should go for the Clomid.  “But what if we have twins or triplets??”  He assured me with a laugh that I had a very, very low chance (5-10% chance) of that ever happening but that I really should take the Clomid because if we’re serious about getting a baby in there, we should use everything at our disposal.  “Ok.”  He prescribed me a low dosage of the stuff and I went on my merry way that month armed with all my baby-making paraphanelia.

Well, guess what showed up a couple of weeks later? 

Two little pink lines!
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[Image via Smock Paper where this card is available for purchase.]
(I get a little weirded out when I see for-real pregnancy test sticks so I thought I’d spare you a photo of mine because 1) I didn’t take one and 2), maybe you’re like me and don’t wanna see it anyway.  It’s kinda like weird as in me showing you a picture of some of my used toilet paper…or maybe I’m just weird for being weird about it but either way, we had a positive!)

FINALLY!  We finally had another baby…or as we’d find out a few weeks later, babies.  We didn’t know who to tell first!  We wanted to shout it from the rooftops…but instead we made this (very primitive) video!  There were many happy tears that were cried upon hearing that announcement but my favorite, most unforgettable response came from one of my best friends, Lauren.  She cried and almost plowed me over.  It was awesome.  :)

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So that’s our infertility story, or at least one side of it.  The other side, in my opinion, is far more incredible though.  Let’s dig in, shall we?

During our entire infertility journey, early-on and late in the game, my conversations with my Grandma (my mom’s mom) always consisted of her sweetly consoling me and telling me she was praying everyday that we will one day have children.  “I’m praying you have twins!”, she always said with a giggle.  “Oh grandma!  Don’t do that!”, I’d tell her with a giggle right back.  She’s one of the holiest people I know; her love for God is so evident and her prayers so powerful…obviously.  Needless to say, I now always tell her my most important intentions because I know if she prays for it and it doesn’t happen, it ain’t God’s will.  :)

Next, let’s go back to right before we talked to Dr. P for the first time; late 2009.  I said this novena to St. Therese the Little Flower to offer up our infertility to God and to get some extra powerful intercession from this sweet little saint.  (If you’re unfamiliar with what a novena is, read this.)  Novena finished, I went to our first appointment with Dr. P a couple of weeks later (on a Wednesday) and that night, went to Mass with Anthony.  Unbeknownst to me prior to walking into church that night, that Mass was a special one commemorating the Our Lady of Guadalupe Silver Rose Run.
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[Image from here.]
This rose travels around the country going from church to church and this night it just happened to be at our church.  I was convinced St. Therese wanted me to see this rose and that we were going to get pregnant this month.  Also, for whatever crazy reason, I didn’t know at the time and until that particular Mass, that Our Lady of Guadalupe is actually depicted as pregnant with our Lord!  The rose combined with my newfound knowledge of that blew my mind that night and I sat there and knew that I was supposed to acknowledge all of that that night.  It was more than coincidence; it was meant to be.  Well, as you know, I didn’t get pregnant that month or the month after or the month after.  Fast forward a year and a half later, post-surgery and the month before we conceived the twins, we went to another Wednesday night Mass and lo and behold, the rose was making its way back through to our church!  I didn’t see this until after but I had been to TWO of those masses in the past year and some.  I watched as TWO roses were processed up the aisle; different times but TWO roses!  TWO, TWO, TWO!  Is it a stretch to say my prayers were answered with the TWO girls?  I think not.  ;)

There’s more though.  Like I mentioned above, I charted my cycle and because I did so, I could pretty much pinpoint the day I ovulated every month.  We conceived the girls late-October 2011.  Soon after we found out that we were pregnant, I told one of our sweet friends and her husband, who had also known the cross of infertility (and who also just had their second sweet babe a couple of weeks ago!)  She wrote me back and told me she had been wanting to talk to me for some time.  She wrote that she had offered her up pregnancy and especially, her labor for us.  Her sweet baby girl was six weeks old at that point.  I was six weeks pregnant.  Once again, not a coincidence but only the power of prayer. 

A couple of weeks before we conceived, Anthony went to a healing Mass at our church.  For some reason, I wasn’t able to go with him that night.  At the end of the service, the priest who was celebrating was giving testimony of healings that had taken place during the service.  One of those testimonies was this - “Someone is here whose wife has been unable to get pregnant.  She has been healed.”  Not a coincidence.

Also in October 2011, some dear friends of ours made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  They told us they would pray for us there.  They lit a candle for us and also said prayers for us in Bethlehem in the Church of the Nativity.  They told us that, when it was their turn to pray at and touch the place where Jesus was born, they heard a baby cry.  We conceived several days later.  Not a coincidence.

Months after the twins were born, a friend of ours came down to play a concert for a fundraiser.  While he was here he pulled us aside and wanted to tell us that last mid-October (2011), he was at a Theology of the Body conference and during the conference was mention of infertility in one of the talks and, knowing a little about what we were going through at the time with our struggles with it, he felt it on his heart to pray for us and so he did; right then and there.  Once again, a couple of weeks later, we conceived the twins.  Not a coincidence.

A couple of months before we conceived the twins, some friends of ours went on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Spain and, while they were there, they prayed specifically for us at the Madonna del Parto (Our Lady of Childbirth) at the Basilica of Saint Augustine.  One of the same friends who went on this pilgrimage prayed a novena to St. Therese with his wife (two of our closest friends) after his return.  They said it for us.  We conceived shortly thereafter.  Not a coincidence.  

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7

After we learned we were pregnant, I went in at five weeks to get the usual blood work confirmation done and was so wrapped up in thought while walking through the parking lot to the doctors’ office that I almost ran into this statue (which just so happens to be in the middle of the sidewalk):
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Catching myself from sure embarrassment and probably injury two inches before impact, I looked up at Jesus and the only thing I could focus on were his fingers.  Peace.  That’s what He’s imparting…you probably know.  But all I could think was two. “Two?…I hope you’re not trying to tell me something Lord.”  Those were my exact thoughts as I walked on into the building and about my day.  Two weeks later, at our first ultrasound, we found out we were having twins and the first thing I did when I left that building was take a picture of this statue because, yes, he was telling me something and I had just realized what that was.  :)

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[37 weeks pregnant with the twins!  See all the bellies here.]

GOD IS GOOD PEOPLE!

.           .           .

Infertility is hard.  So hard.  It’s an emotional roller coaster every. single. month.  Will you get pregnant this month?  Will it finally happen?  Will it ever happen?  What is wrong with us?  What is wrong with me? 

We relied on God so heavily throughout that period in our life and He didn’t let us down.  We prayed every night that we would get pregnant and then right after that we prayed for His will to be done.  If it was His will that we never conceive and bear our own biological children, then we would accept that.  It wouldn’t be an easy thing to accept, but we would’ve.  We never felt abandoned in our entire time struggling, but I know that it’s easy to fall into that thought; to feel like somehow God has passed you over.  Like He’s punishing you for something you’ve done or not done.  Like He’s purposefully making you barren when He’s blessing your friends with all the kids they want.  He hasn’t and he wouldn’t.  He has a plan.  He always has a plan.

A dear friend shared this with me during that time we were both struggling with the load of infertility and it’s too profound to keep it to myself - “I had such an epiphany the other day. Sounds silly I'm sure, but, I realized that this is not a punishment.  Plain and simple.  I was not not getting pregnant because I wasn't praying enough or I didn't deserve it, or for whatever reason. I was talking with my husband and he just really helped me to understand something I didn't even know I didn't understand.  He made the point that going through this is giving us a perspective no one else could have. He treated it as almost like a privilege (I'd be hard pressed to really call it that, but you know what I mean!) because God is teaching and growing in us in ways that others cannot experience.  I just thought, wow, not only is this struggle bringing me closer to Heaven every day that I suffer in virtue, but on the other end of all of this God will have given me something he did not give to the ones without this cross. I came away from that conversation realizing God's amazing love for me, and how deep my love for Him was in return.”

.           .           .

Eight months after the twins were born, we weren’t even trying to get pregnant (but we weren’t not trying either) and whoop, there it was…a two pink lines that meant Sebastian was on his way.  I thought for sure we’d have to brave those murky infertility waters again if we every wanted to have more kids, especially since Dr. P told us after my surgery that there was a good chance my endometriosis would return.  I don’t know what the future holds as far as more kids go (we would love more but we’re working on being prudent over here) but I know that I have no signs of endometriosis thus far and I got my regular cycles back when Sebastian was at the ripe ‘ole age of two months (and I exclusively breastfed him so riddle me that one) so there’s been plenty of time for the issue to redevelop yet it seems as if it’s gone for good.  Who knows?  The bottom line is that whatever happens, God hasn’t let us down yet and so we will roll with the punches, try and be patient, and bet on Him.  :)

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

Baby’s Own B&B

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I consider myself a pretty punctual person.  Actually, I really hate being late and, until I had kids and time just slips away into the abyss when you’re getting them and yourself ready, I rarely ever was.  But, like I said, kids can throw a wrench into that agenda.  This doesn’t just go for getting from place to place but it goes for the blog as well.  We’re going to dig back a year for this little post.  Remember this Jenny Lind changing table we bought at a thrift store for $14?
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Well we turned it into a co-sleeper in the week before Sebastian was born...Anthony’s dad was here and literally put in the last few screws the day before we came home with our first little guy.  It became his very own Bed & Breakfast – bed since, obviously, and breakfast because his food source, me, was right there next to him and at his beck and call.

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We originally wanted to just buy a co-sleeper like this Arm’s Reach one (we borrowed a friend’s when we had the girls) but we didn’t want to spend the money to do so at the time and I couldn’t find a good used one anywhere.  It’s okay though because I love this one 10384 times more than the manufactured ones.

Unfortunately, since it was a last minute project and I was 40 weeks pregnant at the time we were building/refashioning it, I did a horrible job at documenting the process!  So sorry!  I’ll try to explain things as best I can in case you want to take on a Jenny Lind switcheroo yourself!  If you have any questions about the process that I don’t answer in the post, always feel free to email me (beaninlove@gmail.com)!  :)

The changing table itself was in pretty good condition.  It had been painted the periwinkle color and some of that paint was coming off in spots but it wasn’t a big deal since we were going to repaint it anyway.  The first thing we had to do though was get what would be the bed part level with the top of our mattress.  We figured out that if we just cut off the bottom legs completely, it’d be the exact height we needed it to be.  That meant that the bottom shelf would sit directly on the floor which made the whole contraption very stable.  The next thing we did was rebuild the top part of the table.  We removed the rails and spindles there and filled in all the holes left with wood filler.  Then Anthony built a three-sided frame with some narrow pieces of wood on the three sides that wouldn’t be up against our bed.  After all that was finished, he took it outside, sanded it down lightly, wiped it down, and gave it a coat of spray primer followed by a coat of white spray paint.  We let it sit outside in the unusually mild December weather to gas off for a couple of days.
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We wanted to add a mesh layer around the top frame for extra security and so Sebastian could still use the co-sleeper when he learned to roll over.  I had a hard time finding mesh like the mesh they use on the top of actual co-sleepers so I just bought some strong white tulle from Walmart and Anthony stapled it around the top frame.  cosleeper (5)
Except when he was finished it looked really shoddy and was really rippled and so we ended up removing it.  It was tough to staple it on and make sure everything was straight and tight so we’ll figure out another way to either add some extra rails or mesh for the next kid.  For the time being, we used this co-sleeper up until the first sign of rolling over and then to the crib, Sebastian went.

To the two shelves below the sleeper, I added a gray and white geometric fabric I found at Hobby Lobby (here is the same fabric at fabric.com).  I made a simple template by taping together several sheets of computer paper I laid next to each other atop one shelf and used that large piece to trace and cut out the fabric shelf liner.  I attached the fabric with glue; several small dots of fabric glue placed every six or so inches around the shelf perimeter did the trick.
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I also used the shelf template I made to cut out a mattress, made from some three-inch foam we bought at JoAnn Fabrics.

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Last, I whipped up a little fitted sheet I made out of a queen-sized sheet I found at Dirt Cheap for $3 that matched my shelf liner fabric.  I laid a waterproof mattress cover (from Babies ‘R Us”) over the foam mattress and put the sheet over that so that if our spitter spit up on his bed, it wouldn’t soak down into the difficult-to-clean foam.

Here’s the co-sleeper in action (minus the now one-year-old baby):
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When I posted the after picture at the beginning of this post on Instagram, there was a little confusion about how it worked and I even received some emails questioning how safe it was.  Yeah.  My bad for posting it away from the bed when in reality, that’s where it belongs.  Hopefully this clears up all that confusion and those who were concerned about Sebastian’s safety can rest in peace knowing we don’t intentionally endanger our kids.  :)

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We actually moved my nightstand over and slid the co-sleeper all the way up to the wall when we used it.  That way, I was face-to-face with him and didn’t have to sit up and bend over to see what he was or wasn’t up to.  Also, everything that Sebastian owned was stowed in baskets underneath on the co-sleeper shelves which was awesome.  Since he didn’t yet have a room to call his own, it was great that he at least had one space where we could store all his stuff.
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Since it was the dead of winter when he was born and I needed blankets, I also tucked the comforter and sheets that were in the way between the mattress and the co-sleeper so that they wouldn’t somehow end up over Sebastian.
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I think for our next kid we’re going to do a little reworking with the top frame since the netting didn’t work out.  I’m not sure how that’ll all go down yet but we’ll add a few more rails in there probably.  I know it looks like there’s a good amount of space in between the two top horizontal rails but you’d be hard pressed to fit a newborn through that space and, like I mentioned above, we only used the co-sleeper until the first signs of rolling over happened, then it was to the crib he went. 
 
I borrowed a model for effect:
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I hauled this thing from Sebastian’s room, where it’s been sitting for the past year, into our room for pictures and then hauled it back into his room and now it sits in his closet and serves as extra shelving which works perfectly!  In use even when it’s not being used for its intended purpose!  I like those kinds of things.  :)

One last before and after:
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I’ve been seeing lots of Jenny Lind changing tables like this one all over second-hand sites so if you’re looking for a great co-sleeping option, you should take a stab at this one!  If and when we rework the top of our sleeper, I promise to write up a full tutorial!

Happy Monday!

Infinite Nursing

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That’s kinda what you get when an infinity scarf doubles as a nursing cover, right?  Or maybe I’m just confused with what nursing sometimes feels like.  And maybe those feelings are taking me back to nursing the twins at which time it did seem like I spent infinite amount of time nursing.  And maybe I’m just getting way off track here.  Focus. 

Right.

A few months ago I was strolling the clearance area of our local Hancock Fabrics when I spotted this striped jersey knit, marked at $3:
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It was about a yard of fabric, 60” wide, a deep olive and white (though it looks black in the pictures), and I scooped it up because I can’t say no to oh-so-soft stripes.  A couple of days later I turned it into a nursing cover/infinity scarf and this is the story of how I did it.

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First I squared off the fabric.  The long edges were cut a little quirky so all I had to do was cut along the stripes/sides to get a nice straight edge.  See the crooked edge before?
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A cut along the lines made everything much better.
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If you’re working with a non-striped pattern, using a cutting mat or a squared edge will help you get straight, 90 degree edges.

Now I had a big rectangle of fabric measuring 36” x 60”; the two shorter ends were the factory-cut edges (or selvage edges) and the longer edges were the store-cut ones/the ones I evened out.  Since the fabric was jersey and wouldn’t fray, I just left these outside, long edges alone after they were cut; no hemming.  To get the infinity scarf, I sewed the two short edges together.  However, this could easily be done minus the sewing with some no-sew tape.  Here’s how:

The No-Sew Version

Place a long piece of no-sew tape along the short edge of your scarf (I used some white ribbon just for a visual).
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Making sure your long piece of fabric isn’t twisted somewhere in the middle, bring your other short edge over and lay it on top of the sewing tape.  Your fabric should be laying flat and should be a large tube.  Make sense? IMG_5749

Last, using the steam option on your iron, iron down those two, overlapping ends.  The no-sew tape will do its magic and make those ends stick together and you’ll be good to go!
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The Sewn Version

If you decide to sew your edges together, simply overlap them a half inch or so and pin them together.
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No need to fold anything; the jersey won’t fray.
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Then sew a straight stitch right along your overlapping layers, making sure to backstitch at each end and that’s it!  IMG_5753  
I wear the seam at the back so it’s not noticeable at all.

No baby:
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I couldn’t decide which shoes to wear…
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Baby:
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And I was going to crop this one but then I just couldn’t because it’s kinda the story of my life – I sit down to nurse and somebody has to go.
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What’re you lookin’ at?
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Here’s the funny thing about this little project, I was so excited to share this with you guys a couple of months ago when I made it because I really thought this infinity scarf/nursing cover was a genius idea and I thought I was the first to discover it but alas, there are those who have been there, done that.  :)  So great though because, if you don’t feel like making your own, you can find them at these fine shops:

Hold Me Close

Nursing Time

Three 4 Design

.           .           .

Happy TGIalmostF

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A Story of Two Becoming One

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Missed the prequels?  Read about our friendship here and our best friendship here.

The day was December 1, 2007.  The night before, meteorologists on all channels warned of an ice storm coming through that night into the next morning that would halt life as we knew it.  We asked for it; planning our wedding for a day right smack dab in the middle of winter in Nebraska.  Wish for the opposite as we might’ve, when we woke up that morning, every single thing outside had a thick coat of the cold, hard stuff over it.  I took this picture of the grass while we headed to the car that we weren’t supposed to be driving (verrrry slowly), to the wedding, on the hazardous roads:
frozen grass
[ice ice baby]

Despite the ice though, that day ranks up there as one of the best days of my life (rivaled only by three births).  My sisters prepped me that morning (think hair, make-up, dress, waxing…my own personal salon and day spa) and that alone will always be cherished.

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We spent the morning snacking and laughing and talking and all of us so intrigued by this road that none of us had  ever experienced as of yet – the marriage of a sibling.  One of us was, in a sense, leaving the only family we had ever known to join to another and that was scary and exciting all rolled up into one little ball of happiness.

It took us a good hour to drive what is usually a 20-25 minute drive to the church that day but we made it, the show went on, there were tears during the procession (sisters raise their hands) and vows (my hand goes up), and a very, very happy married couple in the end.
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We had small wedding planned (about 120 people) but only about two-thirds of our guests were able to come thanks to the big ice blanket outside.  But, we were blessed to have almost every single one of our closest friends in attendance.

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I don’t want to get too lost in details because there are so, so many and we’ll border novel status but if you have a hankering for more, you can watch this video, read about how we planned a wedding on a budget here, and know that talk of our wedding probably isn’t over because, hello, I’m a blogger and I frequent memory lane.  We ate, drank, danced, and were merry and then, just like that, the day came to a close and, despite the freezing cold outside the heat rose…if you know what I mean.  Wait, did I just cross an invisible line?  Sorry, let me take a step over and into the honeymoon.  ;)

We planned our wedding on a very tight budget and our honeymoon as well.  Thanks to a family spending effort on our credit card, we racked up enough miles to get us to Italy, where we spent the week after our wedding.  We rented a car and made our way from Rome down to Tuscany where we stayed in a quaint villa in the middle of a vineyard. 

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[The only time I sat in the drivers’ seat, while the rental was parked.  Have you seen Italians drive?  My husband is one and you best know I ain’t steering no wheel in that craziness.]

The balcony off our villa, an incredible view, and the man of my dreams who had just become mine forever…Our Wedding 043
…cue the sighs and heart eyes via muah.

The honeymoon was amazing.  The food, oh my gosh, SO. GOOD.  We ate out a few times, once in a castle in which we were the only guests (off-season is the way to go!) and grabbed the rest of our food at markets to make at home.  We spent the days traveling to different parts of Tuscany and even made our way to Siena and Assisi for a couple of day trips.  We did, however, forget a clock and the villa was without one (no international cell plan either so no dice there!) which caused lots of confusion waking up in the supposed middle of the night/early morning/latelate night…wait, what time is it?  #jetlag  But the great thing was that there’s a thing called a sun (the big yellow one…Brian Regan anybody?) and when it was up, we knew it was morning so no worries!  ;) 

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[Assisi]

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[around our villa]
 
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[also around our villa]

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[in a nearby village]

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[completely satisfied]

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[the Italian countryside…take me back]

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[Assisi]

Also, even though the pictures might make it look like we were basking in the decent weather, it was pretty darn cold over there.  It was an additional fee (per heating unit…whatever that is) to run the electric heater in the villa so we ran it for maybe an hour all week, not wanting to rack up a huge bill we didn’t want to pay.  When we checked out and went to pay that heating bill we thought would probably be $50, imagine the face palm that followed when it was only $3 and we had kept our villa near freezing all week.   Thank goodness for all the cuddling and all the…oops, there’s that line again.  ;)

Part four, next in line!  Stay tuned!

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