Upgrading Melissa

Upgrading Melissa

This is the story of how I'm bettering myself every day, in every way…

McBaby’s Nursery Tour + Tips For Planning Your Nursery!

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Well guys, I’m still pregnant. As my doctor said yesterday, I have “baby toes up to my nose.”  At 38 weeks, I’m pretty miserable; but the good news is, I only have 2 weeks to go until I get to meet my baby, and that’s motivation enough for me!  

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my nursery pictures with you, as well as some things I learned along the way.  I never thought I’d care so much about the nursery, but as the months passed, I became downright obsessive.  I blame it on some natural-hormonal-nesting instinct…and Pinterest.  :)  But it turned out exactly how I pictured it.  It’s calm and serene, just “baby” enough, and functional.  I’m in love! 

So without further ado…Welcome to McBaby’s Nursery!

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Tip #1:  Set a budget before you begin.

Brad’s quote:  ”I never, ever thought we’d put so much time or money into this nursery.  When I thought about baby expenses, I didn’t even consider this!”  It’s true…everything “baby” is expensive.  Manufacturers capitalize on that aforementioned “natural-hormonal-nesting instinct” and price everything higher.  My advice:  Set a budget, at least on the bigger items (like furniture), and then don’t even look at more expensive brands. Also, look for coupons!  We were trying to decide whether to buy our crib, and that same night, I received a 25% off coupon from Wayfair.com that made our choice for us!  It was fate!

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Crib:  Wayfair.com
Bedding: Target (quilt, sheet, crib skirt) (Thanks, Grandma P!)
Mobile: Pottery Barn Kids (Thanks, Great Grandma K!)

Tip #2: Think beyond YEAR 1.

It’s easy to picture bringing your baby home to your beautiful nursery, but it’s important to remember that will be his bedroom for many years to come.  I know that within just a few short years, that crib will be replaced with a bed shaped like a pirate ship or a race car, and then, someday, that room will be home to a teenager, who will be hanging band/movie posters on the wall that I (a.ka. Brad) so lovingly painted. ;)

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We struggled a lot with the “future” of this room. Did we buy a small baby dresser/changing table combo that will work now, and invest in furniture later?  Or did we buy something now that he could use for years to come?  We went with the latter, buying a crib we liked online and mixing in a dresser that we bought months later that we think will work well for him as he gets older. 

Tip #3: Don’t dwell on choosing a “theme.”

Instead of focusing on a theme, find something you like and go from there. I chose a color scheme, and let the rest of it just happen.  

But even then, don’t be married to a color scheme. We have bits of blue and green and teal and turquoise throughout the room, and I like having those little bits of color.  

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We chose gray and yellow, because I figured that would be an easy transition for all Pittsburgh themed memorabilia that came into the room. Believe me, Brad couldn’t have been more supportive when I said, “What do you think about gray and yellow, with maybe some black accents…classy Pittsburgh?”  His response?  ”Yes! Yes, I want that.” ;)  

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Disclaimer:  I know what you’re thinking….you don’t see a lot of Pittsburgh themed stuff in his room. I assure you, those elements are in progress and sure to come.  Brad is on the hunt for the perfect Pirates pennant, probably as we speak!  ;)

Tip #4: Remember, it’s a baby’s room!

From the get go, I started saying I wanted a sophisticated baby nursery.  I blame Pinterest, with all of its neutral colored rooms, artwork on the wall, custom shelving, furniture that cost more than my own bedroom furniture, and $500 bedding. ;) One day, Brad said, “Someday, McBaby is going to say, ‘Mommy, why does my nursery look like a hotel room?’” And I realized he was right. I needed to dial it back a bit and bring some BABY BOY into our baby boy’s room!  That’s when we decided we liked Koala bears (which, in my opinion, don’t get nearly enough credit these days), and that’s when choosing bedding and other accents became much easier.  And I think Brad breathed a sigh of relief that I was gaining back (some of) my sanity.  ;)

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Tip #5: Take your time!

You have 9 months of pregnancy to put together your nursery….use it!  Creating McBaby’s room was one of my favorite aspects of pregnancy.  I picked up things here and there as I found them, which not only helped the room kind of develop on its own, but it was also was easier on the budget. The first things I bought were two canvas prints at Hobby Lobby, along with some adorable chevron light switch covers, and it was those items that cemented the “gray and yellow” color scheme in my mind. I also picked things up with the thought that I could always return it if we didn’t use it, which I did plenty of…believe me! 

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Tip #6: Remember, you’ll get A LOT at the shower.

I was completely amazed at the generosity of our family and friends at our baby shower.  And so much fit the room perfectly; for instance, these two amazing totes that matched our room so well that I ended up returning a toy box I’d already purchased because I liked them better!

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I also requested that everyone bring books in lieu of cards at the shower, and I’d say the kid is set for life in the book department.  I was most amazed by the fact that we only got 2 duplicate books!  My favorite part was that everyone wrote sweet notes to him in the books, so we will have them always and forever. :) 

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This guy, also a shower gift, makes me smile. :)

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Tip #7: And finally, do whatever makes you happy.  :)

I tried so hard to budget, to be reasonable and not spend a lot of money on trivial things, and I did well…for the most part!  But when I found this koala bear wall decal (below) on Etsy, I had to have it. My baby needed that koala bear decal.  :)  Was it the most practical? No. Did I spend too much money on something that will probably only be in his room a few years?  Probably.  But here’s how I see it:  You’ll never create your “first nursery” again.  I will always remember my sweet husband standing and placing every individual leaf of that decal with loving attention. I will always remember how happy it made me when I saw it complete for the first time.  And those are the things that matter.  :)

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Maybe the nursery isn’t as important to some people, and I get it…everyone has their thing!  But it really was important to me; it was a fun thing for Brad and I to do together as we planned for our baby; it was thereapeutic for me as I faced some job-related disappointments during my pregnancy, and strangely enough, it helped things feel more real for me…I love picturing bringing McBaby home and showing him his room for the first time….even though he’ll most likely sleep through the experience.  :)  I guess what I’m saying is…just enjoy it. Do what makes you happy!

Thanks for coming on my nursery tour with me!  Hopefully on my next blog post, I’ll be sharing pictures of my baby, instead of my bump!  Seriously, how ridiculous is my stomach to bum ratio right now?!  No wonder I can hardly walk at this point!  ;)

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Until next time…MUAH!

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McSurvey (36 Weeks)!

Dear McBaby,

In 4 weeks (maybe less!) I will finally get to meet you.  Honestly, I’m getting impatient! :) I’m dying to know what you look like…whether you have my nose or your daddy’s, what color your eyes are, and how much hair you have (you’re bound to have some - both of your parents have a strong head of hair)! 40 weeks is a long time to wait…I think we’re both ready for our first meeting (especially since you seem to be trying to kick your way out)! ;)

Hurry, little one. I’m anxious to get my hands on you…and also, I’m getting a little tired of waddling. ;)

Love,

McMommy

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Yes, it’s true! I’m 36 weeks!  With only 4 weeks to go, reality is setting in FAST.  Our living room is filled with baby gear, the nursery is complete, and I’ve quickly crossed the line from being “functional pregnant” to “the size of my giant belly dictates my life.”

My baby shower came and went, and I will eventually post pictures of the yummy food, gorgeous decorations, and delicious treats.  McBaby wasn’t just showered…he was poured on.  The generosity of our friends and family had me choked up every time I tried to talk about it.  By the end of it all, my baby boy was set.  He has everything he needs, as long as his mommy and daddy can figure out how to use it all!  :)  

I was a woman possessed trying to finish the nursery before our shower (we hosted the shower at our house).  Poor Brad spent one Friday evening hanging shelves and applying wall decals until 12 AM. And other than a few comments about how his Friday nights had drastically changed since his college days, he didn’t actually seem to mind that much!  ;)  I’m totally in love with McBaby’s room…it turned out exactly as I envisioned and I couldn’t be happier!  I will post pictures soon…I should probably capture it on film now, since I know this is the most organized it will ever be! 

It’s been a big, busy 4 weeks since I last blogged, so without further ado, here’s what we’ve been up to…

Baby Stats:  On Monday, we went for an ultrasound to find out McBaby’s current weight/measurements and get a guess on his birth weight!  Turns out, I’m growing a chunky babe!  My baby boy is a whopping 7 lbs, 14 oz at 36 weeks…ALMOST 8 LBS ALREADY!  The doctor told us he’s above the 90th percentile all over, even in length, which makes sense why I feel him so low, yet under my ribs at the same time. Poor little guy doesn’t have much room!  

I was shocked, even though I knew the chances were high that I’d have a big baby because:

1.) Brad was nearly 10 lbs when he was born.

2.) I was over 8 lbs lbs when I was born.

3.) He’s been measuring big all along!

However, I think I was in denial and it became VERY REAL then.  I feel like as soon as I heard “projected birth weight of 9 to 10 lbs,” I journeyed into my own little haze-filled world and didn’t hear a thing the doctor said from that point on.  Brad and I left the doctor’s office both excited and nervous; especially knowing there’s a chance he could come early and we may be parents before we know it. Brad looked at me and said, “We really need to decide on a name!”  And he couldn’t be more right. It’s crunch time!

Maternity clothes?  Here’s a story for you:  I was so proud when I put on my non-maternity turquoise skinny jeans the other day with a belly band and they fit perfectly.  However, I soon found myself in “Tight Pants Hell.”  Those damn pants pushed up on my giant belly when I was sitting, and they literally HURT (McBaby was none-too-pleased with my fashion choice, as I’m sure he really has no room to spare in there).  A few hours in, I was so miserable that I seriously considered taking my pants off in public.  So from here on out, it’s stretch pants and maxi-skirts/dresses for me. Screw real pants…I always knew they were over-rated.

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Stretch marks? I can’t even tell anymore. My stomach is so stretched out, I can’t imagine getting out of this without some battle scars. ;)

Sleep:  Between bathroom trips, hip pain, and charlie horses, the ZZZZ’s are hard to come by. I have taken over our bed, thanks to my giant body pillow and a memory foam mattress pad that I literally stole from my mother-in-law’s guest bed after I discovered that it helped my hip pain. Brad’s doing everything in his power to keep me comfortable and worries about me constantly…poor guy.  ;)

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Top moment(s) of the week: Seeing McBaby’s face yesterday in the ultrasound!  I could see his plump little cheek, perfect little nose, and sweet mouth. He was even smacking his lips and sticking out his tongue. :)

This may be tough to see, but this is his face straight on. That’s his forehead to the right, mouth and nose, and plump little cheek facing up. It’s so weird to me that there’s a full-grown baby in there…I mean, there’s his FACE!  Can you see it?  It’s like one of those “Magic Eye” photos…once you see it, it’s very clear. But your eyes kind of cross until your brain can process what you’re looking at. :)

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Worst moment of the week:  LastSaturday morning, when an aching back and charlie horses/shin splints had me pretty miserable. Luckily, conditions improved as the day progressed, and seem to be getting better every day this week.

What I’m missing? Being able to breathe again! I get winded just from standing!  I was on the phone while walking up the stairs to my office the other day, and had to stop talking to catch my breath. 

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Movement: Baby’s movements have gone from little pokes and kicks, to BIG nudges and waves. I can see my whole stomach moving…it’s crazy!

Food cravings: I’m back to craving fruit, which is a good thing. My cousin, as if reading my mind, sent me a surprise gift of these delectable chocolate covered apples. I literally SCREAMED when I opened the box. Here’s a hint: If you ever want to make a preggo’s day, give her fruit dipped in chocolate and toffee! ;)

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Anything making you queasy or sick: Just my too-tight pants!  :)

Bump Photos:  Here I am, in all of my big bellied glory! ;)

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Belly button in or out:  It’s pretty much flush at this point. We’ll call it “barely” in. 

Who knew… that I could feel so much love for a nameless, faceless little person (although, hopefully not nameless for long)!  

…or that I could fall even more in love with my husband (whom I was already so crazy about to begin with).  He is so sweet and so involved; he tells me how cute I look.  He asks how “his baby is doing?”  He spends hours putting together baby gear.  He does laundry.  He grocery shops.  He’s made me dinner 3 of 4 nights this week.  He does everything he can to make me more comfortable…it’s amazing. IT. MELTS. MY. HEART.

…or finally, that I would turn into such a SAP during pregnancy. I would have rolled my eyes at this blog post a few years ago…and now look at me!  ;)

Looking forward to:  Meeting my baby boy. I seriously CAN’T wait!

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McSurvey (32 Weeks)!

My little McBaby is 32 weeks old this week!  With only 8 weeks to go, I’m overwhelmed by how soon I’ll be a mommy.  It seems I waver between two extremes:  1.) UNBELIEVABLE EXCITEMENT, daydreaming about holding my little one for the first time, and 2.) SHEER AND UTTER TERROR.  Wait, I’m going to be a MOTHER?!  What am I going to do with a baby?!?!?!  Something like that.  :)

But the truth is, I’m elated. Brad and I talk regularly about how we can’t wait for him to just be here.  And I know very quickly 8 weeks will turn to 4, then 2, and suddenly, I’ll be holding our little sweet boy.  EEEEeeeeeeeee!  I can’t wait!

This 3rd Trimester has not been without it’s challenges, but it’s also held many exciting moments.  And that, my friends, brings me to my 32 week survey…

About Baby:  I won’t know the actual stats of our McBaby until our 36-week ultrasound. But here are some stats to give you an idea:  Baby is 3.5 to 4 lbs and 17-19 inches long. What I find most interesting is that according to BabyCenter.com, he will gain 1/2 lb per week for the next 8 weeks!  Crazy!

Maternity clothes? I alternate between maternity clothes and loose fitting regular clothes/leggings and jeans with belly bands.  I also bought a few of these maternity tanks from Old Navy, and they’ve been lifesavers. If you have a rapidly growing bump, I urge you to check them out! (I bought them in 4 colors, and the black and white polka dot one is my favorite)!  :)

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Stretch marks?  So far, so good! Funny story:  I asked Brad to inspect me the other day, and he said, “Do you think there’s a chance in hell I’d actually tell you right now if I found a stretch mark?  Nothing good would come from that!” HA! He’s probably right… ;)

Sleep:  The last few weeks have brought some struggles in Sleepville. I’m having lower back/sciatic nerve/hip pain that is making finding a position very difficult.  I use an army of pillows and weird positioning to find relief, but I think the next 8 weeks will be challenging.

Top moment(s) of the week: Washing all of McBaby’s little clothes, socks, and blankets. :) Surprisingly, I loved sorting and putting away all of his tiny little clothes. P.S. I did all of this laundry on Friday night. My weekends used to be so much cooler! ;)

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Also, receiving early shower gifts from friends and family has been a weekly highlight. Every time the door bell rings, I squeal. It’s like Christmas!!!

Meet Jacque the Peacock!  I hope he makes McBaby smile as much as he makes me smile!

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Worst moment of the week: Between back pain and some shortness of breath (I think baby may be smushing my lungs), Sunday was a really rough, uncomfortable day/night. But we’re all better now.  :)

What I’m missing? Being comfortable. There are so many discomforts in my body right now, I miss the days where I could just sit comfortably on the couch or fall asleep at night without issue.

Movement: More than ever!  :) I’m starting to learn where he likes to hang out and his movement patterns. I can often feel his little butt (I think) to the left of my belly button, and I think that’s adorable. :)

Food cravings: Honey Nut Cheerios are my kryptonite. I eat them every day, which is funny because I never ate cereal before. I’m also obsessed with vanilla pudding and any (all) ice cream. It’s safe to say I’m craving dairy!

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Anything making you queasy or sick:  I smelled seafood in the grocery store the other day and wanted to die.  

Bump Photos:  This is me at 31 weeks!

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And 32 weeks!

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Belly button in or out:  In, but barely!  

Who knew…that “nesting” could be such a powerful force?! I don’t know if I’m actually nesting, or if I have a spring cleaning bug, or if it’s a combo of the two, but I’m on an organization streak like no other. I’ve re-organized my pantry, spice cabinet (I alphabetized the spices!), junk drawers, multiple kitchen cabinets, and our linen closet…and I’m still 2 months out from my due date. I wish I had this motivation all of the time!

Looking forward to: Finishing McBaby’s nursery!  We are super close to having everything done and I’m completely in love with the room so far. I can’t wait to post pictures of the finished product!  Also can’t wait for my shower in just a few short weeks, and my 36 week ultrasound in 1 month!

Here’s a sneak peak of his bedding from grandma Phyllis, and new little mobile from his great grandma, both of which I just LOVE. (I still need to wash the bedding, so don’t judge me for how sloppy it all looks).  :)

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That’s it for week 32!  As always, thanks for reading, and have a great weekend! 

Click here to see my other posts about McBaby!

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Mmmust Try Recipes: Cookie Edition!

Today, I’m going to change your life….

WITH COOKIES!!!!!  :)  

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I love to bake, but I rarely do it because the temptation of having fresh baked goods on hand is simply too dangerous in this house. For that reason, I always wait until a special event to bake; that way I can lick the bowl, sample the goods, and then GET IT OUT OF HERE!

Brad and I hosted a Super Bowl party a few weeks ago, so it was the perfect time to fulfill my need to bake and satisfy my constant craving for baked goods! I searched Pinterest until I found the perfect cookie recipe, and then I struck gold.  Behold….

Cookies and Cream Cookies

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These cookies are made with Cookies & Cream pudding mix, white chocolate chips, and crushed up Oreos. Yes, Oreo cookies within the cookies.  How can you go wrong?! (You can’t…you really can’t!)

Click here for the recipe!

The Results:

I’ve never made cookies that have been gobbled up that fast. One minute, there was a full plate….the next, they were gone!  Someone told me they were the best cookies she’d ever had!  I plan to make more…perhaps as a Valentine’s Day treat (for myself)! :)  These will definitely go into my cookie rotation from now on!

My Notes:  

These cookies were relatively quick to make and the ingredient list wasn’t overly complicated, which is always a plus in my book! I wasn’t able to find the Cookies & Cream pudding that the recipe called for (who knew that existed? Holy yum!), so I just used vanilla pudding and clearly, they were still great.  I used a tablespoon to scoop the dough and then rolled it into a ball, which made about 40 cookies in total. I say “about 40 cookies” because I lost count after shoving a few in my mouth straight out of the oven (#PregnantGirlProblems).  Oh and my advice:  Shove a few in your mouth straight out of the oven. These cookies served warm are TO DIE FOR!

Strawberry Cake Mix Cookies

Always a sucker for an easy dessert option, these cookies are one of my favorites to bring to an event (because honestly, I never leave enough time on the day of the party to bake and get myself ready…it’s a tragic flaw of mine). These cookies are made from cake mix with a few added ingredients, and can really be made with any cake mix! I’ve used strawberry and lemon, and both were delightful!  

The best part…they’re pink…making them a perfect treat to bake for your Valentine!!!!  ;)

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The Results

These tasted like chewy strawberry muffins. I am OBSESSED with these cookies. They are chewy and soft and amazingly delicious. Every time I make them, they are a huge hit!

My Notes

I used white chocolate chips instead of milk or semisweet chocolate, but that is purely preference. They are delicious no matter what you use! Also, I would suggest scooping them into Tablespoon size portions, just like I did with the Cookies and Cream Cookies. Last time, I used more dough for each cookie and wound up with like 15 GIANT cookies, which wasn’t ideal. The dough will be very thick, but will spread out as they bake…don’t worry, that’s normal!  :)

Click here for the recipe!

Hope everyone enjoys the cookies!  Have a great rest of your week, and happy Valentine’s Day to all my Valentine’s out there!  :)

See my other Mmmust Try Recipes here!

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McSurvey - 28 Weeks!

Happy Wednesday from Antarctica! Oh just kidding, I’m in Ohio, where it is currently 1 degree outside, but is supposed to be 40 and raining in 2 days. Sigh. However, I really can’t complain…last week, Brad and I spent the week in Mexico, celebrating our friends’ wedding (congrats to Seth and Valerie!) and it was wonderful!  It was so nice getting away for one final trip before we become parents (a very surreal thought). The next time we’re at the beach, we’ll be hauling beach umbrellas, applying sunscreen to soft baby skin, and building sand castles…I can’t wait! :)

I am 28 weeks pregnant this week and all is going well. Baby Boy (and therefore my belly) is growing FAST, and I’m feeling more and more pregnant with every day that passes. But to be honest, I love every minute of it. :)

How far along? 28 weeks…helloooo 3rd trimester!

Total weight gain/loss: About 12 lbs…I suspect that all 4 of those pounds gained are a direct result of the number of desserts I ate in Mexico last week. ;)

This made me laugh:

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Maternity clothes? Yep, I’m there. I was shocked when I tried on what I thought were my “baggy” summer clothes to take with me on our trip, and discovered that very few fit my bump. :)

Stretch marks? So far, so good!

Sleep:  Sleep is getting harder, thanks to the bathroom trips and discomfort from not being able to sleep on my back or stomach. But when I do sleep, I pass out!

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Top moment(s) of the week:  Our spontaneous maternity photo session in Mexico. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold on professional maternity photos; I didn’t want anything too cheesy, plus I’m not big on posed professional pictures (they’re too much pressure and I wind up looking uncomfortable).

But we decided to do a short session in Mexico with a photographer at the resort, because it’s not every day that you have the beautiful Mexico beaches as a backdrop (plus, if we hated them, we didn’t have to buy them)! We were really happy with how they turned out, and I’m glad we have a few pictures to document this special chapter of our lives.  See below for a few of the pictures we took!

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Worst moment of the week: I have a kink in my back that is really making my life difficult. Bending forward is incredibly painful…I’d say that’s responsible for the only bad moments of the week. (And remember my constant aroma of cocoa butter? That has now been replaced with the distinct scent of Icy Hot! Sexy!)

What I’m missing? I once took for granted being able to hop out of bed or jump off the couch with ease. Now when I try to get out of bed, I’m like one of those beetles that has flipped on his back and can’t get up. My arms and legs flail, and I rock back and forth until I can get enough leverage to make it to my feet. So what do I miss? I miss being able to BEND AT THE WAIST! :)

Movement: Getting harder and stronger every day. He kicked his daddy’s hand really hard the other day. It was cute the way Brad jumped! :)

Food cravings: I’m obsessed with Quaker Oats Fruit & Cream oatmeal. I eat a bowl every morning and I’ve already plowed through one box. And  baked goods…I can’t get enough. This sweet tooth is killing me!

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Anything making you queasy or sick:  Nothing really. I still avoid seafood when I can.

Showing yet:  Oh yeah…as you can clearly see in my pictures above!

Belly button in or out:  In, but it’s getting very shallow these days.

Who knew that babies dream in the womb?! I read that in my Week 28 update from What to Expect and it made me smile. What do you think he’s dreaming about in there? Cookies? Oh wait…that’s just mommy. ;)

Looking forward to: Finishing the nursery, my shower next month…so many things….and warmer temperatures! ;)

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Mmmust Try Recipes: Low Carb Edition

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I love to cook. But to be honest, I AM L-A-Z-Y in the kitchen. So I focus on finding recipes that are both delicious and easy, and don’t require me to buy a bunch of weird ingredients at the grocery store. Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from my “Recipes I’ve Tried" board on Pinterest, because it’s getting to be that time of winter when motivation is as low as the Ohio temperatures, and we’re all feeling a little weak and depressed from lack of Vitamin D. 

I plan to make this a regular feature of my blog, because if I do the research, why shouldn’t you all benefit from it? I will categorize my recipes because…well frankly, I think I’m nesting, and organization makes me feel all warm and fuzzy these days. ;)

This week’s recipes will be of the low-carb variety. And just to clarify: when I say “low carb,” I mean recipes that avoid simple carbs. We try to avoid breads, pastas, rice and potatoes, and sub in lots of veggies when we can.It’s not a year around kind of thing, but it’s something we like to do, especially after the holidays to clean up our diets after we I eat an entire box of glazed donuts in a 3 day period. ;)

So, without further ado…here are some of my favorite “lower-carb” (or “healthy choice”) recipes…

Melt in Your Mouth Chicken Breast

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Made right, chicken can be oh-so-good. Made wrong and it can be bland, dry, and oh-so-wrong. This chicken is amazing. Brad gave it RAVE reviews! And the best part is…it’s EASY and doesn’t require dipping in eggs/flour/breadcrumbs, etc. 

My notes:  Only use 1/2 the mayo…you don’t need a full cup! You can also use light mayo and it’s just as delicious!

Full recipe here…

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

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These peppers are a staple in our household! They meet all of my criteria: Simple and delicious!  I love that the main ingredients are deli roast beef and provolone cheese, which are easy to find and prepare. And they give you a taste of your favorite sandwich…but they’re low carb!

My notes:  I usually only use 1 to 1.5 pieces of cheese. 

Full recipe here…

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps

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P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps are what dreams are made of. So when I found this copy cat recipe from Iowa Girl Eats, I couldn’t resist. These are amazing. The ingredient list may seem a little long, but most of the things I already have in my pantry. If you do need to go out and buy some of the items (soy sauce, sesame oil, etc.), I can promise you that you’ll certainly put them to use in future recipes, so it may not be a bad investment.

My notes: I use 1/8 tsp of powdered ginger in place of the fresh ginger.

Full recipe here…

Apple Cider Sage Pork Chops

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I’m terrible at pork chops. I don’t know what I do wrong, but they always turn out too dry or chewy. But I took a chance on these little gems, and they were worth it! I had leftover cider and a supply of honey crisp apples on hand, so I thought I’d give them a try. The sweet cooked apples and buttery sauce totally made the dish. Brad loved them as well, so they also get the “Husband Approved” stamp!

My notes:  Make your own version of the Land O’ Lakes Garlic Butter if you don’t want to buy it. I didn’t even use the sage, so you can cross that of the list as well. Finally, you may want to use a smaller pan or keep the heat low. My sauce got a little *too* brown.

Full recipe here…

Thanks for reading, friends! :) Happy (and healthy) cooking!

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McSurvey (24 Weeks)!

Happy New Year (2 days late)! Can you believe it’s 2014? I can’t! The last decade has passed so quickly!  On NYE, it dawned on me that 2014 is the year that I will become a MOM…Holy crap!

I got a little behind with my surveys over the crazy month of December, so without further ado, here’s what’s been happening with me and McBaby over the last few weeks:

How far along? 24 weeks!!

Total weight gain/loss: About 8 lbs, according to my doctor visit last week. In my book, that’s a Christmas miracle, considering the amount of crap I ate over the holidays! 

Maternity clothes? Yes! I have discovered the belly band, and it’s WONDERFUL. Why don’t people wear belly bands all of the time? If you don’t know what a belly band is, it’s a band of stretchy fabric (that kind of looks like a tube top) that you wear around the top of your pants. The belly band essentially holds your pants up so that you can wear them unbuttoned without them falling down. Did you guys hear me? It allows you to walk around with your pants unbuttoned! So allow me to pose my question again:  Why don’t people wear belly bands ALL OF THE TIME?!  :)

Stretch marks? None so far…yay Palmer’s cocoa butter! This is another product I think I may continue to use post pregnancy. I love how hydrating it is! My usually super dry winter skin is as smooth as a baby’s bottom right now. :)

Sleep:  My favorite bro-in-law got me a Snoogle (pregnancy pillow) for Christmas and it has changed my life. I now sleep with it every night, and it spoons me all night long. It’s the perfect sleeping partner. Sorry, husband! :)

Top moment of the week:  Celebrating McBaby’s 1st (kinda) Christmas with our family. He got so many wonderful presents…he’s so loved already. :) 

Below is just a few examples of all of his new gifts. This doesn’t even include all of the clothes my mom and other friends and family have bought him over the past 5 months.  Thanks to his two grandmothers, the kid already has a full wardrobe! ;) Thank you all so much for being so sweet to our baby boy!

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What I’m missing? I miss my stamina. I get tired so much faster; my back aches, my legs and feet hurt…it’s something else. Although the plus side of this is that Brad has been doing laundry, cooking dinner, and taking good care of me, and I admit, it’s nice to be spoiled. :)

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Movement: Yes, little man moves constantly. Sometimes I feel like he kicks at the perfect times (like when we’re talking about him), just to remind us he’s listening. ;)

Food cravings: Nothing too specific lately…just sugar. I think I ate nearly an entire box of Krispy Kreme glazed donuts over Christmas. Ugh.

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Anything making you queasy or sick:  Nothing really…some types of seafood (shrimp, crab)…mostly the smell.

Showing yet:  Yes! I have quite the bump! A grocery store employee actually referenced my pregnancy yesterday, and it was the 1st time I’ve had a stranger actually comment on it. I have arrived, I guess.  ;)

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P.S. The only thing more fun than being pregnant is being pregnant with your BFF. :) Meet Alex, who is due 4 weeks before me and is also having a baby boy! We have already decided that they will be besties, of course. :)

Happy or Moody most of the time:  Happy! :)

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Who knew While I was well aware that a lot of things stretch and grow when growing a human, I never considered how much stretching stomach muscles actually hurt. Some days, my stomach muscles feel like I’ve been doing thousands of sit-ups (a feeling that I am NOT familiar with, believe me)! :)

Looking forward to: Going to Mexico in a few weeks for Seth & Valerie’s wedding! We are ready to fiesta (and siesta) in the warm sun for a week! Plus, I bought 2 really cute maternity dresses that I’m excited to wear! ;)

This will be me… :)

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McSurvey (21 Weeks)!

I cannot believe I’m 21 weeks pregnant! I feel like it was just yesterday that I was looking at the little blip of McBaby, feeling an immense amount of relief that he was actually in there! And now, I’m halfway done and my stomach seems to be doubling in size every day! :)

Here’s what’s happening with me and McBaby over the last few weeks…

See my other McBaby posts here!

How far along? 21 weeks! It took a long time, but I finally feel pregnant!

Total weight gain/loss: I THINK I’ve gained 6-7 lbs, but I can’t remember for sure where I started, so I’m going to confirm with my doctor at my 24 week appointment. I’ll tell her my blog readers won’t be able to sleep until they know the truth. ;)

Maternity clothes? Not really. I’m still in my regular jeans and tops. However, I may call it quits on the wearing of real pants pretty soon here. Why bother when this is one of the few times in life I’m actually expected to wear stretchy pants every day? ;)

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Stretch marks? Nope! So far, so good!

Sleep:  Sleeping pretty well!  I do wake up sometimes in the middle of the night with “busy brain,” but I think that’s normal. 

Top moment of the week:  Seeing McBaby last week at his 20 week appointment, and hearing that he’s healthy. Oh, and let’s not forget that the doctor admitted that he’s “a little big” for his age. He was 15 ounces and the norm for 20 weeks is around 10.5 to 11.5! She said he’s in the 96th percentile in size/weight! OMG! But I am happy to hear that he’s healthy and plump…I can’t wait to squeeze his fat little cheeks! ;)

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What I’m missing? You’ll be shocked to hear this:  I miss WINE!

How adorable is this picture?! :)

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Movement: Yes! Little kicks…he gets very excited after I eat, and at night while I’m watching TV (probably because I’m still eating). The other night, while eating popcorn in bed, he gave me such a jab that I actually jumped! ;) Brad can’t feel him yet, but I think he will be able to any day now! (Count the # of times I wrote “eat” in that last paragraph and you’ll learn my new favorite hobby!)

Food cravings: I’ve eaten an apple a day almost every single day of my pregnancy. That’s a craving that lives on. And I’ve recently been eating microwave popcorn like it’s crack. 

Anything making you queasy or sick:  I’m still very turned off by meat, especially of the “fowl” persuasion. Turkey and chicken are unappealing to me.  Strangely, I have no problem with breaded chicken, like chicken nuggets, but the idea of eating a chicken breast makes me want to hurl.

Showing yet:  Yes, it’s like one day, I woke up and I had grown a bump overnight. I finally feel like I look pregnant, vs. like I ate too much cake for dinner. Check out the comparison photo below…I can’t believe how much McBaby has grown in just 2 weeks (PS…I swear I don’t wear tunics and leggings every day…this is pure coincidence)!  :)

Happy or Moody most of the time:  I’m happy! :)

Who knewhow ABSOLUTELY, DEAD TIRED pregnancy makes you. This past Sunday we went to the Steelers game and sat in freezing temps and snow for 3.5 hours. That’s when I realized that I can’t do as much as I once could…I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I could hardly speak. Growing McBaby is hard work!

(How cold do we look in this picture? haha brrrr!)

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Looking forward to: Brad feeling his little kicks! :) It’s surreal and weird, but it made it feel so much more real. I think it will seriously freak him out at first…but I also think he’ll love it. :) Also, looking forward to seeing his new crib put together and starting on his nursery! (Note: picture below is the crib we bought, but that’s not his nursery. Original picture here!) 

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30 Days of Thanks (Days 20 through 30)!

I know I’m late, but I wanted to finish off my 30 Days of Thanks with a post dedicated to my hero, my daddy. As I mentioned in my last post, when I was 22, I lost my dad  and it quite literally rocked my world. It was by far the most painful thing that I have ever dealt with…but it also played a major role in shaping me into the person you see today. I was  a daddy’s girl, and had a close relationship with him even as an adult. His death caught us completely off guard; I said goodbye to him on the night of Thanksgiving, and it was the last time I saw him alive.

Needless to say, Thanksgiving (and the holiday season in general) is a hard time of year for me, but this year was especially difficult, as it was the 10-year anniversary of his death. I wanted desperately to post that day in his honor, but due to a very busy weekend and emotional constrictions that led to serious writer’s block, I wasn’t able to. So today, I will pay tribute to the man that taught me so much, from how to wash and wax a car (not that I ever do it), to how to send my first email (on AOL dial-up, of course)! :)

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Thanks dad, for…

Day 21:  Teaching me to be rubber, not glue…

I have always been sensitive…I wear my heart on my sleeve, give my all, and it’s often led to me being hurt. I think my dad realized this from the time I was a young child, and so early on, he began to instill in me a simple mantra:  ”Let it bounce off.” He would often say, “Don’t let things that hurt you stick like glue…instead let them bounce off, like you’re made of rubber.” It’s something I’ve referenced countless times in life, repeating to myself, “Let it bounce, let it bounce…” when something bothers me. It’ll never be my strong suit…I’ll always be soft-hearted, but it definitely helps in coping as I walk through this crazy life.

Day 22:  My personality…

I didn’t even realize it until I was in my late 20s, but my personality is just like my dad’s. My optimism, my cheerful outlook on life, even the way I relate to people is very much HIM.  I like who I am and how I see the world; I believe it’s helped me succeed and is to thank for all of the amazing people I am blessed to have in my life. And so for that, I am very thankful. 

Day 23: My height…

I always hated being tall when I was younger…I had a growth spurt at 14 that made feel feel really awkward and gangly through much of high school. But as a I got older (and my sweet friend Sarah repeatedly said to me, “Mella, be happy you’re tall…TALL IS BEAUTIFUL), I become grateful for my height. Especially now that I have McBaby on board, I’m realizing how nice it is to have room for things to “spread out” a bit as I gain weight. ;) My dad was tall and lanky like me and always told me I would be thankful for my height someday. I just wish I could properly thank him now for that genetic blessing.

Day 24: My love of words…

I know, I said last week that I was thankful for my mom because of my love of words. And that’s true. But my dad was the writer like me. He had a talent for writing and could write about anything. The only problem was, he was his own worst critic. He labored over his sentences and his words until it lost the joy for him. I think that’s what held him back from actually getting anywhere with his talent (sounds all too familiar)!  :)

Day 25: My flair for technology…

Brad says that I am “tech support” in the house, and it’s for good reason. Generally, if it’s technological, I can figure it out. I set up our iDevices and laptops, I handle troubleshooting on our wifi, I reprogram our garage codes and TV remotes…the list goes on. If I don’t know about it first-hand, I can figure it out, and I LIKE doing it. In fact, when it comes to troubleshooting, I can’t stop until I fix it. This is 100% my father. He sat me down when I was a teenager in front of our first computer with internet, and I never looked back. As I said in my 2nd 30 Days of Thanks post, technology is a huge part of my life, so for that I’m very grateful.

Day 26: Setting an example…

My dad was the prime example of what a husband should be. The way my dad loved my mom was the perfect example of what I wanted in a partner; I knew from a young age that if I found someone like my father, I should marry him immediately. And I did! I know my dad would not only approve of Brad, but he would adore him (just like everyone in my family does). I would give anything to see a conversation between the two of them…I have a feeling I would get a kick out it.  :)

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Day 27: Teaching me what a marriage should look like…

I am thankful that my mom and dad set a good example of what a marriage should look like. It was realistic…I knew they had problems, but I also watched them work through every one. I saw them make it through the bad times, relying on each other for support. And one thing remained true…their love never faltered. No matter what storm they weathered, their feelings never changed. It was their example that made me want to build a healthy marriage of my own someday. I’m so thankful for that!

Day 28: Sacrificing…always…

My dad taught me, not through words, but through example, that sometimes, you must make sacrifices for the people that you love.  I watched him sacrifice for the people in his life (me included) time and time again, even when it wasn’t convenient, even when it hurt. And he never complained. He did it with a smile on his face.

Day 29: Teaching me to think first…

As I was growing up, my dad would say, “Don’t chance it.” Now he wasn’t talking about putting my self out there and taking chances in life. Instead, he meant, if there’s a dangerous outcome, don’t even chance it. Don’t balance your glass of milk on the couch arm. Don’t climb an unsteady ladder or balance on a wobbly chair. It can be applied to so many things in life, and though sometimes I learned the hard way, it’s something I think of often before I “chance it.” It’s his advice that has prevented a lot of pain and suffering in my life, and it’s advice that I will definitely pass on to McBaby someday.

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Day 30:  His undying love…

I only got a short 22 years with my dad, but what I never questioned in that time was his love for me. He was supportive and sensitive. He listened to my problems, and I know I could have come to him about anything without fear of judgement.  The last words I exchanged with my dad were sweet (something I’m so thankful for). I told him I loved him, and he said, “I love you too, little darling.” It’s a moment that will forever stay in my mind…it’s a gift that I will have forever and I thank God for that.

Did you miss my other 30 Days of Thanks posts?

If so, check them out below!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Days 4 & 5

Days 6 thru 13

Days 14 thru 20

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30 Days of Thanks (Days 14 through 20)!

This post is dedicated to my mom, who I couldn’t be more thankful for.  My mom and I were always close…even in my teenage years, when I was hormonal and dramatic and…I’ll admit, a complete BRAT, my mom and I still had a close relationship. And that relationship only grew closer as a I got older, especially after we unexpectedly lost my dad to a heart attack when I was 22…a loss that completely rocked both of our worlds. 

And so, days 14 through 20 go out to my mama, who I affectionately call “Little” because she’s 6 inches shorter than I am, who still babies me because I’ll always be her little girl, and who is, hands down, my best friend.

Day 14:  Unfailing Love

In this great game we call life, we make a lot of mistakes. I’ve done my fair share of stupid things, and yet, my little mama has always loved me anyway. :) It’s nice to know that no matter how many dumb mistakes you make in life, you always have someone supporting you, telling you how it wasn’t that stupid, it wasn’t your fault, or just listening while you cry. 

Day 15: Good Genetics

Even though, when I was younger, I used to tell my mom it was her fault that I had my crazy curly hair (hers and my dad’s actually…I didn’t stand a chance), now I’m thankful for those waves. And that’s just one of the many good genes that my mom passed down to me. I’m thankful for all the good things she gave me…just a few less things to worry about in this harsh game of life.

Day 16: Bargain Hunting

Probably from the very beginning of my life, my mom and I shopped together. My mom had a special knack in finding outrageous deals, from clothing to shoes, to even groceries.  It it wasn’t on sale, we didn’t buy it, But if it was on sale, we found it.  My teacher in 4th grade told me I was the best dressed kid she knew, but little did she know, my entire outfit probably cost under $10.  I have fond memories of going on shopping sprees, then coming home and unloading our bags of spoils for my dad, modeling our finds and then telling him how much we saved on each item. He would praise us and tell us how good we did (and of course, how good we looked).  It was a skill that was passed on to me at an early age; I HUNT bargains, as if it is a game. It is a TALENT, as far as I’m concerned, and I have my mom to thank (and possibly my dad too, for all that positive reinforcement).

Day 17: Constant Support

This kind of goes along with Day 14, but my mom is my rock. She’s my support system, and I couldn’t make it without her. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called her crying, and she’s eased my mind from hundreds of miles away. I call her first when I’m upset and I call her first with good news. I always know she’s praying for what’s best for me, and I always know she’ll celebrate every accomplishment with me. And I know I’m lucky for that…not all moms are like that.

Day 18:  My Mom, the Editor

I wrote a novel, and only one person (from my personal life, that is) has read it:  My mom. I’ll admit, I wanted the first person that read my book to be the woman who adores everything I do. ;) BUT, I also knew she’d give me honest feedback. And she did. She identified parts that needed more so that I could make it better, but she also gave me the confidence to begin putting it out there. Thanks for that, mama!

Day 19: My Love for the Written Word

Day 18 brings me to my next point:  While my dad was more of the writer in the family, my mom is the AVID reader. One of those great genetical traits she passed on to me was my speedy reading and comprehension. I can finish a novel in a day (but not get anything else accomplished). I LOVE to read. Books are my crack…once I start, I can’t stop until I finish it. I become obsessed with the stories and the characters; it is a much-needed escape for me. My love for reading is what inspired me to write my novel in the first place. A lifetime of reading has helped me become articulate and better spoken; it has inspired my novel and has made me determined to someday be able to read my own words between the hard covers of a tangible, published novel someday.  :)  And when that day comes, I will have my mom and dad to thank!

Day 20: An Amazing Grandma

I think my mom became “grandma” the day Brad and I called her and told her the news. But since then, she’s been unbelievably supportive. She calls to find out how I’m feeling. She assures me that I’m not crazy, just hormonal when I tell her how I started crying over an Oral B commercial (but seriously, watch this tear jerker - I cry EVERY. TIME. I WATCH). And she’s made a major contribution to McBaby’s wardrobe. Plus, I know she’s going to be an invaluable resource once I have the kid and have no idea what to do with him. Me and McBaby are lucky to have her as a mama/grandma…I know she’ll be the best at it.  :)

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