Tag: life

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

It has been a little while since our last Project: Organization update, and I’d thought I write a few lines. We have been extremely busy over the last week and a half. We volunteered with the Vacation Bible School at our church every evening from Sunday through Thursday, and Friday morning we left for a weekend trip to San Diego to help support my parents’ Lesson Book Ministries.

Therefore, not as much was done around the house as we would have liked. However, I like to tell Bradley that as long as we get a little bit done every day or every few days, we are making progress! With that type of a positive mindset, we were able to accomplish a few things in spite of our very busy schedule.

We were able to go through most of the storage bins that were crowding up our office. We put books we are keeping on the bookshelves in no particular order yet (that will come later) and set aside others for donation. We got rid of quite a bit of recycling and trash, and ended up with a few empty bins that we can now use to store more important things! One day while I was at work, Bradley neatly stacked the remaining bins against the far wall and now the office feels more open and you are not afraid of running into things. We still have a lot to do in there, but this was a huge step in the right direction!

Bradley took quite a bit of things to a thrift store and also surprised me with finishing tidying up our back patio, which we had started a few weeks ago when we cleaned out the shed. He moved our patio chairs up to the folding table and straightened some things. It looks much better!

We are nearly done with the re-organizing of the master bedroom. After doing a lot of hunting at thrift stores and box stores for decent beside tables and not finding anything that fit our needs and were in our price range, we stumbled upon a cute end table at Target. I went online and discovered that they were having a sale so we purchased two. We ended up taking advantage of two discounts (a 15% off and a 10% off) and free shipping, which saved us so much money. The end tables arrived earlier than we were expecting last week and so we had the boxes sitting in our living room while we did VBS and went to San Diego.

Last night while watching an old western movie, we assembled the first end table. It was very sturdily built and easy to put together, though it took awhile as we kept pausing to watch parts of the movie. So one table is done and nicely located beside the bed. It is the perfect size and color, and I cannot wait to organize the drawer and lower shelf. We are hoping to assemble the second one tonight or tomorrow tonight.

We have not had time to make much progress in the nursery yet, but we have some time. We did find the perfect curtains at Ross and some artwork for the walls. We just need to paint before we start hanging things ups. Some of the old decor (artwork, etc.) that we purchased second-hand in the last two years when the room was being used as a guest room, will be re-donated to thrift stores for someone else to enjoy.

That reminds me! We need to finish putting together our baby registries and start sending out the Baby Shower invites.

 

Our “Project: Organization” list:

Dining Room

  • move dining room table
  • organize china cabinet
  • organize overflow pantry cabinets
  • buy six dining room chairs

Living Room

  • move exercise bike
  • find rocking chair or loveseat (ON HOLD)

Master Bedroom

  • find a chest of drawers (4-6 drawers)
  • toss broken drawers
  • hang curtains
  • find two bedside tables Purchased and delivered! One bedside table has been assembled. One more to go!
  • finish cleaning out / organizing the closet

Nursery

  • go through everything: keep, toss, or donate
  • move any storage bins to the shed
  • paint walls
  • hang curtains
  • find low dresser with flat top for baby things
  • find rug
  • get crib from my parents
  • hang pictures/artwork and accessorize
  • organize baby things (after baby shower)

Office

  • sort all books: keep or donate – progress: 40%
  • organize bookshelves
  • stain second desk and move my tablet onto it
  • return glass breakfast table to my parents
  • find some curtains
  • find a rug
Preparing for an Arizona Summer

Preparing for an Arizona Summer

With a due date at the beginning of September, I will be experiencing my last trimester during the peak of a blistering Arizona summer. Though a little early, this weekend is forecasted to reach high triple digits! It will probably be anywhere between 114°-116° degrees just Saturday alone. Though we, hopefully, will have a dip in temperatures towards the middle of next week, I am not looking forward to the rest of the summer.

To survive the summer heat, I am trying to prepare myself — both mentally and physically.

Water and lots of it!

Here in Arizona, especially in the summer, it is highly encouraged for everyone to carry water with them whenever they go out. My husband is always so diligent in never leaving the house without both of us having a bottle of water. Now that I am pregnant, staying hydrated is even more important.

I found that it was especially difficult to drink enough water while at work until I discovered that our break room now has an ice machine. I have not used ice on a regular basis in about two years, but being pregnant and being a little hotter than usual, I was having a hard time drinking room temperature or even slightly chilled water. Now I keep a plastic cup on my desk filled with ice, and I just refill it from my water bottle whenever it needs. I also refill the ice any time it is all gone, which gives me an excellent reason to leave the desk and walk around the entire floor.

Two bonus points for finding little ways to exercise throughout the day! 😉

Sun Protection

I also plan to wear a big floppy hat and/or use an old parasol when going out into the sun. The floppy hat was given to me years ago by my mom, and I love it! I might need to get a more formal looking floppy hat for work purposes, though. The parasol is quite old, not that pretty, and was given to me just recently by my mother-in-law. Since I tend to have meetings on the other side of campus a few times a week that require me to walk anywhere between a quarter mile to a mile, I am keeping the parasol under my desk at work. It may look hideous, but it does its job go keeping the sun off of me perfectly. (I tested it out Tuesday!)

Warm in the office, cool outside.

When it comes to choosing the proper clothes for an Arizona summer, I unfortunately have to face a dilemma that many Arizonians can relate to. Our offices are kept at barely 70°, and if the AC vent blows the cold air down on you (as it does me), then you will be very cold for about eight hours a day. You will have to dress in either pants or longer skirts and mid-length sleeves, perhaps even a cardigan or light sweater, just to not freeze. Then the moment you exit your office building, you are blasted with 110° or more heat! You would prefer to be in shorts or a knee-length skirt and a light, sleeveless top.

Now think about adding to this dramatic temperature fluctuation the fact that you are very pregnant, run a little hotter than usual, and maternity clothes tend to have a lot of additional fabric and layers that normal clothes do not: belly panels, low-cut V necklines that require a camisole underneath. With some of my maternity tops and bottoms, I have 3 thick layers of fabric around my middle. No wonder I end up feeling overheated some evenings!

So the problem I face over the next three months as the thermometer creeps over and stays above the three digit mark is finding maternity clothes that are:

  • warm enough for the cool office
  • cool enough for the hot outdoors
  • professional enough for the office
  • comfortable enough for… Well, you know. I am pregnant!

I have a feeling I’ll be wearing cotton shirts with dress pants and a sweater at work, dresses and loose skirts to church and events, and exercise shorts and baggy T-shirts when at home. I must admit that I am dreading the heat.

I already have a little hand fan that I carry in my purse and have used quite often over the last few months. I think I will also start carrying a bandana that I can soak in water and wrap around my neck if I get too hot.

Comfortable footwear

I have been able to continue wearing my usual footwear up until this week. Last Wednesday, I had an unexpected meeting come up that required me to walk about a mile in shoes that are not meant for walking long distances. If the meeting had been properly scheduled ahead of time, I would have worn appropriate shoes, but I was intending to be at my desk all day and wanted shoes that looked “cute” with my outfit. I ended up with a very bad and painful blister on my pinky toe that made the next couple of days miserable.

This week, I have switched to wearing tennis shoes every day. It looks extremely dorky, especially with the knee-length skirt I wore yesterday, but comfort is more important than fashion. Over the next few weeks, I might go shopping for a more office-appropriate flat walking shoe, but a part of me does not want to spend the money on new shoes when my tennis shoes (old and gray and not professional-looking in the least) will do.

If you are a mother, were you pregnant during the summer? If so, how did you survive the heat?

Over halfway there!

Over halfway there!

It has been awhile since I did a pregnancy update, but we have been quite busy. April 15th was my birthday and April 18th was our second wedding anniversary, so we took the whole weekend to relax, celebrate, and do a little bit of sightseeing in our local area. Part of that weekend, we visited the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and Biosphere 2. It was a lot of walking and stairs (my legs were quite tired the next day) but so much fun!

April 18th we also had a first ultrasound, which I did not realize would be so involved! It took nearly an hour just to do the ultrasound itself, because they check on the baby’s anatomy, growth, heart, etc. and take so many measurements. We learned the baby’s gender, but we are keeping it a secret until after our gender reveal party on May 15th for family and close friends.

On April 24th, we had one of our monthly/bimonthly family get-togethers at my parents’ house. The whole family tries to get together, especially during months when there are birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, and April is a huge month! Three birthdays and 3-ish anniversaries! You see, my parents sort of have two anniversaries: one from their first wedding (a justice of the peace ceremony) and one from their vow renewal ceremony in 2010 (church ceremony). Anyway, since most of the family was present (we were missing one of my brothers-in-law and two oldest nephews, unfortunately), we decided to get family photos. This was also the first time I had any “baby bump” photos taken.

That is not because I have not wanted to take any pictures, it was more… I was not showing hardly at all until about Week 19 so even if we took pictures, there would have been absolutely nothing to see. So here is the first baby bump photo, taken at the halfway point: 20 weeks!

Jacquelyn Van Sant, Pregnancy #1, Week 20
April 14, 2016 – Week 20

Today I’m actually around 22 weeks and the belly keeps getting bigger, so I’ll need to ask Bradley to take some more pictures this weekend.

Cravings: So far this whole pregnancy, I have not really had any cravings. Sometimes food tastes surprisingly delicious after I start eating it, but no cravings for anything specific.

Mood: Bradley might disagree, but I wouldn’t say that I have not had any terrible mood swings. Every once in a while I’ll feel extremely exhausted and might be a little more… short/terse. I do find that I cry faster/easier than before. Not cry just to cry, but when I hear something sad I’ll tear up faster or when someone else is crying. Ugh! I’m a sympathetic crier anyway, and it seems a bit stronger now.

Baby’s Gender: Bradley and I know, but we’re keeping it a secret until May 15th! 😀

Movement: I’ve been feeling flutterings of movement for a long time, but lately the baby has been even more active and the kicks are stronger. In fact, Baby is wiggling all over my belly right this moment.

Carrying: I think I’m carrying pretty low this whole time, which makes sitting upright at my desk at work or driving uncomfortable and tends to trigger the: “Bladder is full! Must run to the restroom!” even when there is hardly a genuine need. In the evenings, the lower belly sometimes feels soooo heavy.

Weight Gain: I have my next doctor’s appointment next week so things might have changed, but up to my April appointment, I had actually lost weight. I lost about twelve or so pounds between conception and Week 20. My face, neck, and shoulders have really slimmed down, but even my hips, bottom, and thighs have shrunk (Yay!).

Aches and Pains: Somedays I end up doing a lot of walking for work, and on those days, my legs tend to ache. Last week was full of walking, not just to/from meetings across campus but also because either the bus drove right passed me so I had to walk a mile to my car OR the bus missed the turn to take us to the correct bus stops and let us off a 1.5 mile away and I ended up having to walk to the car. I’m seeing a pattern here that public transit is not reliable. Fortunately, Bradley’s summer break starts in about two weeks and he’ll start taking me in to work and picking me up so I won’t have to worry about driving and then hopping the bus (or walking) to the office during the HOT summer months!

Sleep: I sleep rather well and even better now that we bought new pillows this week! I do tend to have to get up once or twice in the middle of the night to use the restroom, which is a little annoying.

Nursery: I have created a mood board for inspiration on the Baby’s room and we have started clearing out some of the items we were storing in that space, but other than that, we have not made any significant progress. We have been focusing more on getting the main living areas (kitchen, living room, and dining room) completely re-organized as well as making our back patio usable space during Arizona’s extremely hot summer that is just around the corner. Our next project in the office, and only then will we really focus on the nursery. For the first few months, Baby will be in a bassinet in our bedroom so the nursery is not a crucial thing right now.

Names: We have had our names selected for quite a while and we are not changing them. 😀

As I mentioned before, we’ll probably take Week 22 pictures this weekend and I’ll have another update next week after the doctor’s appointment.

Finding a Doctor

Finding a Doctor

When we discovered I was pregnant, what cause me a great deal of anxiety was finding the right doctor.

I was one of those people that did not have a regular doctor. It is not that I dislike doctors, but I feel that if you are healthy and take care of yourself, there is no reason to routinely visit a doctor. Medical personnel are there when emergencies, injuries, illnesses, or other usual things happen. Now, let me just say, I completely respect all those in the medical field. My older sister and her husband are ER nurses, specializing in pediatrics, and I have numerous close friends who are nurses, dentists, or doctors.

I just do not go to the doctor if there is no reason to.

So when the home pregnancy test came back positive, I was far more anxious about finding the right doctor than any other aspect of being pregnant or bringing a new life into the world. I spent a few weeks carefully going through my insurance’s list of OB/GYN doctors in my network, comparing their office locations and investigating the hospitals they deliver at. It was a long list, but I finally found a doctor that seemed to meet my preferences.

Every woman is going to have her own list of preferences when selecting a doctor, especially an OB/GYN or mid-wife. For me, I had three preferences:

  • a female doctor
  • accepts my insurance
  • delivers at the hospital down the street

Call me a prude or ultra-conservative, especially since I know there are many excellent male OB/GYNs, but I was adamant from the beginning that I wanted a female doctor. I also desired a doctor who delivers at the hospital down the street, for two reasons: proximity and I know that hospital’s excellent reputation. My older sister actually works there (originally in the pediatric ER and now in the adult ER), and the hospital has one of the best NICUs in the area, should anything happen.

Fortunately, the doctor I found meet all three areas. I called the office and asked if she was accepting new patients, and praise the Lord, she was!

Bradley could not come to the very first appointment, and I admit to being a bit nervous. The nurse was friendly. She took my weight, check my blood pressure, chatted with me, and gave me a pregnancy care package with pre-natal samples, pamphlets, and a hospital package with a list of classes, tours, forms, etc. A few minutes later, I met the doctor. She was so nice and friendly. I immediately felt at ease with the doctor and felt comfortable asking those silly first-time pregnant questions… Well, the few I could remember at the time.

Since then, we have had two more appointments. Both times Bradley was able to go with me, and we were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The first time, the doctor had just a little bit of trouble locating the heartbeat because the little one was hiding pretty low and deep. The second time, the heartbeat was easy to locate. It was so exciting lying there listening the strong and steady beating of our baby’s heart. Both times, I teared up.

My advice to women who either pregnant or plan to become pregnant, take the time to find a doctor/mid-wife that you are comfortable with. Whether you intend to deliver at a hospital, birthing center, or at home, take your time to investigate.

Week 16

Week 16

Today we’re 16 weeks!

Well, 16-ish weeks, we’re still guestimating until our ultrasound in a few weeks. We opted out of the early ultrasound, and I need to set up an appointment for the standard one in a few weeks. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to find out the baby’s gender at the time. So far we have three individuals who predicted a baby boy, including our doctor, but it is just based on old wives’ tales or opinions. Though we will be thrilled with either a boy or girl, I think both Bradley and I are kind of hoping for a girl. So we’ll know in a few weeks and then we are planning a gender reveal party for our families and closest friends before we announce it to the world. How exciting!

Tuesday afternoon was very hard for me. Sunday I went too long between meals, and I think that started the series of unfortunate events. Yesterday I intentionally ate a hearty breakfast and lunch, and I did not go long without a healthy snack. Unfortunately, my stomach did not feel right all afternoon. It was all nauseous and sick. Then minutes after getting home from work, it was a rush to the bathroom and I was throwing everything up. I threw up twice during the first trimester, but that was very minor (barely counts, in my opinion), but this time was BAD. It was the type of uncontrollable, must empty the entire stomach, can barely breathe vomiting. It even had Bradley worried.

Oddly enough, after it was over, my stomach was finally feeling better than it had in a long time. I rested a little while and then made a delicious dinner of stir-fry veggies and glass noodles made from sweet potato. It was amazingly delicious! And I was lucky enough to have some leftover for lunch today. 🙂

First Trimester Symptoms

First Trimester Symptoms

Family and friends who have already gone through pregnancy, pregnancy 411 books, and web sites and online communities can be very helpful in providing explanations on the weird and unexpected changes that happen during pregnancy. Some I was prepared for, but others were a surprise.

I will try to avoid going into any extremely personal details, but be warned that this post will contain details on natural bodily functions and changes that occur during the earlier stages of pregnancy. This post is intended to be informative for those who have not had children or, like me, are first-timers and often find ourselves thinking: “Is this normal?”

So to begin! I have a fairly regular cycle of 28 days and a period length of about 6 days. There have been a few times where my period came slightly late or heavier than usual, but for the most part over the last four years of charting my cycle carefully, it has been quite regular.

Side note: Ladies, I highly encourage – whether you are single or engaged or married, teen or young adult or mid-thirties – to get a calendar, chart or free app and start tracking your cycles. There are so many benefits to being familiar with your body and how it changes throughout your monthly cycle. Though some women only start tracking their cycles to either avoid or to improve the changes of conception, the greater benefit is knowing what is normal for your body and so staying on top of your health. Knowing your body can help you detect changes in your health early on that you may need to discuss with your doctor or health professional.

Because I track my cycle and know my body fairly well, the week my period was due I began noticing some changes. Very early pregnancy symptoms can sometimes be confused with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) signs, as many are nearly identical: sore or tender breasts, changes in eating habits or food cravings, cramps or abdominal discomfort, bloating, etc. The only PMS sign I typically get is bloating and some slight abdominal discomfort, so when my breasts began feeling unusually sore and tender, even somewhat heavy, and my stomach seemed a bit too queasy, I knew things were not normal.

Then my period was late. As I mentioned before, I have had the occasional late period so I had to force myself to patiently wait a few days before taking a home pregnancy test. The test was positive! Because it is difficult to determine the exact date of conception, the way modern medical science reckons the length of pregnancies is to go all the way to the beginning of your last period. So according to the charts, I was about five weeks!

During Weeks 5 and 6 there were noticeable changes to my body. I was not expecting my breasts to hurt as much as they did so early on. They grew half a cup size in just two weeks, and I had to buy larger bras to accommodate. Also, there is a significant increase in the blood flow to a woman’s uterus and lower abdomen as her body begins to build the placenta – the life-support system for the baby. I quickly discovered that this meant being highly uncomfortable “down there” due to swelling. It was not fun. Probably somewhat related to that, I was not quite prepared for the discharge, which continues sporadically even today (Week 16). The discharge is similar to what happens in the middle of a normal cycle, nothing heavy or abnormal, but uncomfortable when it happens without warning. I have started wearing panty-liners everyday, and you can pick up a small pack at the 99¢ Store.

I was prepared for morning sickness. I heard some terrifying horror stories about it, but my experience was actually quite mild. I had bouts of nausea that came and went throughout the day and then stomachaches in the evening that kept me from eating dinner a few nights a week. I also felt completely exhausted, and would just collapse on the couch after work.

The nausea gradually lessened and faded away towards the end of the first trimester (about Week 11 and 12), and Week 13 my energy began to return. I was beginning to feel “normal” again! What a relief. I finally had the energy to wash dishes or clean the bathrooms again.

I have to share how amazing my husband is. He does half of the chores anyway – vacuuming, laundry, etc. – but he was so helpful during the first trimester when I was not feeling well. There were many evenings when I could not muster enough energy to even microwave a quick meal, and he would make me whatever I wanted for dinner… even if it was just peanut butter on toast! He also makes the best cup of tea in the world, and peppermint tea is so soothing for upset tummies.

I am so very blessed to be married to such a wonderful man.

Sharing the News With Parents

Sharing the News With Parents

I could barely contain my excitement, but I wanted to share the news with our parents in a fun and memorable way.

As this is our very first child, and the first grandchild for Bradley’s parents, we wanted to share the news to our parents in a special way. Something a little more thoughtful and personal then just a basic: “Hey, Mom. Dad. Guess what? We’re having a baby.”

I searched the Internet – from Pinterest to Baby/Mommy forums – looking for ideas. Most, to be honest, were either too cheesy, too confusing, or too elaborate. Finally, I decided to just make a little keepsake myself. So Bradley and I made a quick stop to the Michael’s near our house, and I browsed the aisles looking for anything that could give me some ideas. I picked up two small square canvases, two different colored ribbon, and scrapbooking stickers.

Example of scrapbooking stickers. At home, I attempted to use glue to attach the ribbon to the canvas with little successful so I ended up just using tape. I try to be crafty, but it never seems to work out the way I plan. Oh, well! I covered each canvas with green ribbon and used a gold ribbon as an accent on the left side. Then I placed the stickers so each little keepsake read: “We’re expecting!” And there was little baby footprints and other baby-related items on the canvas.

Then I wrapped each keepsake up and placed them in two gift bags. We were seeing my parents first on a Sunday afternoon, and I thought long and hard about how to break the ice so that a gift in the middle of January would not seem odd and give it away too fast. We arrived and about five minutes into the visit, I grabbed the gift bag but kept it out of my parents’ sight. We were all congregation in the kitchen and taking about things.

That is when I said something along the lines: “So my co-worker was telling me about a book she recently read. It is by a Japanese lady named Marie Kondo, and she is really famous for her organizing methods. And my co-worker said that one thing she liked about Marie Kondo’s style was that she stresses that you should only keep the items that bring you joy.”

My parents nodded, interested. I pulled out the gift bag and handed it to my mom. “Bradley and I knew right away that this would bring you guys great joy.”

My mom took the bag and Dad joined her. As the dug through the tissue paper, they wondered aloud what the present would be. Then my mom pulled out the keepsake and they only took a second to read it.

“Congratulations!” they both said. There were hugs and lots of smiles. We spent the rest of the visit chatting about how I was feeling, how Bradley was feeling, and about the new little one.

Wednesday evening just a few days later, we picked up dinner to go from Chipotle and went over to visit Bradley’s parents. Unfortunately that day, Bradley was quite sick, but he did not want to wait to tell his parents any longer. Again, I kept the gift bag hidden from view while we ate dinner and chatted. After dinner, Bradley said a few things to his mom, and I added: “We got you something special that I think you will really like.”

I handed Bradley’s mom the gift bag, and she carefully removed the tissue paper until she was holding the keepsake. She stared at it for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity, and happy tears swelled up in her eyes. She could not even speak, so I jumped up and gave her a big hug. Bradley’s dad, who was seated on the other side of the living room, had no idea what was going on. When his mom found her voice and shared: “They are having a baby!”, I think he was in shock and it took some time to register.

We stayed and talked for a little while longer, and then hurried home so Bradley could take some medicine and sleep. He ended up staying home from work the next day with what was most likely the flu, and the following week I was sick with a sore throat.

Having both of our parents close by is a huge blessing, and I am so happy we were able to share with them our big news in a personal and meaningful way. This is the first grandchild for Bradley’s parents, so they are extremely excited and also a little overwhelmed. My parents have six other grandkids, but they are just as excited about this new addition as each of the others.

It is so much fun talking about what things my mom and Bradley’s mom did when they had babies, what items they found useful, and getting their advice and opinions. There used to be a time when new parents gleaned parenting advice from those who went before them, but now it seems that many young parents tend to disregard the experiences of the older and wiser and prefer to get advice from strangers in parenting forums online. While advice online can be helpful at times, do not get me wrong, there is something natural and beautiful about talking with your mother or mother-in-law or sister or friend who already has children face-to-face and hearing what worked for them, what they would do differently, etc.

Finding Out We Were Expecting

Finding Out We Were Expecting

Bradley and I learned we were expecting our first child early in the morning on January 1, 2016. What a way to start the new year!

When we married on April 18, 2014, my husband Bradley and I agreed that we wanted to wait to have children for about two years. Before adding a new addition to our brand new family, we wanted to take the time to get to known each other first as husband and wife. During the dating and engagement phases of a relationship, you become familiar and learn a great deal, but it is not quite the same as that precious time after the marriage vows when you fall asleep and wake up beside one another every day.

You get to discover little things about the other person — and yourself! — that you had not known before. Transitioning from a single adult into a married couple is an exciting time, and we wanted to create a baseline of what will be our own normal in the years ahead before adding variables to it. We have seen each other overjoyed and upset, tired and energetic, serious and silly. We have truly become each other’s best friend.

Before we married, we looked into various forms of birth control and, for one reason or another, we decided against pills, patches, condoms and the like. Since I had already been tracking my monthly cycles carefully and was very familiar with the different phases of my cycle, we decided to try a natural family planning method. I would like to write an entirely separate post explaining this method of birth control, but suffice to say that this method does not harm the woman, the man, or any potential babies. It is not 100% affective, but what birth control is? If the Lord laughed at our little plans and decided to change things up on us by giving us a precious little one earlier than we planned, we would have been just as happy.

This may not be the ideal for every couple, but this is what we mutually agreed on before we married. It has worked very well for us.

Then last autumn, we decided that we were both ready to begin trying for a child. When using a natural family planning method, it is more like you stop actively avoiding conception and allow nature to happen in God’s time.

The last week of December 2015, I knew something was different with my body. When you are very familiar with your body and your monthly cycle, you can pick up on little changes. Though my cycle is fairly regular, every now and then something throws it slightly out of whack and I had two false alarms previously due to just a late period, so we waited a few days passed when my period was due before even taking a home pregnancy test.

Those few days were agonizingly long, but I forced myself to be patient and wait. The whole time, I suspected that this time was different. This was not just a late period. I dared to let myself hope that perhaps, just perhaps, this time was the real deal.

About 7am on New Years morning, the pregnancy test came back a strong positive. I got a little chalkboard and wrote a message to Bradley on it, taped the test to it, and placed it where I knew he would see it when he woke up. Then I climbed back into bed, but I had accidentally woken Bradley up. He casually asked: “So? Are you pregnant?” And I told him.

I think that day we were both extremely excited but also completely overwhelmed. We spent most of the day at my parents’ house with my side of the family, and we did not say anything because what if it was a false positive? It was so early on, what if the egg did not implant or something? So as much as I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, we did not say anything that day. We waited and prayed.

We did take a picture two days later to commemorate the news!

Baby Van Sant. January 03, 2016.

The world needs love

The world needs love

I am praying that all those who have experienced tragedy from the recent violence around the world may find comfort. There is no fear in love. “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

What is love? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Let go of hatred and prejudice and embrace genuine love and compassion for one another as brothers and sisters. The world needs love. Not the feel good sensationalism in songs but the every day acts of compassionate love that makes a true difference. Not hashtags and catchy slogans, not pictures to evoke emotions, but a conscious decision by millions of ordinary people that we won’t let fear and hatred control our lives. That we can make a difference right where we live today, everyday, with our words and actions. And this love will grow as more and more people experience genuine love through compassionate acts until it spreads around the whole world.

I want my life to be a beacon of God’s love, love of the highest ideal and purity, shining out in a world of darkness and sorrow, spreading hope. This is my humble prayer.

Adapted from a series of tweets I posted on November 16, 2015.

10 Life Skills I’ve Mastered or Failed

10 Life Skills I’ve Mastered or Failed

tenlifeskills Today on my lunch break, the article 10 Life Skills You Should Master by Age 30 caught my eye. I thought to myself: I am officially 31. I wonder how many of these skills have I already mastered. So I took the click bait and read the article. I was pleasantly surprised that nine of the ten skills listed were actually pretty good skills for any adult to have, and also that I need to work on a few of these myself.

So here are the ten life skills you should master by age 30 (or 31!) as well as honest commentary on whether I measure up. (How embarrassing!)

1. Changing a Flat Tire FAILED

I am ashamed to admit that I have never changed a flat tire before, and though I understand the general process of how it is done, I should probably practice actually doing it a few times just in case there is an emergency that requires it… Okay, okay. There is no way to talk my way out of this one. It is a big fail.

2. Repairing Your Pipes MASTERED (kind of)

I can and have unclogged drains, tightened leaky facets, fixed a non-flushing toilet, fixed a non-stop-running toilet, and what-not around my apartment and now rental home, but I have not gone so far as repairing the pipes themselves. I will leave that for my dad, the landlord, or a professional. I’m still counting this as mastered, though.

3. Assembling an Emergency Kit IN PROGRESS

Bradley and I have a first aid kit hanging in our laundry closet (center of the house, where you walk by all the time) as well as one always in the trunk of each vehicle. We also have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. However, we have not put together an official disaster emergency kit. Having a disaster emergency kit is a good idea and something on our to do list.

4. Mixing a Signature Cocktail N/A

This does not apply, as we do not consume alcohol.

I have been told, though, that I serve an amazing arrangement of gourmet hot chocolates, apple cider, and teas. Lemonade is a favorite in our household, especially fancy flavors like strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry. And one can never go wrong with a bottle of non-alcoholic Welch’s or Martinelli’s.

5. Mastering at Least One Dish MASTERED

I agree! Everyone – man or woman – should have the confidence to make at least one amazing dish. This comes in handy if your usual chef (whomever that may be) is sick, you are asked to bring something to a church, neighborhood, or office potluck, or you just want to amaze someone with your awesome culinary skills! If you really want to impress, learn a handful of dishes that match different occasions: a dish you can take to holiday parties, something to accommodate friends with food allergies, etc.

It is hard to go wrong if your repertoire includes a salad, a soup, a pasta, and a rice dish. My husband, who is not vegan nor vegetarian, loves my homemade gluten-free vegan mac and cheese, my dill stew with rosemary dumplings, and Pad Thai with peanut sauce. These are all recipes I found online and modified due to my food allergies. Also do not under-estimate the mind-blowing powers of the slow-cooker/crock pot. One of my most fabulous and successful recipes for Sabbath lunches with friends and family is a vegan pumpkin lasagna cooked in a crock pot for three hours. So simple yet delicious!

In the near future, I plan on sharing a few of my successful meals in a brand new column Recipes.

6. Wrapping a Present MASTERED

This is hilarious. My sister approached me only yesterday asking for my hep with wrapping a present for our young nephew. I was not able to help, but she did a good job anyway. Present wrapping is not always the easiest thing, but I can definitely wrap most gifts nicely! My tip for anyone struggling is to master the art of wrapping a square/rectangular box first. Then, if you ever find yourself with an odd-shape gift, you can always fall back on putting it in a box and then wrapping it!

7. Figuring Out the Tip MASTERED

Hint: Many smartphones and/or apps you already have installed on your phone have a tip calculator built in. I discovered that one of the apps I used all the time has a built-in tip calculator where you can choose your own percents (10%, 15%, 18%, 20%, whatever!) and also how many people to split it with. This is an invaluable tool!

8. Creating a Monthly Budget MASTERED

Our budget is not as nailed down as I would like, but I do track the money coming in and out pretty strictly. I keep a very generous “cushion” in the checking that I use as my own, pretend zero balance. This cushion is only to be used in case of emergencies (like car repairs, an unexpected bill, etc.) and not for everyday expenses. Then on a monthly basis: 10% automatically goes to tithes with a little extra for offerings, 10% automatically goes to the savings (not to be touched!), bills (one set at the beginning of the month and another in the middle of the month) are always paid immediately after the paychecks are deposited, and then normal living expenses (groceries, clothes, etc). At the end of the month, if there is any “extra”, it is moved over to the savings.

9. Effectively Packing Luggage MASTERED

As someone who moved fairly regularly growing up and also have gone on countless trips by air and by car, I am quite confident in my packing abilities.

10. Mending Clothing FAILED

I am sad to say that mending and sewing are not my area of expertise. Last year, the button of a brand new pair of dress pants popped off (the thread as loose apparently when I bought them), and I tried so very hard to re-attach the button. A week later, it fell off again. I am terrible at mending clothing. In fact, one favorite pair of black dress pants has a hole in the seam along the outside of the left thigh. I have temporarily mended it by using tiny black safety pins. *face palm*

So what is my tally when it comes to the ten life skills I should have mastered by age 30?

Mastered: 6
Failed: 2
In Progress: 1
Does not apply: 1

Hmm… It looks like I have a little work to do! How about you? Which life skills have you mastered?