Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby

So I made a baby.
It's still such a shock, even though we were trying.
And let me tell you, so far pregnancy sucks.  It's like being hungover 24/7 while having the flu.  I have no energy.  I am sick.  Work is miserable (and I normally love my job).  I'm really hoping for that magical second trimester comes the way it's supposed to.

But yey.  Pregnant!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chances of a Miscarriage



I imagine most women in early pregnancy experience the mind-numbing fear at some point:  Will my baby be OK?  Whether you are a first-time mom, carrying a rainbow baby, or your symptoms just don't match the ones from an earlier pregnancy, you worry.

I worry too.  A first-time mom after a miscarriage, every twinge, symptom, or lack of symptom, will start me imagining the worst.

I recently found a website where you can get an estimate of your chances of a miscarriage based on your LMP, and I've found in so comforting.

Today, in my 5th week, the chances are at 10%.  That's still a lot of course, but in another two weeks, they'll be down to three.  Every time I look at those numbers, I can feel my anxiety going down.  Maybe not completely away, but down.

So for anyone else who thinks some statistics would give them a bit of calm, here it is. Hope it helps!

http://spacefem.com/pregnant/mc.php

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Two Week Wait Symptoms

J and I are doing the dreaded (and yet wonderful) TWW again.  As always I suddenly notice I have every pregnancy symptom in the book and am 100% sure I'm pregnant (probably with twins).  Then, of course, I realize that I'm crazy, none of what I'm feeling is a pregnancy symptom at all, and I better not get my hopes up because they will just be dashed.



So just for fun, here are all the symptoms I've been "feeling".
(Real on not?  you decide,)


Fatigue:

Only 2 days after ovulation, and I'm feeling exhausted.  I'm falling asleep at my desk, feeling a bone-tired weariness.  I spend a Sunday that WAS supposed to be full of productivity, laying on the couch, eating, and watching TV.  The weariness continues throughout the week.  I need more sleep.  When I fall asleep, I am dead to the world (except for the two times a night I get up to pee, see below).  No more restless nights for me!

  • This MUST be a sign of a child.  A tiny adorable parasite sucking up all my energy as it tries to take up permanent residence inside my uterus.  How can it be anything else???
  • Of course, I have been so busy at work that I haven't been getting my usual amount of sleep.  And we're down to only 8 hours of sunlight here in the interior, which means that everyone is getting used to waking up in full darkness.   And Vitamin D has become scarce.  Sleepiness is a norm, not the exception, at this point in my life.  

Thirst and Frequent Urination:

Suddenly I find myself drinking all the time.  I'm always thirsty.  I stop halfway through my 10-minute ride home to guzzle some water.  It is not enough.  I easily drink 10 cups of (caffeine-free) tea during the workday.  Of course, all this tea-drinking comes with a price:  Every hour, on the hour, I get to use the facilities.  I think even my boss, who is a very stereotypical man when it comes to noticing subtle clues, has realized that I may be going to the bathroom more than normal.

  • We all know that hCG causes urination.  And the need to add four more lbs of blood takes a lot of water.  
  • I may have mentioned I live in interior Alaska, where the temperatures have recently dropped below freezing (for the next 6 months or so).  This means that the air is DRY  (cold air can have 100% humidity, and still hold less water that normal warm air).  When the air gets this dry, and we turn up to heat to heat our houses (drying up that air too), everyone becomes thirsty.  Your skin gets dry, your body can't hold on to moisture, and you better drink up or prepare to lotion up every five minutes.  In fact, just do both if you want to survive.  All that water will make you pee more, it's kind of how the kidneys work.

Nausea:

Starting 6 days after ovulation, and I'm feeling sick anytime I get thirsty, don't eat for too long, or think about anything that I find gross.  Driving in the bumpy Jeep almost makes me gag, as does the site of the dirty dishes from last night (who I am kidding, they're from three nights ago).  I take care to constantly drinking something soothing, lemony, or gingery.  I am also never more than two steps away from a snack source.  There is a taste in my mouth that makes me feel like I have actually thrown up (though it has not gone that far yet).  I get into the habit of brushing my teeth or using some mouthwash every time I eat, which is about every 30 minutes.  My dentist would be so proud.


  • Clearly, random nausea MUST be a sign of pregnancy.  It's not like nausea is a symptom you develop for no good reason.
  • Though I suppose "good reason" could be: too much cheese, I ate a bad fish, eating leftovers that have been left on the counter overnight...  All right.   There are other causes.  Plus the nausea mostly went away after a few days...  Shouldn't it have gotten worse if I'm actually pregnant? And to be fair, I'm prone to a little nausea every now and then.  Usually when cleaning the kitchen, and having to deal with gross food. 


Crying at nothing:

And by nothing I mean everything.  Cute cat story?  Check.  Wonderful birth story?  Check.  A birthday card with a baby animal?  Check.  Anyone helped anyone else and I heard about it?  Check.

  • Weepiness is a well know symptom of pregnancy.  All those crazy hormones inside you make even the most level-headed woman break down crying when confronted with the cuteness of a puppy, or the terrible thought of loss.
  • Unfortunately, those same hormones can be a trigger for a period to start and could just be PMS.  As someone who once cried over a bicycle on the road at her desk at work due to PMS, I really can't count this as a pregnancy symptom.  


Boobs:

Two days ago, when I came to bed, J looked at my chest and said: "Have they gotten bigger?"  Enough said.  I didn't notice a thing, but if my husband thinks something is up, something is probably up.  Now I keep peeking down my sweater at work wondering if I can notice them getting bigger...  Hope no one is looking.  They hurt if I poke them.  The more I poke, the more tender they are.  And yesterday, I put on an old strapless bra, and the girls practically jumped out...

  • Bigger boobs!  It's what they do when you get pregnant, getting an early start on the making of baby food thing.  Growing makes them tender, hence the girls are telling me that we are all pregnant.
  • It's possible I was just having a good boob day.  And I don't think you can count the girls as being 'tender" if I had to poke them to get them there.  As for the strapless bra thing, my girls need real support.  They always pop out of a strapless bra.  It's why I hate strapless bra's and will wear them only if the outfit is REALLY cute, and the bra straps destroy the whole look.

Conclusion:

I have absolutely NO idea.  No conclusion can be drawn from the 'evidence' other than I'm obsessed.  Guess We'll see when I test in three more days!


Monday, October 17, 2016

A Miscarriage Momento

I want to say I thought long and hard on how to remember the life we lost, but that would be a lie.

 The weekend I was miscarrying, I had friends visiting.  We went to visit the Santa Clause House in North Pole (I live in Alaska, it's a thing you do even in July), and I found something perfect to remember him by.  A small, delicate star, carved out of a birch burr.  As soon as I entered the store I knew I would find something there.  Christmas is my all time favorite holiday, and as soon as I found I was pregnant, I started planning Christmas with the little one.  All the fun things we would do and the memories we would make.  It was a no-brainer that a Christmas ornament was the right thing for me as a memento.


Now that we are trying again, I'm thinking a lot about that little birch star.  I remember how smooth and friendly it felt in my hand when I first got it.  I remember how pretty it was.  I remember how Alaskan it was.  We've always joked that by having kids up here we'll be making sure (as if you can make sure of anything regarding children) that they would be Alaska tough.  So it was just perfect, or as perfect as a memento of such a tragedy can be.  Now, I wonder if I'll be buying a second one before Christmas...

I've been reading a bit about rainbow babies, and the stress you feel after a miscarriage.  I truly appreciate it now.  I'm in my TWW for the first time since the miscarriage, and I'm alternating between being excited, trying not to get my hopes up, and worrying that it will all go wrong.

I did a little research into what other women have done to remember their unborn child.
If you are looking for something of your own, here are some popular ways to remember:


Jewelry

Rings, necklaces, and bracelets are all popular ways to remember a lost child.  Some are homemade, while others are store bought.  I noticed a lot of pink and blue, as well as angel wings.  They are a beautiful way of holding your loss near you, but allowing you to choose which days you will have your momento with you.  If this interests you, there are many wonderful and classy jewelry pieces to choose from:
Military Mama Musings -  Miscarriage Remembrance Jewelry


Etsy Mommy of an Angel Necklace
DIY Believe washer necklace
Pink and Blue pregnancy loss awareness
Miscarriage Affirmation Bracelet
Angel Wing Ring
Born unto heaven footprint


Tattoos

For those women (or men, after all, a pregnancy loss can affect both parents) who want something permanent, there are quite a few beautiful tattoo ideas to remember a pregnancy by.

Military Mama Musings - Miscarriage Remembrance Tattoos
Miscarriage Tattoo Gallery 






Statuettes

Many people decorate their home with little statuettes and knick knacks.  If this is your style, there are beautiful and tear-jerking objects available to help you remember a pregnancy.

Military Mama Musings - Miscarriage Remembrance StatuettesMiscarriage Memorial Stone
Baby Angel
Willow Tree Guardian
Precious Moments (Discontinued, but wonderful)



Christmas Ornaments

Like me, many people find the holidays to be the right time to remember.  In addition to simply going out and finding an ornament that speaks to you, like I did, there are many ornaments available specifically to remember a pregnancy.  They are both sad and wonderful.  Some of these are meant for adoption, but I think they are perfect for miscarriage too.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Halloween Apron

After having family visiting us for a week, I was excited to have Labor Day all to myself.  Having spent the week being a tourist or vegging around the house, I really needed to do something productive for my sanity.  Vegging around for a full week is not my idea of relaxing.

Military Mama Musings - Halloween Apron I really wanted to make something.  I think the urge was there to offset the laziness of the prior week. I remembered that a year (or two) ago, I bought some fun Halloween fabric for an apron.  I got two different fabrics so that the apron could be reversible.  I was excited, especially since I recently bought some fun new accessories for my sewing machine and learned how to use the buttonhole and button feet.

In general, I'm in love with my new sewing machine (courtesy of J in the spring), so getting to use it on another project made me very very happy.

Military Mama Musings - Halloween ApronAlthough I do sometimes make my own sewing patterns, this particular apron came courtesy of Jo-Ann's:  I chose the one without the top embellishment, and with only one pocket, because I like to keep my practical clothing simple (bottom left). Though  I did add a lace border.  :-)

With our new living room arrangement, we have plenty of space for me to lay out the fabric, though my cat and dog always want to 'help' when it's least convenient.  Guess it just feels good to mess up perfectly laid out fabric with your claws...  Still, they did eventually let me cut out all the pieces, which luckily was just six:  two sides to the Apron,  two pockets, and the two ties.  Overall, a nice easy project.

Military Mama Musings - Wonder ClipsI really did enjoy using my new Wonder Clips, though they are not going to replace pins for everything.  Still, they went on and off a lot quicker than pins do, and it was much easier to unclip as I was sewing than it would have been to unpin.  They also held the layers in place easily.  And I love the color. Mine were purchased at the local sewing shop, Blue Ribbon Sew, but they are available at Amazon as well.  Will definitely play around with these some more before I decide whether or not to invest in a few more.

The final product came out quite nice.  I love getting to choose the look I want to wear that day, though the apron will be stored till October. It is my grand plan to have one Apron for every month of the year.  So far I have October, November, and December (which I purchased at a local holiday bazaar and which sparked the desire to have a different one for every month).  I also love reversible aprons.  Not only are they thicker and more sturdy, making them feel like they are much higher quality, but they can be worn to mach your mood or to switch to a less stained side around guests.  It is possible I just don't wash my aprons enough...

Military Mama Musings - Halloween Apron

I did try my hand with some pattern matching.  For the pumpkin side, I choose to make the pocket the face of a cat, which obviously breaks the pattern.  For the silhouette side, however, I centered the pocket on one of the silhouettes and then positioned it so that it matches the overall pattern.  It wasn't too hard since I had the freedom to move the pocket around a little to make the pattern match.  I haven't figured out however how I would have done it when the pattern needed to be exact.  Something further research on that is necessary.

Military Mama Musings - Halloween Apron

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review - Love the House You're In

"40 ways to improve your home and change your life."

A few weeks ago, when J was gone on a three-week field exercise, I wondered over to a temple of solace, also known as Barns and Noble.  I was feeling sad and restless, missing Jeff, and wanted a new book to keep me company at night.  As I wandered the aisles looking for something to catch my eye, I decided I wanted a book on home improvement.  I was planning spending my free time while J was gone painting, organizing, and rearranging (something that's got the double benefit of being engaging and time-consuming, while being easy to leave at any moment when things come up).  Eventually, I picked up Love the House You're In by Paige Rien.  The book particularly caught my eye because it proposed to change the way you think about your home, and looked to have good advice not just for homeowners, but also for renters.  Since we don't own our house, and since we have a max two years left here in Fairbanks, I had hoped it would have some good tips on what to do without needing an addition or to tear out a wall.


Well, I was not disappointed.
This book is divided into 5 sections, each looking at a different aspect of the home.  The first two sections are all about reflection.  The third is about 'style'.  It's in quotations marks because the author hates the word style and what it implies.  The last two contain practical advice about decorating a house.  Overall the book covers every type of room and every big decision that needs to be made.  There is advice on elements of entry, on lighting and paint colors, additions and throw pillow.  For such a short book, it really has everything.

Here are the parts of the book that were most helpful for me:

  • Part One:  So, Who are You?
    I know it's kind of cheating to have the entire first section be the number one helpful thing, but this section is exactly what makes this book unique.  It doesn't ask "do you like traditional furniture?" or "What is your budget?"   Instead, the chapter goes through different aspects of a person's history and identity, such as travel, hometown, faith, etc.  As such Paige asks us to think about who we are, so that when we get to  actually changing our home, we have a firm grasp of the things that make us happy, so that we may show them off in our home.  This chapter inspired me to take out a tile we received at our wedding from storage.  This tile says "happiness is being married to someone Polish"  and has a couple in traditional Krakow dress kissing on it.  I always liked it, but never displayed it because its traditional look never fit in with the modern style I knew I liked.  But I realized that it was one of the few things we have that marks my heritage, and that is important to me.  
  • What Do You Love about Your House?
    This chapter of section two asks you to list at least 5 things you love about your house.  It asks you to come up with this list fast.  If something pops into your head, it should probably be on the list.  Don't choose things that you think you should like, and don't list anything too broad.  Stick with specifics.  For me this was easy.  The things I currently love about my rental are
    1.  The view of the mountains from the balcony on a clear day
    2.  The bookcase in the living room where all the books are organized by the color of the spines
    3.  The painting J and I bought in Anchorage last Spring
    4.  The many house plants that line our windowsills
    5.  The print of J and I that was signed by guests at our wedding.
    The list was easy.  The first thing it made me realize is that I wanted to bring many more plants into our bedroom, which at the time only had three.  I detail the results of that search here.
    .
    Military Mama Musings - Rainbow Bookcase
  • What's Your Real-Estate Story
    What I really gained from this part of section two, is how important it is to ask this simple question:  Will you be at this home for more than 5 years.  In our case, the answer is no.  I know we'll be moving in about two years.  This is not a "forever" home for us.  Paige here makes a statement that was a surprise for me, but that I loved.  If you're not in a forever home, don't wait.  You're not going to take up huge projects such as an addition if you're not there forever, but you can do a lot of small things now, and enjoy them for the few years you will stay in the house.  I loved the advice.  I repainted a spare bedroom I hated that was acting as storage outside of the one month a year where we have family visiting and changed in into a "me" room, complete with a sewing corner, a hammock for reading, and of course, lots of plants!
  • Welcome yourself Home: Entryways
    I never loved the way our home entry was set up.  The first flat surface I came to when entering the home was J's desk.  The second was our living room table and chairs.  As a result, both places were always covered with junk mail, purses, coats, and shopping bags.  J hated it since his desk is his sanctuary.  Paige gave a few pointers on how important it is to not only have a designated space for all that stuff, but also how nice it is to have something you love be the last thing you see when you leave the house, and the first thing you see when you enter.  I rearranged some of the living room furniture, and now we have a functioning entry way!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is not quite satisfied with their home, and who feels lost in all the decisions that could possibly be made!



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Vertical Garden - How to squeeze just a few more plants into the bedroom!

A few weeks ago I read a great book, Love the House You're In.  It really made me think about the aspects of the rental that I love, and on top of the list is ALL the plants that we have.  I have two balconies, and several south facing windows, all of which are covered by plants.  In fact, the only rooms of the house that don't have any houseplants are the walk in closet and the two bathrooms (none of which have any windows.)  



Anyway, I decided that I needed more plants in my bedroom.  All I had in there was a small snake plant* I placed on J's nightstand (it's my way of saying "I love you" since snake plants are known to clean the air at night), a large-ish  Bird of Paradise that was doing OK, but had never flowered, and a Norfolk Island Pine (I think) that Jeff got me around last Christmas.  Now the latter two are fairly large plants, but I wanted a massing somewhere in the bedroom instead of just single specimens.  


Military Mama Musings - Snake Plant/Mother in law's tongue

I did a little research on indoor vertical gardens, and there are some amazing ideas out there, both ready to buy products, and DIY tutorials.

The first one I found was a beautiful Smart Wall from G Sky.  It has the benefit of being an all in one product, comes fully assembled, and has drip irrigation installed.  All you do is add 96 4" plants and enjoy!  Unfortunately at $1499 it was a bit out of my price range.  Still, it's a beauty!
Military Mama Musings - Smart Wall by G Sky


There was also this smaller Vertical Succulent Frame from Succulent Wonderland at Etsy.  It had a great place to put in a larger plant, and the cost of $96 included the succulents in the top corner.  It was definitely worth the price, but it didn't quite fit into the look of our bedroom.
Military Mama Musings - Vertical Succulent Frame from Succulent Wonderland at Etsy


A DIY Succulent Frame from Balcony Garden Web looked like jus the thing.  I could make it in a style that fit the look I wanted and still have vertical plantings.  Until I realized that my bedroom, especially in the winter, simply does not get enough light to support succulents.  I didn't want to install a special light for them, and I was afraid that with the mold problems constantly present in Alaska, it would not end up well for me.  


Clearly, I needed something that would work for less light loving plants.  This DIY wood and leather trellis plant wall looked perfect.  I could make it, and it could be taken off the wall to come with me when we move in a few years.  I loved the look  and the fact that I could paint the pots and trellis to work with the colors of the bedroom.  I realized, however, that my bedroom just does not have this much wall space, at least not where there is any light.  Next house maybe...
Military Mama Musings - Trellis Plant Wall



These Macrame Hanging Planters just looked beautiful.  They all came from Chiron Creations on Etsy, and some amazing person hung a dozen or so of them, all in different shades of blue and green, in a row.  It looks spectacular.  However, you once again need some blank wall space, and I didn't want to spend so much money on my last minute project.  This is once again a project for the next house.

I finally found something that would work for me at M-Pression.  Instead of a complicated design, why not fill an entire shelf with cascading plants?  There are tons that are OK with low light conditions, some neglect (I'm not the best at regular watering, and it usually takes me months to get a plant to thrive), and I already have shelves in the bedroom!





I just loved this look.  I took some inventory of the plants that I had available that would propagate easily.  I had two kinds of photos in the house, which love low light, and are hanging.  Then I went on an online shopping spree at Hirts Gardens over at Etsy.  The choices were great (I decided to stick with one store so that I didn't have to pay too much extra shipping since shipping to Alaska can get quite expensive), and I ended up ordering four new plants:


  • Lemon-Lime Vining Philodendron: an easy hanging plant that's my favorite bright shade of green
  • Mona Lisa Lipstick Plant: this one was supposed to be easy and I couldn't resist the bright red flowers
  • Velvet Leaf Bronze Micans Vine: Interesting green/red foliage, also a philodendron, and it's a hanging plant too!
  • Red Prayer Plant:  this one is not a hanging plant, but I had hoped it would offset the other plantings nicely

Military Mama Musings - Houseplants

I bought a whole bunch of 5" clay pots, and spray painted them yellow and gray.  I did a horrible job, and the paint dripped all over itself.  Since in the back of my head we have a "less than two years at his place" mentality, I decided to just embrace the drips as part of the look, and in fact sprayed some more to get even more drips.  


The plants arrived in a few days and looked like this:

They were packaged very nicely, and in fact were much bigger than what I expected to get with 4" pots.  Very exciting!

I planted them all, including the two pothos plants in the 5" pots.  The result is quite nice, though lacking in the 'vertical' aspect.  But that's the thing about working with plants.  They look significantly better after you've given them some time to grow!


Military Mama Musings - Future Vertical Green Wall


*SIDE NOTE:  Snake plant, or Sansevieria trifasciata, is also called mother in law's tongue.  It is a name I prefer since it paints a nice picture:  the leaves have very sharp edges, and like the  proverbial mother in law, will cut you up if not careful.  However, since my mother in law is a lovely sweet person, I always feel guilty falling back on that name, so Snake plant it is.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

End of a Miscarriage

I've been writing this post for a week weeks now, and even so, I'm having a difficult time putting down my thoughts.  Maybe because this is such a significant moment.  Maybe because it's less significant than I want to make it out to be...  I'm not sure.  

Military Mama Musings - End of a Miscarriage


Last week my doctor called with the news.  After a month of spotting, bleeding, spotting, more bleeding, etc, My hCG levels are now "undetectable".  I can't believe it took a month for my body to get back to normal.  Except, that it really doesn't feel normal.  I feel sad.  And a little scared to try again.  I know this is supposed to be normal, but I'm so worried that it'll happen again and again.

My body does feel more normal.  I've had one more 'period', which of course wasn't a period at all.  But it does seem like my body has gone back to status quo.  I'm working hard on not checking any of my fertility apps since I don't think I could stop myself from trying again so soon if I knew.  Our doctor wants us to wait as month or two before we try again.

One of the positive things I got from this is the absolute realization of how you can plan for absolutely nothing when it comes to children.  You can't plan on when you'll have them, on their gender, on their personality, and on what they'll choose to become in the future.

Maybe this was just a valuable parenting lesson after all?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Choosing Paint - a few tips

Military Mama Musings - Choosing Paint: a few tipsI assume most people have painted a room at some point in their lives.  Maybe you just 'helped' choose the color as a kid, or maybe you're that crazy person (and I include myself in the description) who decided to repaint their first apartment from top to bottom, and then had to paint it all back before moving out?  Either way, almost everyone knows that most of the time, choosing a paint color can be a daunting process, and it's certainly not one that should be rushed.

Now, I am not an expert on this by any means.  I am not a color theorist, not an interior designer, and I don't have tetrachromacy (though I really wish I did).  I do however love color, decorating, and am frequently asked by friends to help them choose a color for their house.  I also love to research colors, how the appear with different light types and temperatures, and most of the time I think the colors I've chosen have worked great in the space.  My friends sometimes agree and sometimes don't, but as I learned in a recent book I read, Love the Home you Have,  don't rely on friends to give you your own color preference, and don't worry if they don't like what you chose!

Now, everyone has their own way of going about picking colors.  I used to be the go to the store, pick a color, buy the paint, and have a painted room two days later.  I was lucky and hadn't picked out anything so obnoxious I couldn't live with it, but I've had my hits and misses.  The shade of green in our bedroom is still just a tad bit too cool to work well with the warm brown of our furniture.  I also spend five years in a bedroom whose lavender color went from cool blue to bright pink depending on the light, time of day, and season.  The blue wasn't a problem, but the pink drove me crazy when I was unlucky enough to be home during those few hours when the afternoon sun squeezed in between my house and the next door neighbor and shone a two-foot wide swatch through the narrow window.

I have since developed a few steps I try to follow when choosing paint.

Military Mama Musings - Choosing Paint: a few tips

  • Spontaneous Painting will NOT get you a reliable result
    This one is really hard for me, because most of my projects start in a whirlwind of activity where I decide that I must, RIGHT NOW, start this awesome thing.  I usually have an idea, and I want to execute it while I have the drive and energy.  It works great for some things.  I've cleaned the garage in one day, made a baby blanket, and put together our yearbook this way.  But I've managed to tell myself that painting is a task I cannot get started on whenever the urge strikes me.  Instead, I tell myself to channel that first burst of energy into picking a color.  
  • Don't limit yourself when selecting swatches
    Paint looks different in the store than it will in your house. Therefore, you cannot really judge a paint color by the way it looks on a well-lit wall in Home Depot (or your paint store of choice).  There are some judgments that you can make.  First, if you hate a particular hue (I really am not a fan of pink), you can be fairly certain that you will not come to love if you surround yourself with the color.  Second, you probably know how intense of a color you will be happy with.  Some people love bright colors on their walls, others know they want a more subtle or neutral shade.  There is no need to look at the Sunshine Yellow if you know you are looking for something off-white.  Similarly, don't look at pastels if you know you want a dark maroon wall. Third, if there are restrictions of what color you can choose, like your landlord saying "neutrals only" or your child asking that her room be painted blue, there is no need to get colors that don't match that description.
    Outside of that, get all the samples that meet your color choices.   I usually know a general color I want to paint (a green bedroom, a gray craft room, white trim, etc.) so I only get colors that match that general idea.  I like to get both warm and cool shades of each color because I have been surprised before at what worked well with my current carpet and light at my house.  For my last painting project, a spare bedroom turned into a getaway for me, I had over 50 shade of gray (no pun intended) in my original choices.  
  • Eliminate obviously wrong shades in the space to be painted
    Lay out all of your paint choices in the room you'll be painting.  Put aside any that you immediately know do not work.  These are the colors that clash with your furniture, look like vomit in the light, or blend so much with the carpet you cannot tell where one started and the other began (unless of course this is a look you're going for.)  I find that the first elimination to be pretty easy.  Don't worry about throwing away a "perfect" shade by accident:  if there is something you dislike about it at first glance, it'll never grow on you.
  • Eliminate until you have 3 or 4 shades left
    Hopefully, your first elimination round got rid of a dozen or two.  Either way now is the time to eliminate.  Get rid of any color that's too dark (this one is usually pretty easy).  Get rid of any color that's too cool or too warm.  This one can be tough for people who do not do well with warm/cool colors.  Warm colors have undertones of red, yellow, or orange.  Cool colors have undertones of blue or green.  Purple undertones can be either cool or warm.  Some rooms, especially empty ones, can lend themselves to either warm or cool shades, but in most cases, you want to match coolness or warmness to your carpet or furniture.  This will usually eliminate half of the paint chips you have left.  After that it gets harder, but I usually just put away any paint that I don't like, no matter how trivial the reason (except the name of the paint, do not use the name of the paint for any reason, they don't mean anything).  Keep eliminating until you have 4 shades.  Then, unless you are really going for bold, eliminate the darkest one.  I will often keep the darkest shade if I'm painting the room more than one color, but for a single color, eliminate it.
  • Look at your chosen swatches in different lights, on different walls, and at different times of day
    I usually throw the swatches on white paper to eliminate the interference of the existing color (this is not always needed if the existing walls are a neutral white).   I use sticky tack to put them on the walls (not right next to each other), and every time I pass by the room, I look at them.  It takes me at least two days, and usually a week, but by then I have usually found a color I liked.
    If you have a hard time visualizing the color from a small paint swatch.  If that's the case, buy sample paint colors of your choice and paint a 2' x 2' (or bigger) swatch on your wall.  don't put the samples right next to each other and make sure you put them in a spot that has a lot of light changes.  Alternatively, paint boards, so that you can move the paint swatch around the room.  Remember to put something white in the back.  
  • Choose your paint
    Hopefully, a color or two has presented itself.  If i can't decide between two colors, and they work together, I will sometimes use both, especially on different walls.  If you really can't choose, flip a coin.  After all, paint is not a permanent decision you have to live with for the rest of your life.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Morning Bus Mishap

J and I are currently operating with only one car, which has posed a few logistical issues when it comes to living life in Alaska.  I've been alternatively biking, carpooling, and riding the bus to work in the mornings.  This morning, I was reading a great article on the American Gymnastics Team and got so distracted I missed my bus stop.  Unfortunately, the next bus stop is about a mile away, so I got a nice walk in this morning.  On the walk back to work, I stopped by Lowes to buy a larger pot for one of my split leaf philodendrons at work and ended up purchasing a second, as of yet unidentified, plant with awesome red coloring. Anyone know what this is?
Military Mama Musings - Hypoestes phyllostachya - Polka Dot Plant
Update:  this is possibly a Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select' Red - Polka Dot Plant

Military Mama Musings - Hypoestes phyllostachya - Polka Dot Plant

Carrying both the pot and the plant I walked through a drive-thru since my adventure seemed to deserve a coffee and scone reward, which was slightly awkward and reminded me of being in college again.  But when you are trying to get breakfast along a limited route at 7:30 am there are not a lot of chances to be picky.  The things that we find acceptable before we become an adult are hilarious looking back, and without a car, I'm starting to feel like my Adult card is being revoked.  The scone, cheese and ham, was incredibly delicious, and has inspired me to bake tonight!  Anyway, it was a good start to the day, and my Fitbit applauded me for doing so much walking!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Three reasons I am not an Army Wife

Military Mama Musings - Why I'm not an Army WifeA Military Wife
Now that's a phrase that can mean a lot of different things to different people.  For some, it conjures up images of a prim and proper housewife in pearls, making sure that dinner is on the table when her soldier comes back from work, no matter how late that is.  For others, it is a modern woman, wearing an army t-shirt with her kids in tow, doing the shopping while her husband has been away at training for weeks.  Or maybe you picture a grieving widow, a woman who loves a man that made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  Whatever image you have, and there are many more to choose from, the term Military Wife tends to evoke strong feelings in many Americans.


An Army Wife
Those feelings seem to be even stronger when it comes to the term Army Wife.  I don't know if that negative image was sparked by the show "Army Wives" or if it is the show that exploited an often undeserved stereotype.  For the record, I've only ever seen the first episode.  I watched the pilot alone while J was deployed, spend the whole night crying, and vowed never to do that again.

I do want to state that I do not have any notion of an Army Wife as being lazy, greedy, gossiping, cheating, living off of her husband's career, etc.  I'm actually not entirely sure what all the stereotypes are since most of the women I've met married to soldiers have been wonderful, kind, welcoming, and generally the kind of people anyone would love to be surrounded by.  My objection to being called an Army Wife has nothing to do with stereotypes, with the possible exception of that fact that it makes me mistakenly think of a stay at home mom, a title I never want to have, though I respect that choice of the women that do.  I say mistakenly, because most of the women I've met in the army work, and many of those that don't wish they could find a job in their career.  No, my objection has to do with my absolute rejection of being defined by my husband's career.

A Landscape Architecture Husband
Reading the above "a Landscape Architecture Husband" probably made you wince.  For one, it's an awkward term.  For another, how weird is it to define someone by their spouse's job?  I understand that Landscape Architecture and a Military career are very different.  In the military, soldiers risk their lives, they are often gone for weeks, months, or years, the job has an unpredictable schedule, and in some ways legally requires the soldier to put his career in front of any other concerns.  Although those are all true, there are other careers that have similar traits (with the possible exception of the legal requirement).  I have a good friend whose husband is a Smoke Jumper.  When there is a wildfire, he gets called in, packs a backpack, jumps out of a helicopter, battles a wildfire, then hikes back out to civilization.  As far as I know he's never been gone for months, but several weeks is not uncommon.  His job is dangerous, it is unpredictable, and no one has ever called my friend "A Smoke Jumper's Wife."

I know that no job is quite like the military.  I know that in many ways it is a unique profession that requires sacrifices on the job of the soldier and the spouse.  I also understand that there are many women married to members of the military that don't mind, or even like, the title of "Army Wife."  To women who love it, I say keep it.  If it makes you happy, if it works for you, then that's what you should go with.

Three reasons why I'm not an Army Wife
It, however, does not work for me.

  • Being called an Army Wife denies the fact that I am a person separate from my husband's career.  I was my own person before we married, and still am now that we are married.  We share a lot, including a bed, pets, and a bank account.  We share our aspirations and dreams.  We do not share our identity.  To me, the term "Army Wife" denies everything I have accomplished on my own, and ties me not to my husband, but to his career.
  • I am not married to the military.  I married a wonderful man whose career is in the Army.  I am proud of him.  I am proud of what he accomplished so far in life, and I will be there to support him and whatever the future holds.  My love, marriage, and commitment are to my husband, not to the military.
  • It conjures up images of a time in the Military (or at least the Army) when a wife was graded for her involvement in the unit, and her husband's career could benefit or suffer from the degree of that involvement.  The Army has since seen sense.  Wives are not longer dismissed from their jobs at the moment of saying "I do" and they can choose whether to work or stay at home, whether to have children or not, and how much involvement they want in their husband's units.  This choice is good.  And I choose not to be an Army Wife.
Now please do not misunderstand me.  I love my husband.  I support him in his career.  I love being involved in the FRG and the coffee groups.  And I'm happy to go to the balls, the meetings, the promotions and the other functions.  All those things are a part of our happy marriage.  The give and take, the involvement what is important to us.  To me, being called an Army Wife implies that I have to do these things.  But I don't.  I choose to do them.  And to me, that makes all the difference.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Working, No-Kids, Military Wife

I find life in the military to be interesting, though a lot has changed in my perception of what military life is in the 5 years we've been together.  

When J and I first started dating, I loved the idea of marrying into the military life.  It seemed wonderful to have a life with a support network built-in.  A whole world of women whose experiences were similar to yours;  who would help you out when needed, show you the ropes of every new place and be there when your husband had to be away for training or deployed.  I remember sitting in a Mexican Restaurant with my classmates (I was attending graduate school at the time) and talking about it.  They all thought I was crazy to want the military life, but to me, an introvert who takes months or even years to get to know people before I call them a friend, it seemed perfect.
Angel Eyes Photography
I have found, however, that the reality of the experience is a bit different.  It's not that that support network doesn't exist, or that the women I've met are not wonderful.  It does, and they are.  I've met many great ladies, some of whom I've grown very close to, others who have been there in unexpected ways.  But the community and support network seem to revolve around three factors, a) living on Post, b) having children, and c) not working full-time outside of the home.  Since none of those apply to me,  I've had to find my support network outside of Post.

I see these wonderful women once a month or so, usually at a Coffee night or an FRG meeting.  I host one when it's my turn, but few people come since we're off Post and it's a bit of a drive to my house. I always have a great time with the ones that do come, though.  But rarely do we become best friends. Partially, I think it's because
  •  I don't live on post, so I'm not there to meet up for lunch unexpectedly, or to see in the middle of the day, or to call on in an emergency.  Well, I'd be there for the last one, but people tend to call those they've gotten to know already who are close.
  • We don't have children.  I know, I know, the name of the blog is Military MAMA musings, but at this moment, and unless you count my cat and dog which I sometimes do, the mama thing is a wish and a hope and not a reality.  Many of the ladies I meet have kids, many of them are young, and they become a great, common topic of conversation.  After all, kids are a huge part of your life, whether you're a SAHM or a Working Mom, so it's natural for them to big a huge topic.  I love kids, but at the end of the day, I don't have a lot of stories to contribute.  And many moms don't like it when you respond to one of kid stories with "yeah!  my dog used to do that too, but then we neutered him." The similarities may be there, but we don't like them pointed out.
  • I work outside the home.  Really, the reasons for this one is similar to the other two:  you have to be available when the other house is at work to hang out, and become friends.  I work during that time.  It also means that what's on my mind at the end of the day, like my coworkers, a conversation with my boss, or a recent assignment, may not always be relatable to someone who spend her day or week in very different pursuits.  We end up having to work a lot harder to find the things we have in common.  Sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it's not.  

Now, just because military life is not exactly like the ideal I had when J and I first started dating, doesn't mean it doesn't come with some amazing experiences.  After all, we're in Alaska!  This is a place people pay a fortune to visit, and we get to try out' living here for a few years before we permanently settle down.  The military does have a community, though it's much different from what I pictured.  I often strike up conversations with strangers about being a military wife (a term I'm not terribly fond of, but more on that next time), and getting to talk with people about their previous duty stations is a great conversation starter, and usually quite interesting.  You really do get to meet a lot of wonderful people, and with modern technology, you can keep up with their adventures even after the army move one, or both, of you.

You also make your own community.  It may not mean you know every spouse in your husbands (or wife's) unit, but you know the ones you'd call if something is wrong.  Sure, you may see each other more than civilian spouses usually see their spouses' coworkers' spouses, but at least you always have a ready topic of conversation.  That's definitely worth something.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Plants are the Strangest People

I've recently found a new blog Plants are the Strangest People and I'm obsessed.  I found it researching the difference between Pothos and Philodendron. I've ordered several new plants for my new 'vertical indoor garden' (more on this to come soon), and I wasn't sure if I was actually getting what I ordered because the two plants look so similar in pictures.  Hence the research.

Anyway, the blog is both funny and informative.  My favorite is a list on the left side, of all the different plants he's grown (ordered from easiest to most difficult), and I haven't been able to keep my eyes away.  Not only am I learning new things, I'm laughing loud enough to be glad my co-workers are not in yet!

Anyway, check it out.  Also, this man has 1726 plants (and counting I suppose).  Which is both impressive, and possibly a life goal.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Baby Shower - Guitar Gift

A few weeks ago I attended a baby shower for a good friend here in Alaska.  She is having a little boy, and we had a bit of a fox theme going with the gifts.  I'm not sure if that's a decision she consciously made for her nursery and the baby, or if the fact that the invitation had a fox on it made everyone assume that a fox theme was in the works.  Here is a lesson learned for everyone:  If your baby shower invitation has an obvious theme, it can drive the gifts, so send one that matches your decor or one that's neutral enough to not inspire gift ideas!

I knew I wanted to package the gifts in a fun way, like a diaper cake, but different.  However, this inspiration did not strike me until after I bought all the gifts, so I had to find something that would work with the gifts I had, and also something that would work for my friends.  I ended up going with a guitar since the father of the baby is a musician.  It turned out to be a surprisingly easy to accomplish project.  Other than the gifts all I needed was some ribbon and safety pins to hold it all together.

Here are the gifts I had to work with:



A baby thermometer
That is not my fox - baby book
Fox costume (for newborn pictures)
A package of Honest Company newborn Diapers
Two pairs of baby leg warmers (one fox theme that I bought, and one that I crocheted)
Best Bottom Diaper Shell (with foxes)
A Fox themed receiving blanket
Paris themed swaddle

I didn't watch a tutorial (though there are plenty on youtube if you are interested), but I did find great examples of guitar shaped gifts (see my pinterest below).

I took the box with the thermometer and covered the bottom with the diaper cover, and the top with the fox costume (stuffed the bottom of the costume into the top) to give it a round shape.  I then took the diapers and layered them around the box to make a vague oval.  Using ribbon I tied the whole thing together, then wrapped the swaddle around it.  There was a bit of stretching and pinning to get this step to work.  I folded the receiving blanket until it resembled a long stretch of fabric about the same width as the whole diaper/swaddle assemble.  I used a ribbon  tie it just above the center to make the guitar 'pear shape' then wrapped more ribbon along the edge.  I cut a piece of cardboard to make the guitar neck, and stretched the leg warmers over it, wrapping it with more thin ribbon.  Then I wedged the book and 'neck' under the previously tied ribbon.

The final gift came out like this:






Check out more baby shower ideas on my Pinterest board here (and fair warning, I'll be throwing a dinosaur themed shower in a few months, so there may be a lot of dinosaur things popping up!):

Pinterest-Baby Shower 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Three Week Home Makeover

So J left for three weeks out in the field, and I've gone on a bit of a house-frenzy.  Now cleaning would seem like a logical first step, but no,  I've gone straight to painting.  While he's gone, I want to paint all the doors in the house, the spare bedroom, and the upstairs bathroom.  Maybe the downstairs bathroom too, but that would involve moving the new washer and dryer, and that may be too much for me.  Unfortunately, J hates large house projects, especially in a rental, so I may not be able to get his help moving the appliances, but we'll see.  I've spent most of last week choosing various shades of gray and white and off-white for this project.  Normally I love lots of bright colors, but this is a rental, so I'm just glad that my landlady is letting me paint at all!  She said yes to neutral colors and asked us to keep all doors and trim white.  I'm happy to get to put a fresh coat of paint on everything and to get rid of at least some of the weird pink creme color that my entire house is painted.  The pink/red undertones don't match ANYTHING, including the tile, the carpet colors, or the counters.  I think the last realtor choose it.

Colors to come soon!  Also, some lessons learned from the whole project.  Biggest lesson so far?  If the door is already tight in a frame, sand a bit in that area, because after you put on two more coats of paint, the door won't close anymore.  Also, if your hinges use more than one type of screw, keep track of which screw goes in which hole, or just buy a whole bunch of longer screws, so you're not trying to screw a tiny screw into a large hole.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The unexpected moments of a miscarriage

We knew we were pregnant for one week.  One wonderful, hope filled week spend dreaming of our perfect future with a tiny addition to the family.  The line we had was very, very faint at first, but clearly darker just a few days later.  We even had confirmation from the doctor: there was hCG in my system. "Congratulations you're pregnant!"  We made plans for how we'd tell our families. We told our closest friends, those who already knew we had been trying, because there was almost nothing else on our minds.  A baby!  We were having a baby.

But even at the beginning things did not seem right.  My hCG levels were very low, and did not raise properly.  I didn't FEEL pregnant.  Our doctor ordered several blood tests, and then, when I started spotting and bleeding, an ultrasound.  An ultrasound that most definitely showed I was not pregnant.  No sign of pregnancy at all, as if though our baby had never existed.  J and I were devastated.  We also had friends visiting from the lower 48 at the time, friends that spend the week seeing me go to the doctor and who knew all that was going on.  

Yesterday the news become official.  Our doctor confirmed that our little Schrodinger was no longer inside me.  Even though I knew the statistics, having become part of one was quite a shock.  Still, it wasn't the big things but the smaller moments that were most unexpected.


 

1. A miscarriage is not a moment

I had always thought that a miscarriage is something that happened in the blink of an eye.  One moment there was a tiny life inside you and the next that life was gone and you cried, and then you worked on dealing with the tragedy.  But for me (and from the accounts I have read for many women) it's not at all like that.  We knew something wasn't quite right from almost the moment we found out we were pregnant.  Then a few days later, the spotting started.  Then the news of the low hCG levels.  Then the bleeding and cramping.  Then more tests.  And even now, five days later, I'm still spotting.  I didn't have a miscarriage as much as I am still having a miscarriage.  The body can take days or weeks to purge after a pregnancy that unfortunately went wrong.  Many women need medical help, in the form of pills or surgery, to truly be not pregnant again.  And it takes a long time.  At first wondering if you are having a miscarriage, and then actually having it.  And then wondering if you are done, if you can move on. It's rough.  The uncertainty is really rough.  J and I labeled it "being Schrodingered."  We're still working through it.  


2. Other women (and men) know your pain

Although we have only told a few people, many of them have told us of others who have had a miscarriage.  Online, there are hundreds if not thousands of accounts of this same pain.  My doctor informs me that at least 20%-30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but that the real number is probably closer to 50%.  May of the miscarriages happen before the woman even knows she's pregnant.  So my story is natural.  It's normal.  Now this doesn't make it any less sad, or disappointing, or significant.  But it does make me feel that I am still WOMAN, that this is something WOMEN go through.  This is something couples go through.  And  they make it.  And they get through it.  I find that knowledge helpful and empowering.  

Here are some blogs and articles I found helped ease my mind:

I'm glad we knew about you
What I gained from having a miscarriage
What I didn't know about miscarriage until I had one
Difficult days for miscarriage survivors

3. We told exactly the right people about our pregnancy

Before even getting pregnant I read a lot about whether or not to tell people as soon as you get pregnant.  Both sides had really good points. Pro:  you get to share the joy as soon as you know it; have support if you have a miscarriage.  Cons: a private moment becomes public and you'll start to receive advice and warnings; if you miscarry, you'll have to tell people you're not pregnant anymore, whether you are ready to or not.  Now, the arguments always seemed like they were advocating one view; either tell or don't tell.  But that made no sense to me.  The people I wanted to share my joy with are the exact same people whom I'd like by my side in the event of a miscarriage.  These friends are the ones who were there when we started trying, even before, when I was agonizing over the decision of WHEN to start trying.  These are the friends I would call with all news, good and bad.  Why would I ever hide something this momentous from them?  Now, I admit, if I had shared the news on Facebook, I would have hated myself for having to tell the world about my miscarriage.  It would have felt impersonal.  And that's just not who I am.  And at the end, I'm so glad we told who we told, and we stayed silent to others.  Do what feels right.  Tell those people with whom you'd like to discuss things when they both go wrong and right.  And don't ever listen to absolutes.  We for example didn't tell our families, because we knew that they would simply stress out over the news, and it wouldn't make things easier for us.  Each of us has their own tribe, sometimes related by blood, and sometimes by friendship.  We all know who the right people to tell are.  And in the midst of it all, it felt good to have gotten something right.

4. I do not feel guilt

This one may seem odd, but I honestly thought I'd feel guilty.  Guilty for having a body that did not get this right.  Guilty for that bike ride where I did not hydrate enough.  Guilty for not being able to give J a baby right when we planned.  Guilty for drinking more than one earl gray two weeks ago. Even guilty for testing early, after all we might have never known, never gone through the pain.  
But I do not.  I know I did nothing wrong.  I know I took care of myself and the baby growing inside me, even before I knew it was there.  I know that my husband loves me and does not blame me.  I know we're going to try again.  I know the statistics and I believe in the medicine and the science.  I know that this is normal.  So tragic, so unexpected, but still normal.  I do not believe in fate, but I also know this baby was not mean to be.  My body made that choice for me, and I will trust it.  And I'm glad that we knew.  As all things that do not kill you, this has made me stronger.  It has made our marriage more resilient.  Our little family may not yet be growing, but after a bit we'll work on it again.  And it'll happen.  It's empowering to me not to blame myself for those things I do not have control of.  And it's empowering to say it here:  This miscarriage was not my fault.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Miscarriage

I'm waiting right now for a doctor's visit, where, I am sure, he will tell me that I had a miscarriage at 5 weeks, 6 days.  I am, almost, looking forward to it.  Not because this is what I wanted.  Oh no, I wanted this baby so very much.  It was our first time trying, and I was so excited that we got pregnant the first month!  But now, now that all the blood tests have been coming back with low hCG levels, now that I've had the spotting, the bleeding, the ultrasound (no sign of pregnancy at all), I just want to know.  So that I, and my husband, can move on.  So we can try again.

I'll have a bit more on all that happened in the last five days soon.  On my research.  On what helped and what hurt.  But right now, I just want to hear the news, officially, that our little Schrodinger (because it felt like I was both pregnant and not pregnant for two weeks), is gone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spotting or Bleeding in Early Pregnancy

You know what's scary?  Bleeding.  It is also way scarier when you are (pretty sure that you are) pregnant.  The words MISCARRIAGE and ECTOPIC PREGNANCY float through your head as you go through the first four pages of google search result after typing in "bleeding during the first trimester."  Because as pregnant women we just don't have enough to worry about!

I'm still waiting for the nurse to call and officially confirm that my hCG levels are now normal, and I can happily move on with my pregnancy, but that has not stopped me from mostly freaking out about a little bit of spotting I've been getting.  

First, the good news:  according to everything I've read, there are a lot of reasons women bleed during the first trimester, most are benign, and although this will not stop any pregnant woman from worrying, chances are your worry is baseless.  Around 20-30% of women bleed during early pregnancy.  Bleeding can be caused by implantation, sex, hormonal changes that affect the uterus, or a benign cyst that bleeds as your total blood supply increases.  

Now for the bad news:  by definition, any bleeding that occurs before 20 weeks means a threatened abortion (a medical name for a possible miscarriage) though roughly 50% of women do go on to have healthy pregnancies. If you are bleeding (not just spotting, more on that later) during your first trimester and you do have a miscarriage, there is not much they can do at this point. However, bleeding can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy (egg implants outside the uterus) or a molar pregnancy (egg does not develop into a baby), so definitely see your doctor if you are bleeding.

Should you be going to the emergency room?  Well (and I am not a doctor, so please take everything said here with a grain of salt) this is where the bleeding vs. spotting comes in.  If you are spotting (think pinkish or brownish discharge, not enough to soak a pad), stay home, try to relax, and let your doctor know that you have spotting.  If you are bleeding (bright red, soaks a pad in two hours or less, possibly passing blood clots), get yourself to an emergency room.  That kind of bleeding could be dangerous to you, and not just your baby.  The nurse at my hospital confirmed that "a pad soaked in two hours" is the amount of blood that my hospital thinks warrants an emergency room visit.  Also, this information is only valid in the first trimester.  Different rules apply in the second and third trimesters.  

So what do you do now?  Monitor the amount of bleeding you are getting (a panty liner is a good idea), as well as the color.  Call your doctor if anything feels wrong or if you are also getting cramping.  Trust yourself and your body.  If something feels wrong, don't ever be afraid to call your doctor (or midwife).  Unfortunately, the story will not end well, for some of us, we will miscarry because this baby to be was just not viable.  And we will grieve because no matter how early we lost a baby, we'll still know we lost that baby.  And that's OK too.