Motherhood Coming

Matt and I have been parents to dogs and cats ever since we were dating. The extent of knowing what to do with children involved very little and honestly, babies usually cry when they see me. Maybe they sense my fear and knowing I wish they had four legs and barked instead of two legs and cried. However, we have also discussed parenthood and while it was never something we were like, “We will have X # of children. Let’s try now.”, we could see ourselves either having them or not. Either way, we would have been happy.

Personally, I have felt led to adopt for as long as I can remember. There’s something about seeing how a rescue animal blooms after adoption that I always envisioned giving a child a second chance as well. We most likely will adopt in the future, so while it’s not something we’re ruling out, apparently Mother Nature had other plans for us at this point in our lives.

While no doctor ever diagnosed with me with infertility, my monthly cycles have always been irregular, heavy, and full of pain. I’m talking lying on the ground with your legs in the air and having a heating pad on your back kind of pain. The kind of pain where you get hot and cold at the same time and almost faint. Having had my period since age 11, we’ve become quite close over the past 19 years, although I wouldn’t consider her monthly visits enjoyable. A few years ago, my husband and I experienced a chemical pregnancy, while I had an IUD that was quickly removed, which is something I don’t share that often. Basically, my body thought it was pregnant and all the hormones were there, but there was no embryo or fetus. I received ultrasounds every week for 4-5 weeks before my body decided to miscarry.: I knew it was coming, but that didn’t necessarily make it easier to handle. While there was no embryo to shed, I can assure you the four days in bed was not fun. Since that incident, my hormones have been all over the place and stabilizing them has been a nightmare. I truly began to wonder if I could even get pregnant. Well, apparently I can.

Miner and Leia announcing the big news 🙂

We are ecstatic and petrified at the same time to announce a new member of the pack will be joining us in October 2019. Our five-year anniversary is October 18th, so it’s a pretty great month for another celebration. Having a baby in residency is something I’m nervous about, but I am thankful for the community we have here and for all those who already love this unborn child. He or she will be one lucky child.

Parents of pets and children: SEND ME ALL YOUR TIPS AND TRICKS. My dogs and cats are my children, and I want them to be comfortable as they transition to these changes in their lives. This change is huge for us (and them), so I want to make sure we can all go in with a positive mindset and comfortable with it. Now that I am in the “safe space” of telling the public, I am getting very excited to decorate and see what parenthood brings to our lives.

13 weeks: I’m at the point where I constantly look bloated, and it’s worse in the evenings!
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A Quick CVS Trip

When you think CVS, I bet low cost is not the first thing that comes to your mind. However, if the purchase is planned out right, I have found CVS to be more affordable than even a mainstream store like Walmart. CVS always send deals like 15% off, 32% off, 40% off, or even random extra bucks for no reason. When combined appropriately, your savings can really add up.

Tonight after small group, I realized Matt needed mouthwash and we both needed some probiotics. According to my Ibotta app, there was $3 back on the Culturelle 30-count tablets. I had a 40% off coupon in my email and the special this week was buy 1 30-count for $23.99 and get $7 extra bucks. I also had a $4 off $18 vitamin purchase. Together my probiotics were $12.89 (not including the $3 redeemed later) and because of my extracare card, I will get 2% back in extra bucks next quarter. The $7 extra bucks were used for a second order on the mouthwash, which was $9.89. I also had a 25% off coupon, which made my total $2.36. I have found that not all CVS’s let you split orders, but thankfully this one worked out. Lastly, I got $5 back on my Saving Star app for the Culturelle, which mean in all I paid $0.

I also noticed that Matt’s cereal is on sale 2/$4 and there is a $1 off coupon on my card right now. I also have a deal on my SavingStar app for $1/2 boxes of cereal, which means I could essentially pay $1 per box. Typically I find their food items way overpriced, but at $1 a box, that’s a stockup deal, especially since I know Matt will eat it all before it expires. This is just one small example how thinking ahead can save you some money. Trying to figure out the best deals can seem very overwhelming and time consuming (don’t get me wrong: sometimes it is), but a quick trip like tonight’s will help us out in the long run. The mouthwash will last months, so I know I won’t need to buy a full-price bottle in the meantime. I’m fairly positive I’ll get another percent off coupon in the next 30 days, which at that point I can see the price of probiotics is then. The best advice I can give you is check the weekly ads and see if you have any coupons that could be used on top of it. I think you’ll be shocked at how much you can save!

A Simple Laundry Routine

Let’s be honest: Laundry is not that exciting. There are always things I wish I could be doing instead, but like all other household chores, it must be done. I like to think our laundry routine is relatively simple and nontoxic, so I decided to share it with you.

Did you know that typical laundry detergents are filled with ingredients such as petrochemicals (a chemical derived from petroleum and natural gas), synthetic fragrances, and many other hormone disruptors? Many of these ingredients are also harmful to the environment since they end up in our waterways through washing our clothes. I don’t know about you, but since I learned those things a few years ago after college (Purex was my best friend because it was cheap and smelled good), I don’t want anything like that touching clothing that I wear on a regular basis. There are so many other alternatives out there that work just as well (some better!) than mainstream brands. I made my own laundry detergent for awhile (see recipe here), but I haven’t in over a year because time got the best of me with our move and everything. For now, what we are doing works for us and I am sure it could work for you too!

Keeping it simple and clean!

To wash our clothes, we absolutely love Seventh Generation laundry detergent. We have used both the liquid and powder form and buy whichever is on sale at the time. For an extra-large load, we use about half a scoop and get way more than the 70 loads listed on the box. I recently started adding 2-3 drops of Eden’s Garden Cleaning  essential oil blend to the detergent before adding it to the washer, and the smell when I take out the clothing is lovely. The blend of Lavender, Lemongrass, Rosemary, and Tea Tree conditions clothing and adds fragrance naturally.

For stains, I am enjoying the Ecover Mineral Based Stain Remover. It works on food stains and those pesky everyday ones that happen just with wearing clothes, but I haven’t had to try with heavy duty stains yet. Wet the stain and then apply the stain stick. It works much better that way. 

To dry, we use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are extremely flammable and are nothing but chemicals. Once you try wool dryer balls, you’ll never go back. It cuts drying time in half, reduces static (if the clothes are staticky upon taking them out the dryer, then reduce your drying time), and saves so much money. I have six wool dryer balls and use three for small to medium loads and all six for large to extra-large loads. These are not the exact ones I have, but a good set can be found here.

There you have it. A simple low-maintenance laundry routine that meets our needs perfectly. Whenever my husband and I pass the laundry aisle at a store, we honestly start to feel sick to our stomachs and I often develop a headache quickly. As you weed out toxins from your everyday routine, you may find a chemical sensitivity that didn’t exist before. That’s normal and shows how bad so many mainstream items really are. I encourage you to examine your laundry routine and see where changes can be made. The Environmental Working Group (website and app) is a great resource if you need additional information.

What is your laundry routine?

To the Wishing Woman

To the woman who feels left out in office conversations, you are not alone.

To the woman who sees it happen so easily to others and wonders what is wrong with her, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

To the woman who has nothing in common with others and wishes she did, believe me in saying that you have more in common with others than you think.

To the woman who feels like she doesn’t belong, your sense of belonging is so much than a life event.

To the woman who sees things happen so easily to some and yet are so hard to her, know that life wasn’t meant to be easy.

To the woman who longs for playdates and motherhood meetings, fill your life with friend walks and talks.

To the woman who yearns to play with a kid in the yard, volunteer at a humane society and throw a ball with the dogs who get out only once or twice a day.

I feel you. I’ve been there. I know the pain of loss and wondering if your time will ever come. Will it be this month, next month, or maybe even the following? Will it ever happen? Please know that you are not alone. Infertility affects roughly 10% of women in the United States. That is equivalent to approximately 6 million women between 15-44, according to Women’s Health. Trust me when I say that you are not alone.

Next time you may be struggling, find an activity that brings you joy and do it. Stay busy. Strengthen your current relationships. Find a hobby. Know yourself and enjoy it. Love yourself so you can better love someone else. Please know that millions of women are in your shoes and it’s more than okay to find a friend to walk with together.

You are not alone.

Spark Joy, but at What Cost?

Unless you live under a rock, then you most certainly have heard of Marie Kondo’s book (and now Netflix TV show) “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Her method, often referred to as KonMari, advises individuals to declutter their lives of things that don’t bring them joy. Possessions ranging from jewelry, clothing, shoes, paperwork, books, and other material items should be cleaned out and organized by category (not room) and in the process, those items that are no longer serving you should be discarded. By doing so, you are putting simplicity and order into your life and keeping your items at a minimalist manageable level.

Let me start by saying that I, as a whole, find the method extremely effective when done efficiently. Organizing by category definitely makes more sense than clearing out one room only to find the same or similar items in another. I also don’t like hanging onto something simply for the sake of it, but I also dislike living in a cluttered environment. Now here’s where my concerns come into play. Thrift stores are receiving items at astonishing rates: One in Texas reported a 324% increase in donations, which is astonishing. However, have the buyers increased? Unless more people start secondhand shopping to buy the items, many are still unintentionally flooding landfills. There is simply too many items and not enough space or buyers to hold everything being donated. If you have items that are in good condition or that are something that could benefit others, consider one of the following instead of immediately going to a donation bin: Freecycle.org; Women’s, Men’s or Homeless Shelter; Yard Sale; or start selling on an app like Mercari or Poshmark. There will always be items you have that someone else can use.

While I believe we don’t need to keep things that just take up space and want my items to have a second use, I want to focus more emphasis on the things we bring into our homes than what we’re discarding. Constantly getting rid of things is not stopping the constant cycle of items being produced: It’s encouraging it and then discarded when we’re done with them. Buying items creates a supply and demand effect. You buy it: They will continue to make it. Prime examples are fast fashion clothing (think H&M, Zara, Topshop, etc), cheap furniture that isn’t built to last, and holiday knick knack decor that serves no purpose except to be used once or twice and then thrown away. If you think “will this item bring joy?” along with something like “what purpose does this serve?”, you’re more likely to be intentional with your purchases instead of bringing in things on a whim. The purpose could be sitting pretty on a shelf (I definitely love my Willow Tree figurines), and if that makes you happy, then go for it.

Here is a kit I have put together of some of my most recent (and intentional) purchases. While I almost always buy secondhand, a few of these meet my needs and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

My two bags that hang by the garage door. The Rescue Strong bag was bought secondhand on Poshmark and is perfect for running errands, like a quick grocery trip. The one on the right was a wedding present from a dear friend and holds my essentials for when I’m out.
All the items in my tote that I take with me when out running errands.

The blue Rescue Strong bag was bought on Poshmark and while it may have been secondhand, it had also never been used. Win win! The tote on the right was a wedding present from my MOH and dear friend, which holds the items shown in the second picture. These bags are hung by the garage door so I try and remember to bring them with me when I leave. I don’t always remember, but the intentions are there. The To Go Ware carrying case holds bamboo chopsticks, knife, spoon, and fork: Cheap utensils will work just as well. The cloth napkins are for anytime a mess may be made. The bamboo straw will help me avoid plastic straws in public. The Stojo silicone drink cup is perfect for hot or cold beverages and even has a flexible straw inside. It is compact and fits perfectly in the bag. Last but certainly not least, the aluminum container was $1.99 at Goodwill and holds my restaurant leftovers perfectly. I couldn’t believe that good find!

If the whole concept of decluttering your life all at once seems overwhelming, step back and ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it because the new “trend” is to live with less? Are you seeking the minimalist photos of white walls and a fake plant on a wooden dresser to spruce up your Instagram feed? Maybe you really do just want to free your life from clutter and find joy in the possessions you have. Whatever the reason may be, I encourage you to take it slow. Living with less and decluttering doesn’t happen overnight. Truthfully, I regret donating many of my impulse donation purchases from when I randomly decided at 10pm that my spare closet needed to be cleaned out. If you know with 100% certainty that you’re never going to be use an item again, by all means get rid of it. If you’re on the fence, keep it for six months or so and reevaluate it at that time. If you look at it and experience involuntary excitement, it’s a keeper. You can read all the books and watch all the shows out there about how to live with less, be conscience with your purchases, create a capsule wardrobe, etc, but honestly, none of that matters if you don’t know why you’re doing with it. Start with the items you see online, on the store shelves, on Facebook Marketplace. Evaluate them and assess their value prior to them even entering your home. It will make decluttering that much simpler.

A simple thought process to bringing items in:

  • Do I like this item enough to pay my hard-earned money for it?
  • Do I need this item?
  • How is this item made? Is it cheap or appear to be long-lasting?
  • What will happen to this item when I no longer have a need for it? If it breaks or wears out, will it simply go in the landfill or can the materials be recycled, composted, etc?
  • Think about it for a week and come back to it if you just can’t get it off your mind. Find a space for it PRIOR to it coming into your home so it doesn’t go in a closet and forgotten.

A simple thought process to getting items out:

  • Why am I getting rid of this item (no longer use, doesn’t fit, etc)?
  • Can someone near me benefit from this item before I donate it to a thrift shop or Goodwill? Try selling it or posting it online. Freecycle.org is a great way to spread the wealth of items you no longer want with neighbors who may have been wanting that exact (or similar) thing.
  • Can the materials from this item be used for something else, like art or a craft project? How about recycled materials?
  • Does this item bring you joy?

There’s no science or rhyme and reason to those lists. They’re simply what thoughts run through my head when I’m either 1) about to make a purchase or 2) giving something up. While in graduate school, I owned so much clothing that it took two closets, two under the bed storage containers, a five-drawer dresser, and a shoe carousel to fit everything I owned. I would buy everything I liked no matter the material, season, style, or even if I thought I’d wear it a lot. I can say with honesty that five years later, the thought of owning so much makes me cringe at how much money (even though 85% of the pieces were secondhand) was wasted. If only I had taken my own advice years ago!!

I wish you all the best as you work to spark joy in your life. Take a walk, clean, have a coffee date with a friend, go out to dinner, or even declutter your home bit-by-bit. What works for me may not work for you: That’s totally normal! Once you are comfortable with what you have, then I honestly believe you will be just fine.

These Products Aren’t as “Plaine” as You May Think

Although I don’t feel you need to buy “zero waste” products (think buying a bamboo travel cutlery set when you can put a knife fork and spoon in a cloth napkin and secure it with a rubber band) as soon you start adjusting to a low-impact lifestyle, I do get excited when a product comes along that checks off all the boxes for me. I want the items in my home to work efficiently, serve a purpose, and ultimately bring me joy. Two gifts I recently received from my mother do all those things, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

#1: The Cora ball.

The Cora Ball is made from 100% recycled plastic and is designed to catch the microfibers that end up in our waterways through constant use of a washing machine. These microfibers are detrimental to sea life and pollute our precious oceans. While not perfect, this nifty ball will reduce microfibers in your wash by 1/3 or more. The amount caught is determined based on types of materials being washed, size of load, if pet hair is present, and washer settings, but through a great deal of testing, a third of the fibers has been found to be caught at the end of a cycle. I’ve only used mine a couple times since receiving it, so I cannot say its effectiveness on many different types of loads: Mine have been towels and a regular load of shirts and jeans. I suspect that after a few more washes, the fibers will be more visible and then can be thrown away. Until laundry lint is able to be recycled, the trash can will have to do. This link will explain more in-depth on microfibers and why it’s important to keep them out of our oceans as much as possible: https://spark.adobe.com/page/5Q4c8b8ORYG5l/

#2: Plaine Products Shampoo and Conditioner

I bought a travel set of the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash from Plaine Products last year and fell in love with them. The aluminum bottles felt secure in my toiletry bag and there was no leakage. My hair felt light and shiny, which is odd for my fine, wavy, and damaged hair due to years of coloring it. Also, my husband and I were living in an area with extremely hard water, and I was blown away at how effective the shampoo was still able to clean my hair. Also, the smell was heavenly! Due to plenty of 1/2 full bottles of hair products under my sink, however, I did not invest in the full-size bottles upon finishing the travel ones. Financially, it was just not possible. As fate would have it, I’m 2/3 done my current shampoo and conditioner, so I was extra thankful for these bottles.

Here’s why I think Plaine Products’ mission is so unique: They’re part of a circular economy, a regenerative design intended to be better for the environment and overall health of individuals. Little waste as possible is created in this type of economy. A customer buys an initial bundle set of items and receives them in aluminum bottles: Only plastic is the pumps that can be used with each new bottle. Once it’s time for a new order, refills are ordered and empty bottles are sent back in the refill box to be reused and sent to another customer. Aluminum is an ideal material because it can be recycled a numerous number of times without losing its initial structure, while plastic breaks down a bit more each time it’s recycled. Aluminum is also much stronger than plastic, so it can withstand mail travel to a greater extent than typical plastic bottles would. The whole concept behind the business model is brilliant.

All products are cruelty free, vegan, sulfate and paraben free, and biodegradable, meaning the actual product is not harmful to ocean life once it reaches our waterways. As someone who washes her hair every other day, the biodegradable aspect is something for which I am grateful.

I understand not everyone can afford $30 for a bottle of shampoo and conditioner. If you cannot, that’s okay! Do what works best for you. I use to print BOGO coupons for Giovanni products every time I saw one online and stocked up so I wouldn’t ever need to pay full price. In fact, I’m fairly certain there’s still a coupon in my purse to be used. Now I have the chance to give these products a good chance (16 oz. will last me a long time), it will be up to me to determine if the price tag is worth it. I will certainly report back once I’ve given these a “go” for awhile!

What Are Your Unique Values?

In church this morning, this question was posed to those in attendance: “What do you value that makes you unique?” It’s an interesting thought. We all value something whether or not we realize it. How it makes us unique, however, is something I’ve never really thought about until recently. I ended up thinking about it all day and these are the things I’ve come up with. It may be blunt and direct, but I really don’t know how else to say them. I’m unique because my values align with my belief system and it’s important to find others who share them with you.

  1. Those who keep their word. If you tell me you’re going to do something, then do it.   In words that all children (likely or should have) learned, don’t cancel just because something better comes along. It makes you a shady person and will catch up to you in the long run.
  2. Being yourself. Laugh. Joke. Smile. Don’t put on an act and be someone you’re not. It’s okay to not be perfect: No one is. Our imperfections together can create a remarkable friendship.
  3. Sustainability. I find importance in recycling; bringing your own silverware, straws, and reusable bags everywhere; and trying to find ways to cut down my waste. I have a long way to go and will never be “zero waste,” but I do 100% believe in living a more low-impact lifestyle that’s better for you and the planet. If you don’t have a reusable bag, find one secondhand or sew one out of a t-shirt: They make AWESOME grocery bags. Buy one reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle and take it everywhere you go. The conversation on how detrimental plastic water bottles are for the environment isn’t for this post, and while I see a purpose for them in emergencies and for those who don’t have access to clean water, they are completely and utterly a waste for the average person who has water in the fridge dispenser or adequate tap water.
  4. Animal rescue. If you still believe that going to a breeder (backyard or not), a pet store that won’t show you the mother dogs or tell you where the puppies came from, or an Amish Farm are the only ways to get your “perfect” pet, think again. I encourage you to set foot in a shelter and sees the faces of creatures who have been let down by mankind. Look up Libre’s Law in Pennsylvania and see how a throwaway puppy on an Amish form set the course for animal protection in a state with some of the worst puppy mills in the country. Look at the euthanasia rates of dogs and cats each year in the United States alone because people 1) don’t spay and neuter their pets, 2) consider animals disposable, or 3) think that someone else will take them. The ASPCA estimates that out of the 1.5 million dogs and cats surrendered to a shelter each year, 670K (dogs) and 860K (cats) are euthanized. The fact that people continue to support industries where spending hundreds of dollars is acceptable but an $85 adoption fee isn’t because the animal may not be “perfect” is a load of crap. I’ve seen too many dogs bought from breeders end up at shelters for various reasons, so reasons mean literally nothing. Like with the plastic bottles, this post isn’t for an animal debate, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
  5. Supporting small businesses the best you can. Large businesses get your dollars because they’re the norm: They don’t need your dollars to survive. Small businesses do, and I believe in supporting them when it’s feasible to do so.
  6. Honesty. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

I’m certain there are others that I failed to mention, but these are the top five I was able to think of today. The challenge wasn’t realizing my values, but a) finding those who share the same or similar ones and b) living out these values when those around you don’t. I go to a dinner every week with friends and even though there’s perfectly good silverware in the drawers, plastic (that will literally exist forever) is always used because it’s convenient. I talk about my animals a lot because they’re basically my life, but no one can relate to seeing them overcome obstacles like Miner’s submissive peeing due to abuse and Leia’s nurturing personality because she once had puppies before ending up as a stray. When recycling is suggested, I’m looked at like I have three heads and then see the soda can get thrown in the trash. Aluminum can be recycled so easily and an endless number of times. It takes all I have to not reach in there to take it out and put it in my own recycling can. Why don’t I, you may ask? Because despite values, no one wants to be the odd ball out. It’s hard standing up for what you believe in, no matter how important they are to you. I tell Matt often that sometimes it sucks knowing so much. Is it better to live a life of ignorance (ignorance is NOT the same as not knowing: If you don’t know why single-use plastic is bad, ask. If you want to know why recycling is important, ask. Ignorance is totally different.) or research, study, and educate yourselves on things that matter only to feel like an outcast anyway? It’s easy to follow tons of pages online of others who share your values, but it’s often 10x more difficult to find them in real life.

One of my goals as I approach 30 is to stop caring so much about what people think. My values have shaped me into a social worker, rescue mom, doctor’s wife, clothing/shoes reseller (the clothing waste in this world is out of control), thrifter, and crazy couponer. Okay, I’ve calmed down on the coupons since discovering cash back apps, but my thrifty nature is still there. My values may not be the majority of those in the world, but I’m determined to start making them my normal. Instead of plastic silverware, I’m going to remember my reusable set this Thursday. I’m going to actually put a stainless steel straw in my car so I have one next time I go out somewhere. Stop talking, more action. Let’s do this.

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My biggest support system and encourager. So thankful for him and these pups.

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A picture totally irrelevant to the post, but I figured something cute was needed after such an intense read!